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Abiding Blog
Lucki Melander Wilder

Still digging the blogs. Keep up the good works.  -- Jim (a reader since the first-ever announcement)

These are personal ruminations on divers and sundry topics of interest to me and, I hope, also you. Some are long, some short. Some are silly, some serious. Some are trivial, some profound. Nor is it always easy to tell which is which, even for me. And all opinions expressed are subject to change without notice.

Email me to subscribe or give feedback, or if there's a topic you'd like me to ruminate about. Not all feedback necessarily appears in this page, and may be edited for links, typos, multi-source redundancy, and relevancy. That doesn't mean we consider negative feedback irrelevant or refuse to post it, as negative feedback can often help us learn to do more and better.

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E N D - S T A G E ?

"In a late-capitalist society, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer...
such is the ever-turning gyre of capitalism."  -- David Elias Aviles Espinoza

We are certainly seeing this play out nowadays. As Espinoza further notes, global economic upheavals such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to simultaneous expansions and concentrations of wealth. He also notes that many economists today believe increases in wealth inequity endanger our future.

I get that. Understand, I'm not against people striving to acquire wealth. Nor am I saying everyone should have the same/equal level of wealth. After all, while no one should be left bereft of the financial resources to create a decent life for themself and their loved ones, those who contribute more to that decent life for everyone should be valued and paid what they're worth.

[ASIDE] Though let's be honest: Does, say, a tuxedoed Elon Musk partying all night really contribute more to the quality of your mundane, workaday life on a personal basis than do the sweaty uniformed drivers and shotgun riders who roust themselves out at the crack of dawn to come load up and cart away all your garbage, trash, and recyclables? (Have you ever lived through a garbage-collectors strike? Was it fun?) Whom do you think you might willingly - even avidly - pay more to if they just all stopped working (or even started picketing) for three months? 'Cuz I know whom I need the most. [/ASIDE]

No, I'm saying there should be equity in the acquisition of wealth, which is not the same thing as everyone having an equal amount of it. Everyone should have an equal chance to earn their best living with their labors, talents, skills, and knowledge. That means getting the best education they can aspire to in the safest communities they can aspire to live in. And getting the best jobs they can aspire to within the most supportive society they can aspire to be part of. Do you think that's happening now? (If you do, I'm forced to ask what bubble you are living in.)

I'm also saying there should be sufficient restraint to recognize and accept when enough wealth is enough. To eschew greedily gathering more and more wealth merely for the sake of becoming wealthier and wealthier ... with no concern about anyone else. Especially the poorest and most vulnerable, being stripped of their limited capital in the process. And to willingly pay a fair share (again, equitable, not merely equal) in, say, the wages and taxes necessary to provide a decent standard of living for everyone in the society.

I want to share a few examples of how I see greed operating to the detriment of people who have little recourse.

Stack of crackers1.  One is in the supermarket industry. Food is not a luxury, it's a necessity. So, I went to the supermarket three weeks ago to pick up a few staples. Not things that spoil fast, understand, but things vacuum-packed in waxed-paper bags sealed in cardboard boxes so they have a decent shelf life. Before I tell you what happened there, let me give you a comparison between this megamart and the small local fruit market that sells breads from local small bakeries. Years ago, the favorite fresh bread I get sold for $2.69 a loaf. It stayed that price for, like, almost forever, though admittedly it succumbed once to some shrinkflation. Then the pandemic hit, and soon the price (with no shrinkflation) rose to $3.19 a loaf, an 18.5% increase. And it's stayed that way ever since. I suspect both the small bakery and the small market, understanding the pinch from their own personal experience, had a hand in keeping the price as stable as they could.

     Anyway, at the supermarket I bought a box of of my favorite, national-brand crackers. It cost me $3.99. I do lots of soups, and also sometimes use crackers as croutons in salads or as snacks. So a few days later, when I needed to get something else anyway, and knowing I might run out of crackers before I returned, I bought another box. It cost me $4.99, a 25% increase. (Incidentally, the other must-get item had also gone up from $4.99 to $5.99, a 20% increase.) OK, crackers do need wheat, and the invasion against Ukraine has caused our supply of imported wheat to drop, so I understood the need for a price increase, even though it seemed a little steep. Two weeks later, I went back to the supermarket. I passed through the cracker aisle. I saw my favorite crackers. I didn't buy any. I won't be buying any. The price had skyrocketed to $6.99, another 40% increase over the new price. In other words, those crackers went up by 75% from the original price in less than three weeks. No thanks; I can do without. (No wonder everyday people on both sides of the partisan divide are calling for their government to address price gouging in the food industry.)

     If a little fruit market and a little bakery can hold the line, that big food company and that big megamart chain certainly can, too. IF they wanted to. But they obviously don't. Instead, they're taking advantage, like many other companies are...and making record profits.

    As I said, I don't buy this product any more. I won't until they back down to some reasonable pricing. Are there a few things you'd be willing to forgo to get the message across to your megamart?

Piggy bank saving another drop of water2.  Another foody example is a company that makes sure you know how absolutely, positively wonderful all its products are. Interestingly, it's both a consumer and a producer of water. Yep, it bottles and sells water. Pure, untouched water. From Fiji. One of our readers in Fiji gave me a heads-up about what's going on there, which I'll get to in a moment. Another of its products is nuts. Mostly grown in California's Central Valley. A bit of serendipitous research gave me a heads-up about what's going on there, too.

     Now, this company touts its charitable activities, funded by the profits it makes. It calls them place-based charities; promising that where it produces is where it gives. Like in California. Where the "family-owned" company owners are known as the "California couple who uses more water than every home in Los Angeles combined". Where it doesn't bother to tell you that its aggressive water consumption for its nut crops has exacerbated the West Coast droughts. or that it has continued to expand its orchards there even while the state's residents have suffered repeated water shortages and the water ecosystem has been irreversibly damaged. [ASIDE] Did you know it takes 50 gallons of water to grow a pound of watermelon, 100 to grow a pound of apples, and 1,900 - yes, you read that right - to grow a pound of nuts?! [/ASIDE]

     Also like in Fiji, where the company has soaked up rights to the main-island artesian aquifer to keep water flowing into its bottles - plastic bottles - for export over 5,000 miles away via greenhouse-gas spewing shipments, while it turns a blind eye to the fact that many Fijians themselves can therefore no longer afford clean drinking water. All in all, it takes 1.75 gallons of water to produce just one hand-held bottle of Fijian water. Oh, and let's don't forget that the company may have been complicit in the 2006 Fijian coup d'etat, and certainly continued to do business with the unelected, unethical, and inhumane victors. Meanwhile, the company committed itself to "support" one small town in California, which houses/employs about 35% fewer US citizens than the national average. (Hornswaggled into immigrating 'cuz they think things'll be better for them here than at home?) And within which the demographic and economic stats have been steadily declining. Wow, how "supportive" is that?

I do not buy any known products whatsoever from this company. Think a boycott might get their attention?

Cartoon bone with its arm in a sling3.  Lest you think such greed is limited to foody folk, here's an example from the medical field. Including medical insurance. Medicare has been a boon to seniors since its inception. Services like Obamacare and Medicare (and obviously Medicaid) aren't themselves profit-making. But boy oh boy, where profit might be makeable, there the profiteers will descend like a volt of vultures. And like food, health care is not a luxury. But it's treated like one. So lemme tell you about a very good friend of mine. Who recently fell and fractured her humeral head (the ball at the top of the arm that fits into the shoulder joint) in four places. OUCH! She's on Medicare Advantage. And I gotta admit that Medicare Advantage may indeed be advantageous in health maintenance. But HMO/PPO plans are often rubbish when it comes to catastrophic injuries, diseases, and conditions.

     If I'd broken my shoulder, me with my traditional Medicare and decent supplemental insurance, I'd've been taken directly to the ER (by ambulance, if necessary), been examined and diagnosed by a specialist, been admitted to my hospital, received ongoing pain management assistance, and received a surgical repair probably in a day or three. And wouldn't have expected to pay a cent. [ASIDE] I base that statement mostly on how things went for me when I realized I had what turned out to be a potentially lethal cardiac condition. [/ASIDE] Not so for my friend. She had to go to an immediate care center, received a cursory exam and basic X-ray, was sent home with a sling and heavy-duty acetaminophen, and told to call her doctor. Which she did, went for another more-informational scan, was sent home again with no additional/enhanced pain management, and told to go to the hospital for an EKG and bloodwork. She finally had replacement surgery two weeks after her fall. That's an awful lot of time and travel spent in constant pain that often becomes excruciating before she gets to take another dose of her acetaminophen. That's what happens since health care slid from public service into died-in-the-wool profit-maker.

I'm concern about Medicare Advantage (its main advantage is that it gets to advertise) is slowly driving traditional Medicare out of the market. I'm refusing to fall for their touting small health-maintenance "freebies" at the expense of prompt catastropic care. And I intend to repeatedly write to my electeds about doing something to rein in the profiteering. You up for doing the same?

4.  Here's another instance of public service degrading into profit center. Chief meteorologist emeritus Tom SKilling served Chicago's WGN-TV for over 45 years before his retirement at the end of this past February. He was well known not only in Chicago but nationally for his work, including his dedication to educating people about climate change. His tribute page on the station's website mentions at least a half dozen examples of his advocacy. NONE of which have to do with anything he said about the subject on the air in the 9 PM and 10 PM news.

     Now, I admit I didn't catch his weather reports that often. Just sometimes. But with very rare exceptions, I didn't see much difference between what he said in the weathercast and what chief (or any) meteorologists on other channels said. I'm very aware that the words "climate change" (or any variants, like "global warming" or "climate crisis" or "escalating weather extremes") seldom cross their lips. Sometimes they even downplay the effects, like telling us if our weather is warmer or colder than "average" for a given timeframe, without bothering to remind us that as we have more and more warmer days, the "average" also goes up bit by bit from what it used to be. I wonder even how many Chicagoans realized that our average temperature this past winter was several degrees above freezing. Including the warmest February ever on record, with average temps around 40F (over 10F above the previous average) and with a mere monthly total of 1.2" snow. I didn't learn that from any weathercasters; I had to research it on my own.

Tornado     A good example is tornadoes. Why aren't weathercasters screaming bloody murder about Chicagoland tornadoes as a product of global warming? Chicago used to sit north of Tornado Alley. From 1855 to 2008, Chicagoland had a grand total of 92 "significant" tornadoes, ones with winds over 110 mph and/or at least 1 fatality and/or at least 10 people hurt. 92 in 124 years. Less than one a year. In fact, the highest number of significant tornadoes we ever had in a decade then was 22.

     Wanna guess how many tornadoes of all kinds the National Weather Service clocked last year in its Chicago forecast area? In one year? 58! A record-breaker. Which included, for the first time ever, tornadoes in January and February and March. And would you believe that on March 31, we had 22 in one day?!

     Of course, every single meteorologist is front and center about making sure we're aware of wind shear, storm height, supercells, tornado watches, tornado warnings, tornado sightings, tornado touchdowns, and safety precautions. They are positively strident about it. As well they should be, But I swear you could count on the fingers of one hand how often they include a clear reference to climate change (and still have enough fingers left over to throw a baseball). In fact, they seldom relate any weather forecasts or reports to climate change. Even though this is not the Chicago I moved to 60 years ago.

     Why not? 'Cuz they fear they'd lose viewers. See, like health care, news programs are no longer offered as public service. They're profit centers now, too. And while "if it bleeds, it leads" rules the news segments - for instance, grabbing our attention by putting crimes at the top of the hour, which convinces us that crime is steadily on the increase when, in fact, it's been going down dramatically over the past several years - what rules in the weather segment is apparently "don't rain on our parade" 'cuz the viewers don't wanna be reminded of the truth and, if you feed it to them anyway, they'll just change the channel.

    Do I know how to fix this weather report business? All it would take is every meteorologist in every timeslot on every channel agreeing to get honest, all starting on the same day. Do you think that might happen? Because I think it can only happen if we demand it. It's up to us to remind them that we want the truth. I can do that. A letter, an email, a phone call. If enough of us do, they'll get it; if enough of us don't, they won't.

5.  Finally, let me share an example of how such greed has resulted in political chaos and division. Chicago recently held it's primary elections. There was also a referendum question on the ballot that even people who don't declare a party were able to vote on. The measure was to modify our real estate property transfer tax, the one-time tax paid when a parcel of real estate transfers from seller to buyer. The modification was to lower the tax rate on properties sold for less than $1 million and raise the rate for properties over $1 million, with the proceeds going to help fund the City's programs that help the unsheltered homeless move into shelters and sheltered homeless transition from temporary to permanent housing.

     Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it? The wealthiest people with the biggest properties do the most to help the homeless. And in the process, save all of us from having to deal with, say, homeless encampments in our local parks and underpasses. And the rest of us homeowners get a small break, too, which helps us - especially POCs - pass on just a tad more wealth to our progeny. Not millions, you understand, but maybe at least a few hundred or a thousand bucks more. Money most likely to be spent not on frivolous luxuries but on productive things like helping a grandchild to finish school or to start a small business or professional practice. We non-millionaires certainly outnumber the millionaires in Chicago, so it'd be a shoe-in, right?

Sign that says "STOP Property Transfer Tax" with "Transfer" crossed out     Wrong. The measure lost 52% to 48%. In other words, too many non-millionaires voted against their own interests.

     Why? Because of a massive TV-ad and mail-brochure campaign that used misdirection and downright lies to convince small (and aspiring) homeowners and small business owners - especially POCs - that their annual property tax rates would go up every year. And renters that they'd no longer be able to afford their rent. Even though the transfer tax would never apply as long as owners held onto their property.

     Another favorite deceptive optic was to repeatedly use the words PROPERTY TRANSFER TAX in big bold type with a big swish drawn through the word TRANSFER. I don't have to tell you the campaign was well funded by the most wealthy of homeowners and the least ethical of real estate professionals and the greediest of developers, do I?

    Did I vote? Yes. Did I try to educate my neighbors, regardless of their partisanship (or non), about their stake in this? Yes. Our ward actually voted 71% in favor of this measure. Have I given up? No. The vote was close; the proponents can do a lot over time to counteract the deceptive claims of the opponents. And the City can try again, maybe even with an improved plan. What's going on in your community that you need to get out and vote about? 'Cuz since Citizens United perpetrated the idiocy that money is speech, allowing the 1% to shout down everyone else. the only way to counteract that is with enough of the 99% using our votes to speak louder.

Back to Espinoza, who ended with a telling query: "What will come after late capitalism?" Good question, David.  And: "In the face of the climate crisis, some are imagining everyday lives no longer guided by overconsumption and environmental degradation," he responded to himself. One can only hope. One can only hope it'll happen soon enough.

OTOH, evolution isn't over. The Creative Force - however you define her, him, or it - is still operating, and will continue to do so. What if we screw it up so royally that we pretty much wipe all "higher" life forms - like, say, vertebrates - off the face of the land and the waters? Well then, I'm definitely rooting for the octopi to be the next race that comes out of the oceans and strives to properly perfect and use art and science, faith and investigation, diversity and unity to achieve what 12-Steppers call "conscious contact with God" and with the world around them. After all, they have a wildly different way of looking at things than we do; so maybe what we got wrong, they'll get it right. Right?

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Looking at point 5 above, the same kind of monied interests are now using exactly the same kind of tactics to dynamite another Chicago program to combat both climate change and poverty by mandating that all (and only) new and majorly renovated buildings must be built to use clean and affordable energy sources. Dear reader, when you see that kind of one-sided, negative advertising blitzkrieg against something as vital as keeping our society and/or our planet liveable for everyone, seriously consider and even investigate who's spending all that money and what's in it for them that they'd pour all those millions into it. A little fact checking can go a long way.

Mon, Apr 1, 2024 at 5:26 PM, Nilufar wrote:
  Your article about the weather, Medicare, and the property tax vote was so informative and rich to me,
  As part of my ODE Services business, I'm willing to create flyers pro gratis to promote these important issues. Just reach out and I'll do it, pending my time and availability!
  I'm all about creating our own social media ad campaign to counteract the falsehoods that are too often rampant in our media.


Lucki responds to Nilufar:
  Thank you so much, Nilufar. And don't forget the retail-food industry. The article fleshed out way beyond my initial expectations. Some things just take off and write themselves, don't they? I'll get back to you offsite (so to speak) about collaborating on info dissemination, adding ODE to our Portals Quilt, maybe organizing some kind of website handshake, and general brainstorming.


  Tue, Apr 2, 2024 at 7:40 PM, Nilufar wrote:
  Yes, yes, and yes! :)
      Lucki responds to Nilufar:
  To add ODE to our Portals Quilt, send me a headshot, your banner/logo, & a short write-up. We'll get to the rest of it offsite.
Wed Apr 3, 2024 at 12:29 AM, Nancy B wrote:
Have you ever lived through a garbage-collectors strike?" YES. "Was it fun?" NO! LOL
  Wow, that was a long one with the real different examples.
  Every time I go to the grocery store, I'm aware the packages are smaller and the prices are bigger. I think my grocery bills have doubled since the pandemic.
  A piggy bank to fill with water, ha ha. I didn't know it took 50 gallons for a pound of watermelon or 100 for apples, but 1900 for nuts is astounding. No wonder everyone else there has droughts. I used to buy water in bottles or large plastic jugs because our pipes are very old; but I decided to stop that, and now I have an undersink filter and the water tastes good.
  You're right, no one should have to wait that long to take care of an injury that awful painful.
  Yes, weather is getting more extreme with storms and droughts and temperatures slowly rising. We need to be aware and take it more seriously. If the news keeps ignorning it and so people die from it, they'll still lose viewers, but that shouldn't have to happen for them to talk about it now when maybe we can do more about it.
  I've seen a lot of those advertising brochures, and am still getting a lot. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
  There are a few things to fix:  "know know"  "Do i know"  "transf3er"
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Well, Nancy, I'm glad you stuck through reading all of it anyway.
  Thanks for catching those typos; I really appreciate it. And you made me notice a fourth one. That was too many even for so long an article. Now they've been corrected.

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"Being a class act is more about who you are and what you do
rather than what you own or who you pretend to be."  -- Frank Sonnenberg

Two months ago, I posted a complimentary article in this blog related to that month's Adding Insult write-up. I noted that doing so was "a very rare occurrence". Well, apparently not all that rare. 'Cuz this entry here was also written in conjunction with a simultaneously posted article in Adding Insult. And once again, I highly recommend that you read that one first. Though they're both fun, call it saving the best for last.

You've probably seen Lily, the spokesgal for the alpha phone company. An often-used character whose ads I've both panned and praised. Lily is portrayed by Milana Vayntrub, and she's really good at it.

You've also likely seen Flo, the spokesgal for the oh-so-white insurance company. An often-used character some (but not all) of whose ads I've been panning since mid-2014. Twice in a row in 2020 (here and here). And again in 2021 and 2022. Flo is portrayed by Stephanie Courtney, who's also really good at it. This time, though, she impressed me.

By which I mean the actor impressed me, not one of her ads. 'Cuz of one of those serendipitous things I learned on the way to finding something else. See, according to the 12/29/23 New York Times, "In the summer of 2020, seemingly overnight, one small but vocal corner of the internet fixed its gaze upon Vayntrub and began referring to her by a new name: Mommy Milkers, a reference to her breasts. En masse, people spammed the comment sections of AT&T's social-media posts with lewd declarations and emojis of glasses of milk."

One hand giving another had a gift of lacy flowersThat August, unable to escape the trolls even on her personal social media accounts, Vayntrub said in an Instagram Live video, "Maybe it just has to do with being a person on the internet, or maybe it's specific to being a woman on the internet. But all of these comments — it hurts my feelings." After noting she'd received sexist comments and private messages asking for nude photos, she added, "It's bringing up, like, a lot of feelings of sexual assault. I am just like, you know, walking my dog and getting messages from people who have distorted my pictures to get likes on their accounts. I am not consenting to any of this. I do not want any of this."

Then Vayntrub received an unexpected phone call. From Stephanie Courtney. Who said she hadn't faced the same kind of harassment as Vayntrub but nevertheless wanted to reach out and offer her support. Vayntrub called Courtney a good listener and said that the phone call made her feel "like there were people on my team."

That's a class act. Kudos to Courtney. A commercials actor with compassion. May her tribe increase.

Khoda hafez,

Sat, Mar 2, 2024 at 8:50 AM, Hakeem S wrote:
  I got it. I see what you meant.
  You said in the [announcement] email you were moving. Is your email going to change?
  Lucki responds to Hakeen S:
  Thank you. It seemed a message worth spreading.
  No, announcements will still come from the same Gmail account. We got burned when our current (hopefully soon to be not) host, with minimal notice, closed all domain-specific email accounts that people had originally been given gratis but were now unwilling/unable to start paying a third party for. Outlook, no less, which who in their right mind wants to use anyway? So [email protected] and its nine associated accounts just unceremoniously disappeared. The host didn't even wait until still-in-force domain/hosting contracts expired. That's another reason we want to cut them loose. They really are getting a bad reputation in the industry. Understandably so.
Sat, Mar 2, 2024 at 11:46 PM, Kim B wrote:
  Happy to see this [announcement] each month.
  Very happy to see anyone showing some class thanks for that Abiding blog.
  Lucki responds to Kim B:
  You're quite welcome. Always very happy to see something reportable (and reported) like that. Have an uplifting Fast month, & enjoy your week.
Thu, Mar 7 , 2024 at 12:02 AM, Nancy B wrote:
  Interesting. Yes, that was a class act. Stuff like that does happen to people and its awful.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Absolutely. And it's very gracious when someone reaches out in support who never went through the same thing but still empathizes.

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



[They] paid tribute to David as"generous with his service","a good guy",
"hardworking", and "a gentleman".  -- HCA Board Minutes, Jan. 3, 2024

It is with deeply saddened hearts that Earthstar Works shares with you the news that David Howard Luster - a best-of-friends, my family's and this website's techie guru extradinaire, and our condo association's IT technical consultant - died late last year. It was an unexpected shock we weren't even aware of until early this year, just in time to be represented at his burial on January 3rd. My condo association's Board Meeting minutes for that day recorded that the Secretary:

...reported to the Board and to other Owners that David died last week and was buried this morning, at which ceremony she represented the Board as well as the four individual Owners known to be David's clients. Board members and Owners paid tribute to David as "generous with his service", "a good guy", "hardworking", and "a gentleman".

David Howard Luster 1960-2023We became close friends since we first met through our mutual love of science fiction on page and screen, sharing many SF conventions - along with Number One Son Rey - starting in the '70s. He was, especially, undeniably integral to my developing a strong relationship with Number Two Son Mead, whom I also first met at a sci-fi con.

David was one of the founding members of in 2010. He was an absolute wizard at legacy systems, which was vitally important to us. We so appreciated his being our one-man geek squad, always ready to roll up his sleeves in person or remotely, jump right in, dive deep, and hammer at the problem until he found a solution and got our hardware and software to sit up and take notice, straighten up and fly right.

Initially a neighbor within walking distance, David also helped me with things like bulk shopping or getting places where public transit was nonexistent or too complicated. He also served as my caregiver when, as a senior, I suffered some major injuries. In fact, he was so good at doing so that, despite IT being his first love and decades-long career, he also served some others as in-home hospice caregiver. Suffice it to say that he was empathetic to the point of being practically psychic, and he had strange but effective ways of getting things done for people who needed a lot of help.

Perhaps most tellingly, as an occasional dogwalker (helping another client who owned the business) and lifelong adopter/lover of cats (though the pet he left when he passed was a parakeet "inherited" from an end-of-life care recipient...which bird, I'm happy to report, got adopted again by friends whom it knew and is now happy with), David was also my designated catsitter (my cats loved him, even skittish Angel), coming in twice a day when I was in hospital or gone on long trips. In fact, he was the only person whom Rey and I agreed should have 24/7/365 access to my condo, just in case.

David was also a friend of the Baha'i Faith. He often attended events, large and small. He talked about principles he thought the Faith" really got right" (though he was honest about the one thing in the Scriptures that bothered him and kept him from wanting to be Baha'i). And he became the techie guru and sometime caregiver for several more Baha'is than just me.

Besides all the intangible gifts David gave me, there are also more tangibles than I can remember offhand. I especially treasure artistic gifts like a photo he took inside the dome of the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, a Linda Fairbanks drawing of Paul Darrow as Kerr Avon, a Mike Cole ink print of Keith Hamilton Cobb as Tyr Anasazi (it's a special joy to have such a piece of art depicting someone you actually know, which is why he especially gave it to me), and a small poured-silver sculpt he created of a mushroom.

This past December 28, while at the home where he was starting another stint as home-hospice caregiver (while still, of course, servicing his IT clients), David said he didn't feel well and went to lie down, eschewing his friend's offer to drive him to the ER. Two hours later, when they went to see how he was doing, they found him unresponsive, weren't sure if he was even breathing, and called 911. The responding paramedics found a thready pulse and immediately took him to the hospital. But despite the intensive care given there, he died an hour or two later: a heart attack. As I said, it was a shock to everyone.

When his previous care recipient died earlier last year, she had a Jewish funeral. David was impressed with the service and the minyan that formed for her burial, especially when he learned that none of them even knew her but were simply performing a mitzvah. He talked to the cantor, and casually mentioned he'd like such a service when he died (even though he hadn't formally practiced his Faith for fifty years). The cantor immediately promised him that. Neither of them knew how soon the promise would need to be honored. And once again, none of the men (except the cantor) forming the minyan knew David, but all were pleased to perform such a mitzvah for him. And were very welcoming to the friends and clients of various Faiths who learned about the burial soon enough to attend. A graveside memorial will be held for him in a year, complete with the cemetery laying a simple headstone and the cantor leading all attendees (who wish to) in saying Kaddish for David.

I hope this "eulogy for a best friend" - as well as Helena's elegy in his memory in HelenArt - gives you some small indication of the void David's passing leaves. To paraphrase (just changing the pronouns from plural to singular) a verse of Scripture, my wish for him. for the progress of his soul in all the dimensions of God's universe, is this: Purify him from trespasses, dispel his sorrows, and change his darkness into light. Cause him to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse him with the most pure water, and grant him to behold Thy splendors on the loftiest mount.

Khoda hafez,

Thu, Feb 1, 2024 at 8:14 PM, Kim B wrote:
  Condolences on the passing of your
dear friend.
  And thanks for the laugh.
  Lucki responds to Kim B:
  Thank you.
  And you're welcome.
Thu, Feb 1, 2024 at 11:58 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  Oh yes. David. This is good, Lucki. This is very good. You did good.
He was very helpful as my computer person. And he is missed by everyone.
  In Helena's elegy, you can really feel the emotion in what she wrote. Her art is beautiful, too.

Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Thank you.
  I still find myself going to email him something or call him about something (or just to check in) & then I remember: "Oh, yeah. No. *Sigh*"
  On the tech front, my grandShoghi is stepping up big-time for now, thank goodness. But being in Quebec, he always has to work remotely. He'll only be able to talk me through hardware stuff, like backups to a physical drive; my fingers will have to do the walking.
  Despite Helena's 3 newly posted pix having been done last year but the 2 poems this year, I found it an interesting synchronicity that, the way they were juxtaposed in yesterday's update, the "Messenger of Joy" quote was right next to her "My Friend, the Giving Tree" elegy, & "If Love Were Enough" is by her poem "If Only in My Dreams". Divinely orchestrated reminders, perhaps? That (b) even separation doesn't diminish such love & doing the best we can (& letting go of what we can't) is, in the final analysis, the definition of "enough"? And that (a) death doesn't have to be experienced as an end, but as the living soul leaving behind the coat it wore while here but no longer needs? Solaces for the spirit.

Mon, Feb 5, 2024 at 9:36 AM, Bri L wrote:
I'm sorry about your friend David you knew so long. Are ;you all right?
  Lucki responds to Bri L:
  I'm getting there, Bri. Thank you for asking. I'd been worried about an increase in stress I was seeing in him (though I certainly didn't foresee it leading to a heart attack, never mind so soon). Now, though, he's at peace in the arms of God or Mother Earth or however each of us sees it.
Wed, Feb 7, 2024 at 6:17 PM, Curtis R wrote:
  I  didn't know him that well but that seems nice what you have written. Death is all around us and it sucks.
  Lucki responds to Curtis R:
  I have to agree that losing a friend like that bites. It's not always easy to accept that death is an integral part of life, at least on this plane of existence.
Thu, Feb 8, 2024 at 12:45 AM, Mark H wrote:
  Excellent obituary, Lucki, may he rest in peace.....
  Lucki responds to Mark H:
  Thank you, Mark. I know how complementary you've been about his work for you, and I appreciate your acceptance of the obit as hitting the right high mark (no pun intended).
Mon, Apr 1, 2024 at 5:04 PM, Nilufar wrote:
So sorry for your great loss, Lucki!
   I believe when souls pass unexpectantly or at a younger age, it's because they fulfilled their purpose in this life to the point where their skills and virtues are needed in the next.
    Wishing you comfort and peace in this transitional time.
  Lucki responds to Nilufar:
   Thank you, Nilu. You reminded me of one of my top 20 (sort of) Quotes of Note, too:  Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't.  -- Richard Bach

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"[Dr. Williams] said it well. He said usually you can train a wild animal and never tame a wild animal.
Now I tell people that a wild animal is like a loaded gun. It can go off at any time." --Jack Hanna

Tiger face right profile in B&WNice to be back again. This entry was written in conjunction with a simultaneously posted article in Adding Insult. And that's a very rare occurrence, lemme tell ya. So I recommend you read that one first, as it both inspired and feeds into this one.

Welcome back. When I was a young adult, one summer I met a guy in Ringling's who worked the center ring cage with a trained Siberian tiger. People used to call such performers lion tamers. But no big cat, no matter how well trained, is ever truly tame. Just ask Roy Horn, whose prize tiger, a 5-year-old raised by Roy since it was a cub, badly injured him when he fell during a show. Even if Montecore was trying to help Roy by dragging him to safety, it didn't do so "tamely". It acted on instinct in an unfamiliar situation. Pretty much par for the course for any species, ain't it?

Anyway, barring some solo "tricks", the heart of this guy's act was pretty simple. He got the cat to jump onto a very tall stool. Then he had a draft horse wearing a thick leather protective pad on its back and neck - sometimes a pad the same dark reddish color as the horse, sometimes a white-and-gray striped pad that mimicked the tiger's coat - walk between the legs of the stool and stop while the trainer coaxed the tiger to step down onto the horse's back. The horse would then circle slowly around the cage to a second stool and the trainer would signal the tiger to jump onto that stool.

As the horse continued plodding, sometimes the trainer had the tiger jump right back down as the horse walked out from under the stool. Other times, he had the horse walk a full circle before the tiger stepped back down on its back. And to be honest, I saw the act enough times to realize that sometimes the full-circle walk happened because the tiger balked at stepping onto the horse's back, and the trainer had the horse go the full circle - as opposed to just backing up (which happened occasionally) - to retrigger the tiger's obedience to the step-down command.

Horse face right profile in B&WIn the years following that summer, I often described that act to family and friends. And they invariably expressed with, depending on their personality, either mild or strong amazement that he'd trained a member of the world's largest extant tiger species. Easily more than a foot longer and over 100 pounds heavier than the Bengals everyone else in Ringling's was working with.

Fair point.

But I told 'em they missed the point. I wasn't all that impressed with his training the tiger to do what it did. And didn't. One expects that of a "lion tamer" with a well-fed cat. No, I was impressed with his training the horse to do what it did. And didn't.

I'm sure that when you think about it, you understand why. Convincing a flight-prey animal - one big enough to do a lot of damage if it feels forced into a fight response - to even be in that cage with that tiger without panicking? Never mind let the cat jump down on its back like that? Repeatedly? Day after day? My oh my. That horse willingly trusted its trainer to be the alpha leader of its herd-of-three, dominant to and in total control of the feline member, too. Another case - like that of a fearless bunny among dogs - of credit where credit is due. And kudos.

S'always worth looking at things from different perspectives before deciding what most deserves our being impressed.

Khoda hafez,

1.  Keeping my promise to Rezvanieh to complete Anasazi Anthem:
     Progress has definitely not been as fast as I hoped, but it's been more or less steady. The draft manuscript is now one-third completed and online, and the eighth chapter may soon be posted, too.
2.  Making several of my books available as e-books:
     My grandShoghi, the techie wizard in the family, is willing to help me accomplish this during his gap year between high school and college. I'll keep you updated.
3.  Working with Tom Ligon on the fourth novel in his new series:
     Tom's progress on the first of the novels has been adversely impacted by a major obstacle over which he has no control. We talked about a way I can help him get past that this year, and I'm all in on the support side.

Sun, Jan 7, 2024 at 11:13 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  I do not understand why would people go and put themselves at risk like that. Accidents happen. There have been many stories. They're unpredictable. But the horse, to follow the trainer in spite of its instincts, that's amazing!
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  I suppose they like the challenge. The egoboo of doing something most people would never do. Maybe they can even be a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
  The other trainer at the circus that summer, the one who worked several big-cat species together, asked me one day, "If I took you into the cage with me, would you be scared if them?"
  I thought about that for a moment. 'Cuz, ya know, if you're afraid, you shouldn't be going in there at all ... they can smell the pheromones. Then I answered him that, no, I wouldn't be scared, but I'd sure have a healthy respect for them.
  "Right answer," he replied. But he wasn't stupid enough to actually take me into the cage with him.
Sun, Jan 28, 2024 at 10:39 PM, Kim B wrote:
Welcome back!
  I was traveling, and this ended up at the bottom of my inbox.  Happy to see it - great point about that well-trained horse!!!
  I'm looking forward to February.
  Lucki responds to Kim B:
  Thank you.
  I hope you enjoyed your travels, and are equally enjoying being back home. And yeah, I got a number of very short "heroic horse" comments. And a couple about the bunny, too, though that just wasn't as impressive to folks ... even though horses can seriously injure a large predator, while bunnies' only defense from canines is flight.
  And since I saw your email right after I fed my Angel her morning treat of shelter mix, I was reminded that the trainer only fed his tiger prime steak ... so, I assumed, it wouldn't associate the smell of horse with the food it was accustomed to. I figured that was pretty much par for the course with any circus acts involving big cats, 'cuz there were always plenty of horses in the same troupes. In fact, in the old days, it was the horses who moved the caged cats not only on the circus grounds and into the ring but also from and back to the city-to-city trains.

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"To everything turn, turn, turn There is a season turn, turn, turn   And a time to every purpose under Heaven"
                                                      --The Byrds

And it's time for me to turn, turn, turn. Turn my efforts to two, or possibly three, major writing projects:

= The first is keeping my promise to my spiritual mother, Rezvanieh, when she insisted that I must complete Anasazi Anthem. As you probably already know, I've published the prolog and four chapters. That leaves eighteen chapters and the epilog to go. I have the complete outline and tons of story notes, along with various supporting material. But all that does not a finished novel make. So I need to binge watch the show again, and then get on the ball with the real writing. I'll let you know as things progress.

A fork in a tree-shaded road= The second major task is responding to people who have asked me about making several of my books - most notably but not limited to Twigs of a Family Tree and (ah yes, another Andromeda-inspired tome) 2*4*7 - available as e-books. That's not as easy as it sounds. It also has to start with research into, for example, how best to Kindle-ize highly formatted material like poetry. I'll also keep you abreast of that progress.

= The third task is more iffy. I don't know whether it will fall (if it falls at all) after the first two tasks or between them. But it's an intriguing project. Tom Ligon has pretty much completed the first in a new series of (he hopes) four novels set in the universe of his two Analog novelettes: "El Dorado" (Nov 2007) and "Payback" (Jul/Aug 2009). As a result of an in-person brainstorming session last year, Tom has invited me to collaborate on the fourth novel if the series sells. That's obviously an offer I can't refuse. Needless to say, I'll brag about progress on that front, too.

All of that means, though, that much as I enjoy writing Abiding Blog (and Adding Insult), it now hasta take a back seat to these projects. So as of tomorrow, it's going on hiatus for part or all of 2023. Aphorisms & Memes, though, will continue to add weekly posters, since all 66 for 2023 were created in 2022 anyway. And I may send you the usual announcements, but quarterly instead of monthly.)

Still, you'll remember that I promised to write an average of one entry for every month this blog has existed. By the end of 2022, I needed at least 145 articles to keep that progress; so by end of 2023, it would need 157. But this is actually its 199th article, so taking up to a year off still won't mean missing my cumulative goal. If you're fairly new to this blog, that'll give you a lot of past articles to read for fun and info. And if you're a long-time reader, maybe you'll enjoy looking back at some of your favorites over the years, or even discovering one or two that you somehow missed. Just use the ToC in the rightbar to browse through the archives.

May 2023 be a safe, peaceful, productive, and fun year for you and yours. And please wish me luck on all three projects.

Khoda hafez,

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