Moving Day

We have lived in the same house since 1990. It was the first and only house that we’ve owned—the one Mary and I dreamed of having when we were first married. Mark grew up here. The land our house sits on was deeded to us by Mary’s parents.

At one time, all of Mary’s extended family lived within two miles of each other. Her father has been gone for more than 15 years. All the family members, but us, have left Durham, for greener pastures.

For the past couple of years, we’ve talked about being a little “closer to town.” Living where we’ve lived for the past two decades means we’re always 15 minutes away from most things, at the very least.

From what we know about the couple buying our house, they’re excited to live here and have plans for making the place their own. We’re excited for them, as well as excited to be living somewhere new for the first time in 26 years. New adventures await.

Waiting for the movers to arrive!

Waiting for the movers to arrive!

The fall of 2016 has been crazy busy for us, getting the house ready to sell.

Moving day beckons on Wednesday. It’s quite likely that I won’t be delivering my usual and customary two posts this week. I’ll have more than enough to shake my stick at, with the move, unpacking, and getting settled a bit at our new home.

Expect me back here next Tuesday.

Shopping Season

Thanksgiving week is an odd one. A national holiday tacked onto the tail-end of a work week makes for a disjointed flow at best, when breaking rocks for Whitey.

For those of us punching in on Friday, it’s essential to keep in mind that the day has been hijacked by commerce and consumption. Any business transacted will likely take place between Black Friday bargain hunting.

If you are one of the people cursed to be a retail worker, it’s the start of a month’s worth of madness leading up to the high holiday of shopping and crass commercialism, Christmas. I’m glad that my part-time merry-go-round this year doesn’t include a seasonal stint for a well-known online retailer headquartered in Freeport. I’m not feeling overly-Christmas-y this year, with all its uniquely American decorative flourishes. I’ll be keeping it as simple as can be.

Indeed, I’m opting for as much normalcy as I can latch onto here at the close of 2016. So, I won’t be shopping on Black Friday, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find me out at the mall or Big Box any other day in December, either.

Bargain-hunting on Black Friday

Bargain-hunting on Black Friday

Ex Post Facto

We are told that we live in a “post-fact” world. If you grew up in a print-based culture like I did (and you actually still use books to round out your understanding of the world), then this is alarming.

After months of brutal electioneering, a candidate has been chosen. He might be the perfect choice for a world where fact and science has been swapped for tweets and relying on his “gut” or something other than his brain for decision-making.

If it was merely our reality TV president relying on something other than fact-checking and data, then jokes and innuendo might be the end of it. However, it’s each and every single one of us “googling” on our smartphones that is driving dismissal of fact. Facebook then amplifies it ten-fold.

Like most nearly every aspect of life in America these days—the problem of ____________ (fill-in the blank) is someone else’s fault. Actually, most of the issues staring us directly in the face could be rectified with a little backbone and character. Like so-called fake news. If we didn’t consume so much of this fucking dreck, then there wouldn’t be a market for assholes like this guy, making shit up in his basement, and laughing all the way to the bank. Isn’t capitalism grand?

Fake news-free, at Curtis Memorial Library

Fake news-free, at Curtis Memorial Library

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Amish Country

Mark is passing through rural Pennsylvania. He’s in farming country. Google delivers some beautiful panoramas when I search his location.

Yesterday, we spoke by phone. He was in good spirits, as he usually is. We talked about the Amish.

The Amish are primarily rooted in Lancaster County, to the east of where Mark is right now. However, he said he’s seen a number of them pass in their horse and buggy get-ups.

One foot in the past, and one in the present.

One foot in the past and the present.

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Blame it on the Russians

I was in grade school during the 1960s. This was during the height of the Cold War, when all schoolkids were taught to be suspicious of the Russkies. Actually, American education does a great job of inculcating a fear of the other. The Russians were a convenient target at that time.

Blame it on Vlad!

Blame it on Vlad!

Fast forward to 2016. Apparently little’s changed over the past 45 to 50 years. Democrats are still trying to play “the Commies ate my homework,” or some version of it. Rather than own up to Hillary Clinton being a loser once again, it’s easier to lay the burden of Clinton and the DNC’s incompetence at the feet of Russia, and their current president, Vladimir Putin. Funny how that works—the more things change, the more things stay the same. Candidate Clinton—who ran a woeful campaign—can take solace. The Russians caused her to lose!

But I’m sick of that tune and I’m not going to play it today. Continue reading

12 Things

Americans love their bulleted lists. As if there really are “three steps to success,” or you actually can make $100,000 and never change out of your PJs in the morning.

Yet, there are steps that you can take that may deliver positive impacts on health, offering up benefits now, and as you get older. Eating right has its perks.

Six weeks ago, I decided to see if I could take a sabbatical from meat and dairy. I blogged about this nearly three weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been trying to set a few things straight relative to the depressing election of 2016. A lot of good that did.

So back to health and what we eat. Dr. Michael Greger, along with writer Gene Stone, published How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. It could also have been subtitled, “The Medical and Scientific Reasons to Adopt a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet.” Both subtitles lend the book sound overly scientific and textbook-ish air. How Not to Die is far from either category. It’s a primer for anyone considering adopting a diet centered on whole foods and plants, with plenty of data, but also many humorous anecdotes from Greger’s own life. I’ve found it invaluable in getting started and immersed in a brand new way of living. Continue reading

Elections and Alienation

With the 2016 election clanking to its completion, like a car with a malfunctioning transmission, I’ve taken a different tack the last few weeks—disengagement—imbibing next to nothing from the mainstream. My inner environment has been almost tranquil. Rather than alienation and discouragement, removing myself from the ongoing dysfunctional din of reality has been a positive and necessary corrective.

Just because someone demands that you see the world one, or two ways, doesn’t mean that you have to. Binary thinking leaves you dead-ended, painted into a corner.

If voting mattered...

If voting mattered…

Over the weekend, I picked up several books that seemed to be waiting for me on my local library shelves. These books provided historical context, as well as reminding me of perspectives I hadn’t considered in quite some time.

What I found fascinating in reading about America’s history of radical politics, was the role of European immigrants in bringing socialist, Marxist, and anarchist perspectives to these shores. What I’ve also been ruminating about is why the town where I grew up—with many immigrants from Europe—was and continues to be a place where conservative values reign supreme. This is a topic that I’m likely to come back to at some point. Continue reading

21 Days

There is an oft-quoted time frame that’s become accepted in many self-help circles, and among those coaching others to make changes in their lives. We hear over and over again that for something to take root and become habitual requires a minimum of three weeks, 21 days, or something longer—like a month. Where did this come from?

One never knows for sure, but the interwebs coughed up the name Maxwell Maltz.

In the preface to his 1960 book Pycho-Cybernetics, Maltz (a plastic surgeon turned psychologist) wrote about how “it usually requires a minimum of 21 days to effect any perceptual change in mental image” following plastic surgery to get “used to a new face.” Apparently, when an arm or a leg are amputated, the “phantom limb” can persist for about 21 days, also.

Dr. Maltz highlighted a number of other phenomena that clock-in around 21 days, or three weeks, to take root.

James Last, a writer focused on “behavioral psychology, habit formation, and performance Improvement” mentions that it was Maltz’s book that influenced a host of self-help gurus, from Zig Ziglar to Tony Robbins. Last equates it to that game we played when we were kids, “Telephone”—where a story gets started and by the end, Maltz’s “a minimum of 21 days” has now been turned into a gospel aphorism that “it takes 21 days to form a new habit.” Continue reading

The God People

We’re getting ready to move. It could be next month, or it might be next spring.

Mary has been going through piles of stuff that’s collected over the last two decades. She’s done a great job of winnowing down the clutter that grows over a lifetime of saving things, thinking that there might be a better use for them.

Some of what she pulled out over the weekend came from that period in our lives when we were God People. That was more than 30 years ago.

We actually moved halfway across the country to congregate with other God People at a place where we were supposed to learn new things about this God. The leader man sold us on his place by telling us one time that he knew more about God than anyone else.

The God place in Indiana

The God place in Indiana

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Billionaires Like it in Black and White

In a Balkanized place like the U.S., every issue becomes  a reductivist exercise. Too often, discussions devolve into arguments.

Take Black Lives Matter. One side thinks that the aim of this group is to bring attention to blacks being killed by the police. The other side resents the attention placed on blacks and wants “all lives” recognized. The other side says this is “racist”, the counter argument is “no it’s not,” and the two sides stand on opposite sides of a chasm lobbing rocks back and forth at each other—mostly figurative, but there’s some literalism inherent in this, also.

Economic deprivation isn't a black/white issue.

Economic deprivation isn’t a black/white issue.

Except, there’s more to the story than the usual two-pronged understanding, if you dig just a little deeper. You also have to leave behind those sources that profit from their binary issue frames.

Consider another kind of analysis, Marxist in orientation about Black Lives Matter, and their funding. Why would billionaires back the cause of Black Lives Matter? As in funding to the tune of $100 million from the Ford Foundation over a six-year period to several groups and organizations occupying the vanguard in the movement.  So what kind of other associations does the foundation keep? Oh, for years they maintained close ties to US military and intelligence agencies. Frances Stonor Saunders, a historian of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), described the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in her book The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters as “conscious instruments of covert US policy, with directors and officers who were closely connected to, or even members of American intelligence.” Continue reading