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Saturday, October 27, 2018

10 Years of Stuff: A Blog-O-Versary

I started writing on this blog 10 years ago on October 27, 2008.  Just in case I would forget, the above is what I have Dymo tagged to the top of my home computer monitor.

In thinking about what to say in this posting, one thought that occurred to me was this:  In terms of things I've been doing in my life (outside of biological imperatives, parenthood, etc.), the blog is really the second longest vocation I've ever had.  That says a lot, I think.

Anyway, I'd like to tell you interesting and inspirational stories related to the blog, but that even bores me, so I won't.  In fact, I've never tried to be interesting or inspirational in this space;  instead, I'll save the interesting and inspirational stuff to professionals.  For me, the "gladly amateur blogging state" is good enough.  That's not to say that there isn't anything to tell at the ten-year mark.  To that point, here are a few road apples.

The most popular posting I've ever written... about radio commentator, (hopefully) recovered drug addict, and thrice-married ladies man Rush Limbaugh.  You can read the posting entitled Rush Limbaugh Audience Demographics, HERE.  Why has that posting been so popular?  Well, my number one source of traffic is, and I suspect that the (hopefully) former drug addict (I'm not making the drug addict thing up...citation HERE) is a popular search topic.  I also suspect that many who landed on my posting were very disappointed at what they found.

The most interesting comment I've ever received...
...was a death threat.  I'd show it to you, but I think it's been long deleted.  Anyway, someone didn't appreciate the observation that using "Southern Heritage" to justify the display of the Confederate battle flag is basically the same as using "German Heritage" to explain away the display of a swastika (original posting HERE).  Here's the offending graphic I created.
The ball is in your court, Cletus.

The easiest postings to write are...
...none, at least not by category or subject.  Some posting just seem to flow out, others have to be forced out, kicking and screaming.  Some postings can take a year to write from original idea to finally hitting the publish button.

The most difficult postings to write are...
...about politics.  This is why I don't post much on that subject.  The country has gone to a very dark place, and while I'm happy to taunt racists and their sympathizers (see above), there's too much "you are evil because you don't believe in ____________" these days.  It's just not worth it.

The best part about writing a blog is...
...the abundance of "blog groupies".  I'm just kidding, and the very idea is only slightly more absurd than claiming the existence of "Dungeons and Dragons groupies" or "a Scranton School District anti-Nepotism policy".

Actually, the best part about writing the blog, at least for me now, is the fact that over the course of 10 years I actually have something that may outlive me, something that someone can go back to and say "that was Steve Albert".  It's not a bad feeling actually.

The worst part about writing a blog is...
...the guilt I feel when I don't post something at least once a week.  That is the serious, actual answer.

The number of postings I have published is...
...currently 1940, with 87 postings in draft form.

Just to take this a bit further, the most productive blogging year I have had was 2010, which yielded 411 published postings.  The least productive was 2017, with 82 postings.

The number of "hits" the blog gets is...
...something I am not going to share.  Why?  Because this isn't about "hits" or competing for an audience or any of that nonsense.  I compete against no one, and quite frankly, I'm happy if one person other than me actually reads this stuff.  I will say this though: The site average between 4,000 to 6,000 page views per month.

Life in October 2008 was...
...pretty different than now and difficult.  This isn't to say that the world for me is now sunshine, smiles, rainbows, and kittens, but it is certainly a different world.  I began the blog in part as a way to maybe process out-loud some of what was running through my head.  Some of that stuff was pretty visceral, as evidenced particularly by the postings from late 2010.  The blog has been, in a way, a kind of therapy sometimes needed more times than others.

Speaking of "sometimes", sometimes the best way to denote the passage of time is to think about major life events, and this blog is full of them.  Between getting divorced, the death of my mother, having an angel appear in my life just at the right time...

(October 2012; one of my favorite pictures of Ms. Rivers)

...and the death of my brother Chris, there's a story in all of these 1940 postings.

The posting I am the proudest of... the one that I wrote about my brother Chris; you can read it HERE.

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains
(Paul Simon, The Boxer)

In a way, I still can't believe he's gone.

What I've got planned for the future is...
...unsure.  I do know that I still enjoy writing, so it's unlikely I'll be closing up the blogging shop (like so many local bloggers have) any time soon.  Talk about things like fate, destiny. etc. are basically above my pay-grade, so I'm not going to claim any kind of manifest destiny for the blog or for me.  I also know that life in 2028 will likely be far different for me than it is in 2018 so there will be more stories to write, more angst to expel, more draft postings to get moldy, and more surprises at just what some folks find interesting.

The closest I can get to describing how I feel about the blog comes from a song called "The Guitar Man", written by David Gates.  While Mr. Gates' toenail clipping have more talent than I do, the underlying thought of just having to "play" (or in my case, "write") seems to be appropriate.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Ritual of the Hike

Humans are hard-wired to favor rituals.  Predictability in our environment and actions calms our deep reptile fight or flight brains.  We feel somehow safer and more secure when we can anticipate and participate in that which is familiar.  With that science in mind(1), yesterday was part of a ritual for me:  The annual hike up Ricketts Glen State Park(2) with my mother-in-law.

I'll spare the deep philosophy on this one, and instead simply focus on the beauty of the experience.  If you live in Pennsylvania and have never been to Ricketts Glen, well, put it on your bucket list.  It's a real, genuine treasure. 

By way of staging, my mother-in-law and I hike up to the top of the park from the parking lot at its base.  There are two major trails to choose from, the Falls or the Bulldozer, and we've alternated from year to year.  Both trails start and end around the same place, and both can be a bit of a challenge when walking up, although I personally find the Bulldozer trail to be a bit more taxing.  This year we took the Falls trail, although I suspect future October hikes will almost always be on Bulldozer trail, mostly because it involves less climbing over and through rocks.

Anyway, enough of me, and on to the visuals.

At the beginning of the Falls trail.

Moss on a log.

Steps made from rocks.

Waterfalls...of which there are many.

Some of the waterfalls less dramatic, but never the less still beautiful. 

One of the better shots I took.

Orange mushrooms on an exposed tree root.

On a final note, one of the best parts of this annual event is the fact that I get to spend time with my mother-in-law, Elizabeth Rivers.  In addition to being a dedicated hiker, she's also a published author(3) who has a new book of poetry that will be released in the not too distant future.  It's rewarding to know that, even in my 50's, there are still people who inspire me.

* * * * * *

(1) See

(2) You can read more about Ricketts Glen at -

(3) Find her book on Amazon at -

Saturday, October 13, 2018

What They Don't Tell You About Getting Older

WebMD has a terrific service whereby they send you educational quizzes and slideshows on health-related topics.  It's well worth subscribing to, even if you're just casually interested in being healthier.  A recent topic is entitled "14 Surprising Facts About Getting Older".  I haven't looked at it yet, and likely won't until after I'm done with this posting.  It will be interesting to compare notes, eventually.

Anyway, here is my listing of things they (whoever "they" are) don't tell you about getting older.

Item #1:  With Age Comes (Some) Wisdom
I don't feel "old smart" yet.  In fact, I'm not sure how much smarter I am now than I was, say, 10 years ago.  Rather than smarts, I think what you gain with age is an experience.  You simply live through more stuff and provided that such things don't drive you insane, well, you're able to somehow leverage it for the better. 

Item #2:  You May Outlive People You Care About
I have a confidant that tells me that losing a sibling is like joining a kind of exclusive club, although it's a club you really don't want to join.  As some may know, I lost my younger brother in January 2017.  I do think about him often, and, well, I'm not sure I will ever be "over it".  At one point in time in my life, I would wonder how some folks just seem to hang on to grief for what seems like so very long.  Now I know.

(Albert Boys, August 1970:  Chris, Steve, Rich & Joe)

Fun fact:  The very first thing my brother Chris said to my (now) wife Chris was, in fact, a midget joke.  With apologies for the use of the word "midget".  Yes, that was my brother Chris.  Not to be outdone, the first thing wife's Dad (an Episcopal priest), along with her Uncle Dick (a retired corporate lawyer), ever said to me was a Dolly Parton joke.

Item #3:  Pain
Some things just are physically painful when you get older.  Osteoarthritis is something that just seems to happen as a result of an active life, and I've had, to date, an active life.  In my case, it's in my right big toe.  So if you see me walking funny, well, that's why, although it does somewhat look like I am interviewing for a position at the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Item #4:  You Get Tired
I just get tired more easily.  It's as if in my head I'm still 25 years old, but the physical machinery, well, that's a bit older.  It would probably help if I slept better, but alas, sleep and I don't have a very good relationship.

Item #5:  You Think About Things (you never would think about before)
N.B.:  I am healthy and not going anywhere.

The above noted, as I've gotten older, I've actually thought about my own funeral, burial, etc.  In fact, one of these days I'm actually going to write stuff down.  Be forewarned, as this might be the first funeral ever to feature ABBA.

Item #6:  Some Things Don't Change...
When I think back to where my head was, say, in my early 20's, I wasn't quite sure what I actually wanted to be when I "grew up".  A few decades have passed, and I honestly still can't fully answer that question.  I do know this much though:  I enjoy helping people.

Item #7:...But Your Life Can Radically Change
At age 40 I never could have conceived of what my life is like now in my 50's.  When you're (or make that "I was") younger, you lack the perspective in many cases of just how your life can be turned on its head.  Sometimes for bad, sometimes for good.

Item #8:  You Want Less Stuff
I'm simply less interested in stuff.  In the past, well, I loved "stuff".  I have a small hardware store's worth of tools to prove that point.  Now?  Rampant consumption has just lost its luster.  In fact, I'm looking for ways to actually have less stuff.

Item #9:  "Modern" Music Will Stink
I don't know when I made the transition, but at some point, it became clear that more modern music is simply horrible.  Try as I might to actually enjoy, say, Arcade Fire, I just don't get it.  And I don't even think Arcade Fire is actually "modern" anymore.  Electronic Dance Music (EDM)?  It honestly sounds like something the government would use to torture ISIS prisoners.  I'd much rather listen to the Pretender's album Learning to Crawl for about the 80th time.

Item #10:  Connections Will Matter More
The older I get, the more value I see in staying connected with others.  Granted that I'm pretty horrible at it...a fact born out of decades of (lack of) practice...but never the less, I now see the value of connection more than I ever have in my life.  I'm working on getting better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week - Kevin Love's Story

In further support of Mental Health Awareness Week, I found a terrific article that is worth anyone's time to read:

The article was written by professional basketball player Kevin Love.  You can read more about Kevin and his background here.  For the record, Kevin is not some minor player in NBA who has nothing better to do than write articles while he sits on the bench; rather he is a 5 time NBA All-Star.  The fact that he is using his notoriety to spread the word about an important, but uncomfortable, subject is commendable.

Two quotes that stuck out for me:

"It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles — all kinds of things — and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them. The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with." 

"I’m trying to face the uncomfortable stuff in life while also enjoying, and being grateful for, the good stuff. I’m trying to embrace it all, the good, bad and ugly."

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week, October 7-13, 2018

I read somewhere (probably on the Facebook) that Monday, October 1st was a significant date relative to suicide prevention.  That turns out mostly to be a figment of my imagination, although October 7th to 13th is National Mental Illness Aware week(1).  Anyway, since none of us should need a special day or week to talk about mental health and related issues, I will now.

Throughout my life, mental health issues have been something of an almost constant backdrop.  I'll get into my own confessions, if you want to call them that, in a bit.  Probably the most visceral feelings I have on the subject though relate to suicide, something that I've had to face with individuals close to me several times over the years.  I can't accurately put all of those feelings into words, something that's odd for me, but that's because there is simply too much to parse.  The one feeling I can share is "helpless"; you simply feel helpless when someone you care about attempts to end their own life.  That feeling gets magnified significantly when someone you care about is actually successful at the act.

The above isn't intended to minimize the feelings that drive someone to attempt self-harm.  If anything, those kinds of comparisons ("...yeah, but I feel worse...") have no place in any frank discussion about mental health.  This isn't an arms-race or sports game that needs to be won; if anything, it's a race that we should all want to lose.

Acknowledging that helplessness is a product of having to face significant mental health issues, the bigger question is this:  What can be done about it?  That's far tougher to answer than it is to ask, but as I was thinking about writing this posting, it occurred to me that maybe I haven't done enough in that department.  Maybe I need to do more.  Maybe we all need to do more.

Speaking of me, I've been pretty transparent in this blog about the times in my life when I've had to struggle with my own feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, anxiety and similar symptoms.  In fact, sometimes I've probably been too transparent, but so be it:  I'm convinced that secrecy is basically one of the things which literally fertilizes mental health issues in this country.  That makes something like Mental Health Awareness Week all the more important.

So, what's next?  Well, I'll share three thoughts, all culled from my own life experiences.  I claim no special knowledge or education here, just a few lumps earned from a life well lived.

First and foremost, one thing I am absolutely sure of is the fact that all of us struggle with mental health issues from time to time.  Don't buy into the notion that "he (or she) really has their stuff together" because it's a lie.  It's a bold-faced lie.  In fact, it's probably the biggest lie some of us tell ourselves.  We all have our own moments of doubt and pain (to quote Mick Jagger).  That person who seems to always be composed, calm and rational may sometimes be a raging storm of conflicting emotions underneath. I know this because sometimes that person is me; I'm simply a better actor than you.

Second, I'm convinced that mental health is far more like a muscle than it is a clump of grey matter.  Like a muscle, we need to stretch and push ourselves emotionally in order to get stronger, to become more resilient.  That's the best argument I can think of against the notion of emotionally running away from our troubles or sitting on the figurative couch while the world passes us by.

Finally, we can't fall into the trap of believing that we need to go it all alone.  That's another lie of epic proportions.  There is always help if you need it.  Always.  Sometimes that help can come from places we don't expect.  Many times there are people in our lives who are just waiting for us to ask them for help.  We just need to have the courage (and/or humility) to ask.

I'll close this posting with a few resources that might be helpful.

NAMI - The National Alliance on Mental Illness (1)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 800.273.8255

VA - Mental Health Assistance for Veterans

Mental Health


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Mental Health Resources