Poetry

Jackson Browne released (announced?) his new album today, Downhill From Everywhere. Of course I’ll get it, but first I took some time to read the lyrics of the album’s songs. JB’s lyrics are poetry for me. Here’s an excerpt from a song I know I’ll like, “A Little Too Soon To Say”.

“I came for inspiration
I came looking for grace
And found my reflection
In every passing face
In everyone who gathered
Standing on that shore
Searching the horizon
Not knowin’ what exactly for

Searchin’ the horizon
For what we can’t quite see
When all we’ve ever needed
Has been there all along
Inside of you and me

I wanna see you holdin’ out your light
I wanna see you light the way
But whether everything will be alright
It’s just a little soon to say”

There’s a lot more, but I love that sentiment – “…all we’ve ever needed, has been there all along, inside you and me”. The guy was a musical/lyrical master at 18 and still going strong at 70-something. We get to see JB and James Taylor in Louisville next month, so I suspect we’ll hear this song in person.

Animals

We visited the Safari Park (aka the WAP, the Wild Animal Park) last weekend with our out of town company. While there I got some pretty nice animal and plant pictures (I’m a photo omnivore). The feature picture above was a little pool in tiger country.

First up, a burrowing owl.

Next, our cousin in a pensive pose.

How about a yellowbill stork?

Or a cheetah with a menacing yawn.

Finally, Mr. Elephant throws on some sunscreen. Being environmentally conscious, he uses sunscreen that does NOT kill coral reefs. I can think of a lot of human sunbathers who would look better in this same application.

It was a good day for pictures, though it got pretty hot before we left. I’ve always loved the WAP and it didn’t disappoint on this July day.

Restart

As I tiptoe back into writing, I’m thinking of giving Scrivener a try. Its users are passionate about it, as opposed to those of us who slog about in Word. It is *very* different than Word, which I suppose is the point. I like the idea of trying something new and fit-for-purpose, in terms of being designed for long-form writing. But I worry that it will be such a distraction that it will, at least initially, be a negative for productivity.

My biggest problem getting restarted is deciding which version to restart – the long version with substantial intro/backstory, or the shorter version? Or something in between. I’ve had soooo many rewrites that I’ve kind of lost track. Version control is not my strong suit.

Maybe the right thing will be to take the long version and port it into Scrivener – that’ll give me a chance to review each chapter and explore Scrivener’s functions as I go.

Launch day

After weeks of travel and entertaining, today is the first day with just the two of us and no planned activities. Time to catch up on Board work, consulting work and some neglected home maintenance.

But first it’s time to watch the Bezos Blue Origin / New Shepherd launch. I’ve been privileged to witness the beginnings of the space “industry” starting with the US’s Gemini and Apollo programs in the 60s and now the competing billionaire space programs of the 2020s. In the 60s we were competing with Russia for space supremacy. Then we allowed ourselves to become dependent on Russia for launches in the 2000s, a situation I hated. And now we have corporations leading the way, with three competing private launch systems all working with NASA. I like where we are now – the privatization of space is the most likely way that we’ll establish any kind of off-planet presence. Mining the asteroid belt – the starting premise of The Expanse – should start an industrial revolution similar to the advent of the steam engine and the integrated circuit. I wish I could be around to see it all happen.

UPDATE: Bezos and his three passengers had a successful flight. Happy for him, dumb-looking hat and all.

One month into summer

Another summer weekend, another pool party/cookout, another birthday. Great times and a little too much wine – that’s pretty much the summary of summer 2021 so far. Could be worse. For the next three weeks things slow down and get back to normal, whatever that is these days. Maybe catch up on sleep and repair the blood chemistry.

Been thinking about making a single big push to finish the novel. I can hardly call myself a writer for the past nine months, as the only things I’ve written are technical documents and this blog. I’m ready to dive back into attempting to be a creative writer. More than ever I feel my window is closing – I won’t have the drive or mental acuity to write forever. I’m torn between writing the book with the structure I want (a long backstory opening, explaining each of the characters and how they came to be on the Moon) versus the structure everyone else seems to think is better, which is jumping right into the action on the Moon. We’ll see.

Finally, in the best news I’ve heard this summer, NASA found a way to revive the Hubble Telescope after a month in “safe mode” (aka not functional). Losing it would have been a technology tragedy.

So, I decided to fly to Orlando for a short nap and a shower…

File this under “travel mistakes you want to avoid at all costs”.

I left Louisville to head west for San Diego. My first flight, to Denver, was fine. No complications. I landed in Denver dreading the 2.5 hour layover, so I looked for flights that might leave earlier. Jackpot! There were three total flights headed for SD, mine and two others that seemed to be still on the ground. I headed for the first one and it was almost finished boarding. The gate agent told me it was 100% full, but I hung around just in case. After they closed the door I moved on to the next one at gate 36. There the door was closed but the guy scanning passes told me there were seats, but I’d have to go over to the gate agent for a pass.

I husteled over and asked her if I could get on the flight, and that it would get me home 2+ hours earlier. She was on the phone but took my boarding pass (for San Diego, of course), took a look, tapped something on her terminal and printed me a new boarding pass. Double jackpot! I grabbed the pass, gave it to the scan guy and boarded. Within seconds of my sitting down the plane pushed back. I was very proud of the move I’d made to get home early.

About 90 minutes later I looked out the window and noticed something weird. The sun was on the back of the clouds, and heading west in the evening I would expect it to be on the front of them. Hmmm? Another 10 minutes or so passed and I checked again, thinking maybe we were just on a weird turn before. Nope, sun still squarely behind the clouds. I then used SW’s wifi service to check on the flight route/status, and saw that were were only 110 minutes away from landing…in Orlando!

I turned to the two ladies sitting in my row and asked them where this flight was headed. After they answered “Orlando”, I said something stupid about “that can’t be” and “you’re joking, right?”. They edged away from me a bit, probably thinking I was a nut case.

After a while I pinged for the flight attendant and he was flabbergasted. This just doesn’t happen in the modern system of scanners and computer controls. The rest of the flight was nauseating, knowing that every second I was traveling away from home at 550 miles per hour.

I landed and customer service helped me out, though not much. I got a seat on the first/fastest flight to SAN, leaving six hours from that moment. I found a hotel room where I was able to hole up for about 4.5 hours. And I found that my luggage was on its way to SAN and would stay there.

I still don’t know exactly what happened. I know that gate 36 highlighted San Diego on both the big board and the digital board at the gate. It’s possible that the flight parked there had originated in San Diego, and in my hurry to board I didn’t see the Orlando part. But when I gave the gate agent a San Diego-bound board pass and asked to get on her flight to get home earlier, I would think that would have triggered a question or two. But she was distracted and just printed my new boarding pass with the new destination. And I assumed the destination was the same, so I never looked at the thing. Mistake upon mistake upon mistake.

And so here I sit at 530am, writing this and waiting to board my flight. This is a direct flight (not nonstop, but I don’t have to change planes at the layover point). Hard to screw this one up.

Sometime soon this will be a funny story. Right now it’s just painful. About 18 hours extra travel, 50K miles for my new ticket and a $200 four hour hotel nap. We’re having some fun now…

Derby City food

This has been a very foodie visit to Louisville. So far, my restaurant stops have included:

  • Ciao – best Caprese Salad in quite a while (pictured above). And monkey bread.
  • Con Huevos – multiple visits, loving their pork enchiladas and green sauce.
  • Joella’s – great chicken sandwich and fries.
  • Fork and Barrel – my new favorite Louisville restaurant; the pimento cheese plate appetizer is the best.
  • Blue Dog Bakery – always good, but the egg sandwich wasn’t up to expectations.
  • Krispi Kreme – the light was on, I had time so I gave in and bought two hot ones. No regrets.
  • Greg’s Bistro – son-in-law Greg makes a killer pasta and crostini meal.
  • Burger Girl – a good breakfast anytime
  • El Nopal – stopped there to get something for the kids quickly, our reasoning was “how bad can it be”? Turns out pretty bad.

I arrived here having lost some weight due to the extreme heat/walking weekend. Pretty sure the foodie stops have negated that.

Disruptions

Just as humanity’s spread across the globe is disrupting the environment (pollution, toxins, plastics and (probably) greenhouse gas-induced climate change), the twin black swan events of of Trump and COVID are disrupting American democracy. We’re pretty unstable after 2016-2020, as evidenced by some of the headlines from today:

And I could go on and on. The news is full of things that would have been considered crazy just 3-4 years ago. The two-party system is breaking down – two parties can’t govern when they each think the other is evil or crazy or both. Our elected representatives aren’t governing for the good of the people, they’re fighting each other in what they consider a holy war. Politics is the new American religion. The Constitution’s First Amendment clause declaring that church and state must be kept separate has been subverted not by declaring a national religion, but by political parties becoming religions. It’s insidious, and it’s tearing the nation apart.

It’s clear to me what has happened, but it’s not clear at all how to fix it. The national rift over slavery, the definition of a person and an American and yes, voting rights, drove us to a violent solution called the Civil War. Surely we are intelligent enough to avoid this a second time.

Rainy day movie

During my rainy day of rest yesterday I watched the new Amazon movie “The Tomorrow War” and liked it a lot. It was a classic humanity-vs-aliens movie with a few nice twists. Chris Pratt did a good job just being his likable self, and the supporting cast were all good. In particular, Yvonne Strahovski and JK Simmons did a great job with their roles. In addition to the nice plot twists, one big mystery is how the hell did JK Simmons get so jacked up at age 65? He looked like a weight-lifting biker…he’s either a CGI creation or an inspiration to guys like me.

SPOILER ALERTS

The first big plot twist was the writers’ take on time travel paradoxes. They maintain that paradoxes can be avoided by simply not having two copies of any person in space-time simultaneously. So, the only people who can travel forward are those who will be dead in the target timeline. And the only ones who can travel backward are those who have not yet been born in the target past date. It makes a certain amount of sense though it is extremely anthropocentric. The implication of that, if it were a fact, would be that human consciousness defines reality. And that doesn’t make much sense in a universe where you have other sentient beings, namely horrific man-eating aliens.

There’s another 2-3 plot twists around the aliens that I won’t get into, but I liked them. They tied some loose ends up nicely.

The other big plot twist was the time-bending father-daughter relationship between Pratt and Strahovski. As the father of a daughter, it was uplifting and heartbreaking. Well-written.

All-in, I liked this movie a LOT. IMDB critics generally hated it, but…discount that. Many of the reviewers/commenters hated the same plot twists and paradoxes that I liked. The whole point of watching a movie is to suspend your disbelief, to escape from reality, so why pick apart a fantasy story based on it not being “real”? It’s a return to militaristic space opera movies like “Independence Day” with some memorable characters. And a few new takes on a very old trope.

Lurching forward

After two great days at Oakmont, the fun finally caught up with me. On my birthday I felt 45. The day after I felt my full age and then some. Lack of sleep, too much good wine, heat, humidity, dehydration etc. all combined to make my final day a bit tough. But, I pushed through.

I’m now at the PIT airport watching a slow motion train wreck – there’s heavy weather here, and flights are late and cancelling. One of my traveling companions had two flights cancel on him, and then when he tried to just stay over at the airport hotel, it was full. In today’s air travel system, each problem creates another and it all falls apart pretty fast. So far my flight is only 3 hours late, but they say they’re still going. I’ll get to my destination by 1030pm if nothing else fails.

The “lurching forward” phrase was uttered by one of my playing partners today as he described our progress toward the green. I liked it – that’s a good description of my golf game. And it pretty much sums up the whole day so far.

I know I’ll never take this trip again, so the memories of the first two great days will have to stay with me. Good friends, a classic golf course, a semi-athletic feat accomplished (walking 6+ miles every day in heat), great food and wine. That’ll do.

UPDATE, several hours later. After escaping Pittsburgh on one of the only flights with routing to Louisville, I’m in Atlanta. While in flight SWA changed my departure time for Louisville from 930pm to 1230am !! So I’m stuck here wearing a mask for another three hours. I arrive at 130am, so the rental car service will be closed. My baggage may or may not get unloaded. I can only hope I get a taxi or Uber. If not, I guess I’m sleeping in the Louisville airport.

As a bonus, none of the restaurants or bars in this part of the ATL airport are open – they all closed at 9pm. I am staying (relatively) patient with it all, but I’m tired. And four hours from now I’ll be really tired.

The state of air travel in the US is very, very fragile right now. Everyone is understaffed, hours are curtailed, and the least little disruption crashes the whole system/schedule. I will be a bit less ambitious about my next few journeys.

65 and alive

It’s my birthday weekend and I’m spending it on a golf trip to Oakmont CC in PA with some great friends. We played our first hot, humid round yesterday and I survived. It’s a way for me to re-assert some athleticism in an otherwise way-too-lax lifestyle. I probably lost 5 pounds just walking the course and sweating yesterday.

This is the Medicare birthday, and I take no pleasure in that. It’s a bigger milestone than I would have thought – signing up for Medicare just makes you feel old.