Brexit madness

June 26th, 2016 by Ed

Lets do a bit of math, shall we?

  • The UK is host to approximately 64.5 million souls as of 2013.
  • 17.4 million of them voted to leave the EU in a non-binding referendum this past Wednesday.
  • 16.1 million voted to remain.
  • According to the NY Times, the turnout was about 72% of eligible voters,
  • Which means there were approximately 46.5 voters eligible to vote.

In other words, 37.4% of eligible voters, or 26.9% of the total UK population made a decision to abrogate the defining treaty of post World War II Europe.

This is the treaty that brought peace and prosperity to hundreds of millions in dozens of countries for the first time in centuries.

And the UK government is meekly going along with it?

And I thought American politics are fucked.


Fifty at Ten Thousand Feet

April 19th, 2016 by Ed

I wrote this some years ago – I’m well past 50 now, miracle of miracles – but it’s always been well received by others who approach that ominous year. I’ve decided to put it on Medium (link forthcoming) so I’m updating it here first.

The view from Mono Pass exhilarates but I’m on deadline. The map says four more miles to Walker Lake, cobalt blue and three thousand feet below me, but the trail looks longer. Much longer. Nearly two in the afternoon now, at four my friend Jeff and his car will be waiting for me near the locked gate beyond Walker’s eastern end. Jeff being Jeff, he will be worrying by 4:30.

Meeting my ride is not my only deadline on this day in California’s Sierra Nevada. This is the last hike I will take before I turn 50. An odd tension comes with this milestone, one I am having a hard time defining.

Below is Lower Sardine Lake and Mono Lake. Walker Lake is just below Lower Sardine but can't be seen because of the steep wall between the two.

Lower Sardine Lake. Below is Walker Lake and Mono Lake. Behind me is Upper Sardine Lake, a smaller version of Lower Sardine.

The trail to Mono Pass begins at Yosemite’s Tioga Road, a mile inside the park’s east entrance. This is the high country. The trail head is near 9500 feet, circles Mount Gibbs, a shale-heap of a peak at 12,775 feet, then tracks the edge of an enchanted meadow between Gibbs and Mount Lewis, a solid granite summit on the passes’ south side just a few feet lower than Gibbs. A four mile walk brought me to the 10,604 foot pass itself. The trail is an easy one if you discount the altitude.

I’ve been here before.

Read the rest of this entry »

2015 – So far

October 1st, 2015 by Ed

School shootings

Oregon Charleston Connecticut Boston Isla Vista – in Memory

June 18th, 2015 by EJB

I’m as tired of updating this post as Obama is speaking about the massacres.

If it Were Up To Me

Written and performed by Cheryl Wheeler

 Every time there is a mass shooting in America, someone puts together a video featuring this song and posts it on YouTube. No doubt there’ll be another version out shortly.

It’s Nixon time again

June 17th, 2015 by Ed

OK, fellow boomers,

It is time – unfortunately – to confront yet again that spectre of our youth, Richard Milhous Nixon. It seems that more of his papers and of course those infamous tapes have been released recently and some luckless soul tasked himself with updating our image of the man, documenting his endless tricks and missteps.

And endless they are, from sabotaging a Vietnam peace deal in ’68 – before he was elected! – so he could beat Humphrey, to spending weeks drunk in ’73 during the Yom Kippur war, leaving decisions to Kissinger and Haig and almost triggering a nuclear war.

Terry Gross interviews Tim Weiner, the guy who documents all this, on a recent Fresh Air episode titled “The Tragedy of Richard Nixon”. You can find it here on the web or search for that title on your phone’s podcast app.

Why should you listen? I suppose one reason is for “closure” though I hate that word and the idea behind it. A better reason is to remind yourself that things were every bit as fucked up in our younger years as it seemed at the time. Or, if you don’t want to go home again, listen to better understand why we are in the mess we are today.

But don’t eat right before you click “play”: once again, Richard Nixon will make you wretch.

Daily funny: Dear Zelda; workplace advice for NSA staffers

October 13th, 2014 by Ed

This is so far beyond irony that it loops around the other side. 

Seems that the NSA – yes, that NSA, the one reading your eMails (Yo, Spooks!), listening to your phone calls, monitoring your bank accounts – seems the folks there have need of advice on workplace etiquette. So, their internal (non-hackable of course) network hosts a blog called Dear Zelda, in which all manner of such advice is provided.
One of my favorite NPR shows, On the Media, did a story on Dear Zelda recently and you can listen to it here. It’s only six minutes long but worth every second. And if you do tune in, be sure and listen to the end: after the On the Media announcer finishes someone reads a very special question and reply from Zelda.
Can’t make this stuff up.

Approaching seven

June 23rd, 2013 by EJB

IMG_1648 I live it still 2

After a while, survival is just another habit.

I haven’t been keeping this blog up for a while, at least for the purpose I originally created it.

I have a rainbow of reasons why: not wanting to bore my few readers with constant whines about my annoyingly dramatic health, a deep dislike of hypochondria, wanting to forget everything about the last seven years on the good days, struggling to stay intact during the bad ones with no energy left over to do anything except to fight and try to figure out what the latest complication meant.

One week and I mark my biological birthday. One month and it will be seven years since the transplant. "It is amazing – way beyond amazing – that you have survived so long!" A dear friend said to me this morning. She is a highly trained and regarded nurse; she knows of what she speaks. I know she didn’t mean the statement to be as bald as it sounded, but there it is: truth, unvarnished.

About a year ago I started a post about the shock of surviving six years. "I don’t know how to write about this," I whined then proceeded to list the complications and conditions and disasters and few triumphs since I first lamented the knife. I hated the whine so I abandoned it.

For the last year, certainly since the beginning of 2013, the problems of these seven extra years of life have started to rear up, first one after the other, now cascading, and are threatening to sideline me from the game of life, perhaps pull me from the game for good. I face this challenge weaker and wearier, and struggling to shore up my will for what is likely to be my penultimate fight for life. At least I hope it will be the second to last; we’ll see.

So I will be writing here more regularly, posting next the distressing list of things I am coping with now, and talking about the last-gasp treatments that are on their way. If you don’t hear from me for a bit, send a note to remind me of this promise.

Life with Dog

April 25th, 2013 by EJB

Ah, Otto… What would I do without you?

  1. You’re walking along with your pet human for your regular after dinner walk.

  2. You smell a delicious chicken leg bone just a few feet away.

  3. Your pet human sees your interest in the bone and immediately barks, “No!" and directs you away. You comply.

  4. Suddenly you have an urgent urge to poop and must use the closest tree.

  5. Your human, as he is trained to do, reaches into his pocket, pulls out a little plastic bag and waits patiently.

  6. You have to strain to get anything out because you’ve already gone twice today, but you manage.

  7. Finished, you get out of the way to let your human do his work. While he does so, you make for the delicious chicken leg bone waiting for you nearby.

  8. Your human searches for a trashcan, giving you extra time to wolf down the bone. It’s wonderful.

  9. You’re eating as fast as you can but it’s a good size chicken leg and you can’t just swallow the thing (don’t humans know that???).

  10. He turns and sees you chomping. “No! No! No!" he barks again. You hold your position and keep chewing.

  11. Your human even tries to take the bone out of your mouth, but it’s just too good. You’d never hurt him, but you have really really really strong jaws. He can’t win.

  12. Your pet human gives up in exasperation. You finish the bone, smacking your lips after the last chew.

  13. He’s cross for a minute, but you know it won’t last: your pet human is a pushover.

  14. He chuckles as he figures out you just gamed him but you’re not worried. You’ll be able to pull this trick at least a half dozen times before he’s prepared for it.  

I’m sorry, I’m not accepting any new diseases right now. You might try again next year…

September 5th, 2012 by EJB

Six months ago, learning I had a spot of skin cancer on my arm, I freaked. More than freaked: I was absolutely outraged. How could this happen? Why me? How could this happen to me?

Never mind that I’ve been expecting skin cancer’s arrival most of my life. Whiter than white, that’s my gene pool. Skin cancer’s more common in my extended family than healthy relationships. My mom fought an ugly battle with it all the way to melanoma’s threshold. It would’ve won if ovarian cancer hadn’t gotten to her first. My sister has almost no melanin in her skin. Ever the outdoors-woman, her skin goes from white to red to white again, never getting even getting close to beige. Both of us have had solar keratoses burned off our faces and necks for years. And in case we missed the point, our grandmother’s maiden name – she was born on the West Coast of Ireland – roughly translates from the Gaelic to "the tall pasty people".

Add to the genetics the fistfuls of meds I take to keep my borrowed liver from rejecting, each with a Day-Glo warning label screaming, “stay out of the sun!” plus regular reminders from the dermatologists that it’s when I get skin cancer not if, and a spot of basal cell carcinoma should come as no surprise to me at all.

It didn’t. Except it did.

How could I have a new disease? I moaned. Wasn’t liver cancer, a transplant, a weird and rare hepatitis outbreak, two hernia operations, the unexpected arrival of two autoimmune diseases –  another gift from the family genes – wasn’t that enough?

Yes yes. Stupid question. But for two days stupid questions were the only ones I could ask, intelligent ones being drowned out by  the moans and whines of “oh poor me, oh poor Eddie”.

A week later, back to my normal self (and what the hell might that be?) I returned to the dermatologist, had the half-dime-sized spot burned off my arm, hurried off to yoga, grabbed lunch, picked up Otto, and drove to McLaren Park where we went on a long walk, me taking pictures and Otto sniffing and peeing. Shock and anger and whining? Over a dot of skin cancer? Please. I’d assimilated my latest disease.

Yet the question does creep into my mind: how much is enough? How much is too much? How much can my body take? More to the point, how much can my mind?

Last week I broke two ribs. Nobody can figure out how or why. I did not fall, I had no accident, did not black out. I was shocked and it hurt like hell, but no outrage broke through, no self pity. The three weeks before that were devoted to the misery of a hideous sinus infection which scared the hell out of me when it moved into my eyes (!) puffing them out until I became a scary-movie version of the Pillsbury dough boy. Then there were miserable reactions to the antibiotic used to knock the infection out. I ended last week with an MRI of my liver, ordered by the docs to see if there’s something they can blame for rising liver enzyme counts and began this one by getting an overdue blood draw on Labor Day.

I forget how awful this all is until I see it reflected in others.

The friend who drove me to the MRI appointment – and who has ferried me about the last week because of the awesomely painful broken ribs – asked why I was having the scan. I think he assumed it was for the ribs, but you can never be sure with me. I told him about my problematic no-longer-new liver and then, in his eyes, I saw how heavy a burden all this is, how impossible it is to imagine living my life as one ailment piles on top of another over and again until there seems no human way to cope with it all. I hate seeing that look in others. I dread the times I feel the burden myself.

Poor Eddie didn’t freak out over the skin cancer. He panicked. Panicked wondering how I could possibly cope with one more problem.

I expend more energy fighting to keep my mind and emotions in some sort of balance than I do trying to keep my deteriorating body intact. I suspect this is essential, the only way I can stay alive.

Making procedural lemonade

July 21st, 2012 by EJB

Sitting in the dermatologists waiting room yesterday, I saw two women exit The exam area. The first one looked burdened, a heavy frown on her face. The second was more relaxed, lost in thought.

"Did you get all that?" said the first to the second. "What the procedure entails, what you have to do to get ready?" I was surprised. If I’d had to pick one for having a procedure, I would’ve picked her. The second woman looked up with a smile.

"No problem,” she said brightly. “Got it all." Her smile turned into a grin. "Looks like I’m going to have to hire someone to clean my house!"

Her friend  was speechless. Whatever she’d been expecting it wasn’t that.

With a "Let’s go!" the woman getting the procedure led her friend out of the office.

By this time I shared number two’s grin. No doubt: whatever the procedure was, number two was going to get through it just fine.