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5/5/06-Fri.-Up about 7:30 yesterday. Frances had already left for her latest nature photography session and volunteer work at one of Austin's parks. I got ready to begin the new day and took Puff on a two-mile walk. Fran and I had heard that the British, despite having not so ideal eating and drinking habits themselves, are in better overall health than citizens of the US. She speculated it could be because they are more physically active. Sure enough, callers (in to NPR) whose responses were aired that morning commented that in England it is typical to walk or bicycle extensively, to and from school, work, the grocery, the pub, visits with friends, etc., while in America folks regularly hop in their pickups or SUVs just to go to a supermarket or bank a mile or two away, etc., while significant ambulation is avoided. Indeed, our roads and highways often make pedestrian or bicycle traffic quite hazardous. All our uncontrolled, "free ranging" dogs add to a walker's perils in this country.

I went to the bank and deposited one of Fran's music work checks. Then to HEB for food essentials. And no, I did not walk to these establishments, but I do generally take the canine for four miles of hiking daily. We'll see later if the exercise does me any good. I may die early anyway when an 18-wheeler veers over the center line and smashes into me head-on, as happened to a friend of mine.

The NPR listener response segment included a metaphor I liked: for illegal aliens to demonstrate for and insist on guest worker programs or amnesty, and so be able to remain in this country with increasing rights and legitimacy, is like having one's vehicles stolen by a band of thieves who then say, well, since we now possess your cars, go ahead and give us the ownership papers too.

Either we have real immigration policies and border security or we do not. The present dilemma was created by multiple factors, but one was that for decades our government has chosen to allow millions to enter the nation illegally and with few if any repercussions, to pay lip service politically to the need to keep aliens out while in fact tacitly winking when they come. Employers benefit through the boon of hiring aliens at wages below the official minimum. Once people have made it across the border, there are little or no consequences either to the growing US Hispanic population or those who assist and hire them illegally.

Yet we at the same time decry Hispanics' not assimilating. What official encouragement have we given them to join the melting pot? If the illegal track works so well, why bother with a slower, less certain track to legitimate, English speaking citizenship?

I think our wink-and-a-nod approach to illegal immigration on such a huge scale, literally tens of millions of people over the past couple or three decades, belies the stress we put on would-be immigrants waiting their turn, for many years usually, to come to this country the right way.

So I say, since we must have a young, eager work force to compensate for folks like me, already on Social Security, or the baby booms, now starting to retire, and we are in fact not going to enforce the immigration rules for Hispanics (since it is not politically expedient to really do so, as opposed to passing more laws and pretending to do so), let us declare and adopt an open borders immigration policy: anyone may enter our country from any other nation, stay, and be on track for citizenship so long as they comply with a few I.D., registration, background check, work, and regular permit renewal requirements.

In this way, eastern Europeans, Africans, Indonesians, Moslems, etc., would have the same right to compete for the jobs Americans supposedly don't want (at the low wages employers are now usually willing to pay) as those who just happen to live south of our border. Americans believe in capitalism and letting the market decide. So, let us allow normal supply and demand forces sort out how many new productive laborers get to enter the national state and remain. Chances are, those who really wish to be successful will then be happy to show themselves the best of citizens, not merely demanding their "rights" while waving Mexican flags and singing our anthem in Spanish because they now are illegally here in sufficient numbers to insist on what they think we "owe" them.

One thing is certain: the present system is not working out in our overall best interests. Instead of hypocritically continuing it, let's equal the playing field a little: Welcome everybody who is not a criminal or terrorist, can get and keep a job, and abides by the laws and taxing requirements.

There will be those who respond to this call (for open borders and more competition for our jobs among different cultural and regional groups) by saying we could not take the risk, because if even a small percentage of those thus freely entering the country have evil intent, they could do us incalculably great harm through 9/11 type attacks or the deployment of weapons of mass destruction. I agree! My proposal for open borders is simply a logical extension of our current actual (essentially, let the aliens do what they want) approach to port security and the protection of our 2000+ mile border with Mexico plus our 3000+ mile border with Canada. Had it not been for such a lax situation, the 9/11 hijackers likely could not have so easily come in and ultimately done what they did.

But if we say we dare not open our borders to just anyone who takes on the challenge of crossing our borders, for fear of that minority who wish us terrible harm, then how do we justify the current, in effect, open borders policy toward millions entering our country illegally?

Too little was done by both the Clinton and Bush administrations before 9/11 to protect the nation, and far too little is being done to this day.

If, indeed, an open borders policy is not serving our interests, it has to be stopped. If our lives depended on it, wouldn't we find a way? 9/11 proved that in fact they do so depend. Let us therefore act now to secure borders properly and deal adequately with those who are already here illegally.

Certainly if there is a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction on 1, 2, or more of our ports or cities, we shall then at last be ready and willing to do whatever is necessary to provide good national security. Why wait until tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions of our citizens are dead? Let us act for once before the crisis. And if we are not ready to do that, let's admit it and simply open our borders officially. At least that way, for the jobs "nobody else wants," we will have a much more diverse labor and cultural pool from which to draw.

Meanwhile, back amid the more down to earth, ordinary realities, just put online today, several of my WI pictures are now available in a new gallery on the landscape photos site.

Yesterday, late in the evening, we began to receive a great deal of rain, brought by the first of a series of violent thunderstorms. They came accompanied by hail, high winds and dramatically loud, close, and frequent lightning strikes. Our poor pooch was terrified and remained so during much of the night as, one after another, these tempests blasted through the area. Small branches fell onto the roof. There was also moderate damage to a tree at some distance from the house. Much of the yard was flooded, but not to the extent of threatening our abode. We received a minimum of a couple inches of precipitation, possibly as much as four inches. We are now, I think, caught up for the year on rain totals.

Both before and after our latest soakings, our yard is now filled as seldom if ever before with an abundance of mosquitoes. These inevitably get into the house as well and are quite a nuisance.

Earlier in the evening last night, Frances and I had gone, for the first time in Austin, to dinner at a new Carino's Italian restaurant. They had advertised a two-dinner special for $20, including a couple entrees plus all the salad or soup plus fresh bread one could wish and huge deserts (our choice: Italian chocolate cake, for each of us an enormous portion of rich chocolate cake with creamy, thick chocolate icing topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream).

There is no heaven on earth. While it may seem the grass can indeed be much greener elsewhere, no location is perfect. Austin fits neatly into the broad spectrum of neither absolutely wonderful nor clearly hellish potential residences. Even of those supposedly ideal destinations, New England, say, or the Pacific Northwest, etc., one may find reasons for regret if there more or less year round, instead of simply on a great vacation. The heating bills and real estate costs in the far northeastern part of the US may test a millionaire's budget, while incessant rainy, overcast conditions in Washington State can lead to gloom and angst reminiscent of early Ingmar Bergman films.

I perhaps should recall too that on a few prior occasions I had left Austin, intending a permanent emigration, only to return eventually, once the bloom was off the rose at each of the latest greener grass alternatives. Austin, though way too hot to suit me, is at least on a latitude about 1/3 closer to the globe's arctic zenith than is the Equator! While WI, WA, and New England indeed are roughly half-way between Equator and North Pole, perhaps this is as close as I am to get to the geographic golden mean, certainly for awhile.

I am becoming restless, though, to again be "a wandering." Maybe by September I'll once more want to express this quite strong urge to travel, if not with Fran then at least on my own, as I did with the Yellowstone trip in 2004. I have a rather great yen to spend time in the Redwoods National Forest, in CA, on Mount Rainier, in WA, along some of the best beaches in the northwest part of our nation, or maybe on the rocky shores of Maine. Contrariwise, perhaps just a couple weeks in some quiet, less dramatic vistas would suffice. We shall see what transpires.

5/9/06-Tues.-The other day, returning us from Jason's Deli, I was distracted by something Frances and I were discussing and drove into an intersection where a truck had the right of way, narrowly averting a disastrous accident. Usually I am a pretty good driver (abiding by the Defensive Driving Course rules I used to teach, back in the 1970s as an Army Safety Officer). But I am terrible at multi-tasking!

About a week ago we had the earlier mentioned rather close call when roads were slick and our brakes locked.

This morning, Fran and I were headed to a Laundromat about two miles from our house and had yet another near miss when Fran incorrectly assumed nobody was driving next to a slow moving 18-wheeler, around which we could not see, and turned in front of it.

Between the weather, impatient assumptions, and my absentminded professor tendencies, we would not be very good insurance risks, were the full truth known. Neither of us, though, since starting to drive, has been in a serious traffic mishap. As my true believer Christian relatives like to say when good fortune is taken for divine intervention, it's a miracle!

One trouble with being on the road to get our clothes cleaned is that there is the urge to get the chore done early, before the laundry place fills up with many other would-be washers. That almost always means operating a vehicle and doing the job itself when too tired. I got to bed about 1:30 and was up by half past 6. For Frances, it was not much better.

Over the past few days, along with the rest of Austin and surrounding communities we have had more than our quota of thunderstorms, hail, high winds, and lightning. The tempests have brought us six inches of rain in only a week or so. Our grass is now growing as if on fertilizer steroids. The toads love this weather, of course, and the "mossies" are as thick out there as in the proverbial Alaskan blood-sucker clouds!

In Waco, my mom has been less lucky than we. Despite a few fractured arbor limbs, nothing major has occurred at our abode this rainy season. But she lost whole trees and multiple quite large branches in her front and back yards, decimating about half her groves in "the big wind" that blasted through central TX late last week. It was not that great a time for her to be dealing with a massive yard cleanup, as she'd just had cataract surgery. My brother, Pete, is on hand, however, and hopefully providing her with some assistance. Mom is grateful not to have had any house damage. Many in her city were not so fortunate.

Am enjoying a new book group selection, The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman.

We are going for lunch today to one of our favorite Austin restaurants, Indian Palace.

As the prospect looms larger of a bird flu pandemic, Frances and I have been thinking about essentials, in case such an outbreak, easily transmittable between people, should occur here. We are not alone. After driving several miles out of my way (having tried closer medical supply stores without success), I recently bought the last box available of surgical masks (just 20 to share between Fran and me for 3-12 months of possible pandemic crisis). The cost was $35. The manager said they have already had a run of sales on the items but hoped to be getting more in a few weeks. During the SARS epidemic, such masks ran out in Asia. It seems that situation is now near in Austin. I may next try to obtain more, in bulk, through the internet.

We must hope we dodge the most lethal bird flu pandemic (H5N1) bullet. There are clearly insufficient basic preventative medical supplies thus far. And at best only about one in twenty of us, but likely far less, will be given an effective flu vaccine.

The US government is advising state and local officials to be prepared for such a pandemic, in lieu of hoping for assistance from Washington, tacitly admitting that it (the Fed) will not be able to cope. In its own official "worst case scenario" 100 million of our population will get the disease, and 2 million will die. It is questionable if these are at all accurate numbers vs. spin (propaganda) intended to prevent panic and keep us believing the administration can handle things.

But the H5N1 strain of bird flu has been killing about 60% of the people who contract it up till now. With luck, the form that may become contagious will turn out to be far less dangerous than that. But the 2 million number must have been just pulled out of a hat. Nobody knows how lethal the final version of bird flu will be, but 60% of 100 is a lot more than 2.

One assumes, if we are in fact hit by a severe bird flu pandemic, Bush will not bother trying to help those who contract it - leaving that (questionably practical, at best triage) task to local governments - but will instead declare Marshal Law, remove most freedom of movement plus many civil liberties, and concentrate the national efforts on quarantine and containment. Entire cities and regions may be sealed off from all traffic in or out and initially told to make do for the duration with existing stockpiles of food, water, medicine, and medical supplies. (If such a development occurs during Bush's second term, it will be the fitting "perfect storm" cap to an administration suspected by some to have been created in hell specifically for the erosion of American democratic principles, in favor of increased Republican, military, executive branch, conservative religious, and far right power.)

Only later may provision be made, once the scope of the entire emergency has been better determined, for a rationed, carefully screened trickle of basics to begin to flow again into quarantined areas. It could take several months, perhaps a year, before concern is substantially reduced over further spread of the disease.

Meanwhile, post invasion Iraq and Katrina aftermath type societal breakdowns or chaos in the worst affected places could lead to anarchy among those seeking to survive amid insufficient resources and authority. Poor, sick, old, disabled, and very young people would fare least well under these conditions. If there is a collapse of financial institutions as well, such as occurred during the Great Depression, many more could be adversely affected by the imposition of extreme rationing and merely barter exchanges. It could take survivors decades to recover their pre-pandemic lifestyles.

Yes, this is certainly a dire scenario, but in view of what has occurred in prior disaster precedents, both historically and within the watch of the current president, probably not farfetched.

In the interim, an "eat, drink, and be merry" philosophy prevails at our house! We got back from doing the laundry this morning by around 8:30. Even after the sorting, there was plenty of time for Fran to go do another nature photo session at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center before we were off to consume vast brunch buffet quantities.

5/11/06-Thurs.-The volunteer manager of one of the facilities where I donate my services has been out for over a week. Another man has taken over his duties but is not an adequate replacement. Besides, he had, and still has, other responsibilities. He cannot do the job of two. And while I appreciate his stepping up to the plate, he is not really good at management, as the other man was, anymore than I would be. The operation in which we are involved in multi-faceted and needs a top-notch supervisor to continue running smoothly.

When I asked where the original man was, I learned his son was in a bad accident and in ICU, so badly off the doctors were ready to "pull the plug." Our manager had flown out there and insisted the doctors do whatever they could for him, even at great expense. But he had in the process incurred a lot of new debt and so had to give up his retirement and go back into business, to hopefully get out from under all the emergency loans required to try and save his son. So, from one day to the next, his and his wife's relaxed lifestyle was at an end. Of course, they were now also in anguish over the ultimate fate of their son.

5/12/06-Fri.-Yesterday, I drove up to Waco and began a several-day visit with my mom. My brother, Pete, was still on hand but unavailable for much socializing, concentrating instead on contract computer work for a temporary employer based in India. Unfortunately, Pete has been unable to achieve satisfactory, regular work since, a little over five years ago, he resigned or was fired from a succession of high-paying technology jobs. He is now about 45 years old. Yet his romantic history since the late teenage years has also been extremely checkered.

Late this evening, after Mom had the last of a number of glasses of wine and went to bed, I watched "Fargo," always a delight.

Last night, I went to see a community college production of "Fiddler on the Roof." It was pretty good. Mom knows several people in the company, and my brother, Horace, played a significant though not principal part.

This morning, I got up about 4:30, dressed quickly, and then went with Pete and Mom over to the airport, where he was to catch a flight to Dallas and then on to San Jose.

Mom gave Pete what she called a "Little Man," a rubber squeaky toy that she said she'd gotten him to handle the stress of the takeoffs and landings. Ever the ham, Pete played along as if he really wanted it, not to hurt Mom's feelings, and even kept giving it distracting squeezes. I saw the people at the airline baggage check-in counter looking at Pete kind of strangely during this performance.

He was surprised when we had gotten to the terminal a half-hour or so ahead of his flight time that at first nobody was manning the airline security screening area. After awhile, one of the security screeners showed up but said they wouldn't be opening till right before the plane was to leave.

So, we wandered down the hall, and I just took a few pictures of Pete and Mom around the airport while we waited. I saw some interesting posters and asked each of them to pose. Pete was still clowning around with the toy, so I asked him to do something interesting with the "Little Man," figuring he'd put it on his shoulder or head or something for a silly photo. Instead, he stuffed it down the front of his pants to a suggestive location, and Mom laughed.

When we got back to the security area, the guards were finally ready. Pete was one of the first ones to start through. I don't know if they'd overheard him entertaining Mom and me with an account of the time he'd made a joke at an airport about there being a bomb on the plane and had been taken aside and interviewed at length, so that he and his colleague had been late for their flight, Pete had had to pay the extra fare for their later plane tickets, and he had gotten into more trouble with his then employer.

In any case, whether he was selected in particular or just at random, the security folks checked him out this time rather thoroughly too. As I watched, they were already having him loosen and then take off his shirt, remove shoes and socks, open up his pack, etc.

I mentioned to Mom that it looked like Pete was getting the royal treatment. Ignoring the fact there were a surprising number of people there for so early, waiting to see off their friends or relatives, and that they would not know she was referring to the toy, Mom, in her typically loud, hard of hearing voice, said "I wonder if they'll make him take his Little Man out." Realizing both that most of those listening would think this a euphemism for Pete's privates and that the security guards would no doubt find his "Little Man" and its location rather odd, I broke up and for several minutes could not stop laughing.

5/13/06-Sat.-Yesterday afternoon, Allen called and asked if I could give him a ride from Waco to Del Valle. He said he had bid on a pick-up truck through an eBay auction, and won the bid. Payment had already been made as well, and now he just needed to pick up the vehicle and drive it home (Fort Worth). Nina would go with him as far as Mom's and stay at her place till Allen would get that far with the truck, then follow him back to Fort Worth in one of their SUVs. I was reluctant to be involved at all in this deal, as Allen has a bad record where purchases or investments are concerned, and it seemed his chances of making a worthwhile buy of transportation through eBay were small. Only a couple years earlier, he had bought a Mercedes in FL through eBay, with expensive repercussions. He had had to replace the transmission before he even got out of that state, and that had just been the beginning of the extra costs of owning the car.

Nonetheless, it seemed this newest arrangement had already been finalized, but for receipt of his purchase. He is my brother. I wanted to show support even if it seemed a lost cause. He seldom learns from prior big mistakes where money is concerned. I agreed to drive him down. To my relief, though, he called a few hours later and said he had coordinated with Amtrak and the former truck owner and made a separate plan for getting what he had "won." He and his family would meet the fellow with the truck at the Austin Amtrak station at 8:30 that night, then be in Waco with the truck at 10 PM and stay over till the next morning, so they could be with Mom a little this Mother's Day weekend. (Ironically, Mom had forgotten or not realized till too late that an activity to which she had already committed herself for today was just before Mother's Day, so she belatedly informed her visitors she'd be away from about 8 AM - 5 PM.)

Things didn't work out quite as Allen had planned or expected. Amtrak was over an hour late and at least that delayed by the time it got to Austin. Once he finally met the man with the truck and signed the transfer of title paperwork, it was around 11 PM. They reached Mom's place at close to 1 AM. She had long since gone to bed. I helped them get settled in. Allen was all keyed up due to the stress of driving his family to Waco on the Interstate in a truck that had loose or "sloppy" steering, that is, with great play in the steering, so the truck would not go left or right until way past where normally movement of the steering wheel would have been responsive. He hoped this could be easily fixed, but worried it might be more complicated and costly.

This morning, Allen had about 15 minutes of visiting with our mother before she disappeared for the bulk of the day. As I entered the kitchen, I heard Mom, with her usual insensitivity about such things, completely ignoring that Allen is married to a Black Hispanic lady from Ecuador, and haranguing him about her view that Blacks are just always very emotional and childlike, so one must simply make allowances for them and try to be kind when they carry on. I have no idea what set off her latest show of unconscious racism.

As it worked out, Mom was late getting back, not arriving till about half-past six. Allen and his family, meanwhile, just stayed around marking time, waiting for her return so they could spend another brief time with her before driving home with their new acquisition. Allen had been preoccupied with the truck deal and had not gotten Mom a card, gift, or flowers. I'm afraid he may have forgotten to do anything about Mother's Day for Nina as well. They were just talking of her going back tomorrow to the Fort Worth flea market where she works.

In the light of day, Allen discovered multiple problems with the truck. The steering system apparently would have to be completely replaced. So evidently would the transmission, which had a big leak, trailing quantities of transmission fluid up and down Mom's driveway. Several parts of the motor as well as large areas of the body had just been spray painted with black paint to mask serious deterioration. One whole section of the chassis was all but totally rusted out, as if the vehicle had been left in floodwaters indefinitely. The windshield was loose and could not be refastened because an entire edge adjacent to it had rusted out. And on and on.

I offered to follow and bring him back from an auto repair shop if Allen took the truck in for emergency work, to make it safer for the rest of the trip to Fort Worth. He went looking for a shop but could find nobody who would even inspect it today. Allen, Nina, and their kids left, then, about five minutes after Mom eventually returned. Meanwhile, he was already saying he probably should just sell the truck as is, at a huge loss, rather than trying to fix it. He is way too gullible as a buyer, perhaps also too honest as a seller. Far be if from him to seek some new sucker or even to cancel the deal during his 30-day eBay grace period (he said he'd already waived his right to that). When he is selling, he feels compelled to tell anyone bidding everything that is wrong with an item. He thus can claim the moral high ground, I suppose, but that is scant comfort after being badly taken yet again.

5/17/06-Wed.-I had given my mother a CD Fran had prepared, with several years' archives of our family newsletter, as well as a big pile of high-brow books picked up from the library bookstore. She's a rather avid reader. Over the weekend, after Allen and his family had left, my brother, Ron, and I had taken Mom out to Johnny Carinos, taken a walk, visited between ourselves, and rented/viewed a DVD of the "King Kong" remake. Ron had particularly wanted to see it. It seemed to have the same tired, old sexist, racist faults that had marred the original version, and I thought the plot and acting generally quite deficient. Nonetheless, it had entertaining, well done special effects.

The trip back from Waco included an exciting drive through a cloudburst, but otherwise was pleasant and uneventful.

Much of Monday was spent putting things away after the holiday and catching up on investing.

Yesterday, I did a volunteer shift at the library. I also went to a Mystery Week panel discussion. That turned out to be keenly interesting.

This morning, I mowed the front of our one-third acre homestead and made a deposit at the bank. Frances and I indulged then in a buffet at the Tien Jin Chinese restaurant.

Tonight I'm off to another book group meeting.

5/22/06-Mon.-Had my final appointment today for the restoration of the tooth that's been problematic the past few months, a successful affixing and adjustment of a permanent (well, sort of) gold crown for this way-in-the-back molar. This morning, all went smoothly as a young Don Juan picking up and seducing a sweet thing.

To celebrate, I've gone to Trudy's for their famous migas platter, but not before first taking care of business at the U.S. Post Office, my bank, and the Sun Harvest grocery, thus giving the crown's cement plenty of time to set before eating.

It's all-day happy hour at Trudy's on Mondays, but I decided not to indulge, still keeping to my regimen of 1-2 drinks (max.) a week.

Fran left early for another few hours of visiting and duets with a musician friend.

Am considering adding one more (for now) regular activity to my own agenda, but, typically, am having trouble deciding what. Voice lessons, volunteer work at the reasonably close Seton Hospital Southwest, or doing something for the local American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU are currently at the top of my list.

On a four-mile walk at almost midnight on Friday, the pooch and I both saw a fox racing across the road, about 50 feet ahead of our path, from one wild area to another. The lighting was too poor to tell if it was a red or gray one, but it was silhouetted by a street lamp's back lighting and had the distinctive fox type head and body. Puff was much more excited than if she'd seen another dog, and for the next block or so was sniffing around like crazy.

The next morning, while driving over to the library, I saw a deer in a small green-belt area near our neighborhood.

My brother, Allen, decided to keep his used eBay-bought truck and is spending multiple thousands, from a bank loan, to get it repainted and safely roadworthy. He says he has to do such things (buying poor price to value stuff via eBay and paying through the nose to fix it up, driving his wife to her flea markets work, looking after their kids in the sun while she is there all day each Saturday and Sunday even though she spends more on inventory than she's getting back in sales, giving her thousands of dollars for "real estate investments" back in Ecuador, for which he never sees any deeds, etc.) because she is insistent (and he cannot say "No!" to her). As a result, he stays deeply in debt and sleep-deprived, and it looks like, despite his highly paid job as an engineer, this will remain the same for at least another 17-18 years, probably longer.

On the other hand, he is now twice over a papa, which he always wanted to be, seems to have a happy sex life, is no longer lonely, and is hardly bored now that Nina and the kids have introduced large doses of chaos into his life. Thus considered, I figure he is more than getting his money's worth. To put it another way, she is a rather expensive hobby, but better for him than, say, golf.

The arrangement seems to work adequately for Nina too.

5/24/06-Wed.-A dream today of a romantic rendezvous with a woman met while traveling in a cooler part of the country. Frances had remained in Austin, preferring, as usual, not to go on the vacation. The encounter had just sort of happened, surprising both of us, but was not the less passionate for its impulsiveness. The lady was similar to one known from a book group, though not her.

Yesterday morning, I had to swerve to avoid hitting a beautiful, large (estimated 4-6 feet long), black or dark gray and white design exotic or rat snake crossing the road. Interestingly, the gray rat snake supposedly is mainly an East Coast reptile, though its range is acknowledged to be as far west as MS. I suppose the species may have spread farther west, or perhaps this specimen was carried out during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

My brother, Pete, in an e-mail indicates has had new employment difficulties and apparently has also broken up with someone he had known for about a year. He and she were having long-distance arguments while he was recently at Mom's place (shortly before and after her cataract surgery). Now he is explaining to me his five-year-social-plan: to save enough money to immigrate to Brazil where he expects to find plenty of women who would adore him, from whom he would choose a devoted, attractive, young professional who wishes to have his children. He would move in with and marry her and go Tango dancing most nights of the week.

If he sticks with his current timetable, he would be getting married, and soon after becoming a daddy, at around age 50. Hmm. He would need to be a great deal wealthier than is probable in just another five years for that sort of arrangement to be very enticing to young Brazilian females, but Pete is encouraged by our brother, Allen's, situation, having married then relatively young Nina, in Ecuador, when he was a few years shy of his 50th birthday.

I wonder at what stage in this scenario Pete would mention that he has genital herpes. It certainly has not kept him from having plenty of dates since the diagnosis several years ago, but, knowing him, I doubt he has been initially upfront about the disease. Any who do not practice safe sex in relations with him are likely at serious risk of infection themselves.

Nor is this the only way that Pete has been something of a sexual predator. For quite some time, he sought much more youthful women to date, often becoming acquainted with them through his Tango dancing activities. This is how he met and then was regularly intimate (for nearly three years) with 15-year-old Molly, then of Houston, who, terribly in love, followed him out to CA when he relocated there for a job, only to be jilted by him and left on her own. He takes no responsibility for what happened to her afterward, but thinks she had begun selling her body and doing drugs. With chilling detachment, he says she may well be dead.

Pete's job is now mainly limited to contract work, by the hour, at a rate that will not permit him to stay in expensive CA indefinitely. Today he learned the India company's man with whom he has been dealing, since being hired several weeks ago, is no longer working for that establishment, so it will be hiring someone to replace him and to provide ongoing, internet supervision for Pete. The situation's irony is not lost on my brother. Several months ago, he was complaining of jobs he used to do being outsourced to India. Now, the best he can do are contracts outsourced to him by an Indian company.

To save money on rent, he is currently residing in an apartment in a poorer area of Oakland. His neighbors are for the most part of a different race, and he at times is having close calls in dealing with them. Some "Brothers" tried to have words with him one night not long ago after he had pulled into a parking space (at a neighborhood stop-and-go type grocery) next to their car in a manner they considered unsafe and liable to cause an accident. Rather than have the confrontation they seemed to seek as they approached him, he drove away even faster than he had arrived, but not before they had angrily thrown their beer bottles at his pickup.

When I was growing up, I was so much older than all my siblings that, particularly as our dad was often cold, rigid, and autocratic, I tended to be not so much older brother as a third parent. And I have retained to this day a hope for the best for all my brothers and for my sister. I am still, unfortunately, also very much a competitor with them, in a typical sibling rivalry manner, and it is hard to differentiate I'm afraid between this and a genuine concern or caring that leads me to be judgemental when they do not live up to my ideals of how things should be with and for each of them.

Pete is 18 years younger than I and in some ways like a wayward son, though also it seems he helps me resign myself to never having had kids, relieved that I didn't need to be a parent of a child like him! Yet, there remains a love there between us, and I am emotionally involved even when he disappoints. As if my own life were such a great example. Not! I do, though, keep wishing he would turn things around, shape up, and make of the rest of his life a record of which to be proud after all. For myself as well, I have reason to believe in the possibilites for redemption.

5/31/06-Wed.-Got to sleep about 4 AM. Between 2-3 AM, neighbors were playing basketball in the street in front of our house. Earlier I'd been irritated over an incident, one of many, involving a confrontation, during a long walk, between me and our pooch, on the one hand, and a pair of owners and their large, inadequately controlled dog, on the other. Fortunately, no harm done. Other recent concerns have included a new flea infestation inside the house, despite Puff being given Frontline Plus every month, and the best of all possible pet's peeing on the carpet in two places during the night. At least it has been close to a year since she last did that.

Up about 8:15 this morning. Got ready, and then ran several errands. Later, Fran (who had spent much of the morning once again at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center) and I went out to eat at a tasty and filling Asian cuisine eatery.

Though I do not yet know what I shall do to further fill my retirement hours, after researching it a little, I have pretty definitely ruled out getting voice lessons and trying to join one of the local choral groups. It just does not, no matter how often I try to imagine myself doing that, seem like it would be very rewarding at this stage, though when I was a teenager it was much more my cup of tea to be singing well in both school and church groups.

I heard an interview of Daniel Gilbert on The Charlie Rose Show the other night. His book, Stumbling On Happiness is getting attention lately. If I understand correctly, he explains the not so novel idea that we are prone to put the best face on things. In addition, we tend to both overestimate how devastated we shall be by tragedies and underestimate our ability to bounce back from life's setbacks. He bases the conclusions on scientific findings. It is his assessment too that contented people are not made but born, so self-help lectures and books are unlikely to be of as much benefit as simply accepting things as they are in our individual emotional landscapes. A sense of well-being will dip or rise but generally tends to refresh itself. People's overall contentment falls along a spectrum, yet is mostly positive. But if one is unlucky enough to have genes that lead to feeling depressed much of the time, neither expensive therapies nor mood altering drugs are as likely to be effective as just facing the truth and then adjusting to being a not so happy camper.

Except in extreme cases, when I think prescription meds are needed to help folks stay on an even keel, I believe Gilbert is correct, though perhaps he generalizes too much. No doubt that is good for book sales. Perhaps his work may be summed up more concisely (if not so entertainingly): We prefer being happy and so naturally tend to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Beyond that, regardless of whether one is usually cheerful or not, things are as they are. It's best to confront them squarely and then just deal with them.

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