Filed under: Alzheimer's, Book Conservation, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Emergency, General Musings, George Orwell, Government, Heinlein, Paleo-Future, Politics, Predictions, Preparedness, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: 1984, Alzheimer's, America, blogging, care-giving, civil liberties, Civil War, civilization, Communion of Dreams, Crazy Years, dementia, Donald Trump, election, Heinlein, Her Final Year, Hilary Clinton, jim downey, luck, Nazi, NPR, politics, predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, survival, technology, theocracy, Wikipedia, writing
The eighty-something man fumbled with the pocket knife he had carried his whole life. His hands trembled with age, rage, and fear, but if the hulking stranger refused to leave his house, well, then by God he’d force the man to leave!
The stranger easily took away the knife, and told the man to go back upstairs. Then he sat down on the mechanic’s stool next to his motorcycle and began to weep.
I was about 14, and had just witnessed age-related dementia for the first time.
The hulking stranger was my uncle, whom I had come to live with. The elderly man was his grandfather. We were at his grandparent’s home, using the garage under the house as a warm place to get a little work done on his bike. He and his grandparents were close, always had been. He had lived with them for a while when he was young.
* * *
President Trump is certain that he was cheated out of a popular election mandate due to voter fraud. Almost no one else agrees, and even members of his own party who are responsible for elections at the state and local level have said that there is virtually no evidence of actual fraud.
The President has also claimed that his inauguration had more people in attendance and watching around the world than any previous. The best evidence and estimates available from multiple sources do not support this claim.
I could go on.
* * *
I remember Martha Sr getting fixated on things which were weird, unpredictable. Fixated in such a way that no matter what we tried to say or do, she was certain that we were wrong. Or just lying to her. Or something.
It was almost always some strange idea or memory or object which would catch her attention seemingly out of the blue and often at the most inconvenient times. The idea that the strawberry seeds in her yogurt were necessary for completing a crossword puzzle, so she had to pick them out and keep them. Or that she was going on a train trip, and had to make sure to go get her tickets right now. It drove us completely nuts, and was one of the more difficult challenges of being care-givers. We’d try to distract her with other things, or explain that we already had her tickets and she didn’t need to worry. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes she’d go on and on and on about whatever it was which had captured her attention, returning to it for days on end.
* * *
In the aftermath of the presidential election, many people who had supported Secretary Clinton were shocked, stunned, at the outcome.
Some started looking for ways to challenge the results. First there was an effort to get the Electoral College to not affirm Donald Trump as the winner, on the basis that Russia had influenced the election. Then there was a hope that the House of Representatives would not confirm the results of the Electoral College vote. Then there were challenges made to whether President Trump could hold the office, since he was in violation of the Constitution.
I could go on.
* * *
It seems like the long-respected norms of civic behavior are finally starting to break down. They’ve been stressed for a very long time, like a marriage which has gone badly wrong, but is held together out of fear for what would actually happen if one partner were to confront the other over perceived slights or suspected betrayal.
But now someone has had enough, and said words which cannot be taken back.
The shouting, the screaming, the breaking of china in anger and frustration has begun.
Young children stand in the doorway to the kitchen, tears streaming down their face, unsure what this means or what will happen next.
* * *
Someone punched a neo-Nazi. Plenty of people cheered. It’s hard not to cheer when Nazis get punched.
The day after the inauguration, millions of people marched in protest of the new president and his administration. Plenty of people cheered. It’s hard not to cheer the affirmation of civil rights and political empowerment.
The day after that, a top-level presidential advisor ill-advisedly used the term “alternative facts” when disagreeing about the turnout at the inauguration. Plenty of people jeered at her for doing so. It’s hard not to mock something straight out of 1984.
The day after that saw the start of a number of Executive Orders and memoranda signed by President Trump, putting into motion the changes which he and other members of his party had promised. Plenty of people cheered to see the change they wanted starting. Plenty of people jeered both the spirit and the letter of the changes.
* * *
I’m not saying that President Trump has age-related dementia. Not even the first signs of it. I’m a bookbinder, not a doctor, and am in no way qualified to make such an assessment.
And I’m not saying that the rhetoric and actions from those who oppose the new administration are equivalent to the rhetoric and actions of those who have supported it.
I am saying that things have changed. I think that we are on the precipice of something akin to Heinlein’s “The Crazy Years”. Things have changed so much, and so quickly, that I have had to go back and make substantial revisions to St Cybi’s Well. Because what before was a challenge to the reader’s ‘suspension of disbelief’ has been completely superseded by our reality. It’s not the president who is showing signs of dementia — it’s our society.
And I am saying that when you accept and embrace the use of violence against a political opponent, you open yourself up to the use of violence against you by your political opponents. Because there are always justifications and rationalizations for such use, and human history is filled with the resultant wars civil and decidedly uncivil. Be very careful what you wish for.
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Music, Publishing, Science Fiction, Survival, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, music, Pink Floyd, Science Fiction, Time, video, writing, www youtube
Yeah, ten years. More than 1850 posts here (though not many in the last year). Big changes in both the history of the novel and in my life. Mostly good changes, though it has been a rough road at times.
Thanks for being part of the journey.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Brave New World, Connections, Emergency, Failure, Faith healing, Feedback, Flu, General Musings, Government, Health, Kindle, New Horizons, Plague, Politics, Predictions, Religion, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech, Terrorism, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis, blogging, Brexit, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, election, faith healing, finance, health, heart attack, Her Final Year, jim downey, luck, miracles, myocardial infarction, politics, predictions, religion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, stent, survival, technology, theocracy
2016 was odd. Just plain odd.
On the one hand, I had the same dumpster-fire of a year that everyone had, in terms of notable deaths, bizarre & unexpected election results here and abroad, and surreal news & social trends.
On the other hand, I’m alive. Which is something of a small (technological) miracle.
I now understand better (thanks to more discussion with my doctors, research, and experience) what happened with my heart, and what it really meant. Turns out that I didn’t have any plaque build-up even in the convoluted artery in question, as I initially thought. No, it was just that badly kinked, and probably had been all my life. I had started to notice it just because of normal aging, meaning that the normal parts of my heart were slowly getting weaker.
In the last six months or so I have finally been able to strengthen the 1/3 of my heart which had never had proper blood supply. Meaning that now I am actually in better cardiac health than I have ever been before. I walk three miles most mornings (5-6 days a week, usually), and don’t feel the slightest bit fatigued from it. The other parts of my 58-year-old body may limit me, but my cardiac condition isn’t a problem at all. Part of me wonders what it would have been like to have had this kind of stamina when I was young and athletic. Another part of me realizes that those limitations helped me develop awareness and self-discipline which I may have missed, otherwise.
Related to that, as mentioned in this post, early last year our financial situation stabilized for the good. We still need to be reasonably prudent about how we go through life, but I no longer feel as if I am hanging on by my fingernails sometimes. Without that change, I may not have felt secure enough to have my heart checked out when I did — meaning that I was very much at risk for the slightest little blood clot to trigger a massive heart attack.
Unrelated to any of that, the election lead-up and results also proved to be both a blessing and a curse for me. I was astonished at the results of both the Brexit and US presidential elections (and no, I’m not going to argue the point in comments — so just refrain from making any on this topic), yet it solved a problem for me with writing St Cybi’s Well. See, in the alternate time-line of Communion of Dreams, prior to the onset of the fire-flu, the US had become an authoritarian, semi-theocratic state. But I was having a really hard time explaining how we had gotten to such a point when actually writing SCW; everything I came up with just seemed too outlandish for the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.
Well, that’s not a problem any longer. No, I’m not saying that I think that the US is headed for an authoritarian, semi-theocratic state … but because of the rhetoric and rise in power of some groups both in the US and the UK, that is no longer an unimaginable future. As a result, I have been revising the finished chapters of SCW to reflect these new insights, and I think that the book will be *much* stronger for it.
So yeah, I have really mixed feelings about 2016.
Oh well, I suppose that at least I’m around to have them. And that’s a good thing.
*You should watch this sometime. Fun movie.
Filed under: Bipolar, Brave New World, Connections, Depression, General Musings, Health, Predictions, Survival | Tags: atherosclerosis, bipolar, blogging, brick walk, cardiac stent, construction, creative process, darkness, depression, exercise, genetics, health, jim downey, luck, medicine, mental health, predictions, privilege, society, stent, technology, Wikipedia, writing
As I’ve noted previously, I’m mildly bipolar, with my ‘natural’ bipolar cycle running about 18 months. I had noticed the start of a psychological downturn three or four months ago, following the intense boost that came with the discovery and correction of my cardiac artery blockage and subsequent recovery. Since I don’t usually realize that I have taken a downturn until it has gone on for a while, I’m guessing that I’m approaching the bottom of the cycle.
* * * * * * *
Some 50 years ago, my father-in-law (who I never met — he passed away before my wife and I knew each other) put in a simple brick walkway around two sides of his garden. OK, that doesn’t sound like too big a deal. But his garden was almost a full acre in size, and the walkway more than 100 yards in length. Yeah, it really is that long.
After his death, the garden was reverted back to lawn. And slowly the brick walkway was reclaimed by that lawn.
But since the house remained in the family, memory of the walkway wasn’t lost. Some time back the walk was uncovered, and for the last decade or so we did a pretty good job of keeping it clear and used. Here’s a pic of some of it:
Note the box turtle in the patch of sunlight in the upper part of the pic.
* * * * * * *
I sent this in a message to a friend this morning who had asked if I was feeling more healthy these days:
I do feel a lot stronger and more … vital. But I really don’t want to be one of those ’50-something year old guys who discover the power of exercise!’ At best, it’s annoying to most people. At worst, it’s obnoxious able-ism. My situation, both my peculiar genetic problem and my lifestyle permitting me to get a LOT of exercise time in, is extremely unusual, and not something I can claim as being due to my own effort.
Yeah, I think a lot about this.
* * * * * * *
For a couple of years we’ve talked about rebuilding the brick walkway, because while we’ve been able to keep it uncovered, it is nonetheless ‘sunk’ relative to the surrounding lawn. Meaning that it collected grass clippings and mud, tended to puddle, and retained ice and snow for a prolonged period. Plus there were sections which had been damaged by construction and heavy trucks which came into the yard to do utility and tree work.
But redoing a 300’+ length of brick walkway is no small task. To do it correctly would require a lot of work and a fair amount of expense for proper landscape edging, landscape fabric, gravel/chat, and sand. And if we were going to go to the trouble of redoing it, we wanted to do it correctly and expand it a bit.
About two weeks ago we ordered the first four cubic yards of chat, got some of the other materials, and got started. Since the edging material we’re using comes in 60′ lengths, we decided to use that as the operative size of each ‘section’ of the walkway. The first step was to remove the old brick walk:
Then expand the bed, take it down, and level it out:
Then put down the base layer of chat on top of the landscape fabric:
And then start putting down brick. Here’s how far we’ve gotten as of yesterday afternoon:
With luck, we’ll finish getting the rest of the bricks laid in this ‘section’ today or tomorrow. Then we’ll be about one-fifth through the whole project.
* * * * * * *
As I’ve noted previously, I’m mildly bipolar, with my ‘natural’ bipolar cycle running about 18 months. I had noted the start of a psychological downturn three or four months ago, following the intense boost that came with the discovery and correction of my cardiac artery blockage and subsequent recovery. Since I don’t usually realize that I have taken a downturn until it has gone on for a while, I’m guessing that I’m approaching the bottom of the cycle.
One of the things I learned long ago is that doing something constructive helps me cope with the depressive part of my bipolar cycle. By focusing on something in discrete chunks, I can slowly ‘walk’ out of my depression, since I can see tangible progress happening on something.
We probably won’t be able to finish the full 300’+ of the brick walkway before winter sets in. But that’s OK. Being able to spend a couple of hours working on the walk each day (when the weather permits) helps. It’s good exercise for my body. And it helps to keep my mind from falling too far into the darkness.
Filed under: Book Conservation, Brave New World, Connections, Emergency, Failure, Faith healing, Gardening, General Musings, Health, Predictions, Preparedness, Promotion, Psychic abilities, Religion, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Travel, University of Missouri, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, excerpt, faith healing, finance, gardening, Habaneros, health, heart attack, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, legal, luck, miracles, MU, myocardial infarction, predictions, psychic abilities, religion, science, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, stent, survival, teaching, technology, tomatoes, University of Missouri
The past few months have been … eventful.
* * * * * * *
Why? What happened?
… in no particular order:
- Discovery, and subsequent treatment, of a major cardiac health problem.
- Completion of a full course of cardiac rehab.
- A substantial change in our financial situation resulting from the sale of property we owned.
- A bunch of resultant legal and investment research, planning, and changes which every adult should do but few of us ever get around to actually completing. Something about almost dying tends to focus the mind on such matters.
- A couple of extended out-of-state trips.
- My starting to train someone from the MU library staff in proper conservation techniques a couple of afternoons a week.
- A complete new computer system & software upgrade, with all the fun of transferring archives and working files.
And then there’s all the usual business of living and working. Having a couple of months of my life sucked up by dealing with the cardiac problems & treatment meant a lot of changes and trade-offs … but it sure as hell beats being dead from a massive sudden heart attack.
* * * * * * *
So, a couple weeks ago I went through and re-read the entire text of SCW to date, then started working to pick up the story again and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Here’s an excerpt from the next section:
Darnell looked out Megan’s bedroom window, across the little lane into the large field beside the Tanat. The field, where so recently cattle peacefully grazed, was now a small village of tents and temporary structures. Most prominent among them was a large marquee someone had found and brought from a nearby town. Make-shift walls had been constructed of large plastic-wrapped round bales of hay from down the road, their tough skin making them weather and even somewhat fire-resistant. The marquee was the main recovery center, where people would be brought from the church after healing, allowed to emerge from the deep sleep at their own pace.
He turned and looked at his sister, who was sitting on the side of her bed. “There’s no reason for you to get up. We can handle it. Go back to sleep.”
There was a faint blue-white shimmer to her skin which never left her now. It wasn’t like she was glowing, exactly, but more like she had a permanent echo of the healing energy which she had used so much in the past couple of weeks. She shook her head. Darnell wasn’t sure whether it was in response to his comment, or just an effort to clear away cobwebs of sleep. “It’s better if it comes from me. I’m known as the Guardian of the Shrine. That carries some official weight with the Church.”
* * * * * * *
I got my garden in late this year. No surprise, given how things went with spring and the early summer. So my tomato plants were not as far along as they could have been when the first waves of heavy storms hit in June. Since then we’ve had fairly regular poundings of storms. And it looks like the tomatoes are almost at the end of their producing for this year — a full month or so early. But between what I harvested, and extra tomatoes picked up at the farmer’s market, I’ve put up about 60 pints of chopped tomatoes. Not quite as much as I would normally like to have, but not bad considering the situation.
And my habanero plants seem to be doing OK this year. Won’t be a bumper crop, but it ain’t nothing.
* * * * * * *
The past few months have been … eventful.
And a lot of things which normally get done, didn’t. Or were handled in a more superficial way than I would usually do.
But that’s OK.
Filed under: Connections, Failure, Feedback, Health, Humor, Society, Survival | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, choice, diet, exercise, health, http://despair.com, humor, jim downey, Limitations, luck, motivational, penguins, science, society, stent, technology, Wikipedia
No, this is not about the ongoing fiasco which is the TSA. But it certainly could be.
Rather, it’s a chuckle I thought I would share about my cardiac rehab sessions. Remember those? I started them about a month ago, with all the expected advice about diet and exercise. Since then, except for a trip to California to visit family early this month, I’ve been a good boy about going to my sessions and putting in the time and effort to meet the goals they have for people who had a couple of stents installed like I had.
Actually, let me amend that: I met all the goals they have set with my first workout session. As in, for where they want you to be at the end of 36 rehab sessions. Today, at my tenth such session I hit twice those goals. That isn’t to say that I am some perfect physical example of athletic prowess; rather, it’s that typically when people have the procedure I had done, it’s usually because they have systemic atherosclerosis with all the problems that entails. I had a genetic defect. And while I am overweight and out of shape, I’ve managed to avoid the real damage of cardiovascular disease.
Anyway, I’ve been going to rehab 2 – 3 times a week, in addition to my regular morning walks and other yard/garden work. Frankly, I mostly hate it. I hate the TVs which are always on, tuned to some inane morning show. I hate the cheery encouragement of the nurses, particularly when they want to go over yet another handout they have about reading food labels and strategies for managing portion control when eating out. And I hate the pap of “motivational posters” featuring lovely outdoor images (which are fine) with mostly trite inspirational phrases in a very distinct typographical style. There are about a dozen of these things on the walls, mixed in with yet more posters about diet strategies and charts showing exertion and pain levels.
… I noticed this one, lost in among all the others:
It’s a little hard to read, with all the reflection/distortions, but it says: “Limitations. Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can walk.”
I think that this is absolutely hilarious.
I don’t know whether it was slipped in there by someone as a joke which no one else has ever caught, or it was seeded among the others to give cynical bastards like me a chuckle, but it works. I get a laugh out of it every time I go to rehab. It makes the grim process of exercising slightly less annoying. And I think that is wonderful.
Filed under: Emergency, Health, Preparedness, SCA, Survival, Violence | Tags: cane, cardiac stent, D.I.Y., defensive, health, Preparedness, SCA, self-defense, survival, violence, walking stick
(So, been a while, eh? Yeah, it has. But no worries, things have been going very well, through a lot of minor and not-so-minor changes. More about all of that will emerge as I get back into regular blogging — you’ll see.)
A few weeks back a friend posted a question to a discussion group along these lines: what was a good, basic self-defense item which you could have under most situations which would be innocuous yet effective?
But after a bit, a general consensus which emerged was that a walking stick or cane would fit the bill. And people posted links to various such items, ranging from the very basic to the traditional to the ultra-modern. There are a HUGE selection of different options out there, if you just do a search for one. Looking through a bunch of different choices, I got to thinking that it should be pretty easy for anyone with minimal woodworking skills to make their own walking stick to their own specs, for a lot less than most of the items was seeing cost.
So I set out to see what it would take. And I set my goals:
- The stick should be made from readily available materials, with minimal tools.
- It should be completely free of all metal, so as not to arouse suspicions when being scanned.
- It should look and function as a real walking aid, not just a disguised cudgel.
- It should nonetheless be an effective defensive tool.
- It should cost $25 or less.
I stopped by a local home improvement store, and found the following:
That’s a 1.125″ rubber foot for about 50 cents, a wooden (oak) decorative cap (finial) that was about $4, and a hickory replacement handle for a sledgehammer or axe for about $14. Here’s another pic:
I chose hickory because it is well known to be a hard, dense wood. Next pic:
I removed the metal screw from the finial, then used a spade bit to expand the hole to about an inch. I used a wood rasp to make the mounting end of the replacement handle likewise about an inch in diameter.
Then I added some wood glue, and tapped the finial onto the replacement handle.
I did the basic shaping of the finial into a knob suitable for my (large) hand.
Here’s the top of the finial. I inserted a bit of .375″ dowel into the hole with some wood glue, then allowed it to dry. When it was dry, I rasped the whole thing down to a smooth hemisphere about the size of a tennis ball.
That’s the overall stick. It’s about 37.5″. Note that it is no longer quite the same size or shape of an axe handle — I spent an hour or so with the wood rasp, and took it down a fair amount. There it’s smooth, mostly uniform (no longer has as much of a swell in the wood up by the head), and about .25″ narrower and thinner.
This just shows the finished width of the handle — about 1.5″. It’s also just about 1.25″ thick. Both of those dimensions are a little larger than your typical commercially-available cane, but it no longer looks like an axe handle. After I was done with the rasp, I smoothed it out with some 60-grit sandpaper, then some 120-grit, then some 220-grit. I wanted it smooth and ‘finished’, but wasn’t worried about it being super smooth.
I then gave it three coats of urethane stain (dark walnut), sanding lightly between each with 600-grit sandpaper. Then I added the rubber foot and a simple braided leather lanyard.
Another detail of the head.
Holding it with the lanyard around my wrist.
That’s it. Simple, effective cane/walking stick. Nothing metal or high-tech about it to alert someone that it is anything other than a walking stick. Total cost under $20, since I already had some simple tools, sandpaper, and stain on hand. And a total of a couple hours of labor.
Something I want to note: the handpiece/finial is not intended as a striking surface. You don’t need any additional bulk or weight there for this to be a very effective defensive tool. It’s more like the pommel on a sword. In fact, the overall length, heft, and other measurements is very similar to the rattan broadsword used in SCA combat. As such, I know full well just how effective such a tool can be against another opponent in even confined spaces. And now that I’m an old guy with a couple of cardiac stents in place, I need a good walking stick with me no matter where I go …