Archive for the ‘Monday Musings’ Category

Writeolax is a non-toxic, all natural formula, guaranteed to break up writer’s block within 24 to 48 hours or your money back. Tell you doctor if you are allergic to new ideas or if you have taken another blockage relief product within the past 72 hours.

– Drive or operate a word processor until you know how Writeolax affects you. Writeolax can make you sleepy, dizzy or light headed.
– Drink whiskey or use products that contain alcohol. Using products containing alcohol during treatment with Writeolax may cause seizures that could cast you upon the shoals of uncontrollable and mostly incoherent ideas.

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I don’t know why I remember my ingrown toenail, such a silly little thing. I don’t remember the sore toe but I remember sitting all alone in the foot doctor’s office on Chester Avenue and I think it was a rainy day. The AM radio was playing hit songs of the 1950s like “The Green Door” and Arthur Godfrey (howaya, howaya) was touting the merits of Lipton Tea in the background while I sat waiting.

I was ten or eleven years old, maybe twelve? Can’t rememeber but I do remember me as scared of my own shadow and if you looked up shy in the dictionary you might have found my photo.

The problem toe was my big toe on my right foot. The doctor did what he did and wrapped my poor toe up in a bandage that was way too big to fit inside my shoes so I was wearing a sneaker with the toe cut out, giving my bandaged toe plenty of room to wiggle in the air. I think I was wearing a shoe on the other foot. That was kind of dumb. I should have been wearing both sneakers.

I had to wear that sneaker with the hole cut out for my big toe for a couple of weeks. I remember having to serve mass wearing that silly sneaker. Standing there in the quiet church, smell of candles burning, I tried to tell the priest that I had to wear the sneaker because I had an ingrown toenail and couldn’t wear regular shoes until the bandages came off. I was on the verge of tears. Looking back, my condition was obvious. I was wearing that old sneaker on my right foot. My big toe was bandaged and sticking out for all to see. What other explanation was needed? None but I was so self conscious. Maybe I’m remembering the old sneaker and my embarrassment more than the pain of a sore toe.

Funny the kinds of things you remember.


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Grandmom_john_May_1949_smI’m having a difficult time projecting myself back to my childhood to specific measures and perhaps my dreams. Maybe I’ll connect somehow. Could my dreams and aspirations have been so vague that they existed as mist? Do I need to dig out the bad (and the good)?

Don’t all kids have dreams and aspirations of ‘what they want to be when they grow up?’ I thought something must be wrong with me because I don’t remember. Could it be that I had no dreams or aspirations? I learned that there’s nothing wrong with me or my childhood memories (or seeming lack of) when I discovered an article from aeon online magazine (it’s free) this past summer — “The Great Forgetting” by Kristin Ohlson (July 30, 2014). I’m not the only one who doesn’t remember much from their childhood. I’m not alone.

I’ve always loved books and reading and wondered if I ever had aspirations to become a writer when I grew up. I don’t remember. But I do remember how I found my refuge from the world in books and my imagination. When I discovered reading and got my own library card, new worlds opened to me. I could retreat into my books and learn, discover, imagine and dream without interference, a love affair that was destined to endure for the rest of my life.

I cannot imagine my life without books. Who planted those seeds? Who encouraged me? It was probably my grandmother. I don’t remember that either but I’ll always be grateful. Now that I think on this, I lived in my imagination and like to think I still do — as a reader and a writer. Maybe I was repressed back then (watch for an article on the subject). Maybe I was shy, but imagination and creativity are reborn and very much alive.

Note: This piece was stimulated by handwritten notes from May 6, 2010. Some of the text is verbatim, some revised and more added. The photo was taken with my maternal grandmother, the most wonderful person who ever touched my life, in May, 1949 when I was four years old. Click the photo to enlarge.

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I wrote this short piece over nineteen years ago. Time for another look,

I save things just in case. I save things because I haven’t decided. I haven’t decided if the things saved are worth saving or simply made no decision. After all, I may need something later.

Know what I need (require) and toss the rest. This act is a new beginning. I am, therefore I think. I am, therefore I act. I am, therefore I am. I am me. I serve no other.

I want to neither rule nor be ruled. I have never wanted power. I have always been uncomfortable with the thought of power. Now I know why. Neither I, nor any other man has the right to rule another, just as no man has the right to rule me.

I have allowed myself to be swayed by the opinions of others. I have actively sought their approval. ‘What do you think?’ I knew I was right, that I had done something well that I wanted to do. Yet, I asked for their opinions? Does that make me a second rater? I offer no excuses. I believed them when they told me that god made me in his image and likeness. I believed when they told me I was a seven year old sinner. I believed when they told me I would go to hell if I committed a mortal sin.

I allowed them to write the script for my life. Tell me what to do, I said. I’ll try to live up to your expectations.

I’ve never known a true friend. I’ve always been alone. I’ve never known what to do at parties (except when I rendered myself unconscious). I’m uncomfortable with small talk. I never learned how to do it correctly. I don’t want to learn now.

I’ve always felt a sense of unease. I’ve always felt that something wasn’t quite right. I thought something was wrong with me. I was wrong. Nothing is wrong with me except my relationship with them. Nothing is wrong with me except my non acceptance of my own judgement and happiness. They have lost their power over me. I can see them for what they are. I can see without guilt. I can feel free to look to myself for all of my needs. I am my own responsibility. I choose!

 I know all this. Now I choose to act on this knowledge. I know I must learn many things. I must learn to think entirely for myself. If I read something, I must use my mind. I must use my reason to examine and to judge. Yes! I will judge.

The most important questions I must ask are: Who am I and what are my goals. Think long and deep. What have I always wanted to make of my life? What have I always wanted to create? Don’t ask how or why. Simply ask what. Then find the answers. No matter how painful. Find the answers. Act on the answers that I find. I am, therefore I think. I am, therefore, I am.

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Just checked my Oxygen level with my finger thingy. It’s 98% — Yay!!! I started the new year with a bang. My compromised immune system finally caught up with me. I Woke up in the middle of the night sick as a dog. I ended up in the ER and when the Doc asked me what brought me in I told him that I felt like shit warmed over. Couldn’t put that on the chart.


My five year old granddaughter colored a get well for me. I love it.

Turns out I had pneumonia. Please note the past tense here. After multiple bags of antibiotics plus strong oral antibiotics I felt better, much better. I arrived in the ER around lunch time on New Year’s day. They kept me until Saturday afternoon.

If I ever go to the hospital again (hope not) I’m not letting them stick me in my arms and hands for IV. Send someone down who is certified to access my port. Why? Both arms and both hands are beat up from the IV.

I joked about only being admitted to the hospital on holidays. The first time was Memorial Day 2012 and this time New Year’s 2014. I don’t want another next time.

Anyway, I’m home sleeping in my own bed and playing with my computer. By the end of the week I’ll be done with 5 days of oral antibiotics, a visit to my primary doc and a follow up chest x-ray.

I’m staying away from people and crowded places until the flu season is over. I might get some masks to wear when I do go out. Staying home gets real boring real fast. I’ll get out one way or another.

Got some neat photos from Christmas. Look for them over the next few days (and weeks). Can’t wait to get out with my new FujiFilm X10. That will have to wait.

The weather here is nuts. It was record breaking cold Friday and Saturday, freezing rain on Sunday morning, woke up this morning to pouring rain and most of the snow melted, temps dropped nearly 30 degrees since this morning and the sun is out. Low tonight 8 degrees and windy so the wind chill will be below zero. Going out John? No thank you, I can wait.

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Spam, egg and spam

spam-family-of-productsSpam, spam and egg. That’s two spams and one egg. How many spams in a can of spam? If each slice is one spam then one can of spam is spam, spam, spam, spam for thick slices. Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam and more spam for thinner slices. Spam and spam. Spam and eggs (next time more than one egg). Spam and cheese (on white bread with yellow mustard).

I ate spam, spam and one egg for Sunday breakfast. Why only one egg? Because I thought spam times two wouldn’t leave enough room for two eggs. Which is better? Spam, spam and one egg? Spam and two eggs? Spam, spam and two eggs? or Spam, spam, spam and no eggs?

My mother used to feed us spam disguised as a real meal. She would take a couple cans of spam and arrange the whole spams on a baking pan. Then she scored diagonally in two directions over the surface of both spams, put a whole clove at the intersection of each score, sprinkled on some brown sugar to complete the topping and there you have it — spams (plural of spam) pretending to be real hams.

I remember liking spam (I think) but had forgotten what the stuff tasted like so I asked Tracy to pick up a can of Spam at the supermarket. Surprised me. I enjoyed my spam, spam and egg breakfast.

I love to share so I invited my Viking neighbors over for spam. We sang: “Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!” Meanwhile we invited my wife to join us but she said: “I don’t want ANY spam!” (actually she was yelling over the din we made and we didn’t hear her).

Did you know that spam is delightful with baked beans? Honest. Ask any Viking you happen to pass on the street. And you will want to pass them so you are upwind.

Well, I’m off to think about all the wonderful ways I might fix spam. Maybe I’ll enjoy spam, spam and two eggs for breakfast tomorrow. Then again I might wait until lunch and make a spamwich. Or…??? So many ways to prepare lovely spam. Is your mouth watering for Spam yet?

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Mary’s (my niece) prom was held this past Friday evening. Sister Trish had asked if I would take some pictures. I shot a few dozen pics of Mary (doesn’t she look stunning) and Brett, her handsome escort. Here are what I consider the four best photos. Enjoy.

Mary & Brett — Click to enlarge

Mary & Brett — Click to enlarge

Mary & Brett — Click to enlarge

Mary & Brett — Click to enlarge

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Click to enlarge

Livvy (on the left) struck a great pose for this picture. Maddy hung back just a little.

Click to enlarge

Here’s Maddy in her car seat. Livvy was zonked out in her seat.

Click to enlarge

Here’s another shot of Maddy. I used one of my 50mm lenses, my favorite for making portraits of kids. Get in close and wait for the right moment. The film, Freestyle Arista Premium 400, is made for Freestyle by Kodak (it’s really Tri-X).

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Org-mode is a great outliner/editor and I’ve been doing all my writing with it. The more I use org-mode the better I like it. But org-mode can’t do everything. BrainStorm excels at rapid sorting, reorganizing and brainstorming. Put org-mode and BrainStorm together and the synergy is terrific.

BrainStorm is a windows only program that I’ve been trying to get running properly on my Linux machine under Wine for almost four years. Wine released a new stable release earlier this month and BrainStorm is finally behaving.

I tried an experiment this morning. I used my portable AlphaSmart Neo for a freewriting session. When I was done, I dumped the file via USB cable to an org-mode file. Then I went through the file looking for interesting ideas, etc. Highlight some text, then press Ctrl-c x and the text is appended to a list in another buffer. When I reached the end of the text, I saved my list and fired up BrainStorm (BS).

Then I merged the list file with the file open in BS and sat down to play. BS has powerful tools for sorting and moving topics around, for creating order out of chaos which is what I did.

Now what? How to get my BS file back into org-mode? I wrote a perl script a few years ago that would take a tab indented file written from BS and create a file that I could load into Lyx (a front end for LaTeX). I spend hours trying to modify that program to translate the BS file into an org-mode file without success. I found a perl script on the old BS bulletin board that was posted there almost six years ago by Tony. His script takes a BS file and translates it so LaTeX understands it.

I took Tony’s perl script as the basis for a new perl script that makes an org-mode file out of a BS tab indented text file. It works! So now I have a two way street and can go back and forth between org-mode and BS.

I have high hopes for the synergy between these two programs. You might wonder what happened with MaxThink. Well, as good as MaxThink was, it’s too old, and has to run in a separate environment. I bought a licence for BS during the summer of 2006 because MaxThink was old and tired then. The reason I resurrected MaxThink was because the behavior of BS under the older version of Wine was quirky enough to keep me away. I’m happy that BS is working nicely now (knocking on wood). Stay tuned for further adventures.

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Org-mode is my choice for a writing environment. Gedit is the Gnome default text editor. Tonight I installed Leafpad, a simple text editor and made it the default (instead of Gedit) for automatically opening txt files. Leafpad isn’t just fast, it loads instantly, exactly what I need when I want to write a short note without fussing or to have a quick look at a text file. No frills like spell checking, word count, etc., just raw speed and simplicity. Sometimes simple is best.

I loaded a few text files to test and play with Leafpad. I found an old mind dump, actually a dump from my Neo: neo_dump_05_26_09.txt. Neo has eight files and I must have decided to clear Neo out. I thought two of the files would make for fun musings this week so here goes:

File #1 — Friday, Dec. 12, 2008 — Morning Pages

An experiment this morning. Instead of the dry, stupid, diary crap morning pages, I clustered around the word paralysis. Because I was stumped and uncertain of what I wanted to think about this morning.

My left brain likes concrete answers. It wants to know what’s likely to happen before I get started. My right brain wants to play. Right brain just wants to have some fun. Let’s play let’s find out.

My right brain loves the contrast while old left gets uncomfortable when I’m not organized, when outcomes are uncertain. When you play what if, you might not succeed, you might even fail. Is that so terrible? Not for a playful person it isn’t.

Contrast. The risk of success is worth the risk of failure. Failure is such a terrible thing in our upcoming (I wonder what I meant when I wrote upcoming? probably upbringing). Catholic school in the 50s taught that failure was a sin. Well, that sin is giving in to temptation. Better explanation is that sin is a mistake and mistakes are bad things.

How can a person possibly stop mistakes? Can’t be done. Minimize by paying attention, but stopping before the fact? That’s paralysis. Not doing because of fear of failure [and success]. It’s so much easier to stick with the known. Who knows what lurks out there. Who knows what might happen if the silly and irresponsible right brain takes center stage.

Right brain says let’s find out. Let’s play what if while left brain sits paralyzed by indecision. Just do it. Not recklessly Mr. left brain says. OK then, we’ll work together. You don’t judge ahead of time or stop me because you think I’m being silly and after I play awhile, I’ll be quiet and let you organize and make sense of my playful discoveries.

File #5 — no date

Years later I read the same book with different eyes, different mind and the tumblers click into place and the safe opens. How did I find that combination?

What makes us want to get out of bed in the morning?

PS — I wrote / assembled this post using org-mode

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