Saturday, April 04, 2020

Welcome!

Hi Friends!  So in looking at my post check numbers recently, I realized that these have climbed by about 50%.  Given the fact that a great number of people now have additional time on their hands, I am guessing that this may be a real thing.

So Welcome!

My name is Toirdhealbheach Beucail (also known as TB - it is Gaelic, so it is fancy). I live in an undisclosed location (well, undisclosed if you do not know weather patterns and climate) in the United States.  I am married to the Ravishing Mrs. TB and have three daughters:  Nighean Gheal, Nighean Bhean, and Nighean Dhonn (in order of birth).   I currently work in Quality Assurance in the Biopharmaceutical Industry but am in the process of transferring to Project Management (A Sort of Hammerfall).

Our lives are currently enriched by The Mighty Poppy:


And two rabbits:  I-Bun


And Joy.




What do we talk about here?  Mostly this has come to be an on-line journal:  A little gardening, a little self sufficiency, a series of thoughts about God and Life and The World Around Us.  I occasionally post pictures of places I have been (Japan, Iceland, my home base of The Ranch, and Montana).  I also post on my hobbies:  Iaijutsu (Japanese Sword Art from 1590), Cheese Making, Gardening, and  Highland Athletics. I also do a fiction series periodically on a sort of end times called The Collapse.

In other words, you never quite know what you are going to get.

A few rules:

1)  We just do not do profanity here.  At all.  Will get you banned at the outset.
2)  I like to discuss things, and am willing to post comments that are in disagreement with my own.  That said, see point 1).
3)  I am not always as good as responding to comments as I should be.
4)  Practice Kindness when on the site.  Really.

That said, Hail and Well Met!

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Requiem For A Brother In Law

We were notified Tuesday night that my brother-in-law passed away.

As of this writing, we do not fully know the cause of death - given the world that we currently live in, the fear (of course) is The Current Plague.  From what was related, it seems most likely that it was a heart attack - but unfortunately, he was running a low grade fever that day.  We will know the test results tomorrow. 

She literally found him just as he was passing.

The image of all of this, of course, is made much worse by the fact of the Plague we are now in.  Literally at one point, everyone was out on the front driveway, six feet apart from each other, waiting for the funeral home to arrive to pick up the body.  My sister in law is effectively in quarantine with her second son in the house.  At the current time, no-one can come by, not even my mother-in-law (who lives in the same town) because of the potential unknown risk.

Such is the world we now live in.

My brother-in-law was someone that I had known 12 years but only had as a brother in law for 8 months.  He was an incredible handyman and one of the most kind and welcoming people I have ever met.  He is one of the sorts of folks of which it could be said there were not strangers for him, just friends that he had not met.

He had struggles with drugs long before we met him but had come out on the other side thanks to Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which was a huge part of his and my sister-in-law's life (in fact, where they met and started dating).  Judging from his friends that I did met and numerous attestations on The Book of Face,  he impacted the lives of countless others through his sponsorship, his mentorship, and his guidance.

The one comment I made to my sister-in-law when I talked to her was his forgiving nature.  He had terrible problems around the relationship with his children - on their part, not his, to the point that they had completely stopped talking to him and had refused to come the wedding last August.  In all of this, I never heard him once say a bitter or negative thing about this whole situation.  He was sad - incredibly sad - at the outcome, but not at all bitter.

Now, of course, that relationship can never be repaired.

Death is a reality that the sudden arrival of The Current Plague did nothing to change - for thousands of people, every day, death was a reality that was poignantly apparent although somehow ignored by the world in which we live.  Occasionally we recognized when a celebrity or famous person passed away, but the reality of the fact that we all are to die was carefully secreted away by us, consciously or unconsciously, to avoid a subject perhaps too painful to consider.

I leave you with four thoughts today:

1)  We - none of us - know how much time we have.  We do not know the day of our outgoing, always assuming that it will years and years from where we now.  To be this way is to be fly on the wall, mistaking the shadow that is coming over you to be a cloud rather than the fly swatter to end your life.

2)  With this in mind, how are we spending our time?  Perhaps more relevantly, how am I spending my time?  I reflect back to last August, where somehow having to take an extra day off work to be there a day earlier for their wedding was a burden to my life.  The work is now gone and really does not matter; the day earlier that I was there now has all the importance in the world.

3) Are we spending our time rightly?  It seems a little silly to ask this question now given the state of the world, but I think the question is worth asking all the more.  We have identified millions of people as "non-essential" to the marginally effective working of society.  To these people, 40 hours of their week (or more) were tied up in what they did for a living.  Now for many, this has been stripped away.

But I count even myself in this category.  Is what I have done with my time the best thing that could have been done?  The most important thing? 

4)  My sister-in-law also said that she was grateful in that she knew that she had a great relationship and that for so many, they could together for years and years without having that same level of involvement and commitment.  It is true, of course - we probably all know couples that have been together for an eternity but without any real relationship - maybe they had it at one time, but it has been cast out over the years.  Are we - really, am I - doing what I can to have better relationships all around?  Or am I just satisfied with the minimum?

The death of loved one is inevitably a time to stop, pause, and take stock.  Would that now - when Death is forever in the news - be a time where we all take a good hard reflection of where we are in our lives and what we really need to be about.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

A Paycheck

Today I received my paycheck, as expected, in my bank account.

It had never occurred to me how profound an act this was.

I am not like hundreds of thousands (it will probably end up being millions) that looked at the end of the month and found nothing new in their bank account.  It was there, as it has been for 3.5 years previous.

To be clear, I do actually work for my income.  So in that sense, it was "expected" rather than a gift.  But still, given all the current circumstances, I had not realized (until today) what a profound event that was.

It allows our family to pay my bills without concern. It graces our family with the ability to support others, be it as charities or as small businesses.  It allows me to continue to buy the things that please me.  It allows me to prepare for the day (who knows?) when I, too, will not receive a paycheck.

It was just a revelation to me on this day.  Saddened I had not considered it before.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Of Buttermilk And Cheese

(From left to right:  Whey, Fromagina Cheese, Buttermilk)

This weekend I made cheese and buttermilk.

Both were from the good folks at New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, pre-arranged packets.  The Fromagina is a soft cheese, good for desserts (with honey); the buttermilk I made because I can and occasionally even I like a glass of buttermilk. The whey is a by product of the cheese making process, a reasonable drink in the morning (people actually pay for whey supplements.  I get it free as a by-product of cheese making).

This was not a great deal of effort at all; in both cases I brought the milk to 86 F, add the culture, and then let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours.  For the cheese, there was an additional 10 hours of draining.  A pretty simple investment of time.

The important factors are this:

1) I can do this.  And if I can do this, then anyone can do this (Literally.  Heat milk, add culture, let sit).  

2)  By being able to do this, I extend the reach of my supplies both through preservation of a product and the transformation of a substance into something else (if there is ever a run on milk, I can at least do something else with the milk I get).

3) Anything that can be done to make something - any creative act, even if it is as simple as adding culture to warmed milk - is striking back against a system that encourages us to be 100% dependent on others.

The reality is there are small ways that all of us can do small things to express ourselves and create small spaces between ourselves and a system that encourages dependence.  Take the small step.  Make the cheese.  

It really makes for a rather delightful dessert.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Plague: Update III

We are now settling in, I suppose, to what the "new normal" is for the foreseeable future.

Since my last fuel fill up on the Saturday previous, I have logged precisely 52  miles in a little over a week:  two trips to the Rabbit Shelter to volunteer (Huzzah, we are considered an essential service and I have received my letter) and a single trip to the office for a teleconference that was better done there than at home.  52 miles in 9 days.  My average 7 days of driving usually pushed me into the 170-180 mile range.  This week, of course, it will be less as there will be no trip to the office and a single trip to shelter.

The house is slowly getting a complete cleaning and reorganization, thanks largely to Nighean Bhean (Middle) and her desire to make sure that everything is organized.  Multiple rooms have been gone through and we are migrating out to the garage.  I expect by the time we are done there will be a great deal less material located in this house (I also suspect that I am going to be much less interested or supportive of buying anything else - my first standard question may very well become "How long until we get rid of that?").

In reviewing the grocery store website for a shopping run today, The Ravishing Mrs. TB noted that our local grocery chain has put restrictions in place that were not present previously:  limits on all kinds of canned goods, rice, beans, and even frozen pizzas.  While part of me understands and appreciates this, the other part of me is concerned for what this might be saying:  we expect the current crisis to go on longer than expected and supplies to come in slower at some point.

One of the biggest problems I found with working from home is that it is much harder to turn work off.  Without effort, my days now run from 0730-1800 without any commute time and a 10 minute lunch.  Throttling back to a "normal" work day is my new challenge.

I am finding time for those sorts of things that I never really enjoyed or had time for, whether from a need to do something or just a realization that I am behind in such matters.  I have raked the front yard three times in two weeks now, the car is completely cleaned and the headlamps readjusted, and all bicycle tires now pumped up to full strength.  At this rate, I will end up going through every drawer as well.

Our Iaijutsu class has restarted, but online.  We are using one of the conference calling tools.  It is certainly not the same as actually being "in" class, but it certainly beats having now training at all.

A final note:  For some time now I have been writing effectively "in advance" in order to make use of the time I had on Sunday and the (seeming) lack of time I had the rest of the week.  While this has been an effective tool for ensuring output, I also think that it has limited my overall thoughtfulness to some extent:  I can write a week's worth of posts in about two hours but I do not know if this represents my very best efforts.  To that end (and seeing how I now have the ability to make time), I am falling back to writing on a daily basis.  Apologies for what will likely be some rough patches as I make the transition.

I will note:  for a writer, semi-philosopher, and some level of thinker, there is no greater time to be alive than today.  Even if I do not fully understand all that is happening or where everything is headed, the ability and platform to observe, ponder, and write about it is a great gift.  In a very unreal and perhaps foolish way, this may be one of the greatest callings of my life.