trying to get back into the routine

Map My Tracks screen shotFor the past several months I had not been very good about exercising. The heat we had in mid and late summer gave me an excuse to avoid going out walking. But it was just that: an excuse. For a short while I went to the gym here at Four Seasons and did a circuit on the weight machines (as I had done before my surgery), but that did not last very long. There was no good reason for my lapse; I was simply being lazy. I continued to do yard work every Tuesday, but that was the extent of my exercise.

Last week I decided to snap myself out of it. The weather had cooled down sufficiently for me to start walking again, and I did so. I got in three walks last week. I walked Monday of this week and did yard work as usual yesterday. I feel better so I trust that will be incentive for my keeping up the momentum. The Map My Tracks iPhone app, pictured here, gives me good feedback on my efforts.

I’m going to have to be flexible about my routine and not commit to certain days of the week for my walks, or so it appears. We had a couple of days of rain last week, we have more rain coming in today and tomorrow for Thanksgiving, and it looks like there’s another chance of rain for early next week. With any luck the storm door will be open this winter and we’ll get regular precipitation. I certainly hope so, and if that’s the case I’m perfectly happy to mix up my walking days. And even go back to the gym if we get an extended storm.

Regular rain and consistent exercise. That would make for a good winter.

Food Network Magazine

Food Network MagazineI wrote a while back about how the demise of my favorite cooking magazine, Cooking Light, happened without my noticing it after the acquisition of Time Inc. by Meredith Corporation. I commented that Eating Well, the magazine that Meredith wanted readers to pick up instead, was pale by comparison.

Looking for a replacement, I picked up a copy of Food Network Magazine at the grocery store. I really liked it and Terry did too. I liked it so much that I subscribed.

Not only does Food Network Magazine have a lot of recipes, like Cooking Light and quite unlike Eating Well, it also runs stories about our favorite Food Network personalities, which is just plain fun. The recipes in their printable format on the web are very easy to copy into my recipe database software, something that Cooking Light and the other Time Inc. magazines managed to make more difficult when they changed format a couple of years ago.

I will enjoy the new issues as they arrive.

Other Minds

Other Minds coverOther Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Peter Godfrey-Smith
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (December 6, 2016), 271 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $6.99

Peter Godfrey-Smith comes from the field of philosophy, but he is also a scuba diver who has spent a lot of time in the water with octopuses. (That is the plural he uses. Both Merriam-Webster and American Heritage allow either octopuses or octopi, with the former listed first in both dictionaries.)

As a philosopher Godfrey-Smith is interested in the unique nervous systems of cephalopods, a class that also includes cuttlefish and squid. He is intrigued by how much independence the arms of the cephalopod have, often acting separately from the main cephalopod brain. He writes:

quoteIn the octopus’s case there is a conductor, the central brain. But the players it conducts are jazz players, inclined to improvisation, who will accept only so much direction. Or perhaps they are players who receive only rough, general instructions from the conductor, who trusts them to play something that works.

Godfrey-Smith describes how the octopus can behave very badly in captivity, letting its keeper know that it is not happy. In the wild a cephalopod can be wary of strangers, although he also describes leaving a remote camera near a cuttlefish den and discovering that the behavior was mostly unchanged whether or not divers were nearby.

The author does not try to hide his sadness at the fact that the octopus lives a relatively short life: just a few years. He seems to think that such and interesting and complex creature deserves better.

Having read his book I am inclined to agree.

Why We Write

Why We Write coverWhy We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
Meredith Maran
Plume (January 29, 2013), 250 pages
Kindle edition $10.99, Amazon paperback $10.98

As one who loves reading about writers and writing I found this book absolutely delightful. Meredith Maran asked twenty writers for their reflections on the writing life. The commentaries are arranged alphabetically so as to not inadvertently imply any sort of hierarchy, and Maran includes writers of both bestsellers and literary fiction (with a few nonfiction writers thrown in as well).

Each chapter is structured the same. Maran begins with an excerpt from that author’s work, followed by a generally witty and entertaining introduction. She then provides some biographical information and a complete (as of the 2013 publication date) bibliography of each writer’s works. Next she gives us the writer’s reflections in his or her own words, and concludes with the author’s advice to aspiring writers.

The book is a bit dated, having been published in 2013. For example, Meg Wolitzer was one of the writers included. Her novel The Interestings was one of the most enjoyable and engaging novels I have ever read, but it was published in 2013, the same year as Why We Write, so that novel wasn’t part of Wolitzer’s corpus as listed in her bibliography.

Nonetheless, there is a lot of interesting stuff here. And there are many common threads. Most of the writers offered some version of “I write because I have to” or “I write because I don’t know anything else.” With respect to advice, there were a number of variations of both “If you want to write well do a lot of reading“ and “If you want to write then keep writing. Don’t worry about whether you get published.”

That last bit of advice provides me with the impetus to keep on blogging. It’s time for me to get back to writing my blog more frequently.

when Apple behaves like Microsoft

My first hearing aid required an intermediate device, called an iCom, to communicate with other devices, such as my iPod or phone. It was a pain to deal with I eventually stopped using it.

I lost that hearing aid during what was termed “the storm of the decade” in February 2017 when I was taking Terry out to the car after a routine procedure at Kaiser Riverside. That drive home is perhaps material for another blog entry. The point here is that I needed a new hearing aid.

audible screen shotWhen I went to the hearing aid shop I specifically asked for a hearing aid that communicated directly with my iPhone, without an intermediate device. I got one, and it has worked beautifully, both with my iPhone 5s and with my new iPhone 8, which I got in August. I use it not only for phone calls but with my Audible and podcast apps.

All was well until I installed iOS 13. Now I knew from reports I had read that iOS 13 was buggy, and I held off installing it until iOS 13.1.2 was released. That was the fourth release of iOS 13. Nonetheless, there were still a lot of bugs in 13.1.2, and my iPhone no longer wanted to talk to my hearing aid. Well, it thought it was, but it wasn’t. I had to turn off my hearing aid, open my Audible app, start playing a book, and then turn my hearing aid back on in order to get the two to communicate properly. Most frustrating.

The iOS 13.1.3 release did not solve the problem. 13.2 seems to have fixed the issue, knock on wood.

This is a first world problem, I am fully aware. Still, it is frustrating. We expect these things from Microsoft, but now Apple is doing it to us as well. We should be able to expect better from our tech companies.

replacing a failed kitchen tool

I have long had a Misto sprayer for olive oil in my kitchen. I am probably on my fourth or fifth Misto; I would not be without one.

old sprayerA while back I decided I wanted a sprayer for safflower oil as well. I love cooking with olive oil and do so whenever it is practical, but there are times when you are cooking at higher temperatures and olive oil simply won’t do the job. My high temperature oil of choice is safflower.

I went to Amazon and found a clear plastic pump bottle that was labeled as food-safe. I bought it and it worked well for a while. But then the tube that did the pumping came loose from the lid. My attempt to repair it with super glue failed. So back to Amazon.

new sprayerI spent a lot of time looking, researching, and comparing. I finally settled on a glass spray bottle that wasn’t specifically labeled as food-safe, but by implication seemed to be so. And a number of reviewers and answers to questions mentioned using it in the kitchen. I bought it and I’m happy with it. Because it is a regular spray bottle and not a pump bottle the spray does not fizzle out when the air pressure is gone. It is quality, solid, and doesn’t take up a lot of space. So indeed, I do like it and when Terry first tried it she was much happier with it than with the previous one.

It’s a great replacement for a less than optimal initial purchase.

idle time

I don’t believe that I’m the only person who finds it easy to consume idle time by picking up my iPhone and scrolling through Facebook. And it’s easy to let that be a time sink. The powers behind social media know how to use the same techniques used by casinos to keep you there rather than simply moving on.

iPhone 8I’m trying to break that habit. I have discovered that it is easy and comfortable to read a Kindle book on my iPhone 8, something that was not the case with my antiquated iPhone 5s. So I am consciously training myself to click the Facebook icon, take a quick look and then move on to whatever book I am reading on my iPhone Kindle app (which will always be different from what I am reading on my iPad Kindle app). Facebook is making this easier for me by showing me posts that are several days old high in my newsfeed and by burying the Most Recent link.

More book reading, less Facebook. That is a Good Thing.


I was way past due in getting my eye exam. The coating was peeling off my progressive glasses and my computer glasses weren’t doing the job. I needed new glasses, but I was watching the dollars and cents.

eyeglassesAfter Social Security kicked in, which happened in September, I decided to move forward. I wanted to get my glasses locally, rather than driving to Kaiser in Moreno Valley, about 45 minutes away. With the AARP/EyeMed discount I thought I could get a good price at our Hemet LensCrafters. But Kaiser provides a no-copay eye exam, so I made the schlep to Moreno Valley for that. While I was there I got a quote on both progressive and computer glasses. I didn’t realize how good the price was.

The next day I went to the LensCrafters here and was in for an unpleasant surprise. Their price was $400 more than Kaiser. Yikes! I thought about checking out Walmart, but the Yelp and Google reviews about the local Walmart were quite negative: both with respect to the staff and the quality of the eyewear.

So back to Kaiser, 45 minutes notwithstanding, on Monday, a week ago today. Fortunately Kaiser was open, even though it was Veterans Day. (Yes, I checked first.) The optician was great. She helped me find a pair of frames that I liked for my progressives, and went out of her way to help me find a pair of frames for my computer glasses that I could quickly and easily distinguish from my progressives. (I need that. I will get up from the computer and go off an do something, only to realize that I’m still wearing my computer glasses.)

The optician said it would take two weeks for the two pair to arrive, but I had a call this morning saying that they were in. I’m looking forward to picking them up.

No Time to Spare

No Time To Spare coverNo Time to Spare
Ursula K. Le Guin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, December 5, 2017
241 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $8.99

I have long been familiar with Ursula Le Guin. I read her Earthsea Trilogy (when it was still only a trilogy) during my year in exile in Laredo, Texas, 1977-78. I was interested to learn, then, that she maintained a blog from roughly 2010 to 2014. I’m sorry that I wasn’t aware of it when it was live, but I was happy that some of the entries were compiled in this volume.

I initially thought that the title meant that there is too much work to be done, so there is no time to spare, but early in the book Le Guin says that there is no time to spare because of her advanced age.

Le Guin covers the waterfront in this compilation. She writes about her rustic house in Oregon. She writes about her correspondences from fans, about feminism, politics, and society, and about attending concerts. In several entries she tells us about her feisty cat, Pard. When she feels strongly about something she does not mince words. We know where she stands.

I read No Time to Spare on my iPhone 8. I had a Kindle app on my old iPhone 5s, but the screen was simply too small to be practical for that purpose. The iPhone 8 screen is large enough to make a book readable. I wouldn’t recommend War and Peace, but a short book of essays like this one makes for enjoyable reading wherever I might be.

Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us

Tragedy the Greeks and Us coverTragedy, the Greeks, and Us
Simon Critchley
Narrated by John Lee
Random House Audio, April 16, 2019
$17.15 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

As a classics major in college I took a semester-long Greek Tragedy course and read Greek tragedies in other classes as well. I was intrigued, then, when I read a positive review of this book.

Critchley offers some interesting insights here. He points out that in Greek tragedy the deceiver and the deceived have more insight than the non-deceiver and the non-deceived (Oedipus). He discusses how women in Greek tragedy are the polar opposite of how they were treated and expected to behave in classical Greek society (Clytemnestra, Antigone). Critchley is no elderly, doddering classicist. He makes references to social media, punk rock, and the Marx brothers. He sees Greek tragedy in the light of today’s world.

The author discusses how Greek tragedy was influenced (apparently) by the Sophists, and spends a lot of time analyzing Plato and Aristotle’s perspectives on tragedy. Plato saw no role for tragedy (or poetry) in his “just state” as set forth in The Republic. Such diversions would, Plato believed, take men’s (and only men in classical Greek society) minds away from more essential pursuits. Aristotle, on the other hand, analyzed tragedy in considerable detail and discussed what tragedy should and should not be.

The book is expertly read by John Lee, who does so in a rather declamatory manner, appropriate for both the subject matter and Critchley’s text. This was time well spent.