Thursday, December 29, 2016

The last leaves

The last leaves still cling to the branches. What is that? Courage? Commitment? Or maybe folly and hubris. Whatever it is we know any remaining squatters will be pushed aside by a new generation of leaves.  That first leaf -- sometime back in September -- where is she now? Blown on to the neighbors yard, or maybe right under the tree now covered by others and forgotten. Some more fell in October and more still even on that day in early November that was too warm and it seemed like summer was clawing his way back. A cold front in late November took many followed by an early snow, barely an inch, but just enough for us to forget the fallen leaves. We woke up that morning startled by the new view.

These last few stalwarts, the centenarians of their lot, may just make it to the new year. I hope so -- they've seen a lot. Soon enough they'll join their fallen brothers and sisters. Just like last year.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I've been thinking about the whole Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays thing, as if there can be a winner. It occurs to me that part of our troubles has to do with the notion that its the receiver of the good wish who gets to be the arbiter of what is right for him or her. What if we simply flip it? It's the thought that counts, right? And the act of giving is the act we should acknowledge. So let the giver choose. If they choose "Happy Holidays," what's the offense? That's what they want to wish you. Likewise, if a "Merry Christmas" comes your way, then feel the joy that is inside that giver's expression of grace. Or Happy Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, New Years or Solstice and so on. Let's give deference to the giver of the expression rather than try to guess what the recipient will tolerate. Because all expressions of human connection and love we should embrace.

Peace and prosperity to us all as we head into the New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

6 years ago

That first Christmas, 6 years ago, after Amy died, was hard. The echoes of that year's grief have faded but still reverberate, softly, against the walls. I read in social media, FaceBook, elsewhere, others who have lost a loved one recently or less recently grappling with this time of year. Here in the northern hemisphere it is darker longer. It is colder. That feels right. But that is nature's doing.

Then there is humankind's doing. Celebrations and toasts to the future. Honoring the life of a newborn child. Family and friends and gifts. Joyful and triumphant. All of which create a high-key contrast to our specific suffering. A return to the normal banality of normal time is the only respite, dimming the lights that reveal our pain.

Hope. We want this to be a season of hope. I went to Target yesterday and they were sold out. The liquor store is a better place and 6 years ago, and sometimes still,  helped. There is no hope there either, to be sure, only resignation. But, for a while, she takes away the hope-less-ness.

Love. Somewhere there is love. That is where the solace is found. That is the season's reason. But, you say, letting the love find me and take me away is what also lead me to the edge of new grief the last time. Fear, then, becomes the barrier and the room we lock ourselves in. Stay in there if you must, for now.

Grief is an endurance race. And no matter the laps we've taken, there will be one more lap. Love is the same way. That is our curse and our blessing.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What the Buddha Teaches Us About CD-ROMs

Part I
Last weekend I tackled a chore I had set aside for sometime: Clearing out several boxes of old electronics, manuals, CDs, DVDs, and the like. The boxes were the purgatory for those items that I just didn't think I could part with yet, or maybe I thought had some value not long ago.  But they continued to sit there, aging. So I broke one the boxes and pulled everything out. What was I really going to do with a circa 2007 Canon Powershot? I held the camera in my hand and looked it over. Seemed in good shape, little noticeable wear. Probably still worked if I put new batteries in it. But why would I? It's functionality is positively pre-historic compared to my iPhone's camera. I felt some sadness for this poor little camera. I had not thought of this camera in years. Eight years probably when I last used it. And then I thought about what I paid for it. Probably a couple hundred bucks. Not too much, but real money and it sat with a collection of other not-that-old but obsolete electronics, a network router, a modem, on old Roku device, and chargers for old batteries to the gear that was no longer of use. How much did all of that cost? Several hundred; a thousand dollars maybe? Ugh. Such a waste for such short usefulness.

I sorted the objects into two piles: Those With Obviously No Value, and Those With Questionable Value. Those with obviously no value went into a box to go to the electronics recycling drop off. Those with questionable value I set on our front curb and a few items were picked up by curious neighbors, artists, tinkerers. Whatever the objects, some were thought to have a possible second life by someone who could breathe life into them. Some no one claimed and they were re-assigned to the box of those with obviously no value; their fate now certain.

I turned to another box. A moving box-sized mess of old manuals and software CD-ROMs, floppy disks, zip drives. I sat on the tile floor in our basement and starting picking through. Manuals from an old Dell tower PC from the early 2000s. CD-ROMs for AOL that used to just come in the mail. Quicken 2000 for Home and Business. There were quite a few original licensed software CDs that came with the computer. The Dell Recovery Disks, Microsoft Office XP official install CDs. Stuff like that. There were easily 50 blank CD-ROMs never used. A big spindle case with 20 or 30. And another two dozen shrink wrapped in their jewel cases. I sorted out the paper manuals from the CDs from the jewel cases. Each would have to go to a separate recycling.

I paused at one point and thought back 25 years ago when I was emotionally conflicted with the transition from vinyl to audio CD. And then a little later as CDs took over for floppy disks for software. And now I don't even have a CD player. My circa 2010 MacBook Pro that I am using right now still has a CD-ROM drive but I rarely use it. My newer Mac Pro that I use for video editing and other tasks doesn't even have a CD-ROM drive. And that is fine. Good even. Everything just comes beamed to me from the clouds. No more fixed media. No more CDs, or DVDs for that matter, that take up space and are hard to dispose of. And almost as an out of body experience, I suddenly saw a vision! All the CDs, CD-ROMs, and DVDs that had been manufactured for the entire planet hidden in boxes in basements. An entire manufacturing technology exploded then imploded in a third of a human lifetime. It never occurred to me in 1990 that CDs were actually a transitional technology to get us where we are now: Information and data just flying through the ski. Music, books, and software. And all you need is the right antenna or cable connection to suck it in.

I dumped all the old manuals and paper inserts into our house recycling, then placed all the sorted media, CD-ROMs, some old Zip drives, and a few 3.5 inch floppies into their boxes, closed them up and said goodbye.

Part II

A fair number of the CD-ROMs were backups. I came across several with hand-Sharpie labels like: Emergency Backup #1, Emergency Backup #2.

And then I came across this one:

Amy's PC Backup. It's my handwriting.

No date. Nothing else to distinguish it. Amy died six and a half years ago and I had long since transferred everything from her old PC. All that remained was this curious reminder of something years ago, forget even existed , but now held in my hand. I don't remember backing up her PC specifically but I can imagine her nagging me: Have you backed-up my PC recently? Then feeling annoyed by the time I had to spend with that necessary task.

I sat there and stared at the disk a moment or two then started crying. Perhaps my emotions were closer to the surface having already moved to a sense of wistfulness for the passing of floppy drives and CD-ROMs in general. But I was not expecting to miss Amy at that moment.

"Remember the Second Noble Truth," the Buddha might say. "Your suffering comes from your attachments to things that are impermanent, which is all things."

"Yeah, sure, thanks Buddha. Maybe don't just sit there cross-legged and come over here and help me go through the rest of these CD-ROMs."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Donald Trump, I Challenge You to a Duel

Trump's "hot mic" comments from 2005 have rightly caused many to respond with disgust at his ongoing harmful treatment and views and comments towards women. 

But what about us men? 

I am deeply and personally offended by his truly loathsome comments. Men need to stand up and denounce him for what he is: a tired old loudmouth of a bully. A poor excuse for a man and a wretched role model for our young men and boys. 

A true man respects the inherent dignity of women and men alike. A true man will not allow behavior and actions and verbal insults to continue without standing against them. There was a time when if a man heard another man speak ill of a woman he was honor-bound to challenge him! Confront him and deny the cad his manhood. 

Our society desparately needs positive older adult male role models for our young men. Men of courage, conviction, wisdom, and strength. Men of resolve who draw on an inner strength generated from self-reflection and honesty not from belittling, threatening, and the drawing of energy from their sexual conquests. 

Donald Trump represents the antithesis of the strong male role model we desperately need. There are many suffering economically who need a strong leader; they are drawn to Trump's message and comforted because they have lost much and are afraid. But make no mistake, Trump is a parasite who draws his energy by exploiting that fear and draining the energy from those around him. 

I read a stunning quote in a WashPo article today

One of Trump’s most prominent social-conservative supporters, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, told BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray: “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values.

Tony Perkins, you need to step aside, pack up your bags, and crawl into the dark hole where you belong. It's that dark hole reserved for weak men like you who abandon your morals and dignity in exchange for righteousness. If you can so easily set aside your values to support this wretched excuse for a man, then shame on you, sir. Shame on you and everyone else so willing to set aside their core values to support a "man" so miserable as Donald Trump. 

And shame on you Donald Trump. Shame on you for the pain and suffering you have brought upon the women around you. Shame on you for exploiting them for personal gain both sexually and financially. Shame on you for ignoring your responsibilities as a man, as a person of power, and squandering the opportunity to be a positive role model to younger men. Donald Trump, you are no man. You disgust me. You make me nauseous. 

Donald Trump, you go to hell.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Spock, son of Sarek, for President

The classic distinctions between liberal and conservative, as implemented by our circa 2016 Democrats and Republicans, has become ambiguous. Our Democratic nominee generally favors free trade and international engagement and the our Republican nominee the opposite, to cite just two policy areas. So what is the difference now between our Nation's two major parties? The article accompanying the endorsement of the Arizona Republic suggests a distinction of emotional v. rational. For the first time in its 125 year history, the newspaper is endorsing the Democratic nominee.

From the Republic:
The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.

Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.

Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not.


Cool headed, stay-the-course conservatives, and knee-jerk reactionary liberals seem to be swapping slogans with conservatives wanting to burn the place down and liberals proposing to stay the course.

As much as Dems like to cite facts and figures to convince the populace of a certain policy, emerging neuro-science research shows that most of our decision making is emotionally motivated.

So, who would you rather have at the console? Spock or Kirk?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Infographic: 4 Graphs That Explain the 2016 Election










Clair de Lune

There seems to be a lot of ugly in the world these days. That is, if you read the news. But the truth is there is beauty everywhere. And it's not hard to find. Enjoy this montage from Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes set to Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Morning Before

I said to him, my brother, are you ready? And he said he was but he wasn’t.

So I rolled out the nap sack and tossed on the quilt and told him to rest while I planned for our trip the next day. And then I slid like a snake putting back on its skin and tried to sleep but couldn’t, only fitfully, too much jittering through my mind until I finally fell asleep only to wake right back up again at 6:30; a little sooner than usual because we said, he had said, we should make an early start but when I tried to wake him he just grumbled under his breath and rolled over and curled into the quilt of many colors, faded now, our grandmother had sewn with her crooked arthritic hands, what was it, 40 years ago when we were just little boys. I stepped outside and flicked on my head lamp. Frost covered each horizontal surface. Each step disturbed the pre dawn quiet echoing so loudly I hesitated. 

I wanted my brother to wake up anyway, so why was I trying to soften my steps?


I laughed at myself as I walked to the stove, lit it and started heating water for my tea.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

First vlog post

Hi all,
I'm moving more to graphic and video to share my thoughts and ramblings. Please check out my Hole in the Sun YouTube channel. The first vlog is here.

I hope you'll subscribe!

Thanks,
John