Cold turkey.

The month of August was a very busy one for your humble correspondent. Indeed, I see that my last post was on the 2nd, several weeks ago. The day after that, I would drive up to Hayward, about 35 miles from my driveway, and undergo orientation to work for the Census Bureau. That work ended a couple days ago, at least for me; it’s worth a blog post all by itself, but let’s just say that going back to work for The Man, in this case the Federal government, was frustrating, although somewhat remunerative. I turned in the last of my gear on September 4 and received my last paycheck on the 16th. I doubt very much whether I will answer the Bureau’s call in 2030 for the next Census, assuming we even have one.

I was about to digress there, but have stayed on point, and that brings me quickly to the subject of this post. I had been thinking all during that experience in August that although the work was necessary, and they were paying me fairly well, it was taking valuable time away from other pursuits that I found out I preferred over Census work. Other things were taking up too much of my time, too, and then I saw an article that presented a challenge: 4 Lessons from a Social Media Fast.

 

 

It sounded pretty good to me, so as September 1 was approaching quickly, I decided to give it a try.

 

The joys of fasting.

I’ve never considered myself to be a social media junkie, but I do have Facebook and Twitter accounts. I was on Google+ too, before that went dark a couple years ago. Fellow writers have warned me that social media can be a dangerous rabbit hole, in which time can be wasted that would otherwise be spent on something more productive, like your work-in-progress novel. The insidious attraction of Facebook and Twitter is that it never ends; you can just keep scrolling and scrolling. In a way, it’s mesmerizing. It can be informative; some of the best writing I’ve seen on the coronavirus pandemic, and the ham-handed way government at all levels is handling it, can be found on the Twitter feed of author/journalist Alex Berenson. Brit Hume of Fox News has always provided insightful and often caustic commentary on politics, and so has Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist. And there’s so much more.

That’s the problem, of course. There’s always more.

 

Halfway there, and I’ve survived.

Being a 30-day month, the halfway point of September was reached at midnight on the 15th. So, as of this writing I’m in the third day of the month’s second half. Have I cheated on my social media ban? Well, not really.

As the webmaster and social media leader of our church, I have to stay connected on our Facebook page, at least a little bit, so I’ve been over there once or twice a week this month. And Sue just recently returned from a trip to Mexico, and to see the photos she posted I had to check out her Facebook page, of course, or risk being even more woefully uninformed about what’s going on during her trips than I usually am. But that was it. Honest.

But as far as scrolling through my own Facebook and Twitter feeds, nope. Even when I’ve received email notifications that Hume and Hemingway and Berenson have tweeted, I’ve ignored them, quickly deleting the emails lest I be tempted to click on the link, just this once. When I’m sitting in front of the TV in the evening, keeping one eye on the baseball game, I’m always tempted to pick up the phone and start scrolling, but other than checking my email, I have stayed away successfully from the sites that tend to suck one in.

It’s amazing how much time that mindless scrolling takes up. Without it, I have been able to make serious progress on my next novel, The Bronze Leopard. It’s the third entry in the White Vixen thriller series and is tentatively scheduled for launch in April 2021. I’ve put in some hours at the radio station, and am really looking forward to the delayed start of our high school football season, which will find me behind the mic at New Richmond’s new stadium a week from tonight, calling our Rice Lake Warriors against the Tigers. With attendance limited to the parents of the home team’s players, we are bound to have a big audience. Someone asked me the other day if I’m feeling the pressure, and I said no, having done three national championship small-college football games and many state championship high school games, I sort of know how to do this.

 

Despite having a down season last year, Rice Lake has had one of the top programs in this part of Wisconsin for the past several seasons, including a 2017 state championship.

 

I also had to spend a lot of extra time with our dog, Sophie, who underwent surgery on the 9th to remove an anal gland tumor. To our great relief, the tumor was benign and it was completely excised. Our precious little girl is on the mend, but the entire episode has been stressful on the whole household.

 

A typical September afternoon finds me up at my writing desk, with the game on the TV and Sophie relaxing on the couch. The statue of Spartacus on the left is one of my favorite travel keepsakes, purchased on a trip to Italy some years ago.

 

I’ve also taken a little time to indulge in non-sports TV. While Sue was gone, I binged the 3rd season of The Last Ship, the TNT series that aired from 2014-18. I’d watched the first two seasons earlier in the summer and then took a break. They’d wrapped up the initial storyline nicely, and I wondered if subsequent seasons would be up to the standard set by the first two. The series follows the crew of the US Navy destroyer Nathan James as it deals with a global pandemic (the series was eerily prescient) that decimates the world, killing off 90 percent of the population. In seasons 1 and 2, the crew assists a team of scientists as they search for answers about the disease and ultimately develop a cure, which then has to be delivered to a homeland devastated by the spread of the “red flu.” Along the way is a showdown with a Russian cruiser whose captain is determined to steal the cure, and then a rogue British submarine crewed by sailors who are immune to the disease and want to prevent any kind of cure from being spread.

 

Starring Eric Dane as the skipper, Adam Baldwin as his executive officer and Rhona Mitra as the lead scientist, the show’s first two seasons showed the Navy at its finest. In Season 3, though, things started going downhill.

 

Although the series did a great job in many areas, particularly in how it portrayed the Navy and its sailors–since the Navy loaned them some ships and even some sailors as extras, that’s hardly surprising–the third season brought domestic post-pandemic politics into the story, and that’s where it started bogging down. Plus there were some rather large plot holes that the writers, who were very thorough in Seasons 1-2, failed to deal with. So, although there are two seasons to go, I think I’m probably done with the show.

There will be plenty of TV to watch, though, if I’m so inclined. There’s Season 5 of Outlander, the upcoming seasons of Warrior and Cobra Kai, along with Star Trek: Discovery. And the baseball playoffs will begin in another couple weeks. My Milwaukee Brewers are fighting for a berth in the expanded field, and while this pandemic-shortened season will go down in history as the most unusual the game has ever seen, if the Brew Crew can finally win the World Series, I won’t care if there’s an asterisk attached to it.

 

Corbin Burnes has been having a great year for the Brewers, and if the hitters can give him and the other pitchers enough support, the team’s 3rd straight playoff berth will likely be the result.

 

Heading the the still-hot Southwest

Tomorrow, I leave for Phoenix, a trip originally scheduled for late March. It’s been more than eight months since I’ve seen my parents, and I’m going to pitch in with my youngest brother in helping them get ready to sell their house and move into assisted living. In some ways it will be a strange visit; this will be the final time I will ever stay overnight at my parents’ home, as their new place won’t be large enough for guests.

It’s going to be an unusual visit from that standpoint. Since my folks and younger brothers moved out of our childhood home in Potosi back in 1977, every time I’ve visited them, it hasn’t really been home. Their current house in Sun City West has been their home since 1999, and the 21+ years they will wind up spending there will be the longest stay in any residence in their married life, which goes back to 1954.

It will also be hot. My brother tells me to expect daily high temps around 100 degrees. We haven’t had a triple-digit day up here in northwest Wisconsin in years, so that will be an adjustment. But we’ve been adjusting to everything for months now…what’s one more?

I’m looking forward to seeing everybody and helping with their preparations to move, but I’m also looking forward to getting home next week and going back on the air to do some football. There’s a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks and months, and oddly enough, not having social media be a part of it is also something I’m anticipating. With relish.

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