Clear as a Bell (A.G.)

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Preface: It is quite telling how the posting of these very words got delayed, substantially, by tech woes. Here’s the rub…

I live… no… strike that… I exist within a hard-to-believe-this-is-actually-America, tech dead zone; the Land of the Modem’s “light show”, which defiantly blinks red and videos chronically buffer; The Land of the Landline that’s frequently awash with static.

Obviously, red indicators rarely mean ready and raring to go and, clearly, crackling noises are not especially conducive to Clear as a Bell (as in Alexander Graham) conversations.

Factoring in my past drive thru my hometown, it didn’t take me long to troubleshoot…

Part of the Problem… to spot the non-perpendicular, rotting wooden utility poles, strung out with sagging wires. Even more YIKES-worthy, in one case, with nowhere to re-connect the cable, the overwhelmed line technician merely opted to coil it up; to hang it all up (literally and metaphorically); i.e. head back to punch out the time clock and then head off to happy hour to tie one on.

Even critters are too smart to risk life and limb with this infrastructure. Our feathered friends rarely roost / hang out there (be they buzzards, sparrows, or anything in between). As for our furry friends, no pooch would dare to lift his leg there!

Additional Part of the Problem… My alleged Internet Service Provider has a drastically different idea as to what terminology to loosely assign to their disingenuous I – S – P acronym. To e.g. that…

  • I = Inter Net (as in bury)
  • S = Service (only the CEO)
  • P = Promptly bilk / bill Patsies

Indeed, scant days ago, this Patsy promptly paid the monthly bill they had so promptly sent me; all in good faith; i.e., going on the (overly optimistic) assumption that their recent hefty rate hike would wind up prudently targeting their crumbling infrastructure.

In other words, not to further feather the nest of their CEO, who I’ve aptly dubbed Mister Magpie. And it’s a sure bet we’d never discover Mr. M perched atop any of his crummy cables.

Why Magpie?

As we know, magpie, as defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary, is “a person who chatters idly” and, as for chatter, that means “to talk rapidly or incessantly about trivial matters.”

Yep, all in all, that sums up, yet, one more…

Critical Part of the Problem… namely, we, the bill payer patsies, are dealing with communications specialist cons who can only clearly communicate, to us, concisely, how greedy they’ve been, still are, and shall remain forever.

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Be people Vaxxed OR Unvaxxed, We
can still shed and spread the batcrap
crazy contagious coronavirus which,
in turn, spawns new variants; which,
in turn, could, eventually, render the
available vaccines worthless; which,
in turn, will drag out the pandemic’s
needless suffering, illness and death!

HENCE… this easy as pie, cover your
nose and pie-hole/hole-up heads-up:

Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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Streams, Currents and Eddies

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To both paraphrase and “weave” my slight web enhancement into astronomer and author Carl Sagan’s timeless wisdom…

Both books and blogs, like seeds, can lie dormant for lengthy stretches and then flower where and when least expected.

Upon awakening yesterday morn, I discovered such a phenomenon via a WP pingback notification. WOW! Some of my own thoughts, sown nearly six long years ago, had actually taken root and bloomed; all courtesy of a previously unknown (to me) www denizen, who had deemed my content link-worthy; to whom I now extend my undying gratitude.

Such a pingback also solidifies one of my beliefs; namely, that once we channel our sentiments thru the vast www’s streams, currents, eddies, etc., they ripple endlessly. Indeed, courtesy of screenshots and the copy / paste function; or perhaps even via “mere” word of mouth, what we have to say may endure forevermore.

Stated more colloquially…

“They say nothing ever really dies on the Internet!”

They

Hence, in a sense…

We, who www share our intellectual property, just might achieve intellectual immorality.

Well… unless, later today, ignoranuses [sic] opt to launch and instantly lose WW-III.
Well… until ol’ Sol, in its Red Giant death throes, incinerates Earth in 5 Billion years.
Uh… whichever comes first…

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Be people Vaxxed OR Unvaxxed, We
can still shed and spread the batcrap
crazy contagious coronavirus which,
in turn, spawns new variants; which,
in turn, could, eventually, render the
available vaccines worthless; which,
in turn, will drag out the pandemic’s
needless suffering, illness and death!

HENCE… this easy as pie, cover your
nose and pie-hole/hole-up heads-up:

Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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Electromagnetic Soup for Supper?

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While preparing my repast, earlier this evening, I attempted to tune my portable AM/FM radio into an NPR affiliate; finding it all awash with fuzzy buzzing, hissing static; worse yet, with no amount of reorienting the antenna / relocating the actual radio, itself, able to alleviate the prob.

Factoring in the geographic proximity to its broadcast tower (a scant 16km / 10mi from my kitchen / dining room), my problem solving attempts might’ve proven easier had I strung two emptied soup cans together, drone delivered one can to the station engineer, asked her/him to duct tape it to the broadcast booth’s window and hand held the other to my ear.

Seeing how I’m now really getting into this discussion, I might as well also mention the signal dropouts associated with my jury-rigged tech combo; boasting an aged analog Sony Trinitron TV, inherited digital converter box and reasonably priced signal amplifying outdoor antenna (indoor mounted onto a metal microphone stand). How dysfunctional can this tech get?

Well, let’s just say no meteorologist need tell me when rainy and windy conditions prevail; nope, not when such low pressure areas routinely muck up reception. Of course, my merely walking about my living room can net the same effect. And tho it may have only been coincidental, once upon a time, my mere sneeze wiped out talk show host Seth Meyers’ Closer Look presentation; just as he was delivering his spot-on punchline / zinger.

Additionally, I’ve been experiencing other communications woes; e.g., DSL outages, WIFI dead zones and cell tower dropped calls.

All things considered, this does beg a few key Q’s…

  • When human beings are being deep fried by all of that electromagnetic radiation, what effect does this have on our flesh and blood / bone and sinew; our very DNA?
  • Does our drowning in such dense, electromagnetic, alphabet soup signify that our bodies and brains are already (or soon will be), toast?

Hey, even were Doubting Thomases to say to my face, “Thomas, you’re just plain nuts!” that would tend to lend credence to most of my above concerns; ALL THE MORE!

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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Eggs-istential Enigma (Part 2)

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If you missed Part 1, the next paragraph will get you up to speed…

On 03/16/22, I made a ginormous grocery purchase; grand total $282. Sensing something not so grand had happened, I carefully unpacked and organized that haul atop my dining room table, kitchen countertops and refrigerator shelves. With the register receipt as my guide, I checked off the matching items; by audit’s end discovering the cashier had overcharged me nearly $15 by ringing up 5 phantom items; i.e., 5 cartons of eggs when, in reality, I had NOT purchased any eggs at all!

Hence, this existential / Eggs-istential Enigma:

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Just how the hell does a NON-EXISTENT barcode get scanned
and, even more mind-boggling, NOT ONCE BUT FIVE TIMES?

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I had asked you, my readers, if you had any theories, especially those which might even exonerate / eggs-onerate the cashier of willful wrongdoing, BUT, with nary a comment these past two weeks, looks like I’ll be going it alone…

For starters, let’s attempt to clear the cashier…

Suppose her whip cracking boss has been demanding she work faster? It’s conceivable my struggling to reload bagged groceries into my shopping cart had slowed things down so much that, PRIOR to her properly finalizing my transaction, she began scanning the next customer’s purchase; hence, charging me for those damned eggs.

Next up, the dishonest cashier scenario…

Seeing how Easter Egg “hunting season” is nearly upon us, suppose my cashier’s bestie has been planning such a gathering “on the cheap”? Considering all the foul, fowl aspects of this caper, perhaps saying, “on the cheep”, would be more apropos? Anyway, the cashier’s MO would be to [1] let her accomplice breeze thru the checkout, sans scanning her eggs and [2] as a means to ease guilt about ripping off her employer, she’d make a patsy out of any patron making a huge purchase (going on the assumption that I’d be what? Too well-to-do and/or distracted and/or dense to ever realize I’d been ripped off?

Lastly, the cocky corporate clucker scenario…

Suppose the Dairy Department had accidentally smashed an entire egg shipment. Ergo, to recoup their loss, some corporate bean counter hatched a scam to corrupt the scanner software; program it to [1] morph unsuspecting patrons into patsies, [2] profile out-of-towners making ginormous purchases, [3] tack on 5 fake cartons of eggs to such purchases; all going on the assumption that we’d be what? Too well-to-do and/or distracted and/or dense to ever figure out we’d been ripped off?

Granted, such theories tend to sound unsound. As if invented by what? A chicken running about with its head cut off? Well, I suppose such a suspicious nature stems from my nearly lifelong exposure to reportage of Big Gov shenanigans / Big Biz swindling. Factoring in 3 decades’ worth of retail salesclerk / management indoctrination (re detecting / preventing internal theft) and voilà!

Anyway, it’d appear that such misery does love company. How so?

Well, one week ago, instead of registering my register overcharge complaint at the store, I phoned it in. My first request of Mary, the customer service rep, was that she retrieve my receipt’s image from their database. Bottom line, Mary was just as mystified as I was (still am) that a cashier could, somehow, scan not 1 but 5 NON-EXISTENT barcodes.

Tho Mary could not send me a cash refund thru the mail, she did offer the next best thing; to issue and dispatch a store gift card, which, btw, is now stashed in my wallet.

Little doubt, after I had hung up, Mary’s next phone conversation involved their company’s loss prevention manager, who’ll soon be paying a visit to question the, perhaps, questionable cashier?

Alas, in a pre-pandemic, slightly more civil era, grocery shopping used to be a yawner; the drama just as non-existent as those five phantom barcodes. Oh, how I yearn to return to those bygone, carefree days of yore.

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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A Cascade of Cached Memories

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Yesterday, for the very first time, ever, my landline answering machine’s AI verbally alerted me to a memory full condition. Hmm, I’d always conjectured this device’s archival capacity to be astronomical, but, seeing how she had just saved the 59th message, who was I to argue?

Ergo, I began playing back and selectively deleting; in the process, discovering how the cached content, for better or worse, was also unleashing a cascade of my own memories.

Now, just so this post ends on an upbeat note…

Let’s get the downers outta the way, first; i.e., by calling out the threatening messages recorded by the scammers and phishers; namely, the fraudulent federal income tax collectors, shady tech support agents and (for lack of a better phrase) the officious cops, who, via psychological projection, tirelessly “alert” their soon-to-be victims to the very chicanery, which they absolutely intend to perpetrate and perpetuate!

BTW, such messages’ very existence also demonstrates how poorly the telecoms police themselves. I punctually fork over my limited funds, monthly, which, in theory, in part, should be leading to investigations / arrests of these criminals (or, at least, be putting ‘em outta biz); yet, here we are.

Moving onward to the mildly annoying content, there are the messages recorded by ex-classmate Sharon, who’s still trying to con me into attending the upcoming 50th Class Reunion. Of late, she’s even recruited another classmate to redouble her efforts (Bill recently adding his one message to her five).

Hmm, might Sharon’s persistence be an indicator of how a single restaurant booth would prove sufficient to seat Sharon, Bill and their significant others? Perhaps, this event’s only four attendees?

Sure, I could attend and leave, STAT, when everything morphs into the anticipated disappointment; BUT, not when this event’s tickets will have a sizable price tag attached. Beyond that, no one, in their right mind, would ever opt into social mingling when social isolating is still everyone’s best bet.

A tad of background 411 for all who missed my reunion post; not everyone has fond, fuzzy memories of their K thru 12 experience; e.g., from the 4th grade, onward, I’d been bullied, verbally and physically assaulted.

As for the saved messages that I’ll never delete, among them are the four left by my former friend and next door neighbor, who passed on, just last year, at the age of 95; who was such an affable, young at heart, well-read and critical thinker, one could’ve easily mistaken him for a man half his age. RIP Victor.

Which now leads us to the very first message; backdating to late October 2008, when then presidential candidate Barack Obama had recorded his increase voter turn-out / (wink) “vote for me”, message. Seeing how I’ve saved and savored his words for nearly a decade and a half, you’ve likely already correctly concluded I had helped elect / reelect him; would feel deeply honored to have him record my answering machine’s outgoing message.

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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The Fragile Fragile CD

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Up till two days ago, “scratching” had two musically oriented connotations; namely, the vinyl spinning, hip hop DJ artists’ technique AND (as any audiophile can attest), how those very vinyl LP and 45 “platters” oft serve up a multiple course meal’s worth of scratchy anomalies akin to the “Rice Krispies” snaps, crackles and pops (especially perceptible whenever the stylus starts tracking thru lower dB, acoustic movements.

Well, I now know of an entirely new, third meaning of “scratching” and that’s got me scratching my own noggin in wonderment. Check out how this etymological expansion played out…

Upon cuing up the progressive rock band, Yes’ 4th album (titled Fragile), I had no sooner engaged the CD player’s PB button than my ears were besieged by a scratchy din; worse than anything I’d have ever expected from its distant, vinyl ancestor.

Having totally bought into that eons old “CDs Are Forever” vow and utterly disbelieving what my own ears were telling me, I actually began troubleshooting everything; starting with a visual inspection of the disc for fingerprints. With none evident, next came the entire systems check; my sleuthing the cable “spaghetti” for any breaks / loose connections between amp, audio board and speakers. Again, no probs.

A few quick tests of some randomly selected CD’s all netted crystal clear playbacks; leaving me with the only possible conclusion. In essence, this Yes disc was a No go. Somehow, it had been corrupted; but by what?

Well, all it took was one Google search to instantly reveal an eerily similar account…

“Michele Youket, a Library of Congress preservation specialist, plays a CD of classical piano rhapsodies by Erno Dohnanyi. It crackles, and eventually the sound just cuts out. This is a variant of what’s called ‘CD rot’, Youket explains. In this case. it’s what’s called ‘bronzing’. The outer coating of the CD erodes, leaving a silver layer exposed. And when you leave silver exposed, it tarnishes.”

NPR Reporter Laura Sydell • August 18, 2014 / 5:21 PM ET • [Read Full Article] [access Podcast, too.]

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“So it’s actually changing the composition, and that’s why you hear the scratching there.”

Michele Youket

The odd thing, here, is, in spite of this Yes Fragile album’s 1971 release date, I’ve only owned the CD reissue for a short time and, consequently, there have not been all that many playbacks. Even odder is how there’s no noticeable “bronzing”. There’s got to be some other, at yet to be discovered, damaging agent in play.

While it’s true that I’m a staunch champion of truth in advertising, this is the one rare exception where I wish that a disc titled Fragile had not wound up so fragile.

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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No Affinity For Xfinity

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For the benefit of anyone who may be wondering, Xfinity is a trade name of Comcast Cable Communications, LLC; AKA an ISP with a MO that doggedly barks at / hunts down / chases after new customers.

So, just how doggedly is their pursuit?

Well, I’ve been rejecting their snail mailed come-ons 52 times a year for (at least) the past 5 years (likely longer); which begs the question:

How long before the Xfinity Team geniuses connect the dots to conclude that I do not respond well to hard sell tactics; that I’m hardly unique in this regard.

Look, I have no problem when businesses promote their products and services in a reasonable, responsible manner. How would I define that?

  • Reasonable: No more than one advert campaign per Earthly season.
  • Responsible: Business practices, which do not destroy planet Earth.

Alas, it’d appear Xfinity’s bite is even worse than its bark. Yep, it’s bye-bye bark, branches, leaves and trunks when their hatchet men chop down entire forests just to restock that LLCs supply cabinets with untold, metric tons of paper stock.

BTW, I did take a few moments to pour over Xfinity’s latest one pager and nowhere within the voluminous fine print is there any mention of that text getting printed out on recycled paper.

Worse yet, their bad for the environment SOP doth not end with deforestation; seeing how they frequently, pointlessly, manufacture utterly nonredeemable PLASTIC “gift cards” to glue to their mailers. As if what? Simply stating their offered discounts would not suffice?

And, lest anyone forget, low demand for recycled plastic means that it oft ends up getting dumped into our oceans.

So, what’s a beleaguered junk mail recipient to do? Well, were it not against United States Postal Service regulations (and City Ordinance), I’d park my recycling cart next to my front porch and ask my letter carrier(s) to deliver all Xfinity correspondence (and other junk mail) therein.

Yet, such an extreme could never even begin to reclaim the energy needlessly wasted during the manufacturing stage of such adverts AND the subsequent, secondary energy waste when the recycling trucks make their never-ending, weekly rounds to collect this pitched paper and plastic.

After all, it’s impossible to defy the laws of Physics.

At issue, too, is how everyone doesn’t recycle conscientiously. One needn’t look any further than the Post Office lobby trash receptacles; typically over flowing with the junk mail discarded by the renters of on-premises P.O. boxes.

After all, it ain’t easy to defy the laws of Human Nature.

Going beyond even these concerns, one has to question the reliability of Xfinity’s Internet connection and speed. Look, advertising doesn’t come cheap, which means wasted bucks means less funds allocated for the upkeep and upgrades of their Internet infrastructure. In other words inadequate funding equals inadequate service OR Rubbish In equals Rubbish Out.

After all, it’s unwise to defy the GIGA* law of Computer Science.

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* Garbage In / Garbage Out

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference

Glasgow

Service Interruptus

Subtitle: Ma Bell’s Bells and Whistles

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For the benefit of WordPress readers, who may not be American History buffs and, as such, are unfamiliar with what Ma Bell stands for, it all hearkens back to

“The common nickname for the Bell Telephone Company when it was the monopoly communications provider in the U.S.; a slang term referring to AT&T Corp., which provided the original telephone service in the United States, and thus was considered the ‘mother’ of the telecom industry.”

Non-Credited Google Search Goddess or God

Moving along to “her” Bells and Whistles…

Not long ago, I discovered a small, mysterious package on my front porch. Since Sunday deliveries are rare, this had likely been “camping out” there overnight.

With that WHEN issue readily resolved, the more ominous aspects became WHO delivered it and WHY something so valuable and visible (to both motorized and on foot passersby) would not get readily ripped off? Also, in an era WHERE OrangeMan has rudely awakened his rude, psychotic, domestic terrorist sleeper cells, I realized HOW a call to my local police department might not be a bad idea. Just to be on the safe side…

  • Perhaps one of their canines with a nose for nitro could give it a sniff?
  • Or, in lieu of that, the bomb squad could do a bucket of H2O “baptism”?

Anyway, my more rational head prevailed and remained, intact, on my shoulders, too; i.e., when, no Kaboom resulted from my DIY, more conventional box opening tactics. Of course, that didn’t necessarily mean there’d be no explosions; after all, aggravation can cause one’s head to go BOOM, too, as it were. I’ll get into the brain strain particulars in a moment.

So, there I was, staring down a brand spankin’ new flip phone; one which I had never even ordered. Well, at least, my service provider’s accompanying cover letter dispelled any lingering notions that this might be some sorta diabolically designed IED.

Their “love letter” continued, (my word choice, not theirs): As you’ve heard by now (no I hadn’t) we’ll be sun-setting (how lyrical) our 3G network by next spring (Ahh, when love in the air hits the cell towers?). To ward off service interruptus, we’re providing you the latest 4G model; at no cost to you.

And so, I lived happily ever after? NOPE!
Service Intrerruptus? YOU BETCHA!
Check out this Litany of Laments:

  • Quick Start-up Guide sans open phone/install battery instructions
  • While online manual did resolve the prob, it soon led to a new one
  • Annoying Google Assistant’s (GA) spoken words oft unintelligible
  • Worse yet, “she” loved telling the time every minute on the minute
  • Yelled all incoming/outgoing phone numbers for the world to hear
  • Online tech manual’s TOC could not direct me to mute GA tutorial
  • Tech Support call led to agent who, help-wise, couldn’t phone it in
  • Techie’s www was down, so she could not research the prob, either
  • She recommended a visit to their brick and mortar retailer for help
  • Not wanting to go public during a pandemic, I re-boxed this device
  • Meanwhile, I wrote 2 monthly checks for a phone I could not stand
  • Eventually, I violated my tuff pandemic rules to visit the local store
  • The savvy techie needed barely two scant minutes to silence the GA

Naturally, I do recognize how folks, with vision issues, would find the Google Assistant a Godsend. Even so, I’m certain that they’d find being told the time 60 times per hour annoying, too!

Now… long sigh… not being one to complain sans dispensing any constructive criticism, at all…

Would not everybody’s lives be much easier if smart and stupid phone designers* would OPT-IN to making each fresh out of the box phone, just that, a basic phone?

Devices where the user would then need to OPT-IN to, NOT OPT-OUT of the damned bells and whistles.

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* Double entendre discovered and italicized while proof-reading.

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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The Land of Opportunity; LOST

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Just yesterday, while blogging away this pandemic era’s wee hours, my Internet connection went AWOL, again; this time out, just as my virtual, clicking finger was poised over the aqua hued, WordPress “publish button”.

Well, rather than rushing thru a manual re-connection, I allowed my router to engage its auto-reboot function; all the while delivering my muttered pep talk to A-I: “C’mon, red light, turn true blue!” (all to no avail).

With the recalcitrant tech gremlin giddily turning its deaf ear to me, I soon found myself leaning back on my sofa, eyes closed, drifting in and out of dreamland; waiting for my brain to go into auto-reboot mode, too. Well, at least, that’s how I view the realm of REM sleep.

Fortunately, my unconscious mind’s counseling session helped me better connect to my life as it truly is; arrive at this first waking moment conclusion:

My existence within this godforsaken tech desert, is truly emblematic of existence within Michigan as a (w)hole.

Michigan: The Land of Opportunity; LOST

I suddenly began comparing my life to that of my very first WordPress follower; best described as a kindred spirit; how his life and times in California, had afforded him the very creative paths Michigan, invariably, had (has) denied me,

Oh how I wish my father had taken Horace Greeley’s “Go West, young man!” wisdom to heart; made better use of his teaching degree by seeking out the California public school houses. Had he done so…

Suffice to say / safe to say, I believe the Golden State would’ve been my golden opportunity; afforded me a far better chance to lead the life I never had.

I can only imagine what it’d be like to not be languishing in Michigan; squandering my writing, broadcasting and musical talents. And even were such a self-assessment invalid, at the very least, I’d have found more doors to knock on.

I can only wonder how different life, elsewhere, would’ve been.

  • How many novels would I have authored and published?
  • At what radio stations would I have hung my FCC license?
  • Would my keyboard skills have rocked me onto the stage?
  • Would I have met the love of a lifetime and married her?
  • Would we have considered going the parenthood route?
  • Would we be co-authoring memoirs of our life and times?

Inevitably, some will wisely point out that my shelf life might extend outward, as far as 2041. But, such an invisible, bar coded time stamp is merely quantitative. The qualitative perspective would suggest otherwise.

Lest anyone forget, the unforgiving light of our youth and beauty obsessed culture tends to blind potential employers.

Beyond that, how does one safely walk life’s path set against the backdrop of a global pandemic? Who knows how much longer the vaccines’ efficacy will last? How much more microbial crud remains within Corona-V’s dirty bag of tricks? How much of it “he” has yet to hurl at humanity?

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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Internet Interpretation

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Whoever thunk up the screwball notion of instantaneously,
meticulously logging, caching AND scrutinizing, every last
damned one of our online touchpad clicks, must be a pack
rat, who (24/7) painstakingly preserves every breadcrumb,
piece of lint, shed curly hair, icky booger & clipped toenail;
who, if/when reminded to flush afterwards, whines, “Why?”

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!
Stay Healthy!

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