My Favorite Gizmo

I really love my Google Desktop Sidebar. It has a slew of gadgets to choose from and I've even gotten used to the look of it while I'm on the web. And if I don't, I can minimize it to my taskbar. My favorite feature is the Live-RSS notifyer. As soon as one of you upload a new blog entry, you appear! What a time-saver that is. The customizable slide show isn't bad either.

I don't mean this to be a plug, I'm just really jazzed about this thing.


Increasing Blog Traffic

Since I moved this blog back to my domain my visitor count has decreased by at least 50%. Hm. What to do. Most "Increase Your Blog Traffic" articles list the following ploys:

  1. Write what you know about.
    Well, no one knows more about me and my life than I do.

  2. Visit and leave comments on other blogs.
    Pimping. Nope, don't do that. When I make comments, it's because I have something to say.

  3. Place Technorati or tags on keywords.
    Don't know how to do that. Any help out there?

  4. Sell stuff.
    Not going to do that. Hell, I get pissed off having to sit through ads when I go see a movie. I'm not about to subject my readers to ads.

  5. Write about the news.
    The last thing the blogosphere needs is yet another self-appointed pundit.

  6. Be snarky.
    Not my style.

  7. Write about Google.
    Google. Type keyword. Hit "Search". Scroll through endless pages of directories listing directories. Done.

  8. Post your photos on Flickr.
    Hey! Here's one that I have right!

  9. Write short, pithy posts.
    This must feed the short attention span.

  10. Write interviews with the well-known.
    Any well-knowns out there want to volunteer?

The thing is, I don't keep a blog to harvest hit counts. I keep a blog to communicate. And is a large readership really all that important? I'd rather have a small readership of people who actually like to read my stuff than a huge one of people who are just trying to drive up their blog traffic. That just seems like so much mutual stroking off. All of this has made me wonder lately if blogging isn't simply a way of nabbing a little attention. Back when I was young and chasing down the fame demon (or he was chasing me), I wasn't really after the money, attention, or groupies. I just didn't want to be obscure. I wanted to make a mark, let people know that I existed. Now that I can blog, post pictures and promote my projects, that hunger has sunsided considerably.

So what do you think? Is garnering a large readership important to you? (And now we'll see if this post attracts any attention.)


Honestly, I haven't seen this much rain since I lived in England. Checking the weather channel this morning, I saw that rain is predicted every day this week, but then, that screen has looked like this for weeks now. In southern California there is a condition known by us natives as the "June Gloom". Looks like it has moved east this summer. I don't mind, really. I like rain, but this is so unusual...



I don't have the powers of concentration or the energy that I used to have. I want to work on my screenplay and really get it nailed down, but I have too many other projects that are distracting me and consuming my energy. Last night as I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, I decided to put everything away until the screenplay is finished. No Box of Wine book, no operetta, no cantata, no reading, no journals, nothing except the task at hand. Well, I'll still have to work, but when I'm not doing that I'll be hammering out scenes on this keyboard.

I used to be such a multi-tasker. I could work on several pieces of music, keep my daily journals, read four or five books, raise a kid, keep a house, work a full-time job and a part-time job, go to school, carry on a huge correspondence (before email came along) and keep a large garden—all simultaneously—and still find time and energy to party like a 20 year old. That was when I was in my late thirties! Where did it go? What happened to the me who ran circles around people almost half my age?

I suppose that part of getting older is accepting our newly-met limitations, so I'm prioritizing my projects so that I can get them accomplished. I have no choice.

Doesn't mean I have to like it though.


Awake at Dawn

I'm back to stacking the patio chairs, taking down the hanging plants, and battening down the hatches, so to speak. We've been hit by a huge storm that sounds like it's about to take off the roof. I hope it doesn't; I'd get all wet sitting here. I can't believe it. A storm, a broken elbow, a bottle of Corona, and my blogging mojo is kaput.

So where is everybody? On vacation?

Rats. I'm going to bed. There's nothing worse than trying to write when you have nothing to say.


Last Night

It was one of those evenings when my heart took a picture. In fact, my heart took a whole roll of pictures. Geor3ge and Noelle were in town over the weekend and we had one great and memorable evening! I made three pans of enchiladas, Mexican rice, and frijoles (from scratch). There was a lot of wine and Coronas, too. Here are a few pictures. Bear with the low lightthe flash on my camera is broken...


Things We All Take For Granted

Since I broke my elbow, I'm learning just how much I took for granted in the past:

1. Arm Rests on desk chairs.
2. Carrying a cereal bowl from the kitchen to wherever the telly is located while turning off light switches.
3. Folding anything larger than a washcloth.
4. Opening and applying shampoo.
5. Hell, taking a shower.
6. Driving.
7. Putting on and taking off shirts with no buttons.
8. Buttoning shirts with buttons.
9. Tying shoelaces.
10. Typing.
11. Holding a book open.
12. Opening a lunch meat "freshness" bag.
13. Sleeping in a comfortable position.
14. Using CTRL commands.
15. Tearing the TP, neatly.


My Aunt Pat

My dad's baby sister was about 21 years old when I was born. She was a newlywed to boot and she adored me. For the first 4 years of my life she took me with her everywhere she went. She even had me come stay at her and my Uncle Don's house in Reseda on many weekends after they moved to the Valley. When she was 8-months pregnant with their first child, she took me to the community pool, where a kid pushed me into the deep end. Although she was as far along as she was, she dove in and rescued me. She actually saved my life because I very nearly drowned. She told me silly stories; she was the most fun and imaginative adult I knew, and when my life at home was so bad that I had a nervous breakdown as a small child, she was always there. She didn't know what was going on, she always took my side against the other adults.

Understandably, we lost some of our closeness as she and my uncle set into raising their 4 kids, but when Joel was born, she was there for us. She took care of him for me when I needed a break, and she bought him baby clothes. She adored him and she adored me. We both adored her. The last time I saw her, we sat around drinking boxed wine together, talking about the family that was once so close, but had splintered after Grandmother (her mother) died.

Since my father's death in 1993, my aunt and I have corresponded only occasionally. She and my uncle retired to Lady Lake, Florida but I kept tabs on their well-being (via email) during hurricane season. She likewise kept tabs on us during tornado season. Our last communication was on the 6th of last month and everything was fine. Just a few moments ago, however, I received a phone call from Uncle Don, who told me that she passed away this morning. Now, there is more of my family on the Other Side than there is here.

My uncle also told me that he has been diagnosed with cancer and that he begins his chemotherapy tomorrow. My family could never boast happy marriages, but my aunt and uncle were true soulmates. Whenever I have needed role models in parenting, I have always looked at them.

I'll see you soon, Aunt Pat. Until then, enjoy your reunion with our family: Grandmother and Grandad, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bob and Aunt Rena, Uncle Dickie, and especially your son, Kenny.

Hell Hole

This is the hole that broke my elbow. This is me holding the grass back to show only part of the hole.


The gardeners are using two rider-mowers and the workmen on the street are using a jackhammer. Notice that to get this job done, it takes one guy to actually use the jackhammer and three others to watch. No wonder this job has been going on for nearly two years. Here are the jackhammers. Now, just allow your imagination to add the mowers. WTF!



In our front yard is a hole that measures about 6 by 11 inches and is about 15 inches deep. Its purpose, I guess, is to allow access to the sprinkler pipes. No one has ever put a grate or a lid on it and the grass has grown over it.

Ol' Lucky Pierre me, I tripped over it, fell, and broke my left elbow last night. My right leg is all bunged up as well, but it's nothing serious. I can't go to the emergency room because I can't afford the bill and being self-employed, I have no insurance.

Is there a lawsuit in the equation?


Happy 40th Birthday Ville

(To the tune of "Happy Christmas, War is Over" by John Lennon)

And so it's your birthday,
And what have I done?
I made you some wontons,
I plan to have fun...


Don't Sledgehammer Your Old PC

Here is one of the best transformations I've seen. I wouldn't mind doing this to my old HP Pavilion. Seriously.

A Full Weekend

Tomorrow morning I'll be driving Micah to Tulsa Airport. At Easter his father and I surprised him with tickets to LA and the George Lynch Guitar Dojo Summit. How exciting! He has buds he'll be meeting up with and I expect that a lot of jamming and beer drinking will be going on. It's a one-hour drive to Tulsa; we'll be leaving at 5:00. I'll get back home at about 7:30, which works out pretty good for me because that's about the time I go to bed. Micah has the same internal clock; guess he got it from me...


Too Windy to Walk

So you get pictures from yesterday's walk instead.

A couple of months ago I was disappointed to find that the pond had been drained. I was especially sad because this is the pond into which I'd previously dumped my two Plecysauruses (Plecysauri?) a while back. My denial optimism made me believe that, being the closest thing to bottom-dwelling dinosaurs that I've ever known, they'd burrowed down into the mud and gone into stasis. Besides, there were absolutely NO dead fish of any kind in the muddy pond bed. Yesterday I saw this sign explaining what was going on. Don't tell me they died. I don't like news like that...


Okay, I'm Committed

So I went for a walk and was out for about an hour. Really, I can't believe that I've lived here this long and I haven't taken advantage of the beauty in my neighborhood. Except for this. This construction is what we've been living with for nearly two years. I've never seen it take this long to widen and repave a 1-mile stretch of country road...


A Good Day, et al

1  It makes all the difference when you're not in severe pain, or feeling like you've been hit by a couple of semi-trucks. I remember when I felt this good every morning of my life. I'd wake up rearing to go and I'd spend my day composing, gardening, sitting in the park with friends, walking... I remember when I built a loggia single-handedly in 1991. I had a life before Thyroidzilla hit me up-side the head. But once every five or six months I wake up feeling good, and it gives me hope. The problem is, when I do wake up feeling good, I immediately want to get busy doing the things I've missed over the past few months, but I know that I can't. I have to lay low as if I still feel like crap, or else I'll over-do it and feel like crap tomorrow. What a pile.


Thanks for Nothing, OKC

On Friday evening Stillwater was hit hard by a major storm and flash flood. In the space of 90 minutes, 6 inches of rain were dumped on our city. I seriously considered making my way to Lowe's for some sandbags to guard our front door.

I'd made plans to go to Ville's at 7:00 and kept checking our local network telly channels to find out the status. As usual, Oklahoma City's channels were covering only the areas that might affect them, despite the fact that it wasn't even sprinkling there. They didn't even have the little Dopler map of the state in the upper right corner. I've gotten used to their, "If it ain't happening here, it ain't happening!" attitude (Tulsa's no better, they only cover the weather once it has passed over us and is on its way to their city), but this time they really dropped the ball. And I'm not even going to talk about the funnel cloud we saw less than a mile from our house. I then went to the weather channel and the current report said, "Light rain".

As it happened, we had major flash flooding and two people were washed into Boomer Creek that runs through the center of the city and had suddenly turned into a river. The rain stopped and, not knowing there was a flood, I decided it was okay to drive across town to Ville's.

Of course, I got detoured onto one of the most flooded streets in the city and I eased out of the tire-high water only very carefully. There were no road blocks on the streets that needed them and I got turned around at every street that would take me across the creek. Boomer lake too had flooded its banks and the road and peninsulas were under water. When I finally got to my destination (an hour later than I'd planned) there were helicopters and fire trucks everywhere.

And what were the OKC and Tulsa channels broadcasting? The usual sitcoms and the weather in Connecticut.

Thanks for nothing.


Of Lobsters & Plants

Thanks to a friend’s journal entry that I read back in the mid-1980s, I pretty much gave up lobster. He wrote about the “screams” emitting from the boiling pots and I have been traumatized ever since. These days, I can order lobster from a menu, but I could never prepare it myself, and every time I walk by the lobster tank at the supermarket I feel so badly for them. It doesn’t help that their claws are rubber banded shut, either. Well, all that has changed as of Thursday morning when I read that lobsters don’t feel pain.
“According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), when considering the concept of pain, it's the "subjective, emotional response that's considered important" and not the "activation of pain sensors in the body."
"Only animals that can experience emotions such as fear, anxiety, distress, and terror can feel what we think of as pain."

This article from ABC News seems to back up these findings. When asked whether lobsters feel pain after being placed in boiling water, Tony Yaksh, a professor of anesthesiology, responded that because they lack the emotional component, lobsters feel something different than pain as we know it. Additionally, an independent study funded by the Norwegian government found that the nervous systems of lobsters are too simple to process pain.”
All right, fine, but it’s that “something different” that now has me worrying. Maybe it's as bad as, or worse than what we feel. Probably not. Still, I feel a little silly for this relative sense of relief and lack of guilt that I’m experiencing. This study also confirms a theory of mine. Like most tree-huggers of the 1960s and 70s, I read The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and The Findhorn Garden by the Findhorn Community, and for years I felt guilty every time I had to prune back one of my houseplants.

Later, I reasoned that pain is an alarm intended to alert a life form that something is wrong and that it needs to get as far away from the source of the pain as possible, whether that be an act of violence, an illness, or something self-inflicted. If plants felt pain, then I think that long ago when they were being chomped on by dinosaurs they would have evolved some mode of mobility. That would have been more difficult than simply losing the ability to feel the pain, however. But I’m reiterating if they ever felt pain to begin with. I don’t think they ever did.

Wow. The crap I’ve carried around for the past 20 years…