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Archive for the ‘Feelings’ Category

Pandemic Desktop

I have been working from my home office now for over 7 months solid. I spend a lot of time at this desk, and I found that having some fresh flowers behind my laptop brightens up my mood.

On July 30th I posted about growing sunflowers from seeds. Here is that post. Now, the sunflower plants line our fence, some of them eight feet tall. Here are a few sunflower blossoms grown in our own yard, from those seeds.

It’s a bright spot in my day.

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Here are the mugshots of 10 of the 13 would-be Michigan kidnappers.

People who are planning on kidnapping an American Governor and possibly executing her are called terrorists. Since we usually associate terrorism with foreigners, we have narrowed the term down to “domestic terrorists.”

Here are pictures of domestic terrorists. They are all white. I don’t know these 10 men, but I do know our media calls them “white supremacists.” I am actually curious about what goes on in the head of somebody who plans to kidnap and possibly execute a governor. I would like to have a conversation, maybe over a beer in the backyard. What would be their persuasive argument?

But this post is not about the would-be kidnappers. It’s about how our president responded to their story.

If these 10 people where Muslims, with dark beards and Arab head dress, our president would have responded with a further escalation of the ban of all Muslims in this country, and every Muslim American would have had to pay for it with abuse, discrimination, assault in public and pure fear for their safety.

If these 10 people were Hispanic, our president would have told us the Mexicans are murderers, rapists, criminals and needed to be deported, and – by the way – we need to build that wall. All Hispanics would have been further injured and damaged.

If these 10 people were Black, all black people would have been denigrated and the entire black-lives-matter movement would have been attacked as anarchist. The president would have blamed the black community for their crimes.

But these men are all white.

So the president attacked their victim, the Governor of Michigan. Apparently she had it coming.

 

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We here in the United States are upset because we need to wear facemasks when shopping for groceries. Read this excerpt from an article in Time Magazine of August 31, 2020 – Losing Hope in India, page 47:

Other migrant workers weren’t so enthusiastic. For those whose daily wages paid for their evening meals, the lockdown had an immediate and devastating effect. When factories and construction sites closed because of the pandemic, many bosses – who often provide their temporary employees with food and board – threw everyone out onto the streets. And because welfare is administered at the state level in India, migrant workers are ineligible for benefits like food rations anywhere other than in their home state. With no food or money, and with train and bus travel suspended, millions had no choice but to immediately set off on foot for their villages, some hundreds of miles away. By mid-May, 3,000 people had died from COVID-19, but at least 500 more had died “distress deaths,” including those due to hunger, road accidents and lack of access to medical facilities, according to a study by the Delhi-based Society for Economic Research.

India is on course to eventually surpass Brazil and the United States in numbers of infections and deaths due to COVID-19.

When I am not happy about having to wear a mask in public for the 6th month already, I think about how lucky I actually am, having been born in a rich country. I could just as soon be in a rural village in India, barefoot, a hundred miles from home, with no money, no shelter, no food, no healthcare and no transportation.

I think a mask is bad?

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Today I went into the office, as I do every other week, to pay bills. A normal payment run has about 30 or so checks for our vendors and suppliers. The stack of envelopes is about 2 inches thick. There is a mailbox outside our building. As I dropped my letters into the box, I thought about the deliberate internal sabotage that is currently going on within the United States Postal Service. It is being reported that mailboxes, just like the one where I dropped my letters today, are being removed. If that mailbox were no longer there, I’d have to drive about 10 minutes out of my way to the nearest post office to mail my bill payments. Not too bad, but definitely inconvenient. My time, the gasoline, all add up. It makes no sense to dismantle existing operating infrastructure. It is also being reported that sorting machines that sort 35,000 pieces of mail per hour are just being removed from the post offices and dismantled and trashed. These pieces of equipment cost millions of dollars each. After decades of buying and installing them, they are removing them supposedly because the postal service is not “profitable.”

They are succeeding. The mail is slowing down. A couple of weeks ago I sent a large check of $18,000 to a vendor. That check never arrived. Today, we had to stop payment on that check, and then wire the sum separately. The process took at least 2 man-hours of time. All because an envelope with a 50 cent stamp containing a $18,000 check didn’t arrive. Is it waiting to be sorted somewhere?

Not having a working postal service inconveniences millions of businesses who rely on the mail for payments, bills, filings, forms and countless other services. Having a working postal service during a pandemic, when we are forced to live our lives “remotely” is ever more important. Elders around the country rely on the mail to receive their pension checks, their social security payments, their medicines, their entertainment, and yes, their ballots for the election. Sabotaging the postal service is not Making America Great Again. It’s turning America into a dumpster fire.

And then there is the argument that we’re doing this because the postal service is not profitable.

It’s a service! It does not need to be profitable in my estimation. The annual revenues of the postal service in 2019 were about $80 billion and the loss was about $8 billion. Source.

$8 billion will buy about 40 F-35 fighter planes.

I don’t hear anybody complaining about the military not being profitable. Somehow we have the budget for the military, but we can’t afford the mail?

Ironically, the GOP tried to put $8 billion for F-35 fighter planes into the coronavirus relief bill that did not succeed. Ah, we have the money when it buys 40 more airplanes (which I consider obsolete anyway, but that’s another story that you can read about in my 2014 post), but we can’t afford the postal service.

The fact is: Our own government is sabotaging the United States Postal Service on purpose – presumably to make the election more difficult.

What’s next?

Maybe we’ll start bombing our own airport runways. Hey, a few missiles into the LAX, ORD, DFW and JFK airport runways would certainly ground most air traffic and keep all those foreigners away.

Or better, we could just plow up a few sections of the Interstate system. Interrupt I-5 in Central California and you can do some major damage to the 5th largest economy in the world. Cutting off I-40 in Texas could help keeping those illegal caravans away from the Eastern states.

America is getting Greater all the time.

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Sunflowers and Blue Jays

We have now been confined to our homes for almost five months with no end in sight. The pandemic is raging in the US, and California has the highest numbers. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 32% per today’s news, which is by far the largest drop ever in history – since we have been measuring GDP. I understand how this happened. I have probably filled up the gas tank in my car three times all year. I have not been in an airplane or in a hotel room in five months. This has not happened in 40 years before. I have not bought anything of significance. There is no place to go, and eating out is a hassle. It has made me turn to the simpler rewards, and rewarding they are.

For instance, last weekend Trisha brought home a little bag of sunflower seeds. I planted six of them in a pot and watered them twice a day.

[click to enlarge]

Here are all six sunflower sprouts after just five days of nurturing them.

Check out the ones at 1:00 o’clock and 3:00 o’clock. They still have the seed shell on top of the leaves. The sprouts pushed up the shells with them. I will let them grow to six inches, and then I’ll plant them near the fence. They are the kind that grows to 12 feet. I am so looking forward to that.

Then, a few days ago I was out by our wall trimming the hedges and pulling out dead wood. All of a sudden a bird’s nest fell down. I didn’t even realize there was a nest in that bush, but as it fell to the ground, it was too late. Four little baby birds were screaming, and the blue jay parents were fluttering about overhead in frightened anger and pain.

My heart sank.

There was no way to get the nest back up into the bushes securely enough. So we quickly found a box, put the nest in it, and scooped up the four baby birds and put them into the box and stuck the box into the hedge on the wall. Then we left them alone.

Within an hour, one of the babies had climbed out of the box, jumped the six feet to the ground and tried to squirrel away. We caught it, put it back, but by that time it was dark. The next morning, only three babies were left. By the following morning, only two were left, but they seem to be steady and doing well. I feel very badly to have caused the demise of two of them, albeit accidentally.

We looked up how to feed baby blue jays and actually gave them some softened cat food pellets, and they liked them. We didn’t know if the parents would come back and take care of them, so we were determined to keep them alive if we had to. We can see the box right outside our kitchen window, and we have meanwhile spied mom or dad in the box.  The two remaining babies look good. We’ll let mom take care of them now, but we’ll surely keep taking their pictures:

Here is one of the little ones. The other is lying down next to it on the left.

The rescued baby birds and the sunflower sprouts are the simple pleasures in life that seem to be more rewarding than all the gross-national-product trappings we are conditioned to need. I am looking forward to showing off our blue jays here as they grow up.

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Souplantation is no more.

I have visited Souplantation restaurants since 1985. When our children were little we would eat there as a family. I have had many a lunch in the Mission Gorge location in San Diego, their very first store opened in 1978. I used to go there to fill up after getting hungry and thirsty sailing on the San Diego Bay.

In 2016, I even had lunch there with the CEO of the company at the time. Here is my post describing that visit.

The buffet-style restaurant business was already struggling, and the concept was challenging to keep alive in recent years. Here is a link to SanDiegoVille with the article announcing the shutdown.

But after the Covid-19 shutdown, with the great uncertainty of what comes next, the chain has been brought to its knees.

I will miss the chicken noodle soup, with sourdough bread and honey-butter.

I am truly saddened.

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Today at 6:53pm we had a significant earthquake. It was of 4.9 magnitude centered near Anza, California. That’s 60 miles from here.

We felt it strongly here in Escondido.

Our world, our country, our state, and our community has suffered enough damage already. Right now we do NOT NEED AN EARTHQUAKE.

This definitely shook me up.

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Back on July 18, 1963, as the AFS [see below] students who had spent their high school year in the United States, were preparing to go back to their countries, they got to visit the White House. JFK talked to them.

It would be another 11 years before I had the privilege to be chosen as an AFS student. I arrived in the United States two weeks after Nixon’s resignation on August 20, 1974. Our group did not get to visit the White House when we went home in July of 1975.

All my life I have been proud to have been an AFS student and to carry the mission forward of spreading peace in the world, one person at a time.

It’s gotten a little more difficult in recent years.

[AFS stands for American Field Service, today the largest and most famed high school student exchange program in the world]

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I just read in the San Diego Union of January 26, 2020, that some juvenile pyromaniac set the palm grove in the Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert on fire last week. That spot was one of my favorite day hike destinations in Southern California, and I have been there dozens of times over the years and have taken many a visitor there. Since the offender was a juvenile, law enforcement does not give any details about what happened.

Over the decades, I have hiked the Palm Canyon in the Anza Borrego Desert many times, and I have often documented those trips here. Just a few links, oldest to newest:

The Oasis – A hike a did with my friend Mike (coincidentally the same Mike from the post right below….) in 2008. In that post you can see a few nice pictures of the famous Palm Canyon palm grove, which is visited by about 20,000 hikers a year.

Exploring Climbing of Indianhead – A hike I did with my son Devin in 2010, on our way up the canyon. We did a stop at the palm grove and you see a few pictures of it in this post.

Attempt to Hike Indianhead – Take Two – Another hike with Devin in 2012, making our way farther up the canyon. There are a few more palm groves along the way that the casual 20,000 hikers that reach the first one never see. The hiking after the first grove is treacherous and not for weekend hikers.

Attempt to Hike Indianhead – Take Three – An exploratory hike I did myself in 2013.

And while I am droning on about Indian Head, even though it’s not fully related to the palm canyon, here is my account: Attempt to Hike Indianhead – Take Four – This was my last attempt in 2014, and I think probably my last one altogether for Indianhead. Indianhead shall remain unclimbed by me.

New Palm Grove 2010 – 2017 – An account of 7 years of monitoring the new palm grove. In this post you can see a selfie of myself with the grove in the background.

New Year’s Day a Winter Wonderland in the Desert – the last time I was there with Devin was New Year’s Day of 2019. There are a few good pictures of the oasis.

Here are two clips from the San Diego Union of today:

Above with the blaze underway.

Here is what the great trees looked like a few days later, still smoldering.

The grove had last burned in 1970, when a boyscout had played with matches. I remember seeing charred tree trunks there over the years presumably still from that blaze. The rangers expect that the large trees, even though they are all thoroughly burned, will actually recover and sprout new branches at the top.

Also, with all the thick underbrush and shadow eliminated, and boosted by the nutrients of the ash, new undergrowth and seedlings will sprout quickly. I’ll have to go out in a few weeks since I haven’t been there yet in 2020, and see for myself.

I am afraid it’ll never quite be the same again in my lifetime like it was here with me on January 1, 2019:

[click to enlarge]

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One of my friends asked me which of my own paintings was my favorite. It’s the Little Girl.

This request prompted me to put together this History of a Painting. Here it is:

Many people call this “Indian Boy” and I can see the androgynous nature of the painting, but for me, it’s always been the “Little Girl.” I finished it in early 1980. Until about 1998, it was with friends in upstate New York, where it spent many years in an attic before I got it back. It’s a large painting, so you have to have a large wall for it. Here is a photograph of it in my house today:

This gives you a feeling for its size. It’s three feet wide and four feet high.

Here is how it came about: In 1975, when I was an 18-year-old youth living with my parents, there was an insert magazine that came with the local newspaper, called the Mission Aktuell, a German magazine about foreign missionary aid in third world countries. The cover struck a chord in me, and I saved it at the time. This was before I had ever done a single oil painting, and I do not remember why I saved the cover, or where I saved it. It simply was with me in 1978, when I started painting in earnest.

I did a preliminary painting of the Little Girl. I have a yellowed photograph of it still, but I do not remember what happened to the painting itself and if it still exists somewhere. I lost a lot of my early paintings in my wild youth years of Sturm und Drang and associated moving around. Here is the photograph:

The coloring is off here, because the photograph is over 40 years old and those paper photos have a tendency to lose their color. But I was never happy enough with it in 1978, and that’s why I picked the subject up again in 1979. It took me about a year to finish the final form of the Little Girl, and it’s now celebrating its 40th birthday.

Of course, I’ll never know who the girl was that posed for the magazine in 1975. If she was perhaps five years old then, she would be 50 now.

I wish she could know.

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In the summer of 1989, I was one of the first people in computing who bought a 486-33 computer. This is a picture of the machine I took a few years ago before I gave it away for recycling. At the time, it was the most advanced machine on the market. It cost over $4,000, and that does not include a monitor. It had a 5 1/4 inch floppy, two 3 1/2 inch floppies, and I added a tape drive and a CD drive. At the time I was working on a neural network engine for automated license plate reading. The training program that ran all night long on the old XT machine executed in 20 to 30 minutes on this monster, and I was in heaven.

Alas, as computers go, this was obsolete within a couple of years and I put it on a shelf. I never had the heart to throw it out and as Controltec grew from one person to more than 60 over the years, I would sometimes pull out the old machine and show it to young associates as the machine that started a company.

It is now long gone, and this old picture of it is the only thing that remains.

Sometimes I miss those days.

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1981 – I worked construction putting up houses in Fountain Hills, Arizona. On the way home, tired, hot, sunburned, I would stop at a Dairy Queen in Scottsdale and buy a medium vanilla chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. I loved those things after a long day of work building houses in the desert.

2020 – After sushi at Sushiya in Escondido, on the way to see a movie at Angelika, we stopped at a Dairy Queen. I had my favorite vanilla chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. It’s a little more expensive now than it was when I was 23. But then, I am 63 now, and I still buy the same cone at the same retail chain store. Dairy Queen forever!

This made me think about how the retail landscape in America has changed over the course of my life.

1970ies – There were waterbed stores all over the place. As I drove down Glendale Avenue in Glendale, Arizona, heading east, I am sure there were 10 waterbed stores within a few blocks. I had a waterbed in those years. It lasted for a few years, then it became impractical as I started moving more often during college years, and I gave it away. All the waterbed stores are now gone.

1970ies – Also in those years, unfinished furniture stores were ubiquitous. I remember browsing through those. I never really bought “proper” unfinished furniture, but I did buy a few shelves of particle board which I painted bright green, blue, yellow and red. We made throw pillows of crazy colors which were our “couch.” Good enough for 21-year-olds. All the unfinished furniture stores are now gone.

1980ies – When the VHS revolution took over and the thrill of being able to “rent” a movie that you could watch in the privacy of your home, video rental stores sprung up all over every neighborhood. You got a membership, kind of like a library card, and you could rent movies for a few days. If you forgot to bring them back in time, you were charged a late fee. I remember thinking I wanted to rent some of those girly movies they had in the backroom – oh the bliss – but I actually have no recollection ever following through with that. Eventually, Blockbuster replaced all the mom-and-pop video rental stores, but then, Blockbuster forgot to disrupt itself and Netflix came along. All the video rental stores are now gone.

1990ies – Those were the years when the cell phone stores arose. You chose expensive phones and expensive plans where you counted the minutes. I remember having 120 “minutes” was a large plan. We justified the expense that we’d use the cell phones “for emergencies only” but I remember it felt neat being able to make a call from a moving car on the I-15 for the first time. That was around 1993 or 1994. All the cell phone stores are now gone, and some have morphed to the smartphone outlets of Apple or Verizon.

1970ies through 2000 – Back in 1974, every mall in America had either a B. Dalton book store or a Waldenbooks. That’s when I still went to the mall. I cared little about any of the stores, except Dairy Queen and the bookstore. In the mid 1980ies I saw my first “super bookstore.” It was a “Bookstar” on Rosecrans in San Diego. The selection was immense. Shortly after that, Borders started appearing, along with Barnes & Noble. Now all we have left is Barnes & Noble, and the occasional bookstore in airports. There are a couple at Chicago O’Hare that I like. I don’t buy hard books to read anymore, so I have this policy that I buy “something” when I go to Barnes & Noble, like a coffee table book, an art book, or anything else that I don’t want just in digital format. You have to flip through art books in hardcopy. And my policy to buy something at Barnes & Noble is to help them stay in business. All the little bookstores in malls are now gone, but I can’t imagine a world without bookstores.

The retail changes over the decades are drastic, and with nostalgia I think about the days when I browsed around in unfinished furniture stores and breathed in that woodshop aroma.

I could use a chocolate-dipped cone right about now.

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A few weeks ago I posted about Sigmund Freud’s conclusions after a visit to America.

My friend and French and Latin teacher Pit (PG) corrected some of my thoughts from a grammatical and etymological perspective and I reported on that here. He is correct in all his statements and his language lesson about the origin of you and the fact that you is actually plural from an etymological point of view.

Here is what I said that led to his challenge:

They have trouble, at first, calling everyone “you” in the familiar form. In the English language, we address each other with you, no matter what the relationship is. We talk the same way to our doctors, our supervisors at work, the president of the country, teachers, relatives, parents, students, playmates, buddies and our dogs. Not so in German, French, Spanish, or Japanese, to name just a few major languages which differentiate the common address based on relationship and status.

While Pit is correct, the fact is that modern Americans have no idea that “you” is plural, and even less that “you” is therefore an ancient formal address.

In our world today, “you” certainly seems singular and very familiar, and we are used to addressing everyone the same way.

In German, there is almost a ceremony when you transition from the formal “Sie” address, which is originally plural, per Pit’s discussion, to the familiar “Du.” It does not happen automatically, and generally the elder or higher-ranking in the relationship will propose that the new address henceforth shall be “Du.” And the relationship changes.

Another representation of egalitarianism is the use of first names to address almost everyone in America. We do not use Mr. SoAndSo in our general interactions. We use our first names. There are some exceptions, like when writing business correspondence with people we have never met, in student teacher relationships (but even there not universally) and when initially addressing customers in business situations. However, 99% of the time we call each other by our first names, and that is not something the average German would be used to.

For Germans first arriving in America, and using “you” and the first name to address everyone, is at first disorienting. It takes some getting used to. The inverse is also true. Once used to the linguistic egalitarianism in America, I have run into many a German tourist, and when speaking German with him, I have unthinkingly used the “Du” form simply because it flows out naturally and it goes well with the first name.

Why am I telling you all this? As Thou Thinkest, Thus Thou Feelest!

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I Became a Grandfather

On July 26 at 5:15pm I became a grandfather. Best feeling.

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On August 22, 1974, I was a bright-eyed 18-year-old AFS foreign exchange student, when I arrived in Lakewood, New York. The Saxton family took me in for a year and made me one of theirs within the first few hours of my arrival. When we pulled up to the house at 22 E. Summit, they had hoisted two flags, the German one next to the American one. I took this picture within a few hours of arriving there on that hot August evening, the first day of a drastically changed life.

I gave the camera to my host sister Val who then took this picture of me by the flag. Check out my crazy cut-off shorts! The kids never let me hear the end of it, and those shorts went into the trash quickly never to be worn again.

Here is a view from the side of the house, looking toward the street. The house that was to be my home for the next year was so drastically different from the house in Germany that I had just left. The entire architecture in America is very different from that in Germany.

Many months later I went outside and took another picture of the place in winter, with the icicles pointing down from the roof.

Here I am in the hallway toward the end of the year, a proud high school graduate. By then, 22 E. Summit had become as much my home as any place in my life. I still remember the countless hours lying on my back on the thick, plush carpet, next to the stereo, listening the Elton John records using the headphones: “Ticking, Ticking, don’t ever ride on the devil’s knee, Momma said.”

Five years later, in the summer of 1979, I brought my German parents to the U.S. and we drove across the country from Arizona to New York. While we were there, my stepfather and I painted the house. Here we are, he on the left, myself on the right, working away in the hot summer morning.

The Saxtons sold the house within a couple of years after that and moved on with their lives, and so did I.

Now let’s turn the clock forward 40 years to last Sunday, Father’s Day 2019. My sister Val and I drove by the old place. It is now long abandoned and tagged by the authorities. There is a red warning sign on the wall. The place is infested with mold, bed bugs and anything else you can imagine after being left to the elements for years. I assume it will eventually be torn down. There are no other options left.

The yard is overgrown and the house is literally crumbling.

Here I am in front of the steps where I stood in my cutoff with fringes 45 years ago as a boy.

Looking in I see that the place is completely gutted. I can see the spot where I stood when I had my graduation picture taken. I see where the couch used to be where I watched Gilligan’s Island after school every afternoon, where I learned listening to rapidly spoken English in the first couple of months. The old house is full of memories.

No visit to the old house would be complete without a parting selfie. Here we are, Val and I, after a lifetime of memories and a friendship that started in these very rooms so long ago.

Good bye, 22 E. Summit.

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