Monday, August 20, 2012

It weighs on my mind....

At Philmont Scout Ranch, 2004
1. I've been thinking a lot about how I used to idolize certain rock stars, even having fantasies about becoming one myself.  In recent times, however, I've found, after reading several rock-star memoirs or biographies, that all I feel now for pop musicians of all stripes is unadulterated revulsion.  I still listen to the pop music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s -- and I like some music released since then -- but I no longer have any regard for the people who made/make it.

2. In the last few weeks I've seen some slight improvement in my health.  My mal de debarquement (MdD) rocking sensation hasn't gone away, but I haven't been feeling quite as bad all the time.  I think two things have helped.  One, I've been taking Sertraline (Zoloft), a "selective seratonin reuptake inhibitor" (SSRI) anti-depressant.  (The literature for MdD states that some patients derive some relief from SSRIs.  It may be that all the Sertraline does is mitigate the anxiety and depression that otherwise result from MdD -- in other words, it doesn't help the underlying condition but merely blunts its secondary effects -- but that's something.  I went through some bad days while adjusting to the med, but I seem to be seeing some benefit now.)  And two, I've stopped doing any kind of hamstring stretches as part of my warm-up routine at the gym.  Apparently I can't stretch my hammies, even "lightly," without causing chronic lower-back muscle tears; now that I've stopped, however, my back has felt much better.

3. I haven't had much desire to play guitar recently.  Somehow, guitar-playing has only added to my depression of late -- possibly because the stuff I play tends to be blues-based, and (as Elton John might say) there's a reason they call it the blues.  I also wonder sometimes if I've simply wasted too much of my life playing guitar when I could have been doing more-constructive things.  The guitar used to have something of a therapeutic effect on me, as it helped me to channel or resolve my emotions in much the same way that keeping a journal has always helped me to focus my thoughts; however, now it seems only to create negative emotions or to aggravate existing ones.

4. Related to the foregoing is the fact that a variety of activities have fallen out of my life over time, creating "space" that I've had a hard time filling by other means.  I used to like to go to Las Vegas and do a little low-roller gambling with my brother-in-law Mike, but it's now been almost six years since my last trip there and I'm only mildly interested in going back.  I used to like to go bouldering with Rod Williamson in the Sandia foothills, but that's long gone from my life now.  I also used to enjoy the adventure of caving with friends, but it's now been almost four years since our last trip to the Guads.  (It's probably a moot point now that there are fears about the spread of "white nose syndrome," which has been killing bats by the tens of thousands back east; I doubt any of the cognizant agencies in New Mexico is issuing recreational caving permits now, and they may never do so again.)  I used to enjoy backpacking, at least to the extent I ever did it, but it's been almost six years now since Bob Maes and I last went to the Grand Canyon.  I sang for five years (1997-2002) in a local men's a cappella group called "De Profundis" -- which I enjoyed to a certain extent, although I never really regarded it to be worth the time commitment (plus I'm not that great a singer to begin with).  Now, well...I really don't even like to sing in our ward choir.  

So what do I like to do?  I still like to hike, at least insofar as I can find time and energy for it.  I like to go camping with the family, although that's difficult to swing more than once or twice a year.  I like to exercise, whether it's riding a stationary bike at the gym or taking long walks with Dorine; it's been nice that Dorine has caught the "exercise bug," inasmuch as we have that in common now.  I spend too much time on the Internet, which is really my only source of news and information these days.  I also spend too much time watching "reality TV" shows on The History Channel, A&E, TruTV, and SpikeTV.  Finally, I like to go shopping, mainly to spend time with Dorine.  My problem with trying to find any new pastimes these days -- constructive or otherwise -- is the stupid MdD and how it saps all my resources.

5. I've often wondered if I'm at least partly a hypocrite for being politically conservative at the same time I work in a quasi-government job at a national laboratory.  In many ways, I am part of what I rail against -- I'm paid well for the job I do; I have fairly lavish benefits (especially annual vacation time); I could retire as early as age 55; and I curse every time the benefits/retirement package is modified to my detriment (which is practically every year), even though I know why the cost-cutting measures are necessary.  (The company's new hires don't even have a pension plan anymore; rather, all they get is greater "matching" contributions to their 401(k) savings plans.)  One could reasonably ask why I'm in favor of cutting federal spending in drastic fashion when seemingly I'm just one more pig at the federal trough; I'm not sure I have a good answer.

6. I'm looking forward very much to the start of the college football season, if only to watch BYU play.  Some people have put the "Y" down for going independent in football -- claiming the only reason it did so was that no "power" conference would extend it an invitation to join -- but the mere fact that all of its games are on national TV (on ESPN, BYUtv, or...this year, against Notre Dame...NBC) has surely expanded its fan base.  And if I'm at all representative of that fan base, the ability to watch BYU on television has likewise deepened loyalty to the Cougar "brand."  I used to say, inasmuch as I earned two degrees (JD, MBA) from the University of New Mexico and one (BA) from BYU, that I was two parts UNM fan and one part BYU fan.  However, given that UNM all but disappeared from TV as the result of the Mountain West Conference's exclusive broadcast contract with its debacle of a network "The mtn," I naturally gravitated to BYU when it left the MWC and went on the air full-time.

As for the University of Utah's joining the Pacific-12 Conference last year, I can't help but liken it to Barack Obama's winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.  Just as Obama won the Nobel prize, not for anything he'd done, but simply by virtue of not being (and as a pointed rebuke to) George W. Bush, Utah was invited to join the Pac-12 essentially as a reward for not being (and as a pointed rebuke to) BYU.  Having grown up in New Mexico, I am not particularly anti-University of Utah: I rooted for the U in its bowl game last year against Georgia Tech and even pulled for the San Francisco 49ers in last year's NFL playoffs because of their quarterback Alex Smith (a U product).  However, I really want BYU to beat Utah -- thereby avenging a horrible 54-10 loss last year and putting a few inferiority-complexed U fans in their place -- in the two schools' September 15 football game in SLC.  We'll see if membership in a "power" conference truly is conducive to perpetual football superiority; my guess is that it isn't, necessarily.

[Update 9/17/12: Well, BYU lost to Utah again, 24-21, although at least this year's game wasn't as big an embarrassment as last year's.  It was, however, about the most bizarre football game I've ever seen.  Not only did the crowd noise have a significant impact on the game (causing BYU to receive a huge number of "false start" penalties and also to snap the ball early a couple of times out of the "shotgun" formation, one of which led to a fumble that a Utah player picked up and returned for a touchdown), but the home fans ran out on the field prematurely -- twice -- and had to be herded back off the field.  The first time, the "friendly" home timekeeper had run out the clock on BYU, but an official's review caused one second to be put back on the clock, which in turn allowed BYU to attempt a 51-yard field goal.  That attempt was blocked, but the home fans ran out again onto the field while the ball was still "live," leading to a penalty against Utah that gave BYU another attempt at a field goal (despite there being no time remaining, since of course a football game can't end on a defensive penalty), an eminently make-able one from 36 yards; however, this time the ball bounced off the left upright, finally ending the game.  Of course, I would have liked to see the game go to overtime, but in a sense it was cosmic justice -- BYU was outplayed and simply didn't deserve to win.  I'll keep rooting for them, however!]

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cabin Trip, August 2-6, 2012

Kristy with Hailee on the San Juan
By the San Juan near the malt shoppe
In the Rio Blanco near the cabin
Walking up-river for another tubing run
By the San Juan on the east end of town
Alexis on the banks of the San Juan
Maddi and Hailee at Treasure Falls
Dion floating on the San Juan
Me with Maddi in the Rio Blanco
Having ice cream at the malt shoppe
Chris with Maddi in the San Juan
Dorine on the river walk in town
Outside the cabin
Kiley and Sam at Treasure Falls
Zach floating on the San Juan
Some of the kids on the San Juan
Kiley and Sam on the San Juan
Zach playing Wii in the cabin
Family members at Treasure Falls
Treasure Falls
Dion and Kayla
Chris floating on the San Juan
Me at Echo Amphitheater, 1963
Me at Echo Amphitheater, 2012

                                                        Lunch at the cabin, 8/5/12

We recently spent four nights at the cabin, arriving on Thursday, August 2, and coming home on Monday, August 6.  Most of our family went up on this trip -- only Darren, who's in Provo, and Devery and Easton, who decided there would be a big-enough crowd as things stood, didn't go.  The cabin, which isn't all that big, became a bit of a zoo at times with seventeen people there, but all in all, we had fun.  Dorine and I took one bedroom, and Kiley and Sam the other, for the first two nights, and then we relinquished the bedrooms to Kristy and Chris, and to Heidi and Dion, for the last two nights.  I can't say I relish sleeping on an airbed in the living room -- especially when I use a breathing machine at night for my sleep apnea -- but it all worked out.  We did a little playing in the Rio Blanco by the cabin, but more fun was had in town on the San Juan River, which was low enough for safe inner-tubing.  I enjoyed our usual trips to the malt shoppe, to Treasure Falls, and to the supermarket.  I made a point of stopping at Echo Amphitheater on the way home, as I desired to get a picture of me standing in the same place in which my mother took a photograph of me when I was four years old.  As you can tell from the photos above, much of the same infrastructure is still in place from nearly fifty years ago.  I shot the video embedded above, which shows the cabin living room and kitchen/dining area and gives a good idea of life at the cabin with extended family.