Tweet, toot or something else?

My good old friend Chuck introduced me to Twitter in 2008.

It seemed like something a writer should get familiar with, and it still does. Unlike some, I’m not planning to stop being either* @bjsmith or @BJSmithWords there any time soon.

Hanging around that long has been good in a number of ways. Ditto for my various forays into websites, blogging and publishing. Curiosity about how these things work has paid off for me in my day job, for example, and helped me sell some crime novels and make some great connections.

Curiosity also led me to poking around in other social media. I was hooked on Facebook for a while and I have a little fun on Instagram now and then. In 2018, I gave Mastodon a try. I’d almost entirely forgotten about it until this week, when everybody (not literally, of course) starting talking about it on Twitter.

I’ve now “tooted” on Mastodon a few times to see what might happen, and I’ve put the same content on yet another alternative someone suggested: Counter Social. I might stick with one of them. We’ll see.

For now, I hope to see you around somewhere, my friends. Just let me know where to look.

Write on,

* Why two handles? I’ll save that for another time. Maybe I’ll write about why I quit Facebook a few years ago, too.

Backpedaling: Bicycle time is different from other time

From 2010 on my puncture proof blog, which I still stumble across now and then

Bicycle time is different from other time. It is not ordinary.

Like fishing time or time spent walking in the woods, it is never wasted. It does not count against one’s lifetime allotment of hours.

It is better time than most.

Time on a bicycle, moving one’s self simply from place to place, is time for thought, or not. On a quiet, smooth, open road or lonely trail, the mind can declutter and focus, or go utterly blank, hypnotized by rhythm and cadence and steady rush of air.

In contrast, time spent jammed in traffic is lost forever, like vacation not taken and the innocence of youth, like time spent in anger or self-pity or idling in a drive-through lane waiting for cappuccino or cash or anything inanimate.

Such minutes and hours and days, like my darling Clementine, are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry.

Pedal on, my friends.


About our names

Photograph of B.J. Smith

Let us suppose you like your first name, your “given” name.

It’s yours. You respond to it.

You feel good when you hear it, except maybe when a parent says “Bernard Joseph Smith, you’re going to be sorry…!” for whatever you just did.

Even then you might not mind the tone so much if your first name is pronounced correctly. In my experience, you can count on parents getting it right.

Also in my experience, most people get Bernard wrong when talking to me, at least for the first time. They default to the common U.S. pronunciation, as if we’d all been named for a legendary breed of dog that rescues people in the Alps.

Some members of my extended family, and maybe your own, can attest to how important it is to at least attempt to pronounce names correctly. It’s a matter of courtesy and respect.

A tiny, tiny percentage of people who see my full first name in writing ask how to pronounce it. I smile, pronounce it for them, and thank them profusely for asking.

It’s understandable, of course. There is more than one way to pronounce many names. You can’t tell from the spelling if Bernard is BER-nerd or ber-NARD, but to me they are quite different. One is mine, the other is not.

If you don’t know for sure how to say someone’s name, just ask.


P.S. A man of many names and nicknames, I’ve been known to some as B.J. since U.S. Navy bootcamp in 1973 when one of our first chores was stenciling last name and initials on every shred of government-issued clothing, down to and including the white boxer shorts. Recruits on laundry detail would yell out names and initials so you’d get the right skivvies back.


Am I a mere shadow of my former self…

Shadow of a man, wearing a hat with a brim, looking at his shadow on the dusty ground.

…or is this just what happens when you’re trying to use your cellphone on a sunny day and can’t really see what you’re doing because of the glare?

What did I really want to capture? This…

Woman in the foreground walking her dog. In the background, pine trees and aspens sporting gold/yellow leaves.

Note to self: Remember to take your real camera from now on.

On flying or burning the flag

It is difficult to keep track of how many times newspersons, politicians and others have said indicting Donald Trump will tear this country apart.

Somehow they don’t understand, or they pretend they don’t know, that the damage has already been done. We need to acknowledge that reality.

Pixabay image

If Trump and numerous accomplices in his criminal enterprise are not indicted, tried, convicted and punished, we will have said goodbye to the pretty myth that no one is above the law.

Already torn apart, the U.S. will fracture further, maybe irreparably. Our justice system, deeply flawed as it has always been, will have failed more magnificently than ever before.

Justice? We will finally have to remove the very word from our vocabulary and leave a note in our collective memoirs explaining what it meant on the off chance that future generations are allowed to read about the truth.

The next step — for me, anyway — will be to get rid of a special keepsake I’ve kept around for years, the last thing I removed from my childhood home in Des Moines when our mother could no longer live there.

My siblings and I pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America every day in elementary school. We proudly displayed our own flag on the front porch at home on Independence Day. In the U.S. Navy, I learned the proper, respectful way to raise, lower and fold the flag.

For the past few years I’ve been reluctant to fly the flag at my house. I see it so often used to represent things I abhor that I can no longer unfurl it with pride. People fly huge flags next to their cowardly Let’s Go Brandon penants as they drive down the road in oversized pickup trucks. They dress in red, white and blue clown suits to attend Trump rallies. On July 4, I watched young baseball star wannabes solemnly listen to the Star-Spangled Banner before trampling three flag-themed bases with their dusty, cleated feet.

Does anyone who waves the flag actually respect the republic for which it stands or is it now just fetishism and fashion?

We will find out.

For my part, I will either fly the flag again when we actually start living up to our pledge of justice for all, or I will burn it with all due respect, as is recommended when an American flag is no longer fit to display.

No one should pledge allegiance to a flag that means nothing.