Neptune Direct

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November 28, 2020, Plano-

Seventy, as I expected, feels no different than sixty, or sixty-five. The day passed with a variety of activities: Joining a global Zoom gathering, hosted by a longtime friend from Phoenix; picking up another pair of dress casual shoes; munching on burger and fries for lunch and a delectable Pho (Vietnamese soup) and spring rolls for dinner; and exploring parts of Grapevine, TX (photos tomorrow), where Aram and Yunhee will live, come the end of January.

It has been a time of both taking stock of how things have changed, as I mentioned yesterday, and of projecting ahead. I have a sense of what I hope to accomplish in 2021 and beyond. Right now, I am focusing mostly on December, and being there for any children and youth who need me, between now and the Christmas/New Year’s Break. I had planned on taking three days off, to mark the fortieth anniversary of Penny and I having met. That would have taken me to a couple of places in New Mexico that are associated with our first encounter.

New Mexico, though, remains closed to people from most states, including Arizona and there are relatively few substitutes working with my employer, so I will be making myself available from December 1-18, straight through. With any interstate road trip over the holidays looking increasingly ludicrous, I will have plenty of time to check out places in other parts of Arizona, as well as relax with friends, during the Break.

Planet Neptune ends its retrograde, relative to Earth, tomorrow. This sort of event exhausts a lot of people, but generally focuses my attention more sharply and lets me sleep more deeply through the night. That will make it a lot easier both to give my attention where it is needed and to plan realistically for the weeks and months ahead.

Refinement

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November 16, 2020-

Today marks forty-four years since I took on a fulltime classroom teaching position. My work, during those first two years, was nothing for a brag book. While I worked with few resources, the stint could have been greatly refined.

I have gradually acquired teaching skills, over the years. Perhaps the biggest, and most recent, was the skill of stressing process over content. I credit technology, with its ready-made storehouse of facts and figures, for our ability to put the stress on building capacity for the Thinking Process.

I actually am finding it delightful, in my last months of teaching, to observe how individual learners go about acquiring knowledge and, more fascinatingly, solving problems. The online educational game, Kahoots!, is an exemplary tool for such observations, as students are encouraged to state how they arrived at a given answer. I have met the gamut of thinkers, from Scientific Wild-Ass Guessers to meticulously intuitive sifters of evidence.

I look forward to many more observations of human solution-finders, both before and after my retreat from full-time work.

A Long Way From Unlucky

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November 13, 2020, Cottonwood-

Friday the Thirteenth has always had a bad rap, in my book. I can count on one hand the number of even slight misfortunes that have struck on this particular day-regardless of what month it happens.

Today was no exception-and I hope this was true for most everyone else. First thing this morning, I received notice of a generous gift from a loved one. At work, I arrived early, got plenty of help in preparing for the day and was able to accomplish all that was listed on the Substitute Plan. The children worked hard, and though they started to flake out, towards day’s end, I was pleased with the overall work day.

I came here, to the commercial hub of eastern Yavapai County, as part of a planned late evening at Synergy Cafe and a quick start to tomorrow’s jaunt to Homolovi Ruins State Park, north of Winslow. After two Zoom calls put me on the dinner hunt a bit late, I set off for Black Bear Diner, five minutes from the motel. Alas, there was no one at the host station-and not only was I being ignored by the staff, but two parties waiting to pay for their meals were also being treated as invisible. I left them with a “Good luck” vibe, and chalked it up to ONE minor irritation. Dinner came a bit late, but Cowboy Club, in Sedona, is fabulous.

Synergy was even more crowded than usual, so the late night did not transpire. I will go back there again, when I have a drum-and thus, something to offer the group. So, I am back at Verde Valley Inn and am quite comfortable for the rest of the night.

Friday the Thirteenth is also said to have feminine energy about it, which is just fine by me!

One Storm Has Passed

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October 26, 2020-

It was forecast, last week, that we would have some rain and/or snow today. This being Prescott, in a La Nina year, that didn’t happen. Up country did get some snow, and for those of us downriver, that is a secondary comfort.

That storm has gone on towards the Plains. There will be several others, in mid-November and afterward. Meanwhile, the storm of COVID continues, with more people getting infected, nationwide-and around Arizona. I maintain my protocol and keep my immune system strong.

There will be a series of storms over how Justice-designate Amy Barrett will vote on any number of issues, well before any vote is taken by the Supreme Court. I repeat my own appeal: What sort of world do you wish to leave to your children, Madame Justice? A world in which conceived children are protected, even if they, like me, have additional needs, is a fine one-AND it should be a world in which all mothers and all abortion survivors, are envelped in love and recovery.

Health care is a human right. Pre-existing conditions should never be a pretext for denying care, because of money. If that had never been the case, Penny might still be here, As it is, a dear friend, in Texas, is seeing the love of her life suffer, because his physician will not treat his illness; nor will a laboratory allow him to enter their facility, to test his blood. Ethics has taken a holiday, it seems.

Voting is a right, for ALL adult citizens, including those of colour; including those who espouse a philosophy that disagrees with that of the sitting president. I hope the Supreme Court will remember that, when they are again asked to curb voting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, later this week. Certainly, the converse is also true-anyone is as free to vote for the sitting president, as they are to vote for either one of his principal opponents.

Everyone who is created is a child of God. That a person may not fit the mould set by an exlusive, exclusionary group of human beings, does nothing to cancel out his/her humanity. We have had this back-and-forth, for as long as humans have been on this planet. Other intelligent beings-such as dolphins and elephants, practice exclusion and are given to bullying. We, humans, are a cut above, and it’s high time we act like it. I have had to set a few people outside my circle, for reasons of self-preservation. It would not take all that much, for them to be welcomed back in-and in any case, I will never seek to deny them their basic rights.

I say this, to those I love dearly, but who are making the case for punishing people whose sexual orientations are not the same as theirs, or mine. It does not fall to any of us, to act as arbiters of private behaviour. We can, and should, protect the innocent from the nefarious-but beyond that, adults engaged in private behaviour that harms no one else, should be left alone.

These storms will continue to rage, and I stand firm until they pass.

Saving Grace

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October 25, 2020-

“An ant has no quarrel with a boot.”- Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, in “The Avengers”.

A fair number of first-time voters, across the country, who are weighing social issues, are finding themselves wanting to “stay the course”. There was a time, when I thought that such an approach was prudent, as the incumbent surely knew what was best for the nation, and the nation already knew the incumbent.

It’s been several years since I have taken that view, but no matter. Every generation has to find their own voice. All the same, it is crucial to weigh the chances of pursuing dreams, both individually and collectively, given one outcome, as opposed to the other.

The rub comes when one takes the measure of his/her relative worth and power, in comparison to those of the State. There are the David/Goliath model and “We are the State, and the State is us” point of view. In the first, as can be surmised, a fearless individual, or small group, takes on a power that either practices division or arranges affairs in such a way that the strength of individuals is seemingly eroded. In the second, so well-practiced by Fascists and Communists, alike, during the mid-Twentieth Century, and still de rigeur in China, North Korea and a few other countries, there is an oddly-skewed sense of patriotism, which goes beyond flying a nation’s flag and supporting a just government, in a healthy way.

Our country’s saving grace is its Constitution, which has pulled us back from ruin, on three separate occasions: The War of 1812, the Civil War and the Watergate Crisis. My fervent hope is that the Constitution will do so again, regardless of who wins next week’s election, and regardless of how loudly the opposing sides may continue to react to one another. Our Constitution has inculcated, in the American character, a definite sense that the dignity of the individual is paramount and that equality is a clearly-established, if ever-evolving, tenet of this nation’s fabric.

Public Nuisances

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October 12, 2020-

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day, as well as Thanksgiving Day in Canada. It’s also the day when three ships landed in a makeshift harbour, off what is now San Salvador/Guanahani Island, Bahamas and the commander of the expedition thought he was in India. A lot of things changed, after that event, in 1492. We’re still fixing some of the messes.

The mask/no mask debate goes on. Most people have learned to live and let live. Paper masks are a no-no, having been treated with the active ingredients used in Teflon. Other masks should be washed, in a diluted bleach solution, then thoroughly rinsed. I haven’t been ridiculed when I have worn a mask or scolded when I haven’t.

There are, though, public drunks and other miscreants who are going about, coughing on anyone, including a child, who is wearing a mask. Of course, they have to shout “COVID” and laugh uproariously at their own stupidity. Truth be known, there are legal precedents for people to be charged with assault, for doing these sorts of things.

We live in a society where the rights of such public nuisances are widely regarded as sacrosanct. While I am a believer in due process, going over the edge, especially towards a child, is never defensible. The more of these idiots who get caught, the better.

Last Quarter Plans

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October 11, 2020-

With October nearly half over, it’s high time for me to look at this last three months, or so, of 2020.

October 12-17– This is Fall Break week and is the first of the two weeks I gave myself off, from any out -of-state deployments with Red Cross. If a wildfire breaks out around here, of course I will be on hand to help. Otherwise, on Tuesday, I will hike the first of two peaks in northern Arizona that go by the name Red Mountain. It is in an area between Prescott Valley and Lynx Lake, a section of the Bradshaw Mountain foothills that I have not explored, up to now. Monday and Wednesday feature Zoom meetings, two of which I host, so walks downtown will suffice. Thursday through Saturday, the road will lead to other Red Mountain, north of Williams, on the road to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. If the road to Hermit’s Rest is open, on the South Rim, I will go there as well.

October 18-24- This is a Holy Week for Baha’is, with two days spent commemorating the births of al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, which did occur back-to-back, though two years apart- Baha’u’llah having been born in 1817 and His Herald, in 1819. It’ll be different, celebrating these auspicious days on Zoom.

I may also have work opportunities, with the Sub service, but we’ll see.

October 25-31– Halloween Week will also be different this year. No word has gone out, from either of the groups who have put on parties, in years past. My default will be to throw on the silly suit I wore last year, and bring treats to neighbour families who know me. It may also be either a heavy subbing week or yet another deployment, for a disaster response yet unseen.

November 1-6- Election Week will have its share of challenges, both local and further afield. I am leaving my service options open: Our normally quiet, live-and-let-live little city could need as many voices of reason as can be had-or it could stay quiet, and congenial. There could very well be those who need the services of the Red Cross, if mayhem results in mass displacement. I will have the blessing of a virtual Spiritual Retreat, each evening, from November 5-8, to provide online balance.

November 8-14- Veterans’ Week will hopefully remind everyone that Freedom isn’t Free. Any public activities on November 11 will find me there. November 12-14 will be a good time to head up to Painted Desert-Petrified Forest.

November 15-21- Mid-month will be either a full work week or a time for day trips to Sedona, finishing the long-delayed completion of a hike on Limekiln Trail and going up Cathedral Rock.

November 22-28- Thanksgiving Week, ending with my 70th Birthday, so it’ll be Texas Time. Son will use a grill in the apartment complex courtyard, so this will be another fine gathering. I will likely be quite reflective, on that Saturday, with a view towards using all for which I can be grateful to help those who have been discounted and marginalized- the mirror image of the fourth Thursday in November.

November 29-December 5- The first week of my eighth decade will begin a run-up to my retirement (always unofficial) from substitute teaching. In practical terms, what that will mean is that I will not NEED to work, in order to make ends meet, after this calendar year. I will still be amenable to going in, two or three days a week, from January through May. The major emphasis, though, will shift to volunteer work, for which I’m already getting plenty of practice.

December 6-12- This marks forty years since I first met Penny. A trip to Zuni and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve will be in order. I will also stop in Bisbee, which we never visited together, on the way back-just because it’s there.

December 13-19- There may be a smidgen of work to be done, but my emphasis this week will be culling old files out of the cabinet and putting effort into shredding.

December 20-26- Depending on family input, and the state of the pandemic, I will either make a journey to New England or devote some time to an Arizona Christmas.

December 27-January 2- Part of the time will be in Texas and part will be in Florida, with the Gulf Coast in between (weather-permitting). The first week of 2021 will be the same, in reverse.

Some things will remain constant, location notwithstanding. I will have regular Baha’i Zoom calls to maintain and continuing to pay off what is left of my bills will be achieved.

This is my vision for the last twelve weeks of a tempestuous year.

Beyond Cacophony and Mud

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October 9, 2020-

In brief, I see a lot of mud being thrown at walls-some sticking, some falling to the ground. I hear a lot of noise, with the vibrations passing one another, on the way to deaf ears. Two very different visions of how this country should move forward, and how it should look ten or twenty years hence, have beeb part of the national fabric since at least 1800.

Back then, the First Nations people, who both dominant groups viewed as inconvenient obstacles, and the enslaved Africans, whose social position was seen, by both sides, as a collective means to a national economic end, watched the proceedings from the sidelines, with far more prescience and comprehension than either dominant group could imagine.

So it still is, with many of us, in various demographics, watching from the sidelines- seeing truth in aspects of both sides’ positions. Society needs to find a way to safeguard the health of the unborn-check. Society also needs to give women the prime responsibility for their own decision-making-also check. The nation does well to protect children, teenagers and vulnerable adults from human trafficking. The nation needs to value the lives of those who have historically been marginalized. It is an imperative to feed masses of people. It is also crucial to safeguard the cleanliness of our four elements-Air, water, soil and energy. We must protect our nation from mob rule by anarchists, from the neo-Maoists now ruling China-and from illiberal authoritarians, inspired by Russia-and by the Fascists of the past.

We have a tall order ahead, and both men garnering the lion’s share of public suppport have a far graver responsiblity than either of them seem to realize. One will, in fairly short order, be given a public mandate to govern, from January, 2021-January, 2025. The other will need to decide whether he can step aside and act as a loyal opponent, or continue to seed mayhem from behind the scenes.

There is no longer any room for shouting, name-calling, discounting, gaslighting and making false promises about prosecuting “those people”. The mud will stop sticking and the noise-makers will find Charley Brown and his classmates, hearing “Wa-wa-wa-wa”.

The Hotel Project, Day 8

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October 2, 2020, Dallas-

Today was a reminder of how well something can be accomplished, on short notice, and how badly something can be done, when the interest just isn’t there.

Our team put on a wonderful movie night, attended by 24 children and 7 adults. The activity involved building mini-cars, out of cardboard boxes, which the children could then decorate, whilst watching the film, in a simulated drive-in. Each child was allowed to keep their car. Being a diverse group of people, there were those who watched the film from start to finish, those who went to their rooms in the middle and those who engaged in non-disruptive activities, on the sidelines-much as takes place at a real drive-in theater.

Contrast this, and the well-conducted routine activities of the shelter, with a haphazard laundry “service”, which managed to either mix, or mislabel, at least three of the fifteen bags sent them-with a thinly-veiled disinterest in the outcome. The “service” was curtailed, after only three days, with some cases still outstanding. One way or another, it will be resolved- even if our supervisor has to go to the location, tomorrow, or one of us has to go there on Sunday or Monday. I can’t imagine a situation more degrading to a human being than to be deprived of one’s clothing, through someone else’s negligence.

For now, my attention goes to my little family, tomorrow, then back to business on Sunday.

The Hotel Project, Day 7

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October 1, 2020, Dallas-

This is a time when I am taking a hard line against distractions. I am not concerned with politics or who thinks what about whom. By focusing on what I have promised my charges and co-workers, I am doing far more of what matters to me.

Today, people who were waiting for clothing items for several weeks, got them. Others ran a couple of bingo games, and we began to prepare for more people to come to our shelter, as the number of hotels being used as shelters diminishes. Having been trained in registering people, in my previous deployment, I was able to help in that area, as well.

It was an exhausting day. Tomorrow may be more intense, but we will make it happen.