Monday, June 26, 2023

The Timeline

Just for grins and giggles, I want to tell you about a project I spent some time on last year. Like most of my endeavors, it was pointless but fun.

I will help you to know, I am a record keeper and collector of things, from LPs, CDs, and DVDs to ticket stubs, photographs, cards and letters, whatever.

Last year, I finally acted on an idea I’d been kicking around for a long while, about creating a “Timeline” of my life. To be specific, an Excel spreadsheet featuring stuff that’s gone on, from the day I was born, to yesterday.

I figured I was uniquely qualified to create such a thing because of my collector’s nature, meaning I have a ton of sources to go to, to match dates with events.

I started with a list of places to which my family and I had relocated, then added every 10th birthday. Then it was time for the spreadsheets.

I have full spreadsheets that include every concert (108) or sporting event (325) I’ve attended, and medical issues I’ve experienced. (Yes, really.) I created those soon after I got my first computer in 1999. I just started with every concert I knew I’d seen, cross referenced them with the ticket stubs I still had, and pictures I’d taken. The sports events were almost all based on ticket stubs, along with some occasional date-estimated remembrances from my youth. It really wasn’t too hard to do. Once you have all your old history added, you just take a minute or two to add the rest as you go. And the internet was a big help in coming up with final scores and attendance at long-ago games. (Yes, I tracked a lot of data, right down to the game jersey I wore, so I could keep track of the mojo effect.)

I created the medical thing after I had my first atrial fibrillation diagnosis and treatment, because I figured I’d better keep track of that stuff, since there’s no way I was going to remember all those names, dates, drugs, and procedures. And you know that’s always the first thing new doctors ask for.

So with that as a framework, I then dove into my journals. I’ve kept journals of sorts throughout vast swathes of my life, starting in 8th grade. I have a book that covers 10th and 11th grades, and then appointment books from my sophomore though senior years of college. I ran my life with those appointment books, in which I not only recorded classes and assignments, but parties, nights out with friends, and romantic entanglements. It was a wealth of information from my young life.

Once I was out of school, I journaled again from 1985 in my first solo apartment in Toledo through 1988 in Cleveland, in 1990-92 in Albany, with another appointment book from 1995. I had one journal just for describing my softball and rec-league hockey games. I tended to journal the most when I was alone, especially when living in another new town.

To fill in some more holes, I have a year by year school book with old teacher documents and report cards, photo albums with records of family trips and riotous Barn Parties, digital picture files from the non-film camera age, old Far Side calendars I’d kept from the 80s, and info from Facebook and other social media outlets.

With all this information in hand, I sat down and went through it all, page by page, looking for anything that might be vaguely interesting. The whole thing probably took me about a month to do. As of today, there are 1019 entries.

This is a snippet of the Timeline. I started using my collage appointment book at the beginning of 1981, so you can see the increased detail afterward. Note: CC = our college Commuter Center, Renee's was the local dance club.

Yes, there was much I didn’t put in the Timeline. Maybe one day I’ll go thought and make a “Director’s Cut,” with all the scenes that didn’t pass the initial editing. That’ll draw a hard R rating though.

So, why did I do all that work? Just for the hell of it, I suppose. I thought it would be a fun experience. And I did learn a lot. In fact there were several scenarios that I realize I’d mis-remembered regarding the order of events that may have happened in a relationship. But there was no arguing with the dates recorded in the appointment book or journal. Data trumps my faulty memory every time, (especially data I created myself).

And now that I have a searchable database of my life’s events, why not inflict it on my Facebook friends and family? So every day, I do a search on that day’s date and see what turns up. If it’s something I think might be interesting to a cross-section of Facebook connections, I write up a paragraph or two, especially if I can come up with an applicable picture to go with it. And yes, there’s a LOT that I skip, usually stuff that would only be interesting to me.

So now, should I accidentally become famous (or infamous) for doing something monumentally great or stupid, my biographers will have a wealth of information left behind to reconstruct my life story of being either an inspiring example or cautionary tale.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Comic Sans Respect

I may be getting extra crabby as my age advances toward geezenhood, but I saw an editorial cartoon in our local Baltimore Sun this weekend, that just pissed me off.

It was ostensibly about bosses wanting their employees to return back to work, and the workers not wanting to, which would have been fine. The struggle is real and so it’s fair game. What pissed me off were the inferences about stay-at-home workers, because as someone who has been 100% working from home since March 2020, I have some skin in the game. Here’s the cartoon:

You have to remember, everything you see here was put there for a reason. Nothing is accidental. Here’s what I see:

Lady sprawled on the couch with a laptop, surrounded by pets. So they think we lay around like slobs all day? Not so. I have a small office room I go to every day to work remotely on a desktop unit at 8 and emerge at noon for lunch and then go back until 5 when the day is over. There is no laying about.

Lady is holding a full glass of wine, with a bottle in the crook of her arm. So we’re drunk? If my manager can’t tell from the work I’m doing whether I’m drunk or not, SHE should be fired.

Bag of “Lardo” chips and a soda can wedged between her and the couch back. So people who work from home are fat slobs? Believe me, there are enough fat slobs in the office environment. There’s no need to cast aspersions here.

Empty laundry basket on the floor, overturned cup and bottle on the floor. Again with the slobbiness.

Hair in a messy updo. Well, there is no longer any “up” in my “do,” and hasn’t been since I was in my 20s, however, I always shower and put on clean clothes before I start the day. Granted, I’m wearing comfy clothes, but why not? Literally, no one can see me. (I may join conference calls but I don’t even have nor do I want a PC camera. I have no intention of having to feign interest while someone drones on about business metrics during a video call.)

If you put all these visual slurs together, you come to the traditional businessman’s conclusion that if we elves are not under Santa’s close personal supervision, the toys will not get made on time. They think that people only want to work from home so they can slack off. It’s a fallacy, but it’s what many of them think. Bosses want to be able to look out upon their domain and see all the worker bees toiling away at their workstations. It’s visually satisfying, but that’s not a valid reason to force employees back into a mind-numbing, time-sucking, money-losing, daily commute.

I have never in my life been happier at my job than in the last three years of remote work. I get two and a half more hours of my life back every day because I can set my alarm an hour later and then avoid a 90-minute round-trip commute. I don’t have to pay for lunch in a cafeteria or restaurant, nor bring in uninspiring bag lunches. I either have leftovers or make something simple and much cheaper than what I’d get at the office. We don’t have to have a pet sitter come and let our dog out when he needs it. I get to avoid tedious small talk and chit-chat, which I loathe. And best of all, I no longer have to suffer the open floor plan the company inflicted on us 8 years ago. I’d never been in such an uncomfortable office situation in my life.

So yes, I plan to hang onto working remotely as long as I continue to work. The last thing I want to see is the daily rag casting monkey poo on my integrity, giving the Powers That Be more backing to start recalling people to the office, like it or not.

Now, I don’t think that’s going to happen with my company, which has been very generous and forward-thinking when it comes to work/life flexibility. They look at my work… if it’s done, I’m good. If it’s not, I’ll get called up for it. And that’s as it should be. They allowed me to apply to work 100% remote and then granted my request. If they were to go back on that agreement, well, that’s when I would retire, on the spot. My boss knows this too… I’ve tossed that out before just in general conversation. And because I’m really the only person that does what I do, they’d better think long and hard about whether this is the mountain they want to die on.

I just resent that there’s a faction of the American corporate power structure that thinks you’re not doing your job unless you’re suffering for it. This cartoon feeds into it by denigrating those for whom life in the office is not optimal.

I wonder where this cartoonist works. Do you think he comes into the newsroom every day to crank out panels amidst a sea of desks? I strongly doubt it. I’m sure he has a nice at-home studio with an easel and an array of pencils (or whatever they use). In which case I say, “You want people back in the office? You first.”

In Other “News”

Is this not the most “No Shit” headline you’ve ever seen?

To be fair, MT Greene was talking about being educated on a specific topic, not the general principle of being uneducated. (Although it still fits.)

She was trying to run some shit by the CDC Director, who told her that if she’d like, she could come and educate her staff on how to read and interpret the data in recent CDC reports. But the noble Rep. Greene would never let things like facts, data, or being educated interfere with her preferred talking points. She was trying to claim that the CDC was covering up what she asserted were vast numbers of deaths caused by COVID vaccines, by citing a report from the CDC themselves. The only problem was that this report was tallying deaths by various causes, post-vaccination, including getting hit by a truck.

But why let facts get in the way of a good rant, right MT?

I am getting so tired of these shit-kickers…

Monday, June 12, 2023

True Crime and Punishment

At last, we’ve learned of the Great Orange Tyrant’s comeuppance in the form of 37 indictments over his disregard of document security protocols. Not sexy, but it has teeth. All the names you’ve heard of people convicted of playing fast and loose national security secrets went to jail.

I still don’t think TFG will ever see a day behind bars; I’m positive that if convicted, there will be some kind of sweetheart deal worked out, like home confinement. He only ever wants to stay in his own properties anyway, so I don’t see that as much of a punishment.

I’d like to see the justice system come up with some kind of creative approach so that the punishment for these convictions at least stings a little bit.

For example, maybe they can ban him from using a golf cart, or only allow him a one-iron and a wedge in his golf bags. And he has to hit from the “lady’s tee.”

They could replace all his gold fixtures with aluminum or tin.

Or they can remove all the ketchup from his house detention and only serve chuck steak, cooked rare.

They can put every TV channel on MSNBC and take away his cell phone.

Or even better, tune the channel to some network that will never mention him, like BBC or something. Maybe Al Jazeera.

OR, eliminate all the news stations and limit his viewing BET.

If they actually want him to grow and learn while away, they could limit his TV watching to Sesame Street, in hopes he might pick up a more grown-up vocabulary.

They should eliminate all newspapers and magazines, but fill every room with books. Big ones, with no pictures.

Or if they really want to screw with him, they can take the last 15 minutes of the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice was pre-empted for Obama’s announcement that we killed Bin Laden, and run it on a loop.

No spray tanning, makeup, or hair products.

They can limit his visitors to Don Jr. only.

They can make him stay on his property in Scotland… Not only will the time zone put him out of kilter with the US, but he’ll also be surrounded by pissed-off Scotsmen, which is no place to be. Although I’m sure he’d learn a whole new assortment of slurs and obscene terminology. (And I mean that with the utmost respect and admiration for the Scots. They can string together the most profane stream of filth and vulgarity imaginable and make it sound roguish and charming.)

What I’m saying is that, if for the first time in history, they’re going to convict the first former president, it needs to at least hurt a little. There absolutely must be a deterrent to obtaining the highest office in the land and then prostituting it out for one’s own financial reward, or else that will become the new normal. We’ll be electing people based on how hard we think they’re going to grift. There has to be a better way forward and it starts with some meaningful convictions for the most noxious white-collar criminal ever to hold office.

I am concerned about Judge Cannon presiding over the procedures. She's already shown that she's willing to ignore the law and put her thumb on the scale to obtain a free pass for TFG. And I don't think she'll recuse herself of anything... This is the reason she was put there. They may remove her, or neuter her rulings, (if we're lucky) but she won't step down.

Having a Stroke

I almost wish I was a golfer, just so I could quit out of outrage over the Saudis' hostile takeover of the professional game.

From today’s Baltimore Sun

I can swear up and down that I’ll never watch golf again but it would only be the hollowest of gestures. I haven’t watched a minute of golf since Tiger was a rookie and I wanted to see him shake up Augusta.

I consider golf one of those things that’s fun to do sometimes, like bowling or darts, but painfully dull to watch others do on TV. And as George Carlin used to say, it takes up entirely too much room in our country; land which could be put to better use to house the homeless. It’s expensive, it’s a huge time waste, and it takes a lot of time and money to become any good at it.

I have a set of clubs my (ex) wife got me back in the early 90s… I used to golf with her dad. It would be funny to watch us stride up to the tee box… Me, a tall, athletic-looking 30-something and a stooped-over, silver-haired 70-something. Then he’d whack the ball 170 yards down the middle of the fairway and I’d smash a worm-burner into the left-side trees. I used to say my “golf game” was more like “gardening” for all the soil I’d displace.

Anyway, I can’t even sell my old clubs because the state of the art has surpassed them. Everyone now has a driver with a head the size of a softball, made out of metal that sounds like it was stolen from a nuclear reactor core. Geezanium or something…

I read today that the Senate is going to investigate the takeover and look into revoking the PGA’s tax-free status.

I’m not sure that’s going to be as painful as it sounds. I’m no expert on the golfing administration and hierarchy, but I’m not sure they have any earnings or holdings to tax.

It reminds me of when Congress was talking about revoking the NFL’s tax-free status, back when kneeling down was a big controversy, but they overlooked the fact that the NFL had no monetary worth of note, to begin with. The money was with the 32 individual teams, not an overall entity. But let’em check it out. Anything that upsets this apple cart is fine with me.

But it’s a testament to the concept that Money Talks, to see that this bloody regime can just throw their blood-soaked oil money in the right direction and walk away with an entire international sport.

Maybe they just needed a sure-fire market for sand.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Debt Ceiling, Coffee Wars, and Goodbye to a Queen

I had mixed feelings about the Debt Ceiling agreement that passed last week. I mean, there was a big part of me that wanted President Biden to keep giving the Republicans the finger and refusing to negotiate. Every time they’ve tried to hold the economy hostage over the debt ceiling, they ended up caving because they were unable to convincingly lay off the blame on the Democrats. So I wanted to see them get humbled, I really did.

But then, it’s easy for me to say because I’m not reliant on the major government services that were at risk of being shut down. I don’t take Social Security, nor do I have Medicare/Medicaid. I don’t get SNAP or Welfare. I haven’t been to a National Park in ages. (And I know there’s other stuff as well.) So I could just keep my head down and do my work-from-home job and wait for it to resolve without taking any hits to my comfort. But a lot of other people would get screwed, wouldn’t they? A lot of people would be SOL.

That’s why I’m glad we had the steady hand of Grandpa Joe at the wheel, who acted like the adult in the room and walked away with a deal that Democrats can live with. In fact, I don’t think he gave up much at all, considering Republicans came in wanting to (among other things) shit-can the infrastructure bill on which he’s staking his Presidency. As if that was ever going to happen. (It’s just like when Republicans wanted to hold the ACA hostage during the Obama years. Like he was EVER going to sign on to having that repealed.) The Republicans just needed enough movement that they could distort into an alternate reality where they fleeced a senile Commander in Chief.

I also agree with my friend the Green Eagle when he notes that the wealthy Donors That Be probably put a bug in the Speaker’s ear telling him to can all this nonsense so they don’t derail their gravy train. They no doubt notified the ignorant rabble-rousers in the House as well, to try to maintain the status quo. I mean, what’s the use in buying a Speaker of the House if he gets replaced within the year? They can’t have the inmates running the asylum, who think that printing more money is the solution to economic woes. Someone must ensure the money trough is still filling so it can be siphoned upward.

So, like always, the can was kicked down the road so it can blow up on another cast of characters and the charade can continue. If there’s a Republican in charge, they’ll raise the debt ceiling like it was a Congressional pay raise package. If it’s still the Democrats, be prepared for the next hostage drama.

This Is Not Your Father’s Folgers

I was in the grocery store over the weekend and came upon this rather disturbing display of a coffee brand I’d never seen before. Take a look at this stuff:

It looks to me like this “Black Rifle Coffee Company” is marketing directly to MAGAs and military wannabees, who are so insecure about their manhood that they need morning psych-ops with their cuppa Joe.

How do you even know what this shit tastes like? There’s nothing showing that tells you how one flavor compares to another. Or maybe it’s all the same shit only with different collectible bags, like Wheaties.

I have some theories about who these various versions are trying to reach:

Five Alarm: Fireman wannabees.

Freedom Fuel: Oil workers, drillers, and fossil fuel/monster truck fans. Those who fear E-cars and sustainable fuel production.

Just Black: All Lives Matters people. Slogan: “Black coffee matters!”

Gunship: Small dick fear.

Spirit of ’76: This should actually be tea.

Loyalty Roast: Trump fanatics. Probably shouldn’t picture a dog though. Just put the famously petless former guy’s picture on the box.

Tactisquatch: I don’t know… yetis?

I can see their new tagline now… “The Jews will not percolate us.”

Are You Ready for Tina?

It was with great sadness I heard the news of the passing of the great Tina Turner. That Friday, Sweetpea came home and asked me to put on some music before dinner. I said I had just the thing:

We had our weekly slow dance to “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

My first memory of her was from when I was a little boy and Ike and Tina Turner were performing on some variety show. Tina was wearing one of those diamond-shaped dresses that was cut up to her hip bones, with the bottom point of the dress down between her knees, making it look like her legs were 8 feet long. I recall my Dad commenting, “Now THAT’s a woman.”

Like anyone with a soul, I became a huge fan and had mad respect for her after seeing her life-story movie where she was played by Angela Bassett. (I later read her book that it was based on, “I Tina.”) I cheered out loud when she finally left her bastard of a husband.

I ended up seeing Tina perform solo on four occasions. The first was in August of 1985, in Toledo, with Glenn Frey opening. I got a pair of tickets and took my mom. We were having a very nice pre-show dinner, because we had all the time in the world to get to the show… right up until I realized I left the tickets back at my apartment. But after some Fast and Furious driving maneuvers, we managed to get to the show on time. As always, it opened with a dark stage, with Tina’s sultry voice asking us, “Are you ready for Tina?

I saw her twice within a month, in the summer of 1987, once in Baltimore with my parents and sister, and again two weeks later in Cleveland, both at outdoor pavilions with Wang Chung opening. The last time was at another outdoor pavilion in Saratoga Springs NY, in 1993 with my then-wife. Chris Isaac opened

Every time, she put on an unreal show, with her powerful singing and dancing her ass off with her backup dancers. In later years, I saw recorded concerts where she was still putting on the show well into the 2000s. The last one I saw, she was in her 70s. I was thinking, “Man, she’s really slowing down,” because, for about half the show, she sang from a stool. But I immediately had to qualify my thinking… “Yeah, slowing down for Tina Turner.” For any other 70+-year-old woman, she was a freak of nature, an Energizer Bunny with “legs long enough to wrap around the world.” *

*Quote from Bluz Mother.

I’m happy that she lived long enough to reap the world’s love and respect and retire in comfort. One of her songs from Private Dancer was called, “I Might Have Been Queen…”

As far as I’m concerned, there was no doubt about it. She was definitely queen.