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A New Year Starts

January 1-15, 2016
Written January 4+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

It is 2016, the 19th year that shows up in these diaries.  We started sharing our lives with friends and family in the Fall of 1998, when we went on our Great Ukrainian Adventure. Over the years, we have had excitement, disappointment, adventure, and quiet.  Now, I think we are in a quiet phase, but I still want a record of what's happening because we are also in a I-can't-remember phase. 

d160104_02_gym.jpgNew Year's resolutions have changed remarkably little over the years: lose weight, get in shape, visit family, friends, and interesting places.  We have actually been making progress on the first two over the last several months and eating better, drinking less, and going to the gym have become parts of our normal routine. I hope we can continue because we really do feel better for all this work.  We'll see.

Of course the "visit interesting places" has slowed down, but we hope to step the pace up in 2016, keeping in mind that we have far more family travel and obligations than we ever had in the Old Country years. Retirement helps clear our calendars, so we really  need to focus a bit.  Again, we'll see.

I will admit that winter here in Fresno isn't so bad. While our friend Harald sent snowy pictures of our old neighborhood, our California yard was still decorated with a few hardy roses. I'm not sure how the roses will survive the El NiƱo rains that are promised for the next seven days, but the water will be very welcome for all the growth we hope for in 2016.

If the rains and mountain snows really happen, we may try a trip up to the Sierras for our first "interesting place" in 2016.  We ordered snow chains for the Jeep, mostly  just to stay legal, so this could be yet another learning experience.  I have not put chains on a car since I helped my dad do it 50+ years ago, but carrying chains is a requirement here in the Sierras. I will take pictures, if it proves necessary on our mountain adventure.

d160105_02_rain.jpgd160105_04_chain.jpgRains have come.  In Fresno, that meant about an inch and a quarter (34mm on my German gauge).  Not much by eastern or southern standards, but half a month's rain for an "average" January and we have not been average for four or five years.  More rain storms are on the way and everyone hopes they continue for the next two or three months, at least that's what folks are saying before the floods start.

And, yes, I did get my chains and practiced putting them on.  Even in a dry garage it was a pain, so I really hope they just stay in the trunk.

Still nothing big planned for the New Year,  Fresh out of ideas. Any suggestions?

d160113_02_lotto.jpgOK, so nobody came up with any suggestions and now it is Wednesday the 13th.  The month is almost half over so my "half-January" diary needs to finish, I suppose, but has anything happened since the week-old entries?

Not really.  I did buy Lotto tickets for tonight's draw, so we can expect a new life from tomorrow forward.  I know all the odds and all, but how else can one buy a chance to dream BIG?  (Spoiler:  Not even close.)

The other activity has been to think about the future, a traditional New Year's January activity.  (I will, unfortunately, recognize that the above ticket will pay exactly ... zero.)  This future-think has included our own future, America's future, and even the world future.  Might as well think BIG.

Three days after the little note above, I needed to either finish or create something.  How about that future thing?

Our Future
In 2016, I expect not that much will change.  We have gotten our health on a better track with weight loss, exercise, and the last (hopefully) of Marianne's heart hospital visits.  Travel may be limited to short hops, since we want to hang around with Mamo.  (It's hard to say "While we can", but ...)  Nevertheless, even within California, there are family and friends to visit, as well as some tourist destinations that others would die to visit.  We just have to get off our bums and plan and execute.  A list: Yosemite in Winter; San Francisco; LA; San Diego; Monterey; Coast generally; More Missions; Wine Countries and of course a pair of grandkids.

America's Future
Tough call.  We believe President Obama's 2016 State of the Union optimism and positive view of the recent past was correct.  Unemployment is down.  Economic growth is positive.  Iran's nuclear ambitions are controlled, even if temporarily. However, it is hard to ignore the crowds that follow the FOX Network negativism, including that of their primo ex-commentator Donald Trump.  Facts do not divert this crowd from looking for falling sky pieces.  Particularly discouraging are the blatant prejudice against Muslims, immigrants, strong women, and President Obama, as well as barely concealed hatred toward anyone different, such as "non-believers" or New Yorkers. One hopes that elections might sort some of this out, but  I don't think so.  Losers will become even more convinced of their negativism and angry - and armed.

World Future
Tougher call.  Radical killers and thugs have hijacked the name of Islam and are attacking from Burkino Faso to San Bernardino.  The Middle East is burning and the fire victims are running away, to Europe mostly, since American politicians remain cowards.  This has supported the resurgence of European fascism as weak leaders hope to distract from economic failures.  China's economic miracle is developing along decidedly less miraculous lines.  Russia's nuclear-armed, thug-in-chief,  could either lose control in 2016 or continue to sow the seeds for future revolution in Eastern Europe, European Russia included.

OK, that's it for this little diary entry.  I will review it in a year or two to see how accurate the prognostications were.  Maybe by then there will be another $1B Lotto to believe in.

Regards and stay positive if you can.  It's healthier.

John and Marianne


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