Sunday, March 31, 2024

Happy Easter 2024


Christ The Pantokrator - A.D. 6th Century, Saint Catherine's Monastary, Sinai - Source

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead 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, as 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 He 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, Jesus 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 My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

- Matthew 28: 1-10, NKJV

Saturday, March 30, 2024

In A Funk

I apologize.  I have not felt myself the last week or so.

Sarge at Chant de Dupart has confessed to a certain lack of inspiration in his writing.  I realized, after reading his ongoing struggles, that I concur with that statement.

Part of it, I think, is simply the changes that have taken place over the last month or so (hard to believe it was only five weeks ago I got offered this job and only four weeks ago that my mother passed away).  These sorts of changes can be the sort of reservoir of material that makes for all kinds of subjects.  They are also the sorts of changes that make one exhausted.

Part of it as well is simply the fact of trying to find a new schedule.  To be completely honest, the best time for me to write is in the morning.  I cannot fully tell you why this is, other than it is.  Where I fail is by trying to continue to have a schedule that does not fully accommodate that sort of activity.  

I write best in the mornings; I simply need to plan for this and move on.

The final part, I think, is simply not knowing where to go next with the blog.

As I have written before, the blog was started long ago with the idea of being some sort of high powered blog that would magically support me by the droves of people that would read it.  Laughably of course; we are all young once.  From there, it became a sort of record, especially after the very first Hammerfall that led to New Home and all of the time there.  Even after A Sort Of Hammerfall that allowed me to visit my parents more often and record The Ranch in more detail, it sill allowed me to write and think on that and, indeed, eventually getting back there.

Frankly, I have no idea what the future holds at the moment.

Some of the subjects I have written on before become less meaningful when one is living in an apartment rather than somewhere with a fuller garden.  Travel to The Ranch will be subdued for a while and likely even different following the completion of the estate.  And I have no idea how long we will be in New Home 2.0; for various reasons it would make an excellent "last job" to retire from.

All of this to say,  I am in a bit of a funk.

I plead your pardon during this rather confusing time. I fear my writing will not be "up to" the standards I always hope to achieve.  That said, I really do feel like writing (or at least posting) on a daily basis is an important discipline for me.  

Even when the posting is less than optimal.

I remain Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Friday, March 29, 2024

A Little Homesick?

 Sometimes your weeks just seem like they are against you.

The biggest and most disturbing thing is that one of women in The Ravishing Mrs. TB's group of travel friends had her husband pass away suddenly.  Cardiac arrest, no indication prior to the event.  It happened on Tuesday, his son tried to get home the next day but his father passed the following day before he could make it home.

Nighean Dhonn is having some sort of pain in her teeth.  It is complicated a bit by the fact that she is away from college and we have just changed insurances (in perhaps one of the few good decisions I have made this week, I got the upscaled dental plan for situations like this).  The earliest she can find an appointment is the middle of April.  This is not unusual from my own experience in trying to find a dental appointment; one to two months (or more) was easily the norm.  

The Ravishing Mrs. TB is also fighting some kind of pinched nerve in her left arm. It has been ongoing for almost three to four weeks now, rising and falling in terms of its painfulness.  It was somewhat painful at our visit last weekend; it continues to bother her this week.

By comparison I am doing fine health-wise, although I must confess that the semi-constant circle of work and hotel tends to wear on one's psyche.  I am trying to be as conservative as I can be with meals - fortunately this hotel has a breakfast (included in the cost of the room), so I am able to eat a solid morning meal and use minimal grocery shopping and fruit from breakfast to fill in the rest.  But even that becomes a bit wearing after a bit:  largely eating the same thing day after day makes meals more of a chore than a pleasure.

It is not that I am discouraged - although I do admit that this being on my own is different than being at The Ranch on my own.  If there is a difference, it is largely because there I was surrounded by a place I knew; here, I am essentially a transient businessman, waiting for a final landing place.  And while the hotel is clean and warm and I have InterWeb access, it is not home.

Is this homesickness? I am not sure.  But I find myself somewhat de-energized and depressed, for no good reason that I can think of other than I am simply here on my own while all the things that filled my life up to two weeks ago are far away.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Collapse CXXXX: Presentation

12 July 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

The meeting happened yesterday – far sooner than I had anticipated; I assume other events are pushing on us.

For the meeting in Post Office, there were at least four actual horses outside and two bicycles. Inside was a group of 8-10 people, most of whom I did not know but one – The Colonel – I did. He did the courtesy of a large bear hug.

Even one friend in a sea of the unknown can inspire a man.

These people were pulled on behalf of their settlements along the Garnet Valley or in at least one case, because they were a large ranching landholder. I saw wariness in their eyes, wariness and perhaps a little indifference.

Still, they did the courtesy of coming.

It has been some years since I have done a business presentation Lucilius; gone are the days of handouts and slide presentations and pre-reads. It was myself with an idea and a group that I had to convince.

I had prepared the presentation, first on notes at home rambling away to Pompeia Paulina, gesticulating wildly (she reminded me not to do that), muttering under my breath as I worked through thoughts and wording. This is an old habit of mind; for years I have been accused of vigorously carrying on conversations with myself against points no-one else can quite understood.

Presentations – at least decision making presentations – come down to a simple process: Present the problem, present examples of the problem and potential outcomes of the problem, present a solution and how the solution mitigates or removes the outcomes of the problem, and then the Call To Action to implement the solution.

I know all this. I wrote all this down. And then I promptly forgot most of it.

I found myself starting with a story, a story just as I told it to you last letter: sitting in the streambed, thinking about the road past up to the Big City and what I remembered seeing there. That although I did specifically have a head count of everyone around here, it was likely more than any of us thought and that it should be clear to anyone that help was not coming. That possibly – possibly – there was a food source near at hand that we could either work for, trade for, or worst case simply go and get ourselves if it was unattended.

The Colonel raised his hand. What was my suggested plan?

I had given this a little thought.

We did have radios in the area, although I had no direct access to one. Was it possible, I wondered, to see if there was anyone close enough to the area to try and make contact with whomever owned those fields if they were alive? If that failed – and it well might for any number of reasons – someone would have to go, both to try to make contact as well as assess the state of the grain. After that...everything depended. The place I was thinking of was easily 50 miles from here, so that would make somewhere between 5 and 7 days out and the same back – not counting on bringing any grain back. That was a whole different program.

Someone else raised their voice. Was there even any value in doing this? Would people be better off trying to do more of what they were doing?

To this, I had an answer thanks to my library at home.

The yield of wheat per acre could be up to 50 bushels. One bushel will yield up to 60 lbs of whole wheat flour, so one acre could yield up to 3,000 lbs of wheat flour (or one could eat the wheat berries, of course). That would support around 6 people a year just on bread (which is not likely to happen, of course).

Add to that the possibility of sowing and growing wheat here next year instead of having to make another trip, and we had added another food source.

Someone else immediately started to bring up how all that would be done, but the Colonel intervened. “That is not the point of the meeting today” he rumbled. “Those are good points, but not the question at hand. The question is simply if this is something worth following and if so, do we start by trying to make contact? The rest comes out of that.”

A voice came that the radio question could be answered in two days or less. But no matter if that was in the affirmative or negative, someone who still have to go to make the contact and if not contact, assess the conditions. Was that acceptable?

With that, I thanked them and left. Mine was the presentation, not the decision.

The Colonel and Young Xerxes came by later.

The initial suggestion had been discussed and agreed that it was something worth checking into – certainly the radio contact, and at least someone to go look around. Who would that someone be?

My plan, my responsibility.

The Colonel, Young Xerxes, and I will leave after the radio attempt is made.

This, Lucilius, is why I never suggested anything at my previous places employment.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Loveliest Of Trees: The Rest Of The Garden

 New Home 2.0 has a lovely Japanese Garden - so the cherry and plum blossoms were not the only beauty this past weekend.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Loveliest Of Trees

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands along the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my three score years and ten
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
That only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
fifty springs is little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

- A.E. Houseman, A Shropshire Lad, 1896

Monday, March 25, 2024

Of Cloudy Days And Cloudy Futures

One of the warnings I have had about New Home 2.0 is that it is a cloudy.  A lot.  A "significant portion of the year" a lot.

On the one hand, I think back to my undergraduate college days where I had similar weather conditions and think "Well, that should not be that much of an issue". On the other hand, I realize that those college days were a very long time ago now and things might work out differently for me now.

I mention the weather because, for whatever reason, cloudy and rainy weather make me more thoughtful and pensive.


I have no idea why this is really the cases.  One could make the argument that such weather tends to drive an individual indoors more often to do things like think and read (both activities which I do in fact enjoy).  One could also make the argument that such weather tends to visually focus us inward:  there is no sky to see above us, just unremitting clouds and either constant showers or on again/off again rain which focuses not on the horizons but on ourselves.

Perhaps it is simply the fact that I have a pessimistic cast in general, and nothing sets off a pessimist like weather that is not at all promising. 


One change that has happened since Hammerfall 3.0 that I cannot shake is that sense that nothing is settled anymore.

I say that.  One of the reasons I applied for and chose this job is the fact that as it is at a larger company, my sense of the likelihood of bad times is less and the fact that lower level positions sometimes survive unfortunate times better than higher level ones.  And I stand by those reasons.  And yet, at the same time, I am coming to the conclusion that I am never going to stop having that urge to look over my shoulder again.

Looking over one's shoulder is a terrible way to go through life of course:  one regularly slams into things without notice.  The more correct answer, of course, is to 1) Take advantage of every opportunity that currently presents itself; and 2) Already have a plan for what is next.

I have no clue how long we will  be in New Home 2.0.  In theory, of course, it could be for a very long time.  But quite the wiser move to begin planning for what happens next.

Thankfully, the weather here promises to grant me a lot of time to think.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

New Home 2.0: A Semblance Of Order

As an update - really probably more for myself than anyone else - I thought it might be valuable to post how things are going in the New Home 2.0.  I do not know that this will be any kind of "regular" feature, but it might serve as a reminder in the future of how everything came together. 

Because there has been progress.

This week we managed to get The Ravishing Mrs. TB back to the airport, the car checked in, and my car issued and me safely off to work, where (thankfully) they were expecting me all on Monday.  We found an apartment (for the record, I have not lived in an apartment in 25 years) that would work for us and got a lease submitted - which was accepted and for which we put down a deposit.  The lease itself is being reviewed by our relocation consultant, less to make any specific changes as much as to be clear on what is in the lease.

Benefits have (I think) been signed up for  - thankfully they took effect the day of my employment, so I could cancel COBRA before we starting paying for it starting in May (That is a huge relief.  That price tag was hefty).  And I will say that this employer has a multiplicity of different benefits and benefit platforms, so sorting through them all will be the work of some weeks.

My first flight back to New Home is scheduled (as well as the return), and the additional housing time between my return and the lease taking effect has been booked.  This means there is no interruption in me having housing, which I am a fan of.

The car transport has been booked.  There may be some slight overlap between how long I have the rental and the car arrival - if it works out, I have to turn in the rental car on the day the car arrives.  All great, if it works out.  I am guessing not, which might mean some additional days of rental.

Likely the movement of any items will not take place before May.

Another "win" is that the rabbits are going to be able to come out and live with us - although forbidden as pets, they are acceptable as Emotional Support Animals with a letter.  I have not informed them of this development; they may start demanding additional snacks as hazard pay.

My current commute takes a grand 8 minutes to get from the hotel to work; that will increase to 10 minutes when I move (or so the InterWeb tells me).  I have not had this short of a commute (where I had to go to the office) since the early 1990's.

There is a certain temporary rhythm emerging to my life.  I am grateful, even as I am conscious of the fact that it will likely slip into another rhythm in a few weeks as things change again.

In total, if the hand of God is not involved here, I do not know where it would be.  Things could not possibly be going any smoother.

Friday, March 22, 2024

New Home 2.0: A Visit To The Coast

 One of the new advantages about New Home 2.0 is that we are now much closer to the coast - a little over an hour away.  During out visit last week, we drove out to it.  It was a fabulous day.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Collapse CXXXIX: Concept

10 July 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

I promised you last letter that I would “round out” my idea. In normal times, of course, likely this would have been a different path: long ago, we would discuss such ideas among ourselves before we would ever bring them to the light of day. Now, Young Xerxes will have to fill that role.

We all make adjustments based on circumstances.

The thought initiated in the most unlikely of places, sitting in the streambed near McAdams. Besides being alert while on watch, a man has a great deal of time to think when neither on watch nor sleeping. What tickled my mind were the things up the road from where we were.

Specifically wheat.

Food is an issue, and one that is likely not to disappear anytime soon. And it is not just a problem for myself or my relatively new small tribe, or even the small town I live in. It is a problem for the inhabitants of the entire range of the Garnet Valley, which travels up the old state highway to empty out just beyond the old county seat, where we staged for McAdams. Yes, it is easy enough to say “Fend for yourselves” – but given the recent incident we have had, “fend for yourself” is hardly the sort of thing that will lead to people rallying when the next set of Locusts come through.

The population? Fair question. The population here once upon a time tended to fluctuate with the seasons, Summer being the high point. Not during Summer? Maybe 5,000 people all told, and that maybe generous on my part: Small towns of 300 to 700 people and people living off in the backroads.

So, perhaps we do not need a proverbial mountain of food. But we need food none the less.

Which brings us back to wheat.

Just beyond where the Battle of McAdams was fought, one would find a turnoff to another state highway that, if followed, leads to the largest city in our area. It would be about 90 minutes by auto from here, once upon a time. Were one to take that turnoff, one would wind through smaller hills – and one would pass the wheat fields of Winter Wheat. It was something that I originally viewed as a novelty and scenic, not having grown up with such things.

Now, of course, I view it a great deal differently.

There are a lot of assumptions. I assume the wheat was not planted last year due to the actual impact of The Collapse. However, given the timing of a typical wheat harvest (end of July to the end of September), it is also quite possible that the wheat was not harvested from the previous year. Which in turns means there may actually be volunteer wheat that grew this year.

There are a lot of conditional statements involved in this, of course If there was no harvest. If there are volunteers. If the farmers left will be willing to deal. If the farmers are gone, that the wheat is still there and can be harvested. If people could get there and harvest it. If it could be brought back safely.

If, If, If.

It seems like a long shot to me as I continued to think it over, Lucilius. But a long shot – in this case, with some luck and a lot of planning – seems far better than any other option that we have at this point. It is not as if there is any sign food trucks will be rolling soon, and likely foods that had been set aside will be well nigh used up by the end of this season.

Beyond just the grain for food, of course, is the fact that the potential exists to grow it here. That would be the real benefit. An accessible, reliable grain crop would be wonderful and itself opens other possibilities.

And other issues, of course. The grain will have to be stripped and threshed and ground, all without the benefit (mostly) of modern technology. Which means that whole new processes need to be developed.

First things first. Young Xerxes thought the idea not completely implausible, and he in turn chatted with a couple of other individuals. In turn, he has let me know a larger group of people will be coming together to discuss it. For which, I understand, I now have to give a presentation.

I had not anticipated using old business skills again, my friend. Life has a way of continuing to surprise us.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Beginner's Mind

 One of the interesting things that is happening at my new job (Hat Tip to John Wilder for the idea) is that for the first time in a long time, I am coming into a career situation with essentially a beginner's mindset.

"The Beginner's Mindset", if you have never heard the term, is an idea that comes to play in martial arts (really, any art).  The idea is that we originally beginners, then we move to technique and form and strictures.  Some people stop here, but the masters always go one step further to the place where all they have learned gets re-subsumed into their practice as if they were approaching it for the first time again.  By training, they have all of the knowledge; by instinct, they are approaching that knowledge in new ways, as if they were relearning it. 

In most of my past roles, my initial start has always been for a reason:  small company that needs new systems or small company that needs their systems revised.  Here, none of that is needed.  For the first time in something like 20 years, I can simply show up and learn everything.

Biopharmaceuticals and Medical Devices are an odd combination of knowledge bases on the Compliance side.  On the one hand, we all "sing" from the same hymn book, the government regulations. On the other hand, those regulations are often not very specific in how they require things to implemented:  "You must have a suit" is quite different from "You must have a suit in one of three approved colors, and the suit must be pressed".  This is the wonder and excitement (if one can use such a term) of Compliance: the art of implementation to meet the specific company's needs. If one were to think of it as the regulatory equivalent of learning to garden in one's specific climate and soil, you would not be wrong.

So I get to read a lot of documents not with an eye to how to improve or to critique, but merely to understand.

If you have never had to enter a job where you were expected to just learn the job instead of creating or correcting it, you cannot imagine what a relief that is.  For once, I just have to intake information and actually learn. I can observe with having to immediately render an opinion.  I can try things out and practice in relative obscurity.

Oh, this will not last forever. I was hired to do things, and one of the things I was hired to do is help streamline processes and improvement them.  But not right away. And not without understanding the process in the first place.

Of all the places I expected to land, it was hardly with the ability and luxury of being able to effectively begin as a beginner again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

New Job: The First Day

 First days on new jobs can be overwhelming.  This one was no exception.

The initial part of the job was not even the job itself, but was shuttling The Ravishing Mrs. TB back to the airport, turning in the car, and then renting a new car and heading back in the direction we had been staying.  Which meant that I got to experience the joys of morning rush hour traffic, or at least the starting elements of them.  Important safety point:  Living in the city proper is not an ideal outcome, and my desire for long commutes has pretty much dropped to zero.

First days on the job are an odd mix of the one time events and things that will become actual activities, but not right away. The one time events - security badges, parking passes, computer issuance - are things that are both the same and ever so slightly different no matter where you go.  Without replicating a process, somehow within the first two hours or so you have all of the basics of operation, even though you may lack context to operate those things.

The context comes in the second bucket of items, the things that will become actual activities.

These, generally, come in the form of meetings that one is brought into.  There is a certain sense of being hurled out of the plane at 10,000 feet:  terminology that makes only the vaguest of sense, acronyms that have no basis yet in reality (Ah, acronyms.  The bane of every corporation), and ongoing discussions about items for which you have absolutely no idea what background for.

The worst part, of course, is when your opinion is solicited for something on which you have literally no idea about the overall impact.  

All of that said, it was a good day.  My coworkers seem friendly and interested.  The problems that are being discussed, at least as much of them as I can understand, are no different than the sorts of problems I have dealt with elsewhere.  And I have a ton to learn.

My evening was mostly checking into my hotel, which will become my temporary home for the next three weeks.  Other than not really having a kitchenette to speak of and thus curtailing a bit my food preparation, it seems very serviceable.  It has a small gym and laundry facilities, which are my real needs at this point.

On the longer term front, we did get acknowledgement that our lease application had been received and we were asked to provide a bit more information. If all goes well, we will get things locked in well before the move in date at the end of April, which would be pretty amazing.  The next step would be to arrange the move of stuff.

All in all, a very successful first day.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Rabbits, Easter, Quick Update


In lieu of an actual post, I offer you the above graphic and a short update:

1)  The trip to New Home 2.0 was a success after a bit of a rocky start - due to a malfunction at the computer check-in, we ended up being delayed by 5 hours to the arrival of our final destination.

2)  That said, apartment hunting was very successful.  We found a unit that a) Is only about a 50% reduction in total square footage from our current house; b) Is within our price range; c) Is approximately 10 minutes from the new job; d) Is actually rather close to local transit to the airport, something which will help ever so much with The Ravishing Mrs. TB's trips here (and anyone else that comes).

3)  The rest of the weekend was spent seeing the broader local area, with spectacular results.

4)  New job starts today, likely as you are reading this.

Tomorrow we return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

On Long Friendships

 One of the highlights of my visit home this weekend was dinner with Uisdean Ruadh and The Director.

The gathering of the three of us, or of any two of us, is the continuation of a conversation that has been going on for over 40 years as, in the Long Ago on a certain day in March (I always think 14 March, but the date is not really important) a curly haired mature teenager that would be The Director introduced to a flaming red head who he met in drama and would become Uisdean Ruadh to the dark haired socially awkward kid he met in band (I will leave you to figure out who that is).  Even over 40 years, the personalities still hold true:  The Director is mature and thoughtful, Uisdean Ruadh remains as flamboyant and outgoing as what is left of his flaming red hair would suggest, and I remain as socially awkward as ever.


The conversations are always easy, picking up in many cases at the last place they may have left off - whenever the last time we met.  We arre able to separate into two groups that whirl and change like a couple at square dance:  the Director and I talking on the couch about his advisory trip, Uisdean Ruadh and The Director's Wife talking about life in general.  Later, those situations reverse at dessert and The Director and Uisdean Ruadh discuss The Director's ongoing work and I catch up with The Director's Wife.  The conversation is never forced, always free flowing and engaging - something that seems remarkably rare to me in the environment (modern business) that I have spent so much time of late, where almost nothing beyond the task at hand is discussed.

Dinner, with the four mentioned above as well as with The Director's children, focuses almost exclusively on us getting the latest update on the Director's ongoing dissertation work.  It is the sort of conversation that seems almost lost to me now on an ongoing basis:  The Director explaining, Uisdean Ruadh or myself digging deeper or making suggestions ("Have you thought about this?"), then listening to responses.  My hope is that in some way we are sharpening his thought process.  My joy is that I get to hear his thought processes as they are happening - or as I tell him later, "I get to live dissertation writing vicariously through you."


The fact that we three have remained not only in contact at all but close friends remains something of a mystery to me:  so many high school friendships never survive meaningfully beyond the first year or two of college, and we all had different routes that took us away from Old Home.  Uisdean Ruadh remained here taking care of his parents, only gone long enough to train and serve in the Reserves.  The Director went away to school and then graduate school until he returned.  I, too, went away to school and then graduate school and then returned - until work lead me farther and farther afield; the upcoming move to New Home 2.0 will be the closest I have been in 15 years.

And yet, through all of that, we remained connected in a way that others have not.

Through weddings, divorces, the birth of children, the adoption of children, the death of parents, the loss of jobs, health emergencies - we have somehow managed to stay together in a meaningful way that enabled us not only to continue to speak with each other, but get support from each other in a way that I feel few friendships I have known can offer.  Not just the well meant "approval" button on social media, but in a way that is truly supportive.  If I have a problem, if I have a harebrained idea, if I need guidance - these are the ones I reach out to.


One of the oddest things about growing older is not the fact of growing older - that is as it may be - but that friendships like this grow older.  More and more I find myself my working with people younger (or much younger than me.  Their youth is not nearly as confounding to me as the fact I have a friendship that is older than they are.  Explaining that fact is always somewhat revelatory as well:  One mentions the age of the friendship and then just steps back as they start doing the math.  More often than not, there is this revelatory sense of that a relationship has lasted longer than they have been alive.

Is this unusual?  I would say the answer is largely "Yes", at least in my own sphere.  I am used to thinking and hearing of marriages lasting this long; I am not used to hearing of friendships enduring this long - especially if they involve people that are geographically separated. Too often it is just easier to readapt to the current "place" than pull those relationships along with you:  They take time.  They take effort.  They take commitment.

It strikes me as I write this that outside of my relationship with my sister and cousins, this friendship is the next longest thing in my life.  It has existed longer than my marriage, than blogging, that Iaijutsu - longer than any other thing.

It saddens me - deeply, profoundly - that this is not, or at least no longer, the norm.  Like so many other things in our modern culture, we have become a mile wide and an inch deep to our detriment.

And besides - there is nothing better than a running joke which been running for forty years.

Friday, March 15, 2024

New Home 2.0 - Away!

Friends, as you read this post The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I are safely in New Home 2.0, where we are beginning a day of apartment hunting.  We actually arrived yesterday, but I keeping finding reasons to not post from Seneca on Thursdays and he has begun to suggest I am avoiding him.

When your own alter ego is pointing things out, it might be time to pay attention.

As some may recall, we had a home finding tour assigned as part of our relocation package.  In a bit of interesting impacts on planning, if we came prior to my start date the entire trip - airfare, lodging, meals, rental car - would be covered. If it was after I started, only airfare and rental car would be covered.  Perhaps not surprisingly we chose to come directly before I start the following Monday.

Today will be a day with our relocation consultant visiting apartments.  At the moment we are looking at something with two bedrooms and a single bath, the extra bedroom to accommodate any visitors that we might have (as Na Clann have never been to New Home 2.0 it seems likely they may come, and host of folks that were previously out of range are now within an easy flight).  As you can imagine, there is a financial consideration as well as for the better part of a year we will be carrying both a rental contract and a mortgage payment.  My hope is that we will walk away with at least one actual apartment we can look forward to moving into in April.

Saturday and Sunday are now left to visiting locales in the area.  We are both in the position of not having been in this area for many, many years - for me, likely over 30. As our dining is covered, The Ravishing Mrs. TB has already selected some restaurants for our enjoyment.  I am certain they will be both delicious and something I would never have thought of otherwise.

The other thing that is on my mind as we do this is at least starting a discussion about the next several years.

If I am honest with myself, this job potentially represents the "last lap" of my career in this industry. It has the potential to make things happen, perhaps even at a quicker pace than I had anticipated.  This year also brings additional changes:  if all goes as it seems to, likely we will have one house in New Home with some aspect of income and rental, an apartment, and The Ranch with at least one rental (The Cabin) and other possibilities.

In other words, like it or not things are changing a great deal.  The changes have every possibility to make other things possible - if properly managed and consciously decided on.  And I am not always the best at both of those criteria.

It is only a starter discussion for sure; we do have things to enjoy over the weekend and I am sure that I will immediately be submerged into my work and starting to establish a new routine.  But better conscious thinking than unconscious blundering.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Collapse CXXXVIII: Sorting

09 July 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Pompeia Paulina, when a suggestion is made, does not delay – unlike myself, who can often push things off to when choices have been effectively eliminated and only one decision is possible: “procrastination”, I believe is the vulgar term. Within 12 hours of my thought that we might want to examine everything we owned in order to organize it for the future, a list had been produced and a categorization matrix presented.

I should watch myself around this wife of mine, Lucilius; a suggestion can be a very dangerous thing.

The categorization presented itself into three buckets:

A) Items which are required for survival (e.g. food, shelter, protection);

B) Items which are not required for survival but make survival “better” (better, of course, being a somewhat subjective term);

C) Items which have limited or no intrinsic or extrinsic value in the current environment.

Category A is pretty well defined: items for food, shelter, and protection are rather self evident at this point as we have been in the situation for almost a year now. And Category C is also pretty well defined, although in some cases I do not know that getting rid of things makes sense: for things like lamps, they take up little enough space and a refrigerator can be used for simple storage. And DVDs, while useless, have no more use to anyone else than they do to us – except, I suppose, as potential targets.

Category B, items not required for survival but which make survival better, is the sticking point.

Many things can be considered to fall into this category. Books? Not every book I have is directly related to survival or survival skills, but does every book have to be? At some point who knows: I may end up with the last copy of Dostoevsky this side of the Mississippi. Decor? It adds nothing to surviving, but it does break the monotony of walls and even prehistoric man may have “touched up” their living quarters.

I wrote of things like dehydrators, where the tray may have benefits while the unit does not, or even my clothes washer, which might have parts of value while the unit does not. For now, these things have been parsed out as things to consider; we are in no immediate rush to get rid of anything.

Even before everything essentially stopped, I had made a conscious decision to minimize my needs and wants – that said, it is apparent that this had not extended to the possibility that things might drastically change. I had based my thinking on what seemed likely to happen, although I will be fair to myself: worst case scenario thinking sometimes seems beyond the Pale to us in normal circumstances, except when suddenly it manifests itself in ways we did not expect.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

(Postscript: Following up from my last letter, my initial discussion with Young Xerxes went well. He actually discussed it with a couple of other people. I need to flesh out the idea soon, which gives me a perfect topic for the next letter.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Tuesday Morning 0930

I write this from the comfort of a house warmed with fire as the rains drizzles down outside.  It has drizzled down since around 0230 as I recall; the forecast calls for the same most of the day.

Today is an odd bonus day, the sort of day that only periodically appears:  unplanned, unexpected.  Back at The Ranch, I find myself with almost nothing on my calendar for the day:  some picture selections for the upcoming funeral, a visit with The Director this evening, cleaning for my early morning departure tomorrow.

I have consciously made a decision to temporarily halt any packing or additional moving activities, partially because we will return in about two months for the funeral (and more packing for Na Clann to take things home) and partially pending the settlement of the estate:  any move to rent the house now will wait pending final settlement.  And if we are not going to sell the house, keeping some of the furniture that we might have gotten rid of makes perfectly good sense.  

It also represents a sort of last moment:  after this, all trips here will originate from New Home 2.0, not New Home.  The locus of all originations and returns shifts.

This is now third Spring since my parents left, but life here know nothing of the ultimate arrival and departure of humans.  The cattle slowly move through drizzle, eventually ending up under the cover of trees.  The turkey flock that was in the Upper Meadow this morning migrated back into the forest, their daily rounds curtailed by the wet.  The jack rabbit I surprised in the front of the house this morning fled to the back of the house and down the slope, black tipped ears erect.

The plants, too, are in their awakening mode.  The daffodils so beloved by my mother have erected their heads and are blooming, weighted down this morning by rain drops; behind them the poppies have begun their climb to glory.  The Meadows are themselves turning green as this year's new growth slowly overtops the remaining stems from last year.  The irises, remnants from my maternal grandmother's garden, stand with their leaves sword-straight, waiting for their turn to shine in the sun.

The mist obscures the mountains beyond but they, too, register little of the mortal lives of humans.

I have written before that one of the things that marks a transition between immaturity and maturity is the realization of kairos, those specific called out moments of time which were originally "the right or critical moment" versus chronos, the simple passing of time.  A useful distinction, that: as with many things, Ancient peoples had a way with things that we moderns lack.  

When we are young our world seems to be filled with chronos moments, the passage of time that seems to go on and on. At some point - early for some, later for others - we realize that things end and we had not been conscious of that ending.  Certainly, we recognize some things:  the graduation from our various stages of education, the beginning of a married life (or the end of it), the birth of child, the death of our parents.  But these are hardly the sum total of all the chronos moments:  they exist far more often than we think, often only caught out of our eye as they pass (if we are lucky) or in the rearview mirror of life as we realized the last time we did X or saw Y was many years ago.

This - this day, this time, I suddenly realize - is such a moment.

It is of course not "a moment"; there are still things that need to be done and events that need to occur.  But this time, this day or even series of days and weeks even to the end of the year, represents multiple transition points.  It is the beginning of a change for the ownership of this place and this land, of the assuming of responsibilities and active management in a way I have not done before.  It is the beginning of a new job (well, in less than a week) and the beginning of a new locus of focus in my own life, as New Home 2.0 becomes "home" and New Home becomes a place I have a house and where some of Na Clann and The Ravishing Mrs. TB dwell (for now).  

In a way - even though in some ways this has been true for the last three years - this is the beginning of my life with almost of all of my parent's generation gone in my family. In the cycle of life, we have now assumed the position that they, in turn, inherited from their parents.  

I remember that transition for them.  I can scarcely think of a time I realized the burden would fall to us.

I realize with a start as I write this (12 March), is is birthday of my father.  He has been gone almost two years now.  That seems like forever and yet no time at all.  The moment he left was kairos, the time after has been chronos.  The difference has suddenly never been clearer in my mind.

Sighing, I look outside.  The rain has slowed to a fine mist, a sort of falling haze seems almost as timeliness as this moment, a continuous motion machine as the drops hit the earth and flow down the sidewalk or stems and into the grasses or streams below.  Heaven and Earth seemed joined for a moment in a sheen in which can only detect motion if one closely examines it.

The fire quietly sighs and pops, a reminder of the passing of all things.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

On The Estate


My sister, The Outdoorsman, and I met with a lawyer yesterday about the settlement of my parents' estate.

For various and sundry reasons, I will (obviously) not be discussing most of the details here publicly - not that there is anything really to hide or secretive, just that with most legal processes I am sure that the less said about them in public, the better.

In general, it appears to be a rather straightforward process - again, many thanks to my parents' who planned so well against this day.  One or two minor paperwork matters and then the settlement of the accounts can begin. 

We will need another appraisal of the property.  This was recommended course of action - not that we do not already have one, but having a second one after the death of the second parent would resolve any potential issues about value. Also, it serves as a good faith effort to make sure the estate is being settled equally, which is just as important.

As before, we have essentially confirmed that my sister is interested in the cash and I am interested in the property.

I am having mixed feelings about all of this.

On the one hand, the fact that we are at this point makes the passing of my parents a very real event.  It is easy for me to segregate their passing in my mind from the reality of their things.  Now, in a very real sense their things are passing - to us - and their memory is what will remain.

On the other hand, there are my own considerations to be made.  There will be an increase of expenses in my own account, as the estate will not cover the ongoing expenses (nor should it after the departure of my parents).  It is good that I have a job again; it does meant that there are additional considerations and planning to made.  

The process was never not going to happen; like many things, we cannot predict when it will start - until it actually does.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Requiem For A Band Director

Last week, a somewhat cryptic post appeared on the page of a fellow graduate from my high school, some years older than myself.  A little digging made the context more clear:  my high school band director had passed away.


Band directors, like rare other types of teachers, hold an odd place in the high school teacher hierarchy.  They are in fact teachers, and in that sense issue grades and provide instruction as any teacher will.  At the same time, they are seeking to pull from students a certain level of performance that is not strictly called out merely by the issuance of assignments, quizzes, and question and answer sessions.  They have to somehow get into the lives of students in a way that a "hard" scholastic subject teacher of math or science or social studies or English never completely does, at least on such a large scale.

Band directors, like coaches and any other teacher involved leadership role, end up spending a lot more time with their students than normal.  In a marching band season, there is Summer Camp before instruction starts, followed by the actual class or classes itself (in my time, Band and Marching Band in Autumn were separate back to back periods), and non-class rehearsals, and actual performances for games and travel and performance for competitions, then the shift as the season turns and concert season starts - less overall afterschool practices perhaps, but still instruction and travel and performances.

Over time, the Band Director inhabits a space where they are neither only a teacher nor really a peer in the sense that they are always with you during the activity.  They become a Presence, to be respected yet also included in the banter and life of a high school band in a way that other teachers may not be.  Perhaps in one sense, they become that "uncle" that families have, a figure from a previous generation that is involved in your generation's foibles in a way that your parents and others are not and perhaps never can be. They and their students inhabit a world which can only be apprehended by those on the outside, but is understood by anyone that has ever been in a high school band.

Ultimately - for all of the good ones, I suspect - they essentially become a mentor and friend.


In retrospect,  I realized that I thought my band director was far older than I was in high school.  To be fair, that was partially due to encroaching hair loss and a beard (mysterious adults things to a recently minted teenager).  It surprised me - years later, of course - to realize that he was much closer in age to us than seemed possible at the time, perhaps a mere 10 or 15 years older instead of the 20 or 30 that I saw in my mind.

He had high expectations of all us, expectations that we probably often failed to live up to as much as we should have. I can still see him in his chair in the center of the band room, quietly waiting with his hands in his lap as we slowly brought ourselves down from the dull roar of teen age interaction and turned to the task of music as hand.  And yet seldom, if ever, can I remember him becoming truly angry at us (it happened, upon occasion - and as you might expect, the shame of disappointing such a man overwhelmed the actual event itself).

He was one of the best sorts of band directors in that he truly loved music.  Beyond the high school marching band and concert band seasons, he oversaw the Pep Band for basketball - but his true love was jazz, which was an invitation only group and to be honest, was the first time that jazz had even entered my consciousness.  And his activities with music did not end there:  he was forever involved in the local civic orchestras and music festivals - and himself not unskilled trumpet player who seemed to enjoy playing as much as he did instructing.

Until I had read the obituary, I had forgotten the fact that in the year of my graduation at the Spring Concert he - along with the Chorale teacher - announced their retirement from the musical side of their teaching duties.  Leading a music program is hard, and perhaps after 20 to 25 years he simply felt it was time to move on.  Timely for my graduating class, of course:  one of the most difficult transitions of all is for students to have a new band director, especially one that is previously unknown.  More often than not, the program always suffers a drop off as the new ways are never quite like the old ones.  The memories and the attachment often remain too strong.


For some years after I graduated I continued to see him; myself, The Director, The Director's brother, and a rotating fourth person (we could never keep anyone more than two years) would do a form of instrumental caroling at Christmas, always ending at his house around 11 PM.  He and his wife and family would be there waiting for us.  We would play our requisite carols, then come in and chat for a while about the previous year and what had occurred.  It was nice to be able to have post high school contact with him in a way that transcended the student/teacher relationship, connecting with him as a friend and peer in a way that had never been possible as a student.


He, along with - of all people - my Geometry and Trigonometry teacher, remain the two most influential teachers of my high school career - not only the ones I continued to keep in contact with, but the ones that were had the greatest impact on me (perhaps not surprisingly, they themselves were friends outside of work).

From my band director, I learned the basic practice of...learning to practice.  That seems like an under-rated skill, but I assure that for me, who was seldom able to keep with such things up to that point, it was a major achievement. It paved the way for me to learn that practice was the price of learning to do something, at least to do something well.

Something I realized I learned from him even now that I had not realized is his way of dealing with people.  He seldom raised his voice, seldom became angry - and yet, things were done, music was learned, and performances happened.  He first of all lead and invested his energy and effort in the task in hand and us - and we, of course, reciprocated.  He had the authority, but he seldom used it as such, much more focused on getting us to do those things that needed to be done by both leading us and showing us how do them - a useful skill for someone such as myself in roles where I often have minimal power but a need to see things done.

Finally, of course, he gave me a love of music.

I cannot know how many people passed through his music programs over the years.  It was likely in the hundreds, given a rather small high school district in a small town.  And likely every one of us walked away with some appreciation of music, even if we did not follow it as far or as long as he did. For me, that went through to college marching band and even beyond, to the harp.  And while I do not play nearly as much as I should these days, I can still take simple joy in the execution of a marching routine well done or a song well played across any genre.

It is not unfair to say that once a band nerd, always a band nerd.

Even last week, when I posted the news of our relocation to New Home 2.0, he not only "liked" my news but took the time to comment on the upcoming adventure.  This, in what turned out to be a week before his passing, well over 35 years after I had been a student of his.  Even then, he was still following up on all of us and our lives.

It was not quite a "Mr. Holland's Opus" moment where the entire history of a teacher's life is brought together in a single room, but looking at the number of comments on the notice of his passing - many I had known in high school and many others that either preceded or came after me - one can see the rich tapestry of a life which was dedicated to others through music and ultimately, of service.

It is no bad things, paraphrasing J.R.R. Tolkien through Bilbo Baggins, to be able to celebrate the simple yet impactful life of one's mentor.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Tales From Product (A)Isle: Aloha

(Author's note:  All post are now aggregated on a new page, Tales from Produce (A)Isle)

This past Thursday was my last night on Produce (A)Isle.

The time itself was not atypical of all the other closes I have had:  Do tomatoes and peppers.  Do bananas once, or at least twice.  Circle around to the other areas at least once.  Cull expired material and do the 50% mark downs for tomorrow's expiration.  Hum along with the piped in music (currently hits of the 50's and 60's, mostly Motown sound).  

My departure in and of itself will not create a ripple.  My boss did let me know he was genuinely sorry to see me go and had nothing but good feedback from me from (A)Isle coworkers, other coworkers, and management.  My fellow (A)Islers have wished me good luck and told me they will miss me - in fact, one, told me myself and one other were the only people that "got" closing. I will let whoever checks me out of the department tonight know.  But with the number of people that work at the store, my disappearance will likely cause little or no comment.  People come and go all the time.

As a surprise and lucky timing on my part, they handed out a $100 "Cost of Living" gift (Not a bonus; I was corrected by the Store Manager.  They do not give bonuses.) so I got to depart with crisp new $100 bill in my wallet.

This was a good job.

It was a good job for many reasons.  Some of them are very pragmatic - for example, having something of a second income helped both for things like being able to attend training in Japan without worrying about financing as well as having a little income coming in during Hammerfall 3.0. A standing 10% discount on in-house brands, occasionally having a 25% discount on in house brands. The fact that it kept me up and moving for anywhere from 6 to 20 hours a week, covering about 5 miles a night in steps. And in terms of pay, I had nothing to complain about:  Starting pay of $15.50 an hour, $0.50 raise after 3 months and - I just figured out - another $0.50 raise sometime in January or February of this year to a departing hourly rate of $16.50.  A 6% raise in approximately 9 months.  That seldom if ever happens in my "real" career life.  And not one, but two $100 "gifts".

In terms of stress there was almost none, especially once I got my feet under me and realized that the expectation was to do your best, but that was all that you could do.  I never had to face an e-mail inbox loaded with questions and required actions.  If we were out of something on the floor, I went to the back and looked - if we were out, we were out and there was nothing I could do.  The amount of difficult customers I experienced were minimal (2?  3?) compared to the number of people I interacted with.  Other than the stress of having to fill and tie balloons as we managed floral in their absence (which was a stress even up to my last night), it was a very even keel sort of position - always busy, seldom too busy.  

My coworkers were always pleasant.  My boss was great.  They always worked with my schedule without complaint and so I was able to travel (both back to The Ranch as well as to just go) without ever having to beg or cajole my way into another day off.

However, the biggest reason it was a good job had nothing to do with the conduct of the work itself.

Oftentimes in my primary field career (Quality), I am often plagued by the sense that I have secured the position through things that had nothing to do with me.  I am experienced enough to know that lots of things go into selecting a candidate just besides them being the "best" candidate.  Sometimes it is pay, sometimes it is location to the facility in site.  Sometimes it is desperation because they have been searching for months and not been able to find anyone everyone agrees on.  Many times I have felt I was "the lowest common denominator" for the selection instead of being the best candidate.

Produce (A)Isle was different.

I had nothing to offer for the application and interview, nothing other than years of keeping a job.  The interview, as I might have related, was scheduled for 30 minutes but took less than 10 minutes and during which we hardly talked about the job at all.  He "had a feeling".

For the first time in a long time, I felt like I got a job because I really was the best person.

If you have never had that happen, or it has been a long time since it happened, it is hard to describe what that does for your confidence.  The idea that you are selected because of your ability and not any "contributing factors" is immense.  The thought that "I went out and got that job.  I did it" is an amazing confidence boost.

Did that confidence boost help?  We will never know for sure of course, but I like to believe that the interview process for my new job in New Home 2.0 reflected that.  No, the fact that I was again applying for a job for which I was likely overqualified did not make me feel less enthusiastic about the job.  Yes, I had every reason to believe I could do that job as well as any other job I had done.  And no, essentially starting at the higher end of the lower end was not an issue.

The other thing this job reminded me of was flexibility - more specifically, that I can be flexible.  When a challenge presents itself, such as losing one's job, I am able to respond.  I can take action instead of sitting at home bemoaning my fate.  And I can be successful at it.

All of this, from a job handling fruits and vegetables.

I will keep my nametag in the glove box of my car as I have for months now, mostly as a good luck charm - but also as a "just in case".  After all, while I have every reason to believe and hope everything goes well in New Home 2.0, it is never a bad thing to keep your options - just in case.

And besides, where else am I going to gather such valuable knowledge such as being able to identify the readiness of an avocado for guacamole merely by a 10 second touch?