Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Smartphones, Coincidences & Royal Gifts

Sunday I upgraded to a smart phone. Fearing a steep learning curve and needing all the help I could get, I actually read the user's manual. Contrary to my expectations (as is nearly always the case), the transition to the vastly improved technology has been relatively pain-free.

The book is still on hold. I'm waiting for feedback from several readers and a nice block of time to dive back in. Though I haven't written anything for a while, the outline in my head is much clearer.

Special thanks to Terri and Larry for taking time to read the tome and providing great feedback. I'm forever in your debt. Toodles, who would have been 76 yesterday, always wanted me to write a book. Terri and Larry also celebrated birthdays this week. Coincidence? I can almost smell the Tabu.

The family tree research continues. I have abandoned the wanton clicking of leaves for a more careful review of specific branches. Thinking there might be a castle somewhere in Europe with my name on it, I decided to focus on the royal lines.

Edward IV is my great something or other grandfather. He ruled from 1461 to 1483, was not well-liked by his subjects, and from all reports couldn't keep it zipped. I'm no geneticist, but suspect this libidinous behavior is hereditary.

His great, great, great grandson Edward Seymour (1561-1612) had six children, including Mary. I found information about her second marriage to Lord George Barrel, but nothing about her first marriage. The first husband may have been Samuel Scott, with whom she had a daughter, Nancy.

Nancy was born in 1615, and left England in 1635 for the Island of Providence (Nicaragua). According to the research done by others, she had a son (John Townsend) in 1640 in Accomack County, Virginia. However, she didn't marry his father (James) until 1708 when they were both 93. Poor James died the year of their marriage, no doubt felled by the family libido. Nancy lived to see her 102nd birthday.

What a beautiful story!!! Of course, as you've probably ascertained, something ain't quite right. I'm too cheap to pay extra for access to European records to research the problem. The truth probably isn't nearly as interesting. If Nancy's story as I've pieced it together isn't right, then I'm not...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The hinge on my cellphone broke months ago. To talk I have to hold the phone together with both hands. If I ever actually got a call, the broken hinge would be a real problem.

When the hinge broke I popped in to check on the cost of a new phone. Turns out, unless you're signing up for new service or renewing your contract, cellphones are friggin expensive! I decided to wait until my contract ends.

I didn't get a cell phone until 1998. That phone looked a lot like the cordless phones available now for landlines and was nearly as large. I had to pay roaming and long distance charges and frequently found myself in areas with no signal.

The flip phone I have now was old technology when I got it. The GPS feature was a major selling point. Turns out, you have to pay extra to actually use it. I might use the camera if I could figure out how to get the pictures off the phone. The picture folder currently contains 64 dark images of the contents of my pocket.

My contract ran out in August. Here it is nearly October and I still haven't replaced my broken phone. I can't make up my mind.

At first, the dilemma was whether to stick with the familiar and barely used flip phone or to upgrade to a smart phone. Going with the flip means opting out of progress. Going with the smart phone involves other risks, especially given my tendency to go a tad overboard.

After getting input from lots of you, I've made a decision. My next phone will be a smart phone. My fear of falling hopelessly far behind the technology curve exceeds my fear of becoming addicted to something else. The bottom line: I'm afraid I'll miss something if I don't upgrade.

Now to decide on a model...and a provider...and a plan. Making these kinds of decisions drives me crazy. Too many choices make me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I can't logon to Facebook. The server is down or something. I'm not sure I can cope.

I thought it was just my Internet connection. I reset the cable modem and the wireless hub and tried again. Nope. G-mail still works. It's not the Internet or my laptop.

As the blood drained from my face I instant messaged a friend on Gmail to verify the horrible truth. It wasn't just me. Facebook was indeed down.

My bowels clenched. Little beads of sweat popped out on my forehead. I felt an overwhelming force deep down inside demanding I post a status update about Facebook being down.

Maybe it's back on. Nope. Still down. I turn on the television to see if Headline news is on the story. Nope.

Do I call 911? No. This is much bigger than local emergency responders can handle.

I Google "Is Facebook down?" and get 1.18 BILLION results. Yep. It's down. Surely somebody with some know-how is on this. Surely.

Maybe it's back on. YES! Order has been restored to my universe. I feel better already.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No Tolerance for Intolerance

A little girl watches her mother preparing a pot roast for dinner. Mom whacks both ends off the roast and places all three pieces into the pot. When the little girl asks why, the mother says that's how her mother taught her.

Later that week the little girl visits her grandmother. She asks why the ends of the pot roast had to be cut off before cooking. The grandmother laughs and says she quit cutting off the ends after she finally bought a bigger pot.

Funny stories make otherwise forgettable talks something students will remember. For some reason, this story has dropped off my play list. Perhaps some updating would help.

To make it relevant for today, I'd have Mom remove ten percent from each end of the pot roast. Instead of going in the pot, she tosses the ends in the rubbish bin. Grandma would say that before modern refrigeration, you cut off the ends to keep any possible contamination from spreading to the rest of the roast.

OK. Maybe it's not technically correct. But you get the point. We need to keep the ten percent on either end from messing things up for everybody else. Y'all know I tend to be at least a little left of center on most issues. If I'm the most liberal person you know, well, you really need to get out a little more among people less like yourself.

I stumbled upon Joe, My, God when I first started blogging. It was the first gay blog I found that didn't revolve around pictures of naked men or news from the world of gay porn. JMG provides gay news (and trivia!) days before anyone else picks it up along with a lot I don't see anywhere else.

Because it's such a good source of gay news, I read JMG religiously. The snide comments, name-calling, intolerance, and holier-than-thou attitude are offensive to me. Joe is bad enough. The people who comment on his blog are even worse.

For a while I posted comments about the need to avoid the kind of rhetoric and rude behavior we've often had to live with since coming out. These guys are more about an eye for an eye than turn the other cheek. It's like they have a score to settle.

Whippersnappers. I came out before most of them were even born. And I had to walk 15 miles, uphill, barefoot and in snow to do it.

Being confrontational with people about gay issues has never worked for me. Frankly, I rarely discuss gay issues with anyone but my closest gay friends. You wouldn't's a gay thing. I imagine other minorities do the same thing.

I venture to say that just being myself and living my life to the best of my ability all these years has done more to change the way the people I know see gays than any rally, demonstration, or Facebook page ever did. In your face just pisses people off. Push hard enough and the push back can get ugly.

Pay no attention to the lunatic fringe. Whether it comes from the left or from the right, from the Christians or the Muslims, intolerance is intolerance. Throwing rocks, name-calling, and the inability to compromise isn't appropriate in kindergarten, much less in state capitals and Washington, DC.

Intolerance should never be tolerated. We're not in middle school any more. People are different--all of 'em. That's all I gotta say.

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, September 20, 2010

Power Tool Envy

Say your mower won't start. Face it. Unless it's just out of gas or you need my phone to call a mechanic, I'm not going to be much help.

Any device requiring a mix of gas and oil completely baffles me. I could never get my gas-powered string trimmer to start. I'd push buttons, pump rubber seals and yank the cord until my shoulders ached without success. It was embarrassing.

Seeing my struggle, a kindly neighbor would start it for me on the first try. I'd thank him, and after using it for a few minutes would have three feet of line painfully whipping my ankles or a useless stub. It was easier to get down on my hands and knees and trim with a pair of scissors. For years that is exactly what I did.

My electric blower sucks, too. I have to drag out miles of extension cord to blow off the street, driveway, porches and walks. The noise is deafening, and wrestling with the extension cord frustrates me to no end. Throw in blistering heat and believe it or not I start to get a little pissy.

Rolling up all that extension cord for storage doesn't help. No matter how careful I am, the cord always gets twisted. Then it starts knotting up and doubling back on itself and refusing to coil like it has a mind of its own. My mood advances from merely pissy to profoundly perturbed.

Here in Bermuda grass country, you need an electric edger to keep the runners from taking over driveways and walks. Again, I have to drag out miles of extension cord. The flying dust coats my sweat-soaked skin and clothes. Then I have to blow the trimmings off the driveway, and deal with all those damn cords. Perturbed advances to an ugly stay-the-hell-out-of-my-way kind of pissed.

The job only gets done once or twice a year because of all the hassle. Of course procrastinating just makes it that much harder to do. Throw in yanking the stuff out of flower beds and you begin to understand why I am no fan of Bermuda grass.

Last summer my electric edger broke. I hated it anyway and was glad to see it go. There had to be a better way.

Two months ago I bought a Black & Decker String Trimmer/Edger with a rechargeable battery. My yard has never been so beautifully edged and trimmed! Grab a battery from the charger (it came with a spare), snap it in to the edger, and off you go. Parts of my yard have been edged or trimmed for the first time in a dozen years.

A month later I bought a matching blower. The blower doesn't quite have the woosh of the the big electric one it replaced, but it gets the job done. It's light as a feather and makes much less noise, too.

A couple of weekends ago I was enjoying myself edging along the street and blasting all the weeds out of the cracks. Not one, not two, but THREE old men in big pick-up trucks stopped to admire my new power tools. It was a first for me.

I was so proud! At last I have arrived. I finally have something to talk about with...

The Crotchety Old Men

Saturday, September 18, 2010

No Short Cuts Allowed

I just finished one of my endless tasks. What an accomplishment! And it was one of those tasks I believed to be infinite. Oh happy day!

The task is related to my family tree research. When finds records or other information, a green leaf appears next to the name of that individual in the tree. Click on the leaf to see the hint. I've been obsessed with leaf-clicking for several months.

The leaves link to historical records, family trees put together by others, and trivia attached to various people by users of The family trees are the best sources for new people (usually the parents) which generates still more leaves to click. Tapping into the research others have done saves lots of time.

Last weekend there were 478 people with leaves to click. Every spare minute has been devoted to knocking people off the list. As of this moment, there are ZERO people with leaves in my family tree. Hallelujah!

OK. I cheated. This list is accessed via a shortcut. New leaves don't show up until I view the family tree. Easy enough. I quit viewing the tree.

My family tree is a mess. And for once, I'm not talking about the 1878 people in it. Turns out you can't trust the information in family trees put together by other people. Some show people living to be more than 200 years old and children born before their parents. Ooops.

I have to examine the records for each of the 1878 individuals in the tree. I can't work from the list any longer. Turns out, when you remove someone from the tree structure they remain on the list.

Since I worked from the list, I traced back the ancestors of people who shouldn't have been in the tree as well as those who should. Hard telling how many of those 1878 have no tie to my family at all. Dammit!

The only way to clean it up is to go through the tree viewing the actual records for each individual. Viewing the tree triggers new leaves. Sigh. It's enough to turn anyone into...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chasing Butterflies

In seventh grade biology we had to collect bugs for a class project. The luckless victims were trapped in insecticide-filled jars, crucified with straight pins and mounted on styrofoam. Hopefully the advent of digital cameras has ended what now seems to be a rather gruesome practice.

My bug collection would have been a lot more impressive had I lived in Athens. Everybody knows bugs are a defining characteristic of life in the Deep South. Even here about the gnat line we have an impressive assortment of insects.

Aside from fire ants, the first thing I noticed was the amazing variety of butterflies. Since my last post I've been chasing butterflies through the garden with my antique digital camera. The results turned out better than I expected.
I have no idea what kind they are.  My Audubon Field Guide to North American Butterflies helps, but only so much. So no guesses from me.

These are just the varieties that have cooperated. There are more illusive types that fly off before I can snap a picture. Some fly off before I get anywhere near them. Guess they don't know they have nothing to fear from...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to the Garden

Starting in June and continuing through August, the heat and humidity here in Athens make it impossible for me to enjoy working in the garden. If I wanted to sweat like that I'd go to the gym or something. I mean really...have you met me?

For the hot summer months my garden goes on auto-pilot. I might pull a weed or two or drag out the hose to water a bit. Anything requiring more care than that doesn't survive for long in my garden.

Last weekend the weather was absolutely perfect. The humidity dropped with highs ten degrees cooler than we've seen for months. I thoroughly enjoyed the hours I spent outside pulling weeds and otherwise sprucing things up.

The butterfly bushes are spectacular! I have six different varieties planted side-by-side toward the back of a long border. This afternoon I counted more than 15 different varieties of butterflies on them. Unfortunately, between the bright sunlight, the blue and purple flowers and my low quality camera I can't get a good picture so you'll just have to take my word.
I was thrilled to find a couple of river oats in the yard. They were exotic to me 12 years ago when I moved here. Now they've taken over and I'm ready to get rid of them. Still, the seed heads are beautiful, especially in a light breeze. (Click on the picture for a more see-able version!)

My boss gave me a small clump of garlic chives more than ten years ago. Most chives bloom in the spring. These are blooming now beneath a red curly willow. I'll have twice as many next year from all the seeds.

Boltonia is one of my all-time favorite plants. The wild stuff hasn't started blooming yet. This is a cultivar known as Snowbank. It's a great plant to mix in a border as it tends to flop or grow taller to fill available spaces.

I've saved the best for last. This week's Best in Show winner could have appeared before now, but I wanted to wait for the helianthus to bloom. The award goes to a mass planting of ornamental grass (Miscanthus sinenses) and lantana (Miss Huff) with helianthus (yellow daisy-like flowers) It's stunning as the sun sets behind it in the late afternoon.

It's great to be back in the garden. I need the exercise. Spending time making my world a more beautiful place makes me feel like something other than...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, September 6, 2010

Attention Deficits

I have attention deficit disorder. Unfortunately, drugs are not the answer. Ritalin or Adderal won't help my projects, interests and obligations to get the attention they deserve.

Nothing would please me more than to spend every waking moment working on the book. I can't work on the book for 15 or 30 minutes here and there. I need big blocks of time free of any distractions. As those opportunities are few and far between, getting to the book becomes more and more of a challenge.

Being rich would help. Hiring a housekeeper, gardener, personal assistant, and whatever else I needed would free up a lot of time. That and a ton of Starbucks is how Rachel Zoe does it. With her staff I could be done with the book.

Having tons of money would mean I could retire early and write all the time. Retired friends tell me they don't see how they ever found time to work. While not working would certainly free up time, until the book becomes a bestseller (ha!), the lifestyle would suffer rather a lot. Hence work stays high on the priority list.

Keeping the house neat and tidy is another priority. I could hire someone to come in and clean, and have. They don't do it to suit me and with one exception, leave me feeling pissed about how much I paid and how little they actually did. If you grew up in my mother's immaculate, beautifully organized home you'd feel the same way.

I rarely let more than a week or two pass without writing in my journal. I've kept it for more than thirty years. With one exception, other than the last entry or two I never look back at what I've written. That's about to change.

About nine years ago I started reading my old journals from the beginning. Finding out most my memories from that period were just wrong was a startling experience. Good thing I keep a journal.

I had to quit reading when I got to the start of a long relationship that ended badly. Reading how I felt and seeing how I rationalized issues that were obvious from the start was sickening. I just couldn't do it.

To finish the book I'm going to have to read all those old journals. Damn--another huge task added to my "to do" list. I'm sure it will be an adventure.

When I read my journals I'm instantly transported to the moment in time when I wrote the entry. Sometimes the feeling hits right away. Sometimes I have to read a page or two before it kicks in. But it always happens sooner or later.

I'm not looking forward to reliving the dark decade. No doubt there is a lot of stuff I've opted to forget. Reading about it will be bad enough. I'm just glad we didn't have cell phones with video cameras.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Climbing Mountains

My feelings about organized religion are decidedly mixed. Though going to church was never my favorite activity, I'm glad to have grown up in a (more or less) religious home. Growing up with religion taught me "good" and "bad" was much bigger than Mom and Dad.

Organized religion provides a variety of social functions. One of the more critical functions is helping people see themselves in a larger context. Religion offers a pathway to becoming a better person and a guide for finding meaning and purpose in life.

I'm all for becoming a better person. Most of us have enough flaws and imperfections to stay on the self-improvement road for a lifetime. Lord knows I do.

Organized religion abandoned me in my hour of greatest need. I'm not bitter. I consider it a blessing. My faith survived and in fact grew stronger. Walking where I walked and coming out unscathed is a miracle. Everyone who knew me then knows it, too.

With this miracle came the gift of detachment. I'm not any religion now. They are all "them" to me.

For many years all I saw was the ugly underside of religious bigotry and extremism. "Kill a queer for Christ" was the predominant image thirty years ago. In more recent years I've come to know religious people with more tolerant views whose faith and good acts inspire me. Thank God.

Others leave me shaking my head in wonder. They wear religion like a badge of honor but show little in the way of loving neighbors or compassion for the poor. They think everyone on welfare or food stamps is a drug-using, baby-making slacker who doesn't want a job. Christ.

I have a relationship with my Higher Power that wasn't possible before. We've cut out the middle man. Turns out, the middle man was twisting things around to suit his own purposes. Nasty humans.

Several religions profess to be the one true way. Follow the prescribed path or paradise will be denied for all eternity. It's our way or the highway to hell. Take your choice.

My Higher Power wants you to know there are many, many paths to the mountain top. None are easy. There are no super highways, expressways or shortcuts. There are guides but for the most part, you must blaze your own trail.

Trust me. If there was an easy way I would have found out. Just another reason I remain...

The Crotchety Old Man
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