Tag: birthdays

A Revisionist Birthday

holiday vacation dark festive
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

NOTE: When you think you’ve gotten to the end of this post, read on. It is a little different than my usual posts, as will become clear once you progress past the end. Think of it like those scenes that popup in motion pictures after the credits have rolled.

When I was about five years old, I remember laying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, and thinking how old fifty sounded. My grandfather was in his fifties at the time and he was even older than my parents! One clear thought I had then that has stuck with me ever since was this: When I turn fifty, I should remember the day when I was five years old, laying here in bed, thinking about what it would be like to be fifty. Remember that I was once five, even though I am old now.

Today, I turn fifty, and my first thoughts are with that boy, one-tenth my age, who so worried about what it would be like to be fifty and old. That five year-old still lives somewhere inside me, and what I would say to him today is: fifty doesn’t seem that old. Sometimes, I still feel like I am five.

Fifty years seems an odd milestone for people to celebrate. I think of milestones that have some practical value: at sixteen one can obtain a driver’s license; at eighteen one can vote in the United States. At 21 one can buy alcohol. At 25 one can serve in the House and at 30 one can serve in the Senate. At 35, if one was daring enough, one can become President. At 59-1/2 one can begin withdrawing from retirement savings like 401(k)s. These are practical ages to mark as milestones.

The half-century milestone is not. For most of human history, few people lived to be fifty. In psalm 90:10 the Bible proclaims that “the days of our years are threescore and ten” as if seventy years is the utmost maximum one can expect. Indeed, the subsequent passage seems to indicate that anything beyond this just isn’t worth the effort: “and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away1.” No mention of fifty is made anywhere, except in greeting cards.

You have have to be 62 (or maybe 65, I can’t quite tell) for the dubious title of “senior citizen.” I call this dubious because it has become synonymous with “old folks” rather than experienced, wise folks.

Centenarians–those few who reach the 100 year mark–have a milestone worth celebrating. That is quite the achievement, and is frequently recognized by a letter from the President of the United States. At this moment, I’d have to live an entire lifetime (another 50 years) to reach that impressive mark.

On the off-chance that I make it that far, when I go to bed tonight, I will stare at the ceiling in the darkness, and think to myself, When I turn one hundred, I should remember the day when I was fifty, laying here in bed, thinking about what it would be like to be one hundred–remember that I was once fifty, even though I am old now.

If I am still able to write here on the blog fifty years hence, you can rest assured I’ll remind you all of this.

Me, at fifty, with my birthday shirt, courtesy of the folks.
Me, at fifty, with my birthday shirt, courtesy of the folks.

Written on March 16, 2022.

But wait! There’s more! After all, this is my birthday! You see, I am not particularly comfortable with my birthday, and I seem to grow increasingly less comfortable with it as I get older. The result is that I have written several drafts of this post. The one you just read was the final and most recent. But I thought I might use this day and this post as an opportunity to pull back the curtain a bit, and show you a little of how my mind works. What follows are the previous drafts, in reverse chronological order. From these you can see how I handled my discomfort with my birthday and ultimately succumbed to posting about it, despite my original intention to ignore it entirely.

Previous (second) version of this post

Today is my birthday and I am spending it offline, as I do most of my birthdays. I’ve written before about how I am uncomfortable with my birthdays. I’d prefer to treat my birthday as any ordinary day. But people get carried away with milestone birthdays and I decided a fair comproimse would be to acknoweldge that milestone here and move on.

Today I am fifty.

Inside, where that little voice lives, I often still feel five. I still wake up each morning and greet the kids with unique, silly names for each of them. “Good morning, Herman Melville Showercurtain,” I’ll say to one of them. “Good morning, Gretta Moonshine,” I’ll say to another. Like I said. Five, not fifty.

Ten years ago, as I was approaching forty, I wrote a series of posts leading up to the big day. I was more comfortable with my birthday then, I suppose. This year I had to beg and plead with people to not make a big deal about the day. No surprises. A quiet day is all I am looking for. Fortunately, it is Sunday, a day that is usually more quiet than most.

It is possible that Kelly and I will get away for a night and day. (I am writing this almost two weeks ahead of time so there is still some uncertainty here.) That would probably be the best possible birthday. It is extremely rare that we have time together away from the kids.

I debated even putting this post up. What finally decided me was history. I’ve been writing this blog since I was 33 years old. That means long-time readers have been with me for 17 years. It seems only fair to record here on the blog that I turned fifty today. Daring readers can go back to that first post and work their way through the years and get a sense who I am and what I like to think about. I say daring because some of those early posts are hard for me to read. But like me, like this birthday, they are part of the historical record.

Rest assured that I am having a good day offline, something too rare these day (the offline part, not the good day part). And because I didn’t want folks here to think that I was out seeking birthday wishes (I mean, really?), I have turned off the comments on this post2. It is for the record. Otherwise, this is just another normal day on this journey around the sun.

Written on March 15, 2022.

Previous, previous (first) version of this post

I am taking the day off today and I hope no one minds too much. Given that these days, I am generally writing these posts about 2 weeks ahead of time, it makes it a little easier to have a backlog and pick a day in the future to completely disengage. I don’t just plan on taking a day off here on the blog, but also on social media in general. One day free from the pull of social media.

This post, announcing my day off, is to quell any concern of regular readers, who are used to seeing a post from me every day. Indeed, as of this post, I’ve managed to post here on the blog for 450 consecutive days. Therefore, this post serves two purposes:

  1. To allay any concerns about me. I’m fine, great, cheerful, dandy.
  2. To ensure that my 450-day posting streak remains unbroken.

You can be assured that I will be back online tomorrow with regularly scheduled programming here on the blog.

If you are looking for other stuff to read in the meantime, you should check out any of the following:

Those should get you through the day. Have a great one!

Written on March 14, 2022.

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  1. I used this verse as the title for my story “If By Reason of Strength” published by 40K Books, about a man sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison, who somehow manages to survive to his eventual release.
  2. I ended up leaving them on. The comments, too, I decided, are for the record.

50 in 2022

paper banknote of usa with official symbols and number fifty
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Later this year I will turn fifty. That seems almost impossible to me, but I imagine that is the way many people feel as they approach fifty. While I sort of celebrated my approach to forty a decade ago, I’ve becoming increasingly wary of birthdays as I get older–my birthdays in particular. These days, my approaching birthday makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’d rather pretend it was just an ordinary day, with no special recognition. Last year, I got my wish in that regard. We drove down to Florida for spring break, and we left on my birthday. I spent ten hours driving from our house to Savannah, Georgia. My family was with me so I wasn’t alone, and we were heading on a break. But there wasn’t a lot of fanfare, and I appreciated that.

I warned Kelly that I didn’t want any fanfare this year for my fiftieth birthday (even the word “fiftieth” is a difficult word to type): no surprises, no big party. I know that fifty is a milestone, and I can appreciate that without a big celebration.

When I was very young, I thought that fifty was impossibly old. My grandfather was 52 years old when I was born. That means that I am nearly two years shy of the age my grandfather was when I emerged into he world. Shakespeare died at 52 and he was considered pretty old at the time. (Did they have big fiftieth birthday bashes in Shakespeare’s time, I wonder?) Now, I keep telling myself that fifty is still young. I told myself the same thing when I turned forty. I imagine that when I turn sixty, I’ll tell myself the same thing. There has to be a point, however, when you can no longer deny your age. Did Betty White consider ninety “still young” when she hit that milestone?

Signs of aging are all around me. I look at my desk and see the medications there (most of them temporary, fortunately). My right knee has been giving me trouble and I’m seeing a doctor this week to figure out what can be done about it. I’ve put on more weight than I am comfortable with because I don’t move around as much as I used to. I tend to feel bad about these things because I know they are not a requirement of age. Satchel Paige played baseball into his fifties. My brother, just two years younger than I am, is probably in the best shape of his life. But age does more than introduce physical decay. There is decay of the will as well. As much as I’d like to get myself into better shape, I can’t quite drum up the willpower to do it.

There are milestone birthdays that I can appreciate. Turning 18 allows one the franchise. Turning 21 you can buy alcohol. Turning 25 makes you eligible to be elected to the House of Representatives. Turning 35 makes you eligible to run for President. Turning 59-1/2 makes one eligible to begin drawing on retirement savings. Turning 62 makes one a senior citizen. There is nothing, that I am aware of, that happens when one turns fifty years old. It is a Hallmark birthday, a half-century mark worthy of a speciality card with the number 50 on it. It represents 7 billion, 480 million miles traveled around the sun.

Apollo 17, the last which landed on the moon, took place late in the year I was born. Turning fifty this year also means passing a sad milestone: the end of 2022 will mark a half century since humanity has been to the moon. Compared to a fiftieth birthday, a new moon landing would really be something worth celebrating.

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Happy 10th Birthday to the Little Miss

One of the nice things about having this blog for the last 16 years is that when I reflect on things from, say, ten years ago, I can link to what I wrote about those events.

As it happens, the Little Miss turned ten years old today. Hard to believe it has been ten years since the day she was born. Looking back at those ten year-old posts, I was reminded the anxiety I was feeling the night before she was born.

To celebrate here on the blog, the Little Miss has granted me permission to use her first name here on out1. So let me wish a very happy 10th birthday to Grace, a.k.a., the Little Miss. Below are some photos of her then, and today.

I think she has had a good day. She got her favorite donuts for breakfast, went on a ropes course with friends, had lunch at McDonalds, went the pool, and this evening, she has more friends over for pizza and cupcakes.

And in one week, the Littlest Miss will turn five!

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  1. I’m sure I’ve done this in the past, but I generally tried to stick to the Little Man or the Little Miss until the kids were old enough to understand I was writing about them and were okay with me using their names here.

Uncomfortable Birthdays

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been uncomfortable about my birthday. I’m not really sure why. I have a memory of an early birthday party (I was five or six) and had all my friends over at the house celebrating. I remember feeling sad about growing older. It’s the only clear memory that sticks with me about that party.

Since then, I get an uncomfortable feeling when my birthday rolls around. Other people want to celebrate it and remind me of it, and I’d just as soon treat it as any other day, completely ignoring the astronomical coincidence of the earth being at the same point around the sun as it was on the day I was born.

Of course, I can’t ignore it completely. People wish me happy birthday and I try to be gracious about it. For a few years, I tried forcing myself to be downright happy about it. I hosted a birthday dinner at the Rainbow Room in New York City, inviting close friends to celebrate. But that phase passed after a few years and I was back to preferring to ignore the day completely.

With kids it is more difficult. My kids want to celebrate everyone’s birthday, mine included. They have a hard time understanding why someone wouldn’t want to celebrate a birthday. And since I don’t want to pawn off my neuroses on my kids, I try to act excited about my birthday when it rolls around.

I prefer when my birthday falls on a weekday, and a busy work day in particular. It doesn’t leave much time to ponder. This was the case last year, for instance. I think about my birthday so little that it creeps up on me and catches me unaware. I think so little of it that I often have to ponder for a moment when someone asks how old I am.

I’ve tried to understand why my birthday makes me feel uncomfortable. It is not about the passage of time. That is inevitable and I try not to waste much thought on things that are inevitable. I tell myself it is because I don’t like being the center of attention, but that is slightly disingenuous. What writer doesn’t like being the center of attention? (I tell myself that I want my writing and not me to be the center of attention, but let’s be realistic.)

I’ve never been a fan of unearned credit. I’ve never played the lottery because I don’t want to win something I didn’t earn. I try to spread credit around on projects I run at work because they are group efforts, and my name just happens to be the one at the top. I think this is what makes me uncomfortable about my birthday: being credited with something that isn’t particularly notable. I could see celebrating, say, a 100th birthday since it is something outside the norm.

Perhaps birthdays are just a reminder of mortality, something I don’t ordinarily think about. Thoughts of mortality put me in a somber mood, and I don’t like being in somber moods. As my birthday approaches, I think of Psalm 90:10 (I like the King James version best):

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength and labor sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away.

This year I’m spending my birthday with my family. We’ll be in the car all day as we drive for a much-needed respite from work and school, and being cooped up in the house for much of the last year. I enjoy driving; I enjoy having my family with me in the car. I listen to books, and watch farms and fields roll by, the scenery constantly changing. If I had to pick, I’d say that is my idea of a good birthday.

Happy birthday, Dad!


It’s my Dad’s birthday today and he turns [redacted] years old! For those M*A*S*H fans out there, my Dad (who along with my Mom is visiting my sister and brother-in-law and their kids in New York at the moment) took Sydney Freedmon’s famous advice yesterday:

Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice
Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.

Well, maybe not the “pull down your pants” part, but he did go sliding on the ice. Fortunately he was not seriously injured.

Everyone please wish my old man a happy birthday. Not only has he gone sliding on the ice, but he has, over the years, had to wade through drafts of stories that thankfully have never seen the light of day. I’m guessing that his birthday wish is that the New York Giants will win one more game this season. Stop laughing! He can wish for whatever he wants, regardless of how improbable it might seem.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Happy birthday, Kelly!

It is Kelly’s birthday today. I’ll be picked up the Little Man a little early from school and we’ll all be going to an early dinner at a local restaurant that Kelly recently discovered. Most of the rest of my afternoon and evening will be in helping Kelly celebrate her birthday so I won’t be around here too much for the rest of the day. See you all tomorrow!

The Little Man’s Birthday Weekend

This past weekend, the Little Man turned two.

In a few years, the exact same sentence as written above will have an entirely different meaning (as in, he turned a double-play), but for now it means, quite literally, he is two years old. We decided not to have a party this year, but tried to make it a special weekend for him. On Saturday, we drove up to Baltimore and spent the morning at the National Aquarium at the Inner Harbor. I was rather impressed by the aquarium. It is well designed and has a lot of cool attractions. Of course, the sharks were among the coolest things to see there. Part of the aquarium is a multi-level tank which you spiral down into from several floors up. You start above the surface of the water and the tank surrounds you on all sides. The walkway then spirals down and you go deeper and deeper into the tank. At one point, we were watching the sharks. There were several great whites and some of them were probably four or five feet long. I had put the Little Man up on a landing to see he see them. One of the great whites turns and looked right at us, and that was as menacing a look as I had ever seen. I was happy for the thick glass.

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The Little Man turns two

It’s hard to believe that he’s two already, but as of today, the Little Man is not so little anymore.

I found some notes I jotted down on the day he was born. I remember jotting the notes because I assumed the day would be mostly a blur for me. As it turns out, I still remember it pretty well, but the notes are nice reminders of how the day really went.  Here are a few of them:

Up at 3am, couldn’t sleep, back to sleep (on couch) at 4am, up at 5am when the alarm goes off. Left for the hospital at 5:45am.

I’d forgotten about sleeping on the couch for the last part of the morning. Next:

Got to the hospital at 6:05am, checked in, signed lots of papers and requested a private room (which we got). Up at the “bunny desk” at 6:20am.

The “bunny desk” was where you went to check into the maternity department. So called because there were stuffed bunnies everywhere.

6:40am, all hooked up to the monitors and can hear the Little Man’s heartbeat. Cord blood registry stuff in the works. Kelly’s in her gown. My hearts picking up the pace a bit.

6:45am, IV is in and the nurse got their blood draw for the cord blood. Kelly says that the vein they drew from is bugging her.

I don’t remember anything about the blood draw or Kelly complaining about the vein afterward.

7:10am, second nurse arrives. Kelly has already gone through a bag a saline.

7:20am, we get briefed by the nurse on what happens. We met the circulation nurse and agreed to allow a student to observe. Student’s name is Jason.

Completely forgot the part about the student.

7:25am, our OB came by to brief us.

7:30am, the anesthesiology nurse came by to brief us and we are waiting for Jeff (our anesthesiologist). He arrives at 7:40.

Finally, we are moved.

7:55am Kelly is in the operating room; I’m getting into my gear; almost shaking with adrenaline.

Little Man was born about 10 minutes later or so. After that, there are only a couple more notes, the first of which isn’t until 6:30 that evening (we were busy!). But that 6:30 note is pretty amusing:

6:30pm: “Tar” diaper

Meaning, of course, that the Little Man had his first dirty diaper.

We are having a BBQ later this afternoon to celebrate his birthday and he’s already opened his big present, which was a massive train table with lots of track and various appurtenances of train life. He played with it for hours.

Happy birthday, Little Man!

What I did on my (disconnected) birthday

A couple of people have asked me if I had any symptoms of withdrawal, being away from the Internet for more than 24 hours. I don’t think so, although I was eager to check my email and blog stats as soon as I woke up this morning. Actually, I was rather humbled by all of the birthday wishes I received. I’m very fortunately to have such thoughtful friends and family.

And there was even a talking cat electronic birthday card that referred to that fact that I’d gone paperless. Let’s see Hallmark try and beat that!

Mostly, I spend the day yesterday deliberately doing nothing. I hung out with the family in the morning, lazed around for most of the day. I got a head start in reading the May 1940 issue of Astounding, but even there I didn’t do too much.

I had phone calls from a number of friends and family and it is always nice to hear those voices that I don’t get to hear very often.

I did clean off my desk. It was a complete and utter mess with stacks and stacks of golden age Astounding’s piled all about in disarray. The desktop is now clean and clear and the Astounding’s have been arrayed. I always feel like I can think more clearly when my desk is clean.

On said desk, I had a backlog of some 12 or so issues of New Scientist and Scientific American that I hadn’t touched. There is no way I was going to catch up reading each page of every issue, the way I normally do. So yesterday evening, I went through the contents of each magazine, making check marks on the contents page next to those articles I thought were particularly interesting. Then I started reading those articles and tossing the magazines when I finished. I’ve still got about 9 or 10 issues to go through, but there’s only about 1 or 2 articles in each that I’ve highlighted so it should go pretty quickly. This is important because it is how I keep up with science, but also because I usually get at least one good story idea from every issue–and last night was no exception.

It was a very nice day, all told, and I was glad I chose to unplug. I can see why Jack Benny wanted to remain 39. It seems just about the perfect age.

My Jack Benny birthday

Today is my Jack Benny birthday, and if anyone is wondering what that means,

Benny played the role of the comic penny-pinching miser, insisting on remaining 39 years old on stage despite his actual age. [Emphasis is mine.]

So that means I am 39 today and will (thankfully) still be in my 30s when the next baby is born in August. I’ve always had mixed feelings about my birthday, some years being unenthusiastic, and other years being very excited about them. For several years, I would take my close friends out for a big birthday bash dinner at the Rainbow room in New York and that was always a blast. Of course, the Rainbow Room is now closed and has been for a few years. For the last several years, I’ve taken the opportunity this day provides to completely disconnect. No Internet, no television, no carrying around the iPhone. (So what about this post, you ask? This post was written at 1pm yesterday, as were the other posts that will appear here later in the day.

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And since I mentioned my birthday…

Since I mentioned my birthday in the previous post, I ought to mention that it is this coming Sunday. Last year, I took advantage of the day as an excuse to self-indulgently abstain from the Internet for a period of 24 hours. I plan on doing the same this year. I think I deserve one day a year completely out of touch with the Internet, where I don’t feel a compulsive need to check email or blog stats. Or carry my iPhone around with me so that I can respond to a tweet the moment it comes in. In fact, I tend to take the day off from the computer entirely. No writing, no browsing. Just one day off to do absolutely anything I want that doesn’t involve high technology.

Since I usually do my Golden Age write-ups on Sunday that poses a bit of a problem. But I have a bit of a solution: I plan on finishing early this week, doing my write-up on Saturday and scheduling the post to be released Sunday evening. I will likely write a few other posts scheduled for release earlier on Sunday, but if you are looking for me online, Sunday, March 27 would not be the day to do it.

I’ll have more to say about my birthday on the day itself (scheduled post, of course).

Just a little heads-up to all my Internet pals.