Tags and categories here at the Barn

There are things I’d do differently if I were starting this blog over, but we do learn as we go.

I’d keep the merry-go-round approach but definitely tweak it. Well, the focus of the Barn has evolved over the decade, as has my life.

One of the things I didn’t know much about at the start was Categories, so the definition of some has become, shall we say, rather elastic. American Affairs is one, especially when I’m using it for a microcosm like Dover or Eastport. Still, I don’t want to create more, which I feel would lead to clutter.

Tags were even more elusive. At first, I had no clue I’d find them so useful when I turn to the WordPress Reader or to the Smashwords catalogue. Posting is another matter, where the advice is not to exceed ten per entry. Five somehow seems to be optimal. And then I chanced upon the difference between those that are what I consider factual, like the name of a state, and others that are more emotive, like “happy” or “fun” – which are supposed to get more hits. Again, how do we keep the list manageable?

So what I’d like to know is just how you use Categories and Tags, both as a blogger and as a reader. Any advice?

And while we’re at it:

Does anyone else miss WP’s daily Fresh Pressed selection? Maybe that dates me as a blogger, but it really was a great way to be introduced to new voices.

A musician’s insight on leadership

The question of just what a symphony orchestra maestro actually does led to an unexpected answer about leadership on a YouTube interview. According to the 59-year-old Paavo Jarvi, a conductor is essentially a teacher, regardless of the quality of the players. That, more than his artistic vision or temperament or divine inspiration or managerial skills.

It had me thinking about the best bosses I’ve had and realizing their excellence was as teachers.

How about you? What do you look for in a leader?


By the way, I was rather startled when I came across Paavo’s age. I still think of him as a “young” conductor, one of Max Rudolf’s last students.

He’s now the age Dr. Rudolf was as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra, a fine ensemble Paavo later directed for a decade before turning his attention to Europe.

Whatever happened to my silk scarves?

The first college I attended had an excellent writing program, and somehow most of the kids in it began wearing scarves as a kind of identity badge. I posted on that back in 2013, but am now reflecting on a later incarnation, once I had relocated to New England.

In the intervening years, I had discovered the glories of silk, a fabric I had been taught was expensive and somehow beyond our means. What I found instead was how marvelous it felt to the touch and how warm its lightness could be in winter here or how well it breathed in warmer weather. And then I picked up a few brightly patterned ones that were scarves. They were a stylish touch to my otherwise nearly Plain wardrobe and made a definite impression, often eliciting favorable comments.

But then, when I remarried, they vanished into my stepdaughters’ collections. Fine enough.

The other day, though, I flashed on the thought I could really use those again – they do hold the heat in cold weather – or cold rooms, especially.

So I’m on the lookout. This should be fun, picking up a couple or more.

Now, as for my necktie collection? When’s the last time I’ve even worn one? Will I ever wear one again?


Looking at the closet

First off, I should explain that few old houses in New England actually have much by way of closets. So I’m actually talking today more about personal wardrobe and style.

One of my long-term planning notes was this, for my shift into retirement:

Focused look: new jeans (black/green/gray); sandals (fewer socks; also, they travel better); blazers for the pockets.

What actually emerged was quite different.

I shifted from denim jeans to tan cargo pants, for their pockets, especially.

Instead of my customary oxford shirts, I wore turtlenecks in winter, and Aloha shirts in summer. (I still largely avoid T-shirts.)

Instead of that blazer, I rely on a messenger bag to hold my reading glasses, cell phone, emergency cardiac prescription, choral music scores, and so on.

My style, such as it is, has emerged from yard sales, mostly. These days my focus is on wearing them till they give out while also downsizing. You’d be surprised how many compliments I get.

Do you follow a to-do list?

I thought everyone did. And then one day, at the close of Quaker worship, I casually asked the circle if anyone in the room didn’t do such a checklist. I was surprised by the number of hands that went up, even if they were a distinct minority.

How do they get everything that needs to be done, done? It’s still a mystery to me. It’s like I need a map if I’m gonna get anywhere.

My wife and I have multiplicities of such lists. The problem is keeping them all straight. Sometimes, once we find where they’ve gone missing, just trying to read the handwriting is confounding, but even guessing still helps.

For years, I kept both seasonal and monthly lists, broken down into categories of Personal, Domestic, Creative, Quaker/Spiritual, and, at times, even Computer and Astro. I eventually kept a master file on my PC for easy updating and printed out pages as needed for a clipboard.

You know, reminders of auto tag renewal, driver’s license, income tax filing, ordering firewood (and the phone number), furnace and chimney cleaning, medical exam and dental cleanups, birthdays and anniversaries, Yearly Meeting sessions, drafting our local Meeting’s State of Society report, and so on.

To that I added goals like weekend escapes, writing and publishing agendas, gardening chores, home improvements, even exercise, which never did actually happen. Reviewing these can be embarrassing.

Yes, we can regiment ourselves or else try to go with the flow, even if that means trying to put out endless fires we hadn’t planned on. The frustrating part is all the stuff that never got done – or as I’m seeing in my review, did so only years later. Others remain unfulfilled dreams or promises.

The more practical solution has been my keeping of weekly planning calendars, though a master list would still help in inserting some of the tasks. This year, I’ve gone with a smaller book – make of that what you will. I do miss the big artwork, though.