Saturday, December 31, 2011

the end of the beginning

this is it.

unless something really interesting happens (let's hope not), this is the last blog post of 2011.

the last one by me, anyway.

i know several people who, for an assortment of very good reasons, did not enjoy their 2011. "i can't wait for this year to be over," they say, hopeful that adding a digit to the calendar will bring better results. or at least some breathing room.

i hope it works.

of course, 2011 wasn't bad for everyone. the 1%, for example, got richer. sure, the 99% got poorer, but the tide may be turning. the 1% really hate that prospect, which is in itself a good thing. #occupy 2012.

the spaceneedl family managed, once again, to keep heads above water. that too may change in 2012, when the missus quits a job she can no longer tolerate and goes in search of a new career. while i'm not eager to be poor, i'd rather be poor with a happy wife than comfortable with an unhappy wife (because, really, there's no being comfortable with an unhappy wife).

besides, i am fortunate in many nonmonetary ways. for example, i have the great good fortune to work with some of the most fiercely intelligent women i've ever met. they amaze me every, they make me laugh, for which i'm very grateful. i live with a couple females who fit that description, as well. the older one continues to be my best friend, as has been the case for many years. the young one continues to keep me wrapped around her little finger (and every other fiber of her being), as has been the case for all of her eleven years.

i do know a few intelligent males, but they're fewer and farther between. maybe it's because men are rumored to think of sex every sex seconds (which would certainly make concentration difficult, if that were true, which i'm sure it's not). i happen to live with an intelligent young male who tries hard, every day, to convince me he's not very bright. so far, i'm not buying it. but for the record, he is very persuasive.

collectively, we are healthy, we have enough to eat, and we have a roof over our heads. this makes us far more fortunate than many. we are grateful for our good fortune, and empathize with those who are not so lucky.

moving on...

at the end of last year i did a review of my itunes downloads for 2010. it was cathartic, and served to remind me that not every idea that pops into my head is a good one. yes, i needed the reminder. this year, instead, i offer the following random observations on the pop culture i stumbled across in 2011. make of them what you will. but try the wine...

movie of the year: (tie) "the help" and "midnight in paris"

album of the year: low country blues, gregg allman

song of the year: "god loves me" melissa mcclelland (2009)

wine(s) of the year: (red) 2008 tres picos garnacha; (white) 2009 chateau montelena chardonnay

chocolate of the year: coconut milk & caramelized ginger 55% dark chocolate (madre chocolate, honolulu)

best fitness-related decision of the year: stop playing basketball, start running. for real. as a demonstration of this zeal, today i was about to blow off running. late, a thought occurred to me: "LAST CHANCE TO RUN IN 2011 !!!" that got me moving. three and a half miles as the sun w
set over the olympic mountains.

best running shoe ever: new balance baddeley 890 (bought on a whim for $45.00 at nordstrom rack)

top projects for 2012: finish "the rally," start "the midlife wife." also, goad brenda into starting "deadwood SD" (or maybe "secrets of deadwood." still thinking about that one)

that's it. bring on 2012.

and don't make me regret it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

why so serious, son?

"You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go 'according to plan.' Even if the plan is horrifying."

so, apparently the war in iraq is over.

you might have heard about it last week~~but then again you might not. the 'news' didn't get a lot of play in the press, and celebrations were muted.

VJ-day it was not.

"The last convoy of heavily armored personnel carriers slipped out of Iraq under cover of darkness and strict secrecy to prevent any final attacks. The 500 soldiers didn't even tell their Iraqi comrades on the base they were leaving.

"The fear spoke volumes about the country they left behind - shattered, still dangerous and containing a good number of people who still see Americans not as the ally who helped them end Saddam's dictatorship, but as an enemy."

officially, the last u.s. soldier killed in the conflict was a young man named david hickman, from greensboro, NC. speaking about hickman's death, and the outcome of the war, a friend said, “There aren’t enough facts available for me to have a defined opinion about things. I’m just sad, and pray that my best friend didn’t lay down his life for nothing.”

if we don't find horror in that kind of numb ambiguity, it's likely our souls are full of novocaine.

and sadly, plenty of facts are available. to recap, there was no link between iraq and 9/11. there were no WMDs. in fact, there was no justifiable reason at all to wage war there. in the end, there was just a surfeit of carnage. huge deficits. and a middle eastern country left wide open to the kind of threat we were warned to fear beyond all rationality.

did you know: the u.s. spent twice as long fighting in iraq as it did fighting WWII. would anyone like to make the case that saddam hussein was twice the threat of hitler, et al?

in lieu of that, it would seem that a langourous conflict in iraq, along with an endless "war on terror" was actually part of someone's mind-boggling plan.

and we haven't even mentioned afghanistan (aka, the place empires go to die). that plan, ten years later, is still reaping grimly, with no end in sight.

in both cases, despite all evidence to the contrary, there are still plenty of people who insist not enough time, money, and blood have been squandered. as if a pyrrhic nonvictory that laid waste to three countries (yes, the u.s. among them) isn't enough. what would satisfy them, one might wonder?

particularly since the u.s. is leaving behind a significant military presence, in the form of nearly 53,000 military contractors. plenty of money still to be made on that front.

to sum up, the u.s. spent nearly nine years at war with a third-rate dictator; hundreds of thousands of people were killed and trillions of dollars were spent. america became known for torture, prison without trial, and irradiating/strip-searching hapless air travelers.

for that horrific cost we earned the opportunity to sneak out of iraq under cover of darkness.

not to worry, though. it was all according to some sort of plan.

In the end, many of the departing troops wrestled with a singular question: Was it worth it?

Capt. Mark Askew, a 28-year-old from Tampa, Florida, said the answer will depend on what type of country Iraq turns into years from now - whether it is democratic and respects human rights.

"People are asking themselves: `Was this worth it?'" he said, speaking to his troops before they set off to Kuwait. "I can't answer that question right now."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ajax, au revoir

bubba's days are running out.

he's 20, see, which is old for a cat. it's hard to say if the liver failure or the kidney failure will get him first.

what is certain, in the meantime, is that bubba's light is dimming. his back legs no longer work very well...a far cry from the smoothly athletic stunts he used to pull, like leaping from the bathroom counter to the top of the door. or flying up the trunk of a large pine just ahead of two pursuing dogs. he was a sight, back in the day.

these days, bubba doesn't stray far from the space heater near his bed. his eyes are clouding, and his coat is perpetually full of mattes, despite the fact that i brush him every day. he's tired, mostly, and you can't really blame him. we should all be doing so well when we're the equivalent of 100 years old.

still, it's a little heartbreaking. some days, if i'm overly tired or stressed or otherwise out of's a lot heartbreaking. we've been together a long time~~and though i can see a future when he's no longer around, that prospect doesn't feel real, or possible.

denial is a remarkable thing.

there are other, parallel endings imminent. for the wife of a good friend. for an uncle in hospice. strangely, there are more just outside our orbit. they resonate here, adding to the disquiet.

time slips through our grasp, not like sand or water, but like hard radiation, desiccating everything it touches.

and the simple, obvious, inescapable fact is this: at the end of the day, no one gets out alive.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

we're having a run on sand...

running on the beach is different.

for one thing, you're running on sand.

sand, as a base, is notoriously unstable. thus, "a house built on a foundation of sand" historically is considered "not a good investment."

but we digress.

running on sand is difficult. particularly in bare feet. bare feet tend to sink in sand, requiring significant additional effort to push off and ambulate forward in the rapid manner often associated with running. also, beach sand may be fraught with seashells, coral, driftwood, jellyfish, shark teeth, pufferfish, buried treasure, mermaids, kraken, and other dangers. so, caution is always advised when running on the beach.

beaches typically slope toward the water. sometimes precipitously. when running on a beach, therefore, one foot is almost always lower than the other. indeed, one entire side of your body is lower than the other. unless you are genetically or otherwise mutated, your body is not accustomed to this kind of imbalance. it complains and resists and may try to ambulate in a circle. or it may sustain "trauma" consistent with an "injury." plantar fasciitis, strained iliotibial bands and severed achilles tendons are examples of such injuries.

the water associated with many beaches often appears in the form of waves, or surf. these waves sometimes ascend the beach in an uproar of spray and sand. running at the edge of the surf sometimes morphs into running through the surf without any prior agreement on your part. a wetsuit or other protective gear may be advisable in these conditions.

sand, water, slope...what are we forgetting? oh, yes: people! walking people. running people. fishing people. surfing people. small, digging-in-the-sand people. and not infrequently, dog people. which is to say, people with dogs. all vying for the same few yards of navigable beach. it's like nascar, minus the cars.

the running people generally are not a problem. they share your concern for the local conditions, and will invariably give you an empathetic little wave or smile as they go by. one caveat to this is the bikini-clad runner, who often presents a significant distraction hazard. appreciate the young, fit, ridiculously hot bikini-clad runner(s) briefly, and at a distance, to avoid injury.

walkers are slower versions of runners, and can be avoided by veering inland, or into the surf. going the surf route causes significant splashing, however, which many walkers prefer to avoid, even at the beach. go figure.

surfing people are generally not a threat when offshore. they can, however, become obstacles when carrying their surfboards into the water. avoid them by veering toward a corporate environment.

fishing people tend to cast lines into the water, then plant their fishing poles in the sand. this can create a "clothesline" hazard if the lines are low, or if you happen to be tall. be careful to avoid decapitation by ducking under the lines or veering inland. veering into the surf to avoid the lines is not recommended, as you may become entangled or impaled by a fish hook. decapitation and being impaled by a fish hook are additional traumas consistent with injury that are not conducive to finishing your run.

note: fishing people who cast-and-reel, cast-and-reel, etc. should be avoided by veering inland~a radius of a half-mile is recommended (see "impaling" information above).

small, digging-in-the-sand people (often "children") should be avoided. parents tend to object if you trip over or otherwise become entangled with their progeny. also, holes created by digging are hazards associated with tripping, falling, and trauma consistent with injury.

dog people at the beach often throw sticks, frisbees, tennis balls and other dangerous items. also, dogs dig holes in the sand (see "sand-hole digging" information above). dogs (and less frequently their people) have been know to bite a passing runner without any prior agreement on the runner's part. veering inland or into the surf are not viable avoidance techniques, as the dogs (and sometimes their people) are capable of herding you back to the danger zone. consider carrying a large stick with you while running; in an emergency, it can be thrown into the surf as a diversion, enabling you to retreat and escape. alternatively, it may be used to inflict trauma and injury.*

at this point one might reasonably wonder why anyone would ever want to run on/at/anywhere near the beach.

by way of response, consider the following quote from the great louis armstrong, used completely out of context:

"if you have to ask, you'll never know."


note: this is not a complete list of beach running hazards. your results may vary based on local conditions. past returns are no guarantee of future results. see store for details.

* for defensive purposes only. no dogs or people were harmed in the creation of this post.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

surf and smurf

at low tide there's thirty feet of sand between the seagrass and the line where the waves reach, falter, and retreat. in that expanse, tiny, translucent crabs skitter sideways, back and forth, occasionally disappearing into the holes they've dug. there must be some purpose to their nonstop activity, but whatever it may be is indecipherable.

further out, into the waves, the girl is on a short board, working in the gaps between the swells. every so often she, the board, and a wave connect in a long, frenzied ride to the sand. spent, the wave slides back dejectedly. the girl, meanwhile, gathers her board and sprints back into the fray.

the low waves are often taller than she is, but she is relentless. she drives into them, dives through them, dances between them. her energy matches theirs, surpasses it, until she emerges in the relative calm behind the breakers. in the surf, her movement is purposeful and powerful. her arms and legs are strong beyond her years. in the waiting green water past the sand bar she is watchful, impatient, eager to throw her board into another headlong rush toward the beach.

a muscular wave rises behind her, and the girl launches herself into the midst of it. she and the board accelerate down and ahead, into an uproar of spray and sand.

at the end of each ride she smiles, rises, and turns. again. again. again. the churning water batters her. she is unperturbed. the waves, in turn, are implacable, innumerable, inexorable. everything they touch they inevitably wear down.

eventually the girl picks up her board, absorbs yet another wave, and hesitates. she shakes it off, turns and walks out of the surf. she is smiling.

behind her, on the horizon, a two-masted schooner moves smoothly, gracefully, at full sail. between clouds, the sun catches the white canvas, turning it incandescent for a long minute.

gradually the sails sink below the horizon, then disappear.

running like water

running is different here.

for one thing, you can go out wearing very little. shorts. shoes. smile.

it's much easier to get through the first mile. i mean, you're already warm.

and soon, you're sweating buckets. it just pours off of you.

rain, when it comes, is a relief. it too is warm, so rather than curse it, you welcome it and invite it to hang around awhile.

on you go, covering ground much more quickly than you're used to. the usual aches and pains are conspicuously absent~~apparently your body likes being warm like this. it's so much better than the alternative.

before you know it, you're done.

and rather than walk to cool down or immediately jump in the jump in the ocean. one step, two steps, dive. ahhhhhh....

is this heaven? it might be heaven. it sure ain't iowa.