Music for the summer. A review.

Two new albums have have made the pandemic tolerable. They are Gigaton by Pearl Jam and Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan. Yes, they represent two diametrically opposite music styles. But music somehow represents points that have helped me in different periods of my life.

Gigaton by Pearl Jam is comprised of twelve songs. I have to say that I enjoy listening to all twelve songs. The styles of the songs run the gamete in terms of the musical spectrum that is the Pearl Jam sound. While the album comes out at a time which is odd in the continuing story of America, with the rioting and the pandemic, the words sound genuine about this point in time, a reflection of the past and hope for tomorrow.

Gigaton Album Art Cover.

A hard thumping grunge sound sets the tempo of the album with the albums first two songs, “Who Ever Said” and “Superblood Wolfmoon”. This is that characteristic Pearl Jam sound that I have learned to love over the years. Suddenly, I am whisked back to my high school/college days with a sound reminiscent of the Talking Head in “Dance of the Clairvoyants”. Experimental for Pearl Jam but well conceived. Then it’s a round-trip change with a quasi-Zeppelin sound in “Quick Escape”. Throw in another style change with “Alright”. “Seven O’Clock” is probably my favorite song on the album, largely because of the words, the excellent annunciation by Vedder, and the crisp music to tie everything together. “Never Destination”, “Take the Long Way” and “Buckle Up” continue in terms of experimentation, a return to the past, and reflections of other musical styles. All over the map on these three tunes but clearly they need to be listened to multiple times in order to grow into them. Then we switch gears with “Comes and Goes, with its strong guitar and haunting words of loss. The album is then rounded out with “Retrograde” and “River Cross”. Both songs are offer a strong finish to a great album. I cannot wait until they are touring again.

Pearl Jam

In the end, I can only conclude that we have five talented musicians who actually like each other, enjoy their music and have not let success ruin them. I am glad. I hope that they continue for another 20 to 30 years because I need another band to help me navigate through life, much like the Canadian trio RUSH who stopped performing several years ago.

The other album is Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan. Clearly a significant change from Pearl Jam. The 2 CD set contains his first album with new songs in eight years. The sound is the Dylan of late. The words are the Dylan of the ages. After listening to the nine new songs on disc one, I envisioned a future of hearing Dylan. Either on the stage at the Telluride Blues and Brews festival in September, or the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in late April. Both have been postponed because of the pandemic. Both are music festivals that I greatly enjoy, and can hope that my vision comes true in 2021.

Album cover for Rough and Rowdy Ways, by Bod Dylan.

The two CD set contains ten songs in total. Disc one has nine songs and Disc two contains a single song. “I Contain Multitudes” starts off the album and is not associated with the poem by Walt Whitman, or the book by Ed Yong. But they could be…

Whitman writes about” Song of Myself”. It is a poem was divided into fifty-two numbered sections for the fourth (1867) edition and finally took on the title “Song of Myself” in the last edition (1891–2). In section 51 there is the following:

The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

The subtitle of Yong’s book is “The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life”. In both cases, and in alignment with the Dylan song, they appear to be reflections on one’s self.

“False Prophet” follows up and one is left to wonder if Dylan is talking about himself. I think not. The music continues through “My Own Version of You”, “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You”, and “Black Rider”. I find them as if Dylan is reflecting on old themes that I often hear in his music: people, places, the times and travels and roads taken. But “Black Rider extends those themes to envision finality or death, but it is unclear. “Goodbye Jimmy Reed” reminds me of a blues song, hitting those themes of people, places, times and travels. “Mother of Muses” pays homage to the ancient Greeks and I wonder if the Nobel Laureate is trying to get all classical on us. “Crossing the Rubicon” is probably my favorite song on the album. It represents a reflection of the past, and shows signs suggesting that all things, including life, are finite. Let’s remember that Dylan is almost 80 years old and perhaps even he feels his mortality. Disc one ends with “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)”, the second longest tune on the album, singing about themes as diverse as the town of Key West, places in Europe, and reminiscing about the age of poetry in Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac, musicians like Armstrong, Hendrix, and Holly. Although several of the other songs on the album are intertwined with many people throughout history: Edgar Allen Poe, the Rolling Stones, Indiana Hones, Ann Frank, Leon Russell, Truman, Elvis, Martin Luther King, to Thelonious Monk, I wonder if Dylan is trying to find his own place in history. He should not worry.

Disc two, at just under 17 minutes, contains the single song “Murder Most Foul”. Here is Dylan reminiscing about the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963. While it is lacking in music (overall it is very simple), it is the spoken words by Dylan, tying the horrors of that day in Dallas to the culture and period of the 60’s. I wonder briefly is this is his attempt at rap? The song itself covers the period in which Dylan was most vocal about the American experience: the war in Vietnam, injustices in our society. These are the tunes of Dylan’s past that I was introduced to in college that I enjoy listening to over and over. While the voice has changed over the years, the themes, and the power of the words have not.

I doubt that my kids will ever enjoy his music, and share the meaning behind the words as I do, but I can at least try.

What to write about … or thoughts from this fourth of July.

I try everyday to define several subjects to write about. Some days, the subjects never pan out in terms of a post that is interesting. Or at least they are interesting to me and maybe they might be interesting to you, the reader. Other times I just get lazy, and the ideas never become words on the screen. Maybe it is just the title, and nothing more.

The post today was the combination of two diverse topics. I have merged them together, cut down the size of the post. Unclear if it is cohesive, or just a bombastic expression being written on a late Sunday night.

Tomorrow is a work day. I will be working from home, planning for the week. Work rules because of the continuation of the pandemic permit me to work from home some days, but there are other days that I find myself in the office. With this post, I find that I am struggling which way to go. So many directions, so much to do. Decisions to make, plans to develop.

Last year for the 4th of July, I posted something of historical importance to reflect upon. It was the Declaration of Independence. I posted it because its words have meaning. They are important. The words transverse time. In thinking about what to post this year, my original thought was to just re-post the same thing. Have I become that lazy? Have my thoughts, my ability to express myself become useless?

A year has past and it has been quite a year. As I started writing yesterday, I thought that I needed to review and revise what I wrote. Yes the fourth of July was when the delegates voted for independence from Great Britain, and about a month had past between its ratification and when it was signed. They had to write their reasons for declaring their independence. Has the Declaration become just words, or is the meaning behind the words important today?

Pictures of the Declaration of Independence – Stone Engraving 1823.

Today we find that there are those who want to rewrite our history, destroy it because some find it offensive. History can be offensive. It is told from the point of view at the time. Like time itself, the point of view can change over the years. New information emerges that changes our perceptions, Opinions change, people change. But we can never forget the mistakes of the past. How else are we to grow, to get better, to help ourselves, and others?

Since last year, there has been a significant upheaval in the experiences of our people, of our community, and within our country. Given the protests, which have gone far beyond the concept of police brutality, one might question whether there is a need for a new declaration with ourselves? That may be true, but the foundations that built the original declaration, of God, of certain unalienable rights, the institution of government from the consent of the governed. Those foundations stand true today, but have been weakened by what government has become. Compromise in government is gone.

We now find ourselves in an economy struggling because of a pandemic, seeing a spike into the fifth month since we were asked to stay home. We have seen weeks of rioting in the streets for almost as long, but it is unclear if the protests are against the inability of equality for all individuals, or because some are choosing to advance anarchy at this juncture of the American experience. What I see is the loss of rugged individualism and the rewriting of history by a culture that fails to understand that history. We wish to remain free and to live our lives as we desire. That is our life, and those are the freedoms which the country is built upon. But there is a culture that no longer agrees with those tenants of how to live our lives. There are those who suggest that we should not, or that there are those who cannot, either by choice, or because others usurp those rights, the right to live our lives as we desire.

Reflections on the daily routine

It’s the weekend and I found myself lying in bed contemplating a great many things. Between what I wanted to do this Sunday: the need to do laundry, clean the house, go for a hike, write a post for this blog read, rest, recharge my batteries, etc versus what I was able to accomplish Saturday: a hike, electing to be a couch potato and do absolutely nothing. So much to do, so little time to do it. What is my path for this weekend and will it be the same, or will it be different than previous weekends?

Sunrise…somewhere near Santa Fe and posted on the internet (https://santafe.org/blog/painted-skies-are-perfectly-santa-fe/).

I found it to be early, around 1:30 in the morning as I was lying in bed. I had gone to bed about 9:30 that Saturday evening. My typical routine of late when it comes to recharging my batteries. The bedtime routine starts with a text to the kids, who are with their mother this weekend. Just letting them know that I love them and miss them. Often I find myself in a somber mood after I send this text. If they are with me, I make it a point to kiss them good night and remind them to brush their teeth. For me, it is then to my room to brush the teeth, jump on the scale and lament that I cannot loose weight, recall if I took my meds, drink a tall glass of water. I crawl into bed after getting Jewel situated. Start some music on the iPad. Asleep within minutes. It is hotter than normal this time of year in New Mexico. Yet it must be too hot for her, and as she has done of late, Jewel jumps down from the bed and returns to her dog bed in the living room. Not sure if it is cooler, but what it usually means is that at some point in the night, I will be awakened by a whimpering, growling and barking dog who wants me to pick her up and return her to the bed. Wind appears to be picking up this evening. Wonder how many pine cones have fallen in the driveway that I will now have to pick up. Lack of the daily summer monsoons has left the state in need for water. We find ourselves again in a drought situation. Fire restrictions in the forests. Summer again finds itself with limited prospects of camping, and the ever important campfire.

COVID19 continues to keep things muted in terms of a return to normalcy. With this being the fourth month of the new normal, I find the routine outlined above to be my new normal, almost each and every night. I go to bed about 9:30, and find myself awakened after four to five hours of sleep. I lie their, contemplating the day before, what is in store for the next day, what is it about work, about life, finances, my surroundings. Often these thoughts keep me awake until I drag myself out of bed to begin the day. Very seldom do I find myself falling back to sleep. Over the years, I have found it difficult to function during the day if I fall back to sleep.

In one way or another, this has been my sleep cycle for over 40 years. College, graduate school, whatever. Four to five hours of sleep. That is not to say that I never sleep longer. It is my normal. Never the normal six, seven, or eight hours of sleep that other people get. In the past, when I was up by 3:30, it was the same. Shower, coffee, take Jewel for a morning walk around the block. This

Jewel on our typical morning walk.

Sunday was just like every other day. Nothing in the routine has changed. On those days where I went to work, I would find myself at work between five or six am, starting what was typically a ten to twelve hour day. Working at home with the COVID19 restrictions has not changed that routine much, if at all. Still have time for the morning coffee cabal, even if it is by text messages. Over the past few years, I have vowed an end to the twelve hour day. It all pays the same. This is especially true with the working at home over the past few months. Over the years, I have found it important to leave work AT work and NEVER take it home. Now that I am working from home, at least half time, this NECESSITY is harder to implement.

Somewhere in the typical Sunday routine, I like to find myself reading. As I do enough reading at work, I crave to learn or to entertain myself on the weekends. Whether it is a book, a newspaper, websites, other blogs, I find this another necessity. In fact, when I crawled out of bed this morning, I found myself revisiting those blogs that I found to be my financial favorites. Of late, I find myself starting over financially after the divorce, or at least I feel that way. That does not mean that at age 59-plus that I will have to work when I am 72 in order to retire. That portion of my financial picture is looking good, even with the market volatility caused by COVID19. As my employment situation finds me with a pension, and a healthy 401k on top, my portfolio mix appears to have been able to weather most of the current ups and downs. As I review some of the old financial blog haunts, I come across an old posting on Get Rich Slowly (www.getrichslowly.org). The posting deals with the three questions about life planning. I find myself contemplating this almost all of the time. I have worked hard to keep the financial house in order, but it clearly needs some spring cleaning, some new paint, and there are cracks in the sidewalk.

The article focuses on life planning, which should be viewed as the “human side of financial planning”. It’s basic premise is what are my goals as I stroll along the road of life. In some ways, this blog was my attempt to see what is in store for me over the next 50 years…

For me, this is a work in progress. I am an older baby boomer and a single parent trying to raise two teenage children. As for me, I am trying to figure out what the next 50+ years has in store for me. Please come along for the ride, and come back often. We will not be taking daily trips, but I will try to write often.

TheMcKeeSpot

Every area of life is a path defined by goals. Whether they are personal, financial, career, or other. Goals need to be stated, defined, specific, have a deadline, and define the path (or paths) necessary to achieve the goal. Whether it is finding myself lying in bed and contemplating a great many things: what will I do Sunday in order to make it different from Saturday, trying to figure out what the next 50+ years has in store for me, to will my financial picture today, that I have crafted over the past 30 years, with its own ups and downs, allow me to have the life that I want to achieve?

Yesterday I hiked a small portion of the Mitchell Trail above Los Alamos. The last time that I hiked it was before the Cerro Grande Fire. It was different. It was good.

After that article, I start rereading older posts from the same site, and the posts of others who write about the same or similar things. At one time, I kept a journal of sorts. I documented the plans, how I was doing in terms of achieving goals, whether I was on the correct road. Somewhere I stopped doing those things. I think that it was that somewhere in which I lost a great many things and that I now find myself returning to such efforts. Much of my thinking is associated with my locus of control. Locus of control is described as how people view the world around them, where people place the responsibility of what happens in their lives. It’s the difference in people: how reactive people act versus how proactive people react. Somewhere, my path shifted. At one time I was proactive, then I shifted to being reactive. And now I want to shift back to proactive. It is a difference in what is my circle of concern versus what is my circle of control. It is clearly the frustration and funk that I have written about in past ramblings. It is my contemplation of trying to tie everything together. For what purpose is unclear.

OMG the hamster escaped!

A hamster is jailed in their cage.

I had a pet hamster growing up. Put them into those balls and they will run for hours, exploring the house. Also a dog and a cat. Our family was bad at names. We had a dog named Tippy because of the white tip at the end of her tail. And Grey the cat. You guessed it. Grey’s mother was named Fluffy. Shall I go on?

To a hamster, the caged life must be great. All the food you want, an exercise wheel. You sleep. You eat. You drink. You poop. Plenty to do, provided you like to live behind bars everyday of your life. That is if your hamster is caged in the modern rodent cages that one can purchase from a local pet shop. Or from Pet Smart at the mall. Both of my kids have had lots of pets over the years. It started with Guinea Pigs.

I had just separated and moved into a three bedroom apartment. The kids called me one day crying. Their Montessori needed to re-home two Guinea Pigs from a student who had them but as she got older, developed allergies. My lease didn’t allow pets but I said that I would ask the landlord. Oddly enough, he didn’t have a problem with Guinea Pigs. I guess it was because they live in a cage. So the kids got the two Guinea pigs, renamed them Super Guinea and Brownie. I don’t remember what their original names were. Over the next three years, they were the only two pets in our new home. Then over time…

Along came several goldfish and then tropical fish. We still have three goldfish that my son won at a street carnival two years ago. They share the tank with a five year old tropical fish and get along just fine…

And the seven or so parakeets. They had great bird names…

And the lizards. We loved to watch them eat live crickets…

And two dogs over the six years that we have called the place home. The dogs arrived after I bought the place from my landlord. Abby died after two years and after a year, we had to get Jewel. Both were pound puppies…Jewel is currently lying on the back of the sofa over my left shoulder as I write this.

The kids got very creative with Pet names over the years. How else can you get Ruby from a horse that is actually named Think of Chocolate?

Ruby the horse has her own place about 5 miles from our house. If she could, I am sure that my daughter would love to have her living in the back yard.

Over the years, these pets taught my kids about the circle of life. How to take care of something that cannot take care of itself. All things live, until they die. The backyard has become a pet cemetery of sorts. Nondescript graves, a nondescript funeral. Flushing the goldfish down the toilet is not how we send a family pet like whitie the goldfish into the ever after. If the mean guy who lives two houses down wants to report that to the homeowners association, I don’t care.

This morning I went into my son’s room to check on Johnnie, my son’s pet hamster. He has had Johnnie for almost two years now. Gave him fresh food and checked the cage. It was empty! There was no Johnnie. He escaped.

Johnnie the hamster. Not his real picture. Could not find one but this is what we are going to put on his wanted sign.

The last time that I saw Johnnie was a couple of days ago. I went to my son’s room to check on him. He was fine but needed water. I refilled his water container. Pretty sure he was there when I replaced the water bottle. Checked today, provided him food and there was no hamster. No sign as to how he got out. My son swears that he was there yesterday. What to do now?

My daughter had a hamster several years ago. He managed to escape from his cage. This kids like to hold them and play with them. Hamster fell out of her hands and ran off. Took us about 24 hours to recapture him in my daughter’s closet. Hope to do the same with Johnnie.

But he is missing. So I checked the internet on how to recover a lost hamster. I set his cage in the middle of my son’s room with the door open. Hopefully he will get hungry, or thirsty, spy the cage and craw inside. Visit for awhile and hopefully I can trap him.

The trap in my son’s room…hopefully Johnnie will get home sick!

Came across many interesting articles about hamsters, and other animals. Found a particularly interesting article entitled “Do Hamsters like music” at https://hutchandcage.com/do-hamsters-like-music/. From the article, the hamsters are like my kids. They love classical music. The article says that all animals like classical music. Of late I have been listening to Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man. Jewel isn’t too keen on it. Mozart or Beethoven? The article didn’t specify….Hamsters get stressed out to Metal or Rock music. The article suggests that music can be beneficial to hamsters. Too bad my children cannot benefit from listening to Pearl Jam (or RUSH; but they are OK with the Beatles and REM).

So if the cage trick does not work, I guess that I will resort to music.

Think I need to rethink the whole concept of getting chickens and rabbits and goats for the kids at the stables. Son wants a snake. I told him he can get a snake when he has his own place. Daughter would like lots of farmland so that she can take in any and every animal that does not have a home.

Magazines

Many things that defined my growing up, college, graduate school, and the present, have changed with the creation of and continued expansion of the internet. Over the years, it has changed much of how I learn, watch movies, read, get the news, purchased things, my daily routines in life. It has had a significant change of how our society has evolved. Some of it has NOT been for the better in my opinion.

One of the many things that is debatable in this electronic age is the loss of magazines. The loss of books. The loss of privacy, of oratory and the spoken word. The converse may also be true. The internet allows me to share my thoughts. Put into words what I am thinking. The ability for it to be shared with anyone and everyone. This post is the manifestation of that.

Growing up, grade schools and high schools often raised money for student activities by selling magazines. I think Publisher’s Clearinghouse still offers annual contests for millions of dollars! In graduate school, much time I spent in the library reading chemistry journals. As a serious professional (a chemistry nerd), much money was also spent subscribing to the various ACS (American Chemical Society) and getting their journals delivered monthly. Now all of these can be obtained by paying for an electronic subscription. For the record, I think I stopped receiving those journals about 5 years after graduate school. It is still much easier to go to the library. They took up too much space in a one bedroom apartment. Moving many boxes of dead weight was a hassle. I don’t even think I saved the copies of the published issues where I actually published my original research articles. Alas, I can look them up on-line.

When I travel for work, if I don’t have a book to carry along, I will stop at the magazine store at the airport to pick up one for the trip. Of late, that has been either a sailing magazine or woodworking. Thinking about the next 50 years.

However, I still get magazines delivered to my home. When I got serious about making money and investing, I had to have every magazine out there. From BusinessWeek to MONEY to SmartMoney to Kiplinger’s to Cooking Light, Real Simple, even Men’s Health and Playboy. Over the years, I had several magazines delivered. Yes they take up space. I saved them before recycling them. Slowly, over the years, many of these magazines have migrated to an all electronic format. MONEY has been that way for about 18 months now. Note to son – sorry, but I got rid of the Playboy subscription and magazines before I met your mom. Replaced it for Coastal Living for a few years. I get a periodic e-mail reminder of what’s new in MONEY. I guess they make money by online advertising. It still has the same format.

Somehow, it just doesn’t fill all of my necessary sensory needs. With Kiplinger’s, which I still get sent to my house monthly, I have the feel. I can feel the paper, smell the paper, look at the pictures, read the articles. I can roll it up if I have to hit the dog, or the kids, or myself. I can recycle it. I can take it to work and leave it at the lunch table for others to read. I can even take it to the bathroom to read it. Every month, it comes to my mailbox and every month, I read it. Cover to cover. Takes maybe two days, cover to cover. I have it. I own it.

I used to get the Wall Street Journal every day, the same way. The stacks of paper would pile up. You still can, but several years ago I opted for the electronic version only. I think that the electronic version is quickly becoming overpriced at $38.99 a month. I find that the quality of the presentation is less, more typos, errors. It no longer prints the daily stock quotes as near as I can tell. They have a web site for that. The same article can appear electronically in different versions for several days. Corrections are easy, updates to articles are easy. But it is convenient. During the COVID19 situation, I wished that I still had the paper copy, especially on those days when toilet paper was in short supply. But I read it every morning on my iPad.

Garden & Gun April/May 2020.

The inspiration for this post was that I received and finished, my April/May 2020 issue of Garden & Guns about a week ago. I have found it to be the best printed magazine out there today. I know that I have June/July on my table to read next. I read it cover to cover, all the time. Why would a 59 year old man born and raised in the Northeast, who lives in the Southwest, enjoy a magazine about the South? It has great articles, photography, recipes. The advertisements make me think of places to add to my bucket list if I ever want to get away from New Mexico, even for a few days. Articles about guns, horses, dogs, the culture, music, cooking, cities, towns, decorating. This month features include Saving the South. Articles about 30 heroes, from musicians to chefs, farmers, cowboys, conversationalists, and others who are making the south a better place. I find it has something new, enlightening, enjoyable to read. A new recipe to try when I feel the need to practice some at home Chemistry.

The website https:gardenandgun.com has the June/July issue already up for your viewing pleasure. I cannot wait to sit and read it from cover to cover. To feel the paper. To gaze at the pictures and to contemplate the mouthwatering recipes. For Memorial Day (yesterday), they posted on Instagram a picture from Arlington National Cemetery (see above). Many other magazines follow this same format. They have an on-line presence, linked with their subscriptions. In my opinion some just do it better than others.

Yes I can get the copy electronically, sent to my iPad. It loses its meaning to me in some ways. So as long as I can continue to get the printed copy, I feel added pleasure. I can hold it, get a paper cut, enjoy the turning of every page.

Two more anniversaries this week

Last week I wrote a post entitled “Anniversaries…of sorts”. The article, with lots of pictures, illustrated some of my memories in acknowledging the 20th anniversary of the Cerro Grande Fire, the subsequent evacuation and recovery. I provided some commentary about these memories.

I did not share with you one of the most vivid memories of the time surrounding the fire and evacuation. May 21st marks what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary. It’s something that I don’t celebrate anymore as it represents one of many painful days that I mark on the calendar in silence. Luckily for us at the time, we planned the wedding NOT in Los Alamos, rather in Santa Fe. The ceremony and reception was held at a little resort south of Santa Fe called Sunrise Springs. Fortunate, I guess. Los Alamos was still evacuated and when it opened by the 20th, we were already planning last minute arrangements and entertaining guests in Santa Fe. Our friends hosted a party in White Rock on the 18th, which was open by that date. You could not even go up the hill to the town site itself on that date.

When we evacuated, we left many of our belongings behind, hoping and praying that it would not be destroyed by the fire. While we were lucky, supplies for the reception and things for the ceremony were left behind. We were able to gather those things up by having requested and received approval for a National Guard escort into the town. Two vehicles under escort by military personnel in Humvee’s. We met them at the entrance to the town and were given approximately 20 minutes to gather up the stuff.

Certainly wasn’t in the criteria that constituted an emergency return to the town, but we asked. When we called to get on the list, the individual on the other end of the line understood and pushed us to the top of the list. Granted, we were trying to get in while the town was still closed, smoldering ashes still were nearby, the fire was north of the town and out of control. No site seeing. In and out.

That in and of itself, makes for a fond memory of the aftermath of the fire. Perhaps having a wedding during a forest fire was foreshadowing of my future happiness. I still remember the trip. The two guardsmen escorts were laughing as I was loading up the jeep with cases of alcohol. We were having an open bar. Cases of wine, champagne, stuff for margaritas, whiskey were loaded up. The special elaborate table settings for over 200 guests were also retrieved. The reception was less about us and more about family and friends.

One of the most interesting memories of that day was that there were people at the reception who we did not know or did not invite. At the end of the ceremony, when there was a reception line, people came up to congratulate us and to thank us. We were are like “who are you”? It turns out that they were friends of guests who we had invited but their homes were actually lost during the fire. They were sleeping in the garages, the floor, the spare bedrooms of others. They came, literally dressed with the clothes on their backs, having lost everything. We were glad they came so that they could find a brief respite from what was a painful event.

The other anniversary worth noting this week is the one year anniversary of this blog. My first post was on May 23rd, 2019. One year and 63 published posts. Looking at the statistics, I can see that if you don’t post regularly, you don’t get many visitors. Certainly I am looking at ways to increase my audience. I have seen an increase recently, probably because I have been writing more. Guess I need to add links to FaceBook, or from my FaceBook pages? Advertise? Make connections, circulate? Write better posts? Open up the discussion to more interesting topics beyond what just comes to mind that day? I have been reading other blogs regarding ideas to increase readership. I don’t have any plans to advertise or even try to make money on this site. Some of my friends think that I should. I am just trying to express myself an outlet for what comes next in life.

I think that I would like to start and make the layout more appealing. Possibly provide links to some of my favorite web sites, perhaps the weather or local news? Other possibilities include a Ruby-cam or a Jewel-cam? Maybe a weekend special feature, book, movie or music reviews? Stock tips? A daily quote? More pictures? What is new and exciting in Chemistry this week? The ideas are endless so ideas from readers are always appreciated.

So hear is to my one year anniversary.

Happy 1st Birthday to TheMcKeeSpot.com

In my profile, I write “The purpose of this blog is for me to explore things that interest me as I plan for my next 50-plus years on this planet”. One year down, at least 50 more to go.

America, elections, FaceBook

I was reading several blogs this morning on the subject of social media and the upcoming election. I enjoy reading essays, and books on politics, political science, the histories of famous politicians, our Founding Fathers. And so I write this post under the backdrop that I was just banned from posting for 30 days on FaceBook because I wrote something that went against their “community standards”. I find their “community standards” are based on opinions and that if you fail to lean to the left, your opinion on their site will be silenced or controlled. Banned in the name of “community standards”.

My screenshot from FaceBook. BTW, I posted this on my FaceBook page and they removed it, stating that the content isn’t available right now because the owner only shared it with a small group of people, changed who can see it or it’s been deleted. I did not delete it…

It is here where I would go off on a diatribe about political correctness and “I know it when I see it”.

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it

Not to be outdone, but the expression, famously used to describe obscenity, can be used for the characterization of so much more…

I know. You are wondering what I was banned for? Well this banning was for a comment that I made on a FaceBook posting of the seven candidates who are running as Democrats for the 3rd Congressional District of New Mexico. My comment to the posting was “You would have to be stupid to vote for Plame”. She is clearly the Democratic establishment’s candidate, an outsider. My opinion. Outsiders are sending lots of money to her campaign to elect another Pelosi bot who doesn’t care about helping the people of this state. My opinion. We had one for over 10 years and he is now running for the Senate. My opinion. She does not share my views on much of anything. I am not alone in that opinion. Your can read for yourself here (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/us/valerie-plame-new-mexico-congress.html). In my opinion, FaceBook is trying to control free speech and to hell with your own personal opinions.

It is May and I am now banned for 30 days. To be banned means that you cannot comment, post a like or smiley emoji, or post pictures on your feed. You can only look at the feed they direct towards you. The same thing happened to me last year, although I think it took me longer to be banned. I don’t consider what I said was demeaning, and I cannot even remember what the first offense was for 2020 that got me banned for 3 days. The second reason for being banned was just as stupid, which got me banned for 7 days. Now it is 30 days. Did somebody complain because I inferred that they were stupid? I don’t know. Suffice it to say, they control the medium and if you don’t conform to their wishes, their thinking, you pay the price. It is clear to me that they have been silencing fact from fiction, truth and opinion to their way of thinking. You don’t agree with us, you must conform to our community standards. Whatever happened to decency, fair play, truth, justice, the American way! I always find myself looking for the place where I can send an e-mail to the judge so they can tell me my crime, to try to argue why their decision is wrong. I always think ahead when I hit send, knowing that “yea, I’m going to get in trouble for that posting…” The last two have completely blown my mind in terms of what was wrong with what I said. In the last two examples, I did not think that I was going to be banned, Imagine my disdain and anger resulting from the situation. Whatever it was, it went against their “community standards”. The conspiracy theorist in me always goes into overdrive. Many people, absent an understanding of what was wrong, head in that direction. In the end, I chalk it up to too many marshmallows in the world who cannot take anything that is negative. Lest I forget, the employees of FaceBook come from the generation that received participation trophies or were educated and graded on the curve. Our opinions must be checked against emotion.

So maybe it is a good thing that I am banned from FaceBook for 30 days. I get so angry after reading some of the stories that people post as news. I can see where we have become so divided on so many issues. It isn’t just FaceBook that gets me angry, I get that way after actually reading real news, whether it is the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. Don’t get me started about CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox News, etc. Lots of the journalism that these organizations once practiced has been lost in the era of political correctness. Some of what I see there goes against my community standards but it never gets banned or blocked. Some of the memes, on both sides of the political spectrum are just so caustic. Not sure if they are created by Russian trolls, Russian bots, or people who actually have a sick or very dark sense of humor. They no longer report news and the story. It is filtered by the opinion of the reporter, or the broadcaster. They never get to the story because it is overtaken by conjecture and opinion, never slanted by the facts, or digging for the truth.

Anyway, I can calm down and spend more time writing on my blog.

There is lots of chaos this election season. Between the coronavirus / COVID19, stay-at-home-restrictions, the phased return to normalcy plans, an economy that went from stellar to depression in a matter of months, this is clearly an important election. I expect to write more as we get close to November on the subject of the election.

With much interest, I read the posting from Krista Stevens entitled “From Russia, With Malice” (https://longreads.com/2020/05/12/from-russia-with-malice/). I would characterize the post as an essay of a larger work by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic on the idea that Russia want to eradicate democracy (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/putin-american-democracy/610570/), and they’re doing a fine job of it.

The problem, which plays right into the hands of the Russians, is that the United States is already too divided to do much about it. Those are their ideas. They are not my ideas. That said, I must agree with them. My idea would that be no matter how divided we are, I think we would all agree that our democracy is under attack. Our way of life is under attack. And it is from a number of places. Whether it is Russia, China, Iran, or even within our own country. The basic freedoms that we Americans hold dear are under attack. Within our own country, I lump FaceBook, Twitter and Google into the group that is attacking our democracy. I have read many articles where the three social media companies have restricted information, free speech and opinion. Case in point, see above for FaceBook. And while I agree that hate speech, racism, evil, pornography and words that incite riots or endanger people should be controlled, people are educated to make up their own minds and opinions about what is before us. Not government, not corporations. Are we not smart enough to think for ourselves? When did protecting our privacy, which they could do more on, become protecting what we think and say? Probably because they cannot make money off of my opinions.

Of course, the left will blame Trump. The right will blame Democrats who push for socialism. The outsiders will sow discontent on all of the above, pushing stories to fan the flames of either opinion. FaceBook will tout it’s “community standards”. We have lost our will to “agree to disagree”. My opinion may be that your political position is “stupid” and if that offends you, so be it. That was not my intent. I am not trying to sow discord, only debate. It is my opinion and “stupid” is probably your opinion towards me. I’m OK with that. I accept that. Political correctness has reached a new level. We have lost our ability to accept the opinion of others and go out of our way to attach those opinions, and the persons who espouse those opinions. One’s political opinion becomes disinformation for another.

People

I started writing this post several months ago. Put it on the back burner as I got tied up with other things. Distractions, work, my ongoing frustration and funk. Fascination about the third President of the United States. The unabomber and Henry David Thoreau. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pearl Jam and Bob Dylan.

Now I come back to it during the COVID19 stay-at-home situation. I actually spent the morning in my office. TRUE. I went to work. I have been able to go there over the whole stay-at-home ordeal, if only for a few hours. Quite deserted, but on occasion, I would see colleagues that I work with. Face-to-face is so much better than over the telephone. It certainly is better with my kids. It is certainly better with people.

I will probably never understand people. I know that I may not be the easiest person to talk to. I am an introvert. I have no problem doing things on my own, exploring, hiking, going to the movies or museums. I do not do well in terms of making small talk, either in groups, or one-on-one. I tend to keep to myself. My communication skills are not polished. I deal with it and at different times I have tried to improve upon those skills. But I can still “um” right up there with the best of them. I hope to improve my writing skills through this blog.

Don’t get me wrong. On most days I don’t hate people. Well OK, on some days I might. On other days there are people who I will never like. So does my personality type influence people that I interact with, whether it is my coworkers or my friends? Are the people with whom I met over the years friends or acquaintances? Or are we like ships that pass in the night, forgotten or a desire never to meet again?

An article in Inc. ( https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/psychologists-say-there-are-5-personality-types-heres-how-to-tell-which-one-you-.html ) tells us that there are five personality types according to psychologists. One’s personality influences everything from the friends we choose to the candidates we vote for. Many people never really spend much time thinking about personality traits. I’m guessing that includes me. Understanding my personality can give me insight into my strengths and weaknesses, and that it can also help me gain insight into how others see me. Does it also help me understand others? Is this why some people are dog lovers and others are cat lovers, and there are others who like all animals. I’m in the dog-lover (and horse-lover) camp. OK son, I also like Johnnie the hamster.

At this point, I would venture off and talk about how this article ties into this posting. But as I researched the personality types, I found different types have been qualified and quantified. One article talks about four different types. Another talks about eight. Another has three, then there are seven, eleven, and twenty. Do I hear nine, fifteen, thirty-one?

This article from Northwestern suggests that there are four ( https://www.haaretz.com/science-and-health/there-are-only-four-types-of-people-psychologists-say-based-on-new-data-1.6489904 ). The four are: average, reserved, self-centered and role model. Another article ( https://www.today.com/health/personality-types-average-self-centered-role-model-or-reserved-t137902 ) quoted the same Northwestern study and provided more detail that the groupings make more sense. This article was altogether confusing because it went back-and-forth between personality types and personality traits. People fall into one of the four types based on how they rank on the big five personality traits: openness, agreeableness, extra version, neuroticism and contentiousness. Understanding how high or low someone ranks on each of the traits can be useful and predict things about people, such as their risk of mental illness or likelihood of divorcing.

In the end I suspect that a person’s personality is comprised of a great many types of traits. Each and every one is unique. One’s personality is comprised of a mixture of traits. Some are more pronounced than others, some are more endearing than others. I’m not a psychologist and I have already said that I do not understand people.

My spin in writing this post was going to suggest that there were only two types of people. There are people who like people regardless of their personality. The other are the people who only like themselves. Are these types, or traits? The workplace is full of different people, different personalities, different traits. How can I say this, and yet argue that there are only two types of people? Let me continue.

The genesis of the “only two types of people” was reinforced when I was walking the dog. I was thinking about the types and traits of people. Don’t you get up at 5am on a Saturday and then read obscure articles about the traits of people? Of course this was some months ago, but it is as true today as it was then. Jewel and I were about 3 miles into our walk near the East Gate dog park. I spied a former coworker, who I have known for 29 years. We worked together for about four years when I first arrived at Los Alamos. Now the lab is a big place, and we went our separate ways in terms of career, working on different projects in different parts of the laboratory. We followed different pathways, and over the years we would cross paths again at different times, albeit the interactions were very limited.

Anyway, I was walking Jewel, came across my coworker who was there with her dog. I said “hello” and she replied “hello”. I then ventured to ask “how was it going”, to which there was no reply, other than “I need to get my dog to the park to play”. No “take care”, “nice dog”, “how are you doing?”. That was it. Like two ships passing in the night.

Over the years, I have met and encountered many people. I find that I enjoy those encounters. As is often the case, people come and go. Whether those contacts continue over time is often guided by whether I liked them, or whether I felt used by them. Time causes people to drift apart. Time also allows one to to think, to reflect, to determine if it was a genuine positive experience, or was it mutual admiration, working towards a common goal, or just one of being used. It is also possible that time doesn’t leave people with the opportunity to catch up, to talk, to laugh.

In the case of the individual with whom I passed walking the dog, I immediately jumped to that type definition. I was the one who was being used. I have seen this individual use many people over the years to advance her career. We all characterize this person the same way. Those who have been able to get away have gone on to be successful. I think that I am in that category. Those who did not get away suffered, eventually leaving into obscurity. Clearly, in my opinion, this individual is self centered.

Now as the months have gone by since I started this post, I have read and reread the words that I put down. I have changed some of the sentences, added some qualifiers about today compared to several months ago to put things into context. My opinion of how I characterized the encounter has not changed, filtered through the passage of time. Still think that there are only two types of people. Weather hasn’t changed my feelings, my environment has changed since the COVID19 but that hasn’t altered my thinking about the types of people.

Anniversaries…of sorts

Into the eighth week of stay-at-home orders for the state of New Mexico. That is an anniversary of sorts. Across the country, over 1,250,000 Americans have been infected and sadly, over 80,000 have died. In addition, possibly 1 in 5 Americans have lost their jobs in an economic disaster that might rival the Great Depression.

Thankfully I have been able to work from home. The kids are here and continue to do schoolwork on line (they have been out of school for almost as long and classes for the rest of this school year have been cancelled). Horse riding and games over the internet occupy much of the time in the days under the stay-at-home orders.. Retirement funds and college funds are plunging. How do we recover from this deep economic disaster that is at least a recession? Another anniversary of sorts? The last recession was over a decade ago.

For those of us who have lived here for the past 30 years, there is a another significant anniversary on our minds this week. It has been 20 years since the Cerro Grande Fire.

Overlooking a mesa in Los Alamos during the Cerro Grande Fire.

What started as a controlled burn by the US Forest Services on May 4th quickly engulfed over 120,000 acres before it was extinguished in late July. The location, Cerro Grande, is a hill in the Jemez Mountains west of Los Alamos. The fire resulted in the destruction of over 200 homes, and caused the evacuation of over 20,000 people.

I personally have had to evacuate my home twice over the past 30 years for forest fires. In 2000 for Cerro Grande Fire and again in 2010 for the Las Conchas Fires. For Cerro Grande, it was actually two evacuations: one from Los Alamos to White Rock and the other from White Rock to Nambe. Interestingly enough, if you read the EIS (environmental impact statement for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, it identifies the risk for a significant forest fire here with a frequency of about 1 per decade.

I was fortunate. Lost some time from work. Lost some food that spoiled in my refrigerator because the power was off for the week. The time of the evacuation, from May 10 until May 20, time stood still in my mind. I have the vivid recollection of bumper-to-bumper traffic on Diamond Drive, trying to get out of town. Glancing to my right, I could see that the flames were obviously traveling above the town past pipeline road. The shear magnitude of the fire, which for days was smoke, hit with the bright orange flames. I had my critical belongings in my Jeep. Things of value. What constituted the valuables of my entire 39 years of existence was stuffed in boxes in this vehicle. It kinda looked like this…

evacuating Los Alamos kind of looked like this

Luckily for me, our house was spared. I had several friends who were not so lucky. The shear magnitude of houses turned to dust in a relatively short period of time has not escaped me.

Burning houses in Los Alamos.

I remember getting to White Rock, the first stop in the evacuation. Drinking wine and seeing pictures like the above photo on live TV. It was unbelievable.

Aftermath of the destruction on Arizona Avenue
FEMA_-3510-_Photograph_by_Andrea_Booher_taken_on_05-04-2000_in_New_Mexico

As you can see in the photo above, some houses were destroyed. But some were completely bypassed. Several streets, especially those boarding against the forest were reduced to ash. Other houses, some blocks away, also burned because of the blowing embers. In May, the winds tend to pick up in the morning and evening.

Cerro-Grande-wildfire-as-it-approached-Los-Alamos-NM-in-2000.
Part of Los Alamos National Laboratory in the foreground.

The fire burned close to the lab site. Some smaller buildings were burned. The large facilities where radioactive materials, explosives and other items, were not touched.

Rebirth and recovery above Los Alamos.

Above Los Alamos, near the ski hill (I think), two to three years after the fire.

Cerro Grande years after the fire.

Anniversaries happen often. Many anniversaries are tied to good things. Friends, family, special events. Other anniversaries can be associated with bad things. Death, fire, a pandemic. But even with the bad, good rises out of the ashes. Words cannot convey this event in my life. It is a marker, one of many, that we experience in all life has to offer. I can recall many in my life. Some I have written about in the pages here, in other articles. Others remain for the right reason to become words in the TheMcKeeSpot.

…It is all a blur now

Today is April 21. I think that I have entered the 5th week of the mandated “stay-at-home” orders from our governor. I can’t be sure. It’s all a blur now. It is rumored that she plans on extending them through mid-May. As of today, the state of New Mexico has a total of 2072 cases. This represents less than 1% of the population in the state. And we have only tested about 2% of the total population in the state. Where I live, in Los Alamos County, we have 6 confirmed cases.

https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html

I continue to work at home, often logging in as early as 5 am. It has been very problematic. The system automatically logs us out after 2 hours. For almost all of the work, I can network to the computer sitting on my desk in my office. How cool is that! It is cool. It is also stressful. I find myself working at about 50% productivity, feeling twice as stressed. Working longer days to get less done. My body aches because my work area is not economically sound.

By any measure, I feel very lucky as I see what is happening across this country. Yes I can continue to work. Yes I can continue to be paid. Yes I am thankful that myself, my children and friends and family here and elsewhere have avoided this dreaded illness. Given my age, general health and such, I certainly do not want to catch this illness. Some people have no symptoms, others fall quickly. I find myself checking all the websites. What does the Johns Hopkins map show today for the country? For the world? I check to see if the market is up, or down. How much has my 401k been decimated. Time to take your temperature again.

I make the occasional trip to the grocery store for supplies. Was able to get toilet paper this week. Many of the restaurants are open, continue to serve take out. I try my best to support them at least several times a week.

I try to continue the routine. Get up at the same time, do the same things. Go to bed at the same time. I try, but yes I can hit the snooze alarm a few more times because I don’t have as far to go to work. Jewel still gets her daily walks, but they often come later in the day to break up the monotony. We go to feed the horse, take daughter to ride. Son tries to continue Jazz Project through weekly video classes. Both kids are still at home. Schools has been cancelled for the rest of the year, but the teachers are still giving them online assignments, daily meetings, trying to stay connected.

Jewel on her daily walk. We are practicing our social distancing.

I understand the stay at home concept. Minimize interactions, practice social distancing. Wear a mask when you go out and about. But the rules are so all over the map. Grocery stores limit the number of people based on square footage and such. Outside construction. Take out food but no sit down service. Pools closed. Gyms closed. Parks open, Hiking trails open. OK I can go for awhile without a hair cut, a tattoo, getting my nails done. The casinos around the state are closed. But I can buy a lottery ticket? Gun stores closed. Hardware stores opened. Dentist no. Microbrewery no. Liquor store no. Pet store yes.

Our government has now passed three laws to help during this pandemic, a fourth is on the way. We will have spent close the $3 trillion dollars to help people who are out of work, help big and small companies stay in business, keep people for when this is over. We have about 22 million citizens out of work. Last month we had something like 164 million people employed. I see may people on edge. We are probably in a recession, if not a depression. The market has become a bear market. It will not come back right away. What took literally days and weeks to unwind, will take years to recover. I am lucky and thankful on this, the eve of my 59th birthday.

I have many questions for our leaders. Why, in a nation so rich, so prosperous, with so many intelligent people, why were we not prepared? Why did the basic necessities that we need to get through this, get outsourced to the other side of the world. Bring all of those jobs back home now. We need to invest here! We need to manufacture here! We need to understand what failed? How did we get this far, with over 40,000 deaths. This is tragic. Oh its like the flu. Flu takes months, we can test for the flue. We have a vaccine for the flu. Every year I decide whether or not to get the flu vaccine. Those years I get the vaccine, I get the flu. The years I don’t, I don’t get sick. Just lucky? I guess. Wash my hand a lot. Don’t venture out into big crowds I guess. Practice rugged individualism.

Every day I stop work to catch the President’s daily brief. Yes it is to long but I understand why he is there every day. Every day we get an update on what the government is doing, where there are problems, where there are glimmers of hope. I like it when the press ask questions that are clearly meant to make him look bad, and he puts them in their place. We can save the general politics for a future post. It is good that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

This past 5 weeks has provided me with a bit of insight into my future that I plan to venture on down the road. I have had much to ponder, much to reflect upon, which way do I turn. That part of my future is also a blur, but I can begin to see where I might be heading.