Saturday, March 28, 2020
Gloomy, drippy days--I hated them when I was a kid, when I was an adolescent. In childhood, it meant no biking around, no playing outside with my friends. On school days it meant putting on galoshes and a raincoat (and hat!) and sloshing my way to school, which, of course, was about ten miles away.
Or so it seemed on rainy days.
Later on, it had other dark meanings. No baseball practices or games. On spring afternoons I remember sitting in the Hiram School study hall, which had west-facing windows, and grieving when I saw, after lunch, the dark clouds forming on the horizon, moving my way. Why! I would think. Why does the weather hate me so much?!
My mother tried to assure me it was nothing personal. I was not so sure about that.
In college, the gloom remained for me. Rain meant no tennis practice or matches. I should have been grateful for the latter: Although I "earned" four varsity letters in tennis at Hiram College, our team was not exactly dominant, and I? Well, let's just say that I was empathetic--and wanted to see my opponents happy. It's not that they were really better than I ...
During my jogging years (I started in 1978, when I was in my early 30s, finished, oh, a half-dozen years ago or so when my balance and dizziness became issues), the rain didn't dissuade me. I would not go out to jog when lightning was dancing around, but otherwise I did. Being soaked when I arrived home was evident evidence that I was virtuous.
I spent the last decade of my teaching career at Western Reserve Academy here in Hudson, and, since we live only a couple of blocks away, I biked or walked to school on most days. (Lightning meant the car; blizzard meant the car.) My umbrella above me.
I have to say that umbrella-users are sometimes ... disparaged around here--as if using one were a sign of virility's wane. I see people scurrying through the rain, sans umbrella, all the time. But I'd rather be wimpy and dry than virile and soaked. (Which, of course, is a clue to my age.)
And nowadays, virtually housebound, I feel another ill effect of such weather as we are having today (clouds, intermittent rain, occasional lightning and thunder). My mood darkens with the sky. (I feel, in ways, like my Boy Self: Why does the weather hate me so much?)
As I've written here recently, Joyce and I do not go out much at all now. We've been taking an afternoon walk of about a mile; we drive to pick up the groceries we've ordered at Acme once a week. That's about it. I know some people are going for drives, and we did a bit of that a couple of weeks ago, but my desire to do so has waned as the self-imprisonment has continued.
I just feel better when I look outside my study window and see people walking by with their dogs and/or their kids and/or their significant others.
I swear to you: Just this moment a woman walked briskly by with two (wet) dogs. (No umbrella.)
I don't want to complain--I've not lost a job, an income; I'm not yet sick; I am not alone. Upstairs at this moment is the love of my life. Complaining seems so ... petty. So ungrateful.
So I won't complain. I'll just wish that the sun were out. And that the weather didn't hate me so much.
Friday, March 27, 2020
Foul-up is not the expression I wanted to use here. I was thinking of a ... stronger one. But ... this is a family-friendly site, and I also believe that my mother, though she has been dead for a couple of years, would somehow know what I had written and would make ... arrangements ... to deal with me.
Let's back up a little.
I've always been very fastidious about backing up computer files--clear back to the 1980s when I was using a Kaypro II. (See pic.)
I use Word (and have ever since it defeated Word Perfect, a program I much preferred) and have always backed up files on my hard drive--and on two different external places (jump drive, external hard drive). And I've never lost much of anything as a result.
Enter One Drive, the "cloud" for Word.
For Some Dumb Reason on one particular project I have not been so anal about backing up--and that project, oddly enough, is one that's very dear to me.
Explanation: Joyce and I have two grandsons. One, Logan, just turned 15; the other, Carson, will turn 11 on April 3. Since their second birthdays Joyce and I have been writing little stories for them. We sort of "publish" them, too--color printing, graphics, nice binders, etc.
Now that the boys are older, the stories have evolved from simple doggerel narratives to full-fledged short stories (well, sort of).
I usually start working on them about six weeks before the Big Day--often writing for a half-hour or so on my iPad over at Open Door Coffee Co. in the afternoon.
I love the iPad, love One Drive. What I type over at the coffee shop becomes immediately accessible on my iPhone and laptop.
And dangerous. Well, "dangerous" if you're careless.
As I was yesterday.
Joyce and I had finished the story, so it was time to format it, put in the picture we were going to use. So into my study I went, opened the file from One Drive, also opened last year’s story so I could paste the new one into the old one (and thus gain its formatting).
But I wasn’t paying close attention, and before I knew it, I had two copies of last year’s story—and none of this year’s.
When I realized what I’d done—and when I’d tried the quick remedies—and when nothing worked, I felt myself about as near to a massive stroke and heart attack as I have ever been. (Later, when I went up to tell Joyce, she said she’d never seen me so pale—and those who know me know that I am really pale, even under the most favorable of circumstances!)
Now what? I knew I could not rewrite it from memory—and the thought of starting over with only about a week before his birthday launched another fresh assault on my heart.
I started fussing around on Word, looking at options, clicking on things I’d never clicked on before, and, quite by accident, I found a way to access—and reopen—and save—earlier versions of a document.
I clicked on the one that seemed—based on the day and time—to be the most recent of the 2020 story.
My sigh of relief blew out an entire wall of my study and sent the nearby birds back to their winter retreats.
I saved-saved-saved (three locations) and headed upstairs to tell my story.
And learned how pale I looked.
So, in a few, I’m going to head back to my study and prepare the story—do it the Right Way.
And I will NEVER AGAIN save something only on One Drive.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
The neighbor right across the street has cleaned out her basement. That created in me a couple of fairly simultaneous reactions: (1) I should do that; (2) I'm not gonna do that.
But it's been interesting to me, so far, to see what's been going on around us. I should say that we haven't been out much the past couple of weeks: a trip to the grocery store for a pickup, some afternoon walks around the neighborhood. But I have noticed a few things that are a bit out of the ordinary ...
I had no idea that so many people had dogs. And, oh, are those dogs getting some exercise these days! Since I haven't had a dog in many years, I've lost the ability to read their facial expressions (if, indeed, I ever had such a skill), but some of them seem to me to be thinking We're not doing this again, are we?
A lot of birds are back. I hear mourning doves early in the ... morning. And Joyce and I are hoping they will not nest where they've done so the past few years--on a precarious spot on our garage. I mean, we love mourning doves, but their favored location is not the safest one. (Little ones have been on the ground more than once.) But, hey, location, location, location, right?
I've seen a lot of people on bicycles--of all ages (well, not all). They zoom up and down our street as if it's just a normal spring day. Insouciant and patently hopeful.
It's odd to see kids out on the streets in the middle of a March week. They should be in school, of course, and although I know most school systems are quickly converting to online classes, it just ain't the same--not for them, not for the teachers. (A career teacher myself, I cannot imagine having to do this, and I know I would grieve for the loss of all those interactions in class--well, maybe not all of them).
Lots of people are also out walking--Joyce and I among them. Since the two health clubs in town are closed, and since most people are at home all day (with the temptations of cupboard and fridge and freezer), some out in the streets are desperately trying to keep from having to make ... adjustments ... with their belts, with their clothing--I among them.
I'm really trying hard not to eat too much. I have two problems: the Dyer genes (we have one labeled FAT), and one of the meds I'm on, a med that makes weight gain ridiculously simple. So I'm not eating at all between meals, and when I do have a meal, I take no seconds, award myself no giant portions, or take from Joyce's plate what she doesn't want, etc.
I see people working in their yards, too--raking up the detritus of winter, weeding, standing to admire the emerging daffodils, the upward green pokes of future day lilies and irises and others. We haven't done much in that regard--though we do have a lawn service (I gave up mowing years ago), and they came by last week and spent a delightful hour with their leaf-blowers; it was, of course, the very hour I was trying to nap.
Some are sitting on their porches, barking greetings to pedestrians. I know: Barking seems like a fairly harsh, even judgmental, verb/participle. Maybe I picked it because of all the dogs around? Of course, the pedestrians have to return the bark--social distancing, right? You can't go up on the porch and schmooze and booze and whatever. (I'm kind of grateful for that--I'm a bit of an isolate. A good way to be these days.)
I just saw a baby carriage with two young parents go by my window. I can't imagine the parents' terror.
It's a beautiful day here in Hudson, Ohio. And Joyce and I will slip out later for our walk, moving far aside when we encounter other walkers coming the other direction.
And now I'm off for a late-morning nap. I'm trusting the lawn crew has no further noisy business here today.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
On Saturday, I posted here about how I'm spending my mornings in these Viral Days. And I got a note from a former student who asked about the afternoons. So ... you can blame her for this one!
Here's a shocker: Joyce and I eat lunch about noon. Our menus are not too much alike. She loves salads (I eat but do not crave them), makes soup (this week it's potato), sometimes has a bagel (with some restrained gobs of JIF crunchy), some yogurt;
I have basically the same thing I've eaten for lunch for, oh, about forty years. Lowfat vanilla yogurt with sliced fruit, a slice of homemade sourdough bread with some fruit preserves (this week it's blackberry from Szalay's Farm Market), 8 oz of pomegranate juice, a little flavored bubbly water.
We sit at a little table in our family room and (as Petruchio says at Bianca's wedding near the end of The Taming of the Shrew), "Nothing but sit and sit and eat and eat" (5.2). But we also talk and talk. A lot.
After lunch, we separate: She goes upstairs to read and write (she's currently reading James McBride's new one, Deacon King Kong).
I go to Venue 2 (Venue 1 is our family room), our living room in the front of the house--complete with (gas) fireplace, which I occasionally use (not recently). I settle onto the couch and, yesterday, I did the following (my general pattern every day):
- read the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon-Journal on my iPad
- wrote a silly poem about the sin of pride for my Daily Doggerel blog
- read 25 pp of a recently published novel by Claude McKay (1889-1948), an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance (the novel, Romance in Marseille [sic], had lain, unpublished till now, in the New York Public Library).
- posted on Facebook a silly poem I'd written the other day, "The Dingo That Loved Bingo"
- started an advanced reading copy of the new title I'm reviewing for Kirkus Reviews this week--not allowed to tell you what it is
- wrote a draft of another silly one, "An Emu Goes Cuckoo," which I'll post in a few days
- worked on final revisions for the birthday story Joyce and I have written for grandson Carson, who turns 11 on April 3 (we have written stories for both grandsons, starting at their 2nd birthday, I think); the older one, Logan, just turned fifteen
- I caught up on email and Facebook
- about 2:30 I quit working, and Joyce and I went for a walk of about a mile around our neighborhood (widely avoiding other walkers)
- home: I sprinted for bed and slept about an hour (my daily custom)
- awake, I fussed with my computer and shut it down for the night
- dinner prep (last night we shared a small piece of salmon + mixed rice + carrots and green beans + some sourdough bread); I also had--as I do every night--a medium banana and an apple.
- while eating, we watched some of an older Late Night with Seth Meyers; one guest was James Taylor, who sang "Teach Me Tonight"--it had both of us wiping our eyes
- we'd met Taylor once, years ago, at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass.; my older brother was then covering the Boston Symphony for the Boston Globe; Tanglewood is the Blossom of Mass.!
- after cleaning up we headed upstairs to read; my read-in-bed books total eight now (3 are on Kindle): a Wilkie Collins (Heart and Science), Little Women, Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light (her conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy), The Black Wave (a book of history about turmoil in the Middle East), The Stories of Alice Adams (almost done with it!); on Kindle, it's the new one by Lee Child , Blue Moon; another one by Val McDermid (whose works about Tony Hill/Carol Jordan I'm reading in order), The Torment of Others; an earlier one by Ken Bruen (A White Arrest)
- I try to read about 10 pp in each during this bedtime reading-time
- Joyce joins me in bed about 7, and we stream about an hour--pieces of the shows we like
- Lights Out between 8-8:30 (I know: I'm an Old Guy)
And the next morning, we begin again ...
Whew .. I'm tired just typing all of this--and a bit bored. Imagine how you must feel if you managed to read all of this!
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Tomorrow will be 1903. No, not the year--though that year has some significance for me: It was the year that MacMillan published Jack London's The Call of the Wild, the novella that would propel him into enduring (so far) celebrity. (As many of you know, I've researched and written a bit about London and Wild.)
No, tomorrow will be 1903 because that's the number of posts I will have uploaded to Daily Doggerel, my other blog here on blogger.com. (Link to that Daily Doggerel blog.)
I started posting there on September 13, 2014, and I confess that I have not ever consulted the totals, the number, the hits. I don't care. Nor have I looked again at that initial post--until right now. And at the bottom of this post I have pasted that original one from five and a half years ago (well, most of it).
One of the things that shocks me is that I apparently have in me a boundless supply of silly, insubstantial verse. (Have I been hoarding it, all my life, like toilet paper?)
I guess I really discovered I had a facility for it when I was writing shows with my middle school students back in Aurora. Lyrics set to well-known songs flew out of me like startled birds.
"All we need is to be freed from Phillip Marlowe!" sang the cast of The Periwinkle Perplex (April 1976). a show we'd written to be a kind of take-off on a Marlowe mystery (those wonderful novels by Raymond Chandler).
That line I just quoted: It fits into "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller. (Link to the song performed by the Andrews Sisters.)
I committed such plagiaristic degradation in show after show in Aurora--then did it again at Western Reserve Academy in 1980 when the drama class (taught by another) put on WRA and Peace, a show in the old Aurora-style, a show that "featured" ridiculous lyrics by you-know-who.
Then I returned to Aurora in the fall of 1982, committed more lyrical atrocities, all the way to my final show there in the spring of 1996.
And then ... some years of silence. And the pressure built.
Until all exploded out of me again, as if a sewer pipe inside me had broken, all because of Facebook and blogger.com.
So you should blame technology and the Internet, not me.
Anyway, I did not write about #1902 (today's) because I wanted to use #1903 (because of Wild). So ... pressure's on! Will I find something to post tomorrow?
Yeah. I already wrote it.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
And So We Begin ...
For the past several years I've been posting to Facebook each day some little ditties that, collectively, I've been calling "Daily Doggerel." Initially, I called them "Daily Quatrains," but I soon found I needed, at times, to be more ... expansive. Four lines just were insufficient to communicate the range of my--what?--insubstantiality? My superficiality?
Anyway, I soon was adding other little daily ditties, too. From my word-of-the-day calendar I would compose a little couplet (or more) about the word from the day before; I also began summarizing the plays of Shakespeare in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter (hmmm ... wonder where I got that idea?).
It was not long before the whole thing was out of control. I had accumulated so many of the ditties that I decided to collect, then publish them on Kindle Direct. On June 6, 2013, I uploaded the first of what has now grown to be six volumes (each about 100 pp long); the seventh will appear at the end of November/beginning of December. Here's a link to my Amazon Author Page where you can see these volumes--and others of more legitimate stature (an annotated edition of The Call of the Wild, a YA bio of Jack London, and numerous others).
So what are these "poems" about? In the e-published volumes, I arrange the pieces by categories--such as the following: Family; Films, Movies, Books; Quotidian Quandaries & Quibbles; Rants; Nature and Animals; Seasons and Celebrations; etc.
In order to repel a wider audience, I'm no longer going to post the doggerel on Facebook; instead, I'll put them on this site (with a link on FB) so that legions (!) of other readers can take a look and wonder in the basements of their souls what on earth is wrong with this man?
Monday, March 23, 2020
As these days crawl along, I'm seeking solace in the wee things that are still somewhat normal (the old normal, not the new one).
This morning, for example, I balanced my checking account--and I was right, to the penny! Of course, it's a lot easier nowadays. I use Quicken--and have done so since it was a DOS program (and that alone will date me). Mid-90s. (Here's what Wikipedia has to say about DOS.) Basically, it was Microsoft's pre-Windows Disc Operating System: MS-DOS.
Anyway, balancing on Quicken, as I said, is a lot easier than what I used to have to do, back in checkbook days (I use a checkbook now only about a half-dozen times a year--if that).
Among my end-of-the-week Friday night routines when I was teaching was to write checks for the week and--once a month--to compare my checkbook balance with the bank's. And that was not always fun--especially in my early years when a few cents made all the difference between a sigh of relief and an overdraft notice.
I've written here before that my first take-home salary from the Aurora Middle School (1966-67) was $168.42, paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. Such a number--such a pathetic number--did not leave a lot of room for Error. And I am not kidding--not at all--when I say that by the end of each pay period my balance was virtually always less than one dollar. (The bank must have loved me.)
But those days (for now?) are over, and Quicken accomplishes in seconds what it used to take a half-hour (or more) to do.
Let's see ... what else?
Our daily newspapers are still arriving. We subscribe to three (we are really Old School in this regard). We take the Cleveland Plain Dealer (for whom, in balmier days--for them ... and me--I used to write op-eds and book reviews), the Akron Beacon-Journal (which has been in Joyce's life since her very beginning--and our son was a reporter there for a decade), and the New York Times, whose Arts section I devour like Snickers bars).
Now here's the weird thing: I actually read all three of those papers online--and only when I see something "clippable" (something about a writer I like--or a play I used to teach--or ...), do I even open the "physical" paper and snip away, then put the clipping in one of our bulging file cabinets.
Makes no sense. Yet it does:
If I stop doing it, I'll die. Simple as that.
Okay, one more thing ... I'm still baking sourdough bread almost every Sunday (some weeks I have such a backlog of loaves that I use the sourdough for something else--waffles, muffins, pizza, etc.). My starter will turn 34 this summer. Bought it in Skagway, Alaska, in 1986.
My Facebook friends are sadly aware of this baking habit of mine because I invariably post a bread pic. Here's yesterday's ...
There are other routine things that I do to try to keep myself sane during these sanity-bashing days of ours. But you get the idea. It all descends to this: Persevere--do the things you love--the things you need--to the extent that such things are possible during a lock-down.
Depression lurks in the shadows, waiting, but Routine and Passion are two of his most potent enemies. Embrace them.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
1. HBsOTW [Human Beings of the Week]: Two this week. (1) Friend Chris Cozens who has, every day, brought me coffee from Open Door (I'm being cautious--staying at home); I try not to to cry every time he shows up; (2) Former Hiram High classmate Ralph Green, who, I discovered quite by accident, had added some information on Find-a-Grave about my parents. Oh, was I touched when I saw that!
2. I finished two books this week--one was on my "night pile" (my 10-pp-per-night pile), the other I read during the week.
- The former was Don't Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth about Language, 2019. I'd read a stellar review of it somewhere (?) and ordered it right away.
Author David Shariatmadari works at The Guardian and studied linguistics at Cambridge. Basically, it's a "catch-up" book: What has gone on in recent decades in linguistics? (A lot!) But the most interesting part for me came near the end when he went into recent thinking about how we acquire language in the first place--a stunning achievement, of course. Toddlers listen, make noises, then, eventually, compound-complex sentences.
He talks about how recent work has greatly modified the theories of Noam Chomsky, who for decades has been on the Mount Rushmore of Linguists. (Chomsky has argued for an innate, Universal Grammar. Doesn't seem to hold the same amount of water it used to.)
I still remember our toddler son, making silly sounds. Then, one day, here came this: "When you are sad, Mom, then I get sad, too."
And all of us in our lives, at some point, said something remarkable that dazzled our parents. (Well, maybe I didn't. There are better, more accurate words than dazzled!)
The book's a little dense in places, but I did it!
- The second was the first novel of Arthur Phillips, Prague (2002). Some years ago I read his wonderful The Tragedy of Arthur, 2011, a novel that impressed me about as much as a novel can. Then, recently, I read his latest one, The King at the Edge of the World, 2020, which also--to coin a phrase--blew me away.
So ... I decided to read his earlier books (there are only four--he's young yet), beginning with his first, which, as I said, is Prague.
The novel takes place in ... three guesses! In the early 1990s. And we follow a collection of characters, principally a young man named John, who shows up one day to stay with his brother, Scott, who, to put it bluntly, is something of a dick.
Phillips shifts us around, character by character, until we get to know them all very well. John catches on as a local journalist--does well--until ... ain't tellin' you.
Yes, there's love; yes, there's sex; yes, there are surprises galore.
Eventually, John leaves, and as he's aboard the train, he thinks: "Life will start there, at the end of this ride" (366). True for all of us, in various ways.
Lots of detail about the city--lots of insights into some of the darkest--and brightest--recesses of the human heart.
3. We had good luck--very good luck--shopping online this week at Acme here in Hudson. All their products are listed online (they've provided curbside pickup for quite some time), so we sent in our order, told them the day and time we'd like to have pick-up; they gave us a two-hour window; we drove over there in the time frame, called, and out came a young man with our order and put it in the trunk which I'd already opened. And off we drove ...
They had almost everything we'd ordered (some things--sanitary wipes--not yet available). Quality very good. We're going to keep doing this till this crisis is over.
4. We're streaming only about an hour a night--just before beddie-bye. Don't want to gobble up everything we want to watch and be stuck with things we don't want to watch. The rest of the time we're reading and writing and talking and cooking and (in my case) napping!
5. Lots of walkers around Hudson these days--many people with their dogs and children. Everyone's being prudent, I hope.
6. Baking bread today, as is my Sunday custom, and hoping to Face Time later today with our son and his family.
7. Be safe!
8. Last Word: A word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day providers ...
- from dictionary.com
hypermnesia [hahy-perm-nee-zhuh ]
noun: the condition of having an unusually vivid or precise memory.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF HYPERMNESIA? Hypermnesia, a medical or psychological term meaning “the condition of having an unusually vivid or precise memory,” is composed of the familiar prefix hyper-, which usually implies excess or exaggeration, the Greek noun mnêsis “memory,” and the Greek abstract noun suffix –ia. Hypermnesia entered English in the late 19th century.
Psychologists have investigated some persons with exceptional memories – said to exhibit “hypermnesia”. The most famous of these was a Russian, code-named “S”, who could recall long random series of numbers or words without error, many years later. ALUN REES, "IF ONLY I COULD REMEMBER HER NAME," NEW SCIENTIST, DECEMBER 24, 1994
This sharpened memory is called hypermnesia. A frequent experience in dreaming is a hypermnesia with regard to childhood scenes. FREDERICK PETERSON, "THE NEW DIVINATION OF DREAMS," HARPER'S MAGAZINE, VOL. 115, JUNE 1907