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(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

Second growth redwood trees, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California

7/1/01-Sun.-Up a little after 6. We went for a walk while it was still relatively cool and saw several rabbits and a big opossum. Pepper was quite thrilled and chased three of the rabbits plus the opossum. It quickly climbed a live oak tree and soon was looking down at us from a branch that stretched out over the path. Fran hardly ever takes a spill. She did so on our very first outing date, hurting her knee and feeling rather embarrassed. (We'd gone exploring and checked out a neat but very uncomfortable limestone cave, that opened off of Barton Creek. It has since been closed up after a kid got lost and trapped in there.) Today, while running with Pepper after a rabbit, she did so again, but fortunately was not hurt.

Yesterday, we walked later in the morning and so did not expect to see wildlife. Nonetheless, we spotted scissortail flycatchers and then a small herd of deer, including many very cute fawns. Next we noticed another fawn, apparently lost from its mother and frantic, crossing back over our way in search of her. Poor thing.

We got the diary entries from 6/8 through 6/18/01 typed, proofed, and uploaded yesterday, covering the period of our CA trip.

We're both still getting things caught up again after our trip out west and Fran's to WI. She's been getting her photos back from developing. A number of them have come out really nicely. The above picture is one I took last month in a CA redwoods park.

Today it's Fran's turn for a nice, long massage. I did give her a "mini-massage" yesterday, while watching "Stephen Hawking's Universe," taped from the great PBS series.

I now have just six months left at my best of all possible jobs. That's a mere 1.8% of my total government employment.

7/5/01-Thurs.-Fran had her new medical appointment Tuesday (7/3). It was long and uncomfortable. A special magnifying instrument was used. A procedure was done in which specimens were taken for further analysis. She was told there had been a possible glandular abnormality that needed checking. The woman who examined her was nice enough; but they took out, as Fran put it, "gouges of tissue," which was rather painful. She was told the results should be known in about a week. We're assuming the best and that this is all fairly routine. Still, the experience sounds about like having a couple root canals at once, with no anesthetic.

Yesterday, Independence Day, I was off from work all day. Fran performed in the city's fireworks celebration concert last night, not getting back till about midnight. Did not get much sleep. Indeed, we had a slight case of frayed nerves, the adrenaline rush result of which gave me insomnia for another couple hours.

We had spent the day just doing a little of this, a little of that, eating out, taking naps, playing on the computer, making a little more headway in our newsletter report (on last month's CA trip). In the evening, I did our monthly investment analysis. The markets generally are down. However, we are still easily within tolerances, on a "glide path" toward our year-end targets.

I called my mom and wished her a happy Fourth of July. She's still a very active lady, for seventy-eight, but sounded somewhat disappointed that only one of her relatives (my brother, Pete) had gone to visit her for the occasion. He was helping her out a lot, though, with various projects, which she certainly appreciated. Yet, some unease with the situation, for this mother of eight, came through in her comment: "I have been remembering holidays past when there were trips to see fireworks, later fireworks at home, and a general air of festivity. I'm not sure how to entertain a 39 year old bachelor son."

Got a pleasant surprise over the weekend. is currently featuring both this site and Phil's Place in its men's diaries section. Have been getting a little extra recognition as a result. Alright!

7/8/01-Sun.-We've spent most of the weekend fixing up the CA trip report for our newsletter. It's going to be pretty darned fancy. I get the narration down, just right. I am a perfectionist. Then Fran uses our scanner and the computer software to add in the best of the vacation photos, put frames around, and install neat backgrounds, plus interesting, amusing headings, captions, and introductions. The whole thing just works remarkably well and looks so elegant when finished! But it takes a lot of time. I have fallen behind my intended schedule for getting the early "Steps" chapters proofed and online. Expect to get back to that in another couple weeks or so.

Am down to around 100 actual workdays left at my best of all possible jobs.

It seems a sure enough thing now that I'm beginning to imagine some of the ways I want to use my retirement time. Fran is not so into social and (my) family things as I. So I may be out and about on my own, visiting this one or that one frequently, given all the extra hours I'll have then, at least while I have my health and still can. It would mean a lot to me, I think, and might to them as well.

I know it is possible I could find something else to do, that I have not thought of yet, that would be truly meaningful for me, that might capture my energies and imagination and love the way having a kid or two might have, if things had been different, some "magnificent obsession." But, as I say, right now I have no idea at all what that might be.

Fran and I last night were engaged in a certain activity for awhile and then she started laughing. "Now I know what 'Wag the Dog' means," she said.

We have been surprised to discover tiny toads crawling and climbing out of our larger pond, having thought all of their prior tadpole selves had died off for some unknown reason, since we had noticed no more sign of them for several weeks after they'd hatched. But the pond is fairly dark and has lots of water plants and algae. I guess they were just hard to see.

Equally surprising is that, though we had, for over a year, only one water strider in that pond, now there are about eight small ones. Where did they come from? We've not added new stream plants that might have had eggs on them. Are water striders hermaphroditic? It seems very unlikely.

We went for a walk with Pepper this morning, though, even early, it was quite uncomfortably muggy. We did see a rabbit, though Pepper did not. Later we went for a nice meal at Buffet Palace, one of our anniversary gifts to each other. Mmm good! Ate too much though. (After retirement, I must increase, not decrease, my regular exercise!)

7/11/01-Wed.-On National Public Radio this afternoon, it was reported that the FBI has just announced that they must daily deal with about 25 warnings, hints, or other indications of threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction against American interests. They added that the risk is high that in the next five years there will be at least one successful attack using such weapons on U.S.A. soil. My guess is that, as with warnings of earthquakes in areas prone to such disasters, most people will not take this impending, potential disaster seriously until it has already happened. How might it occur: nuclear, biological, chemical, all of the above? What would be likely targets favored by the terrorist individuals, movements, and nations?

Besides the threat against our lives, cities, and property, there is a real risk of serious destruction to our telecommunications and information systems. Were I in the business of terrorism, I would go for maximum overall effect, threatening the economic and political stability of the nation while also limiting the military response capability. Concerted, massive efforts to disrupt our commerce and communications, by at least temporarily shutting down most of the country's internet traffic, combined with destruction of major hubs of telephone communications, could be but a brief prelude to a general attack on major cities, especially New York, our primary financial and population center, and Washington, D.C.

George W.'s antimissile defense system will not be effective for many years, if ever. And at best, this may be but a political security measure. The true threat seems more likely to come by other means. Offshore hackers combined with strategic placement of small, extremely powerful bombs that can be carried and placed by hand, may be but part of the arsenal arrayed against us. Aerosol cans carrying chemical or biological agents may be carried anywhere and by almost anyone. One need only look at the official census vs. the unofficial estimates, before that count was complete, to see that millions of people are entering our borders illegally. Any one of them could carry the means to mass destruction. A carefully orchestrated attack could easily involve a hundred or more such individuals, some with allies already in this country, looking not like dark-hued, turban-wearing, bearded foreigners with funny accents, but just completely unremarkable, average.

A few years ago, this kind of speculation about a 21st Century version of Pearl Harbor would have seemed paranoid. Now our own counter-terrorism agency is warning it can and probably will happen here.

Fran and I have still been pretty busy with getting the next newsletter issue (and related online galleries and trip report) ready, Fran especially so.

I had a rather dismal day at my place of employ this mid-week shift. But at least it is but one of about 97 (or less) actual workdays to go at that best of all possible job sites.

7/12/01-Thurs.-NPR's "Morning Edition" was at it again today, with new horror stories of coming potential plagues at the hands of our nation's enemies, this time via vials of smallpox virus. The scenarios described today sound most plausible, serious, and macabre.

I received a summary of my job annual and sick leave balances today. It seems possible that I might effectively retire before the end of the year, even though my official departure might remain 12/31/01. I need to check things out in greater detail with my personnel office.

As I noted many years ago, but have tended to forget in the midst of emotional upsets surrounding my current job situation, the only work we have to do is on ourselves. (Guess I still have a lot left to do!)

In reviewing my journal and poetic entries over the years, particularly as retirement finally looms, it occurs to me that in my earlier journal period I was, though often rather skeptical of such things, nonetheless much more spiritually inclined, whereas more recently I seem less so and more naturalistic (and fatalistic). As the inevitability of death becomes a larger part of awareness, with greater age and the deterioration it brings in the next phase or stage of life, perhaps it is time to seek a cohesive blending of these philosophical viewpoints. On the one hand, we seem to be at the mercy of forces in this world that are largely out of our control and nihilistic. On the other, disciplines such as art and meditation exist that allow for a meaningful focus, greater insight, acceptance, and, to a degree, transcendence of the merely material.

7/13/01-Fri.-Issues involving the mentally retarded are in the week's news and comics.

In a bizarre decision reminiscent of the upside down values in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a French appeals court today supported a lower court ruling in favor of the folks suing for damages on behalf of a mentally retarded person, on the basis that he should not have been born and should, instead, have been aborted, to prevent his own needless hardship and suffering. There apparently is little that can now be done to overturn this decision, which some think may be setting a terrible precedent, after which doctors may be afraid not to advise their pregnant patients to abort a fetus that they know has any significant abnormality, physical and/or mental, even when the parent(s) would not have been thinking of abortion at all before. If any substantial funds are exchanged as a result of this, lawyers will be happy to jump on the bandwagon in multiple similar suits. Perhaps something will occur that keeps such a grotesque judgment from having the influence it could. If not, get ready for a trend toward abortions in instances where the medical profession cannot assure more and more "perfect" progeny.

Meanwhile, on the lighter side, the wags report that in Texas we have learned other ways to get rid of the mentally retarded: we either put them on death row (innocent or not), kill them, and ship them out in coffins or we elect them to public office and ship them off in Air Force One.

7/16/01-Mon.-Along with several fifty year olds being celebrated in my extended family this year, another noteworthy half century mark has been achieved recently, the first publication of J. D. Salinger's influential book, his only complete novel, Catcher in the Rye. I had been worrying myself silly in my late teens, during the early sixties, about whether or not I was a "phony," to be acting polite when really seething about things, or seeming to be a serious, devoted Christian when filled with lusts and hates, or aspiring to be a medical doctor when feeling rather bohemian, etc., when I first read this work, over a decade after it had first come out. It made a difference that someone was expressing a kind of confusion similar to what I was experiencing. It may or may not have been great literature. But it was a work that has mattered to a large number of people over the years. It helped us come to terms with our own individual varieties of angst and to accept ourselves more, flawed beings though we were. It seemed to allow many of us who had grown up terribly straight-laced to see that certain kinds of extending-the-limits behaviors and language, tame by today's standards but questionable then, were OK, that one need not be a "rebel without a cause" to have doubts about the ordinary mores and fashionable thinking of the day. Was this the most earth-shaking book I had read? No. At the time, Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky, held that distinction. But it was a key that aided in the unlocking of a Phil of a little more depth and freedom than he'd known before.

On Sunday, my mom, Charlotte, came over from Waco, in town mainly for a visit with a longtime friend of hers, Elizabeth, whom she's known since several of my brothers were very young. Liz is both quite nice and extremely rich, her family owning at least four large properties, including one at Hilton Head, NC. Despite what Mom has made of herself and being worth well over a million bucks in her own right, she is ever sensitive to her roots in poverty, teenage sexual abuse, and being brought up by a mother who was, at times, perhaps a little crazy. Anticipating going to see a woman she's known for well over a quarter-century, Mom was self-conscious enough to want to get a new razor at the supermarket, so she could do an especially good job of making her legs seem smooth and genteel, and had me take her van over to a car-wash for a nice treatment, to have it looking as spiffy as possible before appearing in this woman's "court." She commented on this, acknowledging it as not being necessary, not knowing why she did it, but went ahead with the extra efforts anyway.

We had a good visit, though, except for when Pepper, in a frenzy of puppy-like playfulness, for all her nearly twelve long, dog years of existence, bopped Mom in the head! (Groan.)

Charlotte, Fran, and I also got together and had an enjoyable time with my brother, Ron, and nephew, Joel, all of us eating out at Golden Corral.

I checked with my personnel office today and learned I could retire whenever I wish, due to the accumulated leave time I have and its being able to be used toward my qualifying date and annuity amount. I have decided, though, to stay on there officially till the end of the year. I'll likely take one to three weeks of vacation in December, and maybe a few days here and there before that.

Besides our socializing with Mom, Fran and I also finished up our July newsletter and got it online, and then ready to send out in hardcopy version, to those without friendly computer systems.

Well, time to get ready for bed!

7/19/01-Thurs.-Sensitive, liberal, and/or independent thinkers have lost two giants from their ranks this week, with the deaths of Katherine Graham and Mimi Farina.

Woke up about 2 A.M. from a vivid dream, almost, but not quite, a nightmare. I'm in a cabin at night with Fran, off in the middle of nowhere, in the woods. All is dark, for it is also the middle of the night in the dream. But then I notice a lot of lights, first in the distance, though getting closer. I am puzzled at first, but then, as they draw nearer, I realize they are a lot of hand-held flashlights. Although they point every which way, as flashlight beams generally do when being carried by someone walking, not all straight ahead, the overall impression is of several people arriving at our place, unannounced, but not even worrying about stealth. After all, they are arriving with all these flashlights on! I do not hear them yet; but our doors and windows are shut. Whatever they have in mind should become apparent momentarily, as they are almost to the cabin. I can see no faces and only the vaguest outline of the men's bodies, since the light is pointed somewhat more outward than toward themselves. At the same time, I realize I am caught by something, unable to move freely. The best I can do is call to Fran who, till now, has seemingly been sound asleep. So I yell to her, repeatedly: "They're coming. The lights! They're coming! The lights." (Then I wake up and have to take a few moments to reorient myself. It turns out my bedcovers had gotten twisted around my torso and onto the floor, hence, perhaps my feeling of being caught. Fran was indeed sound asleep. But I could, in reality, detect no special lights, nor tell what they might have meant to my dreaming self.)

However, in free associative impressions just after typing the above, I recall that I had been having a difficult time finding a good site last evening, seeking to locate a nice one and leave my site's calling card, with a guest book entry. But something had been wrong with one system or another so that, for over an hour, it seemed impossible to even open most of the sites I would get to and then I wasted more time looking for good ones and ones with guest books, finally giving up completely. However, after Fran had already gone to bed and was, in fact, asleep, but I was still up, I checked one more time, opening a "writer's" site, at random. It turned out to be a weird men's site with strange, sarcastic attitude expressed, rather intriguing in a bizarre way. But he or they did at least have a guest book. Indeed, there was a special guest book. When I clicked on it to see if it were working - so many are not and one wastes a lot more time putting an entry in, only to discover it was for nothing because the thing is dysfunctional - sure enough, there were well over a hundred entries, but also a whole slew of naked women pictures, some of them apparently in orgasmic ecstasy. It was terribly late and I had been at this little project of trying to find a neat site's guest book for off and on close to a couple hours now. So, I just quickly added my entry, submitted it, and shut everything, including the computer, down, so I could turn in for the night. Long story short: I think my mind was turning things (almost wrote turning tricks) around a bit and what it really was "into" with my message to Fran was to acknowledge what a site (sight), where "they're cum-ing" and there are lots of "de-light(s)" But in taking even vicarious pleasure in such a pornographic web page, in a sense I had been "caught," feeling slightly guilty to be so involved while Fran was sound asleep, and so either did not know of or could not enjoy the fruits of my titillation as well. I note too that, with her asleep, there might have been some awareness of my predicament, with a thought to another remedy, though this had not consciously occurred to me then, as my hand-held flash de-light device was turned on. Hmm. I wonder if any of that is relevant to the dream or if my imagination has just now gotten the better of me. Whatever!

7/21/01-Sat.-"When I was young... but now..." Well, the classic way that goes, according to some wise fellow, is that in youth his ideas, writing, sex, etc., were like a raging river and now, in old age, they're like a tiny trickle.

Yes. However, I like the one about when you're getting on in years you are smarter and more cunning. Sometimes also richer. And always more experienced (for better or worse).

We often hear folks say something to the effect that "I wish I were twenty (or thirty...) years younger and knew what I know now."

But I say you're already older and wiser. So, make best use of it today. Then, in twenty or thirty years, you won't have to use that line.

We got up before the sun and took Pepper for one of our usual weekend walks, predictably spotting several rabbits. Had breakfast at Trudy's. Played the "Ain't it awful" game about the George W. administration. Talked of possible vacations we might take after I'm retired: ruled out New Zealand and Hawaii as too expensive for awhile, but considered a Christmas holidays trip to Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, or Florida parks and beaches. No rush to decide, obviously.

Fran finally got the results from the biopsy a couple weeks earlier: benign. Yes!

Sandy, of my Wendy's lunch jaunts, is rather stressed lately. Her mother-in-law had a stroke (or several) some time back. She's been gradually getting worse. Sandy and her hubby take turns visiting her in the nursing home after work and on weekends. They have, as a consequence, too little time together, in fact too few hours generally, trying to make up for it with less sleep, not always the best remedy, but often the only one.

Her mother-in-law is an interesting case and there may be a moral of some kind in there. All her adult life before the stroke she was staunchly conservative, Bible-pushing, self-righteous, altruistic in a very public way, Republican, and quite judgmental of others with less sense, forethought, closeness to God, etc., than she had. Now this same lady is combative, vulgar, mocking, sarcastic, vain, selfish, impulsive, childish, and petty. She sticks her tongue out (with other more obscene gestures) when Sandy tries to get through the long visits by reading to her from The Good Book. Hmm. Somewhat disillusioning.

This afternoon, I gave Fran a massage while watching the movie, "Species II," one of the American Film Institute's top 100 thrillers. It is a sadly and surprisingly lame example of our country's cinematic efforts over the years, but has some interesting scenes of nudity, enough that, with the strange "science," it is just barely entertaining as background for plying the flesh of a pretty woman.

Before sunset, the 100+° F temperature, intense solar radiation, and windless weather here made things unpleasant for being outdoors. But we were invited to, and set off in our not air-conditioned vehicle for, a birthday party for Esther, Ron's now fourteen year old daughter, held at his friend, Claudia's, place (where he is now living too), out west of Austin. Esther's sister, Jane, and half-brother, Joel, were there as well, along with Claudia's daughter, Sharon, and lots of Esther's upper middle class friends, from the Eanes School District. Several of Joel's hearing-impaired acquaintances were there as well. It was uncomfortable, since most of the activities were held outdoors, but bearably so. We had fun. (Ron grilled hotdogs, barbecued chicken breasts, and charbroiled hamburgers. We and Esther snapped lots of pictures. Fran and Claudia hit it off fairly well. Claudia seems really nice. My wife commented that Claudia will be a good addition to our extended family, someone easy to talk with, if Ron and she get married. Folks had fun posing with the horse or next to a big live-oak tree or in the back of a pickup, scenes that seemed very "Texian." The girls had a good, giggly time watching Esther open all her cards and presents.) However, we were also glad when it was time to go.

Tonight, once our own place finally cools down, we'll likely take a shower together, to check for ticks, for you never can tell after being in the country, with a horse, dogs, cats, ferrets, etc., around. Not to be too suggestive, they even had a cockatiel. Ron says there are plenty of deer out and about there too. Anyway, we figure one cannot be too careful. We may have to soap each other down (or up) carefully, to make certain not even any little Lyme's disease critters could be left to bother us later.

7/23/01-Mon.-Eudora Welty, the beloved, Pulitzer Prize winning writer of short stories set in the Mississippi south, has died of pneumonia at age 92.

I've worked out how we'll have sufficient funds after retirement, while also seeing the investment portfolio likely continue to rise. Now it's "just" a matter of making sure the forms are filled out properly, my instructions followed correctly, and then our tax records organized appropriately. We'll not be rich, at least not for awhile, but should have ample funds to meet our needs the rest of our lives, even if we choose never to have jobs again. I'll be 58 and Fran 44 as we mark this transition. She'll probably still do music gigs while we remain in Austin, and teach through the spring semester; but she won't have to, if she prefers not. I may take on some temporary or part-time employment at some point. But I too could simply live the life of Riley after December if I wish. Of course, this optimistic scenario assumes that neither of us has a devastating medical impairment quite soon and that our nation is not involved in a major currency devaluation, another great depression, or a new world war. It assumes too that we do not have a breakup in our marriage. (Divorce is one of the worst things folks can do to their financial prospects, even if they agree completely on the settlement terms.) A massive terrorist attack on our country could ruin our rosy financial outlook too. So much for gloomy-doomy thoughts. I think it's really time to celebrate! (Maybe tomorrow night.)

Meanwhile, I'll be preparing for the next stage in my career as a money manager (if only of our own assets), with study plus subscriptions to key investment resources.

Meanwhile too, our family newsletter, with numerous allied pages, continues to flourish, largely thanks to Fran's creativity and technical talent, but somewhat due to my ideas and writing as well. Over the weekend, I registered its domain name as a .com.

7/26/01-Thurs.-The heat has really been getting to me. In the summer it is usually hard for me to get enough sleep. It takes till close to midnight before the house seems cool enough, even with AC going at its most efficient. This is an energy conserving place; but, even so, it just requires a long time to reduce the temperature a few degrees when outside it is close to or above 100°F. And I normally wake up a few times during the night and must rise before 6 A.M. So, I have been barely able to think straight through each work shift, much less write a halfway decent journal entry. At least on the job I am still keeping the case management under control.

We went to Jason's Deli for supper tonight, which was pleasant; and I managed not to fall asleep through the meal. I even said a couple things that made Fran smile or laugh.

Am enjoying watching a videotape of Larry McMurtry's "Dead Man's Walk" tonight, while getting CA trip pictures ready to mail out to several relatives.

I sent my nephew, Joel, a couple e-mails this evening. We may be getting together over the weekend for a lunch buffet, and then seeing the remake of "Planet of the Apes." Although he is almost deaf and cannot use a regular phone, e-mails are no problem. And he definitely goes for adventure movies, despite not understanding much of the dialogue.

7/27/01-Fri.-Another challenging workweek completed. (Only about eighteen or nineteen of those to go at my best of all possible jobs.) Feeling exhausted, as per my last entry. On arrival home, with the day's mail, a new bit of frustration: a medical bill way out of line with anything we could at first understand. Then it became apparent that, though she'd thought a particular doctor Fran had seen recently for a checkup had been covered my our regular insurance, and had even understood from the clinic that this was so, nonetheless, the insurance company itself, Health Select, was charging more than ten times our normal co-payment, apparently on the basis that the doctor is, in fact, not one of their "select" physicians. Bother! Expensive lesson learned. Till now, both of us would have assumed that any doctor we see through this major clinic, which has a contract with Health Select, would be one of the accepted M.D.s. Evidently we must now be much more careful before switching doctors, even within that insurance-approved health care provider facility. It was a traumatic bit of extra education, with some feeling of having been ripped off! (We just love "managed health care," about as much as I do my work.)

I have discovered a somewhat disconcerting lump on my left little toe. It is soft, though, and not symptomatic, except from taking up a bit more room in my shoe and so being slightly raw and painful at the point of contact, like an early blister. It is almost certainly just a lipoma, a benign fatty tumor (pretty gross to look at in blown up version though!). I have had one before, on my back. It may eventually have to be cut out, if wearing a shoe on that side becomes too uncomfortable. There are no lymph nodes in that area; so it must not be a lymphoma, another type tumor that can be soft, but which is malignant. Most cancerous tumors are rather hard. This is, instead, probably just another nuisance reminder that I am getting older. Pepper has lots of benign tumors, with spots and lumps now all over her skin, perhaps my situation in a few more years. Fortunately for her, she lacks the understanding to worry about each one, and whether or not it may be what will eventually kill her.

7/28/01-Sat.-Mt. Etna in Sicily has been dramatically acting up lately. Etna is supposed to be the tallest of the active volcanoes in Europe. Makes for some rather neat pictures. Reminds me of Pompeii and all those people just like us, leading ordinary lives, who were killed so instantly that their very gestures, in that body-language intensive part of the world, have in many cases been perfectly preserved.

We need a lot more eruptions, from Etna and others, to keep the sun's rays a bit at bay and somewhat offset the ongoing global warming effects, that likely, within 2-4 generations, will have otherwise melted much of the snowy sources of water and winter sports in the currently temperate climes. Of course, all that short-term volcanic activity and dust comes at a higher long-term greenhouse gas price. (We're all too familiar lately with higher gas prices.)

Joel joined Fran and me at Golden Corral, as planned, for brunch today. We had a good time. Afterward Fran headed home for a nap while Joel and I went to see an adventure movie. "Planet of the Apes" was not yet showing where we'd chosen to go. We saw "Swordfish" instead. As the review says, it was pretty good in the explosions department but still somewhat lame.

Joel does a lot of reading and highly recommends books by Steve Alten, including Meg and The Trench.

I'm reading and enjoying a Heinlein book, To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

Tonight I am finishing proofing Chapter XXV of my early "Steps" journal, which should be online later this weekend. This covers about ten months from 1975.

Here's a short memory, from the late 1950's. When we lived in Oneida, New York (my favorite place when growing up, by the way), it snowed a lot and Mom bought a concave aluminum saucer for Alice and Ralph, then about six and four respectively, which they loved to use for sliding on the tiny slopes, Ralph particularly. The toy had a rope attached at two points on its perimeter, for easy dragging when going back uphill or, as often the case, for big brother Phil to use to pull it along with someone in it. It was, indeed, a most efficient sled substitute, having very little friction in the first place. I do not know if I just imagined this or if it really happened; but I seem to recall that Ralph learned to wipe the bottom with waxed paper and thereby reduce the friction to such an extent that on the right ice or snow the little vessel would shoot along like a rocket. In any case, it surely was fast, even better than a sled for swooshing over the drifts and frozen ponds. Don't know what happened to that amazingly simple, satisfying, seemingly indestructible little vehicle. But it brought us a lot of fun while it and the cold weather lasted.

7/31/01-Tues.-Just five months to go at my best of all possible places of employ.

Fran and I have had a few interesting dreams lately, though we cannot see any special meaning in them. For instance, Fran woke up with a start, night before last, jerking one leg violently (in reality, or what passes for it), dreaming that someone had grabbed her and she had to kick to get away. Last night, I dreamed I was working on a job with just a two-hour shift, instead of eight, but we could take no breaks. We had to stay totally focused on our jobs the whole two hours, which, ironically, turned out to be harder, at least at first, than with a regular shift, in which we are able to get up to go get coffee or take one kind of work over to another place, go somewhere else doing a different kind of work, go to the bathroom, put mail away, etc. (Now that I have typed that out, I realize the shorter shift is somewhat like one's daily meditation, at least the way we are taught to do it, as opposed to the casual way we usually actually sit. I have been telling myself for years that, once I am retired, I shall start to properly meditate each day.)

Tonight we joined Matt and Glenda (friends through our Baltic Buzzards interactions) at Buffet Palace to belatedly celebrate Matt's birthday. The food was great. The company was excellent. We almost always have a good time together! All except Fran, who never imbibes simply because she does not like alcohol, also had a single glass of house wine. (I allow myself about one small alcoholic beverage a week, one more if it is a special holiday, very occasionally as much as one beer a day, or equivalent, if we are engaged in strenuous vacation activities, such as camping and/or hiking in the mountains of Colorado. Despite my problems with drinking, back in the late sixties and early seventies, after the discipline of Lifestream Way and sticking with its ascetic regimen for several years, I have never again had the same difficulty. This is not to say I think I am "home free" where alcohol is concerned. I feel I need to watch it carefully. So far, I am able to avoid abuse. This also does not mean I think I am exceptional. Rather, I believe anyone who has had a serious challenge with alcohol definitely does have to have a rather radical, positive change to get some control over this habit. It might come through Alcoholics Anonymous, from Lifestream Way, perhaps a religious conversion, Zen, Synanon, or maybe something else. And, even then, one must be on his/her guard, probably essentially forever.)

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