Like Grandma's basement

Sometimes I order an old record from eBay, sight unseen. Or seen via photo. But not smelled. I have no idea how it's going to smell until it arrives. I guess that's how I ended up with this album, which smells like grandma's basement. I guess that this is proof that it really is an original pressing from 1963.

The album: Crash! Kenny Burrell with the Brother Jack McDuff Quartet.

Great album. I've already listened to it half a dozen times in less than a month.

Growing Spam Resource

My deliverability blog Spam Resource got about 398,000 visits in 2023. Is that good or bad? It feels good. It's been fun blogging about email, deliverability, mailbox providers, marketing best practices, and all that kind of stuff. Near the end of 2021, I slowly started to overhaul the blog with the hope of increasing visibility and traffic.

First, I added images to every post. There were more than a thousand posts on the blog, and I went back through every one and added an image, stock photo, or graphic of some sort to it. That took a while, and at first, I wasn't very good at it. Slow load times due to big files, and generic stock photos (and a hefty stock photo licensing fee), and a struggle to find graphics to fit particular topics. Deliverability isn't photogenic or visually inspiring. But I got through it all, and ever since then, every single new blog post gets a graphic -- which I now usually create myself, either from scratch, or starting with royalty-free imagery of some kind.

Next, I revamped the blog template to make the site look a bit like a news site, with sections and groupings of different topics. The intent there is to expose more content on the main page, and make the blog look more like a resource than just a linear sharing of somebody's brain dump. If you visit the main page of the blog, you'll now see that there's a lot of content there just ripe for the browsing, versus the old days when the front page just showed the last 5-10 posts and nothing else.

All of that, plus email newsletter automation that will compile a week's worth of posts into an email newsletter for me, even if I don't have time to do it myself, have resulted in a blog that seems to be growing. Traffic is up, people actually link to my blog posts, and the newsletter gives me another avenue to connect with and network within this industry.

Blogging doesn't seem to be as cool or as hip as it once was. But it seems to be working well for me!

Quick and Incomplete Notes on Low Salt Food

I've had to change my diet recently after learning that I have a heart condition. It's not possible to completely eliminate salt (unless I want to only eat rocks), so I'm not going to be able to get to a zero sodium diet, but I have decided to eliminate sodium from my diet wherever I can. Here's a few of my notes on what I look for when buying food.

Sandwiches: Sandwiches are mostly out as lunchmeat is high in sodium. And bread and cheese are not much better. But I've found a solution that works for me, and that is this: Plainville Farms no salt turkey breast from Whole Foods, Ezekiel Low Sodium "Food for Life" bread, and thinly sliced Swiss cheese. The turkey breast comes sliced from the Whole Foods deli counter, and it's great. It tastes like carved turkey. The bread comes frozen, which is odd, but it actually contains no sodium, if you get the low sodium version. It toasts up nicely and is whole grain. And the sliced cheese that has the lowest sodium is always Swiss cheese. And going for a thin slice limits sodium even more.

Soda: I really should avoid diet sodas overall, for multiple reasons. But I'm only human, and I love the taste of Diet Coke. Diet Coke, and most diet soda, is NOT free of sodium, however. Instead, I buy Zevia diet soda, which is sodium free. For the diet cola, note that Zevia makes versions both with caffeine and without. It seems as though the caffeine free version might be available only at Whole Foods.

Frozen meals: At first, I thought, I'm not really on a low calorie diet, and I love things that are spicy, including things with buffalo sauce. But have you looked at the nutrition info on any spicy or "power" TV dinner? Some of them have more than a thousand milligrams of sodium, which is nuts. If I'm going to have a sodium bomb, I'm going to get a pizza, not some microwave frozen dinner.

So, I started reading labels and I've noticed that Healthy Choice has a series of frozen dinners, most of which under the "Cafe Steamers" sub-brand. A lot of them have less than 500 or 600 milligrams of sodium, which is relatively good, considering that it is prepared food. The other thing about them is that they seem to taste better than most other healthier frozen meals. They come in a special tray that keeps the sauce in the bottom while the meat and vegetables steam above them. That means that the meal comes out of the microwave in much better shape than you'd expect. I always put the meat and vegetables into a new bowl then pour the sauce from the original bowl over the food. The sauce, and the way you heat this up, really helps you end up with something that taste good, and it's not a mushy blob. And some of the flavors are ones you wouldn't normally find in a "healthy" frozen dinner, like beef chimichurri, which has an actually spicy sauce, and the barbecue seasoned steak with red potatoes, which has a nice barbecue sauce. The portion of steak, especially in the barbecue one, is tiny. But that's OK. It's only a 9.5 ounce meal, so it's not going to be 8 ounces of steak. And it's nice that some of these have beef instead of just the more common chicken.

Most days, I'll have a Cafe Steamer bowl for lunch. I've been really happy with them.

Tortilla chips: No salt tortilla chips are easy to find at Whole Foods, less easy to find elsewhere. But paring them with pre-made salsa is a lost cause, even "low sodium" salsa is high in sodium. If you're not going to make your own salsa (which we've done a few times, but it's hard to find the time), you've got to find a plan B. For me, I've started buying little six packs of individual cups of guacamole. It's not reduced sodium, but since they're tiny little individual cups, I prevent a sodium overload via portion control. Chips + guac = a good snack when I'm starving.

Frozen french fries: Did you know that Whole Foods sells frozen fries that are unsalted? They air fry up nicely, and your partner can always choose to salt their portion. I put a little bit of fake salt on mine.

Canned veggies and beans: Read labels. Most canned veggies are high in sodium. Some of them don't have low/no sodium variants. Switch to frozen veggies when possible. Those rarely have much sodium. Whole Foods does have some good low/no salt variants, though, for some things. Like, canned (or Tetra packed) beans. Yes, you can buy dried beans and they're sodium free, but if you're lazy and don't want to cook from dried beans, you can have some choices for low/no sodium canned beans.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some things. I'll try to update this as I think of more things to share.

Hang in there. We need you.

It's a shitty time. Depression falls from the sky more easily than the rain lately.

Please remember that your family needs you, your friends need you, your pets need you. The world needs you (even if you don't realize it). Depression can and will grab at you. Try hard not to let it eat you up whole. Get up out of bed in the morning, walk your dog, shower, brush your teeth, no matter what. Survive and try to even thrive, so that you can help others through this time.

Please don't fall into the trap of thinking the world just became bad now. I don't mean excuse Trump for all his shit. He's human garbage and responsible for so many bad things. I'll never forget that and neither will you. But what I mean that you need to remember that there were bad people doing bad things before Trump too, and you were maybe just luckier that those bad things personally impacted you less. Black people were getting shot by police when Obama was president, too. And remember how quickly we've stopped talking about W's war crimes. I DO NOT mean that this evens everything out, that we shouldn't be mad, that we shouldn't work to improve our country and our world. We should. We must. I'm not saying accept the current state of affairs. But don't become immobilized over what just happened NOW. Survive it so that you can help others survive it. This is important!

And please don't get sucked into doom scrolling. It drives anxiety. Be aware of the news. Keep up with the news. Don't consume it non-stop. Don't consume only the news. It uses up time that you could be spending helping others.

Use the news to inform how you can help. If you can't directly help those affected by the bad shit in the news, look closer to home. In your city/state/neighborhood, there are people that need help. Help them. Volunteer. Deliver. Donate. It can help you feel better and isn't it worth trying to fill your insides with feeling good about helping, to take away from the space being used for the anxiety you're suffering through because of that shitty state of the world.

I know that not everybody has the same ability to survive and/or thrive. Do what you can and keep yourself as powered up as you are able to, so you can help others.

Help somebody today. It'll make two people feel good, you and the person you're helping. That improves the world.

It's poorly written, and I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone, but that's my take.

But what of antifa?

What IS antifa? I don't know much about them, and I suspect you don't either, so maybe start with Wikipeda. Jezebel's Harron Walker has a good and quick take for you as well. See "Area Fascist Still Doesn't Know What Antifa Is." (Jezebel, May 31, 2020.)

Beyond that, a greater understanding of "what is antifa" is too much for me to tackle. Instead, I'm just taking a few notes here based on my concern around the president labeling antifa a terrorist group. I decided to do a bit of googling and reading around the news to try to answer one question for myself: Is "antifa" actually behind all the rioting and looting going on in the US these past days? If so, maybe some level of outrage is warranted. If not, it's fair to question what's actually going on here.

Black Lives Matter

Other people can explain this better than I can, so I'm going to quote and link quite a bit here.

Black Lives Matter. Doesn't "All Lives Matter" mean the same thing / mean a good thing, too?
No. German Lopez from VOX explains  Why you should stop saying “all lives matter,” explained in 9 different ways . (July 11, 2016.)

It’s a common conversation these days: One person says, “Black lives matter.” Then another responds, “No, all lives matter.”

It’s also a complete misunderstanding of what the phrase “black lives matter” means. The person on the receiving end interprets the phrase as “black lives matter more than any other lives.”

But the point of Black Lives Matter isn't to suggest that black lives should be or are more important than all other lives. Instead, it’s simply pointing out that black people's lives are relatively undervalued in the US — and more likely to be ended by police — and the country needs to recognize that inequity to bring an end to it.

My Coronavirus Notes & FAQ

Here I'm pulling together a few different bits of information on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that I believe to be correct. I've linked to sources and included publication dates to help with identification and trust.

Starting with: Should you wear a mask when out and about?
Yes. See this post from Daring Fireball's John Gruber. "We’re waiting for peer-reviewed studies. In the meantime, early studies and anecdotal evidence from countries with established mask-wearing social norms suggest quite strongly that mask wearing is effective." (May 21, 2020.)
See also "HAMSTER RESEARCH SHOWS MASKS EFFECTIVE IN PREVENTING COVID-19 TRANSMISSION" linked to and summarized by John Gruber. (May 21, 2020.)

John's not some conspiracy theorist. He's a respected tech blogger linking to various respectable sources of information.

On the subject of voting

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

Greetings from NOLA!

Greetings from New Orleans! My wife and I are down here for a bit, dog and house sitting for a friend. So far we've seen some great music (Snug Harbor might be my new favorite jazz club), and had fantastic food and drink at too many places to mention, both in the French Quarter and around the Bywater neighborhood we're we are staying.