April 27, 2021
Three days ago I gave two boxes of books to the library, for their annual sale.
Forty-nine books, some of which I loved and would have like to re-read. Some I'd
never got around to reading in the first place, and would have liked to now. But
the time has come to shed possessions, to make room, to clear up and clean. Today
I sorted through a box of magazines and threw dozens of old Scientific Americans
in the recycling bin. I'd forgotten that I subscribed to it for years. Also threw
out ten issues of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which I also used to read.
Unlike the other magazine, I was surprised how few there were. There were also a
couple of climbing magazines. I'll have to pull the boxes of those out of the closet.
There will be a lot, and I always find it interesting to flip through, learning again
about obscure climing areas, reading about the feats of the best climbers, checking
the advances in training and equipment. But all that has to go, too. With my PD I
will never go climbing again, except maybe on a top rope. That's one of the saddest
restrictions about this disease. I miss climbing, and I feel like a shell of my
May 6, 2021
Since writing that paper on the death penalty in high school, I've been convinced
that it's a crime. This morning I read about a man who was executed in Arkansas a few
years ago, and the state finally released the DNA and fingerprint results to the man's
family. He was innocent: neither kind of evidence matched his. The story said that one of
the survivors of the victim asked the judge for "closure". I often get the feeling that this word
means they want someone to die, simply to even the score, and that they don't much care
about the guilt of the man put to death. I remember John and Reva Griffith, whose son
Christopher was murdered by a stranger, and the way they asked (in their Quaker fashion)
for the killer's life to be spared. While the jury was deliberating, the judge did
something very unusual: he went to his chambers, removed his robes, and came out to
the room and sat with the Griffiths and told them he hoped more people came around to
their viewpoint. Then he went back to his chambers, put his robes on, and resumed his
place at the bench. But the family of the other man who had been murdered in the incident
wanted the killer put to death, and the judge split the decision: life in prison for
the murder of John and Reva's son, and a death sentence for the other man's murder.
So, as a sign I once saw said, are we supposed to kill people to show that killing
people is wrong? I also remember the day after Timothy McVeigh was put to death and
Tom Ryan asked me what I thought, and I said, "I guess we'll never know who John Doe
Number Two was". Death is final. It should not be in the hands of human beings, who
are too weak, fallible, and prone to error to be trusted with it. If I had one wish
that could change the world, it would be that no one could cause the death of anyone
else -- and preferably that they could not physically hurt anyone else.
May 16, 2021
The Jews and the Arabs are at it again. Maybe I should say "the Israelis and the Palestinians". I'm afraid this is one of those bitter fights that will go on for centuries. Jim (of PVM, who, with his wife Ginger, volunteered in the West Bank, helping the Palestinians with something) once tried to persuade me that peace was possible. I replied that they'd had more than half a century, and that if they wanted peace, they'd have had it by now.
Mask advice has changed: vaccinated people no longer need to wear them. The CDC
may be a bit behind the curve on this one. They've certainly made more mistakes than
they should have. Yes, I know that, as Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change
my opinion. What do you do, sir?", and that with better evidence, the facts often do
change. But the CDC and other institutions have been rigid and hide-bound, and much
too slow to adapt to improved evidence. Consider four things.
1. Fomites. They weren't a problem, and this should have been clear early on.
2. Outdoors. Tough to transmit the disease outdoors. Took them too long to admit this.
3. Aerosols. Can linger, and the size of the dangerous particles was larger than admitted.
4. Masks. Early advice about not needing to wear them was simply stupid.
And that's just what I remember. Those institutions need systemic change. They need to learn to listen to scientists outside their own Goddamn organizations, so people won't die.
May 21, 2021
Spent half the morning and afternoon digging out and through a couple of boxes of stuff from the closet. Tossed most of the old printed versions of parts of the Ada novel, both my edits and those of people who had read them. There goes a substantial chunk of my life. Also tossed out a lot of miscellaneous old stuff, including a lot of poetry and fiction, and some class assignments, I wrote in college. The quality was appalling; letting go of it didn't bother me. Found a letter Kell wrote me in college, and a letter from Bruce Yaeger when he started at U. of Chicago Divinity School. I kept some strange, inconsequential stuff because it reminded me of events and plans and work I'd forgotten. There was a get-well card, probably from 1986, when I was in the hospital for a week or so. (Curious to see that today, because I told Larry and Charles the story yesterday.) As with the box I threw out a few weeks ago, there were climbing magazines and issues of Scientific American. I notice that it's getting easier to throw out stuff like that... The changes in my handwriting were curious -- size, legibility, regularity, even the formation of the letters. Toward the late 90s or early 00s it began to shrink, which is further confirmation that the PD was starting around that time... The boxex contained things I hadn't thought about in years: the 1999 trips to Canada (Toronto and Ottowa) and Crested Butte (for skiing -- I cross-country skied to Gothic, while Susan and Colin skied downhill). There was also the 1995 trip to Costa Rica. I didn't see anything from the Alaska cruise. There was a notebook in which I'd recorded my first backpacking trip, in Desolation Wilderness; half or more was unreadable because of the basement flood, which also ruined materials from my trip around the world, probably including my letters home, though I didn't look. The trip to Minnesota, back when we lived in Andover, had a couple of pieces of paper. That was the worst, most boring vacation ever (Lake Vermilion?), except when I paddled a canoe out into the lake. I sat at one end of the canoe, instead of the middle, and that raised the other end. When I tried to turn the canoe to come back, the wind, which was offshore, caught that end like a flag and kept the canoe pointed at the other side of the lake, which looked miles away. So I had to paddle backwards for 45 minutes or so. The vacation to Montana, a wonderful one to a fishing cabin outside Missoula (?).
The native plants are coming along, but slowly. There has been cataclysmic rain of late (second-most successive days of rain ever, here), and the new rain garden is a pond. The plantings there must wait. The button bush(es) and aronia berry(ies) and viburnum(s) have been in for quite a while, as has the perennial flower garden and the clover bed (which I now regret). I've been seeing birds in the back yard that I've never seen before, but probably not because of the plantings, rather because I'm simply spending more time out there.
May 22, 2021
Reading a lot of science books lately, mostly about biology, and they seem to worry endlessly the question of what life is -- homeostasis, metabolism, growth, reproduction, or whatever. I'm not concerned. Like the Supreme Court justice said of pornography, "I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it".
Have improved my form on the rowing machine. I've been getting total watts in the 70 and 80 range for my ten-minute workout over the past year. With the change, my recent results have been 100.0, 100.3, 103.2, 110.1, 113.2, and lastly 117.2. Quite substantial, but very difficult.
May 23, 2021
Re-read Magister Ludi recently, though I've almost entirely given up fiction. The fictional "author", a future academic, appears to be a clever device by Hesse to let him write a hagiography of his character Joseph Knecht. But the trick costs the book credibility, because the result is a novel with a faded feel: effete, anemic, and certainly sexless. Even so, the machinery of the book shows great skill in its construction, though most of the dialogue and many of the descriptions run on far too long. It may be that, writing during W.W. II, Hesse was compensating for the evil and destruction around him (he lived in Switzerland). The book, an alternate history of a future that's more like parts of our past, is a fantasy, and its main character is far too good to be true.
May 24, 2021
Another night of bad sleep. I had this problem beat, and like so much else with PD, it's back with a vengeance. This time, though, I woke with a nightmare that the houses to our south (which did not resemble our neighborhood) were an inferno, and spreading toward ours. Told Susan and Jeff (who inexplicably was reading a newspaper at our house) to get out, and to call 911. I used the garden house to spray the house, and ended up trapped on the roof, which I was hosing down. Woke at three, got up at 4, didn't get back to sleep until after 6, et cetera. The old story. Naturally my number on the rowing machine this morning was way down.
May 25, 2021
A long and delightful weekly family dinner last night, much of it spent remembering our childhoods -- the Ward Parkway house, the Walnut house, Cindy's dolls, and much else.
Yet more of our endless precipitation, day after day. Afterward, the back yard squelches under our feet when we walk on it. Showers likely today, and thunderstorms tonight. The new rain garden in the back yard withstood its first test, moving from flooded to only two small puddles in two days; this is several times faster than I expected, based on pre-rain-garden observations. The plants are supposed to go in tomorrow. I'm contemplating adding a sedge to keep out weeds.
Nancy's birthday was two days ago. We gave her the small lot on the Riverside land, with the addition of land behind it. She'll have to get the property replotted to add the additional amount. We'll also give her an easement so she can use the sewer connection on the larger lot. I notified Colin by email. He may not be happy to hear this: in the past, he has wanted that land.
Stone Mountain, Georgia; Confederate battle flags; and so forth. Where on earth does the losing side (the side defending the enslavement of fellow humans) manage to rewrite history to make itself respectable, and raise monuments to the men it calls heroes? Only here in the United States, I think. All that talk about "Southern culture" and "states' rights" is a smokescreen, to cover their shame and embarrassment. Yet they insist on pushing that line of bullshit. While there's more than the simple, short description I'm writing here, what I say remains true. And though I think that tearing down the statues sets a bad precedent (where does it stop, and why make it easier next time?), something should be done. This nonsense has gone on a hundred fifty years too long.
Took Pogo for a walk. We went up Brush Creek, and there were yellow Caution tapes stretched across the stream. Never seen that before. The church on the corner of Roe and 75th is taking out all the trees on its property, bordering the creek right of way. That includes the pine tree the redtailed hawks raised their young in last year, of course. I simply do not understand why they would rip out this vegetation, because it's much too steep to use, and the only result can be erosion.
The rain garden is in, and the water disappears more quickly now. ATGIB was out today, in the person of Paul, to plant some of the first plants. It will take time for them to fill in. I may buy more myself and put them in, later.
Even with sleep problems, I notice that I have more energy than I did a year ago. But this is offset by the dyskinesias that are starting, and the much-worse posture.
May 26, 2021
Thinking about differences in pronunciation, U.S. and U.K.: zebra, privacy, methane, vitamin. The difference is always the first vowel. Curious, I searched online briefly, and this seems to be the common case, though there are others, particularly fricatives and affricates in word-final syllables. But that's at a glance, and I should look into this further, later.
May 27, 2021
This. Is. Insane. Another frog strangler this morning, and now in the evening, more rain. We've had rain every day except possibly one for two weeks, or nearly. What gods do I sacrifice to, to get this to stop?
The intelligence agencies are scheduled to explain UFOs to Congress -- the mysterious sightings. People actually believe the UFOs might belong to aliens. I'll wager all comers that they don't, and I'll give two to on odds.
May 28, 2021
Cold outside at noon, with a high predicted of 60. Strange, for the end of May. Today is Friday, and the temperature won't get to 70 until Tuesday.
Throwing out old posters: a Fado poster that probably came from a Portugal trip; a closeup of Reagan's face, subtitled "We begin bombing in five minutes"; snow-covered Pikes Peak in the distance, with flowers in the foreground; El Cap in winter, the Merced in the foreground, snow-covered pines between; a Buckminster Fuller geodesic map of the world (the "Dymaxion Map"); a large photograph of a street in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Somewhere along the line I'd already tossed that amazing map of the SITA network, and probably some other stuff as well.
Also threw out old papers, but kept some of the stuff for the 1997 Inland Passage cruise, a couple of copies of the 2002 Star article about the tech bust locally, when so many of us were out of work, and which started and ended with (and pictured) me. I looked much younger in 2002 than I do now.
The lameness of the rhetoric about A.I. has always bothered me. When McCarthy defined it back in the 1950s, he listed six specific problems he expected it to master. Naturally he was much too optimistic, but that's beside the point. His definition was not a definition. It was a shopping list. As time went on, the "definition" changed, repeatedly. What "A.I." usually seems to refer to is "a problem we couldn't solve with a computer, but we've finally sort of succeeded at", not mentioning the problems the implementations have. And any A.I. application will always be one application: playing chess, or extracting data, or driving a car, or whatever. These are not intelligent, any more than an idiot savant is, because they are not general. They remain applications, pure and simple.
This sudden burst of interest in whether the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab seems as weird as the current UFO craze. It also reminds me of a Far Side cartoon: two scientists looking out an upper-storey window of the "center for the study of viral pathology" at a broken flask on the sidewalk among a number of pedestrians. The caption is "Uh-oh".
May 29, 2021
New PB on the rowing machine this morning: 117.5. I'm aiming for 120. Improved form, in addition to the usual unrelenting maximum effort, is the key. Form tends to deteriorate: my length gets shorter, unnoticed. This is an annoying aspect of the PD.
Was not aware that Rebecca Goldstein had written a book, Incompleteness, about Gödel.
June 1, 2021
New PB on the rowing machine: 118.4. I started off at 225 or thereabouts. Form is key, as previously noted.
First ice-cream truck of the summer. I heard a tune, played with that distinctive timbre, but it wasn't Yankee Doodle or Turkey in the Straw, or anything else I recognized. The driver won't sell much today -- the weather is still cool and overcast.
The lab-origination theory is gaining acceptance. My feeling is still that it seems unlikely, but that's just a feeling, a hunch. Weird things do happen. The N.Y. Times had an article this morning asserting that the scoffing the theory was met with for so long originated in dislike of Tom Cotton, the conservative Senator. Yes, this kind of ad-hominem nonsense happens on both ends of the political spectrum.
June 2, 2021
The young often have an extreme reaction to the coronavirus vaccine, but the old do not. The reaction to the virus itself, though, is exactly the other way around: the old get a worse disease and sometimes die, but the young tend to get over it more easily. Why?
My life, because of the PD, has become centered on my body: watching my symptoms, maintaining my rituals (workout; various anti-PD techniques for posture, hands, face, balance, etc.; timing errands so I won't need to pee while out of the house; keeping the bedtime ritual, to aid sleep).
"God" is a comfort blanket. I don't deny, nor do I confirm, Its existence. (That would be difficult, since I deny the accuracy of the word "exist", and of the idea underlying it -- mostly, everything both does and does not "exist". Everywhere I search I find only the ungraspable.) If anyone wants to believe in God, that's fine by me, as long as s/he doesn't try to persuade me. The complexities immediately ramify when discussing a notion this abstract, general, and inherently contradictory, so I'm better off not touching the flypaper.
I'm driving a lot more, with the pandemic sputtering out, and doing things I haven't done in a long time. This afternoon I donated blood. Afterward, driving south on Main, I saw that Luyben's is gone. There should be an exclamation point after that: Luyben's is gone! I've been going there most of my life. In 1967 I bought my second guitar (my good one) there. I still have it. I've bought music there through the years. They had sheet music and books of music for every instrument, and I've bought for flute, piano, and guitar there. The place had an ancient feel, everything organized but disheveled, and so much that moving would be like trying to move the Library of Congress or something. (Yes, I exaggerate.) This is a tragic loss. Let me check online. It seems they've moved up north, to 5545 N. Oak Trafficway, and are now open by appointment only. Well. No more dropping in when I'm in the neighborhood and browsing, since I'm in that vicinity maybe once every five years. Luyben Music. I guess they've moved their business online. That will be more profitable, by reducing overhead. They seemed to be shrinking for a long time. But I won't have the chance to pick the brains of the people who work there. I often came away with fascinating tidbits.
Lovely. N.Y. Times: "This week, a 41-year-old man in the China’s Jiangsu Province became the first known human to become infected with a strain of the bird flu known as H10N3."
June 3, 2021
Why this guilt that if I'm not accomplishing something, I'm wasting my time and am worthless? For instance, reading Rebecca Goldstein's book Incompleteness, on Gödel, which is unputdownable, I feel that I'm wasting my time and being irresponsible.
Yet another election in Israel. Their argumentativeness exceeds all bounds -- they seem never to be able to agree. This time may be different, though, with parties from the right and left uniting. We'll see how long that lasts.
Trump shut down his blog because of low readership. So how is it that he still has a chokehold on the Republican politicians?
Headline: "Trump Administration Secretly Seized Phone Records of Times Reporters", and also the Washington Post and CNN. Well, duh. What else should we have expected?
June 3, 2021
AT&T showed up this morning, at last, to put the low-hanging fiber back up.
From a story about Isaac Wright, who took up his "art" of climbing man-made structures after a medical discharge from the Army: "There is growing evidence that intense physical pursuits -- rock climbing, mountain biking, skydiving -- can be powerful tools for treating depression and traumatic stress." From personal experience I know this is true.
Susan's Peace Corps friends (Lynn and Dave Hopkins, Lee and Susan Schriever, and the Johnsons) visited this weekend. Yesterday we went to the Nelson. Masks are required. Whenever I wear them now, there's an undercurrent in my head of "this is not necessary".
June 8, 2021
What is this urge to write things down, to record them, so they aren't lost and forgotten?
Watering the plants in the back yard this morning, I noticed a baby mouse climbing the elm tree, probably to avoid the spray (not watering the tree, but the spray goes wide). I knocked him down with the hose, called Pogo over, and showed him the mouse, which he went for. He hates rodents.
June 9, 2021
New PB for rowing? Not sure. It was either 118.4 (a tie?) or 119.4. I think the former...
Watched a video about a family that lives on an island in Tonga. They seem to pick their food fresh every day (coconut, limes, taro, peppers, and who knows what all else; they even have an orange tree), are totally self-sufficient (solar, water captured from their roofs, etc.). They live in a garden of Eden. And yet, their way of life is doomed. The highest point on the island looked like it might be ten feet above sea level. Here's the link.
June 11, 2021
Dogs to the groomer yesterday. The Grooming Project is cheap, but they don't do proper schauzer and bichon cuts. The dogs look better, though, certainly.
Unpleasant weather. After the weeks of daily rain, we appear to be in for a long run of hot, humid weather. A quarter past ten and I was weeding in the back yard and gave up and came inside.
The FBI seized most of the Bitcoin from the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, showing that cryptocurrency is not as secure as believed. (Of course, the FBI has a lot of resources. A private citizen probably couldn't do that if he'd paid off a ransomware attack.) This is like biological evolution, or an arms race: each side finds a way to get around the other side's latest advances. Have mathematicians (and economists, though their thinking is often half-baked) looked at the dynamics of this and derived descriptions of the processes? There's probably something in game theory that applies. N.Y. Times: "In the end, 'cryptocurrencies are actually more transparent than most other forms of value transfer,' said Madeleine Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Chainalysis, the start-up that traces cryptocurrency payments. 'Certainly more transparent than cash.' "
Working on my planned Nerd Nite talk on the future of the human race. Most people seem to think we still have time to fix climate change. I think we've already fallen off the cliff and the only thing we can do is right ourselves so instead of landing head-first we land feet-first. Let's hope we can limp away.
Re-reading Dave Alvin's Any Rough Times Are Now Behind You for the I don't know how many-th time (third, maybe?). It's not very good -- little prose memoirs with the lines broken up so they can pretend to be poetry. Sometimes I enjoy writing that my critical faculties scorn.
The Kardashians are going off the air. About time. Couldn't we banish these wretches to a desert island? After that, send all video and newpaper stories about them down the memory hole.
Why is Biden sending the Pfizer vaccine to third-world countries? Will they be able to keep it sufficiently cold? Isn't the J&J vaccine a more practical choice?
My prime of the day on the primer number generator is a palindrome: 12321. BUT that's clearly divisible by 3, so the machine made a mistake. I'll have to reset it.
Big rain this afternoon. The temperatures for the next week are supposed to be 90, 92, 96, 93, 91, 94, 95 -- and sunny. Combine that with the humidity from the storm and draw your own conclusions. I'm not likely to take walks or weed the back yard, unless maybe before dawn.
I seem to be locked into a cycle of alternating nights of good and bad sleep.
June 12, 2021
The latest issue of the The American Scholar arrived, and I spent much of yesterday reading. The content, at least in my memory, has always been strictly American, but this one has a piece from Naples, two from England, and fiction from Brazil and (probably) Scotland. What was that middle word in the name of this publication?
Increasingly I wake up and feel refreshed. Then, within half an hour, I feel sleepy and tired, and am unable to make much out of the fabric of my day, sometimes spending most of the day in my chair.
June 13, 2021
Saw a big-ass hawk yesterday, flying from a neighbor's tree, and realized that the sound I've been hearing and should have recognized is hawklets crying out for food. So the hawks still are nesting here, despite the loss of their tree between the church and the stream. Now they're in a tree to the east of us, between our back yard and Roe.
Have been listening to Gary Gulman a lot. I find him funny. He has a bit where he criticizes the use of empty cliches. " 'At the end of the day, it's all about family and community.' What is it at breakfast, cocaine and hookers?"
June 15, 2021
Everyone tells me I'm doing very well with my PD -- Sharon Chinnery (a neighbor), Steve Weiss (a PWP in my LSVT class) -- but living inside it, I know different. It's not that I'm doing well, it's that most other PWPs are doing worse. This disease screws with me all day every day.
June 16, 2021
Going through my room. There's so much stuff in there, it's hard to know what to do, in what order. As I once said to Isaac Gould: "The archeological dig I call 'my room'." Decided to get rid of the Day-Timers, all 14 years of them. There's stuff in them I'd like to remember, as well as stuff I prefer not to be reminded of, like a cover-my-ass note to myself: email from Lowell Smith that said "I told you to copy me on all emails AND YOU DID NOT", but in fact there was no email -- I'd made a phone call. What an asshole. All the people who worked for him quit. There was a lot of technical stuff from Brite, like "Got BriteLink running with analog variant of RING.MAC". And notes of stuff to do in the evening, like buy reeds for Colin's clarinet, or go to Hobby Lobby for fuel tank for Cox helicopter. Google shows me a toy helicopter, but I don't remember us ever owning one. Must have been Colin's. Also, reporting the stolen bicycle to P.V. police. Mailing money to Camp Wood, where Colin use to go to summer camp. The Minnesota vacation. And contacting FEMA repeatedly -- probably one of our floods. Sent Colin an email, reminding him of some of these things... Note about calling Ryukyu Martial Arts about when my clothing and sword for Katori Shinto Ryu would arrive. That outfit is still in business (since 1969)... Post-it on the front of January 1996 reads: "Things that can only be talked about from the outside: ordinariness, humility, innocence, sincerity". I.e., you can't talk about these qualities of your own ("I'm humble, sincere, innocent"). June 16, 1995 (exactly 26 years ago today): "Send copies of draft manuals to: Canton (Ken R.), Manchester (Vince & Jon), Wiesbaden." The day before that has a note: "DAD DIED TODAY". I remember staggering out of the building and along the sidewalk, weeping uncontrollably. Four days later, a Monday, says "MEMORIAL SERVICE". 1 pm. We drove up from Wichita. I was originally scheduled to teach a class all that day, for which people, as I recall, had flown in -- and it was my software, so only I could teach it. I think everyone had to rearrange their schedules, or find something else to do that day. I taught it Tuesday through Thursday... The foundation problem on the Andover house was that month, too... I'm going to put the box in the garage, to add to the trash bin later, when it has room, so I won't browse through this stuff.
June 17, 2021
New PB on rowing machine: 123.5.
A dehoy who was terribly hobble,
Cast only stones that were cobble
And bats that were ding,
From a shot that was sling,
But never hit inks that were bobble.
June 21, 2021
Yesterday was the summer solstice. Now summer begins. Considering the heat we've had, we may be headed for a scorcher. Today, however, temperature is temperate. I mowed the front yard.
The hawks, it turns out, nested in the pine on the property behind our neighbors' (the Snodgrasses) yard. They're red-shouldered hawks, which return to the same nesting site for years. But the people who own that house and lot are considering taking down the tree.
June 23, 2021
Reading the Evergy (formerly KCPL) retiree newsletter, I looked through the list of people who have recently retired and saw that Lois Stark was among them. I worked for her. How she got to be middle management is beyond me. In other news, the company made $192 million last quarter. Numbers like that always boggle my mind.
After the recent eternal blistering heat, the past several days have been quite pleasant. Yesterday I left the A/C off all day until evening and the house remained temperate.
Colonscopy next month. The procedure isn't bad, because they knock you out. The preparation, the day before, is, so to speak, a pain in the ass.
June 25, 2021
New PB on the rowing machine: 126.5. Later: the skin at the base of my spine is worn through, and hurts when I sit wrong. This is the result of extending my pull on the machine (i.e., improved form).
June 26, 2021
Prime of the day, a palindrome: 12721.
Have developed a sort spot at the base of my spine, from improved rowing technique (leaning back slightly at the full end of the stroke). My skin has always been thin, and age has worsened this. My friend Larry, who also rows, has a callous at the same spot, instead of his skin being worn through.
June 29, 2021
It just goes on: Republican areas have a worse Covid problem than areas that vote Democratic. From N.Y. Times email (summarized as Marin vs. Missouri): "In Marin County, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, for instance, more than 90 percent of people aged 12 and above have received at least one shot. As a result, Marin has virtually extinguished the virus, with only three new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks... Over the past week, [Missouri] has reported more new Covid cases per capita than any other state, and they are concentrated in rural areas that have low vaccination rates, as Charles Gaba, a health care analyst, has noted. In the parts of the state with high vaccination rates — like the metro areas of Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia — the number of new cases remains very low."
July 4, 2021
How narrow my life has become, with the pandemic and the PD. I used to go to the gym nearly every day, and now I haven't been in a year. I choose which walk I'll take, depending on whether I think I'll need to pee or not. Most days I never leave our property. I rarely go anywhere but a grocery store, the library, or on a walk.
July 7, 2021
I took Pogo for a walk early this morning. The neighbor's sprinkler system was on. It was off when we returned. A couple of hours later, I had just watered the new plants in the back yard and came out of the gate and stooped to remove some creeping charlie, so it wouldn't invade the neighbor's grass. Immediately, the sprinklers came on. I retreated, since I was wearing my hearing aids and they would be ruined. When I finished watering our plants in front and was going back in the house, the sprinklers went off. The only reasonable explanation is that Lacy turned them on me. She probably thought I was messing with their grass. In fact, I was doing them a favor. But that's the kind of person she is.
New PB on the rowing machine: 126.7. Only .2 better than the previous best. I've solved the problem with my skin wearing through, by padding with a small towel, not much bigger than a washcloth, folded over.
July 7, 2021
Earworms continue. Not only the theme song to Mr. Ed, but Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy birthday, Mister President", and "A Teenager in Love". All are ghastly. I don't know why these things are invariably ones I hate.
July 10, 2021
Went to a PEWC party at Kent Gasaway's house. The grounds in back are much larger than one would expect (but the house was build in 1928 or so, and there would probably have been no neighbors back then). There is a maze hedge (not a true maze, since it's not designed to be walked, and is too low to hide your view) with brick walks and a fountain. A stream runs through the property. Quite manorial. The inside is even more so. The dining room has marble walls in part. The house is quite large, and I didn't even see it all. Sat at a four-person table in a large alcove and talked for a long time to George and Debbie, whom I don't remember meeting before. Later, I talked to Maria and asked how Scott is doing. She said she reminds him to put a book on his head, "Just like Marc," to help his posture. I'd forgotten that trick and will take it up again. I certainly need to. I saw Charlie, but he left before I got around to talking to him. Josh was there. He said something along the lines of he missed me because I was a guy who "set the pace". I noticed I was the only one wearing a tee shirt (a totally passe Hard Rock Edinburgh). Also jeans. Everyone else dressed like oldsters, which of course we all our. I'm the age-inappropriate one.
What was most curious about the party was that some people have deteriorated noticeably (Kent, and the guy who loves speed bag work, and Nancy and a couple of others), usually facial masking and posture. Others seem unchanged.
Susan came home last night and said that NKCH had a patient who'd been vaccinated who was admitted to the ICU with a lung problem, and then quickly died. His wife is also in the ICU. Let's hope our city is not an incubator for a new Covid variant that can bypass the vaccines.
July 13, 2021
We take everything on faith -- what we hear, read, see. It's all questionable. We know almost nothing, but we believe a staggering amount, and we fight over what we believe and what someone else disagrees with.
July 19, 2021
Andy, Susan's nephew, and his girlfriend came to visit for the weekend. He makes me nervous. From showing up drunk and shoving Pogo with his foot to playing frisbee and throwing it at Jack (with my expensive plantings immediately behind the dog), there's always something going on with him that's haywire, or at risk of becoming so. A nurse, I'd never want to be his patient.
July 23, 2021
"All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final." Hypatia. No wonder the Christians hated her and beat her to death.
Hot, as noted in my garden journal. Though I'm inside, I've switched from tee shirt and jeans to tank and workout shorts, which I haven't work in more than a year. Just felt too hot, otherwise. Just now I went outside, and on coming back in, my shoulders, which have been sun exposed only through shirts, felt almost as if the UV had been stinging them.
July 29, 2021
Finished that first Hypatia book, which read more like a literature review than a biography, and have started the second, which looks much better.
The picture on the screen today when Windows fires up is of Half Dome. Just think, I climbed that, up the steep side, back in 1977, when I was completely unprepared, having no experience with big walls. Slow, but we did it, my partner and I.
New PB this morning on the rowing machine: 130.4 . I'm having a good day otherwise as well. With good sleep, I'm better organized and my movements (including typing this) are noticeably quicker.
Attended a webinar on the new levodopa inhaler ("inbruja") yesterday. It dispenses a powder to the lungs, rather than a vapor, which I found strange. More to the point, at least for me, is that it's contrindicated for asthmatic people. There goes my assistant device when I get to the on/off stage.
During the webinar, I noticed one of my friends from the PEWC, whom I haven't seen in a year or more. His face and body in the view were so immobile that I wondered whether it was one of those pictures people use on Zoom sessions, until I noticed the tip of a ceiling fan blade up in the corner of the view, appearing and disappearing. My friend could have been a statue.
Trying to find a place to get a third shot, but they won't do it, either at my pharmacy, at Truman Medical Center, or at KUMC. I guess I'll just have to find somewhere obscure, go in, and lie. Not that I'm capable of telling such a whopper. Damn the CDC for their slowness and incompetence... Here's a possibility: https://www.jocogov.org/community-vaccine-clinics , 913-715-CV19 (2819). Called them. Same answer: no.
July 29, 2021
Have given up on getting that third shot. Will mask up and hope for the best.
New PB on the rowing machine: 133.1 . I noticed that 1331 is a power of 11. Then I noticed that powers of 11, in addition to being palindromic, are numbers the digits of which sum up to two to the same power. For example, the digits of 11 sum to 2, the digits of 121 sum to 4, the digits of 1331 sum to 8, the digits of 14641 sum to 16. I was disappointed that this breaks down at the next power, which is 161,051. This is neither palindromic nor does it sum to a power of 2. (The failure is due to carrying the addition of 6 and 4, or it would work.) A bit of mental exploration also shows that these features do not occur in bases 2, 3, or 4. Some quick mental arithmetic shows that it does seem to work for base 9, and the numbers are the same: 11, 121, etc., and that it fails at the same place as base 10 for the same reason. But my mental arithmetic is not guaranteed.
August 5, 2021
Drove down to Lawrence recently (7/21), to get together with my old Zen Center roommates Justin and David. Justin had sent me an email, saying he's back in Lawrence. He wanted to get together. The most striking impression was their suchness, the individual natures of these guys. After 5 years, they were like a forgotten texture -- you have to experience it, because memory is utterly inadequate. (Maybe this is why learning over Zoom is sort of bleached out: the presence of the professor conveys the material more completely, with clues like facial expression, body language, etc., dessicated over a network). Justin is truly a gentle person, and obsessed with scientific honesty. He had stories of his chemistry research (he has his Ph.D. now) that centered on ethical misbehavior -- as he did the very first time I met him. David had complaints about how people don't keep up their houses, allowing them to decay. (I think some of this is ignorance on their part, rather than laziness and penny-pinching, though undoubtedly the latter play a big role.) He also talked about his problems with his ex-wife, and bicycling to Utah (too hot to make it all the way to California, as he'd planned), and his cat disappearing for a couple of weeks and then showing up again. We talked about the new Zen Center, and David's description of the opening ceremony made me regret not having attended it. The place had to be zoned as a hotel, because people stay there during retreats. (The only Zen B&B in Kansas!?) The zoning drove up the cost of construction, of course. We went for a long walk after eating breakfast at the Roost, and overstaying our welcome, so the waitress finally made it plain that we should stop monopolizing a table that could be turned over to new customers and make some more money. (How different that is from France, or the Netherlands.) My last words to my friends were "Let's do this again". I told them I'd invite them to the fall party at my house. I'm wondering whether I can get it organized, or whether it's even wise to hold it, with the pandemic still going, though most people I know are vaccinated, Justin being the exception. David later sent me a text ("Thanks for coming up today that was a good time"), and Justin sent me emails suggesting that I look for "unexpected answers" to my PD -- i.e., things that will solve it because they're in hidden corners. Would that were true. I (and Larry) have rummaged everywhere. We've both concluded this approach is a waste of time. But Justin, as always, was being empathetic.
Yesterday I did a bit of work on my paper about uncertainty in linguistics, for the first time in quite a while. My brain seems willing to work again. That's a relief. I hope this persists. Today is supposed to be a workout day, but I'm quite busy this afternoon, and eager to get back to the writing, so I'm going to take the day off from exercise. Am not even feeling any guilt. Rediscovering the pleasure of writing. Who knows? I might finish the first draft of the most recent novel.
Drooling and coughing are disrupting my sitting practice. Having to swallow, and sometimes to cough, break into what little concentration I attain.
August 6, 2021
Met with my PD guys yesterday. Larry's had a bad week: his dog was attacked by a pit bull, and his ex-sister-in-law was stabbed to death by her son. The stress has brought back his tremors and worsened other symptoms (he did not specify).
Went to art therapy yesterday. Dr. Sifers was there. Doing the drawings made clear to me how small everything I do has become. That includes, of course, my writing, which has shrunk to tiny again. Micrographia has returned.
August 7, 2021
Bought a sketch pad, pencils, eraser, and pencil sharpener yesterday, and spent the better part of an hour sketching this morning. Amazing: felt the ice in my brain breaking up.
New PB on the rowing machine, barely: 133.3 .
Convenience usually comes at the cost of concealed complexity, and the vulnerabilities it brings along.
August 8, 2021
Went to Tim and Val's show last night, to celebrate their new album. Tim is a talented guy who can do just about anything. I liked the chorus to "Same Good Change Bad": Well nothing lasts forever and not everything is better. The finest things in life will be gone before you get there.
August 18, 2021
Prime of the day: 13331.
August 27, 2021
Microsoft Windows -- what can you say? One of my sticky notes on the desktop simply vanished and now my entire to-do list is gone. And the way to open PDF files spontaneously changed to a wrong application (one that opens .jpg files). And a moment ago, focus changed from this document to an open folder, for no reason whatever. When I told Susan, she said, "Why am I not surprised?", and I said, "Because it never changes. It's been this way for decades."
September 1, 2021
Out for my morning walk, came around a corner and there was someone about a block ahead of me, who I soon realized was Cindy. Her left arm barely moved, she stooped, she was extremely slow, and her hands curled. I think she has PD. Will discuss w/ Susan. Test her with hand movements?
Sorting through books to give away, on the front page of "A Book of One's Own", I read this, in my handwriting: "Dear Colin: Your birth was the occasion for great rejoicing, especially since your mother's labor had been long and excruciating. Finally, we all gave up and the doctors cut you out. The look of surprise on your face when you emerged was quite remarkable."
September 2, 2021
New PB on the rowing machine: 137.3.
In the drawing class I'm taking, my drawings are much smaller than everyone else's, and no matter how I try, I can't make mine bigger.
Erotic mindset: the women walking through the neighborhood in their black lycra and shorts arouse me. Is this the well-known symptom of PD? (Some get sex-compulsive, some become gamblers, some take apart and put together objects repeatedly.)
September 13, 2021
Being human, instead of an animal (or simpler yet, a plant) is endlessly difficult. We need memory, imagination, knowledge, observation, and reason. And that's just the cognitive stuff. There's also the social realm -- not that the two are clearly distinct. And all this is made impossible to get right by our limits. Sure, we're a thinking reed (Pascal), but what we know and can do is so minute in comparison with what we need to know and do that we're scarcely smarter than dogs. "One mistake after another," as a Zen master said.
And speaking of dogs, Pogo does something interesting. He sometimes barrels out the dog door without barking. I go to the window and watch him. He stands on the low wall separating the patio from the native flower garden. Not wanting him to jump down into the flowers, where I've seen him, I rap on the window. He jumps down, to come inside, and the rabbit he was looking for takes off. He hears it and pursues it. His hearing is so good that he knew, through the windows and wall, that there was a rabbit in the flowers. He didn't bark, which he usually does, so he wouldn't warn it. And he got up on the wall because it's his best vantage point -- he can walk along and look down. The reason the flowers next to the wall are mashed down in a narrow line must be the rabbit.
September 20, 2021
Can't remember what the hell I intended to write about. This sort of thing is becoming disturbingly common -- putting the bark collar on one dog and forgetting the other two; leaving the kitchen gate open and Pogo gets into the living room, ...
September 24, 2021
Recently I've had a hair that hung in front of my right eye for days, which appeared almost overnight. I could not brush it aside. I thought it was from my eyebrow, but I couldn't find it until I looked lower, and there was an almost-invisible hair growing from my eyelid, a freak eyelash about an inch long, but soft and white, unlike the other eyelashes. So I clipped it. No more hair hanging in my vision. It was really annoying. Now the knowledge of what is was is really disturbing. Like nose and ear hair growth wasn't enough. Now I have eyelid hair growth.
September 28, 2021
Two days ago I hit a new PB on the rowing machine: 137.3 .
September 29, 2021
Another new PB on the rowing machine this morning: 138.7 . For a while, early on, I thought I might not be able to row for the full 10 minutes. After I finished, I was knackered.
October 4, 2021
Hit a new PB on the rowing machine a few minutes ago: 143.0 . More consistent form plus a good night's rest were key to the improvement. Afterward, was out of breath as usual. 10 minutes of this is demanding; that's an understatement. My pulse has dropped into the low 40s. Recently, though, I've stopped rowing daily and switched to every other day. I think my resting pulse may be rising.
October 5, 2021
Watching a news reporter ask a fellow why he refused to get vaccinated, the fellow said, "I'm not a guinea pig". That's actually true: the guinea pigs were the people in the initial tries. The man is a scaredy cat instead.
October 10, 2021
Got out of bed raring to go and full of plans for the day. On entering the kitchen, discovered that Sophie had thrown up on the floor. Jack, who has lost 20% of his weight this year and is increasingly feeble, has worsened and I think is dying. He's been unable to jump into the car, yesterday could not get out of the cage where I'd put him (training him to pee in the back yard instead of the kitchen, which I read as him leaving signs for Emerson), and last night struggled to walk after standing up from the dog bed, making complaining noises and trying to get his back legs to work. This morning he shakes, and he refuses both nut butter and the special wet food the vet sent home with him a couple of days ago.
November 5, 2021
Jack has been worse of late. I see him struggling to get his rear legs going, so he can jump up on the chair with me, and it's like watching a person with Parkinson's who's frozen. He's turned down all food, even wet canned food, but finally started eating when I gave him ground chuck. My friend Arne suggested an academic neurology vet in Columbia, but I'm not going there, both because of the drive, and because of the expense.
Stopped at the AT&T store in Westport yesterday, to talk to them directly. The woman there told me that AT&T is sending a flip phone to everyone who still uses one. It will be 4G. After I left, it occurred to me that this may apply only to people who have a plan, not to pay-as-you-go customers like me. Will call them again... You know you're old when a young woman says she'll open the door for you and you don't automatically refuse. How the hell did this happen to me?
November 10, 2021
Ted Cruz is attacking Big Bird because the Muppet told kids they should get vaccinated, more evidence that Cruz lost his shit and never found it again. A Senator should have better things to do than try to make political hay from complaining about what a fictitious character says. The original meaning of the word muppet was "fool". In that sense, Cruz is the muppet.
November 11, 2021
Working out yesterday, I got a call from Susan. Her sister Cindy needed to be "rescued". I rushed into my street clothes and drove over to the apartment Aaron and Anusha are giving up because of their divorce. Aaron was with Cindy, so why couldn't he have driven his mother the little more than a mile to our house? Cindy's role in life seems to be to inconvenience everyone else as much as possible; it was a busy day for me.
My watch wasn't picking up the signal from the atomic clock, so I finally set it back an hour by hand. Then, last night, it finally got the signal and now it's an hour slow. Good thing I downloaded a PDF of the instruction booklet. But changing the hour messed up a couple of other things -- the first time, and this time. Took ten minutes or so and got it all sorted out. Good thing I don't travel much. Once I wore and old watch and left this one at home. Sounds like a good idea, next time I change time zones.
November 26, 2021
Jack is dying of cancer. He's been getting increasingly listless, but last Saturday he was quite bad. I took him to the emergency vet in Mission, and they kept him overnight to give him fluids, glucose, and so on, and to evaluate him. The ultrasound indicates that he either has liver cancer or cirrhosis, most likely the cancer. We turned down further tests and treatment and I brought him home. With the medications they gave us, he's doing much better, though he's not quite what he used to be. I feed him delicacies, and he's even gained weight: 14.9 pounds (he was 15 pounds a year ago). He has trouble going in and out of the dog door sometimes, and I'll avoid long hours away from the house so he doesn't urinate or defecate on the floor. The vet says his life is likely to be "weeks".
November 30, 2021
Jack is doing better than expected. He even went out the dog door by himself last night. (Since his hip muscles have atrophied from degenerative myelopathy, he can't go diagonally now, as was his habit. I've managed to train him to come in by going straight up the stairs. My training to go down when leaving appears to have worked as well.) I think the drugs from the vet are helping him -- the steroid and the liver medicine. And he seems to be holding his weight since I started feeding him delicacies... In the evening, he puts his front paws on the leg rest of my recliner. He knows he can't get up, but he wants to join me, and I lift him up. I never paid attention to how faithful and affectionate he is, since he's less demonstrative than Pogo, and I'm ashamed I haven't given him the love and petting he deserves.
At game night the other night, I noticed that Colin was consistently faster than me at answering the clues when we played Catchphrase. He's speeded up, or more likely I've slowed.
What happens when we siblings start dying off? How will we respond?
My balance is deteriorating. Will note this in the PD log.
December 6, 2021
Bob Dole has died. My Dad was a fraternity brother of his. My Mom hated Dole because of the way he treated Dad -- e.g., when Dad, who was too poor to live at the fraternity house, was there one day, Dole said, "What's he doing here?" Mom never forgave the man.
December 9, 2021
Driving Tomahawk Road through Mission Hills tonight, for a quarter mile or so, every (yes, every) house was clad in Christmas lights, all the same: plain white bulbs outlining the edges, often only the roof, but sometimes the corners. The uniformity of it, as if every one of them had to conform, and all wanted to be equally understated. Just a bit further along, in Prairie Village, maybe half the houses had Christmas lights, and probably a bit more than half of those used colored bulbs, some combination of red, blue, yellow, and green, instead of white.
December 13, 2021
Susan and I attended Handel's Messiah at the Symphony yesterday, and now I think that together we've seen all three of the greatest oratorios, the other two being Beethoven's Ninth (yes, I call it an oratorio) and Orff's Carmina Burana. The Handel was delightful; Susan responded to it with great feeling.
She also had an interesting observation, that there was less coughing in the audience than usual, because with people wearing masks, they're not passing their bugs around.
I was shocked later, at home, after explaining the proofs that the Continuum Hypothesis cannot be proved true, and cannot be proved false (though I simplified, not mentioning ZFC). Then she said, "But maybe when we know more", we'll settle the question. She does not realize that a mathematical proof is not empirical. In a sense, she accidentally got it right, because we might settle the problem with additional axioms. But that's not what she meant.
January 2, 2022
Twin prime of the day, from my Primer: 13931, a palindrome.
January 3, 2022
New PB on the rowing machine this morning: 143.2, just .2 about the PB in October.
Trump endorses Orban for re-election: "He is a strong leader and respected by all". First of all, he's not "strong", he's a Goddamn fascist, which is why Trump likes him. Second, he's not respected: all the Western European leaders hate his guts.
January 4, 2022
The N.Y. Times Book Review devotes a page every issue to questions posed to a well-known writer. They always ask what books the writer has on his/her nightstand, and the answers are nearly always hugely impressive. I think a lot of them lie. As for me, I'd say, "None. Reading in bed is bad sleep hygiene."