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Archive for Life

Nov. 25, 2021 — Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

We’ve spotlighted student-athletes in this space who have great reason to give thanks this holiday season. One is Molly Katzman, a field hockey player from Ladue Horton Watkins (Mo.), who was born with a rare genetic defect.

You can read and view a story on the senior from KSDK-TV in St. Louis by clicking here.

Nov. 11, 2021 — Lending a name

It was a decade and a half ago when Holly Charrette, a former field hockey player from Cranston (R.I.) East, became the first known field hockey player to die in the Iraq conflict.

Today, in Johnston, R.I., there is a six-bedroom facility dedicated to transitioning women veterans from the battlefield back to civilian life. It bears the name, “Holly Charrette House.” Run by Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, it was opened in July of 2010 and became Rhode Island’s first and only transitional housing for homeless female veterans.

As today is Veterans Day, please remember who gave all in service to our nation. It is particularly poignant that the state of Rhode Island remembers Charrette in this way.

Oct. 11, 2021 — The medicine game

Today, a day celebrated amongst many as Indigenous Peoples Day, we think about the origins of a game that has become incredibly popular amongst a growing segment of America over the last quarter-century.

That game was originally called baggataway, but is now known as lacrosse. It was a game which originally settled disputes amongst native tribespeople before European conquest of the Americas, but has also come to be a cultural touchstone amongst current members of the Haudenosaunee.

As the game grows across the United States, it is useful to understand how important location is. While the original Six Nations does have great lacrosse, so does the area of the Piscataway, which encompasses much of the Delmarva Peninsula.

As you head west, however, many of the native games played by tribes involved sticks, but not with the ball being played in the air. Instead, a lot of the games involve the ball being played on the ground, as if to be more connected to the earth.

Implements in games played by Native Americans are on display to this day at the National Museum of the American Indian in our nation’s capital. The implements are a smorgasbord of shapes and curves, meant to carry, shield, or propel whichever the chosen instrument of play is — a ball or a chain of small stones.

Your Founder would like to remind you that he was born on land formerly occupied by the Chocktaw and Chickasaw nations, was raised in the Lenni-Lenape territory, was educated in the Massachusett and Haudenosaunee territories, and currently lives in what was the Piscataway and Nacotchtank tribal lands.

My parents were born and raised in what was Taino territory in the Caribbean, although they were of southern European origin.

So, why this disclosure? I think in order for us to be truly American, we have to understand that we are still very much a melting pot of people coming from around the world, even though it has come at great cost to the original occupants of this land.

Oct. 7, 2021 — A game-changer for young people

This morning, word came that Pfizer made a formal request to the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its Coronavirus vaccine for children age 5-11. It’s estimated that up to 28 million children in the United States would be eligible for the shots if the FDA panel green-lights the vaccine.

For most of the duration of the global pandemic, the target demographic for people getting vaccines have been persons over the age of 18, fully grown adults and the elderly. But in the last few months, as the vaccinated population has risen, the demographics have skewed towards younger groups.

As in-person schooling has become the norm in many American school districts this fall, there has been a greater effort in getting vaccines in students under the age of 18, especially student-athletes. Indeed, there are several large and prominent school district across the U.S. are mandating vaccination for people wanting to play winter sports, almost all of which are played indoors.

The Pfizer vaccine for the 5-11 age group will almost certainly prompt more districts to mandate vaccines for high-school aged student-athletes.

The way I see it, anything to make the atmosphere safer for everyone involved is a good thing.

Oct. 4, 2021 — Multiple outlets, a good thing

This site hasn’t been affected at all by today’s outage of social media presences like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

Indeed, the great thing about what we’ve done over the past 23 years on this site is to build in a measure of redundancy. For the blog, we designed this site to have a front and a side door; there are three ways to get to these words.

It’s much the same with our social media posts. Although our Unfiltered series is based on what we have on Instagram, you can access the post through Twitter or Facebook. Our TikTok videos can be found through Instagram.

So, we’re still here, still writing, and still listening to what is going on so that you, the readership, can be informed.

July 10, 2021 — A “delta variant” surge that is not to be ignored

This morning, I saw a frightening graph on my Twitter feed.

It showed that, in several countries around the world, there has been a massive upshoot of COVID-19 cases in several countries over the last two weeks. One of the most stunning surges is in The Netherlands, which ended most restrictions June 26th, then saw an absolute moonshot of a trend. Holland had under 1,000 cases a day on July 2, but yesterday zoomed to 6,926.

Similar surges have occurred in England, Indonesia, Greece, Spain, and Portugal, shows data from a Financial Times analysis.

These surges are coming at the absolute worst time when it comes to the world sporting calendar. We mentioned earlier this week that the government of Japan has imposed a state of emergency just two weeks before the start of the Olympics, which means that events are going to be held without fans in the stands.

In the last day or so, it was also announced that the Curacao men’s national soccer team is being withdrawn from the CONCACAF Gold Cup after positive tests within the team, meaning that today’s fixtures are having to be altered in order to have Guatemala participate.

Too, the Capital Cup, an international club competition featuring D.C. United and three Central American teams, has been riven with COVID withdrawals. Puebla, a mid-table pro team from Mexico’s first division, withdrew four days ago because of 10 new positive cases. Today, another Capital Cup team, Alianza FC of El Salvador, also withdrew because of COVID-19 protocols stemming from a positive test, leaving only the hosts and Costa Rican side Alajuelense, which will play tomorrow to finish off what was supposed to have been a six-game competition.

I can’t help but think that, as the United States has been able to get at least one injection to roughly 70 percent of the population, other nations, which may not have the economy, health systems, or logistics to inoculate their citizens at a similar level, are seeing our success as a license to open their nations up.

This is not good.

May 5, 2021 — Slicing down the email boxes

Ever since I got my first America Online account in the days of the ubiquitous 3.5-inch floppy disks which offered you 30 days of the service for free, I took advantage of the feature which allowed you to get multiple email addresses; I had one to receive email from my undergraduate friends, one for my friends from graduate school, one for my “social” friends who I knew from Thursday night dance parties back in New Jersey, and one for this website. Because of the 10-character limit on AOL accounts back then, my email addresses looked like an entry in a baseball boxscore: “topofcrcle at aol.com.”

A few years later when the limit was taken off, I was able to get full-out spellings on my four email boxes. I also got a “burner” account through my association with Yahoo Geocities, which hosted this site from 1998 to about 2006. It’s an account which I use if I am likely to receive a large number of spam emails, so I made this address just to be able to keep them away from my four primary email boxes.

That is, of course, before I found the free Google email in 2004, which you can see in the header at the top of this site. I still have several email boxes to distinguish emails coming from different groups of friends. I also have an email I will use for more professional correspondence.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was receiving an odd message on my phone as I was going through my daily task of going through my email boxes: “Unable to access email address; please check settings.” I tried to go through my phone’s email settings to figure out what was wrong.

Apparently, my America Online email accounts were trying to get me to log off and log back with a code which would confirm my phone number. The problem? The phone number suggested was my old landline back in New Jersey.

It was then that I decided that my AOL email accounts were best left abandoned. After all, I get all of these gigabytes of storage with Gmail, and they also do a great job of arresting spam emails and putting them in a folder.

My phone now monitors just six email accounts. My life is a lot happier.

May 1, 2021 — Declaring too early a victory?

I invite you to watch the video accompanying this story of last Thursday’s CHSAA field hockey final between Aurora Regis Jesuit (Colo.) and Greenwood Village Cherry Creek (Colo.).

If you’re a health-care professional, the scenes in this video would have scared you to death a few weeks ago. You don’t see a lot of worn masks in this footage, and you have enormous groups of students choosing not to social distance.

Thing is, we’re in a different place as a country than we were six months ago. More than 100 million people have been vaccinated nationwide, and it’s estimated that number could double by July 4th.

For its part, the state of Colorado had ended a lot of its previous restrictions on April 6th, going off the “dial” system of alerts and allowing individual counties to make final decisions. Denver County, in which the state championship field hockey game was played, is in the Blue Level, which is the second-loosest level of restrictions.

This strategy is not without risk. Coming into this week, levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and positive tests in Colorado have generally been trending upward, albeit not at the levels where they were around Thanksgiving.

Now, it may be better to decentralize how COVID-19 and future worldwide pandemics are handled. But left to one’s own devices, people want to gather in groups every once in a while, such as at sporting events. Today, for example, some 65,000 people will be gathering in Louisville, Ky. for the Kentucky Derby.

Problem is, what happens if gatherings like these turn into super-spreader events like that motorcycle rally in South Dakota, a choir practice in Washington, spring break this past February in Florida, and a certain White House Rose Garden ceremony last September that sickened 35 people?

Hopefully, enough of the spectators will have gotten their vaccines.

April 8, 2021 — And now, the wait

This afternoon, with a sit-down behind a white curtain in a pharmacy near the apartment, your Founder received the latest of nearly 3/4 of a billion worldwide injections of a Coronavirus vaccine.

As such, I’m expecting any one of a number of symptoms to hit me anytime over the next one to five days. Friends of mine have reported various side effects from body aches to headaches to fatigue. And at least one vaccine in current use is linked to the formation of blood clots in the brain, albeit it is a 1 in 250,000 chance.

But as my sister told me last weekend in a phone conversation, a small chance of a vaccine side effect is better than getting COVID-19, which can be lethal if left untreated. There are already nearly three million people worldwide who have died from the virus. While more than half a million are Americans, there are rising numbers in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as well as the European Union.

As such, this pandemic is not only taking a horrific human toll, but an economic one. The United States, E.U., and the four developing BRIC nations are the world engines of manufacturing, and account for 3/4 of the world’s Gross Domestic Product.

Even though most present vaccines have proven to be effective in tests and have proven effective in a real-world application, there are still enough people around the world who won’t get the vaccine, which is a public health predicament of the highest order.

Some people are likely not to get the vaccine because of the lack of public health infrastructure in second- or third-world nations. Other people may choose not to receive vaccines because of suspicion or superstition. Still others are anti-vaccination because of political ideology.

Thing is, our world has eradicated pandemic disease before. World health agencies have declared victory over smallpox and rinderpest, and we’re nearly there when it comes to polio.

Why is this important? If enough people are vaccinated in a given population, a pathogen will not be able to spread, and will eventually die off.

Of course, given the fact that COVID-19 has at least five variants, the massive vaccination effort in the United States isn’t going to be enough yet.

But I’m doing my part. I hope each of you do the same if able.

April 4, 2021 — Towards a parallel resurrection?

When my parents died, one of the things I inherited was the only new car they ever had, a 2000 Ford.

It was a car which I used to transport Papa to visit Mama when she was in rehabilitation after that awful sepsis infection in 2010, and I would drive him to various and sundry places like the diner, the doctor, and the day I had to go up to the hospital to spring him after he was found with a golf club, mismatched socks and shoes, and a box of buttons.

At about the same time, my sister would often borrow the Ford to go from place to place whenever one of her cars had to go to the shop. She kept a plastic box of ashes (not hers, but a few ounces of ashes from the barbecue we held in her honor after her funeral) in the rear compartment. These ashes — an outward sign of an inward grace — remain there to this day.

The Ford became a link to my parents in a deep, deep way.

When I was a teenager, Papa would sometimes ask me, “When you get older, will you drive me around in your little car?” This was before I ever started driving classes. But when he lost his vision and his ability to drive in his mid-70s, the prophesy came true. Whenever I came home, I drove him to many places.

I would also help Mama with the groceries, also unloading them even during that terrible day when she almost fell down on the lawn because she was trying to walk on the uneven grass.

This past week, the Ford’s check-engine light went on. I have an appointment scheduled this week with a Ford technician, but, after 21 years of service, I think it is about time to let go.

I’ve felt a range of thoughts and emotions, which are magnified by the fact that I have been very much isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic for the last year.

Look, I know it’s just a car. But it’s so much more — a tangible link to the past.

And perhaps, time to let go.