It’s Thursday again. Seems like that happens every week or so…

I’m writing a rapid turnaround proposal for one of my companies, and I had forgotten how much I like (a) proposal writing, and (b) the initial part of projects, particularly requirements analysis. It’s something I’m good at, and something most people struggle with. So I’ll knock out a detailed 15-20 page proposal for them in just a couple of days. Win for them, win for me.

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The news about Biden having two found caches of classified documents is just awful. It completely undermines the push to make Trump accountable for his willful taking of documents. Somehow, Cockroach Don always scuttles away. And Republicans get to have a huge round of their favorite game, what-about-ism.

This news also keeps anyone from focusing on the Republicans’ newest liability, George Santos, liar extraordinaire.

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The KY basketball saga just gets worse and worse. Now OT is calling out his teammates publicly for not playing hard enough. That won’t help team chemistry. I lay it on the coach – for $9M+ a year, JC needs to fix this. Yesterday.

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I’ll only say this once. I care absolutely nothing about Prince Harry and the shitshow that the UK royal family have become. They’re not news, and I wish the media would stop shoving their lame stories in our face.

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Higher education has gone completely off the rails. Otherwise reputable institutions (I’m rethinking that reputable part) have decided to ban the word “field” in descriptions of work, calling it racist.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Southern California’s school of social work have taken steps to ban the word “field” on official documents, citing racist implications.

In a Monday memo, the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work informed students, faculty, and staff that it would no longer use the word “field” or “field work” from its curriculum and would now use the term “practicum” instead because the word “field” was linked to slavery.

Yeah, “practicum” is really going to catch on. Fergawdsake.

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Finally, Jeff Beck’s sudden death really hurts. I’ve been a Jeff Beck fan since college; played some of his music just the other day. He truly was a guitar god. RIP.

Get well, little buddy

Tough morning. Grandson Hudson is in the hospital with a serious infection. I woke up every hour or two last night in case there was news. I expect he’ll come out of this fine, but…hospital.

On top of that UK lost to the worst team in the SEC, a team we were supposed to beat by 20. So I guess that makes us the worst team in the SEC. On any other day I’d call that a tragedy, but with Hudson in the hospital, it’s just background noise.

UPDATE: As of 1/12, he’s doing fine. A couple of nights in the hospital for frequent blood tests and a pretty big post-debride wound on his finger, but he should be home soon. Infections are serious stuff, and we’re all thankful that this one is back under control.

Water capture

I enjoyed a nice bottle of Pinot last night. Then I didn’t enjoy the workout this morning – it hurt. Thus, I have a new name for my wine cellar – The Hurt Locker.

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The news is full of dire news about rain and flooding in a lot of California, but there is an upside. Lakes and reservoirs are refilling, fast.

The table below shows the changes in the water level of the state’s 15 largest lakes by volume, with water level measured in feet above average sea level.

LakeWater Level (ft MSL) 12/26/22Water Level (ft MSL) 01/09/23Change in water level (ft)
Shasta Lake921942+21
Lake Oroville673735+62
Trinity Lake2,1892,204+15
New Melones Lake883908+25
San Luis Reservoir412430+18
Don Pedro Reservoir737765+28
Lake Berryessa*394401+7
Lake AlmanorN/AN/AN/A
Folsom Lake386406+20
Lake McClure676735+59
Pine Flat Lake766801+35
New Bullards Bar Reservoir1,8611,890+29
Diamond Valley LakeN/AN/AN/A
Lake Tahoe6,2236,224+1
Lake Havasu447448+1

Source: Lakes Online *Lake Berryessa data from Solano County Water Agency

A rise of more than sixty feet of water in some lakes in less than a month! And that’s without the snow melt. From where I sit (not flooded), this all sounds pretty great.

Dread

Another day with not much to say. I think it’s the existential dread of the UK game tonight, wondering if the team will continue to suck or will somehow miraculously get on track. Odds are on the former.

Meanwhile, have some bighorn sheep from Borrego Springs.

A uniquely American tragedy

The recent story about a Virginia teacher being shot by a six-year-old student during an argument in class is morbidly fascinating. In one awful morality tale, it illustrates (1) the extreme problem we have with gun control in America, and (2) the problems we have with children exposed to violence and their subsequent violent behavior.

If I were in charge (a game I often play), here’s what I would do:

  1. Until there are fewer guns in America (not holding my breath), every school needs metal detectors. At every entrance.
  2. Phones would not be allowed in schools – let’s have everyone focused on teaching and learning, not importing social media with all its ills. This would help weaken the psychological lock phones and social media have on kids today.
  3. Pay for police presence outside every school while children are there and school is in session. Between this and item 1, school shootings should be close to zero.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an expert here, but something has to change. We are failing generations of kids by allowing gun violence to affect their school life and their formative years. School should be a special and safe place in their lives, and it clearly isn’t. We have to do better.

The dark continent

Well, after a few days of research and some detailed planning, we’re going to Africa! Late July and early August, 10 days on the continent plus another two days on each side for travel. A solid 14 days door to door.

A lot of tradeoffs had to be made – time, money, sights to see or not. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of tours available. My vetting process was progressive – I first just wandered around the Internet looking at tour and operators that looked interesting, then I got some recommendations (thanks, cousin Donnie!), then I looked at high-end reviewers (e.g. Forbes magazine) and their recommendations for tours and operators. The more I thought about it, the tour operator’s brand and reputation became just as important as the tour itself. I wanted a company that has a long track record and has a solid, well-known reputation. In the end, I went with National Geographic tours.

We’re focusing on the areas around Johannesburg and Victoria Falls, with an emphasis on Kruger and Chobe National Parks. We also get a private game reserve trip or two – those are good because you don’t have to stick to the roads. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on airplanes to cover more geography – Africa is a *big* place. Our wishlist is/was (1) Lots of time on animal viewing opportunities, (2) chance to see Victoria Falls, (3) at least one river cruise through an animal-heavy area, and (4) as I mentioned, minimal time spent on cities and airplane rides. The tour we selected (and then customized a bit) does all that.

Africa trips certainly aren’t cheap, and I think we hit the right balance among luxury, time and opportunity on this trip. We selected midrange accommodations – top-shelf Africa lodges can be crazy expensive, at $1000-1500 per night per person. Don’t really need to stay in a five-star on a wildlife trip, so we asked our operator to find us more reasonable accommodations. However, I draw the line at plumbing. Hot and cold fresh water are a must. And we didn’t try to do everything on one trip. If it’s as good as advertised, we’ll be back for another sample.

I’m pretty excited about it, as excited as I’ve been about a trip in many years. Looking forward to seeing our long-necked friend below in his (her? their?) natural habitat, with many other four-legged friends.

Another rainy day, and that’s OK

I am definitely feeling this – a decreased tolerance to alcohol – the last couple of years. More so the last six months. My recovery time from any drinking is longer – noticeably longer. Not good news for a guy with an extensive wine cellar. There are very few upsides to getting older.

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In reading this article I also noticed something new in editing, something I’m not so happy about. The gender fluidity movement has many repercussions for those of us writing and editing, and here’s a new one.

Some people—including those who are elderly—may get wobbly after one alcoholic beverage, while others need a few drinks to feel any impact. “Body size and composition are significant factors in alcohol detoxification and tolerance regardless of age,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Many [people who identify as] men tend to have larger bodies, which indicates more area to distribute alcohol in lowering the overall alcohol content. They also tend to have more muscle, which in turn leads to a higher water content, helping to dilute and diminish the effect of alcohol on the body. Also, some [people who identify as] women have less alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, leaving more alcohol in the bloodstream for longer periods of time.” This is why the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping drinking habits to a minimum, which they define as no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women.

It’s that [people who identify as] phrase that caught my attention. Must we always now put that in as a disclaimer for the things we write? I think not – if someone identifies as a gender different than that defined by their chromosomes, that’s their business, not mine. They can do the translation for themselves when they read the material.

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Doing research for the potential Africa trip is daunting – there are a lot of possibilities, at a lot of different price points. It occurs to me that this isn’t like my usual Europe or even Central America trip. In those trips I feel completely OK doing the detailed itinerary myself, and if I make a mistake on connections, cost or quality, I can deal with it. But with Africa, I have zero experience, it’s a huge continent with major variations by region and country, and some areas just aren’t stable or safe. It’s that safety thing that has gotten my attention – for a couple of weeks we’re putting our complete safety and trust in whoever we hire to escort us around the continent. Physical safety, food, trust in subcontractors…I’m leaning toward paying more to be sure we have a 100% reputable tour operator.

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In updates on this week’s Speaker of the House election debacle, Kevin McCarthy continues to give concessions to his opponents without getting anything in return. That’s some seriously bad negotiating, but we already knew he is a moron.

Cats win, rain falls, and dreams of Cabo

It’s raining again, and supposed to rain even harder tomorrow. That’s great news for Socal. Sure, it’s a cool, gloomy week, but we have 50 or so other weeks in the year with sunshine. Easy to deal with unless you’re a tourist choosing this week to vacation in sunny San Diego.

***

UK and LSU met in a slugfest last night, and the Cats came out with a win. This was a quality win against a good team – the best we’ve played this season. And we won in spite of the reigning Worst Ref in the World TM Doug Shows. Shows has a history of incredibly bad calls against UK, and he had a couple of them at the worst time last night. Shows should be banned from the sport. Nonetheless, this was the UK team I expected to see! Let’s be happy, but not too happy – that’s exactly one in a row. And we play Alabama next at their house, a *very* tough outing.

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I’ve started making reservations for our annual Cabo trip in February. One day of fishing and a couple of evening meals at places where you need a reservation. It’s always a great week. No other travel planned for January (for me), so looking forward to Cabo a month from now. Whales galore, fresh fish, fresh air, great photo opportunities, some quality tequila, and front porch seats on the Pacific. I’d stay there a month if we could.

Here’s a picture of a Mexican band that entertains at the resort every year lately. I like the light.

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That horrific story about a Tesla crash 250 feet down a cliff off CA Highway 1 has taken an even more horrific twist. The occupants, two adults and two children, all survived – an absolute miracle, and perhaps a testament to the Tesla’s design. But the male driver has now been arrested for intentionally driving over the cliff. I imagine the other adult in the car, a woman, had plenty to say to police once she was rescued. Yikes!

***

I’m really enjoying reading about the infighting among House Republicans and the election of the House Speaker. Kevin McCarthy is despicable and deserves all the mud they’re dragging him through. And the Republicans, with “control” of the House, decided to remove all metal detectors from entrances to the House as their first official action. That will allow the gun-carrying wingnuts to bring their weapons into Congressional sessions (?!). I’m sure that will turn out well.

Rainy Tuesday musings

It’s raining again here today – that’s about two inches in the last week, a big total for us. I’m thankful for that – the last few years have been dry, dry, dry.

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In the “man, we sure are stupid” category, it turns out that the wingnuts now believe that a lot of deaths during the pandemic were due to the vaccines. From Rasmussen:

Nearly half of Americans think COVID-19 vaccines may be to blame for many unexplained deaths, and more than a quarter say someone they know could be among the victims.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that (49%) of American Adults believe it is likely that side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have caused a significant number of unexplained deaths, including 28% who think it’s Very Likely. Thirty-seven percent (37%) don’t say a significant number of deaths have been caused by vaccine side effects, including 17% who believe it’s Not At All Likely. Another 14% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

It’s amazing how wingnuts will twist facts to fit their conspiracy theories.

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Poor Hopey and her job prospects. “We all look like domestic terrorists now.” Yep, you do and you were. You lie down with dogs, you get fleas. And her lack of empathy for those injured during J6, for democracy, is telling.

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It’s workout with a trainer day again today. I dread it right up until it’s over, and then I’m very happy I did the work. The mind is a strange master.

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I heartily agree with this website’s message. Or, start a Youttube channel about Lego and make $150K+ per year. A very interesting case study.

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Shopify is doing their part and then some to tame The Meeting Monster. Interesting…

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And finally today, I like this game of comparing first lines of books people are reading. Mine is from Linda Nagata’s somewhat dense book Edges: “Against a starscape, a smudge of white light.”

Miscellany

Sports teams are a mystery. How can they play so poorly one night and then so well another? After being disgusted by Kentucky’s game against Missouri, I just watched the condensed replay of UK v UL, and…UK was a completely different team. Sharp, motivated, hustling, dropping shots. If you can play like that once, why don’t you do it every or most nights? Total fucking mystery.

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Michelle Bachman. haven’t heard that name for a while, thankfully. Here she commits child abuse by scaring her young grandchildren about burning in hell, all in the name of the “Christmas spirit”. Everything about this is so, so wrong. This is the same crap I grew up with, and I can attest that it messes up a small person’s mind. Teaching this cruel, sadistic world-view to children should be illegal.

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Yesterday was blissfully peaceful and slow. A cool rainy day, a good meal or two, infinite West Wing reruns on the tube. I got lots of end-year, start-year financial plans updated plus read a book. Very good start to the year. Tomorrow (the 3rd) is the beginning of the “back to work” period for most of the US, and I feel prepared. Should be rested.

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On travel, now that I’ve decided to take a break from cruises, I wonder what the next big trip should be. I’m kind of thinking New Zealand or Australia. Though the elephant in the room is Africa – I’ve never touched that continent, and I would love to see some of the wildlife there before it’s gone. Is safari-style tourism a positive or negative for Africa? I honestly don’t know. But maybe I can find a wildlife-respecting ecotour/safari to see Africa up close. Quick update on that – yep, there are a *lot* of ecotour options. And airfares aren’t as bad as I expected – looks like $4-5K per person, roundtrip business class from LAX. More research required…

A new day, a new year

Hello 2023! Let’s all have a Happy New Year. Or at least a better year than 2022…

We had an uneventful flight back to Socal yesterday, nine days later than planned. We arrived to one of the best gifts possible, a nice rain storm. Thus ended the Xmas travel saga, an odd and memorable week.

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We start the new year with this hopeful but unlikely headline in The Daily Beast: Trump’s Taxes Are the Best Case Yet for Putting Him in Prison. One can dream, but Teflon Don has escaped so many crimes, what’s one more? But it would be deliciously ironic if the IRS he gutted during his term is the vehicle that convicts him.

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One thing going into 2023 is certain – it’s now neck and neck for 2022’s Worst CEO of the Year award. Elon Musk had it wrapped up due to his erasing 70% of Tesla’s value and 56% of Twitter’s value, but then Bob Jordan of Southwest Airlines said “…hold my beer”. My vote still goes to Musk, but Jordan has made a strong case for himself over the past few weeks.

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Here’s the first good reason I’ve seen to invest in a virtual reality headset like Oculus – Space Portal. Maybe (doh, pretty much certainly) I won’t get to go to space in person, but this would be a great second prize.