This has been a tough year for family pets. Four now have passed on to their reward.

In January, we lost my buddy Chuck, who at sixteen went way too early. Chuck was almost like a dog – he’d come running to the door when I got home and even ran to the door when he heard me grab the keys to leave. A cat’s cat, Chuck lived like he was King of the World, getting into everything, racing around maniacally. Always around us, with us. He loved head butts, double-ear pets and basically any attention we gave him. Chuck was often in the woodshop with me, inspecting my progress. Just short of fourteen he was diagnosed with cancer. Not willing to let him go just yet, Chuck endured a year of chemo, which was as successful as we could hope – he got a year and a half cancer-free before the disease came back. Fuck cancer. I miss that cat.

Not long after, my sister lost Lorenzo, as sweet a cat as you could meet. L was elderly but still left too soon. That would be a theme this year. A laid back kitty, Lorenzo had years earlier lost his long-time buddy Kona but was joined by a rambunctious kitten, Agnes. Those two got along famously as well (See photo below – Lorenzo on the right.). The loss of Lorenzo drove a hole in my sister’s heart and left her house with an empty feel that Agnes, great kitty that she is, could not quite fill.

Spring and summer came and went. My sister adopted an adorable Norwegian Forest cat, Abby. It seemed then that the pet drama for remainder of the year was getting Abby to coexist with Agnes, a kitty undoubtedly affected by the loss of her best friend Lorenzo and maybe wasn’t ready for a new roommate.

But no. I mean yes, that drama played out but it was shortly overshadowed by the passing of our Koda, aka The Mutt. Koda was The. Best. Dog. Ever. (Apologies to Spot.) Her life was also way too short and way too full of medical issues. Koda came to us as a shelter dog in very poor condition. We instantly saw she was the one and proceeded to fix her up best we could. Koda was a Kelpie and like the breed, she loved the outdoors and liked to ‘herd’ us as we hiked the many trails of Central Oregon. Like Chuck, Koda often hung out with me in the woodshop, getting in the way mostly. Her medical issues never completely went away and last year she developed severe seizures, horrifying to watch as there was nothing we could do other than make sure she didn’t hurt herself. The pet neurologist prescribed an anti-seizure medication which worked fabulously in terms of stopping the seizures but also severely affected her mind. Koda essentially became like an Alzheimers patient, a condition which degraded in the coming months. In late October, her condition plummeted and it was time to let her go. She was maybe fourteen years old. We miss that pup immensely.

You might think that was enough, that 2022 was done inflicting pet trauma. Sadly, no. Unexpectedly, that sweet new girl Abby developed symptoms of compound medical problems, issues too great to overcome. To say she left too soon is a tragedy of understatement. Although Abby wasn’t with my sister very long, they almost instantly developed a close bond. I was lucky enough to meet Abby during a two-week trip to visit in early October, in time to witness the Abby-Agnes drama but before Abby’s medical issues cropped up. Unfortunately, I had to cut that visit short to rush home to be with Koda in her last days. We were all very much looking forward to the time when Agnes finally accepted Abby. The signs were there that it would happen.

Four pets. Four fur friends. Four chunks of our hearts. Gone. Remaining are Andy, our cat and the eldest of the bunch at over eighteen (Lorenzo might have been a bit older, we’re not sure), Agnes, still in her prime, and my other sister’s cat Frankie, also doing really well. We all started the year with six pets, added one and now have just three.



With all pet owners and animal people, there’s I think that one special creature that stands out from the rest. The best pet ever. For me, that would be Chuck, my Little Buddy. My best friend and near constant companion for sixteen years.

We lost Chuck last week after an extended bout with cancer, a foe he had bested two years ago in their first encounter with a year-long regimen of chemo. But cancer eventually won the war and Chuck passed from our lives and hearts peacefully, painlessly, as we cared for him best we could. I miss him so much.

Futurespeak, and Some Other Topic

Lately I’ve been reading – in some cases rereading – classic science fiction novels. BookBub, a website that notifies you of one-day sales on eBooks, often has one of them in the daily listing so I link over to Barnes & Noble and download it to my Nook for a pittance, like $1.99. Some are free but those tend to be B-listers you’ve never heard of.

  • By the way, I love my Nook. With failing eyesight, having an ereader that allows you to crank up the font size to whatever you like is a fabulous thing.

Classic novels are characterized by several things I guess but obviously one of them is that they’re old. They were written decades ago. As such, the authors necessarily wrote from the perspective of the era they were living in – the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, whatever. With science fiction, that also meant foreseeing the future from the perspective of their particular present time, and as we all know, predictions of the future are pretty loose and evolve as the ‘present’ moves forward. Maybe movies teach us that better with perhaps Blade Runner, made in 1982 and set in Los Angeles 2019, being a prime example of a future prediction that wasn’t quite on point. With novels, I go with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949. As we all can now attest, the events of that dystopian future took place not in 1984 but a bit later in 2016 with the election of the Mango Mussolini and subsequent demise of the last remaining rational Republicans.

But this post is actually a rant. I’m not here to expound on the greatness of classic sci-fi novels. I’m here to complain about an aspect of the novels that often bothers me, and sometimes makes the book unreadable. It’s futurespeak. That might not be the correct term and I certainly didn’t coin it. Futurespeak is what it literally sounds like – speaking in the future. In other words, the language, idioms and peculiar syntax that future people speak, or at least how the author imagines they might speak. As a concept, futurespeak is not only good but inevitable. Consider pastspeak – how folks spoke in the past. It’s said that an English-speaking person transported back in time a couple of hundred years to England would have trouble understanding the locals despite their speaking ‘English.’ Language evolves, and fairly quickly I’d say. Consider also old movies, maybe a 1940’s gangster flick. The slang used by the characters is often entirely out of use today, and I’d suspect that a lot of young people might not even know what some of it meant. And that’s just half a decade or so.

So when a science-fiction writer puts pen to paper on a novel set a few centuries or more in the future, it’s logical that the characters would be speaking a language quite unfamiliar to us today. But is that really what we want to read? I say no, at least not that much. Take Samuel R. Delany’s classic Dhalgren. Acclaimed as one of the great novels of our time, it leans heavily on futurespeak. I’m not sure how far in the future it’s set but the characters use a whole lot of unfamiliar words, slang, idioms. It’s sometimes hard to parse. Mind you, Dhalgren is one of those books I’d read before – maybe on the submarine – and I recall thinking highly of it, so clearly I haven’t always had this aversion to futurespeak.

Probably most people reading this post (clarification: no one reads these posts) will think my issue with futurespeak is at best trivial and at worst, a sign that I’m embracing ignorance. Frankly, I lean towards the latter; as I grow older, I feel less inclined to put in much effort to read books. My life has been one of reading difficult things, albeit mostly technical stuff involved with three disparate degree programs and a career as an engineer/technician. But I have read a lot of the heady, classic books. I just don’t want to anymore. Instead, I’d like authors to concentrate on the plot, character development, suspense and the like and not force me to learn a new language. After all, if I wanted to read War and Peace (I don’t want to), I really think I’d like the English translation over the original Russian and French, even though those languages are what the characters would have spoken.

Some futurespeak is OK – I’m currently reading Across a Billion Years, by Robert Silverberg, which is set a few centuries in the future and employs a moderate amount of unfamiliar slang and other futurespeak, certainly less than the characters would probably actually speak given the time. So I’m not totally ignorant.

Oh, and the ‘other topic’ this post’s title alludes to? I’ve actually already touched on it: my aversion to challenging reads. Didn’t used to be that way but I now really only like easy reading. Probably a sign a failing mental acuity. Sigh.


[This whole thing – which I’ve taken to calling The Current Unpleasantness – is a new phenomenon, so I’ve added some edits and remarks five weeks later.]

What a strange time we live in! It’s hard to imagine that anything could trump Trump for I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-surrealness but here we are. [Five weeks: Trump has managed to trump himself – his performance during the pandemic has been stupendously bad.]

So many unknowns; so many dire predictions based on scant data.

– It’s not that bad, some say. Most people only get mild symptoms and recover. Yeah, but mortality seems to be much worse than for the seasonal flu, something many people were comparing it to early on. And no one has immunity yet. [Five weeks: some disturbing reports that people who have recovered from CV-19 may not be immune as is generally the case with virus infections. Yikes.]

– Warm weather will knock it down as it does with the flu. Yeah, but some experts say the warm weather thing is a myth. What really knocks down the flu in late spring is herd immunity from all the people who eventually get vaccinated and those that recover from getting it in the winter. So expecting this coronavirus to die off in the summer may be wishful thinking. [Five weeks: this has not been discussed much by the experts.]

– Isolate, isolate, isolate! No doubt this is what we need to do but with some of the predictions of the longevity of the crisis, we are in for a long summer. Meanwhile, the economy tanks and people lose their livelihoods. Moreover, once the first peak of cases tapers off, lifting the mandatory isolation protocols will likely result in a new (albeit smaller) peak. Maybe more after that. [Five weeks: Yeah, about that isolation business. Most states were fairly responsible in locking down but a few, not so much. Looking at you Governor Kemp of Georgia. He was among the last to do so, incredibly claiming during a press conference well into the pandemic that he ‘only just learned’ that non-symptomatic people can spread the virus. Ya think, Governor? What an idiot. This week, Kemp has ordered the restrictions loosened for many businesses, including massage parlors and hair salons. Try six feet distancing with that. Again, what an idiot.]

– Right now, early on in the pandemic, essentials such as food, water and electricity are still available. But how long will that last? Food production is dependent on people doing food production jobs. If they start getting sick? How about transporting food? Truckers aren’t immune to COVID-19. If this thing lasts over a year or more (as some are warning it might), what of our essential services? Electric power plants and transmission grids need people to operate. Same with water systems. What if we have another devastating wildfire season? Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Will we have the resources to deal with it? [Five weeks: no major disruptions of essential services, including food production and sale. Grocery stores are still pretty well stocked. You can even find TP! The oil industry has completely tanked however. Demand for gasoline has plummeted. There are dozens – maybe hundreds – of oil tankers parked outside harbors, fully laden, with nowhere to discharge their cargo.]

– And what of the healthcare workers? Can you imagine working in one of our way too few hospitals dealing with an overflow of critically ill patients for months on end? Months and months of wearing a respirator? Months and months of watching people die because there aren’t enough ventilators? Some of the doctors and nurses will get sick too, reducing their numbers and making the situation more dire. [Five weeks: My god, those poor folks. I can’t imagine. Not only are hospitals in the more seriously hit places (NYC) totally overwhelmed, but for nurses and doctors to continue at this pace is unimaginable. Their living situations must be horrific.]

It’s early yet. Here in Oregon, the state this week mandated closing restaurants and bars to only takeout (which means really, closing the bars). Schools are all closed. All except small public events are cancelled. Elsewhere, like San Francisco and Orange County, mandatory stay-at-home isolation has been ordered. These are drastic and probably necessary measures. I expect more to come. [Five weeks: nothing really more has hit in the way of restrictions other than more states getting onboard. The take-out business is thriving, including with a lot of bars.]

It sure seems like the End Times [The Current Unpleasantness]. If this continues into the fall, I fully expect Trump to declare the election postponed. We’ll see how the country reacts to that. [Five weeks: Joe Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee and he’s lately been warning that Trump will try to do something to delay the election. Every reputable source and scholar has stated unequivocally that he doesn’t have that power. Congress does, though. Can’t see them delaying the election with Nancy Pelosi protecting our interests. Still, Trump is Trump. He’ll try something.]

Maybe we need to stock up on ammo instead of toilet paper. [Five weeks: yes.]

[Five weeks: Probably the biggest development is Trump’s daily CV-19 briefings. He has discovered that he has a captive audience and it’s good for ratings. Except he has set a new bar for incredibly stupid statements and incredibly stupid decisions. Many of the major news organizations have decided not to broadcast the briefings live because he spouts so many falsehoods and idiotic, dangerous things that they can’t keep up with corrections. This week, he mused that maybe injecting people with disinfectant might help. Some experts had trouble countering that absurdity because their collective jaws were dislocated after dropping to the ground. What a fucking moron.]

Some People

So I’m scanning the magazine rack at the local bookstore, searching for something that might be interesting in the food section. My eye catches an oddity: a car magazine, GT Porsche or some such, perched in front of – and obscuring – some of the food-related ‘zines. I scowl. What is it with some people that they are so inconsiderate. It might seem a small thing, failing to replace a magazine in its proper spot, but so is the effort to actually do that. It’s bad enough that the car magazine section becomes an unsorted mess, making it difficult to browse, but this inconsiderate Porsche-loving jerk couldn’t even be bothered to return the damn thing there. Car enthusiasts aren’t the only offenders but they’re pretty bad as a group.

So I move from Food & Wine, Cooks Illustrated and Saveur to the car section, my scowl unabated. I anticipate chaos and further scowling. Surprisingly, it’s not too messy. I pick up a front row magazine on classic motorcycles. Perhaps they will have an article on the Honda CB750, such as the one I saw at a car show this weekend. No, but they do feature an old Triumph. Nice.

While standing there, reading and slowly losing my scowl, an example of the breed comes up quickly, drops a magazine carelessly into the rack in a totally wrong spot, and scurries off. He’s done reading, so fuck everyone else.

Grrrrr  …..

In Search of My Golf Ball

I’ve joked a few times on various social media that the Rules for Retirement require men to take up golf, if they haven’t already. I don’t know what it says for women – I was only issued the men’s version the rulebook. Being a solidly pro-rulebook, upstanding member of polite society, after I told my boss (and the entire company by email) to take this job and …. well, you know, I dusted off my twenty-plus year old set of Arnold Palmer irons and moseyed over to the local golf course to see what I could do.

I had played before, which is why I had the clubs already. But despite living literally within walking distance of a very nice nine-hole, city-owned golf course for the past eighteen years, I had not swung any of the clubs in anger in all that time. Now was the time, according to the rules.

Golf is a sport (yes, it’s a sport – ignore John Daly’s waistline!) that requires quite a bit of skill to play decently enough to enjoy. Even though the little ball sits there propped up on its tee invitingly, unmoving, swinging a four foot stick with a minuscule flat surface on the end in such a way as to not only contact the ball but impel it more or less in the direction of the fairway is just not that easy. More likely you will whiff on the ball, duff it ten yards on the ground or send it on a trajectory towards that nice expensive Mercedes parked over there on the street. If you do manage to hit it a fair distance and keep it within the confines of the golf course, you’ll undoubtedly lose it in the trees. Golf balls are masters at hiding in the trees. This is why even those who can hit the ball fairly well still keep a second ball in their pocket when they go to tee off. Saves a trip back to the bag.

Me, I’m no different than the average schmuck who takes up the game. Possibly I have an advantage in that I’m a good tennis player, or I was at one time. Swinging a stick is something I already know how to do. That advantage has allowed me to at least enjoy the game from the get go. I can’t hit the ball very far but that also works to my advantage as the ball sometimes doesn’t make it to the tree line.

Still, I seemed to lose a lot of balls, sometimes even ones that apparently landed in the fairway. The problem was my eyesight. While my left eye is decent, my right eye was horrible. I kid you not – I could not even make out the big E at the top of the eye chart with that eye. Tracking an itty bitty golf ball more than a hundred yards was a challenge. A challenge I’d often lose.

You may notice I drifted into the past tense. That’s because I had cataract surgery on the right eye recently – replacing my natural lens with a new one that focuses at distance. Or so I’d hoped. Turns out it only gets me to about 20:35 or so. I still lose sight of the longer ball flights. So, it was on to step two: find a ball that can be seen more easily.

Golf balls are white, mostly. You’d think that a white sphere sitting on and in green and brown stuff would stand out. Turns out, not so much. There are times when I hit the ball in the middle of the fairway and couldn’t see it until almost on top of it. If the sun is at an angle where you actually get reflections off leaves, damn near everything looks like a ball until you get close. Trying to find the thing in the rough, where it has sunk below grass top level, or in the trees (think small forest around here) is orders of magnitude harder.

I checked out the internet, the font of all wisdom and bullshit, to see if there was a ball that is more visible. I already had a few yellow and orange balls (yellow balls and orange balls, not yellow/orange balls. That would be weird.), but they didn’t work either. White balls are actually easier for me to see. But some people were saying that this new Volvik matte pink ball was the bees knees. All other balls have a gloss covering and pink apparently provided the best contrast against green & brown. So, I moseyed over to the local golf equipment purveyor and negotiated the purchase of a dozen.

And you know, they’re right. These things are amazingly visible, not only in the fairway, but also in the trees among all the leaves. I can still lose them if the ball hides itself under leaves but if any substantial part is showing, I’ll most likely see it. I love them. In fact, I’ve become a little obsessed with not losing one. Take yesterday, for example. As was my norm on the second hole of the local course, I hit my tee shot into the trees on the right (I’m taking lessons to stop this unfortunate habit). This is an area that is basically one of those small forests I mentioned, and given that it’s the time of year where the trees have just lost all their leaves, and given the area slopes downhill quite a bit making footing dicey, finding a ball is a matter of luck. But this was one of my prized, unloseable pink balls! I searched and searched for a long time, but with no luck, although I found two other balls. Mind you, there are other players on the course, so you’re really not supposed to take too long looking for a lost ball. I gave up and continued the round with a feeling of defeat.

I mentioned I was a little obsessed. After the round, later in the day, I came back to the course and continued the search. I found it! So, I can say that I did not lose one of my pink balls that day. So far, out of the dozen, I’ve lost two. One went into another small forest and despite going back to look after the round, it remains lost. The other is at the bottom of the swamp that runs through the course. I know where it is, I just am unwilling to wade in to find it. Mind you, that one ended up in the swamp on two successive shots. After the first, I saw it go in the water not far from solid ground, so I spent several minutes dredging the swamp with my seven iron and came up with it, and several other balls.

I hate losing golf balls.