The Sounds Inside My Head

AEE37EA9-236B-429C-A71C-5F3D939CB78AI have the dubious distinction of suffering from a condition known as tinnitus. If you’re not familiar with tinnitus, it’s a perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It can be a ringing, a buzzing, or a wide range of sounds that only those with this malady can hear. And thus, the key word is perception, since there really are no sounds other than the inner “melody” perceived by those with tinnitus.

My tinnitus is in both ears and it sounds like a high pitched tone, almost like one you might hear if you stand close to high tension electrical wires. I’ve had tinnitus for years, but the good news is that, because it’s my constant companion, I am able to manage it. In fact, I’m so used to that ringing that sometimes I don’t even notice it. But at other times, it can overwhelm me. When I’m sick, for instance. Or when I’m overly tired. Or when it’s otherwise very quiet. Then it can seem quite loud. And quite annoying.

I have spent hours online shopping for so-called miracle cures. But to no avail. I’ve also visited a number of doctors and audiologists, many of which visits are not covered by my health insurance. And since the cause for tinnitus is unknown and there is no known cure, the best advice I received from all of these medical practitioners has been to “learn to live with it.”

And so I have. Because the alternative to not learning to live with it is not an option.


Written for these one-word prompts: Word of the Day Challenge (dubious), Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (melody), Your Daily Word Prompt (overwhelm), Ragtag Daily Prompt (shop), and Scotts Daily Prompt (insurance).

Best if Read By Date

I read a post yesterday from Roger Shipp in which he asked that age-old question, “What is with this gobblety-goop with the sell-by dates?” Roger’s post reminded me of something I posted back on September 6, 2010 (yes, that’s right — ten years ago) for a now defunct blog I used to have, although my focus was more on the use by date than on the sell by date. Anyway, I dug up that post, and with a few minor edits, present it to you here.


It seems that all food products these days have expiration dates on them. Are these dates, often worded as “best if used by” on the jars, bottles, cans, wrappers, or boxes, warnings to indicate that something may be amiss if the product is consumed after the stamped date?

Or is this a conspiracy by food packaging companies to scare us into tossing out perfectly good food and to spend money to replace it with a “fresher” product?

My approach to determining whether or not something is okay to consume is to apply a series of sensory tests.
F561D376-3180-42C3-85E5-331B7F33B651The first test involves using my eyes. Do I see, for example, anything blue or green growing on cheese? When I open up the jar of half eaten salsa that has been in my refrigerator for a couple of weeks, are there white, fuzzy things growing inside the jar? Is a penicillin-like mold spotting my bread slices?  If so, regardless of the “best if used by” date marked on the package, it’s time to toss out the product.
EFCC0151-98B9-477C-A589-36B667E9E193The second test involves the sense of smell. If I put my nose up to the opening on the milk carton and a foul stench strong enough to cause me to gag emanates from within that carton, it’s a sure sign that the milk has turned.

But if the milk smells like milk, even if the “use by” date on the carton was two weeks ago, I feel safe pouring it all over my bowl of Wheaties and munching away.

I became curious about this “best if used by” date as a result of several recent occurrences. First, my wife tossed out nearly a dozen eggs because the “use by” date (or maybe it was the “sell by” date) had passed a week or so earlier.

Unfortunately, you can’t look at an egg, assuming its shell is not cracked, to see if it looks bad, and because of its shell, you can’t really sniff an egg to see if it smells bad until after you crack it open.

My wife also pointed out that our butter has “best if used by” dates stamped on the packages, which is something neither of us had ever noticed before, much less heeded.

Then just yesterday I was fixing myself a tuna fish sandwich and I noticed that the jar of mayonnaise that I pulled out of the refrigerator had a “best if used by” date of June 16, 2018, which was about two and a half months ago.

I opened the jar and looked inside. Nothing fuzzy growing in there. I stuck my nose into the mouth of the jar and it didn’t cause me to retch.

Having passed my sensory tests, I took a spoonful of the “expired” mayo and mixed it into my tuna fish. Then I took out two slices of Swiss cheese where the “best if used by” date stamped on the package had also expired. I carefully examined each slice of cheese and saw nothing unusual. No white spots, no green or blue areas around the edges. When I smelled the cheese slices, they smelled like cheese is supposed to smell.

I confidently prepared and then proceeded to eat my hand-crafted tuna fish sandwich. It was delicious, even though several of the ingredients were well past their “best if used by” dates.

According to the USDA, the “best if used by” date serves as a recommendation from food manufacturers to suggest that the food will have the best flavor or quality when consumed on or before that date. It is not a “purchase by” or safety date. Of course, that’s not how most people interpret that date.

A study by the Journal of Food Science found that it was more common for people to perceive that foods labeled as being past their “use by” date tasted bad, even though the food was actually not beyond that date. Conversely, taste acceptance increased when people ate foods that were labeled as being within the “best if used by” date range.

So is this “best if used by” date a ploy by clever food manufacturers? Is it intended to persuade people to throw out anything past the date, regardless of whether it still might be good, and to go out and replace it with the same product with a future “best if used by” date?

Being the cynic that I am, I believe it is. After all, I am still alive to share this tale of my tuna fish sandwich made with out-of-date mayonnaise and cheese. Thus, while I will be aware of the “best if used by” dates, I will pretty much continue to ignore them and will stick with my sensory tests.

If it’s not discolored, not fuzzy (assuming it’s not a peach), and doesn’t cause me to gag when I smell it, it’s still good to eat…for me, anyway.

The Pretender

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This quote by author Kurt Vonnegut resonated with me. Don’t we all, at times, pretend to be someone we aren’t but perhaps would rather be?

The quote struck a chord not so much with respect to my real life, but when it comes to my blog.

In real life I am who I am, for better or worse. And I’m at the age where, with more than six decades behind me, I’m not likely to be changing who I am. I guess you might say that I’m set in my ways.

But on my blog I am not limited by the physical properties of the real world. I’m not just some random senior citizen, an old fogie with internet access who has time on his hands and who rants and raves to anyone and to no one.

On my blog I can be whoever I want to be — or at least I can pretend to be whoever I want to be. 

When I write my posts, whether they are political and societal rants, casual observations, or short works of fiction, my words transcend physical and environmental characteristics. My age, gender, background, where I live, what I do, and my life situation are not important. It’s what I write that defines who I am to those who take the time to read my posts.

That doesn’t mean I’m living a lie or that it’s all just an act. I may be making up stories out of my imagination when I write my flash fiction pieces, but the opinions I express in my non-fiction posts are my own. And they are deeply held and voiced with conviction.

Yet I’m not sure I would share them the same way or to the same extent in the real world as I do here on my blog. Because, in the real world, people see me for what I am — or for what, to them, I appear to be.

Thus, their perceptions of what I have to say are colored. They may dismiss my rantings and the expression of my opinions and perspectives as those of some old coot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

And so, in the real world, I tend to keep my mouth shut.

But here on my blog I can be a writer of short stories. I can be a pundit, a pedant, a journalist, an editor. I can act as if I know what I’m talking about. I can pretend to be witty and engaging. I can pretend that others are interested in what I have to say about whatever is going on in the world around us; that my opinions matter to anyone other than to me and that they are worth sharing.

Most important, I can pretend to be the person I’ve always wanted to be.

And if, as Vonnegut says, we are what we pretend to be, that works for me.