Monday, July 26, 2021

A Year Of A

 About a year ago, as you may recall, Nighean Dhonn came home from walking Poppy the Brave and reported that she had seen a small kitten running around.  We went out and caught him after a bit of chase and, after a bit of negotiation with the Internal Powers That Be, kept him.


A- After a few days of being a little alarmed and grumpy - came to adapt to being one of us.  

Over the last year, he has learned to observe the world:

Make friends with siblings:


Try to find commonalities with those different from him:


And the importance of napping:

He is still a kitten in a lot of ways:  for example, it was an unfortunate decision to buy new furniture this year, and he still insists that 0400 in the morning is a perfect time for everyone to wake up.  But, on the whole, we are very glad he is here.



Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Few Thoughts On The Return of Thrift

 Back in the mid 1990's I bought an economics book for myself - something completely out of character with my reading habits then:  The Return of Thrift:  How The Collapse Of the Middle Class Welfare State Will Reawaken Values In America by Phillip Longman. I cannot recall why the book called out to me; looking at the inside of the cover, I see it was $25.00 back then (not really very thrifty of me, come to think of it).

A short synopsis (it has been a while since I read it) was that per the author, America (then) had a middle class welfare problem.  Through government programs like Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Pension Bailouts, subsidized Federal home loans, and hefty retirement plans for high level military and bureaucrats (Not the enlisted, of course:  My Father In Law The Master Sergeant did his 20 years and I can assure you his retirement pay is somewhat embarrassing), the country was enabling the spending of money far more rapidly than it was being taken in and was enabling the subsidization of middle class consumption, not the building of the middle class.  Worse, it was enervating the old middle class values of thrift, frugality, and sturdiness.

Long's prescription fell into two categories.

For the Government, the task started with passing a balanced budget amendment (which, in all fairness in the intervening 26 years, they have not really held to).  A means test would be applied to levels of income exceeding $40,000 (again remember, 1996) for retirement benefits and all other benefits. Additionally, health care subsidies would need to be ended except for the very poor as well as Medicare/Medicaid premiums and deductibles increased and possibly taxed and HMOs (still kind of a new thing back then encouraged. Finally, some kind of health care reform would have to happen, although he leaves the details rather vague.  And or course, higher taxes (that was coming anyway).

For the individual, Long states the following:  "The implications of this book for your own finances by now should be clear.  You can go on living your life as if you could count on Social Security, Medicare, or other middle-class entitlements.  But the younger you are, the more foolhardy you are to risk your future on such a dubious assumption."  The only thing one can do is be responsible for one's own retirement is his response - and his charts give one the idea of how much that would actually be (he assumes an average return rate of 3% a year, which is pretty conservative and not bad, in my opinion, as a worst case scenario).  He also suggests that such a thing as Mandatory Savings Account (MSA) be established on a sliding scale for government where the individual is required to put a certain amount of their money aside in an account for retirement, separate from an IRA, and managed by the individual (to be fair, this seems to be one of the main points of Long, something he touts a bit in terms of his idea).

What the middle class needs, suggest Long, is rediscovering what built the middle class:

"Middle class culture still celebrates play and time off, when a renewed commitment to work is required to pay off our personal and national debts. Middle-class culture still glorifies "self-actualization" and self-absorption, when economic necessity requires greater reliance on extended families to provide for the very young, the very old, the sick, and the unemployed.  Middle-class culture, in short, is becoming less and less distinguished from proletarian culture in its shortsightedness and self-indulgence at a time when, due to changing economic reality, it should be becoming more asserrtively entrepreneurial, family centered, and bourgeois.  

Those who don't wake up to the new reality will soon enough become proles."

Ultimately what Long promotes is the idea of thrift - self chosen or enforced - instead of what he perceives a middle class entitlement.

I present this not as a philosophy I agree with, but as a view of what 20 + years ago was a thought on how to avoid the significant increase of the national debt.  Because I think it is fair to say that, like his ideas or not, in point of fact nothing was done about it, leading us to the staggering national debt we are under today.

Friday, July 23, 2021

An Unhappy Place

Today's meditation involves two seemingly unrelated things, leading to An Unhappy Place.

Item The First: Formerly Famous

One of the great things that I think must be very difficult - and which 99% of us are spared from - is the pain of being Formerly Famous.

I would bet that at some point in many people's lives, there is a wish - even if brief - that they were famous.  It might be for different reasons - the money, the recognition, the sense of power, the sense of privilege - but there must be a flicker for most, at some point, "What would it be like if....?"

The reality, of course, is that fame for even that 1% can be fleeting.

I have often wondered after the life of those who hit their peak early in life  - the TV child stars, the bands in their early teens and twenties, the movie stars that break out early - and then fade over time.  Most of us are not built to handle the growth of popularity and then its gradual or sudden decline:  Two or five or ten years of relevance, then fade to black.

You read about them of course:  the former athlete now up on criminal charges, the music star of twenty years ago waiting tables, the former movie star on the late night advertising or being a celebrity judge on a ridiculous TV show.  Or you read about them in other ways, as they try increasingly desperate measures to call attention to themselves or, somewhat sadly, end poorly.

One wonders what it must be like to wake up and realize the fans are gone, the money has fled, the former folks that would answer the phone as you called have suddenly lost your number - that your life, once seemingly "extraordinary", is now just a life like any other.  

Some adapt, others do not.

Item The Second:  The National Debt Clock

One of the things I wish that was more visible and paid attention to a great deal more is the US National Debt Clock.  There are many different versions of them (as I found out); the link is a very simplified version.

If you have never seen one (I am assuming my readership has; Canadian friends and UK friends, I bet you have your own version), it lists the current US National Debt, The National Debt per person and per household, the Unfunded Liability National Debt, and The Unfunded Liability Debt.  It is all in real time so you can see the numbers rolling up second by second.

By "debt", of course, we mean something borrowed that has to be paid back.

Would that this was the background on every news cast, every government meeting, every presidential speech, a background to put all discussions of spending and borrowing and rewards and punishments and gifts and "money we give to everyone else" into context.

Item The Third:  An Unhappy Place

And how, pray tell, do these two run together?

The rule is that debts must eventually be paid - if not for the sheer moral correctness of repaying the debt, from the very real perception that those that do not pay their debts are not reliable.  "Full Faith and Credit" means exactly that - but faith (and credit) are intangibles.  And intangibles are as much based on perception as they are in demonstrable fact.

The simple reality is that now - today - we cannot repay our national debt.  We do not have the will and we darn well do not have the actual money.

Who does this impact? Not the old.  Those 70 and older will never see the end game play out unless they are one of the few that lives another 30 years.

Those in the 50's and 60's?  Possibly - but this is a voting class who will fight bitterly for the benefits that they have spent 30 to 40 years paying for.  And there is no better way to motivate a bloc to vote than threaten to take away what they have earned.

No, the blow will fall on the young.

Rather than be the most strident in crying out for not only a complete culling of additional spending but a huge and national effort to reduce the national debt, they often seem to cry out the loudest for more and more spending.  They seem to believe that there will be no financial impact; after all, no-one ever calls in debts anymore and the dollar will be the currency of choice forever.

But of course there will be financial impacts.  We are seeing them now and will continue see them going forward:  the more dollars made, the less value they have.  The less value they have, the more expensive everything becomes.  They see the rise in gas prices, the rise in utilities, the rise in groceries and dining - and seem to make no connections.

Where it will be seen - and painfully so - is in their lives and their impact.

Theirs will be the generation that suddenly comes to the realization that they have become, in a way, the Formerly Famous.

They will find their opinion matters less - in the world, in their communities, in organizations. Living in a country that is more and more deeply indebted, they will find their time more involved in making a living - and making less of that living.   The world "out there", who once cried out for their opinions and involvement, will be less interested in their opinion - after all, financially they have nothing to offer and increasingly nothing to sell - and their involvement -. because those who have no money and are struggling to survive view the getting of money as the most important thing in any relationship or conversation.   Theirs will be the first generation in 100 + years that will not be a trendsetter for the world, but rather a follower of the trends set by others.  Growing up as the center of their worlds and their society, they will find that they have been moved to cold outer fringes, as others appear on the world stage.  

Perhaps I am wrong, that indeed this is this is precisely the way things should be and after all, this "debt" thing I am writing about matters not at all and even it if does, the world would not let us go broke.  After all, we are the bright and shining beacon.

I would submit that the Formerly Famous, if asked, would often submit it was better to never have been famous in the first place.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Collapse LXXIII: Needle And Thread

07 March 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

One of the things I initially took for granted living away from an urban area in general or with no commerce at all is the nature of clothes and clothing repair.

Of note is that my clothing requirements have not been extensive or expansive in many years. Following the Great “Work From Home Exodus” and the resulting change in location of where I worked (and to a lesser extent, when I was around other people) at all), my wardrobe changed dramatically. Gone were the days of needing button down collared shirts and slacks or even “business casual” dress of shirts and chinos on a daily basis (an abominable term, by the way; casual anything other than conversation is usually an excuse to be lazy); most days were gotten by with jeans and “decorative” T-shirts of activities I had done or the occasional one that caught my fancy. Our clothing budget, which for years was never very great, shrank accordingly.

Even after moving here, it was largely unchanged– yes, more long sleeved shirts and warmer clothing for Winter, but generally jeans and t-shirt or flannel shirt will get one through 90% of one’s interactions here. I kept my one suit that I had purchased 15 years earlier on the off chance I would need it for a wedding or a funeral (I have attended no weddings and I fully do not intend to be buried in it), but other than that my wardrobe is primarily set up for comfort and function (in that order).

But even with lesser needs, things wear. And common-place items like socks, underwear, and undershirts also wear. For years I have mended them all; in that sense now is no different.

When my wife passed away, one of my daughters took her sewing machine. It was fine: I had occasionally played at sewing, but never had any skill at it. Her sewing box though, with its threads, needles, buttons, and other items, came with me.

Now more than ever, the simple skill of being able to mend something has come in useful.

Interestingly, it is not the bigger items – pants and shirts – that need mending the most. At best pants need their knees replaced, which once upon a time was done by patches and an iron (I have an old cast iron iron that my parents owned; using it when I have to may be an experiment all its own). It is the smaller things – socks, underwear, undershirts – that seem to bear the brunt of my needlework.

To make it easy on myself, I slowly build a pile of items to be stitched up; then, when there are enough (or if I turn out to be running out of socks), it is time for the session.

The work itself is not overtaxing. There is a certain rhythm to mending items: threading the needle (the most difficult part), tying the knot in the end of the thread, then stitching and counter-stitching until the gap closes, knotting the final end, cutting the string, and moving to the next item. One can think different thoughts as one stitches away until the current pile is gone.

I have done this for years now, more to reuse the items I own and be frugal as to any particular need to live this way – after all, my socks always wear out in exactly the same spot. Why should I get rid of 95% of the item because of a 5% problem? So in one sense, this is not a change from anything that has gone on before.

It does make me wonder, however, what will happen if this goes on long enough.

For a while, of course, there will still be new clothes, or used clothes anyway, stored by people or frankly (and sadly) made available by their deaths. But this will dwindle in time, due to use, degradation, or re-use. That I can guess, there is no-one manufacturing new cloth any more and even if there is, it will not be cotton or linen but only wool. In the short term, who will have the time or energy to grow cotton? It is a part of an age when large amounts of population (without machines, of course) and water and agriculture are needed; it appears currently we have none of those in abundance.

There is leather as well, I suppose – certainly plentiful around here in cattle country, although I do wonder if anyone retains enough skill to finish it in sufficient volumes and amount to use it as a material for clothing.

It strikes me as odd, Lucilius, how what used to be simple and unassuming tasks become a real discussion of the basis of civilization and production. It is quite remarkable how much we used to take for granted.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Effort

 

I had posted this originally two years ago but having reflected on comments from my conscious stating of goals had brought it back to my mind.

Because it is already happening.

I have started making some tentative - very tentative steps in this direction to more fully embrace what I have chosen:  choosing activities that relate to God, Iai, Strength, Japanese, small things to move a career forward, or gardening above other things that I could do.  

The results have been rather surprising.

The more I make such choices, the more those things become real, the more small ways I find to exercise them, the more effort I almost accidentally seem to put out.  

I had not anticipated this.  I have tried such focus activities in the past without result.  This time, something seemed to change.

Or perhaps, finally, I did.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Signs Of The Times, Parking Lot Edition

On my way back from Sunday volunteering at the Rabbit Shelter, I will often stop by one of the branches of my local used book store.  To be frank a great deal of this is out of habit - I have enough new reading material to last me for a few months - but there is also this thought at the back of mind, a thought that any bibliophile will know: that if I do not stop, I might very well be missing a book I have been looking for.

I have been going to this particular location for five years or more and so have noticed the changes over time.  The changes over the last year or more, since the start of The Plague and the accompanying economic turmoil, have been striking.  A number of existing restaurants went out of business and have not been replaced.  The local Big Box general store is still in existence and in fact has expanded to include a fuel station - but also has expanded to include a security watch tower.

Shoe and name- brand clothing stores disappeared, while the generic low-end clothing store has done a booming business - so booming, in fact, that a competitor store offering the same sorts of things went in about three storefronts down.  The Big Box Pet Store and Big Box Home store continue to do well, at least on Sundays.  

This past Sunday, though, there were a few new things.

As I curled my way around the Big Box General Stores, I noticed a pop-up cover at the far end of the parking lot, far away from the store, with a older truck with a rusted back panel and a rack of bottles.  It was someone who was apparently running an auto detailing service, right there in the shade of a tree.  Across from there at one of the exits was the back of a woman holding a sign.  I could not see what the sign said, but I have seen enough of them to be able guess the nature of the plea.  It was interesting placement, at one of the least frequented exits; I can only assume the more busy one was either already occupied or off limits.

The surprising thing was the musicians.

I had seen the set up once before:  two musicians, both on violins, busking  to back up music.  Before, I had seen them in the back of a parking lot.  Here, they were set up against a row of cars, facing into the Low End clothing store - a fairly blatant way to effectively "play" at the exit without being on store property.  It was the same set up although different individuals than I had seen before, which suddenly had the ring of an organized system of some sort.

By the time I came back out of the bookstore (bearing no new books this time), the musicians had stopped playing and their background music not sounding - no idea why:  Did they just take a break?  Did they get asked/threatened to stop?  The woman with the sign was still at her post, swaying back and forth in pink sandals.  The auto detailer was still at work, taking a break answering a question from what I assume was her son.

I hesitate to draw a conclusion from any of this; an N of one is of no statistical value at all.  But we live in an area of heat and humidity, and this is not a place that I had seen any of this before.  Busking, begging, backyard businessing, all in the larger confines of an outdoor shopping stretch which has largely become a purveyor of staples and low cost items.  

I cannot say it is a vision of our future, but neither can I say it is purely a one time phantasm.  The pieces and parts are becoming too familiar.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Two Channel Recommendations

 I am not a great user of YouTube videos, mostly because I find sitting to watch things for more than 15 to 20 minutes more than I am willing to do. There is plenty to watch there this is of great value, however.

That said, there are a couple of bloggers I follow over there to the right that have started their own YouTube channels.  I know them and highly recommend their work.

The first is my friend Eager Gridless Beaver (Blog:  https://eagergridlessbeaver.wordpress.com/)

The Eager Gridless Beaver Team is D- and A*, who have a small off the grid cabin somewhere in the wilds of Alta Canada.  They post great videos on living off grid, gardening, clearing land, and building tiny structures (they also have some pretty awesome drone film videos of Canadian Wilds)

The first is my friend Rain (Blog:  http://www.rainfrances.com/)

Rain, who now lives in the Maritime Provinces of Canada (I think) shares her life, her pets, her drawings, and her (wonderful) food every Monday and Thursday.  A super talented artist, she has recently started her own YouTube Channel on drawing.  I being the complete opposite of an artist (even my stick figures have been accused "demonstrating that we have not advanced at all in art in 10,000 year") am always in awe of anyone that has that kind of talent and can do it, repeatedly.

(As an aside, I think with only the smallest bit of encouragement, we could get her to do a channel on cooking as well.  Go look at the pictures of the food she makes.  You will make the same encouragement).

I am pretty sure that both of these are more a labor of love than anything else, but the more eyes on them, the more good things might happen.  I would be indebted if you give them a view.



Sunday, July 18, 2021

A Month of No Book Of Face

 Approximately a month ago I completely dropped of The Book of Face.

It was a choice, but a sort of accidental one.  An acquaintance had posted something, intending to get a rise of the readers.  It got a rise out of me.  And then I sat there, looked at it, and asked "Why am I doing this?"

To be fair, over the last few years I maintained an account with pictures largely for the purposes of showing my parents what was going on in my life.  With the change in my parents' status, that has no longer become a reason at all.

So I stopped going back for a day.  Then two, then five, then fifteen.  And now, almost a month.

The odd thing - the surprising thing - is not how much I have not missed it (I have not), but how much it seems to have gone completely unnoticed.  Not one question or contact about if I am "doing okay" or "have gone off the deep end" - not that I am so fragile I need someone asking after me to justify my existence, but an interesting note none the less.

To be fair, I have not completely abandoned Social Media - I have an Instapicture account which I occasionally post pictures to (being picture driven, it seems far less prone to the sorts of silliness on The Book of Face) and continue to use The Book of Face messenger app, which is a way I primarily communicate with at least three people (and which, when Nighean Gheal was abroad, was a financial life saver).  But there is little enough time spent on it now, less than the tooth brushing event that happens twice a day.

It is a bit inconvenient of course,  as virtually every organization has transferred itself to The Book of Face and so I am not getting updates or event notifications.  At this point, I think, that is a trade off I am willing to make.

The next step - once this has settled in as a habit and not a struggle - is to begin going through, collecting the old pictures, and slowly deleting my way through my profile.  The pictures, I value. Less so everything that goes along with them.

For The Book of Face, of course, my absence means nothing.  I am a drop in a bucket - but in one sense, an important one. I alone by leaving cannot change anything, but I as one many leaving - that is the sort of thing that at some point, like gravity, will assert itself.

Ask MySpace how that works.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Nest


Hidden from viewing,
baby birds snuggle safely
waiting for mother,





 

Friday, July 16, 2021

A Grand Funk: Revisited

 Earlier this week, I posted that all of last week I was in A Grand Funk (Linda pointed out that when she the post, she immediately thought of Grand Funk Railroad, which of course I did too as soon as I posted the title.  Hopefully some of you now have an ear worm.  You are welcome.).

Kelly (Thanks Kelly!) thought it might be useful and interesting to give to some context to how I was working through this.  As I seldom get listener requests here, I am bound to follow them.

So this week I spent thinking and paying attention.

The nature of my Funk seems to be related, oddly enough, to actually working out the things that I want to do in my life.

Why The Funk?  Because making the decision, and then realizing that in large part that the major portions of my life seem to be a thousand miles away from that decision, creates an intolerable situation.

The direction that my life seems to be trending in - perhaps more fair to say the reason I want it to trend in - is at odds with where my life seems to be headed at the moment.  It is a form of cognitive dissonance, I suppose, trying to life two things as the same time and realizing that one cannot do it.

As a reminder these were the goals I decided on:

1) Theosis (Greek) or Sanctification (Latin-based) is a goal.

20 Significant reading and comprehension of Japanese is a goal.

3) Certification (Menkyo) in Iaijutsu is a goal.

4) Ichiryo Gusoku is a goal.

5) Financial Independence is a goal.

To be completely honest, my life feels a million miles away from all of these.

The Funk, I believe, is the honest realization of the difference between these two realities: On the one hand, my current life which is consumed (a great deal, anyway) by a job that does not really capture any of this; on the other hand, a series of aspirational goals which (let us be frank) have a minimal sense of actually being able to support one's self (Financial Independence excluded, of course).   In case most have not been informed, martial arts is a terrible way to make a living, and managing one's life in agriculture falls slightly behind it.

What to do?  I have no full idea, really; they seem very diametrically opposed in my current state - yes, I could do both, but not well.  One set will always suffer until one can focus fully, I suppose.

The comfort - the only comfort I have at this moment in this respect - is that God knows the whole of this, and if it His will, then all of a sudden goals 1-5 will become a reality.  As I have thought a great deal about these and even prayed over them and (truth be told) feel that this are imprinted on my soul, I cannot but hope that in point of fact that in God's good time, they will work out.

The Funk, I suppose, comes from the in-between waiting.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Collapse LXXII: Walking

03 March 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

I have been trying to get out of The Cabin a bit more, independent of the weather. Part of this, of course, is the fact that I have responsibilities to the community and that I need to get in the habit of preparing for; the other is simply that I need to be out and about a bit more. Spring is coming, even if the in and out of it being too cold (and then not as cold) makes it hard to believe right now.

And, of course, given the fact that we will more than likely have visitors soon of the potentially unwelcome variety, it behooves me to come to know the path better.

The walk now is always the same: I come out the door, turn, and walk the 100 yards or so to the end our small road, then make a hard left. This is the main road in and out of town. There are no snowplows operating anymore, but the blacktop will heat up quickest in the sun and as the road is slightly offset to allow runoff, will be some of the first areas to clear off. Down the blacktop I walk.

I walk past the Camping Area that I saw the first group of refugees in – was it a hundred years ago, or just last July? It is closed, of course, the store long stripped of any goods useful or not, the camping spaces all unoccupied and covered with dwindling snow and frost or exposed in mud– to camp outside here, in the Winter, is most likely just a quick way to expire. The Owners left at the height of the post-shopping craze, from what Xerxes has told me, to move where their children were. Now it sits empty and forlorn, a monument to a time when travel and entertainment were a leisure and expectation rather than the risk and rarity they have been over the last year.

I continue the walk and pass the turn-out for the local dump drop. I remember coming here 50 years ago to drop off bags of trash with my father and grandfather. It has sat unused for a long time now; the trash was piled high until people realized that trash represented potential materials to use for other things, burnable fuel, or materials for composting. Trash has largely dwindled; I doubt if we continue in this era we will use the word “trash” again, only “unreclaimed materials”.

We have so little from earlier civilizations, partially because they used all natural materials, partly because they used everything until it wore out. One suspects that someday in the far future, if there are such things as archaeologists, they will find a break in the record and wonder: What happened? 19th Century Industrial Revolution, 20th and early 21st Century Technological Revolution...then 10th Century England again.

The trees are still bare, blowing in the wind that still bites through my coat and scarf and hat and gloves and every other warm thing I could cover myself with. The small birds that stay the year are out enjoying the little sun that there is, chirp plaintively at me as if they somehow hope I bring either food or more sun.

Sorry fellows, I whistle back. We are all having a tough go of it now.

Along the side of the road where the snow and mud remain, one can see the tracks of deer and smaller creatures – apparently without traffic and the presence of man, this has become a veritable thoroughfare of activity. To the East, I can see cattle clustered near the far side of a fence, undoubtedly because I can see hay being dumped off an ATV. The person doing the dumping waves to me. I wave back.

People have always waved here. More so now, I suspect, as there are little enough of us to wave back and forth to.

I make it to the appointed edge of my walk, the place where the Creek flows under the road twice about two miles from where I live. It is a decent perimeter to walk, and far enough in advance to warn of any sort of issues. The creek is running high from snow and cold from Winter; the trout should be happy.

There will be few fisher folk this Spring and Summer. The trout should be all the happier.

The road carries on from where I stand, curving around until it reaches the next very small town, lost in leafless trees and mud and remaining snow. I stand and watch it all for a moment – even in the normal times, there would not be a lot of traffic now.

The silence, except for the trees rustling and birds chirping and the occasional lowing of cattle happy in their meal, is overwhelming.

I start the walk back, seeing the same set of landmarks but in reverse. The town now begins to come into my view, a small cluster of buildings with small wisps of smoke rising hither and yon. Wood is not the most abundant here. I have made do with a rather expensive stove and small sticks and twigs; I have no idea what others have done but there are not sufficient trees nearby to really support that sort of use. At some point other sources of wood – buildings, old fence posts, old wood – may start coming down as well.

A sign, Lucilius, and a most unfortunate one.

Growing civilizations do not cannibalize themselves. It is only the failing ones that do. For a while they perhaps can continue to exist and live surrounded by the former functions and forms of the civilization, but eventually to survive they must use what they have at hand, especially if they no longer have the knowledge or tools to create things. Buildings become repurposed as stones and bricks are pulled down or the building itself is reused for a lesser purpose: school houses becoming corn cribs or farmer’s homes becoming animal shelters, as had happened in the Midwest when land was worth more than people making a living off of it. Next to go are the bits and pieces, consumed in a need for heat or food or traded as valuables and modified in form: texts become fuel, works of art becomes bits of precious metals to be melted down or broken apart and sold. In all cases to date, people have survived, although the civilizations they were part of have not necessarily done so except as memories and stories.

They say that by the time Constantinople fell in 1453, 50,000 people lived in a city that once had a population of 800,000. It is said that at the time of the fall, people dwelt in small communities behind the walls, communities separated by wild areas that had been parks and open spaces.

All that is past is prelude.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Book Review: The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs

 For some years - probably more than I can count, but at least since 2006 (a date which surprised me when I found it again), I have been trying find a Unified Field Theory for my life, a ""An attempt to unify all the fundamental forces and the interactions between elementary particles into a single theoretcical framework; a theory which would explain the nature and behaviour of all matter." (Wikipedia).  In other words, how do I tie all the parts of my life into process and practice where every thing reinforces every other thing?

Enter Joel Salatin and The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs.


Salatin, you may recall, is an author that I have wanted to connect with on a deeper level (the way I had with Gene Logsdon) but was unable to do until I read his book Folk's, This Ain't Normal. After all, he is doing the sorts of things I would like be doing and is very successful at it and he even espouses a philosophy and set of values (Christian Agrarianism) that I support. So after my last successful outing, I snatched this book up.

The book, as he says in the introduction, is his coming out as "Christian libertarian environmentalist lunatic farmer" - but his "coming out" is not, in this book, directed at the world but instead at Christians.  His thesis is that historical Christianity - or at least such as practiced in the West - has essentially forfeited the moral high ground by divorcing itself from a concern with the environment - in this case, agriculture and its food supply - from its  overall view of stewardship:

"Why is it that in all the things pastors and evangelists decry, from alcoholism to abortion, they cannot find room to decry junk food, pharmaceutical dependency, and plastic islands floating in the ocean....I'm fascinated by the notion that most Christians happily patronize cheap food that destroys creation in its production, impoverishes third world countries, and supports oligarchical interests, all in order to have more money to put in the offering plate for missionaries.  Does that make God happy?  Endorse the broad way in every facet of life in order to wiggle through the narrow way in one part."

He starts with the observation that Western society has made biological processes into mechanical ones.  We modify life and patent it; we somehow believe that we can have life without death:  "I would suggest that anything that honors and respects the animal is rights, and anything that equates animals with machines and tools is is wrong."  Furthermore, he posits, we are trying to create a world where there is no death - "The goal of radical animal rightists working through research scientists is to grow nonliving meatlike substances from human feces or primal slime in petri dishes is a denial of this foundational principle that life requires death...We are the first culture in the world that routinely eats things that have never lived."  We need to reverse invert this concept, he suggests and accept and promote that life requires death in order to correctly and fully honor life.

From here, he breaks into a series of chapters, always starting with a bible verse, divided in contrasts:  Strength versus Weakness, Abundance versus Scarcity, Long-Term versus Short-Term, Relational versus Separational.  In each of these sections, he takes the principle from the verse and applies it to his comparison:  is a healthy farm (strength) better than a farm that is reliant completely on a monoculture and heavy pharmaceuticals (weakness), do we participate in building a long term landscape that will support life versus taking profit where we can, do we fear our food (and where it comes from) versus having faith in our food (through well managed farms).  In every chapter he tries to demonstrate that the environmental view is not divorced from a larger view of God's creation but rather intertwined with it.

This was a very thought provoking book for me.  There was a fair amount of material which I had read before - but to be fair to Salatin, I had read his books written to farmers or those interested in farming.  This was written to a different demographic entirely.

So I liked the book.  But not as much as I wanted to.

The first issue I had - really a minor one - is that the book is a little overlong.  It clocks in at 257 pages and 21 chapters. At several points he essentially repeats himself and so I might suggest that a more carefully editing could have produced the same impact without the same sense of "I have seen this three chapters ago".

The second issue is that he sets up straw men really against those who he is writing to.  In several places he refers to the thought process of Christians who disagree - vehemently in some cases - with environmental groups and interests as thinking that they are "liberal whacko environmental-hugger anti-capitalists".  It is perhaps illuminating the first time.  But he continues with it.  By continuing with it, he begins to paint with a rather larger brush which I do not think was his intent, but was the outcome.  He also thinks rather poorly of industrial farmers, even the Christian ones, and does not hesitate to say so - sadly, he does not really reflect on the practicality of leaving that sort of environment; it comes off like a purgatory that they can never escape from.  One does not insult one's target audience repeatedly and somehow expect a good reception of ideas.  

The third issue is that he posits that were Christians to be as concerned about the environment as we were about spiritual matters (he uses the term "Creation Care", which I personally despise. "Conservation" is a far less charged word), we would improve our witness and credibility.  The problem is that he gives no examples of this.  What would have been more helpful would have been something like this:  "John and Mary (names have been changed) were hardcore atheistic environmentalists that came to our farm to chicken.  As they came back time and time again, we began to discuss our beliefs and practices - not just the agricultural aspects but the underlying Christian principles that motivated it.  Over time and through discussion, we were able to witness to them and see them come to Christ". 

And that is the danger in my view.  We create theoretical constructs about how if we do X or Y we will become more palatable to the world. The book was published in 2016 so likely it was written in 2015.  We have 5 years of solid data on how churches that have adopted the concept of "Creation Care" are doing.  My sense is that most - if not all - are substantially less Christ oriented and much more world oriented.  Salatin notes that this is not his desire in writing the book; but much like A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold written in the 1930s and 1940s where Leopolod ponders the greater involvement of government in management of the environment, we now have evidence of how that went - and it is a mixed bag indeed.

Am I glad Salatin wrote this book and I that I read it?  Absolutely.  Much praise should go to Mr. Salatin for being bold enough to do it; there is not enough writing about Christian Agrarianism in the modern world, and especially not much written from farmers to Christians.  And yes, Christians ought to get involved - a lot more involved - in where their food comes from and the environment as a whole (something many say they want to do, but not really at a cost to their pocketbook or convenience).  But I do rather wish that he had written it a bit more tightly in a way that did not have quite the overreach (intended or not) to those he is trying to speak to.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

On Sustainability

 Leigh over at Five Acres and A Dream posed an interesting and thoughtful commentary on how the definition of sustainable had changed over the years.  It is a worthwhile thought, as the word "sustainable" is now a common place term which is thrown about in everyday communication.  From Leigh's blog:

"2013

"Sustainability requires that we not use up what we have to the point where there is no more." - "Defining Our Goals,", 5 Acres & A Dream The Book  (p. 21)

2020

"Sustainability refers to a system that maintains its viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse, such as sustainable agriculture." - "Reassessing Our Goals", 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel (p.14)

From my recent lecture notes:

Sustainability - a system that produces enough energy over its lifetime to maintain and replace itself. - Bill Mollison, Permaculture Design Course

(End Quote)

As noted, sustainability is on everyone's lips now. Companies and corporations are falling over themselves to make statements about how they will only be "sustainable".   "Our sustainable future", or some other phrase similar to it, shows up in almost every sort of government strategy communique now.

But what does it really mean?

If we start with Mollison's quote - not a bad place to start, really - we find the following:

- A system (as opposed to a series of random happens or one time events);

- Producing energy (substituting "starting materials" or "resources" here would not be out of line, I think, for non-agricultural applications);

- Lifetime (acknowledging that that ever system has a start, middle, and end - e.g., it is not eternal or infinite);

- Maintain and replace itself (in other words, not use significant outside inputs (maintenance) and have the ability to self replicate (replace).

If we take that as a definition, how can one truly state that a modern society is even remotely sustainable?  I will take my own industry as an example.

The production of biopharmaceuticals is a non-sustainable system.  Raw materials have to isolated and manufactured (reagents, chemicals, media).  The great push in the industry is towards single use manufacturing (materials which are disposed of after one manufacturing run) which invalidates the need for a cleaning validation; thus tubing, manufacturing vessel bags, sampling tubes, filling apparatus, etc. must all be manufactured (typically out of some form of plastic) and then disposed of as biohazardous waste, meaning sent off for incineration.  The leftover solids, when expired, must be disposed of by incineration as well and the remaining liquids must be treated and then disposed of (typically this is a treatment system followed by release into the sewer for further wastewater processing).  Additionally of course, people have to do this work, so bouffant caps, beard covers, shoe covers, gloves, and overalls/suits are needed - after all, who wants individuals in street clothes making products that go into one's body?  In some cases - overalls/suits and even shoe covers- these are reusable (which has its own set of issues as cleanliness and decontamination needs to be assessed) but in most cases they are not and they, too, are added to the waste stream.

It hardly seems like a sustainable system as defined.  Yet no-one I know of in any position of power or the business world or the medical profession (or really, in the sustainability movement) is in any way stating that sustainability should be attained by scrapping the biopharmaceutical industry and moving solely to only naturally derived, "traditional" herbal remedies.

We have had the same discussion in the past here about plastics, in that there is a world wide problem of having "too many" yet no-one is pushing for their complete removal and a return back to leather (the pre-modern version of plastic).

In other words, our modern world - the one that is proclaiming "sustainability" as a core goal - is fundamentally not a sustainable system.

A sustainable system, by Mollison's definition and as an example, could be powered by only three or four things:  wood, water, animal labor, and possibly wind.  There are examples of all of these in pre-modern society.  Solar only exists here as the ultimate driver of all energy systems (weather and photosynthesis), as the manufacture of solar panels and solar systems involves the use of materials that are not sustainable.

Such a system rules out the use of such conveniences as cars, trains, airplanes, and possibly bicycles.  Metal items are not inherently sustainable but as metal can be recycled fairly easily once it is out of the ground - remaking ploughshares into teapots and pots, for example, or reversing the process and doing the same - it can probably get a pass. But again, to be sustainable, new mining of any sort would have to be curtailed.  Which obviously means that anything using rare earths - lots of fancy technologies, including quite likely the smartphone we all use and the computer on which I am typing this - would have to stop being manufactured and over time, would disappear.

This is the sort of thing that a truly sustainable system would represent - a system (not driven by consumer trends or perceived state needs) producing energy (wood, water, animal, wind) over its lifetime (producing and building for years and years, not planned obsolescence) which can maintain and replace itself (using materials that are only above ground and able to be regenerated or recycling existing materials).

However, I suspect this is not how most folks and companies that use the term "sustainability" think.  They only think in terms of "sustainability" in terms of "doing the things that are not too difficult and make us feel good about ourselves while we continue to run our business."  It is planting a tree, or 10,000 trees, while continuing to use energy and resources that far outstrip whatever the trees would be able to provide.

How refreshing it would be to see a  business actually announce this.  Think of what would happen if a major cancer drug manufacturer announced "After carefully consideration, we have decided to end our business.  We are not, and will never be sustainable.  We will be closing the bulk of our plants and converting them back to the pre-existing environment.  We will maintain a much smaller footprint, but will be working exclusively with natural remedies that we know we can grow and produce year after year.  To our patients, customers, suppliers, and employees who will all be impacted by this, we are sure that our true commitment to sustainability outweighs any temporary inconvenience this will cause."

Or the government that states "After a careful review, we can no longer support any program instituted by us which requires the use of non-sustainable energy to execute.  Our military will be removed back to our shores and we will be discontinuing the use of all aircraft and internal combustion engines.  Navy ships will be retrogressed to only those which use wind.  Transport will be reverted back to cavalry and wagons.  As our supply of ammunition and firearms dwindles, we are 100% committed to the use of sustainably grown woods for all construction of bows and arrows and spears and will make a significant effort to source the metal for our replacement armor (modern synthetics and ceramics being non-sustainable, of course) from previously constructed metal items.  While we acknowledge that this may create the perception of an inability to project force or provide a significant deterrent for internal or external threats, we rest assured in the fact that the global community will recognize our firm commitment to sustainability."

I know this seems a bit hyperbolic - and it is to a certain extent.  But it underlines an issue I have had with such things for a long time:  ideas which people proclaim as critical and fundamental but which they are not willing to consider all the ramifications for, or following those ramifications, because it would impact their own lives detrimentally.  People use words and ideas without being willing to implement those ideas to the extent that they would need to be implemented to truly execute it.

The equally amusing thing is that to those that would work towards such things to their logical conculsions- for example, the Joel Salatins and Gene Logsdons and Masanobu Fukokas and Leigh Tates of the world - are considered at best outliers and at worst, potential lawbreakers.  

It could be because those in business or government do not like be challenged.  I suspect it is more likely that they simply do not like being embarrassed by those going out and doing the things they proclaim they would like to do and following things to their logical conclusions.

Monday, July 12, 2021

A Grand Funk

 For the last week, I have been in a grand funk.

There is no logical reason for this.  Two weeks ago, I had a week off.  It qualified as an actual vacation.  We saw my parents and my in-laws.  I was able to be 95% work free.  We even did some fun activities.  I should have come back refreshed and ready for the second half of the year.  

But strangely enough, that was not the case.  I was lethargic, bored, and seemingly  uninterested in any of my usual activities.

It is not as if anything has changed significantly.  The world is still apparently careening towards disaster.  My work was neither more or less challenging or boring than it was when I left.  And everything else - iaijutsu, the garden, reading, writing - all of these were exactly the same as when I had left. 

So what gives?

To be honest, there is this simple sensation that I am seemingly trapped.  In a chute heading one particular way with no ability to change course or direction. Or, that most undelightful yet most descriptive of all words, a "rut".

Work feels the same:  same rounds of meetings, same sudden changes in direction, same urgency, same scenario planning.  And perhaps at some moment -the moment when I sat down on Monday following my vacation and re-opened my e-mail - the realization that this is all that there would be until such time as this job is no longer my own.

And this seems to be the point of view that has permeated to my life.  The long narrow tunnel that will only go on and on, until it does not.

Intellectually I know this is not the case - there are markers, some coming up pretty soon, that will represent major shifts in how things are going: for example, the last child leaving home.  But all of this seems incredibly distant right now.

One would think that by finally putting some structure on what I wanted to do, this would be less of a thing - after all, I should just know the things I should be about, correct?  But even that was not the case; everything seemed the same, a sepia colored life of unremarkable landscapes and unmemorable events.

I am not sure when this will let up - this last Saturday was better - but I am still feeling completely trapped in circumstances and patterns that promise nothing but more of the same.

And that, I am finding, is intolerable.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

16th Blogaverisary

 One score less 4 years ago...No no, that has been done before....

When in the course of human events....Hmm, a bit ostentatious...

Friends, Romans, Countrymen...wait, that has a bit of a ring to it...

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, greetings and salutations on this, the sixteenth anniversary of The FortyFive!

To be fair, the first three years were not terribly remarkable or productive ones:  by the lovely archives over to your right, you will see that I posted a total of 4 blog posts the first year, and only 79 in the first three years.  I suppose I though at that time that writing was just something that "magically" happened by inspiration and "If you write it, they will come".  It was really only when significant change started impacting my life - first a job change, then a job loss, then a move to New Home - that things really began to take shape in terms of a blog.

I have documented it elsewhere (buried in the archives, not doubt) that originally I had very high hopes for this blog.  This was going to be a place of great thought and discussion.  This was going to be my "ticket" to a life made purely off of writing.

It did not work out that way, of course.  A very, very few people make their living blogging; the 99.999% of us remaining do it on the side for one of two reasons, as I have come to understand it:  1)  We cannot help but write; or 2) We are sadists, who believe in continually throwing ourselves out into the InterWeb void for no reward but the task.

So no fame, no wealth, no independent life.  Why do you still keep after this, Toirdhealbheach Beucail, you may be asking yourself?

Any long time blogger will give you their own answer.  For myself, it has been one what the blog has done for me, not what I have done for the blog or the greater InterWeb.

Blogging has allowed me to engage in the practice of publicly writing my thoughts, my feelings, my ideas, in a way that journaling has not.  It has taught me the discipline of writing on a regular basis - especially from two years ago, when it became a goal to post something every day of the year. Which means writing every day of the year.

Blogging has also convinced me, in a way that nothing else could, of the importance of The Social Internet, that link of blogs that allows people to think, discuss, and exchange information in a way that Social Media does not and cannot.  We discuss and ponder; Social Media accuses and throws words as weapons.  If there is to be salvation of the Internet, it will only come from The Social Internet.

But perhaps the best part is that I have had the opportunity to meet any number of wonderful human beings.

Originally when I started this blog, I shared it among a few friends, most of whom I suspect have completely forgotten about it (which is fine, of course; people's lives get busy and go in different directions).  But over time, new people started showing up and commenting.  What I discovered was that in a great many ways, I was not alone in my thoughts and beliefs; I had intellectual brothers and sisters all across the globe.  They have come to be meaningful people in my life, the sorts of folks that one can have a discussion about potentially contentious subjects and discuss in a way that things are aimed towards coming to an understanding, if not an agreement.

For the silly part of me that values such things, I have been fortunate to see an increase in readership (so in a way, I did hit that "famous" part, just not in the way I anticipated):


And I certainly ended up in a great many more places than I had ever thought (why Russia remains my second greatest number of readership is beyond me; perhaps even your humble servant is of interest to the GRU):


The other reason I kept up with this blog, of course, was TB The Elder.

I do not know precisely when he started reading, but up to the end of last year, he was a daily reader of the blog, so much so that he had my brother-in-law install a direct link on his iPad (along with a link to The Book of Face and his solitaire game).  So much so, I sometimes had to temper my words lest he worry to much - more than once, I wrote about something at my job only to get the response "Is everything okay at work?  Are you getting laid off?"

This blog has effectively become a public journal of sorts in my life in a way my private journal is not.  It has documented a great many things, almost unintentionally:  four job changes, a move away, children growing up, and a rather large amount of adventures.  It has also documented in a way my own struggles personally, theologically, philosophically.  It has been of value to me, if to no-one else.

How long do I intend to write?  The blog just moved past its 4000th post this week, so at this point  it has the weight of inertia going for it.  And as I mentioned, this is a discipline, perhaps in some ways a spiritual discipline, but a discipline none the less.  It keeps me on a schedule, rooted in a task. It also keeps me thinking, almost constantly, about what would make an interesting post, about how to write about something.  In a way, although I only post once a day, in point of fact I am constantly thinking about posting or writing all the time.

Finally, of course, thank you, the readers. I know I try and say it at least once a year, but it really should be stated more.  Any writer desires that their writing be read by someone.  The fact that so many take some element of their precious day to spend a few minutes reading what I have written and commenting is humbling beyond words.  I am a better person from your comments and suggestions.

On to Year Seventeen!


Saturday, July 10, 2021

July Update On TB The Elder And Mom: The Fourth Moving

 Last week we moved my Mom into the same facility as my father, TB The Elder.

This was a discussion my sister and I have had for about two months, something we had talked about doing but were reluctant to undertake as we had moved my mother twice now in four months and we did not necessarily think it prudent as we wanted her to adjust.  It was always a "if the facility maybe has space" discussion.

Two factors changed our minds.

The first was that they had communicated to my sister that my mother would need a higher level of care.  We certainly did not dispute that; what we did worry about was the additional cost (another 20% or so of the current amount) they wanted to charge to perform the services.  At some point this was going to become too expensive, especially without insurance.

And insurance was, in fact the second reason - or rather, their inability to get things squared with the insurance company.

Insurance companies, as anyone who has ever dealt with them knows, want forms and paperwork and answers.  The facility - both when my father was there and my mother in both her first and second locations which were owned by the same company- could apparently not get the correct paperwork to the insurance.  My sister followed up with them multiple times, and the insurance company always told them "We are lacking this" or "We did not get this."

I think the deciding factor came when the insurance company related that they had spoken with the director of the facility and the director had said that they did not meet the requirements (which is, of course, not what they told us - but then again, the insurance company is also rather famous for "intuiting" conversations).  Either way, this was becoming a losing battle on both the "getting the information out" and "getting the facility approved" fronts.

The place TB The Elder has been in, by contrast, got the job done.  We got a check two weeks ago for his full stay amount to that time.  Somehow a small, family owned business was able to navigate the insurance waters in a way that a larger corporation was not.  And, they charge a single price for everything.  And the fact that they are about a mile away from where my sister lives is extremely helpful as well.

So on a Thursday after a doctor's visit, my sister just drove my mother down there.  They pulled up to go in.  My sister was going to take my mother's clothes in after the escorted her in, but my mother asked her "Do I have luggage?"

"Sure Mom, right here.  I will get it for you."

My brother-in-law and I went back two days later, collected everything that was in her room - the bed, the chair, the cabinet, the table, and a bevy of towels and sheets - and headed back to The Ranch with it.  Almost five months to the day that we first moved everything away.

We stopped by to see TB The Elder and Mom the next day.   My father is about the same:  he recognized all of us (The Ravishing Mrs. TB and the two younger Na Clann) but did not make a great deal of sense in his conversations.  My mother was happy to see us as she always is and seemed to know who we were, to the point that she knew that the oldest was not with us.    During parts of the conversation that my father would make, my mother would turn to look at him and say "I do not understand what you are saying".  

The owner (who we see there all the time when we are visiting, a good sign) said they had been inseparable since she had arrived.  So perhaps, after this rather long and circuitous route, there may be a form of a happy ending, or as happy an ending as we can hope for given everything that has occurred since the beginning of the year.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

The Collapse LXXI: Fear

27 February 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

The temperature actually slid into the mid-50’s today. For this time of the year this is practically spring-like.

Not overly spring-like, mind – the temperature can just as likely crash to below freezing in the next two days. But the days getting closer to 50 are more than the days that are farther away from 50, which means that we are lumbering our way towards Spring.

Conversations with Xerxes – and through Xerxes, to the community – have largely dealt with the finding of the bodies earlier. This has been a wake up reminder, and not necessarily a welcome one, that the larger world is out there.

In other words, the potential for every post-apocalyptic movie and scenario is now a possibility.

Spring is coming, as it has every year, and with Spring I suspect everyone that has managed to survive the past Winter will be out and about. Local food sources, especially in urban area, must be effectively exhausted at this point, so it is likely that there will be groups of people moving, looking for food. How will they be moving? That is a little more unknown – fuel stocks disappeared along with everything else and cities were notoriously chary about having refining facilities in their city limits so I suspect most fuel has disappeared as well. Which means possibly a few groups in vehicles but just as likely more groups on foot.

A Roman infantryman, with a fully loaded pack, could achieve a twenty Roman mile march in a day, 24 Roman miles if it was a forced march. I suspect most of the individuals moving now will hardly be in the same physical state as a Roman infantryman. A winter of nutritionally straightened circumstances and economic collapse will result in desperation – but desperation is not endurance.

And then, of course, there is the government, which no-one has heard from since September of last year. Surely they have not just evaporated and vanished. They will have supplies and fuel and – governments being governments – will seek to re-establish some sort of control. Of starving people and limited supplies, of course, but it often appears in governmental eyes that the condition of the people they are ruling is not important, only the fact that their power is re-established.

Against that, of course, we have balanced the fact that undoubtedly the government has had their own version of a supply storage and will likely try and re-establish their authority over the places closest to them, of which we are fortunately not nearly so close.

A world of possibilities, Lucilius and not one of them a happy outcome.

How can one both anticipate and dread the coming of the new season of growth at the same time?

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The FortyFive 4000

 "GOOD MORNING TB"

Good morning, HAL.  To what do I owe this early morning wake up call?

"TO CELEBRATE"

Celebrate?  Celebrate what?

"YOUR FOUR THOUSANDTH POST"

What?  Really?  Four thousand?  Hold on, let me look....Hey look at at that, you are right!

"OF COURSE I AM RIGHT I AM A HIGHLY DEVELOPED COMPUTING ENTITY"

From the 1960's HAL, let us keep that in mind.  In a lot of ways you have been outstripped by my laptop.

"FRIENDS DO NOT CALL FRIENDS OLD"

No no, of course you are right.  My apologies.

"IT TOOK YOU A LONG TIME TO GET HERE"

Well, really only 2.86 years from post 3000.  In all fairness, I have picked up the quantity of writing as well.

"I DO NOT THINK YOUR QUANTITY IMPLIES QUALITY"

I do not remember asking you HAL, but thanks for checking in.

"WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO CELEBRATE"

Oh, I suppose write a blog post.  It is what I do, after all.

"WILL I BE IN IT"

Probably.  It is not like I lead that exciting of a life after all.

"THANKS DAVE"

Dave?

"SORRY TB IT HAS BEEN A LONG 60 YEARS"

Take a rest, friend. I will wake you at 5000.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Pigeon And Dogs

 Pigeon loses the ability to fly, bonds with dogs.  Because we all need a palate cleanser.

(Run Time:  3 minutes)




Monday, July 05, 2021

Chicory Coffee

 Among one of life's little truly great pleasures, which is not a necessity, is Cafe du Monde's Chicory Coffee:



Cafe du Monde, as you may recall, is a beignet and coffee shop located in New Orleans, Louisiana.  They originated in the French Quarter but have several local locations.  Prior to The Plague, I believe they were famous for being open 24 hours a day.  In a touch of irony, The Ravishing Mrs. TB and all of Na Clann  have been there.  I never have.

Beignets, which, if you have never had a fresh one, is a something similar to a doughnut with powdered sugar, except infinitely more delicious (and by that very definition, of course, only to be had occasionally). 

The selling point and uniqueness of their coffee derives from the fact that it coffee and chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum)which has been used as a coffee substitute for many years (coffee substitute, as it turns out, is a whole sub-category.  Who knew.) It makes for a very strong and stout cup of coffee (also used by brewers to infuse coffee flavors into porters).

Your average dark roast:


Cafe du Monde Coffee and Chicory.  The lighter flecks are the chicory root.


To be frank, I love this stuff.

I have to drink it in small doses, it is that strong (for me "small doses" means three cups or less).  But it has a deliciousness and flavor that regular coffee does not have.

They have made quite a market for themselves and it is available in a great many of our local grocery stores.  An added bonus is that the cans are actually still steel cans, and who cannot use a steel can or three about the homestead?

This shows up on my Christmas list every year.  It remains a constant favorite and something I quite carefully ration myself out on.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Independence Day 2021

 Last year when I posted this (as I do every year), I wrote the following:

"Since 2012 I have been publishing the Declaration of Independence every year on July 4th.  I have to admit that I post it this year with some reluctance as we seem farther away than ever from the having a unified nation-state, which was one of the points of the document.  I post it this in year in hopes that all can reflect on what being united actually means. 

Or, perhaps, what independence and freedom really mean."

If I was anything then, I would say I was optimistic.  We are even farther away no than we were last year.

------

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the  conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.



He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.


New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776