That one time at Altivo’s place

There was a lot to LiveJournal, back in the day. (Same can be said for a lot of things, I suppose. *side-eye look at Gotham City Cafe*) I spent a good lot of time digging this up out of a friend’s LJ, because my friend David remembers it so fondly. David remembers it as a Rabbit Hole Day post, but it was in Altivo’s LJ … well, I’ll tell the story this way:

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If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don’t speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want – good or bad – BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you’re finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON’T ACTUALLY remember about you.

There was that time a few years ago, when Northwestern was having that really good football season, and you invited me and the missus over to watch the U of M game… the wives were in the kitchen talking, I dunno, girl talk I guess, and we were in the living room with your little boy (who’s, what, a senior now? Gawd they grow up fast) watching the Wildcats take apart Michigan’s defense… meanwhile your daughter and mine were upstairs playing with that huge collection of plush animals. We oughta get together again sometime.

I’m speechless, truly speechless. I think you won the “IT NEVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED” award for this one.

/* does little happy dance */
I almost added a bit about drinking cheap American beer, but thought that might be overkill.

Or at least made me feel ill. I won’t even make beer batter out of cheap American (or Mexican) beer.

* * * * *

It probably goes without saying that neither Altivo nor I have wives or children, nor any interest in Northwestern or Michigan football (he went to Michigan State), and we actually have never met, just corresponded on LJ, Dreamwidth, Twitter, and Mastodon for … gawd, thirteen years? But the huge collection of plushies is not fictional.

This was originally posted 29 November 2005, and can be found at Altivo’s Dreamwidth page, . Posted without permission, though my bits wouldn’t make much sense without Altivo’s bits so I hope it’s forgiveable.

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Life history of a North American birder

I’ve been watching birds for over 45 years now. Not the same birds, of course.*

My mom got me (age 10) started in November, 1972, in our backyard in Detroit. We kept monthly lists and of course overall “life lists.” We were so thrilled when the first really new bird came to our yard, a “yellow-shafted” flicker, in February 1973. (They’re now called northern flickers; I’ve been doing this so long, several birds have changed names.) Soon we took trips to birding hot spots and our lists lengthened. Mom and I were pretty avid well into the 1980s.

I got geekier than Mom, which is the usual pattern for the things Mom started me on. I memorized the avian taxa of the late 1970s, going so far as adding the Latin names of the birds along with the common names on an index card file that is my master life list. When I took road trips in the late 1980s and 90s, I got the chance to add birds we’d never see around Michigan, such as the prairie falcon, mountain bluebird, and Swainson’s hawk. Mom’s life list topped out at around 167 species, I think.

Even with the road trips, my activity waned in the last couple of decades, as I didn’t push myself to go on bird-specific outings in between the music career and online stuff. Finally, my Black Friday 2017 #OptOutside activity was a trip to Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River to watch ducks and whatever I could find. It was just as much fun as it was when I was a kid, even with the ducks way out in the middle of open water and the wind blowing. As a reward, in a way, I found my official 200th life list bird at the end of the trip (a black-crowned night-heron, to be exact).

I have an unofficial New Year’s Resolution this year of taking time to go birding twice a month. They don’t have to be lengthy outings. Yesterday I went to my sister’s new house in Clio and counted the birds at her feeders, and that counts to me. I also have a relatively new account at — yes, there’s an app for birding — where I submit checklists. (It says I have 27 life list birds. I haven’t put in the whole list for technical reasons.) I’ve been out looking for snowy owls, since they’ve wandered south in huge numbers this year, and though I’ve been unsuccessful so far I am still having fun looking.

That’s the thing; forty-five years later, it’s still fun.

* badump-TISH

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We like these words

A few days ago I linked to the Lake Superior State University’s list of Banished Words. Now for a positive post: Here is the list of the top 10 “words that deserve to be used more often in conversation and prose” from the Word Warriors at Detroit’s Wayne State University. So the word story from the past week is eucatastrophic, after all.

Fun fact: Wayne State’s sports teams are known as the Warriors. I hope you do not find that fact nugatory.

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Return of Yet More New Year’s Resolutions Again

In 2018, I resolve to:

1. Learn enough programming skills so that I can write a program that adds Oxford commas to text that lacks them due to the poor choices of the author.

2. Become an evangelist for a new style of exercise, Cross-Eyed Fit: You jump on boxes and overturn giant tires, all while staring at the end of your nose or making goofy facial expressions.

3. Go back and re-see all 200 birds on my life list, just to be sure.

4. Move my job into SecondLife, so I can compose large-print books while being an anthropomorphic wolf.

5. Lose weights. That’s right. Does anyone want an old cheap weight bench and weights? Free, but you must pick up.

6. Try to figure out at least one fandom whose source originated after Star Wars Episode 4. (Who ARE all these characters, anyway? Am I too old?)

7. Undergo hypnosis in an effort to forget the resolutions from last year.

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Top Three Accomplishments

On Christmas Eve, Adam J. Kurtz issued this tweet:
quote this tweet with your top 3 personal accomplishments of 2017 (you decide what counts)
I’ve read responses with interest, and finally today I followed suit. So here are my top 3 personal accomplishments of 2017:

1. Added the 200th species (for sure this time) to my birding life list.1

2. Saw the total eclipse of the sun.2

3. Completed my 32nd year at my employer (and started year 33).3

If I got to have more than three items, I would add: Attended and enjoyed the Hiawatha Music Festival, with a new tent; bought my first appliance, a dryer; and survived the craziness of 2017 without losing my mind.

1. I’ve been at around 200 species for years, but three of the birds were only checked off in my Peterson’s field guide with no further information, and they had no information on date, location, etc. in any other reecords I have. So I have to drop those and say I was at 199 until Black Friday of this year, when I saw the black-crowned night-herons at Belle Isle Park.

2. In a Kmart parking lot in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, with Dave. Totality was unbelievably amazing.

3. Yeah, I know. But it’s still something, in this day and age.

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Unpacking this year’s words that we are done with (or should be)

Lake Superior State University, in Sault St. Marie, Michigan, has released this year’s List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. Nothing I write will top this summary from the press release:

“We’ve drilled down and unpacked tons of pre-owned words and phrases deemed impactful by hundreds of nominators during 2017,” said an LSSU spokesperson. “Let that sink in.”

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This Is A Rant

I may regret posting this. YOU may regret reading this. This is not going to be uplifting.

Between all the unexpected deaths in the news and the presidential election campaign, 2016 was bad, so 2017 was starting from the bottom. Then it kept digging. I don’t see 2018 getting much better, either.

Everyone in not just social media but regular media commonly makes assertions and has no proof to back it up. Claims are outrageous on their face, but there’s so many outrageous things going on that I guess we’re just supposed to believe everything. Cabinet meetings start with palm leaves being laid at Trump’s feet, so we are told. The whole White House staff quakes in fear and leaders of other countries take special care so as to not offend the Great Trumpster, so we are told. There are never any substantiations beyond “Senior White House Officials” or even vaguer characterizations. We hear this stuff from just anyone, whether we should be hearing any of their opinions or not.

You have no idea why anyone is doing anything, what actual positives might accrue; supporters just spout boilerplate that has been shown to be just words, not results. Ask Paul Ryan what is supposed to replace the food stamp program they want to end; any answer would be something at this point, but he will likely not tell you anything besides “Something wonderful,” and the journalists will not ask anyway. Meanwhile, anyone with a position against anything goes right to the most dire conclusions. The opponents will go directly to accusing supporters of hating America or wanting to see children die. We can’t have any kind of discussion in this country. Too many decades of “sell the sizzle, not the steak,” perhaps.

All I see is, the Republicans are bound and determined to see the one black president’s accomplishments erased from the books. A journalist needs a macro that outputs “reverses an Obama administration policy” because that phrase comes up so often. That and slavish adoration of the 1950s, or the 1770s, as if those days were always right and the world has not moved an iota beyond. And the Republicans are in charge largely because they shout the loudest and are more willing to lean on fear and muscle. Meanwhile, the Democrats are unable to muster anything that they didn’t try in the 1970s, and they’ve truly refused to hold any Republican accountable since Bush sent Powell to lie to the United Nations about Iraq. Democrats barely defeat a religious troglodyte in Alabama who should’ve been imprisoned thirty years ago, and they count it as if they just elected FDR.

And we can’t have more than two choices in America, oh no. It’s either Coke or Pepsi, the Cowboys or the Patriots, GM or Ford, Republicans or Democrats. Gods forbid that an actual progressive party comes to some sort of notoriety. If we thought we had as much choice in politicians as we do in television programs, our heads might explode.

* * *

The worst of it is, the last two years should’ve shown all of us what a miserable society America has. If Trump, Pence, and the entire Congressional leadership disappeared tomorrow, we’d still be stuck with their millions and millions of supporters. Civil Rights movement? Hell, people are still fighting the goddamn Civil War in their heads and, increasingly, in their actions. Fascism and Nazis? Sure, what the hell, why not. We only, y’know, destroyed EUROPE in the 1940s to install and then remove Nazism. I guess those millions upon millions died in vain.

Don’t ask me how many friends who should know better are reporting that they’re tired of hearing about sexual misconduct cases. “They should’ve said something 30 years ago!” These friends (and many other) don’t understand that the women (and a few men) tried to speak up at the time, and the authorities not only did not listen, they often saw the victims as culpable in some way. I could explain, but a guy should not have to be the one to explain to a woman about how men don’t take women seriously.

Of course, I get the same reaction when I try to explain white privilege. Or why trans people matter. Or why just because America wants something, doesn’t mean it’s good for other nations in the world. Yeah, yeah … did you see that last episode of Game of Thrones?

* * *

I’m bitter. I know it. Maybe I should not be using this pulpit to put more bitterness into the world. But I can’t help it; I don’t have sunshine and light. I can make my little corner of my world look better, but I cannot bring back the woman killed in Charlottesville this year or help heal the communities in metro St. Louis in their turmoil; I can’t make the Republican Party in Congress stop acting like thugs intent only on serving their wealthy donors. I’ve never been able to persuade. I doubt I’ll ever learn how at this age. Not only that, I doubt anyone is willing to listen.

So if you’re wondering why I haven’t blogged much in 2017, the foregoing is pretty much why. Sorry.

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