Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye Bella the Beautiful

Bella the Beautiful is gone

She slipped away last night when all of us had gone to sleep.  The Ravishing Miss TB came out early this morning, as she has been all this week, but did not hear her biting at the cage for attention as she does every morning.  She was about 9 years old (rabbits typically life 7-10).

She was a 4-H experiment, something Nighean Gheal decided she wanted to try.  We got her as a purebred with papers, only to find out she was a very quirky and opinionated rabbit indeed.  She did not like to be held or pet when we first got her - in fact, she would lunge.  It was only with years of working with her that she came to accept affection, but never being picked up.  Even near the end, she still freaked out whenever someone would try to get her.

She accepted you on her terms:  when she was ready she would come over to be loved on.  When released from her cage, she would tear around the house exploring.  She might come up and hop on your lap in the chair when she was ready and perhaps even accept some attention from  you, but she would be away in the blink of an eye if she thought you were trying to corral her.

She was atypical in that she did not like carrots (not all rabbits do, of course) but rather enjoyed things such as apples and Cheerios and (recently discovered) craisins.  It became part of my morning routine:  first thing, of all the animals to be fed, was Bella, who would be gnawing on the the cage bars for breakfast to show up.  She anxiously await the filling of the bowl - the food and the hay was of less concern than when the Cheerios or other snacks were going to show up.

One memory I have of her is when we loaded her up in her cage in the back of the van for the move to New Home.  The drive was about 28 hours and I was freaking out that it had taken so long and she would be stressed or tired or hungry.   I pulled into the driveway, almost in tears that it had taken so long and worried sick that she would be stressed or sick.  I opened the hatch door and there she sat, looking like for all the world as if nothing bad happened at all and as if to say "Are we there yet?"

Another memory is the day that Kiki the parakeet got out of her cage and somehow managed to slip through the bars into Bella's.  The Ravishing Miss TB came out to where the cages were because of a racket only to find a fluff of feathers and Bella resolutely defending her territory against the invader.  Kiki was removed almost none the worst for wear (except missing feathers), and Bella's personal space was maintained.

I hope that whatever pain she had was removed (she beat the veterenarian's prediction of death by almost 3 years) and that she is running free, hopefully with Snowball and the other pets of my acquaintance, over the fields of Heaven where the boundaries are gone and the Cheerios are free for the taking.

Goodbye Bella.  Thanks for sharing our life.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On The Benefits of A Quiet Vacation

Oddly enough, this has been one of the more relaxing "vacations" I have had of late.

It has made me consider a little more deeply the whole point of "taking time off from work".

In  lot of ways this was the perfect time away.  No stress.  A short list of things I wanted to accomplish (most of which are done) as well as plenty of time for reading, thinking, and even a little bit of enjoyment related to "silly" things like watching movies.

It was a time of recharge, of rest, of quiet contemplation about what I will need to accomplish in the next year (because let us not kid ourselves, shall we?  Next year is going to be incredibly busy indeed).   It was (and still is, for a few more days) the perfect idea of what a vacation should be.

The magical part.  I did not have to go anywhere.  Really spent no money on the execution of it.  No long hours in cars or on planes, no packing and unpacking and repacking.  No rushing from one place to another to accomplish this and then that and then those things over there.

This has become a bit of a practice for me, this end of the year time away without going anywhere - so much so, I think I will plan on expanding it into the future (one advantage of my current employment is that I have enough time available to allow for such things).

Why?  Because every great advance will not move forward and be sustained without the thought time and energy building required to make it possible.

And I have a lot of advances I intend to make.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On Things I Need To Change Before Moving On

As part of my planning for next year, I am starting to put a hard cap on how long I want to stay where I currently am - not so much from a "I need to get out" thought (although I do) as much as from a "I have a list of things to accomplish here before I go here" thought.  They are not projects that need to be finished so much as they are things in me that need to be corrected such that when I move to the next job I am not dragging along old bad habits:

1)  Leadership:  I need to practice acting more like an actual leader - and not the sort of image that my work (and much of industry) seems to value.  I know the picture I have in mind.  I just need to implement it.

2)  Proactivity:  I need to  practice and implement proactivity in my work - not waiting for things to happen but making them happen whether or not there is a direct benefit or reward tied to them.

3) Execution:  I need to gain skill at executing on plans once made and seeing them through to their conclusion.

4)  Courage:  I need to find my courage, especially in standing up to people (Bullies?  Can we use the word bullies?)  who do not particularly care to hear bad news or seek to have attention paid to their "needs"  right away.

5)  Improvement:  I need to become better at improving things - systems, processes - in such a way that they save time or money (or both).

Arguably none of these are earth shattering discoveries for those who know me.  Certain they are all (in one way or form) reflected in my own personal life, which would benefit from fixing these problems as well.  But the fact remains that these are themes in my work life, themes that I have dragging around with me for years, never dealing with theme but bringing them along with me as I traveled from job to job (and career to career, in some cases).

I want the next position I take to be a good one.  I want it to be a step up in terms of responsibility, title, and salary.  But in order to get there I will need to ensure that the person who gets that job is not the same person that is currently in this one.

Monday, December 28, 2015

On Promotions

So two weeks ago I was sitting around, grumbling about the upcoming review cycle and how long it had been since I had a promotion and how "deserving" I was of one and then I began thinking a bit about the promotions I have had since in the industry.  It will be something like 18 years in January.

I counted.  Discounting department changes, there were only 2.5.  In 18 years, there were only 2.5.

Wait a darn minute, I thought to myself.  That cannot possibly be right.  Surely there have been more.

So I started doing the count.  Associate I to Associate II, when I first entered.  Different Department Associate to Manager in 2001.  After The Firm and reentering the industry, I came in as an Associate Manager but got "promoted" back to Manager as part of a larger departmental move.

That is it.  2.5 times.  Funny how your memory plays tricks on you.

Oh, that does not mean I did not feel that I was not entitled to them.  No, not at all.  It does not mean that I have not been constantly looking for and applying to jobs which are higher (in my industry, this is the standing joke for how one moves up in a company).  But what it does mean is that, in practice, is that for whatever reason I am not seen in that role or position.

This made me think even more deeply about things then.  Why am I not moving forward?  What is preventing me?  I can raise my fist at bad corporate policies and uncooperative bosses but the reality - as demonstrated by actual outcomes - is that I am not nearly the employee I think I am.

In my experience, people - especially people above you in the corporate food chain  - are not terribly willing to stick their necks out for things like promotions unless others have already indicated they will support it  or you are simply doing such a great job that they feel they have to do something or else they will lose you (which kind of ties back into the other item).    Perhaps the more relevant question is this:  why am I not seen that way?  Figure that out, I trow, and the other will fall into place.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

On An Unexpected Purchase

I made an accidental purchase which got me thinking.

Oh, it was not accidental in that sense of the word.  I knew what I was purchasing.  It was just that I was purchasing something else other than what I thought.  Nothing less exciting than opening the package and realizing it is something of which you already had two more of which you cannot really use.

But it did get me thinking a great deal about money and investment and time and focus.

I have a problem with goal setting and goal execution.  Yes, I am a (little) bit better at it than I was in the past, but essentially I am still in two phases: one in which I still think I have all the time in the world, and the other in which I think that I can still bounce back relatively quickly from an error in judgment.

Sadly, neither of these is true anymore.  Time and resources are no longer on my side.

Which is what makes this purchase incident burn so badly.  Yes, it is a fairly minor incident - and I am going to learn from this incident if nothing.  Yes, it involved a small amount of money, relatively minor in the course of a given week.

But the money is gone.  And I have something I cannot use, something which could have been something else that I could use.

It has made me go back and look at the list I have of "Everything I Would Like" and "Goals for the Year".  The list of things I "have" to have, versus the list I should be thinking of, the list of things I need.  The lists are a little more different than I would care to admit.

As I was thinking on this, a couple of quotes from Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) came to mind from his work De Agricultura (On Agriculture):

"If any thing is needed for the coming year, it should be bought; every thing which is not needed should be sold."

"The master should have the selling habit, not the buying habit."

Plans and goals have implications.  It was time I started implementing these as if I actually believed in them.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

The same wish as last year - probably every year - but no less heartfelt for that:

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!"  - Luke 2:  10-14

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Price of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Nollick ghennal erriu! (Merry Christmas!)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On Changing Churches

So we have made the decision to change churches.

On the whole this not something we do a great deal.  I take the concept of being a member of church very seriously and try not to change for the sake of boredom or not liking the particular flavor of the sermon for the month.

Over our married lives, we have been members of the Lutheran church (two, both left due to relocation), nondenominational churches (two, one left to a split and one left due to relocation) and our current church, another Lutheran one.  As you may note, I prefer church doctrine.

But we have reached the point that I cannot - in all good conscience - continue on with or current path.

What finally pushed us over the top?  Like most things, a combination:  on the one hand, coming from a church where sermons were well reasoned and scripturally based to one where they had much more of a surface feel - a "homily" if you will, something I have never been very fond of.  I like well thought out, challenging sermons, not five points with a couple of catch phrases.

The other thing?  The bane of all churches, the building program.

Suffice it to simply say this: for a period of time - months - the point of all of the sermons became the expansion program, how this needed to happen and how this was planning for the future of the church.  Sermon after sermon.  Nothing about the gospel.  Nothing about challenging us about our walk in Christ.  Only about the program.

And suddenly, I was done.

If you want to say that this was God leading us to this, I do not know that I can disagree with you:  this is the church that The Ravishing Mrs. TB works at which was originally an occasional child care job which turned into a part-time bookkeeper job which turned into us attending church there on a semi-frequent basis to this, where a great deal of the Pastoral Staff knows my name because of my wife and the two older Clann have steady childcare jobs and babysit outside of the church as well.

It is not something that I choose to do lightly.  But it is something which matters a great deal.  And if it matters a great deal - and the ultimate intent is that God be glorified by it - then it is something that needs to happen.

I value excellence in all parts of my life.  My church membership should be no less.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The End of A Dream

The problem with being a dreamer, of course, is that all dreams end.

We know this.  Deep in the heart of the place where fantasies dwell in our minds, we know that most of the things we dream about are really not going to come to pass.  That all dreams have an end, usually the one we are not hoping for.

We turn our heads from this reality.  We simple refuse to think that such a thing can or will come to pass.  The pastels grow more intense as we paint them over the encroaching dawn of reality, the fibers of the dreams pulling tighter and tighter until they are straining with stress of keeping the whole thing knit together.

And then, in a single moment, the air is suddenly let out and it collapses.

We fight it.  We try to find ways to keep the envelope expanded and alive, the colors as bright as they ever were.  But as it collapses it thins out as well, until we are pushing nothing but our hands into the air trying to keep nothing suspended above our heads.

I cannot tell you how many times this exact scenario has played out in my life - 100?  More?  The circumstances are always different; the result is always the same.  I stand in the emerging dawn of another day of reality with nothing but the faintest wisps of my dreams fading away like a mist.

I sigh.  Sometimes I weep.  Always there comes the process of mourning the dream, of letting yet another one that never had the chance of coming true fade into memory.

And then, like a fool, I start looking for the next dream.  Because someday, my mind tells me, one will finally come true.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Failure to Address The Human Heart

After any tragedy the somehow involves someone else, be it personal - the death of a loved one due to a drunk driver or horrible sexual abuse - or corporate - the massacre in San Bernadino not too far distant - the cry always comes up for more laws.  "We need laws to outlaw the things that made this possible"  is the chant that is always brought up.  "We need to prevent this horror from happening again and making more things illegal is the only way to do it."

The point is correct.  We do need to prevent these horrors from happening again.  Unfortunately, making things illegal will never really do it.  It misses the mark completely.

Oh, it might accomplish something.  Perhaps something will be prevented - although laws against alcohol for minors has been entirely successful and laws to keep weapons out of hands of criminals have equally cut down on the crime rate.  But the change will be slight at least.

What is needed is a change of the human heart.

The human heart - or more familiarly for the religious, the soul - drives all our decisions.  It makes evaluations about what is good and bad, what is acceptable and non-acceptable.  It restrains us when we are violating the bounds of what we consider ethical and hounds us when we are not doing as we should.  It is the core from which all of our actions spring.

Yet strangely enough, we seem to spend less and less time as a society or even a civilization working on the human heart.

We (and by we, I mean the general society) seek to create a non-judgmental, all-encompassing supportive society - but are constantly surprised when "all inclusive" turns out to mean that anyone can view their behavior as acceptable.  We struggle back to redefine - no, not every behavior, just those that do not hurt people - but then find that without creating clear definitions inside the human heart - "redeeming it", as at least Christianity would have it - results in "my way" being the most important thing in anyone's life.  We have raised the ego to its greatest height - my lusts must be slaked, my pains must be dulled, my hungers must be filled.

Without acknowledging the importance of the human heart and working to change that, we ultimately change nothing.  And so the horrors happen.

I am not one for predictions but I predict this one thing at least: until society decides they want to stop this foolishness of believing they can they can legislate the human heart (as opposed to legislating morality)  and turn their attention to the true root of the horrors that happen, the horrors will continue to happen. No matter how many laws are passed.

"The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked:  who can know it?"  - Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Way Versus An Excuse

I have a lot of friends I have met through Throwing and Iai and Lifting and just plain living their lives in a contrary way (Pioneer Preppy, Kymber and Jam) to not post this:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hoping Things Do Not Fall Apart

I am haunted by the end of the world.

You can ask The Ravishing Mrs. TB.  I have been this way for years.  Constantly seeing the end of things, constantly worried that next year is the end of things.

And then I started believing that it really might be.

You can mock me of course, say that I am worried about things that are either non-extant or are simply overreactions to things that have always been present.  But I am looking at my own future - and quite frankly, it is rather bleak.

If I am fortunate - very, very fortunate - I will be able to retire in the career field that I am currently in, maybe with even a retirement of sorts.  I say fortunate - I am in the throes of the danger time for employees, that late forties/early fifties where the experience is expensive and not as valued as it could be.

I am worried about an economy, an economy which I simply no longer understand, an economy seemingly built on debt which would crush any family or business but somehow just continues to get pushed down the road with no resolution.  An economy in which less and less is made yet somehow we are all better off for it, an economy where less and less is grown yet we are assured that food will always be plentiful.

This uncertainty has made us take a harder look at lives for the first time in a long time.  We are maybe not where we need to be financially but we have a plan; we are not where we need to be to supplement our income and sustainability but I have a plan (of sorts).    Give me five years at the current level of engagement and awareness and we will be in a much different place personally.

My fear is that we simply no longer have five years.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Speed of Travel and Civilization

Over the past few months I have been reading histories of travels:  Alexander's March across the Persian Empire, the back and forth wars of his Successors, the Siege of Vienna in 1683 by the Turks, the events leading up to the First Afghan War in 1841.

What comes across in all of this history is the amount of time it took to get from one place to another.

Alexander's troops marched everywhere they went -in some cases they were gone from their homes 11 years, almost always marching east until they turned back.  The Turks had to move their armies from Constantinople and the heartland to Eastern Europe and thence to Austria-Hungary; the amount of time it took to move them played into the available time they had to invade - and from the European Allies point of view, the amount of time it took King Jan Sobieski to march his army from Poland to Vienna.  And in the years leading up to the First Afghan War the travel the information gatherers of the East India Company made to gather information and then to return the information to the headquarters in Calcutta, where it was then transmitted by ship back to England and thence to the Board and the Government.

Distance and time.  Always distance and time.

We take this for granted of course.  It is a small thing for me to climb on a plane and in four hours fly the 1900 miles back to Old Home - or even to drive it in 27 hours if needed.  In 8 hours I can be in Europe, in 16 hours I can be in Asia.  Distances that took months and possibly even years to travel are now done in the relative blink of a day.

We take this for granted - and so we assume that it will always be this way, that it will take little to no time to go distances.  Governments and economies assume this as well, that goods and services and even weapons and enforcement can be transferred easily and quickly.

But what if this were to go away?  What if the nature of the movement of people and things were to reduced to what it was a little over a hundred years ago (not all that long in the scope of civilization).

4 miles an hours was considered a good pace for a healthy man; the Roman Army considered a day of 40 miles a hard one (based on the weight of not only the men but of the equipment they carried).

It is good to ponder the fact that much of what all believe they can do today is based on the speed of transport. It is also good to consider that, like most pieces of civilization that we have today, it is a fragile thing that if interrupted would quickly turn things awry.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2016 Goals

My 2016 Goals have almost all not put themselves in place.

Many of them are simply an extension of ongoing things which I have put into place from previous years and a couple are some which are seemingly recurring holdovers from previous years.

Financial related goals hold a big part this year (given the current and potentially future economic climate, no real surprise there).  My language and Iai figure prominently as well.  Next year's book is included.  A number of physical goals, extending my endurance runs and highland athletics.

Career goals are fairly straightforward:  another certification and either a new position or a new job.  The certification is doable for sure, the position or job can only be worked towards.

A couple of God related goals, really in the area of finally nailing down membership in a church (we are sort of splitting our time between two) and involvement therein.  A dedicated push towards meditative quiet time as well.    For family, a family vacation - something we have not formally done in a long time.

Ichiryo Gusoku goals?  There are four:
- Second Career:  Practice Harp and make an income
- Garden:  Plant Mandarin Trees, Develop container and Strip Gardening, Grain Gardening for Spring
- Cheese:  Identify and master four cheeses for production.
- Quail:  Hatch and raise quail

The gardening is in some ways the most difficult of the four.  I have never been a very successful garden.  Part of it is due to the fact that (except for many, many years ago before we moved) I had ideal sun and soil which have never been replicated since we moved.  I usually get a few things that grow well as I have figured them out over the years - garlic of course, and peppers, and black eyed peas - but never the variety or amount that I want to achieve.  My hope is by getting a smaller area I can lavish more time and attention on them.

If I can accomplish all of them - and they can all be accomplished - we will end the year in a far stronger and more reliant position which we started it it.  Which is very much what I am shooting for.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

On Publishing Another Book.

So I published another book this week.
I have come to the point that I never really know what to make of this moment.  On the one hand it is big accomplishment and a goal that I set for myself which is now completed; on the other hand I wonder how much difference it is really going to make.

I have sort of given up the idea that somehow I am going to be a professional writer.  This was sort of disappointing but the sales of my books (I have seven now) have convinced me that this is not really the sort of thing that is going to happen for me.  Yes, there is always that outside chance that I will become a new undiscovered writer, but my writing is such that I am not mainstream enough to ever really be discovered.

So pretty much I write for my own pleasure and in the hopes that I will do some good for someone.   Yes, occasionally someone will buy a book and I will get that sense of having accomplished something but it is few and far between at this point.  Trust me, I am hardly getting rich at this.

How many more will I write?  I have one more definitive book that I am working on, in a sense my magnum opus for this genre that I am writing in.  After that, a compilation of my shorter writings is doable (I have written enough to make a book of them).  And after that?  I am not sure. I will have done what I originally set out to do, which was to publish a book (and more than one).  I will have (probably) found out that I am not a writer, or at least not a self supporting one.  Lesson learned, goal achieved, and move on.

Will I continue to write?  Certainly. It is a good exercise in many many ways, not the least of which is pushing one's self to a daily discipline of writing and (hopefully) some self discovery along they way.

But that is what is is and will be - a voyage of self discovery and documentation.  The other dream, it seems, is gone.

But I can always now say that I am a published author.

Office Politics

I am just not cut out for office politics.
I am neck deep in them again, People jockeying for position, professional pride hurt, loss of face invoked.  People are stressed and when they become stressed they become sensitive and when they become sensitive,  comments and situations which could otherwise be resolved in a simple conversation or even a five word sentence become issues requiring the highest levels of corporate to resolve; simple projects become the equivalent of building the Hoover Dam.  All for perceived appearance or having to do a bit of extra work.

These things tire me.  They always have, but it seems even more now.  Having to nuance e-mails and messages, to carefully guard words and actions, to watch with whom one speaks and always be concerned that one is not the focal point of "finger pointing"  - and to have worry that one's employees are under the same pressure - is exhausting.

It says a lot about one's employer, of course, that this sort of situation is allowed to exist and grow.  How can anyone not see that this takes away from actual productive work?  People who feel constrained in their words and thoughts and are driven by the need to "play games" to get by will never be as effective or hard working as those who are not burdened by such activities?

I wish I knew.  I surely do not.  All I do know is that such activities are a lesson of sort - a lesson of what person and what company not to be.

Let us seek to be known for our work, not the level of politics and carefulness of our words and actions we must engage in.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Dream Dying Moment

That moment when a dream dies.

I do not always know the moment when a dream dies.  Sometimes they simply seem to disappear into the night, silently leaving the stage without taking a bow, dissolving into reality with scarcely a sigh.  But other times I know it completely.

It comes in a flash.  A comment.  A message.  A turn of phrase.  At each of this moments one can sense the turn in the road immediately after it has happened.  The door which you were hoping to go through suddenly shuts in your face, you see the off ramp which you thought you were going to take disappearing behind you in the rear view mirror.  Everything has changed in an instant.  The thing is simply not going forward as you had thought it would - in fact, more often than not the thing has completely stopped moving forward altogether.

I fight it, of course.  The keen sensation of completely having the dream die is so powerful in the moment that I simply try and turn my attention aside to something else.  I pretend the moment did not happen and that if I simply believe everything will go back to the way it was.  Or I instinctively know it and try to come up with even more heroic efforts to save the situation, even more extremes to go to to somehow make things right.  As if somehow any effort on my part is going to change something which is completely outside of my control.

But I am holding on to a wisp of moonlight, a thing of ash that flakes away in my hand even as I cling to it tighter and tighter.  No matter how much I try to freeze the moment or go back in time and undo the change it never works.  I am only left with that harsh realization of the moment when the dream died - and everyone knew it but me.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A Slow Curtain Descent

I sit here as I write this, surrounded by all the comforts of 2000 years of technological advancements.

I have lights that burn more brightly than any torch with no danger of fire.  At the touch of a hand, I have hot water for showers and cold water for coffee - in both cases, the water is drinkable and I have no fear of disease.

In the background I hear the hum of a refrigerator that keeps foods which 100 years ago would have been considered exotic unspoiled and available.  A click and heat floods the house without any effort on my part.   I am surrounded by books, the knowledge of 3000 years at my personal disposal. And all of this sits in a hose made not of earth or logs or skin but bricks and wood, sturdy to shield me from wind and weather.

Even as I write this I have the reach of the entire globe at my fingertips, thanks to the Internet.  I can see far away lands in real time, speak with people on the other side of the planet.  The vistas of far off places and the knowledge of all known cultures is available for the taking.

I sit here, surround by all of this - and yet I am troubled by the fact that I slowly feel the curtain coming down.

You may laugh at me of course.  Call me a fool or a "doomer" or what have you.  But I find myself surrounded by a world where more knowledge and material wealth is available than ever and yet the hearts of people are more and more empty, more and more consumed with their own version of fulfillment with no interest or care about how things make their way to them.  A water tap is always there to be turned on and yet no-one thinks of the system behind where that water comes from.  A tomato is eaten in December and no-one thinks of the hothouse half a world away that it was grown in.

Our wants have become our needs and our empty hearts seek to fill them with these things.  What happens, I wonder, when in the pursuit of our hearts those that seek end up destroying all around them?  If people can not or will not work, where do things come from?  Who is John Galt indeed.

And ever so slowly, the curtain seems to descend on the 1,000 year night.

I will very much miss coffee.

Monday, December 07, 2015

JPLT and Goal Met

Yesterday I took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N5 (Lowest level).

It was hard.

It was a goal I set for myself almost two years ago.  Originally I hoped that I would take it last year, but frankly the commitment was not there.  The date came and went and all I did was sit there and say "Darn it, I should have registered".

So this year, when the registration opened, I immediately registered.

I had the material. Frankly, it bore little resemblance to the sort of material that I covered in class years ago. The focus was totally different - in some ways, far more practical.  More encompassing, especially in vocabulary, but at the same time far more focused.

How did I do?  Only time - i.e. until February - will tell.  I will say that the test matched the format of the practice test very well.  On the whole I think I did well in Kanji recognition, okay in vocabulary and grammar, and either did great or bombed in listening.

My initial reaction is to demand that I pass everything and be unsatisfied if I do not.  But then I had to reflect for a minute.  I set a goal of taking the test.  And I met it.  If I do not pass, there is always next year.

The important thing is that I kept my word to myself.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Lack of Focus

This week it has been hard to write.
I have found myself overwhelmed by events occurring all over the world:  here at home and abroad.  To someone like myself, who is a perennial worrier, these sorts of things send me into an almost frenzy.

Honest to goodness, it really feels like order - internal, national, international - is completely falling apart.  Or accelerating beyond what seems to be manageable.

I know there are those that would tell me that I am simply being too focused on certain thing and that overall things are much better than I believe them to be.  But I am student of history and I know all too well how fragile any complex system like civilization can be, how easily it fractures and how those fractures have to start somewhere - sometimes in less obvious places but eventually spreading throughout the entire structure.

One could perhaps avert one's eyes to the cracks growing larger and perhaps part of me wants to continue to do this.  But the other side of me - the paranoid side?  - keeps whispering in my head that avoiding things too long will eventually result in being overrun by events instead of being prepared for them.

Two futures keep arguing for attention in my head:  the one is the future that conforms to the present, the one that resembles life as it is today except with better technology, the sort of relative stability that I experience now.  The other future is the one unknown, the one that could be any combination of events and experiences - except there is no relative stability involved.

Everywhere things seem on fire.  It makes my day to day activities seem relatively unimportant and even pointless.  It splits my focus and makes it difficult to plan for any future, as how does one prepare for two entirely separate time streams?

And even as I dither, the world spins on, slowly seeming to become even more engulfed by flame.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

December Crunch

Sigh.  And December hits.

And everyone at work suddenly figures out that is the last 3 weeks (effectively) of the year.

I should have predicted that this was coming.  It seems to have become a pattern every year at work.  But I think something has changed - before I thought it was a random sort of event, the sort of thing that happens and people did not plan for or realize it.  But I realized today that this is now as predictable as the fact that the last month of the year is coming.

And I am weary of it.  Because it steals my holiday joy.

Christmas for me has become something that is wedged into the last week before it actually occurs, mostly because the three weeks leading up to it are overcome with the panic of individuals and their things that need to get done.  I have no sense of the Christmas being upon us - instead, I have the sense of a long tunnel which is entered into on December 1st and from which I come up from air on December 19th or so with maybe six days to celebrate the holiday.

I am tired of this.  This is no way to spend Christmas.  But how do I combat it?

The only thing I can think of - and this will have to be a conscious decision - is to monitor my own mood.  No-one is going to bring me less work or expect their things not to get done.  It is upon me to determine my own frame of mind - and my own frame of mind has to be celebrating Christmas, not just on the last week but on all the weeks before.

The longer term plan of course is to find a place where such is not the case, where the end of December is no more  rush than any other time of the year because everyone  has been working steadily along.  And, of course, everyone values Christmas.

Until then, it is up to me.  Because the season will not come into my life unless I make a place for it to do so.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Faded Dream

Silver water flows
As the moon remains dappled,
Ever beyond reach.

Clouds across the sky
hide everything but the moon:
the night's last beacon