The Rainbow Connections

A few weeks ago, I wrote about synesthesia and being a synesthete. It’s not nearly as fancy as it sounds.

It just refers to the way some people visualize abstract concepts, and in my case numbers (mostly on a mental calendar, referred to as number form synesthesia). I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, and from early on I had a suspicion that not everyone was like me in this regard. It’s a neurological phenomenon that’s not understood very well, but seldom a big deal. We all have quirks.

I could draw you a year, for example. I can’t do it in Photoshop, etc., because it involves gradients and honestly I don’t have the inclination to figure that out. The way I visualize a specific year, either the current one or in the past, is as a 2-dimensional ellipse filled in with (again) gradients of color that can be manipulated on its axis but remains flat.

There. That’s sort of a year. I could draw lines to demonstrate months, because that’s the way I see it, but interestingly the proportions would be seriously skewed; summer takes up the entire top half (and would be shades of blue and yellow, depending). This was obviously set at some point when I was a kid, which is essentially how synesthesia operates anyway. Childhood is when abstraction becomes a concept.

January is very dark blue, if you’re curious. Always has been.

***

I have no idea if this is a memory aide or not; it does feel organized, though, and maybe easier for me to reference. I bring it up only because we’re celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday this week, so memory is on my mind. So to speak.

Memory is why I enjoy going to these reunion things, whether it’s friends or family or both. I’m seeking verification, although that’s not likely to happen. Mostly my experience has been that we pool our memories, filling in gaps and trying to piece together what happened and when. Colors don’t help that much.

This is a blessing of the digital age, then. It’s easier to track down facts and confront my memories, adjusting as I do. Often I’m a little disappointed, only because the truth tends to ruin what had been a good story. But occasionally I’m enlightened, and let me put the geek hat on for a minute.

I think I became a fan of Star Trek in the early 1970s, when the syndication machine took off and the fan base with it. I remember coming home from high school with friends and watching them in the afternoon. I must have been familiar with it, but I don’t have memories of watching in their first run.

I do remember hearing, though. I’ve had a distinct memory since childhood of lying in bed at night, listening to the television and Star Trek in the living room. I might have been envious; space was a big deal in the ‘60s, especially to a kid. I really have no idea, though.

What I remember is something about salt. That’s always been there, and then jump ahead a few years to those afternoons after school. I saw that salt episode finally, and got my verification.

Keep jumping. Now I’m an adult, a parent, and I’ve got some sort of Star Trek trivia book that I picked up in a thrift shop. I find out that the salt episode (The Man Trap, if you’re that sort of person) was actually the first show aired (on Sept. 8, 1966, when I was 8). My parents saw the very first one; pretty cool, but also strange. I have no recollection of Star Trek and my parents in any way other than that fuzzy memory of listening from the bedroom. I remember them watching Peyton Place and The Big Valley, but not Shatner and company.

Now one more jump. I dragged that story out of the weeds for a column a few years ago, and here comes the internet and what not. Looking up the actual date, I realized why my parents had probably watched it: It was part of a special new season promotion on NBC, a sneak preview of the upcoming shows. There was probably nothing else on, but they apparently passed after that.

But verification! Take that, you mahogany-colored September 1966.

***

You know why this is on my mind? Because Lawrence Dobkin, that’s why.

Dobkin is kind of a story. You might recognize the face; the voice might seem very familiar, almost certainly not the name. He had a decent show biz career, though, as an actor on episodic television in the 1950s and 60s, and then as a director. He even has a Star Trek trivia notation, since he was one of only two people to direct and act in an episode of both the original series and The Next Generation.

He was also one of two men to do the famous narration from TV’s Naked City (“There are 8 million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”).

It gets better.

In 1958, the year I was born, he appeared on a Western show called Trackdown.

And, really, that’s all I have to say. How about that internet.

Also? 1958 is sort of purple.

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Outrage Alert

Hey, this is a fun idea. I should write about things I’m not interested in. Let’s start with the Golden Globes.

I’ve never watched. So. I’m going to say that meets the criterion.

I’m also not particularly interested in Meryl Streep’s opinion, although I think she’s wonderful and probably wise and insightful. I doubt very much that she’s interested in my opinion either.

I see no reason why a movie star’s take on current events is less valid than, say, mine or yours, or a talking head on cable news. Or lots of people. I just see no reason to pay particular attention to this particular incident on that particular awards show. She thinks the incoming Trump administration is dangerous? Get in line.

What I am interested in are jokes. I appreciate a good sense of humor.

That makes me slightly interested in actor Joshua Malina, who’s a funny guy and a decent actor, one of the Aaron Sorkin Players. He was excellent on Sports Night, and good on The West Wing. He’s currently on Scandal, which I’m also not interested in, and he cohosts The West Wing Weekly, a podcast devoted to that show, which I am interested in.

Now that we’re clear.

I follow Malina on Twitter, whenever I remember to check. Not that often. He’s funny, though. Sarcastic often, which is not a style I usually appreciate but he carries it off and did yesterday, when in response to this latest kerfuffle he tweeted at @RealDonaldTrump: “I don’t agree with a lot of your policies, but you NAILED IT on this whole Streep thing. She is not that good at acting.”

I’m going to break this down, as deadly as that is to humor, because you probably don’t pay attention to the sensibilities of Joshua Malina. Our president-elect referred to Meryl Streep, the most accomplished actor on the planet, as over-rated. Malina tossed some sarcasm back. Oh, SURE. She’s OVER-RATED.

Josh Malina knows where he sits on the acting chain. I wish him well, but he’s not going to win any Oscars. He’s not that kind of an actor. He knows he’s Joshua Malina. Meryl Streep knows she’s Meryl Streep, too. I’m not sure what Trump knows.

But Josh had a good day yesterday, trolling for the humorless. Here’s a good example.

Understand what I do, or I think I do: Joshua Malina thinks this backlash is hilarious. I find it pretty funny, too, and discouraging. Of course. I follow him because he provides amusement and entertainment for me, little pleasures. And he makes this point often: If you follow the Twitter feed or Facebook page or Instagram account of a famous person, either you want to hear their thoughts or you have some fantasy of becoming their best friend. I think that’s about it. One or the other.

Anyway. If you’re bored or easily amused, you should take a lot at the response (it’ll be moved quickly down the history, since he tends to tweet a few times a day). I’m not sure what it means, if anything other than a lot of Meryl Streep fans have a limited capacity for subtlety.

Which makes me wonder how they’re fans in the first place, all things considered. But only a little. I just can’t seem to get interested.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder

I just noticed that our temperature is currently about the same as Austin, which happens. Just not so much when the first number is a 2.

And despite this cold air that’s been parked here for a week, it only dipped into the teens on a couple of nights, and we had a dusting or maybe an inch of snow, depending on your criteria. It’ll warm up tomorrow and we’re back to rain and clouds.

Once again, then, I count my blessings. I look at my friends and family in Virginia and just shake my head. Weather, go figure. When it seems the rest of the country is sweltering in August, we’re flirting with 75 degrees and feeling pretty good about it. Drought for years in Southern California? Naw, we’re good. Hurricanes happen in other places. We get some wind, and occasionally flooding if your house is near a river. And if you’re young and raising children, and wonder about the future and climate change, this is where you want to live. Not Miami. Although the average house in Seattle proper is going for slightly north of a million bucks, so you’d better bring your wallet.

***

And if you’re the Detroit Lions, and you play in a dome, and the only games you won on the road were all in domes, and you’re looking at cold weather and maybe some sleet or snow mixed in with rain, along with the crazy, can-humans-really-get-this-loud CenturyLink chaos? I dunno. But I think about it.

I know I’m distracting myself with football, and I know why. The same reason I started binge-watching episodes of 30 Rock. I’m willing to accept the things I can’t change and change the things I can, but I seek serenity these days in simple things.

Although football really isn’t simple. It comes with baggage, history and statistics and emotional rides that are rarely fun. I know all about this.

I became a fan because my dad was; I know this. I was 8 or 9 and the middle child; my brother was the first male grandchild in my family, and my sister the first female. I have no idea if this was important but some people do. I might have been looking for something to share with my father.

Whatever the origin of my affection was, I became a fan and so found out the ugly truth. Your favorite team will lose games, miss playoffs, flounder in lost opportunities and unfulfilled dreams of little boys. I grew up in southern California and so the L.A. Rams became my team, and they were the worst kind. They were good, pretty good a lot of the time, particularly in the late 1960s and throughout most of the ‘70s. Roman Gabriel, Jack Snow, Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen all the way to Vince Ferragamo, but they played in the same conference as the Vikings and the Cowboys. There were a lot of unfulfilled dreams.

Then to Seattle in 1983, their eighth season, the one in which they hired Chuck Knox, the coach of the Rams for most of the 1970s. The one in which he benched Jim Zorn in favor of his backup, Dave Krieg, the most chaotic quarterback I’ve ever seen, and they went to their first playoffs, beating the Broncos and Dolphins to end up in the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the Raiders. They went 12-4 and back to the playoffs the next year, but it was a painful relationship. After they made it to the Super Bowl in 2005, losing to the Steelers in a bitter game with still-remembered awful officiating, I drifted away from fandom. It was just too much stress, and football had begun to look brutal. Baseball was a lot easier.

And then Pete Carroll arrived in 2010, and Russell Wilson in 2012, and now we’ve had five straight years of playoffs, five years of 10 wins or better (they had five in their first 35 years). And so I get to watch.

No complaints, either. Can’t make that work; three Super Bowls in nine years feels greedy when you’ve been following heartbreakers all your life.

So I know this team very well. Bookending their Super Bowls I saw them come back and nearly take out Atlanta in 2012, and they came back from 31 points down last year against Carolina to lose 31-28. I know their strengths and weaknesses.

I know what Wilson is capable of, and know that he’s been hobbled all year by the knee and the high-ankle sprain (40 years ago they just called that a broken leg), never missing practice, never missing a game, managing to win without those defense-crushing breakaway runs. And now he’s been cleared to take the knee brace off, depending on the weather tonight but probably definitely if they make it to next week.

This is my life lately, then. Looking at stats, listening to sports radio, rewatching games, checking out the opposition…I’m actually just checking out. The future will come regardless, so I’ll watch football as long as it lasts. At least the roads are clear, and it’ll soon be nothing but rain.

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True Lies

My calendar app notifies me when it picks up on a destination for something, letting me know traffic conditions. Yes, Chuck. And does your phone also beep when you get a message? Fascinating.

Fair enough. I’m only bringing up this marvel of technology because this notification tends to tell me, on Wednesday nights when I’m heading south on I-405, that traffic is light. In fact, I’m pretty sure it always tells me that traffic is light. Which means, and you would know this if you were driving south on Wednesday nights on I-405 in the Seattle area, that it’s always lying to me.

I have no idea what’s going on. Since the calendar is the IOS one, I’m assuming it’s using Apple Maps. I also assume that Apple hasn’t quite worked out the bugs of that particular app, which I learned one night when trying to make my way to a wedding in an unfamiliar spot, years ago.

So I use Google Maps. I use it all the time, actually, since it’s become pretty good at sucking up real-time traffic data and suggesting alternate routes. And when I get a calendar notification that tells me traffic is light and I should leave in 15 minutes, I check Google just to prove that it’s lying.

I would love for traffic to be light. I strongly desire that traffic be light. I would like very much to believe traffic is light.

And there you are, the second decade of the 21st century all nicely wrapped up in an analogy. I didn’t even have to try.

***

Some guy I knew in high school sent me an email, years ago. He claimed to have found my column when he was searching for someone else with a similar name. I knew he was lying, too.

I mean, it was a long time ago, at least in internet time. He obviously didn’t want me to know that he was wondering about me, which I get but please. I just did a Google search for his friend’s name, as he supposedly had. No way my name popped up. But anyway.

Whatever happened to…sounds like an Arthur Conan Doyle problem, not a contemporary one. For years in the early days of online wasting, I searched for old friends. Occasionally I’d find something, a nugget, a reference, a MySpace page, something. But mostly nothing. I had to wait a few years.

So I understand why Facebook happened. I joined 10 years ago, in fact, as weird as that sounds. I looked around, didn’t see much that wasn’t happening in my world of blogging and interacting with other bloggers, and deactivated my account eventually. And eventually got back in the pool, around 2009, because that’s where all the cool kids were hanging out.

And I really believed, or at least hoped, that this would be a good thing. It was obviously fun to reconnect and share memories and pictures of kids, but I thought it had potential to be more. A commons of sorts, where we’d learn about each other and understand that people who looked like we did, who had essentially the same general stories as we did, might have different opinions on any number of things. Maybe we might fulfill Rodney King’s glorious vision of America and all just get along.

I wonder how long Rodney King will be a viable reference.

But no. And I was already a skeptic, aware that a lot of us were awfully gullible, something that didn’t necessarily correlate with intelligence or anything else. We just believed what we read, because we were conditioned to do so. None of this is new. Particularly if you’re in sales.

I saw a tweet or some other random posting by someone I didn’t know and so don’t remember now, but the gist of it was that in a few decades we’ll look back at social media in sort of the same way we now view cigarette smoking. Risky. Dangerous. Possibly deadly.

I know my way around truth and fiction. I write for newspapers, and it seemed bad manners to lie in print. I try to avoid it, and keep a pretty jaundiced eye on what I read until I get confirmation in some way. Particularly when what I read agrees with my world view.

And I’ve been engaging online for a long time, and a lot of that was wonderful. Old friends, new friends.

Now I want to go back to just sending out funny Christmas letters. Now I want to go back to blogging, telling stories and hearing some. Now I want to back away, slowly but surely.

Cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health. Believe otherwise at your own peril. Another analogy that takes no effort, and might be useful, since I have a feeling the liars are winning.

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The Batman Reflex

It’s awfully dry here, status quo for the sort of scenario we are in up in the Northwest at the moment. Arctic air sweeps in and sucks all the moisture out, including whatever amount resides in my face. Chapstick and moisturizer time, although that’s too much work for me. Much easier just to gripe about it.

It is useful, though, on early mornings. University classes started yesterday, and there’s been no ice to scrape off the windshield, a blessing when it’s 19 degrees and, as was the case today, we’re late.

My wife’s bus stop is actually only a couple of blocks away, but again: It was 19 degrees. And she has a lot to carry. I drive her there, and on Thursdays we don’t converse that much. Choir on Wednesday nights means that we get to bed late, so neither of us are all that talkative. And so neither of us mentioned the time. We could both see the clock.

And as I turned the corner we could see it waiting. We could also see it pull away, right on time, and that’s where things got fun.

“Follow it,” my wife said, a command, not a conversation, and suddenly my sleepy morning got all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

There’s nothing like a little cinematic overlay to an early morning to get the juices flowing, and I juked around other drivers and tailed that bus until the next stop, when I swerved around and parked in front of it. You can wait for my wife or you can run us over, your choice.

That was all it was, I thought. A little adrenaline. A little urgency. A few stray thoughts of Steve McQueen and “The French Connection,” maybe. Just chasing me a big bus.

On the way home, though, I figured it out. Boyhood is far away in the rearview mirror, but the boy remains, lurking somewhere. Needing only a cowl and a cape. I’ve got the driver’s license now.

 

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No Resolutions, Please

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above was breakfast yesterday, nothing more. Sometimes it’s a snack. It’s pretty flexible.

And, yeah, it’s just a smoothie. Hardly unheard of. My son-in-law is a smoothie ninja, and I paid attention to him and his mighty Vitamix. My son tried it for a while, and a couple of months ago I noticed the jar of protein powder he’d bought for this purpose. I messed around and finally discovered that I liked it, mostly as a snack but again: Breakfast is breakfast.

So I end up taking a lot of my greens and fruit in liquid form. Some frozen berries, a banana, a couple of handfuls of baby spinach or kale: It works out to four servings of fruits and vegetables per smoothie, and a lot of days I have two. It’s maybe not the ideal way to get all the nutrients but it’s better than no way. The sugar is trace only and that’s from the fruit. Lots of fiber and protein and potassium and other good stuff.

I don’t eat this way, not normally, not in 58 years of eating. I don’t mind vegetables but they slip my mind. Drinking something green is weird this side of St. Patrick’s Day, but I manage.

I have questions about food, and health, and quality of life. This is mortality popping up again, although I don’t try to eat better in order to prolong my life. Part of this is just prophylaxis, trying to get an edge that keeps me out of the doctor’s office. Mostly I just like the way they taste.

***

This is the time of year. Of course. I try not to look, not at all the tricks and schemes offered up for that New Year’s resolution to finally lose weight, not at all the screeds from certain people about body shaming and avoiding diets, etc. I have nothing but sympathy for people who struggle, whose bodies seem to resist intentional shrinkage, whose relationship with food is, as with most of us, complicated and emotional.

Every once in a while over the past few years, I’ve been in a discussion about weight and battling the bulge, and someone, usually someone older and trying very, very hard to get that whole wisdom thing working, leans over and says something like, “You want to know the only way to lose weight?” Or something similar. It’s always similar.

And I listen, because I usually like this person. I don’t tend to hang out with people I don’t care for.

But while I’m listening, I’m also carrying on the true conversation in my head: Let’s see. Almost 10 years ago I weighed 272. A year later I weighed 175. A year later I weighed 168. Today I weigh – wait for it – 169. But do go ahead.

I’m not that snotty, not really. The idea that there’s one way to do anything, particularly something as complicated and individual as losing weight, just makes me a little snippy. I watch people fight this battle all the time. I have no help to offer.

I mean, I could tell people to do what I did, but who knows? Aside from that twisted period last year when I lost my appetite and a fair amount of weight that I really didn’t need to lose, I’ve been a pretty normal person in this regard. I eat junk. I gain weight. When it climbs a little too high for my taste, I crack back down. I’ve done this, again, for 10 years. The battle doesn’t really go away, although it gets easier.

And then there’s my son, who was put on a medication years ago that has the unfortunate side effect of increasing appetite. Or I think that’s it. People tend to gain weight on it, anyway, and he certainly did, and his lifestyle and other things seemed to seal his fate as an overweight person. There were too many other things to deal with; it wasn’t high on anybody’s priority list.

But he changed. He dropped certain foods and, as it turned out, a lot of pounds. He’s down about 35 so far. I don’t know what an ideal weight would be for a guy his size (he’s 6’3”), but he’s getting there quickly.

I had nothing to do with this, although I’ve offered advice from time to time. Only to him, though. I just can’t imagine that my experience has much relation to anyone else’s. My eating is better but is still disordered, if only because I pay too much attention to it, but that’s the price you pay for unleashing some of the crazier parts of your psyche for a good cause. I got pretty obsessive back in 2007, and I still think that was the only way I was going to pull that off, aware that I was probably not ever going to have a normal eating pattern.

Drinking green smoothies may not be all that normal. My affection for fried food, pizza, and any kind of ice cream seems normal but probably isn’t, given my tendencies. I can live with all of this, though, and living seems to be the point, but sure, tell me the only way to lose weight. I’ll listen. Just don’t ask me what I’m thinking.

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When The Trail Goes Cold

It’s currently warmer in Point Barrow, AK than in Seattle, one of those snapshots that tell us nothing but we keep taking. It’s cold in both places, but nothing spectacular in terms of numbers. It was 21 degrees F. this morning; nippy but manageable, particularly if you’re me and you have a space heater and no shame at wearing a sweater to bed.

Forty years ago, right about now, I headed north to Flagstaff, transferring my freshman year from Arizona State to Northern Arizona for the second semester. I had friends there, it was away from home, there were mountains and trees, etc. After slip-sliding up I-17 with borrowed chains, I headed out with a friend that evening and caught the temperature on a bank sign: -8 degrees. I wasn’t in Phoenix anymore.

So 21 degrees doesn’t seem that bad, and the sky is bright blue and clear. The sun hangs in a strange spot in the sky but it’s still sun, just like in August when we usually see it.

***

My mother turns 80 in a couple of weeks, although 80 seems to be the new something. I imagine the state of 80-year-olds varies quite a bit, but other than newly-diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis and some hearing issues, Mom seems to be just fine.

None of my grandparents came anywhere near 80, which is a little sobering. I do remember my maternal great-grandmother (my mom’s father’s mother) marking her 80th, although the memory is fuzzy. She was old and eventually blind and bound to a chair by the time I was really aware of her as a person, although she’d live 5 or 6 years past 80.

This nudges my mortality. I was born slightly after the midpoint of the 20th century, and it’s conceivable that I could live to see the middle of the 21st (it’s not conceivable to me, but I don’t count). I can stretch out my figurative arms from my birth year and touch three centuries; the last veteran of the Civil War died only a couple of years before I was born, and as a kid I knew a few people, my great-grandmother one of them, who were born in the 19th century.

But I was a child, and I have an interest in remembering such things, and I’m going to be dead anyway. No one is alive, or documented to be alive, who remembers what the world was like in 1900. By the time 2051 rolls around, and assuming I’m still here and functioning reasonably normally, stories from my childhood will be like Little House on the Prairie.

I know one person who remembers being alive in the 1930s (my mom might have some vague fragments). By the time I turn 80, assuming I do, there will be plenty of centenarians around who still remember, say, the war years, but I could go on. You get the point. The past slips away, and our personal connections to history generally stop at right around two generations.

This is just the musing of an aging human, trying to make sense of the big picture, sparked by this article, in which the author describes finding handwritten notes that seem awfully damning and confirmatory of what many people suspected: In the run-up to the 1968 presidential election, Richard Nixon and his people actively engaged in disrupting planned peace talks by the Johnson administration regarding the Vietnam War.

Treason, almost certainly, and the real kind, and I found myself interested and also wondering if anyone cares, or really remembers. It seems as though we should. History has a way of playing off our collective forgetfulness by dropping in for a repeat performance, and some of it really doesn’t require an encore.

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Move Those Chains

I just texted my wife in Austin to ask her when she comes back home. It looked so plaintive on the phone.

It actually doesn’t feel like she’s been gone very long, and she hasn’t. With the holidays and our cold snap, I’ve been preoccupied with staying warm and watching football. I just couldn’t remember when.

It turns out to be tomorrow night, which I sort of knew, a quick trip. It’ll be followed in less than two weeks by all three of us flying to Phoenix for my mom’s 80th birthday, so 2017 will start with all of us feeling off balance. This is not always a bad thing.

I have no inkling about how I’ll view this new year in the rearview mirror. I have no resolutions, no particular goals aside from general ones, the same ones that play around in my brain at other times. Eat better. Move more. Write better and more. Earn money.

And maybe try connecting in different ways, since I’ve long since become uninterested in social media. I was enthusiastic at the beginning and up until a few years ago, I saw potential for all sorts of things. It just didn’t work out that way, exacerbating more than anything else.

I also had some personal loss in 2016, people I cared about and relationships I could have worked harder at. I don’t have regrets as much as inspiration to do better. Try better.

Be better. There’s a resolution.

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A New Hope

I’m starting off 2017 by shirking responsibility.

Naw. More of a better part of valor thing. It snowed early this morning as Arctic air swept into the area, setting us up for a deep freeze that looks to linger, and even with only a dusting or a bit more, the roads are icy. Church is 30 miles away, and the bread that I baked yesterday for today’s communion is going to go unshared, it looks like. Unless I change my mind in the next few minutes, which I won’t.

So I’ll go with caution and stay home, even though we won’t eat much of the bread, and I haven’t mentioned the cookies I made for Cookie Sunday. All of this for a holiday morning when I imagine there’ll be 20-odd people at church. Caution works for me.

***

I have no New Year’s Eve stories, not this year, not any year. I have vague memories of a few parties when I was younger, but during most of the first part of my marriage Julie was performing on NYE, usually resulting in me staying home with the kids, or else getting a sitter so I could attend. I’m probably forgetting something, but I look back and see nada. It’s not a big deal.

And it wasn’t last night. Julie is in Austin, so just John and I are holding down this snowy fort. He hung out with friends and I baked, and neither of us felt the urge later in the evening to carry on an imaginary tradition or begin a new one. I was in bed by 11, lulled somehow by the fireworks or else just not hearing them.

I’ve done my share of musing on this whole calendar thing lately, and I can’t be the only one. There’s nothing special about a set of 365 days; it’s arbitrary and in the case of 2016, a little silly. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, as sad as their passing is, died almost a full year after David Bowie, who kicked off this meme. We’ve become conditioned by in memoriam slideshows, shoved into imaginary pattern seeking.

Still, I mean. Who can argue? There was a lot of unpleasant news in 2016. There’s no reason to think that moving up one digit is going to reset anything, but one can hope, I guess.

***

As for hope, I still have plenty. Not so much for the Seahawk’s chances in the postseason, but in general, sure. I have hope.

I’m healthy, at least, or I seem to be. I weigh 10 pounds more than I did a year ago, and bizarrely that’s a good thing. It’s right at a sweet spot in terms of comfort, meaning I can wear pretty much anything I own, and keeping it here seems to be easy.

So here’s to hope, and health, and whatever 2017 brings. Better words for me. A better world for all of us, I could hope.

 

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Rate, Rate, Don’t Tell Me

Somewhere around here, napping on my hard drive and in the cloud, is the word “flinder.” It’s a word I made up at a dinner with friends, all about my age, during a conversation about technology. It was just a combination of syllables I slapped together to stand for some new thing that we wouldn’t do, wouldn’t understand, wouldn’t relate to, wouldn’t be interested in. The new Facebook or Twitter, in other words.

Snapchat is a flinder, I think, at least for me, although that might not quite work. I don’t pay attention to Reddit, either. You can’t do everything, and nothing’s for everybody. I’m still in the loop, if a little skeptical these days.

Five years ago, I was skeptical about smart phones. Why would I pay an extra $30 a month so I could browse the webs from my phone? I could actually do that anyway, if I wanted to, although it was awkward and would be expensive if I did too much. I just couldn’t find a reason.

I found one eventually, or at least a rationale that I could live with, and I’ve never looked back. Or up, sometimes. I try to be responsible.

One of my reasons happened in the late spring of 2011, when batteries died in both my digital camera and my video camera at the same time, which was not a convenient time. There was also the annoyance of wanting to listen, sometimes, to music while I walked, but keeping my phone in a pocket just in case. Which, should it ring, might be impossible to hear give that I’m listening to music, and so on.

I consolidated technology, in other words. That’s what the iPhone was, and the ones that followed, and I took full advantage. It was a phone, both kinds of cameras, an MP3 player, and a Swiss Army knife without the blades. It could do a lot of stuff.

And as we moved through the iterations (I’m on my third generation of iPhone, and I may snag the fourth soon), more bells and whistles were added and it became a fitness tool, something I loved. It tracked my walks via GPS and kept records of miles and steps and theoretical calories burned.

But that was something I got for myself, working through the pros and cons, and overall happy with the way things turned out, even if life has become something of an obstacle course, avoiding teenagers walking directly toward me with their eyes on their screens.

This is my technology baseline, then. If there’s a way to combine several things into one thing, I’m interested. If it’s just a different and maybe easier way to do something, I’m less interested. My Amazon Echo, a Christmas gift last year from my son, is useful for playing music and serving as a nice Bluetooth speaker for my computer, but neither of those was necessary, thus making it sort of the perfect gift: I’d never buy one for myself, but I have some fun with it. It hasn’t changed my life in the least, but I can walk in the room and say, “Alexa, play some James Taylor” and that’s kind of cool, so win-win.

Which brings us to 2016.

I should mention that last week, I somehow lost my wedding ring. Sometimes it gets loose, a good sign that I weigh less than I should, but that hasn’t been the case. It somehow got caught on something and tugged off without me noticing. I keep thinking it’ll eventually show up, but since it was my second wedding band, just a nice pair that we bought in Santa Fe in 2009, I put on the original from 1983 and I’m all ringed up again.

I only mention it because my wedding band is symbolic, which is why I wear it. Otherwise, I’m not a jewelry person. I don’t like things around my neck, can’t think of even a stupid reason to get anything pierced, and I live in a world of clocks so I’ll skip the watch, thank you.

Yet now I have this thing on my wrist. It tells the time, but oh so much more, and I’m sort of on the fence about it.

My daughter and her husband gave me a FitBit for Christmas, something that always struck me as superfluous, although maybe not as much as the Echo. My phone doesn’t track my heart rate, for one thing, and I guess that’s an important thing to know, or it could be. So far, my heart hasn’t stopped beating according to this thing. I’m going to assume it’s correct.

I’m also going to assume that it’s correct when it tells me my resting heart rate is 56, which seems pretty good for a guy whose exercise has been spotty for a few months now. I went out yesterday, in fact, and walked about four miles, nothing too strenuous, and apparently averaged 113 beats per minute. Hardly aerobic, although there was some of that, and twice my resting rate? It might be OK. Doesn’t matter. I think I’m fine.

Again, it’s not something I would have bought for myself, so nice gifting strategy. It’s fun, I’m enjoying it, I don’t mind wearing it, and it actually gives me information I didn’t know (I apparently sleep pretty soundly).

But I’ve been down this road before. Last October I left my phone in the car when my wife dropped me at the airport, and I went through security twice just so I could run back outside and meet her to pick it up. That’s my situation with the phone. I’ve accepted it. I’m not entirely comfortable, but accepting.

And now I can see a situation in which I have no idea what my heart rate is, because somehow I’ve lost my FitBit. This slope is awfully slippery, and I have a feeling I’ve already started downhill.

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Note: I wrote the above yesterday morning, December 27. After I finished and began to post, I saw the news about Carrie Fisher. As ridiculous as it sounds, it felt disrespectful to be joking about health and tracking devices on the day somebody famous died following a cardiac event. Somebody about my age; two years older, my brother’s age, younger than my wife by a year. My wife, who had her own cardiac event six years ago.

And the news was and is just sad. It feels odd to me the way we throw around the word authentic these days; everyone’s authentic, but I guess I get it. Celebrity and all. So that’s part of the sadness, I think; she seemed to be a real person, with real problems and a nice attitude about all of them.

On the other hand, it’s not like we needed a reminder after the past year, but life is uncertain except for the last part. There are worse things than taking health a little too seriously. I’ve never been too concerned about heart disease, just because I have no warning signals and a lot of signals that say, nope. You will die some other way. Including the image below, which I don’t really understand but I’ll take. Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher.

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