Thursday, November 30, 2023

Old Friends

Some people matter to us beyond their lifetime. I celebrate those people for the good they contributed to the world and the positive effects they had on my own life.

25 years ago I met Geoff, a fellow-motorcyclist. Geoff was a fascinating fellow, deeply knowledgeable about many subjects. Long before math-based cryptology became well-known for encryption Geoff worked in that field and educated me about it. He opened my eyes to various scientific developments. His hobbies included unusual adventures like building an electric motorcycle and "jail-breaking" his Apple cellphone to remove proprietary restrictions. 

Of course what really drew me to Geoff wasn't his intellect but his irreverence. His personality was rare: deviant but rational, offbeat but playful, and constantly comedic. When you were with Geoff, you laughed heartily. Riding with Geoff was fun, too; he'd twist his body sideways, then backwards and lie flat on his back while riding a motorcycle at 40 mph. I remember laughing in my helmet at Geoff's crazy antics and hoping he wouldn't crash.

Geoff taught me to explore new things, ignore convention and lighten up. His heretical attitude rubbed some folks the wrong way but that was their problem, not his. Geoff was fun to be around and truly educational if you paid attention.

I think about Geoff now because he passed away in December eleven years ago. He was only 40-something and was tragically struck down by a brain-tumor that came out of nowhere. A reminder that our lives are fragile and can disappear in an instant. We should remember our friends. I miss Geoff and celebrate his legacy.

Saturday, November 25, 2023


Some of my best photographs are accidents.

I snapped a shot of a young woman at a Devils game. She was wearing face-paint which is not unusual in that setting. The woman was ten feet in front of me; behind her are men 150 feet away on the other side of the ice rink. Because of that disparity in distance, the woman appears LARGE and the men look SMALL. 

Reviewing the photo I saw this visual illusion and decided to play with it. If we crop the picture, the woman -- whom I'm sure is a lovely person -- transforms into a hideous monster about to bite defenseless little men. Wild paint on her face adds to that interpretation. 

I later learned this woman is Echidna, immortal goddess of Greek mythology. Known as the "Mother of Monsters," Echidna has the face of a seductive woman and the body of a dragon. Echidna drags her victims to an underground pit where she devours them alive. Rumors say her pit is beneath the Newark ice rink.

Who'd have guessed Echidna'd be at a "Devils" game? :)

Friday, November 24, 2023

Clever Solution

I'm taking Robin to a Devils game today. 3pm! 

After their top two players got hurt a few games ago the team has been struggling. Someone suggested unplugging the team and then plugging them back in again. I'll try it at the Rock this afternoon. :)

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. :)

One of the best things we can do today is right in the holiday's name: give thanks. Be grateful for good stuff in our lives. Doing that provides perspective frequently absent in the grind of daily activity.

All of us learn at some point that life contains both good and bad. As a child I believed adulthood would be one fate or the other. I was wrong. Premature deaths of my mother and brother in the early 1990s showed me harsh reality. Alongside grief, however, my life also contains happiness, beauty, insight and pleasure. Receiving mixed experiences it's up to us to decide what to focus on. The good or the bad.

My life right now is the ultimate half-full glass. I have one eye that works and one that doesn't. I have one ear that works and a second that doesn't. I have one leg that's pain-free and another that isn't. I'm half-blind, half-deaf and half-lame. Destiny has given me the metaphorical half-full glass with precise accuracy and challenges me to figure out how to react.

We all face this choice over and over again. Our decisions define us. Attitudes we adopt, strength we muster or fail to summon affect our present and future. I struggled this year with darkness bleaker than I knew existed and understand why some folks give up. In pits of despair you can't see the light of normal life; sometimes you don't even know which way is up. You struggle and hope or surrender and die. The situation can become that stark.

I'm grateful to be alive, to see partially, to hear most of what's said in conversation. Suffering for months I clung to hope of someday returning to society. I wasn't sure my impairments would allow that. I wanted to re-connect with friends. I wanted to continue experiencing joy. Then, good news arrived: I can do these things. Not without obstacles, not without effort but I can be happy. You saw a few days ago that buddies of mine -- whose comaraderie I've enjoyed for 20 years -- rescued me with a day-long motorcycle trip. That's something I was sure was lost to my future. But past friendship paid off in major ways. Other friends have similarly stepped up and eased my new burdens. The lesson: as long as we're alive there's reason to hope. We should not give up.

So, today, I'm thankful for my life. Half the glass may have spilled out but another half remains. That's enough to work with. On this holiday try to appreciate what is in your glass, as full or empty as it is. Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Champagne Run

During our ride today my friend Jaime paid me the highest compliment a biker can give his passenger -- "I forgot you were back there."

Friday, November 17, 2023

On The Road Again...

On Sunday I'm going to do something I thought I'd never do again -- ride a motorcycle. No, I won't be operating the bike; my friend Jaime will. He offered me the back seat on his touring bike (BWM K1200LT). I used to own that exact same model (in 2002-2014). The bike is a behemoth designed for long-distance touring.

We're doing a full day's ride with the Nassau Wings, traveling to several North Fork vineyards. We'll buy local wines for the holidays. I always get blueberry port; it's not available anywhere but at the winery (Duck Walk Vineyards). It's delicious.

In the old days this ride was initially named after Jaime and me because we conceived the idea for it. Since then "Jaime and Ralph's Champagne Run" has become an annual tradition. I'm excited to attend it again, back on two wheels.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Working In The Coal Mine

I think I camake you laugh at my misfortune. Well, not my blindness per se but rather my weird efforts to improve the situation. Some are downright comical.

I can see, sorta, but have visual impairments. These make life difficult and treacherous. I've struggled for months to conceive and craft practical solutions. Here are two examples. (There are dozens more.)

I've lost depth-perception: I can't judge how close or far away things are. This poses constant problems, the biggest being injury from bumping into things. Early on my legs, body and head were frequently bruised from unplanned collisions with stationary objects like furniture and walls. Equally perilous are stairs: I can't see which is the last step and, oops! down I go. You probably don't know but many staircases and escalators in public places have yellow stripes across the last step. They aren't noticed by sighted folk but are invaluable to me. They signal where stairs end and when to get off escalators. They save my ass regularly.

I came up with a way to avoid bumping into things from a terrific book I read last year ("An Immense World"). The book describes innumerable ways animals perceive their environment, many of which exceed our own physical senses, such as seeing lightwaves outside the human range. I thought, if I was a six foot tall insect with poor eyesight, how could I sense my environment other than through eyesight? The answer is obvious: I would use antennae.

I wasn't born with antennae but I can use my front legs (you call them arms) as such. I stretch them out in front of me, in a diamond-shape, to detect nearby objects as I move through space. Every day my arms brush up against something I'm glad I didn't slam into with my face or body. The maneuver saves me from injury. I use this technique in private settings to avoid alarming anyone but you can picture me as a tall insect with outstretched antennae and laugh. It's okay.

A second example is even funnier. My biggest visual impairment is darkness. What I see (with my one good eye) is only half as bright as what you see. Even when I add powerful lamps to a room the lighting is still not bright enough to see clearly. Peering through darkness is my constant curse. I have, however, discovered a partial solution.

A headlamp. The kind coal miners use. They sell them today to hikers and outdoorsy folk for nighttime activities. Using one (at maximum brightness) I can suddenly read labels on file folders, see contents of boxes and get shit done. Before I found this I was stymied in doing the most basic tasks. Now, looking like a coal miner, I'm productive.

This, also, is something I do in private. If you walk into the room and see me using one, you'll laugh. How can you not? The sight is inherently funny. Particularly since I'm singing coal mining songs while I labor. (My favorite is "Dyin' To Make A Livin'.")

It's important to enjoy humor wherever we can find it, especially in hard times. When I see myself doing something odd (but effective!) I laugh. And so should you. It's healthy.

Friday, November 3, 2023


It's natural on birthdays to look back at life. 

In 66 years I've seen things. Good and bad. Had experiences both banal and intense. Some were unexpected.

As a young adult I lived cautiously but got bored with that. Later I tried riskier activities (motorcycles! solo travel!) and found excitement. Adventure is fun even with attached danger. Ironically we often skate unharmed through perilous situations but get smacked when doin' nothing. My conclusion is you might as well choose excitement 'cause bad stuff's gonna find you anyway.

Wisdom? Be compassionate; we're all in this together. Be curious; the world is more interesting than we're told. Be courageous and see what's out there. The best parts of life are vivid experiences and the friends we meet along the way. Those pleasures counter-balance the suffering we face. Finally, smile, whenever possible. It helps.