Saturday, November 26, 2022

Odds & Ends: November 26, 2022


The Depot pond looked really pretty this morning. It is 32 degrees, going up to 55 degrees today. I will get the final grass cutting chore done today. 

Guns

We've had three mass shootings in the last ten days. The pro-gun folks blame mental illness. They are right. There is something wrong with someone who thinks killing a bunch of innocent people is an appropriate solution to whatever problem they are experiencing. But it is far to easy for those afflicted people to get weapons capable of killing many people in a short amount of time. We need to make it far more difficult to buy guns. Surely we can do it without making it impossible for law-abiding folks who want to own a gun. 

Kindness

Practice kindness. Wouldn't the world be better if we all could try harder to be kind? I know it's not manly. I know the popular impression is that it is for chumps. I know the tough-guy, Trumpist bullying way is attractive to a wide group of people, and has been for quite a while, even before Trump came on the scene. But it's not working. It is time to try a different approach: kindness.

Facebook

I spend way too much time fretting over social media. I change my mind about it 2 - 3 times every hour. Where am I on it right now? First, I do firmly believe it has contributed to making our world worse, coarser and more fragmented. However, I also believe some of that is on us, the consumers of social media - I won't blame all of that on the social media systems. It's on us to utilize common sense and discard the crazy stuff. 

I'm going to stay on Facebook (I already deleted my Twitter profile - one account is enough). My friends and family post things that I'm never going to see anywhere else and I'd miss that. I'll ignore the negative stuff. It's up to me to manage my consumption of social media. It's up to me to make sure social media does not exert influence over my moods or actions. 

Train Pictures





Friday, November 25, 2022

Lynne Handy's Facebook Cover Poetic Snippets

Starting in 2018, Lynne Handy asked me to change her Facebook cover image once a month. She wanted to put a different poem, or portion of a poem, on the cover each month. I got the impression she spent a fair amount of time putting this together each year. On November 8, 2022 I received her poems for 2023 (She included one by our poet laureate of the Fox Valley, Frank Rutledge!). Unfortunately, she passed away on November 20, 2022. 

I don't feel right logging on to her Facebook page and changing the covers anymore. It just seems wrong, but at the same time, I want to acknowledge her work, the effort she put into choosing which poems to display. Accordingly, I'm going to post the remaining poems here, all at once.



DECEMBER 2022

 A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.”

 

T.S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi”


JANUARY 2023

That winter I had nothing to do

but tend the kettle in my shuttered room

on the top floor of a pensione near a cemetery…

 

“January in Paris,” Aimless Love, Billy Collins (1941-    )

 

FEBRUARY 2023

And the moral of my code

is this:

beauty is twice

beauty

and what is good is doubly

good

when it’s a matter of two

woolen socks

in winter.

 

“Ode to My Socks,” Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

 

MARCH 2023

Touch our bodies, wind.

Our bodies are separate, individual things.

Touch our bodies, wind,

But blow quickly through the red, white, yellow skins

Of our bodies

To the terrible snarl,

Not mine, not yours, not hers,

But all one snarl of souls.         

 

“Wind,” Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, Langston Hughes (1901-1967)

 

APRIL 2023

I remember this woman who sat for years

In a wheelchair, looking straight ahead

Out the window at sycamore trees unleafing

And leafing at the far end of the lane.

 

“Field of Vision,” New Selected Poems 1988-2013, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

 

MAY 2023

Now has come the joyous month of May,

So gay, with such sweet delights,

As these orchards, hedges, and these woods,

All decked with leaves and blossoms,

And all things rejoice.

 

“The Joyous Month of May,” The Writings of Christine de Pizan, Christine de Pizan (1364-c 1430)

 

JUNE 2023

 The sun should be a couple of million miles

Closer today. It wouldn’t hurt anything

And anyway, this cold rainy June is hard

On me and the nesting birds…

 

“Solstice Litany,” Dead Man’s Float, Jim Harrison (1937-2016)

 

JULY 2023

 But when the thistle blooms and on the tree

The loud cicada sits and pours his song

Shrill and continuous, beneath his wings,

Exhausting summertime has come…

 

“Works and Days,” Hesiod and Theognis, Hesiod (ca 750 BCE – Unknown)

 

AUGUST 2023

 I am a honey locust tree

with summer green intentions,

to be a Mourning Dove

swallowing twilight…

 

“Two Places at Once,” Clothed in August Skin, Frank Rutledge (1962-2019)

 

SEPTEMBER 2023

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run…

 

“To Autumn,” The Odes of John Keats, John Keats (1795-1821)

 

OCTOBER 2023

…Autumn and winter are in the dreams…the farmer goes

with his thrift,

The droves and crops increase...the barns are well-filled.

 

“The Sleepers,” Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
 

NOVEMBER 2023

When icicles hang by the wall,

And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,

And Tom bears logs into the hall,

And milk comes frozen home in pail…

 

“Winter,” A Little Treasury of Great Poetry, William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


DECEMBER 2023

 The stars, the heavens, and the elements

contested, using all their arts and care,

to make that living light where Nature and

the sun are mirrored, nothing matches it.

 

“Sonnet 154,” The Poetry of Petrarch, Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Story Written, Edited and Posted for Contest


We submitted our story. We wrote a few, picked two that seemed worthy of editing and selected what we thought was the strongest and posted it in time. We won’t find out until January if we make it to the next round. There were 5,439 writers registered. The organizers set up 125 groups of 44 (though one group must contain 43 since it’s an odd number of writers) and they will select the top 10 out of each group to participate in the next round. If we’re lucky we get to do it all over again in January. There is a third round, in March. I can’t post the story we submitted until the contest is over.

I was involved with fewerthan500.com for a while. It seemed to me that writing a story that would make an impact in 500 words was really difficult. Now that I’ve tried to do the same thing in 250 words, 500 words feels like writing a novel! I think it’s good to try to write short; I’ve always thought most writers write too long. I’m glad I participated, whatever we find out in January.

Thank you for your kind words and support. I appreciate it.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Ready For Battle


I'm ready to do battle. Cathy Kern-Betts and I have entered a short story writing contest, which kicks off tonight. At 10:59 I should receive an email from NYC Midnight - the organizers of the contest. The email will contain a genre, an action and a word. We have 24 hours to combine those elements into a story of 250 words, or less. This is just round 1. If we make the cut, there are two more rounds before we get to collect the grand prize of $4,500. 

Please wish us luck. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Odds & Ends: November 13, 2022


It is a cloudy, cold day here in Batavia. The Depot Pond is looking pretty bleak. It’s November and it is supposed to look like this.

I am so torn about social media. I permanently deleted my Twitter account a few weeks ago. I don’t miss it at all. I never did get much out of it. Now it looks like Musk is going to drive it into the ground faster than most thought.

I am still on Facebook and I’m torn. I like seeing what friends post. I like the groups I am part of. Occasionally some random post will show up that is politically ugly, but that should slow down dramatically now that the midterm elections are over.

But I cannot shake the feeling that social media is bad for both me individually and for society in general. It can be a huge time-waster. I catch myself scrolling for far too long, usually as I procrastinate about something.

I know I’m the product, not the consumer. Facebook has programmed the platform to hold our attention for as long as possible. They do this to give the ads as much exposure as possible. I watched 60 Minutes last week (11/6/2022) and one of the segments was an interview with Tristan Harris (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_Harris) . He’s a former Google employee. He told 60 Minutes that Facebook (all social media) intentionally promotes angry, mean and divisive posts because they tend to go viral much faster and garner more likes and shares than nice posts. Our anger means more money for Facebook.

Do I want to be part of that? Does my use of Facebook mean that I’m part of the problem? Am I at least condoning it by remaining on that platform?

I know that when I leave it’s not going to matter. No individual is going to make Facebook change its ways. But if enough of us leave, maybe they will take notice.

Isn’t Blogger also social media? It is not. There are a couple of reasons. First, there is no advertising. I could add advertising to my blog, but why do that? Even if my writing were compelling enough to attract lots of views, I don’t want to use my readers the same way Facebook and Twitter do. Secondly, and perhaps more important, there is no black-box algorithm putting my drivel in front of you. You have to go to my site on purpose. There are no psychology PHDs working on my behalf to get you to read these posts. There is no manipulation going on here. Either I write something that entertains or informs to get readers or no one shows up here to read.

I’ve deactivated my account many times over the past few years, but the next time I’m deleting my account – not to return. If you want to stay in touch, I’ll be posting stuff here occasionally or you can contact me at kevinm56 at gmail dot com.


Saturday, November 5, 2022

Odds & Ends: November 5, 2022

 


Here is today's Depot Pond picture. Obviously, it is cloudy and, not so obviously, windy. Wind gusts are possible up to 65 mph this morning according to the national weather service. It is 62 degrees though, so it is not cold yet. It is supposed to be in the high 50s to low 60s this coming week and that is nice for November. No complaints here.

Faith in Institutions

At lunch last week we discussed the phenomena of TikTok “advertising” and its affect on book sales. I mentioned that I saw a magazine at my library that had an article about TikTok success stories. One of our lunch crew doubted the validity of the book sale data. I replied that the data was from Neilsen Bookscan. The discussion went off on a tangent, morphing into a discussion about statistics, monopolies and bank statements. It got a little off-track.

I trust some institutions. I trust that Neilsen Bookscan reports book sales as accurately as they possibly can. There are gaps – for example, Amazon does not report non-ISBN self-published data to Neilsen. But if a book has an ISBN and is sold in bookstores or online, odds are good your sales are being reported by Nielsen. I trust that my Morgan Stanley investment and bank statement are correct. I trust that when I go to a Dow Jones or Bloomberg website that the stock market information is accurate. I do not see how I could live life under the assumption that every institution is lying to me. I cannot function that way. I make choices about which organizations I trust and which I find questionable. I have to trust some of them or go crazy.

Statistics can be manipulated. Statistics can be interpreted. Anytime I encounter statistics I should be wary. Polls are a great example. I find them not only useless, but annoying. However, a statement – be it a bank statement or statement of a particular book’s sales numbers – is not a statistic. A statistic is a value calculated by a sample. A statement is a sample size of 1, so even if you were to consider that a stat, your statistics 101 class taught you that it would be invalid.

Trusting a news organization is a little trickier. I am more comfortable with numbers, but news reporting is slipperier. I subscribe to the Washington Post. I trust their reporting is accurate and fact checked. They tend to publish a lot of political articles, which interest me less and less. Plus, I get no local news at all. These are problems for me, and I should subscribe to a local paper to alleviate those issues.

Lastly, what about faith in churches? I was raised Catholic. It is difficult to be a Catholic now in my opinion. There are the pedophile incidents. I find the Catholic support for Trump befuddling. I am not part of any religion currently.

I am comfortable with the idea of a creator. I cannot fathom how everything got here, so that seems like a possible explanation. But I do not think the writers of the Bible (or the Koran or any religious scripture) had any more insight into the nature of the creator than I do. I do not believe the Bible’s authors channeled the word of the creator. I do not think the creator cares about us as individuals. We are on our own and most days I do not think we are doing a great job of managing things.

These are some of the things I believe. I might change my mind depending on what happens. I have changed my mind before; it is quite possible I will again.


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Odds & Ends: October 25, 2022

 


We've had a string of sunny fall days with brilliant blue skies. But, this is also what an autumn day in Illinois looks like. We really need the rain, so it's all good.

Football

We're 7 games into the football season and the Bears are not dead to me. Who would have guessed that the Bears and the Packers would have the same win-loss record this far into the season?

Sturdy Shelter Brewery

It's raining out and 52 degrees. This is a perfect day to spend inside a nice bar and pretend to get some writing done. Batavia has the perfect place: Sturdy Shelter Brewery. They brew beer on the premises. They have food brought in some days, but not every day. In any case, Abby the bartender told me I can bring food in with me and order a beer and have lunch! A Big Mac and fries plus a delicious small craft beer sounds wonderful. The music is on, but not so loud you can't hold a conversation without yelling. The lighting is perfect. They have 5 tables along the windows on Shumway and more window tables at the other end of the building overlooking the river. 

I had a Robustacious Imperial Red and it was really good. I'll be going back. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Odds & Ends: October 22, 2022

 


Here is today's Batavia Depot Pond picture. It's a gorgeous fall day here in Illinois. When I took this picture it was about 55 degrees. As I write this on my back porch, it's 79! We'll have temperatures in the 70s through Monday. Then it will turn cooler, but mid-50s is hardly anything to complain about. 

Writing Contest

A friend of mine, Cathy Kern, and I have entered as a team in a writing contest. The contest will give us a genre, action and word and we have 24 hours to write a 250 word (or less) story with those three elements. The first round of the contest kicks off November 18, so we have a bit less than a month to practice. The first two prompts we gave each other went well. (Cathy lives in New Zealand, so we're doing this via email and Skype with a pretty hefty time zone difference.) Then one of us thought we should tackle the "comedy" genre. Cathy got a couple done, but my productivity screeched to a halt. I stare at the legal pad, or the computer screen, and I have nothing, nada, zip. I'm overwhelmed with the idea that I have to write something funny; so far I have written nothing at all. I know I have to get past this, and I will. 

Sciatica

For years I went to a yoga class every Wednesday. I went because I got a cramp in my calf walking to my mailbox. My mailbox! I decided stretching might be a good idea and signed up for yoga. It worked. My flexibility greatly improved and I met some nice people that I still run into and chat with. When I developed some knee problems, I blamed yoga and stopped. My knees are better now, and I'm not sure yoga had anything to do with the problems, but I never went back. This summer I "got" sciatica. It's a nasty pain from your hamstrings all the way to your foot, on one side of your body (mine was left). It hurt so much! It hurt to sit; it hurt to get back up. I did the stretches I saw on the Mayo clinic website that turned out to be mostly the same poses we did in my yoga class and 12 weeks later my sciatica went away. I still do the stretches, darn near every night. I encourage all of you to stay flexible somehow - you want to avoid sciatica if you can, it is no fun at all. 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Batavia Depot Pond: October 15, 2022

It's chilly this Saturday morning. I ran a few errands this morning and picked up some donuts and coffee at Dunkin. I went to Sunset Park, but not a single train passed, so no train pictures this morning. I drove over to have more caffeine at Limestone and took this shot of the Depot Pond. 



Saturday, October 1, 2022

Odds & Ends

Car Museums

I took a little road trip in September. My first stop was the Cadillac Fall Festival at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. It was a beautiful, cool fall day -- perfect for wandering around outdoors and looking at cars. The museum is really nice, displaying more than Cadillacs. It houses a great collection of American cars. If you've followed me at all on Facebook (which I'm no longer on), you know I have a thing for 60s vintage Cadillacs. 






After spending a few hours looking at Cadillacs I headed south to Auburn, Indiana. I visited the Auburn / Cord / Duesenberg Museum. This museum is stunning. It's housed in the former administrative building for Auburn Motors. There is another museum behind it that occupies some of the manufacturing and R&D facilities. I'm not a huge fan of cars from the 1930s, but I enjoyed the museum anyway. I really liked the Cord 812 - the second front-wheel drive car produced in America.




Illinois Waterway

I took a drive to Ottawa, IL and visited the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. It has a so-so display about the waterway, but it has an excellent viewing area to watch boats and barges move through the lock there. I first saw pleasure boats headed downriver to the Mississippi. There were quite a few in the lock. The boat nearest me was a sailboat and the couple aboard told us they had sailed all the way across the Atlantic from Sweden! They had been on the boat for over a year and weren't sure how much longer they would be sailing. They were headed south down the Mississippi - and that seemed the extent of their future planning. After the pleasure boats went through a tug pushing a barge headed up the river, toward Chicago. 







Today's Train Pictures

I went out this morning to Sunset Park in Geneva and encountered 3 trains: one eastbound Metra commuter, one eastbound and one westbound freight.









Saturday, September 17, 2022

Saturday Train Pictures

Eastbound Freight at Sunset Park in Geneva, IL

Westbound Metra commuter at Sunset Park in Geneva, IL

Eastbound freight at Rochelle Train Park in Rochelle, IL 

Eastbound freight at Rochelle Train Park in Rochelle, IL.

Eastbound freight at Rochelle Train Park in Rochelle, IL.

 

Friday, September 16, 2022

No Train Strike Today

I saw some activity today at Sunset Park in Geneva, IL. I hope the union votes for no strike; a rail strike would really cause problems we don't need right now.