Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brushes With Death And (Wild) Life

Medical emergencies (large and small) in my "real life" family are conspiring with my ongoing personal maladies to create vast and nearly impenetrable barriers between me and my various dormant blogs.

I apologize once again to my (relatively few but extremely devoted) readers for my repeated long absences.

My inability to blog (at all, let alone properly) is doubly (or triply) unfortunate in view of events (large and small) about which I would write reams of utter nonsense if only I had more time.

If the planets line up properly (or improperly, depending on your point of view), I may be able to write something worth reading about some of these events, sometime in the unspecified future.

But for the moment, I can only give you what I've got.

My father almost died since we last spoke. He had major surgery a month ago and his recovery has been fraught with complications. And last week we almost lost him.

Fortunately for us, he was moved from a small community hospital to a major medical center, in what became an ambulance race against the Grim Reaper -- and the ambulance won.

So he got into good hands, and just in time, and therefore he is still alive, although he remains in intensive care, in a room very similar to the one shown here. We are fortunate that he has good health insurance, as this is scary enough already.

My dad and I have exchanged heated words once or thrice over the years, and we still have very serious areas of disagreement, some of which I have written about in the past.

And those things still matter to me, but not at this level. He's a good man and we're not ready to say goodbye to him. Yet his condition remains critical and his care remains intensive. So everybody is on tenterhooks, and everything is suddenly tentative.

Which is to say: more tentative than it already was, with 73 simultaneous global disasters imminent, most (if not all) of which remain "over the event horizon" for most (if not all) of the people around me -- in my "real life", that is.

It sometimes seems the only sane people I can think of are the ones I "know" in the virtual world -- in my "unreal life", so to speak.

How fitting for 8th Century Amerika, slip-sliding into the New Dark Ages with a "cultural" view of "reality" so screwed up that only in the virtual world does political discourse maintain any semblance of contact with the truly real.

My father's brush with death was punctuated for me (and my wife and kids) by an episode involving our cat, an orange tabby very similar to the one shown here.

One afternoon a few days ago, he curled up on the couch in my home office and went to sleep. Late that night he was still there, and I wanted to sit down.

I tried to shoo him away but he didn't move. So I reached down to help him get going, and I found out why he wasn't moving. He was all done moving -- all done forever.

Breaking the news to the kids the next morning wasn't a lot of fun. The rest of the day wasn't any easier. We buried the cat under a tree in our back yard. I said a few words. The kids cried and screamed a bit, after which they felt somewhat better. When they lose their only grandfather, the news will be even tougher to break -- and to receive.

We're gonna miss that little cat. And we're gonna miss the old man, too. His passing is not exactly imminent, but he's in rough shape, and even if he does recover and regain a good deal of his former health, he's not about to last forever.

Nobody lasts forever, as far as I know, although it does seem that professional psychopaths and state-sponsored war criminals live several decades longer than normal humans. How old is Kissinger, 185? Maybe that's their secret: they don't stress out over guilt pangs.

When I go to see my dad in the hospital, I have a choice between a long fast drive on the interstates and a couple of slower, more direct routes that run through little towns and villages. Normally I choose the shortest slow route, although I could drive many miles farther and pay tolls all along the way in order to arrive five minutes sooner.

Last week I was doing the slow drive and I came to a crossroads where the light was green, but it had recently been red and the intersection was full of cars. I didn't quite have to stop before everyone in front of me got going, but I had to slow way down.

And as I was creeping along at 2 MPH, a golden eagle drifted across the road in front of me. It was enormous and gorgeous and very similar to the one shown here.

It was just coasting along at my eye level, and at one point its body was almost directly above my front bumper.

The wings were spread but not stretched; one was almost touching the truck in front of me, and the other came within an inch of my windshield. If not for the glass, I could have reached out and touched a wing.

The big bird was heading for a stand of tall trees on my right, and just drifting along. There was a small, slow-moving gap in the traffic, and for some reason that was appealing. I don't understand why: one flap of the wings and the eagle could have been well above the traffic. But that didn't happen. Instead, it just snuck across between me and the truck.

I've never been that close to a bird that big, and -- like any sudden encounter with big wildlife -- it was a jolt from another dimension. Not that I didn't need one.

One of the most common fallacies which infect the current "real-life" political discourse is the notion that always and everywhere there are only two choices. You're either with Bush (i.e. Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza, Gates, Obama, Biden, Hillary, Gates again...), or you're with the "terrrrisss". That's been around for a while. Either you stifle all criticism of Israel no matter what, or you're an anti-Semite. That's been around for a while, too. These idiocies persist, and multiply. Nowadays, either you can have your social security, or you can have "health care reform", but not both. And there is no third option.

That's the basic problem with any two-party system, anywhere, anytime: there is no third option. And that's the starting point for American politics. Throw in centuries of corruption and decades of rampant militarism and now you have a thoroughly corrupt, heavily armed, extremely powerful state in which the two options available are more or less identical, and there is no third option.

In my "real life" I do software design and often I need to answer questions of the form "What are my options for implementing blah blah blah?"

An overwhelming percentage of the time, I come back with a large number of options. There are almost always five or six or eight different ways to do blah blah blah. Rare indeed is the blah blah blah that can only be done in one or two different ways.

This is not to say that software design -- a virtual occupation which relies on truth and logic and pays my real bills in my real life -- is anything like functioning in "the real world" -- where nearly every bit of news and political commentary is likely false, and truth and logic must be abandoned on a daily basis.

On the other hand, very often -- in the virtual world as well as the real one -- there comes a fork in the road which offers more than two options.

In this case, I'd much rather die the way my cat died, than live the way my father is living.

But if I had my choice, I'd be heading for the tall trees with a golden eagle.

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