Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016/12/29 - Horace, Alex & Lucille continued, 100 mi/wk goal

As the months past, caring for Lucille got easier and easier. Her Alzheimer’s symptoms seemed to lessen, and Alex started to suspect that she might not have Alzheimer’s at all, that she may have had a stroke, or a mini-stroke. One piece of evidence supporting this suspicion was that on the day that her symptoms began, the right side of her upper lip started drooping.

Over the past few months, her doctors removed her Alzheimer’s medication, then her high-blood pressure medicine. After that, her confusion and fear stopped and she started acting more and more like a normal 87 year-old. And once her appetite came back she started gaining weight and strength. Soon she was going up and down the stairs multiple times a day without assistance.

This was all great for Lucille, but Alex was starting to realize that he was in for the long haul. The woman that came to him four months ago looked like she wouldn’t live out the year, now it looked like she might outlast Alex.

But Lucille still could not be left alone, and Alex and Aida started to feel like prisoners in their own house. Sadly the stress was weakening an already shaky marriage.

Aida felt like she was loosing her life and that Lucille was slowly taking over her place in the family. Arguments between Alex and Aida became more and more frequent until finally she came to Alex saying, “I want a divorce”.

Alex thought of a scene from "My Cousin Vinny".


Today I achieved one of my 2016 cycling goals; averaging 100 miles per week for the entire year. It was only a year or two ago when my friend Carol was congratulating me on my first 100-mile week and I thought it was a big deal.

I have to give credit where credit is due. If it weren’t for the amazingly good weather in Jefferson County Colorado, this never would have been possible for me.

I’ll post my entire 2016 cycling stats on January 1st.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016/12/25 - Christmas Eve, Dad's mind, Blowing smoke

Ho Ho Ho... Merry Christmas. Actually I think Jesus would be turning over in his tomb (that is, if he hadn't risen into heaven) if he knew what was going on in his name. I can just see him at Wallmarts on Christmas Eve yelling "STOP!"

Here's a picture of our living room after last night's present opening session:


Card games are so challenging because normal people find it impossible to memorize 52 cards, especially game, after game, after game. 

But there are some people who can. 

My dad was one of them and it really sucked to play cards with him. We would play Gin Rummy and towards the end when I would think I was getting close to knocking or to getting Gin, he would know exactly what I had in my hand and say something like "Don't think I'm going to give you that Jack you need for Gin". 

I'm not just blowing smoke up his arse, he eventually achieved the title of "Grand Master" in bridge. 

Have you ever wondered where the expression "Blowing smoke up your ass" originated? 

It turns out that years ago blowing smoke up someone's ass was thought to revive a person from drowning. There were even stations along some river in France, containing a pipe and tobacco specifically for this purpose. 

But afterwards when it was proven to be unfounded, it became a common joke. 


Saturday, December 24, 2016

2016/12/24 - Holiday people, Peas, Doctor Joe

People come out of the woodwork on holidays. I'm seeing whole classes of people in my local King Soopers supermarket that I never see all year long.

Yesterday this guy was ahead of me on line for the register and he looked like he walked right off of a James Bond movie. He was actually the best dressed man I've ever seen in King Soopers. I felt like taking a picture of his casual outfit for future reference, but that would have been way too gay.

My guess is that he was from out of town visiting his parents for the holidays.

I'm also seeing people who look like old hippies or meth addicts, people you would typically see at Walmarts before dawn. I'm not sure what is bringing these people out in daylight during the holidays.

Have you ever wondered how they split the peas?

Yesterday I read some alarming news about my veterinarian, "Doctor Joe". I'm actually still in shock. I've known Joe for over 15 years, and have always thought of him as a kind gentle man. He was loved by the community, in fact the whole town of Nederland donated funds to help pay for his many surgerys years ago when he caught a flesh eating virus  in the hospital.

He treated my dog Satchmo all his life and we cried together when we had to put him down.

But I also knew he had a history of addiction, and easy access to serious drugs. That's a scary combination.

Funny thing, the last time I saw Joe was about a year ago for Trixie's vaccination. As a loyal customer, and friend, I still travel all the way to Ned just to see him. He didn't look good. He looked a little sweaty and nervous. I actually whispered to the nurse afterwards "Is Joe all right? She replied the he was just getting over the flu. I suspected he might have been "off the wagon."


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016/12/21 - Pictures from Mom's Birthday

Here's two shots from the little party we had for mom's 87th birthday last Sunday 12/18:


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016/12/20 - A Scary World

We live in a scary world. A world where corporate and government agencies have equations to learn more about you. They have algorithms that try to figure out if you could be a terrorist, or learn your political and religious affiliations. They figure out what products you might want to buy and ads for you to receive. They may determine if you are a credit risk, or a health risk. They can influence your entrance into a job, a university, or your release from prision.

But for me the scary part is that some of these equations have gotten so complicated that they are impossible for humans to understand and the results from these black box algorithms may not agree with the moral and ethical values of our society.

I just listened to a great TED talk given on the subject by Zeynep Tufekci titled "Machine intelligence makes human morals more important". Two quotes stuck out for me:

"Artificial intelligence does not give us an a Get-out-of-ethics-free card".

"We cannot outsource our moral responsibilities to machines."


Sunday, December 11, 2016

2016/12/11 - Guinea Pigs

Many many moons ago when I was into running, I did a few overnight stays in cities hosting marathons the following day, and I attended some of the pre-race gatherings where all the running nerds shared their marathon stories and training secrets. 

At one of these events I learned that some runners were using a drug called Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DSMO) that was topically used on farm animals to relieve muscle and joint pain. It was something that was just rubbed on sore knees, or hips and the pain instantly went away. The product was not approved for humans, and was traded on the black market, especially at events like this.

It didn't sound safe, and I never used it, but one thing I heard one of the runners say that stuck in my head was that immediately after you rubbed it in, you could taste it in your mouth. I guess I never realized that stuff you put on your skin got absorbed into your whole body. 

This point was made clear again when recently I listened to a "Stuff You Should Know" podcast "How Makeup Works". It said that a woman using makeup on a regular basis absorbs 5 pounds of chemicals through her skin each year (think of a 5-pound bag a sugar for comparison).

And if this is not scary enough, cosmetics DO NOT have to pass the same government restrictions and regulations that food does. In fact, in the US cosmetics can be sold to the public until they are proven harmful. This is the opposite of how they are handled in Europe, where products have to be proven save before they can be sold to the public. In other words in the US, the people are used as Guinea pigs. 

It scares me to think of all the cologne I've slapped on my face, or all the deodorants and bug repellents I've used, without any concern of what chemicals were in them. As a kid I can remember Stripe toothpaste had a catchy jingle touting "Hexa.... Hexa... Hexachlorophene" until it proved to cause cancer. 

According to the podcast, there are currently dozens of known carcinogens in the cosmetics legally sold in the US today. 

Very scary stuff. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2016/12/07 - Ritchie

Around the same time that I was avoiding Donnie, I met another psychopath, this time in school.

I started high school at 13, and in my mind high school was the entry into manhood. I was now a man and able to do all those things that men do.

So I started smoking the first day of school. The back half of the Q64 bus that came to my corner at 7 o'clock was filled with Edison High students, and the last 3 rows, two of which faced each other, were unofficially reserved for smokers. Without saying a word, I took a seat in the back, grubbed a Lucky Strike from one of the guys and quietly listened to the conversations, which were mostly exaggerations about escapades with girls. 

Thomas Edison High was an all boys school, mostly vocational, but there was a small technical section offering majors in electronics, chemistry, or mechanical engineering. I was in the mechanical engineering section because my mother wanted me to become an engineer. She had absolutely no idea what engineers did, except make good money. 

I still remember the clothes that I was wearing that first day. I wore a blue and white checkered tab collared dress shirt, a thin black fake leather tie, black chinos, and shiny black shoes. I had prepared this "look" for a week beforehand. 

I guess teenage boys need to establish a pecking order, and it didn't take long for this guy Ritchie to come forward to prove himself. Ritchie was a young Irish kid of average height, a strong build, and a face that looked like it belonged to a prizefighter. His nose had obviously been broken at least once, and it had a crooked twist to it. 

He spent a few days sizing up his classmates and on the first Friday morning of the first week, he "called out" four or five guys which he perceived as possible threats. In the early 60's calling someone out meant challenging them to a fist fight. 

Since I was the tallest guy in the class, I was one of the guys that Ritchie called out. He approached me before class and said "I'm calling you out. Meet me outside after school".

I had some experience in getting my ass kicked in street fights and I knew that was actually more humiliating than painful. Not that it didn't hurt, but the embarrassment of taking a beating surrounded by a huge cheering crowd is worse. But even worse than that was punking out. Not showing up would be admitting that you were a coward and face being picked on for the rest of high school. There was no way that I wanted that. 

And like I said, the pain involved in the beating was the least of it. The only weapons were fists and the fights always ended with someone just saying "I give". Of course you had to try, and someone usually gave up when it was apparent they lost. 

I have a painful memory of getting my ass kicked when I was 11, right in front of my house with all the neighbors watching. After a few punching attempts the fight turned into wrestling, and after a while my bigger and older opponent had me on the ground with his knees pinning my arms, all the while slapping my face and asking if I was ready to give up. He kept slapping and I kept trying to get my legs up and around his head. Eventually I wore myself out, gave up, and walked home in shame. 

Back to the Richie story, I spent the entire Friday scared shitless, waiting to get my ass kicked once again in front of a crowd outside of my new school. 

The time came and I walked outside looking as cool and calm as I possibly could. There he was, waiting for me in the middle of the street. But as I approached him, instead of raising his fists to fight, he offered his hand to shake, saying "You're OK". 

It turned out I was the only guy out of the ones he called out, that showed up. 

If I wasn't such a coward, I would have taken advantage of this obvious sign of weakness, but instead I shook his hand and that was the beginning of my friendship with a psychopath. 

Have you ever had a friend that you were really afraid of?

Ritchie lived about a mile from me, across the street from Aqueduct Racetrack. He invited me over his house one Saturday afternoon. I rang the bell and he answered the door and led me into the kitchen. Then he called out to his mom to get us a couple of beers. Without saying a word, she went into the refrigerator and brought out two beers. I was shocked. We were 14! Then he offered me a cigarette, but I had my own. 

Ritchie's father was absent and his older brother was in prison. He lived alone with his mom and it looked as if she was as afraid of him as I was. 

The following Friday night I got to meet some of his friends and they were about as scary as Ritchie. I remember walking with them to the schoolyard where they hung out. We all had a pint of Gypsy Rose wine hidden inside our jackets, and we took sips of this cheap rot gut along the way. 

It was my introduction to alcohol, and I loved it. With my first sip, I drank almost a third of the bottle. I remember the warm feeling as it went down and the laughs and the acceptance I got from the other guys. It all felt good. 

In all honesty there was a certain advantage to having Ritchie as a friend in high school. No one ever messed with me again. 

It wasn't long before Ritchie went back to "reform school". One summer day he and a friend decided to steal a car, rather than take the train back home from Rockaway Beach. In those days some people actually left their car doors unlocked with the keys in the ignition. It didn't take long before Ritchie found one. But as they were driving away, he hit the owner who came running out of his house after them, and proceeded to crash into a telephone pole. 

I was a senior by the time they let him out. The phone rang and it was Ritchie. "Hey Steve, Where can I get some of this new shit LSD?"