Random shallow thoughts on blogging and 300 posts

Unleash the virtual confetti. This is post number 300. Woo hoo.

Okay, celebration over. Cut it. Return the llamas and clowns. End of party.

Instead of cake, how about some random thoughts on blogging?

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Thanks to everyone who visits. Without you I would have quit this damn thing a long time ago. Maybe I should be angry at you for making me do this. It’s all your fault. Do you know how much television I could have watched?

Let’s see . . . 2 to 4 hours per post, sometimes more. Average 3 hours. 300 posts. 900 HOURS? I could have watched Road House 450 times! Am I mad in the head?

Yes. Yes, I am.

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From the “This I know to be true” department: I suck at self-promotion.

I’m torn between having fewer readers I like or having a large audience of people I don’t know because that’s what you’re supposed to do as a blogger. I’ve chosen a contrarian strategy and sometimes think about going dark with my blog and having no readers.

Yes, I would miss you – except my two pals in England (you know who you are, troublemakers).

***

Why am I blogging? I ask that question a lot. I know I started it for my daughter, but I can’t answer it anymore. Why try to define it now?

It is. I am.

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Department of “illogic”: I can write 300 blog posts, but I can’t write a novel.

This I don’t understand.

But then writing blog posts is a 1,000 times more fun than writing novel chapters. Especially when you’re writing after a full day of work where you get paid to write.

At night with blurry eyes, it’s all about writing what I want to write.

***

I feel good about all of the posts. I took them seriously, put a lot of effort into them.

Am I happy with them? No.

Did any of them turn out the way I thought they would? No.

But the magnificent Bono once said he’s not satisfied with most U2 songs. So, I feel better. Not really.

One day I’ll nail one of these posts, but don’t bet on it.

***

I never know which posts will draw reactions. I’ve spent days on some. Gone late into the night and thought, “I’VE DONE IT. I’VE FINALLY WRITTEN A DECENT POST.”

Then I hit “publish” thinking I’ll see comments in the morning. Nothing. Zero. The sound of outer space.

I suck.

***

Having an eclectic blog sounded good in theory. Readers come and go. I talk about the dogs, I get dog readers. I talk about CF, my CF friends chime in. Politics, everyone splits. I’m not sure writing about various subjects builds a large, consistent readership. One subject seems the way to go.

I should write a cooking blog. I don’t cook. Kiss that idea goodbye.

I wonder if three blogs is the answer – keep the subject matter consistent for each blog. Too much work.

***

Why subscribers should always read the blog post at the web site: Typos.

How many times have I hit “publish” thinking I fixed all of the typos? A lot.

Then, after one more read, I find another. Typo. Argh. Typo. Argh. Typo. Oh, Hell.

***

From the “best laid plans” department: My goal is to write only short posts and funny posts. My apologies for the 299 posts* that weren’t either.

(*My friend, Karyn of Australia, wrote a funny one for me. The other 299 are my responsibility. Send any complaints to Sean and Matt Smythington, 555 Bite Me Lane, Cleethorpes, England, 98YurAss573t)

***

I miss Fox.

Mesmerize me

Here are a few things that get my attention and hold it.

Dogs playing. We keep our two dogs in the kitchen during the day because the puppy works for a demolition company and chews the s**t out of everything if we let her loose in the house. I often walk in and find the two of them fighting each other in a playful way that makes me wonder when blood will start spraying like a Monty Python movie.

I hang out, watch them duel, feel thankful they don’t have antlers, and forget why I walked in the kitchen.

M&Ms, Smarties, and/or saltwater taffy, of course.

Go Broncos. Finish 2 and 14 and draft Andrew Luck, please.

Football games. What can I say. Even after all these years, I still like football and the Denver Broncos. And I’m sticking to my guns about Tim Tebow – he has heart but no NFL QB skills. When will the fans start yelling, “Quinn, Quinn”? However, football still has the power to make me plant myself on the couch for three hours.

Victoria’s Secret Commercials. I’m embarrassed to admit this one. Okay, I’m not. I can fast forward through a TV show at top forwarding speed, read on my iPad at the same time while I listen to music and talk to my wife, and still catch the quick flicker of a VS commercial.

And every time I stop, rewind and play it, my wife shakes her head and wonders why she ever decided to go out on a date with complete idiot like me.

I’m not sure, but I love her so much I’m building her a time machine.

Tricky commercials. One of the first lessons I taught my daughter was how commercials don’t tell the truth and deceive us. Beer ads don’t use exotic locales like AA meeting halls and skid row. Banks don’t loan people money because they’re nice. And only one in 100,000 people is going to learn the Chinese alphabet on an iPad (an app used once by my daughter who had to have it). And much to my disappointment no bird ever flew out of a box of Coco Puffs.

But I watch certain commercials like one might watch a magician perform a trick – how did he do that? I know, or at least I think I do.

Would you think less of me if I told you I've seen this movie over 10 times - or parts of it 10 times?

Movies I’ve seen five times or more. If I’m up late on a weekend and a movie I like comes on, one I can recite the dialogue to, I can’t stop watching it. Even with the power of a DVR at my fingertips, I stay up way too late and suffer the next day.

Examples include: Predator, Road House, Ronin, Heat, Bullitt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and a myriad of others. I can’t explain it but if I record the movie and watch it the next day it’s like eating a day-old bagel my daughter forgot to seal in a bag – stale.

Stay alert.

Why Halloween is my least favorite fake holiday

I don’t like Halloween.

I wasn't aware there was a Halloween version until tonight.

I liked it when I was young, despite living in Colorado and being forced to wear a parka over my costume thanks to the snow that always dropped the day before. We froze our butts off in light, stiff, flame-proof costumes purchased at the grocery store, or drug store, or where ever my mom bought them before the Internet and corner Halloween stores were in vogue.

I remember the condensation from my breath made the thin plastic mask kind of gross – hot and cold at the same time. Yes, I was the kid with the drooling mask ringing your doorbell.

I did, however, like bobbing for apples, and was really good at it. Probably because I have two giant front teeth like a mutant horse.

Sadly, I was never able to turn my talent for apple bobbing into a lucrative career, though I do think it would make for a good sport to watch on TV. Place the camera at the bottom of the tub for intense action shots, and hire good-looking men and women to compete. Because, really, won’t we watch just about anything on TV if attractive people are in it?

So, as an adult in age, not mind, I have grown to dislike Halloween because I’m the one who has to sit home and hand out the candy. My wife and daughter go to a party and have fun. I am the dog reacting to every knock at the door.

Fortunately no pictures exist of me as a child sticking my head in a bucket of water, though I'm surprised a family member didn't try to drown me for laughs.

I get up every five minutes, tell our real dogs to be quiet, and greet the trick or treaters. Then, I have to pretend my neighbors’ kids are the cutest versions of the same Disney princess (girls), and any character that kills (boys).

I also have to monitor the candy because my wife is never sure if we’ll have enough, though we always have plenty leftover, and because 1 out of every 5 kids is practicing to be a Wall Street banker one day and inevitably reaches in and grabs more candy than allowed, on purpose.

These are the candy hoarders who one day will have to go to Congress and beg for a bailout because they bet everyone else’s candy on a risky financial scheme they didn’t understand themselves. Hey, the behavior of being a hog starts somewhere, folks.

So if a child tries to take extra candy tomorrow, reach over and grab their hand and say, “if you ever work in the financial services industry your head will fill with worms and spiders and explode in a ball of fire.”

It helps to dress as a witch when you deliver this curse. And don’t be surprised if your neighbors don’t speak to you again.

I fantasize about hiring someone to sit outside my house and hand out candy. But my wife gives me the look that spending $40 bucks on the idea will earn me a quick trip to husband jail.

Yet, how nice would it be to have my feet up and not worry about trick or treaters while the Swedish woman I hired on Craigslist sits on my front porch and hands out candy. I do think I’ll need extra peanut-butter cups and Snickers bars, however, when words gets out about my fantastic new hire.

Yes, my dear wife, it was the best $300 dollars an hour I ever spent. A small price to pay for getting my Halloween spirit back.

Building my fortress one camera at a time

The security cameras are on the way – thank you, Amazon.

This weekend I’ll be climbing up the ladder, drilling holes, running wires, installing video cameras and looking manly in my tool belt. Female neighbors will bring me lemonade and cookies and marvel at my handy-manliness.

Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it. Okay, pour the oil, honey. Pour it now.

Or, not. Probably not.

Perhaps they will if I wear my Stars & Stripes lounge pants.

It will take all of my willpower not to point each of the day/night cameras at my new neighbor’s house. Oh, how I miss the cold war – damn you, Reagan. 

Then, sometime this weekend I’ll be able to kick back with a cold one and spy the intruders coming up the walkway, at which point I’ll signal my daughter to pour vats of hot oil on them.

Is that an appropriate job for a young girl?

Ah, what the hell. Kids these days have it too easy. My daughter should know how to take down a bird with a slingshot and skin a pig at this age, not shoot pigs with birds.

After my security system goes in, a contractor will be over to tell me how much I’m going to pay for a wall so thick a helicopter can’t get over it, which I didn’t know was possible until you-know-who took a bullet to the face.

Unfortunately, I don’t live in Pakistan where building codes are lax, not to mention my neighbors might object to a wall of that size. Instead, I will have to build something decorative and nice looking.

Still, there will be a place to pike the heads as a warning to other criminals. Ah, London in the old days. Could they think up the best ways to torture people or what?

Would it be wrong of me to compare some of my hospital stays to being tortured here?

Then, when I’ve completed these two security upgrades, I’m going to sell the house and move to a cave with a gate. And there I’ll protect my family and live on bats and McGriddles.

That’s my story and I’m not sticking to it.

Why do you need an MBA to decipher medical bills in the USA?

Hospitals bills and insurance EOBs in the USA are the equivalent of going to prison, surviving unharmed while there, getting released and being mugged and stabbed by ex-cons two months later.

I am always happy to get out of the hospital, but the real pain doesn’t come until a couple of months later when my wife and I open the mailbox.

The complexity and inaccuracy of medical bills bothers me, deeply bothers me, and makes me think we don’t live in what some consider to be the greatest country in the world.

undergear.com sells these for 9.97. BTW, that's me modeling them. I'm looking cut.

Either we have citizens who flunked basic math who are programming the billing systems, or we have creative geniuses inventing evil ways to delay and screw up payments so people just pay the bills because they don’t have the skills to figure them out.

So, we are either incompetent or immoral in this country when it comes to medical billing practices.

Example: Two months ago, we received a bill for my last hospital stay. We owed over $1,500 and the EOB matched up. Then for some unknown reason the hospital went back to the insurance company for seconds. The claim was readjusted. According to the EOB, our out of pocket is around $600 now and not $1,500.But the hospital is asking us for more money above the original $1,500.

What do you think the chances are we will get the refund we’re owed?

About the same as me never having to go back to the hospital again – unless I run in front of a bus wearing a suit made of EOBs and hospital bills (Our medical files are thick. I could make two or three suits if I knew how to sew paper).

Now starts the game we play to straighten it out. Well, my wife plays it. She has an MBA and works with numbers. It started with emailing 12 documents to the hospital, each with my wife’s handwritten notes, making them look like my junior high English papers.

If we ever get accurate and ethical medical billing in this country, I may start to believe we’re as good as we think we are. Until then, I’m hiding my Stars & Stripes lounge pants in my dresser drawer.

I speak to a police officer

I would not want to be a police officer. At least not the kind who has to speak to annoying people calling to complain about their neighbors. No, not that kind, behind a desk, trying to decipher who is telling the truth, who is lying.

I'm looking good while patrolling the mean streets of Los Angeles. Kind of like Batman without the outfit and really cool car.

I’d rather go after perps in high-speed chases in the streets of L.A. And tap them in the rear bumper with my turbo-charged Hemi-powered Dodge and send their car spinning out of control. Then, I’d jump out and just shoot them. Well, not really. I’d play it by the book. But if they pointed a gun at me, I’d demonstrate the hours I spent on the range making holes in paper targets.

Back to reality.

I spoke to a police officer the other day. I told him the short version of the conflict I had with my neighbor. I’m sure it went down in the report as a “neighbor argument.”

Accurate, I’m afraid, but not quite what I would classify it as. Just as the police categorize incidents, I do as well. But try to explain how the type of communication someone uses, and the statements they yell out, differ from what most people might say in an argument. It’s not easy and I gave up trying to.

I’m talking about statements that make you say, “where did that come from?” Or, “that doesn’t make sense.” Or, “Am I talking to a rational person?” 

The verbal equivalent of a furry bat winging its way past your head in broad daylight. Was that really a bat?

How do you describe a non sequitur that might denote someone not playing by the rules most “normal” people play by? Then again, I wear a bag on my head.

“No, officer, he did not yell a profanity at my wife.” The point is he yelled at my wife for no reason. And after allegedly having a gun out in broad daylight a week earlier. So, I went to find out why he felt it necessary to call out to her.

Despite the officer being nice, I can’t say there’s much for the police to do now. It’s my psychological drama to live out. I’m committed to not provoking or speaking to the neighbor. Still, the memory of it hangs over me like smoke in a German restaurant in the middle of winter where no one will crack a window to clear the air, and four Germans at a table in the corner keep looking this way and laughing.

It’s uncomfortable and I can’t wait to leave the restaurant.

How my Post a Day during October got derailed – and other stuff

I haven’t posted in a few days because a neighbor yelled at my wife for no reason at all. No reason at all. And I walked across the street to find out what it was all about.

That’s it, the reason I missed posts. Simple, but not.

It was the neighbor who who allegedly showed a gun to my other neighbor’s gardener over a week ago. And after the “conversation” I had with him this week, I’ve spent the last two days researching fences and security cameras, catching up on missed work and writing a blog post detailing what happened with this neighbor that I’m not sure I should publish. The situation may have a “legal” future to it.

I may be overstating it, but I’m cautious and it’s unpredictable what will happen next. I don’t want to be water-boarded by a lawyer about a blog post I wrote.

Creative Commons: Photo by Nadia Prigoda

Oh, and we may move out of the neighborhood.

I’m tired of brown lawns, tilting picket fences with peeling paint and cars parked on lawns. If we go a mile south, the neighborhood has driveways filled with cars with paint on them, and gardeners who know the difference between a weed and plant.

I’ll stop here tonight and think about the unpublished post and whether it should go live on the Internet.

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In other news, I went to my three-month clinic appointment this week. It was okay. My PFTs are holding since the last hospitalization. That’s the good news. However, they are still down from the major bout of flu earlier in the year. I’m not sure they’ll ever rebound now that six months have passed. That is life with CF. We’ll see. I’m putting on a happy face I’ll wear during Halloween.

Regarding the clot in my neck, we may pull the port during my next hospitalization. ARGH

I finally get a port after all of these years of PICCs because I’m going to prison every three months and then I stay out for over six and don’t use it. And a clot develops next to the place it burrows into my neck. Worst of all, I can’t do a Rambo and cut it out of my own chest because the clot would come lose and hurt or kill me.

Add “self-removal of a port” to the list of things to avoid in life.

Once the clot is gone, or covered by cells, and not a threat to take a road-trip south to my heart, we can pull the port and I can go back to midlines. We’ll see. The future is murky and unpredictable, as always.

Murky and unpredictable and full of M&Ms and sushi and my daughter’s book reports and black and white labradors and helping my wife manage the stress of living with me and tiny moments that feel large.

And standing fast when someone crosses the line in the sand.