A Watched Gauge Never Fills

Posted February 10, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

rain-guage

Living in a coastal desert has made me obsess about rainfall. I started using a rain gauge more than ten years ago, knowing the average rainfall for a San Diego winter. I celebrated every quarter inch the thing got. But five years of drought in Southern California has made me realize I cannot make it rain, and a watched rain gauge never fills.

I leave rainfall to God. Whatever He provides will have to do. Maybe if I’m indifferent that will make what I desire actually come true. I will look at a rain gauge like the one I photographed a year ago and I’ll just say whatever. Because after that great downpour the skies turned blue and we were left again in a drought… fifth year in a row.

I’ll wish for sunny weather that doesn’t inconvenience anyone who wants to ride a bike or play a game of tennis. The outdoors will be as dry as the indoors and that will be great. Because I don’t want it to rain. Tell me whether the drought is done at the end of the rainy season and I’ll say whatever.

 

The Mendacity of Trump

Posted February 4, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I am journalist and the talk of my newsroom is the same that is going on at nearly every newsroom in the country. What do we do about the mendacity of Donald Trump?

When I say “what do we do” I obviously don’t mean what do we do to stop it. The question is how do we report it and write about it.

I’ve never known a president or a presidential candidate to tell untruths so frequently or so obviously as Trump. When other politicians would lie, and are caught in a lie, they would backpedal. They would send out a spokesperson to say, “What Senator Ingebretson really meant to say was this.”

But Trump simply refuses to acknowledge that any untruth has taken place. He denies it is untrue and repeats the lie over again. This is the case, even when proving him wrong is as easy as playing a recording of an interview he did, in which he’s saying the very thing he now claims he never said.

But there’s a problem with calling him a liar. Reporters only publish facts that can be backed up. A lie (look it up) is an untruth that is told with the intent of deceiving. We can’t look in his mind and see his intent. To call him a liar we would need a trusted source to tell us that Trump openly admitted (in private) that he made the false statement to deceive the public. Short of having that, we can only say his statement was untrue.

But trying to claim that the president is lying may be missing the point. After months of watching Trump I have become convinced that he simply has no understanding of an objective truth. There are assertions and conclusions that favor him and others that make him look bad. He accepts the former and rejects the latter. What actually happened — what is actually true — doesn’t concern him.

Trump is a narcissist. All people who run for president have outsized egos. But Donald Trump is far beyond that. His narcissism caused him to say that his old TV show, “The Apprentice,” was the biggest hit in television when it was not even close. His narcissism causes him to insist he lost the popular vote for president, by nearly three million votes, only because there was massive voter fraud. He said this when there was never any evidence of it.

Accepting the truth would destroy his cherished, fabricated reality. So here’s my question: Would you rather have a president who’s a liar, or one who is a little bit crazy? Ultimately, I leave it to others to decide for themselves which would be better, and which one we now have.

 

Chasing the Snow in San Diego

Posted February 3, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

snow

Sunday we got to the San Diego County mountains a week after it last snowed. But snow was still a foot deep. We made a snowman and sledded down slopes that had turned icy with lots of use and thaws that turned to freezes overnight.

snowmanThere was little snow below 4,000 feet but by 5,500 feet the ground was blanketed. The place was full of families and kids. By the way… that’s Nicholas and Sophie sitting on a gate.

January 3rd

Posted January 3, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Today is the day before I turn 57 and it’s the day before I go back to work, after a week off. I’ve definitely reached the age when I don’t want people making a thing out of my birthday. No doubt some busybody at work will bring up the subject. I’ll get lots of “happy birthdays” on Facebook, which is fine since those are easy to ignore.

I was on the phone with Maya yesterday who told me she would miss some work because she just cut a huge gash in the palm of her hand while fileting a steak. The wound required nine stitches. She texted me pictures of it.

We got to talking about other things and I told her I’d just had a cello lesson and I was thinking of adopting cello playing as a serious hobby. I told her I hadn’t had a serious hobby since I stopped my training in traditional karate 12 years ago.

She disputed my claim to lack a hobby by telling about my gardening and bike riding. Aren’t those hobbies enough??

I thought about that and wondered if she was talking some sense into me. Do people really need serious hobbies when they’ve got a lot on their plate as it is? It’s true I once said my fallback position, if anyone asked me what my hobby is, would be gardening.

I do garden and I do enjoy it. But in the end it’s more a task than a passion. Tending the garden is a lot like cleaning and tidying the house. Someone has to it. I’ve gotten some knowledge of which plants work in this environment and what you do to keep them vigorous. But if I joined a gardening society I’m sure I’d be quickly humiliated, due to my minimal know-how and the shortage of time I actually devote to it.

No, a true hobbyist is like those people I see on my favorite reality TV show the Great British Baking Show. They work at other jobs but they are really good at baking. Most of them do it every day and they are renowned for their baking skills in their circles of friends and acquaintances.

So in my newly revised view of life, biking and gardening are not hobbies. They are simply stuff that I do. I bike for transportation and I garden to maintain my property. Yes, they are fun and they are good exercise but they’re not hobbies because I’m just not good enough at either one. We’ll see if I have the time and passion to make cello music a serious hobby.

There’s not much else on my mind this January 3rd. It’s a another day of gray skies after several rain storms. This is a strange thing in San Diego and it makes you eager to see the sun in spite of your better judgement. With the holidays past and the days starting to get longer, I’ll reenter life’s routine tomorrow, when I’ve become 57, and look forward to new days of planning and wondering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Diego Bay on a Bike

Posted December 29, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

There’s a route that people take when they want to see San Diego Bay and get some exercise. It starts at the central train station downtown, dips all the way down to Imperial Beach on the border with Tijuana and it travels back north on a spit of land called the Silver Strand, which ultimately runs into Coronado Island.

The words bay and bike are alliterative so coming up with a catchy name was easy. The Bayshore Bikeway. I rode the bikeway’s 24 miles yesterday. That may not sound like a huge distance but when I arrived in Coronado my legs and ass were sore and I was really ready to quit. Thankfully Orange Avenue in the tony seaside town is full of good places to get a beer and lunch.

The Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway

But… why was I doing this? Because I never had before. Also, I’m training to cycle across Iowa this summer in RAGBRAI, a bike journey I’ve known about since I was a kid, growing up in the state. I’ve been reconnected to the event (which I never took part in) by my buddy Scott Horsley who started doing it with other reporters for NPR who had to cover the Iowa Caucuses.

He told me their cycling team was known as “No Pie Refused,” which refers to the fact that locals who live along the RAGBRAI route across Iowa have a tradition of offering pies to the bike riders. It took me a while before I realized this was also their sad, lame joke about what NPR stood for.

Getting back to the Bayshore Bikeway. The upper part of the bay route coming out of downtown is dotted with hotels and other parts of the tourism/convention industry. Travel further south and you see shipyards, commercial port ops and the San Diego navy base. Lots of hardhats and uniforms.

Go further south near Imperial Beach and you see the saltworks, with huge piles of salt that are brilliant white in the sun that are extracted from seawater and sold to midwestern cities that use it to melt the snow and ice on their streets in winter.

As industry fades from the scene the southern part of the bay looks like a lagoon with a shoreline that fades into the water and you see small islands that are covered with reedy plants. Seabirds float on the water then disappear as they dive for food.

I’ll tell tourists who come to San Diego to do the Bayshore Bikeway. They have to be into biking — it is 24 miles — but they’ll see a lot of stuff tourists don’t normally see. And it’s flat. It’s along the shoreline so it’s flat and there are no hills to climb.

I returned to the mainland of San Diego on the Coronado Ferry. I chose not to go back the way I came and double my milage on the bikeway… for reasons stated. A woman on the ferry winked behind her sunglasses. On the trolley back to my neighborhood I saw a beautiful, cheerful couple who were in their late seventies. I imagined what they looked like 40 years ago.

Maybe I’m too old for this long-distance cycling shit. RAGBRAI is a big rolling party but it is about 60 miles a day. Next time I’ll try to turn around when I get to Coronado. It’ll be good for me.

bike-bay

 

 

 

Who Wants to Live to be 150?

Posted December 25, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m in my 50’s and I have two parents around the age of 90. And this has brought the reality of aging and death closer than I’ve ever known. Now I no longer understand… in fact I cannot even conceive of the desire to live forever.

Maybe nobody really wants to live forever but every part of our culture seems to be aimed at defeating deadly diseases and the infirmity of old age. I’m a Catholic and I know that life is sacred but so is death, even though I can’t be entirely sure we go to meet God when we’re done with life. I accept some things on faith but I’m still thinking about that one.

Another thing I think about is research that shows you can reverse cellular deterioration with certain proteins that reprogram cells back to an embryonic state. It doesn’t quite mean aging can be stopped. But maybe it means aging is malleable and living to 150 is a possibility we can take seriously. But who wants to live to be 150?

I think of the well-used saying “When you’re tired of London you’re tired of life.” I can imagine being tired of London or any other place, and I think we reach a point where being tired of life is perfectly natural.

Life is a process of seeing the same stuff over and over and it’s not always that great. People complain about the same old things and they keep performing the same acts of stupidity and selfishness. When you’re young everything is new and exciting, even the bad stuff. Get a little older, you tolerate it and roll your eyes. When you get old you’re sick of it and it makes you grumpy. You look at the hopefulness of youth and you think what they hope for will never happen and when will they stop kidding themselves?

It gets harder to see life as a gift when the thing looses its luster.

Like I said… this a natural tendency, and how long do you want to live like that. I ask myself how far do we need to go in avoiding the inevitable grasp of death.

People march for the causes of defeating cancer or heart disease. But if you don’t die of cancer or heart disease then what are you supposed to die of? I have never experienced the death of a person who is very close to me. Uncles, grandparents, long-lost friends… their deaths were distance and not something I would expect to to be powerfully moved by.

When my parents die I wonder if I will I feel pain and sadness, emptiness or simply relief. I wonder this when I see my father struggle into the passenger side of a car and pull his right foot slowly, slowly into the footwell. It takes him an eternity to just get in.

It sounds weird, even shameful to suggest we should welcome or be relieved by death in any way. But I we do. And I’m pretty sure when my time comes, I will.

I’ve had it with the Electoral College

Posted December 20, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

In the American presidential election I am one vote among tens of millions. But it doesn’t seem that small. It seems a lot smaller. It seems meaningless. The reason for this is the Electoral College.

American presidents are not elected by people, they’re elected by states. And today, December 20th, the states cast their electoral votes. All of the state’s electors go to the winning candidate in the state. I have influence over who wins in California but no influence over who wins the presidency.

Donald Trump lost the election by almost 3 million votes, and he's going to be the next president.

Donald Trump lost the election by almost 3 million votes, and he’s going to be the next president.

Unless you live in a swing state your vote is wasted. You may as well write in Calvin Coolidge. And if you live in a large urban state your vote counts less than it does in a small rural state.

In Wyoming each elector represents 143,000 people. In California each elector represents 500,00 people. In the 2016 election Donald Trump lost by almost 3 million votes. And he still is going to be the next president.

With the Electoral College, the presidential election is a stacked deck in a game of cards. The arcane system of choosing presidents through state electors was a compromise reached in the late 18th century that had little to do with reflecting the will of the people.

It had a lot to do with protecting the interests of former colonies that were jealous of their power. It had a lot to do with protecting the interests of slave holders, who managed to get people they considered their property to be counted as three-fifths of a person in the U.S. House and in the Electoral College.

The argument for getting rid of the Electoral College is as simple as the principal of one man one vote. My vote for president in California should have exactly the same value it has in Wyoming or South Dakota. It should be exactly as important as a vote in a swing state because they are no better citizens.

We need to have a popular vote for president. It’s long past time. The Electoral College is undemocratic. It devalues the office of the president, and it has to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.