Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Adrift On The Calendar

I’m so glad that my watch and phone tell me what day and date it is. I realize that I’m now totally dependent on them to keep track of such things since my brain and body and schedule are so overbooked that I can’t spend the energy or the brain cycles to track such things myself.

In some ways I feel like the crew of that ship in “WALL-E” where they’ve forgotten how to walk or move independently. And like in that film where there’s a malicious, evil entity that has manipulated them to go down that road, we have the GQP and the Death Cult right-wingers and conspiracy nut jobs who are pushing us to spend so much time stressing over their bullshit that we’re losing our ability to keep track of little things like the date. We have so many bigger fish to fry.

Do you remember a “M*A*S*H” episode where BJ Honeycutt was messing with Winchester’s clothes, subtly a little at a time having them taken in or let out, convincing him that he was gaining or losing weight? That’s what our electronic devices could do, adding a few minutes to the work day here, taking a few days off the holidays there, putting an eighth work day into the week (“Wait, wasn’t it Tuesday a couple days ago? Why is it Tuesday again? Whatever…”) Forget about “watching the watchers,” is anyone watching the watches?

The only reference I seem to have is, “How many days until that next deadline? And the one after that? And the two next week? Wait, they’re THIS week?! Shit!!!”

The good news I guess is that I’m more or less keeping up with the deadlines, at least the ones that are critical and for which I’m getting paid. The volunteer gig? Might be letting a few slip there.

I think the French have a phrase for that.

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Make Art – August 29th

For those of us who will have an “interesting” week ahead and may experience moments of incredible stress.

When those moments come (and they will), you can “Set SCE to AUX” (and that might well be the correct action to take out in the real world) but in your head, think of a scene like this or some other peaceful place you would like to be, perhaps with who you would like to be there with, and take a deep breath, hold it, let it out, and then get back to the crisis (it will still be there, unfortunately).

You will persevere and succeed.

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No Context For You – August 25th

“Set SCE to AUX”

If you know, you know. I don’t think I’ve shared that story here yet, but it’s not hard to find online if you’re curious. It’s fascinating. For this context, let it suffice to say that NASA and the Apollo 12 crew were seconds away from having a very bad day, but that command saved the day.

It’s been one of those weeks so far. No one’s dying or anything like that, but some days you just work way more than 8 or 9 hours and during all of that time it’s like you’re trying to fit ten pounds of pickles into a five-pound pickle bag. So you can start screaming…

…or you can set SCE to AUX.

And some days you’re flicking that switch between NORM and AUX until your fingers are blistered.

Still standing, still fighting, still upright & taking nourishment. Until tomorrow!

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Complex Textures

High level perspective – a bit of worn and extremely weathered log from the Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Closer perspective – an almost infinitely complex, fractal-like surface formed by strictly random, natural forces.

Alternate perspective – part of the biological cycles of an infinitesimally small speck of a planet, third rock from the primary star in a semi-deserted, backwater part of a completely average galaxy, one of a few million billion trillion completely average galaxies, returning nutrients assembled together over a century or more back to the soil and the next generation of plants and critters.

Private perspective – stunning beauty “hidden” in the world around us, “hidden” only by the fact that 99.99% of my fellow hikers walking by don’t even bother to look, let alone see.

Personal perspective – getting this wrapped up in grokking a rotting log, using all five senses, and then feeling the imperative to share with everyone probably indicates to most that there was (or is) “mood enhancing” medicinal self-medication involved. Nope, just a natural high, that John Denver school of zen, getting in touch with the Universe on a very personal and intimate level.

Or it was oxygen deprivation from being at 8,500 feet.

Either way, it was the finest kind.

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Staying Ahead

Staying ahead of the aircraft – it’s a mantra when learning to fly. Flying with just one pilot, no copilot, something’s always happening or about to happen and to be safe you always want to be anticipating what’s next and being ready for it. Don’t react to what the plane’s doing, or the weather, or upcoming radio calls or course changes. Stay ahead of the aircraft.

Same thing in daily living is a good plan of attack. Whether it’s at the office, going hiking, going on a trip, or anything else. Stay ahead of the…whatever. Be proactive, not reactive.

That transition from “vacation” back to “normal” has had its challenges these last three days. My main feeling, particularly at work, is that I’m reactive, discombobulated. I need to get back to being proactive and recombobulated.

So, tomorrow. Work smarter, not harder.

Kick ass, take names.

Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.

Use your clichés, they’re your friends.

And don’t jump unless you’ve got a parachute or a honkin’ big cable attached to your back. It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end.

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After The Three-Day Weekend

It’s back to work. *sigh*

Coincidentally, it’s also back to the office for me, at least for a couple of hours.

In the last fifteen and three-quarter months I’ve been back in my office maybe five or six times, but it’s always been on a Saturday as I was coming home from the hangar. My office is right next to the freeway so I get off, drop off documents or pick them up, then get right back on the freeway at the next onramp. Easy peasy! But there’s never been anyone there. While I’ve seen everyone on a regular basis in one Zoom meeting or Teams call after another, I haven’t actually seen any of my co-workers (all of whom I really enjoy working with, as unusual as that might be for some, sadly) in 15.75 months. Which is REALLY weird, because I had only been working there five and a half months when the pandemic and quarantine hit. So I’ve now been working remotely three times longer than I’ve been working in person.

But things are opening up a tiny little bit, and while I’ll most likely be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, there are a couple of small things that finally need to get taken care of in person, so it’s back to the morning commute! At least for a day.

Have you ever visited a town far away where you grew up and gone back to drive by your old house? Yeah, I’ve done that in at least five or six places. (Not to mention the Pomelo house that we moved out of three years ago after 27+ years, since it’s less than a mile away.) It’s going to be odd like that.

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Lessons Learned

First of all, when the dashboard of your car starts giving you a warning message that says the battery in your key fob is getting weak and needs to be replaced…

…change the freakin’ battery. They cost about $2 and it takes about thirty seconds and can be done without tools or any handyman or handywoman skills at all!

Secondly, the clever designers of modern cars apparently all assume that a significant owners will ignore Lesson #1 and will end up being out someplace when that final erg in the battery goes out and their car won’t start, the doors won’t lock or unlock, and NOTHING will work. So they put in failsafes.

Most of these key fobs have actual, physical keys embedded in them, keys which can be removed and used to lock and unlock the doors. (I knew that already.) Some (like Hissy, our Honda Fit) allow you to use that embedded physical key to be inserted into some secret slot on the dashboard or steering wheel and start the car. But Volvos don’t. However…

On Volvos, there’s some sort of very low power, very close proximity chip embedded in the key fob (probably like those RFID tags that they hide in clothing and DVDs and Blu-Ray packages to keep them from being shoplifted) so that if you physically hold the “dead” key fob against the “Start” button in the dashboard, the car can be started.

Very clever, these engineers, assuming that sooner or later (and probably BOTH) I’ll be an idiot!

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No Context For You – June 29th

Shades of gray.

Is it true that “gray” is the American spelling and you can remember that because “a” = “American” and “grey” is the English spelling because “e” = “English?”

There’s got to be a catch, right?

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The Light & The Tunnel

We like the metaphor “the light at the end of the tunnel,” especially these days when the entire freaking world has been going through years of various levels of hell.

Thinking about that tonight, it occurs to me that a problem with that particular metaphor is that we assume we know where the end of the tunnel is.

We don’t.

We see some light and we’ve been in the dark for a long time. So in our need for hope, in our desperate grasping for straws, we assume without data that the end of the proverbial tunnel must be near! Right?

But we don’t know how far it is, how fast we’re going, or even if there might be other side tunnels that we get sidetracked down before we get to exit the tunnel.

And when we start thinking about that, and start thinking about how long we might still have to go before we get out, and that some of us won’t ever make it out but will fall here without ever seeing that light…

But we keep going, even if we’re not particularly happy about it. As Frost said, “The only way out is through.” (I might have quoted that more than just a few times here in the past. It keeps getting more and more true.)

And the only way to make it better in the long run is to get out and then hunt down the bastards that built the tunnel and trapped us in it. And make sure that they never do it again.

How was your day?

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The Ides Of March – 2021

Ditto for 2020. Not so much for 2021 – we’ve gone through so much and learned just how stupid and naive we were a year ago. I’m not sure that makes us any wiser, just more tired and battle worn. For example, take a look at the states and cities opening back up from quarantine now that things are “better,” where “better” is defined as “still a hundred times worse than it was when we first locked down and went into quarantine.”

There appears to be some light at the end of the COVID tunnel as we now have three vaccines available, production and distribution are ramping up, and after the nightmare of the spikes following the holidays in November and December in cities like Los Angeles are starting to see the first phases of re-opening. We can debate another time whether or not that’s premature (pro tip – it is, and places like Texas that are totally open are freakin’ insane) but the fact that it’s happening and based now on some science and data rather than cult politics gives some hope that by this summer there might be some semblance of “normal.”

One of the advantages to having a personal website (and the ego to spew drivel out into the universe in the vainglorious belief that anyone cares) is that it gives me an easy way to see what was going on a year ago. Many folks are writing and commenting about the one year anniversary of their COVID experience, especially around March 11th, which is sort of the “official” start of the government response. For me it’s March 19th, as I’ll explain, and this weekend I took a look back. It’s both unintentionally hilarious at times, and gut wrenchingly depressing at others.

We had no idea what was happening. (Which presupposes that we do now any more than we did then – a depressing thought for another day.)

February, 2020 (The Gathering Storm)

02/01/2020 – Our son was in town for the Super Bowl party, on leave from his military post in Japan. In retrospect, he probably just made it here and back before travel restrictions slammed into place around the world. We went out to see the Kings game in downtown LA and the area around Staples was a zoo with the spontaneous memorial to Kobe Bryant that had sprung up outside.

02/02/2020 – The Super Bowl win by our beloved Kansas City Chiefs. That was a good day and a great party.

02/15/2020 – We went downtown again for a show at the Ahmanson Theater, “The Last Ship,” starring Sting. It would turn out to be the only show of the five or six in the series we had purchased that wasn’t cancelled due to COVID.

02/19/2020 – After putting it off for months because I was too freakin’ busy, we got out at the last minute before it left movie theaters and saw “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” It would be the last time we’ve been in a movie theater since.

02/20/2020 – Another Kings game at Staples, this time with truly excellent seats down by the glass that we had purchased at a charity auction. Again, although we didn’t know it then, our last live sporting event for a long, long time.

02/27/2020 – One more trip downtown, this time to the Disney Concert Hall, to see Dvorak’s New World Symphony. My article title, “It’s A New World,” was a not-so-original play on the music’s title, but looking back it said so, so much about what was right around the corner in reality. I guess if we need to have a last, great event before the shit hit the fan, you could do a lot worse than this.

March, 2020 (The Only Way Out Is Through)

03/08/2020 – A short post about Courage, and how we were going to need it. The first week of March was filled with my usual posts – pictures, attempts at humor, lizards, astronomy. But as the “Courage” post indicates, things were anything but normal or calm. I haven’t gone back and looked up dates or emails, but I remember that by this point it was becoming obvious that there were humongous changes coming really, really fast. At work we were trying to figure out how to set up EVERYONE to work remotely, re-inventing our entire company and procedures almost overnight. It’s a good thing we didn’t know how hard it was going to be or how insane it was to be trying to do what we were trying to do. In retrospect, being a part of that team and doing what we did in those circumstances and under that kind of pressure is probably going to be one of the things I’m most proud of in life. It was epic – I’ll be happy not to have to do it again, particularly given the way that so many key facets of the federal government were actively working to make it worse. I have a lot of reasons to want a lot of members of the previous Administration in jail until the heat death of the Universe, but the way they failed in that time of need is #1 on that list.

03/11/2020 – The normal world order was crashing to a halt and it was obvious that this was not a drill. The NBA had shut down and the NHL was right behind it. I was so frazzled that I had written a post on the 10th and then simply forgotten to post it, waking up at 3:00 AM to realize what had happened, but being too exhausted to care. In many parts of our country and all across the world, the first signs of panic over COVID were setting in.

03/13/2020 – The stock market was taking a dive, COVID was completely out of control in Italy, and the first indications of a building disaster in New York City were showing up. The stores were out of toilet paper (boy, did THAT drive home to folks how serious this was!) and even Disneyland was shutting down. It was my first good COVID rant about washing your hands, staying home and away from other people, listening to the doctors instead of the politicians, and not being stupid. Yeah, I’m so glad that so many of YOU listened and agreed, it would have been nice if a couple hundred million other folks had.

03/15/2020 – One year ago today. A theme that I returned to a number of times during this ordeal, particularly in the early stages. Pictures of beauty in the world and a reminder that the flowers, birds, clouds, and moon didn’t care about COVID – they were going to be there and go on, with or without us. So breathe, keep fighting, be smart, but don’t forget to find a bit of beauty and joy in the world, even as it went to Hell in a handbasket.

03/19/2020 – For me, this was the day when quarantine started. For about ten days or so we had been starting to get folks up and running from home, actually shutting down office operations. March 19th was the day I was the last one there before we went into full quarantine lockdown conditions. The City and County of Los Angeles as well as the State of California all issued their “shelter in place” orders on March 19th and we were all going to be in compliance to whatever extent we could be. (For the record, I’ve been back to my office I think four or five times since then to deal with computer issues or to sign paperwork, but I haven’t seen a single one of my officemates in person for a year. That hurts.)

Three phrases from that March 19th post are either hilarious or the ultimate in naivete:

“…everyone should stay home for at least the next couple of weeks.” I remember discussing options and expectations, wondering if we would be on lockdown for just a couple of weeks or if it would stretch on into a second, or God forbid, even a third month. A year later, I’ve not ever gone out unmasked, and my outings have been 100% limited to Sunday grocery shopping, Saturday trips to the CAF hangar every couple of weeks to pick up mail, food pick up runs, and a handful of trips to the store for necessities.

“…we’ve done all we can to prepare, both at home and at work, and now we’ll just do the best we can.” 535,000+ dead in the US so far (plus probably 15% to 20% more uncounted yet for the GOP governors who continue to lie and manipulate the statistics), who knows how many hundreds of thousands of “COVID Long Haulers,” and who knows how much long-term economic damage. And we have so many millions more dead around the world, now with virulent mutations and variants starting to pop up in populations that are hopelessly unprepared to deal with the crisis. We’ll just do the best we can, indeed. Did we have any other choice? It could have been so much better. It’s cold comfort that it could have been so much worse. And still might be.

“…we’ll probably still have thousands or tens of thousands of deaths here, with hundreds of thousands or even millions across the US.” The current death count in Los Angeles County today is 22,476, out of 1.21M cases. For California, it’s 56,606 deaths, out of 3.63M cases. For the United States, it’s 535,000 deaths (officially, YMMV) out of 29.5M cases (officially). I’m so glad that my worst case fears haven’t come to pass. (But I can’t help but add a silent “yet” to the end of that sentence.)

Of course, the reason this date stands out and is so memorable for me is that it’s my birthday. And my second COVID quarantine birthday is right around the corner. Huzzah?

03/20/2020 – Our next concert and play were officially cancelled – the writing was on the wall.

03/21/2020 – The first big US hot spots were starting to heat up, and those of us toughing it out were on pins and needles thinking about every tickle at the back of the throat.

03/22/2020 – The title said it all – “What Will Success Look Like?” I’m still not sure that we know, but we sure know what failure looked like. The other thing I noticed in the posts around this time were that I was swearing A LOT. Not doing that might take some conscious effort when we get back to what is ostensibly a “polite” society on the other side of this life event.

03/24/2020 – This reminds me of how fast things got critical – talking about hospitals putting triage plans in place for when (not if) their ERs and ICUs were completely overrun. And it happened. New York. Seattle. Dallas. Miami. Kansas City. Here in Los Angeles there were times just a couple of months ago when critical patients waited in ambulances outside the hospital for 8+ hours because there was no room inside. And heaven forbid that you had a heart attack or were in a car accident – life-saving treatments that would have been five minutes away two years ago were now out of reach completely in too many places too often. What was the option if you couldn’t breathe from COVID or had multiple fractures and massive bleeding from an accident? Well – you died.

03/30/2020 – They had finally cancelled the entire Ahmanson season, including “1776” which I was so, so, so, so much looking forward to. They tried later in the year to reschedule it for later in 2021, but that’s long ago been cancelled as well. As was “Hamilton,” this year’s entire theater and concert schedule, football, hockey, baseball, basketball, concerts, marathons, the Olympics… (Jeez Louise, they cancelled the freaking Olympics! And it’s still not 100% clear that they’ll be able to hold them this July instead!) Maybe it’s gotten “better” enough (see above – it hasn’t, but we’re gonna do it anyway…) to allow fans into baseball games for opening day in two weeks, and at least the NCAA tournament is being held this year, even if it is in a “bubble.” And if you want to see a live golf tournament or NASCAR race? Go ahead – but don’t even get me started on Florida!

03/31/2020 – I ended March with a plea / suggestion / recommendation that everyone watch “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” It was the tiniest little bit of joy and excitement and hope in that bleak month. I’ll wrap up here with a repeat of that recommendation. The second season has been a bit different in tone due in part to what’s happened to the characters in Season One, and in part due to what’s happening out in the real world with COVID. It’s a tiny bit less novel and more somber, but still so very, very excellent. It comes back for the second half of Season Two on March 28th on NBC. Sooooooooo tasty!!

And now?

Well, at least we’re not out of toilet paper any more.

But we have half a million families in this country who are missing someone, or have someone hanging on for dear life, or have someone dealing with months and months of daily trauma despite being “healed” – or all of the above.

Personally, we’ve been lucky. We know people who have died from COVID. We know people who have been ill with “the ‘Rona,” some with mild cases, some with more serious cases. But we’ve been spared. So far. Maybe we were right to be paranoid and obsessed with quarantine and hand washing. Maybe it’s just that our number never came up.

We’re still doing the best we can, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. I hope you’ve been able to do the same.

We seem to be coming out the other side, but I’m for years to come sure we’ll be wearing masks and giving some serious side-eye to anyone coughing or sneezing out in the open around us. By the end of the summer, maybe we’ll even be able to travel or go to a ball game. It’s all predicated on the virus variants not going ballistic and everyone pulling their weight to not let down their guard too soon. A “fourth wave” (which could easily be bad enough to push us over the 1,000,000 death mark) is about 99% preventable, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.

(And as I’m writing this, the SiriusXM Classical Pops channel serves up Dvorak’s New World Symphony, 3rd movement. Thanks, I wasn’t having a tough enough time getting through this…)

Stay calm.

Look for the beauty around us.

Stay vigilant.

Wash your hands.

Stay socially distant for a while longer. And then maybe for just a little bit longer after that…

We’ve gone through Hell and we can’t forget that, nor can we ever forget those that we’ve lost. But Hell seems to have an exit sign up ahead, if we’re patient enough and smart enough to get there.

Be safe.


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