Thursday, February 29, 2024

A Collapse, A Passing, And The End of Things

(First things first - no post from Seneca (directly) this week.  My apologies as the week has taken turns I did not anticipate.)

One of the surprising things about life to me is that sometimes it imitates art; sometimes, that imitation even seems to precede life itself.

That is a bit of a ridiculous statement to me of course; the idea that somehow art (in my case, fiction) can somehow precede an actual change in life or events is the sort of thing of mystical fantasy, whereby the combination of unique ingredients and the summoning of An Other from The Outer Planes results in small glimpses into the future.

And yet, here we are.

Attentive folks have commented on the fact that Seneca seems to have undergone a change, sometime between setting out for what will go down in whatever annals of history are to be kept as The Battle of McAdams.  It is not a hard thing to write, of course; literature and history are replete with the experiences of those that went out to war and what they were like when the return (Note:  The 1920's called, and they are looking for their Lost Generation).  There are events which change us - and not all bad of course: something as benign as marriage or the birth of a child or graduating with a degree can suddenly set a different course.

When I had accepted the new job (was it only a week ago), my reasoning was sound at the time:  not only did I need a job (big one there), this was a job that had a good package associated with it and the potential for growth and even to end my career there.  It also had the benefit of being much closer to The Ranch and my mother.  The ability to be able to get down to see her had become a a very motivating factor - so motivating, in fact, that I surrendered another job option for it.

Ah, the difference of a week.

Since Monday, I have been re-asking myself the question "Did I really make the right choice?"  It is a fair question, perhaps, given that somehow one of the major things underlying that decision has changed and the decision itself has had its own series of impacts.

It is like this when one moves:  the decision to move is rapidly overtaken by a series of tasks that needs to be accomplished.  It is also overtaken by the fact that streams start to shut down, like bodily systems slowly closing out their appointed tasks on their way to death.

That is happening here of course:  end dates of things that I do here are counting down like clockwork.  The last day of coffee bar at Church is this Sunday, as well as the last formal day at the Rabbit Shelter.  The last day of Produce (A)Isle is the following Thursday, followed by the last Iaijutsu training and a departure lunch.    I leave the next day to go to The Ranch to do a quick sweep and meet with the lawyer about the estate.  

On Thursday, I leave for what is effectively a new life.

It is not a new life all at once, of course; these things never are.  But the locus of attention will have shifted. "New Home" is a place that I may still go back to and visit more frequently at first, but those visits will likely taper off as things move on.  As life, really, moves on.

On the one hand of course, it is a great End.  On the other hand, of course, it is a great Beginning.

It is a great Beginning because effectively, I get to re-create a life from scratch. Yes, there is a dojo there in my style and I will train.  Yes, there are rabbits shelters and I will inevitably find one and volunteer.  But both of those likely will be different days and times and probably involve less time overall. 

While certainly it is a not a "Everything burned to the ground and we are starting over", it is somewhat of a "Choose your own adventure" sort of moment.

Or, having seen a major change, everything downstream now changes.

Seneca, perhaps, is on to something.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Passing Of Mom: Odds, Ends, And Plannings

 The Day After the Day.  The surreal sense of things is still present, brought on by things mostly outside of my control.

The notifications are mostly done.  I had to call my oldest and youngest (Nighean Gheal and Nighean Dhonn) as they are both out of town.  An awkward thing, especially for someone like myself who is not good at discussing my emotions at the best of times.  It is always a hard conversation, some version of "Hi, how are you, I have not the great news....".  Not a surprise to them either, but not any easier because of that.

I have being stalling on The Great Social Media post until we had a funeral date, which we now do - the middle of  May if you are in the neighborhood of the continental U.S. (offer not good in Alaska and Hawai'i). For someone that writes as much as I do, you would think this would not create quite an issue.  It does, though - both because of the fact that it is (hopefully, and possibly in all likelihood) the last one of these I will have to write for a long time (if ever), and partially because it will be seen by a lot of people that may have a lot of questions I do not have the answer to, like "What did she die from?" or "What happens to The Ranch?" or even just "How are you doing?"

Unfortunately, I have no idea how I am doing, well meaning person that is asking.  You and I both have the same question and concern.

For better or worse (mostly worse) outside of family, there are not many people left to contact - my parents have the same issue many of their generation has of having outlived most of the their peers and interest groups.  One call to their former church, one call to a colleague of my mother's - and that is that.  Likely the funeral service will be even smaller than my father's.  In 1.5 years, that seems like an ominous reduction of people.

Although given that I am moving soon anyway I had not initially planned to there again for a bit, but due to this event, I am headed back out the week of 10 March - mostly to go with my sister and meet with the lawyer and see what the next steps are in settling the estate.  While I do not have a lot of discomfort about this - we must be on some kind of timetable, but not a "We need to get it down right now" timeframe - it still makes me unsettled.  This is yet another change in a year which is already bustling with them, and brings to mind a new round of financial planning and repairs and "well, maybe I do not have to pack everything up" that I find myself suddenly unable to deal with all at once. 

And a funeral speech, of course.  I will have to write one of those - again, hopefully, the last one that I will have write in a very long time, perhaps forever.  Fortunately I have two months.

Knowing me, it will likely take that entire time to write.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Passing Of Mom

 My mother passed away yesterday.  She managed to just slip past her birthday to 84 years.

Apparently the home she was in called my sister and let her know she had evidenced some problems breathing - and suddenly, she was gone.

I went to see her when I was home two weeks ago.  

In going, I knew she had been having health issues.  On my arrival that week, my sister let me know that she had fallen twice and was essentially unable to walk, even with our assistance - something that was not true 4 months ago.  The home had asked my sister to start buying nutritional drinks for her as she was not eating well; recently she would only take her food pureed. 

My visit this time was no different than they had been in the last few months:  my mother was awake (although just as often in the last few months she was asleep) and staring off into the distance.  She would not make eye contact and may or may not have been aware that I was even there.

I had become used to this, of course.  The first time or two it was disconcerting, but I had simply learned to just talk on.  And so this time - as in months past - I said hi and updated her on how the family was doing, where The Ravishing Mrs. TB was off to and what the grandchildren were up to, and what I was up to.  I finished with telling her I loved her, and was on my way.

I was probably there 5 minutes all told.  Even then, the gauntness of her frame (96 lbs. from a recent medical visit) suggested that that her passing was a very real potential outcome.

Now, suddenly, everything is different.

As Nighean Bhan said about the passing of TB The Elder, it is more of a shock than a surprise - after all, the outcome of Alzheimer's is never in doubt.  And my mother is now herself, as I remember her, united now with her parents and sister and all of her Great-Aunts - and TB The Elder, of course.

In the few months leading up to their moving in 2020 and 2021, every night my mother would offer to rub my father's back on the couch.  It remained the one thing that she apparently felt able to do for my father after all the other things she had done over the years had slipped away with Alzheimer's.  And so, every night, she would sit on the couch and my father would lay down and she would rub his back.  Likely they did so the last night before they moved.

As awful as it sounds, it is a great relief.  My mother can finally get herself back. Her long journey of slowly losing herself is going and, as C.S. Lewis would probably say, she is more herself now than she ever was.  But all of a sudden, this year seems a lot less like a musical coda, where one returns to the previous bars of music to repeat, and more like a transition to an entirely different section of the music.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Training 2024: Food

Beyond the three square meals a day we had at the training center, we still had to eat prior to our arrival there and after we left.  Below is a compendium of other meals we had.

Unagi Bowl:  Grilled eel over rice

Breakfast at our first hotel:  The bread item on the left hand side of the plate is a curry doughnut.  Actually better than it sounds:

Bento, the ubiquitous boxed lunch of Japanese train stations.  There are many varieties, and regions are known for their specialties.  This one was fried chicken:

Traditional soba (buckwheat) noodles.  The jar on the left is the dipping sauce, which one pours into small dish then dips the noodles in.  Slurping the noodles is considered polite.  Of note, one does not use all the sauce but leaves some in the jar.  There are containers on the table that contain the water the noodles were boiled in that day.  One takes the water and pours it into the jar, making a soup to drink.

Udon (wheat) noodles with tofu:

Japanese burger meal (with fries) from Mos Burger:

Onigiri (rice wrapped in seaweed in a triangle shape, sometimes with fish or vegetables inside) and a mochi (red bean) bun:

After our last night training in Tokyo, we went out to a traditional style ramen shop.

All of the additions, which included ginger, garlic, and various peppers:

The order board:

Our meal, pork ramen and gyoza:

Instructions for how to prepare and eat the meal:

After ramen, we had dessert later.  Gelatinous coffee flavoured dessert with ice cream and mochi

Typical hotel breakfast we had during our second stay in Tokyo:

Final meal at Narita Airport, Chinese style noodles with fish cake:

Sunday, February 25, 2024

God’s Purposes

Or as C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, "There are only two kinds of people in the end:  Those who say 'Thy will be done' and those who say 'Thy will be done'. "

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Hammerfall 3.0: Week 10 Report (Final)

 Period: 17 February 2024 to 23 February 2024

Positions applied to:  I applied to 1 position during this period. Total jobs applied to/opportunities investigated are 86 unique positions.

Rejections:  I was rejected for 3 positions (26 rejections total).


I had one conversation with the other potential job interview process.  As it turns out, they had not come to a conclusion the previous week but had this week and asked if I would be interested in advancing to the next round.  This was early Tuesday morning; later that morning I had the actual verbal offer.  I had to politely decline moving forward for the process.

And, obviously, I did get a call from the company that issued offer.

Offers:  I had (and accepted) one offer (Yay!).

Job losses:  Clade Therapeutics (no numbers) and Ring Therapeutics (19 people) both announced layoffs.


As noted in my post on Thursday, the offer letter arrived precisely 70 days out from my initial notification of furlough.

An interesting note is that the position that ended up being the one that I received an offer for was the one that represented the "lowest" level position I had applied for.  I did it as something both of a lark and a gamble that for a large company, my chances of being hired in at my current level were low, but my chances of being hired as a lower level employee were greater due to my experience.  For better or worse, it appears that the gamble paid off.

As indicated in the announcement post, I continue to remain grateful to all who prayed and/or had good thoughts.  Even though I have job now, a heck of a lot of people still do not. If you have the occasion to offer a similar prayer or good wish once in a while for those folks as well, I am sure it would be appreciated.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Training 2024: Sengaku-ji And The 47 Ronin

 Sengaku-ji (Sengaku Temple) is a temple located in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area .  Original founded in 1612 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, it became famous as the final resting place of The 47 Ronin.

Outer gateway to Sengaku-ji

The Ako Icident (as it is formerly referred to in the history of the time) started in 1701, when a daimyo, Asano Naganori, was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide, literally "cutting of the stomach") after he attacked a high court official, Kira Yoshinaka, in the palace of the Shogun.  To draw a sword inside the castle was strictly forbidden, to attack even more so.  Asano had felt deeply insulted as Kira has degraded and insulted him in the course of instructing him in court etiquette (popular rumor was it was because Kira was hoping for a bribe).

Original entrance gate to Sengaku-ji
After his suicide, the Shogunate demanded the Asano family's domain of Ako be surrendered (along with its castle), its goods confisticated, and its samurai made ronin (literally "A man of the waves" or a masterless samurai, which did not find a place in the Tokugawa's Neo-Confucian social structure of warrior, merchant, farmer, and craftsman).

Enter Oishi Kuranosuke, head chamberlain of the Asano Clan.

Statue of Oishi Kuranosuke

Oisihi, having been notified of the impending forfeiture, first moved the remaining Asano family members and then, against the arguments of some of his clan, formally surrendered the castle and its domain.  He requested to re-establish the house of Asano but failed.

In the meantime, he had a second plan.

Main Temple, Senkaku-ji

Oishi began reaching out to former retainers of the Asano with a plan:  To take revenge on Lord Kira by his assassination. This would be difficult, as Kira was on the watch and carefully monitoring the movements of Oishi and many of the former Asano samurai. 

Rear view of the Main Gate

And so Oishi hatched a plot.  Reaching out to key retainers, he began to construct a plan whereby he and the retainers would ambush Kira.  This would have to be completed in secret and could not be done while Kira suspected a thing.

Bell Tower

Not only would the men have to gather; they would have to get arms and armor without raising suspicion and assemble at a given time when Kira was in a location and no longer suspicious.

Temple Buildings

The execution of the plan took 14 months.  During that time, Kira's agents tracked Oishi in Kyoto.  What they saw was a man who apparently had given himself over entirely to pleasure, visiting the pleasure quarters and drinking and carrying on with women.  All the time in the background, the team continued to work to gather arms and manufacture armor in secret and remain in contact.

Plum blossoms in February

Finally, Kira's agents gave up. Oishi had turned into a wastrel and his men the same.  There was no threat.

On 31 January 1703, Oishi and 46 other ronin, all former retainers of the Asano, stormed Kira's mansion in Edo (now Tokyo).  Splitting into two groups (Kuranosuke led one and his son, 15 year old Chikara, led the other,) they captured the porters lodge and opened the gate.

Entrance to the graves

Prior to the start of the attack, Oishi emphasized to his men that their target was Lord Kira:  women, children, and non-combatants were to be spared.  He also sent messengers to Kira's neighbors, notifying them of the attack and that they were in no danger.  And at the formal initiation of the attack, one of the 47 Ronin climbed to the roof and announced the attack to the neighborhood and that this was an act of revenge.

Tomb of Oishi Kuranosuke

The attack went on through the night.  The 47 stormed the house and began searching for Kira.  Kira's retainers, when they realized they were losing, attempted to go for aid but were cut down by Oshi's bowmen stationed on the walls.  16 retainers were killed and 22 injured, but Kira could not be found.

Graves of The 47 Ronin

Finally, in a shed for storing charcoal and firewood, a man was found.  Refusing to give his name, he was examined.  His head bore a scar, put there by the sword of Asano.  Lord Kira had been found.

Graves of The 47 Ronin
Oishi addressed Kira as a retainer would based on Kira's rank, explaining why they had come and offering Kira the chance to commit seppuku and retain his honor; Oishi would act as his kaishakuin (second) and behead him to prevent suffering.  Kira was shaken and trembling; finally, seeing there was no change, Oishi cut off Kira's head with a dagger.  

Extinguishing all lamps to prevent any risk of fire, The 47 Ronin sent one man, Terasaka Kiechiemon, to the Asano domain to announce the deed.  The now 46 Ronin began a walking retreat to Sengaku-ji, a temple favored by the Asano's.  The story spread quickly and as they marched along, they were feted and offered refreshments by passers-by.

Grave of Oishi Chikara, Oishi Kuranosuke's son
Upon arriving at Sengaku-ji, they washed Kira's head in a nearby well and presented it and the dagger that had cut it off on the grave of Lord Asano.  Praying at the temple and giving their remaining funds to the Abbott, they surrendered to the Shogunal authorities.

Graves of The 47 Ronin
The Shogunal government was in a bit of a pickle.  Lord Kira was not a popular man, and at the time the decision against Lord Asano had been wildly unpopular.  Also, The 47 Ronin had demonstrated a retainer's loyalty to one's lord, something that the Shogunal government was effectively built on.  To decry that would be to decry the very existence of the Shogunate. 

At the same time, the government could not support acts of revenge like this - there was a process for seeking revenge, but it was a defined process and included a formal declaration of the act of seeking revenge.  The 47 Ronin had done none of this.

Grave of Horibe Yahyoe.  Oldest of The 47 Ronin, he was 77 at the time of The Ako Incident

The government came to the following decision:  The 46 Ronin, who had been placed in the custody of four daimyo, were to commit seppuku, allowing them to die as warriors and retain their honor.  No revenge could be sought by Kira's family.  The matter was closed.

The Ronin had always planned this as a possible outcome.  And so, on 20 March 1703, the 46 committed seppuku.  Their remains, along with the remains of Lord Asano and his wife Yozen-in (Buddhist name), were buried at Sengaku-ji.

Overlooking the graves, with Oishi Kuranosuke's in the background

One may note only 46 died.  The 47th, Terasaka Kiechiemon, who had been sent to the Asano domain to declare the revenge, was pardoned by the Shogunate.  Accounts vary of why he was pardoned: some say it was because of his youth, others that it was "plot" by Oishi and the others by clearly stating he as not part of the action to allow his survival.  He lived until 1747 and died at the age of 87, when he was then buried with his comrades.

Another odd note:  There are 48 graves for the Ronin present.  Added in their number is Kayano Shigezane, a retainer who was forced to commit seppuku when a family member disapproved of his taking part in the act.

A final note:  The Asano were restored to their status, but not as the Lords of Ako domain.

A festival for The 47 Ronin is celebrated at the temple on 14 December.

Entrance to the graves, with Oishi Chikara's in the background

One climbs the stairs above, where a monk and/or a volunteer will take 300 Yen and offer you lighted incense sticks, which are placed on the stone alters in front of each grave.

This was my second time in Sengaku-ji.  It is a humbling and haunting experience.

Head Washing Well - The well where the head of Kira was washed before being presented on the tomb of Lord Asano.

Further information:  If one wants to learn more, the Wikipedia link above is a great start.  Do not - and I mean DO NOT - by any means watch the more recent movie starring Keanu Reeves (whom otherwise I enjoy as an actor) - it has almost nothing to do with the actual story except there may be a revenge and 47 Ronin may be involved.  If you have a long period of time, there was a 1941 movie produced which, while not having the fighting, is probably more true to the actual events (located at There have been more recent (1950's to 1970's) adaptations.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it instantly became a classic in the samurai culture and remains so to this day.

For written works, I cannot recommend highly enough Donald Keene's translation of  Kandehon Chushingura (more colloquially known as "The Chushingura)".  Originally developed as a bunraku (puppet play), it had to recast the events to an earlier period due to Shogunal censorship but retains the spirit of the events (especially Oishi's deception).

The 47 Roinin (Source)
The 47 Ronin on their way to Sengaku-ji, stopped by locals for refreshment (Source)

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Hammerfall 3.0: A Job Offer

 (We interrupt the normally planned Thursday post for a special job-related announcement.  Seneca has been notified of this change and approves this message.)

I have a job offer.

It is for one of the two jobs that I was interviewing for - the lower level position.  The pay is at the lower end of what I had requested, but there are a few things that still make this a better deal:

1)  They genuinely seem to want me and took the trouble to let me know they are aware of the level versus experience discrepancy.

2)  This is for a reputable large company that has a great deal of opportunity.

3)  The relocation package, as I had mentioned, is spectacular.

4)  The benefits package is also spectacular.

5)  As a lower level position, I can look forward to being an individual contributor. I have not be an individual contributor in Quality in 25 years.  The ability to focus on my work is welcome.

The start date is the middle March, assuming all goes well with the background check.

So a confused lot of activity in the meantime.  Sadly, Produce (A)Isle will have to be left.  My iaijutsu training will go on a short hiatus (although I am informed there is a dojo of my style in the new location).  My time at the rabbit shelter will also be on hiatus, until I join another one (there are three where I am going).

Oh.  And moving myself, deciding when The Ravishing Mrs. TB can or should join me, deciding what to do with the house, finding a living location, and getting our belongings moved.

And, of course,  figuring out what the name of the new location shall be (as I did not have enough foresight to realize that "New Home" might have to be more than one).

Of note, I was notified of the offer the past Tuesday, precisely 70 days or 10 weeks from the notification of my layoff.  In terms of the current market, that appears to be the equivalent of Warp Factor 7 (in the Original Star Trek of course, the speed where everything fails).  I remain the only one from the recent downsizing I know of to have secured a position.

It is a bit terrifying to think I will have to essentially uproot my life and restart it in my mid-50's, but there is some exhilaration as well in the opportunity to get a fresh crack at so many things.  Also, it is nice to start out on the foot that the company real wants you.

As ever, thanks for all of your prayers and well wishes during this time.  If would not be too much difficulty, I will need to ask you for them again as we get this all sorted out and start moving towards a new adventure.

I remain your most Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Training 2024: Yasukuni Shrine

 Yasukuni Jinja ("Peaceful Country Shrine", located in Tokyo) is a Shinto Shrine created by the Meiji Emperor in 1869 to commemorate the spirits of those who died for the restoration of the Imperial Monarchy.  Since that time, it was expanded to include all who died in the service of Japan, which includes the Boshin War (1868-1869), the Sino-Japanese Wars (both 1894-1895 and 1947-1945), and the first Indochina War (1946-1954).  Over those years, it has been expanded to include all conflicts during the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa reign (1868 to 1945), Koreans and Taiwanese killed in the service of Japan, and all those killed by World War II, regardless of nationality.  This includes Class A war criminals, which has lead to no Japanese Emperor attending the shrine since the 1970's.  

(Note:  Sakamoto Ryoma, a personal hero of the Bakamatsu period, is enshrined there.)

The first torii, the traditional Japanese gateway indicating the entrance into a holy precinct:

Statue of Omura Masujiro, founder of the Imperial Japanese Army (died 1869 by assassination):

A view towards another torii and the Outer Shrine:

Stone lantern:

The Outer Shrine, where anyone can visit.  Beyond this is the Inner Shrine and the area housing the kami (we went into it in 2020 as part of our demonstration):

Buttressed tree:

Area of the Outer Shrine:

As part of a display, each province of Japan contributed an artistic cherry blossom (sakura), which was to somehow represent that province:

Statue of War Widow with Children:  Donated in 1974, it was set in place to honor widows who raised their children after the War.