April Nights

It’s 8:00PM and 80 outside tonight in Phoenix. But it’s still April. It’ll be down to the low sixties by midnight. A perfect evening to open the windows and let in all that free air conditioning.

I notice our Summitlake.com Home Page hit counter crept up over one million today. Holy cow, how did that happen? We’ve only been open for business here (so to speak) since 1995. So, even though I’ve been working on my BIO and haven’t posted a lot in the last month, folks are still coming to Summitlake.com. I hope you liked my recent ramble, “Golden Age of Rail.”

My BIO is coming along fine. All the autobiographical content is there. Editing my own writing is a lot harder than editing someone else’s, but I get far fewer complaints.

Nothing on TV tonight, which is good, actually. All my magazine subscriptions come to Phoenix now, and I’ve almost caught up on my reading. That’s good too, because I brought along a book I want to read when I have a nice chunk of uninterruptible time.

I caught one of those introspective pieces The New Yorker is so fond of publishing. I can rarely quite get into that genre. You know: the author looking at his life qua author, him writing about him writing it, comparing himself and his fears and aspirations to those of other authors living and dead, and re-living the trials and exaltation of writing about it as one’s own critic and obituary writer, all wrapped up into one long drawn-out cackling echo of angst and self-doubt. “Spiegel im Spiegel” sums it up: a beautiful musical piece by Arvo Part whose title means “mirrors in mirror” in reference to what you see, looking at yourself with parallel mirrors positioned both front and back. It’s two sides of the same picture, but you get extra thumbnail prints.

The article itself isn’t really the item here, but it’s “Farther Away” by Jonathan Franzen, in the April 18 New Yorker. In fairness, it’s exceptionally well written; as you can tell I just couldn’t quite get into this bit of Byronic self-eulogy.

The one phrase that caught my eye was: “the California woman I live with …”

Okay girls, I bet I know what you’re thinking. Is she so unimportant she doesn’t even rate a name? Everybody else in the story has a name, dead or alive. Is this a throwback to my own parents’ generation when we still heard “the little women” and “the missus” a lot? This is a SURPRISING slip for an author. This author doesn’t give away his age, but Franzen’s somewhat younger than I am based on what he describes of his youth. I’m 67. Is this an anomaly, perhaps just a decent gesture of privacy for this unnamed woman in California he says he yearns to be with? Are we basing harsh judgement on the only one instance where he fails to supply a name, or on the dozens of other instances where he does?

In the last century we would frequently hear married men refer to their spouses as “my wife”, which doesn’t raise any flags until you finally realize they never mention their wives’ names at all. It was a consistent pattern with some men, though never with others, who would always be heard to say “Mary” to the point where you’d pick up who “Mary” was just by context. “My wife” wasn’t an age thing either. I had one married friend ten years my junior who always said “my wife”, and I would tease him about that in earshot of his wife, and the mannerism still remained a complete compulsion with him.

In the case of The New Yorker author Franzen, we may never know for sure, but I’m betting he should have just written “the California woman I used to live with …”

No, still no TV tonight, but I do have the FM radio on, and that’s always tuned my favorite classical station, KBAQ 89.5.  I rarely go to any theater performance, and I am not normally a fan of critics’ reviews. I do have to make an exception for one Chris Curcio, KBAQ’s Theater Critic. I heard the following this afternoon.

You owe it to yourself to check out the KBAQ link to the audio review below. Chris Curcio has an unusually well modulated speaking voice and remarkably succinct and to-the-point commentary, backed up with ample examples of exactly what he’s asserting. Everything about his reviews (normally a very boring event for most of us) is fascinating to listen to. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He awarded this play below zero points out of five, and his review is without doubt the funniest review I have ever heard or read in my life, besides being one of the best-articulated.

Circle Mirror Transformation“, audio file review by Chris Curcio (audio broadcast, April 25)



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Endless Summer

It hardly seems possible: it’s been nearly a year and a half since I retired. Some mornings I wake with a start, re-living that old-time feeling “I overslept and I’m gonna be late for work.”  This is a treat, since I can sleep in as long as I want. Some mornings, I indulge in the shameless luxury of turning on the TV and lingering in bed.

Retirement certainly provokes ample opportunities  to keep “gentleman’s hours”. Marathon 10 to 11-hour sleep-ins are possible.  In truth, the lure of a pot of fresh-ground French Roast usually has me out of bed before I even get my 8 hours in. Now that I can sleep as long as I want, I often don’t sleep as long as I should.

Back in our school days, we used to slog through the September – June school year for the promise of nearly a quarter-year of summer vacation. Over the next 45 years in the workplace, employers substituted the traditional 1 to 4 weeks paid vacation time, depending on seniority, “human resources” policy, and what they thought we should be able to tolerate.

I stayed up late last night, coding in Perl and mySQL until 2AM for a private web project of my very own. It isn’t work when you’re doing it for yourself. The $0.00 pay isn’t anything to write home about, but the satisfaction of seeing your own project come to life is one hell of a rewarding experience.

After that, I stayed up another half hour watching the tail end of a PBS Churchill documentary.

So, this morning I got up at 7:30AM by mistake, misreading the digital clock on the wall without my glasses. As long as I was up, I fired up that pot of dependable, aromatic French Roast. The way I figure it, I shouldn’t officially be up until 10:30AM.

My mom used to be fond of a saying that she was “non compos mentis” until her second cup of coffee. It’s entirely possible I’m not entirely awake yet. Who cares? The time to compose this short post was all “free”. It was a gift. Soon, I can put last night’s test code through its real-time shakeout.

The retirement scenario most closely resembles the title of that old Beach Boys album, “Endless Summer”.

You are 15, the sky is blue, the sun is starting to peek through the faded summer vacation cabin curtains, and a gentle breeze stirs over the lake. What do you want to do, sleep in, or dash down to the boat dock and do a little fishing?

This brings to mind that celebrated old Bernard Shaw quote, “youth is wasted on the young.” No, no, I didn’t believe that when I was young, of course, but now it is starting to make a little more sense.

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Eye Surgery

The best fringe benefit of rest, recuperation and all those  “doctor’s orders” sorts of things is that we can embrace them as an opportunity to really relax and just take care of ourselves. I had eye surgery a week and a half ago. Everything’s going fine. I’m getting used to this rest period quite easily, maybe even enjoying it too much!

B;acl eye a couple of days after surgery. The nurses joked I must have had a fight with the doctor.
“Black eye” a couple of days after surgery. The nurses joked I must have had a fight with the doctor.

I certainly took that attitude. I’m “grounded” for 8 weeks – no air flights – and tethered to a strict regimen of eye drops and ointments while my eye heals.

There are 3 different kinds of eye drops, up to 8 times a day at first, and I made a spreadsheet checklist with checkboxes to help track all the dosages. The doctor also said “no smoking”, so I have put my pipes aside for the duration at least.

Not only do I get to sleep as long as I want, I have a greatly increased appetite and eat practically anything I want.  I have been down this road before (with cigarettes) so have stocked up with foods and fruits  that are healthy to keep that appetite tamed yet away from “heart attack on a bun” fast foods and pizza.

I was not sure how much I would want to read or work on the computer during the recuperation period, but daytime TV is even worse than it was years ago, if that is possible – choices seem to be a re-run of the re-runs of Ice Road Truckers, or a Bear Grylls “Man vs. Wild” re-run if you are lucky enough to catch one. I don’t think you could pay me enough to volunteer to eat spiders, drink urine and curl up for the night inside camel carcasses. I am quite happy with the kind of survival challenges one finds in the typical modern living room, thank you.

On early morning PBS, you might catch more intelligence and useful information with “Curious George” than you’ll catch in all the History Channel re-runs of “Area 51” alien invasion testimonials.

So I ended up reading a lot after all. I picked up the ancient Herodotus’ Histories again, starting with the famous Battle of Marathon in which the Greeks trounced the Persians, the first time. I then got caught up in the second and more involved Battle of Thermopylae and took a huge number of notes. I hope to have an article and analysis of this famous pivotal battle posted to the Writing department, in a few days or less.

Almost time for the 2PM eyedrops. Hmm, should I munch on an apple or banana? Should I nap a little? Hell, it wouldn’t kill me to turn on the TV for a little while … this is the kind of R&R I could get used to.

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Changes at My Notes

Welcome to our new “cms” (content management system). Web software is made by WordPress. Over the next few days we will phase out our older system. As you find the distinctive new WordPress styles on the pages for My Notes (this page), PHOTO Notes, COMMENTARY and/or COMPUTERS: go ahead and re-bookmark them if you like to bookmark. If you don’t bookmark, we’ll be changing the site page links as we go, so it will be seamless for you.

Bookmarks to the old pages will be redirected for a while. Eventually the old directories will disappear. We hope you like the new look!

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How I’m Using MovableType

I run four MT pages on my private, personal site, ‘Summitlake.com’: My Notes, Photo Notes, Commentary Index and Computers Index. I created these from one MT installation using the “Create New Blog” feature in the control panel. Thus, I’m unsure (after reading the 3.0 agreement) whether this counts as four blogs, or one.

I am really using a blog page as a “smart html page” for the Index pages. I had hoped to allow MT to take over more of this functionality. If I am really at a count of four already, MT 3.0 may not work.

MT is exciting and should be worth it even on a free site such as mine. But there are some concerns.
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We LIKE the new MovableType technology. We find (after all) that it might lend itself nicely to some of our Department indexes. In the past, department indexes like Commentary and Computers contained two methods of locating content: (a) the autolist menu in the left hand frame panel, and (b) long scrolling lists of notes and short article descriptions, in the right main panel.

You can still access every article and page in the Department with Autolist on the left, (a).

(b) is what we’re changing. We’ll sacrifice some graphics. In exchange, we’ll replace the long scrolling lists with the powerful indexing and archiving features of MovableType. As an experiment, we’ve started with COMPUTERS, which had the longest and oldest index of article short descriptions.

(please see continuation)
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