Tuesday, December 31, 2019

That Was The Decade That Was: The 2010's

So (as I was made aware of only a bit ago), this is not only the end of a year, it is the end of a decade - the 2010's.  While it is not often that one gets to celebrate the end of a year and a decade together (for most of us, it is maybe 8 times?), I thought a little retrospective for myself might be in order.

At the beginning of this decade, we were still freshly moved from Old Home to New Home. We had just managed to sell out house at the end of 2009 at the cost of our mortgage (and had lost all our equity).  We had debt.  We had three children, none of whom had started even middle school.  I had a single new interest - Iai.

What has happened in those intervening years?

- More Iai (more and more Iai), culminating into two training trips to Japan.
- Two children off and gone to college and the last one in high school.
- Paying off our consumer debts (yes, that happened at the end of this year, but it still counts)
- Being able to buy a house (and based on the current price, making up all our lost equity - your mileage may vary).
- Finding the rabbit shelter and a way to weekly volunteer with animals even if I do not have a larger place for them now.
- Persevering through a garden every year
- Traveling to Iceland (lifelong goal).
- Having the opportunity to go back to Old Home, maybe not as much as we liked but as much as we could.
- Finding out that Highland Athletics was a thing for me.
- Traveling to Montana (and going to Little Bighorn National Monument - another lifelong goal)
- About 2890 blog posts.
- A number of self published books.
- Performing any number of physical feats - running 5Ks, 10Ks, a Spartan Race, lifting weights - which I never could have envisioned.
- Experiencing an almost twofold increase in my salary and getting promoted far above what I ever could have anticipated.
- Passing the N5 Japanese language test
- Preparing to go to Italy.
- Owning actual swords (another lifelong goal).
- Having the luxury to think about the fact that the next stage of life is coming soon and being able to prepare.

Odd.  I never feel like I do enough in a year - but looking at that, a great deal really has occurred.

Here is to just a much in the Roaring Twenties.

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Thanks

Having posted yesterday about how the writing year went, it is also important to recognize (and post) that without you, dear readers, none of this actually makes a great deal of sense. 

So thank you.

Thank you for stopping by, frequently or infrequently as you are moved, to read (special thanks to my father, who I know reads these faithfully every day as they post).  Thanks for all who have taken the time to comment and share their thoughts (or their disagreements as need be).  Thanks for your patience in waiting for my responses or for waiting for me to figure out what you were actually trying to communicate in the first place.

Thank you to all who trust me enough to link me on their sites.

In one sense, anyone can write.  But at some point without an audience, writing becomes another internal expression of practice.  Every artist likes to believe at some point their creation is out in the world doing something (hopefully good).  By your reading and your comments, I at least have confidence that there is an impact, even if it just a laugh for a minute.

We all have limited time - 1440 minutes - in a day.  Thank you for spending a few of the minutes with me.

I am looking forward to sharing what 2020 brings with all of us.  So we can all be surprised together.

- Your Obedient Servant, Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019: That Was The Posting Year That Was

So by my count (if I am adding correctly) I will have made 364 posts this year.  That slightly is under what my goal of 365 was (or really, one a day). 

If I go over and look at the handy "How I Posted By Month" posted on the right hand of the page (if you scroll down a bit), you will see I managed to most of the first half of the year, somehow posted a bit more in August (apparently it has 32 days?  Who knew?), had a bit of a lapse in September and October, and then seemingly pulled the whole thing out for November and December.

I acknowledged to myself when I started this that I was not really sure that it was feasible, at least under my then-current thoughts and writing.  Yes, I have been somewhat "creative" in the application of the word post in that not everything I have posted is written by me - but after all, there is a lot of fun and thoughtful stuff out there that if you are solely relying on my thoughts, no-one would ever see.

Writing is something that I can say I have been doing the longest in my life (besides, well, breathing):  I have journaled (hard copy) since 1989 (and still do), blogged more or less since 2005 and quite seriously blogged since 2008.  So in one sense this was a continuation of a life practice that I am already living.  But the commitment to the every day post was still a bit of a reach - it takes time and frankly, I have come to appreciate in some small degree the lives of anyone that has to produce a creative output ever day (cartoonists come to mind).

That said, I am overall pleased with results.  Certainly I am pleased with the discipline it has taken to do this. 

For 2020?  Well, it is kind of a habit now, is it not?  Besides, it forces me to write better and more, which is never a bad thing.

Write on, friends.

Friday, December 27, 2019

On The Passing Of A Corporate Culture

One of the by-products of the events last week wherein I have terminate a coworker and friend which has come up in conversation is the rapid and significant changes in our company..

During the first three years of my employment at my current company, we felt like more of a family culture.  We were a smaller company (< 100 up to  May of this year) and we all knew each other, at least on sight.  But things changed, as they always do at a growing company.  We outgrew our current space and so half of the company moved down the road.  We kept expanding and suddenly you see people you do not know, introduce yourself, and find out they have been working there for two months.

The changes are more subtle as well.  The hiring strategy has slowly morphed from just finding people with the right skill sets to findings people with not only the right skill sets but with larger corporate backgrounds.  More and more systems are implemented - suddenly it is not enough to make a request; there are paperwork and approvals in place and soon the ability to get anything done is not hindered by the task but rather by the amount of time for everything around the task.

But the most significant change, of course, is the company culture.

Our changes there have not been so subtle:  our previous Director of All Things Personnel left and we are in the process of transitioning to another one.  But even in the interim, the cold breath of corporatism is breathing down our neck.

A truly corporate All Things Personnel, for those that have never worked in one, is primarily concerned with protecting the company.  They do many useful and needed things to be sure - recruiting, managing benefits, reminding upper management they need to engage the employees, working through issues - all very necessary things.  But their most important job is to protect the company from liability stemming from employees.  That is a very difficult dynamic from smaller companies, which are more concerned with getting and keeping people (because resources and personnel are usually so scarce).

The result of all this is pretty much what you would imagine.  Conversations become much more controlled.  The content of such conversations is also much more controlled.  Interactions become potential points of risk, not collaboration.  Over time, the "look out for your own" becomes the new way of relating because the last thing in the world anyone wants to do is have a personnel conversation.  Employees become viewed not only in terms of what they do but in what level of risk they may engender to the workings of a department.  Individual employees learn to deal with things themselves instead of taking it in, because often as not the target comes on the individual, not on the problem.

The coworker I was discussing all of this with stated that this year was probably the last hurrah of the old culture and I agreed.  "I thought we had another year left"  was the comment.  My response was that since we never really had a strong culture, it made the replacement of that culture all the more easy.

I wonder, almost at the edge of retrospect, if all early employees go through this - the change of culture culture - and the wistful remembrance of what was, and oncoming mechanical efficiency of what will be.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Last 2019 Haiku

I had hoped this year
to be where my heart belongs:
Next year, singing trees.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas 2019

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!"  - Luke 2:  10-14

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Price of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Nollick ghennal erriu! (Merry Christmas!)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Break 2019

Friends - Just an administrative note to let you know that I will be and about over the next week, making the pilgrimage to the Homeland.

The whole event works out perfectly:  we will celebrate our own Christmas at home (probably now even as you read this), drop off the various animals, and then fly in the evening arriving at The Ranch before it is too awfully late.  We will celebrate Christmas with them the next morning and then with all of my mother's family.  We will have two more full days there before we journey down to my in-laws for another three days, coming back on New Year's Eve.

I have a great deal to contemplate this year, made more poignant by the events of last Friday.  And I have almost literally thought about nothing but work for what feels like forever.  So I am looking forward to the break.

As always during this time, the staff here at TheFortyFive has been very busy working to produce material to fill this time.  I beg your indulgence as my responses may be a little delayed.

I pray you have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.  We will (formally) see you on the other side (in the new decade).

Your Obedient Servant, Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Monday, December 23, 2019

Remembrance Day

I had to terminate friend and coworker last week.

This is the sort of thing that the workplace environment never really prepares you for - anywhere.  Oh, they have all sorts of knowledge on how to do your job and how to not break the laws and possibly how to be a better manager.  It is occasionally acknowledged that this might happen - but no, there is no formal training for it.

The reason, of course, falls into that general bucket of protected information that we are never allowed to discuss.  Suffice it to say was no question about it.

But that does not make it any easier. 

The experience, I can sadly say, was one of the single worst days of my approximately 3.5 year employment at my current company, or perhaps really in my entire 35+ years of working.  I have had to terminate individuals before.  But never friends.

After this sort of event, there is a twofold issue:  on the one hand, dealing with your own emotions about everything - not just the event itself but your knowledge of the person, their family, their situation, the very really impact of what just happened on their life.  The knowledge of the stress that is going on in their lives right now and that somehow, you contributed to all of that.

On the other hand is the very real fact that this sort of thing does not take place in a vacuum.  There are direct reports to the person who left.  There are coworkers,  All of these are now unsettled about what has happened (and rightly so).  Rumors fly faster than the truth which one cannot speak, made more potent by the fact that one cannot say much of anything at all.  One tries to ensure people that this is not a company wide event or indicative of any insecurity in their own jobs.  One works on salvaging the reputation of one's friend, who not there to comment or defend themselves. 

One does a pretty lousy job of it.

Thankfully (if there is anything to be thankful for in this unfortunate event) the individual has work friend who looked in and are looking in even now.  We have chatted via text a bit and somehow I am not held responsible for this event.  We plan to have coffee or some such after vacation, when hopefully they and I are somewhat healed - the weight of the emotions are still a bit raw and I fear it would bleed into our conversation until a little time has passed.

I have held for many years now that 02 August is my failure day, the day in which I celebrate any and all of the ways I have gloriously failed.  I can now add 20 December to the pantheon of self created holidays, that of Remembrance Day.  For remembering the very real impact - good and ill - I have on the lives of others. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Few Words From....Henry David Thoreau

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away."

(Hat Tip:  Survivalblog.com)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Collapse XLI: Books: A Reconsideration

16 October 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

This season must be the earliest and coldest snowstorm we have experienced in some years! My trails to the bees, the greenhouse, the pump house, and the outhouse have become small walled passages that I have to tamp down every day. Our power has become spotty to the point that I do not assume that it will come on at all (and am pleasantly surprised when it does).

I was reflecting on books again (I certainly have plenty of time to reflect, currently). Yes, I know I did this back in August, but that was when the world seemed somewhat at odds but was not yet definitely at odds. My thought, as I scanned my shelves and looked at the book in my hand (one of the old Loeb Classical Library books of Speeches of Isocrates), was that I was living through the effective end of human knowledge.

It sounds drastic, does it not? I sit here, surrounded by my books, conscious of the fact that I will probably never buy another one, and realize not only will I not buy another one – there may not be another one written for a long time indeed.

I suspect that the great libraries of the universities and cities still survive, but who goes to read in them now? And how long will they survive the ravages of time and weather or the simple use of books as fuel? And they are the survivors: all electronic knowledge is effectively locked away as firmly as if it were a dead language, waiting for the translation power of electricity and technology to free it.

If this goes on long enough, I wonder what sort of books will be written, if any are? Diaries I suspect, or perhaps histories. Survival societies do not make writing their first priority. And even then, what will they be written on? The current supply of paper and journals, while quite large (I suspect) if you can find it, will eventually run out. And then what? I have made paper once upon a time, but even that presupposes raw materials – newsprint, for example – to use as a base. Shall we fall back to writing on calf skin?

It is a terrifying and depressing thought to realize that the growth of human knowledge may have effectively stopped. We have always – or at least for close to 4,000 years – recorded something of what we did and what we believed. Not only are we now in danger of losing that knowledge, we are in danger of future generations knowing anything about us.

We simply dissolve into ash, Lucilius: if this situation is not remedied, our descendants will consider us the builders of God towers and flying boxes and know little else about us.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

On-Line Learning: A Review

Sometime around 1200 this past Sunday, I finished my on-line certificate program.  I am now the proud holder of a certificate showing that I can do things on-line (to be fair, it was a little more valuable than that - with a 95.93% grade, thank you very much).  I think I will end up with information that I can use from this.  I thought I would share a few of my experiences as this was my first formal on-line class.

1)  Going back to school at all is hard - I have not taken a formal college class since 1994 or so.  I have done individual one day classes as part of my career, but not the sort of longer term learning that a college program expects.  It is kind of like riding a bike (you remember how, eventually), but it certainly was an adjustment.

2)  On-line courses take adjustment - In this case, there were four classes consisting of four individual modules with 4-7 sections, each taking from 2-4 hours per module.  Originally I thought I could do a single session a day.  This was difficult as it took away from the total learning process - a smidge here, a dash there, and suddenly I have forgotten everything.  I ended up having to do it in larger chunks, which meant 6-7 hours on a Saturday.

3)  The process itself is good - Learning online, I can always rewind.  I can pause and take notes.  For this classes, I could download the materials in Powerpoint.  And I can review the classes later.  I wish I had these luxuries 30 years ago.

4)  On-line classes are the future - Learning at your own pace in your own home is a great thing.  In this case the price was a little steep - $3,000 or so, but paid for by work.  I suspect the same class would be twice to three times that if I were physically present.  The cost of such learning will eventually break down the barriers about it not being a "real" education as the value of the education presents itself.    The smarter established colleges will adapt, the hidebound ones will not (this was the "competitive advantage" they talked about so much in the course - strategically going to where the market is going, not where it has been or even where it is).

Would I do it again?  Yes, now that I understand better what to expect and how I will have to structure my time.  Truly, for the convenience and the cost, there is really not another option for someone like me at this point.

And besides, who really misses being crammed into those desks which never really felt comfortable?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Of Unhappy Endings And Losing

I was thinking about PeteForester's comment on a post last week  about the fact that, unlike the original fairy tales, everything now has a happy ending.

It was one of those self evident truths that it took me a minute to think about.  "Wait a minute....no, no, he is right".

Think about it.  Every children's story - every one - ends in happiness now.  Disney has made an entire industry out of happy endings.  I assume (I have not watched one in years) that television shows are the same, or at least they insure everything can be resolved within 50 minutes.  Books perhaps end not well any more, but even those are not nearly as common as I suspect.

Part of this is human nature, of course: we want happy endings.  Live is pretty not happy - for some of us in small ways, for some of us in big ways.  We all experience disappointment.  We like to believe that things will work out, but often they do not.

But there is a profound difference between wanting things to end well and demanding they do.

It is similar to losing.  We have raised a generation that does not truly appreciate that sometimes one does not win and that even though one does not win, one still has to carry on.  Instead, there is wailing of voices and gnashing of teeth, cries of "unfair" and "rigged system". 

The same is true of happy endings.  We now demand that everything work out right, well for everyone, perhaps with a lovely song at the end and soaring end theme.  When it does not, we somehow feel that life has cheated us.

Understand, there is a world out there that does not suffer from this as we do.  They grasp that loses occur and that only through perseverance and hard work will one reach the point where one can win and one's ending can be happy. 

These are the ones that will succeed in the new era.  The rest will be crouched at home, living on the remnants, loudly bemoaning the fact that life is unfair and that they were cheated.

They are correct in one sense.  Life is unfair and things can end not well.  But it is up to us to change that, not wait for the world to notice and care.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Of The Cost of Old Cars

During a recent discussion amidst friends, the statement was mentioned that someone had seen a 1970's Chevy Camaro in a parking lot for sale for about $15,000.  This branched out into an entirely separate discussion about the first car that everyone had driven, which had all been 1960s to 1970s models (which should be some indicator of our age).

Which got me to thinking - so off I went to the InterWeb to search for what I consider the classic car, the 1966 Ford Mustang:

Turns out, you can get one of these beauties, moderately restored with a 289 or even a 302, starting at $19,000.  Now, that rather seems like a lot (to me) for a car, but when an average truck is starting around $30,000 with much less of a life span and not nearly the value or a commuter car around $15,000 which has no intrinsic desirability beyond getting you from one place to the other, suddenly this does not seem like such a bad deal.

It is a pipe dream, of course - a toy, perhaps even that mythical "Mid-Life Crisis" event I keep hearing about.  In reality, these things tend to sit in garages and are only driven on special occasions (they are talked about far more often).  In terms of use, it is no more and no less than any other automobile.

Here is the odd thing that struck me.  I can see a scenario where I would spend the money to purchase a Mustang.  I cannot see the scenario where I spend money to buy a new car.

Call me a fool. Call me impractical.  Such a car brings back happy memories (two of my cars were straight six 1966 Mustangs, one red and one yellow).  And they are fun to drive and fun to look at in a way that an aerodynamic box is not.

Realistically of course, none of this will never happen.

But then again, you never know.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Collapse XL: Death

13 October 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Sad news – we have had our first local death.

Young Xerxes stopped by and gave me the news. An older couple, one I do not recall meeting except perhaps at the July Fourth Celebration, who apparently – simply – gave up. He was, apparently, a diabetic with limited insulin. Not many other details from young Xerxes except that they simply “Gave up.” At their request, their things are to parceled out to the community as needed.

There are the usual issues, of course: the practical issue of burial (the ground here is not precisely easy to turn at this time of year), how their possessions are to be distributed (someone suggested creating a depot of sorts at the building that has become a sort of community center), and of course the lingering thought on the back of everyone’s mind (and now undoubtedly at the forefront): the reality of death.

I wonder, Lucilius, even in the short period since the official “Holiday”, how many have died. For me, it seems an abstract thought in a way: I am hundreds of miles from a major metropolis, but surely some have. How many? Scores? Hundreds? Thousands? Unless things rapidly return to normal – and how unlikely that seems today – it will be millions.

But even in that, there are two issues. On the one hand, there are those who will die from privation and lack of food, of shelter, of warmth, of medical care – of basic needs. The others – like those here – are those that will die from lack of hope.

A lack of hope? It seems like such an odd thing to die from, does it not? Yet for other thousands – or perhaps millions – there has been a passing away of the old order that is perhaps not likely to ever return. It is one thing – even where we live – to live through a harsh week of Winter or a power outage that lasts a few days. We have done that before. But to look forward into the future and see…. Chaos. Disruption. No sense of things ever returning to the way the were before. That, my friend, is a gap that so many have never considered at length.

The cynical side of me asks if this has always been the case, or really just the last 10-15 years. Our national spending out of control, our deficits beyond what we could repay in three lifetimes, the personal finances of so many financed by debt, a society where the ability to live without working was almost as profitable as working.

Perhaps, in that sense, we were always staring at this abyss. It is just that the view has finally been revealed.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

December Wind

December Wind blows
in Winter, as falling leaves
die an Autumn death.

Filling flowerbeds
with different layers of brown,
 I rake in silence.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Paid Off

So last week we hit at least one more of the goals I had set for us for the year:  we paid off the last of our consumer debt.

This was a rather long time coming - longer that it should have been, really.  We at one time had them all paid off and then I made the rather foolish decision of going with The Firm.  That did not make us have to go into debt of course, but it did create the environment where it was very easy to do so.  And so, 15 years or so later, we are finally back to an even keel.

We benefited from a bit of luck - options I had received at my current company were worth something, and so I sold.  And now, for the first time in 15 years, we are not making the banks rich.

To tell you truth, I did not think we would be able to pay everything off this year.

This opens up all kinds of possibilities, of course:  money that was paying debt can now go to savings or investing (or spending - I cannot be foolish enough to pretend that everything will go to the first two).  But for the first time in a long time, I can breathe again - and actually have some confidence that in the event of an actual emergency, we can be in a position where the debt is not hanging over our head like an anvil and we can actually live on a lot less.

It is a good feeling.

Monday, December 09, 2019

On Not A Sense Of Christmas

Of all the things I am looking forward to some day, one of the biggest I am hoping for is a sense of Christmas again.

Christmas growing up - it seemed to last far longer than the 25 days of December.  And the season really did to seem different than any other time of the year. I do not know that I can point to a time when it started (other than I really do not think that it was the day after Thanksgiving), but it did "start".  And maintain all the way to Christmas Day.

Now, I have almost completely lost that sense.

The Christmas Season, for many years now at least, is really subsumed into the end of the year and all that has to be done (mostly at work) to get there.  Work has become the all consuming force of the season, intensified by the fact that all things that must get done in the year must get done by then - oddly enough, no matter how well you plan or schedule, it always seems to come down to the end.

Yes, it might be acknowledged and yes, some things might be done - a party perhaps, or a luncheon - but the need to finish things out is what really dominates one's calendar and the landscape.  Any sense of the Season is bucketed to the last two or three days before Christmas.

Just once - just one more time - I would like to have an actual sense of Christmas again, to be able to enjoy all of the songs, the decorations, the traditions - the "Christmas Spirit" that we sing about often but I seem to experience not at all.

Charles Dickens said that the reformed Scrooge kept Christmas every day in his heart.  I wish I knew his secret.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The Collapse XXXIX: Silence

09 October 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Snow, snow, snow – that is all I can see from my windows at this point. It feels as if we have had nothing but snow (or blowing snow) forever, but really it has only been 5 days. Except for quick dashes out to check on the quail or to get wood, I remain huddled indoors.

The most noticeable thing is the silence.

Our modern world was (note the past tense) filled with noise: the noise of appliances and such inside a building, the noise of cars and planes and music and power tools (especially those greatest of all annoyances, the leaf blowers), occasionally even people. Our transit, be it via automobile or elevator, was filled with music or talk, our evenings with entertainment (I speak in general here as I have not had any sort of television in many years).

And suddenly there is none of that.

My house is now filled with the sounds of almost nothing: the fire crackling, the rabbits hopping in their cages or drinking or quietly eating. Occasionally, if I have power, one can hear the whir of my drive and the hot water heater working (followed by the sounds of me showering of course) or the clothes washer working. Perhaps the clink of dishes being done. But really, that is all.

Yes, the snow outside deadens everything, even inside (which makes no logical sense to me, other than a matter of mental perception). But even were there no snow, the sounds of civilization would no longer be present.

For myself, I have really spent the last few years working towards this point and now, embrace most of the silence. But there are millions now throughout the country whose lives have always been filled with noise; how truly discomforting this must seem. Our modern society was defined not only by the impact that we had on the world around us and how would manipulate the fabric of nature but by the noise with which we filled the world.

Once again, the world wins.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Old Fashioned Tupperware

For Thanksgiving, we indulged in that once a year sin, Cool Whip on our pumpkin pie.  Tonight when I went to do dishes, I found this:  

When I was growing up, this was our Tupperware.

I have vague memories of what we would now consider "actual" Tupperware - for our house, some square containers (which invariably I associate with applesauce storage and some actual real 1960's vintage Tupperware at my grandmother's house (picture light orange and blue bowls with clear lids).  But for the most part, we used these - or plastic bags (pre-Ziploc) for our lunch.  But for most of our short term food storage, this was it (or other recycled items - large margarine tubs were also well used).

This was back in the day when there were not cardboard inserts on the on the lids or cellophane wrappers around the outsides and so, over time, the writing became faded, in some cases fading to complete illegibility.  One "knew" it was a Cool Whip container by its shape and its faded blue images, not like some of the those "lesser" imitation whips.

Oddly enough, this really represented the first "recycling" that I can recall.  I suppose it was because my grandparents were quite frugal (having lived through The Great Depression) and the fact that growing up, we were probably what would be considered lower Middle Class.  But we faithfully reused those things until eventually they either broke or we finally graduated to "real Tupperware".

Today of course, we only speak of such things as items to be recycled, not reused. (Interestingly enough, I do think that in principle packaging is something we need to address.  That said, no-one wants "their" butter to be purchased in sticks or their toothpaste without boxes.  Always something else).  But once upon a time we had these things for free.  Why did we feel the need to "invent" additional plastic storage devices?

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

On Preparing For Retirement

I was speaking with a friend this weekend, commenting on the fact that I have rather rapidly come to the realization that I have a great opportunity to get my financial house in order and I did not want to mess it up. 

The response was "That is really great for you - sadly for generations following you, probably not possibly. Certainly for me."

The response struck me as odd.

My friend is with 15 years of me so (I guess technically) we are almost in the same age cohort.  Yet to her, it seems as if the concept of not doing a job for which you get paid for the rest of your life is something that cannot be achieved. 

Has the fissure really become this great?

My initial reaction (which I did not speak, of course) was that things may be different, but not necessarily harder.  But is it?  Is this the first American generation that will not think of retiring?  And if so, what changed so dramatically?

Student loans?  Yes, I think that is an element - but then again, that comes back to decisions.  No-one forces anyone to take out a student loan, and there are plenty of ways to make money without a formal degree?

Cost of living?  Possibly, but then again do have to live where you want to live?  For me, and millions like me, we follow the jobs and sacrifice where we might want to live for where we have to live.

Taxes, fees, licenses?  That is a third rail no-one willingly touches, but if I were in states with significant state taxes, I would definitely consider that to be an issue.

Or is just simply the question of spending - that retiring for most of use requires years of planning and sacrifice, something that many - most - are no longer willing to do?  We have become a society of instant gratification, where waiting is considered foolish at best and painful at worst.

One other thought: the painful reality is that we are now in a 24 hours global economy where the tolerance for error has become much less.  We have made some significant errors which cost us - but have had the time and money to recover.  In the new cycle, I suspect such things are now much more unforgiving. 

Perhaps it is all of these.

The better question - instead of all of us bemoaning the fact that less people can consider this, is how do we get more people there?  Sadly, if it comes with sacrifice and delayed gratification, I suspect most people will still say "No".

Monday, December 02, 2019

On Raking Leaves

Yesterday I raked leaves.

Leaves come in two seasons here in New Home:  The first is the season (about now) with what the rest of the country (and where I grew up) happens in October or November, with the trees that are not native to this place.  The second is in February, when all the oaks drop their tiny leaves that burrow into the grass and (given time) make a lovely mat.

Raking leaves has never been my favorite task.  I rank it slightly above mowing the lawn (less times required overall) but certainly lower that working in the garden.  Still, The Ravishing Mrs. TB likes a raked lawn, so out I go.

Raking growing up, we had fallen Fruitless Mulberry leaves.  They are big and rake easily.  The leaves here seem less easy - in my yard I have a melange of leaves from the tree that grows in back (and is helpfully blocking out our new neighbors), the leaves that blew in from everyone else's yards, and those darn oak leaves that are not nearly as cooperative as I would like.  The result of this collection is that I (inevitably) seem to get 90% of the leaves, but there is always that left over 10% that burrow themselves into the grass and defy me.  I have learned to let them go. 

My grandfather raked leaves almost continually.  I feel as is he was always raking leaves, especially after my grandmother passed away - Literally every morning he was out there, collecting the 20 or 25 leaves that had fallen from the night before. I have not reached this level yet - but perhaps this becomes the purview of the old, living in their memories and the sense that today, I made something better.

In some ways, raking bridges the gap of 30+ years and reminds me of him.

I have one more round of raking to do in back (not all the leaves have fallen off our tree - an inconvenience, but I would prefer to let the wind work that have me stand there and continue to shake the tree).  And then on to the front yard, where there are undoubtedly at least three seasons to be performed before things are relatively right.

Falling leaves and raking leaves - once I would have said the first is seasonal.  Now, I suspect that it has become The Great Dao, the Ying and Yang of existence:  the leaves ever falling, me ever raking.  Perhaps this, and this alone, keeps the universe in balance.