Hysteria.

Nearly three decades ago I was sitting in the break room of a regional department store, enjoying my 15-minute break from sharing my social security number with hundreds of customers1. There were several of us on break. A television sat in the corner; we were excited because cable had just been added to the mix. Headlines were being discussed on CNN, the topic at hand was the growing AIDS epidemic. One of my co-workers spoke up. Her name was Kelly.

“I think we should gather up all the AIDS patients, put them on a rocket and blast them off to Mars.”

I found this to be rather harsh. After all, at the time we didn’t really know a lot about the disease and though it seemed rather scary, we should probably still keep our wits about ourselves and not overreact. I don’t remember what I said in response, probably something non-committal, because I was still navigating as to who I was and honestly I was worried about becoming a statistic. I needed to know more before speaking on the subject with confidence.

Fastforward to present day and CNN and many other flavors of a similar brew are all vying for advertising money. In that quest to increase revenue, conjecture, opinions and claims are all spun in a certain direction so to yank in the viewer, and subsequently, boost ratings. Pundits are calling to block air travel to and from Africa, where Ebola is most prevalent. People are showing up at the airport in homemade hazmat suits. In short, many are just losing their minds amongst the hype (and I bet the woman in the hazmat suit REALLY wanted her photo to go viral).

Like the day I sat in that break room at the department store, I don’t feel confident enough in my assessment of the facts to make a broad statement as to ban flights to and from an entire continent. I mentioned on Twitter that since folks are calling for a ban for air travel to and from Africa, we might as well do the same with Texas, since that’s where Ebola patients are being treated in the States. This horrified some and I understand why it would do just that. It’s crazy talk.

I believe that a lot of the hysteria around the Ebola situation is media driven. That grab for ad clicks and viewerships and all that stuff prompts for outrageous headlines and bombastic statements from folks that are just trying to get attention. Instead of spending time how to figuring out how to help fellow human beings, folks are spending time screeching about sealing ourselves off from the perceived threat. Calls for locking door our border in this manner is nothing but grandstanding.

Folks forget that it’s one Big Blue Marble that we all share together. Borders are man made and locking down a border is not going to stop anyone from getting anywhere they want to go on this Big Blue Marble. If you’re that concerned that you’re going to contract Ebola on a flight then here is a simple answer: don’t fly. Just keep it all here in the States and don’t step foot on an airplane. And if you choose to fly, don’t lick the vomit or blood of another passenger, because after all, Ebola is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids.

The hysteria around all of this would not be this crazy if we weren’t only three weeks from the midterm elections2. You know it and I know it, that is, if you knew that the midterm elections are three weeks away to begin with.

Calm down and think rationally.

1 I was a cashier at said department store. The first bit of information on the cash register receipts from back then, aside from the logo at the top, was the cashier ID number, which was our social security number. My social security number was shared with thousands of people.

2 Please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 4. Honestly, I don’t care how you vote, but I do care that you remember to vote. You have the right to share your voice through the voting process and if you don’t vote, you’re not being a good citizen of this democracy.

Walk, Part 2.

I usually my days by going for a walk or bike ride. Yesterday was such a lovely day for a walk but this morning it was cold, with the thermometer showing that it was 40ºF. As I get older, the idea of riding my bike when it’s that cold grows less appealing. So I bundled up and went for a walk.
 
 While I wasn’t stopped by motorists looking for directions to a Pop Warner game this morning, I did have a pleasant yet brief chat with a man getting to spend the day working in the woods behind the cornfield at the top of the hill shown in the picture below. He was getting ready to join others and do some logging. They’ve been working the woods back there for a couple of days. He was very pleasant and asked how far I walk each morning.
 
 It’s good to enjoy a brief conversation with a complete stranger without having to do it in 140 characters or less. Many seem to have forgotten how to communicate or are afraid that their neighbor is a terrorists spitting out Ebola all over the place. It was nice to have speak with someone who wasn’t afraid to speak to a passerby on the street.
 

Walk.

I’m just back from an hour long walk in the neighborhood. I walked around our block. Because we live in a somewhat rural area, walking around the block is nearly five miles. I feel great after the exercise. 

I’ve mentioned before that power lines criss-cross our area. We are near the geographical center of the state and many of the higher voltage power lines come together here to a couple of large switching stations. Power from Niagara Falls, southern Québec and a number of local power plants of various shapes and sizes gets distributed to other parts of the region from here. 

These guys bring power in from Niagara Falls.

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There are spacers along the lines. When you walk under the lines you can hear snapping, crackling and popping noises coming from the spacers.

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Not too far from our property is the railroad line that goes from Utica to just south of Old Forge in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is a popular tourist attraction, especially at this time of year. Leaf peepers love to peep at the brilliant autumn colors one finds in the Adirondacks.

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During my walk I was stopped by six different vehicles. Apparently there is a big Pop Warner football game at the local town park but folks didn’t know where the park was located. I gave them directions that would be easy to remember. I hope they have a good time up there at the game.

Speed.

During my work day at home I often go for a 15-20 minute walk in the morning and again in the afternoon. My walk involves walking along the shoulder of our fairly busy road because we don’t live in an area with sidewalks. I’m not sure that I would want to live in an area with sidewalks, what with being a farm boy at heart and all that.

Traditionally, not having a sidewalk hasn’t really been an issue; folks would simply move over a little bit to give the pedestrian a little bit of breathing space. However, I have noticed that over the past year or so, people haven’t been driving in as friendly a manner down the road and they’re driving a lot faster. I need to leave the shoulder of the road and take refuge in the adjacent lawn at least three or four times a week. This makes my walk less enjoyable than it is intended to be.

The county Department of Works must have noticed that tendency of motorists speeding down the hill as well, because a week ago they added an electronic speed indicating sign. Random observations during my walk have confirmed my suspicions. People are driving faster than the posted 45 MPH speed limit.

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I’ve noticed that quite a few drivers are slamming on their brakes when they see that they’re exceeding the speed limit by 10 or 15 MPH. I fully believe that they’re afraid that the display has some sort of camera embedded in it, but I don’t believe that it does. I think it’s just a velocity indicator and nothing more.

Nevertheless, I wish people would use some common sense and slow down just a little bit to keep our quasi-rural area somewhat enjoyable. Actually, I wish people would just start using common sense, period. But I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Priced Randomly.

So earlier this year my primary physician awarded me a year’s supply of Norvasc, a medication used to treat high blood pressure. As my luck would have it, he has the pharmacy dish this out on a monthly basis, however, as I mentioned, I did win a year’s supply. Earl likes to call this my distemper medication.

Shortly after starting the Norvasc, I received a letter from the administrator of the company prescription plan, advising me that I needed to get routine and regular medications in 90 day increments by mail. I was discouraged from using the local pharmacy, because apparently that’s a more expensive proposition. I was told to go online, use the provided credentials to register with the mail-order company, and then I would reap the savings in medical costs.

The website is wonky at best.

The provided credentials don’t work.

I lost interest.

Squirrel!

I decided to ignore the directive from the company prescription drug program and stick with the local pharmacy. The cost varies from month to month and I end up paying anywhere from $6.00 to $9.95. The name of the mail-order prescription drug company is emblazoned across the label from the local pharmacy, so this tells me that somehow the local pharmacy and the mail-order provider are in cahoots.

Despite the cahoots, I continue to receive letters from the company insurance provider, reminding me that effective the next refill, my prescription price will skyrocket unless I use the mail-order plan. This has been going on for months. Tonight I refilled my prescription at the local pharmacy and it went from $9.50 to $4.75.

Somehow, somewhere, the cahoots are on my side.

I don’t know how people with crappy medical plans, well crappier medical plans than what we have at work, and multiple medications, keep all of this rigamarole straight. It’s bad enough that I have a deductible on my body, like I’m made up of front fenders and rear quarter panels, but I’m sorry, I’m not going to rely on the US Postal Service to deliver my medications in a timely manner. They can’t even get a package from 75 miles away to my house in less than a week, and even then the tracking information indicates that it’s been routed through Bogalusa, Louisiana on it’s way from one Upstate New York city to another, why on earth would I trust them to get my medication on time.

Once upon a time we relied on our friendly neighborhood pharmacist. I refuse to give and I will continue to do so.

Sale.

Yesterday Earl and I raised $185 for the Ali Forney Center in New York, an organization that helps provide housing for homeless LGBT youth. A couple of years ago I raised money by shaving off my awesome ‘stache, this year Earl and I had a garage sale and donated all the proceeds to a worthy cause.

Having a garage sale is weird to me, because it strikes me odd that people would want stuff that we are trying to get rid of. Nevertheless, several friends came over and perused through our wares and took home some stuff and we had some folks just stop by after seeing the sign we had out on the front lawn. We didn’t have any prices on the items for sale, we just asked that folks donate what they thought was a fair price. It would seem that folks were quite generous.

We still have quite a bit of stuff out in the garage so I think we are going to have another garage sale next weekend. If you’re in Central New York and interested in stopping by, feel free to drop me a line so I can give you the coordinates of our location.

Kiss.

I have always been intrigued by kissing. There are so many variations on the pleasure of kissing; a kiss can be a quick peck, it can be a way of saying hello or goodbye, it can be a long, passionate affair that says “I love you”. Even the thought of a kiss brings a smile to my face.

Since I learned in my early teens how awesome kissing can be, I have always wished that social norms allowed us the luxury of kissing one another with no strings attached. I once read a story about Elizabeth Montgomery enjoying herself at a party, walking into the another room and giving Dean Martin a most passionate kiss, and then walking away and going back to celebrating with the other party guests. The story goes that there was nothing improper; it was just an impulse, a moment, and it was savored between Lizzie and Dean. To the best of my knowledge, it didn’t go any further than that. But I find it so cool that they were able to have that moment together. I wonder how many people in the world feel free enough to do that sort of thing.

I’m sure if people kissed more freely there would be less hostility in the world.

I have met several people in my life that I’ve just wanted to walk up to them and say, “I’d like to kiss you”, and then go ahead and do it once they have given their consent. This shouldn’t be interpreted as a dissatisfaction with my love life. When I was younger, I was at a party where a guy did just that. He liked redheads, I still had red hair at the time, and he wanted to kiss me. So we kissed. He said that was nice, I agreed with him and he went back to his friends. We didn’t take the next passionate step, we didn’t even exchanged names; we just kissed, we enjoyed the moment together and I look back on the experience with a smile. I hope he does the same.

My husband is a terrific kisser. Even though we’ve been together for over 18 years, I find myself smiling as I think about kissing him as I type this blog entry. There’s no staleness or shelf date concerns with our kissing habits. Our kisses are fueled by the always growing passion of our relationship. I wouldn’t be jealous if someone walked up to him and wanted to kiss him. We’re solid like that. Jealousy comes from lack of confidence or other similar ingredient within ourselves. Jealousy is a projection. I hope that he would enjoy a random kiss and much as I would.

A few months ago, this video made its rounds on the Internet. It documented 20 strangers kissing for the first time. The chemistry between some is electric. I love the vibe of this video. The innocence. The smiles. The shyness. The intensity. It’s all so very awesome to me.

Tests.

So this week I am taking the first of my three required tests to become a licensed Private Pilot in the United States. Admittedly, I should have probably taken this test a few weeks ago, but I didn’t feel pumped and ready for this particular phase of my flight training. So I postponed taking the test until this week. You see, this week’s test is the written test, and this makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I test well, especially with a written test. It’s kind of like when I’m sitting in the doctor’s office and he’s checking my blood pressure. My blood pressure can be 110/80 at home and then I get in the doctor’s office and bells and whistles start to blow, people get nervous and I get antsy. I have high blood pressure because when they take my blood pressure in a doctor’s office, it’s high. It’s never high elsewhere. I can check it here and there and I’m a healthy guy, but get in a doctor’s office and zoom, there it goes.

I just don’t feel like I test well.

I can fly the airplane, I can land the airplane, I can even land the airplane when the instructor pulls the power (gliding is fun!), but because I like to analyze the hell out of everything, I obsess over the multiple choice answers and occasionally confuse myself. When I was a youngster I had the habit of whipping through a test as quickly as possible because I figured if I didn’t know the answer at warp speed, I wasn’t going to know the answer at idle, so why waste the time idling. Later in life I recognized this approach as being unwieldy at best, so I tried to keep it at bay.

I guess what’s making me a little nervous is the fact that I don’t feel like facts stick well in my brain anymore. I can tell you, right to your face, that two different actresses portrayed the older daughter in the sitcom “Hello, Larry” (Donna Wilkes and Krista Erikkson, and yes, I know that’s frightening that I didn’t even look that up) but I have to chant repeatedly “craft class man cat” to remember that an airplane is an Aircraft Classification but an Airmen Category designation. Getting old sucks.

Luckily, there is some excellent exam prep software out there and I have been going crazy with practice tests since Friday (and I had been doing them here and there before then). Yesterday alone I spent eight solid hours just going through the databank of questions that should appear somewhere on the 60 question test and honestly, I think I’m going to do fine but I’m still nervous about it.

I figure the worst thing that can happen is that people will make fun of me and I’ll have to take the test again after some remedial training (the wings go on either side of the airplane), so that’s not particularly awful, but since I’m finally doing something I’ve wanted to do all my life, I want to make sure that I do it right.

How Can We Forget.

I’ve been pondering this blog entry all morning. I’ve been trying to decide if I really wanted to share my thoughts but then I figured that it’s my blog and in the spirit of honesty, it would be dishonest to not share my thoughts.

As we all know, today is September 11 and today is the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. Like most other Americans, I vividly remember that day. I know where I was, I know what I saw and I know how I felt.

I remember thinking, as the first tower collapsed, right there on television “the world is never going to be the same again”. Admittedly, I remember thinking, “things are going to get bad.” Actually, my thought was, “well this country is going to go down the shitter.”

9-11 was a horrific day. When I go to memorials, or hear tributes, I still shed a tear or feel a lump in my throat, even though it’s been 13 years since that awful day. I mourn the loss of life that day. I think of those left behind.

Right on cue, Twitter and other social media outlets are streaming the memories from folks from that day. The hash tag “#NeverForget” is quite popular. I have no desire to relive a play-by-play through someone’s Twitter stream; I have unfollowed quite a few people that are bombarding their stream with a minute-by-minute account of where they were and what they were doing. There’s a fine line between sharing a memory and being prideful of the fact that you were on the periphery of the rubble.

The truth of the matter is, how could we forget? As a citizen of the United States I am bombarded by the fact that 9-11 actually happened on a constant basis and that we should be fearful of everyday life because of this. Our government, the media, hell, everyday life constantly reminds us of 9-11 and the existence terrorism. I bet you can’t go a month, or maybe even a week, without hearing a specific mention of 9-11 somewhere. Somewhere someone is going to utter the phrase “9-11″ and the importance of modifying (actually degrading) our freedom in the name of preventing another “9-11″ from happening again. Terror threat levels. Stock up on plastic wrap. Get duct tape. ISIS. ISIL. Whatever the hell they’re called. Al Qaeda. The theme of the United States is now a constant drumbeat of war and that we should all be fearful, fearful, fearful. We must protect the “homeland”. If the goal of a terrorist is to inflict terror on a target, then I’d say the terrorists met their goal. I’ve seen many that act terrorized at the very smallest thing. Just last week there was a power failure in a small town nearby and the newspaper article mentioning it included the sentence, “terrorism has been ruled out.” Really? 500 people in East Bumfuck, New York lose their electrical service and they have to mention terrorism? Did they really think that terrorism was involved with the loss of power for a community of less than 500 people? The folks in the “homeland” have lost their minds.

God how I hate the word “homeland”, especially when it’s used by government officials. It’s a jingoistic word steeped in propaganda. It’s meant to stir up national pride and I think it’s a cheap shot. It works well though for people with an IQ hovering around the speed limit. The naming of the “Department of Homeland Security” has grated on my last nerve since George W Bush came up with that idea back in the mid 00s, and now President Obama is throwing around the word “homeland” just as much as his predecessor did. Why the sudden use of “homeland”, outside of referring to the DHS, again? What happened to that hope and change we were promised? Yeah. Call it our country, call it the United States, call it home, but “homeland”? It sounds like a line from Nazi Germany or at the very least an early episode of Wonder Woman.

I get that there are evil people out there. And I understand that we need to protect our citizens, but please don’t tell me to “never forget”. How can anyone forget? We’re damn near raped by minimum wage workers before we get onto an airplane, we have a whole assortment of wars to serve as a reminder and our liberties that we tout as the gold, shiny ring of why we’re awesome are being eroded away on an hourly basis, all in the name of safety because 9-11 happened. Again, 9-11 was awful, and my heart aches when I think of that day and all the lives that were lost. But trust me, we will never forget, and sadly, the propaganda machine will make sure that we will never forget.

Mix It Up.

I’m at work in the middle of the week for the first time in many, many months. I usually make the trek on a Monday, every couple of weeks or whenever the mood strikes me. I know that I’m a lucky man in that I have this sort of flexibility in my employment opportunity. I’m not complaining in any way.

A co-worker remarked that he was surprised to see me at work and I told him that the only reason I came to work today was because I was a little behind on the office lottery pool payments. He giggled at my joke. I guess the joke is in actuality I came to work only because I’m behind on the office lottery pool payments. I tend to work harder and longer from home than I do at the office. All that being said, the commute was enjoyable this morning as I was able to wave at some Amish men for the first time in a long while. One of them even waved back.

The seagulls have vacated my favorite parking area, probably due to the construction going on. Progress is marching along on the new Taco Bell they’re building where the old Burger King used to stand. The workers on the structure are all gathered underneath the shade tree that I usually park near. I’m not bitter about this as there is a nice late-summer breeze blowing through the Jeep at the moment and this is helping my mood stay sunny.

I was awoken this morning in the middle of a very sexy dream. Perhaps this is why my mood is sunny. I wasn’t hot nor bothered when I woke up, but I know that I woke up with a smile and because I have a knack for this sort of thing, I am able to recall the details of the dream in a most vivid manner. This increases the intensity of the smile on my face.

I have decided that I need to start carrying my real DSLR camera around with me again. The camera on my iPhone 5 is adequate, but there’s still something great about pointing a camera at something, doing some photography magic with dials and lenses and such and snapping a photo. A commentator online recently remarked that when he’s at Fenway Park, he notices that most of the fans are taking selfies instead of photos of the ball game, the park or any of their surroundings. Quite frankly, I don’t think the world needs that many duck lipped photos. I have never made duck lips in a photo and I don’t intend on continuing to do so. Instead, I shall just mock those that choose to make the ridiculous face.

Perhaps I’ll take a photo of them with my DSLR.