Sunday, July 31, 2005

Time to look forward.

Thinking about August now...too late to salvage July's follies. New month, ding! turn a new page. Hope abides.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Roaming in the Gloaming

We don't hear the "gloaming" mentioned much anymore, and most people probably wouldn't know what it is today. It is the evening. It is that lavender, graying, dimming last light of the day after the sun has set. It is mosquito time. It is the time we put aside our work and sit on the porch or go for a bike ride or walk, the time we talk to each other. So I offer this walk and talk in the gloaming of this last Saturday in July.

My parents knew a song called "Roaming in the Gloaming" I can still hear them sing with others their age. Singalongs, believe it or not, were one of the main activities of adults before television and movies, computers and dvd's entertained us. The adults would get together in clubs or church class potlucks, socials or fairs, and someone would lead them in songs everyone seemed to know the words to.

During such singing I was invariably mortified because my dad sang loud and sang off-key. So I would slink down in my seat, avoid eye contact with my friends, and hope no one would notice, but they always did. Even worse, I inherited my father's vocal talents, so I sing flat also. But I inherited perfect pitch as well--probably from my mother's side--so I know exactly how flat I am, but can't seem to correct it.

Why blog about this gloaming? Well, it feels good sometimes to pass along a fond time or memory. My youngest son says he loves the evenings best--his favorite time of day. I usually like it, but I hate late afternoons, from about three till five or six. That late slant of golden light is the most depressing thing to me for some reason I don't understand at all. But once the gloaming arrives and the sun sets, all is well; and with the coming of night I always seem to get excited and filled with a renewed zest for what adventures await.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

thinking, perceiving, feeling, and blogging

Some may remember the heyday of Citizen's Band radio, when everyone began trying out mobile chattering with whomever they could reach with their five-watt units. We'd drive down the road or down the street calling for a "Radio check" and excitedly thank anyone who'd respond "Ten-four good buddy". But beyond that, we didn't really have much to follow up with, unless there was an accident or traffic backed up and we'd try to locate information why.

That's how I feel after a couple of months of blogging. I don't have that much to say in this summer heat beyond "Hey, hi there, whoever you are." There seems to be an inspirational lull. Maybe the national oven has cooked our thinkers. I could tell you about Great Aunt Suzie out in Saskathewan, or growing up in a house full of music lessons and antiques, or how I went from a piano bar entertainer to an English teacher, professor, and college dean I suppose. But then I'd have to act like one, and that wouldn't be fun anymore.

No, I think today I'd rather blog about thought itself. I think a lot, and I write a lot, and I write a lot about the nature of thinking and the nature of writing. But last night it occurred to me that in blogging, when people say in effect, "here's what I think...," the reader needs to understand that what the blogger is really saying is "here's what I'm thinking at this moment, about this subject, and I reserve the right to think something entirely different or even opposite if I come to see it differently." In other words, there's a difference, often, between what someone says he or she thinks and what that person really believes. And so far as believing goes, that can change also. What we think is true depends on many things, not the least of which is our own set of prejudices and perceptions, genetic predispositions, experiences, education and culture.

People change, and people change their attitudes. So if someone's saying something peckish or ridiculous, annoying or downright stupid, don't be too quick to cut it to shreds. Chances are the author of most things we say in blogs wouldn't want to bet the farm on it being one hundred percent true himself.

So why say something, you might ask, if you don't believe it? Good point. Maybe we should be more careful what we put out there. But maybe we blog it to see what our own reaction will be to it when we read it ourselves, or to sharpen our understanding of how we feel about it, or to get a sense of our own fallacies by seeing it set out in words instead of just revolving around in our heads.

I know in my case, when I begin writing about something--especially something I feel negative about--I have to get it all out for several paragraphs or pages of spewing and grousing before I begin to sense that I'm full of it, that I don't believe what I'm saying at all, and that in fact I may be deluding myself about the whole discussion.

People are complex. We don't always know ourselves as well as we think, and don't always believe what we say or say what we believe. My point is, that's okay; we're human. We're not done learning, and we're not always right. So we need to give ourselves the right to change our mind when we face new evidence and not cling too much to just what we want to be true. At any given point, we have to leave the possibility open that we just might be wrong.

Thoughts are based on perception, and perception can be off. Haven't you gotten all worked up about something only to find out that what upset you in the first place wasn't true? But you thought it was, and one idea piled up on another, and pretty soon you were really upset. What's worse, the very feeling of emotion your mistaken notion generated in you became self-justifying; you know you're angry, therefore there must be a valid reason why.

People promote the idea that one should trust his or her instincts above all else, rely on your feelings to determine what's true. In one way I agree, especially if something that seems logical just doesn't "feel right," no matter how good an argument can be made for it. But I think that our reason is a more reliable indicator of what's true. It's less biased by emotions and prejudices than our feelings are, and it's a distinctively human ability. Most animals can feel emotions, but they can't reason very well. People can, and should.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

way too tight

Way too tight. Got to loosen up, loosey goosey. Something about the contrasting, Delta colored layout makes me formal, I guess.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I want to be a Dolphan again

When is that indefinable moment when summer switches to fall? Is it as early as July 4? For me it was today. Probably had something to do with the news that Ricky Williams is returning to our Dolphins.

I love to watch Ricky run and hope he gets a thousand plus yards even after his suspension is over by game five. I don't think he would have walked away last year if it hadn't been for then-coach Wannstedt's overusing him the previous seasons and getting him pretty banged up. It was really selfish for a coach to put an offensive player in a predictable position and expose him to injury.

But Ricky may not find much friendliness among the teammates he abandoned to a miserable season last year without him. He's not blameless and he knows that, and I expect him to try to make amends on and off the field and try to regain some of the respect he had from fans, teammates, and opponents alike.

I don't know why the Dolphins seem to go out of their way to rehabilitate troubled players. Over their recent history there have been dozens of them. Obviously the answer is the team thinks it can benefit from their skills, but I can't support a team of thugs and bullies, even if they can win.

To me it's a matter of honor and pride. I know, I know, every coach and fan will tell me winning is everything, but I don't see it that way. I want to win as much as the next guy, but I can only support a team composed of players and coaches--and owners for that matter as well--that play fair and obey the law, promote decency and don't beat their wives and girlfriends. I live here.

I also believe in second chances, and I admire new coach Nick Saban for using some of his new skipper capital to give Ricky and several other previously-troubled players a chance to prove themselves under a new banner. The test, however, will be what he's willing to put up with if the beneficiaries don't clean up their acts and change--off the field especially, no matter how great they play.

Friday, July 15, 2005

why is blogger best?

Don't even try to use a different blog site. There may be a thousand of them, and you may find several you like the features of, but none of them will work when you try to edit the html or do something a little custom or out of the ordinary. You'll get errors or crashes galore, or ads sneaking in, or very little stat information, or no more syndication than blogger offers through plus Ping-O-Matic you can set up yourself. (Don't check if you use; you're probably already pinging them through your settings, and you'll get snottygrams for trying to ping them too often.) And forget their so-called help menus. I thought Blogger was stingy with how-to help, but after trying about a dozen others, Blogger seems encyclopedic.

I can't find any other blog site--free or paid--that offers more features than Blogger, except maybe some that show rudimentary, anonymous stats; and you can do better with's free stats that give much more information for tracking your hits, if you're into that.

In fact, I can't find any other blog site that lets me do anything different than I can right here, and these templates look better, input better, load better and offer more than any other free site I've found, ads or no ads. And you get a good, easy-to-remember URL with your subdomain at the beginning instead of in some weird formula at the end.

As for getting crawled and indexed by the search engines, Blogger's being owned by Google doesn't mean you're going to get botted any sooner than you would on But it's no better elsewhere, trust me. Those hits are in-house, pal (if not your own) no matter where you spatter your ideas into the void. Best chances for traffic building seem to be a good quality, attractive homepage and lotsa links. Again, blogs offer attractive options and all the link opportunities found on other host sites, and better information on how to do it, and plenty of fellow bloggers you can find through your profile interests to link with.

For all these reasons, Blogger is the best host site going, by a mile. They're not perfect and they're not the best at any single feature, perhaps, but for overall rich features, user ease, reliability and high quality, no one else even comes close.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

sometimes slower was faster

Just got back from the grocery with a few items. I went there on the way home from Kinko's, where I faxed a few more supporting financial proofs to my son's prospective landlord in New York. Kinko's had four fax machines, of which three were offline for repairs, so I had to wait a while, and when I did it, I did it wrong and the lady had to help me. My confirmation also failed, and I had to refax everything. All in all I probably wasted about fifteen minutes before plunking down my fees and going to Publix.

But with my technical challenge of the day behind me, I was in no rush. So it didn't bother me that the poor old lady in the checkout lane was all a-dither over how to run her card through the scanner. "Is it debit or credit?" the cashier asked. "It takes too long to get waited on these days," the lady whined, ignoring or not understanding the cashier. The cashier, with the bagboy, helped her till they got her card (credit) scanned for her small items, and no one got impatient, including me.

I was thinking, that transaction was for that old lady about as frustrating as my faxing was for me. Both of us were being expected to process information on machines neither of us understood, and both of us were being glared at by other customers and staff, who must assist people all day with similar problems. When they're not busy, they don't do it grudgingly; but when they're busy, it's a pain in the rear and they often make one feel pretty stupid.

Before scanners, faxes, computers and the like, the old lady would have asked the grocery store owner for her tea and rolls, and he would have rounded them up for her personally and said he'd put them on her account, and thanked her by name for her purchase. My, haven't we come a long way with our conveniences? Now we're expected to wait for eons while every clerk plays with his or her computer and screen and nothing very good for us happens at all. And lord help us when the machine breaks down or someone doesn't know how to input it efficiently.

On a recent trip I tried to get a room at a Hampton. Three uniformed, attractive clerks were busy talking and computer inputting with phone customers, and I waited till one was free and asked for a room. "Smoking or nonsmoking?" "Your name?" (address, phone, license, vehicle, etc.), and the invariable "How do you spell that?" to which I always suppress the fantasy answer: 'correctly'.

After I spelled out everything slowly and she scanned my card, she played with her screens and keys for another five minutes before announcing, "The computer says we don't have a nonsmoking double for tonight."

For her it was a triumph of technical convenience and service. Just think, she had a grasp of her inventory that was irrefutable. I had been playing games with the three witches by that time for twenty minutes, and now I had a definitive answer at last: "The computer says there are no rooms left." Maybe the folks on the other phone calls grabbed the last ones for all I know, while my vidiot clerk was too slow at spelling my name, phone, address, vehicle info, and credit info on her keyboard. Didn't matter. The computer said no, so that was that. There is no higher court.

Not two years ago most clerks could tell you when you stepped up to a motel desk if they had no vacancy available, if their sign did not, so that at least you didn't waste a half-hour before finding out. We've sure created that "great big beautiful tomorrow" the Carousel of Progress at Disney World touts, haven't we?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

hooo let the dawgs out...

Bumper sticker: "I tried to contain myself, but I got out."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

traffic and purpose

Remember that movie in which three guys with smalltown angst drag some straight chairs to the middle of the lone road that runs through their desert town and sit there as relaxed as if they were on a front porch, thinking and talking about life and the universe? In the background appears a small, amorphous blob that slowly grows and takes on details, and in time we see (but do not yet hear) a huge semi coming straight at them. The locals seem oblivious and go on talking. At the last moment they lazily rise, stretch, and drag their chairs off the road without even seeming to notice the annoyed horn blast from the big rig as it roars by and dopplers off into the distance. There won't likely be other traffic on the road that day--maybe not for several days or weeks. Though connected to the whole world by a good highway, visits to that anonymous little outpost are as infrequent as shooting stars, as brief, and as unpredictable.

That's my blog traffic paradigm. Once in a blue moon someone stumbles onto my site, stays from one second to ten or so, then skitters away. The odd thing is, instead of one hit, I usually get ten or twenty before they disappear again. And if I get really lucky, someone actually reads something, or even comments.

I've read some good advice on how to increase traffic, much of it having to do with getting linked, indexed and searched, pinged and noticed. Some advises trying to build a consistent voice and high quality content; still other suggests keeping things brief and eyecatching and avoiding long diatribes. It's all good advice for increasing traffic and "stickiness" with eye and mind candy. Entice and please the readers, who are assumed to have short attention span and be most entertained by the most direct, spectacular and sensational imagery.

But is that what I want my blog to be? Is that what an online journal is? Something in me says I should write what I what I want to say, the way I want to say it, and let it find its own form and length. and not be very concerned who, if anyone, notices it, reads it, or likes or dislikes it. There are millions and millions of personal blogs out there. I think that trying to compete with them artificially for attention is a total capitulation of purpose. Personal journaling isn't fiction, after all--unless it panders to readers.

And as far as traffic goes, I'd rather have one or two thoughtful readers a month than hundreds just passing through because my site happened to be in their electronic paths. Those one or two are why I blog at all instead of journaling longhand to myself as before.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Little belittle.
As adults we buy the toys we always wanted when we were kids, the ones we asked Santa for but didn't get.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

still intrigued, if baffled

After about a month of blogging, I think I've learned a few of the in's and out's of it, but I have to admit I haven't even scratched the surface of what I need to know. And I'm still a bit hesitant to use the public forum it offers for expounding private thoughts and feelings.

What fascinates me most is the variety of hits I've gotten from all over the world and all kinds of people. But I've never been able to account for why they come in bunches, seemingly, and then disappear from the radar for days. Nearly all stay less than thirty seconds, but a few actually scan a few posts and a couple have made very thoughtful comments that have encouraged and helped me. I am fascinated but also baffled.

I also tend to get bogged down in code and tags, pings and techno-babble, and I lost my counter a couple of times, and half my footer, and committed a few other no-no's. At least 80% of my time is still spent trying to figure out what I'm doing.

But the rest of my time I take a breath and just write, which is what I signed on to try to do in the first place and which is what I enjoy most. At such times I get "in the zone" and just listen to the voice I'm trying to say things with, and let things kind of flow, groove with it. At such times I really don't worry much if anyone is reading or not.

I'm sensing that blogging is like trying to pet the cat in the dark; I reach out and she's nowhere to be found. But I don't worry; she's watching everything I do, and she'll find me when she's ready, and I'll feel her brush against my leg. I just don't know when it will happen.

In blogging, as in many other things, there is much to attend to. But perhaps there are some things that need to be ignored as well, if it is to become what I sense it could be: a personal yet public way of thinking out loud. There's something Eastern in it, something kind of zen in this technology, a bit resistant to Western logic.

Cakes and Candles

It's my birthday. Happy birthday to all of us crabs and moonchildren who were born July 10! The secret of longevity, I am convinced, is breathing; simply keep breathing and you can live beyond 100!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I'll Huff, and I'll Puff...

The National Hurricane Center has predicted another active season this year, but everyone was surprised to find the strong ones forming so early, in late June and now early July, coming up from the Caribbean. Usually our season begins with Cape Verde storms rolling off the African coast and bowling across the deep blue sea toward Florida, which sticks out 600 miles into the warm Atlantic like a headpin.

But predicted or not, Hurricane Dennis howled and flashed and rained in torrents here last night at five a.m. and scared the cat. Its dangerous center will pass hundreds of miles to our West, but its strong tropical force rainbands extend across the whole state. I've seen about a dozen hurricanes firsthand in Florida, including tight, tornado-like Andrew and last year's sprawling Frances, which felled a huge ficus that we had a time getting removed. But the worst one I experienced was the first, David, in 1979, three years after we moved to Port St. Lucie.

David approached while Barb was ten days overdue and knocked out our power right away. It was only a category 1 or 2 storm when it made landfall at Jupiter and came north at us. As the eye approached, we saw our little slash pines bend all the way to the ground in horizontal agony, then came a sudden calm when the eye passed over us and our little trees stood up straight again, confused and dazed by the blue sky and balmy sunshine (yes, we went out in the eye and did all the things they told us not to). But our respite was brief. Within a few minutes all our little pines got flopped over to the ground in the opposite direction and stayed there like a wrestler crying uncle and pounding the mat to no avail against a sadistic adversary.

All in all David was a three-day-plus event, like living in a wind tunnel. Although it was only a low-number hurricane, it was all we needed and more. We don't mess with these "facts of life living in Florida"; they're nasty and messy. But if people use good sense and stay inside, these huge storms' winds don't do a lot of harm in themselves usually, unless one is close to the eyewall; the danger is in the flooding and cleanup accidents after the worst passes, when people do crazy things with downed power lines and tree and yard cleanups, shutter removal, etc., and work themselves into heart attacks and cuts and bruises.

On the fourth night without power we heard the Florida Power and Light truck in the next block behind us, about three a.m., and rushed over in our pajamas to plead for service restoration. Being without power for about four days and using bucket water from our splash pool for showers al fresca on our back stoop in the dark was miserable. But David didn't break our spirits or our health. And our little trees survived and grew aright, and baby Mark was born two days afterward, beautiful and perfect.

Friday, July 08, 2005

it say to write

chasing writing dreams, still retired.
still dreaming retired chases, writing.
retired writer, chasing dream stills.
writing still chases, retiring dreams.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Birthday, America!

Watching the celebration in Gatlinburg this year with Billy Ray Cyrus at the Dollywood exit. I asked my wife what came to mind when she thought of July fourth. She said fireworks, music, speeches, flags, bunting, etc. She asked me what I thought of. I said freedom. That's the speeches, she said.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

One Must Post

One must post
If one is supposed
To get the host
To hit the most.
But when the host
Ignores the post,
Whom can I toast?
The Holy Ghost?