I know it’s been quite a while since I put together a blog. We’re in Texas right now. Arlyne and I visited San Diego (and Los Angeles) (and the San Francisco Bay Area) for a little over a month. We spent a week house-sitting for son David while he and his family were in Hawaii. I got a chance to play golf with my nephew Alberto who bombs the ball but not always straight. And we always set up our doctor’s appointments for the time we’re here. It’s been a long round of appointments this month for our primary physician, eye doctors, heart doctors and others. It was mostly just checkups this time, except for one story, which I’ll get to at the end.
I went to our Captains of Industry luncheon (for my former Cubic colleagues) after nearly a year and had a great time. A couple more guys have retired and I guess that’s good. I still miss the problem-solving we used to engage in……cost estimates, design work, working in the government contract business. I still like to solve problems but they’re quite different. I like it when my daughter or my son asks me technical questions. I don’t have ALL my skills anymore but I have some of them.
I really enjoyed visiting with Al and Susan Falk in Los Altos. I hired Allen some 40+ years ago when we lived in the Bay Area. I have never been very good at interviewing prospective engineers but I won the lottery with Al. Have a great retirement guys.
Gun Violence. The world has seen a cluster of gun violence incidents since I last wrote something here. What’s going on? Is this really something new? The Navy yard and Kenya shopping mall tragedies and others are appalling. How can anyone think that a grievance can be solved by going to a mall or a theater or another country to kill innocent people? Is it massive stress? It’s very rare for violence like this to actually change anything. In fact, it never does. I think a lot of gun violence (mostly international) is done by young people who need a job that provides them food and money. Gun violence takes very, very little training and can be perpetrated by completely illiterate people. Do you know what animal is the most dangerous on earth? A male human between 15 and 25 years old.
My son has taken up his own torch for reducing gun violence. He is active in his community regarding prevention of gun violence. I have discussed this issue with him and I marvel at how logical and rational he is. He has three kids in his family and is understandably nervous about sending them to school (or anywhere else). Like me, he knows that the United States will always have legal gun ownership. He is a proponent of the Just Ask program and improved background checks, just as I am. I don’t want to take guns away from legal owners but I am against lead ammunition (copper and steel are better for the environment) and for more and stronger background checks. Is it OK for someone’s friend or family member to legally purchase a gun and then simply give it to someone who wouldn’t be able to pass a background check? It appears that this happens all the time.
The Trucker Incident. An incident happened on our way back to Austin that left me angry and embarrassed. We were driving our motorhome and passing through Ehrenberg, CA in the middle of the day. We pulled into a gas station to stretch our legs and parked near a group of big diesel trucks. I was just walking around when a man excitedly approached me saying that a trucker and his wife had just won $180,000 in the local casino. I should go over and see him. I saw 8 or 9 guys standing by a truck about 100 feet away, laughing, having a good time. The guy said the winner was probably going to retire and I should go shake his hand. I thought, OK I can do that. Arlyne was walking on the other side of the motorhome.
I went over to the group of guys, noticed that one guy had a fistful of $100 bills and was happy as can be. There was a circle of guys around him, talking and laughing. One guy told me the guy and his wife had just won $120,000 at the casino. (Strange……wasn’t I just told it was $180,000??) I reached over and shook his hand and congratulated him. (now, don’t get suspicious yet, I wasn’t) At this point, no one was even looking at me…..I was just an observer, standing back, not actually involved. The guy next to me pointed to the casino winner and told me he was holding $60,000 cash in his hand. Then the circle of guys sort of opened up and I saw three cards in a small box. The lottery “winner” was doing a shell game of sorts by shifting the cards around and asking someone to pick out the red king, thereby winning $100. He announced that “management” told them they had to do it this way. I was still just an observer at the back of the circle but I was certainly able to pick out the red king every time. The guy next to me gave me one of the $100 bills to hold. It was quite new. Now normally I don’t hear voices but a little voice in my head told me the colors in the bill were awfully bright but I don’t normally see this denomination.
Then, suddenly, the “winner” said this giveaway was “only for truckers”. He looked up at me and asked “Do you have a rig?” Another trucker, standing next to me, said “Yeah, he has a rig, he’s OK.” The “winner” then looked at me and asked “Are you broke?” No, I’m not broke, I said. “You got any money”, he asked. “Let’s see it.” The hair on the back of my neck started to rise about then. I started to reach for my wallet when the light came fully on. All of a sudden I realized that the focus of the group was now on ME and no longer on the “winner”. It seemed that MY money was going to be in play here. This whole affair only took a very few minutes. I took five backward steps, turned around and fast-walked back to the motorhome. They all yelled at me to come on back. I never looked. When I saw Arlyne, she was wondering what the hell I was doing over by the trucks. It seems the initial guy I met had been engaging Arlyne in a loose conversation about our motorhome, keeping her busy. I said, let’s get out of here and we both jumped in the motorhome and took off.
As we looked over to the trucks, everyone was gone, melted back into the trucks. I felt stupid for having been sucked in as far as I was. I wanted to tell those a-holes they were a-holes, should be arrested for being a-holes and should be in a-hole jail. I couldn’t believe how many guys were in on this scam and how orchestrated it was. It was rehearsed and polished. I guess it’s not so amazing, in these desperate economic times, that people will try everything. As I said, it took a minute but at least I got away without damage. I was a pretty cynical guy before, but this incident has changed my attitude. I’ll always have trouble trusting people from now on.
We felt a little better after Arlyne got on her smart phone and sent an email to Love’s, the gas station owner, describing the events. She got a pretty quick response from the corporate offices, thanking her for her information and saying they had forwarded her email to the manager of the facility in Ehrenberg. We don’t know if they actually did, but at least we felt better.
Tossed out of the Market. We were in San Diego checking out a Mexican market and I liked the way they displayed their vegetables. I was taking pictures with my phone when a manager came over and said “You can’t do that.” I asked why and he said “You could be a competitor.” I couldn’t imagine this was a serious charge but I stopped taking photos anyway. Hope you like my clandestine market pictures.
The Biopsy. As promised, I’m going to relate the story of my prostate. I know, this isn’t a popular subject but perhaps some men would find it of some interest. Blood testing indicated that my PSA (prostate specific antigen) number has been going up steadily for about a year. A urologist in San Diego asked me what I wanted to do and we agreed on “watchful waiting” so Arlyne and I went to Washington to work at the museum. When we got back to San Diego, the PSA number had gone up again so I agreed on a biopsy. I won’t go into detail about the very uncomfortable procedure but I think the doctor used a BB-gun. I said to him “You know, doctor, to most of us men, the prostate is an abstract concept. We know we have one but we don’t think about it. However, now I know exactly where it is and exactly how it feels.”
The Results. It turns out that all 12 samples of the biopsy were benign, so I guess I’m good to go (for now). From my study of the prostate and discussions with physicians, the PSA test is unreliable, the digital exam is unreliable and prostate biopsies are controversial. I believe the PSA number went up due to a medication I was taking. But I wonder what we’re supposed to do? At least I’m old enough that something else will probably get me anyway.
Possible Future Plans. We are investigating volunteering as bird/wildlife guides at Laguna Atascosa NWR next fall. We are also looking strongly at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico for early next year. Another possibility is McKinney Fall State Park here in Austin. We also want to go to Costa Rica for three months, possibly early 2015. We’ll just have to see.
Birds. In case you miss seeing our bird photos, here are a couple of our favorite pics we took some time ago. See you next time.