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The Double Nickel

I celebrated (or mourned) turning fifty-five just over a week ago, a mirror-digit birthday (11/22/33/44).  At most, you only get nine of those and reaching ninety-nine is a long shot — hell, for me, seventy-seven is a long shot; the adage “you see old folks, fat folks, but not many old, fat folks” comes to mind.  So I’ve decided a mirror-digit birthday, like those ages that end in zero, is a milestone event.  I think most of us tend to reflect a bit on any birthday, but on a milestone birthday we reflect more than normal.  When you reflect and come away somewhat depressed, perhaps you should figure out why.

If you live in a developed country, have a reasonably decent job, a place to live, good health care, food to eat, a family that cares about you, a bit of spare money to spend or put aside . . . well, basically if you reflect on that and come away depressed a lot of folks across the big dirt marble would suggest you might want to stop grousing. I get that, I really do. When doing the plus/minus column additions, my life adds up significantly on the plus side. But the guy or gal that spends hundreds and hundreds of hours over many years practicing, sweating, crying, falling, getting up, and doing all over again didn’t do all that to walk away with the bronze. I’ve a good life, I know, but would like it to be better.  It’s not the end of the world if I continue down this line, and I can wrap this experience up and go on to whatever comes next without significant regret. But . . . .

The principle problem I have is simple: I’m a control freak.  I enjoy flying an airplane, though I’ve not used my private pilot privileges in several years — but I hate commercial flying, because I don’t want to put my life in the hands of the guys or gals at the controls.  I don’t do that driving except in rare situations. At work, if there’s a lunch outing, I take my car and invite anyone else to be a passenger — but I’ll ride alone rather than ride with anyone else. I want, heck, need to be in control. And so much of my life depends on the whims of others, it bothers me. Scares me.

For all of us, decisions are made routinely that can significantly impact our lives, yet for many of those decisions we have no input and often no way to impact the decision being made. And there are a lot of folks making decisions who have no concern how the outcome affects others and, worse, clearly do not have the acumen to be in a position to make such decisions. I’ve no control over such decisions, and as mentioned I’m a control freak. See, the gold medal for me isn’t a large stack of gold, but to minimize the ability of others to negatively impact my life.  I don’t need fame or fortune, but will admit more fortune surely would lower the impact-ability of others.  I don’t need a million dollar house, luxury car, or private jet (though I’ll take all, if offered with no strings, feel free to test that theory), but you do have to have a coin or two socked away to be able to have the control of which I write.

The holy grail many of us are looking for is simple: minimize the ability of others to negatively impact our, and our family’s, lives. Some folks move in that direction by adjusting how they live their lives to become less dependent on others, which lessens the ability for others to negatively impact them. Face it, if your lifestyle requires a $200,000/year salary your options are much more limited than if you require a $20,000/year salary.  Some find ways to add or increase an independent income stream.  Some combine both methods. You’ll often hear it referred to as “a simpler life.”  But it’s target, in my mind, is to approach the goal of minimizing the ability of others to negatively impact our lives.

I think that goal is reasonable, unselfish, and worth attaining. I’m certainly not there even after 20,095 days of life, and that’s what leaves me feeling somewhat depressed. Now that I’ve determined why I was down, though, I feel better. Figuring out how to move closer to the goal, well that can be problematic. I do have some ideas, so we’ll see.

Bible Believing Christians

I spend little time watching the news on television or reading news sites.  I trust my wife will let me know if something major happens, such as a presidential assignation*,  continent shearing earthquake, or fried chicken thighs being made illegal — the latter most likely impacting my life the most.  For the little stuff, I basically don’t really worry about (read: don’t really care).  In discovering over the years I can do so little about the things that actually impact my life, I’ve decided there’s no need to expend energy and time on the things I have zero ability to influence.  Apathy, you say?  Okay, fine.

However something lately caught my eye over the Duck Dynasty gay bashing flap.  I think I’ve watched a total of five minutes of Duck Dynasty, did so after someone suggested it was their “new favorite show,” but it held zero interest for me.  Then came the explosion of news coverage after one of the characters (are they characters if it’s reality TV?) made some ill-received statements in an interview and was kicked off the show.  I couldn’t help but have some drive-by info hit me at work, via social media, and so forth.

Two short notes I’ll point out before the main context of this post, the first being how a host of self professed Godly folks are lining up behind some pretty rude and vulgar comments, words and phrases that seem hard to defend as spoken by a man of God. The second was A&E’s statement that the views didn’t represent the show.  Really?  Do you understand what the word “reality” in reality TV means?  I don’t watch any reality TV, but from the bits and pieces I’ve seen or heard I suspect it has little foundation in reality so I’ll grant that to A&E — but isn’t the theoretical basis of a reality TV show supposed to be the real lives of the folks on the show?  Which would mean the values — like them or not — are what the people on the show say or do.

But to the point and the title of this post.  I’ve seen several people telling others through various social media outlets their view on this subject, and that’s all well and good.  What sticks in my personal craw, though, are the ones that state “if you are a bible believing Christian” you will, of course, be in lockstep with their view.  Come’on, Man!

There are over 40,000 Christian denominations** that presumably have at their core the Christian Bible.  If only five percent have some difference of opinion regarding what The Source has to say, that’s better than 2,000 differing opinions — yet, you are ready to claim such an insight from God that you can declare not only what you believe the bible has to say, but what is true beyond doubt!  Basically, you’re saying the study of this book — studied by millions, from eminent scholars to uneducated working men and women, studied over the course of centuries — can now end because you are the source of the final, only conclusion.  You must be proud.

Through the years I’ve read the bible cover to cover, much of it several times, along with many books on various parts and pieces of the bible.  I wouldn’t even think of suggesting I’ve sorted anything out as the absolute truth.  I do believe what I believe is correct (to do different is logically inconsistent), but I don’t contend there’s no chance I might be off base.

Anytime someone suggests they have special insight to God, decides they have determined exactly what’s right and wrong, indicates they know — I mean, they know — good from evil, I get nervous.  Not suggesting one shouldn’t share his or her beliefs — more power to you.  But when they decide those beliefs represent the absolute view from God, well, think People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate — they all had it sorted out as well.

*When typing, I left out some letters by spelling “assassination” as “assination,” which spell-checked to “assignation;” left it assignation, it is much less violent and, these days, would likely capture the news longer (plus keeps the Secret Service off my website).

**Source is Wikipedia, so has to be true.

$193.50 Lighter

Back on December 23 I finished my last day of work prior to the extended time off mentioned in my previous post here, and I happily headed home.  As in, ecstatic that I’ll have nearly two weeks away from the grind, with only routine reports, e-mails, and phone calls from the house.  Throw in the holiday celebrations and I’m a happy camper eager to finish my 1.5 hour commute.  My normal driving speed is X+4, with X being the posted speed limit.  You know, 59 in a 55, 69 in a 65, and so forth.  Granted, it’s breaking the barrier, but tends to slide by when you encounter a friendly law enforcement officer.

The small town of Okolona, MS, is part of my daily commute; over the seven+ years I’ve been making it, I’ve gone through there over 2,000 times without incident.  This time, though, my frustration was peaking as I approached Okolona and was trapped behind someone who had decided their velocity formula was X-5.  Now, they have every right to drive at that speed.  Maybe they are hypermiling, maybe they aren’t comfortable at those wild-n-crazy fifty-five MPH posted limits, or maybe they just weren’t in a hurry.  But I’m still frustrated because, due to oncoming traffic, I can’t pass — for about five miles.  So I get into Okolona (finally), and thankful the hypermiling plodder is headed somewhere other than P-Town and out of my way.  He is, but sure enough, another car makes the turn in front of me at a four-way stop, and now I’m back behind someone else.  He then turns in front of me onto Highway 41, hits the fifty-five MPH zone without notice, and is doing a stately fifty miles per hour.  I decided I was not going to drive fifty all the way to Pontotoc, gun it and go around, and yes, you guessed it long ago, the blue lights hit the rearview: 69 in a 55 (I said I gunned it).

Court date was Wednesday, the 8th, but I made today my day of retribution and stopped by Okolona’s city hall to drop off the aforementioned amount — driving X-3 through Okolona — and headed on home.  I probably will continue my normal X+4, but hopefully when a bit of long anticipated upgrades are completed I’ll be bypassing Okolona permanently on my daily commute — just coming about four months too late.

That Long Dark Cloud

The downside of taking nearly two weeks off is as you approach the day you go back to work (in my case, tomorrow, Jan 6th), it’s a bit like Bob Dylan’s long, dark cloud coming down — except it isn’t heaven’s door about to be opened.  Of course, not a day went by that I wasn’t in some way involved in work.  Phone calls, e-mail responses, short reports that had to be done: none major, understand, but never able to completely release myself from the grind.  As the day of return approached, though, the dread of going back began to outweigh the joy of being off.  That ought to tell me something — does tell me something, actually, but nothing I’ve not known for some time.

Rumor has it that there are folks who actually enjoy going to work, look forward to the activities that provide the monetary grease to lube the cogs of food, housing, transportation, healthcare, and recreation.  Has never happened to me, though.  I’ve had jobs I didn’t dread, but never any that I actually would have picked going in over other activities if doing so was an unencumbered choice.  By encumbered, I mean things like the afore mentioned food, mortgage payments, and the like — most of us aren’t financially independent.   But it would surely be a wonderful feeling if the cash-flow came from an activity you — heck, forget you, an activity I – enjoyed.  Something to think about for 2014 and beyond.

Of course, there are also those who would love to swap places with me, those who have lost a job and can’t find an equal or near-equal replacement.  So griping about having a decent position that pays reasonably well just because it isn’t fun falls, I’m sure, on a lot of deaf ears.  I guess the part that bothers me is there’s no reason this position has to be the way it is.  Most of the dread comes from artificial pressures and stress (synonyms, I suppose).

In any case, enough of that; tomorrow is back to work, and I’ll go at it 100%+ as I always have.  Perhaps 2014 will see an improvement; if not, I’ll keep slogging through the long, dark cloud until the sun shines through.  And perhaps my next post won’t be quite as gloomy.

New Years and New Beginnings

With the birth of 2014 I’ve now seen fifty-four new years roll around, which is a somewhat staggering thought.  My first new year’s day was 1960, the year kicking off with Vice President Nixon as Grand Marshall of the Rose Bowl parade, John F. Kennedy announcing he would run for President, and in one movie or the other over the coming days you could see Yul Brynner, Sandra Dee, Rita Hayworth, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Debbie Reynolds, Carl Reiner, David Niven, James Mason, Sophia Loren, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, and Roger Moore.  Groucho Marx and James A Michener were on the best seller list.  Connie Francis, Faron Young, and Alvin, Simon, and Theodore — yes, the Chipmunks — were singing on top albums as the year kicked off.  Me, I imagine at just over ten months old I was taking my first steps, not worrying about any of the preceding, and ten or twelve years from the discovery of that seductress who would cause so much pleasure and aggravation in my life: fried chicken thighs.

I can’t really remember the first New Year’s eve/New Year’s day I remember, if that makes sense.  I can recall images of midnight prayer services and Rose Bowl parades, but have no idea which ones might have come first.  Prayer services were how many of my childhood New Year’s Eves were spent, the idea amongst my parents’ church group being (I suppose) you should start the new year out praying as opposed to drinking.  Likely not a bad idea, but a tradition I haven’t kept up in adulthood.  As to Rose Bowl parades, that was a bigger deal back in my childhood days; we didn’t have 100+ channels to choose from, we had four, and one of those was the “educational channel” from Mississippi State that I never watched.  So we watched the Rose Bowl parade and then could pick from maybe three or four college games.  I remember them being on, but don’t remember spending any time watching.  My time back then was spent outdoors playing with the neighborhood kids.

I can’t remember my parents talking about New Year’s resolutions back then, either, though as with most kids what my parents talked about really didn’t register highly in my daily activities.  I know I didn’t get into New Year’s resolutions, and if I’ve made them over the years they didn’t stay a focal point for long.  But I understand why New Year’s day or a birthday can make us think of new beginnings, of changes.  Back to that staggering number of having lived through fifty-four of them: I wonder how my life would be different today had I committed to and followed through on fifty four significant life changes over those years?  Eat healthy, write more, exercise, study harder, learn another language, save more, be more charitable; the difference in my life could also staggering.  Or not, who knows?  But I have to think it would have produced positives.

Look, don’t think I’m unhappy with my lot in life: I’ve a wonderful wife, two great kids, a roof over my head, and plenty (!) to eat just to name a few positives.  By this point in life, though, it would be nice to be financially independent and/or to have completed a novel and/or to be within 100 pounds of my theoretical (i.e., skin and bones) “ideal” weight and/or have more energy and/or even be able to speak with fewer language barriers to the guy who cuts my grass.

So, perhaps for 2014 I should think of a couple of focal points and see if I can carry them forward through the year.  New beginnings for the new year; what would top my list?  In looking over the past twenty New Year’s Days, what two or three things do I wish were already a fait accompli?  I don’t think it wise to have too many things on the list or it just becomes a wish list.  I’ve so little time to spend during normal work weeks that trying to do too much means doing none of them.  On the other hand, I think only sticking one on the list is selling myself short.  So, I’ll make it two significant changes, two life modifications I will make a focal point of each day, find a way to keep them front & center as I go through 2014.

One is to be healthier.  Not lose XX (or XXX) pounds, because weight loss is a byproduct of a healthier lifestyle.  My focus will be to eat healthier and exercise regularly.  Maybe a cheat, as I’ve started down that path already, but for me it’s such an easy habit to drop I really need to make it a focal point.

A second is to write more.  Since I was nineteen, I’ve imagined myself as a writer* but, as mentioned here before, have never committed to the ass-in-chair time required.  Not making the resolution to finish a novella or novel by end of 2014, just write more.  I may spend 2014 accumulating 100,000 words of a novel only to decide it’s crap and start over — but that’s an accomplishment in itself.  Jerry Pournelle said you need to be prepared to throw away the first million words you write, so 100,000 words puts me 10% closer to having those knocked out!

So, be healthier and write more.  What about being kinder to others?  Spirituality? Increasing my general knowledge?  Yeah, all good, but I’ve picked my two, so shut up.  Two is enough for 2014.  Okay, then what about goals?  “Be healthier” and  “write more” are way to vague, and goals should be measurable and specific, as anyone who has sat through most any motivational seminar can tell you.  Oh, I agree, and I’ll sort out some measurable targets, but they’ll be focused on the underpinnings of the two changes.  Finishing a day and being able to mark it down as a healthy day of making the right food choices and exercising, string a few significant groups of those together and I have a year of being healthier.  Complete a week with ten hours of dedicated writing included, get forty or fifty of those throughout 2014, I’ve made significant progress.  I’ll find a way to make it work.

So, World, to 2014.  Here’s hoping when the next 525,600 minutes have ticked by you find yourself farther down the path of your success story than you are now.  More importantly, here’s hoping I do.

Your friend,

Rick

* Okay, back then I also imagined myself as a rock star guitarist and an NFL star, but at the age of fifty-four I think those two ships have sailed.

 

Weekend’s End

It’s been a pretty nice weekend, all things considered.  Friday was an off day for me, work-wise, and I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that day.  I tend to visit my doc every six months whether I need to or not, just to keep an eye on things.  This time I had questions on several of those things to keep an eye on, but after I had been poked and prodded, had pee’d and bled, he confirmed the good news: I wasn’t dead.  [Thinking of becoming a poet.]  I split the visit into two parts, blood work when the doors opened at 8:00 AM, then back for a visit at 11:00 AM, so that was pretty much my morning.  In between the blood work and the doc visit, I met my parents for breakfast at a local Tupelo restaurant that has been around since I was a tyke — in fact, at one point I believe Shockley’s Restaurant was a fine dining establishment.  This was back before McDonald’s had arrived, let alone Outback, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, Longhorn Steakhouse, Logan’s, and many more chain and  non-chains restaurants that entered the area over the past fifty years.  Fine dining has a sliding scale depending on the size of the town, but Shockley’s wouldn’t really fill that bill these days, even for Tupelo.  Somewhat run down now, but still has a great breakfast and good coffee, friendly staff and reasonable prices.  I enjoyed the food and the time with Mom & Dad.

Greenspeed Magnum on Tanglefoot Trail

The Tanglefoot Trail
Mile Marker #28

The afternoon was spent riding my Greenspeed Magnum with Tanya, and I made the longest outing to date of just over fifteen miles.  At the end of the ride I was exhausted, and pretty much collapsed once home, didn’t move other than flipping between one inane TV channel or the other.  I’m trying to figure the best method of gaining ground in my riding excursions, and I think that one about overdid it.  I asked for some advice on the Bent Rider Online forums, and one gentlemen suggested basically doing what I did, but then repeat until I can make the ride without being exhausted, then push out again.  I think I’ll try that, make the fifteen mile ride each weekend until I can handle each half-leg non-stop.  We did go back out Saturday morning, made a nice nine mile ride, and I finished the return trip without pause.  Normally I rest every two or three miles, but went the 4.5 without a rest break along the way.  In any case, almost twenty-five miles for the two days, total of over fifty miles on the trike now, I’m pretty stoked.

The photos included were taken along the Tanglefoot on the stretch between Pontotoc and Ecru.  I’m looking north(ish) in both, as can be seen by the shadows.  I’m usually too tired on the return trip during these

Greenspeed Magnum on Tanglefoot Trail

The Tanglefoot Trail
Just South of Ecru

cycling excursions to stop for photos.  I didn’t take the camera on the Ingomar to Ecru (and back) nine mile ride, but should have.  Some nice scenery along that stretch.  Tanya thinks it’s the prettiest we have seen so far.

Saturday night was spent taking Tanya’s Dad & Mom out to celebrate her Dad’s 77th birthday.  Her Mom and Dad always prefer Mexican, so we went to our standby Mexican Restaurant, Da Casa on West Main in Tupelo.  Most of the local Mexican restaurants are interchangeable, but all things being equal we tend to gravitate to this one for some reasons.  Likely the margaritas are stronger, but that’s just a guess.   Anytime we are out with Tanya’s Mom & Dad, they always prefer Mexican food and they always both order the same dish: chimichangas.  I guess if you find a good thing, you stick with it.

Sunday was basically a down day for me.  Tanya was feeling under the weather, so visited a local health clinic and after a shot and some meds, she’s feeling a bit better.  Zach had it last week, so I suspect I’ll feel my sinuses start filling up Tuesday or Wednesday.  But I’m drinking lots of orange juice and maybe it’ll ward off the illness.

My pro football watching was a tad disappointing, as I did watch Green Bay play; they lost, but considering the Packer’s quarterback was Scott Tolzien and, no offense Scott, but nobody (including Scott) expected him to on an NFL team two weeks ago, let alone playing three-and-a-half quarters.  He handled it well in my opinion, and even if Seneca Wallace is over the groin injury that kicked him out of the game, I might give Tolzien the reps this week.  With some practice, those mistakes might go away, and he moved the team up and down the field.

Well, that’s pretty much my weekend.  Didn’t do anything on the novel, sadly, but made some ground on lifestyle changes.  Overall a nice weekend; too bad it has to be ruined by a Monday showing up tomorrow.

Hope all’s well with you, World.

Your friend,

Rick

Cycling – One Goal Met

A couple of weeks have gone by, so wanted to catch my blog posts up on the cycling.  Last weekend I went out to Oxford Bicycle Company on Friday (10/25) and bought clipless pedals (you know they are clipless, because they have clips on them) and a pair of Specialized shoes.  They were tight when I tried them, but I’m told they are supposed to be tight.  I really wanted to move to clipless pedals, so went with it.  The next day we went riding on the Tanglefoot Trail, and my feet were in excruciating pain by mile 1.5.  At two miles I gave it up and headed back, really kicking it the last mile –  I had to get out of those shoes!  They were just too tight.

Tanglefoot Trail MM21

The Tanglefoot Trail
Mile Mark 21

I have posted a couple of notes on the Bentrideronline forums and had received a private message from someone who lives in my area, North Mississippi.  He drives to the trail most weekends and rides, and we did bump into him on the trail.  He suggested trying sandals, so after giving up early and heading back home I found a pair of Nashbar Ragster II Cycling Sandals on Amazon, so ordered them that afternoon.  We went riding this past weekend and things worked out much better, went just over eleven miles, so hit my goal of making a ten mile ride before the end of the year after only four weeks.  Made me happy, and also changed my target to making a twenty-five mile ride by year end — in my mind, a very ambitious target.

I did take my Nikon D5100, but the photo here is nothing to brag about.  I’ll start thinking a bit about composition (and every other aspect of photography) as I learn the camera, but I did want to throw in the photo.  It’s a touch of the scenery on the Tanglefoot Trail, and the mile marker in the background — the distant background, not the white sign — is mile marker 21.  My plan, over time, is to photograph Rocinante, my Greenspeed Magnum, at each mile marker along the trail.  I’ll do better with the next photo and ensure all of Rocinante is included in the picture.

That’s about it for today, world.  Hope all is well with you.

Your friend,

Rick

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