The Fall

I do like the fall. The season that is. Not so much the Life Alert variety.

Saturday I was in the woods in Smithville playing (cleaning up the trail) and when I reached the bottom I decided to make my way to the creek to just see what I could see. No particular reason just wondering if I could gauge the erosion problem and if there was anything to be done about it. I cleared out a bit of debris from the creek bed and as I turned to make my way back I had to navigate down a large piece of shale at a 30° angle or so. There was no moss on it so I figured my boots would maintain traction. I was wrong. Very wrong. It happened so fast it’s hard to know exactly how it happened but I think my right foot slid down the rock and when it reached the bottom it grabbed and twisted it to the left. The whole bottom portion of my leg twisted in fact. But the upper portion did not. There was a horrifying sound that reminded me of a turkey leg being twisted off. As I lay on the ground writhing in pain I honestly didn’t know if the bottom of my leg was still attached. I expected it to flop around if I tried to stand. Somehow everything seemed to be connected. I tried to call and then text Sue but got no response. I had no idea how I was going to get out so I tried to test it. On the second step my knee gave out again and I was once again laying on the ground. Nearly in tears. I decided I was going to have to scoot on my butt back up to the trail. The slope of the creek bank is insane. It was going to be hard to get back up even with full use of my limbs. By that time, Susie had answered my text and was making her way down to me. I had made it maybe 10 – 20 feet up the bank by the time she arrived. She was able to help me out of a few tricky spots but I was reluctant to rely on her too much lest we both fall back down into the creek bed. At the point where the trail ends it’s perhaps a 20 or 30 foot drop to the creek bed.

Once we made it to the trail I tried testing my leg again on somewhat level ground and my knee gave out again. But I did have a rake with me which I used as a crutch and eventually figured out that if I kept my knee locked I could side step without it buckling. The trail is a quarter mile with a 200’ change in elevation. I reckon from the time of my fall until we actually got back to the house was maybe an hour.

In general I avoid going to the doctor until I’ve had a problem for more than a week or two but Susie really wanted me to go to the ER. In this case I was inclined to agree with her. Although I did talk her into allowing me a shower before we went. I was pretty much a mess after all of that. They got me back pretty quickly but the diagnosis, such as it was took a couple of hours. They asked about pain levels and tried to move my leg in various ways. Then they ordered an X-Ray. And eventually I learned that there was no fracture although there was fluid building up. Up to the point we went to the ER I’d kept that leg fairly active and was able to make it back to the examination room on my own (slowly) but in the hours laying there as the swelling increased the pain increased right along with it. They put me in a knee immobilizer and were prepared to send me on my way but I could no longer put weight on that leg without significant pain so I was given some crutches as well.

As I left my understanding of the diagnosis was this: it was either a torn meniscus or a sprain but it more specific diagnosis would have to wait until the swelling went down at which point I should see an orthopedist. I floated the idea of waiting a week and if it seemed better maybe I could skip that and the doctor seemed to indicate that was reasonable. A sprain didn’t seem so bad but since then I’ve learned that there are 3 classes of sprains: stretched tendon, partial tear, complete tear. Further if it’s a partial tear I may end up completely tearing it. On the other hand leaving my knee in this immobilizer may also not be good for it. So I’m totally confused about what I should be doing and have decided I need to see an orthopedist for a clear diagnosis and recovery plan.

I’m four days into this and there is still swelling. I can walk with the immobilizer without crutches though sometimes it sends a jolt of pain through my knee. I am able to sleep through the night now though. The first night I was unable to sleep at all since, for some reason, it’s more painful with my knee elevated than it is when I’m standing. Anyway, I’m hopeful that it’s not too bad and that I can get back on my feet again soon.

X

On February 12, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt wrote a large ‘X’ in his diary followed by the words “The light has gone out of my life”. His wife died that day after giving birth a few days earlier. His mother had died a few hours before.

I spent yesterday marinating in what passes for political discourse these days and the abject hopelessness I have for any sort of change for the better. In fact I’m convinced that things will continue to get worse before they get better. I felt what remaining faith I had in this country’s institutions continue to vanish yesterday. The whole truth, justice and the American way thing that I grew up naively believing in. That evening Teddy’s diary entry popped into my head. And though perhaps a bit melodramatic, I signed out of Twitter for the evening with an X.

For what it’s worth, I’m a pretty strong believer in Occam’s razor. That is that the simplest solution tends to be the right one. In the case of Christine Blassey Ford’s accusation and Brett Kavanaugh’s denials it seems they both give every indication what they are saying is true. I’ve been through a few traumatic experiences and the details that she recollects as well as those she doesn’t are consistent with my own experiences. I can make you a sketch but I can’t draw a perfect picture. As for Kavanaugh, there’s not only a memory dimmed by alcohol and the passage of time, but if we assume that his teenage mind really didn’t think too much of it, then I can see where it wouldn’t have left an impression that was, to use Blassey Ford’s phrase, “indelible in the hippocampus”.

At least midway through Kavanaugh’s opening remarks this is where I stood. And then it all went off the rails when he attributed the whole mess as a political hit job as revenge on behalf of the Clintons. After going off the rails it continued on a bit before going over a cliff, crashing into a ravine, and bursting into flames after Lindsey Graham’s explosive accusations against the Democrats. As if there was only one party playing politics here. The hypocrisy was breathtaking and I couldn’t help but recall Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying in 2016: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked at Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy.’” A proud moment when you’re doing it to the other side and a sham when you believe it’s being done to you. Lindsey Graham said he hoped that the American people see through this charade and a good many of us do. So please Senator Graham, spare us your righteous indignation.

After the hearing I popped onto Facebook where most of the people I follow have a decided tilt to the right and I suppose I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised at the way it was playing there. I repeatedly saw comments to the effect that the left had already made up their minds before the hearings got started. As if those on the other side had not. All throughout Dr. Blassey Ford’s testimony the @GOP Twitter feed was posting a continuous stream of tweets with the hashtag #IStandWithBrett. The GOP didn’t even bother with the appearance of considering anything she had to say.

While I concede the manner in which Dr. Blassey Ford’s accusation came to light contains some curiosities, it doesn’t diminish its importance. This is not someone steeped in the daily political intrigues of those that made a career of it in Washington, DC. She strikes me as sincere and I believe her when she says her motivations were out of a sense of civic obligation despite concerns that she “would just be jumping in front of a train that was just headed to where it was headed anyway”.

I believe she was silenced 36 years ago by Mr. Kavanaugh while looking for rescue from an onlooker. This time around it’s the Senate and the nation looking on but I don’t hold out much hope that the results will be any different…

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get into this specifics of yesterday’s hearing. This was supposed to be a post about factions and parties. I meant to mention things like Washington’s warning about the harmful effects of parties during his farewell address. And how it’s always been this way but today it’s turned up to eleven. How so many are less concerned with the truth and more concerned about which side is winning and which side is losing. I can tell you, we’re all losing.

Abraham Lincoln had this to say in his first inaugural address:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Now Lincoln is my favorite President. I used to treasure that statement. I believed it. Wholeheartedly. Despite the fact that he said this on the eve of a war that would go on to kill nearly 700,000 Americans and ended up with a hole in his head. Confronted as I am with the events of yesterday and all that’s gone on before, I have to confess I have my doubts in these better angels.

Thoughts on the Debate

Last night the Tennessee candidates for the US Senate, Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn, held their first debate in Lebanon, TN. And from the beginning it was a marked contrast in styles. Bredesen arrived early and spoke to supporters gathered outside on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Blackburn arrived 45 minutes later and headed directly into the building offering only a wave to the supporters that had gathered for her.

I have to be honest though, once the debate started I felt that Blackburn’s presentation was a bit more polished than Bredesen’s. That is to say her mannerisms, body language, what have you. Blackburn’s style may have been more polished, but the substance of Bredesen’s message was much more appealing to me.

If you had to boil this debate down to its essence, Blackburn’s message was less about solutions and more about trying to associate Bredesen with others in the Democratic party. Apart from a pledge by Bredesen at the beginning of the debate that he would not support Chuck Schumer as senate leader he mostly ignored these jabs. You see this tactic all the time. Perhaps because the typical politician today is expected to put party over country and do as they’re told. But Bredesen repeatedly demonstrated a history and willingness to work across the aisle to solve problems and not get bogged down in the mud slinging that’s come to dominate the political landscape of today. It was downright refreshing.

Blackburn may have actually made the best argument in favor of Bredesen last night when she said “he could have run as a Republican or independent.” To me this perfectly illustrates that he’s an independent thinker not beholden to any particular party line. A welcome change.

And looking back I couldn’t help but draw parallels between their messages and the way that they arrived at the debate. Bredesen arrived early and spoke to the people he hopes to represent while Blackburn showed up later and mostly ignored them.

In the Dark

Let me preface this by saying that I feel like I complain a lot about my candidates, but then if the worst criticism I have is pointing out missteps when it comes to digital outreach then that’s pretty good. Hopefully this is received in the spirit of which it is intended.

This morning I went through my usual routine. Drinking a cup of coffee and catching up on the news, reddit, Twitter, etc., while trying to wake up. I even decided to hop on Facebook and see what’s going on there before turning my attention to something more constructive. I was about to wrap up when it occurred to me that I’ve not seen any news from the candidates that I’m following in the upcoming election. Of course, Facebook famously decides how to organize your news feed. There is no rhyme or reason, that I can tell, to which posts will be displayed and in what order, or at all. If I had to guess it would be to find any posts with the phrase “copy and paste this if you agree” and make sure those are displayed front and center. I generally lose interest pretty quickly. For whatever reason I decided to visit the candidate pages directly and what do you know, there have been several posts I didn’t see.

The first post I saw was a video from Chris Mayor talking about a meet and greet with the candidates that was going on yesterday. I try to keep myself reasonably well informed but I hadn’t heard a word about it. Actually it took a bit of digging to find out exactly what the event was. None of the candidates had this event listed, though Mariah Phillips did list an event that appeared to take place just before which was advertised as an event for those that are a “current or former educator”.

I’m really frustrated and baffled by the almost exclusive reliance on Facebook to spread campaign information. For me, Facebook is where I check in from time to time on friends and family whereas Twitter is where I go for news and current events. Last night is a great example of the difference between Facebook and Twitter with the real time reaction to the Emmy’s scrolling by. It wouldn’t occur to me to use Facebook for that sort of engagement.

Perhaps I’m in the minority but I’m certainly not alone in how I use those social media services. But I’m just not seeing as much activity from any of the candidates, or for that matter the county and state parties, on Twitter. Particularly when it comes to events. It feels like a missed opportunity. I looked at the Twitter feed of each candidate as well as the Rutherford County Democratic Party and The Tennessee Democratic Party. Nothing. The RCDP even has this nice calendar but there was no mention of it there.

Consider, for example, Chris Mayor has 394 people following his page on Facebook, but he has 745 followers on Twitter. Not only is this a missed opportunity to inform almost double your followers, but he’s followed by the people like @bimmerella and @StormResist with 37,900 and 80,000 followers respectively. That’s a potentially huge opportunity to amplify your message.

I don’t mean to pick on anyone. I’ve met some of the candidates and I know they are trying very hard and resources are stretched thin but please, if you could, when you’re posting something on Facebook take a moment and just copy/paste that over to Twitter to help the rest of us stay informed.

Tidying Up

I remember when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and demonstrated Safari rendering a web site, the New York Times I believe, and was very proud of the fact that web sites could be rendered on a mobile phone exactly as they appear on the desktop. It didn’t need to reformat it to fit your device, you could just pinch or double tap to zoom and it was awesome. For the longest time I’ve kept that presentation in the back of my mind when it comes to the design of my web sites. There was no need to do anything special because Steve said it would just work. Well, in the 10 years or so since that presentation we’ve moved on a bit.

Sure, I don’t have to make any changes to my site to make it easier to use on mobile. It does work just like Steve said. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. So I’m in the midst of a slight design refresh to make SGnTN more responsive. Another factor pushing more towards this change is Google’s decision to deemphasize sites that aren’t “mobile-friendly” in its search results. My Mobile Safari version history page is pretty popular and so I figured I’d better get with the program if to maintain the visibility of that resource.

The redesign is mostly done and I have to admit, it is so much nicer to use on a mobile device now. At this point I’m just addressing overlooked issues as they arise. If you happen come across anything that looks wonky, please leave a comment or hit me up @somegeekintn, whatever, and I’ll see if I can’t make it better. Hope you like the new look!