Dale Says

May 3, 2021

On My Birthday 2021

Filed under: On My Birthday — Mr. D @ 11:53 am

On my birthday I am 70 years old. It’s a big ‘un, during a very strange time. After the past year of pandemic, politics, and pandemonium, I’m convinced that people age faster during difficult times. The past year has seemed a lifetime.

The concept of being 70 crept up on me a little at a time, beginning about a year ago. I’m not afraid of being 70, but there is a stronger sense of mortality and an urge to get on with things. And yet it’s difficult because of the pandemic. I can’t travel now, for example, at least in the traditional, overseas sense. And I haven’t been able to see friends, although that’s starting to change. And my writing career is stymied, but not wholly because of the pandemic.

A brief story about being 70: I recently had a delightful email exchange with a college student in Oregon who had purchased one of my Simon & Garfunkel record albums at a used record store. It had my name on it and he sought me out and asked if I wanted it back. The name on the front of the album is in my handwriting, and I clearly remember that being one of my favorite albums. He told me he loves 60s music and he listens to it when he and his dad take road trips. He asked me what my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs are. I told him “Sounds of Silence” and “Old Friends” and I sent him the lyrics. You probably remember “Old Friends” about two old men sitting on a park bench. One of the final lines is “How terribly strange to be 70”.

And now, experiencing it in person, I have to agree — it is terribly strange!

Yes, it is strange to be seventy. Very strange! But you know what … it was strange to be 60. I remember a rather lengthy period of pouting then. And 50 … a half-century … that was the end of middle age, and that was a tough one, too.

So maybe it’s birthdays that end in zero that are strange. And yet, each of them has introduced me to a decade that was even better than the one before. I hope this is the same.

***

There is no way I could have made it through the past year without Patty. She is my rock and my inspiration. She encourages me and supports me and loves me all the time, even when I’m a pain. We have loved each other, and been with each other, and explored the world together for over 30 years. Together, always together. I’m stronger, and more adventurous, and an overall better person when I’m with her.

***

Physically, I feel good. Over the past year I’ve had some sciatica issues, and troubles with my right foot required visits to a podiatrist. But by my birthday I can say that my overall pain level is low and I can keep it that way by stretching and exercise.

Emotionally, I’m a little worn out. The craziness of the times and the past “pandemic” year have been hard on me, and they’ve slowed me down a little. That’s given me a chance to sit back and assess things.

All things considered, I’m happy with who I am and where I’m at on the day of my big ‘un. It’s been a tough year, but I’ve come through it in pretty good shape. I’m strong, and vital, and have things to look forward to.

***

The world is still in a pandemic, which has been going on for more than a year. The worlds is in the midst of another wave of cases and deaths, in some places. Cases and deaths are increasing in India, South America, parts of the Middle East, and a few U.S. states. We’re all tired of it, and it seems the world is about to explode. We hold our breaths and hope that vaccinations will roll out soon enough to contain this virus spike and prevent others. People are weary and miss their normal lives: kids haven’t been in school, parents have been working from home, businesses have been shut, travel has been severely curtailed.

The pandemic has roiled global economies, upset the lives of everyone on earth, and taken more than three million lives, including 600,000 in the U.S. The worlds is in the middle of a third (or fourth) surge of the virus, and variants of the virus are appearing that are more contagious, and maybe deadlier. Vaccines have been available for a few months, and countries are getting them into peoples’ arms as quickly as possible. It’s amazing how well it is working, at least in the more developed countries! In the U.S., about one-third of the population have been vaccinated. Patty and I had our two shots a couple of months ago, so we feel protected. We still wear masks when we go out, and we still practice social distancing in public.

Living through the past year has been a challenge. We are fortunate to be retired and not raising kids because the pandemic has been hardest on working people with school-age children (who haven’t gone to school for a year). For us, restrictions meant we couldn’t travel, or see friends or family, and we haven’t had a meal in a restaurant for a year. So we spent a lot of time in our house last year. As the months went on, we made adjustments and we began to see Patty’s brother, then my brother and his wife, and we started going for outdoor hikes with Ken and Vicki. That helped, and it made our lives seem a little more normal.

***

My writing career has had ups and downs; mostly downs the past year. My book about San Francisco people did not sell well and, if the truth be told, hardly sold at all. That has been a disappointment. I worked on it for four years, and I thought it would be a hit, but it hasn’t been (it has sold less than 300 copies). It was not well received by local bookstores. I dropped off copies (with notes) at more than a dozen bookstores and never got a call back. I appealed to bookstores and history associations to give talks about the book and never got a call back. I advertised it on Facebook, and ran promotions on Goodreads, and ran an ad in a local newspaper – but I received only a handful of orders. I did presentations on Zoom, which were well-received, but didn’t result in book orders. I donated copies to a local senior program, which resulted in requests for me to make a couple of video presentations, but didn’t increase book orders.

I’m not sure why the book didn’t go over better, but I am beginning to suspect (from the reviews on Amazon) that some people didn’t like the brevity of the stories, while other people didn’t care for the illustrations.

It’s been a disappointment.

***

Over the past year I put together a collection of my short stories about people, added articles by my mother and Aunt Margaret, and added a more personal chapter with articles about my sister’s struggle with Covid-19, my mother’s dementia, and a summary of my birthday stories. I published the collection in a book called “Good People.” I didn’t try to sell it, but instead sent it to friends and relatives. It has been well-received (by those who read it), and I’m satisfied with how it turned out. And I published a book about the Dashiell Hammett society I belong to with background information on the group and meeting minutes I’ve written over the past 20 years. Again, I didn’t try to sell it, but am giving it to society members, friends, and a few family members.

***

My sister Anne had an incredible struggle with Covid. She was in the intensive care unit of a Portland hospital for seven weeks (on a ventilator for more than two weeks) and in a rehab unit for another three weeks. Patty and I drove to Portland to see her when she was released and to stay with she and Buzz to help her recover. She was thin and weak, but she had a positive attitude and recovered somewhat over the summer. Her recovery was a remarkable tribute to the U.S. healthcare system and Anne’s determination. Since getting home, she has struggled to regain her strength and balance. I continue to be impressed with her strength and perseverance.

***

Our group gatherings have been less frequent and smaller the past year. We stayed in touch on Zoom for a while and held gatherings in Misty’s garage, or wherever we could safely get together, and instead of the whole gang getting together we have had family members or a couple of friends over for holidays and special occasions. We crave time with family and the gang.

***

Over the past years I have developed an appreciation for Pt. Reyes National Seashore, and I love spending time there. Last Fall, I found a cottage to rent that really fit us, and Patty and I stayed there a week each month from November through March. It was a great change of pace from our routine in San Francisco, and we enjoyed the beauty and solitude. We loved having friends and family members join us. The nights were especially memorable with coyotes howling at the moon, wind shaking the trees, and quiet. It was just what we needed!

***

We managed to fit in a couple of driving vacations, despite the virus situation. We went to Drakesbad in August for four days. There were just five of us this year, as the rest were concerned about the virus. It was a good getaway, and we enjoyed the change of scenery, hiking, and stargazing at night.

Patty and I drove to Oregon just after Christmas, to spend time with Anne, Buzz, and Ian. The drive was long, but good, and the time with Anne was special.

***

Our Dashiell Hammett group continued to meet during the pandemic. We met in person last March just as the pandemic was shutting things down, and then we met on Zoom for a while which wasn’t very satisfactory. So, we met in person, outside one of our houses. The group has lost a little of its previous spirit and some of the meetings were a little tense, but we are all happy we continued to meet.

***

I have continued to volunteer, although the focus shifted from serving meals to shopping for people who can’t leave their homes because of health issues and the virus. For the past year I have gone shopping for groceries and supplies for three elderly women, including Ina. It has made for some long Fridays. But the women have been grateful, and that has been a good reward.

I have continued to support several local organizations with donations; including Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, NEXTVillage, Smuin Ballet, the San Francisco Symphony, Pt. Reyes, and the San Francisco History Association.

***

The pandemic was the major news item over the past year. As the death toll grew (100,000 in June 2020, to 300,000 in January, and 500,000 in March) state and local leaders tried their best to contain it and prevent illness and death. But hospitals and health care workers were overwhelmed in many states. As the situation worsened some state and national leaders turned it into a political issue – refusing to mandate or enforce safety measures, rebuking those who did, attacking health care leaders, and endorsing questionable measures to contain or cure the virus. By April of 2021 there were more than 500,000 deaths from the virus in the U.S. and over three million worldwide.

***

The world lost a trailblazer and champion of truth when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last September. She spent a lifetime fighting for women’s rights and served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death left a huge void that will take a long time to fill.

***

The U.S. has been in disarray much of the past several years, with deep divisions and a great deal of anger over the appropriate future direction. Some of it has merit, as income and racial inequities are increasing, but much of the rage is over “perceived” inequities and fear by whites that they are losing their majority and traditional way of life. Those perceptions and fears have been exploited by Trump, opportunistic members of congress, and right-wing media. There seems to be little interest in actually fixing the country’s problems; instead, most of the rhetoric centers on power and resentments. Meanwhile, the big issues like immigration, climate control, gun violence, and racial unrest fester.

Under those circumstances, we all held our breaths last November when we went to the polls to choose between Trump and Biden. On election night Patty and I were glued to our televisions, hopeful but gravely concerned. Trump was ahead much of the night as in-person votes were tallied. Then, as the night wore on Biden started to catch up, and as more mail-in ballots were counted he pulled ahead. A handful of states would decide it – including Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona. The first three were called for Biden, and then Fox News, which had been Trump’s propaganda arm the past four years, declared Biden had won Arizona. Trump’s people tried to pressure Fox executives to change their call, which was refused.

Near midnight, Patty started to get ready for bed. That’s it, we both thought, Biden has won. But wait, was Trump going to concede, or would he do something crazy? He is a reality TV guy, after all. News organizations were told that Trump would make an announcement. A concession speech, we wondered. No, that’s not his style. Then what?
About midnight (West Coast time) Trump walked to a podium and proclaimed that he had won the election, there was wide-spread election fraud, and he walked off.
We were flabbergasted! Trump continued to say that for the next two months, and he sent cronies to pivotal states to file lawsuits to overturn voting results. He summoned state election officials to the White House and asked them to change state voting results. He called other state election officials and asked them to “find” enough votes to make him the winner. Court after court and election official after election official said “no” — there’s no fraud – certainly not enough to overturn the election. Trump’s own election official said this was a clean election, so Trump fired him. There were re-counts, and challenges, and Trump continued to say the election was rigged and he had really won.

While Trump continued his “big lie” right-wing news organizations perpetuated it on air. That got Trump’s supporters worked up and they vowed to overturn the election. Finally, the day came (January 6) when the United States Congress was to certify the electoral college results. Trump’s supporters planned a huge rally in Washington D.C. to support their hero. When the day arrived, there were thousands of Trump supporters in the nation’s capital — with Trump flags, and American flags, and baseball bats, and bear spray — ready to do whatever needed to be done to accomplish their goals, whatever those were. Trump sent out sycophants to rile up the crowd, and then Trump himself came out and told the crowd the election had been stolen from him, and he encouraged them to march to the capitol building where he would join them. They did, but he didn’t. When they reached the capitol building, they stormed it — fighting police, trampling barricades, breaking windows and doors, entering the building, stealing furniture, photographing documents, trying to locate election results, and threatening to hang the Vice President.

Patty and I watched it on television in disbelief! It was an insurrection, in the U.S. capitol building, incited by a U.S. president!

It took several hours and thousands of police and national guard soldiers to clear the miscreants. Five people died in the process. At first Trump refused to call it off, and by the time he asked his supporters to go home the damage was done.

Despite the horror and chaos, Trump continued to say the election was stolen from him and he had really won, and he continues to say that today. He has never conceded the election, refused to go to Biden’s inauguration, and left town before the inauguration began. Today, half of his supporters continue to believe the election was fraudulent and Trump really won. Meanwhile, some states run by Republican governments are changing election laws to make it harder to vote – out of fealty to Trump and fear of his backers.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting a riot. That gave Trump the distinction of being the only U.S. president to be impeached twice. Republicans in the Senate refused to convict him, using the excuse that the Constitution doesn’t allow a president who is no longer in office to be convicted.

The world watched and couldn’t believe this was happening in the country that used to be leader of the free world. “How sad,” my friends from other countries wrote to me, “What has happened to your country?”

***

The past year has been a terrible one for the United States and the world. More than three million lives have been lost to a virus (many unnecessarily), and the damage the virus has had on economies will take years to recover.

The past year has been a challenging one for me. Spending the last year of your 60s in “lockdown” has been hard. Having a major writing project fall on its face has been discouraging. And not being able to travel or see family and friends has been tough. But over the past year, Patty and I comforted ourselves by realizing that Anne is alive and recovering and we are in a very good house in a very good city and we have each other. That, more than anything else, will get us through.

Things are beginning to turn around. Vaccinations are proceeding quickly, and new virus cases are decreasing. Stores and restaurants are re-opening, and more-and-more public events are being held in person. Soon we will be able to see family and friends, and one day we will be able to do it without masks and social distancing.
Competent, caring leadership is in charge in California and in the U.S., and we seem to be moving in the right direction.

So, there is hope that reason and truth will prevail, good people will undo the damage done by bad people, and the pandemic will come to an end.

That’s something to cling to.

May 1, 2019

On My Birthday 2019

Filed under: On My Birthday, Uncategorized — Mr. D @ 2:32 pm

On my birthday, I am 68 years old. This year I spent my birthday at Pt. Reyes with Patty, my brother John, and his wife, Eva. It was a wonderful way to spend a “tweener” birthday; hiking, enjoying the beautiful wildflowers, and relaxing. And it was quite different from my birthday a year ago, which I spent in Oregon with my sister Anne, helping her with radiation treatments and worrying about her health.

The past year has been good for me. Patty and I continue to be in love, get along well, and explore the world. We continue to spend time with good friends and family and to try to make the most of this very special portion of our lives.

We were able to enjoy a lot of travel over the past year; including to London, the Cotswolds, and Scotland in May, Seattle for a wedding in June, Nebraska to see family in July, Drakesbad with friends in August, Michigan with friends in October, Argentina and Uruguay in November, and Bhutan in March.

I continue to write, which is satisfying. Publishing my writing hasn’t been successful nor satisfying, however, as I have run into obstacles. Patty and I were able to self-publish a collection of travel articles and photographs (which we called The Places You’ll Go) in March. My San Francisco book ran into problems, however, when the publisher we chose discovered copyright questions over some of the images in it. I spent three months locating photographers, obtaining copyrights, and overseeing the making new images. At the end of that exercise, the publisher found a few other minor issues, and when pressed revealed that he didn’t really like the images we proposed. So we are switching publishers, and have now decided to use a small Bay Area company to help us publish it. The other book (Good People) is finished, but it will sit until we are able to publish the San Francisco book. All of that has been a little depressing for me. At this point, a good deal of my self-worth is pegged to my writing, and struggling to produce a high-quality published book has me down. I find myself less enthusiastic about starting new writing projects, and a little less cheerful about life in general.

Patty and I spent time with local friends throughout the year, and we enjoyed the San Francisco Symphony, Smuin Ballet, SF Playhouse, PEO State Convention in San Jose, Healdsburg with Peter and Carol, a baby shower at our house in June, and lots of house guests throughout the year. We hosted Christmas at our house, and Anne, Buzz, and Ian spent New Years with us, and Anne’s much-improved health was very gratifying.

I continue to dedicate part of my free time to helping people; especially our friends Norman and Michael, and my special friend, Ina. And I continue to volunteer every Friday at Tel-Hi, and to donate to several organizations; including the Smuin Ballet, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Tel-Hi, and the San Francisco Symphony. It’s good to be able to help those very worthwhile organizations.

While most aspects of my personal life are going well and my health is good, there are troubling trends emerging about overall social and political aspects of life. I have documented some of these in previous birthday writings, so I won’t dwell on the details here. Suffice it to say that the world I live in is increasingly divided, self-centered, and angry, which affects nearly every aspect of our lives.

San Francisco and California continue to hum along, with lots of money and high lifestyles, but few solutions to nagging problems like high living costs, poverty, homelessness, and wildfires. Still, it’s a peaceful and prosperous place to live, if you can overlook those downsides.

The U.S. isn’t faring quite as well. While the overall economy is doing great, there is a huge amount of social unrest and divisiveness, and while it’s calmed somewhat since the presidential election in 2016, there continues to be unrest, anger, resentment, and a growing sense that something needs to change. Ever since Trump was elected president there has been a growing divide between conservative and liberal groups, with no sign that anyone is trying to bridge the differences. Trump purposely plays to his base by insulting allies and opponents, making outrageous claims, lying, and enacting policy that he knows will antagonize others. The media is all over it, but he has done such an effective job of casting doubt on the truthfulness of the media with his base (he repeatedly says they write “fake news” and calls them “the enemy of the people”), that few of his supporters believe any source of news except Fox News or the president himself. And so half of the U.S. believes the leader of the country is a deranged, lying bully and the other half believes he was sent by God to lead them to a faith-based, conservative nirvana. That’s where it now sits, and there seems to be little that will change their minds.

The Mueller Report, which the U.S. anxiously waited two years to see, finally came out last month. It found that Russia did purposely interfere with the U.S. elections in 2016, but that the Trump campaign and administration did not knowingly coordinate in those efforts. However, it documented numerous attempts by Trump and his people to obstruct the investigation into that interference, but declined to press criminal charges. At first, Trump and his cronies praised Mueller, his team, and the report saying that it “fully exonerated” him. But, when the full (except for redacted portions) report was released and studied, it became apparent that Trump had indeed made numerous immoral and possibly illegal moves, and there were many more stopped by his staff. Now, numerous investigations into those activities are starting in the House of Representatives, all of which are being opposed and in some cases stonewalled by Trump.

The Democrats are offering a huge number of candidates to run against Trump in 2020; including mayors, congressmen, senators, businessmen, and a former vice president. It will be entertaining to see which of the two dozen candidates rises to the top.

There are warning bells going off throughout the world on a number of topics – signs that a larger crisis is near. Huge numbers of people are on the move throughout the world, driven from their homes by hunger, unemployment, war, drought, famine, and political unrest. Those millions of people seeking a better life in new lands are causing unrest in the countries where they are trying to settle, and a backlash is underway in more economically-advanced countries; including the U.K., Germany, Hungary, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, and the U.S. Some residents (including people we know and respect) do not want more immigrants in their country, because they fear they will change their culture and lifestyles. In some cases, severe reactions are being taken to prevent more immigration (including Brexit and the Trump anti-immigrant responses). Clearly, building a 30-foot high wall across a country’s entire southern border is a desperate and antiquated response, but that’s what a sizeable portion of the U.S. population (including the current president) support.

So, how to resolve those issues? No one has a solution. Instead, it has become personal, and each side is intent on destroying the reputation and credibility of the other side in order to advance their case. The angry and divisive responses on both sides are now fueling harmful rhetoric and hate crimes, which are on the increase in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The U.S. economy is strong, which further supports the short-term solutions that have been taken to prop it up. Having reduced tax rates to please their voting base and give a short-term stimulus to the economy, the Republican Party now ignores massive resulting increases in federal debt, and is instead touting low employment and a strong stock market as signs that their measures are working.

The election of Trump and a Republican majority in the Senate also mean that many federal regulations that protect clean air, clean water, oceans, and national parks are being cancelled. That will surely have long-term negative effects. Similarly, cancelling international treaties and alliances, imposing tariffs on allies, bullying weaker nations, and insulting friends and foes around the world will most likely cause the U.S. to lose our global leadership and invoke future reactions against us. The damage that the current administration is doing will surely have negative impacts for years.

In other areas, homelessness is becoming a larger problem in many parts of the U.S. Many millions of dollars are being spent to reduce the number of homeless people and to get them back into society, but at this point it does not seem to be making a difference. San Francisco’s new mayor (London Breed) seems to be intelligent and forceful, but does not seem any more capable of resolving this major issue than her predecessors. Gavin Newsom, California’s new governor, couldn’t resolve the issue when he was mayor of San Francisco, and I doubt he can affect it from Sacramento. At least he does have a strong economy to work with, and budget surpluses.

In other areas, in a year without any standout movies the upbeat film Green Book won the Academy Award for best picture; Olivia Colman won best actress for The Favourite and Rami Malek won best actor for Bohemian Rhapsody. The Golden State Warriors won the National Basketball Championship last year, and the New England Patriots won the Superbowl. Our local football and baseball teams (the 49ers and Giants) are mired in or near the bottom of their respective divisions.

On My Birthday 2018

Filed under: On My Birthday, Uncategorized — Mr. D @ 2:32 pm

“Each day is a new beginning; that’s why the sun comes up.“

On my birthday, I am 67 years old. I woke early today and watched the sun rise over the hills at the Oregon coast. I am in Oregon on my birthday this year, with my sister, Anne, and her husband, Buzz. This is a special birthday for me because I get to spend it with them.

About a month ago, Anne fainted while volunteering at a local school. She had a seizure and woke up in an ambulance, on the way to a hospital. She was transferred to a larger hospital in Corvallis, where tests were administered. She had lesions in her brain and one on her left lung. The brain was the most immediate concern, as there were 10-12 large lesions there. After several consultations, she opted for a biopsy, which was positive, and she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which appeared in her brain and lung. She had surgery, which removed two of the tumors in her brain, and when the wound healed, she scheduled full-head radiation therapy, to shrink the remaining tumors. As of today, she has completed seven of the ten scheduled treatments, with the remaining three to be this week.

Anne has an uncertain future. She has stage IV cancer in major, vital organs. She is relatively young (63), in excellent physical condition, and has taken care of her body, so she is well-equipped to fight the battle ahead of her. Her oncologist told her that people do survive this, so she is determined to give it her best. She is also realistic, knows the odds are against her, and is prepared for whatever lies ahead.

My dear sister’s illness has hit me hard. If she were to die it would be a very hard loss for everyone associated with her, including me. It’s made me introspective; I realize that I may not have a lot of years ahead, and that the ones I have left may not include the people I love the most. And that makes me want to make the most of every day left to me.

The past year has been very good for me. Patty and I continue to be in love and to get along well. We spend time with good friends and family and we try to make the most of this very special portion of our lives.

We were able to enjoy a lot of travel over the past year; including the U.K. in May, New York in June, family reunions in June and September, Drakesbad in August, Oregon in August (for Anne’s birthday and the solar eclipse), and Amsterdam and the Balkans in September.

I am continuing to write, which is very satisfying to me. After the Balkans trip, I hunkered down, re-wrote the San Francisco book, and went to work on a book of short articles about people.

Patty and I spent time with local friends in the fall and winter, and we enjoyed the San Francisco Symphony, Smuin Ballet, two trips to Parajo Dunes, and lots of house guests. It was a time of adventure and joy, but also a time of loss, as our good friends, Ruth Diefenbach and Lee Tyree, died in October. Patty and I suffered (and still suffer) their loss. The year-end holidays were a little funky without those two close friends, and with having to quickly throw a Christmas party together when Sue backed out of hosting it. Anne, Buzz, and Ian spent New Years with us, which was healing.

Loss of close friends has been hard to bear, and it weighs on both of us every day. It’s different than losing an uncle, or an aunt, or a parent. It’s loss of a peer, which not only brings grief, but reminds us of our mortality.

The past year has also been difficult as we watch our country go backwards on many fronts. I am now beginning to understand how our conservative friends and relatives must have felt when they saw the U.S. adopt policies that used tax revenue to help the disadvantaged, encouraged equality and diversity, and promoted diplomacy and globalism. It’s a feeling of helplessness – of an avalanche coming toward you with no way of stopping or diverting it.

For me, it has been frustrating and maddening to watch the loss of leadership, values, and decency in my country over the past year. It was such a bizarre year – one that historians will write about for centuries. Beliefs that had held the world together for generations; including cooperation, compassion, and civility were thrown aside in favor of a selfish, hateful, and short-sighted course of national interest and isolation. John Diaz, of the San Francisco Chronicle put it this way:

It was that kind of year. Strange happenings all around, from epic weather catastrophes to the first total eclipse to cross the United States in 99 years to a president so tethered to Twitter and untethered from reality that the Washington Post counted more than 1,500 false or misleading claims in his first year in office.

Political, social, and financial behavior in the United States has taken a much more selfish, basic, and coarse path over the past year. Our political leaders and half of our society are now determined to follow whatever course brings them the most gain, whether it is best for the world or not. People living among us relish Trump getting back at the “coastal elites” and they chuckle at his outrageous behavior. Neo-Nazis openly march in our cities and preach hatred for Jews and Muslims. Republican politicians encourage and support deviant behavior, and they openly spew vitriol and hatred toward members of the opposition party. This is from the people who are supposed to be our leaders, and to set good examples for us.
Congressional Republicans secretly drew up and passed (without hearings) sweeping tax legislation that primarily benefits large companies and the wealthy (and hurts middle-income taxpayers in states such as California with high wages and high state and local taxes). They passed a budget that increases spending for the military and will significantly increase our deficits for years. Trump criticized the media, attacked the FBI and Justice Department (who work for him), and repealed legislation that would benefit the environment, the poor, and the needy. He fired James Comey, the head of the FBI, who wouldn’t swear loyalty to him. He insulted everyone who crossed him, made up belittling nicknames for his opponents, and withdrew from global treaties.

Immigrants have been blamed for crime and economic difficulties, and they are being rounded up by armed military forces and deported, many for no other reason than coming to the U.S. without permission. Huge swaths of people are not allowed to come to the U.S., many from mostly-Muslim countries, because right-wing Americans fear that Muslims are evil and intend to kill Christians. Rural and right-wing Americans fear losing their culture and way-of-life, and they attack people and groups that are not white, heterosexual, and Christian.
Gun violence is increasing in America. School shootings and mass shootings in public venues are common and occur nearly every day (including 59 people slaughtered by a single gunman in Las Vegas, 26 parishioners in Texas, and numerous smaller mass shootings). No political leaders have the courage to do anything about it; instead they offer “thoughts and prayers” to victims after each shooting. After a school shooting in Florida in which a teenage former student killed 17 high school students, the student survivors rose up and demanded gun control measures. Trump met with them and promised to take action to prevent future school shootings. But after meeting with the NRA, Trump changed his mind and offered that schools should arm teachers, repeating the NRA slogan that “the best way to stop bad guys with guns is with good guys with guns,” and to promote more guns. Students who survived school shootings were they ignored by the president and state and federal legislators, and they were criticized by adults on social media for their lack of knowledge about some technical aspects of the guns that killed their school friends. None of this makes any sense to those of us who reject gun violence and legal ownership of military-style weapons. None of this makes any sense to the rest of the world.

Future generations will wonder why measures weren’t taken to prevent mass shootings, and there will be no reasonable answer. But, living in the midst of it, I will say that a good percentage of the U.S. today has been convinced by gun lobbyists (especially the NRA) that the “left wing liberals” want to take away their guns, and the only way to fight that is to stop ANY gun control measures.

“America First!” Trump exclaimed as he signed bills that put us at odds with allies and eliminates regulations that would ensure clean air and water. “Business First!” Trump claimed as he and his cronies passed legislation that favors coal, oil and natural gas industries over renewable sources of power. “Fake news!” Trump cried whenever the media disagreed or criticized him, while he lies, bullies his enemies, and insults his opponents.

Parents are at a loss to explain Trump’s behavior to their children. Adults apologize for him to friends in other countries. Families and former friends split-up and refuse to talk to each other, divided over his crass and dishonest behavior, and they try to figure out why we have stooped to that level.

The U.S. has lost its way in this, one of the darkest chapters in our country’s history.

We have depleted our global standing. Other countries are confused by our lack of compassion and selfishness, and they are forming alliances that exclude us. We are becoming an isolated, confusing, and selfish bully.

That situation is hard for half of the country to take, and a counter-movement is forming. Massive marches have taken place; including the Women’s March after Trump’s election, marches to protest Trump’s immigration policies, protests against neo-Nazis, and numerous student rallies that protest gun violence. Mid-term elections will be held this November, and I hope the reaction will be severe. Thousands of new candidates are running for state and federal offices this year, and early indications are that massive numbers of people are registering to vote. Most of them are upset by the turn of events that put a sexual predator in charge of our country, and they intend to vote out Republican lawmakers who have supported him. There is a chance that one (or possibly both) of the houses of Congress can become dominated by Democrats in November, which would be a counter measure to the Republican legislature and administration.

The vast majority of U.S. Republicans support Trump, and to a lesser extent the Republican-led Congress. One reason they stick with them is they are passing legislation that supports conservative social issues (e.g., abortion, sexuality, immigration, religion).

Another is the U.S. economy is doing well. Unemployment is at record lows and the stock market is at record highs. Conservatives attribute that to Trump and the Republican-led Congress, and they don’t want to rock the boat while things are good. Last year was terrific for people who have invested in the stock market, and for those who needed to find work.
Terrorism is on the wane, which Trump takes credit for. ISIS is on the run in Iraq and Syria, which Trump takes credit for. And North Korea has agreed to talking about the possibility of de-nuclearization, which Trump takes credit for.

There is an investigation into the possible collusion by Trump’s campaign with Russia during the 2016 election, and one into possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself. The special counsel doing the investigation (Robert Muller) has filed charges against several of Trump’s campaign staff and his close associates, and the State of New York has filed charges against Trump’s personal lawyer, but there’s nothing yet against Trump. For his part, Trump throws under the bus anyone close to him who is charged, and he decries the investigation as a “Witch Hunt.” He has recruited Republican lawmakers to attack the FBI, Justice Department, and members of the media who are involved in the investigation.

This is another very sad chapter in our country’s history, similar in scope to the communist hunts of the McCarthy era, and it’s shameful.

Democrats are fighting back, including many state and local governments that object to being trampled on by shady, ruthless Federal agencies. Lawsuits by states are prevalent, efforts to stop immigration, deportation, taxation, regulation, and other Trump policies. I am proud of the way California’s senators, representatives, and governor have stood their ground and fought back.

Another big trend over the past year involves women reporting inappropriate sexual behavior of men in high positions. It’s called the #MeToo Movement, and it has snared a huge number of men in political, entertainment, media, and sports positions. Much of it is good and well-deserved (including Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill Crosby), but recently there have been some questionable accusations made against some well-respected men, including Al Franken and Tom Brokaw.

California is in the midst of one of the best times since I moved here. The economy is solid (thanks to high-tech and Governor Jerry Brown), unemployment is low, and the legislature can concentrate on forward-looking tasks. Still, housing prices in much of the state (particularly San Francisco) are sky-high, due to too many people and too few homes. And, amid the economic boom, homelessness is as bad as I’ve seen it, with over 6,000 people living and sleeping on San Francisco’s streets.

San Francisco suffered the death of its popular mayor, Ed Lee, in December. It was sudden, unexpected, and threw a pallor over the city. I knew Ed and greatly respected his tenacity, integrity, and the way he respected everyone, from immigrants to millionaires. He was the ultimate example of the immigrant living the American Dream.

I continue to pursue my own American Dream, which involves helping people and trying to find my way to a satisfying second career. I still write – about people, about what I find good about life, and about what I find troubling about life. I’m not yet sure where this will take me, but I know I am heading in the right direction. At age 67, I am very concerned about the future of our country and our world. But I also believe in the fundamental strength and nature of Americans and humans.

On my birthday, I am in a good place – healthy, secure, and surrounded by a loving wife, caring family, wonderful friends, and respectful neighbors.

This stage of life is good.

This stage of love is great.

May 4, 2015

On My Brithday — 2015

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 1:48 pm

On my birthday I am 64 years old. This year I am in Denver, Colorado on my birthday with my friends Bill Diefenbach, Ken Monk, Geoff Noakes, and Lee Tyree. This is a long-planned trip to see a couple of baseball games between the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies, and to show my friends the town and house I grew up in. We’re staying in downtown Denver, which has changed considerably since I lived here, and we have a full four days planned. This group comprises the Dashiell Hammett Society of Studs, a social and literary group we formed 15 years ago. The group has been together through thick and thin, and we get along very well. This will be a wonderful getaway for all of us.

The past year has gone by very quickly, and for the most part it’s been a good year. As has been the case the past few years, the past one has had ups and downs, but for the most part this phase of life is pretty terrific! I feel good, have good health, and have loads of freedom to do what I want. That’s the upside, and it’s a great upside. On the down side, I have experienced friends getting older and dying, and my youngest brother, Ed passed away last November at age 50. It seems to be part of this phase of life, and all my friends are experiencing it, too. The key seems to be to develop a thick skin, enjoy the good things, and accept the bad with the good.

As I wrote last year, time is going by very quickly – too quickly – and I am trying to slow it down enough to enjoy it. I know this phase is the sweet spot of life, and I’m trying to experience it fully and enjoy it fully, because I know it’s fleeting. Is there a way to slow time?

Strangely, I don’t feel my age. I’m healthy, strong, and energetic, and I feel as though I’m in my late 40’s or early 50’s. I exercise regularly, hike the hills of San Francisco with little effort, sleep well, don’t take any medication, and wake up feeling young. That’s all good. But when I look in a mirror or see a photo of myself, I am surprised to see an older man. That’s not so good. I recently had to renew my driver license in person and take a new photo. When it came back I was shocked to see the effect a decade has made on my appearance! My hair is almost completely gone on top, my eyelashes and mustache have turned white, and my cheeks and neck has begun to sag. That really threw me, because I don’t feel any different than I did 10 years ago.

The past year with Patty has been great! We have worked out a method of getting along that allows us to do our own thing, while spending time together on the activities we both enjoy. Her health has been good, too, and she is also living a very full life.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this phase of life is our circle of family and friends, and we spent a lot of time with them the past year. We see my family a lot, and I talk to my siblings often. My mother still lives at home, and while her memory and health are slipping, she still enjoys life, and she loves the fact that her children remember her and help her. I call her every Wednesday and those conversations are very enjoyable. I see her every couple of months, and those visits are enjoyable for both of us. She wants to stay in her house, and while there are a couple of my siblings who think she should be moved to an assisted living home, I support her staying at home, at least for now. However it works out long-term, I am very happy that she has the option to stay there, and I think she appreciates it, too. Over the past year, I was able to see Mom in May, August, October, and December.

We also took trips over the past year to see Ian graduate from high school in June, to see Katharine Noakes graduate from college in June, to see Kevin and Julia in Napa several times, to Oklahoma, our annual trip to Drakesbad in August, and Pt. Reyes with John and Eva in September.

We see our close friends a lot, especially Ken and Vicki, Kevin and Julia, and Ruth and Bill. We still have our holidays together as a group; including Easter (at our house), Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Years, and Christmas. The group is still intact, and though Ruth’s Altzheimer’s is getting very bad, she still participates as much as possible. The “kids” have grown up; with Christina and Beck married, and Katharine out of college.

A highlight of the year took place in October when I served as officiant for the marriage of Beck and Sarah at Ft. Mason. It was a beautiful and touching ceremony, and they seem to be very happy together. Katharine is about to finish a cooking school and go to work, and it will be interesting to see what that beautiful and talented lady decides to do next.

My writing slowed over the past year, as I finished my book of short profiles, put it out for review, and got less-than-enthusiastic reviews. After mulling it over for a time, I realized that it didn’t have a theme, so I got busy and started rewriting it as a collection of short profiles about San Francisco people. I’m writing and adding a half-dozen profiles, which are nearly finished, and I plan to send it out for another round of reviews within the next couple of months. My good friend, Lois Pryor, is interested in editing it, and I look forward to working on it with her.

Our big vacation trip the past year was to Vietnam and Cambodia in October. It was a good trip! The tour group in Vietnam (12 people, all British) were the nicest group of people we have ever travelled with, and we plan to stay in touch with them. The Vietnam portion of the trip was hot and humid, but very interesting. We enjoyed all of it except the frequent referrals to the “American War” – which was described as an evil effort by Americans to force a life style on the Vietnamese they didn’t want. A couple of times during the trip, someone from Vietnam would tell our group how the Americans divided their country in half, and when the Vietnamese tried to reunite their country the Americans came over and bombed them. That was hard to take, but I do see their side of it.

Our side trip to Cambodia was absolutely terrific! We spent three days touring the ruins at Angor Wat, and it was a wonderful and memorable experience!

On the way home from Cambodia, we picked up emails and discovered that my youngest brother, Ed, had died. So we got home, unpacked, repacked and went to Chappell for his funeral and burial. It was a very sad and tragic time for my whole family – and especially for my mother, who had lost her youngest child. Ed’s life was a sad and lost venture, and he chose an early and tragic way to go out – drinking himself to death. Two weeks after his death, Anne and I went to Colorado Springs and cleaned out his apartment. While we were doing that, we both felt the tragedy of a life wasted, and it made us very sad. I volunteered to serve as executor of his estate, and that will keep me busy over the next year or so.

My health continued to be good over the past year. I try to keep in shape by working out at a gym, hiking, cycling, and keeping my weight down. It’s a continuous struggle, but it’s going well and is rewarding.

My mix of volunteering, writing, and home life continues to suit me. I go for walks on Mondays with Norman and serve lunch and run errands with Ina on Fridays. I also drove to Bodega Bay once a month to see Paul Meuse – until he died in March. His death was sudden and was a blow for me. I’m very happy I got to know Paul, and I have wonderful memories of our times together, but I miss him. Death is so final!

This phase of life is extreme: extremely rewarding and extremely sad. There is time, energy, and money to do pretty much whatever I want to do, and that’s extremely rewarding. It’s what I worked so hard for so long for – and it was so worth it. I try each day to focus on my freedom and my health and to enjoy that day to the max. But there is also aging, illness, and death, which is extremely sad. Watching your youngest brother slowly kill himself because he couldn’t get his act together is extremely sad, as is seeing your good friend die of an illness in his 60’s and watching another good friend have her mid slowly taken away with illness.

Things in the U.S. are generally very good now, with a strong economy, peace, increasing employment, and generally good times. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to decide that same-sex marriages are legal. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the stock market is at all-time highs.

We have an African-American president who is struggling to accomplish much, because Republicans oppose everything he stands for. Campaigning for the 2016 presidential election has already begun, with Hillary Clinton running against a group of severely-divided Republicans, who range from ultra-conservative to moderate. Congress accomplishes very little because Republicans oppose anything proposed by Democrats. Our country is virtually at a stand-still.

In other domestic news, the U.S. officially ended its war in Afghanistan on December 28 – the end of the longest war in U.S. history. Robin Williams committed suicide August 11, from depression and the news that he had Parkinson’s. California is in the third year of a severe drought that has all of us worried there may not be enough water for agriculture and home use. A strong earthquake in Napa in August destroyed several downtown buildings. High-tech wealth continues to move into San Francisco, which is bolstering the City’s finances, but causing gentrification and some unrest.

Beneath the surface, however, there is a lot of trouble. Several factions of Republicans are very unhappy with the direction the country is heading, and they are trying to un-do some of the progress we have made over the years – in civil rights, in health care, in welfare, and in employment. Those divisive groups are clinging to some sort of outdated way of thinking that allows the strongest and smartest people to succeed, with little concern for anyone else. It’s a very sad statement of our times.

Also beneath the surface, there is civil unrest between minority groups (especially African-Americans) and law enforcement. Several recent instances of police brutality and police shootings have stirred the nation and created demonstrations and social unrest.

The world I live in is also filled with social unrest and terrorism. Whenever I open a newspaper or turn on the television or radio the news is shocking and a little depressing. Terrorism is rampant in the world now, with splinter, radical groups attacking and killing for unknown reasons. Attacks happen daily — in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, etc. Why is there so much unrest in the world? Why do young men feel so badly about their situation they leave their families, friends, and homes to travel to other countries and kill people? And so many of them do it in the name of religion! It’s troubling.

Several countries; including Syria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan (among others) have nearly daily instances of bombings, mass killings, beheadings, and riots. Terrorists kidnap young girls and turn them into sex slaves or hold them for ransom. Radicals post videos on the internet of their henchmen using knives to behead journalists they have captured. Women and children strap explosives to their bodies and blow up crowds of innocent people praying at mosques. Bands of terrorists attack embassies and shot and kill everyone in sight. A religious-extremist group calling itself ISIL has taken over large portions of Iraq and Syria and is kidnapping and murdering huge groups of people in the Middle East. That has caused European, Middle-Eastern, and Western countries (including the U.S.) to respond by sending bombers and troops to fight ISIL.

Sadly, the people of today’s earth still settle their differences by killing each other.

Other international news is also generally sad, as a German airline pilot intentionally crashed an airplane into the Alps last month, killing himself and the 149 others aboard. A huge earthquake in Nepal killed over 7,000 people. Russia took over the Crimea in Ukraine. Battle between rebels and government troops in Syria kill thousands of innocent people every month. Israel continues to see battles between Jews and Palestinians.

Oil prices plunged over the past year, which has been good news for most people, but bad news for oil producers and oil-producing countries.

In San Francisco, hordes of young, high-tech men and women have invaded the city, raising rents to the highest levels in the country and driving lower-income workers and artists out. Lawrence Ferlinghetti recently said they are bringing buckets of money and no manners to the city.

Birdman won this year’s Academy Awards for Best Picture; Eddie Redmayne received best actor for The Theory of Everything; Julianne Moore won best actress for Still Alice.

In sports, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup.

May 7, 2014

On My Birthday — 2014

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 2:40 pm

On my birthday I am 63 years old. This year, I am in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on my birthday with my friend, Paul Meuse. We’re touring Civil War battlefields, following the three-day battle that took place here. Paul has studied Gettysburg, and he’s been here many times, so it’s like seeing it from an expert. It’s interesting, and very well-preserved, and I find it to be an amazing testament to man’s inability to resolve differences without killing each other. it’s also an interesting way to spend your birthday.

Paul is very ill. He has Parkinson’s, which was probably caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. It’s pretty advanced, so he needs a lot of help to get around, take his meds, and make decisions. Helping him, and others like him, has become part of my life.

The past year has been pretty good; not a lot of ups and not a lot of downs. I’m learning how to cope with this phase of my life, which is filled with freedom, friends, and finality. By now, I have established a pattern of writing, travelling, family, friends, and helping others, and it’s a wonderful way to spend this part of life. I am fortunate, and every day I appreciate Patty, my good friends and family, my health, that fact that we seem to have enough money put away, and the freedom to do whatever I want. I hope I am taking full advantage of that, because I am aware that it won’t last forever.

Time is going by very quickly, much faster than I would like. Weeks fly by, months seem like weeks, and a whole year seems like a month. I want this part of life to last longer, but instead it seems shorter, much shorter. Months are blurry, and they consist of a series of routines and maybe a trip or a houseguest.

The past year with Patty has been a good one. We are generally on the same page, and we are both enjoying our lifestyles, our friends, our house and neighborhood, and our adventures. She continues to push me in many aspects of life, and while I sometimes resent it, it makes for a fuller and richer life.

We continue to see our families often. Over the past year we have spent a lot of time with my mother, my sister and her family, my brother, John and his wife, Eva, and our extended families. The Fehringer family reunion last June in Oregon was a great chance to spend quality time with uncles, aunts, and cousins. Unfortunately, several relatives passed away over the past year, including Uncle George, and Uncle Jimmy, and I now have just four uncles and aunts left.

We see our close friends a lot, especially Ken and Vicki. We try to go put with them on Fridays, and it’s a highlight of each week for us. And we see our gang of friends for holidays, Drakesbad, and special occasions. Our group of close friends is still intact, but that’s not going to last much longer, so we try to take advantage of every get-together. Ruth’s Alzheimer is getting very bad, and I can no longer take her for walks. I miss seeing her.

My mother is holding her own, at age 87. She still lives at home, and she does pretty well at it. All of us wish she was more active socially, but that’s probably not going to happen. I call her each Wednesday and see her 3-4 times a year, and I feel like we have a good relationship.

After working on a book with Lee Tyree for a year, we finished it and gave it to a publisher last October. The day we drove to the printer I realized (for the first time) that I was not a partner on the project, as I had assumed, but only a hired helper, and from then on Lee did not acknowledge my efforts to the printer, our friends, or his friends and family. That hurt, and it took me a while to get over it, but I did and now, I’m glad I helped him, because it was a major goal for him.

There have been rewarding writing projects the past year. I continue to write articles about our travels, about people I’ve met, and about people who interest me, and I’m closing in on a book of stories about people who have inspired me. Two writing projects over the past year have been especially interesting: an article about Bob Damir taking William Saroyan’s ashes to Armenia, and an article about. Greg Wong, a chef who lost his eyesight as an adult.

We had two very different vacation trips over the past year. In June, we spent a week in Berlin, which was very interesting, and a week cycling on Poland and seeing the Auschwitz concentration camp. I enjoyed Poland and felt a kinship with the people there. In November we took a three-week trip to India. It wasn’t my choice, but it turned out to be a fascinating experience. The cycling was great, and it was a good tour, good people, and good sights – but I was ready to come home after three weeks. The crowds, traffic, and pollution were a lot. India is a fascinating country with lots of problems.

My health has been very good the past year. I work hard at stretching, strengthening, and aerobics, and I’ve been fortunate so far to avoid any major illnesses. Fingers crossed it will continue.

I have organized my life with a good mix of time for writing, home life, and volunteering, and it seems to suit me. Maybe that’s why time is going so fast, because I have filled each day with things I enjoy, and there seems to be just enough time. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are for helping others. I go for a walk and lunch on Monday with Norman, and we’ve developed a very good relationship. Wednesdays were for Ruth, until I couldn’t take her anymore, now I see Greg Wong on Wednesday afternoon. Fridays are for Tel-hi, and I also help Ina and Toni those days. That’s been very rewarding, as I have found that I enjoy being around seniors.
Unfortunately, seniors die, and over the past year several have gone way, including Bea, Gloria, and Bob Damir. Bob’s death was especially hard, because I admired him so much and had developed a very good rapport with him. Fortunately, I finished the article about him in time and his wife was able to read it to him. She called me right after and said he loved it. That meant a lot.
Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about wars. I suppose that came from touring the Civil War battlefields and hearing about the terrible carnage. Also, the U.S. is still involved in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a horrible civil war going on in Syria, and Russia is getting very aggressive in the Ukraine. So the subject is very prevalent now. When I was a kid, I thought that by the time I was an adult the world would have figured out how to get along without wars. The United Nations was pretty new then, and I guess I thought the U.N. would be able to intervene when countries had problems, and find a way to resolve disputes peacefully.
I was wrong.
Mankind seems to continue to exert its need for power on each other forcefully, and the world seems to tolerate countries attacking and killing each other. And, unfortunately, there are too many people who try to resolve their differences by killing other people. No race, age group, or religion seems to be exempt from it, and hatred, jealousy, and revenge still run rampant in our society.
Over the past few months, Russia has threatening to take over the Ukraine. They already took over one state (Crimea), and they have military troops lined up on the eastern border of Ukraine. Their president (Putin) seems to be hungry with power and eager to exert it, and the rest of the world is pretty much helpless to stop him. Europe and the U.S. have agreed that what he has done is wrong, and they have threatened him with economic sanctions, but no one wants to engage in an all-out war with a madman with nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the world is holding its breath to see what he will do next.
Two brothers set off bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The bombs killed three people, injured dozens, and set off a wave of terror that enveloped the U.S. for several days while police were looking for the bombers. And, when they were caught, they turned out to be Americans, bombing their own countrymen.

The U.S. political parties are far apart on most issues, and rather than working on compromises, they now refuse to negotiate. It seems that both parties would rather shut the government down than work together. And that’s what happened last fall, when the Federal government shutdown for several days. It was stupid, it was embarrassing, and it did no good for anyone.

It’s open: after 12 years of construction, and at a cost of $6.4 billion, the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge carried its first, eager travelers safely over the water last night, at around 10:15 p.m., just under seven hours ahead of schedule. Our opinion: it’s beautiful!

Pope Francis (born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio) was elected Pope of the Catholic Church last year. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio worked briefly as a chemical technician and nightclub bouncer before entering the seminary. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979 was Argentina’s Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus. He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was created a Cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February of 2013, a papal conclave elected Bergoglio as his successor in March. He chose Francis as his papal name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas, the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European Pope since Pope Gregory III in 741.

Nelson Mandela died December 5, 2013 at age 95. His was one of the best stories of our age. He was a freedom fighter, prisoner, moral compass and South Africa’s symbol of the struggle against racial oppression. He spent 27 years in prison, and then emerged to lead his country out of decades of apartheid. His message of reconciliation, not vengeance, inspired the world after he negotiated a peaceful end to segregation and urged forgiveness for the white government that imprisoned him.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” Mandela said after he was freed in 1990.

Edward Joseph Snowden is an American computer professional, former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA). He came to international attention after disclosing to several media outlets thousands of classified documents that he acquired while working for the two consulting firms His release of classified material has been described as the most significant leak in U.S. history. Snowden fled the U.S. after releasing some of the information the CIA obtained and the FBI tried to arrest him. He is currently living in Russia.

Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws allowing marriage for same-sex couples. Several other states have passed constitutional amendments to prohibit them, and many of those amendments are now being challenged in court. It’s only a matter of time before the marriages are permitted everywhere. After all, who has the right to tell anyone who they can (or can’t) marry?

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was a scheduled transpacific passenger flight from Incheon International Airport near Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in the United States. On the morning of Saturday, July 6, 2013, the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft operating the flight crashed on final approach into SFO. Of the 307 people aboard, two passengers died at the crash scene (one from being run over by an airport crash tender), and a third died in a hospital several days later. 181 others were injured, 12 of them critically. Among the injured were three flight attendants who were thrown onto the runway while still strapped in their seats when the tail section broke off after striking the seawall short of the runway. It was the first crash of a Boeing 777 that resulted in fatalities since its entry to service in 1995.

The 34th America’s Cup was held on San Francisco Bay between the defender Oracle Team USA, and the challenger Emirates Team New Zealand Oracle defended the America’s Cup by a score of 9 to 8, but they had to win the last eight races to come from behind. This America’s Cup race was the longest ever Cup by both number of days and races, and the first since the 25th America’s Cup to feature a winner-take-all final race.

I have long believed in the future of electric cars as key to resolving energy and pollution problems. Now, we have a company successfully producing electric cars in our backyard. Tesla Motors is an American company that designs, manufactures, and sells electric cars and electric vehicle powertrain components. Tesla Motors first gained widespread attention by producing the Tesla Roadster, the first fully electric sports car. The company’s second vehicle was the Model S, a fully electric luxury sedan. In the first quarter of 2013, Tesla posted profits for the first time in its ten year history, and now they are selling cars as fast as they can make them. The cars are sleek and beautiful, and we see them in our neighborhood all the time.

May 20, 2013

On My Birthday 2013

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 4:45 pm

“When I was 5 years old, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
John Lennon

On my birthday I am 62 years old. It’s another “‘tweener” birthday, but this one comes with a twist; I’m now officially old enough for Social Security.

When I was still working full-time and doing that awful commute to Visa each morning I would envision an ideal life after working. It involved travel, and time with friends and family, and volunteering for projects that meant something to me. And it involved writing. Now, at age 62, I find that I am leading that life!

I have good health and enough energy to live life the way I want. I have enough freedom to do what I want every day of the week. I have a great marriage and a loving family and wonderful friends. I have a comfortable home in a terrific city. I should have enough money to live comfortably the rest of my life. And I have plenty to do; including writing, travel, volunteer work, and friendships. It’s a great part of life!

A Good Year

It’s been a good year. Most of my life has gone well the past 12 months, but there have been some hurdles, too. That seems to be the way life is at this stage.

The good things in my life start with being in love with a wonderful and charming lady. Patty remains the love of my life, and she supports me through thick-and-thin!

And I have a loving family and friends. My family rallied around my brother Ed when he needed them last fall, and their support made all the difference. I wound up spending 10 days with Ed in Colorado Springs, helping him through a very serious health issue that resulted from constant, long-term alcohol intake. He was very lucky to have a family that cares about him, a brother that came and forced him to get help, and a dedicated and caring physician who took the time to help him. My time with Ed was hard and I visually aged during it. I was glad I could be there to help him through it, but it turned out to be one of those excruciatingly painful duties that life requires of us. It had a good ending, but it left me exhausted.

Again my family rallied — this time around my mother in December when she was hospitalized for three weeks in Sidney with an intestinal blockage. I stayed with her the whole time, supported her, and cheered her on. I also consulted with her doctors and nurses, and I informed my family of her status each day. She nearly died when her intestine wouldn’t “wake up” after surgery, so she couldn’t be fed, and she was growing weaker. Then she developed pneumonia and her fever spiked. But the hospital saved her, she recovered, and I took her home on her 21st day in the hospital. She was a very difficult patient to be around, but she has improved over time to where she is only somewhat annoying. Being with my mother that three weeks was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I am very grateful I could help her.

I have terrific friends. The group of friends we share holidays and vacations and hang with are incredibly supportive. They help in so many ways, and it’s wonderful to have them in my life.

Freedom

Another absolutely wonderful thing in my life is the freedom to do what I want to do every day! That’s a tremendous luxury, and it’s one I don’t take lightly. I try to take advantage of it by making good use of my time.

So, how to spend those days? That’s the big question, and at this stage of life I find myself wrestling with it. The days stretch out ahead of you … each an opportunity to do whatever you want to do. In my case, I have divided that time into weekdays and weekends, and I save weekends to be with Patty. That’s important and rewarding.

Of the five “weekdays,” I dedicate a large part of three of them to volunteering for special causes. The other two days (Tuesday and Thursday), I concentrate on writing.

Mondays are spent with Norman, who retired last year, has many health issues, and needs a friend. We get along great, and we’re forming a good friendship.

Wednesdays I go hiking with Ruth, and each week we explore a different part of San Francisco. Those have been very rewarding for Ruth, for me, and for Ruth’s family.

Fridays are spent at Tel-Hi, helping serve lunch to the seniors. I have begun taking two of the seniors home after lunch (Bea and Ina), and I have helped each of them through a crises in their lives.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I research and write for a book I’m working on, and for articles I’m writing for myself.

Writing

The book project is for Lee Tyree. It’s a terrific job in that it is about a subject that I like (U.S. history) and about a very interesting man (William Pleasant Tyree). It pays well, and I can work on it whenever I want. What’s not to like about a job like that?

For my personal writing, I continue my blog (Notes) and am developing a collection of “Colorful Characters” that I hope to publish. I write and publish at least one travel article after each of our trips, and I have been co-writing (with Toni Wilson) a column for Competitive Intelligence Magazine,.

Bad News

The less-favorable events the past year center around poor health and death, as they have for the past few years. Life seems to be more tenuous at this age, and you have to be prepared for bad news.

The severe illnesses of my mother and brother set me back, and I found myself in a dark place for awhile after them. Maybe it was too much stress and bad news in too short a time. Maybe I’m not as good a caregiver as I thought. Or maybe I’m not quite ready to deal with my own mortality.

Whatever caused it, I carried a dark cloud over me for several months after those two incidents. It seems to be clearing up now.

And there were more deaths of people close to me over the past year.

My Aunt Trish had been ill for several years, and her Alzheimer’s had reached the stage where she often didn’t even know her own children. But she recognized my voice when I called, and she was always cheerful to me. I sent her a birthday card just before she died, and I hope she read it. She always said that she was born on St. Patrick’s Day, and that’s why her parents named her Patricia. Ironically, she died on her birthday.

Jeff Brit had been helping me take care of our garden for a couple of years, and he had done wonders with it. Jeff was a master gardener, and he had worked a career as an orchid expert (traveling around the world giving talks about orchids) and an executive for a local orchid grower. He had also become a good friend, and I looked forward each month to Jeff’s visits, and to the follow-up emails, when we shared our love of gardening and writing. Jeff didn’t have much time to prepare for his demise, as he found out in December that he had pancreatic cancer, and by February he was dead. There is a lot of Jeff in our garden, and I miss him.

Health

Except for one issue, my health has been good the past year. I started to have problems with my right shoulder last fall, and the pain got bad enough that I went to a doctor. He took an MRI and found a partially-torn labrum tendon in the shoulder. He injected it with cortisone and recommended physical therapy, which I did. I also had a personal trainer (Fran at my gym) design a set of stretching and strengthening exercises to help. Between them, I now have little pain and more strength in my shoulder, and that crisis seems to be over. I’m now a believer that at this age one should see professionals early into any serious health issue.

My mental health has also been pretty good. As I mentioned, I had a dark cloud over my head for awhile, and Patty and I have had some issues, but it seems to have gone away, and overall I’m happy and pleased with my life.

Travel

Our travels took an unusual twist last year. Normally, we take two international trips each year, but last year we didn’t take any. We had planned a trip to the Baltic States in June, but the trip became too expensive and too complicated, so we cancelled it, and instead signed up for a week-long bicycle tour in Maine. Cousin Tom, Allan, and Anne joined us. It was a terrific adventure, and we loved Maine!

We usually plan an international trip to the southern hemisphere in the fall. Last year, however, we decided not to, because of my need to stay here and help Ed. Instead, we went to two weddings: Denise Mange’s in New York in July and Monica Mange’s in Santa Barbara in September.

Special Friends

We continue to see our group of special friends several times each year, including all major holidays, Drakesbad, and DHSOS meetings. There is a very tight bond between us, and those friendships mean a great deal to all of us. Ruth’s illness has been hard on everyone, but it has been gratifying to watch the group rally around her and Bill.

Da’ ‘Stache is Back

I’m growing back my ‘stache, following a two-year absence. I never got used to my looks without it. I first grew a ’stache when I was in his early 20’s to make me look older. By the time I was 60, it was working, so I shaved it on my 60th birthday. Now, two years later, I’m growing it back.

Patty’s Red Sports Car

Patty finally got her red sports car!

It had been a long time coming, and she had been talking about it and longing for it for years. But she could never pull the trigger — until now.

She and her Mom used to talk about having a two-seater red sports car, and how fun it would be to pull up in it in front of a group of friends.

When Patty’s Mom died, Patty’s Dad remembered that she always wanted Patty to have a red sports car, so he found and bought her a car. It was red. But it was a sedan; not a sports car.

Patty loved her sedan (a 2000 Toyota Solara) because her father gave it to her, and she drove her red Toyota Sololá for 12 years. But for at least the past five of those years, she has been pining for a sports car.

It was a New Year’s resolution, as I remember it. She said she was going to make a decision this year.

In the end it wasn’t really much of a decision. She had fallen for the Audi TT years ago, and nothing else was really going to do. It was the sleekest of sleek and the coolest of cool and she wanted one while she was still able to get in and out of it. She tried all the other com parables, but none were quite the same.

Once she made up her mind, she put the right guy on it. Her brother, Allan, is a car guy, and he can find out anything about any car. He searched, and he searched, and he found her the perfect car — a low-mileage, immaculate condition, red 2011 Audi TT. He and his bunny, Sue, drove it across the country.
She’s been driving it about a month now, and she hasn’t grown one bit tired of everything about tit. She still tries to find reasons to go for a drive, just so she can sit in it.

Syria, Iran and North Korea

Each year when I write this I include at least a couple of trouble spots in the world that could erupt into war. It’s a sad commentary on how little progress the world has made in resolving its differences without killing each other. This year the trouble spots are Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

A civil war in Syria has raged on for more than two years, and countless thousands of Syrians have been killed. The people of that Middle Eastern country want new leadership, and those in power have refused to step down, so rebel forces have been fighting the governmental forces. No progress has been made in resolving it, despite the vast majority of the civilized world insisting that the leaders step down. Instead, those in power use their power to kill those who would overthrow them. Unfortunately, the United Nations is powerless to do anything about it, so it continues.

Iran and North Korea have (or are developing) nuclear weapons, which they have threatened to use on their neighbors and/or the U.S. Sanctions placed on those countries by the U.S. and United Nations have made the countries poorer, but have not persuaded them to change. Both situations are unsettling and either could erupt into a disaster at any time.

Boston Marathon Bombing

Two immigrants from Russia set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing four people and wounding 130. It set off a national outrage, and led to several days of panic and outrage and a search for those who did it. Video surveillance led police to two brothers, one a student; the other a former boxer (and staunch Muslim). They eluded police for a few days, and then carjacked a car, took the driver hostage, murdered a university security guard, and planned to head to New York City where they would set off their one remaining bomb in Times Square.

Fortunately, the care they hijacked was low on gas, so they stopped to buy gas at a service station, the hostage escaped and called the police. A gun battle ensued, during which the older brother was shot and killed; the younger brother drove the stolen car over his brother and escaped, and he eventually ended up under a tarp that covered a small boat in an area that had been placed on alert. The owners of the boat were in their house. When the lock-down was lifted, the owner went outside and noticed blood on the tarp that covered his boat. He notified the police, who captured a badly-wounded and bleeding second bomber. He was the younger brother, who turned out to be a student at an area university.

The bomber is no longer talking to police, but I believe this story will eventually be told. It is an incredulous tale of lives gone bad, and of hope turning into despair. Both of these young men wanted a better life, and it apparently wasn’t working out for them. One turned the desire into hatred, and the other went along. It’s tragic. A lot of lives were spoiled because of a very stupid act. It reminds each of us that life is fragile and we need make the most of every day.

9/11 Memorial

While in New York in August, we went with Marilyn and Marcie to the 9/11 Memorial. It’s a hauntingly-beautiful reminder of what happened there. The museum was not open yet, but the memorial pools were. Water flows over the edges of pools that occupy the footprints of the buildings that fell during the 9/11 attacks, and we walked around them and read the list of names of those who lost their lives that day. It brings to mind what really happened that tragic day.

Bay Bridge

We’re getting near the opening of the new and controversial eastern section of the Bay Bridge, between Oakland and San Francisco, This project has been fraught with controversy for years, but they have decided upon and built a fantastic new suspension bridge that is supposed to open this September. But now we find out that 32 bolts on the new Bay Bridge snapped after workers tightened them; bringing into question the safety of the bridge and the sanity of the people who built it. So which of our well-paid public officials are responsible for this colossal screw-up, which could delay the opening of the bridge and end up costing California taxpayers millions?

The finger pointing has begun, and CalTrans and the supplier (Dyson Corp. of Ohio) are trading public barbs. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Gun Rights

The right to own and use guns has been a major topic of conversation and controversy in the US the past year. There have been several mass murders in the US, including the slaughter of 26 children at a school called Sandy Hook in Connecticut, by a deranged man. Mentally-disturbed men now seem to delight in isolating themselves, playing violent video games, buying automatic weapons, and gunning down as many people as possible. Each time a state or federal legislature tries to enact laws that would make it more difficult for the disturbed to buy guns and ammunition, guns-rights advocates, led by the National Rifle Association, stop it, in the name of 2nd Amendment rights. Many of my relatives are on that side, fearing that their right to own hunting and defensive weapons will be taken from them. The NRA came up with a solution shortly after the Sandy Hook murders — “more good guys to stop the bad guys,” which involves posting an armed guard at every school in the US. I guess by that logic, armed guards would also have to be posted at every movie theater, political rally, and every other public gathering.

It’s all so incredibly sad, and there’s no happy solution. I’m not a gun owner, and I never will be. I don’t seriously think any US state or federal government agency really wants to take my relatives’ shotguns away, and I don’t think any of them really need to own an automatic weapon. So, because they refuse to compromise in any way, the mass murders by automatic weapons will have to continue.

Gay Rights

The issue of gay rights is also foremost in the minds of many legislatures, both internationally and in the US. France is the latest country to allow gay marriages, which makes 14 countries, and Minnesota is the latest state to allow it, which makes 15 states. One day people on this planet will not be judged by their sexual orientation, but it’s happening slowly.

Pt. Reyes

Pt. Reyes has become a favorite place for me to get away from the city and enjoy the real nature of California. It’s a very special place that’s little more than an hour away; a rugged coastal paradise that has been preserved for us to experience what California is naturally. We go with my brother John and his wife, and we stay in a lodge in Tamales Bay — a decent place in a beautiful setting. We hike some of the many fantastic trails; up into the hills, out to the coast, or to the lighthouse. This year we saw herds of Tule elk, fields of wild irises in bloom, grey whales on their migration to Canada, rabbits, a snake, and even a bobcat. We have now established a routine of favorite restaurants and stores, and we have a wonderful time together.

April 11, 2013

On My Birthday 2012

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 1:42 pm

“It’s one of the things that young people don’t understand, that old people feel as if they’re still young except in certain ways, which are all too horrible. Like the fact that you simply physically aren’t what you used to be. But you really are the same person as you always were. And much wiser and yet, not. But younger people have no sense at all about older people. None. No imagination at all.”
– Nora Ephron, Screenwriter (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, etc.)

On my birthday I’m 61 years old. I’m now in my 60s, which is a heck of a note! Your 60’s is when you are officially a “senior citizen” and you start qualifying for MediCare, and Social Security, and discounts at movie theaters.

Like Nora Ephron wrote, I don’t feel old; in fact I feel as if I am still able to do most of what I could do in my 40s (although I would hurt more the next day). But the math says I’m in my 60s, and that’s hard to refute.

60’s: A Mixed Blessing
Being in your 60s is a mixed blessing. There are advantages, ‘though they are few, and there are plenty of drawbacks, too.

One advantage is being wiser. It’s a poor trade-off – older for wiser – and it’s one few people would make willingly. At this age, I suppose I am wiser, and I (hopefully) won’t repeat the mistakes I made earlier in life. To some extent, I don’t have the energy to repeat them, but there is also an element of wisdom involved, too.

I have more disposable income now, primarily because I no longer have to put money from my earning aside for retirement — and I feel like I can spend more of the income I have.

I can do whatever you want – every day. There are days when I do very little, and others when I do only what I want, but most days I have a “to-do” list and spend most of the day doing what I need to do to get my list done. That helps direct my day and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

And I have more time for the things I love to do; including writing, travel, and spending time with family and friends.

There are also disadvantages.

I have more aches and pains, which for me means lower back pain, an aching shoulder, and a stiff neck. I knew that was coming, but I didn’t think about it when I was younger. So far, most of the issues can be minimized by stretching, massage therapy, acupuncturists, and doctors, and I’ve found it helps to keep my weight down and force myself to exercise. I see friends who don’t do those things, and they seem to have it worse.

I have less energy now. At first, I was in denial about that, but now I can see a pattern. I can’t go as long and hard as I used to, and I’m sorer after a workout.

I have less patience with prejudice and stupidity. The longer I live and the more I travel, the more I realize that most people are trying their hardest to live good lives, and the vast majority of them are succeeding. We all share dreams, ambitions, and hopes for a good life for ourselves, our friends, and our families, and we have more in common than we have in differences. So picking out any group of people and labeling them as evil, or lesser is ridiculous, and I have little patience for people who do it.

People I love are getting sick and dying. This is the one I didn’t know about. Each time someone close to me gets sick or dies it takes away a little piece of me. Over the past year, I lost three more people who were very close.

Uncle Louie was a favorite uncle, primarily because of his unique sense of life. He had a sense of family, which was very important to him, and a sense of devotion to his country and his God. He had a sense of fun and was always ready to play cards or pitch horseshoes or lift a glass of beer, and a sense of success that made him work hard to achieve goals and support his family, but without being a slave to his career. He had a sense of loyalty to his wife, his friends, and his country and he never let them down.
Our friend Jim Bolding died from colon cancer last year at age 62. Jim was a world-class athlete, and a respected coach, successful businessman, loyal friend, avid golfer and skier, and passionate supporter of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. He had a great run for more than 60 years, and his positive, never-call-it-quits attitude made Jim a hero in every aspect of his life.
And my friend Jim Struthers died last year. Jim was a terrific minister, an inspiration to many, and a good friend. We had become very close the past couple of years, and I worked with Jim to publish a book that had been on his mind. I also wrote an article about Jim’s experience with the US Army Divisionn that liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War II. Freeing the survivors at Buchenwald should have been a gratifying day in Private Struther’s life; instead, it was a turning point. That day, as he stared at the piles of bodies and saw the hopeless looks from the survivors he gave up his plans to be a physician and decided instead to become a minister. Others could heal bodies, he decided, he would spend the rest of his life trying to heal minds and hearts.

A Challenging Year
The past year has been a challenge. For whatever reason, I’ve been in a bit of a funk much of time; not a depression, and not even a bad mood – just a bit of a funk.

I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to spend every day doing whatever I want. And I realize I’m very lucky to have enough money put away so I don’t have to work for a living.

Yet, for whatever reason, there’s a dark cloud hanging over my head much of the time. I think much of it might have to do with losing people I love.

Love of my Life
Patty continues to be the love of my life. She is by far the most important part of my life, and she has been for 23 fabulous years!

Shortly after I turned 60 we had a fabulous party for Patty’s 60th birthday. It was in Tahoe, at a cozy south shore mountain lodge called the Black Bear Inn. The day before her birthday party, Patty and I cycled more than half way around the lake (we rode 34 miles) to complete a similar attempt by Patty on her 21st birthday. During that earlier attempt Patty crashed half way around and was unable to finish. The ride was great! We rode past snow drifts at times, but the highways and cycle trails were clear. The long, steep climb up to Inspiration Point wash an invigorating challenge, and we were proud that we were able to do it.

The entire weekend at Tahoe was magical. All of our special friends drove up and spent the night, and we hiked at Hidden Leaf Lake and explored the Lake area. The birthday dinner was a work or art; a customer-designed menu and table set just the way Patty wanted.

Shortly after our birthdays we traveled to Scandinavia, where we cycled in Denmark and took a cruise through the spectacular fiords of Norway. During our cruise Patty slipped on a wet rock (while trying to get the perfect photo) and broke her elbow. She had surgery in July and was in various types of casts for nine weeks.

Much of last summer was spent helping Patty with recovery and rehab, which went very well. Her elbow has healed, the metal that was put in has now been taken back out, and she should have nearly full use of her arm in a few more weeks.

Mom’s Health
Last December, when we were visiting my mother in Nebraska, she complained that she had been experiencing stomach pain for several weeks. We took her for medical tests, which revealed a large mass in her abdomen. It turned out to be colon cancer and in January she had surgery to have the tumor removed, which was successful. I flew to Omaha to spend a week with her in the hospital, and in February and March I went to Nebraska to help her recover. She also had visits from my brothers and sister during her recovery. She pulled out of it very well, and she is now nearly fully recovered. It was a remarkable testament to the ability of our medical system to treat people of all ages, and her quick recovery was a tribute to the way Mom has taken care of herself over the years.
Fixing Up the Cottage
We continue to work on our little Victorian cottage, as we have for the past 21 years, and it’s turning into a charming little home. During the past year we remodeled the office, upgraded the lighting system in the kitchen and dining room, and installed a new Wolf range and hood in the kitchen.
Scandanavia and Santa Fe
Last June we travelled to Scandinavia, took a bicycle tour of the island of Zealand in Denmark, toured Copenhagen on foot, explored a little bit of Sweden, and enjoyed a cruise of the west coast of Norway. Cousin Tom joined us for the cycling week, and Ruth and Bill Diefenbach were with us in Copenhagen, Sweden, and Norway. We loved Denmark and coveted the Danish life style. It’s a small country with a rich history and a remarkably developed society where people are happy and fulfilled. Highlights included the Viking museum at Roskilde, Tivoli Garden and the museums of Copenhagen, the Hamlet Castle, the fantastic scenery of the Norwegian fiords, and the people of Denmark and Norway.

We also had a terrific week in Santa Fe in October. We love the unique style and rich history of Santa Fe, and we explored the area on foot, bicycle, and car.

Experimenting with Writing Styles and Voices
My writing continues to evolve, and I continue to experiment with different styles and different voices.

During the past year, I wrote an article with my Mother about the history of the Sioux Army Depot near Sidney, Nebraska, which was published in the Sidney Sun-Telegraph.

I also wrote several personal “profiles” over the past year, including essays about Jim Bolding, Walt Harlow, Cathy Koch, and my father. For me, personal essays are difficult to write, but very rewarding.

During the past year I’ve become more involved with the program for seniors at Tel-Hi. I started serving lunches to the seniors last summer, and continue to do that every Friday. And I organized and taught a course on Memoir Writing this spring that was very rewarding. It was a six-week course that emphasized voice, writing style, organization, outlining, and editing and the students (who ranged in age from 65-94) were very appreciative. I hope to offer it again this summer and am looking forward to it!

I am writing a regular column for SCIP again, this time with Toni Wilson. It’s hard to stay current in the field of competitive intelligence when I no longer work in it, and I have to do much more research and rely on Toni to know what is really going on. I’m glad to be working in the field again, and writing the columns challenges me to research and think about new ways of doing things.

Hikes with Ruth
My friend Ruth and I have been exploring San Francisco during a series of Thursday afternoon hikes. Each week, we pick and hike an area of the City. Afterwards, we find a coffee shop, enjoy a latte and a snack, and talk about what we saw. It’s been rewarding for both of us, and we have had great talks, terrific exercise, and have discovered many interesting parts of our City that we didn’t even know existed. We’ve seen the Blue Angels fly over from the top of Bernal Heights, climbed an amazing set of mosaic steps in the Sunset District, watched a sailing regatta at Crissy Field, toured the mansions of Pacific Heights, checked out the murals of the Mission District, explored Japan Town, shopped in China Town during the Chinese New Years celebration, and had many, many other adventures. I look forward to our very special time together each week!

Economic Recovery
The U.S. economy is finally rebounding (slowly) after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It’s been a long haul and most peoples’ retirement funds still aren’t back to where they were before the recession, but at least the economy is growing and companies are starting to hire again. Unemployment is still too high and too many companies are struggling, but at least the worst seems to be past.

Now, there appears to be an economic bubble arising in the high tech world. Stock prices of many high-tech companies are rising rapidly, some of the companies are going public, and there’s speculation which ones will be the next stars, much like at the turn of the century. Apple, in particular, is going crazy, with extremely high valuation and stock prices over $600 per share.
Higher Gas Prices and More Electric Cars
Americans are buying record numbers of hybrid and electric cars as gas prices climb (now well over $4.00 per gallon) and new models arrive in showrooms.

Consumers bought a record 52,000 gas-electric hybrids and all-electric cars in March, up from 34,000 during the same month last year.

Last year, Chevrolet and Nissan introduced electric cars in the U.S. (the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf), which have received good reviews. Sales are slow so far, primarily because of the high cost of the cars and uncertainty of the ability to re-charge them.

Social Media
Whatever your personal feelings about social media, it is becoming an increasingly significant force in today’s business world. More than 80% of Americans use at least one social network, and worldwide numbers aren’t far behind. Each day, millions of messages are sent across the internet on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, forums, rating sites, and other social media.

Social media is influencing nearly every aspect of our lives; from education, to politics, to socialization. Everyone talks about it and the news is filled with stories and developments. New apps appear every day, and start-up companies are popping up to supply software of services to social networks or to allow consumers or businesses to do more with them.

Revolutions and Occupations
The prolonged severe economic recession has generated a significant amount of unrest around the world, which has resulted in the overthrow of several governments and strong dissention is other countries. Citizens rose and overthrew the governments of Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, and they are protesting in Syria and other Middle Eastern and northern Africa countries.

A grass roots movement (Occupy Wall Street) started protesting in the U.S. early in 2011, partially stimulated by the revolutions in northern Africa and the duration of the economic recession. At its core, the movement appears to be pushing for more income equity in the US, and their mantra is they represent the bottom 99% of Americans, who have a decreasing portion of total U.S. wealth. Groups of the informal (and leaderless) Occupy Movement sprang up on Wall Street and in many large U.S. cities last summer and fall. Eventually, some of the protests turned violent, as protestors camped out in public places, and in some cases destroyed private and public property and fought with police. Initially, the “Occupy” movement had the support of a large segment of the US, but as it dragged on and grew increasingly off target and violent they lost a lot of public support.

Now, as spring approaches and colleges empty out for the summer, the Occupy movement is trying to rekindle support. At this point, it’s mostly an empty gesture.

Rogue Countries
As a child, I used to watch the evening news and marvel at the fact that people continue to start wars and kill each other. I was confused and disgusted by it and wondered why. I also assumed that at some point during my lifetime people would wake up, figure it out, and stop wars. Now, it looks like I was too optimistic.

Rogue countries continue to become aggressive, slaughter their citizens, start wars with neighboring countries, and develop weapons capable of killing people en masse. Syria is an example, where over the past year the government in power has put down a revolution by killing thousands of its own citizens. And Iran and North Korea continue to develop nuclear weapons, despite protests from most of the world, warnings, and sanctions. Coalitions of developed countries (i.e., the United Nations and NATO) are powerless to stop these atrocities, and often they are unable to even agree they should be stopped.

Afghanistan and Iraq (10 years, $1.3 trillion)
U.S. soldiers came home from Iraq during the past year, and we are finally starting to get out of that mess (which George Bush got us into). But the U.S. is still waging war in Afghanistan (which George Bush got us into), and that war is costing the U.S. $2 billion every week. Imagine what good the $500 billion we have wasted in Afghanistan could have done elsewhere! Imagine how much good we could have done with the $800 billion we wasted in the fruitless war in Iraq! Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, we continue to make enemies, embarrass ourselves, and waste soldiers and money.

Obama
Barack Obama is in his fourth year as president. This is an election year, and at this point he’s running neck-and-neck in the polls with Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presumed candidate.

Obama must be telling himself that his job is a lot harder than he thought it would be. Four years after taking office, he has been able to achieve only a small portion of what he had hoped to achieve, primarily due to the deep recession the country has been in, and because of the Republican Party’s opposition. He must be terribly frustrated and disappointed. Hopes are high for a better second term.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are doing everything they can to stop Obama and Congress from being able to accomplish anything. There is a very deep ideological divide between liberals and conservatives – a divide that is spiteful and hateful, and It is very disappointing to live in a country where ideals are so sharply divided that a significant number of my fellow citizens are willing (and eager) to do anything to destroy a politician who has views different from the own.

Mitt Romney Plays Wack-a-Mole
This year’s GOP presidential primaries have been interesting and telling. The U.S. is deeply divided along financial and social issues, and that division was evident in the Republican presidential primaries. Mitt Romney, former businessman and governor (who really has to be considered a moderate), has been opposed by one right-leaning Republican candidate after another.

First it was Michelle Bachman, who is way off to the right on most issues. Then, when Bachman’s mouth got her in trouble, Ricky Perry appeared. He is the governor of Texas and his good looks and right-wing agenda appealed to many on the far right. Then his memory and his mouth got him in trouble and he dropped out of the race. Then Herman Cain appeared. He had no ties to politics (he’s a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza) and he spoke in clear and simple tones, but his mouth (and his past indiscretions) got him in trouble and he dropped out. Then Rick Santorum appeared. He has an extremely right-wing social agenda and he’s very adept at blasting President Obama, which appealed to a few supporters (primarily in the south and mid-west). Eventually, he lost his home state and had to drop out. Then came Newt Gingrich, who professed to have all the answers, and his star shined through a couple of primary wins. But Newt is sleezy and a conceited jerk, and he eventually ran out of money and time, and he dropped out.

So, now the GOP is stuck with a candidate they have trouble supporting. He’s moderate, he’s extremely wealthy, and he has a very hard time relating to average Americans. But he’s the Republican candidate, and he will run against Obama this fall.

Steve Jobs
Apple founder Steve Jobs died of cancer at the age of 56 on October 5th, leaving behind a legacy that changed the computer, music, film and wireless industries. Apple, the company he co-founded, was once written-off as passé, but last August it topped ExxonMobil as the most valuable U.S. corporation. In that month Steve Jobs resigned as CEO. Jobs created the Macintosh in 1976 and was fired nine years later after a power struggle with Chief Exec John Sculley. He returned to Apple in 1996. Steve was a hero to many fans of Apple products, and his death was mourned by millions.
Movies
It was not a banner year for any form of art. The recession seems to have cast a pall over the arts, and there has been a de-emphasis of art as a result. Movies were no exception, and there were no standout films last year. The Artist won the most awards, and it was certainly the most unusual film of the year. Others receiving honors included Hugo, Iron Lady, Midnight in Paris, and MoneyBall.
The 49ers Gave Us a Thrill
A year after the San Francisco Giants won it all in baseball, the 49ers had their best year in more than a decade. They finished the year with a record of 13-3, made the playoffs, and went all the way to the NFC Championships, where they barely lost to the New York Giants (who wound up winning the SuperBowl).

May 4, 2012

On My Birthday

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 2:32 pm

“It’s one of the things that young people don’t understand, that old people feel as if they’re still young except in certain ways, which are all too horrible. Like the fact that you simply physically aren’t what you used to be. But you really are the same person as you always were. And much wiser and yet, not. But younger people have no sense at all about older people. None. No imagination at all.”

– Nora Ephron, Screenwriter and Author

On my birthday I’m 61 years old.  I’m now in my 60s, which is a heck of a note!  Your 60’s is when you are officially a “senior citizen” and you start qualifying for MediCare, and Social Security, and discounts at movie theaters.

Like Nora Ephron wrote, I don’t feel old; in fact I feel as if I am still able to do most of what I could do in my 40s (although I would hurt more the next day).  But the math says I’m in my 60s, and that’s hard to refute.

60’s:  A Mixed Blessing

Being in your 60s is a mixed blessing.  There are advantages, ‘though they are few, and there are plenty of drawbacks, too.

One advantage is being wiser.  It’s a poor trade-off – older for wiser – and it’s one few people would make willingly.  At this age, I suppose I am wiser, and I (hopefully) won’t repeat the mistakes I made earlier in life.  To some extent, I don’t have the energy to repeat them, but there is also an element of wisdom involved, too.

I have more disposable income now, primarily because I no longer have to put money from my earning aside for retirement — and I feel like I can spend more of the income I have.

I can do whatever you want – every day.  There are days when I do very little, and others when I do only what I want, but most days I have a “to-do” list and spend most of the day doing what I need to do to get my list done.  That helps direct my day and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

And I have more time for the things I love to do; including writing, travel, and spending time with family and friends.

There are also disadvantages.

I have more aches and pains, which for me means lower back pain, an aching shoulder, and a stiff neck.  I knew that was coming, but I didn’t think about it when I was younger.  So far, most of the issues can be minimized by stretching, massage therapy, acupuncturists, and doctors, and I’ve found it helps to keep my weight down and force myself to exercise.  I see friends who don’t do those things, and they seem to have it worse.

I have less energy now.  At first, I was in denial about that, but now I can see a pattern.  I can’t go as long and hard as I used to, and I’m sorer after a workout.

I have less patience with prejudice and stupidity.  The longer I live and the more I travel, the more I realize that most people are trying their hardest to live good lives, and the vast majority of them are succeeding.  We all share dreams, ambitions, and hopes for a good life for ourselves, our friends, and our families, and we have more in common than we have in differences.  So picking out any group of people and labeling them as evil, or lesser is ridiculous, and I have little patience for people who do it.

People I love are getting sick and dying.  This is the one I didn’t know about.  Each time someone close to me gets sick or dies it takes away a little piece of me.  Over the past year, I lost three more people who were very close.

Uncle Louie was a favorite uncle, primarily because of his unique sense of life.  He had a sense of family, which was very important to him, and a sense of devotion to his country and his God.  He had a sense of fun and was always ready to play cards or pitch horseshoes or lift a glass of beer, and a sense of success that made him work hard to achieve goals and support his family, but without being a slave to his career.  He had a sense of loyalty to his wife, his friends, and his country and he never let them down.

Our friend Jim Bolding died from colon cancer last year at age 62.  Jim was a world-class athlete, and a respected coach, successful businessman, loyal friend, avid golfer and skier, and passionate supporter of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.  He had a great run for more than 60 years, and his positive, never-call-it-quits attitude made Jim a hero in every aspect of his life.

And my friend Jim Struthers died last year.  Jim was a terrific minister, an inspiration to many, and a good friend. We had become very close the past couple of years, and I worked with Jim to publish a book that had been on his mind.  I also wrote an article about Jim’s experience with the US Army Divisionn that liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War II.   Freeing the survivors at Buchenwald should have been a gratifying day in Private Struther’s life; instead, it was a turning point. That day, as he stared at the piles of bodies and saw the hopeless looks from the survivors he gave up his plans to be a physician and decided instead to become a minister. Others could heal bodies, he decided, he would spend the rest of his life trying to heal minds and hearts.

A Challenging Year

The past year has been a challenge.  For whatever reason, I’ve been in a bit of a funk much of time; not a depression, and not even a bad mood – just a bit of a funk.

I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to spend every day doing whatever I want.  And I realize I’m very lucky to have enough money put away so I don’t have to work for a living.

Yet, for whatever reason, there’s a dark cloud hanging over my head much of the time.  I think much of it might have to do with losing people I love.

Love of my Life

Patty continues to be the love of my life.  She is by far the most important part of my life, and she has been for 23 fabulous years!

Shortly after I turned 60 we had a fabulous party for Patty’s 60th birthday.  It was in Tahoe, at a cozy south shore mountain lodge called the Black Bear Inn.  The day before her birthday party, Patty and I cycled more than half way around the lake (we rode 34 miles) to complete a similar attempt by Patty on her 21st birthday.  During that earlier attempt Patty crashed half way around and was unable to finish.  The ride was great!  We rode past snow drifts at times, but the highways and cycle trails were clear.  The long, steep climb up to Inspiration Point wash an invigorating challenge, and we were proud that we were able to do it.

The entire weekend at Tahoe was magical.  All of our special friends drove up and spent the night, and we hiked at Hidden Leaf Lake and explored the Lake area.  The birthday dinner was a work or art; a customer-designed menu and table set just the way Patty wanted.

Shortly after our birthdays we traveled to Scandinavia, where we cycled in Denmark and took a cruise through the spectacular fiords of Norway.  During our cruise Patty slipped on a wet rock (while trying to get the perfect photo) and broke her elbow.  She had surgery in July and was in various types of casts for nine weeks.

Much of last summer was spent helping Patty with recovery and rehab, which went very well.  Her elbow has healed, the metal that was put in has now been taken back out, and she should have nearly full use of her arm in a few more weeks.

Mom’s Health

Last December, when we were visiting my mother in Nebraska, she complained that she had been experiencing stomach pain for several weeks.  We took her for medical tests, which revealed a large mass in her abdomen.  It turned out to be colon cancer and in January she had surgery to have the tumor removed, which was successful.  I flew to Omaha to spend a week with her in the hospital, and in February and March I went to Nebraska to help her recover.  She also had visits from my brothers and sister during her recovery.  She pulled out of it very well, and she is now nearly fully recovered.  It was a remarkable testament to the ability of our medical system to treat people of all ages, and her quick recovery was a tribute to the way Mom has taken care of herself over the years.
Fixing Up the Cottage

We continue to work on our little Victorian cottage, as we have for the past 21 years, and it’s turning into a charming little home.  During the past year we remodeled the office, upgraded the lighting system in the kitchen and dining room, and installed a new Wolf range and hood in the kitchen.
Scandanavia and Santa Fe.

Last June we travelled to Scandinavia, took a bicycle tour of the island of Zealand in Denmark, toured Copenhagen on foot, explored a little bit of Sweden, and enjoyed a cruise of the west coast of Norway.  Cousin Tom joined us for the cycling week, and Ruth and Bill Diefenbach were with us in Copenhagen, Sweden, and Norway.  We loved Denmark and coveted the Danish life style.  It’s a small country with a rich history and a remarkably developed society where people are happy and fulfilled.  Highlights included the Viking museum at Roskilde, Tivoli Garden and the museums of Copenhagen, the Hamlet Castle, the fantastic scenery of the Norwegian fiords, and the people of Denmark and Norway.

We also had a terrific week in Santa Fe in October.  We love the unique style and rich history of Santa Fe, and we explored the area on foot, bicycle, and car.

Experimenting with Writing Styles and Voices

My writing continues to evolve, and I continue to experiment with different styles and different voices.

During the past year, I wrote an article with my Mother about the history of the Sioux Army Depot near Sidney, Nebraska, which was published in the Sidney Sun-Telegraph.

I also wrote several personal “profiles” over the past year, including essays about Jim Bolding, Walt Harlow, Cathy Koch, and my father.  For me, personal essays are difficult to write, but very rewarding.

During the past year I’ve become more involved with the program for seniors at Tel-Hi.  I started serving lunches to the seniors last summer, and continue to do that every Friday.  And I organized and taught a course on Memoir Writing this spring that was very rewarding.  It was a six-week course that emphasized voice, writing style, organization, outlining, and editing and the students (who ranged in age from 65-94) were very appreciative.  I hope to offer it again this summer and am looking forward to it!

I am writing a regular column for SCIP again, this time with Toni Wilson.  It’s hard to stay current in the field of competitive intelligence when I no longer work in it, and I have to do much more research and rely on Toni to know what is really going on.  I’m glad to be working in the field again, and writing the columns challenges me to research and think about new ways of doing things.

Hikes with Ruth

My friend Ruth and I have been exploring San Francisco during a series of Thursday afternoon hikes.  Each week, we pick and hike an area of the City.  Afterwards, we find a coffee shop, enjoy a latte and a snack, and talk about what we saw.  It’s been rewarding for both of us, and we have had great talks, terrific exercise, and have discovered many interesting parts of our City that we didn’t even know existed.  We’ve seen the Blue Angels fly over from the top of Bernal Heights, climbed an amazing set of mosaic steps in the Sunset District, watched a sailing regatta at Crissy Field, toured the mansions of Pacific Heights, checked out the murals of the Mission District, explored Japan Town, shopped in China Town during the Chinese New Years celebration, and had many, many other adventures.  I look forward to our very special time together each week!

Economic Recovery

The U.S. economy is finally rebounding (slowly) after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  It’s been a long haul and most peoples’ retirement funds still aren’t back to where they were before the recession, but at least the economy is growing and companies are starting to hire again.  Unemployment is still too high and too many companies are struggling, but at least the worst seems to be past.

Now, there appears to be an economic bubble arising in the high tech world.  Stock prices of many high-tech companies are rising rapidly, some of the companies are going public, and there’s speculation which ones will be the next stars, much like at the turn of the century.  Apple, in particular, is going crazy, with extremely high valuation and stock prices over $600 per share.
Higher Gas Prices and More Electric Cars

Americans are buying record numbers of hybrid and electric cars as gas prices climb (now well over $4.00 per gallon) and new models arrive in showrooms.

Consumers bought a record 52,000 gas-electric hybrids and all-electric cars in March, up from 34,000 during the same month last year.

Last year, Chevrolet and Nissan introduced electric cars in the U.S. (the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf), which have received good reviews.  Sales are slow so far, primarily because of the high cost of the cars and uncertainty of the ability to re-charge them.

Social Media

Whatever your personal feelings about social media, it is becoming an increasingly significant force in today’s business world.  More than 80% of Americans use at least one social network, and worldwide numbers aren’t far behind.  Each day, millions of messages are sent across the internet on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, forums, rating sites, and other social media.

Social media is influencing nearly every aspect of our lives; from education, to politics, to socialization.  Everyone talks about it and the news is filled with stories and developments.  New apps appear every day, and start-up companies are popping up to supply software of services to social networks or to allow consumers or businesses to do more with them.

Revolutions and Occupations

The prolonged severe economic recession has generated a significant amount of unrest around the world, which has resulted in the overthrow of several governments and strong dissention is other countries.  Citizens rose and overthrew the governments of Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, and they are protesting in Syria and other Middle Eastern and northern Africa countries.

A grass roots movement (Occupy Wall Street) started protesting in the U.S. early in 2011, partially stimulated by the revolutions in northern Africa and the duration of the economic recession.  At its core, the movement appears to be pushing for more income equity in the US, and their mantra is they represent the bottom 99% of Americans, who have a decreasing portion of total U.S. wealth.  Groups of the informal (and leaderless) Occupy Movement sprang up on Wall Street and in many large U.S. cities last summer and fall.  Eventually, some of the protests turned violent, as protestors camped out in public places, and in some cases destroyed private and public property and fought with police.  Initially, the “Occupy” movement had the support of a large segment of the US, but as it dragged on and grew increasingly off target and violent they lost a lot of public support.

Now, as spring approaches and colleges empty out for the summer, the Occupy movement is trying to rekindle support.  At this point, it’s mostly an empty gesture.

Rogue Countries

As a child, I used to watch the evening news and marvel at the fact that people continue to start wars and kill each other.  I was confused and disgusted by it and wondered why.  I also assumed that at some point during my lifetime people would wake up, figure it out, and stop wars.  Now, it looks like I was too optimistic.

Rogue countries continue to become aggressive, slaughter their citizens, start wars with neighboring countries, and develop weapons capable of killing people en masse.  Syria is an example, where over the past year the government in power has put down a revolution by killing thousands of its own citizens.  And Iran and North Korea continue to develop nuclear weapons, despite protests from most of the world, warnings, and sanctions.  Coalitions of developed countries (i.e., the United Nations and NATO) are powerless to stop these atrocities, and often they are unable to even agree they should be stopped.

Afghanistan and Iraq (10 years, $1.3 trillion)

U.S. soldiers came home from Iraq during the past year, and we are finally starting to get out of that mess (which George Bush got us into).  But the U.S. is still waging war in Afghanistan (which George Bush got us into), and that war is costing the U.S. $2 billion every week.  Imagine what good the $500 billion we have wasted in Afghanistan could have done elsewhere!  Imagine how much good we could have done with the $800 billion we wasted in the fruitless war in Iraq!  Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, we continue to make enemies, embarrass ourselves, and waste soldiers and money.

Obama

Barack Obama is in his fourth year as president.  This is an election year, and at this point he’s running neck-and-neck in the polls with Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presumed candidate.

Obama must be telling himself that his job is a lot harder than he thought it would be.  Four years after taking office, he has been able to achieve only a small portion of what he had hoped to achieve, primarily due to the deep recession the country has been in, and because of the Republican Party’s opposition.  He must be terribly frustrated and disappointed.  Hopes are high for a better second term.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are doing everything they can to stop Obama and Congress from being able to accomplish anything.  There is a very deep ideological divide between liberals and conservatives – a divide that is spiteful and hateful, and It is very disappointing to live in a country where ideals are so sharply divided that a significant number of my fellow citizens are willing (and eager) to do anything to destroy a politician who has views different from the own.

Mitt Romney Plays Wack-a-Mole

This year’s GOP presidential primaries have been interesting and telling.  The U.S. is deeply divided along financial and social issues, and that division was evident in the Republican presidential primaries.  Mitt Romney, former businessman and governor (who really has to be considered a moderate), has been opposed by one right-leaning Republican candidate after another.

First it was Michelle Bachman, who is way off to the right on most issues.  Then, when Bachman’s mouth got her in trouble, Ricky Perry appeared.  He is the governor of Texas and his good looks and right-wing agenda appealed to many on the far right.  Then his memory and his mouth got him in trouble and he dropped out of the race.  Then Herman Cain appeared.  He had no ties to politics (he’s a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza) and he spoke in clear and simple tones, but his mouth (and his past indiscretions) got him in trouble and he dropped out. Then Rick Santorum appeared.  He has an extremely right-wing social agenda and he’s very adept at blasting President Obama, which appealed to a few supporters (primarily in the south and mid-west).  Eventually, he lost his home state and had to drop out.  Then came Newt Gingrich, who professed to have all the answers, and his star shined through a couple of primary wins.  But Newt is sleezy and a conceited jerk, and he eventually ran out of money and time, and he dropped out.

So, now the GOP is stuck with a candidate they have trouble supporting.  He’s moderate, he’s extremely wealthy, and he has a very hard time relating to average Americans.  But he’s the Republican candidate, and he will run against Obama this fall.

Steve Jobs

Apple founder Steve Jobs died of cancer at the age of 56 on October 5th, leaving behind a legacy that changed the computer, music, film and wireless industries. Apple, the company he co-founded, was once written-off as passé, but last August it topped ExxonMobil as the most valuable U.S. corporation. In that month Steve Jobs resigned as CEO. Jobs created the Macintosh in 1976 and was fired nine years later after a power struggle with Chief Exec John Sculley. He returned to Apple in 1996.  Steve was a hero to many fans of Apple products, and his death was mourned by millions.

Movies

It was not a banner year for any form of art.  The recession seems to have cast a pall over the arts, and there has been a de-emphasis of art as a result.  Movies were no exception, and there were no standout films last year.  The Artist won the most awards, and it was certainly the most unusual film of the year.  Others receiving honors included Hugo, Iron Lady, Midnight in Paris, and MoneyBall.

The 49ers Gave Us a Thrill

A year after the San Francisco Giants won it all in baseball, the 49ers had their best year in more than a decade.  They finished the year with a record of 13-3, made the playoffs, and went all the way to the NFC Championships, where they barely lost to the New York Giants (who wound up winning the SuperBowl).

April 28, 2011

On My Birthday 2011

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 4:31 pm

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”

– Frank Lloyd Wright

On my birthday I’m 60. It’s been a long and arduous process to figure out how to deal with my birthday this year. I’ve reached another decade, another age zone. I’m no longer young, no longer in my fifties, not even in middle-age. I’m 60.

Sixty is the age when people begin to wind down their careers, become grandparents, and start complaining about their joints. At 60, everything is a little more difficult and body parts start to wear out. Some people get sick, and a few die. That can be discouraging.

Sixty is also the age when you need to make a decision: either you grasp life and run with it, or you hunker down and wait for the inevitable.

My friends offered opinions, as you would expect, some more positive than others. Some are obsessed with their aches and pains and by what they can no longer do while others are upbeat and carrying on as though their increasing age is not a big deal.

After much introspection I’ve decided that turning 60 is a positive thing. This is the beginning of a phase of life we all strive toward; the stage we think about and plan for and look forward to as we toil through earlier decades of school, work, raising kids, and saving money. “When I retire,” we told ourselves as we slogged through those years, “I will get in shape, travel more, sleep in every day, do volunteer work, etc.” Now I’m there.

A Great Place to Be!
And what a great place to be! I have good health, (hopefully enough) money in the bank, and time and interest to do things and go places. I also have the freedom to do what I want to do every day of the week. That’s pretty amazing!

We never know what condition we will be in at any given stage in our lives, and often our health, finances, and family situation are beyond our control. So we plan, and take care of ourselves, and save money for the later periods in our lives – all with the assumption that we will actually get there and be in a position to enjoy that part of our lives. But much of it is beyond our control.

So it’s refreshing when it works out.

Glass Half-Full
Life is more complicated at 60. Bad news comes more often – often in the form of phone calls or emails that tell of illness or death. Parents, aunts and uncles, and friends are getting older, and some get sick and die. That’s part of this phase of life, and if we allow it to, it can become overwhelming.

At this age it’s not feasible to do everything we used to do. Some things are no longer enjoyable and others are not physically possible. And, if we allow it to, that can become overwhelming.

At this age it’s natural to think about retirement, and many of us cut back or stop working. That sounded wonderful when we were working full-time, and most of us looked forward to it, but when it happens it’s possible to become depressed because we no longer have steady income, job status, and a built-in sense of accomplishment. And, if we allow it to, that can become overwhelming.

But, for each of those drawbacks there is an offsetting advantage. At this age we have the wisdom of experience, wonderful memories of family and friends, and the freedom of time. Our glasses are truly half full.

Losses
There were several losses in my life over the past year including uncles, aunts, and friends. Four of them hit me especially hard.

“Cousin” Walt Harlow

Walt was a friend. We saw him each year at Thanksgiving and Easter and we met at his house to see slides of his trips. Walt was sick most of last year and went downhill quickly around the end of the year. I took food to him, drove him to and from the hospital, and spent a lot of time with him. Unfortunately, Walt died in February, following a brief illness. Toward the end he was pretty cantankerous, and his narrow-mindedness and prejudices were exposed. But Walt was a friend, and his demise affected me. Lee and I are in charge of his estate, and sorting through a person’s life is both interesting and disturbing.

Sister Esther

My father’s oldest sister, Sister Esther, was truly a saint. She spent her life as a nun, helping people, and she was the kindest person I’ve known. Her tenderness and concern were genuine and heartening, and every time we were at a family gathering she would speak to me privately, ask me how I was doing, and offer encouragement. She always made me feel better.

Aunt Marge and Uncle John

Another favorite aunt (Marge) and a favorite uncle (John) died over the past year. Marge was my father’s sister (the tenth of thirteen children), and she grew up on the family farm in Peetz, Colorado. She married John Huss in 1955, settled in Arvada, Colorado, and raised six wonderful children. Marge was a wise, kind mother and a loving aunt. She loved to laugh and her giggle made everyone smile. She was loved by all and will be greatly missed.

Marge’s husband, John Huss died a few months after Marge. John married into the zany Fehringer family, and he really fit in. John was a successful businessman, terrific father, avid sports fan, and active community member. He was also a kind and loving uncle and he always had a good word for each of his nephews. If you really wanted to get John going, all you had to do was talk to him about the Denver Broncos and Colorado Rockies. I’ll miss our talks, and I’ll miss John’s smile.

My Writing Quest
I want to spend the rest of my life writing and I would like to be remembered as a writer. That’s been my quest for some time, and I continued to pursue it during the past year by writing articles, columns, press releases, and blogs.

I am still writing a column for SCIP’s magazine (my ninth year), and I hope to continue to do so for a few more years. During the past year I partnered with Toni Wilson to develop a column to review new products and services for competitive intelligence professionals. That keeps me in the profession, active in SCIP, and in touch with some of my old pals.

I wrote several press releases and articles for Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center over the past year, and that has been another way I can help the Center and stay in touch with writing business-related articles.

I’m narrowing down the type of personal writing I like to do, which is settling on short articles about people. Researching and writing these profiles is rewarding, and the articles seem to be meaningful to the people I write about. Over the past year I wrote pieces about Paul Meuse, Jim Struthers, Jim Bolding, Duke Galstead, and Walt Harlow.,

I still enjoy writing about our travels and I produced several article about our trips to Morocco and Switzerland over the past year. Some were published in InTravel Magazine and Writer’s Showcase.

Staying Active
I continued to be active in Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center the past year, serving as treasurer of the Board; on the Finance, Development, and Annual Dinner Committees; participating in the search for an executive director, and assisting with fund-raising efforts. Tel-Hi is a wonderful grass-roots organization that helps hundreds of people every day, and participating in their programs is very rewarding.

SCIP has changed a lot over the past couple of years. They merged with a larger organization, which resulted in name change, new staff, and elimination of most of their publications, and I am still writing a column for their magazine, but that’s my only remaining involvement.

I continue to participate in the Dashiell Hammett Society of Studs (DHSOS) – a literary society – and I continued to write minutes of the meetings. This gathering of five middle-age gentlemen is a wonderful way for us to get out, share our experiences, and cement our friendship. It’s difficult to fully appreciate how important it is to each of us, and I know we will always look back fondly on these meetings and on our incredible relationship.

My part-time job the past several months has involved helping Lee clean out “Cousin” Walt’s house. And, since Walt didn’t get rid of anything over the past 60 years, we have a lot of his parent’s, his deceased wife’s, and his personal things to get rid of. It’s an eerie task.

I was moved by Walt’s death and by what is happening to his house. Here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote about it:
It feels strange sitting in this quiet little house at 87 Denslowe Drive. I sense spirits here and I can feel them moving about — going from room to room, putting things away, cleaning. A sense of orderliness remains, and I get the feeling that everything is exactly where it is supposed to be.

There’s also a sense of permanence in this two-bedroom, one-bath, stucco house in the western part of San Francisco. It has had only two occupants since it was built in the early 1940s as part of the Lakeside residential neighborhood, between 19th Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard. The Harlows were the second family to live in it when they moved here in 1951; Walt senior, his wife, Alice, and their only child, 28-year-old Walt junior. It was the Harlow’s home for the next 60 years.

Walt died in his beloved home at 87 Denslowe Drive this February, breathing his last breath in the upstairs bedroom of the little house that was such an important part of his life. Except for Walt’s things and the spirits, the little house at 87 Denslowe Drive now seems hollow. There’s a lot of history here embedded in the threadbare furniture, bits and pieces of china, and yellowing photo albums. Unfortunately, much of the history will be lost when the little house is emptied of the Harlow belongings.

I’m sure the house is curious about who will move in next. Whoever it is, they will find a cozy little house with a lot of wonderful memories.
Spain, Morocco, and Switzerland
We took two wonderful trips over the past year to northern Spain in May and Morocco and Switzerland in September.

The trip to northern Spain started in Madrid, included a few days in San Sebastian in the Basque region and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a week-long bike tour of the Rioja region, and a few days in Madrid. We loved northern Spain! The scenery is beautiful, the food excellent, and the people warm and friendly. I wrote an article about our bike tour, which was published on the tour company’s website and InTravel.com.

Morocco was a terrific adventure and a hard, but satisfying trip. We explored Casablanca, Fez, Meknes, and Marrakesh and everywhere we went we found the people friendly and the food and culture exotic. I wrote articles about our wonderful riad (bed-and-breakfast) in Fez and about getting lost in Marrakesh.

From Morocco, we flew to Switzerland and met Ken and Vicki for a week of exploring Lucerne and the Swiss Alps. What a beautiful country! We loved the history, the absolute beauty of the Alps, and the cleanliness and organization of Switzerland! We took several different forms of transportation in Switzerland (train, bus, gondola), and every time our rides were on time, clean, and efficient. We had a great time travelling with Ken and Vicki and vowed to do it again.

In addition to our international trips we continued to travel within the U.S. over the past year. I spent time in Nebraska with my mother, helping her adjust to being a widow and helping her manage her home and yard. We also spent time at the McCrary home in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and in August we went to the Fehringer Family Reunion in Sidney, Nebraska, followed by our usual wonderful week with friends at Drakesbad.

Love of My Life
Being married is one of the best parts of this phase of my life. Having someone to share this very special time makes it so much better than going through it alone, and having Patty be that someone is as good as it could possibly be. She is truly the love of my life!

After 22 years together we are now comfortable with each other. We know each other’s idiosyncrasies and we support each other through tough times and delight in each other the rest of the time. She is an absolutely good and kind person, and I have had the privilege of watching her blossom the past several years. It is a pleasure to watch how she treats people and I marvel at her ability to help her friends. When she is away my life seems hollow.

I am so fortunate to be in love with her!

Circle of Friends
We are fortunate to hang with an amazing group of friends. For the past 20 years we have shared holidays, birthdays, vacations, and dinner parties and I have assumed that the group would always be together and that things within the group would always be the same. But over the past couple of years signs of change have appeared. We are aging, and most of the group is now over 60. And, as these things go, some of the group are beginning to experience health issues. So far, the changes haven’t curtailed our activities but they are creating a greater need to help each other and it’s been gratifying to watch the group rally around those who need help and to see them lend assistance without being asked. I feel incredibly fortunate to be included in a group that treats each other so well.

Our beautiful Goddaughter, Christina, got married last fall. It has been a high honor to watch her develop from a cute, well-mannered girl into a beautiful and graceful bride, and I was privileged to share what must have been the happiest day of her life.

Our handsome Godson, Beck, moved back to the Bay Area to be close to his mom and dad, and he is working as a freelance photographer.

Our other beautiful Goddaughter, Katherine, started college over the past year, at Carlton College in Minnesota.

Our other handsome Godson, Ian, is in high school. He’s all boy – grows like a weed, loves sports, has little time for girls, and is a source of constant irritation to his parents.

Drakesbad

Our time at Drakesbad is becoming more meaningful each year. It is a magical retreat, far enough removed from the rest of life to be a hideaway, yet close enough to be accessible. The four-hour drive follows roads that become increasingly narrower until it ends in beautiful, isolated Warner Valley. Our days at Drakesbad are spent hiking, swimming, and talking with people we love, and at the end of the week it’s hard to go back into the real world. It’s a special week in a special place!

George and Gracie
During the past year two new residents joined us at 163 Jersey Street. The newest members of our family, George and Gracie, are shorthair kittens who made the journey in June from the SPCA to Noe Valley. They are step-siblings who have been together (in a foster home and the SPCA) since they were found abandoned as tiny kittens.
George is a very active black-and-white boy who appears to be wearing a tuxedo. He has a black mask, white tummy, and white feet with black polka dots. He also has non-stop energy which includes tormenting his step sister, jumping and playing, and chewing (and swallowing) anything in sight.
Gracie is quiet and reserved, ‘though she seems to be the alpha cat, calling most of the shots among the two of them. She’s calico, with patches of tabby stripes and soft gold polka dots.
George and Gracie lived in Patty’s bathroom until the pantry was finished, then moved into the pantry for a couple of months. Now, they have the run of the house, which they treat as their own. So far, they have proven to be wonderful companions.

The Orange-and Black Butterfly
The orange-and-black butterfly came back to our garden as it has each year, this time visiting me as I was getting our biking gear. As I started down the stairs the butterfly landed on the railing less than two feet away and it sat in the sun, gently fluttering its wings. Its back was dark brown, and there were scalloped orange stripes running down each wing. The end of each wing had eight white dots, which formed a unique pattern. At the bottom of each wing there were orange bands with black pinpoint dots. Two delicate antennas protruded from each side of its head, giving it the look of a space creature.

I’m sure it was Patty’s mother checking on us. That she can still come back ten years after her death is further tribute to the type of life she led.

After several minutes I made my way down the stairs and the butterfly took flight, circling round and round in the garden. As I reached the last step it landed on my arm with its head toward me, as if to say, “don’t worry about anything … I’ll always be here for you.” A warm feeling passed over me, and I was comforted.

Another Turbulent Year
The past year was filled with economic relief and major disasters. The great recession, which started in 2008 and dragged on through 2009, started to ease in 2010 and the stock market bounced back, corporations righted themselves, and a few companies began to hire again. Those of us who had begun to question whether we had put enough money away began to breathe easier, and although the U.S. incurred a tremendous amount of debt because of the recession, it looks like we will be OK.

Meanwhile, there were several significant disasters last year – some natural and others man-made.

An oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and leaked oil for three months; killing several workers and fouling the gulf waters, nearby beaches, and the reputations of British Petroleum and other oil companies. A relief well was eventually dug nearby, the leak was stopped, and clean-up efforts are underway. It was another example of man favoring profit over preservation, and I fear it will haunt us for decades.

A series of powerful earthquakes struck Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, and Japan; collectively destroying hundreds of thousands of lives. All of the quakes were devastating; particularly those in Haiti where upwards of 250,000 lives were lost and Japan where a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami killed at least 14,000 people and severely damaged a nuclear reactor.

A series of protests in the Middle-East started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and to a lesser extent throughout the region. The people in that part of the world are desperate and a huge portion are young, poor, and living in countries ruled by oppressive monarchs or dictators. Protestors in Egypt overthrew their leaders and residents in nearby countries are trying to do the same. It’s a painful, but gratifying example of how people who aren’t treated well will eventually rise and take over.

Trapped for 69 days deep underground by an explosion, 33 Chilean miners were rescued by heroic efforts, and the whole world cheered as they came up. It was welcome good news for a world that at the time had little else to celebrate.

American voters, frustrated by a severe, prolonged recession, voted with their pocketbooks and sent many Democrat politicians packing. The House of Representatives is now controlled by Republicans who vowed to fix the economy and control spending, and President Obama must now learn how to compromise. The U.S. is as divided as I’ve ever seen it, with conservatives determined to cut spending and liberals determined to carry on as before. The amount of debt the U.S. has piled up is scary, and no one seems to be able to figure out how the U.S. government can live within its means.

Canada hosted the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which turned out to be a series of challenges. Early on, unseasonably warm weather threatened to turn the Games into a mud contest, and a pall was cast over the events when on the day of the opening ceremonies, luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from the Republic of Georgia was killed when he lost control of his sled. And the opening ceremonies were marred when the torch-lighting ceremony had a technical glitch. But the snows came, the technical glitch was forgotten, and the luger was turned into a hero. The Canadians were wonderful hosts, and a bevy of new medalists turned the Olympics into a feel-good event.

I’ve been a die-hard fan of the San Francisco Giants for 30 years and Patty and I have seen them through disastrous years, awful stadiums, and terrible teams. But this year our patience and loyalty paid off, as the team struggled through a mediocre April and May to become a stronger and more successful team in the second half of the season. They battled hard down the stretch and nudged Colorado and San Diego out for the division title. The playoffs were incredible and the Giants narrowly beat Atlanta and then surprised everyone by upsetting the heavily-favored Phillies. That put them in the World Series for the first time in eight years, against the Texas Rangers. It wasn’t even close, and the Giants took the title in six exciting games. We held World Series parties and then joined the spontaneous celebrations that broke out throughout the City. This was the first time the Giants had won the World Series since they moved to San Francisco in the 1950s, and it was a gratifying end to an amazing year!

April 28, 2010

On My Birthday – 2010

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 3:46 pm

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

– Mark Twain

On my birthday I am 59 years old.  This birthday begins a year-long passage to another segment of my life. I’ve watched friends go through it, dreaded it, and now I’m not sure how I will deal with it. For now, I am consoling myself with the notion that each passage of my life so far has been better than the one before it, and, if that trend continues, the next segment should be pretty wonderful!

Change

I’m getting older whether I like it or not, and change is heading my way. Those around me are getting older, too, and some of them are succumbing to their age. Losing those you love is hard.

There were several losses in my life over the past year; including uncles, aunts, and friends. Three of them hit me especially hard.

Aunt Margaret was my mother’s sister and she was also my Godmother. The part about being my Godmother was not a big deal to her, and she told me she had so many Godchildren she couldn’t keep track of them all. But it was important to me, and I think she knew that.

I spent time with Aunt Margaret when I was young — at family gatherings and when I got dropped off at her home when my parents were on vacation. In those days Aunt Margaret called most of the shots, and few people wanted to cross her. But I also remember Aunt Margaret’s playful side. When things got tense, she would get a twinkle in her eyes, make a joke, and things would lighten up.

Aunt Margaret died last November, giving in to age, illness, and fatigue. She was a tough lady who lived a very full and rich life, and I know she’s now calling the shots in her sector of heaven.

Patty Greenhalgh and I were friends for over 30 years – ever since I moved to California. At Visa, where we were co-workers, she had a straight-forward approach to people, situations, and life in general. Since retiring, Patty and I had become closer friends, sailing together and enjoying group dinners. A couple of years ago, Patty discovered she had cancer, and she fought it with courage and determination. I thought she had beaten it; but it came back, and this time it got her.

In March, Miss Molly, our faithful feline companion for nearly 17 years, grew very ill and had to be put to sleep while we were out of town. She had a bad heart, arthritis, and diabetes and had been on a special diet and insulin for the past six months. Despite her ailments, she tried her best to rally for us, and she spent a lot of time sitting on our laps, sleeping at the foot of our bed, and letting us know she loved us.

Each night when I got in bed, Molly would jump up and lie on my chest, purring and snuggling as close as she could to my face. I petted her and told her she was the best kitty ever, and I think she understood me. After a few minutes, she would go to Patty and snuggle in the crook of her right arm — sometimes spending the night that way.

Now it’s very quiet when we go home, and there’s no one there to greet us. We miss our furry little friend in so many ways, and we are comforted by the fact that she had a long and very good life.

My Writing Quest

I want to be remembered as a writer. That’s been my quest for some time, and I continued to pursue it during the past year by taking on contract jobs, and by writing articles, columns, blogs, and my first book.

I wrote on a contract basis for much of 2009, drafting and editing training material for hospital employees. The work was interesting, the people I worked with were terrific, and the money was good. It’s not something I want to do forever, but it was excellent experience, and it really helped pay the bills.

I also continued to write columns for SCIP’s magazine (my eighth year), and I hope to continue to do so for a few more years. Working with an editor to pick topics, researching and writing the columns, and seeing the work in print has been a great writing “exercise.”

Over the past year, I wrote several articles for InTravel Magazine and Writer’s Showcase. While those are non-paid, writing them and seeing them online has been very rewarding.

And I worked on what has been perhaps my favorite writing project thus far. “Our Lacy Legacy” is a chronology of Michael and Anna Lacy (my great-grandparents) and their children. It’s the story of how Michael Lacy and Anna Barry left Ireland, came to the U.S., and started their lives. It turned out to be a saga of hard work, determination, and faith.

The story was the brainchild of Aunt Margaret (Armstrong), who was one of Michael’s and Anna’s grand daughters, and I dedicated the book to Margaret. She collected letters, photos, and information, and then became too ill to finish the project. I was recruited to pick up the pieces, and I had a great deal of help from Judy Dickens, my mother and sister, and several cousins. Working on the project made me feel closer to Michael, Anna, and their children, and it also helped me understand myself a little better.

Activities

In June I attended my 40th high school reunion in Chappell. There were around 13 of my classmates there and we got along really well. While we’ve changed physically, there hasn’t been a lot of change in basic personalities over the years.

We retained our partnership in San Francisco Giants tickets, and Patty and I went to nine baseball games last year. The team was in rebuilding mode, but the games were terrific. I continue to enjoy watching the games, writing about baseball, and following the Giants.

I was also active in Tel-Hi the past year, serving on the Board, helping develop a planned giving program, and assisting with fund-raising efforts. Tel-Hi is a wonderful grass-roots organization that helps hundreds of people every day, and participating in their programs is very rewarding.

I also continued to participate in the Dashiell Hammett Society of Studs (DHSOS) – a literary society – and to write their minutes. This gathering of five middle-age friends is a wonderful way for us to get out, share our experiences, and cement our friendship. It’s difficult to fully appreciate how important it is to each of us, and I know we will always look back fondly on these meetings and on our incredible friendship.

Turkey, Africa, and More

We took two wonderful international trips over the past year, to Turkey and Africa.

The trip to Turkey would have been a good trip anyhow; after all, it is a fascinating country. But chance encounters with the Turkish people transformed our journey into an extraordinary experience. Our two-week tour included exploring Cappadocia, cycling and sailing on the Turquoise Coast, and sightseeing in Istanbul. Everywhere we went, we stumbled upon people who welcomed us, shared their day with us, and treated us with kindness. Their acceptance and warmth reminded us how much we have in common with people everywhere and it helped renew my faith in others.

After our trip, I wrote this to the people of Turkey:

“Thank you for your kindness and for welcoming us to your country. Thank you for your generosity, your help, letting us take your photo, and making us part of your day. Your friendliness and warmth further convinced us that we all belong to a family of people, with more commonality than differences. We all have hopes and dreams and an innate connection with others, and you reminded us that even though we might not look alike, that doesn’t mean we’re bad; just different.”

Our trip to Africa was fabulous in every way! We spent two weeks in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa, and experienced Victoria Falls, herds of elephants in Botswana, and a wide variety of animals, cities, and countryside in South Africa.

The sights were fantastic! Seeing Victoria Falls, the wildlife in Botswana and South Africa, and exploring the cities and countryside of South Africa are among the highlights of my travel experiences. And the people of Africa were wonderful to us!

In addition to our international trips, we continued to travel within the U.S. over the past year. I spent time in Nebraska with my mother, helping her adjust to being a widow and helping her manage her home and yard. We also spent time at the McCrary home in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and in August we went to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon with our group of special friends, followed by our usual tranquil week at Drakesbad.

Circle of Friends

The friends we hang with is an amazing group. For the past 20 years, we have spent holidays together, and each year we have shared time at Drakesbad. I have assumed, over those years, that the group would always be together, and things within the group would always be the same. But over the past year signs of change have begun to appear. We are aging, and most of the group is now over 60. And, as these things go, some members of the group are beginning to experience health issues. So far, the changes haven’t curtailed our activities, but they are created a need to help each other. It’s been gratifying to watch the group rally around those who need help, and to see them lend assistance without being asked. I feel incredibly fortunate to be included in a group that treats each other so well.

Another Turbulent Year

The past year was another turbulent one, as the world began to slowly recover from the most severe economic recession in over 50 years. Over the past year the stock markets started to come back, but unemployment is still high and many businesses have gone out of business or are hanging on for dear life. The U.S. has gone deeply in debt to bail out banks, car companies, and to stimulate the economy, and I worry about the long-term implications of so much debt.

Other countries are also suffering long-term effects of the recession. In Western Europe, several countries are in danger of defaulting on their debt, and their wealthier neighbors are being forced to bail them out. The long-term implications are frightening, as the world’s national economies are now so closely connected.

The economy in California is in even worse shape than the U.S. economy. Staggering annual budget deficits loom, and the politicians in control lack the courage to make hard decisions to cut spending and increase state revenue.

President Obama has shown signs of inexperience, but also of courageous leadership. He steered Congress through an overhaul of the U.S. health care system, a move that may cost him the next election, but which was badly needed. He also made what I think was another courageous decision when he decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan. The war in that country, and the one in Iraq, have cost the U.S. billions of dollars and have severely divided the country.

The fight against terrorism continues, with Muslim extremists as determined to kill westerners as westerners are determined to kill terrorists. This stand-off, which seems to result from misunderstanding and ignorance, has been going on for decades, and the world seems no closer to a solution today than we were years ago.

A series of earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and China over the past year have caused devastating damage and increased global nervousness. The earthquake in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, was particularly devastating, and it killed more than 200,000 people.

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