Sunday, November 1, 2020

Non-random appreciation

In the image above, a cow is standing in the warm afternoon sun chewing her cud. She's a cow and not a person. Cows can't talk to us in any human language, so they can't tell us how they feel or how terrified of wuhandromeda they are. They can and do demonstrate in a non-verbal fashion something approximating how they feel and what they fear, but we have to infer what their behavior means. Because we (some of us, at least) are thinking creatures, and accustomed to factoring mood and feelings into the daily social intercourse we participate in, those of us who work with or live with animals can't help but ascribe human feelings or moods or motivations to particular animal behaviors. Something in the non-verbal cues we process resonates with us and we believe -- at some level -- that we are observing essentially ape-lizard thoughts and feelings and behaviors in animals. This is called humanization or anthropomorphization. Our belief that animals are thinking or feeling or behaving as humans is almost certainly false. Reality seldom stops us from participating in this canard at some level, whether it's simply a superficial reaction or a deep-seated belief. One might say (and this one does) that such belief is a form of psychosis.

Knowing and understanding as I do that cows are not, in fact, ape-lizards, why does the above image make me think the cow is telling me to firetruck off?

It seems obvious to me that my gut interpretation springs entirely from my mood.

Is there not something I can do about my dark mood?

Why yes, yes there is.


Yesterday was all hallows eve, or Halloween. I've never been a big Halloween guy, but people I know and love without reservation are. Going from memory alone, I believe the celebration has something to do with the annual end of the growing season and perhaps something to do with various religious calendars. There's a dark and also fun focus on death and resurrection or something like that. Masks and costumes and candy; trick or treat in fun and not-so-fun variation. Once having graduated from being a kid, Halloween became at most a "meh" for me. People I know and love see it differently and embrace the day as an opportunity to share frivolity, fun, and love with family.
Merrie Beth (mom) Alexzandra, Samantha (sis).

Not Halloween. What did I ever do to deserve that loving smile?

Today is November 1. At a slight tangent, today is also "fall back" day, where we ape-lizards gift ourselves with a 25-hour day. Kinda. Which is nice. Kinda.

Anyway, back on task. On November 26 it will be Thanksgiving. For a great many -- perhaps even most -- of the folks who live in this country, Thanksgiving is for not going to work, stuffing oneself, possibly watching football, bitching, complaining, arguing, and trying to make the world's complexity come out in a binary solution set where one side wins and the other side should be sent to the gas chambers.

For a minority of the folks who live in this country Thanksgiving is an opportunity to reflect on and appreciate our great good fortune, to give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us by God and by the American Giants who came before and upon whose shoulders we stand.

Therefore, regarding a fix for my dark mood, how about 26 days of appreciation and gratitude? What could possibly go wrong?


First a few random and bizarre observations, each of them loaded with gratitude and appreciation.

Over the last few months, since my quest to proactively remove lard from my frame became a successful thing, I find that I revel in the feel of my non-fat-covered ribs when I'm soaping down in the shower. It's something I haven't experienced since I was aircrewman-fit. Back then it was normal and unremarkable. Today it feels brand new, like an unexpected gift. It's a little, goofy thing, but it's a delight.

In a similar fashion my present level of fitness feels brand new. As I described in my last post, I run steps on my 15-minute breaks at work. I ramp my heart rate up to 150 and hold it there for the full 900 seconds. I sweat and exert and breathe hard. Yet by the time I've sauntered 100 feet to my seat on the production line, my heart rate is back down to 60-70 and I'm breathing as easily as if I'd merely taken a stroll to the break room and back. Another big nothing of a goofy little thing, yet it's another dose of pure and unadulterated delight.

I have a bed. Not only a bed, but a delightful high-tech queen sized bed which is the most comfortable bed I could ever have imagined. I previously had a bed, and that bed seemed to be a serviceable place to sleep and comfortable enough. It wasn't really, and I recognized that, but replacing the thing was so far down the priority list it was invisible.

My new bed was sold to me by the manager of a local department store. That manager was Alex, and the store is owned by her grandparents. The way my decision to buy the bed worked was this. Alex took one look at my former bed and told me that I needed a new bed and she was selling me a new bed. I was delighted; I'd have bought anything she was selling. Used cars, magazine subscriptions, rubber dogshit, girl scout cookies, sticks and rocks, illegal weapons, and the list goes on.

I make the bed meticulously, in part because the bed and bedding is a national treasure in my world. I also make it meticulously because I am a bed making person, thoroughly trained by the navy. You begin the day by successfully and properly accomplishing your very first task of the day, and successfully proper accomplishments fall into place from there.

Allie was not a bed making person. We each found a great deal of delight in the others approach to the concept, and we shared plenty of loving laughter over the practical execution of the task in our daily life. I loved making the bed while she put on her face and savaged me over being suzy-homemaker. I loved and embraced being suzy homemaker for her. It was a goofy little thing overloaded with infinite delight.

I have hearing aids.

I got the things because I couldn't properly hear my love. She had important stuff to say to say to me. It frustrated her when I couldn't hear what she was saying. It pissed her off when I tried to fake it by smiling and nodding. A couple of passes at that and she set me on the path of righteousness. I saw the ear doc and got the things coming this way. It would have been an imperfect solution, but we would have worked through the limitations of the new hearing paradigm. I knew they would help in some respects, and not at all in others, but overall it would be an improvement. I didn't want hearing aids for me, you understand, I wanted them for her.

When they arrived it was rather a moot point. I went through the motions to see how much they helped. Not very much as it turned out. The things are just about worthless, for instance, when the little ones get spooled up. Their happy "outside" voices, which they also use quite frequently (nearly always) inside, fairly make the hearing aids explode. When it comes to soft spoken mumblers, I can't hear them with or without hearing aids. No one can.

Theoretically I can set the things up via my phone and save settings for different environments.

Then it's just a matter -- again theoretically -- of flicking through the app and selecting the proper setting.

The problem is that hearing aids are not ears, and the computerized filters -- for all their wonder and sophistication -- are not neural filters. If I damp down the high pitched and joyful noise of the little ones, I cant hear firetruck-all else. If I want to hear normal conversation or other relatively normal sounds, the little voices overwhelm everything else and cause more than a bit of auditory pain. A similar thing happens at work. There are endless clinking and clacking sounds that sound like a drum kit tumbling down a high rise stairwell unless I order the computer to filter them out. When I do that, I can't hear normal stuff.

The hearing aids aren't bad, they just aren't within striking distance of real ears. If I'm going to insist on doing my livin' in places with a wide range of sounds, the hearing aids aren't going to solve the hearing problem.

So for a month I just set the bloody things aside. And then, somewhat by accident, I came across a series of podcasts I wanted to listen to. I'm rather a fan of the u2b work of the "Bilge Pumps" crew, but I have a hard time finding the time to peruse their video work. However, my hearing aids are bluetooth enabled, and eight hours of sitting and assembling at the widget factory might be an opportunity to listen and enjoy.

And it is!

I've long liked the idea of listening to podcasts, yet I rarely have had the opportunity. Much of my daily life is a bit too complex for my simple mind to be able to both do stuff and listen to enjoy and learn rather than just hear noise. The widget factory seems to provide the proper environment though. And friday I tried listening while checking cows, and that worked quite nicely. Is it possible I can expand my listening environment to include more complicated tasks, such as fixing fence? Possibly. I'm going to give that a whirl today.

As I enter this new realm of podcasts beamed directly to my hearing aids, I can't help but shudder at what might have happened had my love caught me listening to stupid old navy shit when I was supposed to be listening to her. I mention that no-longer-possible possibility with a longing smile and a sigh.

Regardless of my sadness and longing, my love gave me hearing aids, and they bring with them a great deal of appreciation and gratitude.


Now I've set myself the task of listing things I appreciate and am grateful for on a daily basis through Thanksgiving. Am I up to the task? Only time will tell. I can say that thinking of things with an attitude of gratitude and appreciation helps me a great deal. It's part of the soul maintenance I need to be doing each day and I skip that chore only at my peril.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


  1. Hearing aids... I am blessed to still have my hearing.
    There are times when I wish I could mute the sound.
    I am pleased that there are noise cancelling headphone.
    The governor of California has, for all intents and purposes, cancelled Thanksgiving.

    1. I traded good hearing for noisy fun back when I knew I'd never get old.🤣

      I can actually hear pretty well for most things but people noise can be a challenge. In the past I could ignore people talking more than I can these days.

      I still happily ignore shitebirds.

      I've never tried any of the noise cancelling products. I can see their utility but I don't have much need in my life.

      So everyone in California will be working then? No one will take the traditional 11-day weekend? Oh, wait...

      Thanks Skip.

  2. Cow's emotions. We had a gentle, even timid Jersey milk cow that got upset with change. When I miked her she wanted to be locked in the stanchion and hobbled even though I once milked her in the yard just to prove a point to someone. She was in distress the entire time. So long as her routine never changed, she was completely content. A Guernsey we had was the polar opposite and I paid close attention to her eyes, ears and the way her tail was carried. She and I had "issues" weekly.

    1. I know less than nothing about milk cows, but I do know that beef cows will tell you everything you could possibly ever need to know about them nonverbally. You just have to pay attention to what they are telling you. I imagine dairy cows are the same.

      Thanks Frank.

    2. You are welcome. Just to be clear, we never had more than four milkers at a time so learning their individual quirks was easy. As part of a rural community, we would milk friend's cows when they need to go somewhere and we did the same. In general, the cows weren't pleased.

    3. They have a way of letting you know!

  3. Great minds think alike. At the University of Texas, Austin, graduation in 2014 ADM Stanley McChrystal offered similar advice. Full address is about 19 minutes, but here is a 1:42 excerpt, enough to get his thinking on the subject.
    John Blackshoe

    1. I wonder if the Admiral learned that from BMC Parina the way I did? Kidding aside, I think it's been a naval tradition for as long as there have been navies.

      McChrystal is a rousing speaker.

      Thanks John.

  4. Cows are interesting animals. I have zero first-hand experience with caring for them, but our extended family members run a few, so I've been getting "know" them little by little since we started coming out here seven years ago.

    They may be herd animals, but they sure have unique personalities! And the Mommas are quite protective of their little ones. When we first moved here we stayed in a little place up in Bellvue, and there was a farm "just down the road a piece" that raised cows. I remember asking our DIL's Father why the cows were making so much racket at all hours, and he said that it was the time of year when they separate the Mommas from the calves, and the Mommas didn't like it one bit! Got to where I could pick out individual Momma cows wailing about the loss of their little ones.

    You're truly blessed, Shaun, in that you not only get to be out tending some of "God's Dumb Animals" as my Mom would say, but you're aware of it, and do it with thoughtfulness and care.

    BZ, Corpsman!

    1. They are very interesting. They're also quite good communicators. At weaning time they can really make a lot of noise!

      I am blessed beyond measure. Sometimes lately it's hard to see past my immediate misery, but it feels very important for me to recognize and embrace my blessings. I think I'd quickly be lost without making the effort.

      Thanks drjim.