1. Mike and Mike In the Morning. It's hard to say why, but I turn on ESPN2 in the mornings when I get up to go to work, just to listen to a couple of minutes of "Mike and Mike In the Morning," the ESPN Radio talk show hosted by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic (see photo). It certainly isn't because I care about the subject matter; while I get that people want to see sports events (especially the highlights) and hear sports commentary, a talk radio show exclusively devoted to sports still seems utterly pointless to me at this stage of my life. However, I feel a certain fascination with the notion that, somewhere, there are perhaps hundreds of thousands of people -- overwhelmingly guys, one would assume -- who care enough about sports to listen to radio personalities blather about them for hours on end. Don't get me wrong: "Greeny" and Golic are good at what they do and complement each other perfectly; it's just that what they do is the very height of uselessness. (Of course, this is coming from someone whose favorite television show is truTV's "World's Dumbest....")
2. Planet Fitness. Dorine and I continue to go regularly to Planet Fitness on Eubank Blvd. to work out. Unfortunately, the (new?) owners recently "refreshed" all the cardio equipment and replaced even the newer treadmills with Cybex machines, which aren't as cushioned as the "Life Fitness" machines that I favored and don't have the nifty little iPod connectors/chargers that the latter had. Moreover, none of the new treadmills is positioned directly in front of a mirror; my previously being able to see my reflection seemed to help me maintain my balance while running, so that's gone. Anyway, I'm having to work my way through some changes. My brother-in-law Mike and I went and scoped out the Planet Fitness on Juan Tabo Blvd.; not only does it have the same Cybex gear, it has very bad parking and much less interior space than the Eubank location. (Incidentally, last night I made it to "Level 5" for 2014 in the Virgin "Healthmiles/Pulse" program, and I still hope to reach 500 miles for the year, mostly on the treadmill, mixed in with some walks and hikes. I lack only about 40 miles, which is pretty good for a year in which I had hernia surgery and took three long vacations.)
3. Working Off-base. My current job as a buyer at Sandia National Labs is the first position I've had at Sandia where I haven't physically been located on Kirtland Air Force Base. Boy, is it easier to get to work in the morning without having to go through the base gate! The Air Force is occasionally "eccentric" in the way it regulates base traffic -- often, I'm convinced, simply to remind non-military personnel who has the power -- but working outside the gate makes that a moot issue most of the time. Security isn't quite the same, obviously (there have even been one or two "active shooter" incidents off-base in the last ten-plus years), but the sheer convenience more than makes up for it.
4. "And makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of...." One of the sad facts about the long-term use of prescription sleep medications is that one develops a marked tolerance for them, such that they become much less-effective over time. (Just try and make the case to a doctor, however, that you should be able to up the dosage!) A few years ago, I started taking diphenhydramine hydrochloride, an over-the-counter antihistamine, with my prescription meds to "reinforce" the latter's effects; well, now I've begun to take doxylamine, another OTC antihistamine sold as a sleep aid, sometime before taking the other two meds to ensure I become drowsy at bedtime. It's fair to wonder if this is how Michael Jackson got on the path that ended with his needing injections of fricking surgical anesthetics to be able to sleep at night. It's also something of a comfort to know that I'll never have the means either to pay off a doctor to medicate me or to buy larger supplies of Temazepam on the black market. However, given the manner in which a decent amount of sleep -- even if it's chemically induced -- tends to ameliorate my mal de debarquement symptoms, it would be a sore temptation, in other financial circumstances (and despite such fine points as its being illegal and grounds for losing a security clearance), to do either of those things. The medical professionals and pharmacists with whom I've consulted simply don't get it...and meanwhile my battles rage on.
5. That Politics Slop. The most dismaying thing about the political situation in the United States is the growing tendency toward polarization, especially the ascribing of evil intentions to one's political enemies and the ramming through of mono-partisan measures, legislation, or judicial "super-legislation," damn all the consequences and burned bridges. It has long been the case that Democrats regard "bi-partisan cooperation" as situations in which their colleagues opposite cave on all points of the Democratic agenda, but something about the current political environment has grown uglier. It's easy to despair (a) when a Democrat president takes action on illegal immigration in a manner timed precisely to stick it in the eye of the incoming Republican Congress, and (b) when objective facts and morality are sacrificed on the altar of a "higher truth" that bears little resemblance to the real world. Having an African-American president has, oddly, caused race relations to be the worst they've been since the 1970s -- is that the "hope and change" Obama promised to deliver in 2008? A real leader would feel chastened by having lost control of both houses of Congress during his tenure as president, but Barack Obama barely acknowledges that reality and almost certainly won't compromise any part of his ideology. As commentators have noted repeatedly, Obama seems to believe that the general arc of history is bending his way and that the short-term ramifications of his actions, or the actions of other world leaders, are unimportant. That may work for philosophers and sociologists (and "community organizers"), but it's a completely inadequate way to run a country or conduct a foreign policy. Given the state of things, "gridlock" between the Congress and the president is probably the best possible outcome., As the old medical dictum states: "Primum non nocere." ("First, do no harm.")
6. Bill Shunn and The Accidental Terrorist. I used to correspond regularly with a fellow named Bill Shunn, a science-fiction writer who kept a website called Mormon Matter and had posted a hilarious Mormon-missionary memoir that he called Terror on Flight 789. Bill had very publicly left the LDS Church, and Mormon Matter was the forum for his "apostasy"; he was a smart, friendly, and funny guy, however, and I felt particularly drawn to him. Around 1999, Bill started turning his original missionary memoir into a full-blown book, The Accidental Terrorist, which I found engrossing and hugely appealing (although it became slightly less so as he edited it down for length to try to make it more saleable). Through the years, he seemed to be on the verge of selling the book several times, but always the deal fell through -- confirming my opinion that the American publishing industry is run by a bunch of nincompoops who are completely oblivious to their marketplace. He did, however, podcast The Accidental Terrorist a couple of times and thereby found a loyal, if not overly broad audience. Bill and I don't communicate very often these days, as I think we both found we had less in common as the church grew smaller in his rearview mirror. However, once in a while I still visit his blog, Inhuman Swill (an anagram of his name, in case it wasn't obvious), and I saw a few weeks back that he'd finally determined to self-publish The Accidental Terrorist in 2015, which made me happy. (He plans to go whole-hog and work with a professional editor to put out the kind of end-product a large publishing house should have produced years ago.) I wrote to congratulate him and assure him that I would buy a copy of the book, and he was gracious in telling me I'd played a role in his writing it in the first place. (I hope he thinks that's a good thing -- his frustration at not finding a buyer must have reached the boiling point at times.) I very much look forward to reading it.