I didn’t know that today’s podcast would come together after two false starts this morning. You may listen to how it came out and decide that it didn’t come together after all but it is better than the first two runs at it, trust me on that.
I’ve been in a bit of a weird space for the last few days so I’m not surprised at my difficulty in getting going with the podcast this morning. I’ve not been feeling super creative and I’ve had times when I thought about coming here to write and then I denied myself (“Don’t do it!” says the brain) so those more spontaneous thoughts are lost forever. I need to do better on that. I have the app on my phone. How easy it is to post something here whenever I want, wherever I am!
I think there is an underlying theme of frustration and being on edge lately. Both of those may sound like the same thing but they are not. I’ve been on edge for long stretches of time going back over forty years but not always frustrated at the same time. The happy pills don’t fix it all, I am finding out.
A lot of it has to do with choices. Not choosing to read. Choosing to scroll the onlines. Getting frustrated about wasting time. Trying to convince myself that I’m not wasting time. I deserve downtime to surf the onlines! What’s wrong with the onlines?!?
That’s just a small introduction to how my brain works.
Here is an inaugural post from the couch. I hope to do some of my finest future writing here now that I have realized how easy it is to sit on the couch with a lap desk and type on this thing. I’ve almost sunk into a corner of the cushions. I wonder if this is how Robert Frost wrote.
Fall weather has arrived in Armpit and it makes me want to sit outside and read or write or listen to the radio but I’ve been lazy today and decided to spend my afternoon indoors where it is a tad warmer than it is outside.
The only bad thing about being comfortable on the couch is how it makes me sleepy. I never got tired in the afternoon before this year. I guess that’s another part of getting older or it could be the medicine I take daily. Who knows. Either way, it’s a part of getting older. It seems like I can close my eyes most afternoons and almost immediately fall asleep and napping makes me feel off for the rest of the day so I avoid it as much as I can.
If you type Sunday in the free picture search, you get this and I do wish I had some coffee right now!
It is from the 20th anniversary edition of Hatchet.
All I have ever wanted in my life is two things-to write and to have readers. It was and still is a wonder to me how writers and readers meet in the pages of a book, how books come from a part of the writer and become part of the reader. But the force behind it, the thing that pushes me to write, that awakens me at night with story ideas, that causes my breath to stop and hold with a sentence that comes out right, and that makes coming to the computer or the pad of paper with a cup of tea every morning an experience filled with the feeling of wonderful newness and expectation, the engine that drives me to write is, surely, love.
Summer has stretched on here in Armpit. Flowers are full bloom. No leaves are changing color. The days are still hot and humid. It’s starting to get a little unnerving because it feels so out of place.
As much as I wanted to put it off, I had to mow this evening. The grass was starting to get just high enough to look messy although it was nowhere near city code wrist slapping standards.
The forecast looks promising at the end of the week when we see a big shift from 80’s to 60’s for highs and from 60’s to 40’s for lows. That might stop the progress of the grass finally although I will probably still end up with at least one more mow before all is said and done for this year’s lawn care season.
One of my goals when I started this site was to have barely any goals. There is no schedule here at all and it is freeing. I might write five days in a row and then take three weeks off.
And I have no idea what I am going to write about. It’s a lot like the podcast. One day I can’t think of an idea and feel no motivation at all and the next day I feel motivated enough to press record and go and whatever comes out is what comes out.
I’ve learned that certain days, it’s just not happening so don’t force it. Just take that day off and if that day turns into a week, that’s fine to. The muse will be back to kick you in the nuts when you least expect it.
Similar to balancing other social issues, I don’t believe private companies should make all of the decisions on their own. That’s why we have advocated for updated internet regulations for several years now. I have testified in Congress multiple times and asked them to update these regulations. I’ve written op-eds outlining the areas of regulation we think are most important related to elections, harmful content, privacy, and competition.
We’re committed to doing the best work we can, but at some level the right body to assess tradeoffs between social equities is our democratically elected Congress. For example, what is the right age for teens to be able to use internet services? How should internet services verify people’s ages? And how should companies balance teens’ privacy while giving parents visibility into their activity?
Is Mark throwing it back on the government here? No. What he’s doing is saying “Don’t make me play by one set of rules while everyone else gets a free pass” and he is exactly right to ask for this. Why should Facebook voluntarily police itself into oblivion when competitors like Twitter or Parler or Tik Tok can do just about whatever they want?
Set the same standards for everyone and you have fair competition in the social media marketplace. Hold Facebook to unique standards and you’ll just see a migration to other services.
Is Facebook complicit in being the best at making manipulative algorithms? Maybe. Does that mean that their competitors algorithms are not manipulative? No. Should Facebook be singled out and punished just because they are the biggest bully on the playground? No. Won’t someone else do the same thing Facebook did if Facebook gets taken down because there is money to be had? Of course.
We did this. We signed up. We use the services to communicate with friends and family and whoever. We use the angry reactions. We stir up the pot online hiding behind screens because it’s a lot easier and safer to be a horse’s ass when you’re not sitting right in front of the people you are being a horse’s ass to.
Social media is not the end of the world and ending it would not suddenly bring peace. The Nazis didn’t need Twitter. Evil always finds a way.
We may find it easy to wag our fingers at Facebook but Facebook is mostly just a mirror image of who we are that is programmed with algorithms to take advantage of who we are. As a society, we have a lot of work to personally because at this point in our history, a lot of people simply can’t respectfully handle the power that social media puts at all of our fingertips.
It’s fall and early fall is the rainy season here so today has not disappointed in keeping with that theme as my backyard is currently transforming into a creek.
We did get about an hour and a half of a break earlier and was able to have a big potluck lunch outside with a breeze blowing through and even a peek of sun now and then before the rain came back so yes, fall is out there if you can find it!
Yesterday was the annual marching band contest at the local high school where my daughter was in band and I volunteered for four years as equipment guy, chaperone, transportation, trailer puller, IT guy, social media guru etc. so of course I was back up there most of the day and I summed up the experience in a tweet:
Things I like about volunteering with the band after my band student has graduated:
No meetings. Just show up.
2 hour supper break off campus.
No heavy lifting.
Have a walkie-talkie but no longer have to run toward any problem.
At this point I am finally in my recliner for a bit resting and allow me for a moment to sing the praises of my HP Chromebook. If you want to write, the Chromebook is for you. It is instant-on with no waiting for things to load up like Windows. Open the lid and BAM! And the new Chromebooks are even better than the old ones. The battery lasts FOREVER. This is my best tech purchase of the year and I saved money buying a returned one at Best Buy.
And, the audio is amazing. As I write this, I am listening to this stream on the Relax Cafe Music channel on YouTube:
I hope your Sunday is going well. I just noticed IFTTT is once again not sending my Instagram posts to Twitter (since 9/9!) so I have to go fool with that. You missed two good ones today if you didn’t see them on Instagram, both having to do with my neighbor, the ex-chicken owner! He has decided to install a toilet as a planter to go along with his yard shower!
Ah, the joys of suburb living. My neighbor has also put up a hog wire fence around almost the entire house so I expect House Beautiful or Better Homes & Gardens to show up with a photographer any day now!
You won’t know anyone I am writing about in this post so I will use initials instead of full names because I have none of this planned out not that it would matter anyway.
I got the news today that a friend from high school, J, died this week. J was just a little younger than me, graduating the year after I did, and she died Wednesday from COVID-19. I know nothing else about her health or the question we all wonder when someone we knows dies of COVID, vaccinated or not?
I last saw and spoke to J at the Burger King in our hometown where we had met for lunch either there or the Mexican restaurant next door and I believe it was not long before 9/11/2001. Aside from a couple of Facebook messages over the last twenty years, that was it.
What I remember from high school was the little red Civic she drove and that I was over at her house one day when she gave me a small pocket knife that her father’s company gave away as freebies which I ended up carrying all through college and I believe is still in a tote in the attic.
She was a good friend, someone who would listen and give advice and I’m sure we had many conversations about all of the ups and downs of high school life that are all tangled up with other memories in my mind now.
The most vivid memory I have of J is going to her house right before Christmas in 1990. I remember it being painfully cold and I can remember the Christmas tree lit up in the living room in the front window of the house. I am not sure how I ended up there or why – another memory lost in the jumble.
But that night sticks out in my mind because when I was leaving, I got distracted and backed off of the side of the driveway into the ditch and knocked down the mailbox. The old Cavalier I had was stuck so a tow truck had to come get me out and that’s where the cold came in. It was quite cold out there waiting for it and trying to come up with something to tell the police officer that had just happened to drive by also.
I played this off as a goof, mirrors were wrong, etc. so I did not get a ticket, just embarrassment but the truth was that my friend S, who had passed away just a few months before, had lived almost right across the street and I got distracted looking at her house in the rear view mirror, the pain of that loss still very fresh at the time. And that is something I have never revealed to anyone until now.
Life moves on. People lose touch. One year becomes twenty. There always seems to be more time to catch up.
When I went to college, I cut a lot of people off because I felt the only thing to do to leave high school and the loss of S behind was to leave most of the people behind also.
It was easy to disappear in the days before Facebook. In hindsight, it was not the right thing to do. I ruined a lot of friendships. Today there are therapists and medications. Back then, not much of either. You toughed it out. You moved on the best you could. You tore it all down because you had no idea what else to do.
J ended up coming to college where I was and we reconnected for a while but it was not the same – my fault, not hers. My walls were up and stayed up for a very long time. She moved away, married, had kids, got separated. We saw each other’s lives only in a stream of Facebook posts.
Regrets, I have a few (possibly, more than a few!) and here and only here I will share them.
Since we met in high school band many years ago, I’ll end this with a song from back when J’s little red Civic was still going strong and the roads were wide open and ready to take us anywhere.