Category Archives: Paul

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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No Context For You – April 02nd

My teeth and gums and tongue and cheek all hurt again after Wednesday’s visit to the dentist.

It’s not as bad as it was Wednesday evening when the Novocain wore off. But what’s weird is how it felt fine yesterday. What’s even more weird is that the side that she worked on four weeks ago is the side that hurts more now than the side she worked on two days ago.

Plus, my tongue and the inside of my cheek is sore from being bitten and nicked while I had no control of pain feedback while all numbed up. On top of all of that, the side of my mouth (is there a technical, anatomical term for that that I’m too spacy to think of right now? the spots at the far left and right where the lower and upper lips meet?) is raw from having them yanking on it all day on Wednesday to get at the spots way in the back that they needed to reach.

Now I know how largemouth bass feel when they’re being reeled in.

What are you looking forward to doing this weekend?

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Dentists

If any of all y’all are dentists (or dental technicians, or dental hygienists, or married or cohabitating with one, or related to one, or… you get the picture), I apologize in advance. This isn’t personal.

But I absolutely HATE going to the dentist.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t been in a while. Like, a few years. Probably more than five. Definitely less than ten. Part of it was switching jobs a couple of times, part of it was being without dental insurance for a while, part of it was being really, really busy at the last couple of jobs. But most of it was the aforementioned HATRED for going to the dentist.

Not that my previous dentist or the perfectly nice dentist that has taken over his practice aren’t perfectly lovely human beings. I’m sure they’re all kind to animals, spoil their children, and remember to call their mothers every weekend.

But they hurt you!

Granted, it’s much better today than it was ten or twenty years ago. Getting numbed is much easier, even if the stuff does absolutely taste like crap. But once again I’ve found that the cure is much more problematic than the disease.

I hadn’t gone for the last year primarily because of COVID and quarantine. I was well into the “I really should go in and get checked” phase of the mental process. But then along came COVID and no one in their right mind was going to the dentist and no dentists in their right mind were staying open for the better part of a year. Oopsie, out of my hands!

But they’re opening up, and by about the start of the new year there were a couple of days a week where I was a little sore in the toothage area, so the time had come. (For reference, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is a twinge and 10 is screaming agony, I was having maybe a high 2 or a low 3 for a couple hours a week.)

I started going at the beginning of February, about eight weeks ago. It’s been…unpleasant.

First visit was X-rays and cleaning and an exam, which left my teeth still occasionally but now hurting worse. Plus my gums were killing me, which they weren’t before. Scale of 1 to 10? Now about a 4 to 5.

Second visit was a root canal and temporary crown, which just about as much fun as…a root canal? For the next week, on a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 7 or an 8.

Third visit was a permanent crown and three fillings. 1 to 10? A solid 6 for a week afterward.

Fourth visit today, well over three hours having another root canal, a temporary crown, four more cavities, and a thorough cleaning. Tonight I’m at an 8 or 9, and that’s with Extra Strength Excedrin every six hours, and that only because they didn’t give me anything stronger.

The best part is that I never know what’s coming up or how long it’s going to take. I didn’t have a clue about the “thorough, deep cleaning and scaling” at the end of today’s visit until I was done with the root canal and fillings and getting ready to leave. “We figured as long as we already had you numbed…”

I hate going to the dentist!

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I’ve Never Met This Dog In My Life

Okay, since you’ve got photographic proof…

Wait, is that even me?! It does look like my bushy eyebrows and heavily wrinkled forehead…

And while I thought that it might be our old dog, Jessie, it’s not. But with those eyes…

But where were we? Who do I even know who plays the piano, let alone owns one?

It’s…a mystery.

Did I have my head with me all day long?

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Fifty Years Ago At The VT DMV

With the “significant” birthday last week and the memory jog provided by the opportunity to “avoid” a student driver today, I remember that it was exactly fifty years ago last Friday that I got my driver’s license. I know that because that would have been my 15th birthday. As the oldest of eight kids, my parents wanted me driving as soon as possible. This was for their benefit, not mine, but I wasn’t going to look at gift horse in the mouth.

We went down to Bellow Falls where the nearest Vermont DMV office was located. I don’t remember much of the test itself, just that I passed, which didn’t surprise me. I had driven quite a bit in my year with a learner’s permit, I had taken Driver’s Ed the previous summer with one of the football coaches as my instructor, and I wasn’t really nervous or shy. It wasn’t that big of a deal…until afterward.

We were in the family station wagon and with my new license in hand my mother decided to sit in the back seat for the drive back home instead of in the passenger seat beside me. It was the closest we could get at the moment for me to be driving solo. But we needed gas, so I pulled into a station for our $0.30/gallon fill up. (This would have been about three years before the Arab Oil Embargo panicked the nation and shut us down hard while gas prices went ALL THE WAY UP **OVER** $1/gallon!! 😱😁)

Once I was done pumping, I got back in for the drive home – and the car wouldn’t start. I tried and tried, getting more and more panicky. What was wrong? What had I broken? What was I doing wrong?

I finally looked in the rear view at my mother and found her cracking up. She knew exactly what was wrong, but she wasn’t going to give me a hint to save my life. And the more I freaked out and got frustrated, the funnier she thought it was. (And you wonder how I got this way…)

After five minutes or so I figured out that I had left the car in “Drive” instead of putting it in “Park” when I pulled into the gas station. A late 60’s Dodge station wagon didn’t have much in the way of warning bells and alarms and safety interlocks compared to today’s vehicles. In fact, it had *NO* little warning bells and alarms that might have given me a clue. But it did have an interlock to make sure the vehicle couldn’t be started with the automatic transmission still in “Drive.”

In my defense, I had done the vast majority of my driving training in the beaten up, POS, rusted out Chevy II named “The Max.” It had a manual transmission, so this wouldn’t have been a problem – but either way, I should have taken a few minutes less to figure out.

My mother had a good laugh, and of course promptly told my father and all of her friends right away. (Let’s go with, “I’m glad I could bring some joy into her life that day…”) I’ve done okay in fifty years of driving, with only two tickets (both recent, both for speeding, one a total speed trap in Kansas which was a bum rap and one which I totally earned) and minimal body damage inflicted due to my stupidity. On the other hand, other folks have bashed into me while stopped or parked or otherwise faultless, totaling the vehicle (but leaving me and my passengers unharmed) at least four times that I can remember.

Here’s to the next fifty years. And new and better warning bells and alarms. And manual transmissions, FTW!!

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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 – February 15th

Brain got hijacked, too many deadlines. Three day weekend – didn’t necessarily get to do what I wanted, but did what I needed.

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Question For The Hive Mind

The legendary “internet hive mind” who participate on this site might be somewhat smaller than that in all of Twitter or FaceBook, but hey, let’s throw this out there and see if there’s a response.

I’m looking for a program or app for keeping track of “little notes,” or maybe better described as a “yellow sticky note” organizer. (See, it’s not even like I can describe what I’m looking for.)Does anyone have anything like that, or maybe even a favorite to recommend?

The question comes up (again) because I installed new monitors on my home office desk last week (it looks like I’ll be working from home for the duration, even after COVID lets us re-open our offices, since the lease is up and we’re looking at the opportunity to downsize the office and save some big bucks – time to maximize my efficiency and comfort for the long haul) and in the process cleaned, and in that process I came up with a big stack of miscellaneous sticky notes, some of which go back years. It occurs to me that there might be (should be?) a better way to deal with them.

Some are strictly temporary (“Call dentist on Monday”) while others have been up for years (cheat notes on common ASCII codes to make the °, ü, ©, ™, and ® symbols). Some are very low priority “to do” notes that have been here for a couple of years (“35:50 mark of  01/20/2018 SNSD = Yaz ‘Move Out’ Megamix”) but I still want to get to eventually.

So is there an app/program out there where I can put all of these and then sort, store, prioritize, update, archive? Like a database of yellow sticky notes? Or better yet, also color code them or somehow tag or flag them?

It needs to be a cross-platform application, so I can have it on my Windows desktops on multiple computers, on my laptop, on my iPhone, on my iPad.

It needs to be easy – the utility in the “yellow sticky note” system is that when there’s a thought or a note or a tidbit it can be created in seconds and then I can return to whatever the primary task of the moment might be. If I have to spend 30-60 seconds to break my train of thought, load an app, call up the right spot, and then go through several steps to record and save the note, it will be useless and it will never get used.

Figuring that something like this MUST already exist, I went searching. The two “best” in several recent articles are Evernote and Microsoft Notes, with Evernote being generally much better but Notes being free. I’ve used both in the past, but generally a few years back. (It seems that I wander off on this quest every couple of years.)

Evernote already has notes in it from 2013 and 2015, but not very many. It seems I didn’t get far. Notes has a few more notes, but not that many more. It looks like we also tried Notes more extensively for at least a couple months when I was at Urbatec, several jobs back. (It didn’t stick.)

There’s also a name-brand “Post It” app (or there was, it may or may not still be available) which will let you take pictures of your literal pile of Post It notes (like I have) and then… Maybe it translates your handwriting to text? Maybe it lets you do other things with them? It’s not clear. Has anyone used it?

And ultimately, given the way I think and use the crap out of my “go to” software tool, maybe I could just start creating a big Excel sheet that I can program and customize within an inch of its life? But why reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to?

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Recommendations?

Thanks!

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They All Sound Alike To Me

I’ve been watching a lot of the Australian Open tennis tournament in the evenings (it’s background, it’s live, it’s occasionally very entertaining) and it finally clicked tonight what’s been bothering me about one of the ads.

There’s an ad that runs about every twenty minutes for the Melbourne tourism agency, talking about “This Is Melbourne.” It has a male narrator, Australian accent, calm, low voice and every time it comes on the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

Tonight I finally realized that the narrator of the ad sounds exactly like the Australian dude on the Calm app that does the guided meditations. Before COVID sent us all to work from home, we would have a weekly 10-minute meditation session (strictly voluntary, but popular) in which we would listen to one of these meditation sessions. There are lots of variations with different narrators, male and female, all different accents, but everyone seemed to like the ones with this Australian dude the best.

I don’t know if it’s the same guy – I’m assuming that the one on the Calm app is actually some sort of “meditation person.” (I’m sure there’s a word for that, but I’m an clueless old dude who’s way too tired at the moment. Not priest. Guru? A quick Google search doesn’t give any help, but lots of articles and videos on leading your own guided meditation group, so it may well be that my assumption about training and qualifications are unjustified.) I would also think that the person doing the ads is a professional voice actor.

Maybe they’re the same person. Maybe not.

Maybe all male Aussies with that stereotypical tone and timbre (I think that just recently I referred to it as being “like some early 70’s FM college station graveyard shift DJ”) sound alike.

Maybe I’m just an American, and, well…

Maybe I should just turn the sound down during commercials and get on with my life.

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