Life in the ‘human rut’

Your thought for the day:

“They would fail. We would always fail. We weren’t built to do anything but fail. We had the wrong kind of motives and we couldn’t change them. We had a built-in short-sightedness and an inherent selfishness and a self-concern that made it impossible to step out of the little human rut we traveled.”

All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak

Flirting with algorithms

Spark wonder, invent possible
Sheltering the past
Waiting for a return to normal
Be a superhero: Stay home!
Art parked here
Through the looking glass
Ode to the Chitlin’ Circuit
This space reserved for creative loitering
“When in doubt go to the library,” J.K. Rowling
Only Gators get out alive
Queen of the winter flowers
Like a bridge over troubled asphalt
“Knowledge is good,” Animal House
“Aaron DaCosta is happy over the receipt of a fine dog, which recently arrived from New Orleans”
History of Gainesville: Jess G. Davis
Where Lake Alice goes to pray
Originally called Sunkist Villa: Was that a great name or what?
“The train you have been waiting all your life may not stop at your station,”
M.M. Ildan
“Embrace the power of little things and you will build a tower of mighty things,” I Ayivor
“I really learned to sing in church,” D. Parton
“You can’t just hoard your ideas inside the Ivory Tower” G. Church
Gateway to Gatorland
All the world’s a stage
Fifty years…and hit pause
Remember and Reimagine
(Hipp’s 2020-21 theme)
“I felt like I might as well have been living in another part of the solar system,” B. Dylan
“You belong among the wildflowers,” T. Petty
I came, I saw, I cycled: R. Cunningham

So now I’m a digital guy

Hold my beer while I commit a little newspaper heresy.

I’m a newspaper man. It’s how I made my living for nearly 50 years. My veins might as well corse printers ink as blood.

I have subscribed to my daily newspaper for more than 40 years.

Every day I read the Gainesville Sun, the New York Times and USA Today, and I browse selected other news sources.

But I haven’t held an actual newspaper in my by-now un-inkstained hands for nearly a year.

No, I didn’t drop my subscription to the Sun. I just read it online.

At first I did it for the sake of expediency. My wife and I were doing so much traveling that we were frequently having to stop and restart home delivery.

Now we’re finding that we can read the Sun wherever in the world we happen to be without constantly bothering the circulation department.

And no, I don’t miss the feel of a physical newspaper in my hands. I believe that the true purpose of a “newspaper” is to feed our intellects, not give us yet one more reason to wash our hands.

And I’ll admit this, too. During my long career in journalism I often pondered the irony of cutting down whole forests so we could tell our readers about, oh, deforestation, climate change, environmental degradation and such.

Digital journalism means never having to say you are sorry.

I only bring this up now because, thanks to the coronavirus, some unsustainable newspaper business practices are becoming ever more unsustainable. Because of a drop in advertising the Tampa Bay Times just announced that it would only print an actual paper edition twice a week, while reporting the rest of the week’s news online.

Says Times CEO Paul Tash “while we are in the depths of this pandemic, we simply cannot afford to produce the ink-and-paper version every day.”

I’d like to believe that once the COVID19 thing ebbs, everything can go back to normal. But newspapers were losing advertisers and shedding staff long before the virus arrived, and I suspect they will continue to do so when it’s gone.

So what to do?

I think readers will always turn to their most trusted local news sources. And in most communities that means their local daily newspaper.

But I also think that the switch to all-digital-all-online-all-the-time news is probably inevitable and not a bad thing. Ink on paper is so last century.

I actually have two Sun apps on my devices. One is the app that allows you to read The Sun, page by page, just as though you are reading the honest-to-goodness newspaper.

The other app allows you to read constant updates as they are posted.

In other words you don’t have to wait for tomorrow to read today’s news. And we’re certainly learning how important that sort of immediacy is.

Ben Smith, the New York Times media columnist, believes the survival of news gathering may depend on moving “as fast as possible to a national network of nimble new online newsrooms.”

Smith’s main question is whether the future of news gathering should be left to for-profit or given over to non-profit hands. But either way the future of news is almost certainly going to be digital

The world moves on

“The need to recreate the myth of coherence may be one of the reasons why history exists in the first place.”

Stephen King: The Dark Tower.

“The world moved on.”

Listen, I’ve been waiting for years to use that line.

It comes from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. About people who are abruptly thrown into a chaotic world that they neither understand or are prepared to cope with.

I’m beginning to understand, Roland.

In the last few days I’ve been in half a dozen counties and one hospital (twice). I’ve stopped for gasoline, for fast food, used some public restrooms and visited frail and/or sick relatives.

Normally this would be just a typical week in the life of a 72-year old retiree with an elderly mother and an ailing sister who happen to live halfway down the state. But these are not normal times. And now we are being obliged to evaluate every one of our actions and movements with an eye toward possibly dire ramifications.

I’ve been shuttling back and forth, avoiding the interstates when I can, taking backroads where possible (just because I prefer that kind of driving) and logging more than the usual hours away from home.


While the world moved on.

Before I left home this last time my wife insisted I take a big pump-bottle of hand sanitizer with me and use it liberally after….well, after virtually every time I get out of the car. Gas pump, hand pump (just don’t) door knob turn. Whatever.

And when I went to the medical center in Sebastian to, at first visit and then pick up, my sister, who had just had a knee operation, I was wary indeed. I shared an elevator ride with a woman who coughed. I tried not to flinch. I tried not to lean on anything. I told my sister she looked fine. From at least six feet away. Because.

And I stayed with my mom and her husband. Who has an upper respiratory thing going on. Which his doctor is fairly sure isn’t….

…Well, you know, “it.”

Long story short, I got home to discover that my Santa Fe College accounting professor wife will henceforth be teaching all of her classes on-line rather than face-to-face.

And that the University of Florida will go entirely on-line. And that it is advising students to leave town and go back to wherever they came from.

This is a college town. Once the students are gone I suppose we townies will all be safer for it – fewer bodies, fewer potential sources of contagions.

But it’s going to play hell with the local economy. Some businesses will go under.

Oh, and no more Gator basketball, baseball, nothing.

And what if it hasn’t blown over by football season? Talk about culture shock!

But the world moved on.

The good news: I already more or less work (as a freelance journalist) at home, although Starbucks is gonna miss me. And our dog will be ecstatic, since his humans will be hanging around much more than they used to.

So there’s that.

Our President says…..well, we really don’t know what the hell he’s saying. Our governor has declared a State Of Emergency, whatever that means.

We’re being told to keep our distances from each other. To self-quarantine if we think we need it. To wash, wash, wash, wash, wash our hands. And that we don’t really need to stockpile toilet paper or face masks.

And that some of us may get “it.”

And that if we do, some of us may suffer more from “it” than will others.

And that for those of us who do suffer more from “it,” there may or may not be enough hospital beds and ventilators available to pull us back from the brink.

Which, I suppose, is the bad news.

Because the world moved on.

I don’t have a p.s. for all of this.

Maybe in a week or two or three this will have all blown over. And we will all feel sort of silly.

Maybe the Prez is right (isn’t he always?). That this is just a liberal conspiracy to get rid of him.

Maybe we will learn that the military has been secretly stockpiling ventilators and hospital beds and secret vaccines and miracle cures with the obscene amounts of money we’ve been shoving at them to pay for super weapons.

Or, maybe the world isn’t nearly done moving on yet.

Maybe a month from now, six months from now, a year from now, the way we lead our daily lives will bear very little resemblance to the way we’ve all been getting by up until…

….oh, I dunno…

….let’s say, two weeks ago.

“This is ridiculous,” Eddie shouted.

“Life is ridiculous.”

Stephen King: The Dark Tower

The world moved on.

Sympathy for the Donald

With apologies to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
Been around for a long, long time
Stole many a man’s soul to waste
I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Has his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name.
Cause what’s confusing you is just the

Nature of my game.

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was time for a change
I killed the Tsar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank, held a general’s rank
When the blitzkreig raged and the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name.
Cause what’s puzzling you is just the
Nature of my game
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the Gods they made
I shouted out
“Who killed the Kennedys?”
When after all
It was you and me
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
Cause I’m in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, um mean it, get down
Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!
Tell me baby, what’s my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what’s my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame
Ooo, who
Ooo, who
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who

Oh, yeah

Ron’s sense of snow

Canadians think Americans are loopy anyway. But if you really want to evoke eye-rolling and dark mutterings from our northern neighbors try saying this to a Canadian:

“I’m from Florida and I’m here for the snow.”

In December. In Ottawa.

And we’re not talking about skiing. I ski. I fall down. I break something. That way lies disaster.

No, I just love the snow. I like to walk in it. To savor its fresh, sharp scent and biting touch. It’s a walk on the wild side. I’m a stranger in a strange land.

Once my backpacking group, the Shining Rock Orienteering Society (AKA Old Florida Guys In Hot Pursuit Of Their Lost Youth) were hiking in snowy Rocky Mountain National Park. People kept looking at us funny because my fellow Orienteer, Louis Kalivoda, was wearing shorts. It’s just Florida Man folks, nothing to be alarmed about.

It is true that I have lived in Florida for more than 60 years. But the first seven years of my life was spent in Pennsylvania. And I still have memories of waking up on winter mornings and discovering that the world outside had turned white and magical.

Listen, to this day I can’t watch “Christmas Story” without tearing up.

The best day I ever spent in New York City happened because there was a blizzard and my flight home got canceled. I went for a long walk through Central Park in a driving snowfall (listening to Sinatra on a Walkman) and had the time of my life. I had lunch at Tavern On The Green and later went to the Algonquin Hotel for scotch. Move over Dorothy Parker.

So here I am at the age of 72, and a confirmed denizen of the Sunshine State. But there is nothing for it. Every now and then I’ve simply got to go looking for snow. Which is why Canadians find me such an odd duck. But there it is.

I’m a bizarre example of rare reverse tourism. The Air Canada plane headed north had quite a few empty seats. On the return trip to Orlando (aka Land Of The Mouse) it was full up.

Ottawa is one of my favorite cities. I have ridden bicycles there and walked for miles around Parliament Hill and along the Ottawa River. But always in the summer or fall. This time we arrived just in time to take in the Christmas Lights Up Canada festival in Confederation Park. They handed us lighted candles and we walked in a snowfall among gaily lighted trees and sculptures.

The next day I walked along the celebrated Rideau Canal locks. The last time I was here it was crawling with tourists and boaters who were patiently waiting out the long lift up or down. Now I had the place to myself.

Strolling along the Ottawa River was a bleak experience…all whites and browns and grays. Then I came upon a spot where someone had left flowers next to a small plaque of an angelic figure and another that said “Peace And Grace.” I know there’s a story there.

Had tea with the suffragettes near Parliament. Still waiting patiently for Hell to freeze over.

The last time I visited Maj. Hill’s Park we laid down in the soft green grass and took in the sunshine. Things change.

And the snow leaves room for interpretation.

The mutant spider at the National Gallery was still assaulting that cathedral across the street. But it seemed to be moving more sluggishly.

We had taken a cabin on Otty Lake for the month of July. This time we had to hike in because the road was blocked.

In nearby Perth is Steward Park. When last we saw it, kids were swimming in the Tay River. Now not so much.

And downtown Perth has certainly changed.

Although we did meet a woman who was shoveling snow off the sidewalk and told us “It’s very mild today.” I love that sort of optimism.

I’m only saying that if you decide to cross that bridge, the snow presents new and infinite possibilities.

So don’t be a grump. Enjoy the moment. Just be sure to dress appropriately.

It’s a wonderful life. Get out in it. And leave footprints.

I’m a Floridian but I love the snow. So sue me, Canada.

Plus, I’m not the only one.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’” Lewis Carroll.

“A cold wind was blowing from the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things.” 
George R.R. Martin.

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.” 
E.E. Cummings

“With luck, it might even snow for us.” 
Haruki Murakami

“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person” Sylvia Plath

“The snow began to fall again, drifting against the windows, politely begging entrance and then falling with disappointment to the ground” 
Jamie McGuire.

I love snow for the same reason I love Christmas: It brings people together while time stands still. Rachel Cohn

“To want to understand is an attempt to recapture something we have lost.” 
Peter Høeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow