Monday, March 30, 2015

Introducing Holton’s Heroes

Somebody mentioned in passing that I should talk a little bit about the team of individuals that will be helping me with my duties as a cohost for the A to Z Challenge this year. In fact, they told me that I should get a name for the team and a badge and everything, and none of us is particularly artistically inclined. But we do have a name: Holton’s Heroes, inspired by the TV show of almost the same name.

Anyway, let me introduce them to you:

  • Dixie@dcrelief : I met Dixie while doing the Battle of the Bands, which she started a couple of months ago. She has three blogs: An Artful Blogger, Remove the Rose-Colored Glasses (linked above), and dcrelief ~ Battle of the Bands. On her main blog, she and her partner Teddy will be writing about household repairs, maintenance, and “a whole lot of bluffing.” Can’t wait to see what that’s all about…

  • Ina Tales : Ina posts a lot of excellent fiction to her blog, and for the A to Z Challenge she’ll be writing short stories based on mythological characters. I think we’re in for a treat. Be sure and check her blog out!

  • Rhondi Peacock : Host of the wonderfully-named “Ya Gotta Laugh About It.” She says her sense of humor is warped and she considers sarcasm an art form. I’m just dying to see what she comes up with for the Challenge.

  • Susan Taylor : Siouxsie runs Siouxsie’s Musings, where she writes about “practicing perfect imperfection.” Her posts are thoughtful and cover a wide spectrum of topics.

  • Bay Girl : She says, “I’m a girl from around the bay. A runner, mother, daughter, sister, wife, an average run of the mill Newfoundlander with an overly active imagination. I spend my days making mistakes and then trying to fix them before I get caught. My life is random!”

So, that’s the team. I’m looking forward to working with them. They’re excellent bloggers and if you aren’t following them yet, by all means do so.

Less than 24 hours until the start of the Challenge. Are you as excited as I am?

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Sunday, March 29, 2015

ENCORE: “Electricity” from last year’s A to Z Challenge

Originally posted April 5, 2014, this is my post for the letter “E” from last year’s A to Z Challenge. There’s still time to join us and share in the fun and excitement! Click here to learn more about the Challenge and to sign up. Signups close this Thursday, April 2!

You would think, when hearing some of the stories in my family, that my brothers and I had a death wish. Actually, we were just typical young boys in a much simpler time. If you managed to break your arm when you slipped on a throw rug while running around the house, after your mother told you not to, there was none of this “sue the manufacturer of the throw rug” business. You were brought to the emergency room to have your arm set in a cast, with your mother telling you the entire way that if you hadn’t been horsing around and running around the house, you wouldn’t be on your way to St. Francis, especially on a night when your mother and father had other plans for the evening. Why, they were going to miss Red Skelton! The nerve of you! How could you be so inconsiderate?

Fortunately, most of the mischief that we got into was nowhere near as dramatic as all that, although some of it could have been. Take, for example, my introduction to electricity.

Reddy Kilowatt, the Electrical Servant (Source: Wikimedia Commons/US Patent Office)

I was about three years old, and we were living in Indianapolis. Generally speaking, kids that young take naps in the afternoon, but of course it’s around that time that I decided I had enough of lying in bed in the afternoon, pretending to sleep. Mom would put me down for a nap, and I’d find some way to occupy myself that wouldn’t wake up my brothers, who were both under two and hadn’t gotten to the rebellious stage just yet, or disturb my mother, who was downstairs watching Dinah Shore or something. Occasionally I would pitch enough of a fit that Mom would decide that I was just going to be awake and horsing around in my room, where she couldn’t see what I was doing, and let me roam wild through the house between one and four in the afternoon. She usually ended up regretting it, like the day I tried to make myself sneeze by sniffing pepper up my nose, or the day I was with her in the basement while she was doing the laundry and drank a small cup of Clorox (that was partly her fault, because she was using one of my plastic cups to measure the bleach).

One day, my mother’s paternal grandparents were coming to Indianapolis to visit, and Mom wanted to have some time to visit with them without a somewhat hyperactive three-year-old breaking in every ten minutes, so she informed me that a nap that day was not negotiable. I didn’t like it, but again, didn’t intend on lying in bed during that time, anyway; I was just going to have to find some way to occupy myself for those hours.

Anyway, Beads and Etaba (Mom, being their oldest granddaughter, had the honor of naming them) arrived a little before lunchtime. After all of the greetings (“say hello to Beads and Etaba, Johnny”) I was told to take Etaba’s hat and cane up to my room and put them somewhere that they would be safe. I laid his hat on the dresser and set his cane next to it and went back downstairs. At one, we were brought to our rooms. Mom undressed me down to my diaper and told me to get in bed and stay there and, for God’s sake, don’t wake my brothers. She left and closed the door, and I got under the covers and closed my eyes.

At quarter after one, I decided that this was crazy and got out of bed. I wandered around for a minute and saw Etaba’s fedora on the dresser. It looked just like the one Broderick Crawford wore on “Highway Patrol,” and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it on. It was enormous on my head, but when I looked at myself in the mirror on the closet door, I saw Dan Matthews looking back at me. “Twenty-one fifty to headquarters,” I growled into my hand, and laughed. Quietly, of course. Can’t wake Jimmy and Kippy.

I went into the closet, brought out my galoshes, stepped into them, and picked up Etaba’s cane. Now I was a song-and-dance man, and danced in front of the mirror, singing some goofy song quietly and having a gay old time. Somehow, and I don’t know why, I got it in my head to stick the cane, with its steel tip, into the electrical outlet.


I didn’t scream or even make a sound, even though I was blasted halfway across the room. I was just in shock, so to speak, and sitting across the room, cane in hand, fedora slightly cock-eyed on my head. The sound did wake both of my brothers, who started crying, and it brought my mother and great-grandparents up from the living room, where they had been having a nice, adult conversation. She saw the cane in my hand, saw the black soot around the outlet, and smelled the ozone in the air, and knew exactly what I had done.

Mom helped me take off the boots and took Etaba’s hat and cane to an undisclosed (to me) location, and told me to get into bed and stay there.

Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t punished for the little incident; Mom figured that being blown across the room by several hundred watts of alternating current was punishment enough. All she would say was, “You’re lucky you had those boots on.”

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Another Saturday, another Stream of Consciousness entry, hosted by Linda Hill. She has the rules, if you’d like to play along.


Today’s prompt: naught/knot/not

I hear knots and I think of two kinds of knots, the ones you tie and the one that you hear in aviation and maritime weather forecasts. I was interested in both as a kid.

My aunt Jill, who was also my godmother, was the one who took me to the library the first time. One of the books I picked was about seamanship, because it had boats in it and I liked boats because they reminded me of Mike Nelson on “Sea Hunt.” There was this whole section on tying knots, and that excited me. Jill let me have some yarn (it was more like rope) and I set about learning to tie the knots. I learned the square knot, the sheet bend, and then I had to bring the book back.

When I was in eighth grade, I was a Webelos scout; that was a transition between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I had to learn how to tie all kinds of knots: the clove hitch, the bowline, the two half-hitches, the taut-line hitch (if you tied that one right, you could slide it back and forth on the rope), and my old friends the clove hitch and the square knot. By the end of 8th grade, I earned my Lion badge, my Arrow of Light (the badge certifying that I had graduated from the Cub Scouts), and had passed the test for my Tenderfoot badge in the Boy Scouts.

Then, nothing. By that time, I was pretty tired of Scouts. I remember I lost my Boy Scout Handbook at some point during the year, and really didn’t care about it. It was really kind of creepy, anyway. I got a job at the parish rectory when I graduated eighth grade, and one night when there wasn’t anything to do I went through the parish lost & found. Right on top was my Boy Scout Handbook. Had my name stenciled on the first page and everything. I didn’t bother to take it home. Like I said, I was pretty sick of Scouts. So, that was that. I’ll bet the book is still there, too, over 45 years later.

Anyway, I was always into weather, and read not just the local forecasts, but the boating and aviation forecasts. They would say things like “northeast winds, 10 to 20 knots.” Originally I thought it was an actual rope, with knots tied into it. (That was how they would measure water depth on the Mississippi River back in Sam Clemens’ day. One day someone was measuring the water depth and called out, “mark twain!” And Sam Clemens had his pen name.) Finally I looked it up, and learned that a knot is a nautical mile per hour. Later, I learned that 1 knot is 1.15077945 miles per hour, so a 20 knot wind was about 23 miles per hour. Not all that significant of a difference, but the kind of stuff my mind loves to get hold of. A mile is 5280 feet, so a nautical mile would be 6076.12 feet, or 6076 feet, 1.4 inches. Now, of course, everything is metric, and that would be 1.85 kilometers. About.

There’s something distinctly less romantic, if that’s the word for it, about metric weights and measures. They don’t have neat names. Like a furlong. Horse races are measured in furlongs, and as it happens, a furlong is 1/8 of a mile. Turns out that the city of Chicago, built as it is on a grid, has city blocks that are one furlong each. So from Ashland Avenue (1600 West) to Western Avenue (2400 West) is one mile, and Wood Street (1800 West), where I used to live, is two city blocks, or furlongs, from Ashland and six furlongs from Western. Now, though, Ashland and Western are 1.609 kilometers (or kilometres, for my Canadian friends) apart, and Wood is 402 meters from Ashland.

Or, let’s talk about the stone. That’s 14 pounds. If someone weighs 20 stone, he weighs 280 pounds. (He’s a big ol’ boy.) But now, he’s 125 kilograms. Where’s the fun in that? I mean, before the metric system, we had all kinds of cool stuff: acres, chains, rods, cubic feet, fathoms, degrees Fahrenheit, and you used gallons to denote both dry and liquid measure. And there were US gallons and imperial gallons, the imperial gallon being 160 fluid ounces, the US gallon 128 fluid ounces. And the apothecary measures, the dram (1/8 oz.) and the scruple (about .7314 dram). My dad used to say a person would eat a peck of dirt in his life. A peck is 2 gallons, and 1/4 of a bushel. That’s a lot of dirt, you know?

To bring this full circle, 1/2 cup (imperial or US) is a gill, pronounced “Jill,” just like my godmother…

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Things I Learn While I Research My Posts

I am hard at work writing the posts for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge which starts on Wednesday, and I have a couple that require I get a handle on a little astronomy. I learned some when I was in grammar school, and more in high school physics, where Mr. Heikkinen taught us Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, but I was looking specifically at information about the rotation of the earth and how it relates to daybreak and sundown. I thought I understood the whole thing about the Earth rotates on its axis as it revolves around the Sun, until I saw this video.

The Sun just isn’t sitting still with all of the planets revolving around it in an orderly fashion. No, it’s racing around the Milky Way at 70,000 kilometers per hour (about 43,500 miles per hour to us non-metric types), and, while the planets are trying their best to revolve around it, they’re being dragged along by the Sun and somehow keeping up with it. And, in a similar fashion, the Milky Way is racing around the Universe dragging the Sun and all the other stars dragging planets around them.

Anyone need Dramamine yet?

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#ROW80: End-of-Round Post-Mortem


So, here we are, at the end of another round. Of course, for me, it ended a while ago, when I started getting busy with my duties as a co-host for the A to Z Challenge. It wasn’t that I gave up on the goals I set, I just… stopped caring about them, I guess.

I did get where I wanted to be with the posts for the Challenge that starts a week from yesterday; by next Tuesday I plan on being finished with the posts for it, and can dedicate my time to following up with the other participants that have fallen under my purview, and fighting fires… one of those things I seem to do best.

As for the reading… Well, I read 2.5 of the 3 books I had hoped to read, and if you count the ones that I started reading and decided continuing was a waste of time, I’d be well over 3. Guess getting books from all the “Free Kindle Books!” sites is not the way to go. In more than a few cases, I realized that I had overpaid for some of them, even if they were “free.” I saw a quote recently that the price of something is the value of the time you spent on it, in which case, those were some expensive books…

I’ve participated in ROW80 now for three years, and I realized about a week ago that I’m burnt out on it. That, combined with things that will demand my attention over the next couple of months, is why I’ll be taking Round 2 off. I won’t be gone too far; I’ll continue to look in on those of you I’m following on Feedly, and probably leave the occasional pithy comment when I do. I just want to say that I am in awe of the amount of work you folks do. Sometimes I read your updates and I say to myself, “what in the world am I doing trying to keep up with these people?” You’re an amazing bunch; I read some of your updates where you’re saying that you didn’t get anything done, and then I look at the goals you’ve set and what you actually did do… man, you put me to shame.

Good luck next round, and as always, straight ahead…

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just a Quick Note…

As most of you reading this know, or are about to find out, today was my birthday. And I was overwhelmed by the number of people wishing me a “happy birthday” on Facebook, and about so many touching things said, not only about me, but about this blog and what I’m doing here. And I just want to thank you all, and tell you that I love you, and I plan on staying around for a while. Whether you’re someone who went to grammar school, high school, or college with me, or worked with me at MSA/DBS/Geac or Servigistics, or one of Mary’s friends, or we met along the road or on the Internet, or you’re another blogger/writer I’ve met through one of the many challenges and projects here, you are all precious to me, and I cherish your friendship.

Again, thank you, God bless you, and I love you all.


Next year, the big six-oh!


from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Monday, March 23, 2015

My A to Z Challenge Theme!


You might remember that, the day signups began for the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I was so excited that I just couldn’t wait until I could tell people what my theme would be, and I posted it that day. When I did so, I received a comment that told me nicely, “Well, we were all going to wait…”

Was my face ever red…

Anyway, as I mentioned in that post, I had originally wanted to turn the A to Z Challenge on its head and post words that ended with the letter of the day. I wasn’t sure I could get away with it, but I started coming up with my word list, and discovered that there were words that started and ended with the letter. At that point, my theme for the challenge became “words that start and end with the same letter.

So, I’ve been working on my posts for this year, and I do have to admit, not all of my “words” are actually words. One or two are abbreviations, I have at least one word that’s a stock ticker symbol, several are company or product names, and there are a couple that start and end with the same letter because they are the only letter. Anyway, be with us a week from Wednesday, April 1, as this year’s Challenge commences. All of these blogs will be participating in the Challenge, so there should be lots of fun stuff to read.

And, if your blog isn’t on the list, why not? Come join us! It’s oodles of fun!

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Sunday, March 22, 2015

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Wonderful World” Results

To refresh your memory, last week’s battle was between Herman’s Hermits and Art Garfunkel with James Taylor and Paul Simon over whose version of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” was better. I had a feeling this was going to be close, but never imagined it would be this close…

Herman’s Hermit’s: 5

Art Garfunkel with J. Taylor and P. Simon: 5

Although I could cast the deciding vote, I won’t. So, this battle ends in a draw. Congratulations to both groups.

Our next battle coincides with the first day of the A to Z Challenge, but I still plan on offering one. Be sure to join me then.

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Saturday, March 21, 2015


It’s another Stream of Consciousness Saturday! Hosted by Linda Hill at her blog, where you can find the rules, which of course I immediately bend, sort of…



I heard the weekly prompt, and immediately my mind turned to the songs that are about eyes, or have eyes in the title. My consciousness got the best of me, and soon I have a list…

  1. “Blue Eyes,” Elton John

  2. “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Crystal Gayle

  3. “Hungry Eyes,” Eric Carmen

  4. “Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes

  5. “These Eyes,” The Guess Who

  6. “Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor

  7. “Spanish Eyes,” Al Martino

  8. “Barney Google, with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes,” ?

  9. “Gypsy Eyes,” Jimi Hendrix

  10. “Angry Eyes,” Loggins & Messina

  11. “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” Willie Nelson

  12. “Ma! He’s Making Eyes At Me,” Eddie Cantor

  13. “Jeepers Creepers,” The Four Modernaires

  14. “Behind Blue Eyes,” The Who

For your enjoyment, I’ve built a YouTube playlist. Over fifty minutes of music, just waiting for you to press that button. Enjoy!

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Friday, March 20, 2015

Follow-Up: Career Advice


Got some good replies to yesterday’s post, and I want to thank everyone who stopped by and read it, or left comments either here or on Facebook. Like I said, the only way I knew all these things was because I screwed them all up, one way or another. Let’s see if I can summarize some of the conversation.

  • My brother Pat said that he got the above piece of advice from someone, and I thought it was good enough to make an image quote out of it and to give him credit for it. It’s great to be the guy behind the scenes and to make everyone else look good, but you shouldn’t be shy about letting people know that it was you who did the work. You have a responsibility to yourself to claim credit where credit is due. It’s not only all right to blow your own horn, in this day and age it’s practically a requirement. He also said to treat everyone well and with respect, because you never know who might be your boss someday. In my second job, my manager told me, “I’d better not say anything negative, because I might be calling you looking for a job someday.” He didn’t, but if he had, I’d have helped him.

  • My high school buddy Mark left a comment both here and on Facebook that it’s not just what you’re doing, but also who you’re doing it with. Also a good piece of advice, and so true. You might be working on great projects that challenge you and really make you happy, but if you’re working for a boss or with a co-worker who’s a real jerk, it can ruin the experience and really make your life miserable. As another person put it, life’s too short to work with *ssholes, and working for them is a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Gale Molinari paid me the great compliment of reblogging yesterday’s post, and added the comment that you should find something you love. I wholeheartedly agree. If you hate getting up in the morning because you hate not just your job but your career, your life will be a thousand times better if you ditch that career and find something you really enjoy. That was really the point behind #6, “Know what else you can do.” A lot of us ended up in the careers we did because we needed a job, and that career was hiring. That doesn’t mean we have to stick with it. This Wall Street Journal article reports that a person might go through seven different careers – not just job changes – in his or her lifetime. Granted, many of these likely happen early in one’s working life, which doesn’t surprise me.

    But how often have you heard someone in their late thirties say, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”? Perhaps their career was chosen by someone other than them. Maybe they chose their career because it was hot at the time. I used to meet lots of nurses who studied nursing because there was a “great shortage” of nurses, and after a few years they wanted nothing more to do with it. Ditto engineers, computer programmers, lawyers, and teachers. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “This sucks, I want to do something else.” Then, of course, you need to follow up on it.

  • Finally, Lauralynn said she had worked in the same job for 34 years, and hoped it would be the last job she had, because she wanted to work for herself when she left. This gets back to my statement that we’re rapidly approaching the “Free Agent Nation,” where employers become clients and employees became independent contractors. Obviously it won’t work for every job, but the jobs for which it won’t work are becoming rarer. And it’s not unusual at all for a person to have a 9-to-5 job, then go home and do side jobs, such as freelance writing, editing, computer programming, or web design. That additional experience comes in very handy if the day job suddenly goes away.

Thank you all for your comments. This was a good discussion, wasn’t it?

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Thursday Ten Encore: Career Advice from someone who screwed his up

Last July, I wrote this blog post listing ten pieces of advice I’d give someone based on my years of experience ignoring it. I’ve decided to re-run it because this morning I saw an article on Lifehacker, “The Company You Work For Is Not Your Friend.” That article is superb, and lists a few things I didn’t include in my post.


About ten years ago, the wheels came off my career. I had jobs after that, and while I did all right, it was never as good as it was before I left the job I held for almost twenty years (missed it by one month). What follows is a list of ten things that I would tell someone looking for a job. I wish I knew these things back when I first started working. Too soon old, too late smart.

  1. Network like crazy. Anyone you know is a potential source for career assistance. As much as I disagree with the decisions made by their management, Facebook is a good way to stay in touch with people you used to work with, went to school with, or knew from the old neighborhood. LinkedIn is another good site for staying in touch, and it’s specifically for professional networking. And don’t forget your family. You’d be amazed at how much help they can be. I was out of work in 1980 (along with a lot of people) and having trouble finding a job. One day, I get a call from my mother. She had been at a party where she ran into a recruiter, and he gave her his card. A couple of weeks later, I was back to work, thanks to the guy.

  2. Keep your resume up-to-date. In the last management class I took, the instructor advised us to always have a current copy of our resumes handy, and I never took his advice. I wrote my resume when I had to, when someone asked me for it, because it meant dragging out the typewriter, and I was a lousy typist. Thank heaven for computers. By the way, companies expect that you’ll tailor your resume to match the job description. I’d have a full resume with all your experience (more of a curriculum vitae, or CV) and use it as a starting point for the resumes you send out. That way, you don’t forget anything.

    ETA: If I had it to do over, I’d review my resume every three months and add anything new that I had done in that period of time. If there wasn’t anything, I’d start looking for something new.

  3. Cultivate good relationships with recruiters. When I was getting established, I used to hate when recruiters (we called them headhunters) would call, because they’d keep you on the phone and try to browbeat you into making a job change when you didn’t want to. To put it bluntly, they were a pain in the ass. The truth is that companies hire them to pre-screen candidates. They hear about openings that don’t make Monster and CareerBuilder, and they’re valuable members of your network.

  4. Don’t be shy about quitting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that people born between 1957 and 1964 have held an average of eleven jobs between the ages of 18 and 44. That averages to about 2.5 years per job (2.3636…., if you want to be exact). I’m sure the average has gone down since, so say 2 years. Companies expect you to leave after a couple of years. They might even be pushing you in that direction. Better to leave before they start thinking, “will So-and-So ever leave?”

  5. Don’t get too comfortable. I worked for a company that would have a good year and hire a bunch of people, then have a bad year and lay all of them off. If you get any sense that the company might be looking to downsize, it might be time to update your resume and start putting out feelers.

  6. Know what else you can do. Or, make sure you have a Plan B. And a Plan C, and as many plans as you can make. What’s going to happen when you can’t find work doing what you’ve always done? More importantly, what’s going to happen when you don’t want to do what you’ve always done? It’s never too early to start thinking about what’s next. You might even want to get a head start on your next career. A lady I worked with left her job when she sold the novel she was writing in her spare time.

  7. Keep track of your accomplishments. This goes deeper than knowing what they are so you can put them on a resume. Keep a journal of everything you do: every meeting, phone call, and email has some details that a prospective employer or client might be interested in. Details that you’ll forget if you don’t write them down. It’s good for another reason: You’ll be able to tell when your career is stalled.

  8. Save, save, save. You want to have at least six months’ worth of savings that isn’t tied up in an IRA or a 401(k) (or whatever you call them where you live) that you can put your hands on if you find yourself out of work. More than six months is even better.

  9. Don’t put too much faith in your employer. Benefit plans change, departments get reorganized, job descriptions change, people leave or get promoted (or “kicked upstairs”), and promises made one day can vanish into thin air the next. I had a friend who got a new job, and on her last day, she came back from her farewell lunch and had a message from the new company that they had eliminated her job (the one she had been hired for), and their offer was being rescinded. It happens. Be prepared.

  10. Manage your career, or your career will manage you. Things are always changing, and what’s true today won’t be true tomorrow. If you go with the flow, you could end up doing something you don’t want to do. You always have a choice, to decide whether to stay or to go. Trust your gut; if it’s telling you to go, listen and put the wheels in motion.

Finally, I’m confident that the day will come when everyone works and no one has a job. Daniel Pink calls it the “Free Agent Nation,” one in which employers become clients and employees become independent contractors. We’ll need a whole new set of skills when that happens. Times change, and we’ll have to change with them.

Now it’s your turn: Is there anything you’d add to the list? Is any of this advice way off base? I didn’t prioritize the list; what order would you list these in? Let me know in the comments!

Postscript: Louise Behiel, who runs an excellent blog and who I consider my first “blogging buddy,” left this comment on the original: “John, I’d add that nobody owes me anything, so don’t fuss if you get laid off or right-sized or whatever. Get out and get on with building the rest of your life.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#ROW80: Next-to-last checkin


Click on the logo to visit the challenge!

We have one more week to go in this round after this one, and I feel like the wheels have come off… If you read Kait’s post on the ROW80 blog, you know she’s just about over the time change, but I’m not, and neither is Mary. Do you realize we now spend eight months out of the year on Daylight Saving Time, and only four months on “standard” time? Hey, Congress, make this most recent change to the clocks the last change to the clocks, and give us a break, willya? You did it once before (1973), then undid it…

Anyway, the summary:

  • Read three books: I’m still at two and a half. I might get book #3 read by the end of the round.

  • Finish A to Z blog posts: Work continues apace on them. I’m about halfway done.

Next month, I’ll probably be busier than a one-armed paper hanger, so I probably won’t start Round 2 until later, if at all. Just fair warning for all my fans…

Straight ahead!

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Two for Tuesday: Them (featuring Van Morrison)

Begad and begorrah, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In honor of the day, I found an Irish band that was part of the British Invasion (and yes, they celebrate St. Paddy’s Day in Northern Ireland).

Them was a band from Belfast, Northern Ireland that formed in 1964. They’re probably best known for launching the career of Van Morrison, who left the group in 1966 and has had a very successful solo career, and for the song “Gloria,” which, if you’re a guitar player, you have to know. (Really, it’s Federal Law.)

Like many bands of the British Invasion, they were inspired by American blues and R&B. Their first album included Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover,” Bobby Blue Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light,” and Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go,” their second single and first in the US. It reached #10 in the UK but only rose as high as #102 in the US. That’s today’s first number.

The B-side of the single was the aforementioned “Gloria.” Decca, their record company, decided to re-issue the previous single with “Gloria” as the A-side, and the record did better the second time around in the US, although it only reached #71. The song was considered controversial because it featured the line, “she comes to my room, then she made me feel alright.” Because of that line, WLS radio in Chicago refused to play Them’s version of the song; instead, The Big 89 played a cover by Mt. Prospect, Illinois’ The Shadows of Knight. Their version changed the line to “she called out my name, that made me feel alright.” Their version hit #1 on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey on April 1, 1966. Here’s the original.

Them broke up while on tour in the US in late 1966, and Van Morrison went on to have a lengthy career as a solo artist. The rest of the band, meanwhile, continued on until 1972, when the band dissolved.

Them, your Two for Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Monday, March 16, 2015

One week from today!

Next Monday, March 23, is the date of The Great and Powerful A to Z Theme Reveal Blogfest! On that day, bloggers from all over the known universe who are participating in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge this April will be revealing their theme, the one commmon thread that links together the 26 posts they’ll be writing and posting during the month!

But wait, you say… I haven’t signed up for the A to Z Challenge! Well, what’s keeping you? I’ve already mentioned what a great time it is, and all the new and special people, bloggers like you and me, you’ll meet (in case you need a refresher), so I’m certain at least your interest is piqued. The challenge is explained here, and you can sign up here.

But wait, you say… I haven’t got a theme yet! Well, you have a week to come up with one… actually, you have a little over two weeks, since the fun doesn’t begin until April 1. The Theme Reveal is next Monday, but hey, if you aren’t ready by then, you can reveal your theme when you are. The Theme Reveal is not a requirement. If you need more time, by all means, take it. This is fun, but hey, the whole challenge is a regular riot. Don’t worry about it.

But wait, you say… I wasn’t going to have a theme this year! Guess what: neither did I last year. I just came up with my words and posted on the appropriate days. Here was my theme reveal from last year. I still had fun.

Like I said, this is a fun challenge, and you’ll meet a lot of fun people and have a lot of fun. I know some of you have a busy April coming, but if you have no plans, come and join us!

Clicking on the graphic above will bring you to the page where you can sign up for the Blog Reveal. Hope to see you there!

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Wonderful World”

Feels like we just finished the last one and already we’re doing a new one. Time sure flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

We’re reaching back in the vault to 1960 for this gem by the great Sam Cooke, “Wonderful World.” It reached #12 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B charts that year. As always, this is presented for comparison purposes only, and not part of the competition.

A great song, to be sure, and one that’s been covered a few times, two of whom will be competing today.

CONTESTANT #1: Herman’s Hermits

As was the case with so many bands in the British Invasion, Herman’s Hermits covered a lot of American rock and rhythm & blues that they learned by listening to the records and turning out copies that were as good, if not better, than the originals. Their version of “Wonderful World” was released in April 1965 and reached #4 on the Hot 100, as well as #7 in their own country. It’s pretty faithful to the original, but a little faster and more upbeat.

CONTESTANT #2: Art Garfunkel featuring Paul Simon and James Taylor

Art Garfunkel recorded the song in 1978 backed by his old buddy Paul Simon and James Taylor. Rather than try and reproduce the Sam Cooke original, Art sang it as a ballad. It reached #17 on both the Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts that year.

So now, it’s time to vote. Which of these two versions did you like better? Is it the rocking Herman’s Hermits version, or the slower, harmonized, ballad-style Art Garfunkel one? Whichever you prefer is fine with me, but you have to tell me what it is to have your vote count. And no write-in votes for Sam Cooke will be accepted, although I’m sure you’ll tell me whether you found it preferable to either of the other versions when you cast your vote.

And, after you vote, be sure and check out the other battles going on today:

Tossing It Out

Far Away Series

StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands

Your Daily Dose

Mike’s Ramblings

Curious as a Cathy

DC Relief – Battle of the Bands

This Belle Rocks

Book Lover

Alex J. Cavanaugh will be doing his tomorrow.

Lines are open now! Results of this battle one week from today!

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

RIP “Gene Gene The Dancing Machine”

I need to recognize the passing of a wonderful man, Gene Patton, also known as “Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.” Gene was best known for his frequent work on The Gong Show. Usually at the end of the show, the band would kick into a wild rendition of Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” and, well, this would happen.

Chuck Barris said in his memoir, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, that one day he saw Gene, who was a light man for the show, dancing along to some music, and “The huge stagehand never moved his feet; just his body from the waist up. He was terrific.”

Gene was from Burbank, California, and became the first African-American member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Local 33, in 1969. In addition to his work on The Gong Show, he also worked on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and a few other shows.

One night, Jay did a sketch where took a picture of Gene, with big muttonchop sideburns, dressed in a three-piece suit and wire-rimmed glasses, into Westwood Village. He would tell people that the picture was of Moses Hathaway, who had acted in a number of blaxploitation movies in the 1970’s, and would reel off a number of fake movie titles, and say that he was trying to get Moses a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was hilarious to hear the number of people who said they remembered Moses, and had seen a few of his movies. The last person said, “hey, isn’t that Gene Gene the Dancing Machine?” At which point, they cut back to the studio, where Gene went into his act, and the place went up for grabs.

Gene suffered from diabetes, which eventually took both of his legs, a sad irony. I’d like to believe that he’s in Paradise, with two healthy legs, dancing up a storm. He leaves behind his three children, his sister, nine grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and a host of people who loved him and were entertained by him.

Farewell, Mr. Patton.

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Hey, it’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, brought to you by Linda Hill. The instructions for participating are on her blog. Why not think about joining us, if you don’t already?


THIS WEEK’S PROMPT: pat/pet/pit/pot/put

Remember that children’s book, Pat The Bunny? When you first saw it, did you think, as I did, that the bunny’s name was Pat? I was hoping for a whole series, e.g. Mike The Moose, Ricky The Rhino, Alfred The Mongoose, etc. I can just imagine the rabbit talking: “Yeah, I’m Pat. Pat the bunny. It’s my name. Try and pat me, I’ll kick your ass! Got it?”

Seriously, if I had a pet bunny, I’d name it Pat. And I’ll bet I’d have to explain it to everyone, too.

Mary and I have had cats ever since before we were married. I lost count at three dozen, over 37 years. That’s about a cat a year. In fact, the only time we had an only cat in the house was our first one. We named her Kismet, because we got her from Mary’s maid of honor, whose last name was like Kismet. The name evolved to Kitty Face, as in “Kitty Face! You’ve got the cutest little Kitty Face!” We had her for a long time, almost twenty years. She and I didn’t like each other very much at first; growing up with a mother who hated cats, I had to get over the negative programming. After a while, though, we became very good friends. When we lived in Chicago, our stove was right next to the door, and she would sleep on it, between the burners. When I would come home, she would sit up and cry and carry on, and I’d say “Oh, poor Kitty Face! Was Mary mean to you today? Didn’t she give you any attention?” The reality was, she had been lying on the stove all day and totally ignoring Mary. But it was like our little ritual.

She made the trip south with us, she and the other four we had at the time. Three were from the same litter, and we named them Moe, Larry, and Curly. Curly was a bit psychotic… after all, she was a tortie. Torties are the redheads of the cat world.

Nah, I shouldn’t say that. On my dad’s side of the family, most of my cousins are redheads. Mom always said that I should have been a redhead, because my skin is fair and I have lots of freckles, and I burn really badly if I stay in the sun too long. My hair was kind of reddish, and when I grew a mustache it was kind of red. The hair we don’t talk about is definitely red. And, if you look at my eighth grade picture, my hair looks very red. Although, I can’t tell if it’s red because it was reddish, or if the chemicals in the film have changed color over the last 45 years.


Now, of course, I’m mostly gray, and my beard is white. Oh well, at least I have most of my hair.

When Mary started seeing white hairs pop up, she decided that she’d dye her hair red — okay, more like dark auburn. After a while, she got tired of doing it every month, and let it go back to its natural color. And, you know, she got more compliments when she did. And I liked it better, and she was happy not to have to fuss with it…

I had been talking about the cats. Anyway, of Moe, Larry, and Curly, Larry lived the longest. Moe and Curly died the same year my stepfather and grandmother did. 1992 was a really crappy year. Larry held on a couple of months after his 20th birthday, then his kidneys gave out. The day we sent him to The Bridge, the guy next door came over with three boxes of kittens who were born to feral mothers. He worked in a scrap yard, and the cats lived there. Mary and I had been talking about letting the number of cats we had dwindle, but when Mary saw all the kittens, she picked up two that looked like Larry and said, “We’ll take these two.” It wasn’t until we brought them in and set them down that we realized they hadn’t been weaned, so we ended up bottle-feeding them. We named them Homer and Jethro, after the comedy-musical act best known for such hits as “The Battle of Kookamonga” and “How Much Is That Hound Dog In The Window?”

They had real different personalities. Homer directed his aggression outward and would go around deviling the others, especially at night when we were trying to go to sleep. Jethro, on the other hand, directed his aggression inward, on more than one occasion licking the hair off his privates. It was so bad that he had to wear The Cone Of Shame. Jethro died at home a few years ago, but Homer’s still around, and he’s settled down a lot. He’ll be 13 on April 1. Actually, we don’t know when he turns 13; we got him at the end of April and the vet estimated he was four weeks old. So we decided on the birthday.

One day, I’ll have to write about all of our cats, more to remember them myself.

You know, they talk about the Rainbow Bridge, where deceased pets go to wait for their owners to come and take them into Paradise. I’m counting on it being there. If they aren’t there waiting for me, I’m not going in.

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ten Reasons You Should Participate In the Blogging From A To Z Challenge


The Blogging from A to Z Challenge starts in less than 3 weeks, and I’m looking forward to it. And I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of you there. But, I’m sure there are still a few of you who are holding out, so I’m going to give you ten reasons you ought to try the Challenge.

  1. If you’ve been thinking about blogging, A to Z would be a good way to try it out. If you’ve been reading blogs for a while, and have been thinking, “Hey, that looks easy,” or “Wonder what it would take to run a blog like that one?” now’s your chance to try it out. The easiest way to find out is to set yourself up a blog (either at WordPress or Blogger) and sign up for the challenge. If you do it today, you’ll have 19 days to come up with a theme. Or, if you can’t think of one, just join anyway. I went last year without a theme, and just because others have a theme doesn’t mean you have to.

  2. If your blog has been dormant for a while, A to Z will get you back into it. So, you have this blog sitting out there, and haven’t posted to it in months. Maybe even years. You’ve been feeling the urge to blog again, but aren’t sure how to start? Start with the Challenge!

  3. A to Z is a great opportunity to learn new things. There will be hundreds of bloggers doing the Challenge. They’ll be writing about writing, gardening, endangered species, science fiction, places they’ve been over the years, psychology, food, bugs, baseball, travel, just about anything you can think of, and probably a few things you hadn’t even thought of. All of these give you a chance to learn something about those topics, or more about them.

  4. A to Z is a great opportunity to show what you know. You’re a veritable encyclopedia of something. Maybe it’s your job, your hobby, dogs, cats, barbecue, whatever. You know things that people want to know about, and it’s something you can share with them.

  5. You’ll make new friends from all over the world. Most of the participants are from the United States and Canada, but you’ll also meet people who live in the UK, Ireland, Germany, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and probably other places. You’ll go visit their blog, they’ll come and visit yours, and before you know it, you’ve made friends. And you didn’t even have to leave home to do it!

  6. It will test your creative skill. Coming up with a list of words or terms that start with each letter of the alphabet that relate to a topic is hard to do. But fun. And, some of the words are going to take some thought as to how to present them. You can do it! You know you can! You’ll find ways to come up with words that start with the really hard letters, like Q, X, and Z. You might have to come at it from the back door, use the word as a jumping-off point for the thing you really want to write about. In my first Challenge, I took the NATO spelling alphabet (alpha, bravo, Charlie, etc.). There were days I had to really think about how I would handle a word. “Sierra” became a post about Jack Webb; “tango” was about one of the early sabermetricians. That’s the fun of this.

  7. It’s a good way to write a story. We have a lot of writers that do the Challenge every year, and they’ll decide to write a story, using each letter as the first letter of each post. We have others who use each letter to start a poem. Say you’ve said to yourself, “One day, I’ll write the Great American Novel!” This could be where you start.

  8. It’s a way to network with other bloggers. As you meet new bloggers, you’ll find out that they have lives away from the Internet. Maybe you find a few who do the same thing you do. Or, maybe you find a few who do what you’d like to do. Maybe they live where you’ve been thinking of living. Or, you just meet people who can commiserate with you. Maybe you know someone you can put them in contact with, or they can do that for you.

  9. It’ll give you a sense of accomplishment. This will be my fourth year doing the A to Z Challenge, and one of the things that keeps me coming back is the feeling I get when I’ve written 26 posts built around the alphabet and an idea. It’s a great feeling, knowing that you challenged yourself, and were up to the challenge.

  10. It’s a lot of fun. This is the highlight of my blogging year. And I’m sure it’s the highlight of other bloggers’ years. I visit some blogs and see that the only activity they have are the 26 posts in April, but they’ve done the A to Z Challenge every year. They might not be into blogging, but they’re into this challenge. They like the camaraderie, the competing against themselves, the idea that they’re doing something that 2,000+ other people are doing.

Still not sure? Okay, visit the FAQ’s, read some of the entries on the Challenge blog, take a look here to see who else is doing it, and, if there are any questions I can answer for you, leave them in the comments below. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does. Fair enough?

from The Sound of One Hand Typing