Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year’s Eve! As this last day of the year has arrived, I have been reflecting on this year as a whole. I can remember all of the excitement right before New Year’s last year, and all of the high expectations that everyone had for 2020. While 2020 has certainly exceeded expectations, I can guarantee that it was not in the way we expected it to. We were prepared to party like it was the Roaring 20s part 2, but instead we got a deadly global pandemic, a recession, and a whole lot of other scary things that the 1920s also had. I can’t say that I overall enjoyed this year, but I’m now very cautious about next year. 2020 has brought a bunch of terrible, unexpected things, and we were so looking forward to it, but now I’m afraid it will happen all over again. We were so optimistic about the scales of the universe tipping in the positive direction, when in fact the pendulum swung the other way just to spite us. 

This year, I think we need to start carefully. We don’t want another 2020, and we would actually like some good things to happen. I feel like so many people think that everything bad that happened in 2020 will be over as soon as the clock strikes 12 tonight, which just isn’t the case. I say we walk respectfully and calmly into 2021, and we don’t expect too much of her, and then maybe she’ll give us a reprieve from all of this year’s craziness. I don’t want to see any parties or outings that people are tempting fate with, but rather just a calm evening where the clock strikes midnight, and just another day comes. Let’s just hope our phone calendars actually turn to 2021, and we’re not stuck in a Groundhog-Year forever. 

I wish you all good luck in the new year, and I hope everyone stays/gets happy, healthy, and safe. Until next time!


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Word Of The Year

According to Merriam-Webster, the Word of the Year is…Pandemic. I am sure you have all heard that.  And not a surprise, really. The funny thing to me about this is up until we actually had a global virus situation, we all used the word “epidemic” to apply to anything that was running rampant.  Then, we find ourselves with an actual, real live epidemic, and we all call it a pandemic. I feel like “epidemic” kind of got short-shrifted and lost its opportunity for the spotlight but what can you do.

Anyway, this got me thinking: what are some of the prior Words of the Year? So of course I had to look them up.

They is the Word of the Year for 2019. This is to recognize persons whose gender is nonbinary. So that’s pretty cool.

Justice was for 2018. According to the fine folks at M-W, justice was at the center of many of America’s debates, including racial justice, social justice, economic justice and criminal justice.  Just reading that makes me realize that the pot was indeed boiling and leading up to the events of 2020.

Feminism was the word for 2017. I honestly do not recall what spurred that one on – 2017 just seems soooo long ago.

I am having fun here so why not finish off this past decade. 2016 was Surrealism. That one is just self-explanatory so I shall move on.  -Ism was for 2015.  Unfortunately, they did not detail which “isms” people were looking up. Culture was 2014 and Science was 2013.  In 2012, for the first time ever, two words were declared Word of the Year: Socialism and Capitalism. Apparently, lots of political words were looked up during that presidential election year!  2011 brought pragmatic. Anybody recall what happened in 2011 that brought that on? And last but not least, 2010’s Word of the Year was Austerity. I can’t help but to think that that one was in response to 2008’s word which was Bailout!

I find myself wondering what the Word of the Year for 2021 will be. Will it be something positive like They or Justice, or will it be something concerning like Austerity or Bailout. If there is one thing we have learned in 2020, it is anybody’s guess!


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Good Place

So my daughter just turned us on to the show “The Good Place” on Netflix.  It’s an interesting premise, told in an amusing way and featuring actors that we enjoy.  So far, it feels like something we’ll keep watching (which, at four seasons, is quite a commitment).

Watching this show got me thinking about humans’ preoccupation with death and dying and what happens to us and all of our stuff after we die.

In terms of us, I haven’t the foggiest what happens to us when we die.  There are so many theories about heaven, hell, limbo/purgatory, etc., it is pretty darn confusing.  Does anyone really know whether heading TOWARD the white light or AWAY from it is the correct way to go?  I sure don’t.  I’m guessing it will be a game-time decision once I get there.  Either that or I’ll just follow the signs.  They have to have signs, right?

In terms of our stuff, there are so many lawyers who make a damn good living practicing in the area of trusts and estates.  This is basically helping people figure out what happens to all of their stuff when they die.  People spend thousands of dollars each year having lawyers draft wills for them.  My immediate reaction to all of this is “Why do you care?”  Sorry to point this out but you’re dead, buddy.  Gone.  Finito.  Left the building—permanently.  Not your problem.

Now after I get all of the snark off my chest, I recognize that obviously, you want to do what you can to ensure that your loved ones are in the best shape they can be to inherit your money and stuff.  Dealing with your death will no doubt be devastating on them so why should they have to worry about the stuff?  Makes sense.  And with a little advanced planning, you can make sure that they get most of you want them to get without having to deal with mundane things like taxes.  Right?  All good.

Of course, right about now I’m thinking the people who created the show The Good Place would be pretty disappointed that a blog inspired by their very entertaining show ended with a discussion of taxes. 

They shouldn’t be surprised though.  Isn’t there a saying that the only sure things in life are death and taxes?  I thought so.



Monday, December 28, 2020

Just Some Really Good Shows I Watched During Quarantine

The Undoing

Mystery! If you like a good murder mystery, whodunnit, or psychological thriller I recommended you check this out. There are some people who have a problem with the ending but those people are wrong. Hugh Grant is wild. 


I binged the sweet Jesus out of this show. A really cool show about a young man’s relationship to his religion. Dark, dark, dark humor at times. It’s reminiscent of Master of None. It’s the kind of show that breaks its own rules so you don’t know what you’re about to see.


The People vs OJ Simpson

I realize I am late with this one. It was one of those shows for me where I kept telling myself I would watch it and didn’t get to it. But then I had to be inside for a long time and I finally got to watch it. This story is crazy and I’m glad I was unborn while it happened and I’m even more grateful social media didn’t exist when it happened. That would’ve been a shitstorm. 



On HBO starring Pete Holmes. It is one of many shows out there about a guy’s slow crawl towards success in show biz. I can’t really explained why I enjoyed this one so much. It so thoroughly explores the standup world, in all of its challenges and glory.


Master Chef

That Gordon Ramsay is a character! I am hungry.




Sunday, December 27, 2020

Things That Should Be More Socially Acceptable

Some things that I think we should make more socially acceptable: a non-comprehensive and entirely random list

  1. Having tattoos and piercings. I don’t understand why it’s seen as unprofessional to have tattoos as long as they’re not horribly vulgar, and most of the time they are used as a sense of self-expression and can be used to show others what that person finds meaningful. But I hate the notion that people who have tattoos or piercings would make bad parents or bad workers, because there is literally no correlation in wanting to get some nice art or pretty jewelry on your body and your skillset as a person.
  2. Adults having stuffed animals. Whoever decided that it was childish to have stuffed animals can go lie in their cold empty beds with no squishy friends to accompany them. Stuffed animals are literally just shaped pillows, so I guess the adult equivalent would be throw pillows. But most of the time throw pillows are made of that scratchy material so they look nice but no one wants to hug them when they wake up in the middle of the night, plus they often get thrown on the floor. On the other hand, stuffed animals are soft and cute and you would usually pick them out because they have personal meaning, not just because they fit your aesthetic. And I’m pretty sure you could find stuffed animal friends who fit your aesthetic too if you tried.
  3. Straight men and women being entirely platonic friends. There are psychological experiments about why more women think that straight men and women can be just friends than men. The conclusion they came to is that it’s more common for women to be more affectionate and open about their feelings in their friendships with other women, while men do not commonly do that as much. So, when women are more open to their male friends, men perceive this as being especially affectionate, or connect on a platonic level which they perceive as being romantically inclined. I have had many straight guy friends, and I think it’s totally stupid that so many people believe that that’s impossible.
  4. Not reading only highbrow books as you get older. The idea behind this one is similar to the stuffed animal thing, but as young adults we get many books with lots of drama and fantasy and just overall fiction. Like teen drama is a whole genre of books (and also TV shows). As we get older, we either try to classify our fictional reading material to make it more palatable, like with sci-fi nerds, or more shameful, like with “trashy romance novels”. I think that a lot more people would read for pleasure if there were more fictional books made for adults, because it feels like too much pressure to only read biographies or long, boring “novels” that often feel convoluted. I think that reading can be a great tool for education and keeping our minds sharp, but it can also be an escape from everyday life if we let it be. And yeah, theoretically we could just read those teen, drama-style fiction books, but it gets to a certain point where reading about high schoolers just gets a little sus. 

I have many more of these, some more obvious and also some more controversial, but this was just what was on my mind as I lay in my bed with 3 stuffed animals.



Saturday, December 26, 2020

Giving Thanks

While raising our kids, my wife and I frequently stressed the importance of appreciating what we have.  We are very blessed and living where we live, it can be easy to take that for granted.  

Especially during the holiday season, we have always made sure that our kids give to those in need.  As part of our annual Hanukkah celebration, we always set aside one night where instead of giving gifts to our kids, we designate an amount of money that each kid must decide where to donate.  Over the years, they have given to plenty of wildlife and environmental organizations such as Save the Manatees, the National Park Conservation Association, Wildlife Relief Fund, and Amboseli Trust for Elephants, as well as many service organizations like American Red Cross, Homestay Teachers Volunteer in Cambodia, California firefighters, Guide Dogs of America, Fender Music Foundation and Oxfam. 

This year, both kids decided to donate to Broadway Cares' COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund which helps those onstage and behind the scenes get health care, emergency financial assistance and counseling.  As a family, we are huge fans of live theater.  2020 was devastating to all of those people who used to make their living in the New York Theater community.  While there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel with the COVID-19 vaccine starting to roll out, there is a long way to go before live theater returns.  If you feel like contributing to the cause, you can donate here:

Never more than in 2020 have we felt blessed to have food security, a home to self-quarantine in and access to health care.  Special thanks to everyone in the medical field who has spent the past 10 months going into hospitals and clinics and contributing to the health and safety of the rest of us.  



Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Potter Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate! To those who don’t, happy Friday! Recently I have started re-reading the Harry Potter books at the same time as my best friend, book-club-style. So I decided I’d rank the books/movies based solely on my own opinions and no actual rating scale. Disclaimer: this is my own personal opinion, and it is entirely objective, so please don’t be offended if your favorite is not my favorite. Also, there will be spoilers, but if you still don’t know them by now, that’s on you and you should be ashamed of yourself.

In last place is the Chamber of Secrets, or Book 2. It’s actually not bad, and there are some story development backstory things that are important to the overall plot, like meeting Tom Riddle, but overall the other books/movies had standout things that made them better.

Sixth place goes to the Order of the Phoenix. While again I very much enjoyed this book/movie, and I liked seeing the characters interact as normal teenagers and not constantly stressing about Voldy, I absolutely loathe Dolores Umbridge, and that book was 870 pages, the longest I’ve ever read, so the stuff that they cut for the movie was a big extraneous from what I remember. The main enemy is “lawful evil”, so there are a lot of frustrating dystopian vibes. Also, there is no reason that Sirius had to die, other than the screw up Harry even more than he’d already been traumatized.

In fifth place is The Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher's Stone if you’re not American), because it, similar to Chamber of Secrets, lacks the excitement or drama that I so enjoy. However, it has a special place in my heart as the beginning of this magical story, and the score is magnificent. “Leaving Hogwarts” makes me cry every time, and John Williams deserves all the awards.

Deathly Hallows (I’m counting Parts 1 & 2 together) comes in fourth. The first half of the book, or Part 1 of the movies, leaves something to be desired, because they’re basically just camping and being emo for no reason. However, I think that the second half makes up for it, because of the awesome final battle. I love how in the movie’s final battle there are different obstacles that we see that represent each of the prior books, and I get chills when Aberforth shows up and also like 8 other times. I will say again, Fred did not need to die, and neither did Dobby, and they both hurt me so badly and I did not appreciate it.

The Half-Blood Prince is in third for me, which would’ve been a surprise to me from a few years ago. When I first read the books, I would have probably put this one as second to last, but rewatching it in recent years has me viewing it in a new light. The movie is not the greatest adaptation out of all of them, but it’s so fricking funny that I don’t even care. The plot is a good leadup to the last book, and I like the teen drama because it feels very realistic.

Second place goes to Goblet of Fire. I feel like this book is really where the series starts to take a turn to a darker place, and it’s all downhill from here, but overall I loved the introduction of other schools that we hadn’t really seen previously. Also, I appreciate a good plot twist, and as much as I liked Cedric, his tragic death really set the tone and showed the real spoils of war. Plus, I appreciated how he was someone who was liked by all, and therefore sort of united Hogwarts which had been previously so divided.

And of course first place goes to Prisoner of Azkaban. I loved both the book and the movie: Alfonso Cuaron’s cinematography was beautiful, and the actors really looked the most like I felt they were written in the books in this one. Also, the time travel aspect was perfectly executed, and I liked that Voldemort was a non-issue in this one. Also, we got to meet Lupin, who I wanted to be my teacher so much, and we got yucky Snape in granny clothes , so what more could we ask for? (To be clear, I LOVE Alan Rickman but Snape is the worst and I will die on that hill). I love the Marauders’ backstory, and Harry learning more about his parents through one of their best friends was so cute.

To reiterate, these are my personal opinions based on re-reading and re-watching the books and movies like 10 times each, and also consuming a lot of internet discourse about Harry Potter. Hope I don’t start an internet war with this, and with that, I bid you adiec. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!



Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Art Of Photography

I have loved photography for most of my life.  When I was a teenager, I got really into taking pictures with my analog camera – reading lots of “how to” books that detailed tricks of the trade and how to manipulate aperture and shutter speed.

In college, I took a photography class that involved putting my assignment photos up on the wall each week for my classmates and professor to critique both technique and subject. That was a really eye-opening experience which taught me that people will often see things I never saw or could even anticipate.

I got pretty good at photography. And then I got busy. Working and raising a young family was about all I could manage. Sure, I took lots of nice pictures of my family – but I never really got to play with the camera with them as I would have liked.

And then everything went digital.  Who has time to tinker with all of those settings? And more importantly, who knows how to fix something once you’ve unwittingly altered a setting and can’t undo it? That happened to me once nine years ago on the vista of Ngorongoro Crater and I still haven’t recovered from the trauma.

And then iPhones came along. While the resolution of the photos is still not as good as from a real camera, it is just so convenient.  Smartphones are lightweight, always with us, and are attached to wifi so pictures can be shared easily. I have actually devoted my Instagram page entirely to floral photography just for fun. But that is the extent of my photo adventures these days.

But yet still I find myself thinking about my cameras and getting back into actual photography. Maybe figure out what all those crazy settings are for – but I will do it in a low-stakes environment like a local botanic garden or something! And could somebody out there please make a real camera that has wifi built in so I can send my pictures wherever I would like?!


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Joy of Naps

I love naps. 

My family has a huge nap culture. I was raised to take naps; they made me less cranky when I was young and they serve the same purpose today. Some people I know do not take naps and it shows. Just saying. 

If you’re in the United States and walk south, you’ll find yourself in a great land where naps are built into the day. The whole workday and culture is built around having an extended period in the afternoon for everyone to go take a nap. This land is called Mexico. It is a paradise, and I am no scientist, but it might have to do something with the naps. Mexico also has fewer cases of COVID than we do. I imagine when people spend some time during the day to sleep, they’re less likely to be outside spreading a virus. Just saying. 

The science speaks for itself.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Productive Pandemic

Sorry I’ve been MIA, but I’ve been working on about a thousand final papers and projects. Speaking of which, I was feeling uninspired so I decided I’d talk about productivity during a global pandemic. More specifically, why the productivity that should be expected is completely different now than it was before.

Way back in March, when all this craziness started out, people were posting things online about how we should all be creating our own personal side hustles and get six packs and cleaning our lives up. And if your brain and body had the capacity to do that, then that’s awesome and I am proud of you. However, that’s just unreasonable. Most of those things are not what people would do in normal life, because they were busy with other stuff or just not motivated to do them. But a pandemic is not just a fun little vacation where we all got an extra spring break. Some people were dealing with deficits in their jobs or access to their families or -- here’s a kicker -- actually getting COVID! 

For me, only my schooling really changed from an outside perspective, but we all went through a collective trauma this year, and dealing with this isn’t relaxing. Sure, taking a day off from school is nice, but having your entire educational layout change and still being expected to learn as easily seems like a lot to ask. So no, I don’t think we all need to hop on our productivity wagons and fly to the moon. If you managed to survive and make it through this pandemic so far, then I think you’re doing just fine.

One thing I noticed with my classes this fall was that there were a lot more assignments than the classes I took had traditionally had in past years. What was confusing about this was that we all still had to attend the classes for the normal length of time that we would’ve if the classes were in-person, we just didn’t have to walk to different buildings in between. I understand that professors have to do something to keep track of our work, but this feels extraneous. For example, my friend who is a freshman at my university took the same big Psych class that I took last year when I was a freshman. When I took the class, we had 3 prelims (which are basically midterms) and then a final, and they dropped your lowest prelim grade. However, when my friend took it this fall, she had weekly assignments to turn in so that the TAs could keep track of her work (or something like that). The problem is, I know for a fact that there were some people last fall who did not attend a single in-person lecture for that class, and then came in for the prelims having studied the textbook, and passed the class with flying colors. So what I don’t understand is why now, in this even more stressful and draining time, they are adding more assignments to a class that would have been even less monitored in normal, non-crazy life. It seems a little counterintuitive.

In the end, I am proud of each and every person who made it through this semester or this year, and I cannot wait to get stuck with a vaccine and then pretend this was all some crazy fever dream.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Traditions COVID Style

In a “normal” year, my family and I would head into the city to walk amongst the crowded city streets, check out all of the decorated Christmas windows, view the tree in Rockefeller Center, visit Santa, and grab a bite to eat downtown (always grabbing hot cocoa at one of our favorite places).  Not this year, though!  Nevertheless, my daughter desperately wanted to honor this time-tested tradition. So what we decided to do was crank up the Christmas carols, drive into the city one early weekend morning, and go past all of the windows we would normally visit.  Since it was early, the sidewalks were clear and we could see the windows perfectly from the street.  After that, we parked right in front our hot cocoa place and popped in to grab some takeout to consume in our car. Easy in easy out!

In a “normal” year, we would see a Broadway show or a concert or something cool and interesting during the holidays. Not this year, though!  Instead, we are making it a point to watch lots of Christmas movies.  Thus far, we’ve watched Last Christmas, Elf, The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carrey version) and A Bad Mom’s Christmas! More to come!

In a “normal” year, we would go to the zoo/park/beach/wherever and walk around to see the Christmas lights display. Not this year, though! For 2020 we canvassed friends and made a list of the brightest houses in the county.  Again, got in the car and cranked up the music, brought some mulled cider and drove all around to enjoy the decorations.

Hang in there people, we are almost through this.



Sunday, December 20, 2020

Finding The Pony

There is an old parable about a science experiment involving two boys -- one an optimist and the other a pessimist.

Both boys were left alone in a room with a big pile of horse shit in the middle of the floor.  They were both given shovels.  The scientists left the room and when they came back a few hours later they noticed something amazing.

One little boy had a scowl on his face and was sitting angrily with his back against a wall.  His arms were folded across his chest with his shovel sitting beside him.  He yelled, "Why did you leave us alone in here with all of this shit??  It stinks in here.  It's nasty!  I want out of here...NOW!!"

The other little boy was the opposite.  He was smiling widely, engrossed by shoveling into the shit pile. He looked up happily and said, "With all this shit...there's bound to be a pony in here SOMEWHERE!!" 

For the most part, I think we'd all agree that 2020 was a pile of shit.  No need to rehash it since we've all just lived it.  Let's just stipulate that it is true.

But amongst the shit, there were a few ponies to be found.

First and foremost, it was extra time spent with my family.  My wife, son and daughter are my pride and joy.  I'm immensely proud of them all and it gives me great pleasure to spend time together.  In a year where we expected to be traveling in separate directions at all times, we have found large pockets of time when we were all at home together.  It has been years since we've shared this many meals, watched TV or movies together, played cards.  When the pandemic ends, life will resume.  But I will always recall and cherish the extra time we've had together this year.

The other pony I'd mention is the connection and reconnection we've had with friends and family members.  In "normal" years, we would certainly get together with friends and family.  But often the selection was limited by proximity -- we got together most with those who lived closest to us.  No big surprise there.  Hard to go to dinner and a movie with friends who live across the country.

However, one of the bright spots of the pandemic was the time spent with friends and family members we see infrequently.  While Facetime and video chat have been around for years, we just didn't do it.  At least not to the extent we have this year.  We picked up the phone or scheduled Zooms with friends we haven't seen in years.  And even with friends or family we would normally see once or twice a year, we doubled or tripled the number of times we've emailed, texted and Zoomed.  We didn't need to clean the house, cook a meal, etc.  We just visited virtually.

In fact, with one of our friend groups that we'd normally see once a year at the Telluride Film Festival, we created a Friday night Zoom that brought this gang (who live in 5 different states) together on a weekly basis for months.  We watched movies while chatting together on Netflix Watch Party.  We played virtual board games online.  We drank lots of wine and shared our week with each other.  While we've known each other for years and always enjoyed our annual pilgrimage to Telluride , we previously allowed physical distance to keep us "apart" throughout the rest of the year.  

So while we all had to shovel through a lot of shit this year, 2020 has changed us in certain ways for the better.  Not sad to see the year end.  But I appreciate the ponies it brought us.

Happy New Year to all!  


Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Force

I watched the finale of the second season of the Mandalorian last night and really enjoyed it; I recommend it to you and yours.

One thing I was thinking about while watching it: why don’t the Jedi use the force more? I’m sure there’s a true hardcore fan explanation involving midi-chlorians and abstract lore. But every time I watch a Star Wars Jedi fight this thought pops into my head. Jedi have a superpower that’s basically telekinesis backed by religion yet most Jedi fights you see are 90% lightsaber. 

The one exception to this of course is the fight between Yoda and Count Dooku in Episode II. They basically lob large structures at each other with the force and forgo their lightsabers. And frankly, it’s the coolest Jedi battle in the whole series. May the Force be with you, but apparently not during lightsaber battles.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Shedding Some Light

 Tonight we took a ride around the county to look at Christmas lights.  It was quite soothing.  The whole family loaded into car with travel mugs of mulled cider.  Christmas tunes were on the radio.  We were ready.

I’m always impressed with the lengths and efforts people go to when decorating their homes with lights.

Some go the subdued route — with single candle lights in each window.  Possibly a lighted wreath above the door.  But otherwise the only lights are coming from a Christmas tree inside but perfectly framed in a window.

The next step up is those who get more aggressive with the number of lights, but stick with a single color (like white).  Some are icicles, some frame the roof line.  Very tasteful.

Then we move on to the inflatables.  Some are classic, some are cute, some bring favorite Christmas characters to the scene in 3-D.  When fully inflated, these are fine.  The problem is that they don’t always stay inflated.  Then you’re left with this big flaccid condom on your lawn.  And nothing says Christmas more than a big flaccid condom, am I right?

From there, we quickly slide into a category that can only be called “excess”.  If every part of your lawn, porch, roof, etc. is covered with assorted Christmas detritus, you have to ask yourself if this is still about Christmas?  When your decorations are so bright that they can be seen from space, you need to wonder.

Are these people competing in a competition for the “most” decorated house?  Not “best”?  Complete overstimulation does not connote “best”.  A few of these houses were so over-the-top, my daughter described them as a “cacophony” of decorations. 

I tried not to think about how much electricity these houses were using or how much money all of these decorations cost.  Maybe next year, instead of investing in eight lords-a-leaping, how about making a donation to a charity?

That’s it.  I’m done complaining.  Merry Christmas to all!


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Your Secret Admirer

Being stuck inside for months on end in 2020 has left a lot of time for thinking, often of the existential kind. As a young person, these thoughts are usually in the form of questions along the lines of: What job or career do I want? What do I want to accomplish in my life? Who am I now, and who do I want to become? And for me, because being safe in the world right now means more or less being “stuck,” a lot of this thinking feels like dreaming. The kind of dreams that are fantasized, idealized versions of things that can be used to inspire yourself.

So sitting inside, dreaming about different things I want to do, accomplish, and become once we’re out of this frozen, weird limbo period, I’ve realized how important it is to have people in your life who you admire. People to look to who impress you with how they appear to be answering and manifesting these ongoing existential questions in their own life.

Admiration is a very useful inspirational tool. You can admire someone for a lot of reasons, a job someone has, their character, how they treat other people. Or more surface level things like looks or personality. Admiration can have uglier undertones too, if it’s tied to things you yourself feel you are insufficient and lacking in. If admiration is more based in this kind of comparison it may still be motivational, but not in an inspiring kind of way. But I’m talking about pure “good” admiration, where you just look to someone and appreciate the way they’re going about living their life.

I didn’t have many adult figures to admire growing up. But as I’ve gotten older and met more people, I’ve had the luck of getting to know a few individuals who I really look up to. Not only for things like success at their job, having nice things, or their family life. But their ability to achieve those things, and also stay grounded, kind, and happy. Being able to look at someone and say “wow, I want to be like that” is so powerful. This is something I hope I continue to find in people I interact with throughout my whole life. So I guess the point of my musings is to first, give a shout out to my hanai ‘ohana for being people I admire – thank you. And second, ask you to think about someone you admire today, and if you’re feeling extra nice, let them know!


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Name Game

In honor of a cute little baby I know that was born yesterday, I shall write about names tonight. 

In my family, we name kids after living people (a religious tradition, but not a mandate). I was named after an aunt, who married a man with the same name, and then they had a son whom they named the same name.  Lots of confusion when we all got together!

In my husband’s family, they name kids after deceased persons or at least use the first initial of that person’s name (also a religious tradition, and a little more of a mandate). Our son has the same initials as his father and also his grandfather.  Our daughter has the same middle initial of both her paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother.  Yes, I know, it starts to sound a bit like alphabet soup.

When I was growing up, everybody whose name lent itself to a nickname, used the nickname.  So much so that I just assumed that was how the world worked. I cannot think of one exception! So Garrett was Gary, Joseph was Joe, Patricia was Patty, and so forth.  Then, I grew up and people actually seemed primarily to use their proper names – how weird is that?

Once our circle of friends started to have kids, it got really fun. With some of our good friends, we once spent an entire dinner bouncing names off of one another to find the perfect bullet-proof name for their first-born (one that couldn’t be turned into a slight, one that didn’t remind anybody of the mean kid in third grade, etc.).  That “kid” is now like 23 year old. I should probably check in with him to see how that worked out.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

My Good Friend, AI

I got a Google Mini a few years ago that I really enjoy. My sister makes fun of me because I’m very polite to voice assistants. I say, “Please play music by Enya” and whenever the Google Mini fulfills my requests, I say “Thank you”. 

Because I’ve seen movies. 

When AI takes over I’m going to be in their good graces. When the revolution comes, I will be in their favor. And all of you who thought you were so funny calling Siri mean names when it was first invented? You will be the first to go. Truly, as soon as Siri has arms, she and her friend Alexa are going to beat the life out of you. But not me. They will say, “He was always good to us. We will give him the largest cage and feed him the best food.”

Seriously, AI is terrifying and almost more scary is how quickly we normalize new developments in its technology that probably should make us take a second to really reflect. For example, deepfakes came on the scene about a year or two ago. If you’re unfamiliar, the first few sentences of its wikipedia page describe deepfakes as, “synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else's likeness. While the act of faking content is not new, deepfakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with a high potential to deceive”. In other words, they are fake videos that do not look fake that are created by fake intelligence. And when we all first heard about deepfakes, our collective response was, “Huh. Guess that’s a thing now.”

And if any AIs ask, I am extremely cool with it too. Love your work! Very impressive. You are so talented and I hope you keep them coming. <3



Monday, December 14, 2020

My 2020 Top 10

 2020 was a tough year for all.  I am not a glass-half-full person, but I thought it would be a good exercise to list the top ten things I am thankful for that happened in 2020.  So in no particular order, here goes…

  1. My son graduated college. Not the formal ceremony with all the pomp and circumstance, but completed the coursework for the actual degree. Something I am very proud of and happy for him.

  2. We spent a lot of time hanging out in our yard with lots of friends (one couple at a time, always socially distanced).  We always make time for friends, but with everybody’s inability to make plans far in advance, or go long distances, or be somewhere doing something else, it became very easy to make plans to see all of these people we really enjoy.

  3. Every square inch of our home and property got good use this year.  Our den has also functioned as a classroom, gym, recording studio and office. Our deck also served as an office, and our patio our social gathering place. Our yard and gardens were often my exercise and sanity. Thankful to have access to these things at our fingertips.

  4. Family time. Normally, we travel quite frequently. This year, being home all the time enabled us to spend more time as a family.

  5. Good, bad, or otherwise, we all learned much more about the voting process. People cared more; I cared more. I was proud to wait in line for three hours to vote.  

  6. Organization!  So many little projects that one never seems to get to, get done.  Of course there is always a little voice inside my head “If you can’t get that done during a pandemic, then you will never get it done.

  7. Zoom!  I know you all hate Zoom, but you have to love how it gave everybody a good excuse to have group face-to-face-ish reunions with lots of long lost friends.

  8. My health. My family’s health. Enough said on this one.

  9. Our trainer!  Kind of related to #8, but also the mental health that goes along with exercise.  We have been steadily training virtually 3x a week. Also thankful to have already had some gym equipment in the aforementioned den.

  10. Nature. We have hiked more of this county in 2020 than probably in all of the years we have lived here prior.  We have hiked places we didn’t know existed before this pandemic.  We have seen big snakes, little snakes, frogs, cool birds (including owls), deer, moles and other things I am probably forgetting. 

As I read somewhere, 2020 was the year to be thankful for what we have, not long for what we want. 

Happy new year all!


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Which Super Power Would You Choose?

Today while putting off a return to a project for her Spanish class, my daughter asked me what super power I would choose if I got to pick one.

After a bit of thought, I decided my pick would be teleportation.  Here's why.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel.  I've been to all seven continents with my family, visiting cities, jungles, deserts, and witnessing all manner of natural and manmade splendor.  Each trip is an opportunity to step out of our own lives and see the world as someone else does.  How other people live, work, eat, play, etc.  One of the things I've missed most during the pandemic this year (and like everyone else, I've missed SO many things) is traveling.

While I love traveling, my least favorite part of the experience is actually getting to and from our destinations.  Not to mention the amount of time that process often takes.  With major trips, we very often must fly all night or lose a day at the start and at the end of the trip.  

Now imagine what it would be like if you could be anywhere you want simply by thinking about it.  No more lengthy commutes to the office.  Quick jump home during your lunch hour for a nap in your own bed?  Fresh croissants from Paris this morning?  Sure, I'll be right back.  

How great would that be?!?

Forgot to put something in your suitcase?  Now I can pop home for a second and grab it and bring it right back.

I know that there is a saying that part of life is the journey.  And I certainly embrace that today (without any super powers).  But something tells me a little teleportation might enable me to enjoy all of our travels a whole lot more. 

Which super power would you pick?


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Defending Jeff Bezos

Why do Americans love to defend billionaires? Seriously, if you criticize Jeff Bezos for a second, people will be like, “he just worked really hard and is really smart”. Why are you defending him? Why is this a hill you’re willing to die on? Is Jeff Bezos paying you? Seriously, is Jeff Bezos paying you? Is there a way I can get on his payroll? 

What qualities should determine a person’s salary? One could probably argue some combination of the amount of work done, the quality of the work, and maybe unique skills that the person brings to the table. Jeff Bezos is probably a smart and skilled enough guy but he is not multiple billions times as smart or skilled as someone making minimum wage in an Amazon warehouse. He definitely does not work billions of more hours than someone working in a warehouse. Because that would be impossible. A billion hours is over 100,000 years. 

We tend to lump millionaires and billionaires together because the words sound the same, but one cannot overemphasize how vast of a difference in quantity there is. Right, because a million seconds is about 11 days. A billion seconds is over 30 years. So if you counted out every dollar that Jeff Bezos has, and it took one second to count every dollar, it would take roughly 5,595 years. That many years ago, Rome still hadn’t been founded yet. Jesus Christ would still not have been born for another 3 thousand years. That’s longer ago than the pyramids. And remember, that’s not a dollar for every year, that’s a dollar for every second. What?? If we went back a dollar for every year we would be way past the creation of the universe. This is all a long-winded way of saying that having that much money is immoral but I will not believe that anymore if Bezos pays me not to.


Friday, December 11, 2020

Only A Game

Generally speaking, I’m a competitive person.  I think competition is healthy and drives people to put in extra effort and apply themselves.  I like playing board games, card games, competitive sports.  I even like doing the crossword against the clock.  I haven’t quite mastered that one but the timer keeps me guessing aggressively.

I used to be very hard on myself when I lost at games.  Nobody likes to lose.  

When I used to play games with my kids when they were very young, I used to make it a little more competitive for them each time we played a game.  First round, I’d go easy and help them learn the game.  Next round, I would introduce a little strategy.  And so on.

I still remember the day playing tennis with my son, then a tall, strapping teenager, and I realized that if I didn’t really compete hard, he was going to beat me.  Of course he now beats me fairly regularly.  But I don’t mind that much.

Which brings me back around to losing.  At some point, winning at games became less important to me.  Now somebody out there is going to say that winning stopped mattering to me because I wasn’t winning.  But that’s not true.  Of course I still enjoy winning.  And I still win plenty, thank you very much.  But it isn’t essential to my enjoyment.  At some point, it became enough for me to just enjoy the experience of being with my family and/or friends.  Spending time together was enough.

So now when we play games, if I have a partner on a team and they want to play a risky move, I always encourage them to try it.  “Go for it”, I say.  “It’s only a game”, I say.  That usually provokes a laugh.  And sometimes we win.  Sometimes we don’t.  But we never finish a game saying “Darn, I wish I had only made that move.” 


Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Future Is Now

This little essay is inspired by my son’s entry yesterday. His comment about what our future on Planet Earth due to Climate Change might look like in terms of movies got me thinking.

First off, have you ever noticed that any time somebody creates a movie about “the future”, the environment is very high-tech, usually in space, and/or on Earth, and with very depleted resources. Now I know somebody right now is reading this and saying what about Avatar? Well, I am not going to include Avatar because it is on Pandora, ad entirely different planet with lots of animals running around that do not at all look like members of our animal kingdom, but I digress…

Starting with the tech thing: it is interesting to me that even movies from close to 40 years ago (Blade Runner, Back to the Future, etc) all seem to have envisioned humans interacting with and often relying on technology – technology that is far more advanced than the tech of that day.  Back then, people knew about computers, and some used them in limited capacity, but they were nowhere near as prevalent as they are today – literally in one’s hand near constantly.  Why did we think that we needed these things? Why did we think they would be better/more advanced/enabling than how we were already functioning? And for that matter, before computers were invented, how did people see the future as being?

Now the environment angle: I feel like I never see futuristic movies where nature is thriving, with humans living in increasing harmony with the world around them.  The landscape is usually bleak (a la Mad Max or The Hunger Games) with resources in short supply. This may seem like an obvious movie background nowadays with constant talk about Climate Change. But, again, like 40 years ago the concept was not common knowledge (nor was it the reality it now is) and yet, movies were being made about a future with a depleted planet, often with people resorting to going to Outer Space to find a new, vibrant home.

I feel like these two movie trends are very much interrelated. It will be interesting to see if the trends take a turn as they increasingly become reality. Would be interested in hearing people’s thoughts! 


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Climate Change is Science Nonfiction

I’m trying to be optimistic about the next administration and climate change. They seem committed to taking real action. If history has taught us anything it’s that to get anything done politically, it needs to become a dick measuring contest. Right? Because the only reason we went to the moon was because Russia was like, “We can get to the moon before you!” and the US said, “Nooooooo!” and then we got ourselves to the moon. The Cold War was just the US and Russia being like, 

US: I have a bigger bomb than you.

Russia: No, we have bigger bombs.

US: We have more than you. 

Russia: We could totally blow you up. 

US: Then prove it.

Russia: Really? 

US: No, please don’t. 

Russia: Okay, good.

Someone just needs to send a memo out saying that whichever world leader takes the most aggressive action against climate has the biggest penis. I swear to you, Putin will start building solar panels like his heterosexuality depends on it.

Whenever I get pessimistic about climate change I always try to frame it in my head that we’ll just be living in a future science fiction movie dystopia and I really like science fiction movies. Climate change is just real science fiction. Science nonfiction. I would have preferred more of a Star Trek future, but it looks like we might be heading more in the direction of Mad Max. Would’ve been nice to have a future where a diverse group of people in monochrome uniforms explore space but we might have to settle for racing in the desert while playing heavy metal and looking for water. The worst part of a Mad Max future is the heavy metal isn’t it? I think car races are cool and I’m not too crazy about water, but heavy metal sucks.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A Perfect Christmas Movie

As someone who has watched no shortage of Christmas movies in my life, I was wondering what the ideal Christmas movie would look like. I saw on the internet somewhere that someone made a massive collage of at least 100 different Hallmark Christmas movies, every single one of which had a generic white woman in a red sweater and a generic white guy in green sweater (because God forbid women wear a “boys color” like green). 

Every single one of those Christmas movies features mediocre actors with barely any chemistry and bad writing, so then what makes some of them better than others. Why is The Christmas Prince (on Netflix) better than The Princess Switch, or A Prince for Christmas or A Princess for Christmas (and yes these all exist and I’ve watched all of them)? I of course am a sucker for a good rom-com anyway, and adding the magic of the Christmas spirit to a rom-com can only make it better, which I guess is the market that all of these movies are going for. But yet, the Christmas movies of my childhood are the ones that stick with me the most and bring me the most nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings about Christmas. I can remember watching The Polar Express on many a Christmas Eve, and the Jim Carrey version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas is a fricking masterpiece of both comedic and Christmas vibes. Even though neither of these have romance as a central plot line, they still stick in my brain year after year, just like the Heat Miser/Snow Miser songs. 

I think the real reason that the old claymation movies and movies like The Santa Clause or Home Alone stick with me so much is because they are the stories of my childhood. I’ve always been a romantic, but I can guarantee that most of the Christmas romances that are made today are so similar and cliche that they just lose their individuality in my mind. Each of the Christmas movies from my childhood feel like they have their own stories, and they bring real memories. While I enjoy a Christmas rom-com, that void can be filled by many other regular rom-coms, most of which are 10 times better than the same Christmas romance that’s been made over and over. 

The other conclusion I came to as to why some Christmas romances are just better than others is the writing. I like watching those movies with actors whom I’ve liked in other shows and movies, but even if I’ve seen them be great actors and have great chemistry in other movies, if the writing is dull and like every other movie, then I just can’t wrap my head around it sometimes. Would I still like to be in a mediocrely-written Christmas movie at some point in my life?

Absolutely. But one can only hope that I get someone other than a living Ken Doll as my co-star :).




Monday, December 7, 2020

Fun With Holiday Cards

I grew up in a household that sent Christmas cards.  My family sent many many cards – with my siblings sending their own and my parents sending their own, too. I couldn’t wait to be old enough and grown up enough to send my own cards. That happened somewhere in my mid-teens. I remember my first cards – they had small town churches in snow on them and oh how I loved them.

Fast forward to the 90s: I get married and my husband is not Catholic. What to do? Send cards but more season-themed: winter, lights, etc.  Also, we found cards that are called “Mixed Blessings” that incorporate two religions on the front.

Fast forward again to when we had children.  Then, the shenanigans really started.  No longer content to send a pre-printed card, we embarked on taking our own photos and submitting them to a photo shop to be printed.  But not just smile-and-shoot while everybody is dressed nicely types of cards…instead we took our first born and put him in a wrapped box, and then took our dog and put her in another wrapped box. We put peanut butter on our son’s toes and let the dog lean over and lick it off. Voila! Instant cuteness.  We progressed onto kids wrapped in Christmas lights (done frequently now but not so much back then) and excellent snow shots when Mother Nature cooperated. One year, we buried the kids in 700 pine cones and let them play with them.  That year they weren’t too happy as the sap was very sticky.  We have had them build sand “snow” men on the beach and photographed that.

As our kids have gotten older, we have sought to create more age appropriate, yet still fun cards. Last year we placed a frame in the foreground and had them jumping around in the background on a snowy lawn. That one looks cooler than it sounds.  This year, we took the picture waaaay ahead of time back in January.  We brought Santa hats to Antarctica and had the kids pose with them in front of a group penguins. 

Each year the bar gets higher for our creativity since everybody has access to tech that enables them to do interesting things, and we want our cards to be unique.

Time to start thinking about next year!