Friday Fry-up

  1. Don’t recall any dreams from last night. Odd. Frees up about an hour of time spent thinking about my dreams. Has my dream reservoir gone dry?
  2. Went out on a shopping expedition yesterday, Albertsons and Bi-Mart. Our prey was cat food and fresh fruits and veggies. All saved one was masked up, although several wore their masks with their noses exposed. Do you not get it, man? Yes, I know, there’s psychology, perceptions, fears, and lies at work there. Just ask Herman Caine. Sorry, cheap shot. Ask Rep. Gohmert (Crazy-TX) instead. He’s the latest flag-bearer for the nonsense brigade.
  3. Florida friends tell us that people there don’t act like there’s a pandemic going on except to put on masks to enter stores, because the stores require them. Then I read an article about a study that said, yes, as expected, young adults and teens are working and clubbing, then going home and infecting more vulnerable people. It’s trending up everywhere.
  4. Going to have social-distancing brunch outside at friends’ house this AM. Just the two couples will be present. I’m ambivalent about it. Like them, but do we need the risk? I am resentful, too, as my wife (with perceived mocking tone) said to friend on phone, “Oh, he’s not doing anything.” Hello? Writing? WTF. She then said, “Oh, don’t tell me I’m interfering with your schedule.” I’m sounding bitter, so I’ll stop.
  5. Okay, I am bitter.
  6. Our fire warnings were raised to extreme today. Humidity has dropped to 15% and we’ve had several days of triple digit highs. We’re in a mild trough today, with an overnight low of 58 and a forecast high of 94 for today. Worrisome as dozens of wildfires are already burning.
  7. Stay safe, everyone. Wear masks and distance.
  8. Gonna get some coffee now and try to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Thursday Trifles

  1. Yes, I’m watching what’s happening 280 miles up the road in Portland and the Feds in there under Trump’s orders. Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I’m proud of Portland’s citizens and Oregonians pushing back. Bottom line for Trump: I believe it’s another ego play for him, but I also think he’s trying to energize his campaign and drive headlines away from the mounting COVID-19 deaths. I also think it’s a poor strategy for him. We’ll know in November.
  2. Went shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco today during elderly hours. All were masked and polite but the stores were pretty lean with customers on this warm summer Thursday. Yeah, I’m not complaining. Our bills startled me: $142 and $195, all food and staples. Then again, that’s most of the groc shop for the month. We’re saving half our monthly income because we don’t go anywhere. Small blessings, right? I’ll take them.
  3. We’ve reached our summer temps. A gentle rhythm has begun. Temps stat in the low nineties and slowly rise to 100, then drop to the low nineties again; repeat. This goes on for five to seven days. It cools to high fifties to seventy at night. We throw the windows and doors open, chill the house overnight, then seal the house the next morning. The office is the warmest room, so we run a small fan in there. We’ve yet to run the air con, knock wood.
  4. Our house floofs are loving the weather. Sleep all day in a comfy place, come in for dinner, then patrol the darkness, kibbling through the night.
  5. Unfortunately, with the summer weather come lightning strikes in the mountains and wildfires. We get smoky air and worries. Ten fires were covered in the news. We  have organizations and well-trained people to deal with it, for which I’m grateful. We stay concerned about them and their health and safety. Talk about some brave, essential people. I put them on that list.
  6. Got my coffee. You know what that means. One-handed typing is slow going, but I think my muses are flourishing with the slowdown. I’m enjoying the slow train, too, and how my pace lets more unfold. Okay, onward: I’m going to go write like crazy, at least one more time, but slowly.

Had a rona moment, calling today Tuesday when it’s Saturday. I mean, Thunesday. Whatever.

Saturday’s Theme Music

After reading the news updates yesterday, I mourned the patterns, the things we keep doing and won’t change. Haven’t we seen this show before? Assassinating leaders and promoting greater violence while claiming to be de-escalating. We’ve changed centuries; shouldn’t we change our tactics and strategy. No; they continue to fight the last war and run the last political campaign. Of course, there are some that lap it up and beg for more. 

The timing was impeccable for this murder. Australia burning, glaciers melting, people fleeing wars and droughts as other nations turn refugees away, but hey, let’s de-escalate by killing others.

Out of that, I started singing Steve Winwood’s “Freedom Overspill” (1986).

Keep on talking all you want
Well you don’t waste a minute of time
Who cares, who knows what’s true
Coffee and tears the whole night through
Burning up on midnight oil
And it’s come right back on you

Freedom Overspill
Freedom Overspill

Force of habit, you could say
The way they talk you’re talking away
Who cares, who knows what’s true
Your wounded pride is burning you up
Burning up on midnight oil
And it’s come right back on you

h/t to Metrolyrics.com cuz’ cutting and pasting song lyrics is easier.

That ‘Force of habit’ line is what hooked me. Nations, like people, fall into habits, especially as leadership and thinking diminishes. Like marketing, they think, well, this worked before. Press drumbeats follow soon. We’ve seen it happen so many times already in this young century.

It takes strength and awareness to change. Does anyone out there have it?

Snark Alert – Firewise Edition

As the weather has grown hotter and dryer every year, wildfires have become a frightening threat to our southern Oregon community. To help improve the chances of our structures surviving wildfires, Ashland participates in the Firewise USA program. Besides offering assessments on your property, the program offers building and landscaping tips to improve the chances that your property will survive.

One tip is not to have a wooden fence that attaches to the house. I mentioned that to friends as we visited with them on their back deck. “We don’t have wooden fences attached to the house.”

We were sitting on a moderate-sized wooden deck attached to their house. “What about this deck? It’s attached to your house.”

“It’s not a fence.”

Oh, I see, yes. The wildfire will burn through the wooden fence surrounding your backyard and across the trees and grass, but then will come to your wooden deck and say, “Wait! That’s not a fence. That’s a deck. We better leave this alone.” Thus their home will be saved.

Honestly.

Beyond Politics

Beyond politics (like Russia meddling, Brexit, immigration, Black Lives Matter, #Metoo, refugees, and votes of confidence), I’m trying to follow other stories. They’re mostly natural disasters.

I follow the fires out west, naturally. These directly affect me via the smoke polluting the air. I’ve notice a normalization trend emerging. Although the AQI is unhealthy today, people think, “It’s better than yesterday.” They also go without masks because they didn’t feel anything from their exposure yesterday, last week, and last month. Many don’t seem to understand the long-term impact of breathing air loaded with particulates.

I’m following the Puerto Rico recovery because they’re humans, American citizens, and they’re suffering. I’m following volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in several areas, and flooding in the U.S. and India. Our technology allows us to visit disaster scenes. I’m not certain that this is healthy.

I’m following the job situation and housing market in the U.S. Many don’t recall that the way that unemployment is tracked was changed under Dubya in the early years of this century. The change created a rosier view of the economic. Unemployment is declining, they claim, but then note that real wages are slipping for most Americans, and most Americans can no longer afford a home.

I’m following generational differences. The latest generation hasn’t been given a name yet (perhaps that’s their name, temporarily – the Nameless Generation, a reflection of how unknown they are beyond the basics), and we’re still discovering Gen Z’s trends and tendencies. It’s fascinating to see how they compare with the previous generations in their buying habits and preferences. I encounter Gen Z regularly because they’re usually the ones working in coffee shops and restaurants. They seem just like you and I, but this is also a college town, and most of them are white and come from middle-class to upper-middle-class families. I don’t think they’re necessarily representative of the rest, but I don’t know where to draw the line.

I’m following space developments (no, not the space force, thanks), and the discovery of water and exo-planets, etc. Naturally, I’m also following some cultural develops. Some cultural news seeps into my awareness without trying. It’s hard to avoid it, here in America. I’ve also been reading a lot of interviews with authors, and essays about writing. (I’ve also been contemplating other novels to write. I can’t help myself.)

What about you? What are you following?

The New Norm

I run through the checklist.

Check the Air Quality Index. We’re at unhealthy, bordering on very unhealthy. Remember, that’s an average, and it’s early. The AQI usually goes up (the air becomes unhealthy) as the temperature rises.

AQI 08062018

Checking the weather, I confirm that it’ll be in the nineties in our area, with no precipitation. (Ironically, I check Ash Station, ironic because of the fine ash that covers things after a few days.)

Forcast 08062018

It’s a mask day.

I apply my SPF 50 UV A/B lotion.

Then a hat to cover my head, and sunglasses for my eyes.

I’m ready to meet the great outdoors.

Masking up is becoming the new norm, along with skin and eye protection. It’s not truly the new norm yet. We haven’t monetized the masks.

There’s potential there.

America is a consuming, personality driven nation. I can see masks being spun to political preferences – MAGA masks, blue masks, Code Pink masks – but also to styles, personalities, and trends. Advertising can be put on masks. Budweiser and Coke can issue masks in their colors, with their logos, and give them away for free, or a discount. But two litters of Coke and get a free mask!

Pick up your mask with your Domino’s Pizza.

Or, take zombies. If you’re going to wear a mask, find a way to make it look like a zombie. Prefer Star Trek or Star Wars? Show it on your mask.

Bling can be added to the straps. The masks can be manufactured and offered in different colors. Come on, support the Pittsburgh Steelers in your Black & Gold mask. State your preference for the Oregon State Beavers in orange and black, or wear a green and yellow Duck mask to support Oregon University.

Call me a cynic (or call me Ishmael), I’m so surprised that some company hasn’t jumped all over this. I’m sure it’ll happen soon. When it does, when you finally start seeing blinged masks or masks supporting your cause or your team, then you’ll know that the new norm has arrived.

Speaking of which, I better stock up before the prices jump.

Masks

With our AQI drifting between unhealthy and hazardous in southern Oregon because of smoke from wildfires, masks are the new norm. The N95 is the most popular and the lowest level of protection that should be used if you’re outdoors.

Ashland Fire Department-chart (2)
Purple is very unhealthy and red is unhealthy. Green is good. Nice to see the air quality is improving today. We’ve not been in the yellow since 4 A.M. on July 28th.

While the masks help us stay healthy, I’ve encountered drawbacks, like it’s harder to exchange greetings and smiles as you encounter others. You can’t sip a beverage or eat anything with the mask on, and the mask makes my nostrils itch. With temperatures rising and smoky sunshine, sweat sheathes my face. The combination of breathing through a tight mask and being hot and sweating also recalls my twenty years in the military and the times when we wore our NBC gear. Ah, good times!

But, besides staying healthier, I’ve found wearing the mask protects my beard and mustache from the sun. Without the sun’s influence, my beard and mustache grows in darker and stays darker.

The darker beard and mustache don’t make me look younger, however. There’s a few other things that need to be overcome to rejuvenate my appearance. The mask, though, hiding my nose, mouth, chin, and most of my cheeks, does help with that.

Stay healthy, everyone.

The Smoke

It’s a new habit. Reaching the corner where my street meets Siskiyou, I look left.

Although there’s a soft, steady down slope, it’s a straight shot into downtown Ashland. I know that two miles away is the Ashland Springs Hotel’s yellow building. I can’t see it today. I can see the first traffic light, at Walker. That’s just under a mile away. With today’s smoke, the prevailing visibility is about a mile away, as it has been for the last three days.

Fires ring our valley, sending smoke into it. Most of the fires started on July 15 when lightning strikes lit the dry brush and trees.

Although it’s the third year that I’ve been forced to do this, I’m not used to wearing a mask to walk around. We used to do it in the military as part of our war games, during simulated attacks. They were never fun. Neither is this.

Thoughts about the fire’s causes are inevitable, as are hopes and worries for the other people driven from their homes by the fires, and fears for the animals, and concern for the land. Thoughts about the firefighters out there fighting the fires on our behalf arise, along with thoughts of thanks.

Containment is the word of the month, followed closely by conflagration. When will the fires be contained? The closest, the Hendrix Fire, isn’t that large, just one thousand plus acres. Nine miles away, it’s thirty percent contained, but it’s not the fire delivering most of this smoke. That’s an accumulation from all the fires to the north and west.

What’s striking is how the smoke changes Ashland’s character. Outdoor events are canceled, curtailed, or moved indoor, if possible. There are fewer hikers and walkers, because part of the Pacific Coast Trail is also closed. Cyclists, usually so common, are rarely seen. With the diminished visibility, we can’t see the mountains. Ashland could be a plain town, or one on the seashore.

You’d never know it, with this smoke.

 

Fitbit Holding

I’ve leveled out on my Fitbit activities and achievements. I’m averaging almost nine miles a day and twenty-three flights, which is where I’ve been for a while.

I’ve settled into this, but I looked at the whys and wherefores behind this leveling.

Weather (and smoke). We’re into summer. I love the weather, except, you know, it gets a little hot. This year is more comfortable in Ashland. We’re cruising along between the mid-eighties and the mid-nineties. Temperatures usually drop below sixty at night, so it gets cool. However, walking during the day is still a sweaty endeavor. I stay well-hydrated and push myself on some days, but after achieving ten miles, I think, “Again?” Then I permit myself to back off (see #3).

Smoke is also a factor. We’ve been fortunate this year in Ashland this year. Smoke from only one wildfire blanketed us for a few days. Last year, it was worse, with fires all around us smothering the valley. I toughed it out on many days, wearing masks when the pollution levels became a health hazard. This year, I asked, why? What am I proving, and to whom am I proving it? So when the smoke was demoralizing thick earlier this month, I curtailed walking outside and did other activities.

In all of this, I’ll share my inherent liability (for this) that I don’t like exercising at the gym. I’ve never gotten into that scene. My wife loves it, and that’s good for her. But being a stereotypical reclusive writer, I don’t go to the gym. When I was in the military, I ran a few miles a week, and played racquetball and handball three or four times a week. Once I went through a hernia and blew out a knee at the end of my military career, forcing me to moderate activities, I stopped doing those things. The end.

Time Management. There are finite hours available. More importantly, my energy levels are finite. Wrestling with where fitness piece fits into my life puzzle required priorities.

  • Number one, my writing time.
  • Personal commitments involving my spouse.
  • Socializing with my wife and friends
  • Exercising, yardwork, reading, and everything else.

My writing time is almost sacrosanct. I put it off a lot while I was in the military and then working as a civilian so that we could pay the bills. Not that I quit working, I’m pursuing my dream.

That fourth one, above, is a catchall. Yardwork must be done, in my mind. Otherwise, it bothers me. Sure, I can shrug it off for one day…a week…maybe two, but then it becomes an irritation. Besides that, with the fire threats of our area, keeping weeds down and everything trimmed back is precaution.

And I like to read. I want to read. I read. Sometimes it’s a choice: do I want to read, or walk? Well, am I doing yardwork? Cleaning the house? Washing the cars? Going shopping? What can I shuffle off for another day?

I Don’t Wanna Laziness. Sometimes I just tell myself, you deserve a break, Michael. You’re writing and doing all these things. You’re sixty-two years old, retired from two careers and working on a third. Chill for a while.

Yes, it’s a rationalization. I came to grudgingly accept it. Number one, I grew up believing you are your clean house, your neat yard, your shiny car, and your job and appearance. That’s how I was socialized. Those of you who grew up in America in the last century probably know what I’m talking about. Now I know that, no, all those things are mostly superficial. As with a lot of living and activities, there’s a balance to be found and kept.

Part of my rationalization was also recognition that I was getting a little obsessive about my Fitbit activities, trying to push myself to higher and higher levels to the detriment of other activities. I’d tell myself, you did sixty-five miles this week; do sixty-six next week. I also realized that house-cleaning, yardwork, and other chores are perpetual, never-ending activities. Cut the grass this week, and you’ll need to cut it again two weeks later. Vacuum now, and the floor will have things on it again tomorrow after people and cats go through the house (especially cats!).

So it goes.

The Beer Warning

Beer and I get along well. We go together like pizza and beer, ice cream and pie, or coffee and pastries.

The other day, we had a warning about climate change and chocolate. Each week brings another story about global warming and the increasing seriousness.

Earlier this year – 2018 – came a story about rare poisonous sea snakes being discovered in California, coming north with warming waters.

Before that, of course, were stories and warnings of wild weather swings with rapid temperature extremes, blizzard hurricanes and increasing wildfires. Before then, climate change warnings were about melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and coastal flooding that threaten cities like New York and Miami.

But a segment of population says, “Nope, climate change, and all that’s attributed to it is fake science, or a hoax, or a conspiracy, or blah, blah, blah.”

Today, a warning from Montana, where malt hops are grown. They’re not faring well there, and climate change is blamed.

Without malt hops, we’re going to have some problems with beer production. Hopefully, more will now start paying attention. The Guardian puts it in perspective in this article, from 2015.

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