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4/2/07-Mon.-Had my first appointment with a new dermatologist today. He and his staff were pleasant and efficient. Nonetheless, it was a bit irksome that he was 45 minutes late. At least the nurse made a point of apologizing and warning of the delay. He expressed regret over it as well. So, hopefully this is not the norm there. Between 2000 and 2002, I had three nose cancer surgeries in just 18 months. But it has now been 5 years since any lesions at all were found. Alright!

I celebrated with yet another relaxed, enjoyable meal at Trudy's.

About a week ago, Frances and I drove over in the rain to Sears and picked up our new mower. It was in a larger carton than I had anticipated and stuck perilously far out of the trunk on our way home. Fortunately, we got it to the house without mishap.

In short order, it was ready for use. It is a joy to operate, no doubt seeming all the more so after my awful experience with its predecessor.

I did my usual volunteer library shift work last week, and Saturday I helped out with the Friends of Austin Public Library's "Mini Monster Book Sale." This was both interesting and fun.

I had gone to my Wednesday evening dream interpretation meeting. Then yesterday I went, for the second time, to my new, Sunday afternoon dream group. Dreams that I thought at first relatively innocuous turned out to be windows into some distressing content. This proved true both for my dreams and for one brought by somebody else. Each of us was feeling sad and/or rather frustrated by the end of the session.

On a whim, I had taken Puff to that last meeting. The facilitator of the group regularly takes her dog to the Wednesday meeting, as do some others. Though she was nice about Puff's unexpected appearance, the leader informed me she doesn't want to encourage outside dogs at her house because of their saliva, to which she said she is sometimes allergic. So, Puff stayed outside in back during our get-together, a situation the beast found upsetting despite having the other dog, with whom she got along well, as a playmate.

Austin is now decked out in spring finery, displaying part of the reason this area is ever becoming a more popular place to live. And the temperatures, though gradually warmer, are as yet quite comfortable. Mosquitoes, however, are already becoming a big nuisance again.

My wrist tendonitis is a little improved. This morning, I even forgot to take any Ibuprofen.

We got our tax records and new return back from the CPA last week. Uncle Sam's bite remains quite modest, even with our taxable income at over $75,000 last year and despite a total 2006 net asset increase of about $110,000. (In fact, we are due a small refund and owed the fed altogether just around $6600.) Pretty good for a couple of retired folks. (Knock on wood.)

4/9/07-Mon.-It has been a busy, interesting week since the last entry. The most bizarre aspect of that time was our Easter weekend treat: a surprise return to winter weather, with temperatures for awhile in the lower 30s (F), highs only in the 40s, plentiful additional rainfall, and even a half-cup or so of sleet, Saturday evening. This is probably a record for late winter weather in our area. Relations a little to the north, in Waco, actually had snow accumulations transforming their yards and plants. The unusually late cold wave also affected about two dozen other U.S. states. Always partial to cold over hot, I was delighted, the plunging mercury greatly raising my spirits. But now that the freak spell is about over, I have nothing comparable here to which to look forward till well into next autumn.

Speaking of weird weather, the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released several days ago and, considering that it was put together by a fairly conservative mix of scientists and governments around the world, and despite its having been watered down by officials from China and the U.S., it strikes an ominous tone, suggesting far reaching effects that may in the next decades of this century put at great risk the homes and livelihoods of about a third of the global human population, threaten a substantial percentage of the planet's species with extinction, and cause more fresh water shortages, floods, droughts, storms, ice melting, etc.

Besides our normal round of volunteer work or nature photography excursions, visits with friends, and so forth, Frances and I took Puff in for her annual exam and shots the other day. As usual, she was pronounced in excellent health. The little wretch had dragged a closed but full coffee mug out of its cup holder and tipped it over onto the passenger seat of my car recently, while I was in an HEB getting groceries one recent cool morning. The entire contents seeped out the sipping hole and was soaked up by the fabric covered seat, from which some of it drained down onto the floor underneath. As she had never done anything of the kind before, I had not anticipated the hazard.

Up till the great weather of the past three or four days, I had been experiencing a big surge in restlessness to be "a wanderin'," similar to the urges I felt back in the mid-1960s that had led to my packing up my beat up VW Beetle with all I could fit in and heading off one baking hot Austin summer afternoon for I-did-not-yet-quite-know-where. On a road map of the country that I had checked while already in the car about to leave, I considered whether to head for New Orleans, NYC, or San Francisco, made my decision, and pointed the vehicle west toward the Bay Area.

The day I left Austin, the temperature had been about 105°(F), the latest of a succession of such superheated afternoons. When I arrived by bus (the car having been abandoned in the mountains of Arizona, another story) a few days later in San Francisco, the high for the day was 55°(F). I was all but out of money, had almost nothing left of what I'd started out taking, knew nobody in that part of the country, and had no job. But I was a very happy, if quite tired, camper!

The yearning of late to be semi-permanently "on the road again," or simply moving to a far more climate-friendly part of the country or world, has been quite intense, so much so that, despite the involvement with and guidance of dream group members, I have been inclined to chuck everything here for such a fantasized fresh start. This impulse comes over me with strength every so often, seldom more so than in the past few weeks.

It seems to be all the stronger since Fran is not generally willing to even go on long vacations with me to magnificent places, much less to move to them, even though we could afford to do so. I get to thinking I ought to just take off again, as I did over 40 years ago. I could leave on a lengthy, neat vacation but then, if I liked things at the new location as much as I imagine I might, for instance in Portland, OR, along the coast of WA, or near Mount Rainier, etc., I just might rent a house and begin to put down roots. Fran could then come join me or not, as she preferred. Hopefully, I shall be able to keep these urges at bay, observing them, as if this were a meditation exercise, rather than acting on them. But as Austin moves more into the least pleasant time of year, the drive to be on my way could again become very powerful indeed.

The urge to emigrate, or at least to soon be "a wanderin'," is not lessened by the latest difficulties with not so good neighbors (in this best of all possible parts of Austin), including folks playing football, golf, etc., in and right around our yard so, despite my complaints, balls come onto our property or hit our house. There have been more encounters too, as I am out walking Puff, with unleashed large dogs, and with owners who refuse to be responsible for them.

Am enjoying further good reading recently: Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell; Dust to Dust, by Tami Hoag; and Seeking Whom He May Devour, by Fred Vargas.

My brother, Ernie, who lives near Dallas, is due in town tomorrow in connection with one of his construction business projects. We have arranged to meet him for a lunch buffet at Alborz, one of our favorite eateries.

4/12/07-Thurs.-Kurt Vonnegut has died (yesterday). His writings and philosophies have inspired and amused Fran and myself for decades.

From a recent meditation session: There is nothing else I need to be or do. Everything is just right.

We did our laundry Tuesday, then met with my brother, Ernie, at Alborz.

Am now regularly meditating or doing dream related activities for at least two and a half hours daily.

Another insight: Instead of fretting over Frances and I not doing more exciting, scenically interesting trips together, I might consider that the result I get is the one that in some ways I am fostering. Maybe there are behaviors or attitudes that at least indirectly keep us from having the vacations I feel I would like us to have. What do I hope to get out of such vacations? I shall admit that laying guilt trips on Frances for not jumping at the chance to travel long distances with me is not the way to achieve that. If a main object is to add some entertaining adventure to existence, then it may be obtained on my own.

With that in mind, I am contemplating going by myself on a trip to a magnificent location, perhaps next July. (I can tell this may be a viable option since, immediately after the thought began to gel, my mind was throwing off excuses why it would not be a good idea.) I would hope that, as permitted by health, I shall take a series of at least annual solo trips. Real change must come from within.

4/16/07-Sun.-After a couple delays due to its grass operations being rained out, a local turf and rock contractor delivered two pallets of Palmetto St. Augustine sod about mid-afternoon on Fri.

At that time, the temperatures here were only in the 80s, but medications (for tendonitis and prostate problems) have resulted in my having rather low blood pressure, aggravated by my having been asleep just before the delivery. In addition, to avoid too much sun exposure, while working I was wearing a long-sleeve shirt over a t-shirt. Soon after I began working to loosen the dirt in areas of the yard where Fran would plant the grass patches, I was sweating profusely. I drank water to compensate, but forgot to also consume some salt. My age also makes me more vulnerable to the heat.

We worked only about 4-5 hours that day, and indeed Frances was working harder, but in retrospect it is apparent the "perfect storm" of conditions were in place for my getting badly dehydrated and suffering heat exhaustion.

It seems I only made things worse by taking a relaxing hot bath that evening, sweating out more precious moisture. By bedtime, I had too little saliva for brushing my teeth, was full of gas and feeling nauseous, and was having chills. During the night I threw up six times and began experiencing extreme weakness. The weakness, nausea, chills, and dehydration continued through much of Saturday. There was also much mental slowness or confusion, along with a racing and irregular heartbeat. Only by late Saturday was I getting fairly wise to the situation and putting into myself enough salt and water (or chicken noodle soup).

I checked online for more info about what was happening and learned people often require hospitalization for heat exhaustion. With proper treatment, it usually takes 24-48 hours to recover. Sure enough, by this afternoon I'm feeling almost as fit as usual again. Nonetheless, I felt it necessary to miss today's dream group meeting. I continue to be more than ordinarily tired and am still having chills.

Meanwhile, the grass planting project went on without a major break, thanks to Frances putting in about two hours on it for my one. We finished this morning. At least we may have a decent yard once more. We lost much of the last one due to a long drought and giving it insufficient water or fertilizer. It seems that for both people and plants an emphasis on adequate water and nutrients is indicated.

No doubt a boon for my recovery prospects, starting late Friday and continuing through today, Austin has been enjoying a wonderful cool spell. At 11 AM today, the temperature was still only 50 degrees (F).

Like seeing the rainbow after a storm, following the challenging weekend, Frances and I were quite pleased today to see a couple wild Monk parrots, always a cheering event.

4/17/07-Tues.-The U.S. is naturally appalled and shocked at the recent violence on Blacksburg's Virginia Tech campus, all the more so as it would seem several avenues for preventing the extent of the tragedy were not utilized or were insufficiently effective:

  • Why don't we have good gun control laws in this country? The arguments that we need nearly everyone who wishes them to have guns because: a. it is vital to democracy; or b. our Constitution calls for such liberal distribution of high-powered modern weapons, are completely bogus. Many democracies, even more pure ones than our own, have been successful without giving hundreds of millions of their citizens the ready personal means to do serious ballistic harm to themselves or others. And, as historians have often pointed out to anyone willing to listen with openness and understanding, neither the wording of the Constitution nor the intentions of its framers mandate anything like the National Rifle Association's idea of appropriate arms-bearing overkill.

  • Why didn't the police and school counselors respond? Both were informed well in advance of the catastrophe that the individual who would become that tragedy's shooter was seriously stressed, angry, and depressed and that he needed intervention.

  • Why didn't local officials lock down the campus after the first couple shootings, when they knew a gunman was still at large, two hours before the much more serious, second incident?

  • Why didn't the students and/or faculty rush the shooter? Sure, some would likely have been killed, but a handful of passengers ("Let's roll!") on board a plane over PA were able to prevent its being the 4th aircraft on 9/11 to be used in a more massive terrorist action. Weren't there "a few good men" and women available to hurl themselves at the shooter long enough that others could overpower him, even if a few of the first were killed? Was it really essential that over 50 got shot, with 33 fatalities? (Of course, if he shot them all in small dorm rooms, there may have been no chance to "take him on" this way. Even then, though, it would seem that, using portable furniture as temporary shields and a mass response from several directions, many students and staff could have brought him down, even if at great personal risk.)

  • When police knew the second location and that people were being slaughtered, why did they not immediately charge in and take the shooter out, rather than wait till a SWAT team showed up, the building was surrounded, etc., while shooting continued?

The President, who took us into Iraq with almost no long-term planning and with false or at least mistaken claims of terrorist connections, a WMD program, and transforming the Middle East into a hypothetically ideal US type democracy (as if we had an ideal democracy here!), and who argues we must not have serious gun control, says our nation is grieving and in mourning over the horror of Blacksburg's tragedy. Quite so. But under these circumstances his credibility is shot, so to speak, as an objective statesman about such matters.

It is also true that Iraq, a nation of about 25 million when we invaded it four years ago but fewer now thanks to war deaths, accidental killings of civilians, and the refugee departure from the country of at least two million lucky enough to leave, has the equivalent of 2-3 Blacksburg, VA, incidents every day.

If this country had as many such daily deaths in proportion to its population as Iraq since our ill-conceived invasion, we'd be mourning around 24-30 Blacksburg, VA, incidents every single day.

Until we learn that the lives of civilians in other countries are as precious and important as we think of our own as being after shocks like 9/11 or Blacksburg, VA, then we shall be doomed to be hated by much of the rest of the world, and sometimes even justifiably so, for we shall do more harm than good and, in the process, stupidly overextend ourselves, further the ends of our legitimate enemies, and undermine our long-term strength and viability.

Changing topics, am undecided whether to simply fly out to a desired location for solo-vacationing this summer, then likely contract for a car there, or to drive all the way from here with my own vehicle. Either way has advantages and disadvantages. If I were to be in one location most all the time, I might be able to rent a place without too great expense and then use public transportation for most things. Hmm. Fortunately, there are many alternatives and few really wrong choices. I might do one thing this time, another in a different year, etc.

My heat exhaustion symptoms ended yesterday. Yea! However, a bit of friction developed between Frances and me today that was heated for awhile. Of course, I feel it was not my fault at all, though she may believe otherwise. But it seemed to me she was simply irrationally aggressive. Maybe it was just her period or perhaps I am terribly obtuse, but, from my point of view, for no apparent reason she became officious and bitchy for an hour or so. Aggression is a habit with which she is more comfortable than I, and I do not have readily available defenses against it when it comes out of the blue in this way, a fact she likely relies upon. I suppose there is truth in the reported trend among folks picking their spouses that they find most exciting and/or challenging the person who complements them, including having both the liked and disliked traits of one's parents. Certainly in her unreasonable aggression at times Fran is more like my father. At least the difficulty was short-lived this time, though it left me with lingering feelings of resentment.

Have also heard the theory that if a person is weak in one personality area, the spouse is more likely to focus on that or to be stronger in that trait, etc. In this assessment, if I were more assertive, she might be less aggressive. So, on the one hand it sort of excuses bad behavior in one partner by putting part of the responsibility on the victim's shoulders. On the other, though, it suggests a way of restoring balance may be inner change rather than expecting a wife or husband to do all the changing herself or himself. Whatever. I do not know, but am glad these periods of unpleasantness are not the norm between us.

Last Thursday, I attended the second dress rehearsal of the marvelous current Austin Lyric Opera production, "The Barber of Seville," by Rossini. My seat was the best I have ever had for such a musical drama. I thoroughly appreciated the entertainment!

We enjoyed more cool temperatures today, along with many hours of light, steady rain, perfect for all our newly planted grass!

This evening, I attended a mystery book group meeting. We had a good discussion.

4/18/07-Wed.-Yet another great weather day, though somewhat warmer and with no further precipitation.

I did a volunteer shift. Also completed the draft of a second essay for our monthly newsletter. Tonight, went to another book group meeting. Then did some grocery shopping and returned a couple library books.

Am reading Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld.

The tendonitis for some reason feels more symptomatic this evening.

Great horned owls, one in a big live oak tree next to our house, are calling to each other as it approaches time to retire for the night.

4/21/07-Sat.-Fran's Aunt Theresa is in a coma and last night was not expected to make it through till morning. Have not had an update yet since then. She has advanced, metastatic lung cancer, and surgery just could not get enough of it to make a difference.

4/24/07-Tues.-A moist, largely overcast day again. Great for our new sod. I did maintenance on the mower and then cut the yard in front this evening.

Earlier, we had gone for lunch to the Golden Corral on S. Lamar.

My tendonitis is really acting up lately. I'm sure it has nothing to do with all the stress the inflamed tendon got while we were planting grass last weekend or when I was mowing today. I also had a fall the other night and braced myself with my right hand as I hit the sidewalk. But, of course, this too has nothing to do with my tendonitis exacerbation. Must coddle the right hand and wrist for awhile with cold packs, warm baths, splinting, and plenty of Ibuprofen, in hopes I can finally get it to start healing.

Supposedly, we have a 100% chance of rain tonight. Fort Worth got 10 inches today! My brother Allen and his wife Nina there won't have to sweat their own yard drying up for awhile.

4/25/07-Wed.-Did several errands, including a stop at the library facility and another at Sun Harvest.

My tendonitis is now so severe that almost any right hand movement is sharply painful. I let the library folks know I'll be taking a break of 2-3 weeks from volunteer work, to give the tendon a chance to get better. While there, I also picked up (with my left hand!) some books as gifts for Mom on Mother's Day.

Did an update of our financial records.

Copied one of my recent dreams and then went to the dream group this evening.

Later, I meditated and afterward took the canine on a four-mile walk.

4/27/07-Fri.-Have started reading a new book, Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.

Am also appreciating a well written article on the environment in "Forbes," titled "The Spreading Epidemic," by Larry Brilliant, M.D., M.P.H. (pp. 173-174 in the May 7, 2007, issue). His idea is that the natural world, including of course ourselves, is a terribly complex, interconnected network, one which we destroy at our peril. Yet, we have for some time been wiping it out via multiple assaults. He asks whether we'll manage to put this network together again before catastrophic consequences occur, even beyond those that are already upon us, such as AIDS, the spread of West Nile virus, the early stages of global warming, a huge increase in the incidence and severity of asthma, etc. It is refreshingly novel to see such a piece in a leading business magazine.

I called Geico today to see if we would save by switching to that company from State Farm, with whom we have for years had auto, homeowners, and umbrella liability insurance coverage. Surprisingly, State Farm beat the Geico rates by a total of about $150 a year.

Yesterday, I made a major shopping spree trip to Wal-Mart. While going in, I realized I had on a sunscreen cowboy hat I'd purchased there. I wondered if they'd make me take it off and prove it did not still need to be paid for. Then I realized that if the question arose about the hat, it could for my jeans as well, also bought there. But as soon as I thought of this, I realized the same question could apply to my watch, wrist splint, shoes, socks, and underwear! Essentially, I would be virtually naked if needing to have all my clothes or accessories from there rescanned! (Fortunately, nobody actually challenged me this way.)

Today, I went to the bank, taking Puff for a ride and walk in the process. Later, I got a haircut and had a good chat with the barber lady.

Then, it was over to Madam Mam's Thai restaurant, my second visit there. The food was scrumptious each time and the service great. Prices are quite reasonable.

Frances is this afternoon performing at one of the schools with a few other musicians.

We hear a lot from our politicians about terrorism. The threat certainly is not insignificant. It is unfortunately far greater than if we had not invaded Iraq. But little is now made of potentially a much larger hazard: a flu pandemic similar in scope to the influenza that killed many tens of millions in 1918. Based on our population growth over the past nearly 90 years, a pandemic of equal lethality affecting the same percentage now as then could kill half a billion or more of us and shut down or severely curtail major parts of our economy, government services, medical care, etc. It will occur. The only question is when. In a sense, we are already "overdue." (Of course, any of us could just as well later today die in a car wreck.)

Since Dad returned from tours of duty overseas during and right after World War II, I have been security conscious, tending to "play it safe." One change that may now be in order, then, is to take more (intelligent) risks.

A major concession from Fran today concerning our vacationing? Up till now she's shown little if any interest in our taking long trips together to neat places. But today she said it's mainly that she doesn't like trip planning, but that if I would set the vacations up she'll be glad to go. Certainly I can handle trip arrangements.

But we have other constraints. Our last big trip (to the Oregon coast) occupied us for a month and was only possible because our dog of several years had recently died, and we did not yet have another one. In addition, we were able to go at a time when rain would be fairly plentiful back here in Austin, so there was no worry about a cracked slab or dried up yard due to heat and drought. However, now we have Puff. Also, one way or another we want to keep the yard and area around the house foundation moist. In addition, Frances has music gigs she looks forward to in May and June, sometimes even in September. So... we'll see.

For the time being, in summertime it may be best if we do most of our traveling separately while the other person minds both "home fires" and pooch.

4/29/07-Sun.-I gave Frances a long massage this evening while watching "The Incredibles." I thought my tendonitis was getting better and that it would not be very problematic. Instead, afterward I was in quite a bit of pain with almost any further right wrist movement. At least this was helped with an ice pack, but I'd best avoid doing massages for awhile.

4/30/07-Mon.-The tendonitis symptoms continue to be so painful it discourages any unnecessary use of the right upper extremity. Unfortunately, normal activities at times require two hands. Then, almost inevitably, I am surprised by searing, sharp, and then aching hurts.

Took the dog on a walk this AM, shortly after Frances had left for some ensemble performing at a school.

Later I did post office, bank, and shopping errands. Fran arrived back as a thunderstorm had reached our place. We shared fried chicken lunches before she needed to leave for another set of school gigs this afternoon.

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