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Heroes

It’s a small field. There are about 3700 neurosurgeons in the US, not too many more than the average daily kill from covid. It’s unlikely you have heard of any, much less, those who are heroes to me. Yasergil, Heifetz, Cloward… Ransahoff. Yasergil and Heifetz pioneered early aneurysm clips that revolutionized how we treated the berry (time bomb) aneurysms in the head. Cloward pioneered the anterior cervical decompression and fusion. He kept his donor bone in his refrigerator in his home at one point. Ransahoff, was my training director. His contribution was to teach me judgement – when to operate, how far to go, when to get out. He famously had a penile implant, facial plastic surgery, and finally committed suicide when his memory was failing. I saw these men in their later years too. Fame had been pushed aside by younger surgeons for progress as they were left behind to grow ever more frail. It’s life’s cycle. But once upon a time, I walked among giants. I never expected to be fortunate enough to be among them. They were authors and teachers in places far from me. Yet, here we were, once.


Scripted… not

About the last thing my life is about, is scripted. Pretty much all that we (Colleen/me) do, is spontaneous. There is a loose outline (sometimes). And we have a list of things we like to do. Otherwise, very little is scheduled or planned these days. Appointments are few. You can’t get into the bank without an appointment. The library remains closed. My point? I was thinking life is a disorderly Jackson Pollack painting these days. I searched for an illustration for this post before realizing, life is like clouds, never repeated, fleeting, and always different. Beautiful.


Mmmmmmm

From the start to finish all you heard from Colleen was “mmmmm” in one form or another as she slowly savored this Napoleon. It was so touching. She loves my cooking and is so kind. On this occasion, an infrequent occasion (that I bake), she just adored my baking. (It assures that I will live here another year.) We made lemon curd. Yes, if you have lemons – two bags (mistake) – make lemon curd. It would not thicken. Long story short, we finally got it to do so. And I found marscarpone cheese in the market – lemon marscarpone cream! Napoleon, anyone? I have scant experience with puff pastry. Prick the dough with a fork to keep it from rising too much. Hey! That didn’t work! Lemon curd, marscarpone cream, berries (four kinds), and powdered sugar, what could go wrong!! I will treasure the “mmmmm” for a long time. Of course! We tried one before we took them to New Year’s dinner. Who’s counting? Baking is very precise – measure, cut, timing, shape, and appearance. Who cares?


Laying pipe

We went down to the beach to find the federal replenishment program in full swing. How to they do this? They pump sand onto the shore, pristine sand, from about a mile offshore using pipe to carry the sand to the beach. They lay all this enormous length of pipe. Bulldozers spread the sand pile, and, instant beach! I have mixed feelings about the process of messing with Mother Nature. But without the Feds, I would otherwise be on beachfront property about a mile from the current beach.  Erosion can be impressive. The last replenishment saw the beach raised about ten feet higher. Shhh… this enormous project is akin to shoveling … against the tide. I’m still a mile from the ocean front. Does iPhone face recognition work with masks? …’cause we’re headed to the bank next.


Hanging out

Why? The red bellied woodpecker hangs from the feeder. To have a faster getaway? ??? Dunno. He’s a rare sight worth a photo. And the cardinal and blue jay are not common either. They are skittish. We only seem them infrequently and for a few seconds. It’s their version of bird fast food. Eat and go. Another conundrum: the red bellied woodpecker has a grey belly and a red head. There is a red headed woodpecker that is different from this one.


Happiness

Happiness is a warm spot. Elle loves to be by the portable radiator, and, in front of the window is a plus. Nutley does guard duty warding off the squirrel. He is always on alert and at the ready. Right?! Willow has found a soft warm spot in our comforter. Our cats are “indoor” cats. It means no outdoor excursions without supervision. I have escape artists. Ray’s winter outdoor privileges are rescinded.


Camera and my mind’s eye

Sunset is tricky to image. The camera automatically wants to meter the field and washes out the gorgeous colors. You have to fool it into doing what you envision/see. I’m lazy. No, not Photoshop. I use my wits to outwit the camera’s metering. Hey! It works. It’s otherwise too much to search out manual settings. The book cover photo is mine, not the book or title. Hey! They found the picture on the internet and used it! (with permission) Nice! It’s not a living, but I have sold a few pics. Not four, a few.


Paper or box?

Story or illustration? The bottom two pics are to melt your heart – if you are a cat lover (or not). The rest illustrate the story. One good image would do. But I’m lazy and didn’t try to narrow it down. A new box is always certain “cat” entertainment. Everyone (cat) has a go. Climb in and claim your spot. There is no pecking order. First in…. Ok there is an occasional territorial dispute. In a pinch, a bag will do as a cat container. And the wrapping tissue, this was a whole new experience. The paper was a hit. They tossed it around all day … till it was shredded. Yes, a box, send more boxes!


Faith

I must have thousands of images of Patch. Of course! Find one. That’s not so easy. I cannot show you how he liked his “treats.” But, I can show you his favorite basket. He liked his comforts – nestling on the down quilt on our bed. Colleen adopted him before we met again. And though he was her cat, he was our cat. We remember him with smiling, in all the little unspoken wonky habits he kept.

The quintessential image? Patch had a look. He had a partially lidded look. He never seemed to look me straight in the eye. There are people I know whom I look in their eyes and there is deeper thought behind their eyes than what they reveal to the world. Patch had that look. You will see what I mean when tomorrow’s post is published; my other cats engage my look so differently.

Symbolism. Lisa once commented that religion and church were for the symbolism of birth, death, and marriage. Without faith, one gives up symbolism that drives much of the ceremonies of life. (We {Lisa} were married by a judge on a house boat.) On the day Patch died, I saw symbolism in the snow geese at hand. It was a stark cold rainy day. The rain was angel tears? Today the sun finally rose, a promising cold crisp winter morning. It is the third day. I want to believe in a higher spirit. It lifts my heart to know someone I loved is at peace. And, I’m hugging Colleen extra tight today.

The raw emotion I am feeling is not usually on display. I prefer a more irreverent bit of wonky humor on the world around me. The rest is private and only comes out rarely. The last time, was when I connected and wooed Colleen after five decades of separation. Indeed, I am holding tight to her, and more so with appreciation that she is my “one and only.”


Fly away, home

Patch was down with a fatal illness. The other cats seemed to understand. They all gathered in solidarity on the bed with him. Empathic? I don’t know. We have three sets of identical twin cats. They are identical enough that face on, I cannot tell who’s who.

It was a stark cold winter morning when Patchie passed away. It was wet rainy – angel tears. This is the basket he loved to sleep in for the greater part of every day. His twin, Willow, said good-bye. Afterward Patch lay in his basket as though he were asleep. And indeed, he was, now, truly at peace and not suffering. A field of snow geese were feeding in the field next to the vet’s office. Rest in Peace, Patch. Fly with the snow geese. You are free. We loved and love you.


Patch

How often do you go in for a teeth cleaning and come away with a diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer? It’s a pretty sobering hit in the head. Patch had been down on his appetite and in our last visit to the vet, they thought he was due for a teeth cleaning. We scheduled but their schedule was full for a few weeks. When they weighed him again before the cleaning Patch had lost more weight. This was not a good sign and more tests were run instead of the cleaning. As someone said, we all have an expiration date. But when you know yours is close at hand…. This has cast a pall over the entire house. We have Patch on steroids and a high calorie diet to provide some support and palliative care. As a physician I have dealt with end of life. It doesn’t matter. It’s always personal. My only hope is to be sure he is comfortable to the end. He’s getting a lot of hugs from us and lots of support from his twin and our other cats.

Three weeks later… Patchie passed away peacefully yesterday morning. He didn’t suffer. I/we tried to make sure he was comfortable to the last. He couldn’t speak to me. But, I think he had the best quality to the end. In the last day he suddenly deteriorated. We/he knew it was time. It was very sad. We will miss him. We will not forget him.


Stats – I owe a lot of thank you(s)

I shot 52k+ images in 2020 down from 72k in 2019. It’s just a number. When I shot slide film it was more like 3k per year. Film and developing cost money! Recently, I got a 256gb SD card on sale for $40. It will shoot tens of thousands of images. Free (almost! Followers of this blog – 996. It’s not a large number of people, relatively. I have been blogging since 2011. It’s an outlet for me to just post images past and present with some humor (maybe). I try to limit myself to 1 post a day. Jules taught me that too much is not good. Politics in recent months were too outrageous to ignore, hence a second post for a while. What amazes me is the breadth of my audience around the world (see views per country). The internet has me connected to the world. Thousands have visited this blog. Positive waves, I try to be positive (except the recent past politics) about the things I have photographed. I remain a staunch advocate for cameras – real ones – though I have recently reluctantly admitted Jules new iPhone 12 is pretty good. Meanwhile to all you visitors to this blog, near and far – Thank You! – for visiting. I apologize once more for not thanking each of you personally when you visited. Yes, this is the (in)famous Beef Wellington, Yorkshire pudding Xmas dinner – first time we made it and first time we ever ate it. (P.S. I don’t think my kids are following this blog, so anything goes.)


Tyler group

Friends – not any more. I’m too lazy to seek out another pic. We went to the Tyler Place in Vermont for a bunch of years when the kids were small. This group hung in and persisted as fast friends for more than 25 years later. Two of four couples are divorced now. The end ladies, one a liberal democrat and the other a conservative republican are no longer friends (of mine). One chose my wife over me in the divorce. The other did not like my liberal rants against trump. She defended herself saying she watched the news – Fox news. Oh! Times change and old republican friends just get older…. and fewer. Yes, and they sold the house (in the background) too. Everyone one is on another path. Better? Worse? Was the split because of politics? We all met at the Tyler Place a long long time ago. No regrets. Friends. Republican friends in a time when it was ok.


Be with the “one”

Valentine’s day. One more. It’s very nice to be with the one you love. See the remote? It’s how you do it. This selfie was made with better tech than the good ole iPhone. Then again, the pose? It’s harder to control. A kiss is just a kiss. But, a kiss with the one you love is “priceless!” I wish everyone happiness. I know that I am.


Was it the pavement or the push?

This image is well known. It depicts two Buffalo police officers shoving a protester to the ground. It was taken from video of the incident in question.

When I was called to the Grand Jury on a case my older partner laughed. It was a case of a club bouncer hitting a man knocking him to the ground. The man sustained a subdural hematoma on the brain and subsequently died. My partner said, “They will ask you if it was the push or the pavement curb that caused the subdural?” Huh?! Of course, the brain hemorrhage was the result of the shove! The bouncer was not indicted. The jury took the side that the pavement was the cause.

And so, too, is justice served once again. president trump did not incite a violent mob to invade the Capitol on January 6. He merely spoke at a rally. The crowd then freely stormed the building without any orders. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t agree in either case. Let’s see to the video. Do you believe these excuses and explanations?


Deja vu all over again

The reference is attributed to Yogi Berra. Indeed, the second impeachment is deja vu. The recalcitrant Republican Senators stand with party and have ignored the truth of their own experience. The outcome appears as a foregone conclusion. Insanity – doing the same thing over and hoping for a different result. The Republican voter base is more feared than the truth of insurrection. This was a political trial. Next up: criminal charges with an impartial jury. Be afraid, you f’n bastard, be very afraid. You don’t have enough money to bribe your way to acquittal on this one.


Family grouping

We didn’t change much. Colleen and I are identical triplets and everyone came in for dinner at the holidays. We were a family gathering of less than 10. You know how it goes, triplets tend to dress alike. We couldn’t resist. All safety measures were taken and testing was all negative. Christmas lacked the big roast – the Beef Wellington was in the oven. And, oops, there were four of me at Thanksgiving.


While we’re talking…

… about food, I have to mention Beef Wellington and Yorkshire pudding. The internet will provide you with about any recipe you desire to tackle. Ha ha, my vegetarian wife (temporarily on hiatus) suggested Beef Wellington. She reads recipes – yes, even after dinner, they appeal. Well, ok! We needed meat. Off to the butcher to discover the cut needed to put this together. We were told to call a day in advance only to be stymied when I called to put in my order. No more phone orders, it was too close to Xmas. We got there just in time to snag the very last Filet mignon roast out of the case. Pfewff! Yorkhire pudding? Why not? We’ve never done that either. There were more steps, a lot of mushrooms, some Dijon mustard, and more steps. I have never worked with puff pastry either. Wrapping the meat in puff required some logical thinking. Fortunately, we were up to the task. The Yorksshire pudding calls for drippings in the muffin pan on high oven heat. It was smoking hot and not too promisingly looking when it went back in the oven. It returned gloriously risen. We were giggling. (Yeah, a couple of grown-ups giggling.) All in all, it was fabulous. Borscht might not be the soup to pair, but hey, Colleen wanted it. And, she prepped a Waldorf salad. Darn, we’re dropping a lot of names here. Did I say it was a fabulous meal? It came out delicious and perfect. My only regret is that we could not share the good fortune and bounty with family. I’m hungry writing about it. The very good news is that there are leftovers in the fridge and dinnertime is soon. Historical note: this was a fabulous meal. Three dishes began with names with capital letters. How neat is that?!!


Failure is not an option

We made gifts for the family – local cousins. Times five – one each and one for us, it was to be Challah bread, brownies, and flavored oyster crackers. Ha ha. Oyster crackers? Yeah, a guilty pleasure triggered by a memory while grocery shopping. Hey, they are good! The bread – who knew – Colleen started baking them after dark. Five loaves. Five recipes, one at a time. It turns out the loaves were huge, as in really large! This was way too big for one or two persons. Ha ha! She followed the directions. We were exhausted and I fell asleep by the time the first loaf came out of the oven. Colleen still had four loaves rising all over the house in every warms spot we could construct. She finished around 1:30am. Over baked! Dammit. You could tell from the loaf we had/sampled. Trash or gift? Four huge loaves. You could cry. The pecan tassie – “tea time tassies” (local vernacular) were inspired by a visit to the grocery and a NYT recipe. That would have been perfect but we were not ready for mass production…. yet.

What could go wrong? Brownies – I added chocolate chips and walnuts. No problem. And sprinkles on top, it’s Christmas. The sprinkle stars melted into the brownie top making unidentified holes. Not too bad otherwise, I was sure no one would notice after they were cut.

Pea soup? Yes, that was the opening act to our day before we started baking bread. Who figured proofing and rising would take so long? Leftover ham bone makes great pea soup to go along with ham and cheese sandwiches. Really! And yes, that’s a bite out of the sandwich. (I forgot to snap a picture before I was savoring my sandwich.) Yes, we have been eating well during the pandemic.

We delivered (bread), mentioning it was large (ha ha) and would make great French toast. It worked. Ultimately, we got messages of approval. Of course, I had messaged images of the French toast and my “mmmmm’s.” It turned out to be fabulous French toast! – We’ve had no feedback. My opinion: the brownies were overdone and the challah overbaked. Well. Damn!


Faster

Better? Colleen’s cousin got a Macbook. She upgraded from her Windows laptop? It’s a big paperweight that looks good. (She’s not using it.) She did not want to give up her mouse. I found Colleen’s Bluetooth mouse. We loaned it out. And she (cousin, name withheld to protect the innocent) wants to use her Window’s external drive to link photos for her scrapbooking. They (cousin and husband) could not get the hang of a formatted ‘fat’ drive that sees jpeg on Windows and Mac simultaneously. Yes, a big fat paperweight. I have offered help. Sometimes it takes time. Meanwhile I have cannibalized the TV as a monitor for my image catalog. I can view more images on a screen. Editing is a little easier. It brings me to the observation that things are not really faster. Transferring files from memory cards to external drives still takes a lot of time. My very first Mac desktop was so slow… you could go have coffee and a refill till it did…. Well, I still wait. It’s just different. I’ve had a laptop as my computer for a long time. This upgrade was necessary/justified because the hardware changed and I could not personally install a bigger hard drive. Solution: new laptop/bigger drive. Yeah, it’s not too bright. And the speed? I still sit and wait. At least it (laptop) looks good sitting there. I could talk about a Lamborghini in my driveway….


Last night

Last night was the big game. Super Bowl. American football for my visitors from around the world. Tom Brady is a trumper. So, Colleen rooted for the Chiefs. I was sentimental to see the underdog win. Our tradition is to have a pig out of junk food. We had doughnuts, chips, and chocolate covered strawberries, etc. on hand for watching the game. Colleen hates football. She watches the commercials. I watch the game. We are about evenly set up.

Noa? She doesn’t know the situation and isn’t allowed junk food. All they had at her house was a lone bag of chips and avocado (healthy) dip. How much fun is that? Judging from her smile, more than enough.


Changes

Yeah yeah it’s February. Christmas 2020 is in the rear view mirror. Shutterfly sent me this memory from years ago. A lot has changed. I’m not with Lisa. We all have moved. Jules got married, has her own daughter, and lives in another state. Ha ha, I have told you, her kids (students) looked her up on the ‘net. I cannot use the correct spelling of her name. They found my blog and it was “weird” for Jules. Xmas past? It’s about the same, with a different tree and with different ornaments. There have been bigger and better changes that I alluded to in yesterday’s post. Different! I am, though it matters not, miffed that Shutterfly has/continues to pry into my life past. I’m doing just fine. Can they just leave it at that?


Someone’s watchin’

I lifted this layout right off Shutterfly. Who’s got rights? I have been told nothing disappears from the internet. But, how’d it get there? Shutterfly, it took over after Kodak folded. They send emails to me of “memories” from time past. I mostly don’t pay attention. I did, once upon a time, upload a lot of images to Kodak in order to share pictures. But, hey! Where did these come from? They are long after I uploaded anything to Kodak and definitely not on Shutterfly. I don’t use the service. It’s not transparent. I can easily see who owns Shutterfly. For sure, they did not ever receive or have permission to snag these digital images. By, the way, their periodic reminders of memories from the past are (mostly) unhappy remembrances at this point. They wouldn’t know – a smiling face is a smiling face. I’m just wondering. However. So far it’s so. What’s on the ‘net lingers forever. In this particular instance I do hope the (these) memories last forever. This one was an “extended” first date, the best I ever had.


Who’s at the door?

A few years back Japanese girls were committing suicide because hidden video cameras could see right into their very bathrooms. Tracking through our electronic devices and public video makes it easy to follow many people who are simply unsuspecting consumers going about their activities. The data is there. Many people have access though not necessarily our government or the FBI. The data reveals who was at the trump rally and who went to the Capitol and who went in. The data was extracted involuntarily. If you committed no crime, you are safe. And if you did, see ya. They can really do this! It’s good to have a pristine conscience.