Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

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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Pi Day

I can’t believe I’ve never posted anything in honor of this mathematical holiday! It’s so non-geek of me!

We couldn’t decide between the two classic definitions (sort of like that whole argument over who invented the calculus, Newton or Leibniz, am I right?!) so we compromised with BOTH! You remember that – something something summing over the entire range and so on and so forth and taking it to the limit blah, blah, blah…

Speaking of taking it to the limit, that pecan pie didn’t need any sugar added. Given all of the molasses and natural sugar already in it, one piece and I’m vibrating like the high E string on an electric guitar being played on the 12th fret, seeing into other dimensions and colors only previously seen by mutant chameleons!

Don’t tell my dietician…

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No Context For You – March 13th

Have I mentioned, maybe about twice a year for the past eight years or so, just how much I hate the days when we go onto or back from DST?

I might, in fact, be too old for this shit.

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No Context For You – March 07th

Here more in the last two weeks or so than I have been in the last two years – never good, worse in these “interesting” times. All’s good (so far) but as Bette Davis said, “Getting old is not for sissies.”

Onward, to Monday!

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Chicken vs Egg – Madison Avenue Version

I’ve been spending a LOT of hours in my home office, usually well into the evening (i.e., past midnight) and “after hours” (after 17:00 when I’m technically “off the clock”) I’ll usually have some sports broadcast or the other on. It’s as much background noise as anything else, but when everyone screams I can look over at the replay and see the great play.

In the process of doing this I am, of course, exposed to ads. Ads are a somewhat necessary evil, but what I notice is that when you’re watching particular events you’ll see the same ads over and over and over. The EXACT same ads. Over. And Over. And Over.

And some of these ads are truly horrible, or so it seems. But then I started to wonder.

Are these ads intrinsically horrible? Or are they just so-so ads that are made to seem horrible because of the repetition?

In other words, the really lame Spectrum ad with the guy with the horrible toupee and his neighbor who doesn’t read books? Yes, they’re morons and the day I buy phone service from Spectrum because they convinced me to will be sometime after the heat death of the universe. But would I absolutely despise that ad if I saw it nightly instead of at every break in the action? Or would it be one stupid, lame ad among hundreds of others, destined to be simply ignored instead of hated?

On the other hand, those nacho cheese fries ads that look like a cheesy horror film? Those are pretty well done and interesting. But are they really that much better, or do I just see them once or twice a night instead of every ten minutes? (BTW, as ads they’re useless to me, because the idea of eating nacho cheese fries is positively revolting, but that’s irrelevant to the argument. As is everything else…)

See, this is what happens to your brain (okay, well, my brain) when it’s not properly cared for!

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No Context For You – February 06th

Something that’s been increasingly notable over the past week or so is not a thing, but the absence of a thing.

When I’m getting some work done in the evening, I find myself every hour or so going to check social media, FaceBook and Twitter primarily. It struck me tonight how little I’m seeing posted, particularly on Twitter.

FaceBook’s algorithm tends to give you the same number of posts no matter what, preferring things “ripped from the headlines,” but lacking that you’ll get something from a friend of a friend talking about how their cat stole a waffle off their plate. But Twitter is a firehose – for those who you’re following, you’ll see pretty much everything they’ve posted in your feed.

The difference I’m seeing manifests itself two ways, depending on how you slice the time axis. I don’t have the time to spend hours and hours and hours on Twitter, so I tend to open it up and work backwards through the current batch of tweets, with the app putting a break in after some more or less fixed amount. 100? 200? I don’t know, but after X number of tweets you get a “Show more Tweets” prompt, which is generally where I bail.

During the crazy times when the GOQ was in charge in Washington, that X number of tweets would take me back ten or fifteen minutes and give me a snapshot of what was going on. These days it takes me back almost two hours, or more.

Conversely, if after going back through a batch of X tweets I hit the “See new Tweets” prompt, after spending fifteen minutes or so going through that first batch, I would get hundreds of new tweets, sometimes (January 6th, anyone?) thousands. These days, I get maybe a dozen. Sometimes less.

It’s not that I’m following fewer people, and I was never following any bots or trolls that might have gotten booted from the platform. It’s got to be that people are posting far fewer tweets these days than they were last month and in 2020.

Why? Well, isn’t it obvious? We’re not all being drowned in lunacy and bullshit, awash in a tidal wave of outright insanity and trying to keep in touch with each other and figure out what was going on and how we could survive. We don’t seem to need to do that nearly as much these days.

I’m sure we’ll get back to picking up the pace with tweets about hobbies, families, sports, and once COVID’s behind us, travel, and get togethers with friends. But for now, we’re all just taking a breath and a break.

Meanwhile, my checking in every hour or so seems to be a symptom of PTSD or some other condition, similar to those found in soldiers returning from combat, where they’re hyper vigilant all of the time. Mentally, the threats and chaos of the last four years have left us all with a bit of a “thousand yard stare,” and it will take some time to decompress and stop checking social media repeatedly, waiting for the next existential threat to pop up.

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Today Was A Holiday?

Yeah, just like this was a weekend…

There’s an Adam Savage video recently where he talks about skills he picked up or developed while making “Mythbusters.” (One of the finest shows ever!) The short version is that he got REALLY good at unconsciously knowing how to pace the work so that they could always just get done on time.

This time of year when I’m juggling three or four critical deadlines at a time with more waiting in the wings to jump in (think of it as a fresh set of legs coming out on the power play to kick my ass) I’m in the same spot. I don’t think I’m as good yet as he was. I’m more like “hitting deadlines…ish.” Nothing fatal (yet) but it would be nice to have a bit more slack built into the system.

But not fatal.

Yet.

(And it’s 39 hours and counting until…)

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Not At The Finish Line

I was thinking earlier about how drained and exhausted I feel on the one hand, while on the other hand being pretty satisfied with getting a LOT of things accomplished and done, while on the third hand being stressed as hell over some looming deadlines that are just kicking my ass.

My first thought was about the accomplishments, and I thought, “Huh, at the end of the actual marathons I’ve always felt at least a certain sense of success for having met my goals. I wonder why that’s not happening now.”

Then I realized that we’re not at the finish line. I can see it from here, at least in a certain sense. We’ve (almost) survived the horrors of the last four years in general and the last year in particular – just four more days to go. And I’ve met a LOT of those goals and deadlines – but I’ve got those others still to deal with. And as soon as those are met I’ve got a couple more lurking right behind.

So this is more like the 20-mile mark when you’re through Beverly Hills and Century City and past the UCLA campus and you’re just coming into Santa Monica. “Hitting the wall.” I sort of hated that.

But I always kept running. And tomorrow I’ll continue again.

Stay safe.

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Supersaturated

It’s been a day. And a week. And… Just keep expanding out from there, I guess. Between the holidays and work and the hangar and feeling like I’m being nibbled to death by ducks and ***LIFE***

Breathe. Slowly. Relax…

Those meditation apps like HeadSpace and Calm want you to get into your zone and feel a golden light filling you, as you’re present with every muscle and bone and fiber in your body, the light filling you up from your toes to the top of your head and then your being feeling as if you’re being suspended from a golden beam of light coming out of the top of your head…

There are days when all I can think about is how much I wish that golden beam was a twenty terawatt laser so that I can start melting things to slag. I’m not sure if that means I should give up on meditation those days, or if I need to spend eight or nine hours doing it. Could go either way.

Now I know how a supersaturated solution feels.

I’m sure tomorrow will be better. This, by the way, was not AT ALL what I sat down to write.

Go figure.

(Video from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics)

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