Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

RIP all those who gave the greatest sacrifice.  Especially my cousin, Gary Holsclaw:


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Principle and Expdiency

I suspect that one of the signs of the end of any civilization is the growth of expediency and the loss of principle.

Principle, as you might suspect, is making decisions based on some objective truth:  this thing is right, or this thing is wrong.  It is a logical framework by which one can make choices which reflect a coherent world view and allows one to move towards larger goals.

Expediency, on the other hand, is making decisions purely based on one's own perceived self interest at a point in time.  It cares not about the whether something is right or wrong all the time; it only cares what is right or wrong in relationship to one's position and one's objective.  There is no logic applied - except the logic of what one perceives to the best outcome for one's self.  It could be construed as a form of "The ends justify the means."

So, for example, principle states that offering potential aid and comfort to a country's enemies is always wrong (principle).  Expediency states that it is fine to attack and berate the president I do not like for potential collusion with the enemy, but no to attack the president I do like for stating (when he thought he not on-mike) "I'l have more flexibility after the next election."

The split can run deep - for example, berating one side when a candidate pushes a reporter but quietly standing by when the side I support also pushes a reporter, or decrying the potential for civil unrest while actively keeping quiet when civil unrest perpetuated by my side breaks out.

Why does this such an insidious development?  Because expediency will, in the end, ultimately trump principle in the short term for the simple reason that if one side practices expediency, the other side will ultimately be forced to adopt expediency (decisions that benefit them) to survive - or quietly be wiped out of existence.  On the other side, a series of expedient decisions seldom creates a pattern of sustainable growth and survival: one bounces reactively from one point to another until one is trapped in a box of one's own making (after all, if every one is making expedient decisions you are no more than one obstacle to some one else).

Sadly, in the attempt to gain power and prestige through expediency, those that use it find that they are only tearing themselves apart with the own hands, leaving nothing but a wasteland for someone else to build on.


Friday, May 26, 2017

College Choice

So, I suddenly realized that I never updated the blog with Nighean Gheal's  college choice:



Fight on, Friends.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Where's My Why?

One of the starting points that virtually every book on success will tell you (and I have read more than my fair share) is that you have to a "Why", a reason that you are trying to accomplish what it is that you are about.  With the "Why", every difficulty, every challenge can be pushed through; without it, almost any activity is doomed to failure because that underlying incentive is not there.

I have realized that I have lost my Why.

I am not really sure where it went, or even how long it has really been gone.  I am certainly aware that it is no longer operative in my life.

It is not the same as a rut: a rut is just doing the same thing every day until you have worn a trail through your daily life.  No, it is the thing that should have motivated you to get out of the rut in the first place or the incentive that keeps it from becoming a rut as you move on towards something else.

Oh, I could come up with things to fill the gap that exists:  "Serve God", "Save the _____", "Do ___" - but they would simply be that, place fillers rather than something to spark my soul into action.  Which hardly seems like a better solution.

How does one even go about rediscovering a Why?  Maybe it felt like it was easier when I was younger; now, with responsibilities and timelines it feels as my Why has been reduced to meeting the responsibilities and lives of others (which to be clear, in some fashion I did sign up for).

I do not quite know how to find my why.  I just know that I really, really need to find it.  Because without that spark, mediocrity becomes all too easy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Emotional Exhaustion

So this was supposed to be the ranting post against the horror that happened two nights ago in Manchester, England.  I had worked myself up about it all day, ready with fire and brimstone (and a polite redirection for those that did not want to participate in an unusual current events post).

And then I got to point of writing it, and found that I am too emotionally exhausted to do it.

 I think this may have finally overloaded whatever was left of my "Give a D*mn" gene.  Making war against little girls and young women is both despicable and deplorable.  But then again, sacrificing them at some level for the cultural narrative of pluralism is also despicable and deplorable.

Sadly, the usual round of has come to be our outrage will cycle through again:  flowers, stuffed animals, cards, candles and vigils.  Raids will be conducted - too late for the victims of course - and angry discourse about how we can never have this happen again will be spouted forth.

In reality, of course, precisely nothing has been accomplished.

And this is where my emotional exhaustion stems from.

Do not mistake me:  I care.  I do care deeply.  But I cannot continue to care as we have apparently entered a cycle in which we see these attacks, see their devastation, bemoan the injured and dead - and then effectively do nothing, waiting for the cycle to occur again.

I used to wonder how many would have to die before we finally got serious about the issue.  What I find is that in fact we never intend to get serious about it.

The world is on fire.  And I simply cannot muster the emotional strength to care anymore.  All I can do is weep.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Dream Killers

You would think after so many years that the Dream Killers would still not impact you so powerfully.

The Dream Killers - those about us who somehow manage to find a way to poke holes in expressed hopes and dreams, who quietly - or loudly - deflate things which are presented to them.  The people who, as Jeffrey Gitomer says, "Rain on your parade because they do not have a parade of their own."

Present them with a financial dream and they will find reasons that it can never come to pass.  Present them with a personal dream and they will suggest that best it will not make a difference at all, at worst it is unachievable.  Tell them a spiritual dream and you will probably get an okay, as long it is remains practical and does not interfere with getting on with life.

Maybe there are people out there that are strong enough that such things do not bother them. I am not one of those people:  I can always feel the moment when my spirit sinks - instantly - when the response comes.  "Deflates" was not just an invented word; it is the real feeling in my soul one moment after the words are said. I can literally feel the hole opened up and the dream quietly escaping.

It is hard to come back from such moments.  Every attempt to rebuild the shattered core collapses back down, like a sand castle after the waves have soaked the sand.  The lowered level of expectations creep in:  the "Well, I could not have anyway" and "What was I thinking" and "I suppose I should be practical".  And there is a low numbness that spreads throughout my spirit, a clinging miasma that dampens even the thought of thinking  a more uplifting thought?

Oddly enough, the one reaction that is normal from such an encounter - an increased silence and closing up - is the most unexpected response of all to the Dream Killer.  It is as if they have no idea what they have done and are genuinely surprised that their comments - which I imagine are meant as practical advice - have instead deeply cut and wounded.

The reaction - again, probably unexpected -is that the dreams and the Dreamers simply go underground in their souls.  Hidden behind many quiet and careful facades - perhaps more than we could expect - are  the passionate hearts of those who have learned through the painful coin of experience that dreams are actually not simply to be shared en masse with every person one meets.

Not everyone, it turns out, is a Dreamer.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Thought On Heaven

"If some watcher or holy one who had spent his glad centuries by the sea of fire were to come to earth, how meaningless to him would be the ceaseless chatter of the busy tribes of men.  How strange to him and how empty would sound the flat, stale, and profitless words heard in the average pulpit from week to week. And were such a one to speak on the earth, would he not speak of God?  Would he not charm and fascinate his hearers with rapturous descriptions of the Godhead?  And after hearing him could we ever again, consent to listen to anything less than theology, the doctrine of God?  Would we not thereafter demand of those who would presume to teach us that they speak to us from the mount of divine vision or remain silent altogether?"

- A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the HOly

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wordles

Perhaps over the course of your internet life you have done a Wordle - a compilation of words put together in interesting forms that are art. 


In some you can input text and it will size the words based on their frequency of use.

I wonder, over the course of our lives and all the words we speak and write, what would a world look like? What words have we spoken and written so often that they would be the largest, the most prominent?  If the words of our life were the building blocks of the art, the outcome of our existence, what would it look like?

Did we speak words of wisdom or love?   Did we speak joy or teaching into the lives of others?  Or were our words  so negative, so angry, that all they would leave is a monument to a bitter existence?

I wonder, if in some odd Tron-like digital future, the moment to a life would be the words most used by an individual, constantly streaming across a screen.  What, I wonder, would mine look like?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Societal Cold Front

One of the less enviable things about the weather here in New Home is the humidity.  I did not grow up in it and so have never really gotten used to it as would someone that has always dwelt in this outdoor sauna setting.  It is no fun:  disincentivizing for working outside, hard on wooden structures, and just plain unpleasant to be in - the fact of being moist the whole time you are out and about is not something to persuade anyone to move into it.

The worst are the cloudy humid days.  The clouds do not just add to the humidity, they seem to hold it in, pressing down all with a grey, wet hand that can make the air almost palpable as a substance.  It hands, still and ominous.

Yet surprisingly, these can be the most endurable of days.  Why?  Because often times I know that a cold front is on its heels.

Cold fronts are not quiet arrivals here; they come with a rush of wind and thrashing of trees and leaves and trash being whipped about.  Sometimes they announce their arrival with a howl and boom and other times they simply, suddenly appear.  But there is no mistaking their arrival - or the result.

Rain.

Hard Rain.  Rain that can come down in sheets and give rise to flash floods, that creates puddles in the front and moves the shredded bark out of its borders and into the sidewalk.  Rain that pours into the cracks of the dry earth but never seems to fill them up.  Rain that brings the bursting lightning and blasting thunder that shakes the house.

The humidity is what it feels like to be alive now.

There is a low, throbbing, background rage.  You can hear it if you listen closely - not to words and actions but rather as a distant murmur in the background.  You can feel it overlaying every element of society, every element of our day.  You can see it in the actions and words all around.  It presses down on us like the cloud cover, keeping everything inside and under pressure, until the sweat drips down our brows and the clothes stick to us in large, brown patches.

But the Cold Front is coming.  I do not know when.  I cannot say how.  But I can hear it on the outskirts of the North in my soul, rolling like a speeding train over the Great Plains, bending wheat and trees to its blast, hurtling towards a hot, humid rage.

And when it comes, the torrential rain will drown us, the blistering lightning will blind us, the booming thunder will deafen us.

And all will say "We never saw it coming".

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Resilience

There is a certain sense in which we have largely lost our resilience.

It seems to me that this is an outcome not particularly unexpected, based on the specialized society to which we seem to be moving.  Specialization implies a high degree of knowledge and expertise about a particular subject, but also has demonstrated (at least in nature) an inability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

Resilience is the ability to spring back from unexpected events or unexpected changes.  It is the ability to find fifty ways to make something out of what you have when you have more month than paycheck; it is the willingness to find another way to move the heavy object when the lift is not present.  It is the fortitude to take the job loss and figure out another way to generate income.

What resilience does not do - and I fear we are rapidly doing - is divorce itself from reality.

Perhaps we have already reached that point.  Students will in some cases no longer tolerate opinions that are not agreeable, so they demand the other opinions disappear.  A worldwide budgetary crisis that claims only in becoming more debt ridden can one become free and demonstrating charity.  And an economy that somehow believes that everything ultimately comes from the Internet, instead of the places where it is actually produced and thus who and how it is made is actually of very little concern.

I wonder if we are close to a point where our resilience is tested, one of those great moments that occasionally populate history where everything changes in a moment and suddenly who is resilient and who is fragile is uncovered in blinding colors.

The resilient will survive, as they always have.  The fragile will collapse into a million shards.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Five Seeds


So here is another challenge, mostly brought to you Kymber (who actually took me up on my Five Books challenge):  If you could only grow five things and take the seeds for future planting, what would they be?


A couple of rules:  for me, I am basing this on my experience in my climate and the success rate that I have had.  It may very well be different for other climates and areas (and frankly, other skill levels - mine seems rather poor).  And it is not intended as a total replacement for other dietary inputs, but very much as a subsistence option:  if I had too, I could get by on these (with a large enough plot).

1)  Garlic:  Garlic has been a perennial success story for me.  I have been able to grow it successfully in two different climates and in four different locations.  I may have never successfully grown anything else, but I have always been able to grow garlic.  And it is super good for you as well - from Wikipedia:

"When expressed per 100 grams, garlic contains several nutrients in rich amounts (more than 20% DV), including vitamins B6 and C, and the dietary mineralsmanganese and phosphorus. Per 100 gram serving, garlic is also a moderate source (10–19% DV) of certain B vitamins, including thiamin and pantothenic acid, as well as the dietary minerals, calciumiron, and zinc (right table).

You can fry it, pickle it, can it, and cook it with other things.  It is amazing.

2)  Black-Eyed Peas/Cow Peas:  This has come to me only in the last three years but has been a prolific and reliable producer in that time, often continuing to produce well into the winter.  Nutritionally, it has all the benefits of a legume and an alternate protein source:

"Black-eyed peas contain calcium (41 mg) folate (356 mcg), protein (13.22 g), fiber (11.1 g) and vitamin A (26 IU), among other nutrients, all for less than 200 Calories, in a 171-g, one-cup serving." (Wikipedia)

As a legume, it also adds nitrogen to the soil - so it is a contributor to continuing fertility.

3) Wheat/Barley:  I know many people exclude these from their diets because of gluten or digestion related issues.  I get that - but we (thankfully) had not had to deal with this issue and these grains are among my most successful gardening examples every year.  I have grown a number of different varies of wheat, some more successfully and less successfully.  My barley has always been Jet Barley, a black variety.  From Wikipedia:

Wheat:  In 100 grams, wheat provides 327 calories and is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of multiple essential nutrients, such as proteindietary fibermanganesephosphorus and niacin. Several B vitamins and other dietary minerals are in significant content. Wheat is 13% water, 71% carbohydrates, and 1.5% fat. Its 13% protein content is comprised mostly of gluten as 75-80% of total wheat protein,[51] which upon digestion, contributes amino acids for human nutrition.[9]"

Barley:  In a 100 gram serving, raw barley provides 352 calories and is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of essential nutrients, including proteindietary fiber, the B vitaminsniacin (31% DV) and vitamin B6 (20% DV), and several dietary minerals (table). Highest nutrient contents are for manganese (63% DV) and phosphorus (32% DV) (table). Raw barley is 78% carbohydrates, 1% fat, 10% protein and 10% water.


4) Pumpkins:  This is kind of a surprise, I am sure, and I would not have thought it before this exercise - but I have been able to grow pumpkins everywhere I have lived.  And of all the plants I have dealt with, they are the most prolific coming up from my compost - I have not "planted" pumpkins for 3 years but them come up every year based on the compost I put into my garden!  From Wikipedia:

"In a 100-gram amount, raw pumpkin provides 26 Calories and is an excellent source (20% or more the Daily Value, DV) of provitamin A beta-carotene and vitamin A (53% DV) (table). Vitamin C is present in moderate content (11% DV), but no other nutrients are in significant amounts (less than 10% DV, table). Pumpkin is 92% water, 6.5% carbohydrate, 0.1% fat and 1% protein (table)."

(The vitamin C is interesting - who knew?  And something we cannot produce ourselves).

5)  Okra:  Okra is my one item from living in a hot, humid climate as we do now.  If I can keep the pests off of it, it produces prolifically.  Okra is one of those things that is a bit of an acquired taste (most people have it pickled or fried) but per Wikipedia it too has nutritional benefits:

"Raw okra is 90% water, 2% protein, 7% carbohydrates and negligible in fat (table). In a 100 gram amount, raw okra is rich (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) in dietary fibervitamin C and vitamin K, with moderate contents of thiaminfolate and magnesium ."

You will notice that a lot of garden traditionals - tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn, cucumbers - are not on my list.  It is not that I have not tried to grow them - I have, in some cases with moderate success.  But the exercise is for known producers, things that if I had to I could tear up my back yard and do a mass planting of.  And, if I look at the nutritional value, I am some moderately surprised to find out there is a fair amount of balance there.

What is on your list?



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Five Books

Between two house fires and the ongoing movement of millions across the globe, a thought exercise came into my head:  If I could take only five books with me, what would I take?

I am a bibliophile:  I have (literally) hundreds of books, all of which I have read at least one time.  But in a clinch - if I could, for some reason, only take five, what would they be?  The one qualifier is that they have to be books that I own now:

1)  The Bible:  Front and center for any Christian.  My version in the NKJV, MacArthur study Bible - so it is almost cheating by getting a book and a commentary in one.

2)  A Book of Five Rings (Miyamoto Musashi):  The classic work on strategy (and from my point of view, the most approachable).  I have been reading Musashi for over 25 years and continue to discover new things in the text.

3)  Loeb Classical Library 283:  Marcus Porcius Cato and Marcus Terrntius Varro, On Agriculture:  Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius (Cato the Censor) was by all accounts a fine writer but very few of his works survive.  This work is an instruction manual on the ideal agricultural set up in Republican era Rome.  It is paired with Varro's work (slightly later in time but still within Republican/Augustan times) on ideal agriculture.  Not only is is well written, it gives insight into how things were accomplished when technology was limited (as an added bonus, it is in Latin and English so one could practice two languages!).

4) Pilgrim's Progress (John Bunyan):  The quintessential inspirational work on the Christian journey.  More enjoyable in the original 17th Century English.

5)  The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Farming (Gene Logsdon):Gene Logsdon is my inspirational agricultural hero, a man who practiced what he preached about agriculture.  This was the first work of his I read and while I have enjoyed his others, this is my favorite.  Logsdon's book oozes not only with practical advice written in such a way to make the agricultural life seem desirable but permeated throughout his work is the underlying confidence that this is something that anyone can do.  It is as much an inspirational work as an instructional one.

Bonus Round:

6-8)  The Fellowship of the Ring/The Two Towers/The Return of The King (J.R.R. Tolkien):  What can one say about the trilogy from which virtually all other fantasies written since them find their root?  The story is grand but Tolkien's use of word and descriptions and the drawing in of a fully imagined past make one wish he had written books on all the rest as well.

9)  Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand):  It is rare that an economist and philosopher can write excellent fiction.  Rand's work (clocking in at about 1200 pages) is a well written and exciting mystery submerged in simple philosophical question: What would happen if the engine of the world - the economy, the producers - where turned off?  Her almost uncanny description which reflects the actual slow devolution of the West is almost eerie.

10)   The Last Days of Socrates (Plato, Penguin edition): This version contains four Socratic dialogues:  Euthyphro, The Apology, Crito, Phaedo - which are meant to cover the last days of Socrates' life from his way to trial to trial and sentencing to prison to his death.  Not only an excellent introduction to Plato but a moving consideration of man who knows himself to be in the right yet ultimately submits to the wrong to prove his philosophy.

What would be on your list?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

People of Veneer

We have become a people of veneer.

We like veneer; one company (IKEA) has developed an entire industry around the use of it.  You can have bookshelves or dressers or cabinets in a plethora of woods styles - but that only go a 2 millimeters thick, laying over an inner core of composite pressed wood which is ugly, flaky, and heavy.

We have become the same.  

We are people of appearances and opinions.  Our appearances and our opinions run only as deep as our fragile emotions:   give us a perceived insult or express an opinion which we do not agree with and you will have  revealed a dross core of raw emotion that oozes out with a horrid stench, a sort of seething hatred of everything that infects all that we do until we have become so used to the smell that we scarcely notice it in our daily lives.

Oh, we see ourselves differently of course:  individuals of great learning and independence which come by how we are after great thought and carefully construed constructs.  It is those who scratch us that are the real enemy of human-ness and humanity, not ourselves in our lashing back and completely laying waste in a scorched earth policy.  

Somehow we become surprised in all of this, that the only language that anyone speaks anymore is that of anger and hatred, of the raised fist and the hostile word.  We have become not by what we are for or even what we are against but rather by maintaining the appearance of our veneer, by the volume of words and the fierceness of the rage against damage to it.

We become shocked when we meet people who are solid, who hold to their conviction in storms like cattle in a blizzard, who do not react with scorn and rage when their veneer is scratched. We are surprised because it turns out that the veneer is not just at the surface but runs right down to their core.  They can no more lose themselves in the opposition and trying times than a tree can shed the grain of its wood.

Where is the call to become a people of depth?  Where is the call to drain the swamps of our souls, to let the curing process produce in us a hardness and structural integrity that can weather the great challenges of our age.

The reality is that veneer seldom survives unscathed - but solid wood often does.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding The Graduate Student Within

One of the thing I have been struggling with is my ability to focus and learn.

Oh, I can do it in a diffuse, sort of non-demanding way.  I can do a little, read a little, think a little - but true progress always seems to elude me.  Part of it, to be fair, is my apparent lack of dedication to what I am trying to accomplish (to quote a wise guy - myself - "You make time for what you want to do).  But to be fair, part of it also feels like I am always fighting to find a little time to set apart to do these things - and not just the things I like to do:  even at my current employment, I find myself struggling to accomplish strategic things in the midst of trying to get the day to day things done.

So I have been thinking:  What could I change?  Is there ever a time that I was continuing to make progress in my life by learning and doing while still existing?

And then the thought came:  Ping!  Graduate School.

I was always rather good at school and studying.  I like the concept of study, test, measure your progress, get recognition (grade, GPA, etc.) and then to apply the knowledge.  Life tends not to work like that after schooling of course:  Learning is mostly OJT (On The Job) where you can fit it in, and the milestones (tests, grades) are almost never present.

And graduate school (for me) was all that and more, in spades.  I worked full time, studied full time, and had classes every MWF (for Japanese) and every evening 11800-2130 for coursework (which, I might add, is not the most conducive to learning when your workday starts at 0600).  But I did it.  And I learned.

Why?  True, there was those milestones - grades and ultimately a degree - that I could shoot for.  But there was also a certain hunger to succeed, to prove to myself that I could do it as well as (for me) the ever present hunger for more knowledge.

The reality is this:  those skills may be atrophied but they are still there.  And the person that did all that - me - is still around as well.  Yes, I may have lost some of that passion and fire but I have made for it (in theory) with wisdom and experience.

I need to find that hungry for knowledge graduate student again.  He is still here, hiding perhaps under  sedimentary layers of defeat and side turns that were not to be expected. I simply need to knock off the dirt and muck, clean him up a bit, and release him in the direction we need to be going.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Avoiding The News

So today in a fit of anguish and not caring, I completely avoided the news yesterday.

It is a little harder than you might think - especially if, like me, you are someone who almost religiously follows it.  But I had just reached the point of complete overload, between my own readings and listenings and the ongoing low chatter of everyone else reacting in the background.  So I consciously avoided looking at or listening to anything.

And here is what happened.

The sun continued to shine.  I still had a job.  The rabbits were glad to see me and Poppy was ready for her walk.  My garden continued to grow, with new seedlings pushing their heads out into the sun. I even learned something I did not know about how the Ancient Greeks and Romans regarded excellence.  My small projects that I like to work on all go done.

And what did not happen?  The world, so far as I know, has not ended.  The economy has not crashed (Or if it did, I will find out tomorrow when I cannot get into work).  And the events of the day, the great and the small, somehow failed to impact my corner of the universe.

An interesting exercise.  I wonder what happens if I try it again today?

The World Has No Place For Us

The World has no place for us:
The Dreamers,
The Gardeners,
The Listeners of the Unseen.

Oh, the World says they have a place, of course:
We use the same words, but speak a different language.
We see the same pictures, but see different things within them.
We conform to no side - and so we are neither.

We are the Invisible.

We have sunk within the cracks of sidewalk,
hidden away in the sunlit bits of soil amidst the grey landscape,
returned to the hills and forests:
sometimes only the wind knows where to find us.

Perhaps we will never come again into the light of the World,
into its entertainment and economy,
its vain pleasures and whitewashed matters of importance
that fade with every social trend.

The World has no place for us,
and yet we live on the fringes,
far more alive than the World.

Friday, May 05, 2017

A Slight Lurch In The Right Direction

So the relocation plunge may be accelerating slightly faster than I had anticipated.

I spoke with The Ravishing Mrs. TB two nights ago about it.  To be perfectly honest with you, I think she may be more fed up with the whole thing than I am at this point (which is saying something).  Yes, traffic is appalling and yes, in two years our traffic patterns should reduce once again when Nighean Dhonn is finished with her current school and we only have one school to drive to - but that does not fix the underlying problems that exist here.

What does that mean?  It means a minimum of 6 years suddenly shifted to 2 years.

That includes a number of assumptions of course, like college will continued to be covered and I can find a job somewhere else if needed (and in all fairness, in two years I should have a much clearer picture of how my current job is going) - or I figured out something else that can support us somewhere else (unlikely, but possible).  It also assumes that the economy here will stay at or above what it is now such that our home value will give us something when we sell.

But it is important because it can help to frame discussions, about what we have and what we do.  Certain things - like continuing to reduce debt and become more frugal - take precedence as a required item (that ship is turning - slowly, but it is turning).  Actually setting aside and saving money specifically for the purpose of (ultimately) not having to work becomes an item of discussion.  And a discussion about what we have and what we need also becomes an increasingly relevant discussion (one I have struggled with for years but now am finally having some clarity about).

It is still potentially a long way hence and fraught with possibles and maybe-nots.  But just the hint of change has a surprising power, a hint of energy I had not anticipated.  Perhaps after feeling being in a rut for so long has left you with few options, the whiff of a different future is enough to waken long slumbering dreams, like the sun on February's daffodils.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Of Chillers and Boilers

One of the things I inherited as a job responsibility when my company moved in November ("other duties as assigned") was the care and feeding of a boiler/chiller system and accompanying hardware and air handling units.  This is not the sort of thing I have had any experience with prior to this moment, but welcome to the world of "Congratulations on your promotion".  So I have been slowly learning, mostly by trial and error and observation of people that actually know what they are doing.

Among other things I learned (besides how to restart a boiler and where the reset switch is for a chiller) is that your hot and cold water loops need some level of care and attention, including draining and refilling and treating the water so they do not rust out your system.  And so, over the course of the last two days, I have been watching a system drain and refill and learn from our consultant about the ins and outs of water testing.

Today, as we were coiling the drain hose he said "You know what?  Most people have no idea what is over their heads and around them in these buildings.  We have a commercial customer (A large tech firm) in a 31 story building that have no knowledge of what is beyond the walls they see.  They ordered special air diffusers in a particular shape. Very difficult to service.  And none of the office types have any idea."

The more I thought about it, the more I thought how true it was.  I may not know a lot about such things, but I know more than some. Probably than many.  But there are many more that know nothing at all - oddly enough, I would argue that it is many of those that are on the forefront of the technological economy.  They can write a piece of code, design a rocket, create a new drug or medical device - but do so within the confines of facilities that they no idea how they operate to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter and the toilets and sinks working.  At best for many, I suspect the response would be "We have someone to take care of that".

These are not original thoughts, I realize.  Mike Rowe has probably done more than any other individual in my life time to draw attention to such trades and remind people that they exist and that they, too, are honorable work courses.

The part I find somewhat amusing, in a dark fashion, is that I continue to hear about advances in technology - Artificial Intelligence  or AI - that will possibly design other robots or rockets or create and eliminate thousands of compounds to identify the promising ones.  So many of the things that are replicated in offices.  I have yet to hear of such developments in these humbler trades.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

On The Slow Tailing Off Of Involvement With Civilization

I am becoming increasingly mindful of the fact that by and large, I can get by without the bulk of civilization.

No, not materially really - not at this point anyway, and perhaps not at all to level I would wish.  But the longer I am here, the less and less reasons I find for wandering far from my home or going out on a regular basis.

Part of it, of course, is financial.  The less I leave the home the less I find I spend.  And part of it is simply that going anywhere (at least where we are now) involves a great deal of traffic, something I have never really been fond of (and find myself, in a curmudgeonly way, less so every year).  

But I think a great deal of it is simply that I find that civilization is rolling over me and passing me by.

There is a certain comfort in being a relic, a fossil, a thing which has suddenly lost most of the relevance of the civilized powers that be (and are trying to make the world in an image).  One can sink beneath the chatter of the ongoing events, ignore the breathless articles about how society is changing (always, seemingly, for the better) and the future is inevitably bright (although it never really actually seems to work out that way), and simply go about living one's life.  Good heavens, as I sit and think about it the very real possibility exists that one could, with a little it of effort, be completely oblivious to the world and its happenings.

But this is somewhat hard to do in the midst of civilization.  The world presses in on you in almost every way and at almost every level.  One can consciously concentrate on being invisible  (what would the modern version of The Invisible Man be? Someone who is completely off the Interweb?  Would they, too, eventually go mad in the world of the connected?) but the amount of time and energy spent on maintaining this level of invisibility is draining, like a Romulan cloaking device that draws some much energy you cannot use it all the time.

There are other things, I am sure, to be out away from it all.  Perhaps the press of needing to interact with someone can become overwhelming.  Maybe the disconnectedness of the world as it continues on would drive one to distraction.  

But how much more "terrible"  can it really be?   In the age of connectedness and control, the true rebel is the one who rejects both of these as the requirement of existence in the modern age.  The true counterculture, as always, is to not be part of the culture at all.

I am, for the moment, far away from this place and state of mind.  But even I am finding more and more reasons not to go out, not to tune in, not to plug in.  And perhaps, given my current life situation, that is what has to be at this point in time and space:  a certain level of involvement but with increasing levels of withdrawal.

As my hero Herrick Kimball would say, it is as much a place of mind as it is a place that is.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Fireflies

Earth bound meteors
shed their erratic warm light
beneath star's cold light

Monday, May 01, 2017

Spring Garden 2017

So most of Spring 2017 Garden planting is done.

(I'd post pictures, but you would pretty much see flattened mulch, so I will spare you the photo op.)

What did I plant?  Beans.  Lots of beans.  And Black Eyed Peas and okra.  And two kinds of peppers, criollo and Korean (I am getting peppers this year, even if I have to plant and keep them indoors). Some Sweet Sorghum as it did well last year and I would like to try my hand at possibly using it for beer (there is such a thing) or at least trying to see if I can do something with the stems - sorghum, if you did not know, can be pressed and the resulting juice boiled down for sweetener.  Add to this a rather healthy crop of volunteer pumpkins and we are on our way.

What am I still lacking?  A tomato plant or two and some cucumbers.  And that will probably be it for this first time re-imagined garden.  I will need to set up an actual watering jig for when we are gone (not going to make that mistake again).  I have no sign of our local rabbit population so assuming the garden survives a precocious puppy, we should be in good shape.

The onions are still doing their thing and the garlic seems to want start to fall (I am going to try to mulch it up a bit and see if I cannot convince it to stay for a bit longer).  The wheat (two varieties) have headed up and are starting to turn.  I finally transplanted some leeks in hopes of saving them; a number of them have taken nicely.  The spinach and lettuce are flowering (seed saving, here we come) and the lemon and lime trees continue to put on leaves and hopefully fruit.

It is not the best position I have been in to roll into the summer gardening season, but far from the worst I am have ever been.