THE “AMUSEMENT” OF WINGING IT

NOTE: The seconds, minutes, hours, and days of retirement are often filled with the minutiae of “nil.” That feeling of less responsibility, more leisure, and a lot of hardly anything is both positive and negative. This blog attempts to paint a few slices of the sort of life that reflects the “nil” that retirement can often be.


I adore my wife. Cute as a button. Strongest person I know. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. All-around great person.

But there are those times when she is just…let’s say…too cute for words.

Let me elaborate.

She and I take our share of car trips. Not long trips, but just trips to places we have never been, either in the area where we live or in the state of Washington. And I almost always use my phone to get us there. Siri will dictate the directions and I will faithfully follow. And she gets us there almost 100 percent of the time. I like Siri.

But my wife, bless her heart, is not a fan of Siri. She prefers paper maps, the large kind that once you unfold them there is virtually no way to refold them in exactly the same configuration. Now, for the last year or so I have managed to hold these paper maps at bay. Siri has been our companion and, despite occasional grumbling, my wife has relented. But the paper maps are in the glove compartment.

So last weekend we took a trip north of our town to a beach town we had only been to once before. It wasn’t off the beaten path or anything, but it was about an hour away.

Siri took us there perfectly.

Stayed a few hours and it was time to return home. “We are not using Siri to go home,” my wife said. “We are going to wing it and use the map. Maybe go a different way.”

Hesitantly, I said: “Okay.”

“I’ll tell you how to go,” she said.

I agreed. And do keep in mind here that I was never even the least bit perturbed about any of this. I was amused and constantly told her that I was amused. Even when voices got a bit loud.

We initially made turns that got us into a neighborhood where we seemed lost. A “NO OUTLET” sign didn’t help things, but after a little backtracking we just-at-the-right-moment found the road we were looking for.

“Which way do we turn?” we asked one another. “Left, I think.” But left was a cul-de-sac. We turned right. And yes, it did seem like the map indicated a left.

Drove for a while noticing cross streets, some of which were on the map, some of which were not. But it did seem we were going in the right direction. Then it was time for another turn. I missed it, but quickly pulled in to a convenience store to turn around. Feelings at that point were “amusingly” tense.

After the turn we went on a bit further. More turns…most correct…a few incorrect. “Dammit” may have even been heard inside our car. I only asked once about using Siri. Politely received a rejection. And after a while it seemed like we were making progress, but very slow progress. Winging it was taking its toll.

Then we saw a sign for the interstate that we had taken to get there. “Can I,” I asked? Softly heard a “Sure.” Not a firm “sure,” but kind of the “sure” of surrender.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Let’s just get home,” she said.

The map was then folded and stuffed away.

Needless to say, I did not use Siri.

And I constantly told her, for the rest of the day, how adorable she was. And I didn’t even mention winging it once.

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THE PROMISED LAND

NOTE: The goodness of retirement is the joy of being able to do nothing. But the nothing we do is really the something that is our lives. This blog is an attempt to comment on that nothing that is something. And by reading it, I hope you too will think a bit about that something.


When I was a child the circus used to come to my town. It wasn’t a huge circus like Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth, but it was an event that had a big top and stayed for a few days. The circus set up in a large field not far from my house. And my parents always took my brother and I to see it.

But, for all the days the circus was in town, my friends and I constantly hung out around the circus and near the big top. We stood outside the big tent, looking in, watching the performers practice, but never being able to see it from the inside. It was like watching a huge event from the outside, and wishing you could just spend all day inside that tent. The anticipation was intense.

Well, a couple of days ago, my wife and I were at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, known as SEATAC. It’s the biggest airport in Seattle so, essentially, it’s huge. We were there to pick up our daughter who was flying in from New York for a visit. We got there early so we had a good bit of time to kill.

SEATAC is one of those airports where all the good shops, good restaurants, good attractions, and good everything exists in a large atrium after you go through security. Outside of the security checkpoints there are a couple of coffee shops, a wine bar, and a gift/magazine shop. My wife and I chose the wine bar. (And yes, because I was driving I did not have wine. Shame on you for those thoughts).

And in that wine bar we discovered if you sat in the right place, the very seats we were in, you could just barely see beyond security and through a door. And there it was: the large atrium, the promised land of all things wonderful at a large airport.

But we could not enter. We could only see those fleeting images of others having the time of their pre-flight lives. It felt just like looking into that big top years ago.

Why, why, why?

Banned from the golden circle because we had no ticket. Saddened by it all. Forced to sadly converse with one another and even more sadly just look at our phones for any kind of diversions they could offer.

Why, why, why?

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BIRTHDAYS ARE ABOUT SURPRISES…AREN’T THEY?

NOTE: The presentation of entertainment and poignant knowledge doesn’t change the world, but it does provide a little inspiration and a brief respite from a world that often needs a little changing.

Enjoy the blog. Share it with others.


Today (Monday) is my wife’s birthday. And birthdays in our family are a bit of a big deal. One of our daughters marks birthdays and half-birthdays with grand celebrations and thus has turned us all into celebrators. So it’s cards, meals, cake, ice cream, singing, banners, balloons (sometimes), and gifts.

But it’s that word “gift” that has created a problem. When you’ve been married for 47 years, are with each other 24/7 most days, have purchased everything under the sun, there is the problem of a gift.

Yes, over the years I’ve given her everything from jewelry to jeans, flip-flops to flowers. And she’s given me an assortment of gifts for my birthday including, once, a vacuum cleaner. But that’s another story. Now I have never given her a new car, but that isn’t happening this year either. (“We have a car,” I would tell her lovingly.)

So I asked her a couple of weeks ago the usual question. “What do you want for your birthday?” She said: “I need new eyeglasses and sunglasses.” Now all of you will likely agree that prescription glasses and sunglasses are just not the birthday gift of anyone’s dreams. It’s like saying: “Glasses, what an idea. I’ll even throw in the eye exam.”

Nevertheless, we did order and have since received glasses. Check one (kinda) in the gift category.

Then we were at a mall out of town a few days ago and she saw the phone case of her dreams. She bought that. “Counts as a birthday gift,” she said. I humbly shook my head in affirmation. Then, at said mall, she saw a piece of clothing she liked. Bought it. “Birthday,” she said. Then while we were browsing she noticed a small salad oil container that we needed. Bought it. “Birthday?” I questioned. “No, not this,” she retorted. But I may wrap it anyway.

So, here I was. Two days before her birthday…and no surprise gifts. I like surprises. Now, we do have to pick up a prescription for her today, so perhaps I can sneak out and surprise her with that. And I can wrap the small bottle in a really fancy way. Yes? No…and all of you need to know that I was joking all the way on that one.

So…today is the day. And here’s what I am counting as birthday gifts.

  • Glasses
  • A phone case
  • That article of clothing.
  • A salad oil bottle (in dispute).
  • Three cards (I’m a morning, afternoon, and evening card-giver.)
  • A body, bath, fragrance set I knew/hoped she wanted. (This IS the surprise.)
  • Cake, ice cream, dinner.
  • Saying the words “Happy Birthday” a thousand times in one day.
  • Singing the happy birthday song at least three different times, once very loudly.

I’m counting it all a success.

And I’m still thinking about that prescription as a special surprise. Ssshhh, don’t tell her.

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PERIODS AND COMMAS, OH MY

NOTE: The seconds, minutes, hours, and days of retirement are often filled with the minutiae of “nil.” That feeling of less responsibility, more leisure, and a lot of hardly anything is both positive and negative. This blog attempts to paint a few slices of the sort of life that reflects the “nil” that retirement can often be.


Have you spent some retirement time thinking about punctuation? Didn’t think so, although I may be judging you too harshly. Because punctuation can be tricky…and fun.

Forget the comma on the sign that says: “SLOW, KIDS AT PLAY” and you just have “SLOW KIDS AT PLAY.” Or forget the comma in “Let’s eat, grandpa.” and it becomes “Let’s eat grandpa.” You get the picture.

I taught students about writing for years, and I still have a little trouble with commas. And I’m a chronic overuser of…ellipses. But I do always remember to put the period inside the quotation marks.

So as I spent some time (I’m retired, remember) pondering punctuation, I came upon a mind-blowing punctuation example. And I’m showing it to you so that you can show your kids and your grandkids that the whole where-do-you-put-the-periods-and-commas thing is really important.

Here’s the first version of the example. Notice the meaning and the punctuation.

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours?
-Jill

Now, notice the second version. Same words, different punctuation.

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Yours,
Jill

See…those silly little punctuation marks…well, they really can matter.

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GOIN’ WIRELESS, WE ARE

So here’s what this blog is.

 A little wisdom. A little whimsy. A little pathos. A little whatever. Nothing necessarily special, although it’s often the nothing necessarily special which is the most interesting part. And all of it scribbled from the point-of-view of a retired person.


Let’s begin this post with a little piece of information about my wife and I. We love technology and we can occasionally get overexcited about something in a kind of ridiculous way. Now you know.

Recently we got a new computer printer for our home. Our old printer just wasn’t working very well and it was time for it to “retire.” We do not do much printing, so the major factor in buying the new printer was that it had to be cheap.

Off to Best Buy. Found one under 100 bucks that did what we want: print. We also noticed that it was wireless.

Now, this is where I tell you that the old printer had a cord that connected a computer to the printer. The new one does not require a cord. Nor did the old printer allow us to print from our phones or iPads.

And once we realized that we had a printer in our home that was wireless…well…we were like young children on Christmas morning.

“OMG, we can print from any room.”
“OMG, we can print from the couch.”
“OMG, we can print from our iPads.”
“OMG, we can print from our phones.”
“OMG, we can print from the deck.”

And we did. We printed documents, drawings, e-mails, recipes, printer set up pages, and a few blank pages.

We were ecstatic. Then we realized it would also copy documents. So, we copied many of the things we had just printed.

“Wow,” we said to each other, “We have really become technological wizards. We have a printer at home that works just like the printers in offices.” High-fives all around.

And now that we have had it for a couple of weeks. Well, honestly, we just use it now and then.

But it’s still the greatest wireless printer in our house…by far.

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FILTHY RICH AND CABLE CLIPS

NOTE: Retirement can be a lot of things. For me, at this moment in my life, it’s largely enjoyable and even downright fun. There’s nothing negative except the wear and tear that all things old normally brings. Nothing else. And this blog is an attempt to comment on that nothing and that something that exists in retirement. And, of course, also the fun. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.


I was channel surfing the other day, although the term channel surfing is sort of ridiculous these days in the world of 200+ channels, and I landed on a show titled “The Filthy Rich Guide.”

Looking it up online, the description of the show reads: “A fast-paced guide to how the .00001 percent spend their money…Each half-hour spotlights lavish parties, expensive electronics, outrageous mansions, private islands. Billionaires featured include entrepreneur Charles Shaker, who had a $500,000 bar tab in Monte Carlo; business magnate Mukesh Ambani, whose house — valued at $1 billion — may be the world’s largest; and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, who bought a Hawaiian island for nearly $500 million.”

Everyone on the show is a billionaire and each person never seems to spend a dime on worthy causes. It is about the extravagant extravagances of the richest of the rich.

And as I watched two 30-minute episodes I found myself humbled and a bit self-conscious. The men and women on these shows were only moderately excited about a $250,000 car or a diamond-encrusted watch worth a million dollars.

And here I was, on that very day, extremely excited that I had finally purchased a new $9.99 pack of adhesive cable clips.

But I guess in retirement it’s more important to keep my electronic device cords organized than it is to take my wife to dinner on the French Riviera for an evening and then fly on to spend the night in Paris.

Just sayin’.

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QUIET WRITING

Here’s what this blog is.

A little wisdom. A little whimsy. A little pathos. A little whatever. Nothing necessarily special, although it’s often the nothing necessarily special which is the most interesting part. And all of it scribbled from the point-of-view of a retired person.


A good friend of mine who was a former teaching colleague died on Wednesday.  He was a great teacher, a great husband, a great father, and just a really decent guy. And he died way too young. It is all very sad.

And because of that I wanted to write something “quiet” for this post. But I asked myself what exactly would that “quiet” writing be? Maybe it should be, as my wife said, something simple, just a couple of sentences. And probably that’s good advice, because I don’t know what “quiet” writing is anyway.

But maybe it’s writing more than just a couple of sentences.

Perhaps quiet writing is just writing about the joys of retirement. Saying how glad I am that I have lived long enough and lived healthy enough to be retired and to enjoy that retirement.

Perhaps quiet writing is talking about taking the time to be silent, to let the memories of times-well-lived be appreciated, even treasured.

Perhaps quiet writing is celebrating the life of my friend, whose name was Matt.

Saying that he built his own boat from scratch, once took a vacation to Bangladesh, was incredibly creative and whimsical, used to wear pants with stripes down the side, loved to play “Alice’s Restaurant” every Thanksgiving, once was asked to leave a Middle Eastern country because he taught journalism the way it should be taught, actually took his wife’s last name when he married her, or drove more aggressively (in that same Middle Eastern country) than most of the crazy drivers in that country.

Yea, I think that’s quiet writing. Celebrating, reliving some memories, and being inspired by a life well-lived that was cut too short.

That’s definitely quiet writing to me.

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WAS IT A CAR OR A CAT I SAW?

NOTE: I love posting to this blog. But some readers (honestly, just my wife and I) feel the posts are not at the top for a long enough period of time. Thus, starting today I will post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Same amount of something about nothing, but for a longer time at the top of the blog.

Here’s today’s post. Next post is Friday. Thank you all for reading what I write.


You know, in my life-before-retirement I often informed my students about pieces of trivia that were far from the subject matter of any course. My rationale was that sometimes it’s neat to just be able to tell people something that makes them say: “Wow.”

For instance, I would walk into the classroom and write the following on the whiteboard.

A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.

Do you recognize it?
Know what it’s called?
Look carefully.
Yep, that’s it.

The letters are the same going forward or backward. The headline of this post is the same way.

They’re called palindromes.

There are also palindromic words like madam, mom, kayak, and radar. There are other longer ones such as race car, or Madam, I’m Adam, or top spot, or even Step on no pets.

Then, of course, there’s the following word palindrome:

First ladies rule the State and state the rule: ladies first.

And a really fascinating piece of trivia says the longest single-word palindrome in use today is the Finnish word “saippuakivikauppias” which means soap stone vendor.

And then, of course, there are date palindromes.

July 10, 2017 (7102017)
August 10, 2018 (8102018)
September 10, 2019 (9102019)
February 2, 2020 (02022020)

And if you have never heard of palindromes before…well…now you know.

Just remember never to look for an oozy rat in a sanitary zoo.

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LOOK, IT’S A PANDEMONIUM OF PARROTS

NOTE: I love posting to this blog. But some readers (honestly, just my wife and I) feel the posts are not at the top for a long enough period of time. Thus, starting today I will post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Same basic amounts of something about nothing, but for a longer time at the top of the blog.

Here’s today’s post. Next post is Wednesday. Thank you all for reading what I write.


Have you ever thought about what a group of bears is called? Or a group of porcupines?

No, you say you haven’t.

Well, then you’re in luck. Because I’m retired, have more free time than you might have, and I’ve done some research. And incidentally, a group of bears is a sleuth of bears, and a group of porcupines is a prickle, which seems appropriate.

But where do these collective nouns come from? That was my first question. Turns out that a book called the “Book of Saint Albans” published in England back in 1486 listed many of those collective nouns that we still use today. And it even listed more than one collective noun for some animals. Horses, for example, can be a team, a harras, a rag (for colts), a stud (a group kept primarily for breeding), or a string.

While most of my minimal research says it is doubtful that these terms for groups of animals were used by very many hunters, the terms have indeed over the years become a part of the standard English vocabulary.

So, it is fortunate for you dedicated readers of this blog that you get to peruse a list of collective nouns that will surprise you, amaze you, and that you most certainly will want to share with others around you.

Here we go…

A shrewdness of apes

A congregation of alligators

A cete of badgers

A cauldron of bats

A gang or an obstinacy of buffalo

A clowder, clutter, pounce, nuisance, glorying, or a glare of cats

An army of caterpillars

A caravan of camels

A coalition of cheetahs

A murder of crows

A pace of donkeys

A convocation of eagles

A parade of elephants

A business of ferrets

A leash, skulk or earth of Fox

An army of frogs

A tower of giraffes (so appropriate)

A tribe or trip of goats

A flamboyance of flamingos

A bloat, or a thunder of hippopotamuses

A cackle of hyenas

A shadow of jaguars

A smack of jellyfish

A troop or mob of kangaroos

A conspiracy of lemurs

A leap of leopards

A risk of lobsters

A labor of moles

A troop or barrel of monkeys

A romp, a family, or a raft of otters

A parliament of owls

A pandemonium of parrots

A covey of partridge

An ostentation or muster of peacocks 

An unkindness of ravens

A colony or warren of rabbits

A crash of rhinoceroses

A shiver of sharks

A dray or scurry of squirrels

An ambush or streak of tigers

A rafter, gang, or posse of turkeys

A venue of vultures

A wisdom of wombats

A zeal of zebras

And now, you know.

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POETRY TO BE SPOKEN, NOT TO BE READ

NOTE: Part of the joy of retirement is both the learning and the sharing of what I call “fascinations.” Sometimes those fascinations are things I knew before retirement. Sometimes the information is fascinating, fun and new to me. This week I give to you four entertaining and trivial fascinating fascinations. I hope you enjoy them.


I have always been fascinated by what is called spoken word poetry, and particularly by one poet…a woman named Sarah Kay.

Spoken word poetry is the art of performance poetry. It’s described as poetry that is not intended to just sit on a page, but to be spoken in front of an audience.

And, to me, it is fantastic.

When you first listen, it takes you a bit to recognize that you’re “watching” a poem. But soon, the rhythms and the cadences, the word play and the phrasing, all allow you to say to yourself…this is different…and it’s great. At least that’s how I view it.

At one point in my life I was totally fascinated by spoken word poetry. Even wrote a few and performed them in front of my classes in public speaking. And occasionally I assigned my students to try their hand at it. The results I’d like to tell you were fantastic, but honestly they were just mixed. It is more difficult than I imagined.

So, today, this blog is giving you two events to listen to. Both are TED talks. And if you don’t know what a TED talk is…well, shame on you. Google them, download the app and spend a week of your retirement listening to as many as you can that are on topics you like.

In any case, here are the links to two spoken word poetry TED talks. One is by Sarah Kay. And in her talk, she also tells her audience a lot about what spoken word poetry is. The other is by a man named Rives.

And finally I have given you the link to Sarah Kay’s website. It offers a buffet of information and this type of poetry.

https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a_daughter (performance)
https://www.ted.com/talks/rives_on_4_a_m (performance)
http://www.kaysarahsera.com (Sarah Kay’s website)

So put on some earbuds or headphones, or just turn your device up really loud and soak it in.

I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

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