Archive for June, 2010

on a roll?

A couple of days ago I wrote about my inertia and the need to get at least one thing done a day, other than going to work, that is. The very next day – yesterday – I took a vacation day. It was a good decision. I got several things done, which was good, but it also seems to have inspired me to keep moving in the right direction, at least for now.

Today I almost fell into my usual habit of going to work and then coming home and sitting in front of the computer or television all night. While I did work on the computer a good bit tonight, I also got myself up out of my chair and got all the garbage out of the basement that had accumulated from assembling my table saw. The basement is much roomier now with all that cleaned up and it encourages me to start working on other projects down there.

I’m heading to bed now feeling pretty good about the day and about myself. It sure didn’t hurt that today was another beautiful summer day (and no, I didn’t take another vacation day). Tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same. I’m on kind of a roll and I hope I can keep going that way. I am cautiously optimistic that my brain is running out in front of my emotions for a change and that I might build some momentum that will keep me moving in the right direction.

Momentum, inertia – starting to sound like a physics class around here.

a day off

Woke up this morning to one of the most beautiful days of the summer. Sure would be a waste of such a fine day to go to work, wouldn’t it? Looks like it’s time to call in and take a vacation day, and that’s just what I did.

That’s one good thing about the place I work and the job I hold. I can pretty much decide on the spur of the moment when I want to take vacation time, unlike some people who have to request it at least a month in advance or such. Then again, if I couldn’t have taken a vacation day, it sure would have been a great day to be sick.

Not that it’s going to happen before I check out of this world, but I sure could handle being retired. Get up when you want, decide what to do and when to do it and when to quit – what a life! Vacation days give you just a little taste of that possibility, and it sure does taste good. Oh well, that’s why I play the lottery; retirement isn’t going to happen any other way.

It was a very enjoyable day. It’s interesting how long a vacation day can feel compared to a work day. Sure, a vacation day is never long enough, but spending eight and a half hours a day at work – not to mention travel time – makes week days feel much shorter (except when you are at work and the day seems to stretch on forever). I even got some stuff done around the house that I have wanted to finish for quite some time. It was a real “mental health” day.

One would think that a weekend day would feel the same as a vacation day, but it doesn’t. It’s close, but a vacation day somehow makes you feel like you are gaining an extra day in your life, almost like you are cheating death, if that makes any sense. Somehow the regularity of weekends doesn’t create quite the same sense of excitement that a vacation day does.

To put icing on the cake, I have next Monday off, too, for the Fourth of July holiday. Who could ask for more? Well, beside being able to retire, that is.

inertia

I have no problem admitting that I have a problem, and that problem is inertia. Well, I have a lot more problems than that, but the solutions to all those problems come down to solving the problem of inertia. As long as I don’t get up off my ass and do something, nothing will get done. I know, that sounds pretty stupid because it is so self-evident, but somehow I am willing to put up with not getting anything done as long as I don’t have to get up off my ass. What a loser!

What inertia is, essentially, is the tendency for an object to remain in the same state of motion. If an object is in motion in one direction, it will tend to stay in motion in that direction. On the other hand, if something is sitting still, it will remain sitting still. In all cases, in order to change the state of an object’s inertia something must act on the object or, in the case of a human being, the object must act. There is no other way to do it.

Ideally, you want to put yourself into a state of inertia that tends to continue along a desirable path. Sitting still gets you nowhere, and rolling along in an undesirable state will not bring improvement to your condition. The problem is that changing your state of inertia requires the input of energy. In other words, you have to make an effort to change it. Easier said than done.

However, like many big projects, breaking things down into small increments can help get things rolling in a different direction. It’s way too easy to get overwhelmed by the vast scope of the project of changing your life. It’s much easier to contemplate changing only one little thing at a time. Each little thing that is completed will add up to the greater change you want to make, so the trick is to just decide what that first little thing is that you want to tackle and then plan how you will do it and then actually do it. Better yet, just decide what you want to do and do it. Somehow that planning step always hangs things up and is the haven of procrastinators.

So, tonight I will do something constructive, even if it is just one little thing. Maybe after I do that, I will do another, or maybe not, but at least I will have done something. I even know what I’m going to do. I’m going to find my daily planner. I think that writing down the things I intend to do will help, so that’s a first step. I even have other things I’m already planning for tonight, but knowing me I may not get far, and that’s okay. My new mantra is – “Get one thing done.” It’s a start.

it was a dark and stormy night

We had a hell of a storm yesterday evening. The wind came up and was blowing like a banshee and the rain was coming down horizontally so hard you couldn’t see fifteen feet in front of you, if you were stupid enough to be outside. It blew so hard against my windows that it forced the rain in through the cracks and left a puddle on the window sill.

There were no tornado sirens blowing, but that doesn’t mean anything if a tornado suddenly appears for the first time right on top of you. I was concerned enough that I started for the basement, just in case. Unfortunately, my power had gone out and it’s pitch black in the basement so I grabbed my flashlight. Hitting the switch, I found that the batteries were so weak that turning the flashlight on actually made it darker in the house. I grabbed another flashlight, but it was almost as bad. By this time the storm had lightened up just enough that going into the basement didn’t have quite the same urgency.

Gratefully, this was early in the evening, so even with the dark storm clouds it was still light enough to be able to walk around in the house without running into things. I managed to find my latest electric bill with the emergency phone number on it and by the firefly light of my flashlight managed to call the power company and report my outage. I’m smart enough to have one phone in the house that doesn’t run off the electric, but I suppose I could have used my cell phone, assuming the cell towers were still powered and unharmed.

So now what? No internet, no television, no computer . . . guess I’ll break out the book I’ve been reading. I pulled a chair up right next to the window and with that little bit of light and holding the book five inches from my face, I was able to read. Finally the rain let up, and as reading was getting more difficult as it got darker and there was no sign that the power was coming back on soon, I decided to venture out to WalMart to get some new batteries.

It was a wild storm, and every house I drove by was dark. In my neighborhood, where there are trees, it was a bit of an obstacle course trying not to run over the branches in the streets. I was hoping that WalMart had power still and that it wasn’t crazy busy with people looking for batteries. As I neared the road that WalMart is on I could see that all the businesses there had their lights on. Yay! I was shocked to find WalMart almost empty. Double Yay!

Once I found the flashlight section, I went a little crazy. I got a new, big, 6-volt lantern battery for my big flashlight, but then I bought a new, small LED flashlight and an LED headlamp.- you know, the kind you strap on your head so your hands are free. I had always thought about getting one but never really had a reason to, or so I thought. I also picked up four pre-charged rechargeable AAA batteries, too, just in case the power was off for a long time.

Getting home, I was glad to see that the power was still off. Yeah, it would have been easier if the power was on, but what fun is that? Then I would have felt like I wasted my money! The first thing I did, because it was easiest, was replace the lantern battery. Ah, now I could see. Using that light, I put the batteries in the new, small LED flashlight. After many attempts I finally got them in right (hey, the illustration on the battery carrier wasn’t particularly clear – I’m not a dummy, you know, though I’ll have to admit I was starting to feel like one.) Bingo – nice, bright light in a small, compact handy form, and I don’t have to worry about D-sized batteries anymore. Now, on to the headlamp.

Needless to say, I should have put the batteries into the headlamp first. What a thing of beauty that headlamp is! Holy Mackerel! The things I don’t know I need until I have them. Once I had the headlamp powered up it was time to open the door to let some cooler air in (no power = no air conditioning, and besides, the temperature had dropped more that twenty degrees in a matter of minutes) and sit down and read. The headlamp worked like a champ!

The power was still off by the time I needed to get my contacts out for the night, so I headed off for the bathroom with my headlamp on. This is when I could have kicked myself for not having purchased a headlamp before. All the times that I went camping, the one thing I absolutely HATED to do was take my contact lenses out at night. Trying to work in the light of a flashlight, which I couldn’t hold because cleaning my contacts takes two hands, was always a bitch. I was always scared to death that I would drop a lens and not be able to find it, too.

What a revelation the headlamp was. It was as if I had the room lights on. All I had to do was my normal contact lens routine – no muss, no fuss, and done in short order. What a help that headlamp would have been during those camping trips, and not just for contact lenses. Sometimes I needed to cook in the dark. The headlamp would have made that a snap. As these old eyes get older, available light becomes more of an issue as I need more to be able to see well. While I don’t think I’ll be whipping the headlamp out in a dimly lit restaurant, it’s not a bad idea. I guess maybe one of those pen lights on your keychain would be a good idea for that kind of thing.

Anyways, I’m sold on the headlamp idea. Thinking back over the times in my life when I was working on something that needed two hands for the work and one to hold the flashlight (plumbing under the sink, working under the car), I wish I had one back then. At least now I do. Too very cool.

The storm? Well, it left a lot of people without power for quite some time. There are plenty who still do not have their electric restored yet. I was fortunate to have only lost a few branches from my trees, but many lost whole trees. My power came on shortly before I was heading to bed, so it was only off for about five hours. Not too bad considering the very widespread outages. So I survived the storm and acquired some neat, new toys, too. It could have been worse.

getting darker

Ah, the first day of summer – how I hate to see this day come. Why? Because it means the days are going to be getting shorter now. Damn. Why can’t days just stay as long as today for a couple of months before they get shorter? How depressing. (Like I need one more thing to be depressed about, and yes, I do know why the days can’t stay long. It’s depressing, not stupefying.)

Actually, it doesn’t really start to get bad until about September, but it sure goes downhill quickly after that. I’m just not a short daylight hours kind of guy. I certainly could not survive the long, long nights of Alaska’s winters, though it might be kind of fun to experience the long, long days of summer. I’ll have to try that sometime. In the meantime, I’ll just brace myself for another long, dark winter here. I’m such an optimist.

father’s day

Today was Father’s Day. My son was working so I didn’t get to see him, but his birthday is coming up soon and I’ll see him then. At least he called me to wish me a happy Father’s Day – more than a lot of fathers get.

I was actually invited by my wife to her family’s gathering yesterday to celebrate Father’s Day for my father-in-law. It was the first time she had invited me to a family event since we separated (not counting my niece’s high school graduation, which was really an invitation from my sister-in-law and her husband, not from my wife). With the recent death of my mother-in-law and the possibility that my father-in-law just might move back to his home state to be near his family (his marriage to my mother-in-law was a second marriage), I was glad I was able to be there.

It was nice to catch up with everyone. It was mostly a day of sitting around talking and watching the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Pebble Beach. I’m not a huge golf fan, but it’s a good thing to watch when you have a gathering like that. Gives people something to do when they aren’t talking and is easy to catch up on when you are done talking. And, believe it or not, there were a few people there who actually cared about the tournament. 😉

My wife told me she was glad I had come. I told her that I was too and that I was surprised that she had invited me, to which she replied that she didn’t think that I would accept the invitation. So that begs the question; was my attending actually unwanted and only the result of a foiled attempt at inviting me without really meaning it? She claims not, so I’ll have to take her at her word. Anyways, I was glad I was there.

I hope all you fathers out there had a good day, too.

The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Heritage – by Andro Linklater

The title is pretty self-explanatory, though it may sound more boring than it is. I actually found this book to be very interesting and I think anyone interested in American history will, too. The driving theme in the book is the concept of property ownership and how that drove the creation and development of both our government and our physical country.

(Finished 6/15/10)

boids

I like birds. I’m no expert on them, nor am I one of those people who will go “birding” just to see what birds I can find. However, I do enjoy seeing birds that I have not seen before and today I saw a new one. I just happened to have my camera with me and managed to get several really bad shots of the bird, a couple of which were good enough for identification. Not that this bird was really hard to identify. If you’ve ever seen an Indigo Bunting, you will know what I mean. They are hard to miss. Still, as hard to miss as they may be, this is the first time I’ve seen one.

A week or two ago I even saw my first Baltimore Oriole, close to where I found the Indigo Bunting. I heard a bird song that did not sound at all familiar and finally tracked the bird down. I didn’t have my camera with me then, but I came back the next day and managed to snap enough (poor) pictures to identify it, with the help and assistance from my bird expert, Maggie (who is also very much the better photographer than I). Very exciting stuff.

I feed the birds at my house. Mostly they are House Sparrows (as well as other types of sparrows – I haven’t sorted them all out yet) and Brown-headed Cowbirds, and of course the obnoxious Common Grackles who like to take over and scare all the little birds away. The American Goldfinches and House Finches are well in attendance right now, too, as well as the passing Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee and Red-winged Blackbird. My hummingbird feeder has gone untouched this year so far. Last year I had one hummingbird coming to it, but he seems to have lost his way this year. Bummer.

In the winter the Juncos (slate-colored variety) return. The White-breasted Nuthatches, though here all year, seem to be more noticeable in the winter. Cardinals are here year round, too, as are the Black-capped Chicadees and Sparrows. Some people feel about House Sparrows the same way they feel about weeds, but I like them. Their mindless, constant cheep, cheep, cheeping is a cheery sound to me. It’s a sound of life.

So that’s more posting about birds than you care about, but then again, I doubt that anyone cares about anything I post here, so ask me if I care. I do care, however, about the birds. Life sure would be much duller without them around.

government sausage

I’ve been reading quite a bit of history lately, in particular U.S. history. Quite honestly, it’s depressing. It all reinforces that fact that while circumstances may change, people never do. The struggle between individual freedom and government control is an ongoing battle, and the origins of that battle, while refocused at the time of the American Revolution, go back to the beginning of human civilization.

What is humorous to me, in a darkly satirical manner, is the belief that many people hold that human beings are perfectible. Those people believe that if they create enough of the right laws, all people will fall into line and create the ideal society. Everyone will devote their efforts towards the equality of the whole. Self-interest will be sacrificed for “the greater good.” History proves this is never so, and human nature reinforces the fact that it will never be so.

It is obvious that the greatest failures of government come about through influence. Whenever someone, or some business, has a “friend” in government or is employed within that government, it is inevitable that he will profit from the actions of the government. Exceptions to this are so rare as to almost be fairy tales. The more the government tries to control such profiteering, the more pervasive it becomes. The only thing such efforts to change do is change the players, or make it more profitable for lawyers (and aren’t all politicians lawyers?) to find the new, legal paths to take advantage of the new legislation.

There will never be a perfect human society. The best that we can expect in a government is one that protects the rights of people to their property and their lives, and little more. Give government any more power than that and the little guy with no pull loses. If you want to succeed, you have to figure out how to meet the right people and gain the right influence. Hard work means diddlysquat if you don’t have an “in,” and it means even less when your competition has that “in.”

It’s like the old saying – if you like eating sausage, don’t watch how it is made. Unfortunately, you don’t have a choice with government. No matter where you live, you are going to deal with a government, like it or not. There is another old saying – follow the money. If there is a law, look to see who profits, because it is an almost 100% guarantee that someone does, and it is usually not you.

At this time, the most palatable sausage for me is the U.S. government, even if it does make me puke now and then. I guess that’s not saying much, but it’s all I have. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand writing about all the shit that keeps going on in our government. It just makes you want to give up, but as I said at the beginning, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and if you want to stay alive you just have to deal with it. Just bring your puke bucket with you.