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.

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.