A Quick Podcast Note

I have done my first recording of my own voice. It is way out of my comfort zone. I did not write a script.I just hit record and started rambling. Here is the link. Let me know what you think I should do with it moving forward.

Random episodes that don’t really connect to the blog?

Recordings connected to a blog post?

Admit that this one is terrible and I should burn it all down?

Moving forward, if I record I will add it to the bottom of the next morning’s post.

Tater’s February 2021 in Books

It is March 1. That means it is time for my monthly review of what I read last month. Again, in order of read, not enjoyment

1. Broken by Jenny Lawson – I got this one from a Goodreads contest. I didn’t even know I won. The book just arrived on my porch one day. That was a pleasant surprise. As with her other books, she discusses her battle with depression and anxiety. She explores her experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation. She talks about her frustration with her insurance company. Very tough subjects, but done in a way that makes you laugh while also feeling her pain. Lawson is one of the favorite authors and I enjoyed new words from her. I would recommend all of her books. You can read her blog here.

2. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi – This is a very short book about two siblings with extraordinary power. It starts when Ella is a child and Kev is born and takes us through their adulthood when Kev is incarcerated and then out on parole. Ella visits him both in person and supernaturally and shows him a possible future of a revolution that burns down the new fascist society. The book definitely kept me reading. It was a little hard to follow as it had time jumps and I had a hard time figuring out how much time had passed and how old they were through a good portion of the book. I would recommend it, though.

3/ Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson – A book in verse about the son of an NFL player dealing with how CTE has changed his dad. His dad is a star tight end who has suffered multiple concussions. His headaches get so bad he has to stop playing while the doctors try to figure out what is causing the headaches, mood changes, and memory loss. It takes place before CTE was a known result of the constant head injuries football players deal with. Woodson is a very good author and this is another very good one from her. I recommend you read anything she has written.

4. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour – Darren lives in Bed-Stuy. He was valedictorian at his high school but opted not to go to college. He is working at a Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building and has no desire for anything different. This all changes when a encounter with Rhett Daniels, the CEO of New York’s hottest tech startup results in Darren being offered a spot on his elite sales team. He is given the nickname Buck by the racist head of sales. As he gets more immersed with Rhett and makes more money he changes and is estranged from his mom and his friends in Bed-Stuy. A tragedy at home and a scandal at work sets ups a chain of events that changes everything. I loved this book. It is compelling. It is funny. It is well written. It has great characters This could easily end up being the book I most recommend this year.

5. Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman – This is the latest in the Alex Delaware series. In this one, Milo is asked to take on a very cold case when a wealthy woman pulls strings to get it reopened. It is the case of a woman found with a bullet in her head in a car crashed off the hills on Mulholland Drive. It seems like an unsolvable case, but as they investigate they find too many coincidences and discover someone is trying to stop the investigation. I love the Delaware novels and this one is as good as the rest. Milo and Alex are a good investigative duo. Old favorites pop up in supporting roles. The mystery is a good one. I would recommend it, but I’m also a “read in order” guy, so go start from the beginning of the series.

6. Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth – This was one of the award winners from the ALA Youth Media Awards. It is a memoir in verse. Gansworth tells the story of his life growing up on the Tuscarora reservation in New York. He also tells a little about his grandparents being sent to boarding school as kids to learn to be more like white people. I really wanted to like this more Kind of like I really wanted to like the one fiction book of his I read more than I did. He has a moving story, but unlike other books in verse, this one just didn’t draw me in at all. I was bored a lot. I probably should have given up on it and moved on to something that I found more appealing. I’m not sure what the people who gave it a Printz Honor Award saw in it.

7. This is my Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio – Jocelyn Wu is a junior in high school. Her parents own a Chinese restaurant in Utica. When her dad says they might need to move back to NYC so he can work for family there she tries to help bring the restaurant to modern times to save it. Will Domenici is a junior at the local private school who wants to find a paying summer internship. Jocelyn hires him to help with marketing the restaurant. They, of course, fall in love. It is complicated by Jos’s parents’ prejudice, Will’s anxiety and Jos’s possible depression. I always like a good YA romance and this one was very good, if maybe a tad bit too long. It was nice to have diverse characters – Will’s mom is Nigerian, the Wu’s are Chinese, Jos’s best friend is Indian-American – and characters dealing realistically with mental illness. I would recommend.

8. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee – This is an account of a group of young second-generation Japanese American citizens in San Francisco whose lives are changed by the mass US incarcerations of World War II. The story is told through the eyes of different teens as were move from the rumors of “evacuation” after Pearl Harbor into the incarceration camps. We follow their lives in the camps. We follow two of them to the front lines of the war as they fight to prove their loyalty to the country. We follow some families to a more secure camp after they refuse to say yes to a loyalty contract. We eventually follow them back to San Francisco after the war. It took me a couple of days to get into the book. It was an abrupt change from the romance book from before. My daughter loved it, so I kept reading. Eventually, I got to the point where I couldn’t put the book down. I was completely invested in their lives and wanted to follow them to better times. I would highly recommend this one.

What’s Good in Tater Town 2/28/21

I can’t believe it’s the last day of February already. I’m looking forward to the nice spring weather. Here’s the good from last week.

  1. Dinner with both kids again Sunday night.
  2. My daughter stayed home for the week since her school was on a one week Covid sequester.
  3. Her being home meant less alone time in the afternoons.
  4. I got the nerve to submit writing to something other than my blog Monday. It wasn’t great writing and I have no expectations, but it was a big step for me.
  5. Driving my daughter to campus for her regular required Covid test got me out of the house Tuesday.
  6. Warm enough weather for me to read on the front porch a little.
  7. Out of the house again Thursday for my first weekly shift delivering food boxes for my church.
  8. More free birthday food. This time Red Robin burgers.
  9. This actually should have been in another week, but my son was accepted to grad school at University of Maryland.

That’s all I can remember from this week. Here comes March.

A Quick Note – Possible Podcast

The homepage of WordPress recently had a link to connect my blog to a podcast on Anchor. I’ve played around with the tool that converts a post to audio so I technically have two episodes published on a podcast. I’m trying to get the nerve to actually record something soon even if it is just an introduction to me and my blog. Here’s the link.

The World’s Common Tater

The Day the Russian Disappeared

One of the pre-pandemic perks of my wife’s job was being the US representative at an international conference. Each year she gets to go to a different host country for a meeting on public debt. I have been fortunate to be able to travel with her on all but the first trip. I ranked the host locations here. During most of the trips, I have been invited to the welcoming cocktail party and the official dinner. All family members are invited to the social program at the end of the week. After several years of attending the conference we have developed a friendship(as much of one you can have with people you see once a year) with several of the attendees. The people we talk to the most are the representatives from Georgia and Russia. My last conversation at the conference in 201 was a discussion of Grey’s Anatomy with one of the Russian officials. Our current Russian friends are not the original representatives from the country. My first Russian friend vanished one day.

The first trip we took with her was to Helsinki. It was the only time both of our kids were able to travel with us. Finland was a great host. The city was nice and walkable. We had a great time. I felt very out of place when I attended the official dinner. It was my first time with the group and I was one of the only outsiders at the dinner. Luckily, I was seated next to a man from Russia who was close to me age and was very interested in the American presidential election that was happening at the time. He asked for my thoughts on the election . We talked about the debates. He was surprised when I said that the majority of voters decide who they will vote for before the debates and only a handful of undecideds are swayed by them, Maybe I shouldn’t admit that I discussed US elections with a Russian government official.

At the end of the conference there is always a social program. In Finland it was a bus trip out to several small towns outside of Helsinki. Each stop featured some sort of food and the last stop was at a mansion for more food and wine. It was a very good day. My Russian friend was seated on the bus in front of me. I remember noticing his phone was very cracked when he was texting on the bus. After one of the stops, he did not board the bus. He was absent for the rest of the trip. I never saw him get in another car or anything. He was just gone. My logical wife says he probably had an early flight and had to take a car back to the city to get to the airport. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers. I decided he used the trip as a chance to defect and he disappeared to start a new life in Finland.

This trip was in September. The next conference was in May in Santiago, Chile. Most of the participants were the same. It was only 8 months since the last conference, Not a lot of time for turnover in who was representing the countries. The one big change I noticed? A new person representing Russia. My disappearing friend was not in attendance. I choose to believe that this is proof that his disappearance was not due to an early flight. He was no longer representing Russia because he was living his new life somewhere in Finland. So far, he is the only person who has mysteriously disappeared on one of the trips.

My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 2/26/21

My reading has slowed down this week. My writing has also slowed down this week. I wonder if they are connected. I did watch two movies and two new TV shows. Here’s my week:

Movies – We watched two movies this week. The first was Honest Thief. Liam Neeson plays a bank robber who got away with over $9 million. When he meets and falls in love with Annie(Kate Walsh) he decides to turn himself in to begin a new life. He is double crossed by two corrupt FBI agents and has to fight for his new life. It is a standard Neeson action movie. I think I dozed a little, but didn’t feel like I missed anything important. My wife who loves standard action movies liked it a lot. We also watched Tenet. It is a timey wimey action movie starring John David Washington. I’ve been a fan of Washington since his days on the HBO show Ballers. I’m glad he is getting big roles. As my wife put it – It’s very good if you stop trying to think about all of it and just enjoy the movie. It is a very good movie but can break your brain. It is also 2.5 hours long. It was a challenge for someone like me who tends to doze during movies. This is not one where you can doze or be distracted and not miss something.

TV – I watched two shows this week and wrote reviews of both. Clarice and Superman and Lois. Click the links for my thoughts on those. My daughter has been home this week so we caught up on the shows she watches. We are now current on All Rise and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. We watched the first couple of episodes of season 2 of Snowpiercer. It is still very good. I watched the second episodes of Kenan and Young Rock. They are both still pleasant enough to keep going. Young Rock is better when it focuses on one time period. Once I am too tired to stay awake for a full show my wife and daughter watch the Great British Baking Show. I stay awake long enough to have favorites. So far all of my favorites have made the final three but have not won. I’m getting close to finishing my rewatch of Greek.

Books – I only finished one book this week

This is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregario – Jocelyn Wu is a junior in high school. Her parents own a Chinese restaurant in Utica. When her dad says they might need to move back to NYC so he can work for family there she tries to help bring the restaurant to modern times to save it. Will Domenici is a junior at the local private school who wants to find a paying summer internship. Jocelyn hires him to help with marketing the restaurant. They, of course, fall in love. It is complicated by Jos’s parents’ prejudice, Will’s anxiety and Jos’s possible depression. I always like a good YA romance and this one was very good, if maybe a tad bit too long. It was nice to have diverse characters – Will’s mom is Nigerian, the Wu’s are Chinese, Jos’s best friend is Indian-American – and characters dealing realistically with mental illness. I would recommend.

On Deck – I’m reading We Are Not Free by Traci Chee. I have no movies on DVD. I would like to watch Judas and the Black Messiah, but I think I ha better odds of getting my wife and daughter to watch the Tom and Jerry movie that hit HBO Max today. I need to watch the new episode of WandaVision today. New seasons of Walking Dead and New Amsterdam start this week.

Locked Out of the Clubhouse

I’ve always been someone who likes to try out the new online spaces. I have accounts on so many random social media sites that have popped up over the years. Sometimes, they become something I use regularly. FriendFeed was my favorite online space before Facebook bought it and shut it down. Like everyone else, I still use Facebook and Twitter regularly. I’m on Instagram. I have a Snapchat that I have only used to communicate with my daughter when we are overseas and have no phone service. I have a TikTok account and I browse there on occasion.

Some I tried to like and couldn’t. I signed up for Google Plus and tried to like it more than I did. I would post there and interact with others, but I never got in a habit of using it regularly. Someone built an alternative to FriendFeed and a lot of my friends from there used it, but I kept forgetting it existed.

Some I never intended to use, but signed up to see what was there. Parler was one of those. All of my conservative friends frome home started posting on Facebook that they were on Parler. It was in the news constantly. So, I signed up for an account, looked around a bit and then never used it again.

All of that babble above leads me to last night. It used to be you would get invites to a new service before it was widely available and you would readily give them to people. I always posted on Facebook and FriendFeed when I had invite to a service and gave them to the first people who asked. There is a new service called Clubhouse out there. People post on Twitter about events on Clubhouse. I like to try new things, so I reserved a username and am waiting for them to let me in. Last night, a TV person I like posted about a talk she is doing the weekend. I responded that it sounded interesting, but I was not on Clubhouse yet. Someone replied that they had invites and I should DM them. So I did. I woke up tis morning to find a message from them telling me they expect payment for the invites to Clubhouse. I don’t care enough to pay someone to get in early. I assume this has always happened and I’ve just been lucky enough before to have friends who gave me invites for free.

Do people really send randos on Twitter money and trust that they will actually get an invite? Do people want in on things like Clubhouse bad enough to pay for it? I don’t even care enough about the social media I use regularly to pay for it. Do people post on Twitter that they are doing a thing on Clubhouse to get more people listening or to brag that they are in the exclusive club?

I also noticed last night that Twitter has started a new “spaces” feature that is also an audio discussion thing. It is also only available to certain users and it seems to be the same people who are also on Clubhouse. The difference? If someone I follow has it and starts one I can listen in if I want.

Long story short – I like free samples but I’m not going to pay for a sample.

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Thoughts While I’m Stuck in Writer’s Block

I’ve been having difficulty with my attempted memoir and finding it difficult to move forward with it. I’ve been thinking about other things I could do with writing/blogging or other things.

I’ve looked online at places that accept writing like personal essays. I’m not sure I will ever feel confident enough to submit.

I did submit my one dumb little poem I wrote to a place today. I know it won’t be something they want, but I thought actually submitting something would help me get the nerve to do it again.

WordPress tells me I can start a podcast with my account. Even though I hate the sound of my voice, I actually thought “I could start a podcast” I will not actually start a podcast.

I have considered the possibility of doing Zoom talks with people “Tater Talks” and recording them for a YouTube channel. I could probably get a couple of musicians and authors to do it. I even have a thought to start with an interview with my sibling about me just to test the waters. I will never have the courage to do this.

I start a new volunteer thing tomorrow which will give me an hour or so a week out of the house driving around and listening to music.

I’m doing yoga in the mornings now.

A lot of thinking. A lot of planning things I will never do. Not a lot of writing.

I Watch TV So You Don’t Have To: Superman and Lois

I will start this by letting you know that I am a big fan of the Arrowverse on CW so I am predestined to like this show more than the average person.

The Premise: Clark and Lois are working at the Daily Planet and raising teen sons at the start of the show when a combination of a death in Smallville and layoffs at the Planet take them back to Clark’s hometown. The kids don’t know Clark is Superman. After they a miraculously OK after an accident, the boys investigate and the truth comes out, including that they think the one son might be a star athlete because of latent super powers. The family decides to move to Smallville and a mysterious new villain arrives.

We enjoyed the premiere. I like seeing a different Superman story where we get to see Clark dealing with being a father and a superhero at the same time. I always liked the actors who play Clark and Lois when they were on Supergirl. I like that Lois’s military dad knows Clark is Superman and has a button to push to call him for help. I like the storyline of the sons dealing with finding out their dad is Superman and that they might develop powers. I enjoy that we seem to be getting a combo of a human villain in the rich guy who bought the Daily Planet and a bank in Smallville along with a mysterious villain who seems to be as strong as Superman. That gives Clark and Lois a fight. Lana Lang and her family are a good intro into Smallville life. I enjoy getting a new Superman story. I’m hoping this means we will get less “villain of the week” and more of a deeper story about the two main villains alongside a small town drama of two city kids adjusting to life in Smallville while also adapting to the new knowledge of family powers.

The verdict: Even if you have never watched any other CW DC show I think you will like this one. It’s like a superhero version of a show like Everwood.

Losing Friends on Facebook

About a month ago, a friend on Facebook posted that she was going to unfriend people she considered hypocrites for speaking out against the Capitol riots and not on the Black Lives Matters protests. Or something like that. I can no longer see the post because very soon after that post she was no longer my friend on Facebook. In this case, it’s easy to know why she unfriended me. It was easy to see that she unfriended me because I went to look for something she had posted around the same time and saw we were no longer friends. I discovered soon after that when I posted something in a Facebook group for my high school class that I was no longer friends with a couple more people from high school/ I have no idea when or why they unfriended me. I have downloaded an app now that tells me who unfriended me because I think it will be interesting to track when it happens to see if I can guess why. Since downloading the app, I’ve lost one more friend. This time it as someone I only vaguely knew via library stuff. I’m assuming in this case it was just them cleaning up their friend list and random “no longer librarian” didn’t make the cut.

Being unfriended is nothing new to me. I’ve lost several friends over the years and I can guess in a lot of cases why. Here are some I know of:

One friend from college who got mad when I didn’t reply to a comment he made on a post. He then posted a comment telling me if I was going to ignore him he would unfriend me. After that, it was pretty much 100% I was never going to reply/ We are no longer Facebook friends.

Another college acquaintance I met at a religious organization. We were playing some Facebook game from long ago where it asked random questions to friends. The one that came up for me to send to him was “have you ever had an STD?” He said I needed better questions and then was no longer my Facebook friend.

Another person from the same place that has friended and unfriended me a couple of times. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect I’m not “Christian” enough in my posts for her.

A high school friend who unfriended me during the 2016 election when it was clear I was very anti-Trump.

Other have unfriended me over the years without a clear cut reason. I assume it’s because they cant handle so much awesome.

I don’t generally unfriend people. I did do a purge at one point where I started unfriending people from work who were not actual friends. The theory was that I was going to go completely private, but then halfway through I gave up and stayed public. I unfriended two people from high school who were way into conspiracy stuff and posted after mass shootings that they were false flag operations and the victims ere crisis actors. I didn’t want to ne connected to people who would post that. I generally just unfollow people rather than unfriend them. Sometimes I mute them for 30 days first and then unfollow if they are still posting what annoys me. I unfollow some people for posting so much that my entire feed is them. I rarely unfriend.

Have you lost friends on Facebook due to politics or other disagreements?

Do you unfriend people you disagree with?