Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Collapse XXXVI: Loss Of A Truck

25 September 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Your message made its way through. I am, as always, grateful that you are still well, although I must confess your description of life second hand in our childhood state sounds grim indeed. I am surprised they are still allowing news like that to be distributed, even infrequently. The food riots sound awful.

By way of introduction for this letter, I no longer own a truck.

The circumstances are a bit confusing as they are alarming. Two days ago, young Xerxes comes knocking on my door almost out of breath. “Convoy” he slammed out between deep breaths. “Military”. And then he was off.

I had expected this day to arrive at some point, I suppose. I just did not expect it so soon.

The day was slightly warmer – we have had a brief lull in the cold – so I decided it would be a good day to be out picking over the last of the garden. And so I went out with hoe in hand, quietly working around the rapidly dying summer garden when the soldiers arrived.

There were two of them in their camouflage dress (totally standing out in our climate, by the by), weapons in hand. They walked through the front of my gate, one of them eyeing the Cabin while the other walked up to me. I studiously ignored them both, hoeing away.

The young soldier (they are always young, I suppose) greeted me with a chipper “Good morning” to which I responded with a nod. He waited – I suppose for some other acknowledgment – while I continued to hoe away.

Finally he broke in again. “Apologies sir. I have order here that you are to surrender your vehicle.”

I stopped hoeing.

He held out a paper to me – I scanned it. State of emergency, government orders, would make full restitution upon the ending of the emergency, full faith and credit of the US Government, etc.

I handed to paper back. “It is my only car, sir. I live alone and will be completely without transportation”.

The soldier promptly replied “Sir, we are ensuring that there are a number of vehicles left in the vicinity. I am sure you will be covered by your neighbors in the event of an emergency”.

I nodded – not really anything else to do at that point – then asked him to come over to the truck with me. The second soldier – the one by the cabin – started as I walked over. She tried to cover the fact that she had raised her weapon directly at me.

Shook my head. This was the sort of thing one expected in a dictatorship. Perhaps we had reached this point already.

I reached the truck, reached into the glove compartment, and pulled out the ownership paperwork. “I am going to need someone to sign for this” I said, holding out the paper and a pen to the first soldier.

“Sir, I am not authorized...” he started.

“Please” I said. “Here is what will happen. If I do not have the paperwork signed for, I will get billed for this next year. Not really fair if I do not own the vehicle, correct?”

The second soldier snickered. The first soldier shot her a look, then with great ceremony affixed his name to the document.

Telling them both to wait (but leaving the door open so they could both see me), I went back to the cabin and got the keys, which I slipped off the key chain. I shut the door, and brought it back out to them. “Give me a second” I said and then reached into the glove compartment to pull out those little things I kept in there: a Gideon’s New Testament that I had received in high school, writing pens, a tire gauge, and the post drawing one of my daughters made years ago that I kept as a talisman of better days. I flipped over the key to get the mileage, which I added to the ownership certificate. Finally, I reached behind the seat to take out the emergency kit and tool set I kept there.

Holding everything in both hands, I gave the key to the first soldier. “All yours” I said, then without looking back took my things to the house and shut the door.

I heard the sound of the truck firing up but did not bother to look out to see them drive off. I came out after that to get the hoe I had left against the house. What I saw was the convoy headed off – not just military vehicles but a collection of other automobiles and trucks, rolling on to the next town.

(Checking later, I found that the town was denuded of all but two vehicles: a 1999 Oldsmobile that a retired couple kept and had managed to convince the military that they needed for health reasons and a two ton old army truck which the owner had cleverly disabled by pulling off the distributor cap).

The loss of the truck does not concern me greatly: without the ability to get fuel it was a liability that I am now rid of. Yes, I am without transportation, but more and more I become convinced that a lack of transportation will be the least of my issues. At best I will bill the government when this is all over; at worst, I am rid of something I could never use again.

No, the bothersome thing was the moment that the second soldier aimed their rifle at me. As if I was an enemy to be confronted, not a fellow citizen.

It is not a grand thing, Lucilius, when your government sees you as something to be controlled, contained, or executed.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Autumn Is Come

Waiting for Winter,
Sweet Potatoes increase shoots, 
chasing wan sunlight

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The World Is On Fire

By my count over the last week, the following countries have significant protests going on:  Chile, Brazil, Spain, France, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria in the midst of a invasion.  A city in Mexico erupted into a drug cartel war, demonstrating that the Mexican government has zero power.  The European Union is a long, drawn out free-fall as Great Britain tries to leave. And, if you have not heard, California is actually on fire.  And I actually saw somewhere that Western Canada leaving the Canadian union is maybe a thing (Glen?)?

It has been a long time since I have seen this much turmoil and unrest.

I do not mention, of course, the upcoming US Presidential election, which is quite likely to be create issues no matter what side actually takes victory. There was a survey out this week stating that most Americans do not see this ending well.

And yet, oddly enough, the world seems to go on as normal.  People quarrel about sports games, the weather, the fact gas is going up or down in price.

Part of me wants to shout "Dear God, is anyone actually paying attention?"

I do not, of course.  To do so is to attract unwanted attention to one's self.  Far better to read the weather gauge and prepare at this point.

To be clear, none of this ends well.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Meet Joy

In my general meanderings, I forget to introduce you all to Joy, our (relatively new) house rabbit:

She is a gray lop, much smaller than Midnight: 

We are glad she is here.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Why I Will Never Fit In With Modern Christianity

I had an epiphany of sorts last weekend as I went to church.

We were finishing out a series on, for lack of a better word, social issues the Church should be involved in.  Some of them are real (look up the statistics on Modern Day Slavery.  It is stunning).  Some of them are what I would term "social causes" of the current decade.

At the end of the message, there was this prayer of repentance where the church was to pray for everything they had done to mess up society - oh, and any other sins that we were guilty of as well.

At that moment, I realized that I have little in common with Modern Christianity.

Modern Christianity - at least to me - has become a shallow reflection of the culture at large, all of the social issues of the day "with God thrown in".  At best the teachings of Orthodox Christianity - repentance of sin (all sin, not just the ones we feel strongly about), the uniqueness of Christ, personal holiness, the inerrancy and truth of Scripture - are something that are brought out if it somehow backs the narrative.  Classical theology is neither understood nor taught and the history of the church apparently extends only to our lifetimes at best, and really only to when the Church "realigned" its focus.

At best, I will only ever be a guilty party in Modern Christianity.  The cause of all social ills and the root of every evil part of the culture and system.  My role - my only role - is neither servanthood nor leadership nor even membership but rather an endless monotone of chanting of "It is my fault.  It is my fault."

I have not fully decided what to do about this - we are a bit invested in the Church we attend at the moment - but I know what changes it is prompting in my own life.

Within the Church, I am simply becoming a servant.  I have some ways that I volunteer that allow me to serve and keep me from really having to interact with people. And I will continue to do those.  But I am moving on from any sense that beyond this, I have anything meaningful to contribute (I believe I do.  Just not anything they can hear).  I can be a ready pair of hands.

Without the Church, it puts the greater burden on me to delve more deeply into my relationship with God.  Pray more.  Study theology and the historical church more.  Find those fathers of the Faith that I admire and be like them.

Why?  Because at some point, the grand edifice of Modern Christianity will come tumbling down (We may be closer than we think.  I read an article this week that stated those with no religious affiliation outnumber US Catholics, 27% to 20 %).  And when it comes tumbling down, there will be a great many people that simply leave the Church (after all, as some wag put it, why would I waste a Sunday morning getting something I can just watch online?).  But there will also be some that are hungry for real Christianity, not the socially driven drivel they have been given.  People hungry for real truth, not the fickle truth of a society that will quickly move on to even more demands.

And when that day comes, the rest of us will have to be ready.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Small Methods On Saving Money

(Before I start today's posting, I note (with a little reluctance) that I am not always sure that my blog is on target.  That would, of course, mean that I had a target, which I do not think that I do. Really, this is just kind of my life unfolding.  Sometimes I find the right thing and go with it.  Sometimes I am pretty sure my postings are just a series of random events pieced together.  But perhaps that is simply the stuff of life).

While we are continuing to try to make progress on the big expenses, one area of my life that I am starting to work through is the smaller expenses, those little bits and pieces where the small amounts of money trickle through.  I am not really sure how this came to my attention, but it did.  So I have been working on it.

An easy thing is lights, of course.  Not just turning them off or on but how many you have on.  So, for example, I only need one living room light on instead of two so one got turned off.  Or turning off the lights in the house far earlier than I have in the past (no real reason for lights to be on after 10 PM anyway).

Haircuts: My bane.  I had been attending a Men's barber shop (because, frankly, I liked the experience).  But it turns out I like my money more.  Haircut at home from The Ravishing Mrs. TB with the electric razor we purchased cost the price of electricity (and handily, I save on hair products).

Water:  I am not as good at this as I should be.  I still turn the faucet on full force, even though I only need it partially.  Another area where I can get better.

Driving:  I tend to think that I manage this pretty well.  But the reality is that there is always something that I can do better.  Or less of, any more.

With work and Iai and church the gym and the Rabbit Shelter, I drive about 130 miles a week.  And if I could keep to that, I would need to refuel perhaps twice a month.  But I keep adding in smaller trips that add to the total.

Yes, I know, these are not major money saving events.  But every little bit helps.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Planting The 2019 Garden

So this weekend (after my Winter Scare) it was time to plant.

This is the "new bed".  It is the one that gets the most sun in Winter.  It is rather heavily sown with Winter Rye:

The "Old Bed" before processing:

From the other end.  The Sweet Potatoes are still moving right along.  I will leave this end for spring:

It took out one of the Okra plants (we have plenty) and smoothed everything out:

These are saffron bulbs.  Turns out it is a variety of Crocus.  New to this season:

I planted beets, garlic, onions, spinach, lettuce, and leeks.  Onions picture below:

This is an Egyptian Walking Onion.  Not sure how it will grow, but why not?

Gardening:  Adventures Abound!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Great Stuff Purge of 2019

So the Great Stuff Purge of 2019 is picking up steam.

It started innocently enough.  The Ravishing Mrs. TB got two bags of items she was no longer using and sent them off.  And then she realized our local neighborhood also had a "stuff other people do not want that you can have" group.  So she listed some items on there - you just put it out, and then it magically disappears.

And then, today, she moved to The Craft Table.

The Craft Table has sat in our house where the formal dining area is every since we moved here six years ago (replacing The Previous Craft Table located in the upstairs main room when we rented).  The point of The Craft Table was to be a location for all of the crafting supplies - scrap book, sewing, Na Clann's various crafting activities over the years.  Which is was, on and off.

Until everyone got busy.  And life happens.  And trends happen (who actually scrapbooks any more?).

And so, by the time I returned from the Rabbit Shelter, The Craft Table was completely cleaned off.  Vacuumed.  And a rather large pile of material ready to either be placed out in the recycle bin or to be donated.  (As a bonus, the four dining room chairs that we have had for two years since we got the new ones were also ready for donation).

It is a slow process, but we seem to be reaching the point where there is more stuff going out of the house than there is coming into it.  And that is a good thing.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Exciting World of Personnel Management

Yesterday when I was at the Rabbit Shelter, I received an e-mail from my co-worker in Human Resources.  Had I checked my e-mail and what was originating it?

Sigh.  I try to avoid checking work e-mails on the weekend, but better to be informed now rather than surprised later.  Short answer:  it is an HR problem which will need to be resolved.

(Of course, that is all I can say about the problems itself.  Privacy laws and all).

Reason number 52 why I need to get out of what I currently do.

I am probably not the best supervisor. I really, really do not deal well with conflict between people.  On the whole, I would just like people to act like adults, get along (at least to complete their jobs), and if they have issues to manage them like adults.  Notice that I have listed word adults at least twice.

The reality is that supervising is not really like that - at least not anymore (maybe it never was).  People are emotional.  People are irrational.  And Dear Heavens, I do not mean to come down on the current generation, but certainly seems like emotionalism at work is now a part of the common accepted work practices.

I am, by nature, an introvert.  I can do extrovert when I have to - and in my current job, I do have to - but it is the most draining thing in the world to me, to the point that I am virtually silent for the first hour that I home after work.  In my happy work world, I talk to almost no-one, get my instructions, do my job, and go home.  I supervise no-one. 

To those that have never supervised, a request:  imagine what it is like trying to balance not only your story, but the story of the person you are butting heads with while making sure that work gets done.  Now imagine there are 20 people just like you.

I am just not up to the rigors of 21st Century personnel management.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Few (More) Words from Yamaoka Tesshu

"Do not desire money,
do not depend on empty principles,
do not seek fame:
just go with what you have
and you will pass safely through this world."

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Few Words

This past weekend, I was out at Highland Games throwing away with the assortment of human debris that we call the Super Masters (Over 50 Men's throwers).  One of the great things about this particular games is that I get see a friend who can only come when we throw on Sundays (he is a business owner and that is his one day off).  I enjoy spending time with him and look forward to when I can.

Sometime, mid-games, we are standing out in the throwing field waiting for our turn to bring the implement in (in Highland Games, this is called "Shagging".  I have absolutely no idea why).  He asks me "How are things going?"

For a second - for a single second - I think about giving my typical response of "Oh, fine".  But I do not.  Instead, I give him a summary of the last three weeks and tell him that I really need to make a change.

He does not question.  He merely asks "What is that plan?"

I shrug a bit.  "I do not have many opportunities in my industry.  So no idea."

"So planning is the plan?"

I nod.

The next day I texted him and let him know how glad I was to see him.  His response?  "I appreciate the trust your conversation suggests.  No doubt in my mind you will conquer this unexpected situation."

I cannot tell you how encouraging this very brief conversation and text were to me. 

Sometimes the very simplest of listening and affirmation can do great things.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Time To Garden Autumn 2019

So somewhat of an amusing story:  The haiku posted at on Monday was actually written the previous Sunday (had to move it, editorial reasons).  Sure enough, between then and this week we had a cold front blow in - we went from the mid-90'F to the mid-50's.   So even so I still have my sweet potatoes and okra hanging on,  Winter, it seems, really is coming. 

So my "I have plenty of time to plant my Autumn/Winter garden" has morphed into "I had better plant my garden next week".

Here is the bulk of this year's latter plantings:

This year's foray into the possible include spinach, lettuce and two kinds of beets, Saffron plants (which are really crocuses - who knew?), Egyptian Walking Onions, and Rye.  Not pictured here are garlic (the eternal), barley, onions, and leeks.  As always, we will see what grows and what fails.

A side comment: as I was digging through my seeds I realized that these are some of the last of my Bountiful Gardens Seeds.  SowTrue Seeds has been an amazing replacement - still, it makes me a little sad to see the end of the seed packets of my first adventures in gardening.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Too Many Hours

So last week was week three of a 60 plus hour work week.

This is not a terribly sustainable plan.

It all happens quite innocently at first, of course:  an emergency comes up and it needs to be dealt with.  So you stay late and deal with it - after all, it is your responsibility to do so.  So you work hard, get some things done, and leave feeling that you accomplished something.

And then you come in the next day.  And a new emergency occurs.  And again, you are scrambling to make sure everything gets done.  You end up missing Iai  class the whole week because of work.

And then you finding yourself at sixty plus hours, checking your phone right after you get up and after you have left work.   Your life comes focused down to a lack of sleep, a lack of activities, and getting things done.

And then it spills over into week two.  And then into week three.

You know something is off when you get a comment both from your father and your wife to make sure you are "taking care of yourself" when they usually do not say such things (because there is no need to).

I am not sure what the solution is.  But I am pretty sure the solution does not include "rinse and repeat" until eternity.  No amount of money makes this kind of life sustainable.

I have no idea how people really do it.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Maybe Autumn?

How foolish it seems,
that the mid-80s in heat
translates as  "Cold Front".

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Collapse XXXV: Of Cold And Meetings

21 September 20XX

My Dear Lucilius

Winter, it seems, has arrived early and with a vengeance.

Those springlike conditions I wrote of four days ago suddenly plunged in the last two days to near freezing conditions – cold enough that the last of my summer garden has effectively expired at this point. I am hopeful that I gave the winter garden (sort of foolish calling it an Autumn Garden at this point) a start that with perhaps a little more sun and warm weather, it will take.

On-line instant weather knowledge: something else that has disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Our power continues to maintain itself at about four hours a day or less. I have taken the liberty of shutting off most of the breakers at the circuit box (as I hardly need them anymore) and have only two engaged at the moment: one for the power cord that still drives the computer and wifi and the one that controls the hot water heater (four hours is just about enough time to warm the tank before it goes off again – so my showers are very irregular).

Two days ago – just before the cold hit – a young man whom I cannot remember having met before came by and introduced himself. He said he lived at the other end of town and was checking in with everyone that was left here to see about having a town meeting to discuss the state of things and what could be done. You know how I am about public meetings, but as the situation has changed into what I suppose we shall term “The New Normal”, I said yes.

The meeting was, of course, in the daylight hours (that electricity issue) in the same old business building where we had our July 4th event. I did a head count coming in – there were about 80 people there or so, most of everyone remaining here I would suppose.

A few words of greeting settled us down, then the young man Xerxes (you will forgive me if I still do not use real names) introduced himself and said a few words. He had been out both directions in the past two days and wanted to fill everyone in on the situation. Effectively, it is not good. Neither town on either side of us had seen a visitor in almost two weeks as well, only locals – nor had received any shipment of any kind from the “outside” world. It appears we are all on our own for the foreseeable future.

He had two suggestions. The first was to set up a sort of communication system within the town. We could use radios or walkie talkies if individuals had them, but suggested setting up a house to house network based on geography as well. People seemed generally approving of this suggestion.

The second was to set up some kind of local “watch” - some kind of sentinel on all of the outskirts of town to let people know if anyone is coming in our out. It would certainly not qualify as a “militia” or anything of that nature, but would at least be a way to keep abreast of if something was moving in towards town. This seemed a little less acceptable at first, with meaningful questions about who would watch, where and when would they watch, how would work be split (in Winter here, it is not a brilliant thing to be out for long periods of time). This seems to have eventually worked itself out: for the moment a passive watch with a notification network. No formal “guard posts” at this time.

And so, accidentally it seems, I have entered the role of “watcher” as I live on an end of town.

We had a social time after these two items with some cookies and coffee (sadly, both of these will become a rarity all to soon) and I met a number of my “neighbors”. 80 or so people is a lot of people to meet, but not as difficult as I made it in my head. What I learned is the following:

- The remaining population is split largely between 3 groups: up to 18, 19-44, and 45-64 (my bracket) with a few above 65.
- Including myself, there are 40 households represented (there are a few more houses, but it sounds as if these are people who have left to stay with other relatives or friends).
- There are a few more men than women.
- There are a few outlying households that came in for the meeting, but it sounds as if some of the larger ranches have “hunkered down” to wait out the storm.

That is about as far as we got, socially.

After the meeting, we all returned home (an advantage of living in a small town is that you are no more than a mile away from your house). Thankfully other than the quail and the greenhouse there is little enough to have to do outside at this point.

My meals are already continuing to evolve (I mention this because by the time I got home, it was dinner time). Breakfast is reliable half a cup of oatmeal, a few dried pieces of fruit, and vitamins. Lunch is even lighter, involving some vegetables or fruits I have either canned, dehydrated, fresh, or otherwise stored. Dinners are a cup of rice, some kind of protein if I have it (fish, beef, deer jerky, even quail eggs) and beans (rice and beans can conveniently be soaked and cooked in small portions on a wood stove). Lots of water and tea.

So tonight I had my beans and rice and a little jerky and my tea and ate as the wind howled and the sun slowly dropped in the sky. The quiet with only the fire and the rabbits eating is both intensive and eerie. I finished with reading a bit more of Dostoevsky (my goodness, Notes from Underground is rather dark, is it not?) and then working penning and then typing this missive to await the next power window.

I had not anticipated the quiet being so intensive.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Collapse: Listing Things

One of the outstanding items as I have worked on The Collapse is that I have never really had a sense of what Seneca (The protagonist) actually owns.  Yes, I have some idea in my own head but realized that if I was going to write a credible story, I needed to actually decide what he had, because that would be all that he would start out with.

(This reflects one of my personal pet peeves:  authors who simply throw items in that have previously not been accounted for or explained.  J.R.R. Tolkien always made sure there was a link for everything in his books; Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time)  was not very good at it - to the point I stopped reading his books).

And so, I started making a list of everything Seneca had:  Personal, Cooking Utensils, Armory, Tools, Food and Supplies, Livestock, Garden, Fishing.

Some of the thing I wrote down (mostly personal) reflected things that I own (after all, he is an extension of me to some extent).  Some of the things extended from what I have described of him:  he has a wood stove, for example, so it follows that he would have certain implements (maul, ax, sledge hammer) to prepare the wood.  In some cases where a specific reference had been spelled out, I used that number.

After I initially completed the list,  I looked at it.  And was totally surprised at what I thought someone who was trying to be "grid-less" actually needed to own.  It was a lot more than I anticipated.

To some extent, that is the way of life, is it not?  We start something, then find we need three other things in order to do it - or that the one specific tool for the task would greatly increase our efficiency.  Or realize that doing it "ourselves" initially costs a lot more than we anticipated.

Even a moderate amount of self sufficiency, at least in fiction, is a lot more complex than it seems.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

A World Without Cashiers

This weekend I had to journey to a Big Box Construction Store (Choices here are either the Orange One or the Blue One) to procure some wood screws (# 14 2.5", in case you were wondering) for building out cage bases.  The way the trip worked out, the Orange One was closer.  I walked in, looked for the items in question (Sadly, they were out), and then started walking back towards the exit.

And stopped in amazement.  They had completely ripped out the checkout lines.

All that was now present was two rows of four station self-checkout lines.  The rest had been absorbed by additional floor space.  A single employee stood at a station, watching the progress of the stations and helping where needed.

Now, given the choice I am likely to use a self-checkout stand, mostly because (on the whole) I do not enjoy making small talk or being asked about my personal information ("Sir, have you considered our Customer Loyalty Program?").  But I may be a minority there - lots of people use them very regularly.  But it appears that The Orange Big Box is forcing everyone's hand.

Most people will adapt - they will get there, perhaps be initially offended, but decided going somewhere else is too much work and buy whatever they have come to get.  The next time, it will be simpler.

Which made think:  what about a world completely without cashiers?

We are going that way, you know.  The Golden Arches are more than piloting a program which involves ordering from a kiosk and then picking up your order (if you have ever been to a revolving sushi restaurant, it is really not all that dis-similar).  Most large grocery stores have had self-checkout for years.

Imagine a world where, upon entering a store, you are greeted by a customer robot that greets you, asks what it can help you with, and either give you directions or escorts you to the item.  Checkout is self-checkout.  There are a few employees to handle returns and make sure everything is running correctly, but the majority of operations is done automatically.  Even restocking is handling by robots at night (Do not laugh.  Amazon manages their warehouses this way).  Instead of a crew of 50-60 over the course of a day, you have a crew of 10 to 15.

The people currently filling those jobs - the unskilled, the in-betweeners, the retired, the starting out - will be competing for less and less of a job market.  Where does that leave them?

I am not sure that I will be back to the Big Orange Box.  But then again, if I insist on using self-checkout, am I really not forcing the same thing?

Monday, October 07, 2019

A Small Clarification

Dear Friends:

I feel as if I need to make a point of clarification about my beliefs so that there is no confusion.

I am, on the whole, a conservative.  And by conservative, I mean a small government, limited government, free market believer, and as many rights as the individual can have.  In general, this puts me in opposition to liberalism and the current opposition party.  That does not, however, mean I always support the current party in power.

I am a conservationist.  I believe we should preserve and protect creation.  I am, in general, against corporate agriculture and for sustainable agriculture.  I also believe that government is often the least likely to be able to enable this.

I am a Christian.  I am an "orthodox" Christian in that I accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God.  I believe in the total substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of anyone who believes in His sacrifice on their behalf.  There is a lot that goes a long with that, but for now it is sufficient.

I believe that there is evil in the world, evil in the hearts of men and women (which is called sin) and that there is evil in the supernatural world that attempts to break into our own.


But the thing I cannot and will not countenance or support on this site is any sort of name calling or use of terms that would be considered offensive.  That goes all ways, not just one way.    Nor can I countenance the use of the wrong thing in support of the right cause.  We do not make our arguments better or more attractive by using a flawed weapon.

I try not deal in politics here for good reason - it never leads to a useful discussion (at least on the InterWeb).  But occasionally even I seem to wander closer than I mean to.  If this has created an issue for anyone, I apologize.  That was never my intent.  If this somehow means that this is not a blog you can continue to follow, I apologize and thanks for time you read me.  Really.  Being clear on these points means that much to me.

Of course, this means examining my own life as well.  I am not always as good at practicing this as well and need to get better.

Tomorrow, of course, we will be back to ponderings. 

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Your Obedient Servant, Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Sunday, October 06, 2019

On The Disappearing of Blogs

If you have been on the blogosphere long enough, one of the sadder things that happens is that eventually your favorite voices seem to go dark.

It is understandable, of course.  I suspect for 99% of us, we have other things that we actually do to make a living.  Blogging is an outlet, something that meets needs for those that want to write but never feel they can or those that need to write because they know no other way or those that feel they have something to offer the world through their lives and what they are doing with them.

I probably fall into the category of I write because I now know no other way - even after I figured out my career as a nascent author was not really going anywhere I continued to write anyway.  It is a good intellectual challenge and allows me to continue to keep bits of my own dreams alive and well in a period where they all too frequently feel as if they are falling into the chaos of real life.

I am always grateful to anyone who keeps a blog, no matter how irregularly.  It is a commitment one makes no matter what else is going on, no matter who reads, to keep putting something up.

But blogs are like our friends and families in real life:  they move away, they lose contact, sometimes they die.

One of my more favorite bloggers, Pioneer Preppy at The Small Hold, himself does not blog at all anymore.  To see his blog roll is, in many ways, to walk through an electronic graveyard.  So many voices which for one reason or another have chosen to go silent.

It happens here as well - if you look over to the right of the page, you will see some of my own friends that moved on or simply stopped posting.  Which is okay, of course - lives change, people change.  It just saddens me, the same way the passing of a friend or a favorite restaurant does: you will never (virtually) hear there voice or point of view again, see their world, hear events through their eyes.

This is not meant to be a melancholy post (although by this point, who knows), but I will try to end on a happy note:

1)  To those who have blogged but for whatever reason have chosen not to any long, thank you.  I miss your voice but am grateful for the time you shared your lives with us.

2) For those who continue to blog, thank you for your continuing dedication to something that is truly (in a lot of ways) a hobby.  You continue to inspire me with your regular (or irregular) dedication to posting.

Stay writing, my friends.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The Collapse XXXIV: On Hope

16 September 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

I am receipt of your e-mail from 14 September and am grateful for it. I comforted to hear that you are all doing as well as can be expected – although your proximity to your major urban center continues to remain a concern for me. Agreed that with fuel quickly dwindling, the chances are also dwindling that any unrest will creep its way to you – it is a rather long walk for our overweight, industrial era – but it still concerns me. Perhaps living so far from large bodies of people for a period of time does this.

Autumn is advancing here more quickly every day, it seems. Our days are more and more overcast and rain has become a regular reality. I am thankful I managed to get the bulk of items ready when I did; the last little bit: final preparations for the hive, continuing to ready the greenhouse, getting the last gasp out of the summer garden, making sure the autumn and winter garden – have taken up most of my time since I last wrote. But that is all done, now: all there is left to do is the daily maintenance and the preparation for the arrival of winter.

This drop in temperature has meant that the wood stove is coming into use. I am still fortunate that with the insulation, the house is warm with a minimum of wood. It also means that I ready hot water in the house for my tea and oatmeal in the morning. It also means that I am out, even in the drizzle and wet, looking for a little more firewood.

There is no more local traffic. To a large extent, people seem to have retreated into their homes and are (I assume) preparing for the first Winter here without power in perhaps 100 years. A stunning thought to think within the short period of 6 months we have immediately stepped back that far.

The power cycle has continued to dwindle even less; we are down to perhaps 4 hours a day of power, irregularly spaced. My routine is now to leave a single light on and when it comes on, immediately drop what I am doing and use the computer (including typing in this letter, of course). I am thankful that I had taken care of what I needed to before the power went completely out; I can only imagine what life would be like today with the cold outside and a refrigerator of rotting food inside.

Besides cold, the other thing the coming of Winter brings is the dark; earlier and longer. I do have my light sources of course: candles, LED flashlights, a head lamp – but I am trying to conserve them for when the “real” difficult times arise. I am “giving” myself the gift of an hour of headlamp time a night to read and sit with rabbits in front of the fire. I am not sure they enjoy it, but at least they have time out of their cage and I am not confronted with a bedtime of 1930. I can recharge the headlamp for now but must always measure the use of it against how much longer I can charge it.

You had asked me in your letter about hope. I do not know rightly how to answer that question. The view from the Upper Mountain States looks, I am sure, different from an urban area in a temperate climate. I am hopeful that I will be able to survive whatever is coming up; I have tried to prepare as best I could and now there is simply nothing left for me to do to prepare, just to survive.

I remember the last time I visited, that evening we sat in your living room surrounded by your books and CDs and you asked me what my 50’s had taught me. My response, if you recall, was that I was learning to become reconciled to the loss of things: dreams, passions, even (to some extent) health. What I see in my world now is similar to that: it is not that I have lost that hope, it is just that I am learning to become reconciled to the loss of it.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

What Would You Want To Do?

One of the questions that is kicked back in An Taigh Thoirdhealbheach Beucail whenever the question of jobs come up is "What would you actually do if you were not doing what you are doing?"

It is a fair questions, something that I go back and forth about.

When I was young, I wanted to be an archaeologist (really I wanted to be a paleontologist and study fossils and dinosaurs, but for some reason we did not seem to have made that split so much).  Then I went into an abeyance into what I wanted to be through most of high school and college until I stumbled out and realized I needed an actual job because just learning with no income is not a way to go (I have counseled the children heavily about this by the way:  "Study what you love, but also be sure to have a back-up career").

As a result, I struggled for direction.  I did a lot of retail.  I taught business college - which I enjoyed, except that as an adjunct faculty, you never really know if you have a job in 12 weeks.  And then I feel into biotech, of course. 

Along the way I flirted (and failed) with going into the clergy, real estate, export, entertainment, and writing (except, of course, for this daily exercise).  And half a dozen other things that never made it off the landing pad of my imagination.

So back to the questions:  What would you actually do if you were not doing what you are doing?

The question, I have come to realize, is structured backwards.  The question should more accurately be phrased "What would do based on the lifestyle you want to live?"

Almost anything is possible, after all, if you are willing to pay the price.  Live in a home in an urban area and you are most likely guaranteeing yourself a mortgage and rising property taxes; live in a smaller older home in a rural area and you may not have a house payment.  Dream of traveling regularly and you will need an income that supports it (or a career that enables it); dream of staying home and you may not have to earn as much. 

I can come up with 10 other examples off the top of my head.  But I think you get the point. Lifestyle determines what we end up doing far more than what we want to do determines what we end up doing.

Look at it that way of course, and it becomes a completely different discussion.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Struggling With My Allowance

The capacity for self-deception always seems endless - I always believe that I know myself better than I think I do, yet constantly find that there are levels previously uncharted, just waiting for me to discover them.

This week's adventure involves money.  But really, it involves a rather high level of lack of self control on my part.

I have an allowance, something I get once a month that is supposed to be for me to spend.  It is more than I was probably every allocated (no, not that much.  But enough).  The problem is that I like to have my allowance plus.

I am creative in the ways I sometimes find to engage the "regular" budget.  It is an expense that we need anyway (yes, but probably not that thing I am getting).  I work hard, so I deserve a little extra (yes, so does The Ravishing Mrs. TB).  There was an expense over there that was not me, so I am entitled over here (in that endearing version of "Two wrongs do not make a right").  Or that bestest of reasons, "I am just entitled to it".

If you think this sounds like a five year old in a candy shop, you would be correct.

To be clear again, we are not talking large money amounts here.  No motorcycles or trucks have been acquired in the making of this.  But the underlying problem is no less paralyzing for all of its mendacity:  I simply do not want to live on a budget and I lack some level of basic self control.

I am trying to get better - for 2020, I have a list of what I think I am going to spend.  Everything goes on the list.  Book titles? On the list. Athletic events?  Also on the list.  Iai seminars?  On the list.  And then I calculate what I have.  In fact, this year I have gone one better, trying to actually budget within my budgeted amount to remove even another level of guidance and impulse spending.

This is not a necessarily a request for anything, other than perhaps a confessional for myself (we do that here sometimes).  And chance for me to get out, mostly for myself, something that continues - even at my age - to be a struggle.

There will always be a little more that I want than I have the money for.  And I need to learn to accept it, and scale my desires appropriately.