Waiting at home for a link to a video call is, in some ways, better than waiting at the doctor’s office. You’re home, after all! You can use your most comfortable chair. You don’t have to worry about getting sick from other people in the waiting room. You know where the bathroom is, you can bring your coffee in, you have all your own reading material.

But….

There’s always that nagging suspicion that the email with the conference link has been lost, and they’ve been waiting for you to connect for the last 10 minutes and will just move onto the next patient.

Which I’ve had happen.

Over the last few months we’ve dealt with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, several in-browser apps and at least one app that couldn’t figure out landscape orientation. Between school and health, we’ve had some setups where we log into an account and the system connects you to the right person, some where each meeting has its own code, and some where a week’s worth of classes will use the same code. Some send the code or URL by email, some by text message, some through a portal. A lot of them send it out right at appointment time.

None of them just, you know, call on the app when they’re ready.

I actually had to reschedule one appointment after checking in. The front office called me on the phone to do the check-in, and at the end they asked if I knew how to get onto their portal to get the Zoom link. I logged in, and waited…and waited…and waited… No new messages, and nothing in the appointment info about how to connect, only that it would be sent in a message. By the time I called back, they’d marked me as a no-show. It turned out they’d sent the link buried in a message (in their portal, of course), back when I’d made the appointment. “But it says you read this message!” Yeah…not recently.

I’ve got to wonder — if someone who does tech for a living has trouble keeping up with this stuff, how hard is it for people who aren’t used to it?

A gate across a two-lane road heading downward through the hills.

I’ve been looking through photos from back when we could, you know, go places and found a set from the hills above North Tustin during a year that we got enough rain to turn the hills green. There were some really clear shots of Peters Canyon, Saddleback, and even some south Orange County hills that I couldn’t identify. There was a spot that I remember being a turn-out that’s finally eroded away to the point that it’s been fenced off.

And there was this gate, which I think might have been across the road to Camp Myford, a Boy Scout camp on the Irvine Ranch that closed back in the late 1980s. I remember working as a camp counselor for a Cub Scout day camp during the last month — possibly the last week — it remained operating, before the bulldozers came in.

I remember lots of eucalyptus trees, hiking trails and dirt roads, a couple of buildings (though I couldn’t tell you what was in them), a fire ring, and a whole lot of giant pipes that were going to become the sewers and storm drains of the housing tract that was going to be built any moment now. And I remember being told in no uncertain terms that we were supposed to watch our language around the impressionable younger boys (who were, of course, a lot more foul-mouthed than we were).

And I found this article from the Tustin Area Historical Society, summarizing the history of the canyon as far back as the Mexican Rancho system, when it was named Cañon de las Ranas (Canyon of the Frogs) because it drained into the Newport Back Bay, known then as the Marsh of the Frogs.

Old photo of Camp Myford gate and sign over a dirt road.Peters Canyon was once Canyon of the Frogs
Camp Myford, an Irvine Co. gift to the Orange County Council Boy Scouts of America, was named for James Irvine’s youngest son. Peter’s Canyon Regional Park offers a well-used oasis of wilderness amid the sprawl of development in the North Tustin area…

“We live in a republic, not a democracy” is a false binary. The United States is a representative democracy in the form of a republic. It’s both.

It’s like saying you’re not in a car, you’re on a road. You may be driving yourself (direct democracy) or choose someone who’s going your way (representative democracy). Or you may be tied up in the trunk…but hey, you’re still on the road, right?

When someone says we live in a republic, not a democracy, they’re downplaying the importance of representation in favor of structure. China and Russia are structured as republics too.

At best, it’s the Dunning-Krueger approach to being pedantic: look at the first definition in the dictionary, think you know enough to pull a “Gotcha!!!” on someone, and stop reading before you find the second, third and fourth definitions.

At worst, they’re actively telling you that you don’t deserve and shouldn’t expect representation in government. And considering that it’s usually said in response to someone complaining about a lack of representation, well… 🤔

I’ve been seeing hawks lately when I’m out walking, which is new. I know partly it’s that I’m actively looking for suburban wildlife, but I’ve been doing that since last June when I started participating in iNaturalist. I started noticing how many squirrels and sparrows and phoebes and finches were around (in addition to the crows and pigeons and seagulls) right away. Maybe it’s seasonal? Maybe it’s the time of day I’ve been looking?

Whatever the reason, I’ve logged four observations over the last month or so. First, two red-shouldered hawks I spotted while hiking.

A hawk with brown feathers surrounded by mostly-bare leaves.

This is the best photo I managed to get of any of them, because it was perched in a relatively short tree at Madrona Marsh Preserve. Maybe only ten feet off the ground, just off the trail and not too far ahead of where I was standing. When I saw it, I stopped and took about five photos. It looked around, no doubt trying to spot some of the zillion tiny frogs I could hear (but not see), and then flew up to a higher tree, presumably for a better view.

A brown hawk perched on the end of a long, bare branch, a few twisted branches nearby, but mostly empty gray sky.

This one’s not as detailed, but I like the way it came out. I saw it from a few hundred feet away in a tall tree at the South Coast Botanic Garden. Yay for zoom lenses! (Though I still cropped the heck out of this shot.) It stayed there for a while, but I decided not to try to get a closer view and just continue hiking.

And then on two occasions I’ve spotted red-tailed hawks up in the same electrical transmission tower while walking along a bike path. In both cases I spotted them from a distance, perched up in the metal struts, not sure what kind of bird I was looking at until I could get closer.

I saw The Rise of Skywalker last week, and I’ve had some thoughts bouncing around in my head for a while. I think it’s been long enough. So, to start with, let’s look at the major themes of the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

The Force Awakens: There will always be a new generation of fascists, and people from all walks of life can (and must) band together to work against them.

The Last Jedi: Evil will relentlessly work to snuff out hope. Do what you can, even if you’re just some nobody, even if you’ve failed before, and you may be able to inspire others as well.

SPOILERS for The Rise of Skywalker!

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