Tuesday, March 31, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Tuesday morning

I am grateful that this is the last day of March, a month which this year felt mostly like February. Of course, February this year felt mostly like North Dakota (I mean, really, minus-15?! I’ve NEVER seen the temperature that low in 58 years of living in Conn.) So if April this year feels like March, I guess that will be fine. Maybe the golf courses will be open by July. Oh wait, I’m supposed to be grateful here. Yes, I am grateful that Spring is ever so slowly arriving.

Monday, March 30, 2015

To Blog, or Not To Blog

For years people have been telling me things such as, “Bill, you have to start blogging,” and, “Bill, your essays are perfect for a blog,” and, “Bill, blogs are what all the cool kids are doing.”

OK, well, if all the cool kids are doing it, I guess I’d better jump on the bandwagon. But seriously, I have been thinking for some time about setting up a blog. As Shakespeare wrote, “To blog, or not to blog, that is the question.” (Wow, I stayed serious for almost four seconds.)

If you’re not familiar, a blog is basically an interactive website where the blogger posts a stream of text, photos, videos, etc., and readers can instantly offer comments.

I’ve been posting my writing online for over 15 years now, both my faith essays as well as my weekly newspaper humor column. But a regular website is mostly one-way communication: I post an essay, people read it, and if they want to comment, they have to navigate through a series of obscure links until they find my email address, and then send me an email note. Which is why I get relatively few email notes, and most of those say something like: “Sheesh, it took me forever to find your email address. Why don’t you just set up a blog instead?”

The main advantage of a blog is that you can get instant feedback from a lot of people, which often prompts lively discussions. However, the main disadvantage of a blog is that you can get instant feedback from a lot of people, which often prompts lively discussions.

If you are new to the internet, welcome, and please put on your protective cup. If you are already familiar with the internet, then you know that millions of people take advantage of online anonymity to spew sarcastic and profane criticism about everyone and everything. The comment section of a blog seems to attract critics in the same way that throwing a bleeding pig into a Brazilian river seems to attract piranha fish — except the piranha aren’t nearly as aggressive.

To be honest, I’m not sure my skin is thick enough to be a blogger. Over the years I’ve gotten better with handling criticism, but I admit that a single “You suck!” email note can pretty much wipe out the pleasant feelings generated by twenty “Good job!” email notes.

Another thing about blogs: they strike me as rather narcissistic. I mean, not as bad as Facebook — nothing is as bad as Facebook. But I’ve been following many interesting blogs for a while, and despite being talented writers, most of the bloggers seem quite self-absorbed. I don’t know if that’s their natural personalities, or if the act of blogging forces them to take on a “look at me!” persona. If that’s the case, blogging is probably not good for me. You see, I already have to remind myself regularly that world history did not begin in 1957 nor does the universe revolve around a certain house located on the east side of Torrington. You’re right, I am the quintessential “Me Generation” baby boomer.

And don’t forget, Our Lord said, “What does it profit a man to get a million page views, and yet lose his soul?” At this point in life, I’ve been around long enough to realize my baby boomer attitude is the exact opposite of what the Sermon on the Mount teaches.

So I hesitantly will give blogging a try — on a trial basis. Check it out at MerryCatholic.blogspot.com. But be aware, if things become too nasty or if I become too insufferable, I’ll have to pull the plug. And please keep the profanity to a minimum. Especially you, Mom.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Saturday morning

I am grateful that so far today I have enjoyed an electric blanket, indoor plumbing, a Keurig coffee machine, and a warm & dry automobile, with which I drove to church so I could partake in the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. (It was a fund-raiser. I didn’t want to be a pig, but I forced myself — for the children.) So in other words, I am living better than kings and emperors lived a century ago. Pretty cool, huh? By the way, does anybody have any recommendations for a maple syrup overdose?

Friday, March 27, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week

Results from the 2014 General Social Survey were released a few days ago. A majority of Americans say they want the government to spend more money. And a majority of Americans say they want the government to lower taxes.

Wait. What?! Didn’t anyone get at least a C-minus in Math Class?! The government is already spending WAY more money than they receive via taxes. Must be nice to have your own cash printing press. But we now have 18 trillion dollars of national debt, a burden that is guaranteed to cripple our economy and standard of living for generations to come.

Oh, now I think I understand the survey results. A majority of Americans also say marijuana should be legalized. So basically, our country has turned into Jeff Spicoli. “Dude, I’m so wasted! And please take care of me, Mr. Government Bureaucrat!”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday afternoon

I am grateful that I like my job. I’m not saying I’d go to work every day if I won the Lotto jackpot (which is unlikely since I don’t buy lotto tickets). I’m just saying my current job does not suck the life out of me and crush my will to live. Wow, what a ringing endorsement!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Odd Thoughts Cause Sliver And Shiver

Sometimes I have odd thoughts. And other times I have thoughts I wish were merely odd. For example, last week I was engaged in my regular morning routine (the key word here is “regular”), and it occurred to me that for the vast majority of mankind’s existence on this planet, human beings did not have access to flush toilets.

Since I had my iPad handy at the moment, I did a quick search and discovered that flush toilets began to be used sometime around the mid-1800s. (But it wasn’t until the late 1800s that someone realized a good way to check on the previous night’s basketball scores was to bring an iPad into the bathroom.)

This means that during the last 10,000 years of human history, flush toilets were only available for less than two-percent of the total time. That reminds me of growing up. We had seven people in the house and one bathroom, so quite often it seemed as if the toilet was available for less than two-percent of the time.

Before the second half of the 1800s, people had to answer nature’s call by going out into nature itself. Most homes had an outhouse in the yard, which was basically a hole in the ground with a little wooden shack built around it. There was a plank with a hole cut in the middle. Whoa, can anyone say “sliver”?

On the morning when I had this excessively odd thought, it was exactly 7 degrees outside. (I knew that by checking the Weather app on my iPad.) I envisioned how awful it must’ve been to visit an outhouse first thing in the morning when it was only 7 degrees. Whoa, can anyone say “shiver”?

Worse yet, there’s a good chance typical outhouses in the 19th century and earlier were not within Wi-Fi range, so you couldn’t even check the previous night’s basketball scores while slivering and shivering.

I continued reading about the history of toilets and discovered that outhouses were used in rural areas, where there was enough property to locate them away from the main house. But in the cities there wasn’t enough room, so instead people used chamber pots. I pondered what that must’ve been like, and suddenly it seemed that slivering and shivering out of Wi-Fi range wasn’t so bad after all.

A few other nuggets of information:

Toilet paper first went on sale in the U.S. in 1857, and was sold in large sheets. Paper in roll form didn’t go on sale until 1890. And moments later the first family argument ensued about whether it should be installed with the paper coming from under or from over the top of the roll.

Toilet paper first went on sale in Europe in 1928. From what my friends who travel a lot tell me, France is still waiting.

My fascinating research was interrupted by a knock on the door, then my wife yelled, “Are you OK?!”

Oops, I guess I got distracted — again. As I hurried to get ready for work, I heard mumbling, which included something about “Can’t believe he brings an iPad in there.”

Well, I was only a little bit late for work that day. But I learned a lot of interesting new facts, and more importantly, I developed a new appreciation for indoor plumbing and how fortunate we are nowadays compared to most people throughout history. I certainly will not take my porcelain pal for granted anymore.

I can’t wait to find out what my next odd thought might be. Maybe this: Did you know in the late 1800s people went the entire winter without taking a bath? Whoa, can anyone say “pungent”?