Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Collapse CXXVII: Moonlight

My Dear Lucilius:

Forgive the relative paucity of this entry; I make it in poor light.

Our preparation for the march was unlike other readiness we have done before, but familiar enough to me from earlier hiking days. Every single item in whatever we were using as a pack was pulled out and gone through and anything not precisely related to “March out and prepare to kill people” (apologies for the language being so forthright, but that is what we are discussing) was to be put in a pile. We made our pile, then it was inspected in turn by The Leftenant, The Captain, and The Colonel. At the end we were left with the most basic of items: a sleeping bag and ground cover, some level of clothing, minimal personal care effects, any medical or first aid items, a bowl (mostly plastic or folding) and utensil, TP, and a knife. Entertainment items that made no noise – cards, books. Food and water containers

And guns and ammunition, of course. All of those.

What was left behind? Anything not related to that. Lights (the Leftenant had one) that might go on randomly or by accident. And anything – anything – that could make noise.

Prior to our march we were divided up into three 3 man teams and the Leftenant. Our separation seemed largely based on our age and physical ability; apparently Blazer Man and I appeared the least able as assigned to us was a clearly much younger man to whom the Leftenant referred to as “Ox”. These would be the group we would sleep with and man shifts with as a team.

With that – packs now secured and loaded with our supplies and noise free – we set off at the settling of the sun, which was well after 9:30 PM (as if we were keeping track).

Our passage through the town (once again, with only occasional pinpricks of light) was silent as we moved through the center to the outskirts, where commercial centers and stores – including the Grocery store I had used only a year ago – yawning and gaping dark holes specters overlooking a road that lead only to the past. The remainder of the waxing moon gave us a pale light as it dropped low and we trudged almost soundless (but never quite so, I imagine) across the pavement.

The world is silent at such a time, Lucilius: the birds of day having all sought their nests. Rustling farther beyond our sight betrayed deer moving just out of sight. Beyond the stars and moonlight, there is nothing else to light the way.

We are likely not the first to walk this way at night on our way to war; others have come before us likely in situations far closer to ours than to the modern world we so recently left behind. In that way we seem to be a sort of time travelers, lurch back slowly into a past that is racing to catch us.

The march seems interminable in the dark and silence; later the Leftenant tells us it is is only 4 miles. We reach our initial point and make a hard left turn, heading up a more rural road, which in turns leads us to a second right turn, bringing us back online with our main direction. This is now a dirt road, we walk slower still. In the distance one can make out the occasional black spots of homes or Summer cottages against the backdrop of the range we crossed to get here.

We pass one: A building that is dark and silent. It is impossible to see in the moonlight if it is whole or destroyed; certainly there are no lights here. We go by silently; if there is anyone or anything at home it does not notice us as we pass, both because of us and the sound of a stream running which becomes closer as we approach it.

This is our destination, apparently; the Leftenant halts us by dirt and sand crossing. The word down the line is to try and get some sleep as we will move again in the predawn light, when we can see again.

The moonlight dips as I make this final note.

You Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Greece 2023: Olympia I

"At the Olympic Games, it isn't the beautiful or strongest who is crowned, but those who compete" - Aristotle.

The names Olympia through its name sake the Olympic Games may be one of the most well known names in the world.  Although mostly known for the Olympic Games (traditionally started in 776 B.C. and continuing every four years through at least 393 A.D.), it was also the site of a major religious site for Zeus (The Olympian Zeus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World).

(Below:  The Palestra and Gymasion, training areas for athletes)

The Olympic Games - much like the Pythian Games at Delphi we saw earlier - were connected with religious worship.  The games themselves were held every four years (a time period known as an Olympiad) and during the Games, a truce throughout Greece was called; athletes and spectators could travel under truce.  To break the truce was to invoke the wrath of the Gods.

The Olympic Games held something somewhat unique (at least to my mind) in that in order to compete, one had to be 1)  A free male; and 2) Greek.  That meant that Greeks from not only Greece but any of the Greeks kingdoms or colonies could compete as equals.   This built a powerful sense among the various Greek cities and colonies that they was something about them that related them to one another, even thought apart.  It served to build a sense of the Greek identity.

(Ruins of the Philleppeion, built by Philip II to honor himself and his family)

When the games were not in session, this was an uninhabited location.  When the games were going, there were no accommodations made:  People just put up tents and attended.

(Another random stone with Greek on it.  The fact that one can still make out what is a living language thousands of years later astounds me.)

The base of this pillar (more visible in the second picture) notes that it was raised by King Ptolemy (of the Ptolemaid dynasty of Egypt).


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Greece 2023: Olive Grove

One of the things that comes with the package tours we are on is that you make some "tourist" stops: stops which are places for you to shop (and likely have some kind of relationship with the tour company).  They are usually informationally based as well and not really over selling, so I have not minded when we do them as sometimes they get us to be able to see things we would likely not otherwise see (the vineyard we stopped at was on of those places).

Thus it was that we arrived at the Magna Grecia Olive Grove.

The company is family owned and, like many California vineyards, figured out that having dining, tours, and a store is a great way to further drive business.  They also get to do some fun things; the vegetables below, for example, are both organic and used in their kitchen.

We actually got to go into the production factory.  For me, being an small scale agricultural nerd, this was practically nirvana.

The initial processing.  Here the olives are washed and destemmed.

From there they are moved into the initial grinder, which mashes them up (pits and all) and sends them inside.

After going through a press, the oil is moved to tanks for storage.

From there, it is bottled.

As you can imagine as a tourist stop and restaurant, the grounds are well kept.

What is a tour without a little lunch?

Although typically never include myself (ever, now that I think of it), the picture below is offered as proof that I am actually there.  Yes, that is me, in Greece drinking wine, toiling diligently on your behalf.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Post Thanksgiving Ponderings

 Thanksgiving was remarkably low key this year.  It is, as one commenter has pointed out, a sort of short term enforced holiday: it is relatively unique to the US, it lasts for a day (or two), and given the nature of the holiday, there are often a limited number of things one can do (and watching Sportsball for me is not one of those things). 

We had a pretty quiet family time, dinner of salmon/orzo with vegetables/sweet potato, with one's choice of pumpkin or pecan pie for dessert.  As per tradition, we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Other than that I read and napped a bit.

Friday was largely a repeat of Thursday:  read more, planted what garden I was going to plant for the year (mostly leafy greens at the end of the garden that gets sun; the garlic went in last month) and pulled up a small bucket of sweet potatoes. From there, the week eased back into its normal form:  Iaijutsu class and Produce (A)Isle on Saturday, church and rabbit shelter on Sunday.  

Like that, we lurch into the holiday season and the end of the year.


One of the things that occurred to me is that I might actually be reaching a delayed mid-life crisis.

My life feels as if it h as a lot of "going through the motions" about it at the present time.  I get up, I do some things, I do to work and do somethings, I come home and do some things or go to another job and do some things.  There is a lot of doing, but it just feels like it often doing just because that is what I have always done.

It is perhaps fair to allow myself the luxury that this has been a year of a lot of changes and that in some ways, my "purpose" up to this point is fulfilled:  Na Clann are now effectively safely launched off into their own lives, TB the Elder is gone and my mother, for all of our monthly visits and my sister checking in on her, is beyond any power I have to help.  And I find myself in that position of being too "young" to retire but too "old" to be truly interested in rebuilding a career in my current field, having lurched back into it after a 3 year absence.

Outside of the rabbit shelter and the pets, there is no where I feel "needed".  Just a lot of places where I am "useful".

When that thought hit me, it made me think.  A great deal.  Because whether by accident or design, I have believed myself to be needed.  But almost every one of the areas of my life, I could effectively disappear and there perhaps would be a small notice somewhere that I was gone, but not much (I excluded here my family and the rabbit shelter and Iaijutsu, where I continue to play some kind of necessary role).

This is, I suspect, where lots of people go astray:  have found their purpose or meaning gone or their deep emotional connections gone, they try to find any number of things to fill that void.

The "filling the void" thing is not necessarily an issue; the fact that more and more I feel like like I am simply floating through life without any purpose or direction.

One can hope this is a temporary state of affairs; after all, any of the previous "purposes" were predated by the fact they at one time did not exist, so at some point it is fair to assume that something new will appear.  But I have to admit that this sense of treading water is far more disorienting (and frankly, depressing) than I had anticipated.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Fantastic Finds Of Fungi

 As I was raking up leaves from the driveway to move the hill, I came across a very small mushroom. 

As I raked more, I came across more:

It turns out that - for some reason - there seems to be a fungi explosion at the Ranch.

As I continued throughout my day, I kept finding them.  I am not sure if they are always this way or I just caught them at the right time, but it was fun walking and seeing all the different varieties.

Funny how often Nature will truly reveal itself, if we will just look.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Experiment: Oak Leaves And Erosion

One of the issues that the hill that my parents' home is built on at the Ranch is some erosion.  Part of it is caused by a resident mole and gopher population that has to go, but part of it is due to the fact that the native grass is not covering everything. 

I have seen this several times and thought "I should do something about that", but have not really done anything - until this visit when, as I was raking up the fallen oak leaves at the base of the driveway and moving them to the side of the road, I thought "I wonder if I could use these for some kind of ground cover?"  The idea, in principle, is taken from Friend-Of-This-Blog Eaton Rapids Joe's fictional series The Cumberland Saga (if you are not reading him, you should be), where the main character's main job is soil erosion mitigation.

If a made up character can do it, perhaps I could take a go at it too.

I essentially raked the wet leaves, shoveled them up into the wheelbarrow, brought them up the hill, and spread them out (you can see the edge of the driveway in the first picture below).

I ran out of leaves before I had completed my task, but the tree is still pretty full and I will take another go at it in three weeks, when I am here again.  Seeding will have to follow up this Spring, but at least it is a start - and I should have pretty real time data on how it is doing.

(One note:  we do not often get the sort of downpours that happen at New Home, so I am hopeful they leaves will be less prone to floating downhill due to gentler rain.)

Friday, November 24, 2023

Thanksgiving Holiday, WKRP

 I posted this last year, but we are always in need of a good laugh.  This remains, in my mind, the quintessential comedy routine of an age when comedy was still made.

One thing I noticed this year that I had not noticed before:  in the very last cut scene at the out-take as Mr. Carlson makes his famous comment and the camera goes to the rest of the cast, you can clearly see several cast members trying very hard not to break up laughing.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving 2023

As is customary for this time of year, I present below the original Thankgiving Proclamation of 1789.  

Every year as I do this, I realize how much I have had to be thankful for.  And every year now, I work to be thankful in the face of fighting back the very real awareness that every Thanksgiving may be the last one. 

George Washington's 1789

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Greece 2023: Back To The Peloponnese

Moving on from Nafpaktos and Delphi, we started on the last leg of our trip into the Peloponnese - for myself and Nighean Dhonn, really a return.

Once upon a time, the only way to access the Peloponnese would have been via ship or by taking the Isthmus of Corinth.  Now, one can take the Rio Antirrio Bridge (officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge).  It was completed in 2004 and is at the narrowest point between Attic and the Peloponnese.  The bridge is formally named for the 19th Century Greek Prime Minister that originally proposed the idea; its colloquial name comes from the towns on either side of the strait.

On the Attic side is the well preserved Rio Fortress.  Originally built by the Ottomans, it exchanged hands between Ottoman and Venetian until it finally became Greek.  It has a sister fortress on the other side of the strait (in Antirrio). 

The bridge is 2380 meters/7,810 ft long and is the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the world.

Looking towards the Corinthian Isthmus:

Crossing the bridge is 13.70 Euros/$14.20 for a car and up to 69 Euros/$75.35 for a bus.  

The bridge itself is something of an engineering model.  More here if you are interested.