On the road again

We’re on day 2 of our big road trip for the fall. After a long-ish 11 hour drive from Fallbrook to Grand Junction, we crashed at K’s brother and sister-in-law’s place. And by crashed, I mean I went to bed at 8pm local. The surgery has definitely taken some of my stamina. But the knee survived with minor aches and pains.

Beautiful weather here. Today we visited the Colorado National Monument just outside Grand Junction. Lots of pictures – here’s a good one. They have some big views in Colorado.

The title picture above is of our wonderful hosts with Kathryn at the monument.

UPDATE: I realized I missed a numerological opportunity yesterday – it was 10/10/20, an interesting date. Or 10/10/2020, also not bad.

Insert clever title here

My creative slump continues. It’s hard to write with the incessant noise from Trumpville and our impending extinction-level-event election. The mind wanders easily.

The VP debate was a bit disappointing. I expected Harris to be sharper and Pence to be weaker. Though I’ll have to say he lies extremely well – he’s smooth. Actually, more like smarmy. Harris did come across as smart and classy.

In the “dreams are weird” category, I woke up with an unusual word in mind: tacent. I didn’t know its definition, I just woke up thinking “tacent”. So I looked it up, and it’s a Latin word meaning silent. That search for a definition also led me here, to the Dictionary of Unusual Words. Or The Phrontistery, if you prefer. It includes little bonus sections, like the Compendium of Lost Words. I had no idea it existed and I love it – this will be a new favorite.

I have to mention one particular Trump insanity that popped up overnight. From the CNN website:

President Trump says he doesn’t believe he is contagious and, less than a week after testing positive for coronavirus, he is ready to resume campaign rallies. He says he is immune from another infection and attributed his recovery to being a “perfect physical specimen.” In his first interview since returning from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Trump sounded raspy on the phone speaking with Fox Business. But he insisted he is, in fact, better than normal and is prepared to resume his campaign schedule.

I really think we’re in 25th Amendment territory here, folks. He’s immune? And…”a perfect physical specimen”? Trump is nuts, and someone needs to keep him from harming himself, others and the country further. But no one in his Cabinet will step up and do the right thing.

And finally, I voted today! Feels good; you should try it.

October is different in the West

More bad news today, this time about Dune. Fucking 2020.

I’m definitely in a funk. The endless heat wave, the white skies, surgery recovery, Trump’s insane clown posse Presidency, Napa burning, COVID uncertainty…it all adds up. It’s very hard to do anything creative or productive. Twenty-eight days until the 2020 election. Let’s hope that at least one of the chaos factors clears up around then. If it doesn’t…time to go shopping for Canadian real estate. Or Northern Italy.

One bright spot – we go on a big road trip soon, making our way back to Louisville and an actual autumn season. And of course the kids (seen below). That should go a long way toward resolving my angst, though I am worried about long days spent in a car with the still-healing knee. A calculated risk, like most things these days.

Later today I return my leased BMW 530e, maybe the last brand-new car I’ll ever drive. It was a great one, but I’m happy to now have a fully paid for used car. A small concession to retirement.

One other bright spot of late is that I’ve started reading James S. A. Corey’s incredible series, The Expanse. I loved the Amazon-produced video series, and the books are even better. I see the video’s characters in my head as I read the books, and it lends a realism to the characters and story you don’t often get.

Just another Friday

I took yesterday morning off to go play some golf – my first 18 holes after surgery. That went great, but wow did I miss a lot of crazy in one morning.

  • Trump goes from testing positive, to having “mild symptoms”, to being taken to the hospital. One White House staffer was quoted as saying they wanted him to go to the hospital while he could still walk to the helicopter. (?!) Mild symptoms, huh?
  • Wife Melania, also infected, is on tape being a horrible person. So much for the thought that she’s just a victim caught in Trump’s evil orbit – turns out she’s right at home in the heart of darkness.
  • Half a dozen of Trump’s key staff, several journalists and at least three Rep. Senators also infected, all apparently from the barefaced, socially-packed Rose garden announcement ceremony for Trump’s new SCOTUS nomination.

On that third point I have to include this cartoon sent by a friend. It’s just too perfect.

That’s a lot of crazy for a few hours, even in Trumpville. The next 30 days (!) until the election will be something to watch and live through. You just couldn’t make this shit up – a novel with this plot would be rejected due to lack of believeability.

Holy crap, it’s October

October 1st and it’s 104 degrees here in Fallbrook. Geez.

You know there’s no end to the corruption with Trump, but this strikes me as a bottom-scraping move. Using food bank programs as a campaign tool. He of course has had absolutely nothing to do with our national program of food banks, run mostly by states and non-profits. But here he is, taking credit. He’s one sick dude.

Just stumbled onto this company, a venture capital darling and an interesting play. It’s basically a private Wikipedia. Now I love Wikipedia, and am comfortable with its crowdfunded and open source content pros and cons. So what’s the market for a privately curated version?

I know they’re not quite the same, but this reminds me of one of my old AI-hopeful companies, Cyc. Cyc (now Cycorp, Inc.) was an effort to encode all the world’s common sense in a data structure useful for AI. Doug Lenat, who is still with the company as CEO, starting working on and publicizing Cyc in 1984! So…36 years in product development. I’ll give kudos to Lenat for sticking with it, even if his “products” and use cases now seem pretty pedestrian (e.g. condition-based maintenance for heavy industry – you don’t need an intelligent machine to do this).

Just talked to my Dad. he sounds a little weak, but in good spirits. I talk to him every day lately. It’s great that he’s lucid and friendly – things were different for the years he was on the heavy pain meds. Nobody wanted to talk to him then. I’m sad for all those years lost, but happy that we’ve got a little back now. Knock on wood, 2020 hasn’t destroyed everything.

Grumpy old men

This is the time of the year I really hate it in Socal. Hot (very), dry (very). It hasn’t rained in eight months. It’s 96 degrees at 10am, going to about 105 today. Just another nice Fall day. Hard to believe tomorrow is the first day in October.

And as long as I’m in a mood, just a few words about last night’s “debate”. It was a national embarrassment, just another thing that Trump has touched and killed. Two old white guys (three actually, including the so-called moderator) yelling and talking over each other. Our Presidential election process is a mess, yielding these two as are our best and only choices.

I’m doing the Nth rewrite of chapter one of my novel, and that isn’t helping my mood. It’s hard to throw away the words previously written, but…it is getting better. I’m anxious to declare Ch 1 good enough and move on (again).

Pretty sure I’m having a flareup of COVID cabin fever. Can’t visit with friends because COVID. Can’t enjoy the outdoors because heat. Have to sit a lot and keep the knee elevated because surgery. Can’t fly out and see the grandkids because COVID. There’s a whole lot of can’t in life these days.

2021 needs to be the year of “can”.

UPDATE: It got up to 107 today at the house, 109 out by the freeway. The standing 50+ year all-time record for this date was 100, back in 2004. New heat records being set here about every other day. So yeah, climate change feels real to me.

One month later

It’s been 28 days since my knee surgery, and all is well. In fact, things have gone much, much better than I expected. Just two days ago I played my first round of golf – nine holes riding in a cart. But the moderate walking and the swing itself just weren’t a problem. That was a huge milestone for me.

Sure, there are days when the leg feels “not great”. Today is one of them – sciatica has set in. But keeping up with PT and Tylenol has minimized those days, and I’m already much more ambulatory than before the surgery. Lots to be thankful for here.

Today I go see my surgeon for the first time since the surgery. She’ll tell me if I’m nuts for pushing things as hard/fast as I have. We’ll see.

UPDATE: The surgeon gave me clearance to do pretty much anything, including extended walks and golf. The bionic knee is solid and the incision is healed, though still a little rough looking. I’m a lucky guy.

Perspective

I’ve come around to the somewhat fatalistic opinion that Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court isn’t the life-or-death deal that many think it is. Yes, she’s almost certainly an arch-conservative on par with Scalia, Alito and Thomas. And yes, she’ll probably be around for a loooong time. This will hurt.

But I think this is a case where short-term issues outweigh long-term. Right now we have some near-term, existential actions that must be taken.

  • Get rid of the Trump crime family.
  • Get rid of McConnell’s stranglehold on lawmaking in the US. He is the disease that has infected Congress, and needs to be excised.
  • Repair the damage to our country’s image, to democracy in general, to environmental regulations.
  • Get the US economy back on track with intelligent subsidies to save jobs until normal capitalism can kick in.
  • Re-educate people and their understanding of how we can dampen COVID until vaccines are widely available.
  • Do something intelligent in terms of police reforms and address the growing mistrust/hate of law enforcement. That just can’t go on in a healthy society.

These are all things that can and must be done in the short term, where I’m defining short term as 1-3 years. So while Barrett may do some damage to the progressive agenda during that time, dealing effectively with any/all of these items is more important, IMHO.

And in the spirit of keeping things in perspective, here’s my new favorite picture.

Legal but not just

Tough morning, tough week. I’ll (mostly) avoid whining, but let’s just agree that any day that starts with sleep deprivation is a tough day.

Tough week because it’s been awful watching Louisville make the national news over the Breonna Taylor tragedy. I’ve come to embrace Louisville as my second home, and seeing it torn apart by protestors and police is tough. Tragedy upon tragedy.

I have a pithy, high-minded, fully formed essay about all this somewhere in my head, but it’s hidden away after a sleepless night. The gist of it is that the protestors are protesting the wrong thing. Don’t blame the cops – they’re just doing what they’re trained and told to do, albeit poorly. Blame the law. Protest the legal system, not the enforcers. In no world should it be legal to break in a citizen’s door in the dead of night and rush in with deadly force. Our homes are our safe place, our sanctuary, our castle. Government-sanctioned entry to that place should be rare, should be a highly-regulated event and should be documented vigorously. For example, it should be illegal to fulfill a warrant and enter a private space (home or business), without a video record (body cams).

But in this lovely year of 2020 the powers that be in Louisville have ruled that the break-in and shooting that killed Breonna Taylor was legal. So be it. But that doesn’t make it right, or just. So attack the legal system. Change it.

Going to war with the police is (a) the wrong target, (b) unwinnable, and (c) also unjust. Two wrongs won’t make a right. So take all that protest energy and change the system.

I know, easy to say but tough to do. But the right thing often is.

Just like the blog title, better late than never

Big day today. The folks who designed and installed our fire protection system are finally coming to start it up and test it. So, after two years (!!) of waiting, we’ll have an automated system to protect the house in case of fire.

The system was mostly complete after six months, but the installers disappeared for a long period. I worried that they had gone out of business or simply taken our money. They returned in the spring of 2019, finished the system and we scheduled the startup/test. I had to be somewhere else on that day so we tried to reschedule, and they disappeared again for over a year. Maddening.

Part of the problem is that the same guys they use for system installation are employed in a private firefighting team that roams over CA, NV, and OR. They’ve been busy these last two fire seasons, each the worst the West has ever seen. But that doesn’t excuse their lack of attention to a paid-up customer in Socal. Good system designers, but the worst project management and customer service ever.

Pictures coming later. Fingers crossed that they show up.

UPDATES: The fire system installers are here. We’ll get to test today. Pictures in progress.

Also, my home state and even my home town are in the national news today. The Breonna Taylor news about charges against the officers who killed her are in (just one officer indicted), and they won’t make anyone happy. Both law enforcement and the protestors will hate it.

And the CEO of Kings Daughter’s Hospital, the very facility where I was born, is pleading with local residents to mask up and keep distance. The hospital is at capacity with COVID patients and the projections look a lot worse.

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.