Current Events

Generally I write my posts ahead of time and schedule them to launch at midnight of the day in question, but since I’m up at midnight, I figured I’d write one in real time for publishing immediately.

This was an exciting New Year’s Eve. I’m trying to build on my current foreign language skills and pick up Vietnamese, so I spent most of the day working on that. On New Year’s Eve, I did eight Duolingo lessons, three each of Vietnamese and Mandarin Rosetta Stone lessons and read two chapters in Kiêu Hãnh và Định Kiến (Pride & Prejudice in Vietnamese).

I also have started doing the lessons at Codecademy. I don’t know if I’ll learn enough coding there to become employable eventually, but it’s worth a shot.

I can hear the amateur fireworks of my neighbors going off in the distance and hear Ricky Martin singing “Livin’ La Vida Loca” on television as I write this and think about things we can do to make the world (and the United States) a better place  in 2017.

Navy Pier fireworks August 10, 2016

Not my neighbors’ fireworks.

First, be kind. What’s that saying about how everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about? It looks like it was originally said by John Watson, under his pen name of Ian MacLaren, according to the Quote Investigator. So, yeah, do that.

Second, learn something this year. It doesn’t matter what. While I’ve loved my time in school, some of my favorite people are self-educated, and thanks to things like MIT’s OpenCourseWare, there is really no limit to the number of things you can learn for free, or at least for the cost of a textbook. I also love the mission of the University of the People. The University of the People is an accredited university with no tuition fees. Students pay a $60 fee to apply and $100 for every final exam they take. A bachelor’s degree takes around $4000, payable as students finish each class. Even spread out over a long period, $4,000 is a lot of money for some people, so there are also scholarship programs. And since it’s a distance learning school, they have students from all of the world taking classes together.

Third, support serious journalism. There’s so much emphasis on not taking sides in journalism today that people are getting the impression that nothing they do matters. And that’s just not true. There are serious journalists out there not taking sides. Support them. (If someone had told me ten years ago that I would someday subscribe to Vanity Fair magazine to support serious journalism, I would have asked what they were smoking).

Beyond that, be well. Exercise, and eat better than you did in 2016 and take some time off to have fun. Engage in your hobbies and pet the cats (or dogs or lizards or whatever).

My home is in the area where the hail hit on Tuesday, April 12, 2016.  Fortunately, I’m not in Helotes, which is a suburb just outside of FM 1604 (commonly referred to as “Loop 1604”) and was pretty much the hardest hit.  Their H-E-B (a large supermarket chain) and Walmart stores were both closed by hail damage.

However, my father’s and my cars were parked outside and both sustained pretty bad damage.  Fortunately they were under a tree, so it wasn’t as bad as it might have been.  My dad has an appointment to get his damaged glass replaced next week and if that works out as smoothly as the people on the phone promised I’ll be getting my damaged glass replaced soon after that.

Nevertheless, worries about my car, and my roof, and debating whether to make a claim (I finally did so, but I may withdraw it depending on how my dad’s glass replacement works out) took up far more of my mental faculties than I could spare this week.  I’m finally getting it together and finishing up the December 2015 National Geographic, so expect that writeup on April 19 followed by Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on April 21.

Alex and I just returned from looking for the “blood moon.”  It was too cloudy in San Antonio to see it, so I looked at the Clear Sky Chart website and saw that the sky seemed clearer out west on Interstate 10.  It seemed that the farther west you go, the better viewing conditions were, so Alex and I headed west.  We drove until we left the city lights behind and then went even farther west on local roads.

When we finally reached a place where we could see the moon, we put on our hazard lights and pulled over to attempt to take some pictures.  A family in an SUV stopped to make sure we were okay, and we explained what we were up to.  They recommended that we drive even farther out on that road, so we did.

We stopped just about at the maximum of the eclipse and attempted to take some pictures.  I say “attempted to take” because it was still pretty cloudy, so all we got, for the most part, was darkness with a little smudge of light in it.  I am thinking about getting one of those apps that will average them together and perhaps bring the moon out a little more in the pictures, but maybe I will decide that just having made that drive and seen the moon is sufficient.

All I know for certain is that it’s getting towards 11:00 here and I’d better get to bed if I want to get up to see Alex off to school in the morning.

I played around with the edit functions of my phone last night and came up with some kind of image representing the moon that I saw last night. It’s not perfect and, in fact, is kind of blobby looking, but at least it’s visible.

September 27, 2015 Blood Moon

The supermoon eclipse of September 27, 2015, seen from northwest of San Antonio, Texas

Jimmy Carter is my favorite person who has ever held the office of President of the United States.  Just about everything I have heard about him tells what an awesome person he is.  And he is also the only President I have ever met (and he was a sitting President at the time).  Not that he’d remember the meeting.  We were on another trip to Florida (1979, this time, so I haven’t covered the trip in my My Travel Memories topics yet) and we decided to take a side trip to Plains, Georgia, which is President Carter’s home town.  President Carter was in town at the time and we stood with a crowd of gawkers waiting for him to come out of church, of all things.

President Carter came out and my mom grabbed my hand and pushed it through the crowd, yelling for President Carter to shake my hand, which he did.

And now he has metastatic cancer.  All of our heroes have to die eventually, I guess.  90 years is a good run.  He raised his children to adulthood and saw most of his grandchildren grow up.  But I am still distressed by this news. I can only pray that President Carter and his physicians have the wisdom to make the best possible choices for his care.