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Archive for Life

Jan. 1, 2021 — My hopes for 2021

The end of 2020 sees the end of one of the tumultuous years in the history of the world. Oddly enough, this tumult wasn’t as a result of war, natural disasters, or terrorism.

Instead, the COVID-19 global pandemic has been responsible for 83 million worldwide infections with 1.8 million deaths. It has had devastating effects on many worldwide economies: the United States, the world’s largest economy, leads in infections and deaths from Coronavirus.

But you’re also seeing three out of the four so-called BRIC countries in the top four in terms of the number of COVID infections. Russia, India, and Brazil, with more than three million positive tests each, are similarly overrun by the virus, and they were, along with China, four of the most important growing economies in the world before the onset of the pandemic.

Not only are public health and world economies being affected by the virus, but also competitive sports. Here are my hopes for 2021:

I hope that the spring collegiate field hockey season is able to take place without the kind of tumult that has befallen football and men’s basketball in the last year, and is able to wind its way to a champion.

I also hope that teams in the ACC which did not win the automatic qualifier are able to get a fair shot at the two at-large bids in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

I hope that the college women’s lacrosse season is able to take place, especially with the talented players expected to make an impact this fall.

I hope that, in Division I, that teams other than the University of North Carolina are able to emerge as national championship contenders. I think Notre Dame, Denver, and Michigan are going to be major Final Four contenders if they are able to get through their seasons.

I hope that the National Women’s Soccer League is able to put a good product on the pitch, given the fact that a number of NWSL and U.S. stars are currently under contract to foreign clubs.

I hope that the “nouveau riche” women’s soccer clubs worldwide — I’m looking at you, Manchester City, Paris-St. Germain, Club America, and FC Barcelona — are treated as more than just window dressing, and that the corporations that run and sponsor them put the money and resources behind their women’s teams equal to the men’s teams.

I hope that both the WNBA and NWSL are given proper credit for the way they were able to make good on their 2020 seasons.

I hope that two major female athletes who played very little or not at all in 2020 — soccer’s Megan Rapinoe and basketball’s Elena Delle Donne — are able to come back with their club sides and have an impact at the 2021 Olympics.

I hope that the Olympics are able to have a full re-opening with fans in the arenas this summer.

I also hope that the companies responsible for long-term transport — especially cruise ships and commercial aircraft — undergo systemic reform so that their vessels do not continue to be petri dishes for viruses and other diseases.

I also hope that as many of you as are able can will take advantage of vaccine distribution programs in the first three months of 2021 and help flatten the curve of COVID-19, given the fact that there are seven billion people in the world, and there are maybe only 400 million doses of vaccine in the pipeline right now.

And I hope you, dear reader, stay safe and well until then. Mask up, socially distance, and just be careful out there.

Dec. 31, 2020 — 184 right, 130 wrong

Today, I finished my Trivial Pursuit Master’s Edition Year-In-A-Box calendar, a calendar full of questions about everything from Texas to s’mores to poke bowls. It’s the last Master’s Edition as next year’s calendar is going to be from the Classic Edition which, according to some reviews, is easier than the Master’s or the original Genus edition.

We’ll see what happens with the questions on the 2021 calendar. But this year’s questions were about the same difficulty as in 2019, which reflects the fact that my percentage of correct answers was 58.6 percent, much lower than the last couple of years.

Yep, I still keep score.

Dec. 30, 2020 — Waiting for the next glass

Tomorrow, I undergo surgery in my abdomen to (hopefully) fix a problem which I wrote about here.

I’m used to the gnawing feeling of uncertainty when it comes to trying to occupy the hours before a medical procedure. The liquid diet that I’ve been prescribed is almost a relief from overthinking the future and engendering a sense of dread.

I have to keep telling myself that I have a good doctor. The surgeon has received more than 50 positive reviews on an internet site meant to judge these things, and almost all of them are five stars.

My interactions with the surgeon have been detailed and somewhat frank. But now that I’m being provided the opportunity to aggressively go at this problem, I have something positive to look forward to.

And that’s a good thing. We’ll know more tomorrow and in the next few weeks how the procedure came out.

Dec. 29, 2020 — Luddite Nation?

Luddite (n.) — a person opposed to new technology or ways of working.

Yesterday, police and FBI officials announced that a computer consultant named Anthony Warner was inside of a bomb-laden recreational vehicle that leveled a city block in Nashville, Tenn.

But it wasn’t any ordinary city block. On the block was a junction station that AT&T used to provide high-speed internet on the 5G level to not only cell phone customers, but home internet as well as to business customers including the air traffic control center at Nashville’s airport.

Too, the interdependence of this one facility meant that there were knockon effects in the form of cell and radar outages as far away as Louisville, Ky.; Birmingham, Ala; and Atlanta.

Early reports indicate that Warren was one of a growing segment of the U.S. population which has developed irrational paranoia and conspiracy theories about the introduction of 5G wireless technology. Indeed, the state of Tennessee was a hotbed of anti-5G activity a year ago, as four cell towers were destroyed by fire, causing more than a half-million dollars’ worth of damage.

Now, you might think it’s fine to have these kinds of conspiracy theories floating around your mind regarding any new technology. Heck, watch the old YouTube videos in which older cell phones emit enough microwaves to explode popcorn, and it does make you question the safety of constant usage of older mobile phones.

But to act on those conspiracy theories, to the point of wanton property destruction? That, friends, is terrorism.

And the quicker we realize this, the quicker we can move on from the ridiculous fantasy world of today’s anti-tech Luddites.

Dec. 28, 2020 — An anniversary of sorts

It was 71 years ago this week when my parents got married in Puerto Rico.

The day after their ceremony, they took their honeymoon in San Juan, the capital of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The central event of the honeymoon was, oddly enough, a baseball game.

Papa was a die-hard baseball fan not only as a teenager, but later in life. Having a minor-league team two miles from his house was a blessing for him, especially when major-leaguers would spend time in town doing injury rehabilitation. When major stars would come to town, the park would fill up.

One time, Derek Jeter came to the city for a short stint. Papa didn’t ask for an autograph, but he observed as the Yankee shortstop went about his business and greeted everyone who came to to the bleacher railing, making them feel as though they were the most important person in the facility.

The interesting thing is that baseball could have killed him in middle school. My father had gotten hit in the head with a ball (it’s lost to history whether it was a thrown or a batted ball) and it caused some neurological damage.

Fortunately, the effects were somewhat temporary: he didn’t speak for a year. But, knowing what we know now about concussions and impact injuries on the brain and skull, he was fortunate not to have worse damage.

For Papa, baseball was comfort in his waning years. Indeed, when a local cable outlet would rebroadcast full games during the offseason, that was, frankly, a godsend. Papa didn’t have to know that the games were repeats: with his dementia, he could process the fact that baseball was on the television. And that was good enough.

Mama, for her part, didn’t much care for live baseball. Sometimes she would take an interest in a World Series game or a Saturday broadcast, but that was pretty much it.

Still, it’s notable that they spent more than 60 years together. Their union was a blessing, allowing them to become professionals in their chosen fields — one in the ministry, one in medicine. They set a standard for the six of us offspring: it wasn’t enough to get a college degree; you needed a graduate degree to get by. Four of us have advanced degrees of some kind.

And, for the most part, our chosen vocations were those who help others: carpentry, academia, medicine, public service, journalism, science.

I think they did a good job.

Dec. 27, 2020 — The true meaning of the season

The COVID-19 contagion has affected our world, our economy, the games we play and watch, and our health.

One such person in the American field hockey community needs our help.

Dr. Robi Tamargo, a former All-American at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County before becoming the team’s head coach, was part of a group of field hockey folks who helped spread the gospel of the sport in the rapidly growing area of Loudoun County, Va. during the 2010s, resulting in not only the addition of a number of varsity teams in northern Virginia, but also the doubling of the size of the Virginia High School League championships.

Dr. Tamargo, a clinical psychologist, came down with the Coronavirus while treating a patient in June. Her severe symptoms have seen her become one of the “long-haul” patients whose symptoms have not waned since they became apparent. She and her husband have had to move from Point Vedra Beach, Fla. to New York in order to be near the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The bills are piling up, and a friend of the couple has started a Go Fund Me page. Please visit it, and help out if you can.

Dec. 25, 2020 — A six-step expression of love, concern, and health

“(Wearing a mask) is truly a sacrifice for sure but in my mind it’s an expression of love.” — Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago

Ever since this whole Coronavirus business began in mid-March, the wearing of a mask has been, for me, non-negotiable. I knew long ago how successful masks have been in keeping down infectious diseases in densely-populated areas like Tokyo. Indeed, over the last 20 years or so, mask-wearing has become part of everyday life in Japan. In Japanese culture, wearing a mask isn’t a show of weakness or a show that you’re afraid of someone else, but as a courtesy to others.

The regrettable thing is that so many of our fellow Americans have failed to grasp this. Wearing masks can cut down the spread of airborne contagions up to 97 percent if the potential transmitter and potential transmittee are both wearing them properly. A number of other countries have been heavy on masks, such as New Zealand, and have done a great job of flattening the curve even before the wave of vaccines the last week and a half.

Friends, I believe that masks work. Even with my health problems over the last few months, I have not gotten Coronavirus, and don’t plan to. Here are the stories behind the masks I have been using:

The two masks above came from my sister in Maine relatively early during this pandemic. You’ll notice the extra elastic for some of the loops, because I needed to add some ear-room to allow the mask to fit properly. I especially like the distinctive one that resembles a Hawaiian shirt.

This pair of masks come from a discount clothing store hear my home, and both of them fit into the “bumper sticker” category of masks. And I’ll wear one or the other if I am going to be with people I don’t know. I think the upper one is a great social-distancing mask, telling others not to get too close.

These masks came to me in differing circumstances. The one on the right reminds me of the checkerboard patterns which were prevalent in the 1980s. The one on the left was purchased at a men’s store in York, Pa., and has distinctive and interesting motifs from both African and Central American culture. It’s become my favorite.

These six masks tell everyone around me that I neither want to catch anything from them, nor do I want to transmit anything I may have to them. It’s truly the meaning of the holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Bodhi, Yule, Kwanzaa, or any manner of festivals or observances which take place around the time of the Winter Solstice.

Whatever you celebrate, do it well. And wear a mask.

Dec. 23, 2020 — Of cufflinks and an inspiration for the iMac

Sometime in the early 1990s, my father, a man with a propensity for bringing home broken, unused, or discarded items to see what his smarter kids could do with them, brought home a Lear-Siegler computer terminal. It was a remarkable piece of machinery, painted blue with sleek, curved lines.

Oddly enough, it was the basis for what would be a very profitable and transformative home computer by the end of the decade: the iMac G3.

But I find my mind floating back to the terminal every once in a while because of a certain key which is unique in computer lore: the “HERE IS” key. It’s a key which was meant as a security key of sorts in the days of UNIX computing, as the use of the key asked a computer looking to connect with it (via a really slow modem plugged into a phone line) its identification.

I’ve always wanted to get a pair of “HERE IS” keys for cufflinks. This was an inspiration by an artisan friend of mine who usually peddles her wares at an outdoor flea market near my building. Today was supposed to have been the final day of the Christmastide marketplace, but she has not been working the circuit this year.

I’ve endeavored to try to find my own set of “Here Is” keys. But the problem, as is often found when it comes to vintage items of all sorts, is that there aren’t very many Lear-Siegler or Teletype terminals that you can get your hands on readily. Most all of them have already been thrown away or have had their innards recycled to make new consumer products.

And when you think about it, the smartphone you’re carrying around with you (if you’re not already reading this blog entry on one) has computing and throughput power which is of a magnitude of hundreds or millions above what was offered on either of the machines mentioned above.

Such is progress.

Dec. 20, 2020 — Remembrances of the deep past

Of the couple of hundred of birthday messages received today, one of them has stuck with me. My brother sent me a photograph of our sister, the two of us, and our father, who died five years ago.

The picture is a bit of a visual puzzle. The three of us are standing next to a chain-link fence, with bare earth and scrub grass all around, no trees, and no buildings. My father and sister are wearing plaid, and my siblings and I have some unfamiliar haircuts.

All day, I have been expending brain cells trying to figure out where this was taken. I mean, I have some educated guesses, but it’s hard to connect the lines between clothing, hair, and landmarks in this picture.

There are some photos that our family has in our collection where I can remember what the day was like when they were taken, sometimes even the day of the week. Some photos, I can smell the juniper bushes near the birdbath in our old backyard in Mississippi. Other photos, I can taste the butter pecan ice cream at the student union building at the university my father attended for his graduate studies. For others, I can smell the inside of a vintage New York subway car as it trundles down the track.

Which is why this photo is such a mystery. A complete blank.

I guess, as I start my 56th journey around the sun today, I am beginning to realize that these kinds of things are more and more liable to happen. Memories fade. Feelings amongst family members change. Favorite locations close or are torn down — especially in The Year Like No Other.

I’m hoping that, as I face a surgery later this month and hopefully a vaccine injection before too long, that we’ll get to a sense of normalcy in life, the world, and everything.

But at the same time, keeping our eye on the target of bringing you, my readers, the best possible perspective and coverage of field hockey, lacrosse, and various other athletic endeavors with a context and perspective you can’t get anywhere else.

It’s going to be a very tough six weeks or so between now and the expected restart of field hockey season in California. But we’ll endeavor to fill this blog with stories, information, and context.

Nov. 28, 2020 — A million times over

You don’t have to read this blog to understand the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the sports world, even as entire field hockey teams either had to pause or cancel activities because of an outbreak, or even opted out of play altogether.

All you have to do is watch the news. Prominent athletes and coaches, and the heart of some entire teams have been infected with Coronavirus, leading to governing bodies of sport having to scramble in order to ensure that games get played.

Ohio State University’s football team isn’t playing today. Neither is Florida State’s team. Villanova’s men’s basketball team had to fill in a slot when Temple had to pull out of a game scheduled for the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn.

Yesterday, when the United States was being Holland 2-0, the Hammers were without star midfielder Lindsay Horan, who tested positive.

And the Thursday night football game between Pittsburgh and Baltimore had to be moved to Tuesday night because of a sudden outbreak amongst the Ravens’ team, including quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The numbers amongst the U.S. population at large are stunning. In the last week, more than a million new COVID-19 cases were reported. More than 4 million new positive tests were reported in the United States in November alone. That represents about 30 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. since the first case was reported in Washington in late January.

It’s a frightening number. And it’s why our society should not let down our guard.