At 11:08 PM tonight, summer is over, astrologically speaking. The earth has changed its angle toward the sun, which is now shining more directly on the Equator. Even if, socially speaking, summer ended on Labor Day, and the position of the planet is saying it is over at 11:08 PM, there is still an outstanding question--Can the Pittsburgh Pirates lose 100 games this year?
I recently put up a new Facebook page, only this time I followed my friend Buffy's example and masked my true place of residence and did not enter employer and education background. This kept a lot of people away whom I did not want to have a "window" on my life today. Hey, I really get the privacy thing, Ms. Masterson, if you ever read this. Anyway, I went on my Facebook page this weekend to find the "Wall" filled with the "Tweets" of none other than Gwen Stefani. Apparently, the Facebook people will put up any Facebook wall entries and any twitterings of anyone you claimed to "Like." All I had to do is list Gwen Stefani as one of the musical performers I enjoyed and the avalanche began. Ms. Stefani was tweeting about everything she was doing. It was cool for about the first five or six, then came the parties and the shoe shopping. Hey, I don't know what a "Lamb" shoe is. All I know is that it is a good idea that I don't run around Pittsburgh wearing a pair. Everyone would stare at my feet. At least I assume that since we are discussing shoes Gwen Stefani likes a lot. I don't think she wears cap toes and wingtips.
I tried to slow things down by sending Ms. Stefani a message back:
It turns out that, since Ms. Stefani sent all of those tweets via Twitter, I couldn't write back through my Facebook account. I wonder how many people, out of the thousands who told Facebook they liked Gwen's singing, actually think she is Tweeting them PERSONALLY? As my Dad might of said, "Gwen Stefani knows all of those jokers about as much as she knows Adam's Off-Ox."
I needed a shirt while on the road in Pittsburgh. This week's "client" practices business casual wear in the area I audit. That was a stroke of luck since I left a pinstripe suit and dress shirt at home, leaving me a change of clothes short. I had some business casual pants, and just needed a shirt to go with them. Macy's had a sale of men's shirts, so I hit a bunch of bins with all the shirts in them. My size was hard to find, since it is so typical, but I managed to dig one up in a shade of bluish-green that was hard to recognize. I read the label which revealed the color to be "seafoam." "Seafoam?" I started wondering if this was really the Men's Department. The next color I found was "tangerine." "Tangerine?" Well, I finally found a nice blue shirt with a pattern of narrow red and white stripes and bought that. In the elevator, I told a woman about finding a "seafoam" shirt at Macy's.
"Oh, seafoam," she said, "you would have to wear something pink with that, or maybe something in yellow."
"I left all my pink and yellow skirts at home," I informed her, deadpan. "You can't wear white after Labor Day, either," I sighed.
A lot of people make major decisions in their lives, including what to think about major issues affecting the entire country, by quotations that are nothing more than slogans. In fact, these slogans are not any different than advertising slogans, such as "Nobody can eat just one," or "It's Toasted." There is nothing like making a decision about what to do with your life savings by coughing up a slogan that someone on Madison Avenue dreamed up to sell soap, which brings me to one of my personal favorites: "I am in it for the long haul." Now, just what does that slogan really mean? Here are two translations:
Another favorite slogan of mine is "Freedom isn't free." Now, this one can be used in order to camouflage a lot of ideas that most people would reject if they would stop and think about the different applications of the slogan. The main purpose of any slogan is to force a hasty, emotional decision, or to provide the decision maker with a plausible excuse for going along with something stupid, lazy, or cowardly. For example, some politician wants to have a war with another country. The politician can claim he's doing it for "freedom." When someone objects to the war, just throw the slogan around until the person agrees, or just drown the objector out with large numbers of people repeating the slogan over and over. This slogan is also handy for doing other nasty things, including taking freedoms away from the people. "Oh, I know habeas corpus has been around since the Magna Carta, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices because (you guessed it) 'Freedom isn't free.' We won't get into the application of the slogan for justifying higher taxes and insane borrowing by the government in order to subsidize some regime that it set up in another country. "Well, I know a billion dollars an hour is a lot of money to rebuild a nation we blew up by mistake, but 'Freedom isn't free.'"
It has been 18 years since the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season. It is starting to slip into everyday speech as an axiom of reality. I'm working at a place that gives me a view right into PNC Park and had a hotel room reserved right across the street from the ball park. I could see people milling around on the infield grass from my workroom and started to worry about traffic to the hotel. The Roberto Clemente Bridge was bound to be closed to vehicular traffic if there was a game tonight. I asked the "client's" manager, "Say, are the Pirates losing at home tonight?"
Man, it's hard to believe that the summer of 2010 will be "officially" over on Labor Day, which is tomorrow. I think everyone feels that the season went by far too fast. As I wrote back in August, some leaves were already starting to fall in August out in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The days have gotten noticeably shorter, and there have been all the TV commercials and newspaper inserts about school starting again, so we all knew these days were coming. We all got some time outdoors, and if we were lucky, a lot of them. I was more lucky than I was last year with several fishing outings, although still not as many as would have been preferred, but there will still be some September weekends which might be productive in that area. Fall has its own advantages, starting with the foliage, kids during Halloween, and ending with Thanksgiving. We can't have those things without summer ending. Like in a baseball trade, you give up something to get something else. Both have their positives and negatives. Try to concentrate on the positives, and the negatives might just go away. I' ll try to follow my own advice, too.
This was a great day for both fishing, as I caught and released two smallmouth bass, one going about fourteen inches, the other just under twelve inches, but I also got to observe the three birds pictured above. The hummingbird was the first, a female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, as she did not have the red oval on her throat. The feathers on the back of the hummingbird were a shimmering metallic green. The hummer was feeding at some yellow wild flowers along the bank of French Creek (Hey, a girl's gotta eat!), and it was so tiny I mistook it at first for a dragonfly. I got about five minutes of watching the hummingbird until it finally noticed me, and went zipping off toward Turtle Island in the middle of the creek. The Osprey was next. Maybe it watched me land and release the bass and decided to do a little recon from the mainland side of the creek. The Osprey silently glided over my head, giving me a start, and landed on some tree off to my left, stirring up a flock of Mallard ducks floating on the creek just below where the large raptor landed. The commotion of the ducks made the Osprey move again, out of my line of sight. The kingfisher was different. At first I thought it was a bluejay, but its bill was too long and its topknot was too jagged. I looked it up on a bird site after guessing that it was a Kingfisher, and the guess was confirmed. Getting to see these sights of nature is one of the benefits of any outdoor activity, such as deer coming to drink in the evening, a salmander treading water, a Great Blue Heron fishing, and even a copperhead snake nailing a bullfrog or gliding across the surface of a creek in a shaft of sunlight.
I used to belong to a few Yahoo Groups, or clubs as they used to be called, back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Not long ago, while searching out more Gravesites, Web sites abandoned by their owners many years ago, I decided to check on the status of the old Yahoo Groups, just to see if any are still active. Well, what I found was a large number of them have been invaded by the spammers. In fact, the spammers are the only ones who post anything to most of the groups. There were some that had one post on them, the Welcoming post that appears whenever a group would get founded, and that was it. All the rest of the posts, stretching back for several years, made me think that half of the world is trying to sell viagra to the other half. The rest of them were scams of various kinds, and there are probably a few Yahoo groups riddled with viruses, trojans, and spyware. Basically, Yahoo Groups is an Internet ghost town, filled with empty, dilapidated houses, boarded up businesses, and parks overrun with weeds. Occassionally, a crow can be heard calling the rest of the flock to another corpse, and some mangy yellow dog lifts its leg on the statue of some former group founder.
Every once in awhile, you run into an abandoned group that had a real dedicated member in it who would post something like, "This group is just about dead. I guess I'll have to try to bring it to life." That's what I call an optimist. This earnest girl would try to do CPR on King Tut. Once a Yahoo group is dead, the thing should just be buried. That way, the Internet's carrion beetles and vultures wouldn't get a chance to deface the corpse with their invitations to "Cheap prescription drugs from Doctor Julio in Tijuana," or "Lonely? For $500 I'll let you be my friend."
I hate to do laundry on the road, but I did a quick mental calculation of the time needed over the weekend and decided there wasn't enough to do laundry on Saturday, so I took it along. There was a laundromat a few blocks down from the motel in Doylestown, which was convenient, so I made the short drive down with a couple of bags full and three rolls of quarters. It was Thursday, so I didn't anticipate much of a crowd, but things aren't the same over in Bucks County as they are in Venango County. A lot of people in Bucks County must have also been thinking of saving weekend time, but most of them were using the dryers, so things cleared out in about half an hour, leaving only a manageable group with the only kids being two very quiet girls with their mother. After going through the newspaper, and idly watching my clothes flipping in the dryers I sighed to the African-American gentleman next to me who was reduced to doing the same thing, "Man, I am (censored) bored!" to which he responded, "I heard that." I started walking around the place to get the blood flowing, and saw a woman intently reading Eat, Pray, Love. I casually remarked to her that I had heard the book was good.
"It is so wonderfully written," the woman replied with a smile.
"That's what a lot of people are saying," I noted again, adding, "If I tried to read a book like that in here, I would probably have to hide it behind a copy of Street and Smith's Football Report or a copy of Playboy."
"Oh, that would be all right," the woman assured me.
I packed along a Steely Dan Greatest Hits CD for the 340 miles back home today. The songs are very familiar to me with some going back about 37 years, or 1973. I didn't take to Steely Dan until Rikki Don't Lose That Number from 1974, about the time I graduated from college. After that one came such hits as Peg, Josie, Hey Nineteen, and my personal favorite Deacon Blues, which I interpret as a man who left his former, unsuccessful, life to take up a more unconventional life as a saxophone player for hire:
Whenever the whole starting from scratch theme is a subject of a song, novel, or movie it really piques my interest, and Deacon Blues is filled with that kind of imagery. My second favorite is the rouser My Old School, which is another one of Steely Dan's songs that really resonates with me. After all, I'm 0-for-8 in high school reunion attendance, or 8-0 (undefeated) according to your perspective:
The instrumental back-up to Steely Dan songs really keeps the blood pumping during a long drive. The saxophone work in many of the tracks is excellent. Steely Dan is better than Red Bull to keep you in the driving game, too.
This motel I'm staying in this week only has some cold continental breakfast stuff, and most of it isn't recommended for me because of the sugar content. Driving around Doylestown the first day didn't produce any sign of a good breakfast place in town. I tried searching the Internet and found some links to a site called Mr. Breakfast. I think the Web site has been around for quite a few years, but I never searched for a restaurant that served breakfast on the Internet before. There is a search engine on the site to help find a restaurant that serves breakfast, and, lucky me, there was link for Doylestown. There were three places, including an Aunt Judy's Family Restaurant and the local hospital. I've used hospital cafeterias as restaurants before, so I put it on the list along with Aunt Judy. It is unusual to get into this situation the way hotels are providing more elaborate free breakfasts, but this hotel was probably built when Ike was President. You see, the economy is affecting us, too, so hotel costs have to be trimmed and here I am. I'll keep Mr. Breakfast bookmarked. There's a cool "Cereal Museum" there, too. If you liked Powerpuff Girls Cereal or Mr. T's Cereal, there's a nostalgic article or two about each cereal. The Pink Panther Flakes page took me back. It's been about 37 years, but I still remember them. It's a miracle I still have my teeth the damn things had so much sugar in them.
I picked up a copy of The Eurythmics Ultimate Collection CD for this week's trip to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, which is over 320 miles away from Oil City. I bought the CD for the best known hits of The Eurythmics, such as 17 Again, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), and I Saved the World Today. Typically, I would bounce around the CD among the best known songs, the ones I am most familiar with, and skip the ones I never heard before. This time I listened to the other tracks and found some real nuggets, my three favorites being Thorn in my Side, Missionary Man, and The Miracle of Love.
Thorn in My Side was a real surprise, as Annie Lennox, who helped write the track with her partner, Dave Stewart, sang a song better suited for such early and mid-60s female vocalists like Leslie Gore, Brenda Lee, or the young Linda Rondstadt. Thorn is one of those early rock / sock hop-at-the-soda-shop songs about a girl who has learned her lesson about a bad boyfriend. The piece is complete with studio work that makes the song sound just like it was recorded back in the days when the popular guys combed their hair like Arthur Fonzarelli, and the girls wore poodle skirts and bobby socks, along with a wailing alto saxophone to keep it real. Hearing Annie Lennox perform the kind of song Leslie Gore would have recorded in 1961 was a real kick. People who heard it playing in my car while parked at a PA Turnpike Service Plaza asked me who recorded it. I had to show them the CD case to prove it was The Eurythmics.
Missionary Man's lyrics are a bit ribald, but ribald by the definition of the 1940s. The band supporting Annie Lennox sounded more like bands that performed during World War II, the rhythm of the song was more like the music of that era, and Annie Lennox's singing was more like Betty Hutton performing Murder (He Says) at a USO canteen in 1944. Missionary Man is about as risque as Murder (He Says) by the standards of this era, but is very entertaining. It has the same rhythm and beat as a 1940s "jump."
The Miracle of Love is a ballad, I think, and a pretty gentle one for a group like the Eurythmics, but, like all the other tracks on this CD that don't "fit" what most expect from them, the Eurythmics make the song theirs. The whole collection on this CD make a long trip go easy.
In 1998, I briefly joined a social networking site known as PlanetAll. The idea was quite a bit different than Facebook, as the technology was not as advanced. PlanetAll had been started about 1995-1996 by some professors at Harvard. The social networking was not as much Person-to-Person and Business-to-Business as Facebook is today. An individual could peruse the menu of existing groups, or start another group and get others with the same interest to join. In this respect, PlanetAll was a lot more like the existing Yahoo Groups service, but slightly more dynamic. The software had to be effective for communications, because Amazon-dot-Com purchased PlanetAll in 1999. Amazon was interested only in the software code, which it plundered for use on its commercial site to enhance interaction among Amazon's on-line customers. Shortly after making use of the code, which was now Amazon's property and could use as Amazon saw fit, PlanetAll was shut down. About five years later, the social networking sites that now fuel the Internet started to spring up with Facebook, My Space, and later Twitter. It is no accident that these sites started up after the delivery system for Internet access changed rapidly from dial-up to DSL, broadband, and high-speed wireless. Social networking and Tweeting make more sense with high speed, and now people are leaving PCs and laptops for Personal Digital Assistants, PDA, like IPhones, Blackberries, and other smart phones. PlanetAll was ahead of its time and the existing technology.
The social networking and PDA era is Web 2.0. This site is more like Web 1.0, but I like to see it as Web 1.5.