This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memory of Jack Katon

         Due to the passing of my brother-in-law I am postponing my final A to Z evaluation post until Wednesday June 1st.

          In Memory of Jack Katon

               August 24, 1944 - May 25, 2011

               Served our country in Viet Nam from 1966 to 1969

My brother-in-law and my dear friend.   We had some fun times and some great conversations.  I'm going to miss you buddy.


Jack and I both enjoyed music.   A favorite artist for both of us was Frank Sinatra.   In closing, here's one of Jack's favorite Sinatra tunes, "One For My Baby, And One More For The Road"--it seems like kind of an appropriate song.


Friday, May 27, 2011

When It Rains It Pours

        Folks in parts of the United States must be getting pretty tired of the rain and the wild weather that's been coming with it. Floods, hail storms, and vicious tornadoes have wreaked havoc across the Midwest as the May 21st Judgment Day has been rescheduled for October 21st.

        Of late it seems that there is more news than the news stations can handle. The news outlets must be thrilled with the prospect that more viewers may be tuning in to see what craziness is going to happen next. Current events are falling into our lives like a torrential rain of data and dirt.

        As I flew into Memphis recently to make my connection to Knoxville, I looked down upon the receding floodwaters of the Mississippi. A lady in a nearby seat remarked that it was difficult to tell where the river was. Only then did I realize that I was looking at the Mississippi River and its overflow. I felt relief that we had reached Memphis and I had one more short flight before I would be at my destination.

         Later I saw on the news something about how they were going to open some floodgates which would cause major flooding in areas in Louisiana. They wanted to save some homes upriver but would have to sacrifice others to do so. I paid little attention to the story as I was mostly ignoring the news and just trying to enjoy my vacation.

        Then there were the tornadoes in Joplin and elsewhere, not to mention Schwarzenegger and Jared Loughner, Obama and Osama, Libya and all of the other crazy places in the world. I am inundated with images and my mind is flooded with information that overflows beyond my comprehension.

        It's kind of like my life this year. Where did the time go since the start of 2011? The build up to the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge rushed headlong into April which is now like a blurry dream. Most of the A to Z list remains for me to conquer, as does about half of the A to Z Reflections. Then there are those e-mails piled in my e-boxes. A digital deluge threatens to drown me.

         Added to all of this is an assortment of travels, my search for employment, and the ongoing affairs of family. Today (May 25th), I got word that my brother-in-law Jack finally succumbed to his battle with cancer. My wife and I will head to Phoenix this weekend to provide whatever comfort we can to my devastated sister.

         Next week, the last of my daughters who still lived near to us will be moving to New Jersey to join her sisters. With her goes our precious granddaughter Marley, another bright ray of sunshine that will now be obscured by the rainclouds of the sadness we will feel without her.

      Is this the year that California will at last fall into the ocean? Probably not. The sun will eventually emerge from the clouds and the sad falling rain will be replaced by the purple-blue jacaranda blossoms which drift downward to the flowery carpet on the street.

      Everything will be okay.

       Do you think the current crazy weather has anything to do with global warming or is it just part of a normal weather cycle?     Or is it a sign of the end of the world?   Do you ever have to just turn off the news?    What storms are you weathering this year?






Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vacations Can Be a Lot of Work!

          As I write this I sit stranded in Houston.  My daughter has taken the rest of the family out to see the town for a bit, but, alas, I've been left behind due to lack of room in her car.  After all, I've been here before and they haven't.  It gives me some time to catch up with things.

         If the Blogging from A to Z April event put me behind, being on vacation has done so considerably.  My AOL email box now hovers in the 2600 range and G-mail threatens to pass 300.  And minimal computer access has made visiting your blogs very difficult.  I've been checking up on my comments and little else.  My time alone now will allow me to prepare this brief post and then it will be back family festivities.   When this post appears on Wednesday I should theoretically be home and back to "normal" whatever that will mean.

        It's kind of weird.  We work to save up the money to take a nice vacation and then after it's all over we have all kinds of work to catch up on that has piled up during vacation. Does it ever seem to you like going back to normal everyday life is like taking a vacation from vacations?

          Yeah, that's just me thinking again.  Maybe I need to take a vacation from that as well.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Bob Dylan Songs

     Talk about last minute posts!  Just heard today (Monday 5/23) that my good friends Larry from DiscConnected and Stephen from Stuffs are doing a small spur of the moment "blogfest".   The premise, in honor of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, is to name our ten favorite Dylan songs.

       With little thought given to the matter, I've come up with my list, which is all earlier stuff since that's all that immediately comes to mind.  Much of my knowledge of Dylan's music is based on what other artists have recorded since I discovered Dylan the artist after he'd been around for a while.   I will name the songs and the versions that I was initially most familiar with in somewhat chronological order.  Here it is with links to the songs available if you click on the song titles:

It Ain't Me Babe -- I'd heard mention of Bob Dylan in the teen magazines in the early 60's, but had not heard his music.  Then, I heard Johnny Cash's version of  "It Ain't Me Babe" and thought it was utterly cool.  My curiosity about Dylan was stirred and my appreciation of Johnny Cash was secured.

Don't Think Twice It's Alright -- I first heard this song when it was released by The Wonder Who, which was a sort of joke pseudonym of The Four Seasons.  This version was a sort of joke cover version of "Don't Think Twice".   In fact the entire album was almost a joke since one side was cover versions of songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David while the flip side was songs by Dylan.  The Four Seasons singing Dylan?  I was in my early adolescence and this was my first exposure to Dylan.  It wasn't all that bad actually and I was a big Seasons fan back then.

The Times They Are A-Changin' -- Seems like everyone was singing Dylan songs back in the sixties.  I first heard this song as a good time sing along on Beach Boys Party album.  Later the Byrds did a version that I liked even more.

Tears of Rage -- This song was on The Band's Music from Big Pink album.  It's co-written with Richard Manuel, but I'm including it here anyway since it's one of my favorite songs.

I Shall Be Released-- Also from Music from Big Pink, this Dylan song has been oft recorded.

All Along the Watchtower-- I was blown away by the Hendrix version of this Dylan song, but I've come to prefer the mellower sound of Dave Mason's version.

I Want You-- This was one of the first Dylan songs where I actually began to prefer Dylan himself performing his own songs.

Like a Rolling Stone--  It's a good song and I like it.

Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again-- This song was always stuck inside of my mind somewhere and then I really began to appreciate it when my buddy Stephen T. McCarthy made me pay closer attention to it.

It's All Over Now Baby Blue--I've saved my favorite for last.  I first heard this song done by one of my favorite bands, the 13th Floor Elevators, and it's still my favorite version--it's so depressing.

        Check Larry's and Stephen's sites (links above) for their lists and to see if maybe some more folks joined in the spur of the moment fun.

         What are your favorite Dylan songs?   Or does Dylan annoy you?  Are you even familiar with any of Dylan's music?


Monday, May 23, 2011

A Few Thoughts from Readers About Blogging from A to Z

Feedback Is Helpful

       We've now heard some of the bad and some of the good in regard to the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  Along with the observations about the Challenge some of you offered your own suggestions about how to improve Blogging from A to Z.   Also, during the course of the Challenge I heard various suggestions based on problems some of you encountered during April.  

        In today's post we will look at a few of these suggestions and ideas that were offered by participants and others as well.   Next Monday I will bring together all three summation posts and offer some of my thoughts and conclusions in order to garner some of your reactions.  Please check out the following suggestions and ideas and let us know what you think about them.

Some Thoughts Expressed

1)  Subdivide the A to Z participant list into topic or genre categories.  In order to keep the list more manageable turn it into several lists.
Here's what alberta ross commented on the post "Taking pride in ourselves (Rachael Harrie's reflection post).": 
"one of the things I found with this challenge is how many blogs I found totaly outside writing which I thought were great and am going to follow - how much I found i enjoyed other subjects - having blogs under topics may help but I would hate to think we lost that casual grazing which spreads our minds sideways" 
Another one of you said, "However on reflection and as I've posted some ideas .. I'd say definitely don't break us into groups .. categories is difficult - because I like to follow different people .. so the A - Z gives me a chance to find like-minded people, who are prepared to accept a challenge .."

2)  Find a way to eliminate commercial blogs, faulty links, non-participants, and other listings that waste time.

Suzanne made this suggestion:
I enjoyed it and would do it again. And yes, I made it to Z. I think we need to figure out how to delete spammers and blog links that don't work off the list. Also, ones who never did start. If you had more members to your team, you could maybe split up the list, and say the Monday of each week each of you would visit a section from the list, and delete any bum ones. Also, I think the signups should end on March 31.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Some Vacation Highlights

          I had almost forgotten how beautiful East Tennessee is in the Spring.   The lush greenness of the landscape is vastly different from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles.  In 1966 my family moved into the house where my mother still lives.  Now after forty some years the trees in the yard have grown considerably.   I spent a good bit of time just strolling through the yard, enjoying the variety of birds, the squirrels, and rabbits. It felt like being in a park or a nature preserve.  There is a peacefulness in this place that I did not realize how much I have missed.

View of my mother's house from the backyard.

         One day my daughters, sons-in-law, and my granddaughters all rode up to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains.   The national park is less than twenty miles from my mother's house.  We visited one of the old Baptist churches that dates from the early 1800s.  We also stopped by the Cable home site which includes a grist mill which still operates and produces corn meal sold to the tourists.  Two and a half year old Marley delighted in seeing wild turkeys, deer, and a large black bear as we drove around the scenic loop--we all did for that matter.

Two of my daughters, my son-in-law, and the two granddaughters in front of the  Cable Grist Mill.

         It was the family time that really made the difference though.   I had the opportunity to spend time with my youngest grandchild, Lillee, for the second time since she'd been born.  I'd seen her when she was first born, and a couple of times in video chat, but it was nice to be around her and to be able to hold her again.  I see my other granddaughter, Marley, more often, but I never tire of watching her learn and grow.  It seems strange being a grandparent, but it's a wonderful strange.  Four generations under one roof can make for a might joyous occasion.   I wish these times were more often.

Granddaughters Lillee and Marley--different parents, but they could pass for sisters.

           On the first leg of my flight to Tennessee, I briefly met a blogger by the name of Kristi Ryan who has a fine looking blog called A Chick, a Flick, and a Kitchen.   She talks about movies and food--two of my favorite subjects.   Check out her blog and let her know that you heard about it from Arlee at Tossing It Out.

          On Monday I will be continuing the Blogging from A to Z evaluation.  Please stop in and voice your thoughts.

           Do you have vacation plans for the upcoming summer?   Have you visited the Great Smoky Mountains?   Do you find yourself talking about blogging to total strangers sometimes?


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Positives of Blogging from A to Z

                  The Evaluation Continues 

         Each Monday in May I am examining a different aspect of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge for 2011.  If you missed last week, I reviewed some of the actual and the perceived negatives of the Challenge.  There were some outstanding comments and I would recommend that you read through them if you missed them.

          A reminder to those who don't feel that these evaluation studies have relevance to non-participants of the A to Z Challenge:  The concepts expressed can probably be related to some of your own blogging activities and certainly applicable to other blog events in which you may participate.   We want to hear the subjective opinions of those who participated as well as the objective thoughts from those who did not.

        What follows is some attributed quotes taken from comments or posts, as well as some general positives that were frequently cited by many sources.

Good things about the Challenge (with my comments or questions in red):

1)     Catherine at Composing Cat said this:   I'm not sure how I'm going to approach posting after this challenge. I liked being connected everyday to the blogosphere but it does take a lot of mental ability to post daily. I don't know that I can go back to my weekly memes either. It was great to participate in them when I didn't have any real content but I've learned some things about myself and my writing ability in the past month. I don't want to follow along. No, I don't have any delusions of being some great writer that can pump out mind thrilling content. I just feel like I'm finding my groove and before I was afraid to even look for my groove. I hid behind the creativity of others. Don't get me wrong I love those memes but i want to spread my blog wings and see if I can do what I set out to do with this blog...find out what composes me and develop my writing ability.  (I like how the Challenge gave her a greater awareness of her talents and made her think more deeply about the way she wants to blog in the future--Catherine's contemplations just grabbed me.)

2)       One thing I liked about the challenge was it gave me motivation to write even on the days where I didn’t feel like it!  (If you want to be a writer then you have to write!)

3)    I would never have seen it through if I wasn't in love with writing.   (A confirmation that loving writing will facilitate writing.)

4)      The Challenge provided a sense of community.  (We were together in a common purpose.  Participants from last year have often indicated how many of the relationships established in that Challenge have continued ever since.)

5)   Before the challenge, I wasn’t sure what the focus of my blog was. After the challenge, I knew which direction I wanted to go and what I wanted to write about. (The concentrated blogging effort allowed some to discover their passion or what was easiest for them to write about).

6)   Before the challenge, I saw myself as creatively-challenged. After the challenge, I realize that I have untapped depths of creativity!     Brianna at Pocketful of Playdough
(I really like how Brianna expressed this feeling.)

7)    The variety was great! I've come across blogs I'd never have known existed, It's widened my horizons - that can only be good.  says Sue    (It seemed like there was something for everyone and a whole lot more--what was a negative for some was an absolute positive for others).

8)  The list was huge!  I couldn't get through all of it, but it was nice to have the wide selection.  (The most common complaint was also something that many of us liked a great deal.)

9)    All of the participants were so supportive and friendly.  (The networking was superb in this event.)

10)  I really learned a lot about many different things.  (With so many topics represented and presented in so many fine ways how could one not walk away having learned a few things)

11)   I saw an increase in followers.   (Some participants were happy with adding a few while others saw large increases of 100 or more.   It's a controversial topic with many sides, but increasing following is a natural offshoot of the challenge.)

12)   The A to Z Challenge was fun!   (This was one of our main objectives!)

Let's hear from you

        Do you agree with all of these positives?    Are there any positives that you would like to add?     What is the biggest benefit you derived from Blogging from A to Z?


Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday in Tennessee

      If this post is what you're reading then I didn't have an opportunity to write anything else.   I'm either having too much fun in Tennessee or can't get on the internet or both.

            In any case thank you for all the truly great comments left on my Monday post about the Negatives of the A to Z Challenge.     If you didn't read the comments for this post you should check them out--they are quite excellent.

            Hopefully, on Monday May 16th there will be the post about the positives of the A to Z Challenge.  See you there!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In Honor of Jane Kennedy Sutton

       I had been watching my sidebar to see when Jane Kennedy Sutton would be posting again after her last post of March 28th when she said that she was going to take a break for a couple of weeks.  Then on Monday May 9th of 2011 I saw that a new post had gone up and I anxiously clicked to see what she had written.  An obituary was the last thing I was expecting.

      Jane's Monday posts were something I had always looked forward to reading.  She was often funny, thought provoking, and informative.   I didn't know her personally and yet like so many bloggers I read, I felt like I did know her.  She was like an old friend or relative whom I hadn't seen in years, but still faithfully maintained correspondence.  I would comment on her posts and she on mine.  Jane was among the earliest blog relationships I established when I first started blogging and it was a relationship that lasted.

      After I read the obituary I was left with a empty stunned silence as I tried to make sense of it.  This is when we ponder our own lives and the lives of our loved ones.  Life is such a beautiful gift and we should do our best to share the goodness and happiness that is ours to give and take as we choose to do.

       My thoughts and prayers go out to Jane's husband, Kim Sutton, and all of her family.  The loss that I feel in Jane's passing must be magnified many times in your hearts and lives.

        Jane, thank you for the support that you gave to me and so many other bloggers with your kind comments and your sharing of knowledge.   I will miss your Monday posts and the encouragement you gave us.   You are dear to us.



Monday, May 9, 2011

Negative Responses to Blogging from A to Z

Blogging from A to Z Winner\

Why an Evaluation?

          The purpose of evaluation is to see how things can be improved--what works and what doesn't.  Authors will get evaluations of their works through beta readers.  These readers will offer suggestions to help the authors improve their works before they go to the next steps toward publications.  Companies go to extensive efforts and pay large sums of money to conduct surveys and do marketing studies in order to improve their products or services.  Likewise, if the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is to continue and grow in years to come, I'd like to see it become better than it is now.

         In my Monday posts in May I will be addressing all aspects of the Challenge--bad, good, and your suggestions and opinions.   On May 30th I will culminate the series with my evaluation of what I have learned from you and from my own observations.

        If you're thinking that you don't want to hear anything more about this Challenge or that this information doesn't have anything to do with you, please at least take a listen to what will be said.  An event such as this is normal everyday blogging on steroids.  There is merely greater intensity of posting and networking.  What you can learn by normal blogging can be intensified in a crash course that event blogging can offer.   Everyone can learn from what bloggers learned in A to Z and likewise the A to Z bloggers can benefit from the knowledge that you may have.   Some of the best input might be gotten from the objective observations of non A to Z participants.   So let us hear from everyone who has an opinion and keep an open mind about the thoughts that you will be hearing in the weeks to come.

        And if for some reason you have no idea what this A to Z thing is all about you can go to read about it in the A to Z Announcement Post.

Let's Start With the Bad

        There is so much positive feedback that we've all been reading about the Challenge that I know as far as I'm concerned I feel pretty good about it all.  But I certainly wouldn't want to be content to bask in that positive glow and totally ignore some of the problems that were perceived and the bad feelings that some people had about the A to Z Challenge.  I am going to list through these negatives with little comment--I'll make most of my comments in the last two posts of this series.   Please leave your thoughts in today's comment section.

Here is what some of you said (with my thoughts or questions in red) :

1)   Blogging everyday is too difficult or stressful.   Some bloggers don't like to post on week ends.  (It's a challenge!)

2)  Too much of a chore to blog everyday.  ( It's also a chore for many of us to go to work everyday.  It depends on how do you look at it?  Thankful?  Optimistic?   Do you make the best of things or turn the negative into something good?)

3)   Too restrictive -- I want to blog what I want to blog about.  (And how did A to Z not allow you to do that?)

4)   I really hated A-Z because it caused bloggers to write about what they HAD to write about rather than what they WANTED to write about. Or at best, figuring out a way to hammer a square peg into a round hole to accomplish both.  (Once again, the prompt was a letter, the possibilities of what to write were endless).

5)   I didn't like A to Z because I like "normal" posts.  (And how are the A to Z posts abnormal?)

6)  It’s been hard to keep the personal connections with all the chaos of challenges.  (Chaos?  What chaos?)

7)  "Differences in blog hosts."  (I'm sorry but I copied this from a comment and now don't recall what this referred to exactly--did anyone have a negative feeling in regard to this?)

8)    Difficulty in accessing certain blogs.  (There were some blogs that I found difficult to understand how to navigate them or find ways to comment on, if indeed one could comment)

9)   Some blogs seemed to be just advertisements.  (I noticed this too)

10)    The only frustrating aspect of the challenge that I experienced were the CAPTCHA word verification features that many bloggers had on their blogs. This made it difficult to visit and comment on as many blogs as I hoped.   (How many times has this been said?  Not just here in this Challenge either.)

11)     Encouraging negative thought trying to get others to quit with them or turn against the event or some of the organizers.  (Sadly, I noticed a few instances where certain people were unhappy with the Challenge and tried to encourage other participants to quit or made unkind comments in reference to me.)

12)    The list was too big!   (Can an author have too many readers?  Can a business have too many customers?  Can you have too many friends?  It's mostly a question of management and organization.    This will be covered extensively on the final evaluation post.)

13)   There were too many different kinds of bloggers on the list!  (Another of the most common complaints which will be addressed in greater depth in my evaluation post.)

Now I turn it over to you:

           Here you have the thirteen most common complaints that I've run across so far.  I think there is a solution to all of them.  Some may come down to personal preferences.  Others are definite legitimate gripes that should be addressed.   I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts and I will be including those in my May 23rd post and they will also help me in my evaluation on May 30th.

            Can you think of any other negatives about the A to Z Challenge?  Which of these above cited problems are of greatest concern to you and what do you think is the solution?  How would you address the ones that are of little concern to you?  If you did not participate, what did you dislike most about Blogging from A to Z?