Monday, December 29, 2014

Slight Flaws

I recently bought a timer so that when I do laundry in my apartment building I can know when the time comes to take clothes from the washer and put them into the drier, then when to go take them out of the drier. I chose a streamlined, small, simple-looking, and inexpensive device from my local Walgreens. Three elementary buttons: hour, minute, and Start/Stop, with a small display window for the digital numbers. The simple manual (were it not simple, I wouldn’t have bothered to read it knowing I wouldn’t understand a word) told me it would beep 10 minutes and five minutes before the timer reached 00:00.

On it’s first two uses, I realized the “beep” was so soft that unless I was really paying attention or had the timer up to my ear I couldn’t hear it. I do not consider walking around with a timer to my ear to be an ideal situation. But by concentrating very, very hard, and being sure the timer was no further than a foot away, I managed, provided there were no overriding exterior sound distractions, like my cat breathing.

So we reached a sort of accommodation, the timer and I. Until yesterday when the sound of the beeping either stopped completely or dropped below the range audible to humans. So unless I sit there and stare at it, waiting for it to reach 00:00, I have no idea when the time has run out. But the little digital numbers do an admirable job of counting down the seconds…unless I have forgotten to watch very carefully when I hit “START.” If I don’t watch for it to start, it doesn’t. So not only do I know when the time has run out, I have no idea of how long it has been since I hit “START.”

My personal grand prize for slight flaws built into modern machines goes without question to a sleek, ultra-modern, efficient-looking streamlined, gleaming-aluminum ice cream bar dispenser I came across at a shopping mall. The attractiveness of the machine was enhanced by eye-grabbing design elements hinting of the delectable pleasures that awaited within. There were a set of sleek-looking buttons from which you made your selection, above which was a slot for inserting your money. All in all, a beautiful piece of modern technology. The only flaw I was able to determine was that the designers had apparently neglected to put in any way for you to get the ice cream out of the machine once you’d paid for it. The front, sides, and I assume the back, which was flush against the wall, was seamlessly smooth, with absolutely no doors or openings of any kind. After several minutes of searching, I gave up and walked away, wondering rather cynically if there really was any ice cream—or anything else—inside.

I can’t help but see malicious deliberation in a great many flaws, and I consider them specifically designed with me in mind. To me, all instruction manuals are deliberately flawed in that I have yet to get more than two paragraphs into one without being utterly confused. “Some Assembly Required” manuals and kits are classics of insidious flaws: not only are the directions impossible to follow, but I am convinced the manufacturers deliberately either leave one piece out, or add one simply for the perverse glee it brings them.

Some “flaws” are both subtle and truly brilliant: take the bottle of cough medicine on which the label says: “If unsatisfied with this product for any reason, simply return the unopened bottle for a full refund.” Excuse me?

A currently running commercial for something called “Zarelto” states, “Do not take if you are allergic to Zarelto.” Really? And the teeny-tiny print accompanying a product guaranteed to cure toenail fungus says, “Apply to affected area for 48 weeks.” 48 weeks?

Ah, well, nothing is perfect.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lost and Found

Over the course of our lives, friends come and go. We change, they change; bonds which connected us break or slowly dissolve. Most of the friends of our lives fade into the distance of memory, and the longer we are separated, the greater the distance.

Reconnecting with…or even encountering…former friends can range from casually-exchanged greetings to, in some cases, the reestablishing of the friendship.

I was thinking of such instances in my own life, and several stand out.

In 1948, while in Junior High, I met Larry, the first “love of my life.” He was beautiful and we carried on a sporadic but torrid teen-age-hormonal affair for a year or two. We drifted apart, as is pretty common at that stage of one’s life, but the torch I held for him never went out. Many years later, I ran into him in a gay bar. He was still beautiful, but we were by then different people. I felt no real connection nor, obviously, did he. We never saw one another again.

In college, I shared my first romantic kiss with a to-me breathtakingly beautiful young man named John who became my dorm roommate. Poor John was excruciatingly conflicted about being gay, and our affair was short-lived. Sometime in the late ‘60s I ran into him at Los Angeles’ Farmer’s Market. The years had not calmed him and I had the distinct impression he was embarrassed to see me.

While in the Navy I became wildly infatuated with a shipmate, Lloyd, who was irredeemably straight. I thought of him many times after returning to civilian life and tried to locate him several times over the years. Finally, a few years ago, I was able to locate him and phoned him. He had married shortly after his service and has two grown daughters. We exchanged addresses and I wrote him. He did not reply, and I closed the door.

Larry, John, and Lloyd were, in the overall scheme of things, simply warm memories but passing fancies. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough to have several other, more significant reconnections.

When I started at a new school in the third grade, one of my classmates was a boy named Dan Sable, who went on to attend the same college as I. We were not terribly close, but friends nonetheless. About ten years ago, now, he came across my name on Facebook and wrote me. We instantly re-established our friendship as though there had not been a 60-year-plus pause, and we remain in regular contact.

Through Dan, I got back in touch with another school-and-college-years friend, Ted Bacino, whom I’d met in Cub Scouts and with whom I attended Junior high and my first two years of college. Again, we picked up our friendship in mid-sentence. Ted now lives in Palm Springs, and we met up a few years ago while we were both in New York. It was as though we’d seen each other the day before, and we still keep in regular touch. 

Through Ted, I reconnected with another member of our college “gang,” Effie Foulis. Since my college years were among the happiest of my life, being able to have direct links to those halcyon days is indescribably comforting.

But one of my major reconnections has been with Diane Kopp, with whom I worked during my earliest days in Chicago. I had lost track with her when I moved to California and had no way to contact her (women almost inevitably change their last name upon getting married). So when I received a Facebook message from her after nearly 60 years, I was elated. She knew, and is therefore also a bridge to, my now-dead dear friend and one-time partner Norm. Again, the lapse in time meant nothing, and we now get together every couple of months. 

For someone to whom links to the past provide invaluable comfort, having the opportunity to re-establish ties—whether those opportunities result in a continuation of or a resolution to a once-important friendship—is one of life’s deepest pleasures. I hope you may have had, or will have, similar experiences.

Memories are the yule-logs of the soul.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Matter of Distance

The continual volcanic eruption which is my mind is forever spewing out chunks of thought. Usually, there are so many of them that I can't concentrate on any particular one as they fall around me like rain. However, a random thought will frequently score a direct hit and remain with me long enough for me to deal with it.

It suddenly occurred to me how much of our existence is based on our distance from events and people. The closer we are, the more involved we tend to be and the more the events effect us. 100,000 people killed in a tsunami halfway around the world does not have nearly the emotional effect as personally witnessing a fatal car crash.

In our increasingly mobile society, friends and family do not always remain in close proximity. Until the late 19th century, the vast majority of people had never travelled further than 20 miles from their home in their entire lives.

The physical distance created when close friends move apart too often leads to a gradual cooling of the relationship—with fewer and fewer immediately-common ties to refer to, the contacts grow less frequent, until eventually the only exchanges are at birthdays or Christmas, if that. While there are notable exceptions, distance in time compounded by distance in space cannot help but cool the fires of friendship. I've made frequent attempts to locate people from my past...service friends, for example...only to run into a brick wall. It is as though they never existed; all that remain are warm and bittersweet-from-their-loss memories. I've recently been extremely lucky to reestablish contact with three good friends, one a young woman (well, she was young when I first met her) with whom I worked shortly after I first moved to Chicago, and two from my college years. I'd totally lost touch with all of them for more than more than 50 years, which is proof that, the glowing coals of true friendship can be reignited. 

Facts may not suffer much from physical distance, but most certainly fall victim to the distance of time. The more time that passes between an event and the present, the less clearly they are seen. Once razor-sharp mental images blur and become obscure as more and more time passes. Probably the majority of the facts of our early lives are all but totally lost to time. I am again blessed to have at least two years of my life—the time I was in service—down in writing, and to which I can refer whenever I question something that happened during that period. Even now I am surprised, in re-reading the letters written to my parents while I was in the navy, to discover that what I remember "clearly" is not the way things really happened.

Returning to Chicago after 40 years provided more evidence of how our minds see things differently than history or the calendar. I had convinced myself, somehow, that our—my ex-partner Norm and my—apartment on Wellington was near Clark and Division. It wasn't. It was near Clark and Diversey. Of course, over the years, physical changes, not merely within ourselves, altered our perceptions. Landmarks I remember clearly from the early 60's are now long gone. The tennis courts across from my first Chicago apartment, coincidentally on the same street and within six blocks of where I now live are now a parking structure.

This blurring/fading of memory, while subtly changing many of the good memories, also serves to soften the pain of the bad. Perversely, for me, so many of my fondest memories are accompanied, and occasionally overshadowed, by an overpowering sense of loss and longing. I often say that I "ache" for things I no longer have, and it is literally true. I ache for lost experiences almost as intently as I ache for lost friends and family, and they are of course inexorably linked.

So I guess the best thing for any of us to do is to try to stay keen to what is happening now, fully appreciate each moment and the people we share the moments with for what they are, and worry about the fading of their memory when the time comes.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Monday, December 15, 2014


“Cliffhangers” are a time-honored tradition of luring an audience back for the next episode of a series. It all stems from the one of the original movie serials, The Perils of Pauline in 1914 in which each 12-to-15-minute episode ended in the heroine’s being placed in deadly peril. Audiences couldn’t wait to get back to the theater for the next episode. Movie serials were extremely popular through the 1940s and into the 1950s. Even today, big-budget “serial” movies tend to end with some form of cliffhanger to excite viewers for the next film.

Serials were a staple of my early-years moviegoing. In my hometown, Rockford, Illinois, the State Theater showed Saturday matinee films aimed at kids…generally westerns…which always also featured a serial. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Gene Autry, etc. Each episode, regardless of genre, would end with the equivalent of the hero/heroine bound to a chair with a ticking time bomb near by counting down the seconds to explosion. The camera would zoom in on the hero/heroine’s understandably concerned face, the diminishing number of seconds remaining—always less than 10—then a distracting shot of, say, the outside of the building, and then….BOOM!: the building dissolves in flame and debris. End of episode; come back next week, which of course you would, to find that at the last second the hero/heroine manages to free him/herself from the bonds, locate a trap door in the floor leading to a tunnel to safety, and get safely away before the bomb goes off. It never failed.

Movie serials were cranked out with little regard for niceties like logic or production values. An example that I still remember after all these years was an episode of a serial called, I think Nyoka, Queen of the Jungle. In it, Nyoka, our heroine—who, though ostensibly living her entire life in the jungle, always managed to look like she just stepped out out the beauty parlor—has been captured by the always-dastardly villain, trussed up, and thrown into a raging river just above a thundering waterfall. The next week we see Nyoka stepping out of the water below the falls, untethered, absolutely dry and not a single hair out of place.

Though major studios—Columbia, Universal and the quintessential B-movie king, Republic Pictures—produced serials, none cared much about logic or production values; that wasn’t the purpose of serials. Their purpose was to drag you back to the theater week after week, and they succeeded admirably from 1911 thru 1953, when Blazing the Overland Trail was the last serial from a major studio.

The tradition continues to this day with some serialized major productions: The Hobbit, Star Wars, etc. And those that don’t have specific cliffhangers always add “previews” of the next film in the series.

Television has picked up the gauntlet, especially now that most series are broken into two blocks…fall and spring, and are not above resorting to the Perils of Pauline tradition of having the hero/heroine in a seemingly impossible-to-escape disaster.

A classic example is the recently-aired cliffhanger for the popular show, Arrow. Our hero, for reasons too long and complex to go into here, finds him shirtless on an icy, snow-blown mountaintop facing an equally shirtless nemesis. Why are they shirtless? With bodies like that, how could they not be? Anyway, the duel rages until Arrow is run through with a sword and, falling to his knees, is pushed off the edge of the cliff to his seemingly certain death. I was a bit surprised the villain didn’t put a lit stick of dynamite in his mouth just to emphasize the point that his fate is sealed. So is it “goodbye, Arrow”? Uh…stay tuned.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fun and Logic

I really enjoy a good, rousing everything-blowing-up-and-falling-down-and-people-running-around-in-total-panic/confusion “end of the world as we know it" disaster film, or an imagination-stretching outer-space yarn—as long as everything ends on a note of hope. I consider them perfect examples of how two elements...logic and fun...can either join together or be totally at odds. A classic “popcorn" movie lets everyone just turn their mind off, their eyes on, and shovel it in with both hands while totally ignoring the sound of logic banging at the door. 

Fun frequently requires "the willing suspension of disbelief," but, like a rubber band, it can only be stretched so far before it snaps. Each individual has his/her own tensile strength for belief—the point at which the band breaks—and I'm pretty lucky that mine will go quite a ways. I think that's largely due to the fact that I've never totally given up on being a child. 

A child's imagination is almost totally disassociated from logic. Life is a fascinating game that's never been played before. As logic encroaches upon imagination and begins to take on the role of teacher, one's choice of games changes to meld both fun and logic. Chess, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, dominos, most card and board games are both fun and involve varying degrees of logic. For many adults—me included—it’s often because things are not logical that makes them so much fun. 

While logic itself can't be fun, it can also be maddening. I tend to find many logic games frustrating simply because I pride myself on being logical, and I still can't get them. Mathematics, for example is pure logic, yet any game or puzzle involving anything beyond the "If Billy has three apples..." level utterly eludes me.

Likewise, the relationship between "fun" and "humor" is a most interesting one, and very difficult to least for me. While they are certainly not mutually exclusive, logic and humor, like logic and fun—of which humor is of course a part—can often be at odds, simply because what makes things funny often lies in the flaunting of logic. If we are led to believe or expect one thing, and something totally unexpected happens it can be hysterically funny. There is a certain shock value in humor.

And one can have fun without humor being part of the equation. "Enjoyment" is one of the first words in the Thesaurus's definition of "fun." Star Trek's Mr. Spock isn't noted for his sense of humor, but it's obvious he enjoys what he's doing. I suspect the same is true of many of those we call "workaholics," those who work with their hands, and artists. They do what they do because they love doing it. To them, work is both fun and logical, if they can't really see themselves doing anything else and wouldn't particularly want to if they could. I don't consider writing to be work, even though I spend six hours or so a day at it, but I most certainly do consider it fun.                                                 

The capacity for both logic and fun are essential components of human existence. The degree to which we utilize them, and in what proportion, varies from person to person. One can, conceivably, go through life without fun, but it is impossible to function as a human being without logic. I know, I know; most politicians, evangelicals of all stripes, hate mongers and bigots appear to be notable exceptions. But whether they can truly qualify as being human is a question best left for another blog.

My unsolicited advice is to try to apply at least some level of logic to whatever you do, to whatever you read or hear. It needn't be deeply analytical, and it really isn't all that hard. Just always ask the question "does this really make any sense?" The brain should be more than just something stuffed in the space between the ears to keep the wind from blowing through. Thinking can really be fun. Wouldn't it be nice if more people tried it?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Monday, December 08, 2014

"I Hear the Mermen Singing..."

We can’t change reality, but we can change our perception of it. I’ve been doing it since I was a child and it has served me very well. Our bodies are bound by the laws of physics and time and we are all but powerless to change them. But our minds are not subject to those laws. It is our mind which makes us who we are. How we perceive our lives and the world around us is largely up to us. We may be confined in the cage of reality, but we are free to “decorate” it as we choose. When it comes down to it, perception is simply imagination, and imagination can make the world a far more tolerable place.

Those like me, who have never really understood how or why the world works the way it does and who therefore feels inferior because of it, altering our perceptions to fill in the gaps left by reality makes life, in our minds at least, easier to deal with.

I tend to look on life the same way I view books and movies—concentrating on those aspects with which I am comfortable and ignoring the rest. I refuse to read books or watch movies that I know do not have at least a ray of hope at the end. Even Schindler’s List, which was agonizing to watch, ended in hope.

Though you, I, are each only one of billions, we are totally separate, unique individuals. And each of us, surrounded by billions of others like us, goes through life alone. We learn whatever coping skills we develop through observation of our fellow humans; by reading and watching and listening to their individual experiences. We can easily be overwhelmed by the sensations of being hopelessly, helplessly outnumbered.

Life is a board game I play without having all the pieces, but I do the very best I can with those I have. I am gay (I know…you never suspected) living in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world. I am not comfortable in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world. So in my mind, the world is overwhelmingly homosexual. Every attractive man on the street is, in my mind, gay. Whether he is or not is totally irrelevant, since the odds of my having the opportunity to find out for sure are pretty close to astronomical unless I’m in a predominantly gay area. So what’s the harm?

And that phrase, “so what’s the harm,” pretty much sums up my entire philosophy of perceiving things the way I wish to perceive them.

And I do reach certain reluctant accommodations with reality. The reality of time, having “aged me out” of active participation in the gay world, I no longer feel comfortable…or welcome…even there. I think of my favorite line from Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: I hear the mermen singing, each to each. I do not think they sing for me.

And yes, I changed the gender. What’s the harm, if it gives me pleasure? 

While one can learn of the world in many ways, it is only our own personal experiences and perceptions which matters in the end.

Dorien’s blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Mantras and Acorns

Odd how something can be sitting quietly in some dimly-lit and dusty corner of your mind for years without giving it a conscious thought. It wasn't until this morning that I was conscious of a word my mind had been repeating in the softest of whispers for I don't know how long. And it occurred to me that this single word was in fact a mantra which to a large degree rules my life. The word is accomplish. It's with me every waking hour, just below the surface of my consciousness, and I suspect in my dreams as well: accomplish. It probably would be helpful if it were modified by specifics, but it never is, and I guess that's part of the point: it isn't that I accomplish something specific, but that I accomplish something.

Since my skills are limited largely to putting my thoughts down on paper (ok, on the computer screen), it's why, I realize, that I feel I must write. Write something. Every single day. It's as though my time of existence in this world is a gigantic acorn tree, with each moment of my life an acorn. And I am one small squirrel, trying desperately to store away as many of those acorns as I can, while I can. It is why, when I don't write every single day, I feel guilty; like I've robbed myself of time which, once passed, is gone and lost forever—all those acorns lost. Had I worked diligently rather than done nothing, I could have used those non-productive seconds, minutes, and hours to store away who-knows-how-many more acorns. 

It is why I cannot spend hours at coffee or lunch with friends—my definition of accomplish does not include coffee or lunch. Unfortunately it also does not include a great many things in which I realize I should be taking pleasure, like just sitting somewhere enjoying my surroundings, or reading. (The act of reading is always accompanied by the awareness that in reading the words—the accomplishments—of others, I am losing time which could/should be spent recording as many of my own thoughts and experiences as I possibly can. And the irony is not lost on me that I am so busy recording my life that I don't have time to fully savor living it.

I know, too, that I will never—and never possibly could—accomplish everything I would like to accomplish, to write all the books I would like to write, or post all the blogs I'd like to post, or see all the places I would so like to see, or spend time with all the people—even those I already know, let alone everyone I would like to meet—I wish I could spend time with. So that means I must—we all must—establish some sort of list of priorities of what we wish to do with the time available to us. Not an easy task, and not unlike trying to fit a gallon of milk into a one-quart container.

That other people do not feel this need does not make me feel superior to them—just, yet again, different from them. They obviously feel neither the need nor the desire for constant self-reflection. Most of them have other people into whom they channel their time, efforts and thoughts and are too busy living their life to think much about leaving a record of it.

And just this instant, I flashed, as is my wont, on the TV show "Hoarders," about people who, for whatever reason, so cram their homes with things they are unable/unwilling to get rid of that their homes, and their lives, become uninhabitable. Stacks and mounds and piles which they compulsively continue to add. At times I suspect the house of my mind is like one of the homes featured on the program, except that instead of magazines and newspapers and porcelain dolls and never-worn clothes and battered lamp shades, my mind is crammed with memories and thoughts and speculations and questions. 

I would imagine hoarders consider that they are accomplishing something by hoarding; that no one else can figure out what that something is is beside the point. I tell myself that I am not a hoarder of past memories on the grounds that I freely share them with anyone who expresses even the slightest interest (and, at times, I realize, even with those who really have no interest but are simply too polite to ignore me). The problem is that, after I've shown them my mountainous stacks of acorns, the acorns are still there. 

Hey, that's a pretty profound thought! Another acorn! I think I can squeeze it in over there, on top of that stack of memories of all the cars I've owned in my life.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Doll House

I frequently start these blogs with only a general idea of a theme, and just let my fingers take over without much conscious direction. This one is a bit different in that I am not sure what approach to take with it. Writing of memories is always a slippery slope, threatening to slide into the deep sense of longing and loss that so many people experience during the holidays. So I’ll try to avoid it. We shall see.

Memories are based not on specific incidents alone, but everything that led up to them. I awoke this morning thinking of my doll house, and what led up to it, and to the special place it holds in my heart.

I was tempted to say that I was a strange child until I realized that being strange is part of being a child. When I was around six or seven, I announced to my parents that I wanted a doll house for Christmas. I really did. I really, really did. My father, of course, adamantly refused to even consider such a thing. He probably already suspected I would grow up to be gay, and wanted to discourage any overt signs of femininity in his son. 

He did not realize that I wanted a doll house not because I related it with anything at all to do with girls, but simply because it was an extension of my very active fantasy life. I wanted a doll house filled with doll-house furniture so that I could then have imaginary fights in the house and knock over all the furniture.

My family was what they used to call “lower middle class.” Both my parents worked  hard at full-time jobs all their lives. I had no idea at the time, of course, just how hard they worked and what they sacrificed to provide for me. I can never recall ever having to go without something I really needed, and I almost always got what I asked for for Christmas. 

A doll house, however, even if my father had approved, would have been an expensive gift. So, with my dad refusing to allow my mom to buy me one, she made me one…from an old wooden orange crate. There were only two rooms—orange crates had a center divider—and the furniture she was able to find was far out of proper proportion to the “rooms.” I don’t recall now what else she did to make an orange crate into a house, but she did her best, and I do hope I was properly appreciative—though, being a child who wanted a “real” doll house, I may not have been. But the thing was, I wanted a doll house and my mother got me one.

A slight pause between paragraphs while I forced myself to step back from the slippery slope and shift my focus from sorrow for her loss to unfathomably deep gratitude that I had her…that I had both my parents…in my life at all. 

All memories are part of who we are, and the holiday season seems especially rich in memories. The mind is drawn to them like iron filings to a magnet. Mine are filled with Christmas parties and family get togethers, good friends and laughter; the smell of pine needles; bubble-light Christmas ornaments; exchanging gifts—and being as excited to see the reactions of those to whom I’d given them as I was to open my own; Dad’s Tom & Jerrys; the every-Christmas jar of olives from Aunt Thyra; the smell of her Estee Lauder talcum powder…they are and will always be part of my life, just as your memories are a part of your own life. And I hope, when you reflect on your own memories, you can view them not with sorrow of loss but with warmth and love for having had them at all.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (