Thursday, January 31, 2019

My Hometown Paper

My local hometown paper when I was growing up was a very small, thin set of newsprint called The Journal.  It was delivered (I believe) three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).  It served the town I grew up in and perhaps 30 miles in every direction.

It was what one would expect from a small town paper:  Lots of local interest stories, a crime blotter (although not nearly as entertaining as the Unalaska one), marriages, obituaries, a small run of comics, local high school sports, and the classified ads. Somewhere buried I have occasional pictures from long ago of me, frozen forever in black and white newsprint, singing in front of a Christmas tree or in a parade.

But then, I as I grew up, so did they.  First they went to three days a week and Sunday, then five days a week and Sunday (with color comics).  Mind you, the content itself varied in volume - Tuesday papers, for example, were notoriously lacking in news. 

The justification, of course, was that the town was growing and there was demand for what they offered.  We were becoming a media consuming society you see, and people demanded the increase in circulation.  World and State events slowly made their way on to page two.  They actually had more than one section of paper.  And those fancy color comics.

But an odd things happened - the price continued to go up for the paper.  At some point, the paper stopped growing but the price continued to.  Cost of newsprint and paid professional reporters and all.

And then, of course, this thing called the InterWeb came along.  Suddenly, people could get their news in almost an instant.  Any reason for getting a paper for news that was not local suddenly seemed silly.  And with the price increases versus the free content of the InterWeb, the paper began to die.

The fancy large building that they built for the upgraded paper is mostly rented out to someone else now, the offices largely closed and the newspaper itself (I believe) printed somewhere else.  The editions have dropped dramatically as well.  It only comes out twice a week now, on Mondays and Thursdays.  Still very slim, but with lots of local news in it:  great if live directly in the area, not so important if you do not.

I read that last week almost 1,000 press personnel, reporters and cartoonists, some with over 30 years of experience and Pulitzer prizes, were laid off.  They were shocked of course, and could not understand why such things had to happen.  I never really like to see people lose their jobs - bad memories and impacted people - but at the same time, I could not help but be a little amazed by their lack of understanding:  the market has changed and the price people are willing to pay for news and content no longer matches what people expect to make.

In a way, like my hometown paper:  very good at offering value in a small niche, but not so good at selling their value in a crowded market with other alternatives available.  Sadly, like most industries and companies, this was only discovered after the curve had begun to decline.

Oddly enough, I wonder if they view their hometown papers the same way.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Linked Out

So yesterday, after some consideration, I canceled my Linked Out account.

Linked Out, for those that may not know, is the (currently) largest InterWeb connection sight for career minded folk - a sort of Facetome without the social side (mostly).  People post their career profiles, news gets exchanged, press releases get released, etc.  Innocuous, some might think.  Certainly a good career move to be there.  So why leave?

Three more or less specific reasons:

1)  The first goes along with my general move towards decreasing my InterWeb presence.  One less place is one less thing for me to worry about, be tracked by, and be followed up on.

2)  In terms of usefulness, it was not particularly useful.  The job I moved to 2.5 years ago I found myself.  90% of the contacts made are either recruiters or people trying to connect to sell me something

3)  I said Linked Out was not social.  That is mostly true.  What it is, however, is the public sounding board for employment trends and policies, the "vogue" of what is in.  Current philosophies and movements (if I am intentionally vague, it is because I try not discuss such things here) are front and center and debate really does not exist - I have almost never seen it.  One just simply disappears down the memory hole, having committed the professional equivalent of career suicide by posting (where all folks that hire any more can see) one's own idiot opinion or by not posting on something that "should" have been posted on.

I do not need that kind of stress.

Will my career search suffer? Possibly I suppose, if ever  I go to looking again.  Certainly I can look forward to not being easily researched for my career and a dearth of people trying to recruit me for jobs that do not exist or professional items I do not need.

I am gambling the peace of mind is worth it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Importance of Footwear

Given my general bent, I spend more than my fair share of time thinking about, well you know, various things, like the weather and how my rabbit is doing and if the Etruscans had conquered Italia instead of the Romans would we be speaking Church Eruscan and, of course, the general fall of the republic and the economy (it is rather crowded in here and there is rather a lot going on).  For the latter, I also spend a fair amount of time thinking about various scenarios wherein the powers that be, who do not quite care for my kind of people (age, belief system, culture) do things to curtail freedom without "curtailing" it - something not as blatant as "banning from the InterWeb" (although always a possibility) but other, softer ways to make obedience appear reasonable and "disobedience" as foolish and painful.

Last night it came to me:  Footwear.

(No, I have not completely lost my mind from overthinking.  Well, probably not.)

We take footwear for granted.  I would argue that I have minimal footwear management, and I own four pairs of boots, two pair of sneakers, and a pair of zori (sandals) for Iai.  The Ravishing Mrs. TB owns, well, considerably more.

We use footwear everywhere.  We do not think about the weather or environment, at least for our feet, unless we misjudge either badly (wearing tennis shoes in the rain, for example - wet feet, but not frozen-toes-falling-off feet).  If shoes wear out, we simply buy a new pair.  No muss, no fuss.

But what would happen if footwear became a controlled commodity?  What if it was controlled for sale the way any other controlled substances or items are?  What if that control was based on how the government viewed you?

Practically speaking, what easier way to control a population?

Try running is a pair of flip-flops.  Trying going a single day without shoes just around the outside of your house.  Once upon a time, most of us went long periods of time without shoes in summer -but we were young and there was a great deal of grass and earth to run on, not the concrete and blacktop that most of us live in now.

Beyond the simple social issue of "no shoes, no service", shoes allow us to go out and do a great many things.  Take away shoes - or take away the ability to use any shoes which allow any actual useful movement - and you cripple someone.  I can rather easily imagine a world where (with the advent of the magical "electronic" currency) the purchase of anything beyond basic footwear is controlled.  Have an unwelcome opinion?  Follow the wrong belief system?  A bare minimum for you.  The better footwear - the desirable, useful, "cool" footwear - goes to those who have decided to toe the dominant power line.

Some people would adjust, of course - the good news is that your feet will toughen up at any age and if you look hard enough, you can find out ways to make the Roman solider sandals called caligae (you can laugh, but they managed to conquer a great deal of the European world in them) or the straw sandals of Japan called waraji (which are woven grass).  But without footwear, a great many things become very difficult.

Sometimes we always look for the big control points.  The reality is that the smallest and slightest  thing in our modern world can make an oversize difference - because we have largely become dependent on others to do and make almost everything for us.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The End Of Workplace Friendships.

This last Friday we had our annual "Feel Guilty About Interacting With Your Fellow Employees" Training (otherwise known as Harassment Training - so called because after we are done, no-one really wants to talk to anyone else for fear they are going to offend).

I will not discuss the general thrust of it - remember, we do not do politics here - but two points of interest came up which struck me as new from previous years.

The first was the question about "Happy Hours" or other after hours events which are not sponsored by a company but to which company employees attend.  Is this something where the employee and employer are potentially liable?  Turns out, may be - if supervisors and employees are present, the chances become greater.

The second was a statement about social media and the Internet - we were informed (per the employee handbook) that "egregious" examples of unwanted and unacceptable would be grounds for termination.

Where does this go?  To the very real end of, simply put, having a work life and a personal life and never letting the two of them cross.

I remember in my father's generation we would go to softball games where the the company sponsored the team and everyone on it was a coworker of my father.  In this day and age, the chances of that happening seem to fall into the slim and none category: it is just another way to foul up without knowing it.

The outcome of this, to me at least, was a continuation of a path I am heading down:  a complete and total separation of personal work life and a complete separation of friendship and coworkers.

Once upon a time - I believe this, I experienced it - one worked with one's friends:  after all, you spent 40 plus hours together a week. You did things outside of work as you would do with any other friend.  You knew about them, theirs spouses, their kids, their interests.

That has all changed.

The best, most safest way to get along in the world is simply to have no friends at work.  Have coworkers - yes, you must.  But there is a line between you and them, a line the runs through the regular work day and ends there.  Do nothing with them outside of work.  Do not let them into your personal life.  Do not let them into your on-line life.

Harsh words, to be sure.  But the risk has simply become too great. 

And I do not expect this trend to change.  In the not too distant future I expect that "possibly liable" will become "liable" and the assumption that one's employer is tracking one's on-line profile will not become an possibility but a given.

I have worked at cleaning out my personal life at my office, but I think I need to do a round two and start removing everything that does not directly relate to my work from the office.  Perhaps pictures of  Na Clann  and The Ravishing Mrs. TB.  But not much else.

Welcome to the future, where instead of integration of the individual and their life we have arrived at the atomization of the individual into their separate parts.

My advice to those starting out their careers?  Make no friends, only coworkers.  And openly refuse to engage in anything more.  Your future employment will depend on it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Come I This Day

Come I this day to the Father,
Come I this day to the Son,
Come I to the Holy Spirit powerful:
Come I this day with God,
Come I this day with Christ,
Come I with the Holy Spirit of kindly balm.

God, and Spirit, and Jesus,
From the crown of my head
To the sole of my feet;
Come I with my reputation,
Come I with my testimony,
Come I to thee, Jesu;
Jesu, shelter me.

- Carmina Gaedelica

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Few Words from...Robert Heinlein On Writing

  1. You must write.
  2. Finish what you start.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put your story on the market.
  5. You must keep it on the market until it has sold.

(Heinlein also said about the above rules:  "The above five rules really have more to do with how to write speculative fiction than anything said above them. But they are amazingly hard to follow – which is why there are so few professional writers and so many aspirants, and which is why I am not afraid to give away the racket.")


Thursday, January 24, 2019

KonMari And The End Of The Consumer Culture

For those who may be living under a rock, the latest craze in urban living is The KonMari Method spearheaded by Marie Kondo, a very soft spoken Japanese woman with an iron discipline, it is a Japanese method of organizing and re-organizing your stuff.

The primary point of the KonMari method is to eliminate all things that do not "spark joy", thank them for their service in your life, and then releasing (giving away/selling) everything else such that the only things in your life are the joyful things.

It seems to be quite the InterWeb rage at this point (we are living through it in my home) seemingly by a combination of the New Year and a general trend towards the "living simply" movement that runs as a undertone through a segment of society (and IKEA, if you have ever been there).  And it is hypnotic:  Once you start plowing through stuff, it almost becomes like a drug to see how much you can eliminate in a short period of time.

Now to be fair, most of us (myself included) can find a certain level of removing "stuff" to be a good thing - and certainly I am reaching a point in my life where less is more.  Other than books and the occasional disposable items like shoes, I buy very little beyond what we need for eating. And I know that the next two generations ahead of me buy even less.  And I am certain that this cheers the hearts of those that pursue the tiny houses, small footprints, and simple living.

But the future is not so promising under this method.

The reality is that there are really only two kind of economic cultures:  subsistence (making a living to eat) and consumer (making something to sell to something else).  I suppose you could argue that their is a third - call it the socialist or communist model where things are made and exchanged on a sort of needed basis - but that has never been demonstrated to effectively work.  In the first economy, one simply works to live and hopefully provides enough overage to trade for something else.  In the second, one works specifically (in most cases) to provide something for something else and hopefully has enough left over to live.

(As an aside, another split could be made between a manufacturing economy and a service economy. But I think the ultimate outcome will be the same).

Here is the unhappy reality:  Not everyone can make things that people definitively need.  We cannot all make medicine or washing machines or silverware or swords.  Lots of people make the sorts of things that are in people's houses for a while and then are not longer needed or make nothing at all except a service.  If these things are removed from the economic pool, what happens then?

Imagine a world where everything that was owned was only that which brought joy or were truly needed to live - and imagine, really imagine, how few items that would really constitute.  What will the rest of the population do?  Flip burgers?  Buff nails?  Clean house?  Do yard work? (All which are well on their way to be done by machines).

Yes yes, I know - in a "Star Trek" world we all get to do what we want and we never worry about income.  But this is the real world, and nothing is free - and even if you tried an experiment with Universal Basic Income, how are those few that are working going to pay for everyone else?  (Hint:  They will not.)

Do I have answers?  As usual, no, just riddles in the dark.  But it does bear consideration:  if what you make or what you do is no longer needed or wanted, what will you do to replace it?  And will that really represent a better thing?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

On Owning A Rambunctious Dog

We have had Poppy for almost two years.

On the whole, she has been a handful.  She has chewed multiple items constantly.  She wants to play all the time.  When she occasionally gets out, plan on spending the next hour chasing her as to her it is a game (and a great way to meet neighbors).

It is to the point that our very kind, very sweet dog sitter whom Poppy visits once a week to play with her pack, told The Ravishing Mrs. TB in the kindest way possible that she was going to have to charge full price because she was "spirited" (a very kind way of saying "almost unmanageable").

As I was pondering all of this and asking the question (as I sometimes do) what in Heaven's name we adopted such a dog for, I was suddenly struck by the fact that maybe it was not about us at all.  Maybe it was really all about her.

In our age of "me-ism" and convenience, I think it safe to say that there are many who would simply have gotten rid of her at this point:  The chewing.  The chasing.  The constant "Me Me Me" of a young dog.  The floor that has scratch marks and the furniture with ground in marshmallow from eating a box of them.  The cost of boarding and bills and medicines and foods.

 So maybe the whole reason Poppy is here is because God knew, somehow, that she needed such a family until she grows up too, one that would be committed to her even as she drove them crazy up to that point.  

The fact that we are inconvenienced by this may be somewhat incidental.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Hammer Fall Revisited

Ten years ago today, I was laid off.

The result of that layoff - after a 4 month job search - was job halfway across the country and the inevitable rather significant changes that came with it.  We literally uprooted all of our life and moved to a place where we knew absolutely no-one, leaving friends and family and church and school and a rather lovely house and garden.

I cannot remember a time more exciting and yet more desolate when I received the call for the new job - excited to have a position and because we were (literally) out of money, desolate because all of our life - the whole darn thing - was being torn away from us.

It worked out much differently than I expected.

It is one of those experiences where one can look back and see that, in each and every way, God was with us:  the house for rent that just appeared before we needed it, the school that turned out to be a great foundation for our children and allowed them to be educated in a Christian environment at an affordable prices, the friends that they were immediately able to make (that have in some cases still stuck with them), the church we started at and then the church we transitioned to because The Ravishing Mrs. TB had a job there first, and the second house that came available for purchase just before the market would have become impossible for us.

For myself, I found not only one job and then another where I found the sort of co-workers one always hopes for but a series of new things to do:  Highland Games and Iaijutsu, actually accomplishing the dream of writing a book - and then nine more. I found the rabbit shelter and the best darn used book store ever.

Mind you, the transition has not all been smooth.  My heart is forever back at The Ranch, no matter how much I do or see here.  My family and closest friends still all reside there and for all that I try to make of it, this never feels truly like "home."

I have been a bit nervous this month - as I always seem to be in January anymore, but especially this year for some reason as there is something about 10 years that feels like a sort of bookmark of sorts, the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.  Or maybe I am simply confusing the nervousness for the restlessness that seems to come from time to time, always seem to predict some kind of change the way my knee now seems to notify of a change in the weather.

It has been a good 10 years, far better than I could have hoped or planned for.  No matter what happens, I feel confident there are only better things to come.

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Rubicon Moment

For those of you that missed a certain shaving commercial last week, you apparently missed nothing in content.  But what was missed in the following uproar was the fact that we truly have become two very distinct cultures.

It was one of those moments - the Alia iacta est, the crossing of Rubicon or the first moment when Varus realizes the Germans have trapped him - that may go unrecognized in its impact until years later, when the dust has settled and Caesar is now dictator or the Rhine has become the Northern Border for the life of the Empire. 

Simply put, we are a two culture state.

Two culture states can exist, of course.  They have for thousands of years.  The way that they exist is, of course, that both cultures allow the other to exist and neither seeks to crush the other.  That whole "Do unto others" that so many people like to quote from the Bible as proof that God somehow endorses everything.

But where it breaks down, of course, is one culture seeks to become the dominant one and enforce its will on the other, crush it out of existence, burn its crops and salt its land.  In this world, it is more important to enforce ideological or cultural purity than it is to let people live.

Now more than ever, I find myself conflicted with people who believe differently than I - not that they believe differently, but that in the moment of blatant bias and hatefulness they choose not to cry "foul" but rather support if for no other reason than it represents "their side".  The dichotomy of carrying on a conversation knowing in my heart that if we touched on certain subjects that we would be in a heated argument is becoming more than I can bear.

This, in my mind, is the final death knell - or rather, the sign that great troubles are on the horizon.

People who no longer talk no longer do so because they believe that there is no point in talking. They no longer talk because they no longer feel that they are heard or any attempt to understand them is made.  And once talking no longer occurs, there is no other medium for resolution than action - and actions, once taken, cannot be undone.

The middle ground - or now, "No Man's Land" (Irony unintentional but present) - has now been destroyed by the guns of both sides leaving only a destroyed and pock marked landscape.  There is nothing left but the sounding of the whistles and bodies hurling over the trenches.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Few Words From....John Stuart Mill

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse....A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." - John Stuart Mill

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Collapse XV High Summer

13 July 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

We are in high summer here now: the days are very long (0530 or so comes the sunrise and we do not have true darkness until almost 2200). This makes for quite a compensation (although not a full one, I suppose) for the winters where we see less than 8 hours of sun.

A fair amount of time during this part of the year is spent preparing for the long cold winter: working over the garden, processing the produce for storage via drying or canning, checking on the bees to watch over their honey stores (and ensure they do not overcrowd their space and fly away), collecting the eggs from the quail and running them through the garden to pick off pests, and catching and preserving fish.

Of course there is maintenance to do, even on a house as small as mine. It is likely that I will not live to see major construction done again in my lifetime, so I do weekly sweeps of the outside to look for paint or wood issues, cracks in the caulking, this sort of thing. The yard always requires one or two good mowings to really knock it down (I have no-idea what I will do if fuel becomes too dear. I have worked on scything parts of the yard which seems effective but is very time consuming and a great workout!). A little cleaning on the inside as well, although I have organized and re-organized and shed and re-shed items to the point that it sometimes feels as if there is more space than items anymore.

That still leaves plenty of time for other things, of course – 15 or more hours of daylight is quite a lot. So I practice my sword and perform my workouts and walk here and there and everywhere sometimes as far as the Dam – and re-read the classics, which always brings me a certain amount of comfort.

Our traffic on the main road has quite dried up, especially for this time year – I has seen as few as 10 and not more than 30 in a single day. That is quite different from years past as this is the high time for vacation and travelers. This seems to be a new trend – I spoke very briefly with the owners down at the campground where I do my laundry and they noted the fact as well. It was definitely beginning to cut into their bottom line.

I would like to believe that everyone is at their homes preparing for Winter as well. But I suspect more people are beginning to try and figure out how they are going to survive the Winter, let alone prepare for it.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"Fair Share"

With the Other Party in power in the House here in the United States, I am expecting (and beginning to hear) cries for people to pay "their fair share".

When asked for a definition of what constitutes a "fair share", one never really gets a true definition.  One can get a sort of anti-definition thought:

- "Fair Share" is not shared equally e.g. Not everyone need pay.
- "Fair Share" is defined by the amount you make, not the amount you use.
- "Fair Share" is defined in wild numbers (one recent comment was "70% for over $10 million in income").

In other words, "fair share" is really not defined by anything other than opinion and feelings.

To be clear, to tax is the power to destroy.  To tax is the power to disincentivize productivity (if you disbelieve me, read a bit on how economies fared under Communist states and how they eventually had to figure something else out). 

A simple example, and one close to my own heart:  In California, beyond the Federal tax which every US citizen pays, beyond the gas and sales taxes which most people pay, beyond the property tax which any property owner in the US pays, there is a "state tax" which you pay for the privilege of living in California.  Currently, if you make an adjusted gross income (to you outside the US, there is a formula) of $0, you will pay 1% of your income to the state government.  If you make $16,080, you will pay 3%.  If you make $38,002, you will pay 4%.  On the other hand, if you make $105.224 (less than living wage for most of California's cities), you will pay 9.3%.

It does not take a genius to figure out that it makes more sense to make no money than any money at all. 

I have said it before, but I find more and more that my goal is to make the least amount of money possible in order to pay my essential bills.  Yes, I understand that this curtails certain activities and things I can buy and do - but honestly, the longer I go the less I need and the less I want to do (in places other than my home).  I am inherently disincentivized to pay more taxes, so I will choose to make do and pay less.

The oddest part of this to me is the sense that somehow all of this is a moral obligation, that somehow by the efforts spent to move my education and career forward I am obliged to pay more for others.  This is not a moral obligation, but rather an imposed obligation by those that feel that they can place their moral expectations upon me for no other reason than it makes them feel that somehow they are "bringing me to account" and "making me pay".

It is at moment's like this that I realize the wisdom and prescience of Ayn Rand:

"There, he thought, was the final abortion of the creed of collective interdependence:  the creed of non-identity, non-property, non-fact:  The belief that the moral stature of one is at the mercy of another."

If pushed to truly pay "their fair share", expect to hear more and more "Who is John Galt?"

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Support Your Local Blog

Upon pondering after thanking you all for reading (and again, thank you), it occurred to me that I could not only thank you, but encourage you.

Most of us bloggers are not here for the money (Good Heavens, there are far more easier ways to earn money), but what we are here for is to communicate.  Whether multiple times a day or once every two months,  I think we all write because, at some level, we are trying to communicate something about ourselves - be it our lives, our interests, or our thoughts.

The one thing that will ultimately discourage any blogger is to write into the void:  to pour one's self into the electronic paper, only to hear silence and crickets when the post comes. 

(Yes, I get that all posts do not resonate with every one.  But that is not true of every post for anyone).

So what can you do to help?  Simple:  comment.

Take the time to write a comment.  It can be a thought, an affirmation, or even one of those emotive icon things.  It does not matter.  Just put something in.

As a blogger, these are always welcome.  It means that someone took the time to read and actually think and respond.  It makes the effort worth it.  And sometimes, it even makes us think and make the original post better.

If the blogger is someone you like and they sell something you want or they have a tip jar and you feel inclined to donate, by all means do.  But even more importantly, comment.

If we are to change the world, we need to talk.  And start at no better place than simply to write something on someone's post, even if it is just "thanks".

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thank You 2019

Dear Friends:

It occurs to me, every year, that I should make the effort and time to thank you.

So, thank you.

Thank you for spending part of your precious time every day or week to stop by and read.  Time is not an endless supply, and the fact that you are spending it here means that you have prioritized it over something else (hopefully not something as mundane and important as, say, cleaning the garbage disposal - but I will take what I can get).

Thanks especially to those who take the time not only to read, but to comment.  I can safely say that (excepting spam, of course) I have a very thoughtful, philosophical, and well rounded group of people who comment.  You always make me think and try my best to write well.

As I have said numerous times, this experiment has turned from something I hoped would be a commercial and thought success to something more of random thoughts and occasional bouts of depression, joy and anxiety - a sort of on-line journal punctuated by adventures and but mostly about the mundane. Thanks for staying with me.

Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Sunday, January 13, 2019


"By faith in Christ a person may gain such sure and sound comfort, that he need not fear the Devil, sin, death, or any evil.  'Sir Devil' he may say, 'I am not afraid of you.  I have a friend whose name is Jesus Christ, in whom I believe.  He has abolished the law, condemned sin, vanquished Death, and destroyed Hell for me.  He is bigger than you, Satan.  He has licked you, and holds you down.  You cannot hurt me.'  This is the faith that overcomes the Devil."

- Martin Luther

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Always Feeling Behind

In speaking with a coworker the other day, I commented that I felt myself to constantly be under a cloud of stress.  She agreed.  She asked me if I had any sense of why that was, other than just the general work environment.

I thought about it a moment, and then stated:  "I always feel behind.  We have schedules and deadlines and I always feel as if I am not meeting those, so I am always behind.  Always being behind means that I am not meeting expectations.  Not meeting expectations means I am always at risk of being taken to task.  No-one likes to be taken to task.  No-one likes to feel bad."

Now mind you, I have a great boss.  I have never been yelled at for not accomplishing something (frustratedly spoken to perhaps, but not yelled at).  They do not yell at my company.  Yet somehow when I mentioned this, my coworker nodded in complete agreement.  "That is it"  she said.

How did this happen?  This seems like a completely self imposed burden - yet judging my coworker's reactions and those of my direct reports when I ask them about something (and I never yell either), this seems to be a common theme at our company.

As I pondered it further, I realized the that what I had stated was the way of it.  Schedules and deadlines inherently create the potential for individuals to be behind, especially if there are multiple schedules and deadlines.  If someone feels as if they are always going to be missing something, they become discouraged.  One begins to constantly look over one's shoulder for the rebuke that one constantly expects as one is constantly behind on something.  And when everything is deadline and schedule driven (and the completion of one merely means the start of another), eventually everyone feels like the other shoe is always about to drop.

What is the solution?  I do not know.  The nature of the schedules and deadlines is not going away.  The nature of what we do is not going away.

Maybe, in the end, the solution is for me to go away.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Struggling with 2019 Goals

I have not yet finalized my goals for 2019.  This is unusual for me.

I find myself caught in a double bind.  Typically I tend to over select goals, listing far more than I could ever hope to achieve and then feeling let down at the end of the year when I have not accomplished the majority of them.  On the other hand, if I list a very few goals I somehow feel that I am not trying to be ambitious enough in using my time and talents - or that I am missing the possibility of making real progress in something because I am aiming "too low".

I have whipsawed back and forth on these for the last month and have not yet come to a meaningful conclusion - but I have to (after all, the new year is already upon us).  What I think might be a meaningful compromise is to select 5 primary goals for the five areas (Rule of Five) and then five secondary goals - if I complete a primary, I can then move to a secondary.  But that would still leave no more than 10, which would be pretty amazing if all accomplished (or I could make tertiary goals, although 15 just sounds a bit silly).

But I really must do something.  The year is rapidly slipping by.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

A World Lit Only By Hate

More and more, I wonder how close to the edge of the end of civilization as I know it.

For all our love of the new technological age that we live, I continue to by mesmerized by the levels of anger I feel radiating throughout our society.  The zones where such things are not visibly present continue to become smaller and smaller, withdrawing to isolated zones of things like old music or old entertainment or old books (simply because the hyper-sensitive issues of our day were not thought of or imagined in those times).  Imbibe of any modern media or any discussion which is not laser-beam focused on resolving an issue and you will find yourself wandering into a zone of anger or rage of disgust.

We seem to now live in a world that is lit mostly by hate.

Hate is exciting.  Hate is cool.  Hate allows you to hurl epithets and rile up your allies while tearing down your opponents.  Hate emboldens the worst in human nature by making actions acceptable because they are against the hated.  Hate is the fuel which is burned to make progress, the altar on which the future is sacrificed to appease the present.  

One might think that the new year might have made me more hopeful, at least in this aspect.  Sadly this is not so:  with the oncoming of the New Year - the last of this decade, interestingly enough - I look upon a society that is more fractured not less, a civilization that no longer has any moorings in the past but seems intent to float on the River of Fate before it crashes on the Rocks of Reality.

Even then, the last words many will spew from their mouths will be the very hate that brought them to this end in the first place.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Ready For An Appliance Break

With our water heater safely replaced, I started to tally up the appliance damage.

Within the space of a year, we have had to replace our HVAC system (including air conditioner), our refrigerator, our drier, and our dishwasher along with our now water heater.  This essentially leaves or dishwasher and our range/oven as the remaining major pieces appliances that are original to either the house or when we moved in.

It is okay - we have somehow managed to weather the replacement storm, along with the various car repairs (I quite believe we could have bought another one for the repairs last year) and assisting with Nighean Gheal's college.  Still, the whole thing makes me the slightest bit grumpy.

I mean, good heavens - for once, can we not catch a break?  A year without something going wrong or an unexpected expense?  That old adage about having the salary means that it gets absorbed seems to keep coming up again and again.

Houses, as much good as they provide us are, I think, much like the description my father once gave me about cars:  "Son, it is a money pit.  A new one just means you do not have to spend the money right up front."  And that seems to be holding up well enough - to be frank, at this point I am almost waiting for the next thing to go wrong.

Still, I suppose it all adds value to the house - and all maintained, one less thing to go wrong - next time.

Let us just hope the stove continues to light...

Monday, January 07, 2019

Of Cleaning and Water Heaters

So Nighean Bhean (the middle one) has become a simple living enthusiast.  She has become an expert at cleaning things out of her own life.  She has passed this on to her younger sister as well.  And she has strongly lobbied for months now to allow her to charge into our garage.

Our garage, for the most part, had essentially become a dumping ground for things we no longer had room for in the house or for things we were going to donate but never got around to.  Finally, we had good weather (and a series of New Year's resolutions at our back) so she and The Ravishing Mrs. TB went into the garage with high hopes.

But, this is not a story about cleaning out the garage...

About two hours in I hear shouting from the garage - something about water on the floor.  I come running out - sure enough, there is a little it of water coming out from under the closet where the water heat is located.  I opened the door - sure enough, the bottom of the closet has water sitting on it.

I scurried about and soaked up the water on the base of the closet and then looked at the top - sure enough, there was water all over that as well that was sopped up.  After a little bit of wrestling, I figured out how to shut off the water valve, kill the gas, and depressurize the tank so that the connection which was the issue would not continue to leak.

(Above, the culprit broken line)

But neither does the story stop there....

The Ravishing Mrs.  TB finds a reference from our neighborhood group for a plumber.  Very nice fellow, offers to come by and look at it Sunday for a possible repair on Monday.  He comes by - super nice guy, looks at it, says  "It is 24 years old, you will need a new one"  - and then gives me a reference to a good replacement guy (he is 60 and no longer does water heaters himself), who happens to have a slot at 0800 tomorrow morning.  So tomorrow, we should have a new water heater - out of hot water for about 48 hours.

So what does all of this teach us?

1)  Cleaning is always a good activity. Who knows how much money it will save you?

2)  God continues to look after us in unexpected ways.  Who knows how long it would have gone if I had not looked at all? 

3)  Regularly check your water heater.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

A Breakfast With Old Friends

During my trip back, I got to have breakfast with The Actor and Uisdean Ruadh.

These are the oldest friends I am currently in contact with on a regular basis, dating back to the Spring of  our freshman year.  The Actor I met through marching band and Uisdean Ruadh through him (I can still remember sitting at the table in the cafeteria as a lowly freshman and the introduction).

That is 36 years of friendship.

It has been a long road.  We have been through births and divorces and adoptions and deaths.  We have lived close together and farther apart in college and back close and then farther away again - and then we moved.  Yet almost faithfully, we still keep up with each other.

The best sorts of friendships are the ones that just pick up where you left off the last time - and that is where we are.  We have the luxury, built up through years of friendship, of not having to deal in the small minutiae of living - we can just pick back up with the important things that matter, or with jokes that (in some cases) have been going for three decades.

I have had friends of longer length, but almost all have passed into the acquaintance phase of posts or lost contact altogether.  Only these two have withstood the test of time and distance and life.

It makes me sad for a great deal of the world now that does not possess this, that we have exchanged this sort of deep relationship for (in many cases) the fleeting click of a photo and the sharing of short sayings and easily offended feelings and the dissolution of "the relationship".  I wonder how they will fare in a world where the speed of technology makes such things almost impossible.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The Upper Meadow

As part of our ongoing walkabout series at The Ranch, today are photos from the other side (The Upper Meadow):

Garden Space - 1600 feet (80' x 20') of fenced in wonder:

The Upper Meadow (with local inhabitants):

Looking down the Upper Meadow:

Mistletoe hung where you can see...

This wooded section is above the Upper Meadow and is the northerly outskirt of the property:

Just found this on the ground:  It had grown around the stick:

The side closest to us, with the brush knocked down, is ours.  The side on the other side of the fence has not been managed or cared for.  This is how forest fires happen.

Looking from the Upper Meadow towards the Lower Meadow:

The sun is out but it is still frozen in places:

This gem is a five foot pile of aged horse manure just waiting for a field or garden to live in: