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At coffee this morning, someone asked why we were spending so much money on a mission to Jupiter that will take five years to get there and another five to return. She wondered why we couldn’t spend all that money here on earth for our needs and requirements here. As you might imagine, that question launched a very spirited conversation with excellent points made on all sides of the topic. Most of my answers revolved around the joy of discovery rather than economic possibilities. Although I agree that the economic possibilities are extremely important, I deeply feel that we humans are capable and desirous of knowing and experiencing so much more than that. So, this excellent article in  the July 01, 2007 Air & Space Magazine by Michael Griffin satisfied my need for more reasons for space exploration.
I loved the author’s comparison of space exploration today with building cathedrals hundreds of years ago, of the wonder, awe, and curiosity about things unknown. Because building massive cathedrals took such a long time, most of those builders did not live to see their projects completed. In the same way, most of us now living will not be around to see the results of our space exploration. However, it gives me a wonderful feeling just knowing we might be accomplishing important work for the long haul of life here on earth for future generations.
“It is my contention that the products of our space program are today’s cathedrals. The space program satisfies the desire to compete, but in a safe and productive manner, rather than in a harmful one. It speaks abundantly to our sense of human curiosity, of wonder and awe at the unknown. Who can watch people assembling the greatest engineering project in the history of mankind—the International Space Station—and not wonder at the ability of people to conceive and to execute the project? And it also addresses our need for leaving something for future generations.” (Michael Griffin)
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Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

First of all, can someone tell me if this rule applies to posting it in a blog?  I would much rather cut and paste the entire article instead of just copying the URL. However, that’s what I’ll do for now since I don’t want to make the powers-that-be somewhere mad. 

The winners have been announced for the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, named after British author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel “Paul Clifford” begins with the oft-quoted opening line “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Here’s Sue Fondrie’s Grand Prize winner: 

“Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”

Next is John Doble’s winner in the historical fiction category:

“Napoleon’s ship tossed and turned as the emperor, listening while his generals squabbled as they always did, splashed the tepid waters in his bathtub.”

Finally, this is my favorite, Mike Pedersen’s Purple Prose winner:

“As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.”

I think I’d feel blue, too. 

Just in case the copyright police find this blog, I’d better include the actual URL so you can read the entire article:  http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2011-07-26-worst-writing-contest_n.htm

Hmm. Somehow I don’t think I should use these as examples to help improve my own writing. But, in case you’d like some laughs, here is more than anyone would probably like about the contest and its winners over the years:  http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

A wonderful August 2nd to all of you as well as lots of ice and freezing temperatures to those of you in the scorching parts of the country. I wish I could ship tons of the stuff to you. It’s been hot and muggy here in San Diego but nothing like Oklahoma or New York. Please try to stay cool. It’s got to end sometime.

Today I got a kind of wake-up call about how high medical costs have risen lately. I haven’t had any kind of medical insurance since getting divorced in 2006 and am anxiously looking forward to Medicare (ala Secure Horizons) in December. I’ve been very healthy, only going to clinic doctors as needed and buying meds in Mexico. So, I just hadn’t noticed the costs, other than the out-of-reach cost of medical insurance. However, my left eye has been bothering me a lot for a week so I finally made an appointment this afternoon. Turns out I have a virus in my eye (had never heard of that) caused by the same virus that makes cold sores. The treatment is one drop of stuff nine times a day for a week and an ointment to make it feel better. All well and good—until the bill.

The doctor visit was $160, and my debit card groaned but spit it out into the machine. However, the tiny bottle of drops (generic) was $143! Ouch!!! That had to go on a credit card since I haven’t even paid this month’s bills yet. I sure do hope those drops do the trick. I was kind of expecting to pay $4 or so at Wal-Mart, too. And what world am I living in, I wonder?

I’m knocking on all the wood I can find right now, hoping that nothing else will happen until I can rely on the government a little in December. This experience gave me a down-to-earth idea of why so many people are struggling with healthcare issues and why I’m so adamant that the U.S. is so far behind other countries in assisting their people. It isn’t funny.

 

Since I’ve been sleeping outside on the patio for at least a week, I’ve pretty much gotten used to it being, if not completely dark, at least almost there. However, tonight screams daylight. Woke up about 12:00 to a beautiful moon so full and bright I thought it was noon instead of midnight. (slight exaggeration there, but not a lot). To top it off, my mom was still awake in the living room, reading, and that light spread outside to the patio. Then there are the ubiquitous streetlights. When I sleep in the bedroom, one shines directly into the window. Several months ago I quietly and sneakily unscrewed the bulb and no one noticed for a month. Perhaps it’s time to do it again. Now I’m wide awake and have been catching up on friends’ blogs, especially those from Sebastian, who I met several years ago in Kanab, Utah. He has been living in a small Casita trailer which he tows to various out-back and off-road places, and writes about the experience living “off the grid” with his cats. Although I don’t think I’d like to spend most of my time so far away from civilization, this time in San Diego, with all the traffic, noise, light pollution, people, and speed of life has convinced me of the need to just get away from it all for a while, if only for a short time. The RV patiently awaits. Now if the price of gas would just go down a little more.

I’ve now been living in East San Diego County for six months and it’s been okay so far. But, I can’t keep from comparing the area to the way it was when I grew up here so many years ago. Like most other big cities, it’s become too big with far too many people and few areas of actual quiet. Right now my jobs require a lot of driving from one area of the county to another. With the price of gas rising each day, now anywhere from $4.09 to $4.35 per gallon, I needed to make a decision. I could accept only those jobs within a small radius of my home, I could quit them completely, or I could find other transportation options.

I used to enjoy driving. However, I don’t like to drive here any longer. Using freeways, I am able to get just about anywhere, using surface roads to complete a trip. But, that convenience is marred by too darned many other vehicles going at too fast a speed. It’s marred by too many speed bumps, by too many dead ends, by too many roads that go nowhere, by too many “Right Turn Only” signs, by the need to make too many U-turns, by the need to shift gears in my pickup constantly on surface streets, by too-long waits at huge intersections, and especially by my impatience with all of these things.

Yesterday I discovered that I am old enough for a Senior Transit Pass, paying $18 a month instead of the normal $72 for unlimited rides on buses and trolleys. Considering that it now takes at least $50 to fill my gas tank, it’s a no-brainer. Yes, trips will take much longer. Yes, I’ll need to plan trips ahead of time. And yes, I’ll need to do a little more walking from stop to stop. But I also see it as an adventure, as a way to thumb my nose at oil companies, and as a way to do my small share to make this planet a little greener.

The adventure begins today with a very short walk down the hill to the bus stop, a bus ride to the El Cajon Transit Center,

  and a short walk from there to Parkway Plaza Shopping Center for a mystery shop.

Then it’s a walk back to the transit center and a trolley and bus ride into San Diego for another shop.

Finally, after a bus ride back to the trolley stop, it’s another trolley ride back to El Cajon

and a bus up to the mountain city of Alpine. That bus stops directly at my destination so that will be handy. From there, I can ride the bus back to where I began, walk up the hill, and I’m home. We’ll see how it goes.

While living in Portland, Oregon, I used to ride the MAX light rail everywhere, and buses where the MAX didn’t go. So, there’s really no reason not to get into that habit again. It might be interesting to keep track of how much gas I DON’T use this coming month.

This story about a small Texas college converting their football field to an organic farm is probably one of the best things I’ve read in quite a while. I especially enjoyed reading about students’ experiences eating carrots right out of the ground for the very first time, without even any ranch dressing to cover up the taste. There is hope.

 

Beach Thoughts

I drove the twenty miles down Hwy 52 to La Jolla Shores this morning to take a long walk on the beach and snap some pictures for friends in Oklahoma and Ohio. Thought they might like to warm up a little. It was a beautiful, sunny day though not extremely warm. However, there were lots of walkers, surfers, joggers, and cyclists taking advantage of the sunny weather.

While walking down to the Scripps pier, my mind leaped from one topic to the next. So, this will most likely be somewhat disjointed, with no apparent organization. Not exactly stream of consciousness, but close.

On the way to the beach, I stopped for an oil change in the pickup since it had been over 5,000 miles since the last one. They tried to fix the “check engine” light, which has been on now for about two years. No place I’ve taken the vehicle has been able to figure out what is wrong. They reset it but the light comes back on as soon as I start the engine. So, I’ll take it into a mechanic next week to see if they can figure it out. I need to have the light stay off in order to pass the smog test here, needed to register the vehicle in California.

While listening to KPBS while driving, I heard an interview with the author of The Gangster We Are All Looking For. When asked her thoughts about living in San Diego, she said she thinks it’s necessary to leave for a while, then return, to really appreciate living here. Although I was born and lived here for 28 years, I loved my 35 years in Oregon and would go back in a minute. I also enjoyed my short time in Kansas and Oklahoma, except for the weather extremes. In the middle of a hot, muggy summer in Oklahoma, I attempted growing my hair longer and  found out it still had some natural curl. Not a pleasant sight.

No, I don’t like the high prices of everything here, the number of people, standing in long lines for just about everything, or freeway traffic. But, the weather trumps all of it. That, and the beach. My body must be composed of 99% saltwater or something.

After walking in the tide line down to the pier and back, I sat on top of a picnic table in the grassy area and just people-watched for a while. I pulled out a new package of Fig Newtons, marveling at the easy-open pull tab on the top. That made it just too easy to pig out a bit. At least those cookies are fairly healthy. There’s no way I’d dare to buy peanut butter filled Oreos with the same top: they’d be gone in less than ten minutes. And, my teeth would be black.

BTW, how do you eat Oreos? I’ve always carefully separated them, eating the filling first, then the cookies. My friend Lou eats the whole thing at once.

Back to the picnic table. I loved seeing the wonderfully-colored and decorated surfboards. One of them was blue and green plaid. Another was bright yellow with flowers. One guy had bought a bright, shiny red board, and someone else carried one that was light blue with a dark blue, diagonal stripe. All of them now come with an ankle strap to keep the board from getting away too far.

I watched a group of college guys play touch football in the sand. And, I read for a while, A Year by the Sea, by Joan Anderson. This quote made me think for a little bit: “Sometimes I think women are like the fog. We have a knowledge of what is underneath, but our real selves are obscured by what others think of us.”

Food for thought.