Hello, 2019. Let's be friends.

About this time two years ago, I more or less stopped writing.

There wasn’t really a thought to it. But I’ve been maintaining this blog in some form or another since the end of the ‘90s. The earliest post in the archives is 2003, but the internet’s WayBack Machine shows that in October of 1999, I had uploaded a picture of my mother on a 4-wheeler for the internet to see.

This Is the redneck version of ‘Hello, World!’

This Is the redneck version of ‘Hello, World!’

They say the internet forgets nothing, but thankfully, some of my earliest attempts at learning stylesheets are merely electronic memories, and we’re all better off for it, even if that was the age where hi speed internet was making the jump from 56k to ADSL, and AOL was slugging it out with MySpace.

I’m the product of a Georgia public school education, but if my math is right, that’ll make 2019 the 20th anniversary of the ‘Groove. I vaguely remember choosing that domain name. My buddy had registered a family domain name, and all the .com’s were getting snapped up pretty quick. I can’t recall the inspiration, but hell, it’s alliterative. And so it stuck. That was well before most versions of modern social media, and in the first year or so, it was simply a place for me to dump photos from my new digital camera. But eventually, the ‘blog format began to catch on, and it gave me a place to dump my photos, and the occasional words to go with them.

Eventually, the social medias took over. And I post regularly to many of them. Stuff for family and friends to Facebook. Twitter became my work input, and LinkedIn my work output. Those have all filled some of that urge. And after more than 15 years of writing occasional pieces here, I suppose I just needed to rest my writing. It felt natural to pause.

2017 turned into a terrible year. My father-in-law passed away early in the year. My bride was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through a double mastectomy and reconstruction. My mother moved from her home into a memory care facility as her Alzheimer’s progressed. Work was particularly full of challenges as some technology had to be lifted up, rebuilt, and reconstructed, while not dropping any of the day to day operational load. Oh, and elections.

2018 turned into a much better year, on most every front. Well. Not that election thing. I can’t fix that from here. That’s more or less on you people. Sure, my eyesight got a little worse. But I saw more family. Went camping more often. Hiked further. Read more. Met more people. Learned more things. All-in-all, it’s been a good year.

Now, most of 2 years later, if feels natural to pick up the pen again. Or typewriter. Keyboard. Whatever. You kids and your modern technologies,

My resolutions for this year:

  • Write more. Some of that will be here. I’ll probably also pick up my Medium account, and play with the combination or alternatives between the two. I’ve become a fan of Medium this past year (enough to subscribe, at least). But am still figuring out how I want to use one vs. the other.

  • Play more music. I started this last year, and bought a mandolin. Which is helping (it’s easier to travel with than the banjo). Including taking lessons for a bit. But I still don’t practice as much as I ought.

  • Be kinder. (More kind. Not ‘kinder’ like the eggs). Life is busy. The news sucks. People need a little kindness. At work, this means looking for opportunities to help folks. At home, this means being more patient and listening more. In the parking lot, this means letting you go first. One of the best things I read this year (ironically, from a book that I didn’t care for much mostly) was this quote: “Every day, leave three unnecessary things unsaid” - I certainly have plenty of opportunity to not say things. Things that aren’t helpful. Things that don’t build someone up. Things that are reactive. I’m slow to learn this, but I am getting a little better.

I’m better at things when I create a habit, and even better when it’s something I can measure. So this year, I’m going to work on figuring out how to measure each of these goals.

I’m sure there will be other things that come up. Healthier choices. Better food. New adventures. Maybe another goose I can turn into sausage. New places. New funnies. New grief. Old friends. Good books. Old, good books. New, terrible books. Terrible, stressful news that makes me retreat into old, good books.

Maybe just books.

Here’s to 2019. May it be a good one for all of us.

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Looking back & forth

2013 was a good year. 

No. That does it an injustice. 2013 was a freaking great year, by pretty much any measure Well. Except that I got in my first car accident in.. well, I think ever. Rear-ended a young lady who was doing some kind of stutter-stop dance on her brakes at a 3 way intersection. Still. I hit her. So my bad.  But that's pretty much the exception that proved the rule. 

Good travel. Good people. Good food. Good health.

I saw a monkey in the wild, and ate grilled pig intestine off a stick on a beach.  (not at the same time). You can't tell me that wasn't a fantastic year. 

For 2014, I don't have a lot of resolutions. I'd like to strive to play music more regularly - banjo, ukulele. Whatever. I am always refreshed and rejuvenated after I sit down for a while and pick. Especially when I get the chance to play with others. And I'd certainly always like to write more. For the same reasons. Except not with others. That would be weird. I'm not even sure how that would work. 

Like almost everyone in the working world, I have a whole list of professional goals for the year - many of which are the required business folderol ('Complete Super Mega Important Project on time & within budget').  But a few of which are the fun ones ('Find a way to top being on stage at an industry conference in front of >55,000 peers.' ). 

(Note to self: make "use words like 'folderol' in at least one powerpoint presentation for the office' a goal.)

But otherwise, my goals for 2014 are pretty much the same: keep having this kind of fun. 

Even without a list of resolutions, I made a big mess of hoppin' john for New Year's day - eating black eyed peas on new year's day is a Southern tradition for good luck.  To be clear, it's a Southern tradition that we have never before kept. But this year, when I said we would have black eyed peas and got a weird look from everyone in my house, I just stated with solemn authority: "It's a Southern Tradition."  

And it was good.  I used a recipe from a combination of sources, but mostly a Southern cookbook my Bride got me a few years ago. I've noted it below - this would be good pretty much any time of year. Don't wait for New Years

Transient

Hoppin' John

  • 1 lb dry black eyed peas
  • 1 large onion - diced
  • 6 oz bacon (about a third of a pack) - diced (I chop mine up with scissors)
  • 1 large rib celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • chili flakes
  • bay leaf
  • thyme, salt, black pepper
  • Fresh tomato
  • White, long- or medium-grained rice

Soak the black eyed peas over night. Don't hurry this. I don't care what any of the "quick soak" recipes say - it's going to most of a day to simmer these peas soft, even after a night's soaking.  And then you're going to want to change out the water when you're done. 

Take your stock pot and start the bacon, onion and garlic on medium heat until the bacon crisps and the onion turns soft and warm. Then add the peas, chicken stock & bay leaf.  I add about a tsp of thyme, chili flakes and black pepper & salt.  Bring to a boil, and then turn down to simmer.  Add stock or water if the liquid reduces too much. Some recipes will lead you to believe you can make this in under 60 minutes. They are lying. Just keep simmering until it's done.  

You'll see a lot of arguments about people believing you should add the rice into the hoppin' John to cook, but those people are fools. Serve the peas over a mound of fresh rice, with diced fresh tomatoes on top as a garnish. 

I serve mine with a side of collard greens, splashed liberally a spicy, Filipino cane sugar called  Sukang Maasim (rhymes with 'I bet Jesus puts this on his collard greens')  You can buy it on Amazon now, if you don't have a handy Filipino store in your neighborhood. Or just substitute white vinegar of whatever type you have handy. 

But don't. This vinegar makes the dish. And I have it on good authority that it makes you even luckier*

(*Ed. note: I just made that up)