Friday’s Free-Ranging

  1. Some people still believe COVID-19 is a hoax. Even as they’re hospitalized and intubated, they can’t believe they have COVID-19, according to nurses in several states, because COVID-19 is a hoax. Surreal.
  2. But it’s getting real. For many people, it doesn’t become real until a family member, close friend, or celebrity has it. Well, read the news. Another Pentagon official is positive, and another U.S. senator. Actor Ben Platt was positive. Do a net search and you’ll discover more. NFL teams are experiencing it at an increasing tempo. The Vegas Raiders have at least eight defensive starters on the COVID-19 list. The Steelers have several, while several others passed the protocol and can practice and play again. The Denver Broncos announced, no more fans in the stands after this Sunday. The NFL said that all teams must use intense COVID-19 protocols. That includes masks, distancing, limiting occupancy, and using Zoom for meetings.
  3. The fatality rate and positivity rates are both climbing. A NYTimes article points out that there’s not a single U.S. state or territory where COVID-19 is declining. We now experience over two hundred thousand new case a day, and it’s increasing fast. More governors are ordering mandatory masks, shutting down activities, and limiting gatherings. Except, in South Dakota, of course, home of Sturgis. Although they’re facing the nation’s highest positivity rate and fatality rate, and has become one of the nation’s most intense COVID-19 hotspots, the governor still dismisses taking any actions.
  4. And superspreader events still take place across the nation. As a for instance tale, there was a wedding in Ohio on October 31st. Of eighty-three guests, half are now positive for COVID-19, including the bride and groom. Three of their grandparents tested positive, with two grandparents ending up in the ER. Yeah, I understand that you want a special day for your wedding. It’s a celebration, but c’mon, man, have some sense. They did try, providing masks and hand sanitizer liquid, but as the bride was walking down the aisle, she realized nobody was wearing a mask.
  5. Meanwhile, out in hard-hit El Paso, they’re trying to find workers for the many temporary morgues that they’ve set up. They were using convicts for the job.
  6. Writing continues to entertain and satisfy me, so hurrah for me, right? Yeah, that’s my little ray of sunshine.
  7. Some days, I just cannot write fast enough. A scene takes maybe a minute to enter my head and bloom. Dialogue, setting, action, characters, it’s all there. It takes twenty to thirty minutes to type up such scenes, trying to get all the moments right.
  8. Getting the moments right means finding the words. I often just hammer it out, then return, correcting pacing and tenses, adding and refining details, and aligning the arc. That’s about the only way to put it.
  9. Thanksgiving in the United States is coming upon us, and we’re preparing. It’ll be the two of us at home, a huge break from the last several years. Good friends have been including us in their celebration. It’s always a good time. There will be a Zoom Thanksgiving cocktail party this year. It’s better than nothing, right?
  10. For food, we’re doing an early Sunday morning Trader Joe’s raid. Many options were investigated before deciding on this path. TJ’s ‘vulnerable shoppers’ time begins at 8 AM. We plan to be there by 8:15 with our list in hand.
  11. Contemplating our plans fires Thanksgiving memories. I was in Basic Training in 1974. Fortunately, my Uncle and his family lived nearby. I was authorized to go spend Thanksgiving with them, and watched the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play. For Wright-Patt in Ohio, in ’75, we drove home and visited with family. When I was serving unaccompanied in the Philippines in 1976, my co-workers invited me to their house, and I had a great time. Paying it back, my wife and I often included single or unaccompanied personnel in our T-day celebrations.
  12. Memories stack up by bases and countries: Onizuka in California, Kadena on Okinawa, Rhein-Main in Germany, Osan in Korea, Randolph in Texas. When we were stationed at Shaw AFB in South Carolina in 1985, we headed north three hundred miles to my wife’s family in WV. A few hundred more miles, and we were at my mother’s place in Pittsburgh, PA. When I retired and we lived in Half Moon Bay, we joined in large Friendsgiving celebrations, just as we’ve mostly done here in Ashland.
  13. All of these places and years are memorable, though; all of them. They were different places, different people, and different experiences, but all enriched my existence.
  14. Need more coffee, as it’s time to write like crazy, at least one more time. Have four scenes circling in my head. Time for them to land on a page. Have a better one, and please wear a mask.

An Abundance of Caution

  1. In headline news, COVID-19 has mostly been impersonal. There are always anecdotal stories. Some of those are about non-believers who turned out to be carriers or were involved in a superspreader event. They now regret calling the novel coronavirus a hoax and not taking action, as family members and friends actually sickened and died, just as they were warned, or, they experienced serious health problems themselves. That’s what it sometimes takes to open people’s eyes.
  2. Herd immunity was given another boost via the Barrington Project. Interesting idea but when you look at the numbers involved and the impact, it’s a scary idea. Pursue herd immunity and you’ll endure higher hospitalizations, packed ICUs, and higher death rates. In theory, your economy will be better and life will be more ‘normal’.
  3. Want to talk about Sweden? Go ahead. I’ve already checked them out. Their mortality rate is fifth highest in the world, behind Spain, the US, UK, and Italy.
  4. States, of course, are interested in herd immunity, especially those states where COVID-19 is already surging. This includes Idaho and South Dakota. South Dakota was home to several superspreader events and took little to no actions. Now COVID-19 is raging across the state.
  5. Florida, naturally, is also interested in herd immunity. They’re embracing that science after defying all other science.
  6. Meanwhile, we’ve had a few big names contract COVID-19 and die. Now more people in the rich, powerful, and famous circles are testing positive. We’ve already had Donald Trump, his wife, son Barron, and twenty-five other people (or more – I quit counting) associated with a WH event. This doesn’t include the Secret Service agents protecting the POTUS and family; they don’t tell how many of them get sick. But today brings news that Kamala Harris is canceling some events because an aide and another associated with her campaign tested positive. So did Alabama coach Nick Saban, along with Atlanta Falcons staff.
  7. Several U.S. Senators and a few mayors have tested positive. The senators usually make news because they’re Republican and refuse to either notify others, quarantine, or wear a mask. I guess a few of them require their loved ones and family to contract the illness and suffer before they’ll be more serious about it.
  8. The Atlanta Falcons news comes on top of other NFL COVID-19 news. Cam Newton, Patriots QB, has ended his COVID-19 quarantine. The Tenn. Titans won their first game back after being off for sixteen days due to dozens testing positive in the Titans org.
  9. “An abundance of caution” is the NFL’s new tagline this year. Whenever something COVID-19 related is announced, the the press release usually has the phrase “an abundance of caution” in it. That includes two stories today. One that the Falcons have closed their facility after at least one, but maybe four, have tested positive. Two, Odell Beckham, Jr, a Cleveland Browns wide receiver, was sent home with an unspecified illness “out of an abundance of caution”.
  10. COVID-19 is havoc on the NFL’s schedule, of course. After creating and promoting Thursday Night Football, there’s no Thursday Night Football this week. That game was moved to Sunday. Meanwhile, we did have the standard Monday Night Football, along with Tuesday Night Football this week. They’re also talking about adding an eighteenth week to the regular season.
  11. One of the big headlines today is that Europe’s surge of daily new cases are now higher than the United States. The UK and EU are talking lockdown again. Some are speculating this is the second wave. Out of an abundance of caution, we’re stocking up on food and supplies, continuing to wear our masks, and social-distance. Of course, we have that privilege. Too sadly, there are many in society who don’t.

The Football & Space Dream

Pleasurable dream. I came off as successful beyond what I expected (although others seemed to expect it) and was happy, respected, and admired. I was a hero. Isn’t that what we all want to be?

The first dream found me at a football game. I don’t know what level of playing, team names, or anything like that. A running back, I was on the sideline. It was early in the first quarter. My team was down by a touchdown. Okay, it’s early, that’s not bad, but what was demoralizing was that it didn’t look like we could do anything against their defense.

I watched the play from behind. A running draw, our big back was stuffed and lost yardage. But as I watched the play, I knew that it would be different if it me.

I told the coach. He and the others had already reached the same conclusion and sent me in. When I went in, I was doubtful. I was so much smaller. Anxiety swept me.

Then, the play was over. Back on the sidelines, I’d discovered that I’d scored on a fifty-plus yard run. What a great feeling of celebration. Then I found that it was late in the game; it was almost over. I’d scored three times. The other team hadn’t scored again. We were winning in a blow-out.

I read notes on that first scoring play, when I went in. Smaller, but fast, I was able to duck and spin past the initial rush. Then, according to a guard, “Seidel used him like a lawn mower, pushing me ahead of him down the field and mowing down anything in his way.”

Reading that felt great.

Now, it was off to work. I worked in a space operations center alongside engineers, admin people, radar trackers, etc. I was a high-level position. There was a crises. People were waiting for me to arrive. They believed I could resolve it.

I went right to work. Although my desk was at the front, by the status boards and maps, I worked the room from end to end and side to side, talking with everyone, taking notes, making and taking phone calls, and issuing decisions. The crises was resolved but we stayed busy. I consulted with the engineers over a few things. They were always eager to show me what they were doing.

Some were ending their shift and going for food. I was invited but declined. Others decided that a food run was in order. One scientist held up a script of paper. “Here’s my order,” he declared. “I thought that a food order was going to be taken, so I was ready.”

Taking his note, I read his order. He’d used a cryptic shorthand that made me laugh. I had to puzzle through it to make any sense of it.

A cake with white frosting was delivered. A piece was cut for me. I picked up a plate with the cake and prepared to eat. The dream ended.

Everybody should experience uplifting dreams like these.


The Football Dream

Dreamed that I was at this outdoor location that focused on the National Football League. Not the only one there, it appeared that thousands of other people were present. While the awakened me has scant grasp of what was going on, dream me was there and ready. Names were being issued for a very special honor, so I was listening with anticipation.

My name was announced. Pleased and proud to be selected, I went to my assigned position beside a large sculpture. The sculpture was of Steelers players. Ben Roethlisberger, number seven and the current quarterback, was the main figure but there were others. My job, as explained to me, was to explain the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with emphasis on their championship seasons. Then, from a special bowl, I was to select the future Superbowls that they’d win.

Other presentations began. I eagerly awaited my chance. The Green Bay Packers were right before the Steelers. Suddenly, as their presentation ended, something happened to disrupt the gathering. People began departing and the agenda was abandoned.

I refused to leave, hoping that I’d still have a chance. At last, though, acknowledging that I wouldn’t be presenting, I said, “I guess that means the Packers will win all of the rest, because no other team had been given a chance.

I don’t know what any of it means.

A Football Dream

I’d been part of the defense, set up to be an edge-passer on a high-school football team. Being a little guy, that surprised me, but I took to the role with the zeal I apply to things when I must get them done. Come game time, though, and I found myself lined up as a tight-end. Talk about confused! I had no idea about the offensive plays or blocking, but again, here I was, in a mess, so I would do what I had to do. Which meant, figuring it out as I went along.

They also weren’t including me in the huddle. Hello? Totally bewildered, I tried catching the coach’s eye to point out the obvious error of me being where I was. He told me to stay out there and do what I can. So —

I lined up, but it was an awkward position, because I was half-turned to see what the quarterback was doing. The ball was snapped.  Here comes the rush. I blocked a guy and cut into a middle open flat, caught a pass and was crushed in a tackle. Still, five yards were gained. On the next play, I saw a hand-off to the running back, so I picked up rushers and helped make a path for him, resulting in a first down.

The next play was bizarre. Lined up, I could hear the defense talking and see the quarterback. He planned to throw to me, I realized. I mentally set myself for the task. Then, the quarterback didn’t set. He kept standing up, moving around, and checking the defense. Time was passing, passing…I almost fell out of my stance. I kept wondering why the quarterback didn’t set us and get the ball hiked. I worried about delay of game.

Meanwhile, the defense had drifted off to the sides. There was a huge hole in the middle. If I released and the quarterback threw a quick slant, I could exploit this defense.

The ball was finally hiked. I snapped out into the flat and looked for the pass, but the quarterback was running toward me. I turned to make a block, but no defenders were in the area. The quarterback raced thirty yards into the end zone for a touchdown.

I realized that the quarterback was planning this all along, and that I’d been part of his secret scheme. It impressed me. Looking at the scoreboard, I saw that we’d now scored three times, and the score was 21-3.

Dream end.

I awoke thinking, take the opportunity when it comes, and make the most of it, but create opportunities. The quarterback on done both.

Last Night’s Game

Last night’s professional football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals epitomizes my frustration with the sport.

First, let me tell you. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. I became a Steeler fan around nineteen sixty-nine, when I was thirteen. That wasn’t a good year for the Steelers. They finished with one win, and thirteen losses. Things began picking up the next year.

Second, about ten years ago, I began thinking that football has become way too violent. I tried watching less of the sport. I marvel at the players’ speed, grace, and athleticism, and enjoy the multiple levels of tactics and strategy continuing throughout a game even as I rue the violence. I’ve thought, like others, what is the solution to reduce the violence, especially the flagrant fouls, and the head injuries?

Last weekend featured a couple of them. Gronk of the Patriots was suspended for his hit. Other suspensions and fines are being issue. But how much do these mean to these players? Yes, they recognize that they’ve let their team down when they’re suspended, and that it could affect winning records, contracts, sponsorship deals, and championships, with all the collateral associated with a season, like home-field advantages, pride, rings, and trophies, but these same players are pushed to be aggressive and competitive. They’re amped up on adrenaline. To expect them to stop instantly, in the middle of motion, when the whistle blows — and is heard — and tamper their emotions is not always realistic.

Especially so in a game like last night, between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Their games have been especially tough and violent for several years. Memories of results and actions linger, affecting how the two teams feel about each other, and how they play one another. The game last night featured penalties, marked off in yards and loss of downs. Quoting Kevin Siefert on ESPN:

The game was also reminiscent of the playoff game due to the high number of penalties. The Bengals set a franchise record with 13 penalties for 173 yards. The two teams have combined for 1,088 penalty yards in their matchups against each other, including playoffs, since the 2015 season. Their 32 major penalties, such as unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct, in the same time span is nearly twice as much as any other matchup in the same period.

Wow, right? Yet, it keeps escalating. These penalties and suspensions aren’t working. Maybe something more concrete is required, like a loss of points instead of yards, or a loss of downs. Yes, flags can be thrown, and players ejected, but perhaps it’s not enough. Maybe a flag is required to warn them, one more personal foul, and you forfeit the game.

Too extreme? Perhaps, but that’s what the NFL is all about: winning and losing. Until something tangible is done to immediately affect that line, the escalations will continue.

The H.S. Football Dream

I dreamed I was a teenager. It was bright and sunny outside, and I was inside a well-lit building. I learned that my high school football team was short of players. Coach Thomas came to me and asked if I’d play. I’d quit the team the year before, after an accident.

Pleased, I quickly agreed. He gave me some instructions. A game was starting soon. I needed to get there fast. “Don’t let me down,” he said, in a joking but serious style.

I raced to prepare. People were giving me things. It took longer than expected to get ready. A player – a real-life buddy from high school – came in. “Coach Thomas sent me in to see what’s going on. You need to get out there.”

I looked out a window. From there, I could see and hear things happening. Part of that was Coach Thomas talking to the ref, who was warning Thomas, “You need to field a team.” Coach Thomas was irritated and impatient as he asked for more time, insisting, “He’s coming, he’s coming. I need him.”

“I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying,” I told the player. He left.

I don’t know what I needed to get. It seemed like that’s an extension of confusion I felt in the dream. Finally, I was out there, with the team, and in the line-up, nervous and uncertain. I had a piece of paper with instructions in my hand. The ref made me give that up. A player beside me, Daryl, told me he’d help me know what to do. A whistle blew as I jumped offsides. I wasn’t pleased with how it was going. I lined up again in a different position. The game commenced without any significant highlights, except players would suggest things to me. I’d do those things, and my confidence grew.

That’s how the dream entailed. I took three lessons from it.

  1. Don’t sweat the mistakes. You’re going to make them but you can overcome them.
  2. You have more to learn.
  3. Others will help.

A very positive dream to remember.

Up My Game

In what I must consider one of my strangest dreams ever, I dreamed I was a running back in the NFL.

It was the off-season, and we – running backs – were being tested. I didn’t know this, though. The whole thing was unfolding in the dream.

I was approached by a man in athletic gear. Holding a stopwatch and clipboard, he asked me to run a course. I didn’t know who he was or why.

The course was in a high school slash…ummm…hotel. I was to run the course through the halls.

It was a funny request to me. I was in my late teens in the dream. “Okay.” Shrug. It seemed strange, but what the hell.

Only after I ran it did I begin to realize that it was a test. Players, coaches, owners and sports announcers were staying in the high school slash hotel. Then I realized the test was about rating NFL running backs. With that, I experienced memories of being in NFL games. I didn’t have many touches but I had a high yards per touch score. Watching film in my head, I saw how I could improve.

Eventually, hanging around and talking with different people, I confirmed that I was an NFL running back and we were being rated from one to thirty-two. I was eight rankings from the bottom. Doing some dream math, I determined that meant I was twenty-fourth. Not a great score, but hey, I was an NFL player with no idea how he achieved that.

I immediately began visualizing how I could improve my rating by upping my game, how to better protect the quarter then cut into the flat as another passing option. I saw how I could change the way I see the field, watch for blocks, be more patient and cut more explosively. I was dismayed that I was only five foot eight and one hundred and forty pounds but determined I could gain weight.

Then I spilled a glass of water on a carpet in a room in the dream, and the dream ended.

The glass had been half full.

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