Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Night peoples

Without going into a lot of detail, it took a while to get my mind, body, and soul adjusted to nights.

In the beginning (the beginning of my association with this form of employment) the store was in a bit of a crunch so far as help goes. Not enough employees, and perhaps a few other personnel issues which I may delve into at some point.

As the new meat I got rattled around back and forth between the 3-11 (evening) and 11-7 (graveyard) shifts. All part of the new meat burden, which I understand, and on top of a help shortage. A blind man could see it coming a mile away. Once he picked up his hammer and saw, anyway. Butt I digress.

There were a few crises, a few double shifts, and when the smoke had cleared and all violent motion had ceased, there was a new manager and I found myself in sole possession of the Wednesday-Sunday graveyard shift. Which made it easier for me, not having to bounce back and forth on shifts and all. That meant a normalized sleep/awake cycle, and that really makes things much more manageable.

All the aforementioned to introduce the concept that I managed to suck it up, drive on, and win through. Also, now that I'm on straight nights, I'm a night people.

Last night was the first of my two weekly days off, my Saturday if you will. And it was a beautiful night. The day had been raw and blustery, with temps in the 40's and a howling northwest wind kicking up to as much as 60 mph at times. But the night was clear and calm and almost balmy, with the mercury hovering near 50 degrees.

Since I started at the store I've been unable (or unwilling) to get out and hike or do roadwork. At work I'm on my feet for eight hours and my fitness watch tells me that I cover 5-7 miles each night just going about my tasks. That's all to the good, being up and about is much better for me physically than sitting on my ass. But it's not the same as a hike, and I've missed that.

So I got out and hiked last night. It was glorious.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Do you dare?

The Founders got it right. Sharply limited government and the sovereignty of the individual citizen.

But even before that, they Declared that it is self-evidently true that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights.

The necessary corollary which attends unalienable rights is unavoidable responsibility.

The nation is very, very sick. When a land with a government of, by and for the people becomes sick, it is not for the government to produce the cure. This is a job for the people.

Getting down to cases, how is the sovereign individual citizen to help?

The first step goes hand in hand with the First Principle. The First Principle is that all men are created equal. It follows immediately that to be treated as an equal human being by ones fellows, one must first and foremost treat ones fellows as equal human beings. All of them, and without exception. This is the hardest responsibility of all.

I do not believe that one can hew to this principle without working at it. We are individuals, after all, locked forever in our own individual mind and body. Our default nature is selfish. It has to be so, else we'd perish. It's nature. Natural.

To treat others as we would be treated, and to hold ourselves to the same standard we require of others, this is the hardest thing. One can't just say it, one has to do it. And to do it, one has to have good and sufficient reason, and that reason (or those reasons) must come from within.

I can't get away with just parroting some high sounding words and issuing platitudes and posting memes. I have to do the hard work of developing and living a set of principles. Such principles must stem from a higher plane than that of the mortal human. Just as our natural rights come from our creator rather than from government, so our principles must come from a plane far above our egocentric, subjective, mortal selves.

Now a lot of people will read words like these and believe with utter certainty that they've got this principles thing suitcased.

Let me just suggest that might not be the case, and that furthermore, certainty is a very scary place for a human to be.

I'm going to go out on a limb here -- but it's a very short, very stout, and quite probably unbreakable limb. I suspect that few people in America spend much time thinking about, or to use the words of Socrates -- examining -- their principles. If this is so, and if the foregoing exposition comes anywhere close to describing reality, it might just be incumbent upon individual Americans to consider doing what President Kennedy suggested. A natural (perhaps the natural) place to begin doing something for the nation might be an intense study of ones principles. What are they? How closely do we hew to them? No, seriously! How closely?

To prime the pump, as it were, consider the following dare. Watch the video. It's hard. A SEAL and a Canadian psychologist. Talking about tough stuff and hard things. Watch it, think about it, and follow the path your thoughts suggest. Pick it apart. Think about what these fellows say in the context of individual responsibility. Or not. It's only a suggestion. Individual responsibilities can only be exercised by sovereign individuals, after all, and individual principles can only be developed by independent human beings.

Either way, it might also be worth pondering exactly what there is to be thankful for in this season of Thanksgiving.

Words to think about

Haven't been here in a while. Life stuff.

Getting back to normal. For some values of normal :)

It's almost Thanksgiving. Boy, do I have a lot to be thankful for!

Here are the words. Kipling's "If"

IF you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Perhaps they are words to live by...

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Just life stuff

Yes indeed, I have been casting a mighty small internet shadow of late. As I write this I'm not even sure when my last blog post was. As it turns out, I can check. It were October 10, so 18 days ago.

So a couple of things. I started a new winter job which is a night job at a cornvenience store. I used to work nights a lot, and I always liked working nights. This winter I will have something to do other than sit on my fundament eating bonbons and complaining about everything, and extra money will magically appear in my banque account.

By the by, there've been a surprising number of folks horrified by my decision to take employment in a position which is so, so beneath my station. That puzzled me for a bit, but then I realized (was reminded?) that there are a lot of people in the world who see their fellows as objects rather than as real, live, people. Objects are for using and manipulating and categorizing, and a great many people simply cannot abide having independent and self aware objects in their lives.

But I digress.

As it turns out, I am not quite the same fellow I recall from my youthful days of working nights. Or perhaps I am, and I've simply developed a selective memory regarding the impact of fatigue and disrupted circadian rhythms.

Either way, switching to a night-based existence has been a bit of a challenge. A complicating factor has been my assignment to the occasional 3-11 shift, necessitated by staffing disruptions at the store.

Be that as it may, the shifts have begun to steady out and I've managed to shift my biorhythms in the right direction.

So it's been a bit of a challenge. As for my online presence, I was in the process of pulling back from less salubrious aspects of the connected life anyway, and many days away from the interwebs and plugged into the local night realm has allowed me a lot of time to cogitate.

There's a lot of danger, I believe, in this electronic communication business. I know from my own experience that it can sing a siren song of egocentrism and lead me down the path of thinking that those I communicate with are, like the laptop screen, two dimensional constructs that cease to exist when I close the lid. To combat this danger, I need to take a more thoughtful and ethical approach to my interweb dealings.

I'm not entirely sure how I'll do this, but I'll figure it out.

After I get some sleep...

Monday, October 9, 2017

See if you can guess...

...what my new winter job is.

Last year, of course, I was sitting on my ass with an infected heel bone. This year I am not.


Sunday was a gloriously lovely day across the southern Panhandle of Nebraska. It was seasonally cool at sunrise, with the temperature about 38 degrees and the air marvelously still.

I took a couple of pictures and a video of the sunrise. The video was taken with the whatsapp  app on my phone for transmission to my farmer friends in Herefordshire. Thus the dialog.

In return, the farmer sent a short video of what he was busy doing at the same time. Because the Earth is a rotating sphere of a planet, and Herefordshire is located some 4,444 (or perhaps 4,439, depending on the tool you use) miles to the northeast, the local time there was 2 p.m., or seven hours ahead of Kimball. A perfect time of day to be harvesting apples.

Last week he was applying lime to his fields.

Which has little to do with sunrise, but is nevertheless interesting. Lime is added to increase soil pH. Soils tend to become acidic, you see, where lots of rain can leach alkaline compounds away.

Anyway, there I was, 24 hours after making a video of a glorious autumnal sunrise. Now I was making a video of an equally glorious, but very different, sunrise.

That's one of the plethora of things I love about life. I inhabit a dynamic world and live a dynamic life. Living a dynamic life is a choice, and that's an important concept. It's also important to understand that choosing to live a dynamic life is much easier for me than for most of my countrymen, as I was born into a rural ranching family. I was not born a city or townsman, so I don't have to find an excuse and corral a bunch of dollars and make time to visit nature. Nothing special about me, you understand, just my great good fortune in selecting the correct time and place to be born.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The night

I don't remember exactly how old I was, perhaps eight or nine, but I do remember the moment I realized that I didn't have to be afraid of the dark.

It was late in the evening. Late for a youngster with a firm bedtime closing in, anyway. I decided to go outside. Don't remember why, exactly, but possibly to extend the day's play just a bit longer.

It was cold out, and very, very dark. As it is out in the country in the Nebraska Panhandle. I walked around the outbuildings, feeling a shiver of fear as I did so. It was dark, probably overcast, and there was no moon, so I couldn't see well. Part of my mind insisted that there could be something lurking nearby, some kind of monster or wild animal or alien. Maybe a ghost or a bogeyman.

Another part of my mind insisted that there was nothing present in the night which wasn't present in the day. Sure, the darkness could be hiding something from my direct vision, but it likely was not. I also knew from experience and from science lessons in school the what and why (in an elementary sense) of night vision adaptation. My pupils dilated and I could see more and more. Before long I realized that I could see quite well. My hearing and sense of smell seemed to be heightened, too, and even my skin seemed to be more sensitive to the feel of vibrations in the night air.

In some ways it was a big moment, a moment of discovery and growth. I felt like I had learned an important lesson. It was in some sense a secret lesson, too, for in my experience humans tended to huddle away from darkness, leaving the outdoors at sunset and sheltering in a world of artificial light. An unspoken and perhaps unintended lesson had been learned from that behavior -- that darkness is to be avoided.

My exploration had revealed something quite unexpected. I'd discovered that the night is a lovely place, a place to be cherished and enjoyed.

Years later, when it came time to do naval night stuff, I was a bit more prepared than my peers. Many of them, I suspect, had a latent fear of the dark. I did not.

I was acquainted with the night. At some point I found that Robert Frost had managed to put some of my feeling about the night into lovely words.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I still love the night.

Nothing wrong with the day though. And the transition can be lovely.

There was a fellow giving away free pumpkins down at the Kwik Stop this morning. When I saw him standing on the corner, I thought at first that his sign read "free puppies." Which is why I stopped.

But no, it was free pumpkins.

Except they weren't free. He had a sob story about a sick baby. He was very well dressed and was driving a brand new Jeep with in transit tags. Color me skeptical.

In my world I try very hard to live by the first principle, that all mean are created equal, that none are better or worse than myself, that all men deserve my fundamental respect as fellow human beings.

Giving that respect is an important responsibility for me. It's not always an easy responsibility to exercise. Few people can just blithely ignore the sick baby story. We're all hardwired to protect babies, after all.

But the responsibility to respect my fellow man requires that I do so with vigorous honesty. When there's flimflam in the mix, I can't play the game. There's no way to play that game while still respecting the fundamental humanity of the player.

Just as this fellow was treating me as an object to be used to acquire money without working for it, I would be treating him as an object if I played his game. We would each be using the other as a means to an end, and not, as Kant suggests, as an end only.

I would be the means to putting money in his pocket, he would be the means to allowing me to feel wondermous about my wondermousness.

I briefly visited with the fellow. I was friendly and polite and wished him well. But I didn't play the game.

There's nothing wondermous about me for not playing the game. I merely met the basic standard of personal responsibility.

Friday, October 6, 2017

And today's sermon is...

Skip to the bottom for a great cockpit video.


I am not a religious personage, nor am I ensconced in a parsonage. I am, however, going to preach just a tiny bit.

Preach. Intransitive verb: to deliver a sermon; to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action. Transitive verb: to set forth in a sermon; to advocate earnestly; to deliver publicly; to bring, put, or affect by preaching.

Sermon. Noun: a religious discourse delivered in public by a member of the clergy as part of a worship service; a speech on conduct or duty.

Now why, you probably wonder, is this dumb shit preaching? He ain't no preacher!

It's a good question. And I'm sure as hell no preacher.

As it turns out, I'm preaching largely to myself. Writing it down like this is an exercise in ordering my thoughts and ideas in an attempt to winnow some fundamental grains of truth from the chaff of emotion and reaction. It's a Socratic thing; my try at not living a worthless life.

Is it the right thing to do or the right way to go about it? Beats the shit out of me. I am, after all, going by what Plato wrote about a rhetorician and sophist who managed to collect an Athenian death penalty some 2,500 years ago. So there's that.

Somehow, though, it makes sense to me. I have a powerful desire to find stuff out, and I am so very, very, fundamentally ignorant.

As I've noted many times before, our nation was founded on a set of principles. The bedrock principle, upon which everything America could be or should be depends, is the very first principle set down on paper by our founding fathers:

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Now read that again. Before the rights comes the reality. All men are fundamentally, equally, human. None are fundamentally better or fundamentally worse. Each human life is of equal fundamental value. Period, full stop. No modifiers, no yabbuts.

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Get that? Governments are instituted among men. Before there is government, there are men. All men are created equal.

Before there can be any discussion of rights or government, the first principle of fundamental human equality must be the foundation. Like it or not -- and an obvious majority of the folks who live here do not -- that's the way it was set up.

I've been thinking about this thesis for many years. I've tried every way I can to smash it; to falsify the notion and discover a different underlying truth. So far, however, it's the only thing that holds together.

Yes. It's not the only way for a society to be organized. It is, however, what the founders said and wrote and what the various states agreed to codify into the Constitution. 

Like it or not, the first principle is the foundation of America. It must be the most solid part of American society, or all else eventually crumbles.

So why is America crumbling? YGTBSM. I think it's safe to say that a majority of those who live here put their own personal wants, generally regarded as sacrosanct rights, well ahead of their personal responsibility to hew to the first principle. It's simple, really.

There's probably a critical number, a number that represents the sum of those who live here and who also do their very best to put the first principle first. If that number is large enough (in my critical number theory anyway) then the foundation remains solid enough. If the number drops below my undefined critical number, the foundation crumbles.

An obvious question is, well, what exactly is that critical number?

Like me, you've probably heard the third-third-third theory. At the founding, a third of the population were staunch British Tories, desiring to remain part of the Empire. A third were revolutionary patriots, desiring independence and holding a different vision of an ideal society, one based on -- you guessed it -- the personal liberty of fundamentally equal human beings. The final third of the population really didn't care one way or another. They wanted to live their lives and not be bothered by all that political bullshit.

So is the critical number 33.333 percent?

I doubt it.

Here's another stab at suitcasing the number. Victor Davis Hanson once noted in a lecture that since the dawn of civilization roughly 20 percent of any population tends to be ideologically collectivist, about 20 percent ideologically individualist, and about 60 percent don't really care. That 60 percent, he said, are more opportunist than anything else. In any given system, they'll do whatever they feel they need to do in order to get by -- and even flourish -- from day to day.

Now please pay attention to what I write. There's a very good chance that what I write is actually different than what the reader might imagine I mean.  I didn't write that being an opportunist was a bad thing, or that 60 percent of the world's population are immoral or monsters or thieves. I wrote what I wrote, nothing more, nothing less.

That 60 percent number bothered me at first, but then it occurred to me that it's a very good reminder that if I really do believe in the first principle, then it is vitally important that I respect the fundamental humanity of those who don't see things exactly the way I do. I don't agree that swapping principles with the direction of the political wind is a good idea, and it's certainly not the way the nation was set up, but I also can't afford to think of those I've labeled opportunists as anything other than human beings who are not fundamentally less human than myself.

So what is the critical number? Is it 19, or 20, or 21? Is it 59, or 60, or 61?

Well, here's where I'm at on that. If the critical number is the percentage of people who do their best to hew to the first principle and thereby keep the national foundation from crumbling...

I have no idea what that number might be. Sorry.

But I do know that when it comes to me and my own personal existence in this place and at this time, the critical number is...



Here's a gem. Imagine flying a Jag into Khasab.