Friday, March 30, 2018

Planning For The 2018 Garden

Trying to decide when it is actually time to plant here in New Home has always been something of a crap shoot.  Witness the last two days:  summer like weather, followed by 4 inches of rain, followed by summer like weather. 

Plant too early and the ground is cold; plant before the rain ends and  you are likely to get flooded out; plant too late and it is already into the hot season when peppers will not blossom and tomatoes never flourish.

I always manage to plant a little too late and my stuff seems to be stunted until near late summer.  In years past I have always tried to fit it in between other weekend activities.  This year, as part of changing the pace of my activities overall, I think I shall definitely have more time to plant - I am thinking maybe the middle of April.

What I am going to plant? I am, as always, not sure.  I have my seeds from when Bountiful Gardens went out of business, so there is a variety of things (mostly beans, I suspect) in there.  I try corn every year and fail every year but I will keep trying, I suppose (I think my problem is always not enough water).  Tomatoes as well (The Ravishing Mrs. TB always wants them and I can never seem to come through).   And, as usual, something completely off the wall (like sorghum).

This is always the best time for gardening - right before it actually starts happening and everything is growing, at least in my mind.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Wondering and Wandering

And not only wondering and wandering, but the trying of many new things until you find the one that works:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Green oak leaves flutter,
singing of the coming Spring
at Winter's last gasp.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Not A Finisher

One of the things my current job has brought crashing down on my head is that I am not a finisher.

Oh, I am a starter, I love to start things.  There is nothing more invigorating or energizing that to start something new.  There is always something to learn and a sense of excitement at the beginning.  And then, of course, everything starts to fizzle.

Work has only exacerbated the deficiency.  Now I am not turning away from something because I get bored.  In fact, quite the contrary:  I turn away from something because five other things arise to take its place (really, no joke.  It is five.  At least.).  And, of course, I find myself getting farther and farther behind because I cannot get the items I am currently working on accomplished, let alone undertake something new.

I am trying to understand where the underlying flaw lies. I am pretty sure I am the original root cause of the problem, but why am I the root cause.  Am I loosing interest?  Am I not doing the highest level tasks first?  Am I bouncing from item to item without finishing any single one, leaving a trail a mile wide and an inch deep - because why?  Or even worse, is it simply that I lack the coping mechanisms to deal with the amount of work that seems to be coming at me?

Probably all of them, to be honest.  I am not sure.  What I am grasping, though, is that I need to figure out why it is happening and significantly change how I am doing something.  It is not just something I can work my way out of with hours (trust me, I am close to 10 hours a day now and am looking at the computer coming home with me two or three times a week) because I will burn out long before I actually can afford to. 

Mayhap I need to become more ruthless in how I spend my time in accomplishing my tasks - even if I have to become a work hermit to do it.

Monday, March 26, 2018


I find myself restless.

Not restless as I have been before, feeling like I was pushing at the edges of boundaries, or that I was against an unknown that I was not sure of what was next.  No, this is flat out "I really do not belong here anymore" - but I do not know what the next step is.

Whether it is throwing, my church, the city in which I live, the place where I work - I feel that I have somehow crossed a threshold of no longer belonging there. I am the point where disengagement with most of things in my life seems more natural and fulfilling than further engagement.

It seems to have been slowly coming about all week as more and more places, people, and things begin to fade in appeal.  It is not that these things have changed I suspect, rather that something within me has.

There is still engagement of course, but the band is narrowing.  Iai and the things that support it have become more important.  Continuing to garden - even in my own broken way. Reading.  Staying healthy. 

The circle of people is starting to contract as well.  I was surprised to realize that outside of throwing and work, my circle only extends to about 36 people I physically interact with.  That is not a lot - and with a simple change of activities, that number drops to 10 or less. 

There is a next step out there, somewhere, a place that is calling to me even though I do not know its name yet.   It is the sort of thing that is a life change, I suspect.  And the sort of thing that requires a going out with the realization that I will never return to the way things were.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Career Plateau?

Today as I was driving to work, the thought suddenly hit me "What if this is high point of my career?"

I overall enjoy my job in a way that I cannot think I since at least 2008 - the work is engaging, there is plenty of it, my coworkers are pleasant, and the company makes it worth my while to show up every day (and work some on the side as well).  My commute is not what is has been since 1996 in terms of mileage and time. 

At the same time (as regular readers are no doubt aware - painfully so) this was and is not ever what I would consider to be my "ideal" career.  Not that I know what the ideal career looks like (although I have a rather long list of things that it is not.), but just that sense of this is not quite the bullseye I was hoping for.

Yes in the back of my head I find myself always hoping or secretly thinking that somehow that magic window will appear and I will be able to step out of this and into that.  But what if that day never comes?

That is the risk, of course - you get halfway through your career (more than halfway through your estimated life) and all of a sudden you realize the horizon you thought was so far away is coming at you faster than you expected.  The mountains are rising out of the desert and the bypass you assumed would be there - perhaps the maps even told you would be there - is simply missing. 

What then? 

It is a hard realization, that the blue sky you always saw in front your career has disappeared and maybe there is no more "up" to be had, only a leveling out which might extend out until the day you decide to land.  And the second realization you make is that such a landing will have to be a hard, conscious choice - not a gentle descent into the ethereal "next". 

I hope it is not like that.  I hope I continue to enjoy my job, that it still has upside potential and that my landing will be as happy and straightforward as I would hope it is.

But, sadly, I still am having to pack the parachute.  Because you never know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What Would I Miss Most?

In the event of a societal breakdown, what would I miss most?

Yes, I know, the usual things - electricity, hot and cold running water, regular food, all of that.  I get that and understand it.  But life is not made up just of those items.  What would be the little things that I would miss that give a zest to my life?

Well, the Interweb, for one.  Or least parts of the Interweb, the parts that let me talk to my friends and read interesting things that the talk about and the ability to look up an number of things.  Yes, I have plenty of books to fall back on - but I would loose plenty of my friends in the process.

Coffee, eventually.  Coffee was the one thing I missed in Japan.  There is just nothing really like a cup of it in the morning and a good book on a quiet morning.

Light - although I suppose that falls into electricity.  We take our ability to see anything before or after sunrise for granted any more.  If the day largely started and stopped at the sun, imagine how much less many people would get done (on the bright side, how much more they would sleep!).

Good toilet paper - goes without saying, I suppose, but there you are.

An abundance of friendly pets.  Given the worst case scenario, the friendly sorts will either be eaten by animals or people (read up on sieges of cities and see how animals fare).  I take for granted the friendly dog or cat (or rabbit, in my case) that I might see when I am out about walking. 

Finally, the ability to go to a book store.  In a major event, the knowledge of centuries could be wiped away (see previous comment about the Interweb).  What will be left but memory and hard, physical books - if you can find them (although given our current state of affairs, I expect they would be unlikely to be too damaged).  And by default, almost no new books (except for the rather depressing annals of The New Dark Age).

What do you think you would miss?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Dying Refrigerator

Our refrigerator is in the slow and ugly process of dying.

It has been happening for about two weeks now.  First we noticed that we no longer had ice.  Then we noticed that our frozen things were not quite as frozen, so they migrated to the outside refrigerator/freezer. 

So I called a recommended appliance guy, who very kind and said that while he did not do that kind of work, he could recommend someone else to us.  I called him this morning and stated the problem, hoping it was a failing compressor.  I described the symptoms.

"Well, I have bad news for  you my friend"  he replied.  "Would that that were the problem."

"It is not?"

"No.  I talk to three or four people a week and they have the same problem.  You have a freon leak."

"Can it be fixed?"

"Not really.  You have to completely remove everything with freon running in it and put it back it.  Parts are not so much, but labor is.  You are looking at the equivalent of taking your car in and having the engine replace.  About $5000."

We discussed the rather said state of repairs for my model (LG - never get an LG.  We have had two of their units fail and they essentially cannot be repaired).  There is one repairmen in my entire area and their honoring of warranties - 1 year, parts and labor - is not really helpful since we have been here four years.  So this evening was spent moving things from inside to outside and "culling" what would not go (not a bad idea, as it turns out - refrigerators can tend to be refuges for items you would not otherwise dispose of).

Suspecting this was the case - or at least the thing was failing - Nighean Dhonn and I went to The Orange Big Box Store to look at replacements.  After out tax return and after paying for the coil replacement and AC on the Van, we have just enough to cover a baseline steel model with the optional ice maker. 

On the one hand, very thankful that the tax return came through right when it was needed to cover what needed covering (Thanks, Lord).  On the other hand, things always seem to come up just when you get a little money.

And our Stove/Oven is an LG as well.  And now I am looking at that with a concerned eye as well...

Monday, March 19, 2018

What if....Unexpected Retirement?

My friend and fellow blogger Reverend Paul over at Way Up North mentioned, almost in passing in a post, that he had suddenly retired - not something he had planned for, but something that had just happened.  Which got me to thinking, of course (lots of things get me to thinking) about retirements that you do not plan to happen so early but happen any (as with my pal GPS at Act 2 Ministries, who is having to retire due to health reasons - and he is a mere 3 years older than I).

Oh, we are planning for retirement in all of the usual ways.  But those ways are all based on the concept that I probable have a minimum of 10 more years of work or so (the minimum I would need to reach the lowest rung of Social Security).  So what if retirement comes in unexpected and early?

Let us have a moment of honest clarity, shall we?  In a lot of ways I am precisely the sort of person that at some point, it makes sense to move on down the road:  I am older, I am a higher end salary earner (due to 20+ years of industry experience), and at some point my job can be done by people for less money (less experience of course, but that is always not a consideration).    The best case scenario is, of course I would be able to find a job - maybe not at my level and not where I want to be, but a job.

But I am a realist as well.  And I know (at this point in my career, all too well) what people tend to think looking at a long timer for a position: Why were they fired?  How long are they really going to stay?  Can we afford them?

And so, as an afterthought, the resumes go unanswered and the call stop coming.

I could find something in that case, I am sure of it.  But will I be in a place that I want to?  Re-entering on the ground floor of anywhere at my age is hardly the sort of thing that makes one jump for joy or get excited.

To be clear, I am not (so far as I am aware) in danger of being let go or suddenly retiring by force.   But I am also at a point where if I do not consider this an option and act accordingly, I am ignoring at least one possible outcome.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Of Taxes and Salvation

Dear Friends,

GPS' posting Friday has hung onto my mind like a bulldog - not necessarily the subject matter per se but the immanency and underlying tone of the message.  If you will humor me for a single posting, I want to offer a plea for your salvation.

I am not an apologist.  Nor particularly am I an evangelist or anything else that someone might claim as a spiritual gift.  I am at best a servant and hopefully (if you have found me and stuck with me all these years) your friend.  So allow me to talk as a friend whom at best you will listen to as someone who greatly cares for you and at worst you will humor as a crazy uncle whom you respect even though you find him tiresome at times.

Let me start with a proposition  - on taxes.

In calculating my taxes for next year, I put in certain amounts of data based on my current income and taxation levels and in return I get a number.  This number tells me if I am on track to overpay my taxes or underpay them, in which case I will owe additional money at the end of the year.  Now as most of us do not like to have to pay at the end of the year, we will adjust our withholding amounts to cover the additional money.  We do this based on the information that tax code has provided us - at worst, we find that we owe not money and at best find out we either mis-calculated or did not account for additional deductions and so receive a larger refund than we expected.  The most wrong thing we could do in that situation is be in possession of the information - even if we cannot account for everything - and choose not to act.

In a very small and broken way, this is like Christianity.

Christianity is the relationship of a God, a personal God, who has passed along information about the Nature of Himself, our own selves, and the future.  In this case, He has let us know through His word The Bible (the tax code, if you will) of the fact that there is a debt for the upcoming tax year, a debt which we - if we do our calculations correctly - realize that we have no ability to pay.  The debt, of course, is sin, an failing to live up to the standards of a Holy God. 

But much like the calculations and deductions we look for at tax time, there is good news for us as well:  the debt has a way to be paid.  It is a  simple one really: the originator of the code, God, sent someone to pay the bill that we could never pay, no matter how many deductions we searched for or exceptions we tried to argue.  His name is Jesus and he had the unique qualification in history of being both God and man:  as God, he could live a perfect life and fulfill the expectations of God and as man, he could understand and take upon himself the sins of everyone else.

The Bible, if you can think about it this way, not only the tax code but also the tax calculator I mentioned above.  It tells us what is owed and then also tells us how what we owe can be paid in a very particular way, just like payment of our own taxes has to be in our country's currency instead of just any method of payment:  through belief in Jesus as God's Son and believing that He paid the price of our sins.

There is more, of course - much more, an eternity of more, but just as the tax calculator simple instructs us how we can change our deductions so the first step of salvation is fairly straightforward.  From there, like most things, finding someone that deals in tax matters and helping you understand them - for taxes an accountant, for salvation the Church - is the next best thing you can do.

Two more points and I am done:

1)  The tax code, like every human construct, is an analogy.  But it is also a very simple version of Pascal's Wager, which asked the question "If you lived as if God was real even though He was not, what would you lose?"  In that sense very much like taxes for the coming year:  if you paid based on what you believed was going to be owed, the worst surprise is that you are not surprised at the end of the year.  The best, of course, is receiving a refund (or as it is called in the Bible, eternal life).

2)  Death, like taxes, comes for us all.  It is the one immutable fact about our lives.  It is true that one can say that God does not exist, or that there is no afterlife at all.  But much like taxes, my belief in what I owe or do not owe does not change the law's pronouncement that I owe it - and that the government will eventually collect. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Few Words From...Oswald Chambers

The Master Will Judge

"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ..." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

"Paul said that we must all, preachers and people alike, 'appear before the judgment seat of Christ'.  But if you learn here and now to live under the scrutiny of Christ's pure light, your final judgment will bring you only delight in seeing the work of God done in you.  Live constantly reminding yourself of the judgment seat of Christ, and walk in the knowledge of the holiness He has given you. Tolerating a wrong attitude toward another person causes you to follow the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are.  One carnal judgment of another person only serves the purposes of hell in you.  Bring it immediately into the light and confess, 'Oh, Lord,  I have been guilty there.'  If you don't, your heart will become hardened through and through.  One of the penalties of sin is our acceptance of it.  It is not only God who punishes for sin, but sin establishes itself in the sinner and takes its toll.  No struggling or praying will enable you to stop doing certain things, and the penalty of sin is that you gradually get used to it, until you finally come to the place where you no longer even realize that it is sin.  No power, except the power that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit,can change or prevent the inherent consequences of sin.

'If we walk in the light as He is in the light...'  (1 John 1:7).  For many of us, walking in the light means walking according to the standard we have set up for another person. The deadliest attitude of the Pharisees that we exhibit today is not hypocrisy but that which comes from unconsciously living a lie."

Friday, March 16, 2018

Guest Posting: Acts 2 Ministries

Today's post is actually a re-direct to my friend GPS at Acts 2 Ministries.  I have known him for...hmm....35 years?  36?  (Hard to tell at this point and probably not all that relevant).

He has written a pretty powerful commentary on the potential for the Rapture in the not too distant future.  As I often have pretty strong feelings about the end of society as we know it and the end of the world, I feel that I should pass it along to your attention as well.

Yes, I understand we are not to set dates (and he acknowledges this as well) and if July comes, my belief will not be shaken.  But he writes with a passion about being saved that I believe needs to be shared.

(Full disclosure:  I am a pre-millinial pre-tribulation believer.  So this is right up my belief alley).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Growing Solitude

My buddy Glen has got me to thinking about people.  In my life.  And how there seem to be less of them than there used to be.

Oh, it is not as if I do not know more people than ever.  The magical world of Social Media will do that for you.  I literally have acquaintances on six of the seven continents at this point.  I believe my "People Who Follow You" on Facebook are more than my graduating class at this point.

Yet at the same time, I find more and more that I desire to spend less and less time with people.

I am happy to follow them from afar.  And Facebook (and let us be fair, many blogs) are an easy way for me to do such a thing.  And it is nice to keep in touch at some level with what is going on in many people's lives.  But following people from a distance is not the same as having them involved in your life.

Part of it, as Glen pointed out, is simply that we have become very polarized as a society.  We have lost the ability to hold the tension between friendship and beliefs and so have tipped the pendulum completely to beliefs.  We get along, for the most part, right up to the moment that we discuss politics or religion or guns or half a dozen other things that will result in one being drummed out of the inner circle.  And one does not wish to spend one's time arguing all the time.  The result is we have created a society that is very adapted to the social media we have - surface involvement, minimal contact, everyone wishing rainbows and Skittles across the board.

We seem busier than ever before as well, and busy with something often means no time with someone.  Being a mobile society does not lend itself to this as well, as it becomes painfully easy to lose track of old friends as shared activities are no longer shared and you are sharing more old memories than making new ones.  Busy means making choices about our time as well, because time is that one commodity that we cannot manufacture more of no matter how much we try to squeeze in.

The upshot, in my own life, has been almost a complete moving away from virtually everyone I associated with in my life even as shortly as a year ago.

Truly.  I have two friends I regularly communicate with on a daily basis.  I have social media acquaintances and work acquaintances.   I have my fellow Iai students that I see two hours a week, the rabbit volunteers I see every Sunday, and the Church folks I see weekly for an hour or two. I have all of you, of course.  Beyond that, it is really just the dog and the rabbits and my family.

Perhaps the remarkable part is this does not bother me all that much.

I am not quite sure why, and that surprises me as well.  10 years ago, even 5 years ago, such a thing would have seemed to be anathema to me.  "What will I do without friends?  That will be the end of me!  Who will I do things with?  Who will I share with?"  But it seems that somewhere inside I managed to make peace with that.

(Oddly enough, I feel closer to some of you through your blogs and comments than people I have known for years.  That also strikes me as something worthy of further consideration).

There is a bubble being created - I would suspect for more than would admit it in public - a continued pulling away from the larger society of interaction and a focus on the smaller few, or maybe even on the none.  Like most other movements, it will never be noticed by those that are the most loud and vocal - until they realized they are talking in an echo chamber and that so many people - the thinkers, the philosophers, the doers - have slipped off into their own associations and projects, leaving only a dim resonance of their passage.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

2017 Winter Garden Update

The weather is getting almost spring-like again.  Time to start thinking about the garden.

Things actually made it through our wacky winter:

 My leeks...actually look like leeks:

And what is this?  Lettuce?  It has never grown at all!

My asparagus is trying:

But faces a local challenge from a varmint (seen against the fence):

Newly refurbished compost bin along with the next area I need to covert:

It is not a great deal to look at, I admit.  But far and away this is the best survival rate I have ever had.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Overestimating Time

One of the great problems I have with my own procrastination is that I vastly overestimate the time it takes to do most things.

Mind you, this does not seem to apply to work for some reason - I have very realistic grasps of what it takes to accomplish something at work.  Yet oddly enough, I cannot apply this same logic to my own personal life.

In my world, simple tasks apparently take hours; longer tasks can be days or weeks in my mind of arduous labor slowly accomplished.  This can even apply to tasks that I have done multiple times in the past - somehow, the memory of the task has extended in my mind until everything is a mountain that must be hiked up and crossed.

What I have come to realize is that in fact this sort of thinking is my mind trying to subvert my ability to actually get anything done - in other words, I seem to be consciously putting obstacles in my way from accomplishing things.  I am, apparently, my own worst enemy.

A simple example from today:

My very expensive and highly designer compost bin - a 55 gallon plastic trash can - finally succumbed to years of UV light and weather.  It was full of course, so the compost in the bin had to be transferred out, the bin removed, a new bin created (really by cutting out the bottom of another 55 gallon plastic trash can), the bottom buried in the ground, and the compost replaced in the bin.  To my mind this was going to take an entire afternoon of arranging and shoveling and moving.

Except I did not have an afternoon.  I had an hour this evening.  So in the course of an hour I performed all the tasks listed above, as well as mowing the lawn.  Done.

This is ridiculous, of course.  How could I convince myself that something that would take hours and hours really only took a single hour.  Was it difficult?  No.  Was it rewarding to accomplish?  Yes.

And there, I think, we have the culprit.  I really do not want myself to succeed.

That is a pretty powerful statement.  But as I look at my life and the excuses in time management I make, they are inevitably about things that will actually improve my life in one way or another (yes, even moving the compost made my life better).  By accomplishing them, I am forced to move on to other things.  I no longer have an excuse that I can employ against not moving forward ("Well, you  know, I would go ahead a plant everything but this darn compost is tying me up in knots...").

Whether it is editing or studying or practicing or even writing this blog, I can always find a reason it will take to long and so I should not do it.  Because having low accomplishments because you can never really finish the work because it takes to long is, apparently, more acceptable than realizing that you can do what you put your mind to - and thereby become responsible for actually getting on with your life.

Friday, March 09, 2018

You Cannot Make People Like You.

You cannot make people like you.

We (or at least most of us) know this to be true.  We all started at the same place, thinking in childhood that we could make people like us.  If only we would only be the funniest or wittiest or have the best things or give great gifts, people would like us (and to be fair, when we are children things often work this way for a while).  Being liked is a barometer of sorts, letting us know how "good" we are doing.

At some this all changes, of course.  We grow up and realize that no matter how funny or witty we are, no matter what we have or we give, that is not enough to make people to like us.  And so in theory we begin the process having relationships built around things like common interests, common respects, or even just time served in the same location.

So all of it changes.  At least in theory.

But over the last 5 to 6 months, I have found that it has not really changed for me at all.

That is kind odd, I thought to myself when I realized it.  After all, I am a 50ish year old adult.  I have children.  I have actual responsibilities that are occasionally important. In terms of career, I am probably close to the top of what I can achieve.

But I still find myself trying to make people like me.

If I was a better analyst, I am sure I could come up with a reason buried deep down in subconscious (right there next to the "Why I Still Wait For The Heater To Go On At Night Before I Get Out of Bed" [to avoid the monsters, of course] and "Why I Cannot Leave Dirty Dishes In The Sink At Night") about not engaging with people properly or being scarred from something as a youngster.  But I have to confess that the older I get, the less time and patience I have for reasons why these things are.

Why?  Because endlessly looking for reasons why something is does not change the fact that it does exist and needs to be resolved.  I can have all the understanding about how I reached a situation, but understanding how I got there does not resolve the fact that I need to get out of it.  And that takes action.  As I go along I become less and less interested in background (the past) and more and more interested in results (the future).

Which has led me, in this situation to go from "You cannot make people like you"  to "You cannot make people like you.  So stop it."  Arguably not the cutting edge sort of modern psychology or thinking that will make a deep impact.  But then again, I do not need a deep impact.  At my age and place and life, I just need to move on, not endlessly scurry about hoping my likability index somehow increases.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Eschew Ambiguity

Something I have noticed bubbling up in my life over the last few days is the fact that lots of things in my life are ambiguous.  I suppose this, like some others things, have come to the surface because of training for Iai. But the precise words - eschew (a fancy word for "shun") ambiguity - have suddenly appeared in my head in the last few days. 

Repeatedly.  And in bold type.

One of the cornerstones that my manager runs his life by is eliminating ambiguity.  His rationale for this is that it makes things easier for everyone if every knows precisely what is expected of them.  There is never any question of what people need to do or what the deliverables are.  By being complete and precise, everyone knows what needs to be done, by whom, and when.  So perhaps after working for him for almost 2 years, something is starting to sink in.

But the ambiguity I am thinking of is not about deliverables or schedules per se; it is more about clarifying one's own life.

I like ambiguity.  I like it because being ambiguous allows one to never have to make a clear decision.  One can always veer back and forth between two opinions or stop doing something in one's mind while thinking "I am just taking a break (perhaps quite a long one)".  Ambiguity allows a certain sense of mental freedom - but a freedom, I would argue, that is really rather imprisoning.

The prison?  It is that by being ambiguous, I never ultimately move in any direction.  I am caught in a nexus of possible decisions and choices that I never make.  Like a spider I may have a gigantic web of interests and activities built, but it is so large and fragile that any attempt to move on it will cause the strands to tear away.

Eschewing ambiguity allows one to make a clear decision.  Sure, it may be the wrong one or you may decide to change your mind.  But clarity was created, a direction taken, and motion ensued.  And progress will only come with motion.

An example:  I have futzed (technical term) with the idea of learning Japanese for 30 years or more, but have never actually made the commitment - eschewed ambiguity - that I am going to do it instead of learning another language.  I somehow have always justified it by "I can do lots of things" or "I am taking a break".  But the reality is that neither of these actually means that I have the clarity I need.  The clarity I need comes from simply deciding "I am going to learn Japanese" or "I am going to give up learning Japanese" and going from there.

Another example:  My garden has been a bit of a wreck for a while - but by my own declaration (Ichiryo Gusoku - see the description under "Pages") I am supposed to doing more towards self-sufficiency, not less.  So I have to make a decision - Is this a goal, or is it not? (The answer was "yes", which saw me out this weekend taking stock.

Yes, it will means that ultimately I "do" less things.  But it also means (or I think that it means) that I will make more progress in the things that I am doing and will allow me to direct resources and time the way they should be directed, based on the clear decisions and goals I have made.

Or, to quote that philosophical genius Yoda,  "Do, or do not.  There is no try."

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Lost In Calling

In my more sad or angry moments, I sometimes question the path God has allowed me to take in my life.

It usually comes at moments when I feel completely lost between what I though my calling was meant to be and what it has turned out to be.  Sometimes it feels as if every interest, everything thing I try to be good at, is 100% opposed to the way my life really exists.

I firmly believe God to be in control of my life and, as in fact He is God and I am not, am scarcely in the position to question His decisions.  But I still do, of course.  My faith is that weak.

"How is it," I wonder to myself out loud, "that I am so far removed from anyone and anything that I find remotely interesting?  Yes, making money is a good thing (and necessary at the current time, more than ever), but how does that square with everything else I love and feel like I do well?"  The answer never comes back - after all, arguing with God tends to be a one-sided affair.  

And reading about the success of others, at least in this respect, is no more of an assistance.  Reading about what people have accomplished half my age or when they had become my age brings less of a drive for success and more of a mental lashing of opportunities missed and "Dear-Lord-What-Is-Wrong-With-You?"

The only thing I have to take refuge in moments like this is simply God's goodness.  It is reasonably apparent, I suppose, that He does not need me to do the things that I think He does - because I see people more infinitely qualified doing them.  If He needs me, He will suddenly call me.  If not, there is some purpose that not using them is fulfilling as well, if for no other reason than I am not detracting from someone that has more ability and platform than I.

It makes me a bit sad and despondent, of course, contemplating an immediate future that seems no different than the present I have now.   But perhaps that, too, is part of the lesson that God is trying to teach me.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Withering Of Friendships At Work

Relationships at work are not what they used to be.

We had our annual "Do Not Do This" training.  Interestingly, along with all of the normal "do nots" that were covered, the potential range of work interactions that could be problematic have expanded.  It has expanded from at work to business activities outside of work (travel, company sponsored parties) to now after-work events not sponsored by work but at which supervisors ans workers are in the same place (e.g. "Happy Hours").  

In other words, we seem to have reached the point where any association with anyone at your current place of employ under any circumstances is at best a risky thing and at worst, something to be completely avoided.

I find this to be a great disappointment.

Oh, I understand why businesses are acting this way in our hyper-litigious society:  it is simple risk avoidance.  The chances of something coming back to create issues for the company are virtually nil when you ensure that no employees ever associate anywhere.  But I find it intensely disappointing  from a personal level - and ultimately believe it will come back to destroy the work environment.

Not forming friendships with coworkers ultimately creates a sort of utilitarian atmosphere, where people are in direct contact 8 hours or more a day but hardly share anything about their lives - I know little about my coworkers and their situations except for what is displayed in their offices and what they may occasionally mention - and in this current and future environment, I would frankly be better off not knowing.  The relationship becomes purely work related - and suddenly I understand something which has bothered me for the past 15 years, that people whom I worked long hours with suddenly disappear as soon as I left the company.  It is not personal at all:  it is just that the one thing we had linking ourselves has been dissolved and there is nothing left holding the relationship together.

If this trend continues (and I presume it will) I predict that we will find that people find themselves increasingly isolated and alone - after all, work long days and sleep and all you will have are relationships that end at the end of the work day and dissolve the moment you leave.  Where people will find their support from becomes hard to imagine, other than a greater increase to relationships that are digital in nature and definitively have nothing to do with how most people spend their actual day.  "What do you do for living?" will become a one sentence response - after all, who wants to dwell on the least satisfying portion of their life?  Also, we should prepare for the fact that following the ending of our career we will have to completely rebuild our social networks as our relationships with coworkers will effectively be over. 
At one time I believed the greatest thing would be work with people who are your friends or become them through work.  Sadly (as with many other things in my life) I have become a relic.  The best I or anyone else can hope for now is a workplace where the totality of the relationship begins, is consumed by, and ends when we enter and leave the doors.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

A Few Words from...Yagyu Munenori

"On The No-Sword

The significance of the terms No-Sword is not necessarily in having to take the sword of your opponent. Nor does it mean taking your own sword in display and making a name for yourself.

No-Sword means not being cut by another, although you yourself have no sword.  Certainly the real meaning does not lie in saying 'Let me demonstrate how I can take that!'

If your opponent does not want his sword taken, you should not insist on trying to take it.  No-Sword is also in not taking the sword when your opponent has this attitude. A man who is consumed by the thought of not having his sword taken is going to forget the aim of cutting his opponent.  And when thinks only of not having his sword taken, he will probably not cut you.

Not being cut is in itself a victory.  Considering it an art to take a man's sword is not the principle here.  The practice is one that a man puts to use when he himself has not sword and does not want to be cut.

What is called No-Sword it not the art of taking a man's sword, it is being able to use all implements freely.  When you have no sword and want to take your opponent's to use as your own, anything that comes into your hands should be of use.  Even if you have only a fan, you should  be able to defeat your opponent's sword.  No-Sword is precisely this attitude.

When you have no sword but carry a bamboo staff, and your opponent unsheathes a long sword and attacks you should be able to handle the bamboo staff and take his sword.  But even if you do not take his sword, you should be able to restrain him without being cut.  This is in itself a victory.

This frame of mind is the fundamental meaning of No-Sword."

- The Life Giving Sword (translated by William Scott WIlson

Friday, March 02, 2018

Sensed But Not Seen

That annoying feeling that you are changing, but you do not necessarily understand how.

You can feel it going on in the back of your mind.  Things do not seem to fit quite right into your life anymore.  You follow patterns of living that have been established, perhaps sometimes for years, yet there is a certain hollowness to them.  Things which previously seemed important, even critical to your life, have faded from vivid colors to shades of gray.

It is not that you are questioning anything - at least not consciously.  But a feeling arises that you know have felt before, the sense that the world as it exists for you does not quite work anymore the way it used to.  It is as if your mind has recognized this, but events and conscious thought have not caught up.

You keep looking for a clue, a sign, - something, anything to tell you where to begin to chip away at this seeming impenetrable darkness to the light which is behind it.  But the questions echo back at you in the darkness, returned without response. 

And so you continue on, a butterfly in a chrysalis perhaps, quietly wearing away at the surrounding routine that is your life with the hope that at one point, somewhere along the chain, that tiny crack that will begin to let in the truth will finally appear.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

On Virtue Signaling

Virtue signaling has become the effective new fad of the 21st Century.

Virtue signaling, if you do not know, is the idea that one cannot just be silent in any issue.  One has show one's support by saying something or doing something that is visible on social media that supports the position.  It now seems to have reached the point that one "must" virtue signal if one wants to be perceived as a right thinking member of society.

Virtue signaling is never something that is done by the true believers in a position.  It is done by those who are concerned they might be seen as "against" something and so have to prove their loyalty to the cause by speaking or posting.  Again and again and again.

As you might guess, I am not fan.

Why?  Because virtue signaling is always conducted from a position of weakness.  It indicates on the one hand a true belief in your position and on the other, the belief that one needs to have those that disagree with you "like" or support you - or at least not consider you an ignoramus through your lack of support.  It manages to offend those who might be your allies but does not convince those that disagree with you that you are "on their side" (trust me - they can see right through it and will stick a shiv in your back at the convenient time).  And really, it is display of how "righteous" the virtue signaler is vis-a-vis the issue in question ("Thank goodness I am not one of those {fill in the blank}).

Social media has driven this trend, of course - one can now almost instantly see who is for something and by default, who is "against" it (silence now means you are a collaborator).    It has also sadly removed any hint of actual real thought or discussion on any issue.  It is far easier to "support" something in hopes you will not get attacked rather than simply keep silent or defend it.

But the most abysmal part, of course, is exactly what Franklin posted above:  to virtue signal is to make yourself a sheep:  a follower, someone who is trying to be non-offensive and not be attacked.  Unfortunately, the wolves never seem to get the message.