Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Animal Rescue - Ukraine

One of the less thought of casualties in any conflict are animals.  They are sort of taken for granted I suppose - either left behind to fend for themselves.  Here's a sort of nice story about someone who actually is doing something to address an actual need:


Monday, June 29, 2015

My Head Hurts

There are mornings when I get, look at the goings on of the world, and then just sit there watching my coffee steam.  It makes my head hurt.

It used to be only once in a while,  It seems to be a lot more frequently now.  It used to be only in some places and locales.  Now it seems to be everywhere.

The difficulty with being a student of history, of course, is knowing what history holds and how it works.  It always surprises me - a little - that those who believe that success is repeatable if only we do what the successful did are those who seemingly forget that failure is always repeatable if we do what those that failed did.

You may wonder if I am talking to a particular issue.  You know, of course, one of my cardinal rules of the sites:  no politics, religious struggles of my own.  That said, there are simply so many issues on which we seem to be repeating the errors of the past that the only thing that will surprise me at this point is how long we are able to go on.

I will take an easy one, one that should create little ill will among my readers and involved the politics of precisely no-one present:  the fate of Greece.

In a nutshell, Greece has borrowed over time more than it can repay.  the solution ( I want to say it was 2014 but perhaps a bit earlier) was to change the government and go on an austerity plan while continuing to service the debt.  This has not worked effectively:  spending has not gone down where it needs to be.  Greece has now threatened several times that the debt be renegotiated or they will simply stop paying.  It looks like it may finally happen - as of yesterday, all Greek banks are on a one week holiday and citizens are restricted to withdrawing 60 Euros a day.

Think about it:  an unsustainable debt continuing to get worse and eats more and more of the general income.  If this were a household, we would cry out "Change your spending habit!".  If this is a country, we simply shrug our shoulders and say "Well, that is the way it is - besides, some day we will make it up".

What happens for Greece?  Nothing good - either they come back to repaying a debt they can never repay and do not improve the lives of their citizens or they repudiate the debt, re-establish the drachma, and become the economic and national equivalent of the kid who no one lends anything too anymore because they do not pay it back.  Real consequences that have been repeated time and time again historically.

Did I mention the US has$18 Trillion in known debt and up to$ 49 Trillion in unfunded liabilities?  Or our current estimated budget deficit, which has fallen for the last 6 years, is a mere $468 Billion?

And this is just one minor item, one among many. We love the scientific method and the social method that tell us cause and effect works, and then fail to actually ever connect cause and effect.

The difference to me?  In all of the many issues this covers, not much.  My ability to impact any of this is minimal but its impact upon me may be large.  I suspect I am not the only one - throughout history, the ebb and flow of empires and nations and ideologies has swept along the inhabitants of the times willingly or unwillingly, dragging them either to the reefs of reality or pushing them past the reefs by the skin of their teeth.

On days like today, my head hurts.  And there is nothing for it but to finish my coffee, go out, and do what little I can to prepare for the storm I know is coming.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

So How Does Your Garden Grow? - 28 June 2015 Edition

You may remember back in April that I cleared some additional gardening space:

What has happened in the intervening 2.5 months?

Turns out that compost is loaded with all kinds of good things which are just waiting for the excuse to grow.

From my initial planting most of my actual things did not take:  alfalfa, rye, even wheat all turned out to be busts (I truly blame the fact that I did not plant until April).  What I got instead were two kinds of pumpkins, cantelopes, tomatos, and some corn.  The actual corn I planted got stunted but is finally coming up (it got overrun by a pumpkin plant).  The one true success at this point ssems to be the sweet sorghum, which is that large clump near the back.

You will notice a bare spot in the middle.  Yesterday I cleared out the remains of a dying pumpkin plant (pumpkins, in these parts, appear to be up and done by this time of the year - heat, I suppose) and planted three kinds of beans and a couple of okra plants to supplement the few I planted earlier that had been nibbled upon (but are now moving forward).  Also doing well but not pictured are two tomato plants and a Jalapeno plant.  My final finish in another area was all the Black-eyed peas I could plant.  I will try and plant some hot weather greens in a planter and that will be the garden until fall.

Having this new (and suprisingly productive) area is changing my perspective of how I want to garden moving forward.  All of a sudden, the back area against the fence - my original garden which is semi-shaded by a neighbor's oak - holds out the promise of becoming my part time grain growing area.  I love growing grains but they always bleed into the spring when I should be planting and then the garden bleeds over to the fall when I should be planting.  Quite possibly this problems will elminate itself (although I still need to work on what grains I can grow here).  This new area - no more than 3' x 23' or 69 sq feet (6.41 sq meters if the old hand calculations still work) - gets every hour that the sun is up in the sky with no concern of trees ever.  Square foot gardening indeed.  Mel Bartholomew would be proud.

There are still lots of things to play with, of course.  Crop mix is a large one - growing here instead of Old Home, I am having to re-educate myself on what grows well and what does not (for the record so far, Black-eyed peas, peppers, okra, pumpkings, and possibly sweet sorghum are winners.  Tomatos continue to remain in the "maybe" category).  And my apparent success with one smaller area make me thing that some raised beds just downhill of this intial bed may increase my production a great deal.

But one thing at the time.  This is by far the most success I have had in six years.  Now to just water, weed, watch - and plot for the future.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ichiryo Gusoku and Quietly Disappearing

So what does the application of Ichiryo Gusoku  look like?

That is a question that I need to spend  time looking at, now that the decision to slowly remove myself is upon me.  It changes a lot of things, really a sort of moving from the theoretical to more of the actual.

One place, of course, is simply what I do.  There is a lot of what I do or what I want to do that is built on presuppositions of how I want my life to work and run, things that I considered (past tense) important.  These are moved to the side now and the activities need to be couched and considered in terms of my more ultimate plans.

Some of the things- cheesemaking or gardening or those darn quail - will continue to happen and in fact, need to start happening more regularly, more frequently, and more completely.  These are activities that directly impact (in small ways, to be sure) my independence of the system (it seems silly, but eggs climbed here by almost 100% in price and are limited in how much you can purchase.  My sweet quail continue to give me two to three eggs a day).

But there are other activities I need to explore, things that I am simply not skilled or good at right now:  minor carpentry or some appliance repair (managed to figure out how to clear the inlet on the washing machine such that the hot water can flow again), the sort of thing that comes in useful on a daily basis.

Career - Ah, here is the biggest question of them all.  The career path I have is neutral to this sort of thing - it neither increases my skills nor decreases them in this area.    The unfortunate reality is, given my age and time in life, this is not something that will readily change to my benefit.  At best, I can hope to end out best working years here; at worst, we either stay here at a reduced income or go somewhere else to start over.  The things I can do within this current construct is to get as much training and experience as possible to make myself as marketable a possible for as long as possible.

Finances, of course.  Always kind of a difficult subject, but it is time that the discussion began in earnest.  And not just about the big things but about the underlying concept of reducing expenses in every area and learning to live more simply.

That is part of quietly disappearing of course, the art being unremarkable.  To let your presence rest so lightly everywhere - both commercially as well as publically - that you are simply overlooked.

And then to take that time, that money, that lack of attention, and invest it making your life and the lives of those you love better, more independent and less dependent.  To truly live as an Ichiryo Gusoku.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Quietly Disappearing

I have come to the conclusion that it is time to quietly begin scaling back my presence.

It has probably been a long time coming and, let us be honest, a lot of this has to do with the fact that much like a garage which has collected years of half finished projects (like, say, my own), I have internet bits of me scattered hither and yon.  One does not really give such things a second thought over time.  Until one does.

Consider this, perhaps, the logical extension of my week of forced disengagement.  Perhaps even consider it a legitimate concern that, over time, one's presence becomes fragmented to the point that one can scarcely keep track of everywhere one is or what one has done.

But at any rate, the time has come.

It started tonight, quietly going through and deleting accounts on places that I scarcely go anymore or other e-mails that I have used in the past but no longer.  A pulling away from some online publishing sites.  A quiet reduction in force of where I can be found.

This blog, you may ask? Not likely, at least not now.  This blog is one of the outlets I continue to maintain, as much for my own sanity as for any benefit anyone else may realize from it.  The hazy anonymity allows me to write in almost my real and true voice, a rarity anymore..

Some would refer to it as "Going Grey", the concept of becoming unremarkable in a crowd in order not to stand out in the crowd.  Not to attract attention.  Not to be noticed.

I will continue to work with the han of Ichiryo Gusoku, quietly working to better my life and become more independent - at least inward facing and within my home.  But I am working on become the dull gray haze that appears just before morning or evening, that ill defined moment where night becomes day or vice versa.

Maintain a rich inner life within the circle of those you trust.  Be otherwise unremarkable.

The Hidden Work

So the audit is over.  2.5 days of two auditors equaling 5 days of auditing, a single nonconformity.  Over a 90% improvement from the first go round some years ago.

You would think I would be more excited.  I mean, after all, a 90% improvement is something which seldom happens in anything.  And the result of this successful audit is that everyone at the company will continue to have a job for some number of years.  It is legitimately sort of a big thing.

And yet I already feel it passing into the wind.

This is the reality, not just for myself for thousands of those just like me throughout industries, the ones performing the hidden jobs which so desperately need to be accomplished to keep the wheels of any commerce and industry working.  They are seldom the recognized or powerful,not often those for whom press releases are written about or appear in board meetings.  These are the ones that keep the whole machine moving from day to day.

I wonder, in my off hour thoughts, how many are actually conscious of that fact, that their documents move or products get produced or machinery is maintained by those who names they may never know and whose jobs they quite possibly could not do.  Do they actually think of such things or are they merely conscious of their own worlds of planning and strategy?

This is not meant to open or be a discussion on economic systems or the comparison of them but rather a simple reflection on the fact that in our modern society, most of what we benefit from is not directly planned, documented, or performed by ourselves.  Are we ever really conscious of this fact?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Sadness of the heart
makes writing seem like something
that speaks to nothing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015


It has been brought to my attention (mostly by God) that I have a significant issued with contentment.

There are two types of contentment, and it is probably worth recognizing the difference up front. The first kind - the good kind - is the contentment that involves who we are and the activities we do.  In this sense we should also seek to be discontent with ourselves and our activities, always seeking to make ourselves better.

The second kind - of which I am writing today -  relates to the financial and physical things of our life.  This is the discontent that is never quite happy with what we have or where we are or the things in them. There is always an underlying sense of "I need" that tinges our thoughts and our conversations, our dreams and our planning.  We wake to find that there is always something not quite right in our immediate circle of life; we go to sleep with the sense that there is something outstanding which prevents us from truly enjoying our life.

God is pretty clear about contentment in the New Testament:  "Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have" says the writer of Hebrews in 13:5.  And the Apostle Paul told Timothy "There is great gain in godliness with contentment.  For we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content." (First Timothy 5:6-8).  The life of the Christian is to be about other things and focused on other things besides the acquisition of material goods, or even the acquisition of the perfect life ("Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." - Christ, Matthew 6:33).

But sadly, I am not.

Discontent has done nothing good in my life, to be sure.  It has driven me from one house to another, one job to another, even one career to another - all of which seemed to end rather poorly, on the whole.  My life now finds itself filled with stacks and boxes and my first impulse is to procure more, not pare down what I have.

If unchecked, of course, this leads to nothing but piles of stuff and the mountains of debt to go with it, as well as every hallmark of the unsatisfied existence:  the profound "midlife crisis" that we all chuckle about but is all too real, in which even more discontent arises and even greater harm can ensue.

I have to start dealing in realities.

The realities are this:  based on my age and experience, my ability to change career fields or really even move up a great deal more in my current one is not there.  Thus, my lifestyle is not going to significantly financially (and therefore physically change) - and honestly, I am probably two jobs out from no longer really being employable in my field.  We are also entering a period of transition, as within 10 years the house and home we have established will be radically different with the departure of Na Clann to start lives of their own.

The reality: The Blockbuster Novel is not there.  The Meteoric Rise to Head of Anything is not there.  The Empire that would accompany such is not coming.  The Great Leader role, sadly, has been taken by others. The only thing that is there is patient gains  in small increments not disturbed by continued random flailing to find the next biggest thing.

There is plenty for me to be discontent about.  But they are all internal to me, not external.

Time to embrace being content with what I have.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Interview Gone Wrong

You can always tell when an interview has gone horribly wrong.

I have done enough interviews on both sides of the table, as interviewer and interviewee, to get a sense of when things are not going to work out.  There's a certain sense to the conversation: the questions are general and there is a lot of silence, the conversation does not have the easy flow of individuals exchanging information but rather a stilted sense that makes one uncomfortable, and a general feeling as the interview continues that questions are being asked more for the sake of form that for actual expectation of information gathering.

Frankly, I end the conversation depressed and feeling like I have wasted both my own and the interviewer's time.

Not all interviews are like this of course, which leads me to wonder if some of this has anything to do as much with the individuals involved as it does with any reality of my lack of fit for a position.  This is possible  I suppose - after all, interviewers come in all shapes and sizes just as interviewees do and questions can be asked in many different ways. And yet sometimes it seems like some of them may actually make an attempt while others are just doing it because this one was required.

Still, it is somewhat depressing to suddenly realize that halfway into a interview that it is simply going nowhere, an exercise in futility for all concerned which must finished because it was started - much like the lunch date that one figures out just after ordering will not work out and yet the food has not yet come so small talk must be made to get through the meal:  Form for the sake of form rather than the sake of function.

I am sure - well, I hope that I am sure - that I will have more of them in the future, perhaps something that may actually lead to to something.  Because interviews themselves are stressful enough - let alone interviews that will simply lead to nothing.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Early morning run:
Are the hares as they spring by
drenched with sweat as I?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What Brings You Alive?

"Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you." - David Whyte

What brings me alive?  This is the question that has wormed its way into my consciousness this week as I have been facing the dull roar of what my life actually is.  Suffice it to say that I hardly feel "alive" for large parts of my day; I feel much more like the living dead shuffling through yet another zombie movie looking for the living.

So fine, what I do does not bring me alive.  What does?:

- Writing
- Harp
- Making things (cheese, mead) with my hands
- Animals 
- Gardening
- Reading
- Iaijutsu
- Throwing (and its corollary, training)

This are the things that light my fires, that give my life color and meaning, that make me feel alive (instead of the living dead).  So how do I go about doing more of these?

That is the question, really.  Because being the living dead will move quickly enough to being the actual dead.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why I Hate Movies

Last night we went to see Jurassic World.  The Ravishing Mrs. TB has looking forward to this movie for something like 15 years and Na Clann like Chris Pratt.  As for myself, I have not been to see a film near it's release date since the original Hobbit in 2012 so it was my triennial viewing.
The movie, at least from a standard point of view, was entertaining.  It attempted to reconnect with the original themes of the movie and book (man's use of science, the ultimate introduction of "Non-native Species" into an ecosystem, the importance of family) in perhaps not quite as powerful a way as the first one but definitely better than the two sequels.  Chris Pratt does well with his character, which is a sort of nondescript ex-SEAL animal trainer (I guess?  Never really explained).  The dinosaurs are grand of course - CGI has come a long way since 1992.

And yet, leaving the movie, I found myself depressed.

Depressed because the glory of the cinema seems to overwhelm the rather muted shades of my own life.

Let us be honest:  a well made movie submerges us in the plot (as does a book), drawing us into the characters and situations.  In a well crafted one, we leave almost like we are taking leave of a vacation destination which, having arrived at, we never intended to depart from.  And upon departure, we arrive back a our real lives, which are not nearly so interesting or vibrant compared to what we have just experienced.

I understand:  It is a movie.  And I have enough clarity of mind to understand that such things are fantasies - and yes, I can distinguish between the two.  Yet the sense of seeing the lives of characters, especially characters which you find your spouse and children swooning for out of the corner of your eyes, makes the comparison - even if imaginary - that much more painful.

I am not an ex-anything, let alone a trainer of dangerous carnivores.  I cannot jump or tumble and am not a crack shot.  I do not live on some tropical island in a trailer or ride a motorcycle or do any of 50 manly things I witnessed last night.  In my case, the rather sad reality is I push papers for a living.  My trailer on a tropical island is a house in suburbs that needs a new fence and better lawn care.  My uber-cool transport is a  5 year old car with 1 year left to pay and a cracked windshield.  And sadly enough, the only swooning that seems to go on are the rabbits who are always happy to see me.

Again, I understand - movies are fantasy and no-one really lives that way.  But the implication that such a thing could exist against the stark reality of what life seems to be is what depresses me so much - the realization that such "perfect" characteristics are not really mine and (given the remaining time frame) not likely to ever be mine.

And thus, why I hate movies:  They provoke flights of fantasy that only result in making an otherwise perfectly reasonable life appear all the more shabby because it fails to evoke excitement and vibrancy that a society pursuing pleasure and self-actualization above all else has somehow "convinced" us that we deserve.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Here Is Never Here

Here is never here.
Here is always somewhere else,
sometime else, some other thing:
that which we never can quite grasp.

Here is never here.
It is the point of the sunset over the horizon,
the tomorrow that is never quite promised
because it is never quite known.

Here is never here.
Neither is it there:
it lies in the twilight between desires and reality,
a siren's song of the almost possible.

Here is never here.
And so we wander,
ever seeking for that which might easily be
within our grasp if only we said:

"Here is here".

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Ability to Admit Mistakes

My special mutant power is the ability to make mistakes.
I make all kinds of mistakes. I make small mistakes, like failing to close my gas cap cover after getting fuel and being "that person" driving down the freeway.  I make medium mistakes, like mis-spelling error on important presentations.  I make big mistakes, like asserting something and then finding out I was 180 degrees wrong.  And I make supersized, Death Star-like mistakes, like completely changing careers for one that does not suit me as well at all.

I make mistakes.  Yet another mistake was assuming the everyone else has the ability to make them, laugh and learn about them, and carry on.

This really surprises me.  Perhaps I have become so immune to mistakes on my psyche that admitting them is no more shocking than stubbing my toe - immediate pain and a bit inconvenient, but little more.  But it seems that for others - a lot of others - making mistakes is the thing of catastrophe.

I have come to judge the level of catastrophe by their ability to admit the mistake.  This is something that is surprisingly hard for a good number of them.  The concept is so foreign to me that I can only theorize at what is going on:  Pride?  Embarrassment?  A fundamental belief that no matter what they are doing and no matter how many things go wrong, they were right?  The fact that they will appear a little lesser in the eyes of others?  All of these, I suppose.

It is not helpful of course, this inability to admit a mistake.  It short circuits the learning process by not learning the actual intended lesson but continuing to maintain the previous paradigm.  It never solves the underlying issue (most likely if one does not admit a mistake, the mistake will be repeated).  And it does not have the intended effect on those around one:  most people recognize a mistake when it has been made.  For you to maintain it was not a mistake when it is quite clear that is was adds not luster to one, only the reputation of being a stubborn fool.

Mistakes happen.  It is what we do with those mistakes that determines our ultimate success or failure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I am not very good at kumitachi.

Kumitachi, for those who do not know, are paired waza for two swordsmen in which each role, uchitachi and shitachi have defined actions which each of them execute.  In a very really sense it is like a choreographed dance which in theory is supposed to look spontaneous.  The primary purpose of kumitachi  is teaching timing and distance, not just to teach another set of application.

And I am not very good at them.

I become frustrated. I become distracted.  I hardly ever execute on them the way that I should.  And this frustrates me.

Driving home last night from our most recent execution of kumitachi, I tried to think of the reason why.  And it came to me that I have issues (I have no other word) with practicing against another opponent.  This was a new thought for me, so I tried to dig in a little deeper to see what I came up with.

What looked back at me in the mirror was that I continue to overly worry about an accidental injury and that working with others makes feel like I risk being criticized by others.

The first issue, injury, is a long running item in my life.  I know I have a tendency to be over-the-top at times, and sometimes this plays out in accidental injury (to myself or others).  As a result, I tend to constantly be thinking not only of the technique but the potential for avoiding injury.  A distracted swordsman is never that good.

As to the second issue, this confuses me a bit.  I do not work at all with a critical group - in fact, they are as or more supportive as the group that practices Highland Athletics.  Yet there is this nagging fear of my errors constantly being blatant and revealed.

The reality is that kumitachi is not going away.  And I desperately need the practice because of the lessons of timing and distance (true in life as well as in iai).  The problem is figuring out how to address my frustrations and fears in a way that simply allows me to practice draws, cuts and blocks.

Or as a friend said one, "You think too much.  Just throw".

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Saved From The Big Mistake

Sometimes we are saved from a very big mistake.  Sometimes this happens even in spite of ourselves.

We do not realize at the time it would be a huge mistake, of course.  Life in so many ways is a thing which happens in real time and space and the ability to look into the future is denied us (interestingly, the ability to look into the past is not denied us, but few people avail themselves of the opportunity).  All we know is that there is a course of action that we feel we need to take for whatever reason - but for whatever reason we do not take it.

We may be angry.  We may be regretful.  We may even shake our fists at God and say "Why not this path?"  And then we sigh, lower our fists, and trudge on.


Until something happens, something that that brings the potential big mistake to mind.  Someone that actual went through the process of the big mistake.

All of a sudden our eyes see quite clearly all the ramifications and actions that we could never see when it applied to ourselves.  Whether it be pain for others, financial loss, perhaps even something more drastic or deadly to body or spirit, the ramifications of the action become clear in the life of another.

And suddenly, the almost future becomes clear for ourselves.   Everything that we had not accounted for appears on the fringes of our mind and we start doing the math for the impact of what such a mistake might have cost.  And then, if we are all self aware, we become quietly grateful and weak with relief.

Some people complain that God should have given us the ability to see the future.  I think I now disagree.  Being able to see into the future would no more prevent us from choosing the wrong paths than seeing the historical record of those who make such mistakes in the past.  We believe our situation always to be different, to be special.

The actual miracle is not that we are saved from very mistakes occasionally.  It is that God choses to save us from any of them at all.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Hard and Difficult

There is a significant difference between hard and difficult.

This difference is subtle and slight to the unknowing mind - so much so, in fact, that many people confuse one for the other.  I have missed for years until it clicked for me yesterday.

"Hard" is what the simple or lazy or uneducated call something which they cannot either believe themselves to do or understand how it is done.  It is an easy enough thing to say and is some ways is a generalization of all we do not believe possible:  "It is hard."  With these three words, many people banish themselves from the realm of being able to accomplish anything at all.

Why?  Because, in our mind, if something is hard, that means it is not easy.  And not easy is something that most people do not like to do.  We want simple steps to improvement or success or goals.  When they escape us in either conception or application, when they look they may require effort or education or time, we too often simply say "It is hard".

Difficult is what the educated and understanding call something which they do not know how to do at the moment or do not understand how it is done.  They understand that the only thing standing between themselves and accomplishment is learning and practice.  "Difficult" implies that there are a number of things to do or steps to take to master something, but it is not impossible.  It can be learned and it can be done.

My example, the moment of clarity that brought this to light?  Yesterday, throwing the caber.

Hard:  Those that do not know or will not learn look at throwing the caber and thing "It is hard.  It is a telephone size pole that looks long and heavy, much heavier than I can lift.  And besides, the people throwing it are so much bigger and stronger than I could ever be."

Difficult:  Those that will learn and want to achieve say "It is difficult.  It looks long and heavy, but obviously people are doing it.  They may be strong and big, but surely that is not impossible and is not the only key to succeeding."  And after they look into it, they find three factors:

1) The Caber:  Cabers differ at every game.  They are different lengths, widths, woods and surfaces with different tapers and different size heads.  Each one is unique; therefore to learn to throw one must be more than becoming expert on a single one.

2)  The Condition of the Caber:  Wet cabers are slick and heavy.  Cracked cabers may pinch you, cabers which have not been smoothed can tear you up with the small extrusions and cabers that have not been debarked  may create an odd surface to grip.

3)  The Conditions:  Rain makes a caber slick and heavy (and the ground muddy as well).  Ground with holes make an obstacle course.  Throwing downhill is better than throwing uphill.  And a windy day will shift the caber as you stand and pick it (after all, you have it 15 to 20 feet in the air) and can make it very difficult to pick and pull.

Those are the factors.  The actual mechanics - pick, move, pull - are the same no matter what caber.

But to those that will simply not try or learn, all this is merely hard.  It is only in the willingness to learn and the motivation to succeed that we learn that they are difficult - but not impossible.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Input Deprivation: A Post Mortem

So now I have officially gone through a week of Input Deprivation and then a week (more or less) following it.  What have I learned from this experience?

1)  Just like in the old days, one can get along without social media just fine.

2)  Most news just depresses you.  If you do not follow it, you at least do not carry that burden.

3)  When you use the opportunity of Input Deprivation to delete e-mail subscriptions, it is amazing how much less time you will spend sorting and deleting e-mail.

4)  When you are spending time sorting and deleting e-mail, it is amazing how much of habit doing this had become - just like checking social media a great deal.  It becomes habitual - and not in a good way.

5)  The thing that you miss most is following the blogs of your choice.

That said, what did I bring back into my life?

1)  Blogs - Blogs of people that I read every day.  I miss following the lives and thoughts of people that have become important to me.

And what did I greatly continue to reduce in my life?

1)  News aggregation sites or bulletin boards - The news I do not read is the news I do not get aggravated about.

2)  Facebook.  My time has been greatly reduced:  a quick quote posting in the morning and maybe a look in the evening.

And what have I continued to eliminate completely?

1)  Twitter - Twitter, the only non-Facebook thing I used in the regard, is gone.  I suspect I will not go to the trouble of deleting my name, but I am surely not posting or following anything on it

2)  Talk Radio - This is largely a commute based time filler and habit.  I have not completely eliminated it  yet but I am trying.  I am fighting back by filling my drive time with either useful things (Like language based study) or subject based podcasts.

Will anything change?

I am not sure.  Facebook would be the next logical step - or least using it the way I have used it, as an actual social outlet (I maintain that for people like us that have moved away from family and friends, it is a great way to keep them updated).  The down side of that is there are a great many people I interact with largely on Facebook, so I would lose regular touch with them.

News/News Aggregation sites/Bulletin boards probably as well.  I have looked at a couple perhaps twice in the last week and done surprisingly well by not doing so.  Little is in the news that I can impact or effect, but following websites on thoughts and projects are actionable items that can affect my life positively.

All in all, a very worthwhile experiment.  I need to work to reduce the dependence on outside impact of this nature even more.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Mental Toughness

I lack a certain mental toughness.

The thought came to me yesterday as I was doing my run.  I have increased my overall distance this week as I signed up for an obstacle course and want to be able to run it.  What I found is that running 4 miles is mentally a lot different than running 3 miles.

This does not make sense to me.  After all, it is only 33% more.  And I am not a hard runner, running for speed or time  But from the very start of the run it just felt incredibly long, much longer than a 3 mile run would have felt.  As I passed the familiar landmarks of my run all I could see was the infinite distance I had left to complete, not the fact of how far I had already come.

What it made me realize, as I listened to a broadcast on the ArtofManliness.com with Zach Even-Esh, a fitness and strength trainer (and apparently a bit of an unorthodox one) is that there is a concept of mental toughness in strength training - and all life - that I was not fully cognizant of.

As I thought about the concept, I realized that I was a least conscious of this on the level of work or activities.  I am familiar with the concept of sticking out to the end or finishing what you start or completing the task even you do not what to (True Grit, as John Wayne would say:  "True Grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done" - or like, a billboard says with Wayne's picture on it. "Don't like quitters much, son").  But this has always been rather an intellectual exercise for me, something that I knew existed but would find justification for why it did not apply to me: I do not want to because it does not matter, I do not want to because it reap no benefits for me.

Most critical for me, I do not want to because it will not succeed.

And this is the underlying concept of mental toughness, the fact that one can succeed.  That no matter what one is trying to do failure is not an option.  It is a sort of self confidence that says you can succeed in something, but it is also the self confidence to believe you can do it - that you are capable of it, even it takes longer in time or course.

You probably all know this, of course, but this is a bit of revolutionary thinking for me.  Banishing the thought of not succeeding not because I am presenting excuses but because success is possible.  For Me.

Old Dog, New Trick.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Dove Rescue

So last night we affected a dove rescue.

It happened around 2030, when Nighean Bhan came in from getting dropped off by a friend from dinner.  "Dad"  she said, "there's a bird in the road that will not move."  I looked out the front window and sure enough, there was some kind of dove just sitting out on the street just to the side of the parking lot.

I got my shoes on and went out.  Sure enough, there in the dying twilight was a dove, a young one - probably a white wing- just sitting there, its head cocked to one side.  It let me walk right up to it.  I tried to grab it but it struggled and flew off a bit; I took another grab and got it: its head was definitively turning to the left and one eye was closed.  It had, I surmised, survived a predator attack or had smacked into a window head on and was disoriented.

I took into the garage and started looking for a box; while I was in there it launched for the ceiling twice but then came back down.  I found a box, got some food and water, and put it out on the back porch for the night. I will open the box top tomorrow morning in the event it wants to fly but other than that will leave it to do whatever it will do.

It is kind of silly, I know.  In the worst case, the bird will die tonight and I will have a burial first thing tomorrow morning.  At best, the bird will recover and fly away to encounter another window or predator simply let fly on a standing car.  Either way, my actions seemingly have no impact on my own life or the world at large.

But there is something there, something important at least to me.  I know cannot save every living thing - if I could, I probably would.  And that which is dead I can certainly not save.  But there is something within me that cannot let injured animals just succumb to injuries alone, waiting to be hit by a car or eaten by a predator or die in the cold or hot just standing there.  Where possible in these cases, no animal should die alone.

It will certainly never put money in my pocket or change the world.  But I believe, as Scrooge's nephew said of Christmas, "It has done me good and will continue to do me good.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


Steven Pressfield, in his excellent book The War of Art, talks about approaching our calling to any form of self expression or self improvement the same way that we would approach our career:  show up every day, work hard, train ourselves, focus.  In other words, be a professional.

It was a wonderful concept, one that I could instantly sink my mental teeth into and understand.  After all, after 18 years I understand all to well the unwavering commitment to something that is hard to do.  But then I started thinking:  what if I approached my actual job as a professional?

I know - sounds a bit counter intuitive, does it not?  But the rather strange reality is that I seem to approach my job as an amateur too often:  I allow moods to influence how I work. I  may be physically there, but I am not all there.  Certainly I show limited interest in making myself more adept at what I do - after all (after 18 years) I do not really intend to do this forever, right?  And over time, have I truly gotten better at what I am doing?

You get the idea.

But what if I approached my career with the same commitment that I have to something I really want to do - say writing, for example?  What if I actually acted like a professional at my job?

I tried it yesterday.  It was one of the toughest, most unrewarding things I have done for a while.  Maintain focus all day.  Work systematically on one thing at a time to completion.  Manage tasks. Deal with people concisely and politely and then go back to the task at hand.  And casting aside any sense that something is magically going to change or get better.  Just keep working.

Was it the same feeling of fulfillment that I get from writing?  No, not at all.  Sure, I left feeling that I had moved some things forward, but there was no sense of accomplishment or a greater purpose being fulfilled.

But that is part of being professional too, I suppose:  do what needs to be done knowing that actual reward or recognition beyond your contracted salary may never come.  It is not your life.  It is simply your profession.

Monday, June 01, 2015