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Gearing Up For Winter

It’s that time of year, the first snow has fallen.  This first part of winter is actually really enjoyable on multiple fronts.  The holidays are right around the corner, which usually means gathering with family members and taking a little time off from work.  I’m certainly planning on both as my workload has been on overdrive lately and a solid week off would do wonders.

Basement Nook

This year we had a few projects to get completed prior to the cold setting in.  The biggest was having gas inserts put into our fireplace / chimney areas.  The decision to actually do it was largely based on how cold it gets in a split level house.  We anticipate Juni spending a lot of time downstairs and having a nice warm fireplace radiating heat will go a long way toward making it cozy and inviting.  We’ve been working with the gas company to get them installed the last two months and it’s finally completed.  They are pretty slick, with thermostat based remotes which you can set to be warmer or colder, on timers or just binary off and on.

We rearranged the basement (well technically it was Teresa) to give some more play area on the East side of the house and now have a chair by that fireplace.  Eventually we’ll move the dog kennels and get another chair there as well, but probably not until next year.  To round out this new reading nook, I purchased a small footstool which is now in place.  It’s going to be a fun winter–hopefully we get some time outside as well as in.

Next steps are getting all furniture and miscellaneous items organized outside near the house, making sure the snowblower is running properly and a final check on the rain gutters.  All this before another Vikings loss!  ;-)

We are celebrating Xmas at Thanksgiving this year on Teresa’s side so not sure I’ll be writing much until after.   Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Juniper Mae – 1.5 Years and Running

Juni BabyIt is a little less than 18 months since Juniper Mae Ed was delivered into this world to a tear stricken father and exhausted mother.  Her little misshapen head proved malleable enough to restore itself to it’s healthy rounded expectation shortly thereafter.  The bright red spot which developed a few weeks later above her right eye has stayed with us significantly longer, it’s still around, but will likely be a bygone in pictures in a year or two.

My how time flies.

Today Juni is running full speed throughout the house all weekend.  Teresa and I are still trying to recover from various states of sickness we’ve picked up in the last few weeks.  Her’s a lingering cough and mine a short lived sore throat and general tiredness.

The last eighteen months have gone so quickly that it’s difficult to put a solid description of the changes they imply.  Particularly with the US election which happened last week.  The first female would be president was upset by a capitalist who has never been in office or military.  The future is in flux to a certain extent and many here in the US are uncertain our future.  Of course, the future is always uncertain but now less predictable and that ambiguity is causing people stress.

Juniper has provided a new vantage point on life.  A longer term consideration of the implications of actions taking place today.  My main concerns today are that of climate change, water scarcity and resource constraints caused by temperature fluctuations.  Our ecosystem is volatile and the greenhouse gases we are emitting are amplifying the changes to our climate very quickly now.  These are cold hard facts that near every leader on the planet (sans US, now) agree on, but have previously struggled to commit toward altering industrial actions to veer from our current path.  The Paris Climate Agreement was a good step toward limiting the emissions from each country, but the President Elect has the potential to back out of that agreement, which would be very negative as a world leader.

One of the largest complaints I hear from younger generations is that the older generations are actually selfish and only consider themselves.  To a certain extent I agree with it.  Outside of the obvious gaffe of a particular age set labelling themselves “the greatest generation” (the laughable hubris!) there is a great sadness in the misconception of judging others in significantly different circumstances.  For instance, the youth of today are empowered with a great deal of tools via the internet, yet their competition is much more fierce–to enter college, to find a decent job, to afford rent or purchasing a home.  Yet others might not understand the underlying economics and question why they don’t just work hard, save up and buy a house.  Of course the jobs that provide that ability are typically masters levels, decade plus experience roles (and still hindered by elongated timelines of purchase….housing is far more expensive now than in the 70s-90s naturally).

Juni 1.5

My grandfather was a farmer for some time, then became an assembly line worker.  He was by no means rich, but could afford to raise a family of 8 children and buy a house in rural Minnesota.  I don’t know that those jobs are available, or capable of doing  such things today.  My other grandfather was a graphic artist and did quite well with it as a profession, however today there must be 20x the amount of people that do that using desktop publishing, not to mention the fact that it’s been institutionalized to the point where creating your own business as a freelancer is significantly less lucrative, if genuinely possible.

The younger generations today will have it significantly harder than I did.  I was very fortunate, in addition the hard work I put in, to be able to do what I wanted and find a role that provides for my family–as was Teresa.  Juniper and her ilk will be fighting for jobs in a world where economics are driven by automation and artificial intelligence, where our environments are being tested to their capacity by how many humans inhabit the earth and employ resources wantonly without recourse.  War over things we take for granted like water and food will rage in developing nations.  Developed countries will deal with social unrest and potentially worse as the lower classes are left without work.

These are the things that rattle around in my brain as I look at her.  She is so beautiful and full of life.  She smiles and makes me smile.  She is independent.  She won’t hold my hand when I drop her off at daycare as she wants to walk on her own, which is saddening, but only for me.  And most everything comes back to her, in some form or fashion.  Do other parents think like this?  I believe so, I believe most of us think more about them than we do ourselves.  That’s the big change in worldview.

Juniper, your mother and father love you.  Our lives are much better with you here and we are excited to see what you choose in the future.

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

I’ve been reading a lot lately, well really the last year.  A very large amount of that has been work reading–learning about solar power, climate change, decarbonization of the planet andelectrification of our power systems.  But about two months ago, I hit a wall.  I was tired of reading for an hour every night about work.

So I picked up three novels.  The first was Ham on Rye by Bukowski, which came recommended from a friend.  Very good.  The next was In Cold Blood by Capote.  This is nonfiction writing, which is not really my forte, but trying new things with books is always good.

In Cold Blood is the story of a small town Kansas family who is brutally murdered with essentially no clues left behind.  It’s the story of a detective and his team trying to puzzle together who could do such a heinous thing and, just as importantly, why they would.

The book is told as a semi mystery, however it becomes obvious who actually dunnit within the first half of the book.  At that point the story turns more mysterious, trying to understand the reason why the murders happened is likely as curious as the actual act.  Capote is excellent at his craft, creating visible, human characters with stories to tell.  Seemingly no matter how small the person presented, they are effortlessly painted in human tones.

Chapters are normally short and poignant.  Words are similar.  Capote was capable, he was caring.

He showcased the murders for what they were.  He didn’t blanche at their brutality but he didn’t turn it to pornography either.  He simply told the story through those who knew it best.

The story does have an ending.  Perhaps as interesting as anything written here is the psychoanalysis of the captives, along with their cell mates.  Holding cells and time to view that slow train coming.  Acceptance, consideration and attempts at self preservation.  Any day now, any day now.

Music Streak — When I Was 33, It Was A Very Good Year

The last three months I haven’t purchased an album I didn’t like.  Normally my purchases have a 50% “value” ratio where it’s a good album and will get listened to again in the future.

Some albums hold up for a few spins and otherwise aren’t paid attention.  Some get a huge amount of rotations during the year and eventually fade out.  Most albums follow this route.  Some last two years and fade.  Then there are the upper echelon of albums that are played repeatedly over the years.  Very few albums break into this area simply due to inability to come to mind as something to listen to out of nowhere.

This is why certain artists continually get more plays.  Dylan especially has created so many “timeless” albums that were, are and will forever be great.  I’ve been on a hot streak lately, it’s been like ten albums straight of really good music.  It’s going to be a very difficult time to choose top albums this year.

Here are some albums to check out if you are looking for something new:

Okkervil River – Away
Conor Oberst – Ruminations
Frankie Cosmos – any of her albums, but the most recent is fantastic
NOFX – First Ditch Effort
Atmosphere – Fishing Blues
Bon Iver – 22, A Million

There are some older records I’ve been listening to as well, but I’ll wait until the year ends to put together the proper list.  Hopefully I’ll be writing a good amount during that time as I’ll be taking some much needed vacation.

Life Today

Life today is mostly focused on parenting and work.

And it’s a lot of fun, despite that sounding relatively mundane.

The truth is, as you get older, things slow down and get a little more predictable.

They need to.

So here’s a brief update:  new day care for Juni all is well there.  Work is very busy at this point of the year with lots of travel and business planning for 2017 in full swing.  Teresa is starting school again and we’re trying to decide if we want to put in new fireplace inserts as it gets coooooooold here.

Summer went too fast.  Juni is growing up too fast. It’s tough to keep up.  Hope you are well.

Ham On Rye

Charles Bukowski is a writer I’ve been hearing about, off and on, for years.  He has been referenced in songs of musical artists I follow, as well as friends recommending his work.  Still, I didn’t find the time to actually read one of his books until my recent vacation.HamOnRye

Ham On Rye is a seemingly autobiographical look at Bukowski’s childhood.  One can’t help but reminisce at times having long since gone when reading a Depression era writer describing the neighborhood and difficulty seen during that time.  Books like this do a great job of telling everyman’s story and what could reasonably be expected in an era.  There are many works similar in painting these times–Kerouac’s On The Road, Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye, etc.

What’s odd and interesting about Bukowski is his capability to weave wry humor into his work while still serving as a serious account.   His word choice and what he’s willing to put down on the page is lude and hilarious.  It really doesn’t feel tongue in cheek either.  It’s simply the account of a young man learning and living–sometimes funny, sometimes very sad.

Despite the two other seminal works called out earlier, the first book that came to mind while reading this was actually Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.  The difference being that Bukowski is much more relatable and easy to follow than Joyce.  He says what he thinks (or was thinking) and makes no apologies for it.

The majority of the tale is the protagonist being put upon by most everyone including his parents and attempting to make his way.  And it’s written in such a way that makes you root for him–but there are moments that showcase the underlying importance of the story.

Henry Chinaski is the main character.  There are a few different situations where he sees the world and it’s inhabitants gang up on the weaker individuals or animals without mercy.  Pack hunting is commonplace.  While he has a conscious, many don’t seem to see things similarly, and the fact that he can’t change that.

Books like those mentioned in this post mostly end unceremoniously.  Ham On Rye is no different.  I’ve always appreciated these endings.  Halden Caulfield, Stephen Dedalus, Jack Kerouac and Henry Chinaski are not heroes.  They aren’t meant to be painted as such.  They’re just simple people living in a manic jungle of a world, trying their best to keep their heads above water.

Void the Default Setting

Teresa, Juniper and I just spent twelve days in Stockholm, Sweden and multiple cities in Iceland (though mostly Reykjavik).  I’ll post again with some pictures from the trip soon.  But today I want to point out something that has been rattling around my brain since about half way through the trip.

Vacation is a really interesting time for me.  I spend most of it considering life in general and what our “normal” time is like.  Normal being working life.   That time is usually “in the weeds” where there is very little time to think about what’s actually happening from day to day, so much as just try to do the absolute best job possible with work and parenthood and anything else that pops up over the course of time.

David Foster Wallace’s This is Water speech speaks of a default setting.  Although that speech is more focused on our self centered nature, the default setting applies in other fashion as well.  Taking time off from your normal day to day helps you clarify the default you are running on currently.  Default settings aren’t really a choice, they just happen as you seek to live your life.  There’s some natural tendency of your mindset that is repeatable, and there’s the normal human trait of taking things easily where you can.  People probably don’t like hearing it, but humans are somewhat lazy animals when given the means to be so.

We walked on vacation.  We took Juni our in her stroller or in her carrier and would go from event to event and place to place, near all the normal waking hours.  The reasoning was that our time was limited in the new, exotic locations and that being out and about was the best option to maximize the vacation.  Yet that same thought process should be applied to every day you take breath.  It’s so incredibly easy to fall into the pattern of what happens normally, regardless if it’s good, bad or ugly.  Vacation always seems to point out the errors that I’m making in that regard and need to do it more often.

We should be walking all the time and maximizing our time in every circumstance, not just in foreign lands.  That said, it’s really hard to do.  I can already feel my laziness sinking in at home again.  I’m a pretty driven person, but there’s something about being at home that changes the mindset.

This isn’t about walking and exercise.  It’s about how you approach your daily life and accomplish your goals by mentally challenging yourself to think differently.

Void the default setting.

How?  That’s the rub.

Aging and Mortality Warning Signs

About three weeks back Teresa and I were doing some landscaping work in the back yard, I was digging up some of the dirt by the new shed.  The ground level was too high to open the door on the shed during winter, which inhibited being able to drive through the shed with the snowblower.  So we decided to repave a lot of the area surrounding the patio with larger stones.

During said shoveling activity, I felt a generalized, non acute pain in my chest.  Not necessarily concentrated but from shoulder to shoulder.  I stopped shoveling and attempted to understand where it was coming from.   I really couldn’t.  If you know anything about the potential for death in the US, pain in the chest is nothing to mess around with as it’s a primary indicator of a “heart attack” or myocardial infarction–a situation where arteries are struggling or incapable of delivering blood to the heart at which point the heart cannot get enough oxygen to properly pump blood.  Without oxygen the muscle tissue begins to die off and often leads to death.

After stopping shoveling I took it easy the rest of the day.  I went and saw a general practitioner to get their opinion on it.  I work out three to four times a week and never have any issues.  My thoughts were that it was a general muscular strain that could be confused with issues from coronary arterial disease.  The doctor was very cautious but thought that was a good guess. They ran and electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) and everything seemed fine.

Since then I’ve been trying to be aware if there are any other issues but nothing seems too off other than the occasional twinge from reaching a certain way.  All good, but this type of thing is a big wakeup call generally.

The idea of having issues with your heart is really scary.  Not necessarily on a personal level so much as that my daughter is so young and the idea of not being around was terrifying–and worrisome.  I was thinking about it nonstop for a few days and everything else seemed a lot less important.  I’m 99% sure it was all just a scare, but it will probably only serve to help me focus on the things I’d already been wanting to do–eat healthier and get in better shape.

Regardless of how old you are, taking care of yourself  is important if only for those around you that depend on it.

Mobile Computing

It’s been a long time now that I’ve expected mobile computing to take over the desktop computing platforms.  There’s always going to be a desktop platform (or at least some version of it) as it’s so helpful to have large screens for analyzing data.  I use two wide screens at work, usually have multiple Excel files, Email, Powerpoints and PDFs open.  It’s very productive.

On a side note–it seems like a lot more lately people have been asking me “What do you do at work all day?” I think it’s pretty lost on people as “Marketing” sounds really generic.  I love my work because it’s largely variable.  My role is centered on business growth and runs the gamut from market research (a lot of it) to helping our business development teams build relationships and get project work.  Every day is different and it’s an incredible job at an incredible company.

Productivity at work is very important, but at home it doesn’t mean a lot.  Most of my computing at home is simply a leisure experience.  And most websites have gotten well developed enough that a tablet computer is just fine for interaction.  We have speakers and seating upstairs, where my favorite past time of listening to music happens.  Since having put in all of those components, my computing with a full QWERTY at home has gone down immensely.  As have my posts to this site.

There’s still a ton of interesting things going on, but posts will likely continue to dwindle until I figure out how to bake it into a routine.  Juniper has kept us busy this last year and it’s been a really fun and challenging change.

Mobile computing is here to stay and will only get stronger.  It makes me wonder if writing, even if only from casual folks such as myself, will dissipate more thoroughly throughout the world as this technology continues it’s path toward ubiquity.

Happy Mother’s Day

I called Mom this morning and think she appreciated it.  My parents were here this last week to watch Juni as our daycare provider had vacation planned.  Having some help around for those situations really does mean a lot–thanks Mom and Dad!

Today is a special Mother’s Day as it’s Teresa’s first with Juni in the house.  I’m not sure how we’ll celebrate, but we will.

I’m not big on made up holidays, and Mother’s Day definitely falls into the category, however the importance of celebrating parents makes it seem a little more genuine.  Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.

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