Saturday, June 15, 2024

Updates From Home, June 2024 Edition

 A big week of news this week at Taigh na Thoirdhealbheach Beucail.

1)  As some of you may recall from earlier in the year, our oldest, Nighean Gheal, moved back home from living in the Big Big City.  Her lease was up, she could work remotely, and there was nothing really holding her there.

One reason she moved home was to save money.  The second came to fruition this week.

From her sophomore year of college on, she has made money by doing online tutoring in conversational English, mostly for students and business folks in North Asia.  She enjoyed it, she was good at it, and it gave her extra spending money.

As she started her job a little over two years ago at (Insert Large Name) Consulting Firm, she found that she did not really care for the business world.  As she explained it to me in a conversation, when she left "work" she felt exhausted and drained but when she finished tutoring she felt excited and energized.  A sign, one might say.

The outcome of this was she applied for and has been accepted to be an English teacher in South Korea.

She has had a passionate interest in Korea since we located to New Home 15 years ago, perhaps originally driven by the fact that the school she was at had exchange students from South Korea.  Over the years she studied Korean, fell in love with culture (most especially the music, or "K-Pop" to the uninitiated).  She has been at least twice and minored in Korean Studies.

We do not know her departure date or where specifically she will be placed; we do know it will be in the province of Chungcheonbuk:


This program (as I understand it) is some kind of extension program through the South Korean Government.  The program lasts for a year, but if you are good you can be extended.

I am obviously very proud of my daughter - not just that she was accepted (it was a pretty rigorous application process including a background check, a Letter of Apostille, multiple interviews, and a draft lesson plan), but that she had the personal awareness and foresight to realize was she was doing was not making her happy and making a change before she got trapped in a career that she hated (as happens to many people).

Needless to say, likely there are pictures of South Korea in our not too distant future.

2)  Nighean Dhonn, our youngest, has been accepted into a University at New Home.

Last year, as you may recall, she was accepted into the Archaeology program at the University of Evansville.  She liked the school and program well enough, but unfortunately a series of retirements from the department meant that her interest (Classical [Greek and Roman] studies) would no longer be offered as more than a general course.  She applied for a transfer; we were notified that it as accepted this week.

There are two major impacts.  The first is financial, although I am not certain of the difference - she had a very decent package at her previous school and her new school (being a state school)  is not nearly so generous.  The second impact - related to the first - means that she can live at the house in New Home which in theory will mean that we are not paying for university housing (it is a commutable distance).

Another, lesser impact, is that we will not have get her and her stuff back in the Fall.

3)  Not to overlook the middle child, Nighean Bhan, she has started the second year (Summer session) of her speech pathology program.  She remains on course to finish in May of 2025, after which she will do a one year internship.


The amount of change that has happened this year - correction, the first half of this year - continues to stun me.

Friday, June 14, 2024

A Lifestyle Not A Hobby

The Seminar with my headmaster - although sadly shortened this year due to the change in my location and the starting of a new job - was good; two days with a Grandmaster is better than no days with a Grandmaster.

The great joy of training comes not from the physical exertion - plenty of that - but of the small comments and vignettes that are woven into commentary as he observes us. I envy him his ability to seamlessly do this; I always seem to awkwardly approach such issues when I try to do the same.  

At one point during our training, he mentioned the fact that one of the great frustrations he had as a teacher was people who simply made no progress.  This could take one of two paths: the first, that they only appeared irregularly, trained but obviously had not improved, and then went away for another period of time - a sort of drop-in casual student.  The other was those that did train regularly, but only seemed to mark time in their position: they did not improve, but simply add years to the amount of time they were present.  The comparison was made to traditional Japanese arts and martial arts in Japan where the lifestyle is all encompassing and difficult to the point that many, if not most, wash out because they do not wish to make the level of commitment.

Iaijutsu, he said, is the same.  It is is intended as a lifestyle, not a hobby.

The thought flew from my headmaster's lips and profoundly smacked me upside the head.

Anyone that knows me or has followed this blog is aware that I am a hobby person.  My interests are wide ranging - and arguably, there is nothing wrong with that.  The gathering of knowledge can itself be a lifestyle of sorts.

But in my case, I have also chosen the lifestyle of Iaijutsu.

When I was accepted into the school and my headmaster became not just my headmaster but, in a real way my master (Note the small "m", not the capital "M".  I have only one Master.), I entered a contract:  This is how it was, back in feudal times.  I agreed to train in this art and not others.  Additionally, I agreed to other conditions, some of which I knew and some of which I did not fully understand until later in my journey.

I cannot just "display" my art; I need to ask for permission.  Training at another dojo (as I did over the weekend, as New Home 2.0 is now my new dojo) requires formal permission.  There are techniques I am not allowed to publicly display, knowledge I am not allowed to speak.  I am even forbidden from casually displaying my sword to other martial arts practitioners.

Somewhat to my surprise, I found I had started a martial art and acquired a lifestyle instead.

But frankly, it is a lifestyle that I do not practice as I should. In so many ways, I still treat it as a hobby, something that I can practice or not at will.  In point of fact, I have made the commitment.  For me to give up now would be to be cast out in a literal sense:  my name would not be spoken, my sensei (plural) shamed because of my failure (it has happened).

But really, this true of my life in general as well.  A lifestyle of hobbies prevents one from really become skilled simply because one is not willing to commit in meaningful ways.  It means choosing not to do some things.  It means training when one is tired or bored or just not feeling it.  It means - at some level - measuring all of one's activities against the standard of "What best advances me in this lifestyle?"

Does this mean I will stop making yogurt and cheese or studying Old English or half a dozen other things I do?  Hardly.  These things fill useful niches of my life, either by the products I get from them or the simple enjoyment derived from them.  But it does mean that some things have precedence over others and that my time and indeed all my activities need to be viewed through the lens of how this impacts the path of swordsmanship I have chosen.

For me, I was reminded that the musha shugyo - the warrior's pilgrimage - is not just a saying.  Even now, for some, it remains a way a life.

Said differently, it is a lifestyle not a hobby.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Collapse CLI: Smoldering Stalks

 30 July 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Pompeia Paulina sleeps away behind me in the other room.

I write this in the darkness of night, by the light of the almost full moon, awake from a dream as I have been for the past three nights.

Each night it is the same: We are in the field of wheat where we met Epicurus and Themista. It is later in the year; the wheat is brown and dry and bowing down slightly in readiness. The winds of September, bearing on them the hint of Winter that will come in less than a month, whirl fleeting ripples into the ocean of grain.

Pompeia Paulina is there. So is Young Xerxes and Statiera. We are sitting on the rise of the hill, a picnic of fruit and cheese and wine on a blanket.

Then- soundlessly - the field suddenly erupts into flame.

It is not as the movies of wildfires that I have seen, an advancing wall of flame driving all before it. It is a singular eruption into a fireball without an explosion. I smell the scent of scorched hair; my own, I see by the withered hairs on my arms and the ashen eyebrows drifting into my eyes.

They are all gone – Pompeia Paulina, Young Xerxes, Statiera. It is just I and the picnic blanket, undisturbed by the fire.

One of the wine glasses pings and shatters. From nowhere, everywhere – gunfire erupts.

I fall to the ground, wildly looking for a weapon. There is no weapon of any kind, except the cheese knife that sits idly on the plate of cheese, now stained with red wine from the shattered glass.

A hand shakes my shoulder – startled, I turn and look. It is Blazer Man out of nowhere, handing me a rifle. He smiles bleakly at me, then takes aim at unseen enemies who cannot be seen on the road or in the smoldering field of wheat that is now naught but black stalks and seared grain heads.

With that, I awake. Every night, the same dream, at the same moment.

I am no soothsayer to see the meaning of this. The things are real, the facts are not: Pompeia and Paulina have never been to the field of wheat, it is not September, and Blazer Man has handed me no rifle – or anything else for that matter, fields do not spontaneous erupt into flame, and weapons are only shot by people using them.

It troubles me, Lucilius, more than I care to admit. There is no horror in the dream, just confusion and fear and a lack of understanding as my surroundings collapse into flame and death and last stands.

And yet sitting here I can still smell the smoldering stalks and see the drops of the dusky red wine staining the cheese beneath it.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

2024 Turkey: Columns and Walls

 Peppered throughout Istanbul are isolated items of her Roman and Byzantine past.

The Column of The Goths is possibly the oldest remaining Roman monument in Istanbul.  Standing 18.5 meters high, it may date to the reign of Claudius II (Emperor A.D. 268 - 270) or the years A.D. 331-332 of Constantine I.

An A.D. 6th Century writer notes that the column at one time had a statue of Tyche (Fortuna) on top.

The script, now much faded, suggests a memorial to a victory over the Goths.  

The Column of Constantine was moved by Constantine I in the year A.D. 330 from the temple of Apollo in Rome. Originally surmounted by a statue of Apollo, it was replaced over the years by statues of Constantine, Julianus, and Theodosius.  Destroyed in A.D. 1081, it was rebuilt and a cross placed on top by Alexius I Comnenus.  The cross remained until A.D. 1453 and the Ottoman Conquest.  In the late A.D. 1600's to early 1700's, the column was damaged by fire.  A wall was put under the column and iron rings bound it.

Interestingly, at least one story has relics of Christ being buried under the column.


Byzantium and Constantinople were protected by walls through most of its history; it was these walls that allowed it to survive multiple sieges (it was ultimately the gunpowder era that overcame them).  The walls of the original Acropolis were expanded by the Emperors Severus and Constantine I and his son Constantius (A.D. 317 - 361).  The walls were a single wall - which the expanding city quickly outgrew.

The single Constantinian walls was replaced by the Emperor Theodosius with an inner wall, an outer wall, a low wall and a moat.  


The walls, once built, secured the city - but were often prey to earthquakes, needing multiple repairs.  After the sack of Constantinople in A.D. 1204, the walls were more often than not in disrepair.  Only the threat of attack was enough to get them in better condition.  And yet, even at that, they withstood a 53 day siege before the Ottomans took the city - almost 1,000 years of service.

These walls are part of the Old Inner City and stand by the Topkapi Palace.  All of the Walls - or what was left of them - stood throughout the Ottoman Era.

These last set of walls were not half a mile from our hotel.  I have no idea what walls they are - there was no indication on any map and no marker.  A small park is there now and a small mosque.  The day I came the sun was setting and families who had make a picnic of the day were preparing a barbecue or packing up to leave.

As they had for perhaps 1600 years the walls stood, silently watching.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

2024 Turkey: The Hippodrome

The traces of Roman and Byzantine Constantinople are few and far between in modern Istanbul.  One of the largest remaining is the Hippodrome of Constantinople

Originally built during the Roman Era, it was expanded by Constantine to hold 100,000 viewers.  At its height, it was estimated to be 1476 ft/450 m long and 427 ft/30 m wide.  Here up to 8 teams of 4 horse chariots raced the course.  Originally there four teams (Red, Whites, Blues, Greens) which raced (as in Rome), but eventually there were only two:  the Greens and the Blues.  The center of the hippodrome - The spina - was once filled with statues of all kinds, almost all of which were looted in the Fourth Crusade (A.D. 1204). 

Here, too, came the end of the Nika revolts in A.D. 532, where over 30,000 were killed in the hippodrome

Of the many items that decorated this area, only three remain.  One is the Walled Obelisk.  Likely built by the Emperor Theodosius, it was covered with brass plates which were stripped off during the Fourth Crusade of A.D. 1204, leaving only the inner core.

Another is the Obelisk of Theodosius, brought by the Emperor Theodosius in the 4th Century A.D. from Luxor in Egypt.  The column itself is a memorial of Pharoah Thutmose III (reigned 1479 - 1425 B.C.) commemorating a military victory.

Beneath the column a pediment displays scenes from the reign of Theodosius.

The third is an old friend:  The original of the monument of the Greeks from Delphi celebrating their victory over the Persians in 479 B.C. at the Battle of Platea.  We visited Delphi and the original site of this column last year.

(Note the wall around the column.  The base is placed on what would have been the ground in A.D. 300.) 

The Hippodrome was, following the Fourth Crusade, never returned to its original glory.  Eventually its ruins were used for stones for other buildings. Now it is a long flat oval called Sultanmehmet Square.

There is, however, one other landmark.

In 1898, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II paid a visit to the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II.  Two years later, to honor that visit, a Fountain - The German Fountain - was constructed to memorialize that visit.

The German Plaque memorializes the visit.

The fountain stands alone, a memorial to two dynasties that were swept away.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Linking Out 2.0

 Last week I closed down my Linked Out account.

I did this once before as in turns out in January of 2017; my logic at that time was combination of leaving my professional information out there to be contacted by old organizations, its function as a  sales channel, a lack of real benefit, and leaving myself "out there".   Times change of course - being laid off will do that to you - and so last year I dusted off the old account and fired it up.

A little over a year later, I am re-powering it down.  Likely for good.

Some of my reasoning has not changed.  

Linked Out (now a wholly own subsidiary of Microsoft) is, on the one hand, the premier career linking and information site. Its competitors are either industry specific or not in the same league.   But for that size, it is surprisingly bland.  Part of that is due to a conscious movement to "Not Make Linked Out The Book Of Face" (e.g., limit or completely exclude typical social media fare). To that extent, it does not generate controversy.  But what it also brings along with it is a form of content uniformity that both (in my mind) supports a particular world view as well as likely subverts any meaningful discussion.

That is fine of course; I do not go to a career site inherently to discuss something like economics or my view of the decline of society or methods of making yogurt at home.  But neither do I go to a site to find that there is simply one view, and one view only, of the world.

A second factor - as before - simply that the site does not do anything for me.

Yes, it is useful to follow up with contacts from previous companies - but likely those contacts only ever reach out in the event that 1) They are looking for a job for themselves or another contact at another company; or 2) They are trying to leverage you for information on a current employer.  In terms of actual conversation, it is at a minimum at best.

Additionally, in terms of actual results for the reason I renewed - job searching - its results were minimal at best.

Of the 86 jobs I applied for during Hammerfall 3.0, the bulk of them were through the Linked Out Portal.  Some went directly to the employer's in-box, others sent me to the employer's website to complete the application there (e.g., I really could have found it on my own).  Of the four job listings that went farther than a rejection, only one came from a contact there.  One was through personal contacts and two were through directly applying at the employer's website (including the one I took).

In other words, I could have done just as well by searching websites and applying directly (as, it turns out, I did).

A third factor is simply the lack of different it makes in my life.  The postings are, for the most part, people getting jobs, leaving jobs, or talking about aspect of their companies (mostly about how great they are) with some "Why employers are failing us" sorts of lists and memes.  99% of these have no impact on my life and since I gained employment, I have done quite well without those sorts of updates.

The final reasons are personal.

The first personal reason is as before:  simply put, it is one more way to pull my personal information back into myself.  Yes, that posting is out there on the Wayback machine if someone wants to go to the trouble, but in principle on such things, it is probably better to make it as inconvenient as possible.

The second personal reason is that this is an extension of my policy in Responding To The World At Large II in that Microsoft (arguably) does not really support the sorts of things I believe in or my world view.  Yes, my puny single account going away (and a free one at that) will not impact their bottom line - except.  Except that that is one less marketing dollar they can get for me, on less "Out-mail" someone has to buy to contact me.  Not much, I grant you, but a philosophical victory all the same.

The third personal reason is simply that I intend this to be the end of the job line.

I do not know how long I have left to work (or how long left to live, if you get right down to it), but certainly my desire is that this current job in New Home 2.0 is the last formal "job" I hold.  In that sense, my canceling of Linked Out is the equivalent for me of burning the boats.  There is only, ever forward on this track.

Will I miss Linked Out?  The open secret is no - and I would bet that most people, if they were honest, would not.  Outside of the rarified atmosphere that permeates anyone that needs regular social media updates (and be clear:  Linked Out is a form of social media like every other), most people at best need it like that tool you need every six months to fix a particular problem:  nice to have, but not something that is front and center in your life.