Archives For New Year

I have a sweet tooth so large that if my body were in proportion to its size I’d be as big as a wooly mammoth. I’ve had this sweet tooth for as far back as I can remember. As a kid growing up in Atlanta my mother used to make absolutely magically awesome Toll House cookies from scratch. There were no easy-to-open Toll House cookie dough cans during the 1960s, so my mom made hers from all the necessary ingredients, mixed everything with her Sears mixer, and carefully baked then in the oven. The aroma of those baking cookies filed the house and spilled out the open doors and windows into the yard, which is where I’d be helping my dad or playing with my brothers. As soon as I smelled them I was first through the door into the kitchen. She quickly learned to make a double batch every time, hiding the majority of them so I wouldn’t eat them all the same day she made them.

As I grew older my sweet tooth kept up. For example I used to work the camera department part-time at a local J.C. Penny’s while going to college. Unfortunately for me the candy department was right next to the camera department. I’d go over just about every night shift, when things got slow, and buy a half pound of chocolate covered raisins, and eat them all before going home. And yet, because of my youth and running I managed to burn calories and thus keep the weight gain at bay.

Then I got a real job as an engineer, the kind where you sit behind a desk. Unbeknownst to me, sugar itself was changing. Up until about the mid-1970s sugar was sucrose, Dixie Crystals made from good old-fashioned cane sugar. But about that time high fructose corn syrup began to be substituted for cane sugar in just about everything, including my beloved Coca Cola (on which, living in Atlanta, I was just about weaned on), which I drank like a drunken sailor. My sweet tooth, combined with a growing sedentary lifestyle, resulted in a growing weight gain. When I married at 28 I was 6’4″ and 200 pounds, already up from my college weight of 190. At my current age of 63 I weigh 260. That’s not good, no matter what anybody says.

Starting with my trip to Denver around Christmas I decided to not so much as lose weight as to tackle the fundamental problem in my diet, my addiction to sugar. That’s when I stopped literally eating candy. To combat the craving I started chewing Mentos and eating Ice Breakers Raspberry Duos. I’m doing that now, rather than raid the candy machine or head over to the local canteen. The other unspoken about junk food I’ve managed to switch off of cold turkey are snack foods like Cheetos and just about any chip in general. Those were easy enough to turn off. The other sweet item I’ve managed to pretty much turn off completely is diet soda. While it might seem wrong to eat or chew sugar-free candy, I’ve known for some time that guzzling diet sodas comes with its own issues. Substituting water, unsweetened tea, or coffee for diet sodas has helped to control the urges for sugar. While those urges seem to crop up occasionally, they’re not nearly as strong as they once were with the artificially sweetened diet soda cut out.

What I have here is a repeat of all those busted prior New Years resolutions to lose weight, except the focus is a lot narrower and hopefully more achievable this year – break the sweets/sugar habit once and for all. And while I’m at it, go back to my roots as it were, eating a lot more fruits and vegetables like I once did while growing up in Atlanta. After three weeks I am feeling better. It looks like this resolution will succeed, helping to re-create a healthy dietary foundation I can build on going forward. This isn’t about living longer, it’s about living better.

The blogging tradition is to publicly announce to the world all your New Year’s resolutions, at which point they sink out of sight, never to be mentioned again. This year, I’m breaking that tradition in two ways; I’m waiting until mid-January before making such pronouncements to make sure they’re going to succeed in some way, and I’m only announcing one at a time.

I put a very short list of resolutions together in December that I wanted to work on in 2017. At the top of my list is reducing my use of social media, particularly Twitter. The tool I had high hopes would be a powerful tool for positive social change and direct democracy has metastasized¬†into anything but. The biggest driver behind this is the election of the Donald as president (but #NotMyPresident!). The fact that Trump could use Twitter as his bloody pulpit, that he could digitally spew his constant corrosive stream of lies and hate to his many millions of followers (a sizable percentage of which may actually be bots) without any management by Twitter itself goes to show, paradoxically, just how little value the service holds now in the social media universe. If it was truly valuable then Twitter would have put practices, procedures and tools in place to more tightly curate and control the out-of-line users, including Trump himself. But they haven’t, and those who could bring value to Twitter through their participation have been driven away, some publicly, but most privately.

An example of what’s wrong with Twitter (besides Trump) is what happened to Leslie Jones, co-star of the new Ghost Busters (which I liked) and her abuse by Milo Yiannopoulos, one of the “alt-right’s” poster boys. Here, in one story, are all the elements that make participation on Twitter so toxic: hate speech, racism, misogyny, white supremacy, white entitlement… And what happened? Yiannopoulos, who had had a number of prior run-ins and temporary Twitter bans, was finally permanently banned in July 2016. But not before inciting quite a bit of destructive (to Twitter primarily) hate tweets directed at Jones. And all the while this was happening, Trump was dumping his Twitter drivel, one tweet at a time, to the perverted delight of his followers…

Twitter is a free service, the only requirement being I put up with “promoted” ads injected into my timeline (which I’ve diligently marked them all as irrelevant, and which seems to have slowed their appearance). This marks my second appearance with the service. The first time was as a lark back in the very late aughts, and after about two years of aimless wondering through the Twitter hinterland I deleted the account. I came back into the Twitter fold back in February 2011 as @wbeebe4, and I’ve hung out there ever since. Now I’ve decided to move away again, but this time I’m just walking away. Rather than delete the account I’ve clicked the “Tweet privacy” checkbox to protect my tweets and keep the bots and twitter influencer wannabes from following. Which reminds me of another major dislike of Twitter, the formalization of media whoredom as influencer following.

I’ve enjoyed being away from Twitter since Christmas. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to using it to the same level I did before the November elections. Perhaps, as 2017 progresses, and the Trump presidency grows even worse than I believe it will be, I’ll be driven completely away from Twitter. My exit certainly won’t bring Twitter down, but it certainly won’t help keep Twitter up. It may come to pass that I actively become part of some movement that helps move Twitter along into total irrelevancy and its final complete failure. Twitter no longer deserves to succeed, let alone exist. The stewardship of Twitter by those who supposedly created it, and should thus care the most about it, has been almost totally non-existent. It’s best to let it finish its slow-motion collapse and to move on, hopefully to something far better.

another day, another year

January 1, 2014

No photos with this post, just verbiage. A marker between the end of 2013 and 2014.
Update: But I did find a suitable Dilbert.

Dilbert

It’s somehow fitting that my first blog post for 2014 was about a trip to a Japanese camera store at the end of 2013. It was inadvertently posted to today because I’d stayed up to watch the ball drop in Times Square on TV, a tradition my wife and I have observed since we started dating over 30 years ago. I watched it drop, tuning out the talking heads as I always do. My wife and I shared a glass of wine and a kiss, and then I went back to finishing the post about my trip into Yodobashi Camera.

What about 2014? Well, what about 2014? I have my goals for any given year, both short-term and long-term. They’re grouped into themes, such as home repair or travel or personal improvement. Specific goals are more or less wishes. I’m not so pedantic and narrow, and thus I avoid the disappointments that come when inflexible and generally unreasonable goals aren’t met. Themes can span multiple years and allow specific, more-easily met milestones to be accomplished. Your milestones can slide to the right without any undo personal anxiety. You accomplish what you can when you can and get to the rest, time and circumstances permitting. A single goal is inflexible and you may discover that the goal isn’t something you really wanted when it’s finally reached. A theme with smaller milestones gives you flexibility to change any ultimate goals, or even to abandon an ultimate goal if you discover along the way it’s not what you thought it was when you first started out.

If this sounds like engineering management, you’re absolutely right. No plan, no goal, no matter how carefully contrived, ever survived contact with reality and the shifting priorities of life.

The Year(s) that Preceeded

2013 was one of my more turbulent years and underscores just how little you can anticipate. I was laid off in May, after having gone through a left knee replacement in November 2012 and the subsequent physical therapy. I’d spent 2012 in increasing pain because of my left knee injury I’d received the year before that in November 2011. So the #1 theme for all those years was just to get back to a reasonably good walking state. Along the span of those years I’d traveled north on a two-week road trip to Toronto in 2012, and this year I traveled south (twice) to Key West in much shorter weekly sessions. While the trip up north was generally planned, it happened when it did when the date presented itself, not because we’d inflexibly decided to go at that exact time. The same with the lighter trips down to the Keys.

Fortunately I was out of work about a month. The new job is satisfying and presents many opportunities for personal travel in 2014, both within the US as well as overseas.

This year marks the 30th year I moved to Orlando. I’ve lived here too long, perhaps, considering I moved from Atlanta, my birthplace, when I was 30. Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it does lead to a sense of boredom. That’s why travel is so important at times; there’s nothing like looking on new lands with eyes of innocence.

2014 marks the 60th year of my existence. The theme going forward is helping the country and the world I live in. That seems like such a daunting theme, so overwhelming. But that’s about the only way to really approach all the problems we face. I’ll look for opportunities to satisfy that theme, a theme that I intent to stretch forward until the day I die. I was born late in the Boomer wave, which gives me enough perspective to know that retiring with money into one of God’s waiting rooms (retirement communities) is no way to help nor repay the generations coming after you. Selfish retirement as practiced by the early Boomers is not for me. This old world has demanded, and will always demand, a giving and constructive engagement. That is, after all, how you got to be where you are, by the selfless giving of earlier generations. You don’t stop unless and until the mind and flesh fail.

Here’s to interesting times in the new year, and in many more years to come. May we all find satisfaction in some form.