Friday, April 30, 2021

A Previously Unseen Visitor

 So yesterday morning when I looked out the back door, I had a return visitor from earlier this week:

This week marks the first time I have ever seem a living skunk up here - you smell them, of course, during the mating season, or see them on the road having not made it to the other side, but never a living, breathing skunk just going about it's business.

Skunks (as I quickly educated myself) are omnivores, primarily eating insects and plants but not refusing a snake, mouse, or rabbit given hunger and the opportunity.  If they are eating out wasps' nests, I am nothing but a fan.

Below is a video (be gentle, it is the first time I have tried uploading a video).  They are rather fun to watch up close (behind glass, of course):

It honestly surprises and pleases me that, even after so many years of coming here and being here, there are still new things to be see.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

An April Visit With Mom

 Today I had a visit with my mother.

To be fair, it was a combination visit:  she had a doctor's appointment which I volunteered to take her to for my sister while I was in town, so I was able to accomplish two things at once.  It was the first time I had seen her in over a month.

There is a routine now (there is always a routine):  My sister talked to them the day before to let them know I was coming.  I call about an hour before to remind them I was coming.  I arrive and did the now common "pre check in questionnaire" which has changed over time - now it is a temperature scan and "Have you been in the presence of someone with The Plague"?

Since my mother is in memory care, they have to call in to have someone bring her out
"Room XXX's son is here to take her to a doctor's appointment" goes out over the walkie talkie.  I wait at the front door.

It seems I do a lot of waiting at entrances when I visit my parents now.

My mom is finally brought out.  She seems a little confused, but patiently waits while the receptionist gives her a temperature scan and mask before she goes out.  I make small talk with the supervisor that brought her out.  Mom seems a little confused but looks like she recognizes me as we walk out to the car.  Or at least she does not consider me some random stranger.

The clothes seem to be hers (this is one thing that we have noticed, both for my mother and my father.  We sent them with clothes, but the clothes they wear are just often not the ones the came with. They do not seem to mind; we are the only ones that notice).  Her hair is getting pretty long; my sister mentioned needing to get a haircut for her soon.

It is a sunny day, which was a help because my mother does not initiate a lot of conversation.  We talk about how blue the sky was and the nice sunny day and the green leaves on the tree as we wend our way to the doctor's office.

We sit in the waiting room after I check her in.  I show her pictures of her granddaughters (which she seems to remember, or at least remembers that she has them) and our cat A The Brave (which she thinks are cute).  We talk about my family - twice within five minutes, pretty much the same conversation.

The visit itself is straightforward, as they are now:  my parent's doctor is very kind and has been seeing them for years and is well aware of the challenges we are facing.  After the usual questions to my mother - "How are you doing?  How are you feeling?" - and a quick review of her recent lab tests (They are absolutely fantastic, by the way.  If she did not have Alzheimer's, she would be the picture of health for a woman in her early 80's), the doctor and I get to what has become all to common in these recent appointments, the completion of documentation for insurance or legal reasons. 

For the most part my mother is silent during this as the doctor and I go through the somewhat awkward process of assessing her mental state for a legal document in front of her.  Twice she looks over at me like she suddenly has forgotten who I am at all and wonders why she is there and who am I.  Another time, when I relating the doctor my age, my mother says "That is only two years older than I am"  That is not me, I tell the doctor, it is her brother.  

Even in the midst of things, there are still reminders of where we actually are.

The visit over, we walk back to the car.  She starts to take her mask off and I have to remind her she needs to keep it on until we get back (House rules where she lives).  We drive back, commenting again on the blue sky and the green grass.

This time we have to wait again after the walkie talkie call goes for someone to come from Memory Care to come up and get her "Room XXX is back".  We stand there at the entrance.  She does not ask anything about why she is back there - it seems that to her, this is "home" now.  

A young woman comes from around the corner and the receptionist makes a comment about "Here is X to take you back".  This is my cue to leave.  I tell her I love her and wave, but she and they are already focused on getting her back to the facility. I fade out as quickly and completely as the automatic doors closing behind me.

I get back to the car, take off my mask, and slump down in the seat for a moment.  This is the way of things now.  I could get back out of the car, go back in, and she would not remember that I had just been there or (most likely) that I am anything other than her brother. 

In a way, I realize that visits now, at least with her, are really more for my sister and I.  We have receded in her mind to dim memories of people she thinks she remembers but pass all too quickly into the faded tapestry of the past, consumed by the here and now.  We will come again, and she will get another flash of memory, and then recession.

This is the way of things now.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

We Are Done: Speed Limit Edition

 Everybody - once in their lives - should drive through West Texas on I-10.

Once you get out of El Paso and past the trailing border cities to Fort Hancock, you get into a world of long landscapes, mesas, rocks, scrub brush - and learn what the word "vista" means.  The towns there - Van Horn, Balmorhea, Fort Stockton, and on to Ozona, where you begin to reach the Central Texas Highlands - are small communities strung out between the wilderness, towns which probably have the same purpose now as they did 150 years ago as rest stops for travelers.

The ground is white and brown with gravel or rocks and dirt.  If you drive at the right time of year, storms blow through - the kind of storms you picture in the deserts, full of wind and driving rain and lightning that flashes above the mesas and drives the periodic windmills faster and faster as they dance between the oil pumps.  If you drive at the wrong time of year, the sun beats done without mercy, straining the air conditioner unit and making one keep an eye on the gas gauge to refuel every chance one gets.

The other reason you should drive it is because of the speed limit.

Once you get out of the towns, the speed limit climbs:  75 mpg, 80 mpg, 85 mph even (in some stretches of road) no speed limit to be seen at all.  The Texas authorities, in their wisdom, decided that in long stretches of land,  mandating a lower speed limit for the sake of a lower speed limit made no sense at all.

Contrast this with my drive in Old Home this past weekend.

Old Home, like many other states, likes to consciously trumpet its 65 mph speed limit and how much more sane and rational it is.  

It may sane and rational.  It is also noteworthy that no-one seems to follow it.

I am actually one of those sticklers for speed limits and so I am always at it. During a three hour total driving time as I drove to my in-laws and back, I passed a total of 4 cars doing at or less than the limit.  Everyone else was bustling along at 70 mph at least, if not higher.  And on a major interstate, so there were plenty of vehicles on it.

Yes yes, I know this happens all the time.  So what does it matter?

It matters because it says a great deal about how people view the law.

The speed limit - everywhere - is a law.  It is not a suggestion or a "good idea".  And yet, more often than not, people break it.  Routinely.

They break it routinely, smug in the fact that it exists and may be doing "some good", whether in safety or environmentally - but it does not apply to them.  They have important places to be and frankly, driving there slowly is just an excuse to waste time.  And after all, almost no-one every gets caught, except those that are going really fast (and probably deserve it).

But it is a mendacious belief.  

By firmly adhering to this practice, they in point of fact make the law meaningless.  Oh, it feels good to say "look how much good this speed limit does" - but in point of fact, they undermine their position by failing to follow it.  They have pushed their minds to where law breaking is really more of an inconvenience than a violation.

They will not fight to change the law.  They will not obey the law.  They just act as if it is not there.

Which is fine, I suppose, if all you are concerned about is speed.  But do not be surprised when all of a sudden, everyone else stops paying attention to or obeying laws that they find inconvenient.

"But the law!"  will be the cry of those righteous folks.  "It is written" they will call out.

"True"  will be the response.  "But other things were written as well, and you ignored them.  You have set the standard.  We are merely following your example."

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Experimenting With Clay Pot Watering

 Back last July, Leigh over at Five Acres and a Dream had a rather lovely article about the use of Ollas, clay ports inserted in the ground to help with water conservation and management.  That lead to me purchasing and reviewing the book on which the idea is based, Gardening with Less Water  by David A. Bainbridge (which I still recommend).  

I was getting ready for the garden this year and - at least from what I have read - we are expecting a drier that normal summer this year.  What better time to try the experiment?

The materials are pretty easy to get:  clay pots (sadly, they only had the smallest size at my local Big Box Supply Store) including the base, rubber stoppers from my local home brew supply store (these are size "00"), and a digging implement (and water, of course).

Insert stopper into hole:

Locate plant in dirt (here, a new mint plant to replace everything that died in The Freeze):

Dig a hole and place pot into hole.  I dug it deep enough to get the lip of the pot almost even with the level of the dirt.  Fill with water.

Place base over the top, sealing the water in:

Digging down, now with the replacement rosemary bush (which also died):


But did it work?

It is a little hard to tell from the picture, but in point of fact the soil was completely damp after a couple of days (and the pot needed to be refilled).  You will not I had to move the pot closer to the plant, which I think will have to be the standard using this method - the water will only flow so much.  You will also note I have added mulch to help retain water more.

The cost of this?  $3.00 plus tax per set up ($1.00 each for pot, base, and stopper).  Far less expensive that the irrigation system I was looking at.

Honestly, I am very pleased at the results.  And no-one is more surprised than I am when something works.

Monday, April 26, 2021

An April Visit With TB The Elder

 This weekend I got to visit with my father.

This was first opportunity to visit with him in a month, since his second time in the hospital with what was a confirmed stroke.  As you might recall, we had made the decision to relocate him into a 24 hour care facility.

The facility is quite nice, and the day was rather pleasant - sunny and warm but with a bit of a breeze.  One of the staff walked him out, as they are concerned about him falling (reasonable given our recent history).

Physically he looked fine - a little on the frail side, but perhaps that was my imagination a bit.  He seemed to recognize all of us, and began to talk.

My sister had already advised me of what to expect.

My father, unlike a month ago, seems much more able to carry a conversation by himself - in fact, we were there about 30 minutes and he did most of the talking.  The difficulty was, we had no idea what we was talking about.

What seemed to be occurring was that he was using words to mean other things.  He was quite clear that he was telling a story and relaying information about something - but today, the information was about turtles:  finding turtles, changing turtles, even fixing turtles.  

The only turtle we ever had or saw were the small ones here at The Ranch.

It makes the conversation hard to follow of course, but at the same time he did not really seem to be expecting a response overall.  We would nod sometimes, say "Um hmm", and he would talk on.

And names.  He would sometime use names.  My sister had also told me that he seemed to be confused about the time frame were in (at one point last week, he did not think I was old enough to have gone to college.  No Dad, my sister reminded him, he is over 50).  So I listened to the names, trying to place them with people that I might have known (no luck there).

But he was aware as well. He commented on the trees (they have some lovely tall cedars), and the roses that were blooming in the front.  So he does see the world around him.

But we do not really know where he is in time, or what he thinking or trying to express to us.

That said, he seems much less stressed than he was before, almost relaxed.  From what my sister has mentioned, the staff think he very sweet.  He is still enough of himself to joke with them to a certain extent.  So it certainly seems like it was the right move to make.

We have an appointment later this week, both for my father and mother.  It is a follow up for each of them, but it is also a time of filling out paperwork and getting an updated form 602 (It is a form concerning their mental state of mind:  if you at all have relatives that have any sort of cognitive decline, you will come to know this form better than you would care to).   In a way, I fear, it will be a sort of final coda on what has been the last 4 months.

It will simply re-emphasize what I saw today: the father I knew has gone somewhere that none of us can reach him, in a way beyond the time and space that we inhabit right now.  I am hopeful that wherever he finds himself, it is a place that brings him greater peace than the last year.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

When Society No Longer Benefits: Why It Matters

 It occurred to me, reading comments and thinking some more, that while I perhaps express some of what I thought about when societies may no longer matter and how they are being built within the larger society, I never really expressed the reason I thought it was worth digging into at all - in other words, what the down side of it was.

It is as simple as a fractured society.

If a society continues to loosen the ties that bind it together - to create a situation where the benefit to the individual is not longer there, where commonalities are no longer shared - it can become an ill body politic, like a spinal injury that is concealed by the fact that one has an incredibly strong core to compensate.  Have an accident that causes a lose of the core muscles, and suddenly that strong individual is stricken, unable to move or perform almost any sort of activity or lifting anything at all.

The loosened ties will be overlooked or ignored by the leaders of that society, who are often trying to do "something grand and amazing" and assume that there is always going to be some level of discontent - "you have to break a few eggs to make Eggs Benedict" and so forth.  They will interpret silence for agreement, withdrawal for compliance, and a lack of involvement as the silent majority that is supporting what they are doing, even if they are not vocal about it.

And then, the crisis will come.

I have seen crises in my life.  I remember the Twin Towers Crashing to the ground.  I remember the run on the market in 2008 that resulted in so many job loses (including my own).  In each of these events, at some level, Americans "pulled together".

I have also seen the madness of The Plague when it first started last year, when stores were stripped of paper goods and food.

When the next crisis comes - and it will come - this will not occur.

The government and society leaders - of any society, not just the US one - will go looking to the people to unite to face this internal or external crisis, to come together to face it as one people, unified.

There will be no gathering together.  There will be no rallying around the flag, about what it means to be a current citizen of "X" society.  There will be no unity.  

The core having becoming injured, the spine will collapse.

If those governments and leaders think their enemies abroad - economic or physical - do not know this, they are fools.  If they think those that mean them harm - criminal elements, gangs, purveyors of violence - are blind to what is going on, they suffer from reading their own memorandums and press releases.

There is a great deal of biding of time going on, of measuring. And when the crisis comes, quite likely there are societies that will find they have suddenly gone wanting for the very sorts of ties that they spent so long and so carefully pulling apart.

Post Script:  As a note, when I started what came to be this week's worth of writing - which, I admit, is not of the most hopeful variety - I did not anticipate that as the week went on, I would find that others were writing about the same thing.  I have found four blog posts to date writing about this and at least one longer article.  And the comments from others that in fact, they are seeing the same thing as well.

Something is not right here.  There is an undercurrent which is not being recognized by some - not of hate or anger or rage necessarily, but of a growing and vast indifference to the way the world is moving.  An undercurrent which appears to be gaining steam.

Friday, April 23, 2021

When Society No Longer Benefits: A Response

 In yesterday's post When Society No Longer Benefits relatively new commenter Bob (we are glad you are here, Bob!) made the following comment:

"But if this "society" of which you speak no longer exists, what's the answer?  Relocate to another one?"

It is a good question.  I will try to provide my proposed answer.

I start with a couple of base facts:

1)  Given the current interconnectedness of the world, "relocating" to another society may be possible, but probably just reflects degrees of difference instead of true difference.  Sadly, this is no longer the Late Medieval Europe and there really is no undiscovered country.

2)  Physical relocation is, for most people, not a limited possibility.  Sure, there is always a group of people that are able and willing to move at the drop of a hat.  For most, it is a process that takes a lot more time and thought and will be more limited in scope over time (after college, I have moved nine times in thirty years, seemingly each time with more people and more stuff.  I have told The Ravishing Mrs. TB I have one more move in me and I am done.

So based on these two base case facts, what to do?

What I positing is the idea of building a society within a society.

There is the outer society that I currently live in with its laws, expectations, taxes, and social norms.  The ability of the individual to impact this is fairly limited at best. The only thing I can do in this situation is minimize my involvement with it and its involvement with me.

For some, that might look like moving from a more intrusive state or country to a less intrusive state or country.  It might mean purchasing less (to avoid sales taxes), and finding ways to minimize one's tax positions and other revenue generating devices used by governments to separate individuals from their hard won cash.  It might mean that I choose to participate much less in the society (I do participate a lot less actually), or when I am forced to, to spend the minimum time on anything involving social norms and expectations.

Of course, if one is taking something away, one needs to replace it with something else.  And that is second part, the building of a society within a society.

That is a rather grandiloquent way of simply doing what our parents told us to do, make friends with interesting and good people, emulate them, and spend time with them.

The reality is, this already is happening as well.  The Social Internet - of which this blog and most of the blogs over to the right are part of - is already connecting small groups of like minded individuals, separated perhaps by distance but not by interest or philosophy.  There are financial communities as well - barter group, cryptocurrency adherents, even the proverbial "gold bugs" - that exist and practice what they preach effectively on the fringes of "society".  Ed, purveyor of Riverbend Journal   and resident Forty-Five optimist, spends his efforts on his local community and local government - which works as well, although the dilutive effect in larger urban areas may not work as well.

In all ways, there is a movement that is - in a sense - counter-counter cultural, coalescing on the fringes and putting their way of life into practice.  It is these societies that we are building, small pockets of hope and goodwill and knowledge, unifying individuals that may be in disparate locations but benefit from belonging to the other.

It is not a glamourous process.  It is not a fast process.  But I can at least provide my own perspective of why I do this.

Simply, I fit in here.

I fit in here among individuals which - although holding different opinions about some things - hold similar opinions about things like personal liberty, personal freedom, classical culture (if you are at all based in the West, you live in classical culture), and practicing, each in our own way, the process of making a living for ourselves rather than being dependent on someone else or the government.  I fit in here, where we can disagree (we sometimes do - even here) but do so with mutual respect and some fashion of listening to the other's ideas.

The larger society is becoming more and more torn apart by centrifugal forces:  rising spending, atomization of society combined with a greater and greater demand for uniformity of thought and opinion, and the increasing expectation that society should become and do more for the individual, thus increasing the dependency of the individual on those that provide their necessities (and giving such authorities more power).  This combination cannot last.  Something has to give.  And when it gives, those societies within the societies will remain, ready to begin the effective renaissance of a civilization.

I close with a phrase from Mahatma Gandhi.  While I am not nearly the pacifist he was, what he speaks to is what will ensure that such societies within societies continue to thrive:

"I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.  I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil is permanent.  Strength does not come from physical capacity; it comes from an indomitable will."

Ultimately, our societies within societies exist and thrive because we have the will to be different than the rest, and to practice that differences in meaningful ways to improve our lives and (eventually) the lives of others.  Would that our wills are indomitable as well.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

When Society No Longer Benefits

 One of the things any society is built on, I would propose, is the idea that belonging to the society is worth more than not belonging to the society.  In a way, a form of Rousseau's social contract, whereby individuals surrender their individuals rights to a greater whole and in return reap the benefit of that society.  

In reality of course, we all believe in this because in some fashion or form, we practice it all the time.  We join and then unjoin clubs and associations because they either fulfill or do not fulfill a need or purpose in our lives.  We sign up for services and cancel them because either the do not fill the need or they no longer provide a service that we required.

In all of this, we think nothing of it.  We do not agonize about the canceling of service ("Oh, Netflix, how can I let you go?") or even deciding to discontinue a club or activity ("It is not you, <insert name>, it is me.").   We just do this.  It no longer fills the bill, and we let it go.

So what happens when a society stops meeting the need?

This is one of those questions we are not "supposed to ask".  The assumption always has to be that society is necessary and needed - along with the corollary that government is always necessary and needed.  Without them, it is posited, the world simply cannot work.  It will slip back into the primordial chaos of The Abyss.  

But is it not a fair question to ask what is that society or government doing for me?

Yes, Yes, I know - John F. Kennedy's quote "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."  Which was fine, perhaps, once upon a time.  But times change. Societies and governments change.  And the benefits that each of us reap from them also change.

I suppose I asking a question which is fundamental to the existence of our society:  what benefit do I gain from it?  And if I reach the point of not gaining benefit from it, why do I support it?

I am sure there are those that would make the argument that I do benefit through things such as food I can be assured to eat, water I can drink, sleeping at night without fear, business laws that require honest reporting, and so on.  And you can make an argument for that - at the same time admitting that many or most of those benefits derive from the local government, not the larger one.

But if they would make that argument, then they must accept the counterargument as well:  my money is drained away on social programs the fail and debt that ever increases; my rights are steadily pushed away; my moral stature depends no longer on my own actions but how others judge my actions.

I again ask the question:  If in the benefit/debit columns of my interaction with the government and society I reach a neutral point or even a point where I no longer deriving benefit, what impact does that have on the social contract?

People participate in things because it benefits them.  When they are no longer benefited, they will drop away and drop out.  And those that somehow counted on all of that support - financial, moral, even just the sheer weight of population numbers - will be surprised when their great dreams and plans come to naught.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Fin de siècle

 Is it somehow wrong to say I am waiting for the End?

I feel like we are somehow in the midst of Act II, waiting for the intermission and what will be a complete change in the plot.  We all know the intermission is coming and Act III will start soon, but we also know that we have to plod through the end of Act II to get intermission and Act III.

As I write this, the breeze of Spring is blowing through my window - it is still cool enough here; Summer has yet to take its annual grip on the season.  The sun is reflecting off the cars in the driveway and comes dappled through the blowing leaves into the house.  There is pizza in the oven.  My small bubble of the world has a sense of peace and contentment:  Poppy the Brave lays in her chair and looks out the window, A the Mighty strides about in his catlike way, now looking out the window hopefully for birds to stalk, and I-Bun and Joy sit quietly after eating a bit of dinner, thinking whatever thoughts rabbits think on the world and the inanities of it. 

And yet, I sit here in certainly what feels like a Fin de siècle (a fancy French world for "End of the Century").

Others have said it far better than I, but I no longer feel at home here - in this city, in this state, in this country, really in this civilization.

I am sure that some would say that it is simply some sort of failure on my part; that I have "refused to change with the times" or "refused to embrace the new world".  And I suppose that sort of thing could be said to be true, to a certain extent - although to be fair, the time should also concede that they must be worth changing to and the new world give reasons for it to be embraced.  

But the isolation - can I use that word? - is deeper than simple not belonging in a place or civilization.  There is a real sense that I simply do not belong here.

I have no more interests in crusades of righteousness or right thinking.  I have no more interest in right the wrongs of the world (I have lived long enough to know one man's wrongs are another man's corrects).  I have no really interest in dedication to ideals beyond my God and my tribe and my martial art and preservation of my land not only from those who would develop it, but from those who in their zeal for preservation would deny me from it.

I consider myself repaid in this, of course, by a society that demands crusades, righting of wrongs, a definition (growing ever smaller) of what is "permitted" and what is "forbidden".  This world, this country, this city have done nothing to reach out to me in return except in ever more demanding language of what I must do, what I must believe, and how I must act.

I am done.

I find myself a citizen of nowhere, any more.  This place I live is only a place to dwell.  Were it to be overcome in fire or flood or invasion or civil unrest I would perhaps shed a tear for those I know impacted by it, but not for the edifice itself.

At some point - be it relationships, old hobbies or beliefs that no longer fit our life style, or simply the dead - we have to let go and move on.

Oddly enough, our society and our world feels that in this sort of letting go, they should be the one thing that is clutched on to until the very end.

How odd.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Visit To A Sporting Goods Store

This past weekend, following up on a comment on a board to which I belong, I took a trip to my local sporting goods store.

For reference, these is a regional chain that carries the typical full scope of exercise and outdoor equipment:  all manner of sports, home training, camping, fishing, and clothing.  

My curiousity in going was that I had read that ammunition was completely gone in stores.  I was curious and wanted to verify the accuracy. 

New Home is a state where on the whole, guns are ammunition are relatively straightforward to procure.  In the past, shelves were full and racks were loaded with weapons.  Ammunition was generally readily available and ready to pick up.

If there were any to pick up.

For all handguns and long guns, there were perhaps 18 boxes of ammunition - total.  And they were in rather unusual calibers, not the sort of thing that one usually shoots.  Shotgun ammunition was in somewhat better shape - probably at least 30 or more boxes - but in only one of two calibers:  12 gauge and 28 gauge.

In terms of arms themselves, they were also fairly stripped:  of the wall behind the counter, about two thirds of the holders for rifles were empty and the remaining holders were split between rifles and shotguns - but no more than maybe a dozen.  Handguns under the counter were about the same amount, although like the wall, there were one or two empty sets of counters.

Out of a mild interest, I may check out a couple more outdoor sports stores to see if the results are similar.

If one did not know better, one would think a serious civil disturbance is coming - at least, that is what market seems to be saying on the ground.

Monday, April 19, 2021

We Are Done: The STD Edition

Last week, the 2019 CDC Report entitled National Overview - Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2019 was brought to my attention. (yes, your government dollars at work for a better tomorrow).  A summary of the findings:

- In 2019, Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis) 1,808.703 cases were reported, a 2.8% increase over 2018.   From 2015-2019, rates increased in men 32.1%.  In 2019, 2/3's of all cases were in the population aged 15-24.

- In 2019, 616,392 cases of Gonorrhea (an infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhaea) were reported.  This represents a 92.0% increase since 2009 (emphasis mine).  From 2015-2019, rates increased 60.6% among men and 43.6%.  among women.

- Additionally, 50% of all the reported cases of Gonorrhea were resistant to at least 1 type of antibiotic.

- In 2019, 129,813 cases of Syphilis (an infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum) were reported, an 11.2% increase over 2018. Since (apparently) historic lows in 2000 and 2001, the infection rate has steadily increased every year - there was a 30.3% increase in women.   From 2015 - 2019, rates increase 178.1% among women; the male rates remained "Stable".

Per the CDC webpage entitled AMD:  Battling HIV and STDs, (last updated April 2019), the CDC notes approximately 20 million STD infections occur in the US each year and more than 110 million people are infected by a new or existing STD at any given time in the US.  The U.S. population in 2019 was estimated to be 328,239,533 - thus one out of every three of your fellow citizens in 2019 probably had an STD by these numbers.

(Interesting factoid:  Direct cost of treating STDs as presented by this website is $16 Billion)

Why all of this matters, and why we are done.

1)  We have no ability to defer gratification:  A population where one in three people is suffering a disease which is exclusively transmitted by sex (with the sole exception of congenital syphilis, where the mother passes the infection to the baby during pregnancy or birth) is a population which is letting their desires run their lives.  And a population that lets their desires run there lives in one area is seldom able to contain that in one area.  And the inability to defer gratification is the mark of children and failing societies, not ones that are growing and advancing (because for any kind of advancement, delay of gratification has to occur).

2)  Non-Christian Religions and Moral Codes have failed (for my non-Christian Readers): In one of the most surprising things to me in this report, both Gonorrhea and Syphilis at one point in the last 20 years were at historic lows.  Yet somehow with 20 years or less, those rates increased dramatically.  We have dwelt for the last twenty years in a society that has celebrated self and gratification on every level.  Apparently whatever codes were held by them - Professed Paganism, Buddhism, Islam, Stoicism, Atheism, or your choice - did not hold.

3) The Church has failed (for my Christian Readers):  In one of the most surprising things to me in this report, both Gonorrhea and Syphilis at one point in the last 20 years were at historic lows.  Yet somehow with 20 years or less, those rates increased dramatically.  We have dwelt for the last twenty years in a society that has celebrated self and gratification on every level. 

During the 2000-present, we have been constantly told that the Christian church is expanding in ways it never could have as old practices were torn down and barriers removed - including, apparently, that bit in the Bible about not committing adultery or really any kind of sex outside of marriage.  Yes yes, I know, we are not expect the culture to act like a Christian.  But apparently, we somehow failed to transmit any of that message to anyone else or perhaps failed to even convince ourselves of it either.

Can anyone really cogently believe that a society that can has the ability to dedicate itself to the pursuit of pleasure in this fashion and the resulting outcomes in terms of disease, treatment, and cost (That $16 Billion trivia number above) is going to be in a position to do great things, or really anything?

Do not confuse me with calling for some kind of grand Christian crusade here (of course I would like you all to believe, but that is a separate issue).  I am just asking for the simple practice of treating disease like a disease.  If something is really destructive - and STDs really are - and really widespread - 110,000,000 people - is too much to ask that people starting using a little self restraint and concern for others (because infection, as you know, is a two way street).

To be frank and being a watcher of recent societal trends, I am not hopeful.

(Do me a favor:  It is a relatively touchy subject and could go lots of directions, most of which I try not to get into here.  If you could confine your comments to my three suggested points of failure and my ask, that would be appreciated.  Thank you).

Sunday, April 18, 2021

We Are Done: A Semi-Recurring Series

 Sometime over the last week, I have become convinced of the fact that the society I know and live in is not going to make it.

I cannot point to any one event, but I can point to a series of events - or perhaps, rather trends:

- A continued fatal misunderstanding of the nature of an economy in terms of how much money we are simply throwing at problems without any consideration of how that money will be paid for in the future.

- A continued and consistent slow rending of the underpinnings of our political system and how it operates:  (Note to both sides:  if you are using legerdemain and prestidigitation to accomplish your policy goals instead of building consensus, you are operating like a dictatorship with a little more finesse).

- A pretty wide and long ranging collapse of anything like a coherent foreign policy ( Starting out by calling the leader of a sovereign nation a "killer" or starting out your first meeting with your biggest trading partner with a lecture and putting individuals of their government under interdict is no way to start a relationship.)

- A continued growth and expectation that the government should do more and the individual less.

- A continued and growing sense of disunity virtually everywhere I look.  The only unity promoted anywhere is the unity that is to be brought by completely subsuming one's own views to the other side.

Before you think I have completely gone off the rails (Ed, I know you may be thinking this), I ask a simple question:  Name me one politician or political party that you believe is able AND capable to doing the following:

- Managing the economy in a way that does not rapidly and completely indebt future generation while encouraging growth and self reliance;

- Respects working within the political policies and structures as they exist (a bonus: reducing the size and scope of government); 

- Manages foreign policy in a way that is respected but not aggressive;

- Build unity, not division, somehow managing to get the majority of folks to a vision and goal 

If you are scratching your head trying to think of such a person or party, welcome to my world.

Am I sounding more Libertarian than anything in this?  Perhaps - but the Libertarian party has its own issues (largely the fact that they have no actual governing experience to point to.  An experiment - and a fun one - but not a practical one).

And so, the semi-recurring series of We Are Done.

By "Done", I do not mean something as significant as World War (although possible) or (if you are a Christian) the Rapture or (for my Nordic friends) Ragnarok.  I simply mean the US, as we have known it as a functioning entity for 245 years, is over.  

Maybe it comes out different and stronger.  Maybe.  But I do not believe it to be so.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Slough Of Despond, Work Edition

 I have been struggling a bit at work lately.

No, not from having too much do.  By not feeling that I have enough to do.

I have had one solid project which was bequeathed to me when the previous holder left, which (ironically) I had been working on since I started here almost 5 years ago.  It was something that was rush, rush, rush - right up to the point that they decided to cancel it.  Completely cancel it.

I have been on almost other projects as well, things that I started on but either ended up not being moved forward or passed on to others - my standing joke is that if a project needs to be killed, state you are going to give it to me.  Guaranteed with a month, it will be called off.

I still have a cycle of meetings I sit in, but really only as an observer or a backup.  My actual role will be very little in 90% of them.  For the others, I take minutes and post them.  

But it certainly does not feel like enough.

My main assignment now will be closing out the project I was associated with.

It is fairly unexciting, in case you are wondering.  One starts with a list of open purchase orders for work, and then marches down them, seeing what can be closed.  One co-ordinates with other departments to close down the various aspects of a biopharmaceutical product - stability studies, documents, clinical storage sites, reports.   And for those few purchase orders that will remain open (a few always do), one keeps asking the Subject Matter Experts if things are done yet.

A lot of e-mails.  And frankly, a lot of seemingly empty time.

I feel as if I am the proverbial third wheel of a date: present, not offering a lot of a value unless the date has gone bad (in which case I am the one keeping the conversation going); if the date is going well, the the only role the third wheel plays is an interruption (as in "This is going well.  How soon can you leave?").  And in a very real way, feeling like I am struggling to do enough work to justify my job.

I hate it.  I just hate feeling this way.

It is not just as easy as talking to your boss (I can read some of your minds from here).  Projects, especially if they are in flight, are fragile things:  just turning one over to someone else can be the death of it (I have seen it happen).  And I certainly do not want to be the reason something fails.

That said, there is a certain lack of importance that I feel as I sit down to man the computer every day.  Frankly, I feel a bit bored.  And not performing at my peak.

Yes, I know that part of my value at this point is the memories that I continue to hold in my head about certain decisions or the way certain things are done.  But functioning as a memory bank and managing the closeout of a project are not very engaging and certainly do not make me feel like I am growing in my career.

Of course, I am also mindful of my first rule:  "Never draw attention to yourself".  And in that, taking notes and and sending e-mails and remembering things make for a convenient way to pass the workday.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Having To Start Again

 My friend Glen, in yesterday's post "Thinking On Taxes and Retirement", made the following comment:

"I don't even know if I am retired or unemployed.  I finally severed my ties to the rat race but found that my identity was tied up in it with my job, my friends and coworkers and relationships...and it left a hole."

(Glen, for all of his outward curmudgeon presentation, is a man of deep thought.  And initiator of more than one blog post.)

I cannot fully say I have experienced Glen's position at the moment, but I have to a certain extent - as a part of A Sort Of Hammerfall where my job descriptions and function changed, my work life changed.

And to Glen's point, I found out exactly how I was involved in it.

It is hard when your life consists of 30+ hours of meetings, where you are the one who is making "The Call" on things, where you are spending so much time at work that your work friends are your "friends",  where your e-mail is inevitably chock full of e-mails the way a medieval princess' court was chock full of suitors - to find that your life has completely evaporated.  Suddenly the meetings are gone, your opinion does not matter like it did, your work acquaintances that filled that friendship spot are now no longer available to take them time because they have new bosses to serve and items to meet, and that you have become one of those suitors, waiting almost endlessly in the courtyard for a response that you need.

It is hard.  If you have never done it, it is damn hard.  It is harder if it is not of your own choosing.

All the things that you think would go through your head go through your head:  You are not longer relevant.  You no longer have value.  You are quite possibly without a peer or social group to talk to where one formerly existed.  And suddenly, you have an 8 to 10 hour chasm to fill.  All of this, of course, assumes you have no concerns about money, which is true of virtually no-one I know right now.

It is hard to get out of. For some, they never get out it.

But Glen (that genius) has found the way:

"I have to give myself meaning and purpose and find things to do.  Learning another language was an awesome step in that direction (Editor's note:  Yes Glen.  Yes it was.).  I spend a little more time in the bible, and will be experimenting with other areas of self improvement.  It has taken me about a year to sort myself out and readjust my head to the new circumstances.  Unlike Leigh...acceptance is something I struggle with.  It will come."

Glen brilliantly encapsulates a Three Step Program (hereby dubbed "The Glen Way") to work through this:

1)  Find meaning and purpose:  Anyone that has had a job is fooling themselves to the extent that they feel that their job is their ultimate meaning.  It is not.  20 years after you are gone - heck, for most of us 5 years after we are gone - no-one will remember you.  Most likely your contributions will be of no impact at best, if not minimum impact. 

Meaning exists beyond the career or job  - as it should.  But one needs to actively go find it.  Find things.  Try them.  Fail at them.  And try again.

2)  Be patient:  Any major life change takes time to adjust to.  Be patient with yourself as you make it.  Do not come down on yourself if you do not "find a job" in your current field, or even if you never find one again.  

3)  Give yourself time:  "...acceptance is something I struggle with.  It will come."  It will come.  But it does not come immediately (for 99.5% of us anyway).  So live with the fact that that things are changing and will take a while to sort themselves out.

It may sound a bit like I am lecturing.  Really, I am writing to myself - these are all things I need to remember and embrace.  And I am grateful to Glen for giving me the reminder - because I too often tend to gloss such things over in my life.  And think that I can rush through such thing.

(A shout out - again - to the idea of The Social Internet and the ability to have and share such thoughts and conversations.  Thanks, Glen, for being vulnerable and honest).

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Thinking On Taxes And Retirement

 Yesterday in speaking on the phone with a colleague, I started out the conversation with "Before we talk about anything else, how was your vacation?" - knowing that he had taken a week off a couple of weeks prior and wanting to start the conversation off on something of a good foot.

"Good" he replied.  "But it was completely wiped out the minute I got back."

"Always the way, at least here".

"It seriously made me think about retirement."

We both chuckled a bit and then moved on to the business at hand.

But the comment stuck with me.

Now, I am (to the best of my knowledge) not in any position to retire at the moment.  However, it does raise the rather interesting question of "Why am I working at this, and what for?"

I can generate certain answers of course: because I have to pay for a dwelling place, and food, and assist with college tuition, and support my spending habits on swords and books.  And to be fair, those are (at least somewhat) legitimate answers.  

But is that enough?

The reality is - under the current tax regime in place - I work 20% (one day of every five) for the government just in Federal Taxes.  Add to that the other taxes I pay (property taxes, sales taxes, etc.) and I am most likely close to 25% of my working life dedicated to working for the government.

That math does not strike me as being right.

At least here in Baja Canada, we have the trumpeted "progressive tax system" whereby those that earn more, pay more.  In other words, the harder you work to succeed or the more successful you are, the more you get the privilege of working for the government.

To be fair, to be retired (either independently, or on a combination of your own savings and your local version of Old Age Pension/Society Security or even just Old Age Pension/Social Security) means to have a curtailed income for probably 90% of us.  It rules out doing a lot of things.  And there are many that are effectively retired due to none of their own doing but by circumstances beyond their control, making a temporary job loss an unplanned life change.

And yet...

And yet, a constrained lifestyle is not the end of the world.  There are plenty of writers over at the bar on the right that lead such a life.  For the most part, although they work hard and sometimes experience difficulties, I very seldom hear them lamenting the fact that they have (by choice or by decree) moved to this lifestyle.

It does make one wonder.  And start doing some math.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Changing A Small Thing

As part of the concept of "Turning Pro", I have been making more of a sustained effort to write.  I originally started work on more of a longer manuscript but frankly, it feels dead to me at this point. I will try, but after 10 books it simply feels empty to me.

Short stories, on the other hand, have suddenly been presenting themselves.

The one I have been working through currently is something along the lines of having the opportunity to go back and change one thing in one's life - a single decision, perhaps not the biggest or most important to the world, but the one that would internally bring one the most peace and change.

Which makes one think, of course:  Given the chance, what would one undo?

It is the stuff of movies and fiction of course: the businessman who wonders what his life would have been like if he had not concentrated on business, the women who wonders being with the man she wanted to be with (instead of the one she chose), the decision made that completely remakes history.  But I would argue there is a second category of "do overs":  the ones that matter to no-one but ourselves.

These are not the things that would change the scope or course of one's life - like choosing a different spouse or a different career path or not moving or moving - but rather a small decision that would change outlook rather than situation.  Think Marty McFly's father in "Back To The Future" without the romance portion but with the simple change in the belief in self (which really made the rest of it possible).

I know my thing, of course - it is actually the point of the story, carefully hidden away in the midst of a short story plot (okay, less hidden away in the story - but it really happened).  It is not like the major sorts of things I would like to change (yes, I have a list of those as well) - but it is the one thing that, could I go back and change it, would bring me a great deal of psychic relief.

If you had a thing you would change - a small thing or change that really would only be visible to you - what would it be?  

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Low Trust Society

 On Friday, in response to a quote by Demosthenes on Skepticism, Glen (do not let him fool you, he is a man deep thought) posted the following: 

"Common sense has a half life like radiation.  My scepticism has decayed to cynicism...For most people today, I automatically assume they are lying to me or trying to use me.  In public, I won't be caught alone with a woman or child.  I don't believe a thing on TV or in the media, and I have learned to do my own thinking and fact checking.  People seem to want a low trust society so I will just take my place in it - or as far out of it as I can, depending on circumstances."

The Low Trust Society.  I have never heard a society defined in such terms before = but once I heard it, I could instantly point and say "Yes, that is it exactly".  

No society is ever going to advertise itself as "The Low Trust Society".  That comes across as a rather poor marketing scheme.   However, I suspect that the Low Trust Society is known by everyone that lives in it.

Perhaps a more useful question would be "What characterizes the Low Trust Society?"

A primary factor, I suspect, is a very high degree of mistrust in one's government.  There is an assumption that by default, the government may not directly lie about what it says, but it very seldom will speak the truth about everything.  Additionally, the government is almost always assumed to act in its own best interests, not that of the people it purports to serve.

Another factor is that, in a Low Trust Society, the media is essentially understood to have an agenda, rather than the actual reporting of facts.  It can be colored by beliefs  or strongly held principles, but there is an understanding that the media will report on what the media feels to be important and will skew stories in such a way to support one side over another (If one wants an easy guide to how this works, understand the potential bias of any media source and then review how many times they call out or report embarrassing information on those that most closely hold their view. The failure rate will inform the degree to which they are biased).

But distrust of governments is probably as old as governments themselves.  And governments are not a whole society.

A society is the interaction of all other factors of a group of people - businesses, social activities, religious gatherings, even personal interactions.  It is (at least in this definition) the economic and social glue that holds a group of people together.

In the Low Trust Society, that glue is pretty sparse.

In the Low Trust Society, every interaction and every person is a potential risk.  A business purchase - at the wrong business, of the wrong material - can put one on a list.  A word purposely taken out of context,  a conversation that everyone seems to be agreeable to at the time, can be turned against one later.  Even in an atmosphere that is centered around a single and seemingly unified issue - a club, a religious gathering - where everyone in theory shares a same worldview can become the source of questions later.  And heaven forfend one is in a situation where it is only two people involved - it is literally a "I said/they said" situation.

In other words, if what is coming to mind is the societies of the Soviet Union or modern China, you would not be particularly far from the truth.

We are assured - at least we in the West - that this is not at all what is being aimed for or tolerated.  It is not the grounds of ideological purity that such things are being effectively countenanced, but because of "safety".  Yet the end result is exactly the same.

I find myself in the same boat as Glen.

I have not watched the media outlets in a very long time, and am somewhat surprisingly variable in terms of the sources I review to form opinions or check facts (and especially for history, I will go back to the original documents where I can rather than an interpretation of them).  I am almost never found alone with anyone who is not my family and certainly not with anyone that I have not known for a very long time.  In almost all conversations - be they virtual or real life - the choice of subjects is rather bland and dry (on more than one occasion, it has been commented that I seem to not have very many opinions.  For many things, that is actually true.  For others, it is a careful choice).   More often than not, I assume that those that are proposing things have a benefit in mind that is as much for them as it is for anything else that it will create.

One other funny thing about the Low Trust Society:  ultimately, in the name of "freedom" and "safety" and "right thinking", they create societies which are neither free nor safe nor right thinking.  They only create individual prisons that everyone carries around with them.

Which, of course, will eventually encase even those who fully believe in the society they have created.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Oath of Plataea

 The Battle of Plataea (479 B.C.) is the perhaps lesser known counterparts to the more famous Battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C) and Battle of Salamis (480 B.C.) in which an combined and allied Greek army defeated the remaining Persian forces from the initial invasion and defeated the decisively, to the point that Persia never again physically tried to invade Greece.

As part of the battle (and recorded in Lycurgus' speech "Against Leocrates"), the allies took the following oath:

"I will not hold my life dearer than freedom nor will I abandon my leaders whether they are alive or dead.  I will bury all allies killed in the battle.  If I conquer the barbarians in war I will not destroy any of the cities which have fought for Greece but I will consecrate a tenth of of all those which sided with the barbarian.  I will not rebuild a single one of the shrines which the barbarians have burnt and razed but will allow them to remain for future generations as a memorial of the barbarian's impiety".

Thursday, April 08, 2021

On Orators And The Loss of Speech

 Last week I found, completely out of the blue, a horde of my Loeb Classical Library Books (someone, it seems, had an interest in the period of Alexander the Great).  One of the books I found was Minor Attic Orators II:  Lycurgus, Demades, Dinarches, Hyperides.

I had never heard of any of the writers/speakers, yet with the exception of Demades, are considered among the 10 great Orators of Attic Greece.  Sadly, very little of what they wrote has even survived:  the volume has some complete speeches, but just as often there were lacunae in the texts or mere sentences (in some cases only preserved in the speeches or writings of other writers).

Having read this - and having now completed reading the works of Isocrates  and working my way through the works of Demosthenes as I can afford them, I am finding yet another way in which our society is slowly slipping away:  we can no longer speak.

Reading the speeches of these long dead writers, I find myself engaged.  They write well.  They are mostly the speeches of court cases and politics, so they are perhaps a bit inflated in language and tone.  But the language is overflowing and grand; it uplifts and involves the intellect and the emotion.

"He (Leocrates) will perhaps in his impetuosity raise the argument, suggested to him by certain of his advocates, that he is not liable on a charge of treason, since he was not responsible for the dockyards, gates or camps, nor in fact for any of the city's concerns.  My own view is that those in charge of these positions could have betrayed a part of your defenses only, whereas it was the whole city that Leocrates surrendered.  Again, it is the living only whom men of this kind harm, but Leocrates has wronged the dead as well, depriving them of their ancestral rites.  Had the city been betrayed by them it would have been inhabited though enslaved, but left as this man left it, it would have been deserted." - Lycurgus, "Against Leocrates"

"Yet the actions fought near Pylae and Lamia has proven to be as glorious to them as the conflict in Boetia, not solely through the circumstances of victory in the field, over Antipater and his allies, but on the grounds of the situation also.  The fact that this has been the battle's site will mean that all of the Greeks, repairing twice a year to the council of the Amphictyones, will witness their achievements; by the very act of gathering in that spot they will recall the valour of these men.  Never before did men strive for a nobler cause, either against stronger adversaries or fewer friends, convinced that valour gave strength and courage superiority as no mere numbers could.  Liberty they gave as an offering for all to share, but the honour of their deeds they have bestowed upon their country as a wreath for her alone." - Hyperides, "Funeral Speech"

We do not get speeches like that any more.  We get 140 character blurbs or vague generalities or speeches written purely to "make points" for whichever side is speaking.  Keep in mind to that these speeches were written by these individuals (if not always delivered by them).  Now, many of our leaders employ others to write their speeches for them.  They have become merely performers in a sort of grand theater.

One could make a cogent argument, I suppose, that we no longer need this sort of skill because we no longer have situations that require it.  Perhaps that is true.  But what seems objectionable to me is that we have also abandoned the learning and writing and thinking that made such speeches possible.  More and more, we have abandoned the high art of composition and rhetoric and presentation for the lower call of "realism" and "telling truth to power" (whatever you consider that power to be).  It somehow construed that these methods are more effective, when in fact they more often than not are less so, crude tools used to hack and chop where a scalpel would be much more effective.

We are truly the poorer for it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The Guns Of April

 Ordinarily I try not to post about current events.  While very meaningful at the time you are writing them, 95% of them do not do well 5 years hence or with audiences that do not have the background (the same is true of pop culture).  That said, I am taking a offramp today, based partially on my post about Transfers of Power.

For any that have been under a rock over the last two weeks, Russia and Ukraine have been steadily building up forces along the Luhansk/Donetsk and Crimean borders.  If the photos and reports are to be believed, both sides are pouring thousands of troops and a great deal of military equipment into the area (if I might give a shout out, I would recommend EndGameWW3 on Twitter.  They have very good information, are non-partisan, and you do not have to have a Twitter account to follow).

Both sides have grievances: Ukraine for what it considers the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, Russia for what it considers to be the threat to ethnic Russians in Luhansk and Donetsk regions of the Ukraine.  Both sides claim that they want a de-escalation but continue to build troop strength.  Ukraine has reached out NATO for support, up to and including the point of asking to join NATO.  Russia has apparently requested assistance from Belarus (which shares a border with Ukraine), opening the risk of a two front war.

The US, for what it is worth, has continued to call for de-escalation while unequivocally supporting the Ukraine, up to and including providing non-weapons support in the form of a shipment that recently arrived in the Ukraine (you may also recall that our Sitting President called President Putin a killer.  Not a great way to win friends and influence people).

This may turn out to be something.  This may turn out to be nothing.  What is interesting to me - in a rather dark and "if I am right, it is a horrible thing" way - is that this is the sort of thing that leads to terrible conflicts.

Think about it.  If you have not read Barbara Tuchman's classic The Guns Of August, which is a history of the start of World War I, you would do worse than to pick up a copy (as a prognostication tool, if nothing else).  What her book - and history - will tell you is that it was not inherently the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that started the war.  It was a fuse, but a fuse that could have been extinguished.  What started the war was the resulting mobilizations because of a feared impending conflict.  Once the mobilizations started, along with the transfer of troops, the forces that could have called the war to a halt were thrust aside.  As the other side was mobilizing, our side had to mobilize as well.  And then our side had to get in the first strike before their side could.

It was really only a matter of time at that point.

This is where the real risk is:  a major event, in the end, by intent, but by a potential mistake or error:  the vial that is dropped that has a plague, the one soldier that opens fire precisely when they should not have, the computer virus that infects a network because someone accidentally opens a file.   All relatively simple errors, but all errors that have tremendous impacts.

What would also be helpful, of course, would be if everyone would take a moment and actually try to de-escalate the situation.  But this seems precisely to not be the case.  Ukraine builds up troops - in response to Russia - and openly calls for outside aid, including NATO (To be clear, parking NATO on Russia's doorstep will simply not be allowed.  Russia considers NATO an existential threat.  NATO somehow cannot see that after 77 years in business against the then Soviet Union and now Russia, Russia might be a little concerned about having them at their doorstep).  Russia builds up troops - in response to Ukraine -and suggests that everyone mind their own business, while conducting drills on their side of the border (without considering that to the Ukrainians with the history of the Soviet Union, thousands of troops on their border might be a bit worrisome).

There are so many ways this can go wrong.  Really only one or two that can go right.

Time will tell, of course.  Two weeks from now, we can possibly all have a good laugh about this and remind me why I should never do current events.  Or, we could be looking at a major European Theater War, something we have not seen since the 1990's in Yugoslavia.

It is not that I am inherently pessimistic about the situation.  But at the same, time, all I see is weapons and troops flowing into an area and absolutely no-one with any moral authority or perceived wisdom stating "We might want to think about this for a little bit.  Maybe stop sending troops up.  Maybe stop lobbing the odd shell or bullet the other way."  To be fair, I cannot think of anyone that could serve in that role at this time.  There are no more neutral parties anymore, just countries and groups fighting for power and perceived interest.

Wars have started over less.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

An Update On TB The Elder: Hospital Part II

 Yesterday was not a good update day.

Around 0900 Local Time I received a call from a young woman where TB The Elder is staying.  He had fallen - again - and per procedure they were sending him to the hospital.  He seemed - again - very confused.  They have no idea how long he was on the floor.

My sister (who fortunately, as it turned out, had the day off), was able to get to the hospital later.  My father was confused - confused to the point that he did not seem aware my sister was there.  He was making almost no sense at all and the only two clear words were "No" and "Listen".  

We now have a new social worker, who after speaking with my sister recommended we move him to a 24 hour care facility.  This seems likely and needed as he cannot be alone by himself now for any period of time (he does have a call button that he wears around his neck at his current location and we have both reminded him of it, but that we know of he has not used it once). 

The social worker had a location she recommended - which as it turned out, was in the same town my sister lives in.  They even have an empty space.  She went for a tour today and says it seems nice - more "homey" than the place he is currently staying.  And, possibly, it can be covered by their insurance.

My sister called later in the day.  The doctor saw evidence of a stroke so he has been admitted to the neurology ward.  Also, they are concerned he may have wrenched or strained something in his shoulder during the fall.

To be honest, I find myself a bit beyond hope at this point.  This will hopefully be an improvement for him in terms of having someone around 24 hours a day, but more and more there are gaping holes in him - who he is - that are being torn away and are not coming back.  Listening to my sister speak, we spent the weekend replaying in a way the events of December and January, where he became very panicked - almost neurotically so - and was calling several times a day over seemingly minor things like the date and the television not working.  Then, February happened.  

Now, it feels like it is happening all over again.

I had reconciled myself in February that while my father's body was here, my father was in large part not here.  But there was still some kind of hope that something would still be there of him.  Now, even that hope is fading.  

He received the official diagnosis of dementia yesterday. It at least gives a cause and allows other things to happen, but offers a cold comfort - as does the evidence of the stroke.  More of a coda, really, than the sort of diagnosis that leads to action that improves thing.

Monday, April 05, 2021

On Shadow Careers And Turning Pro

 My life has, in many ways, been the pursuit of a shadow career.

A shadow career, states Steven Pressfield in his book Turning Pro, is "..a metaphor for our real career.  Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same.  But a shadow career entails not real risk.  If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us...We pursue callings that take us nowhere and permit ourselves to be controlled by compulsions that we cannot understand (or are not aware of) and whose outcomes serve only to keep us caged, unconscious, and going nowhere."  It is, he suggests, the thing that we consciously choose to keep us from our real calling, from what he calls "Turning Pro", which (my definition) is simply committing to the calling that we feel we have on our life.

"If you're dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.  The metaphor will point you towards your true calling."

We make this exchange, posits Pressfield, by becoming addicted to lesser things.  Yes, things like drug and alcohol, but by other things as well:  sex, failure, distractions, money, trouble.  All ways for us to short circuit ourselves instead of taking the risk of turning pro - committing ourselves - to that calling that we know we have and yet constantly try to turn our face away from because it involves too much risk or pain or embarrassment or even failure.

When I read these words they resonate with me.

What is my calling?  If you asked me in my most vulnerable self, it would be a writer.

That is easy enough for me to type, and certainly costs me nothing (in theory) on virtual paper.  And I can even present to myself that by writing here every day I am, in a sense doing that.

I can.  But I am also using that as a crutch, an addiction and a distraction.

Posting here - while it allows me to think "out loud" and has built a solid practice of writing every day and allowed me to meet a great many wonderful people - also bears with it no risk. Most people that would reject my writing or critique it are not reading here.  And even if they do, I can write that off as "angry reader" and call it good in my mind.  And convince myself that I am a writer.

I am writing, but I am not a writer.

I allow other distractions to creep into my life as well, interests that suddenly pop up and are yet another rabbit hole to go charging down.  There is nothing inherently wrong with learning new things; when all you do is look for the new and novel instead of improving on the interests and skills you have in hand, you are allowing yourself to become distracted.  Because committing to one thing is hard.

If I focused my life down the core of what it should be, it would be God, writing and reading, Iaijutsu/Physical Training, Japanese, and the elements that make up Ichiryo Gusoku (self sufficiency where possible, sufficiency where not self -sufficient, and only enough to support myself and my family).  The rest of things I have going on would largely fall by the wayside - not that they are all inherently wrong, simply that they are distractions to the better.

To Turning Pro.

This might explain (even now) my relative lack of real commitment to other things I have done to pay the bills - I do a good job, but I am not digging in to learn the materials the way I am with the items listed above (after a twenty year career in Quality, I still probably readily remember more about the Roman Empire than it).  There are elements - writing documents, training, even talking to people - that approximate being a writer.  Or allow a shadow career to overtake one's life.

There is one other thing Pressfield notes about the day one decides to "turn pro".  Like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, one never forgets where one was the day one made that decision.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Happy Easter 2021

 Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–10; John 20:1–8

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene Matt. 27:56, 61and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. Dan. 7:9; 10:6; Mark 9:3; John 20:12; Acts 1:10His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like Rev. 1:17dead men.
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, Hos. 6:2; Ps. 16:10; 49:15; Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 17:23; 20:19as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed Matt. 26:32; 28:10, 16; Mark 16:7He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 
And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Mark 16:9; John 20:14Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell Ps. 22:22; John 20:17; Rom. 8:29; (Heb. 2:11)My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
- Matthew 28:  1-10, NKJV