Keeping your yard work

Hi all! Your favorite Floridian here! Well, at least top 50, right? Maybe/definitely inside your good fortune 500 at least… right?

RIGHT?!?

It's hot here in sunny (-er than it has any right to be) Florida, and I've come across a bright side to selling our house.

OK, it’s been three years. No one said I was perfect.

Yesterday and today (Saturday and Sunday) I was riding through the neighborhood, past single family homes that surround our block of townhouses. I noticed a number of folks doing yard work. I know there are people who enjoy yard work. There’s decent chance you’re one of those (uh-hum… incomprehensible) people. But if you were one of the folks I rode past this weekend, you’d have a hard time convincing me. In the blurred moments that passed riding by, I saw a lot of sweat-soaked brow mopping, grimacing, and I’ll say it: despair.

One thing you’ll never read on my lips (unless I’m joking): “Man, do I miss mowing the yard.”

Socks: innocent undergarment or covert killer?

The scene of the crime
The scene of the crime

Freaking socks! Who knew?

Well, apparently you knew.

Dammit man! Why was I the last one to know THAT useful nugget ‘o wisdom?

Actually, socks are a handy suspect right now. The alternatives – and there are a lot of them, especially if you have an anxiety disorder – are not so easily fixed. Socks? Heck, you take ‘em off or you put something else on over ‘em. Problem solved. But the alternatives….

I’m careless on stairs. Well, we can throw that one out right away. That’s something a careless person would do. My mommy always said I was perfect, so that can’t be true.

It was a fluke. I like this one. It means I didn’t do anything wrong. However, this was the second time I’ve failed to stick the landing since we’ve lived here. You know… fallen, taken a bad trip, used unconventional means of descending, suffered from deceleration sickness, failed to yield to gravity, or yielded when I should have stood my ground. Yeah, left that important piece of information out of the last post, didn’t I? I might have even implied or outright lied about it being a rare occurrence. In my defense, it was rare, if you count the other forty-odd years of my life. But, twice in a few months (possibly even weeks) sounds a bit more like a pattern. Finally, we all know chance is everyone’s favorite patsy, and… DANG GUMMIT, IT WASN’T A FREAKIN’ FLUKE! (Like I said, I liked that one.)

I’m not as physically gifted as I thought. I don’t like to brag, but I tend to be better than average at a number of things (sports, etc). I’m not great, or even particularly good, mind you. But if you plucked folks at random off the street and picked a sport out of a hat, there’s a good chance I’d at least hold my own… or not embarrass myself. How’s that for a humble brag?

We interrupt this post for a little bit of bragging

One area I tend to excel: anything involving endurance. My lungs can move a lot of air. One of my primary care doctors, years ago, wouldn’t take my complaints about wheezing seriously because I’d blow the needle all the way to top of his peek flow meter (the furthest a plastic arrow would travel in a slotted track), and hard enough that it would make a little clicking sound. Two doctors later I learned a couple things: 1) a single measurement of peek flow doesn’t mean much, and 2) even when my lung capacity (as measured by a more complicated device) is down 1/4 to 1/3 when I’m having an allergic reaction to something, it’s still WAY above average. There’s a lot more to endurance than how much air your lungs can take in and out (your body has to be able to do something useful with that air), but by most indications it hasn’t hurt me.

We now resume this post, already in progress

Wow, this is beginning to sound like I’m rationalizing. Maybe I am just clumsy. Coordination is something that gets worse with age, but I don’t think it’s something that goes quickly. That brings me to the last item on my list…

There’s something else wrong with me. I’m not sure I really want to talk about this one. My mind goes here naturally, all on it’s own. I’ve noticed more falls lately, but I don’t know if I’ve actually been falling more, or I just notice them because of the pain in my neck/back/head.

For the time being, I’m going blame perception – and socks.

That said, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment coming up (several, actually). This topic will come up. I’m not really worried. I don’t know why. This is exactly the kind of thing I normally worry about. Maybe the therapy I’ve done was more useful than I thought – that or my mix of meds hit a sweet spot.

Our twentieth year online!

Alright.

Okay.

Alright.

Let’s try this again. I hope this will be everything it would have been yesterday.

I’ve got some big, site related news! As of December 1st, 2016, our site has been in it’s twentieth year of operation! No, we’re not twenty yet. That doesn’t happen until December of this year, but by then I’d only get one magical month were the copyright notice said: 1997 – 2017… AND I got to hang that big 20 up for everyone to see on the homepage.

Don’t get me started on counting. I’m a self-starter, I can do it myself. NOTE: if you’re not up for a digression/rant on how we count years, skip to the end of the rant. You’ll know it when you see it.

Why does “I’m twenty” have to mean I’ve finished 20 years? Why do we have a quick shorthand for every age EXCEPT the year between the day we were born and the first anniversary of our birth?

“Weren’t you two back when that happened?”

Oh no. I was… let me see. What’s the best mathematical equation to represent my age? X < 1, where X = my age in completed years? I have no idea how many months it was. I think mom said I was crawling around that time, so maybe somewhere between 7 and 11 months? Infant doesn’t seem right, but toddler seems too old. Eff me! I give up.

“Umm, ok. Let me see if Cheryl needs any help in the kitchen.”

But we’re at a bar. What would Cheryl be doing in the kitchen here? She’s at home.

“Yeah, I know.”

See! You don’t need that kind of awkwardness in your life. I know I sure don’t. Why isn’t the day of your birth the first birthday? It’s only the reason you’re here, so I guess it’s ok not to count that one… AT ALL! Further, I think it’s high time we changed the language of age. Talking about how many years old you are stopped being cool at twenty-five. I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to give up a year if I could say: “it’s my 46th year,” rather than saying “I’m 45 years old.” Is it any wonder so many folks don’t want to talk about their age, when most of the time they’re asked the word “old” comes up, either in the question or in the answer?

HERE ENDETH THE RANT.

So, twenty. Right?!? It’s been cool, even if I haven’t done much posting on the blog the last few years. If I ever find my old back-ups (I have three spindles of CDs – somewhere) I may share the original site I created with Adobe PageMill, BBEdit, and Graphic Converter (on one of the original Bondi-Blue iMacs no less), which appeared on AOL’s servers for a time. The absolute best was when I hosted it from a server running at home, geeking out on home networks/security, Movable Type, and managing a few different flavors of databases. Running much of my current site from a hosting service with WordPress almost feels like cheating.

Before Facebook there was blogging, and many (if not most) of my Facebook/Twitter friends are holdovers from blogging, or folks I met through blogging. This site gave me an outlet, introduced me to people with backgrounds I never would have crossed paths without it, broadened my world-view, and made me a better person.

Because of this site, and one post in particular, I often win google. I’m purposely not naming it again – I already get too many hits from those search terms, but if you drop the “beware of” and do a search for the remaining words in that title, I’m almost always top five in a google search. I joke with friends that I’m the world’s fourth-foremost expert on the subject. Though, results of your searches may vary, due to location. Further, I don’t expect most of you to be impressed. Even with this lofty achievement (for a guy like me), I bet most of you would blow me away.

Anyhoo, I’d like to thank both of you for sticking around through the lean times.

Neither shaken, stirred, nor concussed!

All right!

So, I was on my way downstairs to write you a post. I’d been upstairs thinking on this one for almost an hour now. You know, that time on the weekend when you don’t have anything you have to do, you’ve slept-in like a teenager, and you’re awake but you don’t feel like getting out of bed… so you don’t.

Sorry, I know I’m mostly speaking to adults here. I don’t mean to brag.

Well, it was that kind of morning. I spent some quality time thinking up a great post, filled with some old-school nonsense and JK style humor. I was walking down the stairs with a little bit of hop to my giddy-up, and now I’m writing this post instead.

I did something I haven’t done much in my life, mostly due to a lack of opportunity. I really should have guessed by now. Stairs are not your friend. They should always be treated with respect. NEVER take them lightly, especially when you’ve got a little hop to your giddy-up.

I fell down the f…ing stairs. F…! Effing Ess! Frack me and the %&#@ing slippery socks I walked in on!

I’m mostly all right. No broken bones or torn ligaments. No brains were concussed, overly shaken, or stirred. Cheryl was kind of wound up though. This wasn’t the kind of mishap that happens on stair 8 of 10, where the potential energy is rapidly diminishing. This started at the top, man! A tumble may have been involved.

We’re eagerly waiting to see how my neck and back will fare in the hours to come.

States Rights Attack!

Am I the only one who hears folks yelling about the Constitution and State’s Rights in the same breath, and feels their irony senses start to tingle?

Let me get the obvious out of the way:

  1. I’m not a Constitutional Scholar
  2. I didn’t play one on TV

While I’m at it, let me get the less obvious out of the way too:

  1. I’m not a historian
  2. I don’t think I’m smarter than the average bear
  3. I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn last night

I’m not even a history buff, though you might say I’m an intermittent, amateur historian. As such, I’ve been slogging through The Federalist Papers over the last year or so. I open up the copy on my Kindle when I’m having trouble sleeping.

Anyhoo, back to irony.

As I understand it, the US Constitution arose from the anarchy and ashes of the Articles of Confederation – a government (if you could really call it one) where the original states had ALL of the rights… and all of the power. My recollection from high school history was that in it’s earliest days our government was a chaotic mess, and the Constitution’s chief aim was to reign in the chaos by shifting some power away from the states, to the central government.

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #1:

“Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments….”

Yep, I dove deep for that one, eh? All the way down to the first sentence of the third paragraph of the fist essay.

We could argue all day and into the next millennium about how much power the Constitution shifts to the central government, but I don’t think anyone can argue it does. Well, you could… but you’d be wrong.

So this is what’s going through my head when someone starts popping off about The Constitution! The Tenth Amendment! States Rights!

I wonder if they’re familiar with the history of the document they invoke, sometimes with a bit of angry spittle.

Breakable

I wasn’t aware of this until recently, but my children treat me like I’m old and frail – like my bones are made of glass and my internals pop like a soap bubble. I don’t remember doing this with my father, but then this may say more about me than my son. My dad always seemed fairly rugged. Mind you – and I think he’d admit this himself – he’s not what you’d call a physical specimen. Folks don’t walk down the street, look at my dad, and say: “that dude’s more likely to break me than get broken.” But if we were out playing catch and he fell, I wouldn’t rush to his side asking (worriedly), “are you ok?”

Two weeks ago I got out my old Aerobie. I dove for an errant throw, rolled through a fall, and slowly got up. Adam did the worried-rush over I described above. Incensed, I turned to him and said, “Adam, I’m not that fragile.”

Of course, much of this week my back and neck have been killing me, but surely that’s just coincidence.

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Sitting in the dark

Empty LakeA month or so ago, I posted a picture to Facebook with the caption: “in over my head.” I think it sounded like I was lost, or any number of things other than what I intended, without the context of the pictures I posted before (which I suspect slipped past many folks). We were on a camping trip, visiting a place that goes much of the way back to me and Cheryl’s childhood. The first time we visited this large state park, out in the middle of North Florida Nowhere, we were students at UF. It was one of the few places I could go with Cheryl and just sit, relaxing.

She’s not one for sitting around, that one.

This recent trip was nostalgic – and incredibly sad. What made the park a wonder was the interaction between the land and water, the contradictions that make Florida ecology a delicious, but acquired taste.

In spots, relatively high land can look dry and tortured – both by the semi-arid conditions and the periodic fires which sweep through. But hike a quarter mile down and you might find yourself stepping carefully down into a ravine, the temperature just slightly cooler… the air just slightly more humid… and the land MUCH more green and lush. Coming to an abrupt end, clear water trickles from spots in a steep, shaded hillside, which has eroded backwards over the years, and accumulates into a clear stream at the bottom. As simple and unassuming a place it is, few places on Earth look (or make me feel) more alive. Follow this stream a couple miles into the park and you find the lake in the picture below.

Well, there was a time you could.

So here’s what I was trying to say with this picture: I was standing in what was once a lake bed, and (almost) twenty years ago I would have been in water over my head.

Pretty deep, I know.

Sorry.

As is my way, there were a bunch of things I was saying silently to myself. No amount of context would have dipped you into that stream of consciousness. I’ll get to my inner dialog in a second, but if you would first indulge a little cathartic swearing… fuck me. Take a look at this picture, taken in roughly the same direction, from what was then (in 1998) the lake shore:

Full Lake

Yep, there’s a lot less water flowing over the surface of northern Florida. The morning was filled with scenes like this (the first picture, not the one with all of the water), and I was in mourning. As the sun rose over a much drier Florida than I remembered, my mood felt darker – though not just because of that morning. I think it’s something that’s grown steadily worse for about the last seven years – though it got MUCH worse this last year… and Jesu Fucking Cristo, God help me worse in the last couple of months.

Go back and ask the November 2008 Edition of Me about the state of things, and I would have been really worried about the economic rubble strewn around me, but I couldn’t have been much more optimistic about the state of society as a whole. Heck, I was thinking about going back to church – and did, for a little while. A black man had been elected President and I thought human kindness had turned a corner.

The November 2016 Edition of Me felt like human kindness had been tortured, humiliated, and tossed into a dumpster fire.


I’d hoped to write more than this, but that’s about all I can take right now. I’m gonna go hide for the rest of the evening/night, and see how I feel tomorrow – JK

Thinking thoughts while tired

Where do I begin?

Life is a kick in the ass. Sometimes it’s a kick you need or in hindsight, maybe even wanted. Other times it’s just a fucking kick.

Above all, life is exactly what your parents tell you it is: not fair. Some of us are kicked down, hard and often. Some of us get the kick we need, over and over, and never get the message. Some are fortunate not to need a kick of any kind. Others… well, it’s all we can do not to give them a kick ourselves.

You might want to give me one now, to see if it would shake some sense out of me or into this little post.

There are moments in life I desperately wish I could describe, something I think is a product of all that kicking – or being kicked. The best my feeble mind can come up with is emotional overload, though that’s not quite it either. It makes it sound bad, yet in many ways it’s the opposite. There’s the moment when you’ve spent 36 hours in the hospital with a loved one, watching them suffer, knowing there’s nothing you can really do – then your child is born. Once in a great while, there’s a moment towards the end of a special story when an author brings you to this place through the experience of his or her characters.

At these times I’m moved to tears which flow freely. For a brief moment I think I may understand the range and complexity of human emotion, in ways I thought I had before, but really only scratched the surface.

It passes but it leaves something behind. I feel raw but richer.

Adam saw me this evening after such a moment and I wasn’t sure what to say. I tried to reassure him nothing was wrong. I tried to explain some of what I’m telling you now. Two things occurred to me. One, that I’m not doing a very good job of describing anything; and two, that he may not be ready. He may not be ready for many years.

He needs to be kicked around more… live more life, wander the experience of others, and exercise those emotional muscles, hopefully building a strong sense of empathy.

Then, some years down the road, maybe I’ll be able to look back and know I have done my job as a parent right.

Maybe I’ll have another one of those tearful moments for myself.

The Facebook reply that wasn’t

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the mostly absent author of this site. The name’s John, but my friends call me John.

I have not said much about the looming election, mostly for mental health reasons. That’s not meant to be a joke. I’ve started a few dozen posts – I think. I’ve lost track. I’ve always given up less than a few sentences in, already emotionally spent.

But time is running short.

Increasingly, I feel like I should – not because the masses are clamoring for me to endorse – but because I have a conscience. These are a couple of paragraphs I was going to share (lift/steal – though attributed, of course) from writer John Scalzi, in response to some random person’s ranting elsewhere in social media. I didn’t. That way leads not to good mental health. But I share them with you now, my friends. Before you ask, let me say: yes, I do agree with the things he’s writen. I’d only ask in return, out of respect for me (if I deserve it, as I hope I do) to read and consider his words – to give them some benefit of doubt, if your instinct is to doubt.

Mr Scalzi:

This should not be a close contest. That it is a close contest (right now) is a testament first to the twenty-five years that the GOP and conservatives have spent demonizing Hillary Clinton, and second to the effectiveness of the GOP and conservatives in creating an epistemic bubble inside which millions of (largely white, largely older, largely less educated) people live, trained to be suspicious of facts, trained to see political opponents as traitors, trained to be afraid first and anything else after that.

And yes! When you say those things in sequence out loud, it sounds ridiculous! But yet here we are in 2016 with Donald Trump, ignorant, hateful, horribly afraid Donald Trump, as the Republican candidate for president. He didn’t appear out of nowhere. The way was prepared for him over decades, by people who couldn’t see that they’d laid the way for an incipient demagogue who would have no loyalty to them or their political goals, such as they were. They didn’t see that the person who would be tasked to stand in his way is the person they’d spent a quarter century convincing those in bubble land is one of the gravest threats to America that had ever put on a sensible pantsuit ensemble.

… no one should be complacent about this election. Register to vote. If your state is making it difficult for you to vote, know now so that well ahead of election day you can jump through all the stupid, intentionally-placed hoops preventing you from registering.

I’d be more than happy to discuss any aspect of this post, privately or in public. It’s often said that much is at stake in national elections, but I think it’s especially true this year.