Connecticut: I Remember Nights Like This

Tuesday night 7:00 pm EST surface analysis. Click the map — it’s immense.

I remember nights like this, staring at my computer screen, hoping the next piece of data would give me confidence. Tonight it won’t. No matter what the computers say at this point it’s too late. No one trusts the output.

It’s not a question of being mostly right. This storm heading toward the Northeast demands forecast perfection. A mile or two misplacement, or degree or two missed forecast, will make the difference between ten inches of snow and zero.

Where the frustration comes in is, it’s not a question of me not working hard enough or missing a sign. Science just isn’t good enough yet.

There will be a storm. It will be an awful day. For folks off the shoreline it will be a day to find a reason to stay inside. Actually, shoreline too. Just awful

Winter is nearly over.

Update: My Buddy Kevin In Scotland Has Disappeared

Kevin Lyon
Just before Christmas I noted I’d lost track of my friend Kevin, a fellow pancreatic cancer patient from Scotland. He and I had the same diagnosis and underwent the same surgery and treatment.

We met via Twitter and chatted a bunch. We understood life in a way others couldn’t.

And then he disappeared.

I got an email this morning about Kevin. It was what I’d feared and expected.

Hi Geoff, hope are you well. This is Claudia – I was the former partner of Kevin Lyon (Scottish).I have seen on you blog that you are looking for Kevin. Unfortunately he passed away on December 6th. He is in heaven resting.
Thank you for your caring – I’m praying for you.

Best regards.

Claudia.

It’s a horrible disease. Stories like Kevin’s remind me how very fortunate I am… how lucky really. I put up with a lot of shit, but I get to live. I am cancer free.

Why me? Why not Kevin? No one knows.

Dear Students – My name is Geoff.

The questions is will it make a difference or are you pissing in the wind? Don’t believe the naysayers. They are scared of you. I come from a time when college and high school student were able to steer our national policy and even drive a president (Johnson, not Nixon) from office.

Moratorium Against the War in Vietnam – October 15, 1969

Dear Students –

My name is Geoff. It’s OK for you to look at me as old. I am.

You’ve gotten a lot of attention for yourselves recently as demonstrated by the amazing pushback by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, FL. Make no mistake, it’s a movement.

The questions is will it make a difference or are you just pissing into the wind? Don’t believe the naysayers. They are scared of you.

I come from a time when college and high school student were able to steer our national policy and even drive a president (Johnson, not Nixon) from office. The issue was Vietnam and it divided America as we are divided today. I shudder to think what 1968 would have been like with the Internet.

On one side were people who questioned the war and what we were doing there. On the other side were people who wished to follow the course. I thought they were misguided They thought they were patriots. Looking back there are similarities with Second Amendment defenders today.

The pictures at the top of this entry are from “The Moratorium” in 1969 — I was there. I marched on Washington. I protested on The Commons in Boston. And the country began to listen. Support for the Vietnam War turned.

Back then the voting age was 21 (and the drinking age 18 — you got screwed on this trade). We had much less power. Today nearly every college student and many high school can and should vote.

My generation has felt special for the last fifty years because collectively we did something good. It was probably the first time in American history that ‘kids’ became a political force. We had a positive impact. Now it’s your turn.

Go with your conscience, but please understand we made a difference before and you should now.

Because this post has spawned some heated comments I am imposing limits. One comment per person (except I will allow Judy to support her statement). All comments must be directed to me about what I wrote, not another commenter’s thoughts. I welcome comments on all sides, but keep it civil.

His Life Is Full Of What He Can’t Do

My father wants to drink Coke. The doctor says water. My sister stepped up on this one. “He’s ninety two. Let him enjoy something.”

Charlotte and Great Grandpa Harold earlier today
Lots of buzzing today. Family conferences taking place between my sister, me, our dad and LaTonya, his aide.

My dad went to the hospital after his fall, then on to rehab. He has returned to his apartment weakened. Yesterday he got a bag of iron via IV and he’s wearing a cannula for oxygen. He’s stronger Saturday than he was Wednesday.

He’s brain sharp but physically weary. No one is really healthy at ninety two. You’re always on the edge.

The good news is my dad can regain what strength he had. The bad news is that means doing things which are uncomfortable or bothersome including exercise. At ninety two my dad should stand every hour and walk up and down the hall a few times a day. This is at the edge of his abilities.

I’m not sure I could blame him for saying, “Screw this.” He says he wants to get stronger, but sometimes it’s tough to match action to those words.

At ninety two you can get away with a lot of shit. I asked him not to be a schmuck to others. I’m sure it’s frustrating to have physical life become so difficult. He said he understands.

Few of us can know what it’s like to be trapped inside a body that no longer works right. If my dad drops something it might as well be on Mars. He could bend down to pick it up, but he’d never get back up!

Part of today’s conversation centered on drinking more water. That my father’s kidneys work at all is a surprise. Allowing more fluid in his body makes their job easier.

My father wants to drink Coke. The doctor favors water.

My sister stepped up on this one. “He’s ninety two. Let him enjoy something.”

She’s right. Water is better than Coke, but he’ll probably drink more this way which is good.

I texted LaTonya. “I think we need to consider his life is full of what he can’t do.”

And so we’re all agreed. Let him drink Coke!

Please Don’t Embarrass Us

As a true fan Helaine viscerally understands no lead is insurmountable. As a Philadelphian she anticipates the worst. And then came this season. The Eagles did nearly everything right. We’re not used to this. Early on they won against the Giants on an improbable 61 yard field goal kicked by a sub who’d never played as a pro before. Their quarterback, Carson Wentz, became a potential league MVP. Last year’s disappointment, Nelson Agholor, became this year’s find. They won consistently.

Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, pa.
I remember my first Philadelphia Eagles game. My friend Marlene invited me. Her dad, Frank, had a handful of season tickets. Back then, in 1976, a season cost less than a single game today!

It was fall, but it felt like summer with a bright blue sky. The seats were in Section 614 at Veterans Stadium, high on the shady side near the 30 yard line. We walked out of the concourse and into the stands as a field sized American flag was being unfurled. Ten seconds in and I was hooked on the experience.

I ended up buying a pair of tickets from Frank for the remainder of that season and a few afterwards until I left Philly.

My first year the Eagles went 4-10 with me sitting in the stands in December, freezing. I always still stayed until the final gun.

I was a season ticket holder first, then a fan. It was the experience that got me hooked. Caring about the team came second.

And then I met and married Helaine. Her father was a rabid sportsfan. Only child Helaine had little choice. It was she who came into our relationship with a subscription to Sports Illustrated! She’s the most knowledgeable sports fan I know.

Nearly every Sunday for the last 35 years she and I have watched the Eagles… maybe anguished with the Eagles is a better way to put it. As a true fan Helaine viscerally understands no lead is insurmountable. As a Philadelphian she anticipates the worst.

And then came this season. The Eagles did nearly everything right. We’re not used to this.

Early on they won against the Giants on an improbable 61 yard field goal kicked by a sub who’d never played as a pro before. Their quarterback, Carson Wentz, became a potential league MVP. Last year’s disappointment, Nelson Agholor, became this year’s find. They won consistently.

And then, in a most Philadelphia way, Carson Wentz went down. The star was gone for the season. Hope was lost.

Except it wasn’t. The new QB, Nick Foles, started rough but finished strong. The Eagles totally dominated Minnesota in the NFC Championship game. And they’re doing it without real stars. It’s a team of role players with a very smart coach.

So, today is the day. It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the Eagles are in it with a decent chance to win. In true Philly fashion, Helaine says, “I just don’t want them to embarrass themselves.”

Stef is coming by with some friends. Helaine has cooked/baked enough for a small army. We are hoping for a win or at least they don’t embarrass themselves.

The Fruit Trees Will Be Heavily Supervised

I’m on a mission. It’s about my fruit trees. They haven’t produced much fruit. This year I’ll change that… maybe, hopefully.

My concern centers around my potted orange and grapefruit trees and a ground planted plum tree. Of the three, only the plum has produced fruit, four very tasty plums last year and one the year before.

The orange and grapefruit trees have both set fruit, but none has grown bigger than a golf ball. My opinion, the growth has been too spread out. In the end it was more than the trunk could feed.

This year these trees will be heavily supervised as they grow. Energy previously spent on new branches will be redirected to the fruit.

This has meant brutal trimming. Any thin branches from last years growth were chopped. Growth off the main steam has been pinched back where there was congestion. The trees are scarily bare, but very vital.

Since the purge three days ago new growth has exploded on the orange and grapefruit¹ trees. These pre-blossoms are off the main stems and should be more able to get nourishment. My hope is this will serve them well. I can’t be sure.

Should I thin the miniature clusters of orange and grapefruit blossoms now forming? Some of the fruit will naturally fall away while tiny, but can the process be sped up with more benefit to the plant? And how much is the right amount to thin?

I only have a few plants. I’d like them to count.

¹- From past experience the plum tree is a very late bloomer.

His Life Has Changed

When my father says, “Geoffrey, you really don’t understand,” he’s probably correct. The family can only guess the impact his physical conditions bring to daily life.

I started to list some of them, then backspaced. You don’t want to know. Life at 92 is challenging.

Among his biggest problems, deafness. Without hearing aids, nothing. With hearing aids, not much better. He can’t understand my sister on the phone at all.

Two weeks ago, in the hospital and struggling to hear, the staff there let him use a PocketTalker Pro from Williams Sound.

My sister Trudi ordered one from Amazon. His life has changed.

That’s a photo of my dad having lunch with the guys. It’s like he’s been sprung from prison. He ate alone in his apartment because he couldn’t converse. Now he can.

He’s in rehab the rest of this week. They want him stronger so he’ll better avoid falls. He says physical therapy he’s receiving is having a good effect.

He’s back home and ready to talk to the neighbors next week.

Last Night’s 4.0 Quake

It happened today at 2:09 AM. A minor 4.0 earthquake let loose on the other side of our nearby mountains.

It woke Helaine from a sound sleep. As she came to her senses, “I could still hear the house moving.” That’s sufficiently scary.

Doppler, who was also sound asleep, woke up and stood up.

Seismograph from Pinon Flats, CA

I had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs while watching TV¹. I never did wake up for the quake.

The large faults that run through Southern California aren’t nearby. Irvine isn’t considered earthquake challenged. Though a 4.0 will get your attention, it’s not enough to do damage, especially with the more stringent building codes here.

This is our second noticeable quake and the second time I’ve been sleeping. The last time Helaine woke me quickly enough that we were still in motion.

Of all the bad things that can happen in this world earthquakes continue to be near the bottom of my list.

This map shows the plotted responses to the USGS’s “Did you feel it?” page.

¹ – It’s well established in the Fox house if I’m watching TV on the couch with my glasses off sleep is imminent.

Ask Me About Cancer

Those are my feet from December 2, 2016. I have no clue what procedure I was about to undergo. There were many.

Helaine and I just spent some time with a friend of ours who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was caught early. She’s going to the right hospital. The outcome will be positive.

Today it’s very scary. The “C” word always is.

We’re glad she spoke with us. H and I learned a lot as we moved through the medical industrial complex. There’s a lot of ground we can help her cover more easily.

She is not the first ‘fellow traveler’ I’ve spoken to. There are three of you I’m chatting with on Facebook and Twitter as you or a parent undergoes treatment.

Let’s face it, I’m a good guy to ask. My treatment worked miraculously. Who wouldn’t want this outcome?

Our friend was shy. She didn’t want to intrude or burden us.

It doesn’t work that way. I know how helpful friends and family were to me. Cancer is not a one person job!

So, go ahead. Ask me about cancer.

Fear Of Trimming

The plum tree in happier times, June 2016
One of life’s great pleasures when we moved to Connecticut was growing things. The first 34 years of my life were spent in apartments. Having my own soil was a novel concept.

Here in California we have a very limited space, but amazing growing conditions. If it can’t grow here, it can’t grow.

In fact overzealous plant growth is an actual problem here. Things blossom, bloom and reach for the sky, quickly. I need my plants short and compact.

The first time you cut back a healthy plant to within an inch of its life you shudder. No one wants to kill a plant. But my results have been consistently rewarding. Every plant I’ve chopped has flourished.

Bushes I cut back last year had become leggy. My friend and plant expert Dennis Westler explained the higher growth was shading the lower. Today they’re closer to the ground and fuller. Instead of concentrating growth in increasingly thinner branches the trunk has added girth. It looks stronger.

Plum tree today looking just a little shorter and bare.
In some cases it looks a little scary. This is the second time I’ve cut my plum tree to this height. Actually Stefanie did this cutting, lopping off a good four or five feet a few weeks ago. Today I removed all the suckers, the thin branches coming off the main stem.

It looks very sad. It shouldn’t have any trouble coming back. There will still be some worrying.

We’ve harvested five astoundingly tasty plums from this tree–four this past summer. I’m hoping for more.

Nearly Everything I Know About Live TV I Learned From Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales at WNEW-TV in New York City. Photo by by spykerdarracq

Growing up there was one TV in the Fox apartment. It was tuned to Soupy Sales every afternoon. He was live daily on Channel 5 in New York City. Must see TV for me.

He’s back on TV every day, this time on the thinly carried JLTV, Jewish Life Television. I knew Soupy was Jewish, though it was never part of his schtick.

I watched a few shows and was initially disappointed. This was his late 70s show from KTLA in Los Angeles. Different cast. A little more slick.

And then a Channel 5 episode played.

OMG, he was doing my act! Except he was doing his act. It’s me doing the ripping off.

His whole show was being performed for the crew (and there was lots of crew back then) who could be heard lol’ing pretty regularly. He did a bit and mentioned names. It was the crew’s names and I recognized nearly all of them.

Soupy was constantly breaking the 4th wall, speaking directly to the audience while in the middle of something else. He was fast as he turned and paused to adlib some line then went back to what he was doing.

Soupy did six shows weekly on Channel 5. Monday through Friday were live and Saturday, as I remember, was taped. My guess was they went in with enough material to fill part of a page and hoped for the best. I was wrong.

Though much of the show was formulaic there were a lot of setup/punchline jokes performed by Soupy and Frank Nastasi who played all the other parts including all the arm waving, face hidden, men at the door, two dogs and a hand puppet lion. That stuff had to be written. In 2018 I’m impressed to figure this out.

Impressionable Geoff sat there slack jawed and watched this stuff every day. Soupy taught me how to do live TV. I liked what Soupy did and what’s become more obvious to me now, I copied him.

It’s Called The Hastert Rule

Denny Hastert, formerly House Speaker Denny Hastert, is a pretty disgusting man who went to prison for his deeds, both fiscal and physical. This isn’t about that. The Hastert Rule guides Congress. It’s not a real rule, but a custom which is followed. Here’s Wikipedia’s tl:dr.

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Helaine hates when I write about politics. I beg her forgiveness. This is a subject that’s crazily important and little known. It’s called the Hastert Rule.

Denny Hastert, formerly House Speaker Denny Hastert, is a pretty disgusting man who went to prison for his deeds, both fiscal and physical. This isn’t about that.

The Hastert Rule guides Congress. It’s not a real rule, but a custom which is followed. Here’s Wikipedia’s tl:dr.

The Hastert Rule, also known as the “majority of the majority” rule, is an informal governing principle used in the United States by Republican Speakers of the House of Representatives since the mid-1990s to maintain their speakerships and limit the power of the minority party to bring bills up for a vote on the floor of the House. Under the doctrine, the Speaker will not allow a floor vote on a bill unless a majority of the majority party supports the bill

That means a bill which could pass the House with a consensus of Republicans and Democrats doesn’t reach the floor unless it has support of 51% of the Republican congressmen. It’s why the 35ish members of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus can stall something that could find 35, or more, Democratic replacement votes.

The practical effect is to move the ruling party (I assume the Dems would do the same or similar) farther from consensus, farther from the middle, farther to the right. The acronyms you’re hearing about today: DACA and CHIP could be solved quickly by a majority that already exists! It just seems crazy.

This is politics at its worst because it elevates party over country.

H, don’t be angry.

Look What Stef Found

My first paying job on TV was hosting a one-time special on Channel 48 in Philly, “Popeye’s 50th Birthday Party.” The station went off-the-air not long after. As far as I know there is no tape.

In fact until a few minutes ago I thought I had no remembrance at all. And then Stef found this!

Can you believe I was skinny enough to wear this?

The jacket is 38 years old and vintage now. Stef will be stylish.

The Cost Of Staying Alive

I’ve got the $400 a year. Not everyone does. This is the 21st Century version of being nickel and dimed to death… literally, not figuratively.

Lantus Solostar. I shoot 26 units of this 300 unit pen every day.

I am insured on a Medicare Advantage Plan. I pay for Medicare, but the additional “Advantage” coverage from Blue Shield of California is free to me.

For 2018 they changed their formulary, the list of drugs covered. It’s really got me upset. $400 a year they used to pay for insulin I now pay.

This is a drug I’ll probably be taking until the end of time!

A little background first. My cancer is gone, but there is collateral damage. Whipple surgery removed half my pancreas and left me with Type 2 diabetes.

It’s easily treatable. I take a pill and shoot insulin every day¹. My blood sugar levels (which I check every morning) are in the range I want.

My insulin, Lantus, was a Tier 1 drug, meaning minimal cost. As of January 1 it’s Tier 3. Now it’s $100 every 90 days.

I’ve got the $400 a year. Not everyone does. This is the 21st Century version of being nickel and dimed to death… literally, not figuratively.

“This is why some people have to choose between medicine and food,” Helaine noted.

You would figure insulin, which has been around since the 1920s, would be off patent and cheap. Guess again.

A generic version of insulin, the lifesaving diabetes drug used by 6 million people in the United States, has never been available in this country because drug companies have made incremental improvements that kept insulin under patent from 1923 to 2014. As a result, say two Johns Hopkins internist-researchers, many who need insulin to control diabetes can’t afford it, and some end up hospitalized with life-threatening complications, such as kidney failure and diabetic coma. – Johns Hopkins Medicine

So, the system gets gamed and people who are too ‘rich’ for assistance but too poor to have this extra cash lying around suffer.

Left untreated diabetes will kill you a little bit at a time. Fingers, toes, limbs, eyesight — it’s a shitty disease. No one who needs insulin should be deprived. Insulin is not an option.

We need to find a way to rein in prescription costs, meaning we need laws. That a system exists today which allows drug companies to do this hanky panky is reprehensible. Must every business decision in life and death drugs be totally profit driven?

It’s time for insurance for all, just as we have education, police and fire protection for all. This is what modern nations do in 2018.

¹ – This is not like the shot you get at the doctor’s office. It only needs break the skin, not find a vein. I use needles so tiny, some nights I don’t feel it going in!

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Before long nearly everyone was putting their photos in the album. Google automatically adds tags with the shooter’s name then organizes everything. You can sort by chronological order or just ask for shots with a specific person seen (this is the love part of my love/hate relationship with facial recognition).

The family

My sister and brother-in-law are in town from Milwaukee. So were two of their kids, their spouses and four children¹. They’re renting a house near Disneyland for the week. That’s ten plus the three of us.

Judah and Gabby at MKE
Because Jess and fam were leaving early, much of the ‘big’ stuff was shotgunned into the first few days. By yesterday the remaining visitors were in tail drag mode. What good is vacation if you come home worn out?

Exhibit A: Jessie and Evan’s kids at Milwaukee Airport. See what I mean?

One thing that’s changed on family vacations is the number of photos taken. Everyone totes a smartphone picture taking machine–probably the best camera they’ve ever owned. On this trip five of us took the bulk of the shots.

Software automatically backs up my photos to Google. I clicked a few buttons and put the vaca photos in their own album then shared a link with everyone. Before long nearly everyone was putting their photos and videos in the album.

Nearly everyone! Will this be enough to spark the remaining two?

Google automatically adds tags with the shooter’s name then organizes everything. You can sort by chronological order or just ask for shots with a specific person seen (this is the love part of my love/hate relationship with facial recognition). The photos remain private only to those with the very long and unguessable link.

Jessie, Stef and Melissa

Every day my dad gets to look and see what’s going on. He likes this a lot. We like that too.

There are other places to do albums like we’ve done, but Google is ubiquitous (all of us have Gmail accounts), are the database kings and have a very good track record on security.

Having this album makes all our pictures a whole lot better. This is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And now, fireworks.

¹ – Alas, work has taken my niece Jessie and her family back to Wisconsin. Boo for adult obligations.