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Medication.

I went to my primary physician today for a routine checkup. As a middle-aged man on blood pressure medicine, it’s probably good to make sure things are functioning as expected on a routine basis, and today was the day for that endeavor.

I don’t really care for my doctor. He is a replacement. A year ago, the doctor I had been seeing for two decades gave his shared practice two weeks notice and he retired somewhere down south. He left no forwarding address and the folks left behind don’t speak well of him leaving. His patients were divided up between the two remaining doctors.

The first time I went to the new doctor he didn’t bother to come in that day, despite pleas from the desk clerk letting him know that he already had the first patients of the day waiting in the waiting room, and I was one of those people.

Anyway, I went in today feeling pretty good. I’ve stepped up my regular exercise. I’ve lost a few pounds since my last visit and I was in a sunny mood. The drive was pleasant, the desk clerk was relatively friendly and the wait was short.

The nurse ushered me in, did the routine vitals and such. She called out all my numbers as she assessed me. Saving blood pressure for last, she used my right arm for the task and then gave me an alarming look.

“138 over 92”.

Now, that’s fairly high as far as normal folk go but it’s considerably lower than it was two years ago. Her look said, “Your head is going to explode at any moment” and followed up her alarming look with a gaze of disapproval. I told her of my tendency to have white coat syndrome, where my blood pressure is always high on the first try but comes down considerably on the second reading. She told me she’d leave that up to the doctor.

The doctor, a heavy-set man that has a hard time walking and breathing at the same time, plopped down in the chair and started rattling the keys on the keyboard. After confirming my birthdate, he informed me that my blood pressure was high and that it was obvious that my current medication wasn’t cutting it. He was prescribing another med to go on top of what I had. I asked him to take my blood pressure again, because I had just checked it this morning at home and it was 126/84. He told me he had a good reading the first time and he went about pounding on the keyboard, prescribing some sort of medication that would make me pee more. He asked me a few questions and I responded in monosyllabic, irritated sounding grunts. He walked over, pounded on my stomach a few times and told me to come back in a month. He shook my hand on the way out.

It was at that moment that I decided that 1. I needed a new doctor immediately and 2. I wasn’t ever going to see this man again.

Now, as I get older I understand that I’m going to need a little more care and maintenance to keep this masterpiece running in tip top shape. I don’t mind getting my oil changed once in a while. But as the driver of this vehicle, I know what works and what doesn’t and I really don’t appreciate a doctor that doesn’t listen to me.

By the way, when I got home my blood pressure was up, it was 128/86. I fully blame him for it.

It’s obvious that we’ve become a culture that throws medication at symptoms rather than getting to the root of the problem. I know the root of the problem, I need to shed 30 pounds, I need to cut salt out of my diet and I need to considerably ramp back the caffeine I consume on a daily basis. (I’m drinking an iced tea as I type this blog entry).

But my body is my temple and it deserves more than throwing more chemicals at it. Either I’m going to Tibet for a full physical, psychological and colonic cleanse or I’m going to find a family physician that is willing to work WITH me as their patient instead of throwing medication at me.

My temple is going to be back in tip top shape on my terms.

Relaxed.

My career allows me to travel on a semi-regular basis.  I’m not traveling for work this weekend, but I am on my way to North Carolina to visit friends. I’m currently sitting at DTW Detroit Metro Airport. I’m in the middle of a three hour layover. Normally I’d use this opportunity to get a massage at a place similar to Xpress Spa, but I decided to relax in a different fashion this evening.


I’m sitting in the Delta Sky Club for the first time in my life. Totally worth it.

The open bar is self serve. The cookies are plentiful. There is unsweetened tea with lemon. A woman to my right is doing decoupage. She might be building a piñata. I don’t really know. I’ve had a couple of drinks and she could be really knitting or dancing a jig. How do women get knitting needles onto an airplane but I can’t bring my safety razor in my carry-on? A guy has to look good when he lands.

The kids to my left look like your typical rich kids, however, if they were rich kids they’d be on Daddy’s private jet, not sitting in a Delta lounge. Thusly, logic dictates that they are really well-outfitted suburban kids. They probably play tennis.

On my flight from Syracuse to Detroit the man next to me decided to chat after he realized that there was no seat B in our row. He was flying from Syracuse to Portland, Maine, so naturally he was flying through Detroit. I told him about the guy I sat next to that was flying from Minneapolis to Syracuse and he had flown Minneapolis to Salt Lake City to Atlanta to Syracuse. Because he could.

And so can your luggage.

I felt kind of low rent paying for my admittance to the Sky Club with a debit card but Earl and I are (laughingly) trying to keep our debt low and our accounts high. He’ll love it when he sees this charge in the ledger come Monday. He’s in Chicago. He flew either United or American. My poor husband. At least it wasn’t Spirit or Scooby Doo Airlines.

The suburbanites to my left are all using iPhones. Two have eyeglasses, one with tape. He’s a hipster that can’t grow a beard yet. I enjoy labeling people.

I shall label myself “aging yuppie”.  It fits me best.

So apparently it’s OK to leave your luggage while you go help yourself to the open bar. Ms. Knitting Needles/Decoupage/Piñata just left and came back with a drink. I bet it’s a High Ball. I’ve never had a High Ball. That’s what grown ups always drank when I was a kid. I’ve had some wine and a Guinness tonight. I’ll probably have one more glass of wine before I nap on the flight to Raleigh-Durham.

I don’t feel comfortable napping in here. I snore and I don’t want to suck up a knitting needle/piñata/decoupage project.

It’s the only way to fly.

Pyramid.


When I find myself running into a bout of “programmer’s block” during work hours, I take a few moments and search up a Winners’ Circle challenge from “The 10,000 Pyramid” on YouTube.  I usually turn away from the screen to see if I can guess the subject based on the clues quicker than the contestant in the video. I think I’m getting kind of good at it.

Watching the older game shows from the 1980s and earlier on YouTube has made me realize just how much times have changed since then. The contestants are often dressed well: women usually in a lovely dress and men in a suit. Scruffiness is set aside. The whole set and game play of Pyramid gave the viewer an air of respectability. The players were serious, the special guests wanted their partner to win and the play and the rules of the game involved a healthy dose of thinking. You couldn’t just bark out a bawdy answer to fill in the blank.

Earl and I have been watching the summer run of game shows on ABC and have been enjoying them for the most part. I like watching the “$100,000 Pyramid” but after comparing this summer’s run to the shows of the past, I can’t help but notice that they’ve dumbed down the categories and expanded the allowances for clues. The show is fun but seems a little more raucous. While it looks and feels like “Pyramid”, the new show is really a sign of the times in that we just don’t seem to be as sophisticated as we used to be.

It’s often said that we need to be the change that we want to see in the world. I’d like to see the world change toward more respect and sophistication with the celebration of education and being well-read. I really think we’d all be the better for it.

The Chase.

As a freshman in high school I failed the New York State Regents Exam in Earth Science with a 59. I passed the course and earned credit toward my science requirements for my graduation, but it was a “local” credit, not a Regents credit. I opted to not take the exam again the following August, once was enough. I ultimately graduated high school with a New York State Regents Diploma. I don’t know if that carries any weight in the world.

One of the reasons that I didn’t do that well in Earth Science was because I remembered it to be quite boring. We would be sitting in class talking about rocks and the position of the sun and seawater while a thunderstorm was coming in off of Lake Ontario, battering the windows with driving rain and impressive wind. We’d have four feet of snow on the ground, all new since the previous day, but the teacher would just ramble on according to his preplanned lessons for the day.

I wanted to be out in the science, not sitting around talking about it.

I have always been interested in weather. If I wasn’t spending my money on foolish things I’d set another webcam up in the back yard and start recording weather events in this area. Over the past couple of days I’ve done some storm chasing. We had a cluster of storms pass through on Saturday that Earl and I chased around a bit. On Sunday I spent much of the day reading and looking for better data sources of weather. Last night I chased again, driving into a thunderstorm that lacked some punch but brought us some much needed rain.

Three photos taken within two seconds:

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Part of the reason I enjoy chasing storms is the adrenaline rush. I suppose it’s an earthbound extension of one of the reasons I’m a private pilot, because it’s something I can do and I think it’s an awesome thing to do. But a better reason for watching, chasing and experiencing storms is because Mother Earth never ceases to impress me. Last night while standing in a field I could see the full moon to the East and an impressive lightning show to the West simultaneously. It would be nearly an hour before the full moon would be obscured by cloud cover, only to reappear in the sky a mere 30 minutes later.

Science is awesome!

Since renewing my interest in weather, storms and the like, I’ve been taking online classes on observing weather patterns, how storms form, how to make an accurate assessment and subsequent report of a storm and how to safely witness impressive weather events. A lot of this compliments what I learned to become a private pilot. I’m looking forward to doing further study this winter so I feel prepared to do some serious storm chasing next spring.

Innovation.


One of the frustrating things about the current age of technology is the number of devices we have. When I travel I carry my iPhone, my iPad and my laptop, though lately I have been trying to leave the laptop at home and work solely off my iPad. This arrange works rather well but not in what I would call an “awesome” way. To use my iPad as my primary computer while on the road requires a lot of fidgeting, finagling and pre-planning. I often feel limited, mainly because of Apple’s restrictions on what can and can not be done on the iPad. Apple wants me to bring along multiple devices because, of course, Apple sells hardware. Lots of hardware.

In an ideal world I would like to carry only a phone that is capable of doing everything. Let’s face it, the computing power is already there. I could sit down at a coffee shop and dock it with a mouse and keyboard if I so desired. If I wanted to take a phone call I could just talk on some sort of Bluetooth gadget in my ear. We should be able to do standard, everyday computing off of one device.

Enter the Kickstarter campaign for the Superbook. The Superbook is a shell of a standard laptop: decent sized display, a full-sized keyboard and a multi-touch touchpad, that plugs into your Android phone, using the computing power of your phone to run the “laptop”.  All the data, all the apps, everyone on your Android device is compatible with the attached laptop-like accessory. And best yet, the laptop-like attachment charges your phone while you’re working on it.

This is the type of arrangement that comes close to what I would like to have! The problem is, and I assume it’s due to the walled garden that Apple loves to build, the Superbook works only with Android devices, there is no iOS compatibility.

I can’t wait to see one of these Superbooks in action. If it impresses me as much as the marketing says it will, I may have to jump ship to the other side and get onboard with an Android phone to power a Superbook.

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The Past.

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Random photo from the Internet.

It was winter of 1984 when the intercom speaker in the ceiling chimed, signaling the beginning of sixth period Biology class. It was my sophomore year of high school. The teacher stationed himself behind the ever-lit overhead projector, looked at me and asked in a loud voice, “Mr. Wing, do you know what a homosexual is?”

Laughs from around the room probably garnered the attention the teacher was looking for. The girl to my right, always wracked with drama, ceased her ever-present tears long enough to admit a giggle. The girl behind me simply said “wow”. The girl to my left, my lab table partner said under her breath, “asshole”.

The teacher then quickly said, “uh, I mean homo SAPIEN, do you know what a homo sapien is?”

I replied to the affirmative and class went on, but I never forgot that moment of humiliation. It reinforced the rare but ever-present taunts from fellow students that I was different and that made me less in some ways. I’ve never admitted this before today but later that year, when I was working in the computer lab on a Friday after school, I wrote a program that printed one line on the green and white barred dot matrix paper. I printed it out and slipped it under his locked door when no one was looking. It simply said, “You are ugly on the inside and out. And you need a shave.” The latter part of my message referred to his awful looking scraggly mess of a beard (that part of me hasn’t changed much). Looking back, this was clearly not the best way to handle the situation, however, I had mentally prepared myself to deal with the consequences of this note the following week of school, figuring it would give me the opportunity to voice to someone how I felt when asked his “humorous” question earlier in the year. Nothing ever came of it.

Life went on.

I bring this up because, like many Americans, I keep hearing that we need to make “America Great Again”. Folks rally around screeching about how they’re not going to be politically correct anymore. They are going to take back this country. They are going to take back speech. We were safer “back then”. We were great back then.

I must have been read a different script along the way.

Movies like “The Day After” reminded us of what would happen if the nuclear codes were ever used, a threat always present during the Cold War.

Inflation was driving prices up to the point that Hamburger Helper was everywhere, even on our school lunch menu.

We were still driving 55 MPH on roads designed for 80 because we had to save gas due to the energy shortage.

In my little corner of the world, in a school of nearly 1,300, we had one African-American girl that was two years younger than me. Apparently no other minority families dared enter the village borders. There was a sigh of relief when her younger sister entered school because things were then in balance. I’m sure the argument of “See! We have two black children in our school!” justified the racial imbalance for many.  No one spoke Spanish as their native language. There were several churches in town and all were some sort of Christian derivative. We took a field trip to a synagogue so we could exposed to a “different” religion. The few taunts that I endured during high school usually came from those that left school early on Monday afternoons to go to “Religious Education” classes. God help the woman that wore anything that resembled some sort of “native garb”. I can’t help to think what would have happened to any man that might have had a Middle Eastern accent. A few years later a small grocery store was purchased by folks from somewhere in Asia. They shut it down in less than a year because apparently the locals felt it had been infested with terrorists and subsequently no one patronized their business. They were just trying to make a living.

The point of all this is that we learn from our past to make a brighter future. Life is meant to be lived with a forward momentum. We are not suppose to repeat our mistakes. We live, we learn, we grow.

Do we want to live in a country where the nuclear codes can be used at whim? Do we really want the sand to glow? Do we want to live in a country so full of aggression that people are chanting racial slurs or denouncing the very existence of people that are “different”? Do we want to live in a country where minorities are treated differently, under a different set of rules, simply because they don’t fill a prescribed notion of what an American is?

I know I don’t.

I believe that America is already great. No, our country is not perfect, but we can expand upon our experiences, learn from our mistakes and continue to be the country we have always aspired to be. We trumpet the fact that we are world leaders but many desire to keep everything close and inside our borders. Ultimately, it’s the people that choose to be fully part of the world that will lead the world. Not a country that closes off its borders and bitches from their little corner, yelling cheap shots from the cheap seats.

Let’s do what we can to keep our momentum moving forward.

Author’s Note: I made some changes to some of the descriptive language in the 11th and 14th paragraphs. I should really learn the concept of “drafts” and “final copy”.

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30.

Earl and I went to my 30 year high school reunion last night. The festivities were held in a remodeled, yet empty, bar/restaurant space along the main street of my hometown. There were 98 of us in the graduating class, 37 graduates attended the festivities. Earl and I had planned to go for an hour or two, we ended up staying nearly six hours and didn’t get home until midnight.

We had a hell of a lot of fun.

It was kind of cool being able to casually chat with members of the other school cliques without fear of being chastised in the cafeteria for stepping out of the assumed school hierarchy. There was only one classmates that I didn’t recognize. Several teachers and administrators joined us, as well as some folks from adjacent classes. As I said, we had a hell of a lot of fun. I made quite a few Facebook connections today.

As the class of 1986 grows older it’s good to know that we’re doing alright in the world. We’ve lost a few of our classmates along the way (may they rest in peace) but on the whole we’re not doing half bad.

I look forward to seeing them again; rumor has it that I’m helping organizing the 35th year reunion.

The class photo from 1986, on the steps of the courthouse.

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All of us on the same steps in the same relative spot in the photo last night. I couldn’t kneel down like I did in ’86 because of shrubbery improvements.

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15.

My blog turned 15 years old this weekend. My first post was written on August 4, 2001. I talked about flying, the field days in my hometown and how I was going to maintain an “online journal”. I hadn’t discovered the term “blog” yet.

I can vividly remember writing that entry in Microsoft FrontPage, in a web page specifically formatted for that entry. Such a manual existence on the web at that time. It would be several months before I had blog software and the like.

Heck, it would be several weeks before I discovered the word “blog”.

Competition.

Twenty years ago, back when I was the Program Director of a small Top 40 radio station, I used to dread “book months”. These book months were the ratings period for radio, the timeframe when select listeners would write down what radio stations they listened to, how often they listened and for how long they listened. It was during these times that we would formulate promotions that would dazzle listeners, for example, nearly impossible to win $100,000 giveaways, free trips to New York to see “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and chances to win vacuum cleaners for Mom as a gift for Mother’s Day. We knew how to impress.

The ultimate reason for dazzling the listener was to generate more ratings during book months, which would then in turn make our little radio station more appealing to ad buyers. This, in turn, would give us more commercials to play, causing us to drop more songs per hour but would guarantee we would have enough revenue coming in to paint the studio in gaudy blues and golds, fulfill payroll requirements and allow us to do nifty things like put up billboards to remind folks how great the radio station was. 

One of the many things I didn’t like about this process was the sense of competition. We were one of two Top 40 radio stations in the area and I was told to keep the radio station aggressive. Push the limits with music, reach fringe listeners if possible and more importantly tell them how bad the other radio station was. We had to fight, Fight, FIGHT our way to the top for that ad revenue. The trouble was, the other radio station, Kiss 102, had a bunch of great ideas, had a good team for the most part and played the same music we did. Heck, the Program Director of Kiss 102 was a friend of mine. We had worked together at another station. We “grew up” together in radio. But I had to make the Mr. Voice say clever, snarky things about them all in the name of promotion.

Competition. Why?

I can’t help but roll my eyes when people start chanting and screeching and carrying on about the United States of America being the Greatest Nation on Earth. Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. I believe that as an American citizen that I’ve got it pretty good. The water is clean, the air is breathable, I can get food for myself with the utmost of ease and I feel mostly safe. I can conduct my life as I see fit, for the most part, without interference, censorship or fear of being killed for just being me. And as an American, I believe that the opportunities that I am afforded should be available to anyone in the world that is willing to come here, work hard, be true, be honest and stand shoulder to shoulder with me as an American citizen. Honestly, I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, mauve or drink vodka for breakfast.

We just need to humble about it.

A good portion of the American populace gets off on war. We thrive of competition. Video games, movies, television shows, all of it is about strife. Reality shows are about discord. We are adrenaline junkies and we are not happy unless there’s a threat of a zombie attacking us at any moment. Bad guys lurk everywhere, even if we have to remind you that there’s an impossibly small chance that you’re going to have a bad guy come after you at any given moment. We build huge stadiums next to overcrowded high schools that are falling down, just so we can scream and make other noises that our school is the best at (insert sport here). Apps on our little technological wonders of communication (smartphones) match us up against strangers when we do something as simple as take a morning walk. We earn points, likes, stars, hearts, retweets and shares to stoke our ego. You, too, can go viral!

I often wonder what it is like to live somewhere where folks have more security in themselves. Where they don’t need to be told how great they are at every given turn. Where there are no trophies for participation. Where they don’t need to be constantly reminded that they live in the greatest country on the planet. What is that like? Does it still exist?

Last night I watched Donald Trump give his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. His speech was filled with many buzzwords, a bunch of catch phrases and a whole lot of sound bites that will be perfect for the news burps that are designed for the average American with the attention span of a gnat. His name was projected in outrageously gold letters, his skin had a strikingly similar hue and his words, while plentiful, struck hollow. Apparently there’s a lot he’s going to do as President, right from Day One, but no one has a clue as to how he’s going to accomplish this, what with the three branches of the United States government and whatnot. There was much praise, USUALLY IN CAPS, about how great his speech was, especially because he uttered the letters, L-G-B-T-Q.  He is going to keep the gay folks safe. However, if the GOP Platform is realized, we can’t get married, our jobs are always in jeopardy and God forbid we buy a cake in Indiana, but Trump is going to do right by us and be wonderful.  WONDERFUL!

Please people, please calm down. And don’t get me started about that damn wall along the southern border.

Can we find our place back to humility? Can we go back to being the greatest country on the planet without constantly beating our chests screeching about it, wearing red, white and blue war paint on our faces and telling the rest of the world they suck? And can we start listening? Has substance given way to sound bites? Is there a chance that common sense will become common again?

Can we just do what we do, as best as we can, without screaming “oh my god look at me I’m awesome!” all the time?

Pure Inspiration.

Occasionally I need to crank up this video early in the morning to find my inspiration. The lyrics, music and beautiful voice of Mama Cass Elliot in “Make Your Own Kind of Music (Yum Club Remix)” inspire me in so many wonderful ways.