Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Updates On Buck and Dub

Kimberly Critz is the daughter of Ward and Sue Critz, the new owners of Buck and Dub, the horses Di and I previously owned. She sent along some more photos of the boys in their new home, and all photos were taken over Easter weekend.

Here's a photo of Buck (on the right) and his new herdmate Peso, a beautiful young Palomino. Buck looks so regal in this photo; he has a classic "Arabian look" to him:

Another herdmate of Buck's is Henry, an older horse in his twenties. In the photo below, Buck strikes a noble pose while Henry lurks in the background:

Dub gave a 17-year old girl named Kelsey her first horse ride, and, according to Kimberly, took her on a gentle ride around the pasture. The saddle and riding tack shown below are my old saddle and tack, and I'm glad it's still being used:

The last photo shows Kimberly's niece, Caroline, getting to know Dub. This photo captures what I loved so much about Dub: a gentle, loving heart inside a large, powerful body. I still remember how Dub would spot me when I entered the horse pasture, how he would give a little "whinny!" and start galloping toward me at full speed. I would stand my ground as Dub charged. At about 15 feet away, he would start to put on the brakes. At about five feet away, he would seem to glide to a stop. He would then creep slowly forward until he about a foot away; his head would lower, he would sigh, and I would gently stroke his head with my hands. Our eyes would meet, and we would be connected in a way that is beyond words or logic:

Knowing that Buck and Dub are in such a loving, supportive home takes a load off my mind. I am grateful to Ward and Sue Critz for taking in "our boys," and I thank Kimberly Critz for sharing these photos.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I'm Feeling Cranky And Churlish Today. . . .

. . . . . . . . but I think I have good reason to feel that way.

One annoyance is that the Blue Angels are in Corpus Christi this weekend for shows at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. They have been rehearsing today, and as a result our condo has been repeatedly rattled by low flying jets screaming in off the Gulf of Mexico. Even car alarms are being set off by the jets' shock waves. And for what purpose? If these were training exercises for an anti-terrorist mission, that would be one thing. But instead the Blue Angels are training for a series of stunts, all performed at low altitudes over heavily populated areas. As I asked before, for what purpose??

Attention President Obama: if you want to save on defense spending, ground the Blue Angels. And when you're finished with that, start showing more respect for civil liberties and privacy than George W. Bush did. Your somewhat. . . . . . shall we say, overenthusiastic embrace of warrantless wiretaps is one reason why people like me------people who voted for you and donated to your campaign----are experiencing severe buyer's remorse these days.

I'm also pissed off at an event being held tonight at a local high school running track. The event is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. People will be walking the track all night, and sponsors will be donating a certain amount of money for each mile walked.

So why does that piss me off?

Because the American Cancer Society, like almost all other cancer groups (such as the Jimmy V Foundation that Dick Vitale slobbers over each basketball season) focus their efforts almost exclusively on research into "finding a cure for cancer." But that approach has two big shortcomings: 1) as you can read here (and here), all of those billions spent on research have brought very little improvement in cancer survival and no further to a "cure," and 2) all that money spent on research leaves very little money left over for support and aid to existing cancer patients and for making diagnostic tests for early detection more widely available to more people.

One of the things that shocked me when I began chemotherapy was how many fellow patients had no reliable way to travel to and from their treatments. Make no mistake-----you are in absolutely no shape to drive after a chemo infusion, and you remain physically impaired for days afterward (I was typically bedridden for five days following each of my infusions). I was fortunate to have Di to drive me to and from the hospital in Austin, but many people, especially the elderly, had to search for a ride each treatment session. And sometimes they had to cancel their treatments if a ride wasn't available.

Some of that money being spent in futile searches for "cures" needs to be redirected toward services and support for people who need rides to their chemo treatments, who need people to check on them after treatments to see how they're doing, who need psychological counseling, etc.

Those sorts of tasks aren't glamorous enough for the American Cancer Society. Yet those tasks make life far more bearable for those dealing with cancer.

Some have asked if I would like a donation made in my name to the American Cancer Society after my death. And my answer to that is. . . . . . . hell no!! Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong Foundation does an infinitely better job of supporting and aiding cancer patients, especially in Central Texas, and deserves your support far more than the American Cancer Society does.

See? I may be falling apart, but I'm still the same irascible son of a bitch I've always been!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Miscellaneous Musings

• We have several ducks living in the pond that fronts our condo unit, and on Friday one of them hatched four ducklings. Here's a photo I took a few hours ago showing Mama Duck and one of her kids. The maintenance people at our complex have fenced off her nest, and there is water and food for her and her ducklings. I suspect I'll be posting a lot of cute ducky photos in the weeks ahead!

• Today marks the 48th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin. By any measure, this was one of the great accomplishments in human history, yet this anniversary has been, as far as I can tell, almost entirely ignored by the mainstream American press. Why is this? Are we living in such an ahistorical, cynical, heroism-denying age that such monumental acomplishments are now considered of less importance than, say, Lindsay Lohan's new hairstyle? I note the Chinese are enthusiastic about space exploration, embrace heroic enterprises, and I suppose that's why China will be the dominant world power in less than a quarter century. Do your kids a favor; teach them to say "Sure thing, boss!" in Mandarin. They will thank you for it.

In the past week I have received several unexpected but very welcome e-mails, and I want to acknowledge them. My old high school buddy Donald Mack located me and sent me an update on him and his family; he's doing well and I'm happy for him. Cindy Ballard-Guminski was the first employee of Hightext/LLH back when she was Cindy Ballard; she left us to join the Peace Corps and work in Botswana (my going away present to her was a Grundig shortwave radio!). She had some very warm words for me which I really, really appreciated. I also received an e-mail from someone who had found this blog by accident, Shirley Bovshow. I appreciate her kind remarks about my cancer entries. Shirley has a very interesting gardening blog that is worth checking out. Finally, I also received phone calls from Jason Gardner and Jon Erickson, two buddies from the publishing industry. I can't describe how much such e-mails and calls mean to me, especially from people I have been out of touch with for a while. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you!!

• Today is the third anniversary of my cancer diagnosis and also marks the end of blogging about my cancer. Why? For one thing, I feel as if I have said just about everything I can about the subject; I'm bored with having cancer and how it now dominates my life. I no longer decide when I will go to bed, when I will wake up, what (or if) I will eat today, or what, if anything, I will do on a given day------cancer decides all that for me. And there's very little I can say new or insightful about having cancer. Cancer sucks. That's the summation of everything I have learned over the past three years, and I doubt I'm going to learn anything new in the time I have left. So no more cancer posts; instead, I'll write about ghost towns, mountain climbs, the Big Island, Death Valley, etc. Those are positive memories and cheer me up, while writing about cancer is depressing. I don't want to spend my remaining time in mopey self-pity, so the "My Cancer" label is now officially retired.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

North Carolina 89, Michigan State 72

Last night was the last time I will ever get to see Carolina play. I watched it quietly while lying in bed, my calm the result of a painkiller I had to take earlier in the evening. There was none of the celebration that accompanied the 2005 title, but in the last few minutes of the game I was both giggling and crying tears of joy. . . . . . . the last time I will ever see Carolina play, and they win the national championship. That, my friends, is what you call a "perfect ending."

Yes, to some it was a silly ballgame. For me, last night was an escape from my decline and pain, and some welcome joy and happiness. I felt good and happy, and for that I am grateful.

My thanks and love to my alma mater. As the Carolina fight song says, "I'm a Tar Heel born. I'm a Tar Heel bred. And when I die I'll be a Tar Heel dead."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More Scenes From The Big Island Of Hawaii

I don't think I'll have time to post individually about all the places on the Big Island that interest me, so here's a quick look at sites I've enjoyed visiting.

One cool place is the small town of Na'alehu, which has the distinction of being the southernmost incorporated town in the United States. The local post office provides the full data:

Na'alehu has a neat restored movie theater that's now a museum. It was closed when I took the photo below, but the exterior was worth a look:

A few miles from Na'alehu is South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. There is a heiau there, which was used for human sacrifices. South Point is very isolated; there is a navigation light there but not much else.

Kalapana was a town on the southeast corner of the Big Island. It was destroyed in 1990 by lava flows from Kilauea. However, lava doesn't flow in a continuous stream; instead, it sometimes flows around areas, resulting in islands of untouched greenery amid a sea of black, cooled lava. And a few houses are spared this way, as you can see below. But this homeowner, and others like him/her, wasn't exactly lucky. If lava destroys a home, the insurance paid the value of the home. But homes like the one below were cut off from roads, electricity, water, sewer services, telephone service, etc.------in other words, those homes were back in the nineteenth century. And since the homes themselves are undamaged, the insurance companies pay nothing, the owners can't sell, and they're stuck:

Visible from the site of Kalapana is the gas cloud emitted from the Pu'u O'o vent of Kilauea. The photo below doesn't do justice to how impressive the cloud was; it was churning like boiling water:

There are several additional places I'll blog about in the future.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Haunted Heiaus Of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii has been my favorite vacation spot since my first visit in 1988. In fact, I had hoped to retire there before getting sick. Kailua-Kona is on the western side of the Big Island, and is the epicenter of the island's tourist industry. Being in the rain shadow of Mauna Loa, the weather is usually dry and sunny (in contrast to the frequent rains on the eastern, or Hilo, side of the island). There are extensive coral reefs near shore for divers and snorklers, great deep sea fishing, and a wide selection of nightclubs and restaurants. Most of the latter, along with the most luxurious hotels, are on Ali'i Drive, which winds along the seafront. But there is one site that is a jarring contrast to the glitter and glitz of the rest of Ali'i. Several hotels have opened and closed there over the years, and that's because the site is supposedly haunted.

The last hotel there was the Kona Lagoon Hotel, which closed in 1988. It was demolished in 2004, but the building was still standing when I took the photo below in 2002:

The site was fenced-off, but I was able to gain access to the site by the shoreline; the beachfront is public property on the Big Island. This is the view of my access route:

When the hotel closed in 1988, the official reason was because the Japanese owners ran out of money and were unable to obtain additional financing. But rumors said it was because the hotel was haunted. Guests supposedly saw lights and shadowy figures in their rooms and hallways. Sounds like human screams were reportedly heard. And there were numerous non-paranormal problems at the hotel, such as power failures and water leaks. The Kona Lagoon Hotel closed a little over four years after it opened.

But that wasn't the end of the reported supernatural activity at the closed hotel. There was a big turnover in security guards, with many quitting after supposedly seeing ghosts, seeing strange lights, hearing human screams, etc.

I have no idea whether any of those stories are true-----and I have my big, big doubts------but I had heard them prior to my last visit to the Big Island in 2002. I decided to visit the site and see for myself.

I must regretfully report I observed no ghosts, apparitions, spirits, shadowy shapes, or other manifestations of the supernatural. Nor did I see any floating orbs or blobs of mist; I didn't hear any bloodcurdling screams either. The only things that startled me were a couple of large rats that darted out when I didn't expect them.

The reason for the reports of the site being haunted is because there are two sacrificial heiaus on the property. A heiau was a platform made of volcanic rock used for human sacrifices. In the ancient Hawaiian religion, human sacrifice was a key component; the killing of a sacrificial victim allowed Hawaiian kings, priests, and upper classes to absorb the life energy of the victim. No one knows how many victims were sacrificed here, but it is believed the total was in the tens of thousands. Here is a photo of the main heiau:

The "secondary" heiau is below:

The most gruesome sacrifice here took place early in the eighteenth century. At that time, each of the Hawaiian islands had their own king and bloody warfare between the islands was commonplace. During a battle between Maui and the Big Island, the King of Maui was captured and taken to this site. Apparently there was a lot of animosity between him and the King of the Big Island, because the latter had the king of Maui impaled on one of the heiaus instead of killed outright. He was given water but no food as he lay on the heiau.

And he lay on that heiau for eleven days before he died.

The site has several petroglyphs and "brain coral" grows very close to the shoreline:

I understand current plans are to develop an "authentic" Hawaiian resort on the Kona Lagoon Hotel site. I have no idea if human sacrifices on the heiaus will be part of the "authentic" Hawaiian theme.