Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Collapse XXX: Honey Harvest

03 September 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

To break my thoughts from yesterday’s rather disturbing news, I will tell you of my honey harvest this past weekend.

It is a little early (perhaps) for harvesting honey, but our seasons happen earlier and later here, and I like to give the bees as much chance to settle themselves after harvest before the winter arrives (which, at least here, always seems too early).

The process is always the same: I get my bee suit on with the long leather gloves, prepare my smoker by loading it with wadded cotton and a flame starter and then lighting it. I pump until I have a nice steady stream of smoke available.

Then, to the bees. I pull out my trusty “hive tool” (really a sort a lightweight crowbar) to lift up the outer telescoping hood which sits over the outer edge of the hive deeps. I smoke down into the hive (the bees start boiling out at this point) to drive them out of the honey deeps (the shallower ones you see on beehives), then remove the inner lid to reveal the frames of honey.

The bees are typically billowing now. Slow, steady movements win the contest here. I smoke some more, then remove the honey deep – if it sticks (as it often does from the propolis, that sticky substance that bees make to fill chinks and holes). This year I had put two honey deeps on each; I pulled only one off as I worry that that bees will not have enough and, it seems, it will be much harder to get more.

I reverse the process (inner lid, outer lid) to seal the hive up, then move to the second one and repeat the process. The deeps are heavy – which is good, as it means the bees have been busy. I continue to smoke both deeps to drive out any stragglers.

After this, I pull the deeps around to the other side of the house (to avoid any curious bees). In this case my small shed becomes the harvest house.

Harvesting is simple enough. I use a tined fork to break the seal on the cells on the frames one by one, then place them into slots into a honey harvester, essentially a holder with a crank. I crank, centrifugal forces do the rest. I pull out the now denuded frames and insert three more. At the end, the bottom of the harvester is filled with honey.

The now empty frames I take back by the hive and set on a table (the bees will clean up very last drop of the leftover honey – nothing is wasted!). After they clean the frames, I will put them in plastic trash bags to protect them from moths larvae.

And now, the final part. The honey harvester has a spout on the bottom. I get my containers (I try to recycle those silly “Honey Bears” that honey always seems to come in, but have to use Mason Jars at this point as well), open the spout, and fill the container. The honey flows quickly as it is still somewhat warm; from time to time I get a spatula scrape the honey down (I, too, try not to waste). Occasionally globs of honey stick to the spatula or to the spout, which I greedily devour as my reward for a day’s work.

At the end of this, the harvester is relatively empty and ready to be placed out during the day by the frames for the bees to clean. My 20 or so containers of honey are ready to have the date written on them and be stored away for the year. I will have some more Winter maintenance to perform on the hives (we can discuss that later), but I am now largely done with the bees.

Honey has gone up in price over the years – a pound of non-imported honey (there were always unreliable countries that cut their honey with sugar water) was almost $15.00 the last time I looked. Just by using that price, I “made” $300 this weekend (or $600, were I wiling to take more). But the benefits I derive from having the bees present are worth far more than the mere money I could make from the honey.

The last part of the day is always spent with a beverage in hand, watching the bees who, having re-settled themselves, are now back on their usual schedule. I could watch bees enter and leave the hive for hours on end.

Such a simple pleasure, Lucilius. We work well with nature when we work with the plants and animals, not against them.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On Accepting Bad Decisions

One of the things I am grappling with - something that I am coming to understand is a part of being an adult - is recognizing and accepting when you have made bad decisions.

We all make bad decisions - hopefully less so as we go forward in time, but none the less we still make them.  However, when we review the decisions or the outcome of them, we have two choices:  we can somewhat airily whistle our way past the decision and its outcome or we can look at the decision, accept its outcome, but still say "You know, that was a really bad decision."

Children - or those who are child-like  - do the former.  Thus, every decision that results in bad outcomes is not their fault but rather the fault of others.  The lack of advancement in their lives is due to "outside forces and factors."  And often times, the decision and resulting actions are repeated again and again and again.

But that does not make accepting that one has made a bad decision any easier.

It is easy, in one sense, to say "I made a bad decision".  And yet to truly come to grips with it - with the abandonment of common sense or the dereliction of careful planning, of off the cuff decisions that resulted in bad outcomes - can be the most humbling and difficult experience of maturity.

Because in a real sense, it reflects badly on ourselves, especially if the decision was truly life altering in a bad way or the amount of time since we made the decision has been so long that we have become rather comfortable with the idea that it was never really that bad.

As you might have guessed, I am in the midst of confronting some of these myself - in some cases, decisions I made going back almost 40 years.  The realization that I sometimes underestimated my own stupidity and ignorance in sometimes rather devastating.

The point is not to dwell on them, of course; it is to learn.  But it is also to acknowledge that not everything was as well thought out as it could have been.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Points Of Decision

There are points in my life where one can definitively say "I have made a decision".

For me these things tend to creep up on me unawares.  I am by nature an indecisive person - not wanting to eliminate any possible option in the fear that I will miss the best option - so a definite "This is it" is more of an unexpected event than it may be for other people.

For example, one happened three years ago when, after an announcement and change in my reporting structure, I simply decided "I am going to get a new job."  And I did, within two months of making that decision.

Some, of course, may be life altering but not nearly that important - for example, deciding I was going to pick up and stick to Iai, which has been going on for 10 years now, or actually committing to weight training in a way that actually impacts my physical appearance.  And some are neither life altering nor important - for example, deciding I will never sell books again.

But for each of these, I can point to moment, a point in time and space, where the before and after were different.

Why this post today?  Because I think I passed another one of the moments last week.

It was in an emergency meeting, to discuss a work decision that had been made - which apparently was the wrong one.  We all left that meeting feeling defeated, as if no matter what we did, it was never going to be the right decision.

And then the thought popped into my head:  "This is the last time I am going to feel this way."

I am not sure how this plays out, what this means (although the last time this happened, a new job was shortly in order).  All I do know is that this feeling is infrequent enough that, when it happens, something always happens after it.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Value Of Things

This weekend, as part of a garage clearing exercise, I took two bags of CDs and books to my local used bookstore to sell. The books were mostly a collection of my own and Na Clann (but I go through everything they want to get rid of and keep back some of them for the future), the CDs entirely mine for a musical class I no longer listen to (Probably worth a posting all on its own, but I scarcely listen to a CD anymore - or if I do, it is classical music).

It was a busy day at the bookstore for selling (as it often is on a weekend), so I wandered the shelves for the better part of an hour, pulling books out and setting them back in.  It is always, at least in my mind, a good practice to scope out what I might be interested in in case I have a little extra money or a coupon (As Erasmus said, "If I have a little money I buy books, and if I have anything left over I buy food and clothes".).

They finally called my name.  Final tally:  $6.25.

For the first time ever selling books, I became a little irritated.

Mind you, I understand the concept.  Everyone makes money.  Buy low and sell high.  And the things I am selling may or may not be in demand.

Still, 2 bags.  I cannot estimate the total of what was in that bag, but I bet the value ran somewhere near $400 at time of purchase.


It was a poignant reminder of what I have always lectured my children, what was painfully driven home to me time and time again in real estate:  The value something has is what it is worth to the buyer, not what the seller believes it to be.

If you think about it on a larger scale, this sort of thing has become embedded in our culture.  People come into jobs seeing themselves worth a great deal more than (typically) what a company is willing to pay to meet a need. Or everything that is on the InterWeb for sale, priced at what the seller thinks it should be worth (because they paid that much plus it has been 20 years, you know).

It is not like I was going to take it all back of course, so I signed my slip and got my $6.25.

On my way out the door, I reconsidered the book I had possibly identified as one to buy, one I had been considering for some months.  The cost, with tax, would have been more than I received from the books.  Two bags, reduced to a single book.

I put it back.  I can wait for a 50% coupon.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Few Words From...Vaclav Havel

"We introduced a new model of behavior:  don't get involved in diffuse general ideological polemics with the center, to whom numerous concrete causes are always being sacrificed; fight "only" for those concrete causes, and be prepared to fight for them unswervingly, to the end.  In other word's don't get mixed up in backroom wheeling and dealing, but play an open game.  I think in this sense we taught our antidogmatic colleagues a rather important lesson; their hangover became more profound and ultimately led to a strange recantation of their original decision, which came too late to change anything.  But they had come to understand something important.  They realized that many of their former methods were hopelessly out of date, that a new and fresher wind was blowing, that there were people - and there would obviously be more and more of them - who would not be stopped in their tracks by the argument that a concrete evil was necessary in the name of an abstract good."

- Disturbing The Peace

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Collapse XXIX: An Unexpected Holiday

02 September 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

I am sure by now you have read the same news as I have, the same news that is burning up the InterWeb – literally world wide. A multinational, multi-day bank holiday. Announced – at least here in the US – in the middle of a three day holiday weekend, to which most cannot respond.

I had expected much – negative interest rates, price controls, even perhaps a trading holiday. But I scarcely expected such a thing as this to occur. This is a sign of true desperation, of the backup rip cord being pulled, of the emergency brake being hauled back on.

The outcome, of course, is foretold to anyone who knows the history of the Great Depression: long lines, followed by a complete loss of confidence in the currency. The currency will last for a week, maybe two – until people begin to figure out that it truly has become no more than a paper promise, something that will never again be useful for anything except for such great and noble tasks as starting fires.

All of the government’s official statements aside – full faith and credit, temporary event to help stabilize the economy, and so on – I suspect the game is up. By the time they re-open the banks, nothing will have changed to change the underlying issues.

Think of it – for millions of workers now, there is essentially no hope that they will be paid, or if they are paid that they will be able to get to their money, or if they are able to get to their money that they will be able to use it to purchase anything. Inflation is likely to become the word of the day for the short term, as business owners attempt to mitigate their risk by charging more in hopes that they will be able to get something (yes yes,I know – it is all terrible illegal and all. But who is going to enforce the laws now? Law enforcement cares to be paid like anyone else).

And then, I suspect, nothing.

I suppose I can at least watch the inevitable market crash that will occur (I can already seeing happening around the world, a slow moving tsunami that is coming towards our time zone) – not that this makes me feel any better, of course. My carefully laid financial plans are about to collapse into so much worthless electronic bytes. My bank account, now rather exhausted, will probably fare slightly better – but my only option is electronic transfer at this point, and who will be selling or accepting currency which is truly imaginary?

I will hold on to whatever cash I currently possess. Who knows – perhaps in the future, it will have some value, if only as a memento of an economy that disappeared overnight, much like German Marks from the Weimar Republic.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

10 Years

This past weekend was our 10th moving Anniversary, which we always celebrate by going out to some local cuisine.

10 years.  On the one hand, it is hard to believe it has been that long - after all, once upon a time 10 years seemed like forever and still does in some senses still does (after all, it is most likely 1/8th of our lives for the average person).  On the other hand, in some ways it does not seem like it has been that long at all - excluding leap years, it is 3,652 days, which you would think would seem like a lot more time.

It is odd for the impact on our children as well:  our oldest has spent 50% or so of her life here, the middle one 60%, and youngest almost 75% - she does not really remember living in Old Home.  So for most of them, it will represent 1/8th of their life as well.

Has it been good overall?  I think so, at least for them - they have had the opportunity to see and try many things which I am not sure they would have been able to if we had been in Old Home.  But there are costs, of course:  not really growing up with cousins, not seeing our families (especially grandparents) nearly as much as I did growing up, maybe not having a sense of belonging like I did growing up somewhere where my family had lived for over a century.

For me?  I do not know that my assessment would be different.  On the one hand, I have been able to do many things that I would not otherwise have done.  On the other, I do not see my own family as much as I want to, nor did I get to try or do many of the projects that only somewhere like The Ranch would have allowed.

What does the next 10 years hold?  Man, that is a great question to which I do not fully have the answer.  All I know is that the last time I thought I knew what the future was, it got completely turned on its head.  I have at least learned enough now not to make hard and fast rules.

Monday, August 19, 2019

On Blackberries

During my walk at The Ranch, I came across blackberry vines (numerous times):

I have an ambivalent relationship with blackberry vines.  On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that they produce blackberries.  As someone that occasionally walks his family's land, I deplore them for the fact that they seem to take over everything and make water access virtually impossible if left unchecked.  But it has been a very long time since I have been there when I was in season.

On a whim, I started picking them off and putting them into my hand to take back to the house.  The berries were literally right along the side of the road, tart and ready to be eaten.

Picking them, in the cool of the morning and the silence of nothing but birdsong, brought back a flood of memories.  We would pick blackberries when I was young, driving up to the family land where the old mining claim was from when my ancestors came out to the plot of land where the family house used to be before it burned.  My grandparents and my parents would pick the blackberries while my sister and I would pick for a little while, then get bored and follow the drainage ditch from the mine for a while or look for melted glass where the house had stood.  The blackberries, those that we did not eat, would come out over the year as blackberry jam.

We have not had blackberry jam in years (the store bought stuff, without seeds to crunch, is useless) and I have not been near a blackberry plant in fruit for at least 11 years.  It comforts me to know that such simple pleasures still exist and, when called upon, can still yield forth their store of stories.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Ranch, Summer 2019

As promised, pictures from the Ranch in Summer:

From the house:

The Lower Meadow:

Walking along the road to the main road:

Madrone tree:

The Lower Meadow.  Still a little water in the seasonal pond:

The cut line from last year.  You can already see the scrub brush popping back up.

My father planted a pear and apple tree.  Both have fruit this year!

Middle Meadow towards the Lower Meadow:

Upper Meadow:

Due to the tree felling for the power lines, there is a lot of wood:

Back towards the house:

I have never seen this flower before:

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Collapse XXVIII: Silence And Darkness

30 August 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

I am sorry I have not penned you a few notes in almost a week; a combination of both much to do and little to write about.

I believe (by my running count) it has now been 5 days consecutively that I have seen no traffic at all – none. Not a car, a truck, a motorcycle, even one of those four wheel contraptions (I can never remember what they are called) which passes for a safer version of a motorcycle.

The Valley has gone incredibly quiet.

Oh, one can still hear noises, of course: occasional gas or electric powered motors for mowers or weed-eaters (although those have diminished as well), dogs barking, once or twice a child’s laughter. But that has really become the exception. My days are now filled with a vast lack of noise, so quiet I can hear the cowbells a mile away or the crack of deer through the dry grass as they come up for the evening.

I have taken to sitting out in the evenings after dusk (mosquito spray – such a useful thing. How I am going to miss it). We still have power of course, so I can at least write these to you, so there is still the hodge podge of lights at night which form our little settlement, but somehow everything seems dimmer and less bright. Lights are going off earlier in the evening for sure, either from a fear the electric bill will eventually come due or a reality check that soon enough, light will be much more limited.

It is odd, Lucilius, that we have come to believe that light represents civilization. In some ways, I suppose that is true: outside of accidental fires, only man makes fire and the output of fire, light. So many of our activities – most of them in fact – rely in some fashion on light. Without manufactured light (like electricity) or stored light (like candles and fire) our range of motion in the larger world truly becomes limited to daylight hours, and even the best of those being daylight hours with sun ( a challenge someplace like here, where at best we get eight solid hours of daylight in Winter and much of that overcast.) To me, at least, light – more than any other aspect – is a sign of civilization.

And so I sit here in my chair at night, with most of the lights going out far earlier, leaving only the moon and the stars to shine as brightly as they ever did before we started lighting up the sky to the point that we could not really see them.

It is not that the dark depresses me, Lucilius. It is the fact that I can feel a larger darkness settling over everything like a thick blanket.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

August Heat

Yellowing grasses
withering in August's sun:
Winter seems a dream.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Not Of This Age?

I sometimes feel lost in time.

I enjoy the benefits of the modern age.  I like air conditioning in summer.  I like hot water on command.  I enjoy regular showers, clean clothes, and overall good physical health with minimal or no major diseases.

And yet, I often find myself ill at ease in the modern age.

Everything moves so incredibly fast.  I am constant caught up in a turbulent cycle of news and action.  Things always demand my attention.  Technology seems just on the precipice of overwhelming me.  And too often I am either thrust into a mass of people whom I bump up against like marbles in a bag or utterly abandoned.

And, of course, the knowledge I care for - history, literature, language, philosophy, theology, even agriculture- is largely relegated to the fringes of society as so much of it is seen as not as useful as technical skills.

I keep feeling like - at least mentally and emotionally - I belong in another age.

That does not really help anything of course, as I am sort of stuck in the age I am in.  It is not like I have a time machine or something (and even then, I cannot really see that going well for me).  

The next question became "Could I live as if I did live in another age?"

Apparently this may or may not be a thing - whether it be Viking re-enactors (see the videos if you can - some amazing craftsmanship and battles!) or something called "Retroculture" of which I am not sure how much of a thing it is or not - the premise being you choose a period and live in it as much as possible.

I do not know quite what to do with this concept.  In theory I like it - but how does it work out practically?  It is not as if I can abandon my computer at work or (realistically) dump my cell phone.  But there are things I can do - attitude, manners, language, even dress - to maybe move myself a bit down that path.

No big commitments or changes yet - but something I am definitely pondering.  After all, what do I have to lose?

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Few Words From....Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life […] Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

(HT:  Survival Blog)

Friday, August 09, 2019

One Wedding And A Visit

Hi Friends!  As you read this I am probably just stirring to get up for the morning - but later today I am getting on a plane and flying home.  It will be a relatively short - but eventful - visit:  my sister in-law is getting married and then I am staying for another two days with Nighean Gheal to see my parents.

I am looking forward to this visit - I always do, of course, but it has been a rather long time since I have been to The Ranch in August.  It is hot and dry at that point - there will undoubtedly be pictures; prepare yourselves that it will show a lot of dry grass.

But there really is no place like home.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Collapse XXVII: No More Shopping

24 August 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Before anything else my friend, thank you for the pictures! You all look very well indeed, and your bride is indeed as stunning in photo as she was in your description. I am hopeful that someday I will be able to meet here in person.

First, a bit of old news. I strolled down to the Post Office to do my weekly check of mail – really just waiting for the last few items I had ordered. They were there, thankfully, as was a notice that this post office was going from deliveries once a week to no deliveries at all. Items could now be picked up at the main post office for this region, 25 miles away. There was some additional language there I sort of breezed over as well about “cost savings” and “continuing to serve the public”.

On the bright side, I have now received all my packages. On the less bright side, I have lost my supply of easy junk mail for fire starters.

And today, I made what I suspect is my final drive to a town what may be a very long time.

The town is the one 25 miles away, the largest perhaps in either direction until you reach the city where I did my usual Big Box Shopping. I have been weighing the cost/benefit ratio of going soon enough while there are still things to buy that I need versus spending the gas – my guess is I have about 200 miles left plus whatever I have in my gas cans. This would consume about ¼ of my available fuel.

But the notice from the post office spooked me: if I did not go now, it would probably not be much longer until the larger town (in turn) was no longer getting anything either.

Driving on a road with absolutely no traffic was the most uncomfortable experience I can remember in some time. Yes, we live in a fairly rural area – but I am used so seeing some traffic (with the seemingly obligatory hand wave in this part of the country). My drive, for the most part, was devoid of anyone.

In my drive, I passed through two small towns: both true Old West style ghost towns, both state parks, both tourist dependent. In the first one there was nothing – even the Country Cowboy church tent that has been there almost as long as I have (along with their trailer) was gone. The second town, the larger one, was also devoid of any traffic, although there were signs of civilization as this was a more permanently inhabited town (and the county seat). I slowed to the in-town speed limit and passed a county sheriff who tracked me all the way from his location to the end of town. It was uncomfortable.

From there, it is up the grade and then down the grade into the regional center.

There was a little moving traffic here and people were out.

My needs were few: Grocery store, hardware store, and whatever passed for a feed store in town if I could find one.

The grocery store was first. The shelves were pretty well denuded of any basic sorts of supplies. Still a little sugar and salt, which I bought more to have than for actual needs. A few packaged of beans, somewhat surprisingly. No fresh produce at all. Prices were higher than I expected but not “extravagant”. The young lady at the check out counter made sure she pointed out the “Cash only” sign on the register. “The credit card machine is in and out” she explained a bit embarrassed after I pulled out my wallet.

She asked where I was from – when she found out, she asked how things were over there. “Quiet”, I responded, and mentioned that the post office had finally announced that there were no more deliveries and our traffic had dropped to nothing. She nodded. “Lots of locals left here, but no tourists. The trucks make their weekly delivery on Thursdays; it looks like this the day after every time now.”

I left here a $20 as a tip. She was painfully grateful. Given those prices, I cannot imagine how people in her position are going to survive without any tourist base at all.

The hardware store was next. My need here was piping – not that (again) I needed any, but it was the most likely thing to go. As well as piping insulation.

The store here was better stocked. They had my needs: six foot runs of PVC, metal piping for the plumbing along with fittings for replacement and insulation. I also picked up a gasoline pump for hand transferring gasoline to and from a truck as well as some of that gasoline stabilizer– you would have think I would have purchased such things long ago, but who thinks of such things when the power is on? The conversation with the older man at the counter – the owner, no doubt – was much the same. Business was slow at best and deliveries were becoming more spotty.

The feed store was my last stop – and there, I was flat out of luck. It was locked up and a sign on the front saying “Out of Business – Locals contact” and had a phone number attached. Apparently, regionalism was already setting in.

For my own interest, I took a drive down the main drag of town, the tourist part where (during happier times) a thriving throng of out of towners passed in and out, generating income to see folks through the fall and winter. No crowds thronged through now and about half of the shops had open signs on them, although I could not tell by looking if they were open or not.

I did stop by the local ATM for a cash update. Here it was even worse - $40 daily withdrawal. I took my $40, which did not even make up for everything that I had purchased.

I could have stayed longer. I turned about and headed home.

The drive home was...uncomfortable. Not that I saw anyone or anything. It was just the sense as I climbed the grade up back from one valley to another that this might be the last time I ever saw this view. I sat at the top for a while, just staring. Then headed on.

I reached home without incident (other than the uncomfortable sheriff, who again watched me as I diligently held to the speed limit), unloaded my pipes and parts and put them away, and then fed everyone. Dinner was smoked fish and dried apples.

I do not think I will be going shopping again, Lucilius. There is little enough left for me to buy and I am almost out of ready money, not that I think that paper money will mean much in the near future. At this point, the gasoline has more value as a trade item than it does to drive me somewhere.

I wonder if I can convince someone to just purchase my truck?

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Lizard At My Door

Thunder Lizard's Kin
scuttles each time I come home,
then quickly returns.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Trying To Find My Way Home

From yesterday's discussion, children leaving the nest are not the only thing that is probably going to change in the next few years.  What I am doing will probably change as well.

As super blessed as I have been in my current job, the reality is that at some point, that job is going away - through a buyout, through a bankruptcy, through a "We are looking to succeed and you no longer fit the position...".  It is coming.  And it is the after that which is interesting.

There is simply not enough of what I do here where we currently live that I can expect to find a position, and because of my promotion and expansion of job duties, I have become less employable than ever as there is not a one-for-one transition between this position and other positions of similar titles (and the very real fact that I am in my "middle years", which often raises employment questions).  In point of fact, it is almost a certainty that I, at least, will have to relocate.

That is a hard thing to plan for, in case you are wondering:  preparing for a job transition that is probably coming (but maybe not) with no idea what the market will look like or what the positions will be .

And always, the sense that I really, really, want to go home and finally do the agricultural things I have wanted to do for 25 years.

Life is not that clean, of course.  You usually cannot back your way into something; rather, you have to out and get it.  Which is hard, given the uncertainty of what the future looks like.

But this much I know:  I badly want to go home and shed so much of this world.  I just need to start finding a way to make that happen.

Monday, August 05, 2019

A Busy Month

So in this month one child heads off to Italy for the year, one child heads to University of Texas, and one starts high school.

Life sneaks up on you like this some time.

The first one leaving was, well expected.  Even the second one going, while moving a bit more quickly, was (again) expected.

It is the youngest going to high school that compounds the issue.

In about the period of 3 months, we are going from two at home full time to three full time at home to one full time at home.  That, my friends, is a pretty significant change.

In some aspects, I am playing for time.  This is far more disturbing to The Ravishing Mrs. TB than it is to me (and it is somewhat unsettling to me), so I have effectively left the discussion off the table.  It is still there in the back of my mind though, looming a little larger every day.

I know (in the back of my head, because that is the way things are) that once high school starts it will be over faster than I can imagine.  Things have a way of doing that.

I had not expected to be here so quickly, or have to make an entirely new set of decisions about the course of our lives in such a short period of time.

But that, I suppose, is really nature of time and life.  It just moves on.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Another Work Update

A bit of personal news.

So for the midyear stretch, I received an 11% pay increase. For those you keeping track, that is a total increase of 108% over my starting salary when I entered this position just short of 3 years ago.

To say this is amazing and stunning to me is at best an understatement.  For the record, I am officially making a rather stupid amount of money.

I am grateful, of course- with two children now in college and living in one of the fastest growing cities in the US, it could not come at a better time.  And I would say that I feel that I have earned it, if only measured by the amount of stress and hours that have been put into getting to this point.

And humbled, of course.  I have said for years that outside of IT, only the biopharmaceutical industry could have given me the ability to see such incredible career growth in such a short period of time.  I am blessed beyond words.

Here is to hoping I continue to show myself worthy of it.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Out Of Touch

I wonder if getting older always means feeling out of touch with your times.

If one was born in the 1840s, one could have lived to see the automobile from a horse-drawn childhood.  If one lived in the 1300s, one could have seen the initial rise of gunpowder that would eventually transform all of warfare.  In the late 1400s, one could have gone from the relative grayness of the Medieval world to the glory of the Italian Renaissance.

How would that have felt?  Would it feel the same as now - times being different, of course - as we have moved from analog to digital, from computers as big as houses only available to governments and large companies to computers in our pockets?

And this just addresses the change of technology - it does not cover social changes, dietary changes,and even the change in the ability to be almost anyway in the world within 24 hours.

In some sense we all adapt, of course - it is not as if I do not make use of a microwave or a cell phone - but how comfortable does this all seem?  Not terribly so, at times.

The young, of course, think that the world will always go on as they now have it, not realizing (as arguably the wisdom of age tells us) that they, too, are on a limited track of life "as it has always been".  In 30 years they will be confronted with things never imagined in their youth and early adulthood, things which change the way that life is done and suddenly become indispensable to every day living.  Perhaps they, too, will begin to feel that life has moved beyond them and with a strange nostalgia, look back on the "old days" when they felt comfortable in a world they knew.

And perhaps as well, they will suddenly realize that those that had gone before them were not the Luddites or fools that they had taken them to be.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Failure Day 2019

Happy Failure Day!

Failure Day, as you might recall (it has been some time since I have written about it) is the day that, in 2005, the real estate company I had founded with my friend officially went under.  We made the decision to end the company and fired ourselves.

In doing this, I found myself to be sitting in the bank with perhaps one month's salary, the remaining month or two of health care, no job prospects, a house payment I could not afford (because it was based on a salary that I had never achieved), three children including a 3 month old, and no other outside income (The Ravishing Mrs. TB was staying at home at the time).  It beat the previous two months in that we had a closing (that June we were literally down to $200 in my emergency savings).

There is a certain kind of grimness that comes from failing a business you have created, a certain bitterness when you realize that you were the one that brought yourself to this place.  You were the one that made the choice to abandon a career field you knew and take a shot at something else.

The outcome?  The immediate outcome, not so good.  By the time all was said and done (and it took 4 years to completely work itself out) I had probably lost over $250,000 in the salary I would have made, stocks I sold to give us working capital, and the Home Equity Line Of Credit I opened and the 401K I liquidated to pay it off as well as the equity I gave up in the perfectly good house we were living in for the new overpriced house that we bought and eventually had to sell at the cost of the loan (which ate up everything we paid for the previous five years). 

Did I learn things?  Of course I did.  I learned a certain self confidence that has never left me, that I can do things that I never thought I could.  I learned I could read and negotiate million dollar contracts.  I learned you need to pay a lot more attention to the bottom line as an owner than any employee ever thinks.  And I learned that the power of determining how to fill your days - instead of having them filled for you - is priceless.

Would I consider it worth it?  The jury is still out, even after 14 years.  The knowledge I gained could probably have come only in that circumstance (e.g., pushing myself out there) but the end results were not the sort of thing that I would have wanted to put myself or my family through.  The financial damage is mostly undone (but the time and compound interest will never return); the scars maybe less so.

But even after all this time, I remember that crushing moment when I consciously made the decision to end my involvement in something I had hoped was going to go so well. Watching something that you considered a dream die is hard enough; being the one to put it out of its misery harder still.

Happy Failure Day.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Collapse XXVI: From Lucilius

21 August 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Thank you for your missive of 19 August 20XX. I am indeed very pleased to hear that my e-mails continue to arrive and that you are as well as can be expected, given the circumstances. It is comforting to me as well to know that you have seen Sextus as well and that he is doing as well as you are – as well as we all can be, given the times. Send my greetings on to him and Placidia and their family the next time you see them.

You are rather a sly old dog to just mention offhand in the middle of the letter that you and Augusta had suddenly married! What joy I have in an old friend finding love again! The timing for these things is always suspect – frankly, I cannot imagine a more “interesting” time to start as a newlywed all over again. Even in times of chaos, the human spirit can still try new things. This comforts me greatly.

You asked me about the offer that Sextus had made to you and Augusta, about moving in with them until things parse themselves out. My opinion (as it is what you asked me for) is that you should do this as quickly as time and circumstances allow. It is what – a 10 mile trip one way to his house? Easy enough to transport you, your new lovely bride, and your library to his house for the duration, especially if he and Placidia are willing. There is nothing that would make my heart more glad than to know that you (and your wife, apparently!) were somewhere as safe as you can be in the current circumstances.

And how troubling they sound, Lucilius. The stories I read are the sorts of stories I remember reading about Mogadishu and Kabul and Harare, once upon a time in my youth: riots, violence, a breakdown of basic social services and basic utilities. The videos are at best appalling and at worst, disturbing. The written reports I can find – not all of them through the effectively approved government media, of course – paint an equally disturbing picture. And behind all of it, the looming specter of a lack of fuel, which eventually means a lack of ability to go anywhere else.

I do appreciate you and Augusta’s concern (as well as Sextus’ from what you said) about myself. Please be at ease, and put others at ease as well. I am indeed effectively on my own, but I am in a place where that is not the obstacle that it would be in an urban setting. And there is a community of sorts around me – the same ones that produced our July 4th extravaganza – that I occasionally see glimmers of a larger sort of social contract which might emerge (although I question that this is the tabula rasa that Rousseau was referring to). I am well provided, well fed, and well-libraried up (if that is a thing), and the rabbits bear with my occasional bouts of loneliness well.

Be careful and be well, my friend. Take Sextus up on his generous offer.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca.

P.S. I note that your missive was completely devoid of pictures. Good heavens Lucilius: if you can create and forward a letter, you can surely forward the pixels that make up the wedding photos. Get with it, man! I have not seen you in a tuxedo in almost 40 years – I demand photographic evidence that this actually occurred!