Concessions In The Theater Of Your Mind

I awoke from my ugly nap this afternoon in a mood most foul. I was involved in playing cards (Euchre) with others and the last hand was one I thought I could do well with. Another gentleman declared trump and I felt I had a very good chance at setting him. I then discovered the rules (in this game, not in the real world) required my cards to be taken to another table and played by a woman that had not demonstrated much of an understanding of the game. I was incensed, screaming that there were two ways to play the hand, the right way and one that “might possibly have a chance of winning.” I then awoke without knowing which way the hand went, but furious none the less.

Staring at the ceiling I contemplated what had just occurred (while waiting for my blood pressure to return to normal). In general, I am an even-tempered person, not often riled to the point of violent expression of emotions. Unlike some people I am related to, I don’t scream loudly or throw things when events don’t go the way I think they should. Most of the time I simply express my hope that the horrific drivers around me actually MAKE it to their destination rather than express my gratitude that they’re “number one” in my book by hand signals. I’m pretty calm overall.

Until I fall asleep. From acts of violence against others worthy of at least an “R” rating (and hours of cleanup by stagehands afterward) and property damage requiring incarceration prior to judgement, to leg-buckling events of terror beyond the imagination of King or Hitchcock. I often awake drenched in a cold sweat, heart palpitation violent enough to consider ringing for the attendant (there’s a medical call string in my apartment that notifies the authorities to come and assist…presuming your “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment occurs within a couple feet of the bed or toilet). Or the need to change pillowcases after they are discovered swamped with tears of sadness. (On second thought, this doesn’t count as I find the crushing waves of despair and loneliness occur during waking moments, too….)

So why the greatly amplified expression of emotions in my dreams? Perhaps this is a way of retaining my sanity against the madness of the greater world in the land of light. By experiencing and expressing these emotions in the privacy of my own head (which I would never do in the real world) I am then able to keep a relatively even keel in public. I don’t have to “go postal” at the incompetency of my clerk or waitstaff because I have already vented enough pressure during the darkness to keep in control.

Also, why do I continue to go to work delivering propane to clients in the night, when this part of my occupation history ended in 1990? Or wander through the same school campus between unknown classes I am inevitably late enough to watch other students depart from as I approach? At least I find most elevator shafts actually contain a car when the doors open (which they rarely did in my younger years… but the sensation of awakening just as you hit the bottom from a great height and floating to the top of your mattress as your eyes opened eventually became a thrill rather than a terror). What perverse need is there in the depths of my psyche to torture me nightly with a “night life” more boring than my real one, so much that the memory of what transpired evaporates within the time it takes to return from the bathroom. And then, just as unexpectedly as opening the door to the Publisher’s Clearing House crew, I am subjected to wild acts of debauchery and decadence requiring the rating board to turn away in horror, hastily slapping a MA rating or worse on my subconscious life.

Were there a pattern, some explainable reason why the cinema of the mind chooses which film to show on any given night I could better deal with the confusion. Part of my daily journal keeping includes recording such dreams as I can remember (by the time I get up and fire up the computer…maybe 1 in 10 overall?). Also included in the journal is a rambling account of the day’s events and food choices for meals, so I have been able to examine at least some of the surrounding events leading up to a significant dream event. I have never found any correlation between eating anchovies on my pizza (Yumm… I know, I’m weird) and driving a truck later that evening. Or enough variance in my drab existence to justify ripping the still-beating heart out of my nearest attacker while war rages around me.

And don’t get me started on the couple of times I was able to experience lucid dreaming. Oh, how I’ve tried to set up the joy of being fully in control of my surroundings while aware it was all a dream. The movie Inception only got it half right when everything aligns during a lucid session. Flying and changing your surroundings with a wave of your hand is AWESOME! And rare enough to awake to extreme frustration that the movie ended a quickly as it did.

What I’m left with is a Wheel-Of-Fortune method of determining what channel appears each night (or afternoon in this case) and my ticket is non-refundable. This is just another example of why I think Rod Serling is present in my apartment. (If I just whip my head around fast enough I think I can get a glimpse of him standing behind me….)

So, what I want to know is this, within the theater of my mind, where presumably I have season tickets to my own private screening of life as I think it woulda/coulda/shoulda be…

Why do I always have to wait in line to buy popcorn?

Phred

post 73 of n

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Wide World Of Sports (As Of Today)

Initial Disclaimer: I know where this posting starts from, I don’t know where it is going (which makes it pretty much a typical rant).

I am a spectator in the game of life. Last night, I watched “my” team’s kickball game at the park. Delta Force won their first game of the season (Go Delta!), despite the fact that they only had about two-thirds of their normal squad. Fact was they only had 10 players (the normal amount on the field at any time) evenly divided between men and women (a mixed couple team layout, each team required to put roughly half of each on a game’s lineup). They played their best game of the season winning 5-2.

One of the principle players absent last evening was watching his daughter’s last lacrosse game (I think she’s in middle school, but I get confused about kid ages…). Also in the park were a couple of adult softball leagues (the park has 6 diamonds). The city of Lansing also has a class A Minor League baseball team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays and nearby an American Professional Soccer team (designated a Tier 4 league, for whatever that means). Michigan State University is here (technically in East Lansing, but it meets CEFGW* standards) to provide Big 10 level excitement. There’s dozens of high schools in the area, each with the normal regimen of sport teams. And each of the dozens of golf courses and bowling alleys in the area have their allotment of leagues, bringing together testosterone, alcohol, and competition nightly.

So, on any given day, I have dozens of choices where to go to witness competition in the realm of physical battle. From the youngest T-Ball game to the highest echelon of college/semi-pro sports I can spectate to the point of exhaustion. (Please note, I do not consider myself a “fan” as I don’t have a close enough relationship with any of the teams to generate the rabid, zealous devotion that the shortened form of the word “fanatic” requires. Thus the term spectator.)

So, has it always been this way, or am I just more sensitive to the multiplex draws of sports participation in my waning years? Thinking back to my childhood, it was typical (expected?) for young boys to play little-league baseball. High school sports involved baseball, football, track and field, wrestling, and (in the larger schools) swimming. (Oh, yeah, there was basketball, too, but I have a serious aversion to the game so it slipped my mind there for a moment.) My mom’s family were avid bowlers so she was on a league and my dad played golf weekly on a team with a couple of co-workers. Flint (a city about 40 miles away from home) had a minor league hockey team and some of my dad’s friends played “slow-puck” hockey (no serious violence allowed, as the average player age was 40ish), but apart from these examples following sports was done on the radio, listening to teams far away.

A common complaint heard frequently in my circle of influence is “we can’t attend the [INSERT MEETING NAME HERE] because [INSERT CHILD NAME HERE] has a [INSERT SPORT EVENT HERE] game…” followed by a sigh. These people don’t (necessarily) have substantially more children than the families in my youth, but it appears there are SIGNIFICANTLY more opportunities for participation than ever before. I suspect the reason our economy is as robust as it appears to be is simply the result of purchasing vehicles for transporting kids to and from their sporting activities (and the resultant petrol purchases propelling these mini-vans). As I recall, I only had two games a week and maybe as many practices, but I rode my bicycle to and from these events. Twice a season my parents would come to see a game (was OK with that, as I was a horrible player overall, but the team ice cream cone treat afterward made it worth while).

Raising my son in the 90’s was trips to the swim meets, but since practice was at the school and he was there daily anyway there was no extra involvement. It didn’t feel substantially more excessive than my youth. Apparently that changed with the incoming new millennium…

With my disability/mobility issues there are really few options available to me at this time to “participate” in sports, so I am content to spectate. I just need to figure out how to assess and prioritize which events I will be attending to capitalize on my limited resources. Usually, I decline most offers to attend (which frees up about 22 evening hours a week) but have accepted the role of nominal mascot for the kickball team.

There’s really not anything on TV on Wednesday nights anyway….

Phred

post 72 of n

(*Close Enough For Government Work)

A Century Of Writing (Days)

Well, even though this is late, it is a recognition of a milestone in my writing career. On May the 20th, two monumental events occurred: David Letterman hosted his last show of Late Night with David Letterman, and 100 days had passed since starting this blog.

Of the two, the TV event was certainly the more celebrated and recognized. In my life, however, the passing of time and the point that I am still here, plugging away at the keyboard is significantly more important. Frankly, I had serious doubts about the chances of keeping to a new habitual behavior for more than a couple of weeks. (This is the principle reason that I stopped making “New Year’s Resolutions” half a decade ago. Now I do “New Year’s Intentions” to suggest I already know I will probably fail before the year…quarter…month…week…day…hour passes.)

But now I have kept up for nearly a third of a year. (OK, OK, I confess to having failed in my 3-a-week just now, but I claim extenuating circumstances and the need to assist my kids in a galaxy city far, far away….) What an exciting accomplishment, and a wild ride as well. I crunched the numbers from the stats page (goes back to my days as an analyst and statistician) and found a few interesting things.

So far, I have had 355 visitors to the site and altogether they viewed 704 pages. The bulk of the visitors came from the U.S.A. (which is to be expected) but there were an additional 13 countries listed (in alphabetical order: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia,  Pakistan, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom). Statistics appear for 64 different pages and posts (there are a few missing, but they may be linked pages that are not counted) and total views range from 1 to 33 each (the home page has 195 views by itself).

Is this significant information, useful, or even relevant? Not to most, for sure, but to me it is a fascinating glimpse of the world at large and my (microscopic) part within it. In many ways it has already exceeded my wildest expectations. It is (at the very least) sufficient to keep going for (at least) another third of a year and see what the numbers show then.

Thanks to all who have participated and keep checking in…

Phred

post 71 of n

Life Is Good Except When It’s Not

I’m not at home this week, helping the kids with taxi needs. My daughter in law had her transmission fail this week and I came down to taxi them while the car is in the shop.

As a result I am not home and blogging here is nearly impossible so meeting the quota this week is iffy. I’ll make it up next week for sure.

Thanks for your patience.

Phred

post 70 of n

ECON010 Lesson 02: More Definitions

As we continue our 30,000 feet overview of Economics and terms we have a couple sets of paired ideas to consider. With the idea of scope in mind, we use Macroeconomics to examine the economy as a whole. It is the big picture that encloses everyone and everything as a single chunk. Microeconomics looks at an individual entity and it’s interaction with the greater economy. It could be an individual, household, company, or governmental unit in view when we examine their decisions and the consequences of  the same.

Our analysis of actions and consequences can be viewed from different points of view. When we analyze actions with the mind-set that this is “how things SHOULD work” we are doing Normative Economics. Using the view of “this is how things ARE working” we refer to this as Positive Economics. These views are not necessarily the same, and one is not necessarily “better” than the other. Both types of analysis have their uses and each carries its own powers and pitfalls.

As it would be impractical (impossible, really) to interview every person or monitor every transaction in any realistic economy, we use a Model to simplify our work. It is a smaller or simpler representation of a system created to simplify analysis. It will keep the essential parts of a system and minimize (or ignore) unnecessary elements not being studied. A model is created (or designed) to build a framework in which to demonstrate and test a Theory, formally defined in my notes as “a simplified, logical story based on positive analysis that is used to explain an event.” (It should be noted that I found my teaching notes; I did NOT find my text book the notes came out of. I may refer to my copy of The Essentials of Macroeconomics I from Research and Education Association, ISBN 0-87891-700-4 for additional information and will identify anything thus sourced with the marker [REA].)

The method presented in class for creating and evaluating concepts was to use the Scientific Method, a five (5) step process:

  1. Recognize a problem or issue
  2. Make needed Assumptions (conditions accepted as true without justification or proof)
  3. Develop a model based on selected system and assumptions
  4. Present a Hypothesis (statement that explains a set of facts and action->consequence chains) to describe the analysis
  5. Test hypothesis for validity (whether the model and theory works or not)

To see how this works, we could setup an example. While working on my blog my pencil rolled off the table and fell to the floor (a couple of times, actually). Since nothing else has fallen off the table, I suspect gravity in my apartment has a special affinity for pencils (step 1: recognize issue). I will assume there are no other forces (wind, telekinetic psychics, or poltergeist spirits) at play here (step 2). I went into the kitchen and cleared the table to use as a model of my desk (step 3). My hypothesis is that pencils are more likely than other objects to fall to the floor (step 4). I then set a number of different objects on the table to see if they would roll off and fall to the floor:

\begin{array}{lc}  \textbf{Item} & \textbf {Fall?} \\  Pencil & Yes \\  Pen & No \\  Coffee Mug & No \\  Coffee (spilled) & Yes \\  Can (upright) & No \\  Can (horizonal) & Yes \\  Egg & Yes \\  Banana & No \\  Book & No \\  \end{array}
Since other objects than the pencil fell, I must accept that the hypothese is not valid (and now I have a real mess to clean up in the kitchen).

A couple of common mistakes in creating hypotheses to watch out for is the Fallacy of Causation (“since this implies because of this,” just because two things happened together one causes the other) and the Fallacy of Composition (“what one does all do,” or just because Bert puts ketchup on his ice cream, everyone does…or should). My example failed on the falacy of causation.

When we are dealing with models and analysis a critical concept we need to keep fully aware of is that of Ceteris Paribus (Latin for “all other things being equal”). It is used when we make a claim explaining an event (if price for a good goes up, demand will go down [CP]) so that the ONLY thing changing is the item being examined (price). The idea is to eliminate or ignore everything else that might have an effect on the transaction being examined. In a fully interactive system, rising prices might actually result in higher demand (in anticipation of a shortage, for example) but to explain principles we hold all other elements the same to focus our attention on how just one element works. We will use the code [CP] as an abbreviation.

This covers everything in the first meeting of my class, apart from a few drawings on the board. They included examples of several types of Graphs or Charts (line, bar, pie, scatter), the concept of Slope (how much the Dependent variable changes when the Independent variable changes and which direction), Maximum, and Minimum (on charts). The key parts are shown on the following picture.

Chart Examples for Lesson 02

Chart Examples for Lesson 02

Next time we start on Choice, Opportunity Cost, and Specialization!

Phred

post 69 of n

Go to LESSON 01

Go to GLOSSARY

Book Review: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

This is the book that triggered the deluge in my current reading schedule. While working through a Blender tutorial one day last month it was suggested that reading The ONE Thing would fundamentally change the way I approached my work (and life in general) forever. I was sufficiently curious to open another window on my browser and link to my (primary) library to see if it was available. It wasn’t but was put on an inter-library exchange hold and (three weeks later) here it is. Last in time as far as reading (borrowing) but easily first in importance.

This book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan was worth the wait. Starting with the front flyleaf it points out that we want more (productivity, satisfaction with life, time for self and family) and at the same time we want less (distractions, work stress, interruptions). This book offers the hope we can have both, and provides tools (one tool, actually) to cut clutter, reduce stress, achieve better results in less time, gain energy and master what matters to you. A pretty large claim, eh?

It delivers in spades. It starts with three chapters of introduction and background. Chapter one reveals the power of focus by aiming as small as possible. By limiting your focus to only one thing you are better able to use your energy and ability to their fullest.

Chapter two discusses the domino effect, where small actions cascade into unbelievable results. A domino can topple another half again as large, then a chart shows the effectiveness of a geometric progression. In less than twenty cycles of growth a 2″ (5cm) domino grows to taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the thirty-first looms over a thousand yards (900m) taller than Mount Everest and in 57 dominoes you can nearly reach the moon.

Chapter three gives examples of how success leaves clues to follow, using several examples of single focus and the resulting success.

What follows are three parts. In part one, “THE LIES: they mislead and derail us,” each of the six chapters reveals and debunks a commonly held belief that is wrong (but repeated often enough that we begin to believe it is true). These ideas, that everything is equally important, that multitasking works, more discipline leads to more success, willpower is always available if we just try (harder if needed), we need to live a balanced life (work and home) and that big dreams and vision is bad, are each refuted in turn and shown to be obstructions to success.

Part two “THE TRUTH: the simple path to productivity,” presents the Focusing Question (ultimately the central theme of the book): “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” to drive focus, a chapter on creating the success habit (which takes 66 days on average, not the 21 or 30 days so commonly believed) , and ends with a chapter designed to ask and answer great questions.It uses a four quadrant chart of Big/Small and Broad/Specific to aim for Large-Specific questions to drive extraordinary results.

The last part EXTRAORDINARY RESULTS: unlocking the possibilities within you” contains five chapters of application, showing how to implement this principle in real life. Examples of how to put the rubber on the road and head the way towards your goal.

The book is an easy read, with many drawn illustrations and important segments already highlighted with a virtual pencil (saving you the need to hunt down a highlighter to mark the good stuff), Each chapter (apart from those in part one) end with a collection of Big Ideas summary of the main points of the chapter. In keeping with the basic philosophy, the acknowledgements, author biographies, and copyright pages are all at the very back of the book (rather than the front per the Chicago Manual of Style).

Perhaps the best indication of how much of an impact it has made on my understanding of success (and how to get there) is the simple fact it is at the top of my “Must buy NEXT” list. In terms of ranking, this book gets a 1 rating out of 1. I think it’s just that important. A must read.

Now, go out, read it, and apply what it teaches. I’ll meet you at the top.

Phred

post 68 of n

Book Review: Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Mind

Another book read as a result of a tutorial blog suggestion. This was useful in bringing focus to my daily activities and schedule. Manage Your Day-To-Day is a collection of twenty articles listed in four categories (and a couple of additional articles to introduce and wrap up the book) by as many different authors. It’s edited by Jocelyn K. Glei.

Section one is Building A Rock-Solid Routine and includes one of my favorite blog authors, Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. These five articles set reasons for why having a regular set of activities done regularly (preferably daily) and using specific triggers (location, setting, ambiance) help key your mind to be effective and creative. Consistency and habit work together to build inertia and increase productivity.

Chapter two is Finding Focus In A Distracted World. Today’s information rich environment provides excessive opportunity for distraction (ding…another e-mail has arrived) and this chapter suggests ways to strengthen your resolve to avoid distractions. It also includes an article debunking the multi-tasking myth (human brains are wired to focus on only one thing at a time, so what we really do is task switching and each change adds overhead reducing overall effectiveness). Several good reminders here that I am trying to implement in my own environment (SQUIRREL!).

Taming Your Tools is a chapter that deals with the over consumption of information (rather than using “information overload” as an excuse… it’s not the information’s fault we look at it) and hov to bring sanity into the use of social media and e-mail. The world really WON’T end if we don’t immediately check each e-mail that comes in (unless you happen to be a SAC commander or bomber pilot). A reminder of who is wielding who.

The last chapter is Sharpening Your Creative Mind, giving several ideas about ways to enhance and produce creativity when it’s not flowing of it’s own accord. For me, the writing on letting go of perfectionism was required reading (perhaps not immediately obvious from reading these posts, I am afraid), several times until it really sunk in (2-3 cm so far). There’s help for what to do when you are “stuck” that was useful.

Overall, the book is an easy read (short articles, though not quite as brief as Rework) but there are a couple of formatting issues I have problems with. To breakup the sections, they used three different colours of paper, so there are some introduction pages in each chapter with white text on red paper, and summaries using white on black paper. While it makes finding the sections quite easy, the contrast, font style, and point size made reading more difficult than necessary (for me, at least), especially the red pages.

There was enough good stuff in here for me to use (some were reminders and some were insights) so I would give it a rating of 41 out of 67. The four times I read it this past week will probably be the last time I rent the book from the library (but at least I know where I can find it if necessary).

Phred

post 67 of n

ECON010 Lesson 01: Introduction and Definitions

Welcome to Lesson 01. Today’s article gives an overview of the course and starts setting terms in order to create the playing field for understanding the subject.

Economics is the study of making choices about how to use limited resources. It arises from the idea that we are restricted from obtaining everything we want (where the “we” here is every entity at once; individual, family, clan, organization, city, state, country, whatever). The idea of Unlimited Wants (the sum total of the desires of everyone) is expressed in this Q&A:

Q: How much [Item Name Here] is enough?

A: Just a little more!

The bottom line is “wants are unlimited.”

The problem is described in the term Scarcity, the idea there is not enough [Item Name Here] to provide everyone all they want for the cost of free. Can also be expressed in a Q&A:

Q: How much of [Item Name Here] is there?

A: Not enough for both of us…

The principle reason is we live on a closed system. The Earth (in fact, the observable universe) has a limited amount of resources (might be a lot, but they pall in comparison to the infinite size of the unlimited size of wants). Douglas Adams demonstrated this in chapter 32 of his book The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe when the [useless survivors of a crashed spaceship] hold a meeting to discuss fiscal policy. They make money from leaves which makes them immensely rich, but then they “run into a small inflation problem on account of the high level of leaf availability, which means that, I gather, the current going rate has something like three deciduous forests buying one ship’s peanut.” The meeting decides to burn down the remaining forests (which will make the leaves they have already collected and stuffed into their clothes vastly more valuable), a short term (not to mention short sighted) solution to an insolvable problem.

As is common in many specialized fields, some words in common use have somewhat different meanings when used in an economic sense. Goods are defined as tangible things that can be exchanged (between people) that are also scarce. Again, there may be a lot of them, but if there is not enough for everyone that wants one to have one (for free) then it is scarce. People are willing to pay to obtain goods. Bads are items people are willing to pay NOT to have (or to have less of) such as pollution. Goods come in two types: Durable goods are things expected to last at least a year (cars, computers, refrigerators);  Non-durable goods are everything else with a shorter expected life (donuts, calendars, pretty much anything inside a refrigerator). Services consists of work done that doesn’t result in the production of a good. In general, it is goods and services that are used to fulfill the unlimited desires of everybody.

Resources are the tangible and intangible things used to obtain “stuff” to fulfill wants. In other words, the things we use to get everything else. (Stay with me, it can get kind of confusing in here.) Resources come in four flavors:

  1. Land – the Earth and natural resources like soil, timber, water, oil
  2. Labor – the time, physical, and intellectual services of people (brains and brawn); includes training, talent, education, ability
  3. Capital – created products used to produce other goods and services; ranges from factories to the machines inside to the screwdriver used to work on the machines…
  4. Entrepreneurial Ability – an intangible skill that allows a person to create  goods and services by
    1. recognizing a profitable opportunity
    2. willingness to organize the other three resources (land, labor, and capital), and
    3. willingness to take a risk

An Entrepreneur is a person with (4) that takes raw materials (1) and combines it with workers (2) and tools (3) to produce a good or service.

Rational (as in rational self interest) does not mean able to be expressed as a fraction or sane or sensible as we generally understand it. In economics people are assumed to make choices that maximize the amount of satisfaction they receive from that choice.

It does not necessarily mean they make a logical choice (to another observer) only that the decision results in the greatest level of satisfaction to the decision maker. To evaluate various competing elements of satisfaction (fame, fortune, physical pleasure) that have different units of exchange we discuss measures in terms of Utility. This is an arbitrary unit of measurement that allows us to compare two choices without the problems of comparing apples and kumquats. If choice A yields 7 units of utility and choice B only 5, the “rational” person will always choose A.

The idea of Margins deals with the very next (or last, depending on how it’s used) item under consideration. The utility of eating a donut changes if it is the first one you have had in a month or if it is the 17th one this hour. In either case (before the actual eating) the satisfaction you perceive from eating the NEXT pastry (number 1 in the first case or number 17 in the latter) would be considered the marginal value of the donut. As we go along, the importance of dealing with the margin will be explained.

The last term for this lesson to consider is Income. Income generates a method of exchange (for now, think “money” but be aware we will need to address exactly what this word means later on) as a result of the use of resources. Using land generates rent, using labor results in wages, interest comes from using capital, and profits are the result of entrepreneurial activity in action.

With this groundwork in place (about half of the first class lesson plan, not counting the materials from the chalkboard) we have started to lay the groundwork for understanding this slippery creature of economics. Next time we will continue to define terms and cover the concept of Ceteris Parabus, a critical point of view that will haunt us throughout our study.

Phred

post 66 of n

Organic Obstacle Course

It’s spring in mid Michigan. Today it rained since before I awoke to the evening news broadcast. We got about 1.5 cm (half inch and a skosh more) of rain, a steady light rain most of the day with a few stronger showers early in the day. Much needed both to wet the ground and to flush some of the tree pollen from the air.

I went to town to pickup a library card and to participate in the local election event at the fire station. On the way home, I noticed a certain sign of the end of the winter season, the beginning of the Olympic organic obstacle course from the parking lot to the apartment building.  There is a concrete walkway consisting of segments about a meter long and the same distance wide (it was poured in one piece, but there are “lines” sunk into the surface to help prevent buckling and should a break occur it will me more likely to split along the lines). As I left my car early in the afternoon (about 5-7 hours after the rains began) I noticed the earthworms had left the safety of the grass and were migrating down and across the walk. Lots of worms, each square had at least 2 and there were a couple with more than 25 squirming creatures slithering along the rough top surface.

Now let it be said that I am not a particularly cruel person. I don’t take pleasure from needlessly ending the lives of lesser creatures in the great chain of existence. I am not a master student of zen where I avoid harming any and every living creature (do these more zealous adherents eat yoghurt?) and I am not a maniacal slaughterer of any and everything that moves, crossing either line on the road to hit any and all targets within range. For the most part, I hold a middle of the path point of view. I like spiders but discourage them from living within the center of my space (corners and unused areas are fine). Now that I no longer deliver propane I have become more tolerant of wasp and hornet nests (at one time I carried nerve agents to take the battle successfully against these monsters). I allow anthills to rise unmolested in the cracks of the local sidewalks (when I would walk my son to the bus stop, it was a daily competition to see who would wipe current building progress off the face of the Earth… it never seemed to have any effect as the next day the course was rebuilt for that day’s event.)

I simply don’t like walking on worms. I don’t have an excessive love for these builders of healthy soil, having sent many generations of them to a watery grave to feed the fishes. (Occasionally a fish would mistakenly BITE the worm and come home for lunch, but that was a rare event.) With my disability, I try to avoid sticking my cane tip into anything nasty that will follow me home onto the fluffy carpet I walk on barefoot. Tips, actually, as I have a quad-footed cane that will stand in the corner unattended (but has 4 times the opportunity to squish crud into the floor), so it is more of a challenge to find wormless sidewalk in the rain. Coupled with my limited mobility, and I deserve at least bronze in the trip to and from the car. Silver when I carry bags from the store (or library, hint hint).

Much as I find snow a distraction, at least it discourages insect infestation. Ladybugs are fine, box elder bugs are neutral (but very annoying), but some of what’s out there is just nasty. One year when I participated in the Chesanning Showboat Choir, a show of local and national talent that performed on a faux paddle-style riverboat (the paddles were fake, the river and boat very real), the mayfly hatch was worse than usual. There were so many of the 1-3 inch bugs flying around that night the stagehands had to sweep the stage between acts to keep the performers from falling down. Street lights on the drive home attracted so many bugs the effective visibility was down to a couple dozen feet. The road got slippery from dead bugs.

Then there’s the “June bugs” coming later this month. They are a kind of beetle that spends the first part of it’s life as a white grub that destroys lawns before morphing into brown, crunchy flying irritants. They are attracted to area lights, so they will accumulate on the screens of outside doors open to allow cool breezes to come indoors on warm evenings. They have tiny claws on their feet, so if (when) they fly and land on your clothing (hair) you can’t easily brush them off. Add the fact they just look creepy and click and buzz when flying around the porch lights, I get the shudders just thinking about them.

Most of the year, I like living here. Summer brings micro pets (I habitually give back rubs to any mosquito that comes by) and brilliant sunny days (vinegar was mom’s go to for dealing with sunburn). Thunderstorms bring natural firework displays (and intermittent power outages). Temp and humidity will often be 90-90 during the dog days of summer (and will bite you in the [REDACTED] if your air conditioning goes out). All in all, spring in Michigan is just about perfect, Except when it’s not…

Gold medal for living here awarded after successfully keeping worms on the sidewalk!

Phred

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Silly Season Holiday Edition

So just another brief rant about artificial holidays, but this one is definitely an artifact by marketers. The geek in me should rejoice in Star Wars Day, but the pragmatist just can’t achieve buy in. Too campy, too contrived.

Ill, I am. Sick, it makes me. (Channeling my inner Yoda)

Sweetest Day, Secretaries’ Day, and Grandparent’s Day were bad enough. Artificial celebrations created specifically to generate additional revenue. How many people took the day off work to do a movie marathon watching them all? Maybe 6 or 7?

You could make a similar argument for Pi Day in March, and you would be right. Except for the point Pie day is a once in a millennium  occurrence. When the next one comes around, You, your children, grand children, and their descendants of several generations will have come and gone. I think there is no way NOT to celebrate such a rare event with at least a nod to its propriety.

And it continues tomorrow. I have to go out and get chips and salsa for the party tomorrow, though I still don’t understand.

Why American recognizes the importance of a sink full of mayo…

Phred

post 62 of n