Harassment/Misconduct/Criminal Behavior

Friday, 27 October 2017, 7:20 | Category : Life
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Well, The Rock Test wasn’t what I was expecting (I was thinking “rock”, not “Rock”), but yes, it’s valid. This all has been yet another revelation in my life. It’s a bit like my experience with work/office affairs (no, I’ve never had one of those, that isn’t what I mean. And I’m not trying to relate affairs to harassment, so bear with me). There was a time in my young professional life when I would hear rumors of Mike who was married to Sally, having a fling with his co-worker Jane who was married to Bill, Or not married. Whatever. And I would think, “no way, they’re married”, or “no way, they’re just friends”. And gradually my obliviousness would be shattered by the reality that Mike and Jane really *were* having a fling, and it wasn’t really such a rare thing either.

Obliviousness has often been part of my character, sad to say.

When it comes to sexual harassment/misconduct/criminal behavior – I think my professional life has been a little different from many, especially in the IT field. For most of my 30+ years in the field, my managers were women. So the environment wasn’t male-dominated, and that made it easy to engage in the thought process that what I experienced was “normal”. My managers treated me as a professional, I treated them, and my coworkers, as professionals, the world turned as it should. Did I know of situations where women were subjected to things they shouldn’t have had to endure? Yes, but those were isolated, and everybody knew those guys were pigs. That’s what I always thought, anyway. And now I look back and realize that once again, I was oblivious to things going on in plain sight. Maybe not in my immediate environment, but still…and I think about the women with whom I’ve worked, and I wonder just how much crap they’ve had to put up with through the years, and I wonder how many signs I missed, how many situations might have been helped if I’d just noticed what was going on. Maybe none – maybe I wouldn’t have been willing to speak up. I like to think I would have, maybe that’s just vanity on my part. But being a white male has meant I could stay safely within my perspective and ignore so many things. As one of my daughters once pointed out, being male, 6’5″, and not a skinny guy meant I could feel comfortable in situations where a woman would feel unsafe. I know, this is rambling but what I’m trying to say is, learning to break from my happy little world, learning to explore other perspectives, learning to have empathy for others, has taken a lifetime for me. And that’s the first step, I think, that people need to embrace. As we began to be inundated by reports of women claiming harassment, my first thought was “really”. And then I began to think “yes, really”. To the women I’ve worked with, if I missed things along the way, if I ignored the signs, I’m sorry. I really am. Being oblivious isn’t an excuse.

Please Don’t Stop Trying

Tuesday, 3 October 2017, 10:58 | Category : Life, Politics
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When I was in Belfast 10 days ago, I saw the “peace wall” and got depressed. The progress I thought they had made really isn’t there. Basically, they’ve stopped killing each other, which is good, for sure, but you just get the feeling that it could all come crashing down with one incident. Our cab driver (we took the Black Cab Tour, which was great, BTW) told us he didn’t think that would happen, because they’ve come too far, but still…

But as I was reading the messages written on the wall, some good, some mundane, some just typical graffiti garbage, one small phrase near the ground jumped out at me:

“Please don’t stop trying”.

If I could find whoever wrote that, I would give them an enormous bear hug. It kept the spark from going out. Today, 5000 miles away, we need to write that message again.

“Please don’t stop trying”

When maniacs kill dozens of people with guns that are adored by the NRA and their gun-worshiping sheep, and they tell us new laws won’t stop it – please don’t stop trying.

When the president lies about everything, and his supporters stay with him regardless, and you think there is no hope for sanity in our political system – please don’t stop trying.

When it seems like the social progress we’ve made over the past fifty years is suddenly rolling back – please don’t stop trying.

Please don’t stop trying.

Walking Man Update

Sunday, 1 May 2016, 10:28 | Category : Life, Walks
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An update to an earlier post from September, 2014: I’ve continued to walk. Since August 2014, I’ve walked 3,146 miles – 6,768,965 steps; I’ve worn out 4 pairs of shoes; and I’ve seen lots of things and thought about many more. It’s still the best part of the day.

About 9 years ago, I started walking in the morning before work. I hadn’t exactly been slothful before that, but I hadn’t approached walking as a regular form of exercise. For several years, I was pretty consistent, walking 2-3 miles a day; then a series of injuries, minor and less minor, began to interrupt my schedule, and consistency became less so. I still walked, but instead of every day, or 6 days a week, it might be 4 days a week, or 3, or 2. And I might only walk for 30 minutes or so.

Fast forward to last winter. For years, I’d been having occasional episodes of atrial fibrillation. The episodes would typically last for less than a day, I would convert back to normal rhythm on my own, and move on. At some point, my cardiologist put me on an anti-arrhythmic drug, which worked well for about 4 years; then I had a episode that didn’t convert back for several weeks, and he changed me to another drug, which worked for a while. Last January, I had another episode, short-lived again. But at that time, he said it was time to consider cardiac ablation surgery. The drug I was on wasn’t working like it had, and the drugs beyond that had more and nastier side effects. We decided to to discuss it again after my vacation to Greece in March; when I got back, we scheduled the surgery for July 1. In May, I had another episode; I didn’t convert back, so they started me on a blood thinner until the surgery. Once again, my walking got interrupted, because in a state of constant atrial fibrillation, I really didn’t have energy for long walks. On July 1, I underwent cardiac ablation surgery. It went fine, I was in the hospital overnight, and went home the next day to recover. After a few days of a very sore chest and throat (from the things they had shoved down my throat during the surgery), I was getting better rapidly, until my left leg began hurting. No blood clot, but the cardiologist wasn’t sure what was going on. Additional CT scans and ultrasounds didn’t reveal the cause; finally he said I should maybe go see my orthopedic surgeon (which I had wanted to do days earlier). When I was finally able to get in to see him, he diagnosed the problem in 5 minutes – bleeding into the quad muscles, which caused my left leg and knee to be very swollen and stiff, and very painful. He prescribed a month of physical therapy, which worked wonders in fairly short order. And while I was going through the weeks of PT, I started really wanting to be walking again. By early August, I was pretty much back to normal, and decided to start getting out of bed and getting out the door again. Since retiring from my state government job last year (I now work as a consultant part-time) I have a very flexible schedule, so I can get a good walk in and still have a leisurely morning most days before going to work.

So, I started walking again. At first I took walks like I used to take – 30-45 minutes. But I soon realized that (a) that wasn’t really long enough, and (b) I had time for a longer walk. So I began adding time and distance, and finding new walking routes. Some days I walk in the neighborhoods near my house. Other days, I’ll go to the multi-use trail along the Natchez Trace. That’s where I can get some really good, long walks in. My Fitbit measures the distance and number of steps, and I’ve found that the Fitbit’s distance measurement is pretty accurate. Now, most days I walk at least 4 miles, and I often get 5 miles in, all before breakfast. I take my Walkman radio and listen to NPR’s Morning Edition, and walk, and walk. It’s often the best part of my day. And my reward is scenes like this:

or this:

or, at this time of year:

And most days, when I’m walking along the Natchez Trace trail, I have the trail to myself:

Right now, I’m averaging about 25 miles a week on my morning walks. According to Fitbit, if you include all the steps I take during the day, I average about 40 miles a week. I guess when winter sets in I’ll see how dedicated I really am. For now, it’s just one foot in front of the other.

Time

Sunday, 24 January 2016, 20:07 | Category : Life, Mississippi, Nature, Philosophy
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greenwood_arches1

There’s an old cemetery that I’ve walked through on occasion – a couple of times when I was helping to clean up and plant some antique roses among the headstones, a couple of times when I was just walking around. The cemetery dates back to the 1820s, and holds the remains of several Mississippi governors and other notables, including those of Eudora Welty. There’s also a section of unknown Confederate soldiers. The cemetery lies in sight of Mississippi’s State Capitol building and other state office buildings, but it’s surprisingly unknown to many people. One gray January afternoon a few years ago I was wandering through some of the older parts of the cemetery and happened to notice something at the base of a large tree. When I looked closer, I saw that it was an old headstone.

tree_and_headstonegray

I’ve thought about that headstone many times since. It’s almost a parable about our relationship to the world in which we live. Or at least, a reference to Ecclesiastes Chapter 1:

What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
.
.
.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

In the end, the trees win. Time wins. Time always wins.

Hello, World, And Thoughts About Mars

Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 21:56 | Category : BlogStuff, Life, Science
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Periodically, I sit down with myself and think about what I really want to do. And one of the things I invariably say to myself is, I would like to blog regularly again. Even though blogging as we knew it is 5-6 years (or more) gone, and my old blogroll is mostly just a historical document, I still like the idea of blogging. Because I like the idea of writing. So every few weeks (months), I come back here and post something. Just enough to make me think I can justify paying my web host when renewal comes around again. And it always has that “Hello, World” feel to it, especially when the time between posts is really extended. A while back I decided to walk down my blogroll and see if any were still active. A few were, but most had either sat idle for a long, long time, with a last post hanging out there for several years, or were completely gone, drowned in the increasingly shallow pool that is Facebook/Twitter/Tumbler/whatever.

So why suddenly show up and post something again? Well – Mars. I was listening to a program about Mars, private spaceflight, and one-way missions. Especially one-way missions. They were discussing the many and varied problems that will have to solved for a successful Mars mission to happen, the personality profiles, all the supplies that will have to be taken along, the fact that in the entire history of space travel, while we’ve launched things of many sizes and configurations, we’ve never landed anything of the size that will be required to carry all that stuff. We’ve never even thought about how to land something like that. I thought about the medical issues that might come up, that there will need to be someone who can handle medical emergencies like broken bones and joint injuries, not to mention heart attacks. And then I thought about something that I’ve never seen or heard discussed. At some point, you’re going to have someone develop a condition, like cancer, that won’t be treatable with whatever medical facility and supplies there will be on Mars, but will be painful and debilitating. In other words, something that will be fatal, but will also be too much to live with. And somewhere in the medical supplies, there will have to be a planned method of suicide. As a society, we will have to embrace the notion that officially-assisted suicide is acceptable. It may well be that the plans for this are already in place. It’s not so different from the idea of a mission during he Apollo days going bad and marooning astronauts in space. But in some ways it is different. There would be no compromised facility, no dwindling air supply. Just someone who has no hope of a cure, and a remaining lifetime of pain or severe, deteriorating disability. And we’ll have to allow, and assist, that person to end their life, on whatever terms they think best.