A Morning of Mourning

Wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a hockey jersey, I sat out in the morning air waiting for the sunrise.  I gave myself that hour before I would wake up my family and give them the news.

One of my earliest memories was my dad driving us down the Long Island Expressway on a cold, dark, night in the late 1960s.   My half-sister, Liz was sitting on the middle (hump) of the back seat of the black Cadillac and I had my feet up against the side of the car and my head rested in her lap  (that tells you how little I was).  I laid there as Liz stroked my hair, comforting me.  It had been a long day and I was “little kid” tired.  I remember dark sky discolored by the reflections of the lights bouncing off the snow laden clouds and then I fell asleep.
As I sat reflecting this morning, I checked my iTunes and couldn’t find the Doors, so I had to go to Spotify to put “Waiting for the Sun” on repeat.  I thought about the lady I sat next to last Friday on a flight from Minneapolis to Denver.  She told me of the medical problems that her son had since birth.   I told her about little man with the beautiful smile we lost to cancer back in 2010. Then  I told her about Liz and her bout with cancer.  I told her of the aggressive tumor and how my father, now in his late 80’s was taking her for chemo.  It was the first time I really spoke about Liz’s condition.  This lady’s compassion for my father was striking.
Probably 15 years ago, after not seeing Liz for quite a number of years, I stayed over at my Dad’s house.  Liz was always an early riser and I found her sitting on the side of my bed waking me up to ask me if I was a Christian.  Dazed, I remember telling her, “I’m a good little Catholic boy”.  Christ was very important to Liz.

I woke up early this morning about 4:45am like someone had simultaneously turned on all the lights in the house.  I got up and made my way to the living room.  I had called my dad a few times yesterday to check on Liz but wasn’t able to reach him.  She was hospitalized after an infection set in following her last chemo.  I knew my half-brother had headed to see Liz, so I sent him a message on WhatsApp before I went to bed.   This morning there was a message from him at 2:56am saying that “Liz passed away just now“.

I went outside to feel the cool air on my skin.  I negotiated with myself for a while, but once it was irrefutable that  the sun was up, I went in and told my wife.   Then we told my daughter.  That was when I lost it.   We just saw Liz less than a month ago on a visit to New York. We arrived just after she completed a chemo session, so we didn’t want to stay to long, but we got to say hello, or goodbye as it turns out. I had to go into work today, not out of any obligation, but I needed something to focus on and focus I did though I found myself struggling with my role as a half-sibling.  I struggled with the memories that came back.   Siblings, you know them your (or their) entire life.  

My wife checked in on me later in the day.   Last week I saw a really neat card about Angels being all around us.   I picked it up and made a point to mail it to my daughter before leaving for the airport.   Was it coincidence that the angel card arrived on the day Liz died?   It just reminded me that everything happens according to God’s plan, and even when we don’t know, we know.

Rest in Peace Elizabeth Marie Herrera.

Downton Abbey Social Media Etiquette!

“You have a straight forward choice before you. You must choose either death or life.” ~ The Dowager Countess

Downton Abbey begins its 5th season this weekend. Let us take this opportunity to review the first rule of Downton Abbey Social Media etiquette, shall we?

Do not under any circumstances share any element of the plot until at minimum six weeks after the season has ended in America.

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There are many exceptionally passionate Downton Abbey viewers.  A few of these people  watch the show live; some like me, DVR and watch the show within a day or so and there are some download the show weeks and months later on iTunes. Civilized people never use social media disclose major plot complications or character situations until EVERYONE has had a reasonable chance to watch the episode because one never knows who, upon hearing an unwanted disclosure….will shank you.

I was in Ireland when I saw the episode where Lady Sybil died.  I didn’t quite know what to do.  There was nobody to talk to about it.  I couldn’t Facebook about it as cousins and friends from High School would react badly.  I resigned myself to either taking the news to my grave or waiting five months for the episode to air in the US before, whichever came first.  When Matthew died in the car crash, It was all, “Who Shot J.R.”, but oh crap, who doesn’t know yet.  I swallowed that information like it was a mortal sin.

Things like, “Oh good Shirley MacLaine is back” , is a cool thing to tweet, and  “I can’t believe they killed Matthew” will get you eviscerated by your closest friends and beloved family members.

Questions?

Happy viewing, people!

Constitutional Protections and Ferguson, IL

It struck me that in the moment pictured below, the concepts of freedom of speech,  Illegal search and seizure, due process, the guarantee of jury trial and right to counsel are only as powerful a shield as the people holding the weapons believe them to be.

CNN Photo from Ferguson

Photo by Getty Photographer Scott Olson

As a postscript to this post, Getty photographer Scott Olson who took the photograph above was arrested today, 18-August.

I Ran Tonight

It was just a little 5.0 kilometer run, that’s all that it was, but oh what it meant to me.

It was the first time that I have run twice in three days since last March.

I’ve run intermittently since the Big Sur Marathon, but for the most part I have been trying to let this messed up knee and calf heal themselves.

Conditioning has been lost (passive voice).   I finished the run this evening a good six minutes slower than my PR last October.  That was humbling.  On the plus side, it’s the fastest that I have finished a non-race situation since March.   Is the glass half empty or half full?

I have a race I want to try to run on Labor day.  It’s short (5.3 miles), but difficult bridge run.   I know my legs can do it, I’m just not sure my lungs can.

More will be revealed I guess.

Take care and be great.

Foursquare and Swarm: When Good Apps Turn Bad

Throughout the modern App era, Foursquare is the App that I have continuously used more than any other. Before I had a Twitter App and long before I had a Facebook App, Foursquare was my favorite.

I frequently travel for work.  In the early days,  I checked in on Foursquare so my wife would know where I was.  She still to this day gets nervous if she doesn’t hear from me for more than a day. During a recent two-week trip,  there were three days where, other than my hosts, nobody in the world, myself included, knew where I was in within Japan.   There is something nice about being able to push a button and log a location.

Had forgotten that I had been in this Starbucks Until This Reminder

Had forgotten that I had been in this Starbucks Until This Reminder

I liked having Foursquare track which airports, train stations and even Chinese Starbucks I have been to.  I liked knowing which of my tweeps had previously checked in at the place I was standing.  I also liked seeing when people checked in at places like Yankee Stadium, The Coliseum on Long Island, Jamaica Train Station, a mall in Dubai, Heathrow Airport, or even LAX.  The fact that Foursquare was one of the few early apps based out of my home state New York also made it special to me.

I have been known to leave Easter Egg Tips for specific friends at airports. I had one friend at a different company who found a tip with his name in it almost 3 years after I left it.  I was fat dumb and happy with Foursquare for the longest time,

UNTIL…..

There was that first incident, where the wife of President of Foursquare snuck into the Boston Marathon using a fake bib.   Several of my runner/Foursquare friends dropped the app after that event.  I really didn’t want to give  up my favorite app over that incident, but I thought about it.

THEN……. in the recent weeks, Foursquare migrated the check-in features to a new spinoff app called Swarm.  So now I have one app, Swarm with all the check-in and friend following features of the legacy Foursquare program and today, the legacy Foursquare program transmogrified into something akin to Yelp.  I was disgruntled but begrudgingly accepting of these updates.  The whole thing felt very “New Coke“, circa, 1985.

THEN…….

In the past few days, one of my Tweeps started checking in at sites around Southern California on Swarm.   They were down in the area on vacation with their family.  I noticed that yesterday they checked in down in Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach.   Today I noticed that Swarm was reporting them as last seen in Huntington Beach, then in Costa Mesa and Anaheim.  What was odd to me was that it was updating her location, but this person wasn’t checking in.  Then I was shocked to realize what was happening, IT WAS BROADCASTING THEIR LOCATION WITHOUT THEM HAVING CHECKED IN!

When Apps Tell Where You Are

When Apps Tell Where You Are

It really took me a while for all the piece for come together for me (granted, I wasn’t thinking too hard about it in the moment), but the app was broadcasting to their friends (and who knows who else)  where they were as they made their way from the Beach Cities up the freeway and on their way home.   I checked my own version of Swarm and sure enough, there was a checkbox I had to hit to stop broadcasting my location to the world.

My preferred Privacy Options for Swarm

My preferred Privacy Options for Swarm

NOW…..

I feel stupid.  Normally, if I were to download a new app, I would be careful to check what information it has permission to and what it is allowed to broadcast.   Because this app came from a company that I trusted for so very long, I let my guard down.    With that violation of my trust, I deleted the legacy Foursquare App off my phones.   I still have Swarm, but it’s on a really short leash.

We Won’t Be Fooled Again!!!

 

I found this parody of the whole Swarm/Foursquare thing on YouTube.  Enjoy

 

The Summer of ’69

It’s could have been what is happening in Gaza, maybe I heard Brian Adam’s “Summer of ’69” at the gym yesterday or maybe it was this weeks episode of NYMed. I am not sure exactly what stream of consciousness brought me to flash on memories of the New York bombing in the summer 1969.

I was but a little kid, but I remember my fear after seeing the news stories. I remember kids talking about it on the playground at kindergarten and adults not talking about it all when kids were around. I distinctly remember thinking that the bombings were in New York City and not on Long Island, where I was, so I was safe. I, like much of America was afraid that summer.

As I did some research last night, it turns out that today, coincidentally marks the 45th anniversary of the first of eight bombing starting with the United Fruit Company warehouse at the Grace Pier on the Hudson River. Samuel Melville was convicted of setting those bombs between July 27 and November 12. Melville was sentence to 13 to 18 years and was killed during the Attica prison riots 1971.   Could you imagine a guy blowing up 8 buildings including The Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre Street and getting less than 20 years?

The New York Times reported that,

The 1969 bombings were part of a wave of similar episodes across the nation that spurred fear and anxiety. (One study found that from January 1969 to October 1970, there were about 370 bombings — most of them minor — in New York, an average of more than one every other day.

The hearing, part of an investigated led Senator John L. McClellan, Democrat of Arkansas, concluded that from January 1969 to April 1970, the United States sustained 4,330 bombings — 3,355 of them incendiary, 975 explosive — resulting in 43 deaths and $21.8 million in property damage. “

I remember my mom once told me that a bomb went off near her when she was getting out of a cab near Penn Station.  I didn’t want to believe her; I wanted her to be lying.

On this day there are more children living amid bombings.  All I can do today is send prayer out on their behalf and hope that they live lives where they just don’t remember or at best vaguely remember this horrible period in their history, the way I vaguely remember the New York bombings in mine.

La Fête Nationale

Happy Bastille Day, 2014!

It’s been 225 years since the storming of the Bastille, the French State Prison. The Bastille’s guards surrendered even though they outgunned the mob of less than 1000 who sought gunpowder for their empty muskets.

The Bastille symbolized Louis XVI’s absolute power and its fall to the people was equally symbolic.  After the fall, the French Revolution spread throughout France.

The events of that day in 1789 were attributed to abuses of Louis XVI and perceived threats to the promised French Constitution. An economic crisis resulting from government over-extension and over-taxation contributed. The big difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution as that the French middle-class also wanted to own land and vote.

Although not a holiday that is normally observed in the United States, it’s always wise to be aware of the observances of other cultures and religions.

So on this day, let’s open a bottle of French wine, lift a glass to Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (brotherhood).    Maybe, let us eat cake, too.

Peace, people!

The Center of Your Universe

Here’s the thing, when the world gets to be too much

I imagine it as a bubble collapsing tightly around me.

I won’t get  claustrophobic because inside the bubble is the universe of my mind

which is boundless.

The problem with being in a boundless universe of a mind is that it is so very easy to get lost.

That’s why we need an anchor:  A person that mirrors where the center of your universe is.

Our center is where our beliefs vibrate as true and all the other belief systems (BS) just fade away.

When you are at your center, you know it.  It vibrates true at just the right frequency.

You see truth and you see that which is false.

There is so much false.

 

May you find your center and may it be a peaceful and simple place.

Travel Day – Visit to Mt. Takao (Takao-San)

Travel Day 26 of 2014 found me in Tokyo on a rainy Sunday morning.  This was one of two rest days on this two-week trip.  On my agenda today was a hike up Mt Takao (Mt. Takaosan) about 50km outside of Tokyo.   My hosts earlier in the week suggested that hiking up Mt. Takao would have been better prior to the start of the rainy season.   Unfortunately, I was there during the rainy season.

The early morning rain had me wondering if I should do something else this day, but anything else would have been a failure to do what I set out to.   In my mind it was better to travel to Mt. Takao and to fail to climb it than to do anything else that Tokyo had to offer (I limit myself that way).  Besides, as I had told people who I would be climbing Mt. Takao, to do otherwise, pardon the West Side Story reference, would label me, “lousy”.

View from the Takaosanguchi Train Station

Mt. Takao Sign at the Shinjuku Station on the Keio Line

I had seen a YouTube video describing how to get to Mt. Takao from Shinagawa station, near where I was staying.  It was inaccurate.  When I arrived in Shinagawa station, I found I had to go to Shinjuku station to catch the Keio train line.   It turns out there are two ways to get from Shinjuku station to Mt. Takao train station.   One can either take a local train to Kitano Station and then switch for Takaosanguchi station or if it’s running , there is a semi-express train to Takaosanguchi station.   If you have the option, take the 50 minute semi-express train to and from Takaosanguchi.  Even if you have to wait 20 or 30 extra minutes, take the semi-express instead of the local trains, they are much faster.

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When I stepped off the train in Takaosanguchi, I was definitely no longer in Tokyo, the city was replaced by a small town surrounded by trees.   I gained an immediate appreciation for the dense forest that Japan was a long time ago.   The trees here are tall, narrow and centuries old you can feel it when you look at them.

Upon leaving the train station, one sees the sign from the internet that presents all the routes.  One the top of the mountain, there is a statue of a white horse.  It was my goal to try to make it to the horse, but I knew I only had at best a 25% chance given the rainy weather, the distance and the nature of the climb.

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The Map of the Various Trails on Mt. Takao

The path up the hill starts immediately after the train station.   After a few hundred meters, one has the option of paying 480 yen to take the cable car up first part of the mountain.  Part of me wanted to take the hike up, but I also realized that I was about an hour behind where I wanted to be and a hike to the top of the mountain was going to be a draining climb in the rain.  The cable car was the smarter choice to start the journey.

The Cable Car at Mt. Takao

The Cable Car at Mt. Takao

The cable car took me up to about 1000ft.   The air was clean, crisp and of course wet.  The energy on the mountain was soothing.  It was calm and serene.  Later on that week someone I was meeting with compared it to Sedona.  He was right.   I felt peaceful there.

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A  Shinto temple sits about 3/4 of a mile out from the cable car. There is a grace and an elegance in the small shrines that line the way to the huge temple.

On the way to the Shintu Temple

On the way to the Shinto Temple

I took way too many pictures and videos to post here, so I will leave you with this one.

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Once you pass the shrines, the real hike begins. I brought my Garmin with me just so I could capture the elevation change over this hike. On these trails, you are either climbing or descending. There isn’t a whole lot of flat.

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After the temple, I did not see another sign in English.  You have to either have someone with you who speaks Japanese or be very well prepared.  I had a huge case of neither.  I found myself at one point at a juncture between three trails.  I took one that I thought lead to the top.  It dead-ended with a beautiful view of a nearby city.  I enjoyed the scenery for a long time (for me) and then doubled back.   I had to make a choice between two trails both clearly marked in Japanese.  The path I took would not take me to the top of Mt. Takao.

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The Last Sign with English

I climbed man, I climbed.  At one point I got into this amazing rhythm going up the steps.  I felt like I was born for this climb.  Maybe it was that runner mentality, but I just wanted to keep going.
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The path was nicely manicured, though muddy and slippery after several days of rain. I fell once and covered by jeans and water repellant jacked in red mud.  The rain wasn’t as bad as the 94% humidity when it wasn’t raining.  I was cold and then later once the rain stopped, I was warm.   At one point I was climbing and drenched when I realized that it hadn’t rained in about an hour.  Yep, this moisture soaking me, was all me.

I saw a little rest stop overlooking the valley and I decided to take a break.  As I took my pack off, I realized how hard my heart was beating and how hard the blood was rushing through my body.   I sat and looked out over trees. 

The great thing about being alone is you can go whichever way you want to without asking anyone what they want to do.  The downside is that there nobody to share it with.   I checked my phone and found there was signal, so I Facetimed home so I could show Laura where I was.   That call probably cost a fortune in roaming data fees, but it was worth it (we’ll see when the bill shows).

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Eventually the path turned wooden.  The planks above started for some reason in the middle of the trail, I don’t know why.  They started at the exact point where I realized that it was time to turn back.  I didn’t want to turn back, so I kept going a little bit longer.

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The Turnaround Point

I came to the sign pictured above about 20 minutes after my turn around alarm went off.   I was a little hungry (I had eaten most of my supplies), but I still had water and lots of energy and I was feeling strong and wanted to keep going up those stairs.  It felt right to just keep going, but it was past time and a lot of things could go wrong so I headed back down the wooden stairs.

At one point, I was about to start a climb up a few hundred steps when another hiker came out of the woods to my right.  There was a narrow trail that I figured would save me from having to make this climb.  It was a great little path and I was doing fine, until it dead ended.  I circled the area around the dead-end several times and checked everything that could have been a trail.   I really didn’t want to double back and then take on that steep climb.   I saw a small scramble up the side of the steep climb.  It wasn’t frequently used, but it had been used.   It was steep, muddy and required hands and feet to get up, but a good 150 feet or so later, I was back on the main trail and working my way back to the temple.

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More Stairs

 

Despite the fact that I didn’t want to take the tram down, at 4pm, it seemed the smart choice.  I bought my tram ticket and enjoyed my last moments on the mountain.

On a clear day, you can stand on Mt. Takao and see over Tokyo all the way to Mt. Fuji. After the clouds broke, this was the best view I was able to see. It was good enough.
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The people who I met with the rest of the week were impressed with the fact that I climbed Mt. Takao, even if I didn’t get to the top.   It was a great experience, one I hope to repeat one day soon.

And I want to get to the top.

Travel Day 19: Osaka – Nothing teaches gratitude like not being able to do what one enjoys.

Happy Friday People!

Travel day 19 of 2014 had me waking up at 4:30am in Osaka, Japan after a typical Japanese business dinner.   Japanese sake has no preservatives, so one doesn’t wake up with a headache.  It took about 6 hour and a lot of baby aspirin to relieve the headache I didn’t have.

The meeting for the day took up about four very intense hours and then we went out for lunch (more sushi).  After that, I was free to go back to my hotel.  I packed my bags for tomorrows train trip and decided to take a walk to the nearby Nike Store.

Because it is so humid, I put my running clothes and strapped on my Garmin to take it on a test run.  My Garmin has miraculously recovered from whatever problems it had on Monday when I was in China.  Were I a conspiracy theorist, I would think that maybe the PRC doesn’t want people using unauthorized tracking tools, but that would just be nonsense (This is why they don’t give me access to WordPress in China).

Seems Clear Enough

Streets are a No Smoking Zone

Very quickly, my walk became a run. This was the second run this week and the second since the Big Sur Marathon. I didn’t think the calf would be ready to run again, but it was.    I was able to take some big long strides down the streets of Osaka for as long as my diminished fitness would allow.  It felt wonderful to open up and be able to take a full stride.  City running is fun, except for all the stopping at red lights.

It was about 3km to the Nike Store where I found a few things for the family.  I spent like a billion yen, I’m not sure how much that is in dollars, but I am sure I will hear [it] from my wife the transaction post tomorrow.

One the way home, I saw a Starbucks with a sign for a Marble Carmel frappuccino with JELLY.  Yes, chunks of jelly IN the drink.   Although I am usually a person who goes for the skinny drinks, this had to be tested and it was oh so fun to suck up the jelly.

A Jelly Cappuchino

A Jelly frappuccino and Tiramisu

I think it might have been better as a peanut and jelly frappuccino, but what do I know?  I also had a piece of tiramisu.  Don’t judge, I’ve eaten according to everyone elses rules this week.  In China, one does not eat all the food on the plate at is potentially awkward for the host.  In Japan, one eats whatever is put in front of one whether it is still moving or not.   This was a chance to have just a little moment of self-determination in a week of being a perpetual guest.

As I walked out of Starbucks the skies opened and the rain poured down in buckets.   I ran into a nearby Apple Store to check out the inventory.  It was interesting to see a Japanese Genius Bar and all the users all nicely queued up.

As the storm passed, I made my run back to the hotel.  Surprising the knee and calf did not tighten up as they have during the past six months.  Perhaps this time off from running is helping them recover.   Nothing teaches gratitude like not being able to do what one enjoys.

Siesta in Osaka

Siesta in Osaka

It’s about 7:30pm now. I am packed and ready to hit the road in the morning. I have back to back phone calls with California and Europe starting at 10pm tonight.  But first, I need some dinner.  There is a sushi bar across the street that makes a nice presentation of some good sushi.  As presentation is very important here in Japan, I thought I would share how my dinner was presented.

Presentation of my take-out

Presentation of my take-out

If nothing else, the first work week is over. Tomorrow is a travel day and if the cooperates, Sunday will be a really awesome day.

Peace People!