Thursday, March 16, 2023



            One of the advantages of being an Old Fart is that you can give voice to your complaints, no matter how trivial. I’m not sure why it’s expected or even accepted for Old Farts to grumble, but I’m going to take a break from being positive and grateful so I can take advantage of the expectation of my being crotchety. And here I’m talking about minor stuff that gets under my skin, not the Big Stuff such as our stupid wars, the crazy mass shootings, inflation, the short-sighted moves toward global warming, etc. No, let’s set those aside for the moment for other people to deal with, and focus on some minor stuff.


I get annoyed by:


·      People making promises about outcomes over which they have no control. “I promise we will find your lost dog.” “I promise you are going to be OK.” “I promise you will win the lottery.” No, you can promise that you will try your hardest, or that you will drive carefully, or behave yourself at your high school reunion. Makes me wonder about vows made at wedding ceremonies. I guess the wedding wouldn’t work if each one only promised to try.


·      People in movies driving cars while looking at passenger they are talking with, not the road. Sometimes that’s on purpose and it leads to an accident, but sometimes it’s just an actor who is trying to make the conversation look important.


·      Opening packages wrapped in plastic, especially bacon. Seriously. It’s all the more annoying when there are directions about how to open the package, or when it’s labeled “E-Z Open.”


·      People who type quickly using their thumbs. Not so long ago, being “all thumbs” was a bad thing. Maybe it still is . . .. Nothing wrong with this, really, except I can’t do it, and that annoys me.


·      Cars that tailgate me, pass me, and then resume driving at my speed. Kim is getting tired of hearing my Old Fart comments when this happens.


·      Not being able to find something that I use every day and always put away in the same place: phone charging cable, slippers, coffee mug, reading glasses, tax papers, somebody’s phone number, my car.  (By the way, one of the advantages of the Handicap Tag that Kim got for the car is that we always park where we can see the car from the door of the store or mall. Thus, my handicap is also addressed. This only works if I can remember what my car looks like.)


·      Dribbling.


·      The word “algorithm.” I don’t know what the word means, and I’m too old to want to know, but from where I sit, the word smells bad.


·      Phone numbers that are presented in the form of words rather than numbers. You know, something like 1-800-YOU SUCK instead of 1-800-968-7825 (if I got that right – and sorry if I used your real number.) Don’t make me work to dial the damn phone! (Challenge: Come up with a word or phrase that can be used to dial your number.) (Mine: PEG BAD GIRLS)


·      Then there’s that feeling of dread just before I try to fix a computer problem or deal with what happens after an update. I won’t here try to summarize my struggles with passwords, security codes, hacks, etc. (Thank you to whoever came up with the fingerprint technology) – just the feeling of dread as I’m staring at my screen, or my router, or my phone, or my printer, knowing that my incompetence will again be on display – if only to me. Currently my new router will not connect with my Alexa device, which firmly tells me what to do to fix it. Nope – doesn’t work. Best Buy’s Geek Squad can’t make it out for a week. I will figure out how to do it, I promise.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Adventures in Cooking

            Kim and I were newlyweds, and we decided to invite our friends, Des and Sally, over for dinner. Kim would prepare a wild rice and mushroom soup – something she had made before. We soon learned that she had not made it before using well-named elephant ear mushrooms. What makes this funny is that Kim was not an inexperienced cook. She was and is a great cook, with a lot of knowledge about ingredients as well as techniques – the stuff she is trying to teach me. She probably sent me to the store to buy mushrooms, and I brought home dried elephant ears. (This probably explains why, even now, she is reluctant to have me shop for groceries.)


            We served the wild rice and mushroom soup, with the mushrooms, as I recall, overflowing the bowls and dripping onto the plates. Instead of simply doubling in size, they soaked up all the moisture in the soup and looked about the size of a frisbee. Kim apologized, but Des and Sally were very gracious, complimenting the taste and texture of the soup and ignoring the appearance. (I wish cell phones had been invented then so I could share photos here.) Their compliments made it more embarrassing, as you can imagine.


            Genné had a similar experience. She was newly married, and she was cooking a meal for her new in-laws. The main course was beef stroganoff, and one of the final steps was to sprinkle it with flour to make gravy. Genné, who was carrying her baby on her back, was being “helped” by her new (now: divorced) husband, who handed her an unmarked Tupperware container that was supposed to contain flour. Nope – it was powdered sugar. She still recalls how nice her in-laws were, smiling and complimenting her on her creativity (which, of course, made it worse), and insisting on choking down as much of the meal as they could so they wouldn’t waste the meat – this, despite Genné’s begging them to get a pizza.


            Kim also remembers a Thanksgiving when she was to prepare roast duck. The problem: She neglected to take the duck out of the freezer. There followed some frantic efforts to thaw the duck – a project I wish I had witnessed.


            My own parallel experience illustrates a Truth that I have learned through my years: If you are going to do something poorly, do it poorly on purpose.


            When I first moved to Ann Arbor I ran into a college friend, Dan, who was a student in Law School. He was with his wife, who was mortified when he invited himself over to dinner despite the fact that I had not even hinted at an invitation. His wife was mortified at his rudeness, though I immediately recognized it as what we called “humor.”


            So, when they came to dinner I served them pork chops that I had burned to a crisp and potatoes that I had baked for about ten minutes. Dan gave me a knowing look of appreciation, while his wife gamely tried to eat the pork chops and drive her fork into her potato, smiling as she tried to come up with compliments. Dan and I never acknowledged the game. I wonder if they are still married.


            That was not my only culinary triumph. After I was divorced and occasionally cooking for my sons in my apartment, I would often present them with what I called “the yellow meal”: boxed mac and cheese, applesauce, and carrot sticks. I told them that if there were any complaints, they would get “the green meal.” They never asked for specifics.


            Meanwhile, this morning I cooked a perfect piece of raisin toast. 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Keys to Identity

            Most of us are familiar with the keys on a typewriter or, in the current terminology, a keyboard. There are the keys with letters or numbers on them, but also the “special character” keys that lurk on the fringe as your fingers type away. I suspect that some people actually identify with certain keys, whether they know it or not.


            Some are obvious. We all know people who are exclamation points! That’s how they live – who they are – exclaiming through the day! Others may identify as question marks – know what I mean? Lacking the superficial energy and certainty of the exclamation point, they are inquisitive, perhaps to a fault. Question marks may be clouded by a paralyzing uncertainty. Yes, it’s good to question, but can we take it too far?


            Some people identify with the $. These same people also believe that a person’s net worth can be measured by $$$s. (This is too easy a target to discuss.)


            Others may find themselves in the @ key – seldom used before the invention of email addresses, but now, for some, the key to their link to the world. I suspect that young people (younger than 80) seldom use the @, as there are trendier ways than email to communicate digitally, but the @, to me, signifies the whole phony hand-held cyber world. But for some people, that’s where it’s @.


            Is there anyone out there identifying with what we used to call the “period” – signifying, I think, a feeling for when something, like a statement, is completed? When something is done, it’s done. Period. These days, however, it would more likely be called a “dot” rather than a “period,” and the . is often followed by “com,” “net,” or some such. If you identify with a dot, what does that say about you?


            I really wonder about people who identify with the delete key. Yes, it’s great to be able to erase mistakes, and it’s certainly better than the White-Out from my typewriter days. But don’t people who actually identify with that key experience a narrowing of their lives? Of course, I’m very fond of locating the “unsubscribe” link on many of the emails I receive, and our lives have become a bit crowded with information, so I do understand the appeal of “delete.” (I can think of someone on the international stage who I’d like to delete.)


            My own personal key is really the series of three dots known as the ellipsis. It signifies the omission of a word or series of words from a text you are quoting. I prefer to use the ellipsis at the end of a sentence, a lazy writer’s trick that invites the reader to complete the writer’s thought, or just to hint that there’s more to be said, but . . ..


            I also identify with parentheses. Some people (you know who you are) like to toss in clever and (hopefully) amusing comments into the ongoing flow of their lives. (These sometimes take the place of asides in Shakespearean drama – private comments directly for the audience that are not part of the conversation on the stage.) Parenthetical people do not commit themselves to that daily drama that is unfolding, rather preferring to live in the side comments.


            I’m also fond of the “Command” key on my Mac. I’m not sure what it does, but I enjoy the illusion that I am actually in control of my computer, not just suggesting or pleading for what I want it to do, but issuing a command. (I enjoy the same illusion of power, or, at least, competency, when I give orders to Alexa.) My “Control” key gives me the same illusory pleasure.           


            And I confess to being rather fond of the “shift” key. No, I’m not turned on by capital letters, but I do see the value in being able to shift . . ..


            I would associate Kim’s identity with the + key because (most days) of her positive attitude, but mainly because she is always wanting to do more. She says she is more of a ? than a +. She apparently questioned my assessment.


            For the first time ever, I pressed the “fn” key (fun?) in the lower left of my keyboard when my email was on the screen. It features a graphic rendering of what might be a globe. Up popped a bunch of what I think are called “emojis.” Never used them, never will. I suppose some people live emoji lives, identifying their emotional lives with cartoon characters. Whatever . . .. 


Thursday, February 23, 2023



            We had a mystery take place just outside our window. That’s where we have our bird feeders. One of them is a long plastic cylinder with several seed access openings. It hangs about five feet off the ground from a pole that features a very effective squirrel guard.


            The feeder cylinder is about two feet long, and at the end of most days the birds have consumed all but four or five inches of seeds. We leave it out at night, refilling it in the morning. At least, that’s how it usually works. But about two weeks ago, when I looked out at the feeder in the morning, it was drained. The same thing happened for about a week.


            We wondered what might have done it. Squirrels could not reach it, and we don’t know of any night birds that feed on seeds. Raccoon? Maybe, but they are heavy enough to tip the feeder. Same with the fox, who is still roaming our property. We could not see any tracks beneath the feeder – or rather, so many tracks in the old snow that none were distinguishable. Kim was hoping it was that beautiful striped skunk she saw a few months ago. My best guess was a kangaroo.


            Then one morning, at about 5:30, Kim was up and saw a large deer at the feeder. They stared at each other for a while before the deer walked away. Mystery solved.


            All of our mysteries, however, are not so easily solved. Apparently, someone, or something, goes through our kitchen and puts utensils in the wrong drawers after I carefully dry them and put them away properly. I suspect Kim’s deer, but it’s hard to see tracks on the kitchen floor.


            Someone also retypes some words and phrases in my blog posts, adding typos and grammatical errors in order to make me look bad. Fortunately, my friend Gene catches them and suggests how to fix them. I’m not sure who is doing it, but I may have to change some of my passwords. That should make my life a lot easier, right?


            And somehow, while I am sleeping, my greasy fingerprints appear on cabinet doors, right next to the handles. I may have to wear gloves in the house – even in bed.


            Also, occasionally at night, while we are watching television in the basement, we hear a loud scraping noise, apparently coming from Kim’s art room next door. It sounds like ice sliding off the roof, but it’s loud and close, and my inspections inside the house and out reveal nothing that dramatic. I suppose that as long as the furnace and television are working, it can’t be all that serious. Not as serious as the carrot scraper’s moving into the wrong drawer.


            Over all of this, another kind of mystery looms: What’s next? For us? For our planet? Will our “next” be an adventure, which is what Kim and I are trying to make it into? We are looking at houses and condos online, trying to predict our health and mobility as we cruise through our 80s. Or will it be something less like an adventure? Stay tuned . . ..


            And I’m not even talking about life after death. No, our goal is to have more life before death.


            Speaking of which, here’s Woody Allen on the subject:

 “In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm!”

            What’s next for us? For us all? It’s a mystery . . ..

Thursday, February 16, 2023

No Contest

            Last week Kim decided to enter some of her photos in the National Audubon Photography Contest. She spent hours pouring through her thousands of images on her computer, narrowing the candidates down to about 250, dragged into four “Contest” folders on her desktop. We went through them together and brought it down to maybe 25. Then 12. Then Kim went through them again to see if she missed any favorites, and the total went back to about 20. Then we went through them and noted our 10 favorites, which we decided to enter.


            Kim wasn’t just looking at the pictures. She was doing all the adjustments needed to enhance each one. At the same time, seeing the photos reminded her of the trips and outings we took to get them.


            We then took a closer look at the Contest Rules, and we reluctantly decided not to enter any of them. The rules were overwhelming - for us. Sometimes the cropping meant the images did not have the required amount of pixels. Sometimes removing an out-of-focus smudge might have broken some rule. Kim’s humility made her feel – incorrectly – that her photos were not as good as some of the winners that we saw online. We were not sure if the technical camera and lens setting information we were asked to include was accurate enough. This decision was made after maybe 30 hours of work (30 for Kim, about 3 for me).

            Anyway, here are some of our favorites:

Barn Owls - Gainesville FL

Red-shouldered Hawk with Snake Belt - Viera Wetlands, FL

Black Vultures - Paynes Prairie, Gainesville, FL

Spotted Sandpiper - Saline, MI

Double-crested Cormorant, Turtle Surfing -Paynes Prairie, Gainesville, FL

Green Heron Chicks - Everglades

Northern Gannets - Bonaventure Island, Quebec, Canada

Purple Swamphen - Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Gainesville, FL

Sandhill Cranes in Morning Mist - Our Back Yard, Gainesville, FL

Horned Grebe - Merritt Island, FL

         Kim says, "My pleasure is in looking back at what I've seen, what I've done, and the beauty in the world. I don't have to win a contest."

         She just won it.

Thursday, February 9, 2023


Sounds that keep me paying attention:


The thump and rattle of the furnace’s turning on in the morning. It’s so reassuring to have heat.


Kim’s soft whistle as she works on routine tasks. It’s a pleasing sound, and it’s pleasing to know that Kim is working to take care of me and our home. Her whistle is how the gift is wrapped.


The sad thump when a bird crashes into a window. Most of them – goldfinches, chickadees, and nuthatches who were at our feeders – survive this collision, but some don’t.


The dim roar of the west wind in the high trees, heard through closed winter windows. We are sheltered from west winds by a woods, but the powerful sound is frightening in a way that makes our home more cozy.


The soft lapping of the waves on the shore in summer, as we watch from our deck on the beach. This is especially pleasing as I think about it in February.


The sound of Kim’s breathing. When I get up before her in the morning and she sleeps in, I’m reassured when I listen at the door to hear this steady sound.


I turn a key, and I hear the roar of my car’s engine. Isn’t it a miracle that this happens? This is especially pleasing because of our winter isolation. I fear that AAA might take a week to get here.


There is that odd thump we hear at night when watching television. We have no idea what the cause is, despite my inspections, indoors and out.


Loon calls are magical – eerie, haunted, otherworldly. We don’t hear them often on Torch Lake – maybe 3 or 4 times since we’ve lived here – but still . . .. That’s why I made my phone’s ring-tone a loon call.


The crackling of a fire in the fireplace where friends and family gather.


The groan when I get up from, or down into, our couch.


The metallic sound of popcorn popping against the lid.


Silence. I rarely experience silence – most often when lying in bed late at night. We are far from any traffic sounds, the neighbors are gone in the winter, and the furnace is quiet because we turned down the heat. But the silence isn’t silent. I can hear some kind of faint hissing static that is somehow generated by my skull. I like to think it’s the sound of my neurons firing rather than my brain cells dying, tinnitus, or some other disease. It is, nevertheless, comforting – more so than absolute silence would be.


I don’t know why, but I like the quiet dripping sound of my coffee machine filling the pot.


Similarly, the crunch of an ice cube tray brings me pleasure in the evening.



Thursday, February 2, 2023


            The doctor told me that as people get older (he said “over 55,” which to my mind does not count as “older”), the part of the brain that tells us we are thirsty doesn’t work very well. I quietly added it to my “doesn’t work very well” list.


            He told me this because of my sore leg. I’d been experiencing pain in my right calf for over a month, and it had recently gotten worse, sometimes spreading to my right shin, and sometimes making my whole right leg feel a bit weak. When I say “pain” I mean something Kim might call “discomfort,” in comparison to what she goes through. But I digress . . ..


            When I told Genne’ about it, she used her physical therapy skills to try to treat me over the phone, giving me a couple of different massage techniques, along with heat and then ice, to try to break up whatever was going on with my muscles. This helped bring short term relief but did not cure my intermittent discomfort, which only bothered me after going down a flight of stairs or walking more than 50 yards. I skipped the ice.


            Then we heard from a friend about her cousin who had died from a blood clot – and he was only 52. This drove me to google, where I learned that circulation problems might cause my kind of leg pain, and that I should see a doctor. I got an appointment the next day.


            Dr. Kroll asked me a lot of questions, felt around a bit (of course, no pain while I was in his office), ruled out blood clots, and concluded that it might be “an electrolyte problem.” He asked how much water I drank each day. I said I drank a full glass of water with every breakfast. He paused for me to continue. I asked him if coffee counted. He said it did not. He told me I should drink 40-64 fluid ounces per day, and he wrote that on the back of his card so I could not use my senior memory as an excuse. He also suggested 350-400 mg. of magnesium oxide, taken before bedtime.


            When Kim asked me what the doctor said, I told her that she would be shocked to learn that I don’t drink enough water. She smiled and shook her head, as she’s been telling me that for years. I have not yet told Genne’, who has been advising Kim and me to drink much more water, and she may have assumed that we were following her expert advice. Nope.


            Kim wisely suggested that one way to increase my uptake is to drink a glass whenever I am waiting for the microwave to reheat my coffee. This, in addition to the obvious 8 ounces with every meal – not just breakfast. I’m not going to be one of those people who carries a water bottle around, hooked to my belt, but I am trying to drink a glass every time I walk past a faucet.


            And now, about a week after my doctor upped my water intake, my leg feels somewhat better. I am not expecting a quick cure. After all, I am making up for about 50 years of dehydration, which means I need to consume about 5000 gallons to make up the deficit. If you have any questions about how that is going, you know where to find me.