Thursday, May 16, 2013

Salam

Well, this will be my last blog post before I travel to Egypt--I'm taking my iPad Mini, so it's my hope to be able to blog from there (assuming I get the time). I don't know; I have to take essays and finals with me to grade while I'm there, so between a full itinerary and papers, I might just have my hands full. At the very least I'll be posting photos to Facebook, if you happen to be a Facebook friend of mine.

Naturally I've got the "pre-travel nerves." My tummy's been a little squeamish all week. I do always get nervous before traveling, even within my country, so you can imagine the intensification of that when an international flight is involved. I'm sure the nerves will settle down once I'm at my hotel (with a bad case of jet lag) and luggage safely in hand. We'll be in Cairo for a couple of days, checking out Saqqara and Armana (Ahketaten), then fly to Aswan to see Abu Simbel, then take a three-day cruise up the Nile, stopping off at various temples, and disembarking at Luxor. There we'll spend a few days seeing sites such as the Temples of Karnak and Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Then it's back to Cairo to see the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, and Old Cairo. Should be a busy and exciting two weeks!

In a way, this is a spiritual journey for me; the Ancient Egyptians were, I think, a more advanced civilization than we give them credit for. The mystery schools seem shamanistic in nature, and, like the ancient Maya, they understood cosmology and mathematics well beyond what an "uncivilized" culture would. And the civilization lasted for so long--if you think about it, the first Pharoah, Menes or Narmer, the King who unified Upper and Lower Egypt, is in time further away from the last Pharoah, Cleopatra, than Cleopatra is away from us. Compared to them, America is a mere infant.

So, off I go at first light Saturday morning, flying into the eastern sun to a land full of symbology and hidden mysteries yet to be fully revealed. Salam! Peace profound to you all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Making Mistakes


As Jay Gatsby famously insisted, "Of course you can repeat the past." Well, no you can't. But what you can do is learn from the past. Over the years, I've found that, ultimately, if I don't learn the lessons my mistakes are attempting to teach me, that same lesson will be placed in front of me again.

You can hate your parents or hate your ex or hate people who have mistreated you in some way, but how did those experiences help you grow? What did you take away from the lesson? Truth is, those experiences shape us and build character, and they can be used to make us better people. Some of those lessons are hard learned, but they nevertheless help us grow and give us the wisdom of experience. Forgive yourself.

In this sense, the only real mistake is not learning from our mistakes.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Space Oddity" Covered by Chris Hadfield



How about a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" from outer space? This is Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield aboard the International Space Station.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thank You Lord

Today is one of those days in which, if I were still a drinker, I'd have started in on the hard liquor about a half hour ago and would just keep going until I fell into bed at 10, 11, midnight, 2:00am... however long it would take for me to render myself senseless. Of course, in between, I'd rage. I'd rage at the senselessness of things, I'd rage at God and his terrible non-intervention, I'd rage at all the fucked-up selfish people in this world without realizing the irony of having turned myself into one of them.

First, a student I had not so long ago, a dear, kind-hearted man of 48, who was going back to school to try and get a new lease on life, was removed from life support last night, having been brutally beaten in a bar fight on Monday night. Barney had his issues, and I don't claim to know what they all were. He missed a lot of class. But he had a disability--I never learned what happened--but he didn't have full use of his right arm and hand, and so DSPS insured accommodations were made for him, such as extra test time since he had to write so painstakingly slowly. He had horrible writer's block and anxiety. He would come see me in my office or talk to me after class about his ideas, ideas which were great. He came at the essay prompts with the wisdom of experience and perspective but just didn't have faith in his own ideas or in his ability to express them well. I tried to help him over these fears, but I failed in this, no matter how many pep talks I gave him or how much we outlined the shape his papers might take. He managed to never turn any essays in, so he failed the class. This did not reflect on Barney as a person. He was a decent human being. I liked him.

So, the news that he was a regular at the Lariat Bar on El Camino in Belmont, and he'd been there Monday night with a female friend, and then got into an altercation with a physically fit and healthy 23 year-old--who apparently had something smart-assed to say about Barney's female friend--came as a surprise. After the bar closed down, in the parking lot, the altercation stepped up, and the young man hit Barney in the face so hard he fell to the ground. With Barney down, the young man kept kicking and kicking him, in the face and torso, until Barney was bloody and unconscious. Both eye orbits were broken, along with some vertebrae, and there was bleeding on the brain. Barney was taken to Stanford Hospital and put on life support. And, as I said, they removed life support last night.

The young man has been charged, rightfully so, with murder. I hope he is held without bail and is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Anybody who would beat up a person like that, someone who doesn't even have the physical means to defend himself all that well, is a menace to society, plain and simple. I hurt for Barney and for his kids and for his family and for whoever his female friend that night was. These kinds of things shouldn't happen.

Later on this afternoon, I gave my brother a call, just to check in with him and see how he's doing. I can't recall if I've blogged about him lately or not--but in January, he had a small stroke and it was touch and go there for a while, because his wife had come home from work and found him in a diabetic coma, so at first the doctors thought it was "just" diabetic ketoacidosis. But he was taking a long time to snap out of it, so they did more checks and discovered the stroke as well. All of that was sucky news because my brother had lost his job about a year before due to problems with depression, so he had no health insurance. There was some weird back and forth that went on between the hospital, my brother's wife, and me. The hospital took to calling me for permission to run certain tests because his wife would not give permission, saying that she had told them that my brother and she were separated and kept their finances separate. (News to me.) She did not wish to be responsible for making any medical decisions, so of course the hospital would then call me as next-of-kin. Well, his wife told me the hospital was telling me a lie, that they were not separated. They certainly were still married and living in the same house. Now, they're in Virginia, and I'm in California, and at the time I couldn't have told you what was really going on--because my brother was simply too out of it when I would speak with him on the phone to try and get at the truth.

When I spoke with my brother when he got back home, he sounded much better and basically was staying at home to recuperate and said he was getting around all right and there would be a nurse stopping by every few days to check in on him. He was on the mend.

He's still on the mend. In fact, he sounded better today than he has in some while. But, his wife has left him--she took off three weeks ago. Just couldn't take his illnesses anymore. (He is depressed, he's diabetic, and now it turns out he also needs a pacemaker, and in fairness to her, I'm sure it can't be fun being around a sick, depressed, unemployed person.) Still, that leaves him hanging there with no one to consistently check in on him, and so I worry for him. The good news is, with her no longer actually residing in his home, he now qualifies for a program called Patients First, and so the cost of his medical care will be virtually zero. Thank god, now he can get the care he truly needs. He's got unemployment to collect for a little while longer. Social Security disability had turned him down when he first was let go because they deemed him still able to work. But, now that he's had a stroke and his doctor says he cannot work, I'm encouraging him to reapply for disability. Of course that can take more than half a year to go through. Still, this man religiously paid into the system in payroll taxes for 38 years--he was two years short of full retirement when his job let him go--and for Pete's sake, he is precisely what I thought the system was there for to begin with. But he feels quite iffy about whether Social Security will approve his new claim since he can still at least stand on two feet and talk, even though he slurs now. God love him, he gave up drinking 8 months ago, and has stuck with it. But he's insulin dependent and on psychotropic drugs and has had a stroke and needs a pacemaker: who in the hell is going to hire him?

So I'm kind of disgusted with his wife, with the hoops he's having to jump through just to get the help we pay our taxes for, and yeah, I'm worried that he can't take many more blows to the head, sort of like Barney took, only spread out over months and years instead of all in a matter of minutes.

But I just can't rage anymore. It's not in me. Actually, in a way, I wonder if raging isn't really just a not-so-obvious way of feeling sorry for yourself.

Instead, I wish I had magical powers and could wave a Glinda the Good Witch wand over my brother's head and heal him. I wish I could be like Jesus and Lazarus and call Barney back from the dead. Neither of these things are in my power to do.

If I had my way, I would heal the world of all its pain and ugliness. It is not in my power to do.

I can only do what I can do: send flowers to the funeral home and give my brother as much support as I can. (There are prayers for me to offer up at the healing temple of Kom Ombo, for sure, when I'm in Egypt shortly. Not to the crocodile god Sobek, but to the All There Is--the one god, Cosmic Consciousness, the Divine, however you wish to label god.)

And then there is the gratefulness that descends on me, that I'm blessed with a job, with a wife who loves me (and stuck with me even when I was being a drunk asshole four years ago), and that I'm blessed with good health, a decent health insurance policy and a doctor who cares enough to send me off to Egypt with a Cipro prescription in case I get sick or have a sensitivity to the water (even bottled water you're not used to can be iffy). How small my little problems and concerns are. How lucky I am to be right where I am, here and now.

Mahalo, gracias, shokran, thank you, lord, for the many blessings in my life, and light my way towards helping others receive the grace you've given me.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Sundays: "Summertime"



Well, today is my Friday, and it's gorgeous out--sunny and not too hot--and only one week is left in the semester. So, this seems like an appropriate song to post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thought for the Day


Or, as Eleanor Roosevelt put it, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Good Luck on This Messy Derby Day!

LMAO!

Well, let's be real. The Derby is a total crapshoot, and the track is sloppy as heck despite being sealed.

Anything can happen. But here is my crazy trifecta ticket (mostly placed just for shiz and giggles, much as I did a "minority" exacta boxing Rosie with Kevin). The only two horses I really have much faith in are Revolutionary and Orb, although I did hear today that Overanalyze also likes the slop. So I did another trifecta box with those three (3, 9, 16).

I also did a Pick 4 for races 8-11 that I hope performs better than yesterday's, but really so far there have already been some upsets, and I can't fault anybody for just playing names and numbers in this mess.

Here's the Pick 4:

Race 8: 3, 4, 5
Race 9: 2, 4, 8, 9
Race 10: 8, 9
Race 11: 3, 8, 14, 16

On Derby Day, for our party, we also have a tradition of betting the entire field and then divvying up the tickets among those attending. That way, somebody here at the party will win.

Good luck, gamble responsibly, and take it easy on dem mint juleps, y'all.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Kentucky Derby Picks: Clueless!

Well, my picks for today sucked.

I swear I jinx myself whenever I post a ticket.

So all I'm going to say is that two of the horses in the Derby field, Revolutionary and Orb, are particularly bred for running in the slop, and Revolutionary has won over a sloppy track. So I'll definitely play those two.

And, I have to root for Kevin Krigger (aw, c'mon, I watched the kid at Emerald Downs, and then come down to Golden Gate Fields, and then finally to SoCal). I'd also be a disgrace to my sex if I didn't root for Rosie.

Other possibilities in what, to me, is shaping up to look like a total crapshoot are Normandy Invasion, Itsmyluckyday, and Verrazano.

Could also be worth it to just bet to win any horse with odds over 20-1.

In short, I'm clueless. Honestly, I'll have to see how the track is playing and whether the rain stops and things start drying out before I make any final decisions.  If I have any great epiphanies, I'll post more tomorrow, but at the moment, this is all I got, peeps.

Oaks Day Late Pick 4

Race #8    05/03/2013
Churchill Downs
$0.5 Pick-4
# 3,11,14
WT # 7,8,9
WT # 4,5
WT # 2,4,8,11
$36.00
 
 
That's my ticket, peeps. 
 
Update on tomorrow's Kentucky Derby: the #1, Black Onyx, is a scratch, so the field will be 19 horses instead of 20. Also, the track is expected to be wet. Throw out that Dubai horse, Lines of Battle, for sure. Another thing to note: with the scratch of the #1, that leaves only one horse between Calvin Borel and the rail, so everybody knows what that means. I think we can expect Revolutionary to get bet down, and Rosie's horse will be bet down as well just because so many of us chicas will be pulling for her. 
 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kentucky Oaks

Well, there is so much speed in this race that it sets up nicely for the likely favorite, Dreaming of Julia. That is, if she can catch Baffert's speedy filly, Midnight Lucky. Both of these are likely to sit just off the pace.

Unlimited Budget might get up for a piece, and Beholder, Rose to Gold, and Close Hatches may hang on for a piece. If you have deep pockets, you might toss in Silsita, too, as she is improving, but then again her worst race ever was on dirt.

I will probably use Julia and Lucky in the one-two spots and Oaks-Derby Double.

My superfecta will be 2,8/2,8/3,4,11/3,4,11. There will be no dime superfectas, so that's about as rich as I'm willing to go.

Good luck!

Added: For the Oaks-Derby double, since I'm doing favorites in the Oaks, I'm going to pass on favorites in the Derby. I think Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, and Goldencents have a decent shot, although yeah... Orb is the horse to beat.