Monday, May 25, 2015

Something to Remember on Memorial Day

From "Convoy" by Kyle Larkin
We don’t talk about the roadside bombs. That would only make things worse. So instead we tell morbid jokes and force grins, trying to hide the sensations in our guts that are pulling and twisting and eating away at us.
You get ready for a mission, check the oil in your truck, load your weapon and do radio checks, while somewhere in the back of your head you try to remember what you last ate, wondering what it will look like splattered across the road if you get blown inside out.
Read the whole thing.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Late Spring Velo News

This spring, my eighth in Olympia, is the earliest spring I've experienced since moving here in late 2007.  We've had sunny, warm days--perfect cycling weather--since April.  For that matter, winter was pretty mild.  No snow whatsoever, less rain and even the occasional warm sunny day.  Combine that with a three-day work week since January and I've had plenty of opportunity to ride my bike.  The four day weekends give me a much better shot at taking advantage of the sunny, dry days which have a habit of occurring on weekdays rather than weekends.

Since I'm often riding twice a week my rides are shorter but the total mileage those usually totals around 35 miles, although last week I broke 40 miles.   Heading toward the end of May and I'm already more than halfway toward my annual goal of 1040 miles.  I'm still figuring out new, shorter variations of my established routes and have explored a few new routes along the way.

Today's ride was near perfect.  The temperature was in the high 70s with mixed cloud cover.  The early part of the ride was sunny, later on partly cloudy.  I started out in a light polypropylene shirt--didn't need a jacket at all--but changed to a t-shirt before an hour was up.  That makes the first time I've cycled in a t-shirt this year.  I cannot remember doing that in any previous year.  

None of this is any assurance that warm, dry weather is here to stay.  After riding in my polypro shirt and just shorts for a couple of weeks in early May, I went out in wearing a jacket and tights.  I warmed up enough to remove the tights but it was a cooler ride than I had been used to .  As a rule I don't count on reliably warm weather until July.  Hell, in 2011 Spring didn't arrive until July.   But this is not a normal year.  The governor has already declared a statewide drought emergency due to the extremely low snowpack--only 16 percent of normal--and we're seeing unusually warm temperatures.  The 10 day forecast has minimal chance of rain.  Again, not normal for late May.

All that said, the biking in Olympia has been great so far in 2015. 

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hiding Behind the Troops to Save His Sorry Ass

In his sputtering, stumbling walk back of his Iraq gaffe Jeb Bush resorted to America's "last refuge of scoundrels" in 2st Century, he hid behind the troops.
In Tempe, Bush tried to explain his difficulty articulating his views on Iraq as the result of being reluctant to say anything that might suggest he was ungrateful for the sacrifice of the U.S. armed forces and their families during 12 years of war. “It’s very hard for me to say that their lives were lost in vain,” Bush said. “In fact, they weren’t. We have the greatest military in the face of the earth.” He added, “Their sacrifice was worth honoring, not depreciating.”
Which set me off like a rocket.  Of course their lives were lost in vain.  No strategic objective was achieved.  Anti-American insurgency has metastasized throughout the Middle East, and America is caught in a never-ending military intervention that simply breeds more resistance.  All that American life and treasure, not to mention the dead and maimed Iraqis, for nothing.  And no, Jeb, George did not bequeath Obama a stable Iraq in 2009.  All George did was buy a decent interval with the surge.  That interval turned into the rise of the ISIS. 

But Jeb Bush won't admit that the troops' sacrifices were in vain because admitting that means his brother, Dick Cheney, John Bolton  and all of the other architects of the war squandered those lives and that sacrifice.  Acolytes like Jeb cheered them on and now suggests that questioning the war means "depreciating" the sacrifices of our armed forces.  I say that Jeb Bush dishonors that sacrifice by using it a as a shield to save his sorry ass.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Centennial Remembrance

My mother, Katherine Pié Fleming, was born this day in 1915.  She was the fourth of eight children born to Charles and Nora Pié and grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania during the depression.  She wanted to become a librarian but college was out of the question and she ended up going to nursing school at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, DC where she worked as a psychiatric nurse in the late 30's and during the war years.  She met my father, Frank Fleming, in Washington when he was stationed there before going overseas.  They married after his return and began a family.  In 1949 my father accepted a pharmacist job with Peoples Drug Stores in Danville, Virginia where they lived the rest of their lives.

Mother was not your typical neighborhood housewife in Danville.  Compared to my friend's mothers, she was not especially good at keeping house and her cooking was adequate but not especially inspired.  I'm sure that having picky eaters for husband and son (me) didn't lend itself to creative cooking.  Her creativity was channeled into her writing.  She wrote two novels and lots of poetry.  She had a good sense of humor and, like my father, was an avid reader.  My most enduring memory of both parents is them sitting on the two sofas in our living room with drinks beside them and books in hand.  She was also an excellent seamstress.

Her life fell apart when my father died in in 1962.  She was highly dependent on him and never fully recovered from the loss.  She suffered numerous breakdowns and hospitalizations in a town with absolutely no psychiatric services whatsoever.  Not that she did not try--in 1964 she went back to work as a nurse but one mistake cost her the job and she spiraled downward for the next 15 years before dying of complications from emphysema in 1979.  Her last years were spent in an adult home in Richmond.  I lived nearby and did errands and laundry for her.  Even took her to two operas.   

With that history in mind, it's no surprise that my memories are mixed.  I can't say that I ever really knew my mother.  We were not a close family--my brother describes us as four individuals sharing the same house--and after my father's death I was too self-absorbed as a teenager and pre-occupied with my own pursuits.  What I remember most is the encouragement she gave to my reading.  One of her most enduring "gifts" to me was introducing me to the works of Gore Vidal.  

After her death, I found a "journal" of sorts that she kept from about 1938 to 1948.  The entries are typed letters to a friend, maybe one a month, describing her life in Washington.  I don't know if she ever actually mailed those letters but I am glad to have found them.  They tell me more about her than I ever learned from living with her.  In the journal she is independent, active and engaged, making do on a limited salary, coping with rationing, and impatient for my father to return from overseas.  She wants nothing more than to be married and having babies.  Once married with two children, she found it overwhelming.  I think that's one reason the journal ended in 1948.

Aside from losing her husband after only 17 years, I think her greatest disappointment in life was not being  published.  She never forgave Bennett Cerf for rejecting her novels.  If she had dreams beyond becoming a published author, I don't know about them.  What I do know is that she gave me my start in life, literally and figuratively.  For that I am eternally grateful.

(The photo is from 1942.  She sent it to my father in Africa during the war.  The backside is stamped Passed by the Base 204 Examiner.  She also included a cleverly serf-deprecating poem about her looks in a b verse.)


Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Most Eloquent Statement

Governor Jerry Brown of California commenting on Senator Ted Cruz:
"That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of the existing scientific data.  It's shocking, and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office."

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Best Ever Advice for a Writer

“I can’t write with those people on my shoulder, I just have to do my work.”

     --Cheryl Strayed



Sunday, March 01, 2015

Unintended Consequences

The Republican's attempt to prevent the District of Columbia from legalizing marijuana turned the District into the "best place in America for marijuana aficionados."  According to the Washington Post,

The GOP efforts to block marijuana sales have created great conditions for dope-smokers: no taxes, a black market flooded with product and the ability to grow your own ganja legally.
 In the process, the mayor also got in some licks against DC's semi-territorial status.
[Mayor] Bowser secured national attention for the District’s lack of full self-governing rights. National media that yawn over the city’s quest for budget autonomy were gripped by the spectacle of GOP representatives warning the mayor in writing that she could face prison for allowing a voter-approved law to take effect.
Not what they had in mind, I'm sure.