Season’s greetings

Aaaand, it’s the holiday season. I experienced my first season’s greeting while I was shopping for Thanksgiving dinner today at Costco.

Costco was packed – I expected that. I was patient, cruising around for a parking spot, expecting it to take a while and it did. I finally homed in on a lady in a Maserati (it’s Socal, natch) who was about to leave and parked myself in the right place to get her spot. I was there 2-3 minutes when an older woman came from the opposite direction and signaled like she was going to take the spot.

The geometry was such that I was able to pull up and speak with her through our open windows.

Me: “Ma’am, maybe you didn’t see me, but I’ve been waiting for this spot. This one is mine.”

Her, looking angry: “My signal is on. You saw me.”

Me: “Yes, that’s why I wanted to let you know.”

Her (angrier): “Well you’re very rude.”

Her, as she was pulling away: “You’re a f’ing asshole.”

Me, thinking as I pulled into the spot: “So I’m the rude one?”

Not a great way to start a holiday shopping trip. I just don’t understand people any more.

A long drive and a forest walk

Up and about at 530am Eastern time for the second day in a row. Not sure why, but this sleep pattern is going to play hell with my return to the west coast. Years of jet lag sleep debt may be catching up with me.

Long day yesterday due to the pilgrimage to Ashland and back. Had a nice day, got to watch the UK game with my Dad and then shared a very nice meal with Emily, Greg, the kids, brother Mike, Em’s mom and her husband Bill. I’m thankful that we have a relationship that allows us to gather divorced-then-extended family in one place and enjoy it.

A highlight of the day for me was a walk I took at the assisted living facility. I needed to stretch my legs before hitting the road again, and there’s a nice trail down the hill leading to a hidden lake (pictured above) . It was a perfect day for a walk – cool but not cold, sunny with a perfect slanting light. Walking to the lake and back I felt at home and at peace in a way I never feel anywhere else. The eastern woods are home to me – I suppose running through those hills during my childhood imprinted the place in me, and I really felt it yesterday. The oak, poplar, walnut, maple and ginko trees are the bold, broad strokes of the forest. The finer strokes are the smaller dogwoods, redbuds, grapevines and hollies. The moss and lichens on rocks and north sides of trees soften everything, as does the deep carpet of leaves. Even the parasitic mistletoe add a splash of color to the Fall forest. An eastern forest is really a holy place for me. I’m not a religious person, but being in the forest is a spiritual experience for me. (That and the first bite of a warm Spaulding’s doughnut.) Suffice to say I enjoyed my walk.

Strange days

Strange day yesterday. Turns out it’s OK to carry an assault weapon in a crowd downtown and kill a couple of people if they frighten you. No consequences (other than a couple of families missing a loved one). I think US law needs to change on this one.

And we had a woman President for about an hour and a half yesterday. That’s an historic first, and the nation didn’t collapse or even notice. Good for us.

The House passed the second Build Back Better (man, I hate that phrase) bill yesterday, but now they’re sending it to Manchin and Sinema-land for edits and votes. That may take a while. But I have to hand it to Biden and Pelosi – they’re getting things done. If only the people they’re actually helping (low and middle income) would notice and give them credit.

The Cats won the game last night, but it was an ugly win. They looked bad in the first half, but thankfully woke up in the second. Lots of talent, but the jury is still out on this team.

Science.org, a reputable source, has a new article out that says COVID originated in the Wuhan live animal market after all, and thinks they’ve identified Patient Zero. Interesting. Their research indicates that the zoonotic vector was racoon dogs (what the hell is a racoon dog, and why would anyone eat one?), not bats. Even more interesting. But I still can’t get over the coincidence that a virology lab experimenting with SARS coronaviruses was right down the street.

It’s strange to think that in December 2019, the world changed dramatically and no one knew it. A disease infected humans and animals in a Chinese market. No matter where it originated (nature or lab), it escaped into the world and the human population. Two years later millions of people are dead and the disease is only moderately under control. Where were you when the world changed?

In December 2019 I was in KY trying to find a way to get my Dad under some kind of care, beginning his transition to assisted living. That was incredibly lucky – he and Phyllis would not have survived the early days of the pandemic alone (can’t prove it; just know it). In those days he was drug-addled and in poor health, making poor decisions. The timing of it all is…strange.

And finally, strange human behavior. I’ve stumbled upon the Youtube channel “Karens in the Wild“, with a stream of entertaining, horrifying, and depressing behavior caught on video. I’ve become pretty cynical about people post-Trump and post-pandemic, and the Karen channel just reinforces that cynicism. There are a lot of disturbingly hateful people out there.

TWoT definitely doesn’t suck

This just in. Episode 1 of The Wheel of Time was very, very good. The screenwriters did a good job portraying the events of half a book in the first 30 minutes. Moraine and Lan were perfect, Perrin, Egwen and Mat pretty good and Rand…the jury’s still out. He reminds me too much of Christian Haydensen, the awful precursor to Darth Vader.

But the scenery, the trollocs, the visualization of the One Power…all good.

Episodes 2 and 3 will have to wait – Kentucky plays hoops in a little while, so off to Parlour we go to get some crowd vibes. But this first TWoT sample bodes well for the series. Jordan would be happy.

UPDATE: Parlour was a bust tonight. Two on a scale of ten. Had to work hard to get the UK game on screen (their reputation was a big UK hangout), and waited over an hour for no pizza. Server and bartender blew it off as “normal”, while people all around me got their food and left. Not happy, but managed to leave with grace. No casualties.

Walked down to Fork and Barrel and had the exact opposite experience. Great service, great food, a chat with the owner, the game on TV at my request – all while they were dealing with a much larger crowd. Management matters. I voted with my credit card and F&B was the big winner. I’ll give Parlour another chance sometime, but this was a bad night for them.

Peak charging

Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve hit peak charging. I have so many devices to charge that (a) something is *always* out of power, and (b) I’m running out of places to plug them in. I travel with an iPad, a MacBook, an iPhone, an Apple Watch, a standalone camera, the Bose noise cancelling headphones…it’s out of control. And we wonder why Apple is worth a trillion dollars.

I do like my gadgets. It’s a side effect of being an electrical engineer – every one of these things is a modern miracle, in terms of the electronic design and manufacturing. It’s an age of wonder – except for all the damn batteries.

And speaking of “age of wonder”, the Wheel of Time premiers today! I could watch it right now if so inclined. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t suck.

Autumn dropped by for a visit

The temperature dropped about thirty degrees on my second day in KY. It definitely felt like Autumn today. Fortunately, the heat pumps on our new place work just fine. Brisk outside, cozy inside.

Tomorrow I get to see my first UK hoops game while in the state, in quite a while. Not sure where to watch it, but Parlour is reputed to have a strong UK crowd. It’s been a long time since I saw a UK game in a rowdy crowd of fans, and I’m looking forward to it. Go Cats!

On a completely different topic, a movie I saw on the flight here was unexpectedly great. It started slowly, but got better, and better…the last 10-15 minutes were epic. The Good Liar, starring Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren. Highly recommended.

Tonight I’m watching a semi-demented Netflix movie called “The Trip”. It’s Norwegian, dubbed into English and stars Noomi Rapace. It’s a very dark comedy set in a cold, remote Norway forest. Remind me to not buy a wilderness cabin. Not exactly “Chariots of Fire” or “The Way We Were”, but I’ve seen those a few times.

I have managed to get a few shots of nice Fall colors – just a bright tree here and there, maples and ginkos. Pictures to follow.

Foody day

Had an unexpectedly good foody day yesterday in Louisville, my first full day after arrival. I was pretty tired, having arrived after midnight. But that didn’t stand in the way of some fine local cuisine.

As usual, first up was Con Huevos. It was good to be able to walk there, because with my late arrival, no rental car kiosks were open and I had to take a cab to the house. No wheels for me. The breakfast was as good as remembered – eggs over easy, atop two nice enchiladas and covered with the Con Huevos picante sauces. Their sauces are the best – no wonder their chef is a James Beard award finalist.

After a visit with the grandkids and a much-needed nap, I took a walk around the neighborhood and discovered another gem – Eat Your Bourbon Marketplace. A weird name for a great place – a cafe, a bar, a gift shop, a place to hang around and visit with locals. Bourbon-themed, but also specializing in some Kentucky classics like pimento cheese sandwiches and country ham. And five dollar Old Fashions all day, every day. I had the perfect country ham sandwich and took some pimento cheese home. I think I’ll be a regular there.

Finally, Son-in-law Greg and I took the boys out to Crestwood for an evening meal at 3rd Turn Oldham Gardens, a beautiful spot with some good BBQ and brews (for us, not the boys). The grandkids loved being able to run around and play while we ate, and we enjoyed the food and an unseasonably warm November evening. It was a great finish to an unplanned foody day.

Today I’m thinking some healthier food might be in order, like Green District.

Transition

After a wine-soaked business weekend and a day of rest/recovery, I’m off to Louisville later today. Leaving 90-degree Socal and heading to 40-degree KY, a more respectable mid-Autumn temperature.

The weekend did offer some chances for photography. For example, here’s a sunset shot of winos enjoying being misted in the evening heat at Doffo Winery.

Also at Doffo (great place, by the way), here’s their DoffoMotto vintage motorbike museum and tasting room. It’s a unique venue – hundreds and hundreds of bikes and related paraphernalia.

We also had a nice visit at Somerset Winery, where the owner took a lot of time with us and showed off his new clay amphorae-based wine aging process. Very cool – I tried (and bought) their first amphora-aged wine, and it was excellent.

The vineyards across the Temecula Valley are just starting to turn those beautiful shades of yellow, red and orange. By the time I return to Socal they’ll be mostly brown – the transition happens fast. The view below is again at Doffo, but we have the same view just below our home.

Cheers

I’ve been away for a couple of days running a business meeting/weekend. Sixteen hour day yesterday – now I remember why I “retired”.

But it all went well, we accomplished what was needed, and today we take the team out for a wine tasting adventure in Temecula wine country. In retrospect, we should have planned something not involving wine, as the dinners the last few nights have been awash in good wine. 20-20 hindsight. So while I would rather just hang around the house, we’ve got guests to entertain so off we go to the vineyards. Cheers?

Work shortage

It’s 89 degrees at 11am, harsh bright sun, in the middle of November. Days like this make me long for a classic, cool Fall day in the east.

(Update at 1pm – 91 degrees. Damn. Another all-time high for this date.)

We have a ton of projects we’re trying to get done before Christmas guests, but getting anyone to work on home improvement projects these days – companies or individuals – is almost impossible. The few people we can convince to come out and give us a bid on a project (door replacements, plumbing, irrigation work, window shades, etc.) show up once and we never hear from them again. If/when I track them down again, I get the “we’re just very busy” excuse and “we’ll get to you when we can”. The media is all up in arms about inflation, but I’m more frustrated by the sheer difficulty in getting anything done these days.

Pre-COVID I took for granted that there was always someone I could pay to do a job. I might not love the price, but there was always someone ready/willing and parts/supplies were never an issue. Seems like a completely different world and economy now.

Remote product and repair services, it’s a different story completely. For example, I’m getting great and fast service on a broken camera, and great products with rapid delivery from Leatherology (gifts for an event I’m hosting). And Amazon orders continue to flow in normally, so far. It’s the tier of small, come-to-your-home service providers and installers that seems to be broken in Socal, maybe all over the US. What happened?

New tech and old tech

Well, this is interesting. A bit frightening, but surely a godsend for paralyzed individuals. The frightening part is that once this technology improves, our species’ slide into some kind of cyborg culture is very likely. Maybe inevitable. A working mind-machine interface will be very useful and *very* dangerous. Brains are hackable via chemistry (alcohol for example, and hundreds of other molecules) and machines are hackable via other machines (software). It’s a security nightmare, and opens the door to mind control and inability to be sure of the reality of one’s perceptions. Perhaps I’m overly dramatic, but…once you can’t be sure that your thoughts are yours, or that what you see/hear is real, what then? Maybe yet another schism in societies – one side embracing the interface, and one side staying “natural” humans. Next-generation Amish, of a sort. There’s a science fiction novel in here somewhere.

Last evening’s college basketball kickoff was fun, but KY came up short. We played well, but not well enough. I hate starting the season with a loss, and a loss to Duke is especially rotten. Which is pretty much how I feel this morning (did a little intentional brain hacking watching the game).

This story and picture of an original Apple-1 computer selling for $400K is startling, even to me. Not the price, but the packaging and finish. I had forgotten how primitive these first machines were. I owned an Apple IIe, and it was a fairly modern-looking plastic case with a decent (for the time) keyboard. But this thing…it looks like something from a steampunk novel. We’ve come a long way since 1976. The Apple laptop that I’m using to write this entry is functionally similar to the A1, but at least a billion times more complex.

One more thing. Great article today from BBC on traveling to Malta. We loved our visit to Malta, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. The fact that they’re doing so well post-pandemic is wonderful. Malta has old-city urban charm, plenty of great outdoors for hiking and swimming, great food and nice people. Highly recommended.

Anticipation

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasin’ aft
er some finer day

Anticipation, anticipation
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ me waitin’

Lyrics from Anticipation (doh), Carly Simon, 1971

It’s about 12 hours until the 2021-2022 college basketball season officially begins, with UK playing Duke at Madison Square Garden! I’m pretty psyched up. UK’s team is a true wild card – capable of beating anyone, anywhere, if they work together and play confidently. They have massive talent and for once, enough experience to balance all those all-star freshmen. But they’re also capable of getting massacred by Duke if they play poorly.

I feel like an eight-year old the night before Christmas…