Thanksgiving’s Theme Music

Welcome to Thanksgiving in America. It’s not the shiny spectacle that we strive to create in the United States. In a lot of ways, today is like flipping back through history pages, and seeing an ugly time, and wondering, how did those people get through that?

Yes, Thanksgiving is a holiday, innit? My holiday vibe is a bit subdued today. I tried being upbeat, but, yes, I’m a little weary. A little pandemic’d out. A little elections exhausted, blended with hues of a little tarnished life syndrome. Gosh, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, was it? No, not for this snowflake. As an average white American male, we’re not supposed to know shit like this. That’s for other people. Guess I have a tiny inkling about what those others endured.

Not really. No abusive parents. No food insecurities. No wondering if anyone, police or otherwise, are going to shoot me. No worrying about paying the rent or getting a job, or so much other shit that’s heaped on people through the sperm lottery. (Should the sperm lottery be called a spottery? It seems spotty, doesn’t it, hit and miss, about who has what.)

I don’t have COVID-19. I’m aging and male, so I cope with some enlarged prostate, some BHP. (I think that’s the proper letter combos.) I broke an arm in July, leaving me to rehab that arm, hand, wrist, and shoulder. (Yeah, it continues to improve…I think…) I have a lifelong pre-existing condition, hypertension, that I deal with. I’m a hopeful novelist, so I have all the angst, hope, and collective feelings associated with that.

Compiling the bottom line, I have a lot to be thankful for. Yet the blues have me today.

As it’s a holiday, I’m indulging myself with a blues favorite. Yes, it’s a repeat song, from a few years ago. Nothing like the blues to lift you, right?

Here’s Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble with “Cold Shot”. It’s a video of a live performing, as I wish he was, back when I was young.

Happy holidays. Yeah, and wear a mask, please. Time to go get some coffee cake and coffee. My wife made the coffee cake last night for today. Yeah, life’s not so bad here. Cheers

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – Cold Shot (Live From Austin, TX) – YouTube

Just Sayin’

I think some people miss the point behind cutting the cable.

Cutting the cable has been around for a while. It’s an expression used when you decide to terminate cable service. That would’ve once been unthinkable. When I was a child — yeah, here we go.

I’m a boomer, in my sixties. I’ve seen the rise of the microwave and electronics. Cable television came to my neighborhood while I was in high school. Before cable, we were dependent on ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. One of those networks had two channels in our area.

Reruns were the norm. “Bonanza”, “Gunsmoke”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “Perry Mason” came on throughout the day, along with every version of a Lucille Ball’s offerings, game shows like “Jeopardy” and “Password”, and talks shows like “The Merv Griffin Show”. As this was a rural, churchy area, so we also had a lot of gospel music sang off-key with with a twang, and plenty of Bible thumping.

Cable, then, expanded our ability to watch different reruns on other channels. We had, I think, thirty-two channels and we paid about twenty dollars a month. None were ‘premium’ channels; HBO, Showtime, and offerings like that were just being thought of and begun in those days. It didn’t come to my area until I’d left the area in 1974.

Still, cable offered us more. That was the point. Then, the point became, cable is offering the same thing over and over, or offering us things that doesn’t interest us. Upon returning to the United States after some overseas assignment, my wife and I subscribed to cable television. It was pretty good for a while. A&E was delivering fresh BBC television shows like “Ballykissangel” and “Doctor Who”. TBS provided reruns. “Original” programming was still a number of years away, along with reality shows.

Off we went to somewhere else outside the U.S. This time, upon returning, we signed up for cable, with some premium offerings.

It was no longer a sweet deal. The price had jumped to over fifty dollars a month. Pausing to put that into perspective, my income was about twenty-five thousand. Our new sports car cost fifteen thousand. Our phone bill (cell phones weren’t on the scene yet) was about twenty-five dollars a month. So fifty a month was a chunk.

Back to cable. Premium movies had already been seen, so I was paying for movie reruns, and they showed them over and over and over. The cable company boasted that we had one hundred channels. Our point was, there was nothing on that we wanted to watch.

That trend worsened, in my mind. We went to a hundred and forty plus channels, two hundred channels, dozens of premium offerings. Prices climbed, but nothing was on. By the time I cut the cable, we’d curtailed the premium offerings. No reason to subscribe because they offered so little. By then, we could rent videos, and then discs at Blockbusters and other places. Eventually, Netflix evolved.

We cut the cable ten years ago. I went with Roku and subscribed to Netflix. I remain a Netflix subscriber. I also subscribe to Hulu basic and Amazon Prime. Others come and go, usually for a month at a time. I’m not the demographic target, though; I have no interest in watching television on my phone.

I monitor streaming offerings, and frequently try them out on a trial basis. They’ve become bloated and useless. Let’s talk SlingTV as an example. They’re offering over a hundred channels for just $65 a month. But looking at them, I know that I’ll end up watching very little of that.

The same happens with countless offerings. They think signing on to more channels is a big deal. It’s not; it goes back to the same problem that plagued us when we had four channels: nothing was on that we wanted to watch.

Original programming helps the situation these days. So does stealing ideas from other countries or importing television series and movies from other countries. As we discovered with A&E, and then BBC America, the rest of the world has fantastic stuff. In example, one show that’s currently doing well in the U.S. in “The Masked Singer”. Just as “Survivor” was an import, so is “The Masked Singer”; it came from Korea.

In the end, this is another rant, innit? Just an aging American musing about the ways that the world does and doesn’t change.

At least with remotes, it’s easier to change the channel. You know what we had to do when I was in high school?

The Christmas Puzzle Is Here

We shopped for a Christmas puzzle last week. One was found and ordered. It arrived yesterday.

It’s one thousand pieces, the count that I prefer. We’ll probably begin it this week. We generally jump out to a quick start, finding ninety percent of the edge (we always seem to miss two or three) and putting it together. Then we rest our minds. Working it slowly develops momentum until it absorbs us. It’s usually me who becomes absorbed. I do most of the puzzle work.

We take so long completing the puzzles that we hope that by starting it before Thanksgiving, we’ll be finished by Christmas.

I’ll be sure to let you know.

Great Recommendation

I complained about my crusty keyboard in a previous post (Key Crust). A friend who is a member in good standing of Brains on Beer, aka The BoBs, read of my plight. Bob Hoesch suggested SYOSIN Dust Cleaning Mud.

Well, it looked interesting. I thanked Bob for the suggestion with the thought that I’d order it sometime. The product looked intriguing. Many things have looked intriguing though; would it work?

Sometime was this week. The product was ordered and arrived yesterday. It’s like glistening, funky blue Jello, at once gross and appealing. I immediately wanted to play with it and tested it. They recommend that electronics be turned off before using it on them, to avoid shorting systems. My computer was on and I didn’t want to turn it off, so I used it on a phone.

All I did was press it against the face a bit, and then roll it around several times.

It worked great. Surprised and impressed, I hunted other objects for tests. More phones were rounded up, along with the remote controls. The stuff worked so damn well, I was forced to turn off my laptop and try it on the crusty keyboard.

Verdict: wow.

Non-toxic and reusable, it’s made of water, ethanol, and guar gum. Its neon blue color began changing with use. I reckon that I have a few months of use in a jar.

And it is fascinating and impressive. My wife had turned off her Apple, so I used it on it, too. Then the printer. Then I walked around the house, trying it on other things. It worked on them all. It wasn’t always perfect, and sometimes required a few minutes of rolling the stuff around the object or pressing it firmer in, but overall, I’m damn pleased. It’s $6.98 that was well spent.

So, thanks for the recommendation, Bob. Keep ’em coming.

Friday’s Free-Ranging

  1. Some people still believe COVID-19 is a hoax. Even as they’re hospitalized and intubated, they can’t believe they have COVID-19, according to nurses in several states, because COVID-19 is a hoax. Surreal.
  2. But it’s getting real. For many people, it doesn’t become real until a family member, close friend, or celebrity has it. Well, read the news. Another Pentagon official is positive, and another U.S. senator. Actor Ben Platt was positive. Do a net search and you’ll discover more. NFL teams are experiencing it at an increasing tempo. The Vegas Raiders have at least eight defensive starters on the COVID-19 list. The Steelers have several, while several others passed the protocol and can practice and play again. The Denver Broncos announced, no more fans in the stands after this Sunday. The NFL said that all teams must use intense COVID-19 protocols. That includes masks, distancing, limiting occupancy, and using Zoom for meetings.
  3. The fatality rate and positivity rates are both climbing. A NYTimes article points out that there’s not a single U.S. state or territory where COVID-19 is declining. We now experience over two hundred thousand new case a day, and it’s increasing fast. More governors are ordering mandatory masks, shutting down activities, and limiting gatherings. Except, in South Dakota, of course, home of Sturgis. Although they’re facing the nation’s highest positivity rate and fatality rate, and has become one of the nation’s most intense COVID-19 hotspots, the governor still dismisses taking any actions.
  4. And superspreader events still take place across the nation. As a for instance tale, there was a wedding in Ohio on October 31st. Of eighty-three guests, half are now positive for COVID-19, including the bride and groom. Three of their grandparents tested positive, with two grandparents ending up in the ER. Yeah, I understand that you want a special day for your wedding. It’s a celebration, but c’mon, man, have some sense. They did try, providing masks and hand sanitizer liquid, but as the bride was walking down the aisle, she realized nobody was wearing a mask.
  5. Meanwhile, out in hard-hit El Paso, they’re trying to find workers for the many temporary morgues that they’ve set up. They were using convicts for the job.
  6. Writing continues to entertain and satisfy me, so hurrah for me, right? Yeah, that’s my little ray of sunshine.
  7. Some days, I just cannot write fast enough. A scene takes maybe a minute to enter my head and bloom. Dialogue, setting, action, characters, it’s all there. It takes twenty to thirty minutes to type up such scenes, trying to get all the moments right.
  8. Getting the moments right means finding the words. I often just hammer it out, then return, correcting pacing and tenses, adding and refining details, and aligning the arc. That’s about the only way to put it.
  9. Thanksgiving in the United States is coming upon us, and we’re preparing. It’ll be the two of us at home, a huge break from the last several years. Good friends have been including us in their celebration. It’s always a good time. There will be a Zoom Thanksgiving cocktail party this year. It’s better than nothing, right?
  10. For food, we’re doing an early Sunday morning Trader Joe’s raid. Many options were investigated before deciding on this path. TJ’s ‘vulnerable shoppers’ time begins at 8 AM. We plan to be there by 8:15 with our list in hand.
  11. Contemplating our plans fires Thanksgiving memories. I was in Basic Training in 1974. Fortunately, my Uncle and his family lived nearby. I was authorized to go spend Thanksgiving with them, and watched the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play. For Wright-Patt in Ohio, in ’75, we drove home and visited with family. When I was serving unaccompanied in the Philippines in 1976, my co-workers invited me to their house, and I had a great time. Paying it back, my wife and I often included single or unaccompanied personnel in our T-day celebrations.
  12. Memories stack up by bases and countries: Onizuka in California, Kadena on Okinawa, Rhein-Main in Germany, Osan in Korea, Randolph in Texas. When we were stationed at Shaw AFB in South Carolina in 1985, we headed north three hundred miles to my wife’s family in WV. A few hundred more miles, and we were at my mother’s place in Pittsburgh, PA. When I retired and we lived in Half Moon Bay, we joined in large Friendsgiving celebrations, just as we’ve mostly done here in Ashland.
  13. All of these places and years are memorable, though; all of them. They were different places, different people, and different experiences, but all enriched my existence.
  14. Need more coffee, as it’s time to write like crazy, at least one more time. Have four scenes circling in my head. Time for them to land on a page. Have a better one, and please wear a mask.

Proceeding

I thought I was further along in the novel-in-progress — well, in the story — than I am. I was at a juncture, though, where I was undecided what to do. Normally, I overanalyze a while, take a walk, make some coffee, and then write. I did kind-of the same this time, writing it in my head until I reached a point where I said, “Nope, that’s not how it goes.” Eventually, I found how it goes, and punched on.

While I was doing this, I remembered Stranger Than Fiction, a 2006 movie which I enjoy. The movie, written by Zach Helm, starred Will Ferrell as an IRS employee who begins hearing voices in his head. It turns out that, possibly by quantum entanglement, he’s the main character in a novel that’s being written. The author, Karen Eiffel, is played by Emma Thompson.

I sometimes identify with Karen Eiffel. Scenes show her as the writer contemplating how to proceed. Proceeding in her instance means killing the main character. Her process involves a lot of pensively smoking and walking around while exuding a dark air and snapping at others. In my case, it involved a lot of pensively drinking coffee and walking around while exuding a dark air. So, you know, it’s a weak comparison, because I don’t smoke.

But after all, the movie was fiction.

Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy at least one more time.

Saturday Strings

Haven’t mentioned a few things (skunk, arm, Fitbit) in a while. Being egocentric, I thought I would today.

  1. Oh, the skunk. She (my wife is certain it’s a female) has gained the upper hand on we puny humans. She thumps the board aside (I keep it there so I know she’s coming and going) and does her business.
  2. Last night, however, came turmoil under the house. Thump, thump, at first, rousing me from my television viewing. My wife had retired to bed. The cats were slumbering in preparation for their three A.M. rounds. I was watching “The Expanse” (the UN has just declared war on Mars and the Roci is heading to Io). The thump was singular and distant at first, causing me a “WTF, did-I-really-hear-something” pause. The show was stopped and I listened, counting cats (two were with me) when I did. Yep, the thumps repeated, more numerous and louder. Pushing the cat off my lap (he was listening, too), I leaped up, checked on the third cat (Papi, sleeping in the living room), and traced the sound. Finding its general area, I began thumping around in retaliation.
  3. The thumping underfoot increased in volume and frequency. My wife called, “Are you hearing this, too?” Uh, yeah. The sounds from beneath gravitated toward the front. Grabbing the flashlight, I turned on the front lights and headed outside.
  4. I arrived just in time to see the skunk exit the crawl space and bolt down the sidewalk, down the driveway, and across the street. Its perfume filled the air.
  5. Returning inside, I learned, we’ve been gassed. I reported my findings to my wife. The smell was mostly gone this morning, probably aided when the furnace kicked on and circulated the air. (The garage, though…you can spoon it out like Jello in there.) (Skunk Jello; that’s a thought.) As to what happened…it’s another of nature’s mysteries. I put the board back up this morning.
  6. My broken arm’s recovery continues. Rotation, flexibility, strength, and dexterity improves by day. I can now use ten pound weights to restore my arm and shoulder strength. I try twelves, but my wrist barks with sharp pains, so I cease. It’ll come. Persistence and perseverance. Raising my arm over my head (to put on a shirt, for example) taxes my shoulder. Yeah, working on it.
  7. Can’t do any pushups or chair-dips with my arm/wrist, though. Well, I can do modified pushups, where I’m on my knees. I can plank, and that’s up to three minutes a night.
  8. Meanwhile, Fitbit has congratulated me on hitting my distance goals every day for seventy-eight continuous days. My daily average is twelve miles a day. Although that pleases me, it comes with caveats. I only seriously walk outside three or four days a week, heading up the hills around my house, typically for one to three miles. Most of my daily stuff is derived from running around the house or jogging in place. I have several routes in the house, doing figure eights around the dining and living rooms. I’d like to walk outside more, but darkness comes early, and it’s wet and chilly, and I’m essentially a cream puff. I’ve considered walking in the morning or early afternoon, but that interferes with writing and housework. Priorities, don’t you know.

That’s all that’s fit to print. The cats (Boo, Tucker, and Papi) are all healthy and doing well. Tucker has said no to going outside, which is fine by me. Boo likes to go out in the morning and evening to do his business, but those turns are getting shorter quick. He resorted to the litter box last night. (Um, yea?) Papi, though, is a youngblood, and must roam the night. As its cold, his outside visits are getting shorter, but then, he’s bored, and wants to go out (or have me stay up and play with him, which ain’t gonna happen). Can’t wait till he matures enough to stay inside more.

Hope your life is going well. Take care.

Cheers

The Halloween Puzzle

We finally completed our Halloween puzzle. Yes, it’s late.

We started off strong, finding the edges and putting it together. Then, life intervened. We wanted to work on the puzzle, but we had so many other things drawing our attention. That probably sounds strange during the COVID-19 Lockdown and Social-distancing Era (henceforth called CLASE). I’m a writer, though, and focused on that. Then there was exercising, fall yardwork, and cleaning house. And the NFL football season began. My wife was busy with exercise and dance classes via zoom, reading, socializing, and making us wonderful soups. (She’s making two more this weekend. Can’t wait.)

So other things occupied our time. But I’d go by it and think, “I should be able to get that area done easily enough.” Sure. Right.

There are thirteen cats. I started by hunting for cat pieces. As the cats were by the pumpkin patch — and the pumpkins are bright orange and easily spotting — I started hunting for and selecting those pieces. I would notice house pieces, sky, etc., and set those aside in other piles, mostly so they were out of my way.

Then, you know how it is with a puzzle. One area gets almost finished, but where the heck is that last piece? Meanwhile, as you search for missing last pieces, other things seem to magically come together.

The next thing I knew, the puzzle had sucked me in.

It was a lot of fun, and a good diversion, if that’s what you want.

Key Crust

As a writer, I’m forced to work from home during the pandemic. It’s not my preferred place. For some reason, the rambunctious noisiness of coffee shops draw out my muse. I think it’s because I’m there for the purpose of writing.

Unlike home. At home, it’s me, my wife, the cats, the phone, and the world outside my house. As with any job, distractions arise at home that interrupt the work flow. For instance, this morning forced me to address a major distraction: what is that stuff between and around the keys on my keyboard, and how do I get rid of it?

I don’t know why. Maybe I’m embarrassed by the key jam (you know, like toe jam?). I don’t know why; nobody sees my laptop and its key jam (key crust?), so why should I be concerned?

But logic doesn’t always drive my thinking. Neither does emotion nor physical input. There seems to be other realms forcing behavior.

I’ve had this HP Envy for six years. I’ve noticed the key crust before. I’ve tried cleaning it off before. Today, as I finished a second page, sipped coffee and addressed what happens next, I stared down at the crust. Resolution filled me: the crust must be removed.

First, though, the HP Envy name amuses me. Nobody has ever expressed envy at my laptop. The name seems like wishful marketing.

I’ve attacked the crust before. Compressed air has been used on previous machines. (My god, I’ve been using and cleaning computer keyboards since 1981, part of me thinks with a little horror.) I also have a little whisk tool. I’ve used these on the Envy, but the crust is impervious. I next employed toothpicks, q-tips, and various other slender pieces of things. None worked.

But now…ho, ho. I purchased an eyeglass repair kit this week. It has a thousand screws. The screws were what I wanted. I already have two sets of eyeglass screwdrivers. Between my wife and I, we have five pairs of glasses that we use that have suffered detached lenses or stems. In each case, a screw had popped out. As the glasses were otherwise fine, we certainly weren’t going to dispose of them. No we needed to repair them.

We’ve both been wearing prescription glasses since our early teens, dutifully going to doctors, get new prescriptions, and then buying new glasses as regularly as full moons. (At least, it seems like that.) We have a basket full of glasses. We often give old prescription glasses to charity so others can use them, but we have sentimental favorites that we can’t abide to surrender. Naturally, these are the afflicted glasses.

Although I’ve had the tiny screwdrivers for two or three lifetimes, they’ve never been at hand when I stared down at the key crust. Since I’d repaired a pair of glasses last night, the screwdriver set was right there beside me.

And the crust was right before me, almost…mocking me.

This had to end.

Selecting the smallest screwdriver, I carefully worked it around and under the keys, appalled and fascinated by the stuff I was recovering. This, I figured, was an amalgam of cat fur, human hair, and dandruff from us both, along with what the hell else, you know?

I had to employ an exact, tender angle. Each key was individually addressed. Rushing was out of the question. After a relatively short time (yeah, I have no idea how long), the key crust was gone, and the keyboard presentable once again. It really looks so much better.

Then, because I’d been at it so long, my coffee was cold, and but a swallow remained, so fresh coffee was required. Also, since I’d been sitting an hour, some quick exercise. Also, since it was lunchtime and breakfast had been four hours ago, lunch. Also, since my wife made some energy balls yesterday, a couple of them wouldn’t be remiss. Also, I hadn’t checked Facebook or emails (there could be something important there, right?). Also, it looks miserable outside (whose truck is on the street? Why are they parked across from my house?), so what’s the temperature? It rained all night – how much rain did we get? (Less than an inch.) How many more days will it rain? Oh, there’s a winter advisory out for snow over four thousand feet. That’ll end tomorry. Well, we’re not going anywhere, anyway – COVID-10, you know.

Finally, though, it was all addressed and out of the way. Now I’ve got fresh coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Now where the hell was I?

The Friend’s Comments

My buddy, Bob Hoesch, sent an email out to his beer-drinking buddies last night. Liking it, I received his permission to share.

If any single image can sum up the tenor of an era, I would suggest this as a legacy photograph for the Trump Era.

Yes, that’s Don the Don, hawking Goya foods on the Resolute Desk in the oval office, because the owner of that company had just publicly praised him.

I didn’t know this until now, the Resolute Desk has been in the White House since it was gifted to the United States by Britain, during the tenure of Rutherford Hayes. FDR had it modified to accommodate his wheelchair while he ran WWII. The name comes from the decommissioned British warship HMS Resolute, whose lumber was used to make the desk.

Trump’s innovation was to use the desk to promote canned foods to the Mexican-American community. He should be remembered for that, as the most openly transactional national politician we’ve ever had.

“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.” — John Kenneth Galbraith, The Age of Uncertainty (1977)

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