Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On Adventure and Civilization

"Without adventure civilization is in full decay." Alfred North Whitehead

I heard this quote over the weekend for the first time.  It resonated with me deeply and in a flash brought to mind another potential cause of the world we live in today.

(The following, of course, is my own interpretation.  Your North Whitehead mileage or original intent may vary).

Whitehead is linking the existence of adventure to civilization avoiding full decay.  What is his proposed linkage?  What does adventure do that would halt decay of a civilization, that would act as a preservative?

It is not as if we do not crave adventure as a people, at least in the Western World.  But I think we substitute other things for it - for example, we replace "entertainment" instead of adventure and call it good.  But entertainment is a passive activity, something that we consume as we would a meal, the world revolving around us.

Adventure is outward looking.  It is something that we seek.  At one time adventure (perhaps) represented the great unknown, the "Here There Be Monsters" parts of the map, the calling of the new and strange that had not been seen and experienced.

Today we try to find this in other ways.  We create lands of imagination online or in video game platforms that are we understand to be places of adventure or places that we long to go but could never reach because they simply are not real.  We create challenging physical events (Obstacle Course Races) or intense physical challenges to places we do not live in (insert your favorite run/climb/ride/event here).

Which, as I write, captures a second element of adventure.  Challenge - we are challenged when adventure, often physically, sometimes mentally.  It forces us to do more, to be more, than we ever would be if we just remained at home.

Another thing that adventure does is that it builds community.  Whether explorers of old or MMORPG and physical challengers of today, adventure is done in community (yes, even trappers had to talk to others from time to time).  We associate at fist and then build bonds with those whom we are doing something with.

Compare that to those that live without adventure.  They are inward looking - not introspective per se but rather looking no further than the reach of their arm.  They are not seeking anything beyond day to day existence (the entertainment consumption mentioned above).  There is no challenge because there is no seeking beyond the challenge of every day life, which truly can be challenging but also is as a long slow grind.  And without challenge and seeking they can seek inward rather than seeking to build their own communities.  Life has become about self, bounded in only by my perceived needs of comfort.

A society like that becomes staid and placid, perhaps not outwardly "in decay" but certainly not advancing.  The world outside tends to get forgotten and ignored as long as my circle of life is okay.  And those that seek adventure come to be seen as "unusual" or even "disruptive" and "dreamers.".  The Shire, to those of you that have read The Lord of The Rings,, can represent this sort of thinking.

In the past, of course, the adventurers set off to find new lands or new adventures.  There are no new lands left to find and space travel still seems somewhat years beyond our lifetime.  So if we want to combat decay, how do we insert adventure back into the fabric of our civilization?  How do we transfer what in the past has been a largely physical and geographical activity (and as humans, we are both physical and geographic in nature) to other realms?  That may be one of the great questions of our time.

Because it strikes me that adventure without purpose becomes entertainment, entertainment becomes consumption, and consumption draws us directly back into the land of decay, no more than a societal substrate consuming and then in turn being consumed by others for their entertainment purposes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Consent of the Governed?

There are moments when words fail.

I sometimes feel as if I literally watching the end of the world as I know it slowly unfold before my eyes.  Kind of a bold statement, I know.  So how do I come by it?

No matter who wins the upcoming election, it will be someone whom, upon arriving in office, bears 40-50% of the population against them. That is right out of the gate.  And that is with four years left for the individual in office.

One of the novel concepts (at least novel to me) that the Declaration of Independence introduced was the concept of "The Consent of The Governed", that governments exist because those they govern have given them implicit permission to govern.  And, states the Declaration of Independence, if the consent is removed, "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter o abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying it foundations on such principles and organizing its power is such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

So we enter a time where half of the country effectively dislikes the agenda of the other half of the country and the elected leader that represents it.  Add to this an atmosphere which is as polarized as I can remember, and what do you come up with?

I do not know that there is an "America" to speak of anymore.  Oh, it is a place on the map, and we have certain symbols of it, but I would propose we have very little left uniting us anymore.  And I think an argument could be made - even by mutually opposing groups - that their "Safety and Happiness" is not longer effected.

And if we truly uphold our founding documents, can we really say that changing form of the government if the consent of the governed is truly withdrawn is really wrong?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Conquer The Gauntlet 2016

Conquer The Gauntlet was this weekend.

Conquer The Gauntlet, if you are not familiar, is an obstacle course in the line of Tough Mudder (but not nearly as much mud) or Spartan (but not nearly as expensive):  4.5 miles or thereabouts, 25 obstacles of varying degrees:  climbing, swinging, balancing, carrying, some truly individual events, some that you purposefully cannot accomplish without the assistance of others.

My time this year was 1.5 hours less than last year (don't be too impressed:  that was mostly people standing around waiting to get onto the next obstacle so we ran earlier this year), all obstacles attempted, 21 of 25 achieved (84% completion rate).  That is two better than last year.

I had a good time of course. I met up with my running comrade Mr. Electricity - which is a sort of remarkable story in and of itself.  I glommed on to him last year as I was running and we ran the course together. Turns out we enjoyed it so much, we decided to do it again this year.  He is a delightful running companion.  And Tulsa is always a pleasant place to visit.

The highlights of my day?  Climbing a 16' rope and ringing the bell (something I could not do at all last year) and climbing a series of 5 walls in a row, 8.5' tall.

It is probably a reasonable question to ask why I do this.  After all, I drive about 8 hours each way for something I spend around 3 hours total doing.  I probably spent about $180 all told to do it.  And the only things I get are the ones you see above:  a medal and a t-shirt.

What do I get?  I get the  moment of stepping up to the rope and not even questioning that I am going to go up it.  The moment of almost slipping near the top but pulling myself back up and to the cowbell to ring because it was too far to have to climb back up.  The moment when, over the first wall of five, I suddenly realized that I could do this.

I have put enough obstacles in my own life to realize that most of the time I am my own biggest reason I do not do these things.  Climbing a rope - something I could not do at all prior to this year - continues to remind me that in most aspects, the barriers that most often block our way are the ones that we put there ourselves.

And yes, you can do amazing things.  You just have to try.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Visit With An Architectural Engineer

Today we had an architectural engineer stop by.

We have had cracks in our ceilings and walls - not bad ones, but to my eye, they appear to be getting worse.  This has been driving me slightly mad, as we live in an area of known shifting foundations and the thought of a $12,000 foundation fix (yes, it has happened to an acquaintance) has been constantly playing on my mind.

So we finally called someone.

At the recommendation of the Realtor who helped us buy this house (who is just the most super nice, sweetest person in the world) we went with an Architectural Engineer.  "I do not trust those 'Let us evaluate you for free' sorts of foundation repair folks" was her response.  And, as a rule, you always go with the super nice sweetest Realtor.

There was a cost incurred, of course, an up front payment instead of waiting to see what it would cost (see the "Let us evaluate you for free" comment above).  This is the payoff for such a thing - and such a cost I am happy to pay in this case - for things like this, always better to pay the professional.

What was the result?  I have a verbal from The Ravishing Mrs. TB at the moment as she was here, but in fact we do NOT have a problem. The foundation has moved even less than he would have expected - maybe half an inch - and the cracks are due to the attic being hotter than perhaps it should be and the wood expanding.  Recommendations were an attic fan and looking at installing a radiant barrier if we get re-insulated (which should probably happen at some point) - the first one easily resolvable, the second someone I have thought about anyway.

I cannot tell you the sense of relief I have.  As it turns out, we are going to be here a little longer than I had originally anticipated due to the new job.  It is nice to know that at least in the aspect, we do not have a serious issue and any improvements we make will not be wasted.

Bottom line, take action. And always pay the professionals if it is called for.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rainy Late Summer

I sit in August
looking at the lush green grass
and watching the skies.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An Aquarium of Millennials

One of the things that Linked In is moderately useful for, other than keeping track of my various work acquaintances, is the various and sundry articles it posts on Millennials, what they do, what they value, and how to manage them.

I am (if you have not figured it out) not a Millennial - to be honest, I am not quite sure what I am.  But I have had plenty of coworkers that are and interact with them at church and even out in the real world.  And they are the new bloc about which so many are concerned commercials and politically (one wonders how the Gen-Xers are feeling at this point).

In reading of their values and concerns and issues, I am struck by the fact that the Millennial "way of life" (if there is such a thing) reminds me rather of an aquarium:  it works, but it assumes a particular set of circumstances to make it work.  These could arguably include things like an urban environment, a technological society a soceity where things like food and energy are to be purchased rather than generated, and a rule of law which expects people to be bound by it even if they disagree or it negatively impacts their life.

I compare this with my parents generation, the one slightly before the Baby Boomers, where they enjoy the fruits of a modern society but functioned at one time without them - and could probably do so again.  They took jobs that may not have represented the ideal but were a way to earn a living.  My perception - if my parents and their friends are any indicator - is that they went about doing their job and living life, regardless of the circumstances or how the felt about things.

Yes, I am aware these are somewhat sweeping generalizations and by no means is this a call back to the Halcyon Days of yesteryear (when many terrible things did go on).  But I think the principle still holds.

What matter, someone may ask.  After all, new societal groups have always emerged and come to dominate their day.  True of course - but for some reason these strikes me as different.  This is a group which, it seems to me, is highly dependent on a certain set of circumstances to exist and thrive - less of a Roman Commoner or Japanese Farmer than a Samurai or Highland warrior, a group that existed as long as the circumstances that supported them existed.

I am not sure what to do with this, only than to make the following observation:  aquariums allow us to keep and view tropical fish that we should never otherwise see - right up to the point that the heat and light go out and the fish can no longer sustain themselves.  

At that point, it turns out, the common goldfish is the fish of choice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reallocating My Time

So my schedule has essentially converted itself.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, my thinking has not.

Work is pretty much a 9-5 matter at this point, with a little time on either side.  The commute is (blessedly) only 20 minutes each way.  So my additional time is really coming on the front end of my day - easily an hour and possibly an hour and half.  That is 5-7.5 hours back a week, just about what I figured it would be.

So here is the issue: what do I do with that extra hour a day.

Initially I was still trying to live my life in the after work phase, perhaps filling the early morning with Japanese or reading but still trying to do everything in the evening.  Turns out that is not the best time of the day for me to being doing such things.

Harp, for example.  I have never really felt I had the drive to practice it in the evening.  I want to, but apparently not bad enough to do it regularly.  But it is something that I have identified as being important to me.

Then the thought wandered into my head:  why do I not do it in the morning?

I have a perfect time slot every morning, time that was a gift and I have not really decided how to expend.  Suddenly I have a regular time, 5 days a week, to do this.

And the math just expands from there.  If I do not feel I have that hanging over my head in the evening, suddenly I can do something else - even something as mundane as reading - without that sense of guilt about practicing. And I still get 8 hours of sleep a night.

This is going to be the biggest challenge of the New Life, not the actual work part but the part of adjusting my thinking outside of the ruts it has worked itself into.

Monday, August 22, 2016

On Taking Stock of Progress

One of the great frustration of my iai journey of late has been my acquisition of a new bokuto.  It is 3.0 shaku long (35.09", 89.13 cm) and with addition of the tsuka (hilt, 13"/33.02 cm) is 48"/122 cm long.  Technically according to the chart for such things (yes, there is a chart) it is slightly longer than I am physically supposed to be able to draw. 

It is frustrating because I am basically having to relearn all of my techniques - one would not think a length of a few inches would make such a difference but it does.  I feel as if I am making no progress at all.

So on a whim I put my bokuto out to compare them.

The one on the bottom of the photo is my first bokuto, the one that I use for almost for years.  It is a standard katana length - 28"/71 cm blade and 10"/25.4 tsuka  for a total of 38"/96.4 cm.

The middle one was my second  bokuto, the one that represents the preferred length of my school - 33.4"/84.83 cm  blade, 11.5"/29.21 cm tsuba.  This was the bokuto I got nine months before my certificate test - and to be fair, I struggled with the greater length (44.9"/114 cm).

I took a moment to do the consideration:  first bokuto 38"/96.4 cm, second bokuto 44.9"/114 cm, third bokuto 122 cm.  In 7 years I increased my length 10"/26 cm.

So for fun, I tried using my first bokuto again.  What did I find?  It is now so light that I fling it throw the air losing all technique - and when I try to sheath I cannot, because it is too short.  Training with longer and heavier weapons has made me a far different swordsman from the one that struggled to lift the blade that first day.

And all of a sudden my struggles are now cast not in the light of how difficult things are but around how far I have come from that first draw.    A pleasant reminder that progress is always there to be seen, if only we will look for it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Two Kinds of Criticism

I have come to realize that there are two kinds of criticism.

The first kind of criticism really is criticism.  It is, to quote Webster's, "the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a thing".  It is the sort of thing just gets blurted out - sometimes casually, sometimes without thinking - or perhaps is the results of a carefully thought out meditation event.

In general, it hurts the person it is a directed at.  And it scarcely accomplishes what it was intended to do.

It fails because it elicits two responses in the individual:

First, it almost immediately makes them defensive - after all, it at least feels like it is an attack, and if I am being attacked my first response is to defend myself against further attacks, not open myself up to listen more closely.

Second, it is almost never offered with a solution.  It is a denoting that something is being done wrong or is wrong, perhaps with a sigh or a certain tone of voice. It is wrong because it is wrong (at least in the eyes of the critic).  Implied, usually, "is stop it" - stop doing it, stop being it, just stop it.

The result is seldom what the critic imagines.  They perhaps envision the individual hearing the criticism, gently considered it, and then saying "Yes, of course, I will stop it/stop doing it/stop being it".  More often than not, the criticized react precisely the opposite way:  made to feel small by what they feel is an attack, they either begrudgingly change their behavior or simply shut down.  After all, if one cannot do anything right, why should one put in the effort?

The second kind is really more of correction than criticism.  They both have the same origin - something is wrong or incorrect - but in the second version, a what and why is offered in the context of doing something better.  And the thing hardly ever comes across as an attack - instead, it is an attempt to improve something or someone and make it or them better.  One leaves the experience feeling better, not worse.  (As a side note, usually this kind of correction is always accompanied by commentary such that the critic verbally reassures the one they are correcting it is not directed at them in a personal way, but rather for the purposes of making them better.)

Both may have the same initiating thought: something is wrong and needs to get fixed.  But one truly has the concern of resolving the issues.  The other seems more of an exercise to get the thing that is bothering them off their chest.

But one ultimately makes a difference and builds bridges.  The other merely destroys them.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hoping for a (Political) Miracle: The Ideal Leader

So yesterday, in my despair over the upcoming elections, I wrote that I should like to see the country elect the leader the country needs, not the leader we keep being told that we need (by those running).  It should only seem fair, I suppose, to elucidate what that leader would look like - or more precisely, what their character qualities would need to be to be such a leader:

1)  Servanthood - The leader would need to have the mindset of a servant.  They need to act and demonstrate they the office is not something they are seeking because it is "due" them or because it will help their image (business or otherwise), but rather that they are there to truly work on behalf of the country, not themselves or their own agenda.

2)  Truth - The leader would need to be a person of truth - not on as practiced in their lives but demonstrated in their speaking and acting.  No shading of the truth, no sidesteps to the right or left, no dissembling, no flat out false denials.  If they did it, they own it.  If something needs to be said that might be perceived as painful, they say it.

3)  Respecter of Laws - The leader would need to have complete and dedication to the laws (in our case, that is the Constitution).  They have such a respect for the laws that they do nothing to break them or try to find ways to work around them.  If they wish for a change, they make it within the system.

4)  Responsible - The leader would need to be responsible:  fiscally responsible, personally responsible, and corporately responsible.  Actions taken under their administration are owned by them, not by a convenient scapegoat.  A very, very basic level of fiscal responsibility understands that you cannot spend more than you take in (so spend less or take in more - your choice, of course, but you cannot pretend neither is an option.

5)  Lover of Freedom - The leader would need to understand and promote that the purpose of the state is to promote as much freedom as possible to its citizens, not circumscribe it as much as possible.  If you choose to do business with some and not others, that is your choice (the market should ultimately decide if this is a good thing, not the government).  If you choose to "light up" or ride without a helmet it is your right - but along with your freedom, you own the consequences.  The nation is not going to keep stepping in to preserve you from the consequences of your actions.

You will notice what is not on the list, of course:  previously holding administrative, knowledge of specific areas, even (I suppose) a high level of moral rectitude.  Perhaps I do not list them because we seem to have all of these in our leaders now and yet they have failed spectacularly.

Who would this person be?  I truly have no idea.  Those who possess such qualities are not the sort, it seems, that seek office.  And yet they seem very much to be the very sorts of people that we need at this very desperate hour.

Perhaps, like Aragorn of The Lord of The Rings they are out there in the wilderness of our modern world in the shadows and wilds, patiently serving those who do not know they are there, waiting for the time to take up their birthright.  If so, the time to arise is now.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hoping For A (Political) Miracle

The longer this campaign goes on, the more and more I despair.

I cannot think of another election in my life time - 10 I am conscious of - that the race to the bottom for each candidate has never been quicker.  The candidates and their assorted hangers on seem almost to be in a contest with other to see who can become the least desirable candidate to win an election.

I also despair because of the voting public, who seems (in large part) committed to this farce, blindly supporting "their" candidate because that person is not of the other party.  It is the sort of unreasoning faith that somehow is found as "fundamentalist" and "closed minded" in the realm of religion but apparently is a virtue when it comes to much more fallible humans.

Why, I wonder in the depths of my despair, do we not actually see a third candidate emerge - not the silliness of a third party but rather of the write in individual, someone of skill and unimpeachable ethics (badly needed no matter which side you look to)?  Why, when we can seem put together social movements for thing of lesser importance, can grown adults not look the situation in the eye and realize it is up to them to do something, not the two parties which have managed to brings us this circus?

I suppose, if I thought deeply enough about it, I would find in my heart that this really stems from our lack of maturity as adults.  We have ceded the right to manage our lives in a responsible and sober way; instead, we have turned the reins over to "our betters" and merely ask we be taken care of in a way that does not disturb our own little worlds.  In fact, we are so enamored of being taken care of that we will scarcely reflect on if those who "speak" for us really have our best interests at heart.

What would I love to see?  A nationwide write-in campaign for the candidate that this country actually needs, not the one that we keep being told that we need (which would mean, by the way, we would have to decide what that candidate would actually look like.  Perhaps food for additional thought).

I am sure that I will be heartbroken in this, of course.  We can scarcely get a sensible person even to local office.  The chances we could do it on a national level are as remote as...

...hoping that adults wake up and actually act like adults.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Be Careful What You Ask For...

...because you just might get it.

Rain, in our case.  So much (temporarily) for the heat.

Since Friday, we have had 5.75" fall.  Certainly we have nothing near what Louisiana has had.  Mostly, it is just kind of an inconvenience.

The great part (in the back of my head) is that I realize that we are still in the middle of August.  Summer is not done with us yet.  Just wait until this cold front blows through - the splendid hot and humid that is waiting on the other side is not something I am at all anticipating with joy.

Still, the change is nice.  And it certainly makes for cooler running weather.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Little Overwhelmed

I feel promoted beyond my mettle.

I am not sure what I expected when I took the job, but I did not think it would quite be like this.  I feel as if I am at the foot of a mountain being asked to plan activities at the top of the mountain when we arrive, as we are leaving this very night.

I am quite fortunate in that my new boss (and I will have to think of a nom de guerre for him eventually) is very organized and has everything laid out.  That, at least, is easy to step into.  What is proving to be less easy is the level of catch up I keep feeling like I have to do.

Part of it is natural, I suppose - after all, I have been in a separate arm of the industry for the last 7 years and so have not had to deal with some of the specifics I am dealing with now in some time. Still, there is a feeling that I am dealing about with things about two feet above my head.

This is what I asked for, of course:  this level of responsibility, this level of setting course, this level of action.  I guess I just imagined there was a longer runway for me to get into it.  But in the real world, you just go.

Never fear, I will adapt.  I have the wealth of the Internet and my personal library to support me, although I have a lot of reading and catching up to do.  The knowledge base is all there - I just have to find the way to internalize it.

But maybe that is the ultimate point of the thing:  to try something a little bit out of my reach and actually have to reach for it.

It is good, however, to be challenged in ways I have not been in many years.  Much like lifting, the best way to grow the muscles is to challenge them.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Job Hunt By The Numbers

Someone has wisely said that in some ways, all economics is personal:  if I am doing well the numbers must be wrong and if I am doing wrong the numbers (if they are good) must be lying.

As part of my job searches for some years now (at least since 2009) I have been keeping statistics on my efforts and success rates.  Based on my recent new job I thought it might be of interest to relate the numbers of my most recent search.

Starting this year, I submitted a total of 36 resumes to companies or recruiters, with the bulk (31) occurring after 28 May.  Of those 36 resumes, I received responses (e.g. a follow up call, a phone screen, a phone interview on 14 of them, or 39%.  3 of those 13 (8%) had on site interview requests (2 of which came after my job acceptance, but had I still been available I would have gone).  I received a total of 10 responses (27%) up to the point that I accepted the new position.

The short form:  I received a response on 1 of every 3.5 CVs I submitted and had on site interviews for 1 of every 4.

Timing?  I do not know what I can read from this.  For one position, the CV was submitted around the 1st of June and I just received a call (11th of August) asking if I was still available for an initial phone interview.  In opposition, I submitted my CV for my current position, interviewed and was made a job offer in 16 days.

Not sure what lessons can be drawn from this, other than the basic confirmation that it really is a numbers game:  the more you submit and interview, the greater the odds that you will secure something.  Yet there are other elements at work as well:  in 2012 I sent out 52 CVs and a total of 36 over the next 3 years with one offer (which I did not take).  And the timing issue makes little sense at all either:  an offer in 16 days, while another company does not follow up for a phone interview in 70.

My advice to a friend:  Just keep submitting.  The process can really take longer than you think.  But know that while there may not be any logic, there is some kind of statistics at play.  Just keep hope alive - and keep sending them off.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Not Happy With The Heat

The older I get, the less I find I enjoy the heat.

The summers, at least in my neck of the woods, have become less and less pleasant the longer I have lived here.  90 + degrees with with 70-80% is not pleasing to me - not so much because of the aspect of daily having to work in it (I do not) but because I really do not want to do anything in it:  run in it, walk in it, do anything in it.

Which is a bit of a problem.  Especially if you actually need to be doing things outside to further your life goals and simply to be in better physical shape.  (Not to mention the practical aspects of trying to build a semi-self reliant lifestyle on less than ideal water).

Montana was a game changer, simply because I have not been out of this summer weather in some time.  Yes, it got warm in the day - but no humidity and it pleasantly cooled down to the mid-40's at night.

(Yes, I realize it gets cold there in winter).

Short term, not really sure how much I can do about it.  Certainly not really in the position at the moment to relocate to a cooler clime.  But this is having implications on my longer term plans.  And that cannot really be allowed to stand.

Easier to stay warmer than it is to stay cooler.  It really is.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

On Detoxifying A Life

So it turns out that there is more than a small bundle of advice on how to detoxify one's body on the Internet - in fact, there is a plethora of advice.  I have scanned a few programs and the advice seems in general to be the same:

1)  Eliminate the intake of bad things.
2)  Help the body begin to eliminate the bad things that are in it.
3) Create a situation where less bad things get into the body in the future.

There is a lot of other supporting information, like what to eat and what to do, but really that seems to be it.

So the more relevant question:  How do I apply this to my life?  Because while detoxifying my body seems like a fairly straightforward process (in general, I know what I eat) detoxification of the life is something else entirely.

Or is it?  Let us try and take the elements one by one.

1)  Eliminate the intake of bad things:  In life is this not the day to day inputs that I always received - not just the media that I am exposed to but the relationships with others as well and the situations of life which cause things like stress and anger and depression and grief to enter the life.  Can I not also realize what these things are and eliminate them as well?  A hint here, I think, is that anything which leaves me feeling anxious and worse is something I need to avoid (for example, anything remotely discussing current events falls into this area).

2)  Help the life begin to eliminate the bad things that are in it:  In body detoxification (so it seems), the point here is to intake foods and engage in activities that encourage the release of toxins which have been stored up in the body.  In life, this seems to be a less direct application but perhaps there is something if I think about it honestly a bit more.  What is it currently in my life that is creating negativity, depression, and toxicity?  Whatever these things are, I need to let them go.  In the same manner, I need to work with exercises - lists, prayer, meditation - and begin to identify old patterns of behaviour and thought that also need to be exorcised.  These as well must then be released.

3)  Create a situation where less bad things get into the life in the future:  I think this completes the circles back to the first point.  Perhaps I cannot control everything that comes into my life but I control  more of it than I think and I can certainly control how much I allow myself to dwell on it.  I need to release those things quickly, before they get stored up in the reserves of my mind and soul and become embedded there.

I am sure that the detoxification of life is much less obvious than detoxification of the body - after all, how do I rate if my life "feels better" or my mental skin is clearer?  I do know this though - I have the model  of what a toxic life looks like.  If nothing else, I can always use that as the mirror.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Detoxification Begins

So you are all going to laugh:  I find myself with nothing to write about.

It is odd to me.  The change in jobs has not a little to do with it.  It has been so long since I have had a major irritant removed from my life that I scarcely know what to do with myself.

My commute, at least for the last two days running, was 35 minutes.  That is total, there and back again - a huge change from a minimum of 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours.  Hardly enough time to even really listen to anything on the radio.   Certainly not enough time to get aggravated about things.

I walk in the door and I am almost numb - not from work but from a lack of anything that has caused me distress at work.

I have almost 2 to 3 hours a day now that I did not have before.  Time to do things - things like read, think, undertake an activity that I have not done in a while.

To be honest, this whole thing is very confusing to me.

What do you do when the emotional energy that you have been expending into trying to survive from day to day suddenly is dissipated at the things that were causing it to exist in the first place?  What do you do when you suddenly find silence in  your soul?

This is not a result that I had anticipated.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

First Day Over

The First Day is Done:
Grateful for the grace of God
and support of friends.

Monday, August 08, 2016

New Employee In the Office

So today is "New Employee In The Office" Day.

This is always slightly awkward.  I suppose it really is like being a new kid from out of district coming in, something I never experienced except when I started high school.  The stares, the uncertain conversations, the "what is this guy going to be like" thoughts that run inevitably through everyone's heads (they sure run through mine when the situation is reversed).

I have the same questions about myself.

Oh, not that I can do the job.  I am confident that I am able.  There is always that upward slope when one arrives, the learning of not only the what we do here but the people that make it all happen (hopefully not too much to learn there - it is a small company), the assessing of what is and what needs to happen.

My concerns are actually more about myself.

This is one of those rare opportunities that only comes every so often, the change to reinvent one's self.  The reality is that no-one knows me - good or bad.  Other than my CV, I am a tabula rosa, ready to pen my own figures and illustrations.

There are things that I desire to keep, of course, things that have proven their worth time and time again.  But there are other things - baggage I have been carrying around, positions I was put in, wrong decisions that I made, lines that I let be crossed and them having been crossed, could never recover them.  All of these now have the opportunity to be remade.

There is nothing but upside potential to look forward to.  I need be courageous enough - and steady enough - to take it.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

On The Passing Of Gene Logsdon

Chalk it up to a failure to pay attention. Checking to see why one of my favorite writers, Gene Logsdon, had not posted in a while,  it turns out he had passed away almost 2 months previously at the end of May.  My oversight is embarrassing (but shows how much I pay attention to these things); the loss is saddening.

Gene Logsdon (1931-2016) was a farmer and author.  He wrote practical sorts of how-to books, books of theory and practice, and stories.  He was a man that practiced what he preached:  working in the city, he and his wife made an effort to move back to the country (to the land he had grown up on) where he practiced the theories he talked about.

If I could characterize him (which will be a sad attempt on my part) he was a man that saw the problems of modern agriculture and modern society while actually advocating and practicing a separate course (instead of just complaining about them).  He arguably felt that there was plenty of blame to go around and never particularly choose sides (a political and social course I can appreciate greatly).  He wrote of taking joys in the small things of life:  streams, a butterfly, birds across the field, a baseball game.

He was a prolific writer.  Below are a listing of books he wrote (asterisked if I own them):

The Contrary Farmer*
Homesteading:  How to find Independence on the Land*
Living at Nature's Pace:  Farming and the American Dream*
Holy S***:  Managing Manure to Save Mankind*
Small Scale Grain Raising:  An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers*
All Flesh is Grass:  The Pleasures and Promise of Pasture Farming*
A Sanctuary of Trees:  Beechnuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats and Benedictions
Gene Logsdon's Practical Skills:  A Revival of Forgotten Crafts, Techniques and Traditions
Organic Orcharding:  A Grove of Trees to Live In
Gardener's Guide to Better Soil*
You Can Go Home Again:  Adventures of a Contrary Life*
Successful Berry Growing:  How To Plant, Prune, Pick, and Preserve Bush and Vine Fruits
Good Spirits:  A New Look at Ol' Demon Alcohol*
The Last of the Husbandman:  A Novel of Farming Life*
Two Acre Eden
Pope Mary and The Church of Almighty Good Food
Getting Food From Water:  A Guide to Backyard Aquaculture
The Contrary Gardener's Invitation to Gardening
Gene Logsdon's Moneysaving Secrets:  A Treasury of Salvaging, Bargaining, Recycling, and Scavenging Techniques
The Pond Lovers
Gene Logsdon's Wildlife in Your Garden:  Or Dealing with Deer, Rabbits, Raccoons, Crows, Moles, Sparrows and other of Nature's Creatures
Wyeth People:  A Portrait of Andrew Wyeth as Seen by his Friends and Neighbors
The Low Maintenance House
The Lords of Folly:  A Novel
The Mother of All Arts:  Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse
The Big Things in Life Are The Little Things
The Man Who Created Paradise:  A Fable*
Gene Everlasting:  A Contrary Farmer's Thoughts On Living Forever

(This does not account for the books he co-authored and the articles and items wrote prior to his publishing.  Look at some early Rodale Press books for some pleasant surprises).

I first read him in July of 2000 as we were flying to Europe (The Contrary Farmer remains one of my favorite books).  I was captivated not only by a man who was leaving the kind of life I imagined but by his writing style:  plain and down to earth yet lifting engaging and thought provoking.  Indirectly this blog is an output of that book:  I wanted to write with passion and relevance and of important matters like Gene did.

It makes me sad, not only for his family and friends (how could one fill that sort of void based on the man) but for ourselves.  His is precisely the sort of fact based questioning practical sort of conversation we need precisely right now - solutions based, not wedded to a philosophy or ideology but ultimately what was good for people, the environment, and food.

His Wikipedia entry states he was " American man of letters, cultural and economic critic, and farmer.  He was a prolific author of essays, novels, and nonfiction books about agrarian issues, ideals and techniques."

He will be sorely missed.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Last Day

Today, for the last time, I will make the trip southward in commute traffic to my job of seven years.  I will go through the motions that accompany any leaving of a company:  the HR exit interview, the final salary receipt, the options interview.  I will be told I am free to say goodbye and leave whenever.
And then I will make the rounds and say goodbye.

It is a funny thing, these endings - this one especially.  I have been at this company 7 years and two months (almost precisely).  That is a long time to be anywhere, especially in this economy - 1/3 of my work life in industry has been spent at this one location.  That is a lot of institutional history to hold in your head, a lot of things that you have seen.

A lot of people that you have known.

Work is ultimately about relationships - after all, we end up spending 1/4 to 1/3 of our lives with a group of people, often more than our families and friends.  In a way they become our family and friends, or at least bothersome acquaintances we have to deal with on a regular basis to get things done, those neighbors that never quite get their lawn mowed or their trash out of the way.  We get involved in each others lives, perhaps by accident or perhaps by choice.

Either way, such a parting is a hard one.

In so many ways it is the people that have made the work environment as bearable as it has been.  Without looking forward to going to the small corner of the universe where I have sat for 4 years, associating with the folks that were originally someone I had to work with but have become much more, I would have probably become more overwhelmed than I became or have left without thinking through the consequences long before.  For this, I am grateful.

This has been a grating job in so many ways.  Lots of them I have written about here over the years - in some ways, the bulk of this blog covers that period.  And I will not miss so much of what I am leaving behind - I have done all I can and so leave with a conscience that is clean.  But I shall badly miss them.

And then with a sigh - somewhat tired, somewhat regretful, I will cast off my rope for the last time and allow the traffic flow to take me up and out, bearing me away to a future that feels it has been long in coming, but in fact came exactly when it should have.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

On Becoming A Low Information Voter

After careful consideration, I have decided to become a low information voter.

Why?  Trying to be a high information voter does not pay.  Keeping track of all those troubling facts and figures, trying to actual figure out where my convictions actually fit with the candidates (if at all), and - worst of all - figuring out a way to convey that in the general population is, quite frankly, tiring.  And depressing.

Much better to be someone that simply makes their mind up and then refuses to pay attention.  No need to review facts or figures or reasoned arguments - I have decided who I am voting for and for goodness sake, I am surely not going to change that.

Imagine the millions of dollars (well, tens of dollars in my case as I am pretty media free) that we could save our political system by no longer needing to be pandered to propaganda and campaign ads.  Move to the  next person, thank you very much:  no need to waste your valuable time or money on me.

I have already made my mind up.

Maybe I will try to become a higher information voter for local elections, as those I might actually care about.  Maybe.

But honestly, can we not all agree that actual reasoned voting is just too difficult for the average American voter?  So many act as high information voters (highly educated in many cases) but when, presented with evidence to the contrary on the candidate or policy of their choice, simply turn their heads aside and follow the great glowing light.

Perhaps we have simply reached the point where the responsibility of a republic of responsible people is simply beyond us.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Vacation Views: Yellowstone Park

One of the outstanding moments of our travel was a visit to Yellowstone National Park.  A huge percentage of existing geothermal features in the world are at this park. It is also quite large - per Wikipedia, 3468.4 square miles or 8983 square kilometers.

I was driving and so did not get pictures of some of the things we saw (lamentably, the bison, which were by far the most impressive thing I saw) but I did get a great deal of the geothermal features.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Vacation Views: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, located in Crow Agency, Montana, is the location of the Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass) which took place on 25 and 26 June 1876 between elements of the US 7th Calvary and a combined force of Lakota-Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho, resulting in the single greatest US Defeat in The Great Sioux War.  268 US casualties and 41 known Native American casualties are recorded.

The current cenotaph, under which the bodies of the troopers are.  Officers are located below in the National Cemetery.  George Custer is now buried at West Point.

Last Stand Hill.  This is looking south.  The markers indicated where the bodies were found.  This would have been the last view Custer and his troops had:

There is a path down to the battlefield which is is marked by the fighting retreat of the 7th Calvary with white markers:

The Horses are remembered as well:

The Native Americans have added a memorial as well, commerating the warriors that fought there to preserve their way of life.  It is a very tastefully done memorial:

They have also begun to add markers for the Sioux and Cheyenne Warriors killed that day:

The museum that is on the grounds is quite well done and includes a good video on the battle (and has a fine bookstore with no sales tax).  It is a bit a haul to get there from a lot of places, but well worth the time for a visit.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Losing My Why

So I recently discovered that I am struggling with interest in any of my activities.

There is just no motivation.  No drive.  I find myself retreating inward from doing anything, really wanting to do nothing more than escape into reading and watching The Twilight Zone.

This bothers me.  This is not like me.

Part of it, I suspect, is simply due to the ending of one job and the beginning of another.  It is all the hubbub of moving and relocating one's existence without actually doing it (in this case).  Perhaps too, there is an element of finally releasing the remaining sense of duty I have been trying to maintain for at least a year, forcing myself (at some level) to care about someplace which, on the whole, was a very difficult place to be (I have been warned by others that have left that there is a detoxification process that will take place, sometimes taking weeks).

But no enthusiasm, no interest in doing anything, is not really like me.  So what is up?

Which leads to the fundamental question:  Why?

Why do I do the things that I do?  No, really, why?  Do I do them because I have to? Do I do them because I think that they are going to do something for me and when they do not, I move on?  Do I do them because someone else wants me to do them?


I am going to try an exercise that I found online over the course of the next few weeks or so - makes perfect sense really, as the next month or so is going to be a true period of transition (without the moving - have I mentioned how grateful I am for that?).

For each activity, answer the following questions:

1) Write down things you really love to do.
2) Why do you love it?
3) Why is it important to have in your life?

4) What is its important to me and why does this fit into my life?

With the caveat, of course, that I take action on the decisions I find.  If it fits, it stays.  If it does not, away it goes.

I do not know that this will totally resolve the issue.  But perhaps it can at least help me to rediscover the fire of why I do things - and focus on those.