I Owe This Morning’s Tea to George Orwell

Not Prophecy So Much as Observation

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73 years ago, George Orwell wrote:

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.”

Today I realized how true that is.

My tea cup of choice is a tall, 12-ounce cup from Starbucks. For the past 2 years, I’ve been brewing my tea with either 2 tea bags (PG Tips) or 2 teaspoons of loose tea leaves.

Such was my first cup this morning.

But it wasn’t so satisfying as it was yesterday morning. It didn’t seem strong enough for some reason. Two teaspoons of leaves didn’t quite satisfy me.

Each type of tea has an optimal steeping time, depending on its type and the drinker’s preference. For me, with my strong black Assam tea, it’s 4 and a half minutes.

For a stronger brew, one adds more tea, rather than increasing the steeping time, which only makes the tea more bitter.

For my second cup, I used 3 teaspoons of leaves. The result? Too strong. Finally, the third cup, with 2–1/2 teaspoons of leaves, was perfect.

George was right.

Now my only problem is trying to figure out how to brew a cup of tea with 2–1/2 tea bags. A hopeless task? Perhaps.

But as Arthur Wing Pinero so wisely said, “Where’s there’s tea, there’s hope.”

Another Day of Writing

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This is another day I don’t feel like writing. I’m tired, my arthritis is acting up, and I don’t want to do anything.

It’s 12° outside, at 10 a.m. I’ve had breakfast and my first cup of tea. I’ve spent 10 minutes ranting and raving about not having any cigarettes — it’s been over a week — and I’ve finally run out of excuses.

So I’m forcing myself to write. It might not be any good, and I might delete it as soon as it’s done, but as the old saying goes, “A writer writes.”

Even when she doesn’t feel like it. Even when she’s only doing it because she’s run out of excuses not to write.

“A writer writes.”

Yes, yes: I’ve read it so many times before. But this time I’ve taken it to heart and actually acted on it.

I started this piece at around 8:30, and I’ve been editing it, rewriting it, massaging it since then.

So here I am, 2 and a half hours into this piece, and I’m finally at peace with it.

Writing is a craft, a discipline, and one that demands constant practice. It’s like an exercise as well, in that the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Today is the day I’m forcing myself to write, despite myself.

Today I can finally call myself a writer.

An Incredibly Useful Tool. And It’s FREE!

I’ve written before about e-books, e-readers, and the like. Now I’d like to introduce you to a recent discovery I made regarding my local public library and its collection.

Libby is a simple app I discovered whilst browsing through the Apple App Store. I was so intrigued that I downloaded it to my iPhone…

…and then had to go to the library to get a new library card, since my old one had expired a couple of years ago. My friend Stacey took me, since (1) I don’t have a car and (2) our public transit system is not the best in the world. Had I gone by bus, it would have involved one transfer and a long wait, only to be repeated to get home again.

Altogether, a minimum of 4 hours transportation time. And that didn’t include the time I’d spend perusing the stacks.

Once I had the new card, I was done. Stacey spent some time browsing and checking out a few videos, after which I treated her to lunch.

Then it was back home,  and time to configure Libby.

It Was So Simple!

Libby first asked me for my library card number. Once it was confirmed, it then asked me a few questions about my reading preferences: did I prefer to read books in the Libby app? On my Kindle or Nook? How about on my laptop with the desktop Libby program?

Then it was off to the library…without leaving the house!

While policies may vary from library to library, the Monroe County (New York) Public Library system allows me to check out and download 8 books for 21 days each. There are also magazines, as well as audio books.

When I’m done with the current book, I just open the menu and select “Return To Library.” POOF! It’s gone from my device.

Now For The Best Part

I’ve installed Libby on my iPhone, my iPad, my Kindle, my Nook, and my Windows laptop. If I begin reading a book on the iPhone and then move over to one of the other devices, Libby asks me if I want to start anew or to sync to where I’ve read on the iPhone. From then on, Libby will always open to the furthest point I’ve read.

Okay, I stand corrected: that’s the second best thing about Libby. The best thing is it’s free!

So Why Am I Writing About Libby?

Because I’m not the only old fart senior citizen who has trouble getting around. And I thought Libby is a great idea that needs to be shared by anyone who reads.

Now go read a book!

I’ll Definitely Quit This Time

It’s a Piece of Cake!

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To paraphrase that great American philosopher, William Claude Dukenfield (aka W. C. Fields),

Quitting smoking is easy. Why, I’ve done it hundreds of times!

And I have. And I keep coming back to it.

Coffin nails. The noxious weed. Cancer sticks. I’ve heard them all. Lung busters.

Hell, I’m even smoking one as I write this.

It’s an addition, a crutch. And a great way to kill boredom…if not myself.

It’s the stereotypical image of a writer: cigarette in one hand, glass of whisky in the other, starting at a blank piece of paper, deciding what to write. Or in Hemingway’s case, replacing the shot glass with a shotgun.

Except I’m not suicidal. Or am I? Smoking is, if nothing else, slow-motion suicide. Russian roulette with better odds. The depressive’s choice of poison.

And yet…

I like smoking. I like the first cigarette of the day, in conjunction with the first cup of tea of the day. I smoke and toke as I read Medium stories, looking for new works by my favorite writers. Finding new writers. Hell, it’s every bit as good as a public library — or it would be if I could smoke and drink there.

But I’m not ready to quit, not really, Not now. I’m pretty sure they time will come when the dollar cost outweighs the benefits. They always do.

Believe me, I know.

I’ve done it hundreds of times.

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How I Handle My ADD

It ain’t ADHD, by the Way

(Originally published on Medium)

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Attention Deficit Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

There’s a fine line between the two. I used to have the latter, but it matured into the former. And much like my depression, it’s been a lifelong companion.

Consider: I have pictures of me as a child of 3. I am connected to my mother by a chest harness and a leash.

Before you start screaming “Child abuse!” you need to understand it was the only way she could keep me safe, short of keeping me in a stroller. Put me on the ground and I’d take off running.

That phase — the ADHD — lasted until I was about 7. “Your child can’t sit still in class.” “Your child is so fidgety that it distracts the rest of the class.”

Fortunately, I outgrew the hyperactivity. Or rather it matured into something else: ADD.

My mind still made lightning-quick connections between random thoughts and ideas.

It still does.

There are medications now that we didn’t have in the 1950s. And I can’t say how grateful I am for that. Not that we have them, but that we didn’t have them back then.

My Creativity is Dependent on My ADD

I enjoy having ADD. It’s part of who I am. I appreciate the way my mind zips from thought to thought, making connections which at first seem random but in the end come together and make perfect sense.

A professor at uni once told me, “ It’s amazing to see your mind at work. It’s like a lightning bolt, zipping from cloud to cloud. But eventually it hits its target. All in about 3 seconds.”

That’s Why I Write

My ideas come faster than I can write them down. Writing forces meeting to focus on one idea long enough to commit it to the screen.

Since I know that what I’ve written is probably incoherent to anyone else, I set it aside for a time. Then I go back and massage it until it makes sense, until it’s right.

Consider: since I started writing this piece, I’ve gone back and changed the title at least 3 times. I’ve edited the story so many times I can’t remember how many. And I’ll keep editing, massaging, until it’s RIGHT.

And that’s a benefit of ADD, and how I cope with it.