Just a thought…

Let’s see where this leads – startling insights, deep thoughts, great revelations. More likely, occasional musings. We’ll see. I invite you to join in the conversation.

Listening to Arlo

While I mowed the lawn today, hoping it’s the last mow of the season, I thought back to 1968, sitting in my NYC apartment at 115 St. Mark’s Place (the epicenter!), and listening to Arlo Guthrie sing Alice’s Restaurant. I have absolutely no idea why that particular memory bubbled to the surface, but it got me thinking about multi-tasking.

I listened to that 18-minute ballad as the record played on the record player (not even a stereo). It was life long before earbuds. The Walkman, which hadn’t yet arrived on the scene, has since come and gone. To listen to music, one had to be stationary, usually indoors near an electric outlet. Transistor radios were notoriously full of static and their batteries expired in a matter of hours. The music didn’t travel with you in any reasonable way, and when you listened, it was pretty much a single-focus, stationary past-time.

If I listened to that 18-minute song today, I would also be folding laundry, sorting grocery coupons, checking my email or knitting. It’s simply inconceivable that I would not multi-task that activity today. We’re driven by the technology and the culture to do more stuff simultaneously, cramming as many activities into every hour of our day.

The technology today permits us to keep more of the facets of our lives with us all the time. Those facets include the to-do lists, family responsibilities and work tasks in addition to activities such as listening to music. I could have listened to Arlo today while I mowed the lawn – an impossibility back when that song was cresting the cultural wave with his irreverent song about littering, criminal justice and western Massachusetts.

One thing at a time – what a refreshing concept! I cannot always reduce the to-do list, but I can decide to focus on each item more mindfully and respectfully for what the item is – laundry, listening, or lawn care.

Maybe this is what I was looking for. After all, Arlo sang, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.”

Guidance from the Fridge

I bought a new refrigerator, which was delivered today. When I pulled the old fridge from the wall, bracing for what wonders were behind/beneath it, I found the list called “Golden Rules for Living.”

Ann Landers created the list. I cut it out and attached it to the refrigerator some time in the ’90s, hoping it would help to guide my then-teenaged son in the good citizenship arena.

Not sure if he ever even read it, but perhaps you will. I still like the advice.

Golden Rules for Living

  1. If you open it, close it.
  2. If you turn it on, turn it off.
  3. If you unlock it, lock it up.
  4. If you break it, admit it.
  5. If you can’t fix it, call in someone who can.
  6. If you borrow it, return it.
  7. If you value it, take care of it.
  8. If you make a mess, clean it up.
  9. If you move it, put it back.
  10. If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
  11. If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
  12. If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions

Since the new refrigerator is stainless steel, all the photos, quips, cartoons, reminders and guidance that were magneted to the old fridge will need a new home. Stay tuned.

Subscription Hell

Just finished reading The Economist’s series of articles about the decline of journalism and various revenue models. It got me thinking – first about online news and then about cable TV, with some thoughts about our subscription fee culture. See Bulletins from the future.

The pay wall approach seems to be the revenue model of choice for online news, although it’s certainly not the ultimate solution. Various models have appeared – annual or monthly fee, free if you also subscribe to the hard copy edition. And each paper is independently pricing its offerings.

I have subscribed to none of them that require payment. Call me frugal and irritated.

And it’s not just online news – it’s also cable TV and subscription fees for GPS devices, data access fees for smart phones, subscription fees for everything from home security to social networking.

One of the things that rankles me about cable TV is that you have to buy a prepackaged selection of 200 channels rather than the 7 channels you always watch. So I get programs about catching Alaskan crabs, building motorcycles, crafting weapons, tattoo parlors, in addition to the travel channels, food/cooking channels, and cable news that I want to watch.

I’ve heard the argument that it just wouldn’t pay to allow subscribers to select only the channels they want to watch or that the subscription would be exorbitant. Can we tailor this model, however, for access to online news?

I propose a monthly fee that would cover the cost of subscribing to a given number of online media selected by the reader/consumer. I’d choose the NYT, Boston Globe, The Economist to start. Currently I get home delivery of the Globe and have access to the online version; I do not subscribe to the NYT and my access is, thus, limited to 20 articles/month. The Economist charges over $100 for online access.

My online readers’ fees would be consolidated in one bucket with one password, one credit card charge. The various media providers could reduce their individual fees by being relieved of some overhead of managing those subscriptions. If I added/removed online options, the fee would be adjusted, but always at a reduced amount than if I subscribed to each individually.

I’ve wanted a similar service offering like this for credit cards – wouldn’t it be wonderful to consolidate all your credit card accounts on a single card, to which you could add or remove accounts? One plastic card to carry instead of the loaf of cards in many wallets. The credit card companies don’t like this idea because they would lose their branding identity.

So this is my current screed. Am I wandering around in left field with this posting? Am I such a Luddite that I’m unaware of existing services that do exactly what I propose? Feedback is appreciated.

Still here – really

Everyone blogger is self-critical about not posting frequently enough. Me too.

A number of topics are off-limits for my public discussion – purely my own decision. They include recent medical adventures, discussion of my age and the implications thereof, and religion. What’s left?

Well, I could talk about recent political upheavals, both domestic and foreign. Ah, you could read much more informed writing on any news site.

How about movies? I just watched Chinatown, which I’d never seen. Returned it to Netflix four months after I received it. I haven’t seen a single Oscar winner (nor the nominees).

Books? In the past 6 months, I don’t think I’ve read a single selected book for my book group. Wait, I take that back. I read last month’s selection – the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – but I read it over a year ago.

Gossip? Now there’s a fun topic! Unfortunately, I’ve been laying low for a while and not getting out there to collect the tea leaves.

Travel? I was in Olivebridge, NY [look it up] for last Thanksgiving.

See what I mean?

I welcome suggestions, gentle prodding, and commentary to motivate me. I’ll try to be more on top of my blogging – how’s that for a New Year’s resolution made in March?

Minor League Baseball – Sweet Times

Minor league baseball games are a hidden jewel in our leisure life, offering sweet respite from our personal rat races and reminding us of how pleasurable simple past-times can be.

This week I attended a Lowell (MA) Spinners baseball game, courtesy of my good friend Eleanor. The Spinners are the A level minor league team in the Boston Red Sox family. They were playing the Aberdeen (MD) Ironbirds, the A team in the Baltimore Orioles family.

If you’ve never been to a minor league baseball game, you should make it a priority this summer.

  • The most expensive ticket is $10.
  • Refreshments are a fraction of what you’d pay at a major league park.
  • Every seat has a great view of the field.
  • Parking cost $5.
  • A boatload of entertainment is offered (in addition to the game itself).

The entertainment is charming, playful, and inclusive of many fans. My absolute favorite entertainment at a Spinners game was the Frisbee-playing Australian sheepherding dogs and the Peter Gammons Look-Alike Contest. You’re just not gonna get that at Fenway Park.

The night I attended was Jimmy Buffett night – no, he wasn’t there, but plenty of fans were dressed in Hawaiian shirts and sporting tropical headgear, jewelry, etc. The Reading Community Singers wore Hawaiian leis while singing the national anthem. A number of children tossed out “first” balls. Between innings souvenir t-shirts were slingshot into the stands. One youngster ran the bases in competition with the Spinners’ mascot. Trivia contests and a 50-50 raffle awarded different spectators prizes. And, of course, the crowd was encouraged to cheer on the team, to make noise, to sing along with Jimmy Buffett songs.

What a good time. What sweet pleasure in a human scale. If you haven’t done so already, take your family or fun-loving friends to a minor league game for enjoyment that is unattainable in the higher-powered venues we so often seek.

You’ll be glad you did.

Committed

So the local nursery delivered three yards of black mulch to my driveway (it’s so easy to shop over the phone!). I arrived home about an hour before torrential rains were to begin. Borrowed a tarp from my Good Neighbor Jeff to protect the mulch from being washed away.
Now, instead of whining about the weeds, I have to go after them and mulch as I go to keep them at bay. If you’re looking for me during the next few weekends, check the garden. I’ll probably be there.

Time to get dirty

It’s a gorgeous spring Friday and the weatherman is predicting a summer-like weekend. What to do? Why, get out in the garden, of course.

I’m thrilled to see that my lilacs are in serious bud. The removal of a few trees several years ago has given the lilacs needed sun and they are responding with lots of flowers-to-be. I’m especially pleased that the lilacs I transplanted from my childhood home in Yonkers are finally going to bloom this year. My mother used to send me and my sisters to school with large bouquets of this most fragrant flower as a gift to our classroom teacher. A sweet flower and sweet memories.

Because of my Unfortunate Incident last year, I haven’t been able to garden for two years, and I’ve missed the therapy of digging in the dirt, rearranging the landscape in my little quarter acre, fussing over all those growing things. I’m looking forward to some serious garden time this weekend.

Can’t wait.

Teachable Me

I sit in the pews most Sunday mornings, participating in and absorbing wisdom (as much as I’m capable of) in a caring, supportive community. Each Sunday offers something of pertinence or utility in my weekly travels. This past Sunday, however…
Rev. Tim Kutzmark’s sermon was titled “Where the Rubber Meets the Road.” I was pretty sure that its focal point would not be travel or tire wear. It ended up, however, being one of those unforgettable messages – the ones that resonate completely and get mentally revisited on a regular basis.
The gist of the sermon: it’s easy to be kind, loving, tolerant, gracious, wise, etc., in theory, but it’s the every-day challenges that offer us the biggest opportunities to be our better selves, to live our beliefs, to learn to be better human beings.
Now, this is not rocket science – but the special twist that strengthened this sermon’s impact was the revelation that the greatest personal growth opportunities masquerade as difficult people, traffic gridlock, slow checkout lines, and other mundane irritations. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to solve BIG problems such as world hunger, climate destruction, or global strife, but we do encounter numerous opportunities in our daily travels to live our beliefs and to be the people we admire.
In the few days since hearing that sermon I’ve been on a minor mission, striving to recast those people who push my buttons and those situations that set me to muttering under my breath, raging at the clouds, or tossing in a sleepless bed at night. Rather than launch into a tirade (whether visible or internal), I’m trying to embrace the opportunity to let go of the anger/frustration, and find a better path for myself. Those difficult people and frustrating situations are not my demons, but rather my angels for they have the power to put me on the higher road where, as we all know, there is so much less traffic.
Maybe that sermon was about travel after all.

2010

Hounded mercilessly by my friend Cliff, I take pen in hand and cobble together a New Year’s post.
I’ve come to the conclusion that blogging is something that appeals more to men than to women. I liken men’s propensity/comfort with blogging to their fascination with internal combustion engines, power tools – in general, size/power/visibility – in so many arenas. You guys just like to strut your stuff, and the blogosphere seems particularly appealing. I don’t mean to start a war, and I could be completely off-base… it’s just a thought.
It’s not that I lack opinions, but I just don’t feel the particular need to broadcast them on the internet as frequently as some are so inclined (or seem to believe that I should be so inclined). Perhaps it’s my dislike of confrontation (despite my mouthy personality) – debate and argument don’t call to me.
What does call to me is the desire for a better world, a better year. Look! we have a new clay tablet on which to write our story. Once again, we’re given the opportunity to start anew, to invent a better self, to get up (and stay) on the high road, make our own lives more meaningful and perhaps comfort or enhance the lives of others.
We each possess a great potential. Although it can be viewed as a burden, it’s also an opportunity. I hope we all enjoy a healthy, happy 2010, and achieve some of that potential.
Happy New Year.

Wish I’d known…

This leg brace is an impressive product that would have shortened my 10 months on crutches. Maybe next time (just kidding).

Check out the YouTube video.

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