Saturday, September 11, 2021

Remembering 9/11

I was in Sicily on September 11, 2001.  We were scheduled to come home the next day and were having a farewell lunch with our dear friend Anna at Lorenzo's in Taormina.

About half way through our meal we noticed that people were huddled around a radio and the volume was louder than usual.  There was no TV in the restaurant.  The information coming through was sketchy and confused, but it didn't take very long to figure out that something very bad had happened.

We spent much of the rest of the day trying to piece together the facts.  When we went to the airport the next day we still didn't know much.  No way would we be able to fly home.  We could get to London, but no further.  Fortunately, we had friends in London who could house us until the world settled down a bit.

This was a Wednesday, and it was in London that for the first time we saw pictures of what had happened.  We were in London for five days and then got a flight to San Francisco.  Like everyone, we were shocked.  The ride home was a somber affair.

As we taxied up to the gate at SFO, which would complete our trip home, outside were groups of people holding "Welcome Home" signs and American flags.  This expression of friendship and solidarity moved me to tears.  It does again as I write these words.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Where to Look First!

It's hard to figure out where to look first.

Wildfires that are forcing thousands of people to evacuate and to lose their homes and businesses.

The damage caused by Ida in Louisiana and beyond.  No power.  No potable water.  No homes.

The flash flood drownings in New Jersey and New York.  Death in stranded vehicles.  Death in basement apartments.

Afghanistan where tens of thousands of people who worked for the US and who we didn't get out are threatened by the Taliban.

Places around the world where tens of thousands of Afghans who did get out are being housed and processed on the way to who knows where under conditions that are barely tolerable at best.

The jobs report for August, which shows that the job market has slowed and new jobs are down by hundreds of thousands less than predicted.  The "experts" are blaming the Delta variant.  Maybe they're right.  Maybe.

The virus itself.  New cases up to where they were earlier this year.  Hospitalizations also up.  And deaths the same.

Political battles about masks and vaccinations.  Following the science?  Ha!

Confusion about booster shots.  Get one?  Don't get one.  Get one after six months?  After eight months.  Get a dose that is less than the first two doses?  The same as the first two.  Don't get a booster while less than 2% of the world haven't yet had a first shot?  And so on . . .

Like I say, it's hard to figure out where to look first!  

Monday, August 23, 2021

Benefit of the Doubt!

I notice that I am often willing to give Biden the benefit of the doubt.  I want the contrast between him and the last guy to be obvious and positive.  And during these first months of his presidency I've been happy with what he's done and how he's done it.  So giving him a nod of approval hasn't been difficult.

But these past ten days has tried my commitment to his success.  No problem with his decision to pull out of Afghanistan.  But big problem with how he's gone about executing his decision.  And even bigger problem with his unwillingness/inability to tell the truth about what a disaster it has been.

He's not alone of course in what seems to me to be a qualification for being a politician - refusing to admit a mistake.  So instead of being straight with us we are fed bullshit, excuses, lies on what I can only conclude is the assumption that we can't handle the truth.

So this time he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt.  We can only hope that in the end the mission is accomplished and our people and our friends are saved.  But it won't change the truth of how bad it has been.  No pass, Joe!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Where to Look First?

It's hard to know where to look first.  Competing crises are all demanding attention.

In the last few days Afghanistan leads the pack.  Mayhem.  Uncertainty.  Blame.  Heartbreaking stories from people who want to get out, whose lives are in danger, and bureaucratic roadblocks every bit as real and frustrating as Taliban checkpoints.  At this point one can only hope for a good result, but hope may give way to helpless unless positive action follows.

Haiti is once again a disaster.  Earthquakes followed by a torrential downpour and preceded by assassination, corruption and poverty.  A poster child for what a cursed place looks like.

More and more wildfires, and the fire season is just beginning.  Close to home northern California is aflame.  Overseas Greece and Turkey are burning.  Why?  Pick your reason: lightning, faulty power lines, global warming, human carelessness.  The cause doesn't really matter.  People are dying.  Homes and businesses are being destroyed.  Lives are being disrupted.  And no end in sight.

Covid is surging here and around the world.  Here, the unvaccinated are fueling the surge.  In states with low vaccination rates the medical structure is breaking down - full hospitals, no ICU beds, and a lack of staff and partisan political bickering about what to do.  In addition, confusing guidance from the CDC, FDA and the experts about booster shots and whether the vaccines protect us over time lessen our trust in what we're being told.

Refugees.  Tens of millions of people have left their homes because of war, famine, drought, or just plain fear for their lives and survival.  And this one gets worse every day.  Compassion is in short supply, so finding places to go is difficult.  For those of us who have been spared we should be grateful.

Like I say, it's hard to know where to look first!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Blame Game!

Afghanistan is gone.  Or more accurately, Afghanistan has again been taken back by the Afghans.  It was never ours to lose, because it never belonged to us.  We had an illusion that by training their army and supporting a veneer of democracy they would see the world the way we wanted them to see it.

Wasn't going to happen.  The Russians couldn't make it happen.  The English couldn't make it happen.  For them and others, and now for us, we have been taught a basic lesson - we can't make the world over in our image.

So what can we do?  Blame someone.  Biden can blame Trump.  Trump can blame Biden.  They both can blame those that came before.  The supreme irony is that now, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Taliban flag will fly over the capitol in Kabul, the same Taliban flag that flew over Kabul when Al Qaeda was sheltering in Afghanistan while planning their attack on us.

What is happening is sad, tragic for many.  Whose fault is it?  Who should we blame?  Choose one, there are many candidates.  Welcome to the Blame Game!


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Bet You Didn't Know That!

From Science Times today:

Birds seem to like collecting hair from animals and humans to better insulate their nests.  Not only will they scavenge hair from mammal carcasses, they'll steal it if they can.  Tufted titmice are the most common culprits.  Bet you didn't know that!

Giraffes are more social than we'd thought.  New research tells us that female giraffes have lunch buddies, stand guard over dead calves and stay close to their mothers and grandmothers.  They even take turns babysitting and feeding each other's young.  Bet you didn't know that!

Eating colorful fruits and vegetables may be good for your brain.  A new study found that flavonoids, the chemicals that give plant foods their bright colors, help curb forgetfulness and mild confusion that older people often complain about.  Brussels sprouts, strawberries, winter squash and raw spinach scored high.  Onions, apple juice and grapes didn't do well.  Bet you didn't know that!

Older people with Covid are showing atypical symptoms not seen so much in younger patients.  Classic Covid symptoms include fever, trouble breathing, and coughing.  People over 65, and even more so in those over 85, report functional decline - falls, fatigue, weakness, trouble getting out of bed, and altered mental status.  Bet you didn't know that!

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Piling On!

Andrew Cuomo is definitely up to his neck in foul-smelling doo doo.  For sure, he should suffer the consequences for his bad behavior.  My guess is that he isn't likely to resign, so impeachment could be the path down which he goes to lose his job.

Ok, fine.  He deserves what he gets and has brought all this on himself.  Unacceptable behavior with women and a toxic work environment for those in his office.  Case closed.

I have only one problem with the way all this is going down.  The guardians of our public morality are having a field day piling on the Gov for being such a bad boy.  The (self serving) politicians.  The (holier than thou) pundits.  The (smug) journalists.  The (unleashed) social media.  And all the rest.

What's the point?  Being smug is not a virtue.  "See, I told you so," is not a brilliant insight.  "He deserves what he gets," is not an uplifting opinion.

Let it go, guys.  Talk about something useful.  I remember during those early days of the pandemic how Cuomo's daily press briefings were a breath of fresh air in contrast to the confusion and lies coming out of the White House.  That Cuomo doesn't excuse this Cuomo, but it at least provides a context for something other than getting even with him.

Or just say nothing.  That would be a step forward!