Monday, September 25, 2017

Tokai 2017 and Cape Breton

Dear Friends,

Last week (Wednesday through Sunday) I participated in my dojo's Tokai.  5 days of 5 hours of training a day in my chosen art, Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Yamauchi-ha.

It was profound.  It was so profound that I want to write about it but do not feel I can yet.

To substitute, I am going to offer something else profound (at least to me):  from my friend Kymber's post, The Cape Breton Anthem.

(Click on this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apD1IuE5Lwo)

(Just click on the link; it should start playing.  Lovely pictures!)

It is profound in an entirely different, yet similar way.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On The One Who Knows God

"The one who know God eats, drinks and marries, not as ends in themselves, but simply as necessary things.  I include marriage in this list only to the extent the Word dictates and only as it is suitable. For having become perfect, the one who knows God has the apostles as examples.  One is not really proven to be a man by the choice of a single life.  But one who has been disciplined by marriage, the raising of children, and the care of his household surpasses other men.  When he cares for his household without pleasure or pain, he becomes inseparable from God's love.  For he has withstood all temptations arising through children, wife, servants and possessions.  But he that has no family is free of temptation to a large degree." -Clement of Alexandria, The One Who Knows God

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Of Property Taxes And Moving

Driving home from work this evening, I heard on the news that one of the local communities surrounding our large urban community had just approved their city budget.  In doing so they had cut property taxes - again, for the 5th year in the row.  They estimated that overall their tax rate was lower than it had been 15 years ago.  This compared to our local, which has taken it upon itself to boost property taxes the full 8% it can without having to take the measure to a vote.

Jokingly upon arriving home, I mentioned to The Ravishing Mrs. TB "We should think about moving to Suburb X because they have cut their property taxes for five years running."

Her response was "I would be okay with that."

Oh, crud.

So I hop on the larger Interweb site that allows you to look at an estimate of your home values.  And I get the second shock of the day.  Somehow, the value of my house has magically "fallen" by $40,0000 from their estimate earlier this year - a 13% drop in 4 months or so (but still $17,000 less than what the county says it is worth).

I never really counted on the money, of course - long ago I learned the fact that the money is all theoretical until you have it in the bank. But I am a little shocked at how far it had dropped (and imagine if I had not gone in to protest my property taxes - man, would that have been a huge discrepancy!).

The whole thing makes the concept of moving a lot more silly, of course - now I really am buying and selling in the same market (and I am not sure how serious I was in the first place).  Still, an interesting and informative lesson in the dangers of suggesting a good idea and the shocking changes in value that can occur when you are not looking.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Living Wisely

My friend Reverend Paul over at Way Up North has been posting excerpts from Eugene Peterson's The Message, which is a more colloquial English translation of the Bible.  Yesterday the reading was from James 3:13:

"Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats."

The very first part of the verse caught me:  "Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom?  Here's what you do:  Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts."  Which brought to mind a question, after I had considered it a bit:  Does the Christian truly value living wisely?

I should think this is one of the places that Christianity could "shine".  We have the very word of God to guide us in the wise living of life - good heavens, we have a whole book - Proverbs - that is essentially devoted to wisdom.  And yet, somehow we look no different from the way the world lives around us.

It matters because wisdom literature is all the rage now via the Internet Meme.  I can post a quote from the Havamal (A collection of poems from the Viking Age) or any number of  laws or sayings from the Celts or the Sioux or even moving haikus from the 12th Century Tale of the Heike and be thought to be a wise man.  I can post a quote from Proverbs and be thought a provincial fool who believes in fairy tales and foolishness.

Remove the supernatural from Proverbs for a moment: just taken at its face, it is good advice.  Follow it and you would be on the road to a successful, wealthy life largely free from self-inflicted harm and fouls.  As good as advice as you would read in any of the works that I referenced above.  And yet somehow we as Christians fail to live according to Proverbs, leaving ourselves open to attack that we believe one thing but actively act as if we do not.

Take as an example Dave Ramsey.  You may or may not care for him (I enjoy his style; my children found him condescending) but his financial advice, even if disconnected from his Christianity, makes good sense:  Do not have debt.  Save.  Pay cash and avoid stupid credit.  Invest and save for retirement.  Any non-Christian Financial Advisor would tell you the same.  Instead, most Christians (including myself here) are not nearly that wise with our money and so we look exactly like the world in terms of our spending, our debt, and our finances in general.  Which begs the question:  If we claim we believe it, why do we not live it?

The reality is that we have the recipe for being thought wise, for living wisely in a world that is sadly lacking in wisdom. However, it will take an investment from ourselves that involves a lot less talking and a lot more living well by living in accord with God says, doing it humbly and silently.  If we live like that, we open the door to how and why we are living that way and where our wisdom is stemming from.

Or as the quote above says, "It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts."

Friday, September 15, 2017

Star And Bit Player

I often confuse the nature of the role of my life in the lives of the others.

I think myself to be the starring role in their lives, a major character that move in and out of the scenes with the cameras trained on me and the people themselves wondering what I am doing when I am off camera.  In point of fact I am not the star: I am a bit actor or at best a character actor, there to fill a particular role or function or even of proof of plot concept, perhaps occasionally in the camera's main view but more often in the background of shots and for a much shorter time than I care to believe.

It is not a dishonorable thing, of course:  if my car is malfunctioning or my air conditioning fails, I am of course going to call someone to come in and fix these things.  But I would find it highly odd if the car mechanic got into the car after the repairs and came out to us with dinner or the the air conditioning repairman stepped in after repairs and sat down on the couch waiting to watch a movie.  At best I would look at them oddly and cough slightly uncomfortably; at worse I would ask "Exactly what do you think you are doing?"

Yet somehow in the exercise of real life, I think I am different.

I am not quite sure where this sort of confusion comes from.  I feel fairly certain that it has always existed - I can remember times even in my own youth that I struggled with the same sort of thing and had others struggle with the same sort of thing, but on a much smaller basis. I blame (perhaps not surprisingly) social media with its almost constant focus on me, me, me.  I can publish so much about myself and my activities, my thoughts and my opinions, all so quickly and painlessly and in real time, that of course everything is going to be about me in the lives of others:  I can blanket them with myself. The camera really is always on me.

Until - at least for the self aware - that moment comes when the realization occurs that this really is not the case.  My role really was ever only that of the fourth officer or Star Trek Red Shirt or repairman, there to move someone else's life along - and once it is moved along, the ship course changed or the monster having demonstrated its method of killing for this week's episode or the air conditioning blowing cool air, my role is complete.  I may be back for other cameo appearances or I simply may disappear, to show up in the list of uncredited actors that almost no-one ever really stays for.

I can feel hurt or confused or even angry about this, but in reality there is little cause for me to feel so.  I made the cardinal mistake of believing that my life bore a greater import in the lives of others than my opinion warranted.  The fact that they do not "recognize" my gravitas and significance is no failure of theirs - they are, after all, truly the stars - but of my own confusion about the nature of my role in their lives.

Because in the end, of course, it extends to the greatest argument I can ever have within myself about my role:  I am, ultimately, a servant, not a star.  Servants never forget their roles no matter what circles they move in.  Those who are see themselves not as servants but as main characters often do.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Distance

The void between worlds
is not farther apart than 
the void between hearts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On The Past

In reminiscing with a former colleague this week, I realized there are two sorts of people and situations I have a great deal of difficulty letting go of.

The first is those people and situations that have hurt me.  I have realized, in talking with this former colleague, that I tend to cling to my bitterness. I hold on to my distaste and disgust with those that have hurt me.  Just speaking about them - years, perhaps, after I have seen them - is enough to make me sad and angry and enraged all over again.  And it is like once engaged, I cannot let go of it - I wonder how they are doing now, and (truth be known) perhaps even take a bit of secret and nasty pleasure if things are quite as good as they should be.  There is no good excuse for this of course, just the angry revenge of the powerless against those whom they made to suffer their tempers and speeches and attitudes and actions, things that affected my life in ways they should not have.

The other set are people and situations where I feel I should have done differently, whether by better behavior or different choices.  The spots where I failed others.  The spots where I feel like I should have made a different decision and chose not to.  In some ways those "Roads Less Traveled" Frost left us with, but just as often the roads that we traveled a distance and then, turning our back, went back the way we originally came. In these, perhaps, the situation is reversed:  here it is I that made others to suffer my tempers and speeches and attitudes and actions, my indecision or even my wrong decision.

How is that these things become lodged so deeply in our being that we cannot seem to rid ourselves of their tenacious grip?  How many times have I said "I am done"  only to find myself slinking back in the corners of my mind to the person or situation I have just foresworn (for the fiftieth time)?  Against others, is that I still seek some method to have my revenge, even if it is to dance on their graves?  Against me, is it that I somehow continue to seek an outcome that never came to be in hopes that somehow the situation can be made different? (It never can, of course.  You really cannot step into the same river twice.)

The past is meant to instruct, not to hinder.  And I have received instruction in both types of situation -but with that instruction comes the past that I can never really seem to release.

And yet, I have to.  The past that I think I see, that I think I relive, is really nothing more than a shimmering in my own mind rather than a reflection in a river - the river moved on long ago and what I think I am seeing is really something I am seeing with my eyes closed.  It has simply become time to open my eyes and step in, letting the shimmers dissolve in the sparkling daylight on the river that is, not the distant echo of the days that were and have long ago flowed out to the sea.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Life You Do Not Have To Retire From



I think I know most of my readers to know that this is goal we are working towards (or have achieved, in some cases).

It cuts across the grain of most Western - or at least maybe American - thoughts of retirement.  To most, retirement means the ending of something you have to do and moving on to the things you want to do. Which, if someone really sat down and thought about it, would seem to be rather backwards - after all, one invests almost half of their life working towards the point of being able to spend the last quarter of their life (if they are lucky)  doing what they "love", perhaps only to find out that doing what you "love" is not really doing what you want at all.

How much better to work your way into a life that you enjoy every day, not just in the latter parts of it.  To be engaged both early and late in the same sorts of things, to find that your life has become one long labor of love instead of a series of chopped up movements, hermetically sealed from each other in ways that the past cannot inform the present or the future.

For most (me included) it remains more of a dream to be realized that a reality to be lived.  Because be clear:  to do this means to sacrifice at some level.  It means staying true to yourself rather than being bewitched by that which society and civilization tells you are the appropriate paths to take.  Sometimes it probably means working harder and longer than anyone else and being willing to live in ways that the most could not imagine to get the ultimate results that most only dream of.

And to those who are not there yet, it means fighting.  Every day.  Fighting against the mind-numbing, spirit-sapping call of consumerism and mediocrity, of the concept of being taken care of rather than taking care of one's self.  To save where others spend, to make do where others buy, to go without when others cannot live without.

Ultimately, to live such a live is to reclaim freedom - freedom from "wants", freedom from dependency (and not just material - those that have such a life often seem just as free from psychological dependence on others), freedom from the concept of life as we have come be told "it is" in modern Western Society.  It is, some ways, the ultimate act of individualism in a culture that has come to demand the embrace of the consumer, riches driven society in which we currently live.

"Only a few prefer liberty - the majority seek nothing more than fair masters" Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), The Histories 

Monday, September 11, 2017

To Remember



There are moments in life,
the scarcest blink of an eye, 
when the past immutably disconnects
from the future.

Friday, September 08, 2017

A Dry Run For A Collapse

Unless you have been under a rock for the last week, you will have been following the progress of Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida - perhaps made all the more real in that, almost a day to two weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey plowed into the Texas Coast.

Perhaps what makes Irma even more striking is the fact that it (currently) is a Category Five storm headed straight for a major city (Miami).  From the Wikipedia page:

"Cataclysmic damage will occur
Category 5 is the highest category of the Saffir–Simpson scale. These storms cause complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings, and some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Collapse of many wide-span roofs and walls, especially those with no interior supports, is common. Very heavy and irreparable damage to many wood frame structures and total destruction to mobile/manufactured homes is prevalent. Only a few types of structures are capable of surviving intact, and only if located at least 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) inland. They include office, condominium and apartment buildings and hotels that are of solid concrete or steel frame construction, public multi-story concrete parking garages, and residences that are made of either reinforced brick or concrete/cement block and have hipped roofs with slopes of no less than 35 degrees from horizontal and no overhangs of any kind, and if the windows are either made of hurricane-resistant safety glass or covered with shutters. Unless all of these requirements are met, the absolute destruction of a structure is certain.[5]
The storm's flooding causes major damage to the lower floors of all structures near the shoreline, and many coastal structures can be completely flattened or washed away by the storm surge. Virtually all trees are uprooted or snapped and some may be debarked, isolating most affected communities. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required if the hurricane threatens populated areas. Total and extremely long-lived power outages and water losses are to be expected, possibly for up to several months.[5]"
Note the rather ominous phrase "the absolute destruction of a structure is certain" and "Total and extremely long-lived power outages and water losses are to be expected, possibly for up to several months".  
More to the immediate point, I have been reading about the evacuations.  In this case - unlike Harvey and Houston - they were called for before the Hurricane arrived.  The result?  Similar to the post-Harvey effect:  gasoline shortages, water shortages, stores sold out of every sort of thing. And this is before the storm has even arrived.
The highways are now choked, slowed to a crawl. Pushing on the back of everyone's mind is the fact that the storm is moving towards them even as they sit there, wasting valuable fuel as they slowly crawl up the Interstate, only to arrive at stations without gasoline and hotels with nowhere to stay.
In a best case situation - at least for these evacuees - the storm either turns now and heads up the Atlantic seaboard or turns after it has passed Florida (Not good news, of course, for Georgia, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle).  In what could be the worst case, it mows right of the center of the state.
Work out the aftermath of that - not in the area of destruction itself but all those who have evacuated.  Food and fuel are largely stripped.  Their jobs are tied to buildings that may no longer stand and materials that may have been washed out to sea or into the pool across the city.  Accounts drain quickly when there is no money coming in - or they drain quickly for the businesses that do not have them coming either.
I am not predicting a collapse (we do not do those sorts of projections around here).  But I think it very worthy to note that a collapse - a real, serious, societal collapse - would look an awful lot like one of these scenarios.
A worthy question is how does one prepare for such a circumstance? - yes, I know, move away from there, but that is not always possible for everyone.  Imagine you had the deepest preps in the world - and had to leave them all behind?  Or what do you take in an uncertain evacuation for an unspecified period of time to an unknown future?
I do not have good answers.  I wish I did.  Prayer, of course - but there has to be a practical aspect as well.
If ever you wanted to see a "real life" acting of an actual disaster movie, this may be the time.  Only foolish will not take note and learn.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

A Letter To The Alumni Association

Alumni Association
XX University

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

I note that I have, once again, received another piece of mail from your organization. I am always curious how you manage to hunt me down, although I must have moved 7 times since I attended your school.

I have not taken the time to open your mail yet, but I can already reasonably predict what I will find inside:   a short commentary on the current year, the great things that are going on in your school, and an invitation to "help" with making the goals of the University move forward.

Ironically, I do not remember this same level of care of attention during my period of time there.  Yes, I had very good and very attentive teachers and yes, I did get a lot of useful information (most of which, for the record, I do not use in my current career) - but, in all fairness, I was paying you (rather good money, I might add) for those things.  The softer things, the things that seem to make such a difference now in people leaving college - internships, a career network, even a "Hey, how are you doing?" letter - all this was either non-extant and left up to me.

I might submit to you that after that experience, requests for aid might not be as well received as you might believe.  For me, that part of my life was very much a transactional affair - like many graduate students, I worked a full time job and took classes and attended the college functions that were useful to my major.  I assure you that all of this did not build a great deal of attachment, any more than it would at any other job I did.

Which, if I think about it, is a great deal of what it became to me.  A job - in this case, one with a certificate at the end instead of a happy hour or rather foolish memorabilia, but much the same concept.  Oddly enough, my former employers do not send me mail letting me know of all the great things they are doing and how I can still "reach out" to help them.

Sadly, the most clear memory I have of the school - beyond the friends I made there (who, sadly I have lost touch with - that would be something worth getting a letter over!) is that sense of loss when I realized that while an internship was highly recommended and in some cases provided, in my case I had neither available and ended up spending the summer working to pay for fall semester.  I assure you, there is nothing quite as disheartening as thinking one thing will happen and find something else will instead.

I am grateful for the education - it has made many things possible for me in my life that could not have happened otherwise.  But I think both of us would be fooling ourselves if we pretended it was anything more than a fee for service experience.

That, unfortunately, will not change no matter how many newsletters make their way to my door.

Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Trailer Project II: Clothing

As part of the now semi-occasionally appearing series The Trailer Project I am trying to consider everything I own in the context of being able to live in a 13' x 16', 65 sq foot trailer.  Last time we considered dishes and cooking.    This post, we are considering clothing.

Again, I start with the question:  What do I need?

Clothing is one of those things that is wildly variable from individual to individual.  It depends on a host factors:  what you do for a living, what you do for pleasure, where you live (and what the seasons are), and how much space you have.  Depending on your answer to these is  your answer to how many clothes you "need".

So, for the test case I will pick on myself.

I live in a climate that has  two seasons:  Winter (mid-30's F to upper 50's F with dips into the 20's) and Summer (90-100 F plus) bracketed by two weeks on either side we like to call "Spring" and "Autumn"  (they are almost that short).  My current work environment allows business casual (jeans or khakis with a short sleeved collared shirt and tasteful t-shirts on Fridays).  I very occasionally have to dress up (long sleeved shirt and tie or suit). So, given where I live, what do I need?

This question actually stems from a weekend cleaning project, where I went through all my shirts and pants to check and see if I had any I could get rid of.  I did - but that still left me with well over 50 shirts, 15 pairs of jeans and khakis, 4 pairs of shorts, 1 suit, 3 blazers, 1 kilt, and 2 kimonos.  And the accompanying socks, underwear, and t-shirts.  And assorted costume accoutrement.

So what do I really need?

Pants:  I could get by (if I had two with perhaps 3 pairs of jeans, 2 khakis, 2 pairs of "work" jeans, and slacks (the fact I have more now is just a lucky Neighborhood Google list find; I should have pants for the next 10 years).  That would cover business casual, casual, and semi-formal.

Shirts:  Maybe 8 short sleeved collar shirts, 2 long sleeved formal, 2 long sleeved flannel (Oh, how I love flannel in the cold!) and no more than 5 t-shirts. Really.  I have too many t-shirts that have some how picked up sentimental value.

Shorts:  I would still go with 4 pair, including two athletic sets. That allows me to separate my running and work-out clothes and extends the life of each.

T-shirts/Underwear/Socks - Here, I will take all I can get.  They wear out rather quickly unless you rotate them regularly.

Other items:  1 blazer to be sure (I have an Irish Tweed Jacket, so that is the one).  One cold weather jacket (mine is a 1960's French Soldier's Great Coat) and a lighter jacket. The kilt, of course.  And the kimonos.

Shoes:  Again, dictated by work:  I have 2 pairs of boots and 1 pair of dress shoes, which allows me to rotate them to preserve the life.  I splurged and bought 2 pairs of sneakers plus 1 for working out, but I could make do with less.  And 1 pair of hiking or work boots for working or walking outside while keeping the life of the others.

(You will notice I have specifically excluded a suit.  At this time in my life, a suit may be only for going to weddings and funerals in and being buried in. I would rather wear the kilt anyway).

As I write this, I realize (rather unexpectedly) that by having more, it allows me to make them last longer.  Which is maybe an argument for more - but I am not sure on that.  More means more space and more money (and replacement clothes of passable quality can be had for cheap).

These are all subject to change based on where I live and what I do, of course:  more physical labor, downsize the business casual and up the work clothes.  Living in a colder environment, more long sleeve and less short sleeve.  And so on - your mileage may be vary.

I do not know that this would get me into the one closet and one drawer limit I would have to set on myself (although given my current arrangements, I think it might).  What this exercise has made me do - in sorting this last weekend and now in writing - is make me question everything that I am holding on to, and why I am holding on to.

Someone once suggested that at the beginning of the year, one rotates all the hangers to the other side of the closet rack and as the item is worn, you turn it around - thus, by the end of the year you discover what you actually are wearing and what you are just holding on to.

Not a bad practice for man that has almost two months worth of shirts...

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Monday, September 04, 2017

On The Arrival of Labor Day

And thus, with the arrival of Labor Day, we start the passage into Autumn.

Officially, of course, it is still summer.  It will still feel like summer - here, possibly until the end of October.  But there is a mind set that comes with the turning of Labor Day that always - at least for me - indicates the effective end of summer.

With the arrival of Labor Day, there tends to be one more burst of activity before the coming of Winter.  One more round of Games.  One last explosion of activity in the garden before it becomes time to think about Winter.  Work now become a great deal of finishing out this year's activities and beginning to look to next year as well.    And though it seems far away right now, the hint of Thanksgiving and Christmas are just over the horizon.

But even more than the events and weather, for me it is a state of mind.  The sun has not yet acquired that cast of light that it only seems to hold in Autumn, but I can see hints of it out my window as I write.  I may not see the cooler temperatures today, but in my mind I can already feel the slight chill on my skin.

For me, calling it Labor Day is the wrong idea.  "Autumn's Eve" might be a more poetic - and more descriptive - name.

Friday, September 01, 2017

On A "Gas Shortage"

So in the central part of a certain state that starts with a "T" and has recently been hit a hurricane, the rumor is out that there is a gas shortage coming.  And so somehow, we went from business as normal all week to "Gaspocalypse" in the course of about 5 hours.

It is crazy.  Driving about this evening and afternoon,, every gas station I passed had lines, sometimes out into lanes of traffic.  Mind you, this was after the media and government had been announcing for at least the preceding 3 hours that there in fact was no fuel shortage.  By the time I came home from class at 10, many of the stations I had passed had their pumps roped off or covered - and the ones that did not still had lines trying to get fuel.  A local station by us raised their prices twice in one day:  Started the day at $2.29, ended the day at $2.59 - and there were people still lined up waiting.

Somewhat curiously (to myself, anyway) I predicted this was going to happen - not so much the gas shortage as the perception of the gas shortage.  The van was filled twice over the weekend just in case.  I got gas this morning (I usually get it on Tuesday nights, but had to push it off) at $1.98 at PriceCo; out of curiousity I want to drive by tomorrow and see what the status is.

The actual lessons here - beyond do not believe everything your read or hear - are two:

1)  Being prepared means you never have to get prepared.  Maybe you have to stock up a bit, but not as if you had nothing at all.

2)  When people react, they overreact.  Imagine if this was an actual emergency - or if it involved more than just fuel.

3)  (Bonus Round)  I think a great many people drive around with their fuel tanks much more empty than they should be.

I have said it before:  the modern economy is an incredibly fragile interlace of webs.  The unraveling of only a few can have dramatic impacts.  Add to that the tendency of people to act foolishly and in herds in a crisis and we have all the makings of a real disaster.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Trailer Project I

So as part of my conceptual interest in The Trailer Project (hereafter known as), I have started to ask myself a series of questions, more as an actual exercise than something that is actually likely to happen.

The first question is this:  What do I actually need?

The model I am using is my friend's trailer. She verified the interior is 6.5 x 10 or 65 square feet.  The bathroom version (yeah, for the sake of argument we are going with that) includes two closets, understorage on the seats, and some small cabinetry around the sink  (apparently there is no storage on the outside of the unit):


For example, today's test would be kitchen and cooking:



The unit come with a 1.9 sq ft refrigerator and a two burner propane power stove.  As you can see, not a lot space for either food or cooking items.

But realistically:  how many cooking items do you need?  Pot to boil, check.  Small frying pan to fry, check.  Tea pot (well, for me anyway), check.  Colander?  Maybe.  A smattering of measuring spoons and cups. And some plates, cups and silverware to eat off of.    In other words, possibly the contents of that drawer above the refrigerator (if you packed it right).  

Reality check: what do we have currently?  Literally, a kitchen's worth of cooking utensils and pots and pans and various and sundries (that does not include the food.  Seriously.  We have more storage committed to items we use to cook than food we cook with).

Am  I advocating a complete abandonment of everything we have in our kitchen except for two dozen items.  Not at all (and in our case, this might provoke a revolt.  The cooks of our house actually use a fair amount of them).  But what I am trying to get to - at least to myself - is what do we really need versus what do we really have?

Why?  Because, frankly, stuff costs money.  And space.  And money to pay for the space.  And that money, space, and money could be more profitably used on something else.  

This has actually been a fairly entertaining mental exercise - and easy for me, as I can pretty much get by on almost nothing vis-a-vis cooking. Wait until we get to books - that will be another story...


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Surreality

As I write this post on Monday evening, the sun is out. It is a picturesque 69 F. The oak trees are slightly swaying in the breeze which is gently blowing in. The ground is a little damp, but there really is no standing water.

3 hours away, up to 6 million people have been displaced in cascading torrents of wind and water.

It is hard for me to reconcile the two realities. Here, I am a little warm inside – but I can always turn up the air conditioning, My water may run a little warm – but I can always cool it down with ice from the refrigerator. In Houston, there is (for a great many people) no air conditioning and all the water in the world – but none that you can drink.

This is the reality of the media culture we live in. To a great many people, watching on the TV or computer screens, this seems like little more than another movie or video game. Yes, we can become teary eyed when a pet is rescued or at a feel-good heroic picture – but I suspect for most it is an unreal as the electrical impulses of HALO or Call of Duty or Star Wars: we perceive it as real, but feel as if (in our souls) it is not.

It becomes surreality, something which seems to be impossible – like flying suits of armor or light weapons – but it is only surreal because we choose to make it so. We have a choice to believe, to care, to take action – to realize that they things that we so often fight over are irrelevant in the grander scope of things, that like millions of those that have gone before us, our plans and motives and small grasps for small power – the things that we believe to be the critical defining agendas of our lives – are just as surreal in the scope of history as the thousands of books and movies that, once written or made, disappeared in the dust bin of history.


The true reality is visible to us. The question is, will we continue to turn away?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tiny Trailers

One of my former coworkers, Miss Moonlight, bought a travel trailer to live in one year ago.

Her logic was thus: she was in her mid 30's, single, and paying upwards of $700 a month for an apartment she never was in because she worked a great deal.  So, she saved up her money and purchased one of these (https://www.scamptrailers.com)/:

(I believe this is hers - I have e-mailed her to confirm).

This particular model is 13' (3.9 m) long, weighs 1200 - 1500 lbs (544-680 kg) depending on the package, and has an interior space of 65 sq. ft (6.03 sq meters).  The layout can be customized to some extent (for example, I know she has air conditioning which is an add (and very necessary in these parts) and a shower package, which eliminates the front bunk).




They also have a 16' model.

She has been remarkably happy doing this - a bit of a free spirit, she has enjoyed moving from state park to state park, camping for a week at a time and then moving on.  It was also entertaining to see her work on adapting; she would get a package from Amazon with some sort of space or energy saving device, try it, and then figure out it did not meet here needs.

The result?  For her, it has allowed her to live in an expensive urban area paying about (my estimate) $6000 a year in "rent".  Yes, it is not a life for everyone, but it has allowed her to make her financial dreams and dreams of living free from having to live to work a reality.

I have to be honest:  more and more, there are days where shedding 95% of what I own and living in a trailer seems like a viable option.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Few Thoughts On Disasters

As I write this on Sunday afternoon, I am on the outer fringes of what may become the defining disaster for Texas the way that Katrina became for Louisiana.  Harvey continues to stall, dumping inches of rain on the Houston area - before hopefully moving on (although we shall see).

Hopefully as my posts have indicated, this has been - in all ways - a non-event for us - frankly, we have had half day storms that have done more damage than what we have seen to date.  At least in our area, there is no flooding, no major trees down, and no power outages.  Other than a convenient chance to stay inside and catch up on reading, there has been little to report (and I am sure my reports, as mundane as they are, reflect that).

Beyond fortunate, there was some planning involved.  When last Thursday night came, we merely had to buy a few things and fill up the cars.  The important basics were covered - because I have made an effort to cover them (sadly, power is the one gaping hole in my preparations, but right now an emergency generator simply is not in the works).  Water, food, toilet paper, basic medical supplies - all of these things were taken care of.   But judging from the supermarket, not for everyone.

In reality, any significant weather event in the nearby area should be cause to look at one's preparations and be prepared.  As many have found in Houston, news reports and predictions about where a storm is supposed to go can quickly change with disastrous results.  And every event is a good excuse to go back and review the preparations you have made to see if there are holes or something needs to be redone.  Sometimes it is only the practical application of using an item or a system that will tell you where the disconnects are.

On a more macro scale, this is a single disaster in one (rather large) area.  Imagine now that this is multiplied in multiple areas, be they counties, regions, or entire states.  How well will the mechanisms most are counting on be able to function over time to sustain and develop?

And not just in the short term.  Pretty soon, things like fuel and food will be scarce in Houston and need to be brought in - which assumes passable roads, electricity to sustain refrigeration and economic activity (and remember, it is still summer here - last week it was well into the 90's F), and jobs for folks to earn income at.  All of this will take weeks or even months to fully bring back on-line.  And this with a modern society with resources readily available.

One of the best lines I read from this disaster about being prepared was not just the benefit to you and yours but to the fact that by being prepared, you help to reduce the requirements of emergency personnel and can perhaps even help those around you, giving the first responders the ability to turn to more desperate cases.  If ever there was a call to the true reason to be prepared - not just good sense, not just good practice, but good for each other and the society in which we live - this has to be it.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Harvey Day 2 Update 3

Rain has significantly slowed down.  We are predicted for another 3-6" but not sure if that will pan out.  We receive 0.55" at 2015 since 1345; not a great deal at all - except with all the other water, it is headed down south to riverbeds that cannot already hold what they have.

I will keep my eye on gas prices this week to see if they spike here.  One interesting note reported to me from shopping today was that.

We had a break in the sky this evening which made everything this incredible yellow.  The picture does not do it justice.


Harvey Day Two Update 2

Added another inch of rain from 0715 to 1345.  It was heavier from 1200-1300 but has died off almost completely.  We took a drive this afternoon.  Other than a few small tree branches down and a single traffic light out, no real evidence of damage.

The most interesting and significant thing is that the cloud patterns are moving in a counterclockwise motion instead of their usual east to west traverse.

Harvey Watch Day Two Update 1

Significant winds blew literally all night and are continuing.  Rain continued as well, but not an unusual volume:  1.3" from 2130 to 0715.  We continue to be blessed and have power but there are significant power outages throughout our larger urban area:  our church, for example, which is just 6 miles away, has canceled all three services due to power failure.

The weather map model for today remains much they same as yesterday, so we will see.

Reading what has happened in the Houston area last night (up to 2 feet of rain, over 1000 water rescues) makes me realize how blessed we are in this very significant weather event.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Harvey Watch Update 4

Update as of 2130 local time:  rain bands have definitely hit, although not incredibly prodigious in output.  1.4" since 1615, or 6" (15.24 cm)  for the day.  Winds have definitely picked up as well, now at 24 mph.  Barometric pressure is climbing (currently 29.75").   Theoretically the weather model claims that we are going to get more intense rain, but I am coming to question it.

Power has remained on and everyone is safe.  See you tomorrow, friends.

Harvey Update 3

As of about 1630, we had another 0.65" of rain and the wind has been steady.  That brings it to 2.65" since the storm started - which is not a great deal for us over that period of time, as we have gotten far more rain in a far shorter time.  The National Hurricane Center as of 1600 stated that the storm was essentially not moving, which may explain  why the heavy ran the models predicted keep getting pushed off to later (now 1700-1900 our time).  Wind is steady at 22 mph.

Power is still on and we are still good.

Harvey Update 2

As of approximately 1230 local time, winds have definitely increased but the rain has completely fallen of - 0.05" in the last 3 hours. We actually had a two hour window where little to no rain fell at all. Barometric pressure at 29.76" and dropping. The current model on weather.com has the rain and wind bands starting in our area from 1300-1330 and extending through 1530 (where the current model ends).

For me, a quiet morning. Picked okra and set it to dehydrating. Finished my yogurt (currently draining). Re-sewed my obi for the second time and tabi for the 52nd time (it seems). Actually ordered new tabi and a copy of The Havamal (thank you, Amazon, for free shipping).

One thing this has pointed out to me is I really need to get a weather station.

Harvey Watch Update 1

Local time is 0845.  We have light rains and winds, but nothing beyond what I would expect from weather we have had here before.  Wind is currently estimated at 20 mph with gusts up to 32 mph, although it appears to be picking up a bit.  I understand from a friend in the southern part of our fair city that they are already experiencing minor flooding - as I think I mentioned yesterday, we are on the high end and other than some minor flooding right at our doorstep/mud sill, should be fine.  Power is still on.

According to the weather radar, heavy rains start appearing right after 0900 and continue at least through 1300, as far as the projection will go.

To recap:  light rain and wind, power on, we are all still good.  I will update as events warrant.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Harvey Watch 2017

So we are in the path of Hurricane Harvey.

Not directly in the path of course, we are about 3.5 hours from where it is scheduled to come on land.  Still, a Category 4 storm moving at 35 MPH will dump a ton of rain on our location - and the wind, of course.

This is the first serious test of our emergency supplies we have every had. Fortunately, there was not much to take care of:  fill-up of both the cars and a few perishables (milk, vegetables).  Water, light, food - all in place.

I will update with a report once the storm hits.

Power


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Unless The Lord

"Unless the Lord builds the house,
they labor in vain that build it.
Except the Lord watches the city,
the  watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
to stay up late, to eat the bread of sorrows
For He gives to His beloved sleep" - Psalm 127: 1-2

As part of a new meditation practice I am trying to implement following this weekend's Men's retreat, I started with Psalm 127.  It is a favorite of mine, one I actually know well.  

As part of the meditation exercise, you are to review the verse (repeatedly) and at one point see what sticks out at you.  "Unless the Lord" jumped out at me - mostly because it is pretty clear, right?  Unless the Lord builds the house, you might as well not build. Unless the Lord keeps the city, all the watchmen in the world cannot protect it.  And what does it matter if you get up early or stay late trying to get ahead? Unless the Lord is in it, you fail - because He makes sure His beloved have sleep and their needs met. 

Very lovely. Very cut and neatly wrapped.

But that is not the part that stuck out at me.

"Unless the Lord..."  Unless the Lord is in it, it will not succeed.

But how, my mind asked, does you know if the Lord is in it?

Extend the phrase.  "Unless the Lord is in the marriage, it is doomed for divorce"  or "Unless the Lord is in the business, it is doomed to failure" or even  "Unless the Lord is in the hobby, it will be a waste of time and money.' It extends to everything - every part of life.  But how, my mind asked again do you know the Lord is in it?

It is not as if He announces at the beginning of every endeavor "Here I am.  Carry on."    We can think we know.  We can guess.  We can cherry pick verses or look to circumstances to guide us, but those have led me as oft astray as they have correctly.  

Surely there are occasional times for all of us when this is true, that moment that we can say "Yes, the Lord is in this".  But am I wrong in thinking these are a lot fewer, at least in my own life, than circumstances and situations I have to deal with?

Is there a resolution?  I do not know.  Going forward I guess so - wait until you see if God is in something before you begin it (but is there a time limit?  And how does that work in our age of speed?).  But what about those things we are already enmeshed in - what about those?  Do we assume if it has not fallen apart yet that it is "of the Lord"?  Or do o we assume that it will fall apart at some point and just do the best we can at that point?  

I wish I had better answers.  But all I can see etched in my mind is "Unless the Lord".  

What terrifies me is how few things I can actually apply this to.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blessed

There are moments when I am really reminded how blessed I am.

  I am blessed with a marriage that, perhaps not always all I wish it to be, is not a source of contention in my life - instead of fighting with an ex-spouse over child support or undergoing severe duress.

I am blessed with children that are eager to learn and self disciplined and motivated.  I have never had to face a student unwilling to learn, a child completely unwilling to obey, or a school visit that was anything but pleasant.

I am blessed with family and friends that, although often far more distant than I like, are available and willing to talk and support on a moment's notice.

I am blessed with a job that, while extraordinarily busy and often feeling like it is above and beyond my abilities, is a place where I have grown and continue to grow.  I have not, in my time there, had to face a layoff or an unwillingness to let me achieve or the sense that I am "less" than others because of my different background.  

I am blessed with a house which, although maybe not the ideal layout and suffering from a small series of setbacks, is ours.  I do not have to confront the fear of having to find a place because of rent increases or relocating my family to different places chasing housing that we can afford.

I am blessed with activities that, although I am not always the best at, provide me with physical and mental stimulation.  I am not a slave to video or electronic media and can happily entertain myself.

And finally, I am blessed with the knowledge of my salvation.  I do not constantly have to wonder whether I will meet with God's approval or even if I measure up to those around me.

Life has felt a little dim of late.  But if I really sit and think about, how truly blessed am I. 


Monday, August 21, 2017

Our Ill Compressor

Saturday night our air conditioning went out.  This is not really the thing you are holding out for, especially in the middle of summer.  I went outside and checked the unit - the breakers had not tripped (I reset them for good measure - nothing).

We fired up the fans overnight and, in the morning I gave it another try.  Sure enough, it came back on.  I left the house feeling okay - although I was not sure what had happened.

Later on Sunday our air conditioning guy came by.  Bad news and more bad news.  The compressor is failing.  The Ravishing Mrs. TB asked what our options were.  Not good, was the reply: we have about two months (possibly) left.  Replacing the compressor was, in his opinion, not the best option: it would extend the life, but we would probably be back where we were in not too short order.  His recommendation is replace the unit.  Price tag for that runs between $4000 and $6000.

Not really the Sunday I was holding out for.

It makes a certain amount of sense, of course:  the unit is the original one that came with the house so it is approximately 21 years old.  And units (where we live, anyway) get quite a workout during the hot season, which seems to run between as early as April and as late as October.  It was really only a matter of time.

The options are not great.  We do not precisely have that amount of money just sitting there, ready to be used for such a thing (although our budget has already gotten another round of scrutinizing).  First the first time in a long time, I am confronted with something I cannot neither pay for nor readily fix.

My solution, for it is worth, is two fold.  On the first hand, economize where we can and hope the unit makes it to the end of October - if we make it that long, we are good for six months (and a lot can happen in six months).  On the other hand, in a tall order of exercise of faith, I am going to pray for a new air conditioning unit.  I have no idea how God might work that out but that is His business, not mine - and I have learned over the years God can move in ways that I never would have predicted.  

I wish I had something more upbeat, and of course in the scope of things this is not the worst thing in the world - we still have so many many blessings.  It is just the sort of thing that gives you pause for a moment and wonder (all worldly like, of course)  "Did I do something to merit this?"

Friday, August 18, 2017

Innocent As Serpents And Wise As Doves

Today, as I was meandering about in my mind about another thing I thought the Church had somehow managed to get something completely backwards, doing one thing and hoping for a certain result and getting precisely the opposite.  "Innocent as serpents and wise as doves"  I thought to myself, quoting Mathew 10:16.

And then caught myself.  That was not it at all. The actual verse reads "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents as innocent as doves."  Odd little substitution, I thought to myself.

Think about it.  To the Jews to whom Christ was speaking to, the idea of the wise serpent would have been easily identifiable from Genesis 3:1  "Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made." And the serpent often has a reputation for being crafty and wily, tricking its way into capturing its prey.  The dove, on the other hand, was a symbol of purity and innocence.  A dove brought back the olive branch to Noah (Genesis 7:8-12) and a dove was the one of the sacrifices that the very poor could offer under the sacrificial system (for example, Leviticus 1:14).  Sheep in the midst of wolves would have been a well known idea to that agricultural setting, so when Christ communicated this to them they were very clear.

But too often we reverse the whole thing. The dove, if you have never known it, is not the wisest of birds.  It is slow and fairly interested in food. I have never seen a bird of prey smack into a window; I have seen plenty of doves do so.  And the serpent could hardly every be seen as innocent:  predators always have a hint of malice about them even in the best of nature shows, and the serpents ability to camouflage itself, its quick strikes, and its often virulent poison make a poor poster child for anything but crafty and dangerous.

But too often people get the two reversed, somehow thinking that showing the wisdom of doves (and by wisdom, we mean foolishness) and the innocence of serpents (a sort of non-innocence that everybody recognizes and avoids or attacks ruthlessly) is somehow the way to go about being in the world.  Somehow, the thought goes, if we just "blend in" and use their words and their ideas they will come to accept us as their own.

They miss the first part of that statement, of course, "send you out as sheep among wolves" - a fairly critical context (and one I forgot in my initial remembering).  Christ knew the world into which He was sending His servants.  Too often others seem to forget that, thinking that somehow good intentions and a sincere desire to be liked will be enough to get the door, where their "wisdom" and "innocence" will win the day.

Make no mistake:  wolves are always quite happy to have the sheep in for a visit and perhaps a discussion.  While their innocence may be questioned, their wisdom in providing themselves a ready food source surely cannot be.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

On Silence

For the last two nights everyone has been out of the house.  It has been me, the two rabbits Midnight and I-Bun, Poppy the Puppy, Sam the Guinea Pig, and Kiki the Parakeet.  It has been an amazing experience.

The silence is remarkable.  It is so quiet when I walk in the door and get through the puppy greetings it is amazing. The sound of air conditioning working.  The outside sounds of birds and the occasional car passing by.  The dappled sun wanders through the leaves and hits the windows, making shadows on the panes. But silence lays like a blanket over everything.

Oddly enough, the silence seems to act as a shield when I get home.  There is a sense that the four walls enclosing me are impenetrable to the outside world - ridiculous I know, but very real.  The world outside seems as a thousand miles away.

I grasp again that underlying need to have this sort of silence, unburdened by the ways I seem to get it now:  in the car to work with the background noise of traffic, in the house early in the morning when the presence of others is felt it not there, in the brief moments when everyone else is away.  It is nothing like this - a long extended period of quiet, surrounded by the things in my life that give me joy.

I understand the attraction for some of the silent monasteries and retreat centers - for many, a thing which would be difficult to incur two hours of, let alone two days - but for me a chance to reconnect with soul and mind, to do deep thinking, to merely be.

Silence becomes the security blanket with which I envelop my soul.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On Silent Running

The message I had thought to write - that I did write -for this morning's post was actually written in the throes of last weekend.  I looked at again and thought it was probably a bit more than what was actually needed.

There was a point in it where I mentioned the idea of effectively being non-remarkable - that, I think still stands.  Especially in the age of social media, it is all too easy for unwanted attention to be driven to us for the least of reasons - or updating the words of an old saying, I never had to explain away something I never posted.

I also, for myself, am finding communication with others to be a much more difficult thing.  And it is not so much that is in the communicating; instead, it is in the very effort of communicating.  It is becoming difficult because the effort of communicating with those who one disagrees is so, well, disagreeable that one would simply rather avoid the whole thing entirely.

There has come, in the last few weeks, much more of a concept of staying within the four walls that I live (or maybe venturing out occasionally to a book store).  The world outside of them has less and less to offer me in terms of interest or opinions or goods.  The important work, the writing and the pondering and the thinking, all happen right here.

So my advice, friends, in a more measured and less panicked tone than in my original post, is to realize that the times are savage.  Do not kid yourself they are anything but, and that more and more people are looking for reasons to attack and destroy others.  Do not give it to them.  Live quietly, live humbly, and let the inner life and the life you share with those closest to you be your focus, not the wide world beyond whatever four walls you live in.  It may not preserve you from a flood, but it will at least settle your mind and keep you focused on what is truly valuable.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Christ's Message

  Dear Friends:

It occurs to me that based on current events and trends there may some confusion about Christ and His message.  In the last 72 hours I have seen a good deal posted in meme and on-line rage by people who otherwise name the name of Christ and probably would (on the whole) present themselves to be "good" Christians proclaim interpretations of Christ's messages as they understand it.  Just in case, in the welter of noise, you have missed what Christ's actual message was:

1)  Christ was against racism.  He was also against sexual activity in any form except in marriage between a man and woman, lust, rage, actual murder (as well as figurative in our hearts murder, including [undoubtedly] on-line invectives and belittling turns of phrase), lying, retaliation, pride, self righteous judgment, hypocritical self serving charitable deeds, "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew: 15:19), cheating on your taxes, unforgiveness, and rebellion against governmental authorities.  He had a simple word for all of this.  He called it - all of it - sin.  And He spoke against all of them equally, as He viewed all of them as equally abhorrent.

2)  God's expectation of us is perfection - which we cannot achieve.  "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law until all is fulfilled.  Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches me so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say to you, that unless righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:17-20

3)  Christ paid the cost of our sin by dying in our place.  His Resurrection proved His claim that He was the Son of God and had the ability (alone) to do so.   "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day." - Matthew 16:20; "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should no perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." - John 3:14-17                                          

4)  Christ's command to church was simple: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." - Matthew 28:19.  Otherwise called "The Great Commission".  Note well was is not included here:  governmental revolutions, social crusades, even rising up in "righteous anger" (also a fairly risky venture in self justification).  The saved are commanded to present the message of Christ - His Death, His Resurrection, His payment of the dead we could not pay - and encourage the baptism and discipleship of all believers.

The conscious decision I have made for myself is this:  if anyone I know of who is in a position of Christian leadership or professes to be a mature Christian does not pull themselves in short order to the message and purposes of Christ (as spoken by Him), I have little time for them and little respect for their opinion.  They have replaced His will and purpose with their own, having thrown aside the altar raised by no human hand and replaced it with idols of their own making.

No wonder the world ignores the church.  We are nothing but a pale reflection of their methods, their words, and their ways.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Monday, August 14, 2017

1981 Predicts The Future

"Early in the 24th century, mankind's existence was unparalleled.  The rape of the earth's beauty and resources in the late 20th and early 21st centuries had been halted and reversed, due to man's tools.  Man had reached for the stars and attained them, with the help of his tools.  Yet, in spite of these tools (or perhaps because of them), the idyllic life of the 24th century came to an abrupt end.

Having conquered the rigors of simple survival, man was able to turn his energies to more esoteric considerations - theology, political ideology, social and cultural identification, and development of self-awareness.  These pursuits were not harmful in themselves, but it soon became fashionable to identify with and support various leagues, organizations, and so-called "special interest groups".  With the passage of time, nearly all the groups became polarized, each expressing and impressing its views to a degree that bordered on fanaticism.  Demonstrations, protests, and debates became the order of the day.  Gradually enthusiasm changed to mania, then to hatred of all who held opposing views.  Outbreaks of violence became more frequent, and terrorists spread their views with guns and bombs."

- Introduction to Gamma World 1st Edition, James Ward and Gary Jaquet, TSR, 1981

Friday, August 11, 2017

Opportunity Thursday

My boss walked into my office yesterday afternoon.  "It is Opportunity Thursday"  he started out.

Opportunity Thursday, in case you missed this in the Hallmark aisle at your grocery store, is apparently the day when big things are decided at work and you find out about them before they start - thus the "opportunity".  Lesser beings might call it "Challenge Thursday" but really, in every challenge there is an oportunity.

The big thing, in this case, is maybe tripling the amount of work that we are doing and thus tripling the work I am doing. The difficulty, of course, is that I cannot single handedly triple that amount of work no matter how much I try (and I am realistic enough to know this).

Not that I am being directly asked to, of course.  There are resources to be made available - read "live bodies" - which is rather exciting (and far different than my previous place of employment.  And certainly more work is more chance to succeed and do good things.

But I have to say I like the sound of "Opportunity Thursday" in general.  There does not seem to be a darn thing wrong with having a day dedicated to opportunities.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It Has Been A Week....

...and I have virtually no idea what is going on in the world at large.

It started out quite accidentally of course:  I just got too busy to follow the goings on of the world and continue on with the things that I needed to do so.  And so I stopped hitting the websites I usually went to on a regular basis.  And then I stopped listening to the news on the radio as I went to and from work.

Guess what?  Turns out that life goes on anyway.

I vaguely have some knowledge that apparently there are continuing difficulties with North Korea - although as I recollect, we were having problems a week ago when I was actually paying attention.  I assume the two political parties are still casting stones at each other?  And apparently the economy is still toiling on - at least, my paycheck cashed and I can still buy things.

I have not missed out on the important things on the Interweb, of course.  Most of my favorites are all posting, and instead I get read about gardens and sailing and food pics and religion (and what I was doing for the last six months by Preppy).  There is plenty of news - actual, interesting news that I care about - still out there.

Perhaps it is not so much that I am not following the news.  It is just that I am following the news that really matters.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Not Self

Lord,
make me more aware of my own failings
than the failings of others.
Make me more conscious of other's selves
than of my self.

Give me eyes to see the unseen hurts of others
instead of the inward burning gaze of myself.
Give me ears to hear to silent cries of others
instead of incessant buzz of my own self talk.

Help me not to seek the inward righteousness of self
but desire the righteousness of others.
Help me to desire not the glorification of self
but the raising of up others above myself.

Let me not be made in the image I imagine for myself
but rather in the image You have for me.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Friday, August 04, 2017

Happy Belated Failure Day

So sadly in my rush to get about the week I failed to commemorate one of my own personal Holidays:  Failure Day, August 2nd.

Failure Day, if you are not familiar, is the day that The Firm, the real estate firm I was part owner in, dissolved some 12 years ago.  That was such a hallmark day, such a landmark in my career development - having left what I did to pursue a dream only to come crashing back down to the sharp rocks of earth - that I have chosen to commemorate it in my life as the day I remember all my failures.

Most of them, ultimately, have been purely and completely linked to myself and the point of Failure Day is never to castigate or speak of others, but only to recall my own failings.  With the Firm, it was me not being willing to ask the hard questions of business (the "where is the income going to come from" question) and being willing to accept the answer ("No idea really") - and make a choice based on the hard facts rather my desires, feelings, and fantasies.  With a work friendship, it was me wanting to get the quick laugh  from people I did not value and destroying the relationship with the person that I did.  Or taking a meaningful relationship and ultimately laying waste to it because of my own weakness and inability to look at reality as it was, not as I wished it to be.  Chances not taken, goals missed, relationships that broke apart and never came back - all celebrated and and remembered on Failure Day.

In a way, it is like the Festival of the Dead in Japanese culture, where the dead return for one day to the presence of the living.  It is quite like that actually - these dead dreams and goals, the deceased relationships, the might-have-beens that never were, all float in front of my face as insubstantial wisps of memories and hopes and aspirations that all came crashing down around my head.

There is value in the remembering.

The remembering helps me to think about the decisions that I made in those circumstances (looking back, one sees so much more) and where and how I went astray.  It reminds me of the transience of so many of the things that were considered important at the time.  It informs me of the cost of decisions, especially ones that involve the emotions of others (Dear Lord, the emotional harm I have undoubtedly caused over the years by my insensitivity, pride, and greed).  It recalls to mind that the cost of hopes and dreams without planning and thought is far more than simply choosing to let them remaining hopes and dreams and continuing on in the present - which although staid, sometimes offers the benefit of at least doing no harm.

It becomes that one day of grief in the year, the fast where we recall Jerusalem before it was sacked by Babylon ("By the waters of Babylon, we laid down our harps and wept"), the day to recall innocence lost and the passing of so many things that seemed wonderful at the time but in just as many cases turned into the moonlight and ash of Dulcinea, never to take form or return but only to dust our face with remembrance.

It is not just the physical dead that can haunt us.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Support and Success

There is nothing so difficult as success without support.

In a way success is simple:  do something, do it enough, do it well, and you will succeed.  But that implies commitment and time and resources.  And none of these come easily to the most of us:  we seldom have as much time or resources as we would wish and sometimes commitment can come and go 

Which is where the support comes in - maybe not so much with time or resources (although a good friend or coach or sensei can help us to see how we are spending our time and energy and money and ways we could perfect it) but definitely with commitment.  They will push us when we feel lazy and encourage us when we feel that we cannot go on.  

Can such a thing happen without such support?  On one hand yes, ultimately it is the individual that succeeds or fails - and there have been plenty of examples throughout time of the great and the unknown that have done so.  But knowing the nature of us as people, how many did not make it because that support was not present for them?

More importantly, what do we do when that support is not there for us?

This can be the hardest thing of all, Especially when the support seems to be lacking from the places that we would typically expect it appear. How do we compensate?

For a long time I would curl into a ball and surrender.  After all, if no-one else was interested in it the fact that I was (and not succeeding) was obviously a sign that I should not be doing it either.  But then I learned a valuable and important lesson:  if you cannot get the support from where you might expect it, go and find the support you need.

And so you learn to go and find the support.  It is out there - now (with the advent of the Interweb) more than ever.  And communicating in such an environment has now never been more easy than ever.  The only thing that prevents it from happening is our unwillingness to do so.  

It creates some issues, of course, with the other side of things - the places you expect it and it did not come.  But I have come to understand that it is better to live with that tension and work to succeed than let that tension overwhelm you - and fall into the twilight of those that might have succeeded if they had only had the support that would have assisted them in the midnight hour.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

XOXOSeoulmate

Hi Friends!

Today, I am posting not about myself but about my daughter, Nighean Gheal  - who, as you may recall, is going away to college this year.

She started a blog for herself - well, really a few years ago - at XOXOSeoulmate  (https://xoxoseoulmate.com).  And I am not sure how often she updates that. But she also posts on Instagram if you do that (which she may very well be more likely to update), and she had these two posts which I thought worthy of your time:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXQPPkQAOeb/


https://www.instagram.com/p/BXD7VkEAQHU/

(If I was a clever technological dad, I would figure out how to give you more than the link.  Alas, my luddite tendencies are showing).

Enjoy!  And follow her (I am pretty sure she will have some amazing adventures).


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Falling Apart in Your Hands

What do you do when something start falling apart in your hands?

We all know the drill at some point in our lives - the job, the relationship, the dream - that starts to come apart.  The  fractures were perhaps there long than we had realized and only began to be revealed in the moments of stress - usually, of course, when things fail to be going quite as planned.  Almost before you know it, the whole thing starts to crumble away, like a sand castle hit by one too many waves, slowly collapsing into an unrecognizable shapeless mass.

Our initial reaction, usually, is to try to cobble the thing back together.  We rapidly move, trying to gather together the pieces a push them back together as if a relationship or a dream or a job was a ball of clay, needing only pressure to push it back together.  That seldom works in these cases of course - it is far more complicated and far too many strands have been broken to pull the thing back into alignment. And so we find ourselves with a half made, half destroyed thing in our hands, a project that looks as if we were trying to put it together, not prevent it from coming apart.

What is the secret in moments like this?  Is it to try to push things together even harder, hoping that force and mystical gravitational forces will make the the whole?  Is it to simply let the thing continue to dissolve in our hands?  Is it to try to repair the thing with the resources we have available?  Or is is it to cut away the debris, look at the reminder, and determine what to do from there?

Sadly, it feels I have had far more things fall apart than I ever held together.  And I can hardly think of a time that the thing could have been rebuilt.  

Too often we believe things to be strong when in fact they are bound together only by moon ash and gossamer threads.

Monday, July 31, 2017

On Apple Music

So The Ravishing Mrs. TB, in an initial "free trial" which accidentally extended itself, subscribed to Apple Music.

It is amazing.

At the touch of my fingers, I have virtually every song I ever listened to from 1977 to 1989.

I know.  If you are young, you are laughing at this.  If you are old, you get it.

Imagine ("Sherman, set the Wayback Machine") a time where you do not have access to all music everywhere.  You have access to the music you own.  If you are lucky, you have cassette player, on which you can record music as played on the radio or on a "record"  (hang with me here, people).  The radio stations you listen to (KRXQ or KFOG or 104.1, whatever that stations was) only seldom announce what the next song is.  If you really like a song, you find yourself turning the dial (Literally.  It was a dial.  No metaphor there.) or maybe hitting the "memory" buttons from station to station, trying to find a song you like and are looking for (with that damnable wire that passed for an antenna climbing the wall behind your combination record player/dual cassette player/radio unit).  If you are trying to record a song, it is worse:  you sit there poised with your hand over the "Record" button, hoping to capture the song at the beginning of it so you get the whole thing - if not, your recording starts at the 20 second moment and you just cut into it.

But now, that is all changed.  Any song I want - any one (to date) that I desire is there for my listening pleasure.  Crystal clear quality.  In many cases, the whole album too - so even the songs that did not get as much air time are there as well.

Is it better? I am not sure.  Honestly, having all of it at fingertips is overwhelming.  I switch from song to song to song and listen to each - but having all of them there makes it less, I do not really know, interesting in a way.  There was something to the patience of waiting or listening to different artists (you never now have to do this if you do not want) or even owning the actual album (instead of the individual song) that seems to have made the whole experience more magical.  For a fact, the way I listen to songs and the radio now is much different than back in the day.

On the one hand, it is somewhat fun reliving my youth through song:  hours spent at my friend's, rolling dice in role playing games and making plans we never really intended to carry out.  On the other hand, now that I have all of this at my fingertips, the magic is gone:  I have the power of selection, but that very power seems to have denied me of the joy I once had.

Friday, July 28, 2017

On Reactions And Personal Change

So, the adventure of how I got to where I completely changed my view of myself.

Last week at the conference we attended,  one of the sessions - a couple - did a down and dirty Myers-Briggs evaluation (For those that do not know, Myers-Briggs is a personality assessment of tool of long standing.  Your Mileage May Vary.).  It was not so much the test itself as an evaluation of you against someone you knew - for many there, including myself, my spouse.

The outcome?  For years - 35 or more - I have thought of myself as an Introvert iNtuitive Feeling Perceptive (INFP) - the creative, thoughtful, deep type (and introverted - I consistently peg the Introvert items at the end of the scale). But as we went through the exercise, there were points at which I move one way and the comment I got was "Really?  You do not act that way".  Which, of course, got me thinking about how I perceive myself and how I act.  I started to move on the continuum  less by what I thought about myself and more by how I act (which, after all, is the real indicator of things).

The result?  My INFP was more like an Intuitive Sensing Feeling Judging (ISFJ) - much more common of course (1% of the population versus 13%), but not all bad.  Just different.  Very very different from how I had perceived myself.

Yes, I know these things vary and yes, I know they are only approximations and yes, I know that they all have flaws.  But single biggest thing in making a change in my thinking was how the person that has known me for 25 years reacted to my choices.  In some cases complete agreement, in other cases complete surprise.

Enough surprise to give a man reason to reconsider.