Tour de France

We’re more than halfway through the 2018 Tour de France — stage 13 runs on Friday — and I’m loving it. This year’s Tour is very exciting — no clear dominating rider and four or five still in the hunt for the yellow jersey at the end. The riders finished climbing the Alps on Thursday in stage 12. They go up the mountain faster than I ride on flat terrain.

This is my primo summer sports event. I love everything about the Tour, including the spectacular pics of French villages, cities and mountains. This really is a beautiful country, and the Tour shows off the best of it.

Explaining the strategy of the race to a non-fan would take awhile — professional cycling is far more complicated than getting into the saddle and peddling as fast as you can. Once you get what they are doing, though, it’s the most intricate and demanding of sports. One of the highlights of my life was being in Paris for the final stage several years ago when my friend Jane lived there and invited me to visit. Other people go to Paris to see cathedrals and art museums and to float along the Seine. I went to see the Tour. 🙂

Birds in a Bath

I hadn’t seen any songbirds in my birdbath, and wondered why. My yard is filled with birds — what could be wrong with the birdbath that it was of so little interest in Seattle’s dry summer?


Yes, that ugly white fence is coming down when the new cedar fence goes up sometime in mid-August.

Knee Update

I’m in my second week of healing, and things are definitely improving. The swelling on my right knee has gone down, although the knee continues to ache when I sit for too long. The bigger problem turns out to be the deep abrasion on my right knee. I didn’t just scrape off the surface skin, but rather took out several layers. The wound scabs over, but when I move my knee the scab cracks and something — probably lymphatic fluid — leaks out. That means that when I go out for the evening wearing good pants, I have to cover the scab. By the time I take the dressing off again, everything has softened up and looks a mess. Nursing this along is a challenge.

In the interests of the old adage “it never rains but it pours”, I also got a bee sting on my upper right thigh yesterday afternoon. I don’t think I ever had a bee sting before. I only knew it was a bee sting because I looked up pics of various insect stings online and “bee” fit the appearance of my leg. I’m not allergic, so it’s more an annoyance than a significant impediment. I’m using the anti-itch spray that I brought back with me from New Jersey, which helps somewhat. I never saw the bee, just noticed a sharp pinprick when I came into the kitchen from outside.

I’ll live. Everything is on the upswing, and after all, I did have that great dentist appointment earlier this week. 🙂

Conscious Aging: Visit to the Dentist


Walking out of the dentist’s office, I felt as if I should be wearing one of those smiley face stickers that they give to kids after a successful visit.

At my age, “stable” is good. My teeth are old, just like me. I take care of them as best I can. I go for every six-month cleanings. I eat a healthy diet and I floss. I use a water pic at night. But I have some gum erosion, and a couple of cracks left over from more stressful times when I probably was guilty of grinding my teeth. I still have a couple of old silver amalgam fillings that will eventually have to be replaced. Happily, my dentist is conservative. She only replaces with a new filling or crown when absolutely necessary.

So, “stable” means all clear for the next six months. I like that — it made my day. Given that my knees are still sore, I didn’t want to deal with dental work too.

There are some things that can still be improved at my age. Exercises specifically designed for balance and stability can make those capabilities stronger even into our 90’s. But for the most part, “stable” is the goal.

On Tuesday I hit the mark. 🙂

Genetic Surprises

Popular genetic testing sites like Ancestry. com and MyHeritageDNA advertise a joyful process where you send off your sample and get back a world of DNA information that allows you to claim your full heritage and identity. They probably tell you in the fine print that you might uncover some unexpected and even unwelcome surprises, but they don’t push the point.

Sometimes the connection to what you thought were your ancestors isn’t affirmed. In fact, you might find yourself an outlier, a person whose DNA doesn’t match the family you grew up in at all. It happens often enough, and is upsetting enough, to lead to the formation of groups of people in just this situation.

They do have customer service people trained to help if you turn out to be among the unlucky “who the hell are you?” group.

It was AncestryDNA’s customer-service rep who had to break the news to Catherine St Clair.

For her part, St Clair thought she was inquiring about a technical glitch. Her brother—the brother who along with three other siblings had gifted her the DNA test for her birthday—wasn’t showing up right in her family tree. It was not a glitch, the woman on the line had to explain gently, if this news can ever land gently: The man St Clair thought of as her brother only shared enough DNA with her to be a half sibling. In fact, she didn’t match any family members on her father’s side. Her biological father must be someone else.”


You might think that finding out who you truly are is a good thing, but apparently it’s more unsettling that one would imagine. Sometimes it works out well, as people find new family members whose existence they didn’t even imagine. Sometimes it works out badly, leading to feelings of loss and alienation.

We all construct a story about ourselves, about who we are, what we’re a part of. Being able to do so is crucial to our mental health. Not being able to do so is profoundly debilitating.

I have my story, which I wrote in my memoir Good Daughter, Good Mother in 2016. I’m not particularly interested in digging deeper, in sending off a sample to see if my storytelling capability really has Irish roots. I believe it does, and that’s enough for me.

How about you? Would you send a sample off to If so, what would you hope to find?

Before online genealogy was available online, much less DNA testing, my mother’s cousin Ella undertook a manual search of the Halpin family line. Perhaps expecting glory, she instead came upon an ancestor who died in San Quentin after murdering his wife. So scandalized was Ella that her project came to a grinding halt.

Perhaps that’s in the back of my mind. 🙂

Americans: An Ahistorical People

We Americans like to think of ourselves as a sophisticated, knowledgeable people — but most of us aren’t, really. Only 25% of Americans can name all three branches of government as of 2017, down from 36% in 2017.

It’s in that context that we need to assess the response to Trump’s recent performance with our NATO allies and with Putin.

What Trump and his followers see as a world taking advantage of the United States — the basis for his constant belligerence toward our allies — is in fact the system created by American statesmen post World War II:

What Trump fails to understand is that the disparity in spending, with the U.S. paying more than its allies, is not a bug of the system. It is a feature. This is how the great postwar statesmen designed it, and this immensely foresighted strategy has ensured the absence of great power conflict—and nuclear war—for three-quarters of a century.

The open, liberal world order we know today was built in the wake of World War II and expanded after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By design, it is led by the United States; by design, it ensures permanent U.S. military hegemony over Eurasia while uniting Europe under the U.S.’ protection. The goal of this American grand strategy is to prevent any single power from dominating the region and turning on the United States and its allies. American hegemony serves, too, to quell previously intractable regional rivalries, preventing further world wars. Dean Acheson, George Marshall and the other great statesmen of their generation pursued this strategy because they had learned, at unimaginable cost, that the eternal American fantasy of forever being free of Europe—isolationism, or America Firstism, in other words—was just that: a fantasy. Four hundred thousand American men lost their lives in the European theaters of the First and Second World Wars. (American fatalities in all of the other 20th-century conflicts—including Vietnam, Korea and the Persian Gulf—do not total one-quarter of that number.) Our postwar statesmen were neither weak nor incompetent. They were the architects of the greatest foreign policy triumph in U.S. history.”

Trump, in all his shallowness and with his limited world view, is doing his best to wreck that architecture.

Trump followers hate to be called ignorant — they find it condescending. A Trump voter apparently called in to CNN to say she was glad Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Trump because “what would we have done with Hillary in the White House.”

Ignorance speaks in its own voice. No need for anyone to point fingers.

The Politico article is long, but well worth a read.


The World’s Ten Best Performing Economies

Seattle’s economy is scorching hot — I thought surely we’d make the list.

We didn’t. Only  two U.S. cities measured up: San Jose, at the heart of Silicon Valley, and San Francisco. Dublin is #1. The rest are mostly in China, with a nod to India and the Philippines.


We need to be realistic, as Americans, about our place in the world. By many measures, it’s not as exalted as the ordinary American thinks.

Trump the Narcissist

I grew up with a narcissistic mother, so Trump’s behavior is entirely comprehensible to me. Growing up with a narcissist is different from studying the condition in a book, or learning about it in a clinical setting. I get narcissistic personality disorder on a very gut level.

Narcissists flourish when you flatter and agree with them. If you disagree about anything, even something small, they experience it as a full-on existential attack, and respond accordingly. Worst of all, absolutely intolerable, is to ignore them — not because you’re doing it intentionally, but because you’re focused on something else. Narcissists must be the center of attention at all times. If not, they will create a crisis to draw attention back. It doesn’t matter if the attention is good or bad — it’s attention. They are renewed. Their anxiety subsides. They are on a playing field that they can understand, one where everyone is looking at them. Ah the joy, the sheer necessity, the overwhelming comfort of it — look at me, look at me, look at me. Life is good. The world is as it should be.

Trump has no idea why the reaction to his meeting with Putin in Helsinki was mostly negative. Putin flattered him. Putin didn’t disagree with him. Most of all, Putin didn’t ignore him. By definition, the meeting was good, wonderful, the best ever. Trump was apparently forced by his senior staff to read a statement that was sort of a retraction, but his heart wasn’t in it. What was to retract? Putin liked him. Putin really liked him.

Is it dangerous to have a president with a narcissistic personality disorder? Of course. Remember that Trump is ahistorical. He doesn’t read. He has no mental framework larger than his own endlessly needy self. Having a president with a narcissistic personality disorder is also tiresome. Trump is, at the end of the day, not all that interesting. He is emotionally shallow. He cares only about making money. He has no real relationships, only transactional ones. He isn’t that smart. If you met him he’d have no interest in you, except as a potential member of his cheering section. You’d know in five minutes if you were willing to be that, in exchange for whatever he is willing to bestow upon you. He’d know too.

His voters, in true cult-like fashion, haven’t yet figured out that narcissists make lousy presidents. I’m hoping that enough do by the November elections to help the rest of us turn the tide.

Convoluted Logic Against Confronting Trump

Democracy is a fragile system — we’re finding out just how fragile, in the age of Trump. Concepts integral to a functioning democracy, like the “rule of law” turn out to depend in large measure upon people in power honoring them. Al Capone eventually went to jail for tax evasion; he didn’t shoot his way out of the courtroom.  Richard Nixon  ultimately resigned rather than defy the orders of a judge. What would we have done if he hadn’t?

Stephen Bates, now a journalism school professor but formerly a lawyer on the staff of the Whitewater independent counsel, thinks we should not push Trump to a similar point. We know ahead of time that Trump has no regard for the rule of law. In fact, defying norms that presidents before him have honored seems to be a core part of his persona and a trait that his fervent supporters most like. If I’m reading the article correctly, Bates thinks that since we already know Trump would not honor a subpoena, we shouldn’t present one and create a crisis from which democracy might not be able to extricate itself.

I get the point, but I don’t love the argument. Insisting on the rule of law only when the opponent agrees ahead of time to play nice doesn’t seem like much of a standard at all.

I have no illusions that any Republicans in Congress will acquit themselves the way some brave Republicans did in the Nixon era. And, none of us yet know what Mueller has.  Still, I’m hoping that if there are substantive charges to be brought or connections to me made between the Trump campaign and Russia, that we go forward and make them. Otherwise we’re using Trump’s laughable standard with Putin: “he says he didn’t do it, so what can I do?”