Communion Of Dreams


My ambivalent year.*

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.

Happy New Year. Remember, today (and the first of every month until I say otherwise), both Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year are available for free download.

 

Jim Downey

*You should watch this sometime. Fun movie.

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Why yes, as it happens I *am* still alive …

The past few months have been … eventful.

* * * * * * *

A couple of weeks ago I got back to work on St Cybi’s Well. Yeah, the break since I finished Chapter 14 was much needed, as I had hinted in my last cluster of blog posts at the end of May.

Why? What happened?

Well …

… 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.

 

Jim Downey



47 hours.

In about 47 hours I’ll be on the shuttle to the airport.

* * * * * * *

There was a news item I saw the other day which indicates that this year’s extreme temperature records are starting to convince more Americans that global climate change is real.

Every summer it seems like a different kind of out-of-control weather pattern decides to strike. In the past month alone, we’ve experienced deadly Colorado wildfires, early-season heat waves and a wind-whipping hurricane, convincing formerly dubious Americans that climate change is actually real, according to the Associated Press.

“Many people around the world are beginning to appreciate that climate change is under way, that it’s having consequences that are playing out in real time and, in the United States at least, we are seeing more and more examples of extreme weather and extreme climate-related events,” Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the AP.

* * * * * * *

A month ago:

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said he was “dead wrong” when he dismissed media reports over trading in the bank’s chief investment office two months ago as “a complete tempest in a teapot.”

“When I made that statement I was dead wrong,” Dimon said in his Senate Banking Committee hearing on Wednesday, pointing the finger at the former chief investment office head Ina Drew, who Dimon said assured him that “this was an isolated small issue and that it wasn’t a big problem.”

* * *

Dimon abruptly disclosed last month that JPMorgan has suffered at least $2 billion of trading losses in a few weeks. The estimate of the trading losses has since increased to $3 billion and maybe more, although Dimon reiterated in Washington that he expects the bank’s second quarter to be solidly profitable and suggested the losses are under control.

Today:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Investors are gearing up for a week full of earnings reports and domestic news, but Europe will once again be hard for U.S. investors to ignore.

Dozens of companies are set to kick off earnings season this week. All eyes will turn to JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) on Friday, as the company will post its trading losses tied to its bad hedge from its London unit.

Some estimate that the loss could be as high as $9 billion, though the bank’s chief executive officer, Jamie Dimon, said back in May that the loss then stood at $2 billion.

* * * * * * *

My garden is about fifty paces behind our house, in a lovely large & open area. There are large trees closer to the house, but nothing back further, so it gets plenty of sun. Decades before we moved in my (to-be) father-in-law maintained a large truck garden there. He had a good eye for the spot.

Every three days for the last few weeks I make multiple trips out to the garden, swapping the feed on the soaker hoses.  Each hose is laid out to water two clusters of plants. And I run each one for about 20 minutes. This whole process takes two hours.

Today, as I walked out to the garden, for the first time I noticed the crunch of dry grass underfoot. I had been watching as the lawn slowly turned increasingly brown, but this was the first time I noticed the actual sound of the grass breaking underfoot.

91% of Missouri is now under what is officially described as either “extreme” or “severe” drought conditions.

* * * * * * *

You’ve been screwed:

The biggest scandal in the world right now has nothing to do with sex or celebrities. It’s about an interest rate called LIBOR, or the London Interbank Offered Rate.

* * *

LIBOR, as it turns out, is the rate at which banks lend to each other. And more importantly, it has become the global benchmark for lending.

Banks look at it every day to figure out what they should charge you for not just home loans, but car loans, commercial loans, credit cards. LIBOR ends up almost everywhere.

Gillian Tett, an editor with the Financial Times, says that $350 trillion worth of contracts have been made that refer to LIBOR.

So literally hundreds of trillions of dollars around the world, all these deals, are based on this number. Now we find out this number might be a lie. At least one bank was tampering with that number for their own profit.

This past week Barclay’s Bank was fined $455 million, and two senior executives (the chairman and the CEO) resigned as investigation into the scandal started to turn up evidence of the scope of the market-rigging.  But many people familiar with the industry say that this is just the tip of the iceberg — that there will likely be a number of other multi-national banks proven to have participated.

* * * * * * *

Climate change? Climate change.

Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change

Fig A2

Line plot of global mean land-ocean temperature index, 1880 to present, with the base period 1951-1980. The dotted black line is the annual mean and the solid red line is the five-year mean. The green bars show uncertainty estimates. [This is an update of Fig. 1A in Hansen et al. (2006).]

Figure also available as PDF, or Postscript. Also available are tabular data.

(I don’t put up with climate change denial here. Take it to your own blog.)

* * * * * * *

Perspective:

Leaders shape the frame of argument.  They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition.  They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob.  When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics.

Greece is a good place from which to think about this.  You don’t have to go back to Agamemnon or to Plato; living memory—the civil war, the colonels, very recent memory indeed offer regular reminders of the fragility of government by consent of the governed.  Words matter here, and have for millennia.

So it is in this place, with that history in mind, that I am reminded once again that the habit of dismissing crap like that spewed by Nicholson and Davis as wingnuts being wingnuts is not acceptable.  The speakers themselves may not count for much, but for a nominally civil society to allow such speech to pass without massive retaliation, actual leadership from those who would lead from that side…well, that’s how individuals get hurt, and democracies die.  It’s happened before, not many miles from where I sit as I write this.

* * * * * * *

In about 47 hours I’ll be on the shuttle to the airport.

Of course, I don’t have everything done which needs to be done. And I really shouldn’t have taken the time to put together such a long and wide-ranging post.

But I wanted to take a moment and thank those who bought books yesterday. It may have been prompted by yesterday’s blog entry, it may not — I have no way of knowing. But thank you. It wasn’t a big day for sales, but it was a nice bump up from the single sale the day before.

I won’t be traveling to Greece, but to Rome. And it won’t surprise me if I find a new perspective or two while I’m there. I’m hoping that the change will allow me to integrate some of the many things I have been thinking about concerning the next book.

Things like spontaneous combustion. It seems that the world is ripe for it.

Again.

Jim Downey