Sunday night happy hour

Here’s a little something to make you happy. Grandsons Hudson and Jesse giving their Halloween costumes a trial run. I’ll call it Buzz and mini-Buzz. Just makes me smile to look at them.

Also in good news today, I went to the driving range and (carefully) hit a small bucket of golf balls. Big success, no pain. 20 days after surgery – this is a big, happy milestone.

Inspiration

I’ve always loved this photo (Earthrise), taken as a black and white in 1968 (!) and then pseudo-colored in 2013. I was 12 years old when we landed on the moon, and for most of my younger years I took it for granted that I would get a chance to walk on the moon, either as an Air Force pilot or a civilian. (My pilot dreams were quashed during my short stint in AF ROTC when it became clear that no amount of academic or physical qualifications would convince the AF to overlook my very poor uncorrected eyesight. No contacts allowed for pilots in those days, and laser correction wasn’t invented yet. Door closed.) Those hopes faded further as the US gave up on space as a new frontier in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.

Things are a little better now with a somewhat-revitalized NASA augmented by the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin. Now our frontiers are broader, with Mars and the gas giants theoretically reachable by humans. Machines have the honor of exploring new worlds at present, as seen in the Mars photo below by Pathfinder. NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission landed on the Red Planet on July 4, 1997. It’s tiny rover, named Sojourner after abolitionist Sojourner Truth, spent 83 days of a planned seven-day mission exploring the Martian terrain.

My sincere hope is that we can get back to being a nation of inspiration and exploration during my lifetime. That’s when we’re at our best.

It’s always darkest just before the dawn

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death at this moment in time is a gut punch almost as bad as election night 2016. You ask yourself, how could this happen? Why now? Why her? But there are no answers. Losing a leader of her stature would be a tragedy at any time, but at this moment in the dumpster fire of a year numbered 2020, it’s a more than a little overwhelming.

We have a few choices in how we react to this Everest of horrific news. We can give up. Lay down and let hopelessness wash over us, hoping that it won’t all turn out to be as bad as it seems. Or we can look around for something positive to hold onto, something positive to do.

Part of me says I’m being too dramatic, to just chill and focus on something else. Don’t fret about the things I can’t change. Que sera sera. But another part of me says “Do something! Anything.”.

There’s comfort in knowing that the world has been here before. In an eerie echo of today’s 2020, in 1919 Yeats wrote his much-quoted poem “The Second Coming”. It was just after World War I and in the midst of the 1918-1919 pandemic. People were losing hope, including Yeats. His pregnant wife was sick with the flu that had killed millions.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Read what you will in Yeats’ poem – it is ripe for interpretation. I read that the world has been challenged before by death, war, disease, despotism and despair, yet we survived and even eventually thrived. Yeats hoped for some revelation, a “Second Coming”, to dispatch the darkness of 1919. Yet he feared his “rough beast”, slouching toward Bethlehem. It’s the same today. Trump’s re-election is our rough beast. Our opportunity to elect a progressive President (well, at least a centrist) and Senators is our Second Coming, what Yeats first called “a “second birth”. We’ll call it a second chance to get democracy right.

That brings me back to the “do something” theme. The list of things we can do to push back on the evil that 2020 has brought is longer than you might expect.

  • VOTE!
  • Donate to a progressive candidate who is in a tight Congressional race. $10, $20, $100 – whatever you can afford.
  • Talk to your circle of friends and family, at least the sane ones, and make sure they vote. So many people don’t vote because it’s inconvenient, or they don’t think it matters, or they don’t want to go through the mental exercise of thinking through each issue / proposal / candidate. Convince them that this time it’s worth it – if not for themselves for their children and grandchildren. We have to exit this President and a few key Senators, and voting is the way.
  • Create something. Write, paint, cook, throw pottery, take photos…whatever inspires you. Create some light to drive back the darkness.
  • Help someone. Either through a nonprofit or direct individual action, do something for someone else.

The 2020 election can be a Yeatsian rebirth, a way out of the gloom and despair of a wretched 2020. Even if Trump and his cronies manage to replace RBG with some cryptofascist conservative, it’s not the end of the world. Biden and a Democratic-led Senate could add Justices to the court. And a Biden administration can move ahead to start undoing the damage done to our psyche and democracy.

So keep the faith, look toward the inevitable dawn, and do something to fend off the rough beast. It beats the hell out of giving up.

(Title photo above taken by yours truly one morning in Cabo, 2015.)

Friday blues

I’m stuck in my chair today, letting my knee rest from yesterday’s ill-advised overexertion. Exercised too much / too hard, went out into the world and ran errands – acted like all was normal. This morning when I woke up the knee was more swollen, stiff and painful to walk on. A classic setback. Doh. So today I’m a lump in a chair. It doesn’t help that we’re having another all-time record hot day – 101 today in Fallbrook. Yay for the best weather in the world (?).

That give me time to think and read. First up, my daughter turned me on to this notable plea for empathy from a fellow eastern Kentuckian. Tyler Childers is shaping up to be this generation’s John Prine, and that’s high praise.

In Trumpland, there’s a whole lotta crazy-evil going on, as usual. Everything he touches dies, even when it’s something that might be good for Americans. I give you a drug deal gone bad.

Then there’s this little bit of schadenfreude. I hope the pastor recovers, but I hope he’s learned something.

This isn’t really new news, but a White House aide (Pence’s aide, to be precise) has gone public with insider stories describing Trump as a stone-cold sociopath. At least that confirms things for us all.

Moving on, one of my favorite contemporary intellectuals is Andrew Sullivan. In an essay today he talks about how social media and targeted ads are brainwashing Americans and driving the great cultural divide. He’s likely right, and it explains a lot of what’s happened the last decade.

Finally, grandson Hudson and his Dad are going to camp out in the backyard tonight, taking advantage of some nice weather back in Louisville. I hope they have a great time. Intrepid campers pictured below.

Bionic knee, Day 17

Not much new to report on the knee. Healing continues, and every day it’s getting less swollen and more usable. I’m very happy with progress and results, as is my MD. Walking is becoming pleasant again.

The biggest change is that exercise / rehab has pretty much taken over my life. My portfolio of exercises has grown quite a bit, and between the things I do hourly and the things I do twice per day, it’s a fairly packed day. There’s little time for anything else, but given the priority of making the new knee work, I suppose that makes sense.

For the next few days I get to enjoy watching the US Open golf tourney in between exercises. It’s a small thing, but I’m grateful for it. I can watch and daydream about the day I can get back out and whack the little white ball.

In macro-news, the western US is still burning (though a bit less), the Gulf states are staring down a string of potential hurricanes, the US is still doing a ridiculously bad job of pandemic management, and civil unrest (black versus white, Democrat versus Republican, flat-Earthers versus science) is at an all-time high. Basically, we’re living in Mordor. So maybe staying inside, exercising and watching golf, isn’t such a bad idea.

46 days until the elections. And 105 days left in a cursed 2020. Hang in there…

Monday musings

Busy week this week – MD appointment, auto repair appointment, a board meeting, a business dinner (properly held, just four of us and outdoor seating), and the all-consuming daily knee rehab routine. No grass growing under this retiree’s feet.

Really good article over at fivethirtyeight.com : “What if Trump Loses and Won’t Leave?“. It comes down to a few things:

  • How close is the election?
  • Is it a win in both the popular and electoral college?
  • How long are people willing to wait for final results?
  • How far will Republican Congressional “leaders” go to support Trump’s allegations?

A lot of bright people have wargamed (an apt term) these scenarios and have some idea of what to expect and (hopefully) how to respond. My hope is that Biden has a decisive win and that the Secret Service, military leadership and Chief Justice Roberts make it clear to Republican Senators that they will not support any partisan bullshit. Call me an optimist.

Wired magazine has a good article on why the western skies have been so Trump-colored lately. Photo from the article, with attribution, is the featured image above. Turns out the physics of light in our skies is pretty complicated. Metaphorically and actually, I’m looking forward to some solid blue skies.

Knee rehab, day 12

Things continue to progress really well. Walking fine and normally, doing the stretching with less and less effort. All the vitals good and getting better. Only need Tylenol for pain.

One small glitch – during today’s PT visit, I got a little enthusiastic doing one of the new stretches with the PT guy, and bumped my incision on a counter. It bled some, so he changed the dressing. We took advantage of that to take a picture of the incision with no dressings on it.

Frankenknee

You may think it looks horrid, but I’m very happy with it. The scar should be very fine. Upper leg (thigh) is still pretty swollen, but lower leg is great. That’s due to all the time I’ve spent with legs elevated. Turns out I’m pretty good at sitting around all day. Go figure.

September memories

September 11th. Another day that shall live in infamy. I tried to think of something particularly pithy to write about on 9/11/20, but no luck. I’m having a quiet day, focusing on knee rehab.

So I’ll look into the past. Here’s a shot from a much happier 9/11 in 2004 when we were getting to know our new pup Bogie. He was a great dog, and one of the all-time cute puppies. I note that I was skinnier then and we hadn’t remodeled the kitchen yet.

One more Bogie shot. He was very photogenic.

Moving ahead in time to another September (though not exactly 9/11) in 2010, my buddy Todd and I played in a Rancho Bernardo charity golf tournament with Will Farrell.

Todd’s a great golfer, and won one of the trophies.

And Kathryn got to meet the celebrity himself. He was very gracious.

We also got to meet one of my favorite golf personalities, David Feherty. It was quite the event.

My clean-shaven face looks a little weird to me. But K looks great.

Stridor and atrocities

I learned something new today. A noisy breathing problem has kept me awake a lot of the last two nights, and I learned it has a name: stridor. I think it’s affecting me because I’m (a) sleeping in a lot of AC, unusual for me, and (b) even more unusually, sleeping with my head below my feet in attempts to keep my swollen leg/knee draining toward midsection, not toward feet. That combination has narrowed some part of my airway and is making a whistling sound upon breathing out. This only happens at night after a few hours semi-inverted – once I’m upright in the morning, all is normal. That’s my diagnosis for now; I’ll ping my doctor to be sure.

And in politics, the revelation that Trump knew exactly how deadly COVID-19 was in January and then slow-rolled the danger to the public for months is…astounding. In any other presidency, this would be the resignation moment. He’d be finished. But with Trump, this is just one more atrocity piled atop many others. I don’t know how he understood his political invulnerability early in the game ( Remember the 2016 quote “I could shoot someone in daylight on 5th Avenue and they’d still vote for me”), but he did. It’s insane that he’s still in power.

To that end, I’m glad someone is keeping track of Dear Leader’s blunders, crimes and atrocities. It’s a full-time job. Fifty three days till the election.

Adaptation

Yesterday’s whiny post ended with a promise to write something more optimistic, something that discusses how I might adapt to the surreal situation of September 2020. As the blog title says, better late than never.

But first, my blogging friend Robert over at Blue Heron Blast observed the same weird yellow light I commented on yesterday, but he went out and did something creative/useful about it. He took some stunning photos in the yellow light – you can see them here. As always with Robert, superb photography.

But back to adaptation. The past week has been totally unique in my life – it’s my first surgery and first recovery. So I’ll excuse myself for getting a little off kilter. I spent a lot of time thinking about it all the last 24 hours and I can see what needs to change.

First, I need to make myself focus for a month. The next month needs to be all about regaining health – heal the wound, stretch the knee, regain strength, lose some weight (ANY amount), get as healthy as possible. A month goes by fast; I can do this.

Next, I need to set some mid-term goals for the period after the health-only focus. Those would be:

  • Get back to KY and see the family and grandkids again
  • Finish the second full draft of my novel
  • Walk and play 18 holes of golf

Each of those things have lots of moving parts and sub-goals, but getting those three things done by the end of 2020 is plenty to keep me motivated and moving in a positive direction.

I started by thinking about adapting to the reality of 2020. My realization is that the adaptation I need is a shift from just “passing time, getting through each day” to days spent with a purpose. I’ve been drifting, directionless, allowing the macro shitshow that is 2020 to distract me from setting a course to somewhere better. But I have a purpose for the next month, and I now have three specific goals to achieve in the next 100-ish days of 2020. Here we go…

Sure, I’ll have a little cheese with my whine

Man, I don’t even know where to start. Four days of dealing with the most extreme heat wave in recorded Socal history. Four days of having weak/irregular AC during that same period (I know, first world problem). Same four days dealing with the physical and mental aftereffects of knee replacement. I am…kind of exhausted. It’s a lot to deal with. All my go-to stress relief mechanisms – golf, dinners with friends, wine, BBQing, traveling – none of them are practical right now. Neither the heat nor the knee rehab are going away anytime soon. I need to adapt.

This morning of Sept 8th it’s only 70 degrees outside, but it’s an uncomfortable, peculiar 70 degrees. It’s muggy, very humid. And the light outside is dull yellow, from all the smoke in the air. The still air is like thin soup. It’s all very Lovecraftian. It just wouldn’t surprise me to see Cthulu lurching about in the driveway.

These things – heat and knee rehab – are hyper-local concerns. But beyond those, out in the larger world, there are several semi-existential threats that add to the background stress:

  • The way COVID-19 is burning through the US population unchecked by common sense. (I’m pretty disappointed in Americans).
  • The CA wildfires, which could become a very local threat at any moment.
  • The upcoming election, with the real possibility of another four years of Trump’s malevolent presence.
  • The way civil and racial injustice is dividing Americans (again, disappointed).
  • The astoundingly open political stage-setting for the elimination or minimization of Social Security, in which I expected to participate in 18 months.

So the question is, how do you adapt to all that? I’ll try to cover that in a more optimistic post later today.