Archive for Random Thoughts

Dear Social Networks, Please Stop

Dear Social Networks,

Please stop thinking you know better than me what I want to see. All I want from every social network is to see the all the posts from all the accounts I follow in reverse chronological order. This was, when I visit, I scroll from now back to then – where ‘then’ is the last time I visited – and I see everything.

Your curation algorithms are terrible. Just because a bunch of my friends are continually commenting on the same conversation doesn’t mean I want to keep seeing it, day after day, especially when I neither liked nor commented on it the first time it appeared in my feed, nor the second, nor third, nor fourth, nor… you get the idea.

Why is a post from three days ago at the top of my feed? And why doesn’t a post from an hour ago by my own wife not show up at all?

Facebook is the worst. They keep trying to shove “Top Stories” down my throat, and I keep having to manually switch to “Most Recent”. And then they broke most recent by deciding that if a friend of mine likes a post from another friend of mine, the event of the liking is more recent than an actual post by a friend, even when the post that got liked is days or weeks old. But at least switching to “Most Recent” on the website is pretty easy. Doing it on mobile is just difficult enough that I’m fairly certain I’m the only one who does it. Meanwhile, all my friends are using “Top Stories” and the text post I just made is shown to none of them. However if I post a silly photo or share a dumb meme, everyone sees it and I get dozens of likes and comments.

My block list on Facebook is epic.

No, really. If you are a friend of mine and share a post from a radio station, and I see it, I’ve just blocked that radio station. I have hundreds of radio stations blocked. Why? Because they are radio stations and not a damn one of them posts anything about music or concerts or anything remotely close to what they actually do. They post silly photos and dumb memes. Blocked!

I also block most of the games. I play games in lots of places, and Facebook isn’t one of them. I tried it for a bit, but they all sucked, full of clickbait and hunting for whales, and requiring you to spam your friends or friend people you don’t know just to get ahead. Blocked!

And we won’t even get into all the pages that are either satire or just shitty. I don’t have the time or the energy to decide if I should be angry about that White Supremacist Soccer Mom page or if it is supposed to be funny. There really isn’t a difference in my book between being a racist and pretending to be racist for laughs. Blocked!

And even with blocking all of this garbage, I still can’t see all of the posts by my friends. I still run into “Well, I posted in on Facebook, didn’t you see it?” No, Facebook, I didn’t see it. You suck.

I considered jumping ship for Instagram, and I sort of have. I mean, I post things to Instagram and then they get shared to other networks via IFTTT. But Facebook bought Instagram, and recently they Facebooked Instagram’s feeds. I open the app and I see a photo posted 5 minutes ago. Great! And the one after that is 48 minutes ago. Then one from 2 hours ago. Then one from 2 days ago. Hmm. Followed by one from 6 hours ago. And one from 10 minutes ago. What? One from 1 day ago. Then one from 4 hours ago. So I pull up my following list, pick someone at random and see 3 photos posted in the last day, none of which were in my feed.

Ugh.

But there is twitter, right?

Place is a goddamn cesspool. And it’s also a fire hose. People post dozens of tweets a day, and if you follow too many people there simply is no keeping up. And you can tell lots of people feel this way. They seem to pop in, say something, then maybe spend a few minutes reading, retweeting, and replying. If I get on there once a day, it would literally take me two or three solid hours to read everything from the last 24 hours.

But I said it was a cesspool too. What I meant was that there is such a tiny barrier to entry, and anyone can publicly tag anyone, so there is an inordinate amount of people posting hate, and not just hate, but directed hate, directed right at other people, and all those mentions are notifications. And there are no consequences, so it just begs for more of the worst element.

Does good stuff happen on twitter? Sure! But if you can’t afford to have someone filter it for you, it almost isn’t worth it. Unless you aren’t a target. If you aren’t, keep your head down. You don’t want to become one.

Google+ … an also ran at best. Sometimes I forget it’s even there.

Tumblr? I really want to like tumblr. Except, man, I just don’t get the repost-to-comment design. If two of the people I follow are having a back and forth conversation, I don’t get one post with a conversation, I get a frame-by-frame replay of the conversation, in reverse. It’s so cumbersome.

Ello… that would almost be the right social network. It’s like tumblr but without the weird reposting stuff. It’s just a shame there aren’t more people there. Maybe I should just start posting there anyway…

Or maybe… maybe social networks just aren’t for me. Maybe I got on the internet too soon. Message boards, smaller contained communities, like the BBSs back in the day, that seems more my style. And this blog, as often as I ignore it, maybe this is where I should be, shouting into the void. In chronological order. With no filtering or algorithm. And the void rarely shouts back.

Seventeen years ago, I met a girl in a pool hall.

Last night I celebrated, with fifty or so friends, the tenth anniversary of my marriage. I had intended to stop the party at some point in the middle, perhaps nearer the start, to give a toast or speech. However, things got away from me, as they do, and there was too much fun going on to stop it. So instead, I write here a version of what I intended to say.

Seventeen years ago, I met a girl in a pool hall. We fast became friends. Fifteen years ago today, I was sitting on a bench in New Orleans overlooking the Mississippi River, waiting for that girl to return from the restroom. As I looked out across the river I was thinking about where my life was going. I had recently quit a job and moved into another that I wasn’t so sure about. But sitting there watching boats move along the water, I knew one thing for sure, and that was no matter what my future held I wanted that girl to be there with me. When she returned, I asked her to marry me. Ten years ago today, I was standing on a footbridge at River Street, next to city hall, in Savannah. We had been engaged for five years, and had finally decided that we were no good at planning a wedding, so we didn’t. We had quickly thrown together an elopement in a matter of days, witnesses, officiant, photographer, location, time, suit, dress – in that order. If you want to hear the full story of the pantsless wedding, buy me a drink sometime and I’ll be happy to tell it. But there I was, exchanging vows with the love of my life. Before then and since then, there have been good days and bad days and everything in-between days. But everyday, now and forever, as long as I have her by my side, I know that I have everything I need. I love you. Thank you for saying yes. And to all of my friends who were able to join us, and to all of the friends who were not, thank you for being a part of our lives.

Apologies to Paul Anthony Dobleman, whose art we stole for our invitations, and is displayed as part of this post. We didn’t ask permission, and so we beg forgiveness. Your artwork is superb.

The Trouble with Anonymity

I had just spent all of my savings on a modem, and I had come straight home, installed it and dialed up one of the numbers on the back of the MicroCenter sale paper. I heard the soon to become familiar modem tones and I was connected. The screen filled with ASCII characters and it asked me to login in, or to register. I chose to register and had to answer a series of questions, the first of which was my name.

I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the concept of being online. I had seen some movies and TV shows that had depicted connecting to these bulletin board services. And I had a couple friends who had gone into this world before me. This was an important moment. I was entering a world where I could be anyone I wanted to be. I simply had to decide.

I picked a name that day that I would use for nearly two decades. It wasn’t my name, nor was it the only one I would use, but it was the one I would use the longest. I finally abandoned it when I shrugged off the last vestiges of the life I created for it. The identity had been mostly dead for some time by then, and very unceremoniously I closed the last account I had for it.

In the early days, I fought very hard for that name. I kept it separate from myself in as many ways as I could, but it was still me, and much like if I found someone publishing things under my real name, I worked to defend it. It was MY identity.

And I wasn’t alone. Those days of the BBS and the early Internet were filled with people pretending to be someone else, but usually the same someone else most of the time. Sure, someone might create another persona for a specific thing – a MUD, or a fetish group, or piracy – but most people I knew maintained one main online identity.

Coming from that world, it confounds me when I run into things like *chan culture. The idea of a board with no identities, where everyone is anonymous, where every post is attached to no one, isn’t something I’ve ever wanted. I understand the idea, that ideas posted without the baggage of the person who posts it can allow the “best” ideas to bubble to the top. But I’ve rarely seen it work that way. Usually, unfettered by consequences, people are willing to say and support the shittiest ideas, the ones that hurt the most people. Some people might even be posting those ideas “for lulz” (for laughs), but quickly it becomes hard to tell if someone is joking or being serious, because you have no context.

Context matters.

Not too long ago, I was asked if a particular joke was “racist”. I won’t repeat the joke, because it is racist. However, the person who asked maintained that the joke itself couldn’t be racist, only if a racist person said it could it be taken that way. Simply telling the joke didn’t make the person racist. I agreed with the last part, but disagreed with the earlier bit. See, it was a Holocaust joke, and the joke itself, just the words, provided without context – without knowing who was telling it, and to what audience, and in what tone, and surrounded by what other words – the joke was simply about Nazis killing Jews, which was done for racist reasons, and thus the joke is racist. However, if I were standing outside a synagogue with a group of Jewish people, and one of them told that joke in the context of terrible jokes racists tell, I might laugh, because it’s a dumb racist joke being told to show how dumb and racist it is.

So on an Internet forum, one that doesn’t have full anonymity, I can see ForumDenizen287 post something that might be offensive. However, having read hundreds or thousands of other posts by ForumDenizen287 over the years, I know that they are not being serious. But over on a *chan site with full anonymity, the same post is without context. I cannot see the history of the poster, because everyone is anonymous. So a terrible offensive post defaults to being a serious terrible offensive post.

A member of those *chan sites might maintain “but we are ALWAYS joking!” And it might be true, for that person or even for many people. But if a forum is filled with hateful, racist posts, it will inevitably attract actual hateful, racist posters who aren’t joking. And you can’t tell them from anyone else, because all the posts are anonymous. You can’t see someone’s history and place posts in context.

To make things worse, the people who maintain that it isn’t serious become a shield for the ones who are serious. And ultimately, if you have a group of people, whose identities you cannot separate, some of whom are racists and some of whom are only pretending to be racists for comedic effect, it is safer for an outsider to treat them all as racists. Sure, you could just as easily treat them all as being people pretending to be racists for comedic effect, but then when one of the real racists is spurred to action, emboldened by all the support of his racist friends online, some of whom were only pretending to be racist but were encouraging him just the same, who is responsible? I can tell you from seeing it happen again and again that the people who think it’s just joking around will say that they can’t be responsible for “third party” individuals who do things on their own, and by the way you can’t prove they encouraged the guy anyway…

Ultimately, it makes me sad to see so many people fighting to shirk responsibility. Anonymity has it’s uses for sure. For whistle blowers, or other situations where truth needs to be told and the teller needs to be protected. And I’m sure there are other reasons. But I just can’t get behind anonymity protecting assholes being assholes for asshole reasons.

Jeg kalder

One question that comes up from time to time among friends or strangers is “If you could choose any super power, what would you choose?” It’s one of those questions that if people take it seriously can actually tell you a lot about the person, especially if you get into discussing why they chose the power they chose.

A lot of people choose flying. And I admit, being able to fly would be pretty awesome, as long as it was Superman flying and not Andrew Clements flying. If you don’t know who that is, look up “My Secret Identity”, a TV show from the late 80s. Another popular one is to be invisible. For me, science gets in the way of that one, because if your eyes are invisible then you are blind. Then you get invulnerability, super speed, strength, and a slew of others. And you’ll probably get some joker who says “The power to have any one super power at a time.” or “All the powers!” Ignore that person.

Having given this much thought over the years, I always comes down to two options for myself. The first is immortality. The idea of living forever always appeals, because I look at how much things have changed just in the last couple hundred years and it really makes me not want to miss out on what comes after the next hundred. There is a drawback, of course, with the unnaturally long life of losing everyone you ever care about. Immortal people, by necessity I think, either will be detached or depressed. The second option, and the one I usually end up picking, is the ability to be able to understand and speak/write all forms of communication.

I’ve always been fascinated by language. In middle school I took a half year of French and a half year of German. I took two years of Spanish in high school. And in college I took two years of Japanese. I can’t actually speak any of these languages with any fluency, but I can pick out words and I’ve got some phrases down, but conversational speaking has atrophied with disuse. I want to learn more, and use what I do know more, but it requires effort that I seem unable or unwilling to put forth.

Oh, and one other language (and the reason for this post), I can (sorta) play strip poker in Danish.

It’s a very specific bit of knowledge, but when I was 13, I got a modem, and I went online for the first time. And it was there that I encountered software piracy in the form of a strip poker game. I downloaded it, and I installed it on a floppy disk that I purposefully mislabeled, and late at night when no one was around, I would load up Artworx Strip Poker and play, so that I could play poker and see naked girls in all 16 glorious colors. It would be a year or two before we got a VGA card to allow the girls to be in 256 colors. Despite the game being made by a US based company, the pirated copy I obtained was from elsewhere. And this elsewhere happened to be Denmark.

Jeg kalder. Jeg trak et kort. Jeg rejser.

It is so burned into my brain that when I play or see poker, those words come into my mind. I’ve even had to resist the urge to actually say “Jeg kalder” when playing. And honestly, I don’t even know if the translations are correct, but it is what was in the game.

Perhaps I should actually try to learn Danish.

The Magic Spreadsheet and Other Plans

I noticed the other day that in 2015 I had only written one blog entry. Normally I would have an excuse that I had been writing elsewhere, but I haven’t. Most of my writing projects have puttered out.

First and foremost, I stopped doing reviews for Shakefire. The main reason I stopped was because of the garbage I was being given to review. I don’t blame the guy running the site, he has things that need to be reviewed, and since I have a regular day job I can’t go see movie screenings in the middle of the day, so instead I get mailed a pile of DVDs and CDs. While the music was of varying quality, and I even discovered a new band or two, the movies were almost all terrible. The lowest budget of horror films. It is depressing to always review garbage. So I quit.

Next, for “reasons”, the Man vs Wife series of game reviews I was doing petered out.

I also tried writing some fitness blog type stuff. But I’m not very fit (yet) and what I wrote was trash.

There are various projects I have by noodling with, but I’ve been down on fiction writing ever since I pushed myself to “win” NaNoWriMo a couple years ago. Winning involved me just puking out the most insipid drivel I’ve ever written and soured me on the novel and on writing.

All that leads me to my new effort to get back into writing. This new writing will include blogs and other things, but all of it will result in a daily word total that I will put up on The Magic Spreadsheet.

What is The Magic Spreadsheet? Well, it’s this. That’s a link to a Facebook group where you can find the link to the latest spreadsheet. Basically, it is a tool to try to encourage writing every day. To join, you just open the spreadsheet (it is a Google Doc) and find a free line on the appropriate page (the first sheet includes instructions on how to find the right page) and put your name on it. Then you write, and you come back and put your totals in. You earn points, both for how much you writer and for how long your unbroken chain of daily writing is. When you have enough points you can level up, which allows you to get more points for writing more. At the lowest level you need only to write 250 words a day. That’s just a couple paragraphs. I mean, this blog post is over 700 words. As of this writing, I am on my 3rd day. Hopefully I can stick with this.

In addition to the Magic Spreadsheet, I’m also trying to put together a schedule for some other projects I have, things I need to do on a regular or semi-regular basis, most of which involve writing, but some of which involve drawing, and some involve speaking, and some involve music, and some involve exercise.

Oh, exercise. I’m back on the 5BX bandwagon. If you are reading this and it intrigues you and you are a woman, there is XBX for you. I have finished the first chart and moved to the second. The full push-ups of the second chart are proving to be more difficult, so my progress has slowed.

With exercise goes “diet”, and by that I don’t mean “doing some fad binge thing to try to lose weight fast and then gain it all back when I quit”. What I mean is making small changes to my diet to include better foods. More vegetables, less junk. More water, less soda.

And both the exercise and diet are being spurred on by the fact that I’m going on a cruise the first week of July, and I would like to be in much better shape by then.

All of this comes on the heels of recently reading Surprisingly…Unstuck. I’ve read a few self help / motivation books before, but this one has to be one of the cleanest presentations of simple information that is bound to work for everyone. Most of it is exceedingly simple, but also the sort of things you might not think about on your own until someone points them out. In fact, it’s so simple that the book gets a bit repetitive at the end. Still very worth reading.

So, that’s it for now. I’m going to try to be back here more often, if for no other reason that to keep a log of things I’m doing for myself and to point the five people who might be reading my blog to other projects of mine as I work on them.

Quiet, men are gawking.

The Latest Metal Gear Solid game is out and it features a bad ass female sniper named Quiet … who the developers decided would work best if she spent the entire game in a bikini. The fu..?

Oh, it gets better. See, her being nearly topless while being a stealthy assassin would be fully justified by the story, they said. Yeah, well, turns out that the “story” is that she has superpowers and absorbs oxygen, sunlight and water through her skin, and it allows her to do stuff like, I think, disappear into smoke or something. Fact is, I don’t really know, because my desire to play the game vanished when they released the action figure of her with squeezable titties.

That’s right. The figure is made of a soft plastic that allows you to mush her boobs together to enhance her already ample cleavage.

But I didn’t write this post for that. No, no. I wrote this because there are apparently a couple of really terrible cut scenes in the game that actually make her depiction worse. And to fully illustrate how dumb and sexist it is to use Quiet in this way, an Internet genius did a model swap and put the character of Ocelot into Quiet’s place. So here, enjoy these scenes with Ocelot and keep in mind that in the actual game the part is played by a bikini clad woman.

Anxiety and Phone Calls

I don’t like talking on the phone. There are two reasons for this, I’ll get one out of the way quickly because it is less important than the other.

A key component for me when conversing with people is being able to see them. When you consider that I am posting this to a blog and I’m fairly active online (and have been since the late 80s in some form or another) it seems counter-intuitive. But, in my brain, this is writing, which is different from talking. I can write, and people write back, and if I get a particularly heated or spiky response from someone, I’m not on the spot to immediately reply. I can take my time and consider the position and give a thoughtful rebuttal if it is warranted. When I talk to people, how they react, in their face and body, to the things being said supply great information for keeping from kicking over too many hornet’s nests, and also to encourage conversation if the response is positive. But when on the phone, all that drops away, and I can’t see a person rolling their eyes or gritting their teeth or fidgeting with their fingers. They might be doing those things, but I can’t see them. I don’t like this.

But the larger reason why I don’t like to talk on the phone is almost a post traumatic stress response. For years, for more than two decades, I have worked in some form or another in a customer service related position. These days I do much more programming than support, but being at a smaller company I still have to occasionally answer the phone. Because my jobs have almost always leaned toward support instead of service the people I talk to usually are having a problem and not just asking a question. And more often than not they are angry about the problem. I can do my best to try to defuse their anger, but it doesn’t always work. So the bulk of my experience using phones is to have someone yell at me.

These days, when I need to make a phone call, I pick up the phone and before I start dialing I can feel my heart speed up. My foot will start to tap or my leg start to twitch. I might even feel my face flush with heat and break into a little sweat. I know, I know, that the majority of the people I speak to on the phone these days are not going to yell at me, but I’ve been conditioned. I cannot stop my physiological and psychological response.

It’s a terrible thing that I should probably talk to someone about so I can get past it, but healthcare in this country… I won’t go there, it makes me angrier than having to talk on the phone. Anyway, so that’s why, if you need me, you should email me, or text me, or catch me on Facebook, or just drop by the house and we’ll play some board games. All of these options are better than calling me on the phone.

Kids Today

This post probably isn’t going to go the way you think…

I’m at the gym. I’ve just spent 30 solid minutes swimming. I’m tired. As I’m at the locker getting ready to shower, two gentlemen in the same aisle are having a conversation.

Gentleman 1: I just don’t get it.
Gentleman 2: Me either.
G1: They just want to sit at home and stare at screens.
G2: Yep.
G1: When I was their age, sure I had an Atari, we even had a computer, and TV, but I still went out riding bikes and playing with other kids, and sports and camping and all that.
G2: The kids today have changed. It makes it hard on us parents.
G1: It was never this hard for my parents.

This was the point where I stepped in.

Me: You mind if I jump in?
G1: Your kids spend too much time inside too?
Me: Oh, it’s not that. Let’s me ask. You have kids, right?
G1: Yeah.
Me: And they have bikes?
G1: Yeah.
Me: And when they ride them, do you make them wear safety helmets?
G1: Of course!
Me: When you were their age, you had a bike?
G1: Indeed.
Me: And your parents, did they make you wear a helmet when you rode it?
G1: No, but things were different then.
Me: How?
G1: It was more safe.
Me: No, it wasn’t. Riding a bike today is exactly as dangerous as it was when you were a kid. The only thing that has changed is that science now understands injuries better, and studies have shown that kids on bikes can survive bruises and scrapes, but a head injury can be traumatic and lasting. Wearing a helmet significantly reduces the chance of sustaining a head or brain injury.
G1: So?
Me: That was true back in the 70s and 80s too, we just didn’t know it yet. You should have been wearing a helmet back then. Your parents were terrible parents.
G1: They didn’t know any better!
Me: Right! And if they had told you to wear a helmet, you probably would have thought it was dorky. And if they said you couldn’t ride the bike without the helmet then you probably would have ridden the bike less and played more Atari.
G1: What are you saying?
Me: Kids today have changed, but not entirely on their own. Kids today are sometimes reacting to how parents have changed.
G2: What’s wrong with parents changing?
Me: Nothing. Just stop blaming the kids for it.

Then I went and showered.

I admit, I don’t understand a lot of things that kids do these days. But I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t understand what I did all the time either. And so, when I see a kid do something that I don’t get, rather than lament “Kids today!! Ugh!!” I try to understand why they’re doing it instead.

 

Time Keeps On Slippin’

I felt like I needed to say something before I got to being absent from my blog for four months. I’m about 15 days shy of that, so anyway, here I am.

Things have been…

In 1996 I got my first real official job in the IT field. Before then I’d been kicking around retail while pursuing my degree, but in 1996 I signed up for a work-study program with the college and got placed into a gig fixing computers and doing network stuff for a healthcare company. For the next 5 years I would climb upward in the systems administration side of the IT world, and then through a confluence of events of which I am only partly responsible, I had to switch silos and started climbing the software developer side of the IT world.

18 years I’ve been working in IT. For a brief moment I had an office of my own, something that I didn’t think I would ever get. Then I had to give that up in order to get help. So I don’t have an office any more, but I’m a department head. Sure, I’ve only got one guy working beneath me, but it is more than zero. The last time I had people working for me I was managing the video department in a Kroger.

I’m knee deep in RESTful APIs and mobile app development. It is frustrating as all hell, but I’m learning on the run again, which is one of the things I do well.

And I’m sitting again. By that I mean that the great standing desk experiment has ended. Did it work? Maybe. As I’ve told people, after standing all day it felt good to come home and relax. I was less restless the past year. But, I’ve embarked on a new venture – going to the gym – which is going to necessitate that I don’t spend all day standing. A convertible desk would be ideal, but also expensive and in some ways annoying. You can’t win ’em all.

Anyway… I’d spent a little time today looking at WordPress themes, for the main site, but ended up setting up a new one here, which led to me renaming the blog and making other changes, and realizing that I hadn’t written in a while. So here, I’ve written.

Tomorrow…

A Sequence of Events

My father passed away on November 28th in 2013. In 2014 the 28th was Thanksgiving and I was worried that I would have trouble with the day. And while others in my family seemed to struggle, even if they hide it fairly well, I found myself no worse off than I had been on Thanksgiving the year prior, where we had a good time but missed the presence of my father who was in a nursing facility recovering from surgery as he had been for some time.

That night, a year prior, we got in our cars and went to visit him, taking him a plate of the Thanksgiving feast. He was very happy that we had come, as he’d been very upset that he would be unable to attend. I was glad we’d gotten everyone to come.

The next day I came to visit him, because I needed him to sign some checks. A few for bills and a couple for Christmas gifts for out of town family, his children from his previous marriage. I didn’t stay long. Then on Saturday I was sick, and being sick I couldn’t go see him, so I called him and told him I couldn’t come by and probably wouldn’t be by on Sunday either. I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me too. These weren’t things we said often, he and I, and I couldn’t tell you why I said it that day, but I did. I suppose that’s about the best last words to have with someone.

The flu or cold or whatever I had hit me hard, and I was down for the next few days, taking time off work to get well. Then on Wednesday morning my brother called and told me dad had been taken to the hospital. Or maybe he called to tell me about the first incident of dad passing out. I honestly don’t recall the phone calls of that morning. We went to the hospital, my wife and I, both sick and wearing masks to hopefully limit our possible contagion. He was in the ER when we arrived. He’d coded four times, once in the ambulance and three times in the ER, or at least that’s what I recall, and then we was taken to the ICU. He was alive, but dependent on machines. He’d had, they believed, a blood clot, and we waited on a doctor to come assess his brain function, to let us know the chance of recovery.

Later that morning, we had them turn off the machines and allowed my father, whom the doctors gave no chance of recovery, to pass.

So, as I said, Thanksgiving, on the anniversary of his passing, went much more smoothly than expected. By the weekend I was sick again, another flu, and Saturday morning I broke down as I recalled our last conversation. Then on Wednesday after Thanksgiving, I broke again. The date, it seems, doesn’t matter as much as the repeating of a sequence of events. I suspect in the coming years that the Saturday and Wednesday after Thanksgiving will continue to be rough for me, especially if I get the flu.

Over three years ago, someone who had been my best friend for a decade died on Christmas Day. Every year I expect the day to be difficult, and while I have a moment or two of sadness, I’ve never broken down. In 2010, when it happened, we heard about it while driving home from Christmas with the family, and it had snowed, and was still snowing. My wife wishes for a white Christmas every year, and if we every get one I wonder what it will do to me.