Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
It's the 21st of December and a dark, rainy, raw day. Instead of writing, I'm wasting hours trying to copy photos from my camera to a CD through this laptop and having no luck. Technology is great....
On the other hand, the genius of the techies in this world continue to baffle/blow me way. This is a picture that I took from a laptop while I was in Mexico last month (you can see me in the little picture on the lower left). I'm on the yacht we just brought down from San Diego (scroll down to that blog, below), my daughter, her husband, and my grandson in the big picture, are in Georgia. We were talking, live, for free, and were able to see each other in real time. Go figure. And again, its a free download from the Internet. Just to to Skype.com.
In the news: they found a foot inside a tumor inside a baby's head, a Continental jet slid of the runway in Colorado (38 injured, passengers screaming and behaving badly), heavy snow across the Northwest, Midwest, and Northeast, Barack is finally taking a vacation (Hawaii), with Christmas just 3 days down the road, consumer's have not been buying much (can't imagine why not), and George W. is being largely ignored (I know exactly why), and Cheney says they did just fine over the last 8 years. Imagine. Even Mugabe thinks he done a great job. It is, I've noticed, a character trait of the power hungry: Grotesque hubris.
Had a great workout today at the Y. Feels wonderful. On the down side, I didn't write a word on the book.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Reading: Picking at Insights from Dr. Johnson and Tom Wolf; Saturday Drive to Chincoteague, the Island Misty Made Famous
Today is the 18th of December 2008.
I can't put a photo in here because my Nikon has decided, apparently on it's own volition, to change formats to one this computer can't use. I'll figure it out eventually.
The latest political hooplas include an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at W. during a press conference. Rank insult in his country, getting big laughs in ours. That famous American sense of humor that drives the rest of the world crazy is another thing I love about this country. Reminds me of the joke that before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes because then you'll be a mile away--and you'll have their shoes. W should have kept the shoes and started running.
The other hoopla is that Barack has asked a right-wing evangelical preacher to do the invocation at the BIG CEREMONY coming up in January. He's "reaching across the aisle" as he said he would and some folks don't like it. Well, jeeze, people who reach across the aisle are not gonna be appreciated by people on either side, especially if they are intolerant, arrogant fanatics.
Next time I have a drink, I'm going to have one for old (dead) Dr. Samuel Johnson. Reading interesting article in The New Yorker about the great man. He says a sailor on a boat is a man in jail with a chance of being drown. I should listen to that wisdom.
Reading: Tom Wolf's The Painted Word. He wrote it back in the 70's in reaction to the incomprehensibility of abstract art. Don't ask me why it took me so long to find it. I've been spending significant amounts of my time when I'm in D.C. in the National Gallery of Art and this brief history is enlightening. Braque's little cubes, indeed. And Jackson Pollock? Killed himself drinking, mercifully before he could find out the whole art world changed its mind and decided his "genius" was pure schlock (hint: nobody is buying your stuff--come to think of it, its a hint I should take).
Life: Parents now in nursing home and doing okay; grandson appears to be thriving though Jenny is now back teaching and Konrad is in day care; Terry is stressed out by her job--just back from three days in Atlanta--contract negotiations; we drove up to Chincoteague on Saturday--a walk on the cold, windy beach, ponies in the distance, snow geese in the foreground, a bookstore bought 3 copies of THE BOOK. A nice day.
We are enjoying writing the next book--The Spirit of the Voyage. 80 pages so far.
On the lighter side, I just took an "after" picture of my head and compared it to the "before" picture from 16 months ago. The hairy evidence is that Rogaine works--sort of. Maybe I'll post them here. Watch this space.
Now multi-tasking. Writing this blog and watching the Science channel: Ligers? (tiger + lion) Never heard of such a thing, but there it was, a huge overgrown-looking cat. Humans + chimps? How about a humanzee? Turned out to be untrue and they could have told us that at the beginning of the program. But they had stuff to sell. This is America.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Here I am, like the words to an old country song, down and out on the floor of a bar in Mexico. My brother holds my legs up, treating me for shock, while Bailey, my son's significant other, stands by to translate my situation to the incoming ambulance squad. A life well lived provides its surprises, and that day in Puerto Vallarta I fell while walking across a swaying suspension foot bridge. At near full gallop, I fell headlong into a cement post (I was galloping to keep up with the rhythm of the bridge and found I couldn't slow down when I reached the end--alright, I was horsing around). The nice Mexican ambulance paramedics examined me and deemed me badly bruised on my hip and the small of my back, but nothing broken. Two weeks later, I'm nearly all better. By the way, I was completely sober throughout the entire incident.
Now I'm back in Virginia on the very fine Eastern Shore, off the pain killers, and back to writing, reading, and working out at the Y. I'm 71 pages into the next novel and it's going well. I can always tell. Scenes flow, one from another, and the book begins to assume a shape out of the nebula of some basic, unformed idea. Just keep at it every day so you don't lose that creative rhythm--2 or 3 or 4 pages a day and it doesn't take long to see a book lying there in front of you, still hot from the printer. It's what life is all about--that ultimate level of existence that Maslow called self actualization.
Some observations: The Rightwingers, after accusing Barack of being a leftist, are slack-jawed at his appointees while the leftists are getting suspicious that he is more Right than promised. He's keeping everyone off balance. Love it.
Winter on the Eastern Shore of VA is, so far, just as expected--some nice cold days to get the Christmas spirit flying around freely, and now in the 60's and spring like. I'm warned that there is a lot more winter to come.
Had a book signing last Saturday at a local bookstore. Was very nice. Sold a few books, but more importantly, met a very friendly group of local writers and will join there writer's group that meets in Salisbury once a month. Note: All book stores should offer fresh coffee. The smell of it just makes you want to sit down and read.
My parents are now in a nursing home. Lesson: if you can afford it, get long-term care insurance.
A final note: This is what the very end of Baja California looks like--Cabo San Lucas. I'd always wondered. Here we're approaching it in the early morning after a 24-hour run down from Magdelena bay. In fact, its a resort with lots of tourists and I guess that's good for the local economy.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
This is the M/V Pageantry, an 80-ft. Ocean Alexander, a lovely ocean-going ship that my son, Eli, captains and on which his partner, Bailey is mate and chef. With my brother, John and I on board, we sailed from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta, a 1000-mile trip tha took 6 days. We also did some fishing. Below are some of the ones that didn't get away.
I bring my marlin along side.
My brother and I hoist our wahoo for the camera. Good eating.
This is Bailey and her fish, and her partner, the captain, Eli (the son).
Thursday, November 6, 2008
It was my first autumn in eleven years and it was perfect. The election was over, the skies were clear, the temperatures moderate, and foliage perfect. Not to mention the friendship. Thanks, Fran and Joe, we had a dandy time.
It's now Sunday morning, the 9th of November. I'm 16 days away from my 62nd B'day and today I'm off to San Diego where I will join my son, Eli, his partner, Bailey, and my brother, John to take a 4-million-dollar yacht down to Mexico. Been looking forward to this for a long, long time. Watch this space. I'll be reporting in with lots of photos of the trip.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Here's my journal for today, November 4th, 2008: Election Day
7:00--Open my eyes after a cat walks across my neck and then I hear rain pattering down on a skylight above my head. Terry is still pretending to be asleep depite cats and rain. I smell the coffee and get up, shower.
7:30--Turn on the tv. The pundits are at it, looking for voting problems around the nation.
8:10--Call my boat captain-fisherman-carpenter-stone mason brother in the Florida Keys who is a rabid liberal. He had already voted. We've been enjoying following the election for the past year including a month together last February, watching Obama beat Hilliary in the primaries on a laptop in front of a fire in snowy Massachusetts.
8:30--News Item: Dixville Notch, N.H. went big time for Obama: A landslide at 15 to 4.
10:00--Friend came over and we talked about the yard work he's going to do for me. Terry getting ready to walk over to vote. Watching the pundits/reporters kill time until the first results start to come in.
10:15--NEWS ITEM: Long, long voting lines in Virginia Beach. It's raining.
10:30--I VOTE! I walked around the corner from our house to the town offices pictured above and, for the second time in 62 years, I cast a ballot in a presidential election (I've been overseas for the past 25 years and the absentee ballots always arrived the day after the election was over). I admit to being very excited about being a part of this in this small, small town. Terry's vote is rejected. She had not registered in time. She sat in a corner like a school girl being disciplined until the verdict was delivered. Was not pleased. Hell hath no fury.....
11:00--I drive to the county dump and drop off a truckload of bagged lawn rakings. The gathered garbage-eating seagulls are not impressed by my presence or by election day. It's still raining. Hard.
12:00--Lunch, more rain. I make this blog entry while I keep and eye on the coverage.
12:30--News item on FOX: Men dressed as Black Panthers (remember them?) allegedly intimidated voters in one Philadelphia voting center. The cops were called and all is well. Will FOX blame a McCain defeat on this incident? You betcha.
5:22--Have a fat scotch in hand and watching the pundits as we come down to the last minutes of suspense. Senator Bird, at least, thinks McCain will win, thinks a huge voter turnout favors Republicans. Flys in face of common wisdom. Pundit: Bird's roll is not to tell the truth. His job is to keep morale up.
5:36--First exit polls: Overwhelming numbers say economy tops the list of concerns but no vote count. What's that all about? I thought exit polls were polls. I'm supposed to get dinner together, but have little interest in eating. Republic pundits say that in the last three days, the McCain campaign finally got it together and if we only had three weeks left to campaign, we'd have it in the bag!
8:15--Returns starting to come in. Obama looking good. Fox news is started to talk about what a failure a Democratic administration is going to be. We'll be, they say, looking back at the Republican years as the good old days.
8:31--Electoral vote count: Obama 81, McCain 34. Obama takes New Hampshire, is ahead in Florida, and, my goodness, is projected to win PA.
10:11--Barack has won Ohio and Pennsylvania.
News item: McCain can't catch up. Let's wrap this up. Our man is projected to take it and the Dems will have Congress, too.
Time to sleep.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Could he be Barack's Template?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Going underground is an apt metaphor for this, the final two weeks in the presidential campaign. With all the polls showing a pretty decent margin for an Obama win, the Right is digging down deeper and deeper into the mud trying to come up with something that will scare the bejesus out of the undecided voters. In the past week, they dug up the scary old term "socialist." I'm old enough to remember what they want us to remember--some vision of the Soviet Gulag and goose-stepping Russian soldiers marching through Red Square, or some welfare state where the government controls our lives and where all the lazy bums have cradle-to-grave security.
On the contrary, having lived in Europe for fourteen years, when I think of socialism as a real, working form of government, I see not the disaster and horrors of the Soviet system, but rather the stable, happy Scandinavian countries.
But forget the Swedes. For various reasons the Scandinavian system wouldn't work in the United States, and, in any event, I'm no Socialist. No, better here the rough and tumble, hurly-burly of capitalism with its, as my grandfather used to say, cycles of "boom and bust." The capitalist roller coaster is a better fit with the American personality. We are capitalism and capitalism is us. We just got busted, though, and, if we're going to continue to embrace the heady joy ride that is true capitalism, we're going to have to be willing to ride it out. So, my advice to the Right is to come up from underground, clean the mud from your slings, and get back on the roller coaster. Obama is no socialist, he just wants to install some safety features on the great ride that is America.
Friday, October 17, 2008
See this beautiful lady? Her name is Seawind and last weekend she became ours. The invention of the sailboat was, without a doubt, one of mankind's most profound insights into tool making. The simple idea of putting sails in the wind did nothing less than allow mankind to populate the world. But never mind that--just look at her. Few things are more beautiful (she's an Alberg 30 for those interested) and we'll be sailing her on the Chesapeake as soon as we can sail her down from her present home in Cutchogue, L.I.
Next, the election. Less than three weeks left to go and Obama is pulling ahead in all the polls. This is causing much teeth gnashing and hopeless squeaking by the conservative pundits/press. Despite all their efforts to sink the Democratic boat with gales of negative rhetoric, the lovely vessel of liberalism floats proud.
It is wonderful to note that the Liberal media get much of the blame. Imagine, a bunch of English majors tilting the most important election in the Free World. And everyone decries our lack of leadership in science and math. I say, if we are to defend our basic human freedoms, we need a whole lot more people with good backgrounds in Shakespeare.
By the way, I was very pleased to see that Chris Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley, the founder of the National Review, was fired from his job as one of their writers after he came out in support of Obama (see: Dailybeast.com). Apparently he pointed out that conservatives/Republicans have done a fine job of trashing our country at home and abroad. Now why can't more (very) intelligent people on the Right see the light? I suspect Christopher Buckley was an English major. I know his father was a sailor. He would have appreciated Seawind.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
It's not as if what Chris Matthews says holds any water, or that Bill O'Riley's leaking gibberish matters a whit. Nonetheless, I find the swirling, muddy rapids of the American political scene fascinating. Perhaps that's what can be expected after spending a quarter of a century living overseas.
And then, the debates. If you were among the undecided voters before the three encounters between Barack and John (unimaginable to me), then you probably still are. Nothing new was said, no new ground broken, no egregious gaffs were made, but we did get a chance to see them together (even though they were loathe to look at each other--a sign of weakness, no doubt). After the face-to-face encounters, Barack's lead in the polls has only increased due, no doubt, to some bubbling, convecting stew of the flushable economy, the lingering wars, and Mr. McCain's own close-to-meltdown strategies. Add to it the lovely Ms. Moose Killer's coming face to face with big-time, prime-time political hardball. We can be certain of only one thing: No matter how she struggled to slog through the melting permafrost of her inexperience and lack of knowledge, the pundits on the Right worked desperately to spin an impermeable, glowing web of support from half-truths and rationalizations. My guess is they were all, way down deep in their growly little souls, horrified.
One of the best perks of retirement was being able to spend a wonderful week with Jenny at her home in the beautiful horse country just north of Atlanta waiting for Konrad's arrival. We walked and talked, played Scrabble, read, watched re-runs of M.A.S.H., made two, 45-min. practice runs to the hospital birthing center just in case Daddy was not home from work when she reached critical mass. As it turned out, Rob had been home only an hour last Friday when labor started and I didn't have to drive after all. It fell to me to sit in the back and keep a stopwatch on the contractions. We made it with time to spare and he was born at 16 minutes after midnight on the morning of 20 September 2008. Mother and baby doing fine, thank you.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Last night police were called to investigate a man swinging a Star Wars-style light saber outside a local apartment complex. He turned out to be a migrant worker who said he was searching for his lost artificial eye. Police suggested he suspend his search until the next day when the light would be better.
Because the taste of politics was still in my mouth (along with the fried clams and slaw) and echoing in my brain, I had to relate this wonderful back-page trifle to the current campaign. To wit: One can assume this man's political sympathies would lie with the Democrats. Think about it--an immigrant, an artificial eye, a light saber, and a night-time setting. So, the guy is in this country to do jobs the average American is loathe to do, he has no health insurance, hence the desperate, midnight search, and with, of all things, a child's toy--a dimly glowing plastic "saber" which indicates he might be too poor to buy a real flashlight.
The typical Republican view might be this: He/She is an immigrant and hence, somehow, at some basic level, is undesirable for one or more of the following reasons: He/She probably has an odd-sounding, un-American name. He/She probably speaks English with an undesirable accent. There is a very good chance his/her skin shade is a bit too dark and his/her features a bit to bold for Red-Blooded Right Wing American tastes nor does he/she hunt or even own a firearm. And the looking-for-my-artificial-eye alibi is obviously a phony one. This foreigner was no doubt a opportunist looking for a chance to score.
Ah, but I'm cynical when it comes to the Right Wingers among us. It's difficulty for me to take seriously those who think the Earth is 6,000 years old, who deny evolution, and who, despite the vast amount of daily evidence to the contrary, think an all-powerful, all all seeing, all forgiving, infinitely merciful God is up there loving and protecting us.
As for the migrant worker looking for his eye, I feel some empathy. It's hard enough to see the world clearly with two eyes, never mind with just one. Maybe that's the problem with the Right Wing extremist element--they've only got one eye and the other one is lost in the grass somewhere.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
And take the "Dr." I heard interviewed on the news the other day. She was terminally bitter about how her candidate, Hillary, had been treated (she lost), and so was going to vote for McCain and Company despite disagreeing with everything he stands for. I wonder what kind of doctor she is. One would assume she bought her degree on the Internet.
And how about all the trash being put out on the blogosphere about Mr. Obama. The hope is that the All-American Moron won't be able to see clearly through the mud smeared across the windshields of our minds and won't bother to question the motivations and characters of those who do the smearing.
We need to think, people. Stop and ask yourself the real question here. It's not "is Obama a Muslim?" It's what are the motivations of the people who want us to believe he is. And if you won't vote for him simply because he is "black," then read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. You'll find that it is your patriotism that is in question, not his.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
To that end, as far as the mind goes, I like the surroundings to be the same, the sounds--noises, squeaks, cat scratchings, birds chirpings--the feeling of the air, and even the smells (morning coffee? Very fine). Also critical is a dependable lack of disruptions. When I was writing on the boat, the only disruption I could count on was a cat climbing on my lap, also very fine. And now, finally, I've got all that going here ashore. The house is put together enough so we can live in it comfortably, the yard work is minimal, and I can line up my other non-writing, house projects, one my one, and get them done--whenever.
Now the schedule is working out something like this: up at 7:00--that's A.M. I'd be up earlier but the Red Sox games don't get over sometimes until past midnight)and in my chair with this laptop going by 7:30. I've got the first chapter of the long-self-promised young adult adventure novel done (draft form--let's call it a sketch), so the book is underway and it feels wonderful, like having a purpose again. By Noon, my brain is full, as the Far Side cartoon had it, and I need to be excused from this chair--it's time to move.
So, today I got up and spent a couple of hours getting rid of (surendering) my Guam driver's license and acquiring the Virginia version (it required dealing with the usual DMV hassels and took me three trips back home to get just the right documentation). Then I switched to my workout clothes and went for a delicious hour's walk/run down to the harbor and along quiet summer streets lined with crape myrtle and green lawns.
There's a good chance VATNA, the boat on Guam, will sell this week and then we'll buy a nice, shallow-draft, 22 ft. skiff to have on the Chesapeake and for the shallow water inside the barrier islands on the sea side of the Eastern Shore. Wonderful. At some point we'll also get a good sailboat that is capable of cruising the Bay. This evening we looked at a slip where we can keep the boat(s) and it looked perfect. Love it when things are perfect.
So, there is life after teaching and it's starting to look nice, fine, great and cool. We keep our heads down, though, lest a sniper get us.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
But never mind technology. Reading the article was a reminder of the great old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Twain was aghast at the same things we need to be aghast at: racism, greed, imperialism, and arrogant, murderous religiosity. The technology changes but the dark workings of human nature continue unabated. The world was as much of a mess in 1900 as it is today.
So, here's a suggestion that Twain might support. He was, like myself, a great traveler who spent much time abroad. He said that nothing inoculates against racism like traveling and as racism is caused by small-mindedness and small-mindedness is caused by lack of exposure to the wider world of possibilities, the government should stop the wars it has going and spend equal amounts of money on sending each an every American overseas for a while. How long? Well, each of us would be required to live with a foreign family, eat their food, and learn to speak their language more or less fluently before would be allowed to return home.
And you don't get to pick where you go. The Committee on the Foreign Placement of U.S. Citizens for Purposes of Expanding Their Minds To Wipe Out Ignorance and Narrow Mindedness would decide that. We might send someone like Rush Limbaugh to Nepal say, to live in a yurt and learn to love Yak milk. I'd like to see that. And he'd be allowed to speak only Nepalese. That would shut him up for a while. And Ann Coulter? Where would we send dear gentle Ann? I'll have to think about that and make a recommendation to the Committee.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Incredibly, I continued to rubberneck my way through the building, going in and out of doors, up and down stairways as though I owned the place, as though, as an American taxpayer, I belonged here as much as the suited pols or their assistants I occasionally ran into. After an hour or so, I exited through another side door feeling as though I had, more than any other common tourist that day, experienced the business end of the Republic.
Oh, what a difference a couple of decades makes. Yesterday, as I repeated my walk around the Mall and again ended up at the steps of Capitol Hill, I was met by the scene pictured above: police were everywhere and streets cordoned off with big warning signs. Now, instead of being able to randomly visit the Congressperson of your choice, the voter must join a tightly controlled group of other voters/tourists and be led around by the nose by young, summer-job tour guides. Such a sad development. It left me with the feeling that our freedoms had been necessarily diminished, that the soul of the country had been blocked off, our access to ourselves and our freedoms painfully constricted.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Zeke the Old Cat and I are apparently experiencing the same sort of cognitive dissonance brought on by the unexpected suddenness of retirement. You can't really be ready for it no matter how many retirement parties friends throw for you. While, as a teacher, I'm used to long summer vacations, I can't wrap my brain around the idea that this vacation is not going to end. Its very endlessness makes it impossible to grab a hold of, yet I'm anxious to do something with it. I'm finding our evening happy hours are too long and too much wine is being drunk. This results in poor sleep, hours lying awake worrying about things one should never worry about when one is retired. Then, in the morning, you get up and still feeling tired, you try to get a grip on what is was you were going to do once you didn't have to go to work and weren't tired and stressed any more. Of course, I should give myself a break here. I've only been retired (not working) for a week and an half and my official retirement date is July 4th, still a ways off.
As for Zeke the Old Cat, he is having his own difficulties adjusting to his new land-based life. He spends a great deal of energy wandering about the house mewling and howling. I assume he's frustrated at not being able to get out into the delicious out of doors he smells just beyond the window screens. So, last evening, figuring he's had enough time to know where home is, we let him out to do some exploring under our watchful eyes. He set about, in a pretty methodical way for a cat, to examine the back yard. After a good hour, he went back in the house and disappeared. We got the feeling that he'd seen enough and couldn't decide if he liked it or not.
I don't think I'll have any trouble liking what I'm finding in this new world I've jumped off into. I just need to give myself a chance to grasp the mechanics of the free time now dangling in front of me. Yard work is helpful and tomorrow we head off to D.C. for a week of Terry's FEA meetings. Yesterday we ordered a brand new Prius (touring version), and I'm trying to settle into some sort of morning writing routine to sort of ease my way into this unexplored country.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
Just finished with being home in Massachusetts helping out. Cold, cold, cold. Tried to get walking in on a regular schedule, but did not have much luck. The weather (snow, freezing rain, temps in the low teens and twenties) and an unpredictable schedule kept me from my appointed rounds except for some rare times when I could squeeze one in.
On one of those occasions, though, after a light snow, I carried my new camera and caught these raccoon tracks, fairly fresh, in the long driveway that meanders through the forest. There are some more pix, too, of my sister's house on the pond in the forest, and some roads and fields.
More than just taking pictures with a camera, I've been taking more interesting mental pix and integrating them into the general idea for a novel. I'm excited about it. Another New England story with all the salient New England stuff-- family, gray skies, dirty snow, then blue skies and fresh pure air and frigid air, the grinding sameness of every day as the winter wears on, interminable and forbidding.
Now its back to Guam for the last four months of work before I retire. Can't wrap my brain around that idea. Reading: The Road by Cormack McCarthy. It is a fitting book for a New England winter, all ash and bitterness. This past few weeks, while living on a pond in a forest, I also dipped into Thoreau's Walden. His scolding, finger wagging wisdom, while sound enough advice, can get a bit tiresome.