Friday, September 29, 2017

Musashi's Way of Strategy

1)  Do not think dishonestly.
2) The Way is in training.
3)  Become acquainted with every art.
4)  Know the Ways of all professions.
5)  Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
6)  Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.
7)  Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
8)  Pay attention even to trifles.
9)  Do nothing which is of no use.

- The Ground Book, A Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Great Unraveling

"Theoretically of course, no one intended for the Great Unraveling.  The concept was that one side could express its scorn, its hate, its disgust on any number of issues and that the other side was supposed to merely nod their heads and accept it as a "freedom of expression" (Heavens, how they loved that term!).  The fact that it went across every sort of belief was something that seemed invisible to practically everyone.

The reality of this "freedom of expression" - like any freedom - is that like an act, it has consequences that can go rather awry from the intended target.  When the words leave our mouth, we have no control over what they mean to others.  When the action is taken, we have no control over how others view it - or how it is used by others, over and over, in a media-saturated society (Note to self:  explain "Media-saturated").  As the 20th Century author Ayn Rand said, "You can choose your actions, but you cannot choose the consequences of your actions."

The rather unfortunate outcome of all of this "Freedom" was the slow growth of cracks in the body politic, initially the minor cracks in stone which are scarcely visible until one day, the entire fact snaps off and breaks.  The words and actions had very little to do with bringing people together - in spite of the intent - and great deal to do with driving people apart.

It is not that there were any major outbreaks of civil disobedience or civil war (See references to 16th and 17th century and 19-21st Century uprisings).  But what did happen was that people began simply not talking to others at all that did not share their views or conceptions.  The was a general drawing apart, like cracks in the bottom of a lake bed that continue to grow as the sun bakes it.

In the end it took very little for everything to Unravel.  So many had been patiently picking away at the ties that bound them together.  Perhaps the only surprise was how shocked these expressers of freedom and unravelers of threads were when things actually did come apart.  Of all involved, they ended being the least ready for the outcome of their labors.  The monster had finally returned home, but they scarcely recognized it as a product of themselves."

- A History of the North American Continent, 2000-2100

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Shugyosha

This year's Tokai - training with the head of my Sword Order - was perhaps the most meaningful of the six that I have attended.  It was the longest for me - 5 days of 5 hours a day - and perhaps for the first time I began to hazily understand what it means to actually be a swordsman.

During day four during the morning session, Soke discussed the training that takes place every year at Katsuura in Japan - the one I am going to next year.  This, he said, was very difficult training where shugyosha from all over the world studied to improve their skills.  It was very hard, he said, but you would improve massively in your technique.

Shugyosha.  I thought I remembered this word but could not place it.  Until I got home and reminded myself.

A Shugyosha was a warrior in Japan who had separated themselves from school and clan and wandered the countryside, honing their skills by practice and challenging other opponents.  The ultimate goal of the true shugyosha was to achieve mastery of their art.

This, then, was the challenge being offered to us.  To turn our own lives into musha-shugyo, the warrior's quest, by becoming shugyosha.

Soke was quite clear in his comments.  He wants each and every one of us to work hard to become his number one (ichiban) student.  And from him, I do not believe it to be the sort of "morale building" speech I would expect in most businesses I have worked for or organizations I have been associated with.  He believes that it is possible for every person that trains in his school.

His words moved me - both from a slight sense of fear (this training was intense - the fact that he considers Katsuura "hard" unnerves me just a bit) but more based on the experiences that I had during this year's training.  Faint flickers of understanding of what it truly meant to seek for and achieve a level of mastery - maybe not "the" mastery but a mastery all the same.

The pay, of course is low.  The benefits are few, outside of personal pride.  Like the shugyosha of old, there is little in the way of fame or fortune or recognition.

But there there is the knowledge that, at the end of it all, you did all you could to bring yourself to the very highest levels of your ability in your chosen field.

There is no other way but to begin my own musha-shugyo.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Tokai 2017 and Cape Breton

Dear Friends,

Last week (Wednesday through Sunday) I participated in my dojo's Tokai.  5 days of 5 hours of training a day in my chosen art, Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Yamauchi-ha.

It was profound.  It was so profound that I want to write about it but do not feel I can yet.

To substitute, I am going to offer something else profound (at least to me):  from my friend Kymber's post, The Cape Breton Anthem.

(Click on this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apD1IuE5Lwo)

(Just click on the link; it should start playing.  Lovely pictures!)

It is profound in an entirely different, yet similar way.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On The One Who Knows God

"The one who know God eats, drinks and marries, not as ends in themselves, but simply as necessary things.  I include marriage in this list only to the extent the Word dictates and only as it is suitable. For having become perfect, the one who knows God has the apostles as examples.  One is not really proven to be a man by the choice of a single life.  But one who has been disciplined by marriage, the raising of children, and the care of his household surpasses other men.  When he cares for his household without pleasure or pain, he becomes inseparable from God's love.  For he has withstood all temptations arising through children, wife, servants and possessions.  But he that has no family is free of temptation to a large degree." -Clement of Alexandria, The One Who Knows God

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Of Property Taxes And Moving

Driving home from work this evening, I heard on the news that one of the local communities surrounding our large urban community had just approved their city budget.  In doing so they had cut property taxes - again, for the 5th year in the row.  They estimated that overall their tax rate was lower than it had been 15 years ago.  This compared to our local, which has taken it upon itself to boost property taxes the full 8% it can without having to take the measure to a vote.

Jokingly upon arriving home, I mentioned to The Ravishing Mrs. TB "We should think about moving to Suburb X because they have cut their property taxes for five years running."

Her response was "I would be okay with that."

Oh, crud.

So I hop on the larger Interweb site that allows you to look at an estimate of your home values.  And I get the second shock of the day.  Somehow, the value of my house has magically "fallen" by $40,0000 from their estimate earlier this year - a 13% drop in 4 months or so (but still $17,000 less than what the county says it is worth).

I never really counted on the money, of course - long ago I learned the fact that the money is all theoretical until you have it in the bank. But I am a little shocked at how far it had dropped (and imagine if I had not gone in to protest my property taxes - man, would that have been a huge discrepancy!).

The whole thing makes the concept of moving a lot more silly, of course - now I really am buying and selling in the same market (and I am not sure how serious I was in the first place).  Still, an interesting and informative lesson in the dangers of suggesting a good idea and the shocking changes in value that can occur when you are not looking.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Living Wisely

My friend Reverend Paul over at Way Up North has been posting excerpts from Eugene Peterson's The Message, which is a more colloquial English translation of the Bible.  Yesterday the reading was from James 3:13:

"Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats."

The very first part of the verse caught me:  "Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom?  Here's what you do:  Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts."  Which brought to mind a question, after I had considered it a bit:  Does the Christian truly value living wisely?

I should think this is one of the places that Christianity could "shine".  We have the very word of God to guide us in the wise living of life - good heavens, we have a whole book - Proverbs - that is essentially devoted to wisdom.  And yet, somehow we look no different from the way the world lives around us.

It matters because wisdom literature is all the rage now via the Internet Meme.  I can post a quote from the Havamal (A collection of poems from the Viking Age) or any number of  laws or sayings from the Celts or the Sioux or even moving haikus from the 12th Century Tale of the Heike and be thought to be a wise man.  I can post a quote from Proverbs and be thought a provincial fool who believes in fairy tales and foolishness.

Remove the supernatural from Proverbs for a moment: just taken at its face, it is good advice.  Follow it and you would be on the road to a successful, wealthy life largely free from self-inflicted harm and fouls.  As good as advice as you would read in any of the works that I referenced above.  And yet somehow we as Christians fail to live according to Proverbs, leaving ourselves open to attack that we believe one thing but actively act as if we do not.

Take as an example Dave Ramsey.  You may or may not care for him (I enjoy his style; my children found him condescending) but his financial advice, even if disconnected from his Christianity, makes good sense:  Do not have debt.  Save.  Pay cash and avoid stupid credit.  Invest and save for retirement.  Any non-Christian Financial Advisor would tell you the same.  Instead, most Christians (including myself here) are not nearly that wise with our money and so we look exactly like the world in terms of our spending, our debt, and our finances in general.  Which begs the question:  If we claim we believe it, why do we not live it?

The reality is that we have the recipe for being thought wise, for living wisely in a world that is sadly lacking in wisdom. However, it will take an investment from ourselves that involves a lot less talking and a lot more living well by living in accord with God says, doing it humbly and silently.  If we live like that, we open the door to how and why we are living that way and where our wisdom is stemming from.

Or as the quote above says, "It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts."

Friday, September 15, 2017

Star And Bit Player

I often confuse the nature of the role of my life in the lives of the others.

I think myself to be the starring role in their lives, a major character that move in and out of the scenes with the cameras trained on me and the people themselves wondering what I am doing when I am off camera.  In point of fact I am not the star: I am a bit actor or at best a character actor, there to fill a particular role or function or even of proof of plot concept, perhaps occasionally in the camera's main view but more often in the background of shots and for a much shorter time than I care to believe.

It is not a dishonorable thing, of course:  if my car is malfunctioning or my air conditioning fails, I am of course going to call someone to come in and fix these things.  But I would find it highly odd if the car mechanic got into the car after the repairs and came out to us with dinner or the the air conditioning repairman stepped in after repairs and sat down on the couch waiting to watch a movie.  At best I would look at them oddly and cough slightly uncomfortably; at worse I would ask "Exactly what do you think you are doing?"

Yet somehow in the exercise of real life, I think I am different.

I am not quite sure where this sort of confusion comes from.  I feel fairly certain that it has always existed - I can remember times even in my own youth that I struggled with the same sort of thing and had others struggle with the same sort of thing, but on a much smaller basis. I blame (perhaps not surprisingly) social media with its almost constant focus on me, me, me.  I can publish so much about myself and my activities, my thoughts and my opinions, all so quickly and painlessly and in real time, that of course everything is going to be about me in the lives of others:  I can blanket them with myself. The camera really is always on me.

Until - at least for the self aware - that moment comes when the realization occurs that this really is not the case.  My role really was ever only that of the fourth officer or Star Trek Red Shirt or repairman, there to move someone else's life along - and once it is moved along, the ship course changed or the monster having demonstrated its method of killing for this week's episode or the air conditioning blowing cool air, my role is complete.  I may be back for other cameo appearances or I simply may disappear, to show up in the list of uncredited actors that almost no-one ever really stays for.

I can feel hurt or confused or even angry about this, but in reality there is little cause for me to feel so.  I made the cardinal mistake of believing that my life bore a greater import in the lives of others than my opinion warranted.  The fact that they do not "recognize" my gravitas and significance is no failure of theirs - they are, after all, truly the stars - but of my own confusion about the nature of my role in their lives.

Because in the end, of course, it extends to the greatest argument I can ever have within myself about my role:  I am, ultimately, a servant, not a star.  Servants never forget their roles no matter what circles they move in.  Those who are see themselves not as servants but as main characters often do.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Distance

The void between worlds
is not farther apart than 
the void between hearts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On The Past

In reminiscing with a former colleague this week, I realized there are two sorts of people and situations I have a great deal of difficulty letting go of.

The first is those people and situations that have hurt me.  I have realized, in talking with this former colleague, that I tend to cling to my bitterness. I hold on to my distaste and disgust with those that have hurt me.  Just speaking about them - years, perhaps, after I have seen them - is enough to make me sad and angry and enraged all over again.  And it is like once engaged, I cannot let go of it - I wonder how they are doing now, and (truth be known) perhaps even take a bit of secret and nasty pleasure if things are quite as good as they should be.  There is no good excuse for this of course, just the angry revenge of the powerless against those whom they made to suffer their tempers and speeches and attitudes and actions, things that affected my life in ways they should not have.

The other set are people and situations where I feel I should have done differently, whether by better behavior or different choices.  The spots where I failed others.  The spots where I feel like I should have made a different decision and chose not to.  In some ways those "Roads Less Traveled" Frost left us with, but just as often the roads that we traveled a distance and then, turning our back, went back the way we originally came. In these, perhaps, the situation is reversed:  here it is I that made others to suffer my tempers and speeches and attitudes and actions, my indecision or even my wrong decision.

How is that these things become lodged so deeply in our being that we cannot seem to rid ourselves of their tenacious grip?  How many times have I said "I am done"  only to find myself slinking back in the corners of my mind to the person or situation I have just foresworn (for the fiftieth time)?  Against others, is that I still seek some method to have my revenge, even if it is to dance on their graves?  Against me, is it that I somehow continue to seek an outcome that never came to be in hopes that somehow the situation can be made different? (It never can, of course.  You really cannot step into the same river twice.)

The past is meant to instruct, not to hinder.  And I have received instruction in both types of situation -but with that instruction comes the past that I can never really seem to release.

And yet, I have to.  The past that I think I see, that I think I relive, is really nothing more than a shimmering in my own mind rather than a reflection in a river - the river moved on long ago and what I think I am seeing is really something I am seeing with my eyes closed.  It has simply become time to open my eyes and step in, letting the shimmers dissolve in the sparkling daylight on the river that is, not the distant echo of the days that were and have long ago flowed out to the sea.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Life You Do Not Have To Retire From



I think I know most of my readers to know that this is goal we are working towards (or have achieved, in some cases).

It cuts across the grain of most Western - or at least maybe American - thoughts of retirement.  To most, retirement means the ending of something you have to do and moving on to the things you want to do. Which, if someone really sat down and thought about it, would seem to be rather backwards - after all, one invests almost half of their life working towards the point of being able to spend the last quarter of their life (if they are lucky)  doing what they "love", perhaps only to find out that doing what you "love" is not really doing what you want at all.

How much better to work your way into a life that you enjoy every day, not just in the latter parts of it.  To be engaged both early and late in the same sorts of things, to find that your life has become one long labor of love instead of a series of chopped up movements, hermetically sealed from each other in ways that the past cannot inform the present or the future.

For most (me included) it remains more of a dream to be realized that a reality to be lived.  Because be clear:  to do this means to sacrifice at some level.  It means staying true to yourself rather than being bewitched by that which society and civilization tells you are the appropriate paths to take.  Sometimes it probably means working harder and longer than anyone else and being willing to live in ways that the most could not imagine to get the ultimate results that most only dream of.

And to those who are not there yet, it means fighting.  Every day.  Fighting against the mind-numbing, spirit-sapping call of consumerism and mediocrity, of the concept of being taken care of rather than taking care of one's self.  To save where others spend, to make do where others buy, to go without when others cannot live without.

Ultimately, to live such a live is to reclaim freedom - freedom from "wants", freedom from dependency (and not just material - those that have such a life often seem just as free from psychological dependence on others), freedom from the concept of life as we have come be told "it is" in modern Western Society.  It is, some ways, the ultimate act of individualism in a culture that has come to demand the embrace of the consumer, riches driven society in which we currently live.

"Only a few prefer liberty - the majority seek nothing more than fair masters" Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), The Histories 

Monday, September 11, 2017

To Remember



There are moments in life,
the scarcest blink of an eye, 
when the past immutably disconnects
from the future.

Friday, September 08, 2017

A Dry Run For A Collapse

Unless you have been under a rock for the last week, you will have been following the progress of Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida - perhaps made all the more real in that, almost a day to two weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey plowed into the Texas Coast.

Perhaps what makes Irma even more striking is the fact that it (currently) is a Category Five storm headed straight for a major city (Miami).  From the Wikipedia page:

"Cataclysmic damage will occur
Category 5 is the highest category of the Saffir–Simpson scale. These storms cause complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings, and some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Collapse of many wide-span roofs and walls, especially those with no interior supports, is common. Very heavy and irreparable damage to many wood frame structures and total destruction to mobile/manufactured homes is prevalent. Only a few types of structures are capable of surviving intact, and only if located at least 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) inland. They include office, condominium and apartment buildings and hotels that are of solid concrete or steel frame construction, public multi-story concrete parking garages, and residences that are made of either reinforced brick or concrete/cement block and have hipped roofs with slopes of no less than 35 degrees from horizontal and no overhangs of any kind, and if the windows are either made of hurricane-resistant safety glass or covered with shutters. Unless all of these requirements are met, the absolute destruction of a structure is certain.[5]
The storm's flooding causes major damage to the lower floors of all structures near the shoreline, and many coastal structures can be completely flattened or washed away by the storm surge. Virtually all trees are uprooted or snapped and some may be debarked, isolating most affected communities. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required if the hurricane threatens populated areas. Total and extremely long-lived power outages and water losses are to be expected, possibly for up to several months.[5]"
Note the rather ominous phrase "the absolute destruction of a structure is certain" and "Total and extremely long-lived power outages and water losses are to be expected, possibly for up to several months".  
More to the immediate point, I have been reading about the evacuations.  In this case - unlike Harvey and Houston - they were called for before the Hurricane arrived.  The result?  Similar to the post-Harvey effect:  gasoline shortages, water shortages, stores sold out of every sort of thing. And this is before the storm has even arrived.
The highways are now choked, slowed to a crawl. Pushing on the back of everyone's mind is the fact that the storm is moving towards them even as they sit there, wasting valuable fuel as they slowly crawl up the Interstate, only to arrive at stations without gasoline and hotels with nowhere to stay.
In a best case situation - at least for these evacuees - the storm either turns now and heads up the Atlantic seaboard or turns after it has passed Florida (Not good news, of course, for Georgia, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle).  In what could be the worst case, it mows right of the center of the state.
Work out the aftermath of that - not in the area of destruction itself but all those who have evacuated.  Food and fuel are largely stripped.  Their jobs are tied to buildings that may no longer stand and materials that may have been washed out to sea or into the pool across the city.  Accounts drain quickly when there is no money coming in - or they drain quickly for the businesses that do not have them coming either.
I am not predicting a collapse (we do not do those sorts of projections around here).  But I think it very worthy to note that a collapse - a real, serious, societal collapse - would look an awful lot like one of these scenarios.
A worthy question is how does one prepare for such a circumstance? - yes, I know, move away from there, but that is not always possible for everyone.  Imagine you had the deepest preps in the world - and had to leave them all behind?  Or what do you take in an uncertain evacuation for an unspecified period of time to an unknown future?
I do not have good answers.  I wish I did.  Prayer, of course - but there has to be a practical aspect as well.
If ever you wanted to see a "real life" acting of an actual disaster movie, this may be the time.  Only foolish will not take note and learn.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

A Letter To The Alumni Association

Alumni Association
XX University

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

I note that I have, once again, received another piece of mail from your organization. I am always curious how you manage to hunt me down, although I must have moved 7 times since I attended your school.

I have not taken the time to open your mail yet, but I can already reasonably predict what I will find inside:   a short commentary on the current year, the great things that are going on in your school, and an invitation to "help" with making the goals of the University move forward.

Ironically, I do not remember this same level of care of attention during my period of time there.  Yes, I had very good and very attentive teachers and yes, I did get a lot of useful information (most of which, for the record, I do not use in my current career) - but, in all fairness, I was paying you (rather good money, I might add) for those things.  The softer things, the things that seem to make such a difference now in people leaving college - internships, a career network, even a "Hey, how are you doing?" letter - all this was either non-extant and left up to me.

I might submit to you that after that experience, requests for aid might not be as well received as you might believe.  For me, that part of my life was very much a transactional affair - like many graduate students, I worked a full time job and took classes and attended the college functions that were useful to my major.  I assure you that all of this did not build a great deal of attachment, any more than it would at any other job I did.

Which, if I think about it, is a great deal of what it became to me.  A job - in this case, one with a certificate at the end instead of a happy hour or rather foolish memorabilia, but much the same concept.  Oddly enough, my former employers do not send me mail letting me know of all the great things they are doing and how I can still "reach out" to help them.

Sadly, the most clear memory I have of the school - beyond the friends I made there (who, sadly I have lost touch with - that would be something worth getting a letter over!) is that sense of loss when I realized that while an internship was highly recommended and in some cases provided, in my case I had neither available and ended up spending the summer working to pay for fall semester.  I assure you, there is nothing quite as disheartening as thinking one thing will happen and find something else will instead.

I am grateful for the education - it has made many things possible for me in my life that could not have happened otherwise.  But I think both of us would be fooling ourselves if we pretended it was anything more than a fee for service experience.

That, unfortunately, will not change no matter how many newsletters make their way to my door.

Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Trailer Project II: Clothing

As part of the now semi-occasionally appearing series The Trailer Project I am trying to consider everything I own in the context of being able to live in a 13' x 16', 65 sq foot trailer.  Last time we considered dishes and cooking.    This post, we are considering clothing.

Again, I start with the question:  What do I need?

Clothing is one of those things that is wildly variable from individual to individual.  It depends on a host factors:  what you do for a living, what you do for pleasure, where you live (and what the seasons are), and how much space you have.  Depending on your answer to these is  your answer to how many clothes you "need".

So, for the test case I will pick on myself.

I live in a climate that has  two seasons:  Winter (mid-30's F to upper 50's F with dips into the 20's) and Summer (90-100 F plus) bracketed by two weeks on either side we like to call "Spring" and "Autumn"  (they are almost that short).  My current work environment allows business casual (jeans or khakis with a short sleeved collared shirt and tasteful t-shirts on Fridays).  I very occasionally have to dress up (long sleeved shirt and tie or suit). So, given where I live, what do I need?

This question actually stems from a weekend cleaning project, where I went through all my shirts and pants to check and see if I had any I could get rid of.  I did - but that still left me with well over 50 shirts, 15 pairs of jeans and khakis, 4 pairs of shorts, 1 suit, 3 blazers, 1 kilt, and 2 kimonos.  And the accompanying socks, underwear, and t-shirts.  And assorted costume accoutrement.

So what do I really need?

Pants:  I could get by (if I had two with perhaps 3 pairs of jeans, 2 khakis, 2 pairs of "work" jeans, and slacks (the fact I have more now is just a lucky Neighborhood Google list find; I should have pants for the next 10 years).  That would cover business casual, casual, and semi-formal.

Shirts:  Maybe 8 short sleeved collar shirts, 2 long sleeved formal, 2 long sleeved flannel (Oh, how I love flannel in the cold!) and no more than 5 t-shirts. Really.  I have too many t-shirts that have some how picked up sentimental value.

Shorts:  I would still go with 4 pair, including two athletic sets. That allows me to separate my running and work-out clothes and extends the life of each.

T-shirts/Underwear/Socks - Here, I will take all I can get.  They wear out rather quickly unless you rotate them regularly.

Other items:  1 blazer to be sure (I have an Irish Tweed Jacket, so that is the one).  One cold weather jacket (mine is a 1960's French Soldier's Great Coat) and a lighter jacket. The kilt, of course.  And the kimonos.

Shoes:  Again, dictated by work:  I have 2 pairs of boots and 1 pair of dress shoes, which allows me to rotate them to preserve the life.  I splurged and bought 2 pairs of sneakers plus 1 for working out, but I could make do with less.  And 1 pair of hiking or work boots for working or walking outside while keeping the life of the others.

(You will notice I have specifically excluded a suit.  At this time in my life, a suit may be only for going to weddings and funerals in and being buried in. I would rather wear the kilt anyway).

As I write this, I realize (rather unexpectedly) that by having more, it allows me to make them last longer.  Which is maybe an argument for more - but I am not sure on that.  More means more space and more money (and replacement clothes of passable quality can be had for cheap).

These are all subject to change based on where I live and what I do, of course:  more physical labor, downsize the business casual and up the work clothes.  Living in a colder environment, more long sleeve and less short sleeve.  And so on - your mileage may be vary.

I do not know that this would get me into the one closet and one drawer limit I would have to set on myself (although given my current arrangements, I think it might).  What this exercise has made me do - in sorting this last weekend and now in writing - is make me question everything that I am holding on to, and why I am holding on to.

Someone once suggested that at the beginning of the year, one rotates all the hangers to the other side of the closet rack and as the item is worn, you turn it around - thus, by the end of the year you discover what you actually are wearing and what you are just holding on to.

Not a bad practice for man that has almost two months worth of shirts...

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Monday, September 04, 2017

On The Arrival of Labor Day

And thus, with the arrival of Labor Day, we start the passage into Autumn.

Officially, of course, it is still summer.  It will still feel like summer - here, possibly until the end of October.  But there is a mind set that comes with the turning of Labor Day that always - at least for me - indicates the effective end of summer.

With the arrival of Labor Day, there tends to be one more burst of activity before the coming of Winter.  One more round of Games.  One last explosion of activity in the garden before it becomes time to think about Winter.  Work now become a great deal of finishing out this year's activities and beginning to look to next year as well.    And though it seems far away right now, the hint of Thanksgiving and Christmas are just over the horizon.

But even more than the events and weather, for me it is a state of mind.  The sun has not yet acquired that cast of light that it only seems to hold in Autumn, but I can see hints of it out my window as I write.  I may not see the cooler temperatures today, but in my mind I can already feel the slight chill on my skin.

For me, calling it Labor Day is the wrong idea.  "Autumn's Eve" might be a more poetic - and more descriptive - name.

Friday, September 01, 2017

On A "Gas Shortage"

So in the central part of a certain state that starts with a "T" and has recently been hit a hurricane, the rumor is out that there is a gas shortage coming.  And so somehow, we went from business as normal all week to "Gaspocalypse" in the course of about 5 hours.

It is crazy.  Driving about this evening and afternoon,, every gas station I passed had lines, sometimes out into lanes of traffic.  Mind you, this was after the media and government had been announcing for at least the preceding 3 hours that there in fact was no fuel shortage.  By the time I came home from class at 10, many of the stations I had passed had their pumps roped off or covered - and the ones that did not still had lines trying to get fuel.  A local station by us raised their prices twice in one day:  Started the day at $2.29, ended the day at $2.59 - and there were people still lined up waiting.

Somewhat curiously (to myself, anyway) I predicted this was going to happen - not so much the gas shortage as the perception of the gas shortage.  The van was filled twice over the weekend just in case.  I got gas this morning (I usually get it on Tuesday nights, but had to push it off) at $1.98 at PriceCo; out of curiousity I want to drive by tomorrow and see what the status is.

The actual lessons here - beyond do not believe everything your read or hear - are two:

1)  Being prepared means you never have to get prepared.  Maybe you have to stock up a bit, but not as if you had nothing at all.

2)  When people react, they overreact.  Imagine if this was an actual emergency - or if it involved more than just fuel.

3)  (Bonus Round)  I think a great many people drive around with their fuel tanks much more empty than they should be.

I have said it before:  the modern economy is an incredibly fragile interlace of webs.  The unraveling of only a few can have dramatic impacts.  Add to that the tendency of people to act foolishly and in herds in a crisis and we have all the makings of a real disaster.