News 8-31-21

Today is the actual 1-year anniversary of my knee replacement. I guess the warranty period is over.

In more interesting news, it’s actually raining today in Fallbrook. I can’t remember it *ever* raining in August. We have a wet monsoon coming up from the south causing this unexpected rainfall, lightning and thunder. It’s a nice surprise.

In more important news, the headline from MSNBC: “Joe Biden ended the war in Afghanistan after 20 years.  That’s a BFD. ” I agree completely. Argue if you wish about how the exit was conducted, but Biden made the hard call and got the job done. We have no business trying to build democracies in the Middle East when our own is crumbling. Take your last shots at Biden over this and then let’s get on with doing something useful here at home.

Tomorrow it’s September, the transition month between summer and fall. For our KY home, that means the beginning of cooler weather, harvest time and leaves turning from green to red/brown/yellow. For our CA home, that means the beginning of hard-core fire season and Santa Ana winds. Fall in Socal is very different than Fall back east.

Negative news

Hurricanes and floods. Pandemic part two (or is it part three?). Fires in CA, including close to home. Extreme heat across the US. A sad end to the endless war. The polar ice caps melting. Political corruption and incompetence. Constant evidence of man’s inhumanity to man. (Or woman. Or pick your noun/pronoun.)

It just doesn’t pay to watch the news these days. A constant diet of that and you wonder “…what’s the point of it all?”. Nihilism creeps in, when in fact there’s plenty to be happy and thankful about in the world. There needs to be a news channel that isn’t all disaster-porn.

Why *do* the news channels all focus on the worst of the world? Obviously, they do it because it sells, it makes them money, but why? What attracts the masses to a constant feed of negative news?

I’m sure one of my psychologist friends could come up with a good explanation. For now, I’m just lumping this in with my general disdain for people on average. On average or viewed in large numbers, people have very disappointing behavior. To be clear, there are plenty of people I like and respect a lot, but en masse…not so much. Homo sapiens have some very rough edges.

The absence of pain

In just a couple of days I celebrate the first anniversary of my knee replacement. Time flies; much has happened since August 31, 2020. I thought of this because today I’m heading out to play golf, and I’m walking the 18 holes. A year ago that wasn’t possible – too much pain.

Having a pain-free knee really is life-changing. I knew I had to get the surgery when I was in KY in late spring last year and I had to turn back on a short walk with the grandkids. It became clear that I could not / did not want to be the weakest link in our family outings. I wanted to be able to keep up with the grandkids. Hence, the surgery.

Great surgeon, dedicated rehab regimen, and it all turned out well. My right knee is now the strongest part of my body. It does get stiff if I fail to stretch it for a few days, so it’s a good reminder to get up and do something, to move around. But this week I celebrate the absence of pain, gratefully.


Reading this most excellent article on this morning, I learned several things.

First, a new word: “orogen”: a geology term referring to a belt of the earth’s crust involved in the formation of mountains. Also orogeny, orogenies, orogenic and orogenesis.

Second, that my eastern KY roots in the Appalachian hills are ancient. From the article: ” It’s difficult to imagine, but this range contains some of the oldest mountains in the world. Even comparisons fail; for example, the Rocky Mountain range was formed about 80 million years ago. The Appalachians? 480 million years ago.”

You can accrue a lot of ghosts and memories in 480 million years. And the Appalachians feel old – worn down and weathered. The deep hollows (hollers, for some) contain a richness of shadow and mist – they can be spooky or spiritual, depending on your mood.

For me the Appalachian hills are definitely spiritual. I feel at home there like nowhere else. Some of my earliest memories are of running through those hills and hollows, discovering plants, animals, rock formations, pools and waterfalls. That was an idyllic time in my life, and I get a little glimpse of that even now when I enter the Appalachians.

Here’s a picture from the winter of 2002 that I took not far from where I grew up. Subtle beauty.

Same as it ever was

When we left KY a couple of days ago we were complaining about the extreme heat and humidity. Now we’re back in “cooler” Socal.

Actually, not so fast. Here’s the current weather:

Not exactly an improvement. A heat index of 153! Yikes.

Willfully dumb

Well, this was predictable. We’re just not a very smart country. We have so many things to be thankful for and to celebrate, but we piss it away being short-sighted and willfully dumb. Unreal.

Today is day 3 of a self-imposed healthy month, in which I aspire to eat better, drink zero alcohol and get some exercise. My son-in-law gave me the idea (he’s a week or two into his regimen), reinforced by the fact that I’m at an all-time low in terms of general health. It helps that I have no big events or travel scheduled for the next month – those seem to be the triggers for my most unhealthy habits.

Health and fitness – it’s certainly a journey. Just five weeks ago I walked myself into a reasonable level of cardio fitness, making it possible to walk 5-6 miles per day in the heat at Oakmont Country Club. That went well. But just five weeks later, after doing not much fitness-wise, I’ve lost that little bit of cardio health. I know it comes down to this – a (likely) shorter and unhealthier life from here on, or a (again, likely) longer and healthier life if I adopt better habits. Should be a no-brainer, but for some reason I’ve resisted choice this for years. Maybe it’s back to that willfully dumb thing.

But if I’m going to make the harder choice, there has to be something to look forward to. Here are four things I’m looking forward to:

So the couch potato in me has plenty to look forward to. Yay November!

Back on the Left Coast

After ten days on the road, finally back in dry, dry Socal. Was a good trip, and we completed enough COVID/Delta risk mitigations that I feel OK about the travel. The air here is definitely cooler and drier, a bit of a relief. I suppose nowhere is perfect – KY gets to be green and lush and CA gets to have more comfortable air. At least when it’s not burning down.

The news today is all about (a) the “terrible” job that Biden is doing in the Afghanistan withdrawl, and (b) the arcane process the House is using to pass the $3.5T relief bill and a subsequent $1T-ish infrastructure bill. With all due respect to my fiscally-conservative friends, I hope both measures pass. Conflating these two unrelated actions, I very much approve of spending our money on improving the situation here in the US rather than spending it on policing the un-policeable Middle East. The infinite war in Iraq/Afghanistan has cost trillions and I didn’t hear any fiscally conservative folks complain about that. So let’s just shift the money to build some US bridges, patch some roads, install some broadband service and generally improve things at home. Also, the infrastructure spending is unlikely to result in US soldier casualties and maiming. Nuff said.

The picture below shows how badly our mountain roads need repair.

There were lots of good memories from this trip, including:

  • The ATV trip up the mountain
  • Meals cooked and eaten together with the Alkire clan
  • Riding an N-guage train through the southern Rockies
  • Wrestling around with the grandsons
  • Realizing that Spalding’s glazed doughnuts are even better than I remembered
  • Finding good furnishings at good prices for the KY house with K
  • The Woodland Art Fair
  • Doing a good thing and visiting some folks who needed a visit – Dad, Phyllis and Mattie Moore

And after all, that’s why we travel – to collect experiences and memories.

Lazy Sunday

We attended the Woodland Art Fair in Lexington yesterday, one of the best arts/crafts events of the year. It was full of art and artists, and I came away with a print by one of my favorite photographers, Dean Hill. He specializes in Eastern KY landscapes, and I purchased this view of Paintsville Lake in the spring. Gorgeous.

On the way there we made a quick stop at Spaldings. Best glazed doughnuts ever, just no contest.

The rest of the day was spent taking delivery of our first real furniture for the new KY place and installing the TV on the wall. We found some nice stuff at Redefine Design, a nice consignment shop not far from the house. Now more than one person can sit and relax. Plus we have a place to actually sit at a table for a meal. Very civilized.

I have to say, getting back to ubiquitous cell and Internet service is great after 4-5 days of being disconnected in the wilds of Colorado. Perhaps it’s good to take a break from being online, but it is…disconcerting. Online is a big part of my daily life.

No big adventures today, just minor errands and relaxing. The only event of the day is Hudson’s birthday party. Hard to believe the little guy is already four. Here he is on a hike just a couple of months ago.

Up the mountain and back

After yet another late, late arrival to Louisville it’s a beautiful day. Time to look back on some of our Colorado adventures.

We stayed in a cabin at a campground near Pagosa Springs. It’s a beautiful area a long way from everywhere. About 7500 feet elevation, tons of rivers, lakes and pines. And a massive natural hot springs complex on the xxx River.

One of our adventures was an extreme all-terrain vehicle (ATV) ride into the mountains. Took us about four hours to ride up the mountain (topped out at 10,700 feet) and two hours to ride the same trail back. Gravity. It’s pretty amazing what the ATVs can push through – steep, rocky spots that you’d swear would crash you. We were on four-person vehicles, pictured below.

It *is* nice to get way off the beaten path with these vehicles, and it’s very popular in this part of the world. Everyone has an off-road vehicle of some sort. The views were spectacular, though the beetle kill of the pines above 9000 feet was sad to see. Still don’t know why the kill is at higher elevations (homework to do here), but in places it’s 80% of all trees.

It was a good day outdoors. All in, I enjoyed ATVing, but I don’t think it would become a lifestyle for me – more of a vacation outing.

Here we go again

At the Denver airport to catch what should have been a short, simple flight to Louisville. Except thunderstorms. We’re now going to be at least 90 minutes late on what was already a late evening flight. This is the second or third time in a row that I’ve had trouble getting to/from Louisville this summer.

This is after 3-4 days off the grid in southern CO. We had a great time, pictures and stories coming soon. But this may be the longest I’ve been without cell phone service or Internet connection in years. Weird feeling.

But here we sit with digital connections but no air travel connections. We might have been better off with the transportation featured in the picture above. It works just fine in a thunderstorm.