Friday, March 29, 2013


1. I'm still taking a lot of prescription medications -- Flecainide, Amlodipine, Sertraline, Temazepam, and Zolpidem Tartrate (alternating the last two on a nightly basis) -- but I'm starting to conclude that the combination of all these meds is actually aggravating the cognitive impairment that I've suffered since our Caribbean cruise in January 2010.  It's had a very adverse effect on both my work and my ability to fulfill church callings, which has compounded the sense of uselessness that, to one degree or another, I've had for most of my life.  Sertraline (i.e., Zoloft) may help ameliorate the disequilibrium caused by my persistent mal de debarquement, but it also has a couple of weird side-effects.  One, whereas it does keep me from getting extremely depressed, it also prevents me from feeling very happy, or from feeling much of anything, really; it's a strange sensation not to be able to give much expression to one's emotions.  And, two, it seems to have altered the sorts of dreams I have at night: lately I've been having very concrete, realistic dreams featuring real people, and, the following morning, it's only some little absurd detail that reveals them to me, in fact, to have been dreams.  I suppose I should be thankful merely for being able to reach dream-stage sleep, inasmuch as restful sleep is still the best palliative for my mal de debarquement symptoms, but, as with every other anti-depressant I've ever taken, I question whether the benefits of taking Sertraline outweigh the side-effects.

2. I am much less a sports fanatic now than I once was, in large part because I've come to question whether the top performers in just about every sport -- but especially in track and field, cycling, and baseball -- are "juiced" with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).  I've gone back and forth in my mind about whether we should even be concerned about the use of PEDs by athletes, especially since the ability to dope seems constantly to stay a few years ahead of the ability to detect it.  (And, besides, in some cases it seems hard to distinguish between modern sports nutrition and doping.)  However, I can't help but compare doping to affirmative action, in that both cast a shadow of doubt not only on those who avail themselves of them, but also on those who would, in any case, have achieved success on individual talent and determination.  Track and field was one of my childhood passions, but these days I couldn't tell you what the current world record is for any event or who the top athletes are.  It all seems too tainted to care about.

3. The "Obamacare" nightmare is slowly coming to fruition over time, but one thing seems undeniable: far from reducing healthcare costs -- the ostensible rationale for the government's take-over of the healthcare industry -- the "Affordable Care Act" (boy, would Orwell be proud of that name!) will actually make healthcare tremendously more expensive.  With so much new bureaucracy and regulation, the only ways to control medical costs will be (a) to ration care, and (b) to cut remuneration to doctors and other providers.  The first necessarily entails decisions about who deserves treatment -- and who does not -- and thus there will be "death panels," whether they're called that or something else.  The second will lead to a proliferation of under-qualified and under-trained doctors and nurses.  I read sometime back that Britain's vaunted National Health Service is staffed principally with doctors from (and trained in) third-world countries in the Middle East; apparently, medicine isn't a sufficiently lucrative trade anymore to entice many native-born Englishmen to enter it.  I'm still trying to imagine an America in which we have to import most of our doctors from the developing world -- yuck!

4. Despite my physical woes, I look forward to doing at least a couple of long hikes in the Sandia Mountains this summer.  One will almost certainly involve the Pino Trail, which I haven't hiked in about 25 years; I'm told that so many trees have disappeared along that trail in recent years, probably due to bark beetles, that the landscape is much changed now.  After that, I have fewer ideas.  The notion of hiking the entire Crest Trail in a day has stayed in the back of my mind; however, even if I could manage the 28-or-so-mile trek, I'd probably be laid up for a week afterwards.  South Sandia Peak is always an attractive destination, but it's a daunting task to get there.  I guess I'll wait and see if any novel routes occur to me.

5. Same-sex marriage has been in the news a lot lately, primarily because of the Supreme Court arguments happening this month in U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry.  I can't say I'm thrilled about the idea of homosexual marriage, although public opinion appears to have shifted so much in the last year or two that I now believe it to be inevitable.  As at least one commentator has noted, it's difficult to say that same-sex marriage will damage the institution of marriage any more than our society has already done to it, although I certainly can't see it helping it, either; the only people who clearly stand to gain from it are divorce lawyers.  Many people think that once two people of the same gender may marry, there will be no logical rationale to outlaw one's having multiple spouses; and, if the latter becomes legal, it's easy to wonder if the LDS Church might once again practice polygamy.  My takeIt will never happen.

6. I sometimes watch parts of Guitar Center Sessions, which occasionally airs on the Audience Channel.  Most of the bands appearing on it are groups I've never heard of, which -- especially when I consider that many of them are already well into their forties -- makes me feel old and behind the times.  (I confess freely that I pretty much stopped staying current with popular music when I got married in 1984.)  A recent show featured a band called "Ben Folds Five," which evidently had a hit song sometime back in the nineties (not that I would have known that).  The host of the show, Nic Harcourt, was interviewing the band's frontman, the eponymous Ben Folds, and the usual discussion ensued about the crap state of the music industry these days.  Folds said something that I hadn't considered, but which seems patently true: In the entire history of music, there was only about a 50-year window in which musicians could become rich.  Obviously, he was referring to the heyday of the record business, which started booming in about 1945 and began to wane in about 1995.  Prior to 1945, it was a big thing to sell sheet music, something highlighted in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair; however, it's doubtful that sales of sheet music were ever very lucrative for Tin Pan Alley songwriters.  And, before that, it probably was impossible for any musician or composer to become well-off who didn't have a wealthy patron or benefactor (a point driven home in the film Amadeus).  On the other hand, after 1995, the advent of digital music and Internet piracy pretty well routed the idea of making lots of money off sales of recorded music.  Which leaves professional musicians of all stripes doing whatever they can -- touring and/or teaching, mostly -- to earn enough to stay afloat and keep playing.  All of this seems sad to me, but I see today's generation of musicians as having to pay a karmic price for the excesses of the "rich rock stars" of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

7. This month marked forty years -- forty years! -- that I've been keeping a journal.  It's always seemed ironic that I started writing to document my thoughts about Dorine, on whom I had a tremendous crush at the time.  My writing at that time was so infantile as to be painful to read now, although I still have every journal volume I've ever filled.  I didn't start writing a lot, however, until my church mission to Chile in 1979-1980; my journal constituted the only real privacy I had at that time, and I wrote in it almost every day I was gone.  I've never counted how many pages I've written in the last forty years, but 10,000 pages wouldn't be an outlandish estimate; that would be an average of 250 pages a year, and I know I've written at least 400 pages in each of the last fifteen-or-so years (I go through 2-3 journals a year, each of which has 200 pages).  Someday I hope someone markets an inexpensive, high-speed scanner that will facilitate making PDF copies of all my journals; I would like them to survive in some electronic format, although I refuse to keep an electronic journal.

[Update 6/27/13: I've since gone back a numbered (cumulatively) all of the pages of my journals.  As of March 29, 2013, I'd written 12,658 pages; thus 10,000 pages was actually a low-ball estimate.]

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 2013 Trip to Utah

Mom with her five sons, 3/15/13
Satellite View of Provo w/landmarks

Dorine with Quorra
Hillery and Kevin with Quorra in Orem

Family at Jeff and Marlyn's house in Lehi
Cait and Darren at Jeff's house

Kyle, Kelly, Roger

Emily talking to Kyle's wife Heidi

Playing "Ticket to Ride" in Grantsville
Ellen's 11th birthday celebration
Our crew with Brian and Dona's family
Cait and Darren in our room at the Super 8

Dorine and I drove to Utah with my mother on Wednesday, March 13, and stayed four nights in Provo before coming home on Sunday the 17th; Dorine was off work due to APS's spring break, so we had a little time for travel.  I've come to loathe the drive up to Provo, having done it so many times now that I could almost do it in my sleep; however, Utah is where Darren and Cait are, along with my four brothers and Dorine's brother Brian, so it's a natural vacation destination for us.  We stopped in Farmington (NM) on the way up to visit with Mom's brother (and my uncle) Wayne Stradling, but we still made pretty good time.  Once in Provo, we stayed in the Super 8, and Mom stayed with Robin and Karolyn at their house in Pleasant Grove -- Mom stayed an extra week to visit longer with my brothers, so she didn't come home with us.  We didn't do a whole lot, but what we did was fun.  We went to dinner on Wednesday night with Cait and Darren in a Mexican-Salvadoran restaurant called "El Mexsal" on 200 W. and 300 S. in Provo.  

On Thursday, Dorine and I did an endowment session at the Provo Temple, and then we shopped for a while before meeting up again with Cait and Darren.  On Friday, we (Darren, Cait, Dorine, and I) had a late lunch at Five Guys in Orem with our niece Hillery, her husband Kevin, and their baby girl Quorra.  Later we drove to Lehi, stopping first at Cabela's to look around and then going on to Jeff and Marlyn's house for a Kartchner family get-together.  It was nice to see all of my brothers, their wives, and various nieces, nephews, and their families.

The following day, Dorine and I went to the Provo Temple to attend the sealing of Michael Ferreira and Drea Ferreira, two of Lynnea's kids, to Roger and Lynnea.  That turned out to be another de facto family get-together, especially inasmuch as our cousin Rick Shumway performed the sealing.  Later, Dorine and I headed north with Darren and Cait, stopping on the way out to the freeway to eat at a pizza buffet in Orem.  We spent the evening in Grantsville with Dorine's brother Brian, his wife Dona, and their family, which was an enjoyable time notwithstanding the 90-minute (one-way) drive.  Finally, Dorine and I came home on Sunday; I drove to Farmington, but, by that time, sunflower seeds were all that was keeping me alert, so I handed over the wheel to Dorine for the rest of the trip.

The Provo Super 8 was looking a little ragged around the edges, although it has nice new TVs and still has a functional exercise room (which Dorine and I used twice during our stay), a continental breakfast with waffle machines, and "free" wi-fi.  A large contingent from Urban Development Solutions -- an outfit that brings people in to a given locale and sells magazine subscriptions door-to-door, blitz-style.-- was staying in the hotel.  Given that all the guys wore shirts and ties every day, at first I wasn't quite sure if they were a religious group or a sales organization, but the latter proved to be the case.