Today is Monday December 28, 2020

A little snow fell this morning. Nothing too significant other than covering the roads, trees, the car, sidewalks. It is cold and wet outside.

Happy Monday! It is that final week of 2020. The period between Christmas and New Years. As has been this period over the past 50-plus years (work, graduate school, college, etc), I have the week off. The lab is closed and I am home adjusting to a week without work, or not working from home this week. Unfortunately, travel is limited due to the pandemic. In general it is a weird week on the calendar, which has been discussed and commented on before. In searching the internet, I think this image best sums it up in my humble opinion…

Let’s face facts, the year 2020 just sucked. Here is hoping that 2021 is better. Plenty of memes out there talking about how bad this year was. Of course, many are spun off into signs, pictures, even t-shirts that you can purchase. Guess capitalism is alive and well. As long as you can make it, market it and such, someone may want to buy it.

In the spirit of the election…

Since my last post, I had identified many topics to write about. Not sure if we will cover all of them, but we do have several days until 2021. We can lament about the year later. We can critique my ramblings for the year much later.

Let’s start with McDonald’s, who brought back the McRib sandwich to help us through the end of this year. Why is the McRib so craveable? Start with seasoned boneless pork dipped in a tangy BBQ sauce, topped with slivered onions and dill pickles, all served on a toasted homestyle bun. When everything combines you have BBQ pork sandwich perfection. It’s only here for a limited time so don’t miss out. The previous words are straight from the McDonald’s website. I like how the adjectives just jump off the page. I can truly taste how delicious it is as I write about it here.

From the McDonald’s website announcing the return of the McRib for a limited time only.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the McRib sandwich. When it is out, I usually defer my Big Mac order, or my Quarter Pounder Deluxe order so I can have the McRib. Not my kids though, they have the usual, a Triple Cheeseburger with only ketchup. Do I see a trip for lunch in order?

Ah yes, which brings me to the kids and Christmas. Put the tree up a few weeks ago, stockings hung above the fireplace. A wreath on the door. I had great plans since I was to have them Christmas Eve, stay the night and here Christmas day. And in typical fashion, the best laid plans get ruined by the ex. The kids and I managed a couple hours on Christmas Eve. Had to rush the dinner and such. Take them back and then a few hours on Christmas Day. Still, it was good to have them, even if it was not what I had planned, or even less than what is required. They say that divorce is hard on the kids, yet I think it is harder on me. This too shall pass. I jump to my happy place and all is well.

Anyway, the kids came, we opened gifts, then we enjoyed our time together, playing with or working on the gifts received. Calling or texting with relatives and such. Truth be told I was never that much excited about Christmas since the late 70’s and my excitement wanes every year. Every year I think that I am becoming more like Mr Scrooge, or the Grinch. My preference is the Grinch because he at least has his dog Max to keep him company. It’s this time of year that I break out my Grinch coffee mug at work, giving the Dilbert mug a break. Clearly I am a curmudgeon as time passes on. Bah Humbug! That said, I have much to be thankful for this year. I probably have much to be thankful for every year. And I am thankful for my health and my children. That said, the kids and I did spend some time talking about those less fortunate and in need of help this time of year.

The week before Christmas was an anniversary of sorts for me. I have worked at Los Alamos for now 30 years. No fanfare, no parades, nothing of congrats from my bosses. I did get a few e-mails from former employees whom I had the opportunity to manage over the years. That was personally rewarding and brought a smile. I do not know why I expected more. I did, and was disappointed when there was nothing. Certainly gives me something to write about when I respond to my performance appraisal, as well as my performance goals for the next year.

I guess the big questions for me is whether I will have “a next year”. After all, after 30 years, I am 59 and a half (slightly more), and wonder about retirement. I wonder about it just about every day. This blog was my attempt to explore what the next 50 years has in store for me. I honestly do not know about tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, the next several decades. Some coworkers say I cannot retire because I have kids who have several years of high school before they venture off to college. I expect the economy to crater soon and thus that will cause problems with savings for retirement. Too many bills to pay, too much to do. Have you even decided what you will do in retirement?

In the last post I commented that I took the car in for repairs. Well the car is fixed and now, it will not start. Thought it was a dead battery so I replaced the batter. Now it still will not star. Probably the starter motor so I have some more car repairs in the future. The car is about 18 years old and has over 189,000 miles. Yet when it runs, I still get the same gas mileage. Over the 18 years, I have put about $10,000 in repairs into it. The kids and I have many fond memories in that car so I cannot see replacing it anytime soon.

Looking outside, I can still see some snow flakes falling onto the ground. Nothing too dramatic except the forecast was for snow tomorrow. High today is in the upper 40’s, but wind will put the wind chill into the upper 30’s. But as I write this post, and words jump off this page and cause me to search the internet, I come across a meme that can sum up today’s post:

Have a good week.

Today is Sunday December 13, 2020.

It has been two weeks since my last post. If I took a picture from my back deck, it would look remarkably identical to the picture from my post of two weeks ago. Yes we had more snow Saturday night. It is cold outside, but the sun is out. A true representation of life under the pandemic: it is stagnate.

I find myself having a quiet weekend home alone. Yesterday was the first day that I ventured out in a few months. I actually drove to Santa Fe to get some shavings for the horse. Ruby is doing well but it is cold outside. I think the last time I was in Santa Fe was when I had to take one of the kids for a dental appointment, which was back in May or June, I think. I need to get out and do something different. Even the brief trip out of the house for several hours was beneficial.

Also ventured out to get the car repaired. Found a great mechanic in Los Alamos. It was great to get an oil change where they actually put oil in the car. It was great to fix the breaks and suspension by actually putting break pads on the car and aligning the tires. I have been spending more time shopping locally, trying to keep the local small businesses IN BUSINESS.

The pandemic numbers are up again, with much of the country in dire lock downs. Los Alamos County has 206 confirmed cases, up from yesterday but I believe we are still in the RED relative to testing and population. Somehow I think we are on day 256 to slow the spread.

I have spent the past two weeks working from home again because work has seen an increase. Two teams on the project had contact with a presumed positive COVID case early last week and were sent home for quarantine. Fourteen days. It means that the project will start Christmas break with accomplishing very little as far as the project is concerned. Many of the projects are in a similar situation for the start of the fiscal year. Little progress and a bad start to a year where much has to be accomplished.

I continue to despise working from home. I should not. Rather I should consider myself fortunate to be employed and have a regular salary coming in during this pandemic. My progress in getting things done is very limited and things just continue to pile up in terms of what has to be done. It continues to add to my funk and frustration. Yet I felt that long before the pandemic. It has only exacerbated it!

I think the same could be said about the kids, who will have their last week of on-line school this week. Finals and an end to the semester that has seen nothing but lots of homework. Son has done well. Daughter not so much. The homework just keeps being pilled up on her to the point that she just doesn’t do it, or does it so as to just get a passing grade. I think that it is because she doesn’t have her usual outlet (riding Ruby) whereas he stays inside and plays video games. Not sure if they have learned anything. A whole school year down the drain. I can see the toll that not seeing their friends and in classroom learning has taken on them. While the virus has taken away many lives, it has also taken away much in terms of the soul of individuals. It will take years, if it is possible, for people who have lost, to recover.

Looking at the weekend press, I see that the current President still believes that the elections was stolen, that the Democrats are now working to rig the election in Georgia for the two open Senate seats, and that United Airlines did not let a two-year old and her family fly because the kid would not wear a mask. Penn State played a good football game, but the Ohio State-Michigan game was cancelled due to COVID. I find much of the press anymore little about telling the news. It is more about the opinion of the newscaster. Liberal, left-leaning, not consistent with my values. Very little journalism, digging into the truth. Now that it appears that Trump has not been re-elected, the fake press think that it is OK to return to trying to be fair and impartial. I actually think that they ran several stories about the Biden family and their dealing with foreign governments, tax evasion, and cashing in. From my point of view, the damage is already done. They defeated Trump and now think that all can be forgiven. I will no longer connect or read the mainstream media. I am currently deciding whether to cancel my subscription to the Wall Street Journal and save myself about $500. I find that I get much enjoyment reading the articles on Zerohedge and a few other on-line sites. I see that Zerohedge is starting an ad-free premium subscription because they were blackmailed by Google to control comments. The 1st amendment and Freedom of Speech are so under attack in this country. The cost is a dollar a day so I might have to check it out since there was a suggestion that it might focus more on financial information. I can purchase this, save money cancelling the Wall Street Journal, and feel good about someone standing up to the monopoly that is Google! At any rate, Zerohedge is so much better than the Business Insider.

Looks like Biden will start on January 20 with Obama 2.0 or the third inning, third quarter, or whatever sports analogy you want to consider. Obama 1.0 was bad enough and I am sure that the sequel will such even more. The predictions for 2021 are for the bulls to continue to run the stock market. I do not understand how this can be. I guess that I should be happy as I contemplate retirement. But businesses are going bankrupt, millions are unemployed, millions could be thrown out of their homes come January because of not being able to afford their mortgage payments for months. Our Congress continues to play games in terms of relief for the citizens. Biden’s plans for government will not help us, they will only make things worse. I will lose freedoms, I will pay more in taxes. I will see a future that is not better for my children. It will be worse.

In my post of May 17, 2020 entitled “America, Elections, FaceBook”, I found myself writing about being banned from the FaceBook for 30 days because I posted something that went against their community standards. Well reader, I find myself again banned for another post that went against their community standards. Another 30 days. It has been a great 30 days as I have diverted my attention to the site Parler. It’s not as sophisticated as FaceBook, it lacks the liberal bend in the news, the advertising is limited in that your Amazon searches or your Google searches don’t end up as feeds in your feed. I was glad to see this week that the FTC and 47 state attorney general’s sued FaceBook for its monopolistic business practices. I hope it is broken up. I hope that Google is broken up.

On February 13, 2020 I wrote about “The Tree of Liberty” and the Jefferson quote. As I sit here and continue to write today’s post, I am sipping on some Jefferson bourbon. So here’s is to all of you as Christmas will soon be upon us, peace on earth, good will towards all. The year 2021 will soon be upon us and I hope that it is better than the past year. Sadly, I am not an optimist but we will write about all of this in future ramblings of TheMcKeeSpot. Mr Spock would say “live long and prosper”. I will just bid you goodbye until next time.

Today is Sunday November 29, 2020.

I find myself up before 4 am today. Typical of my sleep habits of late; seldom do I get more than four hours of sleep.

It has been a very lazy several days over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Outside it is cold and we even managed about one inch of snow.

Snow from the night before…

The state of New Mexico is supposed to come out of another two week COVID19 lockdown tomorrow. Over the past few days, the state has announced that it will shift to a three-tiered system in which it will impose COVID19 restrictions in each county based on its level of outbreak rather than curtailing activities statewide to slow the virus’s spread.

The new system will enable local communities to ease restrictions after public health data shows an outbreak is waning within their borders. The restrictions will be based on three colors: red will denote the highest risk of spread to yellow with green being the least restrictive. Not a return to normal as restrictions will still apply. As of today I think all counties are red with the exception of Los Alamos county.

The good news is that even a red coding is less restrictive than the current lockdown. Of the businesses that remain, they will be able to operate at 25 percent capacity as the holiday shopping season gets underway, whereas now they only can offer delivery and curbside pickup.

I don’t really understand the increase in numbers. Everywhere I turn, I see people in masks and practicing safe distancing. Maybe I am just being foolish in believing that people are remaining vigilant. For example, I know that when I take the dog for a walk on the streets, I do not wear a mask. But then again, there is nobody around me. I carry one in case but usually there is no one around when I am out walking my dog.

At the lab, COVID19 infections are also up. Again management is directing us to maximize teleworking. So, for next week I will find myself working from home, with only 5 hours onsite authorized. I expect that things will continue to be restricted for the remainder of this calendar year.

In general, I have found my productivity to decrease significantly. From bad computer connections to the ease in raiding the refrigerator, I have not enjoyed work from home. There needs to be a separation between the two. Otherwise, the lines get blurred and the whole stress of work stays with you. There is no time to relax and recharge the batteries. Many say that it is the future. Sadly, it is just another evolutionary decline in America. Because if we are able to work from home, that means that close to 170 million of us are not really creating things. We just keep moving the paper along.

While I am thankful to be employed, I can imagine how bad things are for those who are not.

I see the terrible effect that this has had on the kids. Unable to go to school and see their friends. Having to get school online offers limited socialization, the ability to have conversations with people of their own age or interests. It is clear in the few times that I have watched the whole teleschool effort from across the room that the solution being applied is more homework, less instruction.

So I had the kids for Thanksgiving dinner and they stayed until Friday afternoon. Thus, I got to practice the only Chemistry that I can do anymore, and that is cooking. As usual I prepared a turkey (herb seasoning, butter, onion and bell pepper and sausage filled the inside of the bird) with mashed potatoes, stuffing, glazed carrots, rolls, cranberry sauce and apple pie for desert. For some reason, we were not in the mood for pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving 2020.

As usual, I opened a bottle of red wine for my Thanksgiving meal. The kids had soda.

Son and I played video games and a few hands of GO FISH. Daughter was in a vegetative state in her room, watching videos and doing some art work. They both keep in touch with friends by texting. Even I keep tabs on daughter, not by going up the stairs to her room, but by texting or FaceTime. Technology has embellished our ability to be lazy. Black Friday was not spent in the store. It was in front of the computer. What to get the kids for the holiday coming up?

We had to venture out a couple of times to feed Ruby. A welcome respite from house arrest. Beyond that, I think we all just took it easy and did those things that keep us sane. Burned out by the COVID19 changes in our daily lives, we need a return to normal.

As I write this, Christmas is just 27 days away…

Today is Sunday November 15.

Another sunny but lazy Sunday afternoon from Los Alamos, New Mexico. I spend most of my Sunday’s resting on the sofa, reading or cleaning up around the house. If the kids are here I find myself trying to entertain them, help with their homework. Then there are two trips to the stables to feed Ruby. But not this weekend. No kids. No Ruby. Sadly, Ruby is back at the vet after having survived another bout of colic.

The past few weeks have been rather hard on Ruby. Two bouts of colic (one before and one after the most recent snow), and a separate incident in the middle of our recent snowstorm recovering from stepping on a nail in her hoof. Coupled with the general summer of being injured and out of competition, the lack of eventing due to COVID, she has not had a strenuous workout since July. That has certainly taken a toll on my daughter because it was exercise and a distraction for her that she enjoyed and was good at it.

Colic is defined as any abdominal pain although horse owners typically refer to colic as problems with the gastrointestinal tract. Common causes of colic in horses include issues with diet, stress, changes in weather, sand digestion (caused by eating off the ground), or inadequate exercise, to name a few.

Ruby and daughter early November treating her for stepping on a nail.

Her summer injury is due to arthritis and it has it’s own set of issues and complications. More to come in a future post I am sure. As for her condition at the moment, we expect that she will be home from the vet this Tuesday. I will be glad to see her.

As I said above, Sunday is also the day that I try to read. In general I try to up on things that are of interest to me. Books, news articles, internet web sites, even magazines. And that is what I have been doing for the past few hours before I started to write this post. As I had much to catch up on this week, between the election, and the happenings in the news, I can expect that I will probably ramble about all of that as I write this post.

As always, I find myself here on the sofa with my companion, Jewel. The picture below is how I started this post several hours ago. Several starts and stops to let her out, get her water, her desire to be a lap dog when she knows that she cannot be a lap dog.

Jewel this Sunday, November 15.

I have the computer set up so that the TV is the monitor. This makes it great for downloading movies from internet sources, playing DVDs, or working on the computer itself. The large screen makes it easy to see what I am writing.

Here in New Mexico, the Governor has started another two week lock down of all things nonessential. Schools were trying to resume but now are retreating back to learning from home and on-line. I have concluded that there is no learning, there is only lots and lots of homework.

The other day I had to help son make a catapult. It was an assignment for his Makers Space class. After we fabricated it, we then had to shoot 10 different projectiles and record the distance. As a twist, I had him weigh the items, which comprised of 6 different rubber and plastic balls and then a penny, nickel, dime and a quarter.

Catapult project.

He started with a few ideas from the internet as to how to construct the catapult. That had us run to the local hardware store for the supplies. For safety purposes, I used the table saw while son supervised fabrication of the catapult. It was actually a fun afternoon and diversion. For me, the diversion was from work. For him, the diversion was from video games and the opportunity to get his homework completed.

Anyway, the kids will continue on-line school and I will continue to work from home more days than I care to. The two week imposed lock down starts tomorrow, November 16 and is to last for two weeks, although it may be extended. We have seen a spike in cases since mid-September and are currently seeing over 1000 cases daily. This increase is causing strains on hospitals and other medical resources.

We have seen a similar uptick in cases at work. Recently over 500 people had to quarantine associated with contact tracing. A confirmed COVID-positive resulted from an individual who attended a Halloween party. There is also concern being raised because of the upcoming family celebrations associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The experts suggest that the increase in COVID is the result of changing weather, which is resulting in more indoor activities due to the cold weather that is approaching. I think some of it is COVID fatigue. For the first time in over 7 months, I actually went out and had a beer. Although I must point out that I sat away from people and I was outside. It was good, albeit brief, to do something different for a change. I think the coworker who joined me also had a good time. Certainly was a stress reducer. Hopefully a vaccine will soon be available because our society cannot continue this way. People are suffering. People are hurting. I know that I need a change of pace.

Anyway, I was trying to spend today reading up on this latest phrase that I have seen in the news, daily readings on the internet, etc. Called the great reset, it sounds like some people want to use the pandemic to push through their own political agenda. My reading takes me immediately to the source, the world economic forum ( https://www.weforum.org/great-reset/ ). I immediately conclude that it comes from those who have different set of beliefs and agendas than I. To me, it is liberal. It is a mindset that is not to my liking, not consistent with my upbringing and beliefs. But I need to research it further and keep an open mind. A quick scan of the website causes me to venture across the subject of the 4th Industrial Revolution. I presume that this revolution covers the technological advances in computing and artificial intelligence to biotechnology and nanotechnology. I read that these technologies come with a potential to help us solve some of our most pressing global challenges. Somehow I recall reading about “The Third Wave” a number of years ago, and wonder if this too was another revolution where different technological advances shape our lives, the environment, how the world around us is interconnected and how we are to advance as a society.

Of late, I find my interests in reading are often derived from history to political science to economics. I visualize it as an interesting Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is a diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of different sets. These diagrams depict elements as points in the plane, and sets as regions inside closed curves. I view this Venn diagram as having a cause and affect relationship where the size of the circles and the overlap changes as time marches forward, as technology advances. The sum total of the Venn diagram is what I believe describes the total human condition.

A Venn diagram of what I would suggest shows the overlap of history, political science and economics.
A competing Venn diagram for one to ponder.

At any rate, lots to ponder with today’s ramblings. One thing that I have noticed is that I need to work on the format of my blog in order to make it more appealing to the reader. After all, this is an experiment of sorts for me as I ponder the next 50 plus years in terms of the direction of my life. Add that to my research over the next few months.

Much to research and read up on in order to figure out where they take me, or where I am heading. Until next time…

Today is Sunday November 8.

Lazy weekend here in the McKee house. It is my weekend with the kids. Neither one wants to talk about their on-line homework. Son finally had a play date…only four hour’s straight of video games, two medium pizza’s and several soda’s. Daughter has a riding lesson this afternoon and is sequestered in her room doing art and stuff. As for me, I think about work, spend some time reading and cleaning up around the house.

Outside it is cold and windy. Rain last night with snow and cold weather in the forecast for the week. Haven’t spent much time on the computer since the election. Still collecting my thoughts and have read some stories about where things are heading. Not surprised by either outcome. That said, I am not happy with the outcome either.

In 40 days I will eclipse another milestone. I will have worked at Los Alamos for 30 years. Even I cannot believe it. So I will get some Nambeware, lunch with the lab director (not sure how that will work under COVID restrictions), and then the hard decisions: How much longer do I want to work?

Nambeware example of Butterfly bowls.

Nambe is an eight-metal alloy whose major component is aluminum. It was created at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1940s and is exclusively produced by the Nambe Mills, Inc., which was founded in 1951 near Nambe Pueblo, some 10 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Nambe was made by a small group of Santa Fe craftsmen using sand molds. A bowl or platter is broken away from its mold and shaped and polished to a silvery luster that, with age, acquires a patina all its own. Because each sand mold is used only once, no two pieces are exactly alike.

Was is the key word because like just about everything else, it is no longer manufactured in the USA. So where are those distinctive, silverlike dishes and housewares made from a special alloy and named for an Indian pueblo north of Santa Fe being cast now? “In India and China”, said Nambe President Bob Varakian. “To our exact specifications and quality.” Nambe’s Santa Fe foundry, off Siler Road, is not operating, although it’s possible the plant will reopen, Varakian said. That was reported in 2009 in the Albuquerque Journal. The overseas casting started “probably a year ago,” Varakian said.

The company was sold in 2019 to a British manufacturer and worldwide distributor for $12 million. The headquarters is in Santa Fe, distribution and polishing operations still exist in Española, but none of it’s products are made in either New Mexico or even the United States. Nambe is now considered a design company. The company’s crystal comes from Europe, and wood pieces and dinnerware from Thailand, flatware, currently produced in China, and castings from India and China.

In order to turn this country around, we need to do more than design (think of Apple), finance (Goldman or JP Morgan), and retail (Amazon or Walmart). We need to make things. Very little is made in this country, and that is another lesson that we must learn from the pandemic. In America, we assemble automobiles from parts manufactured elsewhere. In America, we develop new drugs, but most of the manufacturing is outside the country. To make things, we need to use automation and computers. This will rebuild the middle class, create well paying jobs, improve education.

We lead in science and discovery but we somehow cannot take those achievements and capitalize on them. It is much easier to license the work and collect a fee. And while that is OK for the short term, it is destructive for the long term. There is much science to explore, much work to do to help America rebuild and restore the country, independent of the election.

Arial view of the Standard Steel factory in 2011.

In my birthplace of Lewistown, Pennsylvania the local steel mill still exists. Standard Steel has been in existence since 1795, one of the longest continuously operating forging operations in the United States. The company’s history throughout the 20th century was punctuated by several milestones. In 1904 it produced the first solid forged and rolled wheel in the United States. By 1939, Standard Steel was making one-fifth of all the locomotive tires in the United States. During World War I, commercial operations modified to include artillery shells and howitzer forgings. Then, when World War II arrived, the factory was retooled to include the production of gun barrels, tank castings and military forgings. Annual steelmaking capacity was 160,000 tons.

But around the time that Standard Steel celebrated its 200th anniversary, the steel industry in the United States was under assault from both foreign imports and from a general decline in manufacturing here. In 2001, the company, which had been calling itself Freedom Forge again for about two decades, filed for voluntary protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to reorganize, although it continued to operate during the bankruptcy process. The firm also made some very difficult choices, one being to focus solely on its core railroad business. In 2003, the company slashed its payroll when it exited the product line at the plant that produced steel rings for jet engines, power plants, mining and oil exploration.

Their singular product today is wheels and axles for railroads around the world. That’s what they made when I lived there in the 60’s and 70’s, where members of my family worked, and they still do this today.

From http://www.standardsteel.com/history.php

Currently owned by a Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese Company, Standard Steel is a leading manufacturer of forged steel wheels and axles for freight rail cars, locomotives and passenger rail cars. It is the only producer of forged steel wheels for rail cars and locomotives in North America. Much of their steel comes from recycling.

Well that about sums up the thoughts for today. Hope you liked today’s post as it offers some though about where I may go with some future posts.

Today is Sunday November 1, 2020.

Alas, another two months has gone by since my last post. Not what I have wanted to do but I guess that time flies. I thanks those people who periodically check in. Sorry that I didn’t post something new. It’s not like I have been tied up or anything. I often have ideas on things to write about; happenings in the daily world of myself worthy to be posted on TheMcKeeSpot. Call me lazy, call me whatever. No excuses here. I had ideas that never materialized into words and a post on the blog. So let’s catch up.

Am I still in the ongoing condition that I have written about in the past, namely a Frustration and a funk? Or should I correctly differentiate between the two. Am I frustrated? Am I in a funk? Still not sure so I will say that I probably continue experiencing both situations. Need something to stimulate where I am or where I am going. Not sure but I am guessing that I will know it when I experience it. Whatever it is…

How does the reading of books go? Well last year, I continued to indicate that I was reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I can report after approximately 18 months, I am up to page 125. Over a thousand more pages to go. Over the years, I have tried reading this book.

Same photo from May 2019. But I can tell you that the book is still on my table, next to my work computer.

I think this my fourth attempt. Not sure why I cannot finish it, or for that matter why I have to read it. Do I really need to find out “Who is John Galt”? Yes, Yes I do! I find it odd for someone who is not religious to have read the Bible twice, in having so much trouble trying to get through this book. I need to because Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is next on the list. Perhaps I need some discipline.

Last weekend was my weekend with the kids. Madison had a borrowed horse and was off at a competition. I planned on spending time with Dylan, playing Minecraft of perhaps starting his latest Lego set, or even helping him with his homework. Neither activity materialized because Ruby was injured. She had stepped on a nail was what I discovered on Saturday, after trying to get a vet to visit. By Sunday, we had to keep her injury free of dirt. That includes soaking the hoof in a bath of Epsom salts with some betadine, an IV with antibiotics, and sedation. Of course, this was being done inside as a snow storm was making its way into the area. The expectations were for wind, cold, and at least 12 inches of snow. Wind chill dropped temperatures to single digits in the afternoon. Blowing snow covered paddocks, only to become mud puddles days after the storm.

From Sunday through Tuesday, the wind howled, and the snow fell. When it was over, I think we may have gotten up to 16 inches of snow. It was cold, often in the 20’s during the day. Jewel and I would be cold and subsequently reduced our morning walks. Yet everyday, we managed to push forward and get Ruby’s foot washed and covered.

By Wednesday, the snow had stopped. The wind subsided, and the sun came out. By Thursday, it had melted around the paddock area, and it was actually warm enough to soak and treat Ruby outside.

Ruby’s paddock area Friday, October 30. It was covered in snow several days earlier.

Using tape after soaking the foot was not the best approach since the paddock went from snow packed to mud in a couple of days. We managed to get her one of those boots so that we could keep her injury contained and dried. This is the second time that she has managed to injure this hoof with a nail. And it’s not like she has had a hard summer, since she was being treated for arthritis. We will know soon if the inflammation has subsided to where she can practice and compete, or whether her days of dressage, show jumping and cross country are over.

Halloween was last night. Sadly trick or treat was cancelled because of increased cases of COVID here in New Mexico, as is being seen throughout the United States. So this year, there was no Trick or Treat on Main Street, no Almond Joy’s for me to get from the kids, no stops at houses for the special adult beverages while we walk from house-to-house with the kids. We all wear masks and so far have been successful in avoiding the virus. I continue to split time in the office and working from home. The kids continue to have school from home. They get lots and lots of homework but they are not really learning. So much homework that they often cancel visits with me. Limited contact for many months will school friends and teachers. No band, choir, or movies. It is taking a mental toll on all of us and not sure when the end is in sight. It is obvious that American’s have grown weary of the whole lock-down, masks, the bull shit that is surrounding the pandemic. Medical science often suggests that the cure is often worse compared to the disease (paraphrasing here). This ain’t no cure. This is prolonging the inevitable.

This week we have an election. The future of our country, in my opinion, hangs in the balance. I have already voted. In person, wearing a mask, standing in line. Easy, simple, no Russian collusion. Four years ago, I voted for the Libertarian candidates, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. Gary was a great governor during my time here in New Mexico. He was decent, and actually did well for the people of this state. I despised Hillary. Not because she was a woman. Not because she was a Democrat. She was crooked and evil. She was never about the American people. I hated Donald Trump, not because of his policy positions, but rather how he communicated his positions. He wasn’t Presidential in my opinion.

Four years ago, Trump won. Then as a nation, we had to endure four years of the other side contesting the election. There were never any debates about his policies. It was always a discussion about him. The other side never gave him a chance. They immediately concocted one BS story after the next. Under Russian Control. Fake reason for impeachment. Four years of lies. Four years of fake news. Four years of phony politicians trying to undo what the electoral process in the country put into power. Four years of total Bull Shit. Time wasted when we could have been working to solve the problems of this country. Before 2016, we wasted eight years of apologizing to the nation and to the world. That too was total BS. Now we wasted four more years because we hated the individual who was trying to do what was best for a country that did right by him.

And now we are within days of another election. The democrats have chosen another bad ticket. Neither Biden or Harris represent my values. They are corrupt and do not represent the best of America. I am suppose to vote for the lessor of two evils. Except it is clear to me that the principles that this country was founded upon are also under attack. The planned policies of the Democrats will undo how I have lived my life. Hard work. Rugged individualism. No handouts. I have worked and sacrificed to get where I am. Put myself through school. Borrowed money and then paid off my student loans. Got a job. Worked long hours. Lived by the rules and played by the rules. That was how my family did it. Those are the values that I try to instill into my children.

As I get on in years, and inch closer to retirement, I do watch what happens daily with the stock market. That is my money that I worked hard for. Invested. I sacrificed the nicest car, the biggest house, fancy vacations and lifestyle. The economic policies of the Democrats will serve only their own self-serving interests. They will not help those in poverty, those who have suffered because of the pandemic. They will not provide better jobs, make the middle class better, provide for clean air or clean water. The environment will not get better after the clean new deal. To treat the patient, you need to know the disease. They do not know the disease. We are heading down a path that will result in depression, unemployment, increased crime, and probably war.

Four years ago, Trump won. I hope he wins again!

Today is Sunday September 6, 2020.

It has been almost two months since my last post. It is not like I have forgotten, went on vacation, got a new hobby, or fell in love. I wish I could say that it has been awhile because I have been busy, or work has kept me away, or even the dreaded COVID tied me up. It has been none of that. I am especially thankful that I have not had COVID.

I and my family are healthy. We have largely listened to the CDC guidelines. Avoid going out in public. School resumed a few weeks ago on-line. We wear masks and maintain at least 6 feet social distancing. Wash our hands often. That said, staying inside has certainly made me “stir crazy”. I can see where this has taken a toll on my mental health, and I can see the toll on the mental health of my kids. They haven’t been able to go to school, or spend much time with their friends. No more trips to the movies, or out for dinner in a restaurant, horse competitions, or even band practice. I feel the urge to hop in the car and just go somewhere, do something different, to be spontaneous.

I do get out very often and when I find myself in the office, it is only part time. Trips to the grocery store are limited. Haven’t dined out or gone to the beer pub, ice cream with the kids on a hot evening, or even shopping. Camping was off limits as the parks were closed for much of the summer. No swimming, either indoor or outdoor. No art galleries or the annual kite festival. No trips to see concerts, or a return to the beach, or even home to Pennsylvania.

I think the dog is sick of us being home as much as we have been.

I have limited myself to largely working around the house and the stables.

I have become more of a hermit. I venture our for pick up from a variety of restaurants and bring it home. Less phone calls and more text messages. I have even ventured out to Starbucks, which has been on my boycott list for awhile. I prefer Morning Glory Bakery and the other small local establishments that has equally good coffee, and donuts and burrito’s. I don’t drink the exotic fancy coffee. But several of my colleagues prefer to meet up at the Starbucks and sit outside early in the morning to talk about work and other stuff. Talking to other people face-to-face has been good for the soul.

Work has been slow and difficult. No morning coffee cabel’s of late. Work has not been a very productive this year and between turnover in people, the stress caused by bad management, COVID restrictions, and the general direction of things, I find myself wandering more and more about retirement. A number of colleagues of mine have retired over the past year. In a few months, I will eclipse 30 years. If I am looking for change, that would be one way to make a major change in my life.

Many coworkers tell me that I cannot retire because I still have two young children. I need to save for college. You are divorced and that probably sucked lots from your retirement funds. Financially, I am saving and continue to save, both for my retirement and for college for the kids. I don’t know if I have saved enough, or which way the economy will turn over the next few years. That said, I am not optimistic of a favorable economic picture over the next few years, regardless of who wins the election.

I look out and do not see a bright future for our country given how it is being torn up from the inside. Between the riots, the lawlessness, protests, crime, and the economic shambles caused by the pandemic, the future doesn’t look great. The principles that I live by appear to be gone with the times. Rugged individualism appears to have been replaced with the handout. Living within your means has been replaced with shirking your responsibilities. Saving for tomorrow and getting a good education are no longer part of the roadmap for advancing.

I am tired of the fake media. I am tired of being told about white privilege. I am tired of being told that I am stupid because my opinion differs from yours.

For years, we have torn down the infrastructure in this country to be self sufficient, the infrastructure to build things. Now I see we find ourselves tearing down those things that form the building blocks of this country: education, striving to better ones self through hard work, religion, law and order. It is sad that with this destruction comes the inability to accept responsibility for our actions, or our inaction’s. We spend more time tearing down each other as opposed to working together for the common good. When did we become so hateful of our fellow citizens?

So much of it is because we are looking for the easy way out. I see it at work, I see it all around.

Yes today is Sunday September 6. It has been about two months since my last post. I see as I scroll through this post that I continue to ramble. In July 2019, I referred to is as frustration and a funk. I know where I have been but I am not sure where I am going. Maybe it is my loneliness eating at me, I do not know.

Tomorrow is Monday, and it is Labor Day. I will return to the weekday ritual. Jewel and I will get a walk in. I will make coffee, read and spend some time working around the house. Normally Monday is a work day, but I find myself in the odd situation where there is a holiday and I do not have the kids.

Until next time. Hopefully, today’s ramblings find you healthy, wealth and wise.

Music for the summer. A review.

Two new albums have have made the pandemic tolerable. They are Gigaton by Pearl Jam and Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan. Yes, they represent two diametrically opposite music styles. But music somehow represents points that have helped me in different periods of my life.

Gigaton by Pearl Jam is comprised of twelve songs. I have to say that I enjoy listening to all twelve songs. The styles of the songs run the gamete in terms of the musical spectrum that is the Pearl Jam sound. While the album comes out at a time which is odd in the continuing story of America, with the rioting and the pandemic, the words sound genuine about this point in time, a reflection of the past and hope for tomorrow.

Gigaton Album Art Cover.

A hard thumping grunge sound sets the tempo of the album with the albums first two songs, “Who Ever Said” and “Superblood Wolfmoon”. This is that characteristic Pearl Jam sound that I have learned to love over the years. Suddenly, I am whisked back to my high school/college days with a sound reminiscent of the Talking Head in “Dance of the Clairvoyants”. Experimental for Pearl Jam but well conceived. Then it’s a round-trip change with a quasi-Zeppelin sound in “Quick Escape”. Throw in another style change with “Alright”. “Seven O’Clock” is probably my favorite song on the album, largely because of the words, the excellent annunciation by Vedder, and the crisp music to tie everything together. “Never Destination”, “Take the Long Way” and “Buckle Up” continue in terms of experimentation, a return to the past, and reflections of other musical styles. All over the map on these three tunes but clearly they need to be listened to multiple times in order to grow into them. Then we switch gears with “Comes and Goes, with its strong guitar and haunting words of loss. The album is then rounded out with “Retrograde” and “River Cross”. Both songs are offer a strong finish to a great album. I cannot wait until they are touring again.

Pearl Jam

In the end, I can only conclude that we have five talented musicians who actually like each other, enjoy their music and have not let success ruin them. I am glad. I hope that they continue for another 20 to 30 years because I need another band to help me navigate through life, much like the Canadian trio RUSH who stopped performing several years ago.

The other album is Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan. Clearly a significant change from Pearl Jam. The 2 CD set contains his first album with new songs in eight years. The sound is the Dylan of late. The words are the Dylan of the ages. After listening to the nine new songs on disc one, I envisioned a future of hearing Dylan. Either on the stage at the Telluride Blues and Brews festival in September, or the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in late April. Both have been postponed because of the pandemic. Both are music festivals that I greatly enjoy, and can hope that my vision comes true in 2021.

Album cover for Rough and Rowdy Ways, by Bod Dylan.

The two CD set contains ten songs in total. Disc one has nine songs and Disc two contains a single song. “I Contain Multitudes” starts off the album and is not associated with the poem by Walt Whitman, or the book by Ed Yong. But they could be…

Whitman writes about” Song of Myself”. It is a poem was divided into fifty-two numbered sections for the fourth (1867) edition and finally took on the title “Song of Myself” in the last edition (1891–2). In section 51 there is the following:

The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

The subtitle of Yong’s book is “The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life”. In both cases, and in alignment with the Dylan song, they appear to be reflections on one’s self.

“False Prophet” follows up and one is left to wonder if Dylan is talking about himself. I think not. The music continues through “My Own Version of You”, “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You”, and “Black Rider”. I find them as if Dylan is reflecting on old themes that I often hear in his music: people, places, the times and travels and roads taken. But “Black Rider extends those themes to envision finality or death, but it is unclear. “Goodbye Jimmy Reed” reminds me of a blues song, hitting those themes of people, places, times and travels. “Mother of Muses” pays homage to the ancient Greeks and I wonder if the Nobel Laureate is trying to get all classical on us. “Crossing the Rubicon” is probably my favorite song on the album. It represents a reflection of the past, and shows signs suggesting that all things, including life, are finite. Let’s remember that Dylan is almost 80 years old and perhaps even he feels his mortality. Disc one ends with “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)”, the second longest tune on the album, singing about themes as diverse as the town of Key West, places in Europe, and reminiscing about the age of poetry in Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac, musicians like Armstrong, Hendrix, and Holly. Although several of the other songs on the album are intertwined with many people throughout history: Edgar Allen Poe, the Rolling Stones, Indiana Hones, Ann Frank, Leon Russell, Truman, Elvis, Martin Luther King, to Thelonious Monk, I wonder if Dylan is trying to find his own place in history. He should not worry.

Disc two, at just under 17 minutes, contains the single song “Murder Most Foul”. Here is Dylan reminiscing about the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963. While it is lacking in music (overall it is very simple), it is the spoken words by Dylan, tying the horrors of that day in Dallas to the culture and period of the 60’s. I wonder briefly is this is his attempt at rap? The song itself covers the period in which Dylan was most vocal about the American experience: the war in Vietnam, injustices in our society. These are the tunes of Dylan’s past that I was introduced to in college that I enjoy listening to over and over. While the voice has changed over the years, the themes, and the power of the words have not.

I doubt that my kids will ever enjoy his music, and share the meaning behind the words as I do, but I can at least try.

What to write about … or thoughts from this fourth of July.

I try everyday to define several subjects to write about. Some days, the subjects never pan out in terms of a post that is interesting. Or at least they are interesting to me and maybe they might be interesting to you, the reader. Other times I just get lazy, and the ideas never become words on the screen. Maybe it is just the title, and nothing more.

The post today was the combination of two diverse topics. I have merged them together, cut down the size of the post. Unclear if it is cohesive, or just a bombastic expression being written on a late Sunday night.

Tomorrow is a work day. I will be working from home, planning for the week. Work rules because of the continuation of the pandemic permit me to work from home some days, but there are other days that I find myself in the office. With this post, I find that I am struggling which way to go. So many directions, so much to do. Decisions to make, plans to develop.

Last year for the 4th of July, I posted something of historical importance to reflect upon. It was the Declaration of Independence. I posted it because its words have meaning. They are important. The words transverse time. In thinking about what to post this year, my original thought was to just re-post the same thing. Have I become that lazy? Have my thoughts, my ability to express myself become useless?

A year has past and it has been quite a year. As I started writing yesterday, I thought that I needed to review and revise what I wrote. Yes the fourth of July was when the delegates voted for independence from Great Britain, and about a month had past between its ratification and when it was signed. They had to write their reasons for declaring their independence. Has the Declaration become just words, or is the meaning behind the words important today?

Pictures of the Declaration of Independence – Stone Engraving 1823.

Today we find that there are those who want to rewrite our history, destroy it because some find it offensive. History can be offensive. It is told from the point of view at the time. Like time itself, the point of view can change over the years. New information emerges that changes our perceptions, Opinions change, people change. But we can never forget the mistakes of the past. How else are we to grow, to get better, to help ourselves, and others?

Since last year, there has been a significant upheaval in the experiences of our people, of our community, and within our country. Given the protests, which have gone far beyond the concept of police brutality, one might question whether there is a need for a new declaration with ourselves? That may be true, but the foundations that built the original declaration, of God, of certain unalienable rights, the institution of government from the consent of the governed. Those foundations stand true today, but have been weakened by what government has become. Compromise in government is gone.

We now find ourselves in an economy struggling because of a pandemic, seeing a spike into the fifth month since we were asked to stay home. We have seen weeks of rioting in the streets for almost as long, but it is unclear if the protests are against the inability of equality for all individuals, or because some are choosing to advance anarchy at this juncture of the American experience. What I see is the loss of rugged individualism and the rewriting of history by a culture that fails to understand that history. We wish to remain free and to live our lives as we desire. That is our life, and those are the freedoms which the country is built upon. But there is a culture that no longer agrees with those tenants of how to live our lives. There are those who suggest that we should not, or that there are those who cannot, either by choice, or because others usurp those rights, the right to live our lives as we desire.

Reflections on the daily routine

It’s the weekend and I found myself lying in bed contemplating a great many things. Between what I wanted to do this Sunday: the need to do laundry, clean the house, go for a hike, write a post for this blog read, rest, recharge my batteries, etc versus what I was able to accomplish Saturday: a hike, electing to be a couch potato and do absolutely nothing. So much to do, so little time to do it. What is my path for this weekend and will it be the same, or will it be different than previous weekends?

Sunrise…somewhere near Santa Fe and posted on the internet (https://santafe.org/blog/painted-skies-are-perfectly-santa-fe/).

I found it to be early, around 1:30 in the morning as I was lying in bed. I had gone to bed about 9:30 that Saturday evening. My typical routine of late when it comes to recharging my batteries. The bedtime routine starts with a text to the kids, who are with their mother this weekend. Just letting them know that I love them and miss them. Often I find myself in a somber mood after I send this text. If they are with me, I make it a point to kiss them good night and remind them to brush their teeth. For me, it is then to my room to brush the teeth, jump on the scale and lament that I cannot loose weight, recall if I took my meds, drink a tall glass of water. I crawl into bed after getting Jewel situated. Start some music on the iPad. Asleep within minutes. It is hotter than normal this time of year in New Mexico. Yet it must be too hot for her, and as she has done of late, Jewel jumps down from the bed and returns to her dog bed in the living room. Not sure if it is cooler, but what it usually means is that at some point in the night, I will be awakened by a whimpering, growling and barking dog who wants me to pick her up and return her to the bed. Wind appears to be picking up this evening. Wonder how many pine cones have fallen in the driveway that I will now have to pick up. Lack of the daily summer monsoons has left the state in need for water. We find ourselves again in a drought situation. Fire restrictions in the forests. Summer again finds itself with limited prospects of camping, and the ever important campfire.

COVID19 continues to keep things muted in terms of a return to normalcy. With this being the fourth month of the new normal, I find the routine outlined above to be my new normal, almost each and every night. I go to bed about 9:30, and find myself awakened after four to five hours of sleep. I lie their, contemplating the day before, what is in store for the next day, what is it about work, about life, finances, my surroundings. Often these thoughts keep me awake until I drag myself out of bed to begin the day. Very seldom do I find myself falling back to sleep. Over the years, I have found it difficult to function during the day if I fall back to sleep.

In one way or another, this has been my sleep cycle for over 40 years. College, graduate school, whatever. Four to five hours of sleep. That is not to say that I never sleep longer. It is my normal. Never the normal six, seven, or eight hours of sleep that other people get. In the past, when I was up by 3:30, it was the same. Shower, coffee, take Jewel for a morning walk around the block. This

Jewel on our typical morning walk.

Sunday was just like every other day. Nothing in the routine has changed. On those days where I went to work, I would find myself at work between five or six am, starting what was typically a ten to twelve hour day. Working at home with the COVID19 restrictions has not changed that routine much, if at all. Still have time for the morning coffee cabal, even if it is by text messages. Over the past few years, I have vowed an end to the twelve hour day. It all pays the same. This is especially true with the working at home over the past few months. Over the years, I have found it important to leave work AT work and NEVER take it home. Now that I am working from home, at least half time, this NECESSITY is harder to implement.

Somewhere in the typical Sunday routine, I like to find myself reading. As I do enough reading at work, I crave to learn or to entertain myself on the weekends. Whether it is a book, a newspaper, websites, other blogs, I find this another necessity. In fact, when I crawled out of bed this morning, I found myself revisiting those blogs that I found to be my financial favorites. Of late, I find myself starting over financially after the divorce, or at least I feel that way. That does not mean that at age 59-plus that I will have to work when I am 72 in order to retire. That portion of my financial picture is looking good, even with the market volatility caused by COVID19. As my employment situation finds me with a pension, and a healthy 401k on top, my portfolio mix appears to have been able to weather most of the current ups and downs. As I review some of the old financial blog haunts, I come across an old posting on Get Rich Slowly (www.getrichslowly.org). The posting deals with the three questions about life planning. I find myself contemplating this almost all of the time. I have worked hard to keep the financial house in order, but it clearly needs some spring cleaning, some new paint, and there are cracks in the sidewalk.

The article focuses on life planning, which should be viewed as the “human side of financial planning”. It’s basic premise is what are my goals as I stroll along the road of life. In some ways, this blog was my attempt to see what is in store for me over the next 50 years…

For me, this is a work in progress. I am an older baby boomer and a single parent trying to raise two teenage children. As for me, I am trying to figure out what the next 50+ years has in store for me. Please come along for the ride, and come back often. We will not be taking daily trips, but I will try to write often.

TheMcKeeSpot

Every area of life is a path defined by goals. Whether they are personal, financial, career, or other. Goals need to be stated, defined, specific, have a deadline, and define the path (or paths) necessary to achieve the goal. Whether it is finding myself lying in bed and contemplating a great many things: what will I do Sunday in order to make it different from Saturday, trying to figure out what the next 50+ years has in store for me, to will my financial picture today, that I have crafted over the past 30 years, with its own ups and downs, allow me to have the life that I want to achieve?

Yesterday I hiked a small portion of the Mitchell Trail above Los Alamos. The last time that I hiked it was before the Cerro Grande Fire. It was different. It was good.

After that article, I start rereading older posts from the same site, and the posts of others who write about the same or similar things. At one time, I kept a journal of sorts. I documented the plans, how I was doing in terms of achieving goals, whether I was on the correct road. Somewhere I stopped doing those things. I think that it was that somewhere in which I lost a great many things and that I now find myself returning to such efforts. Much of my thinking is associated with my locus of control. Locus of control is described as how people view the world around them, where people place the responsibility of what happens in their lives. It’s the difference in people: how reactive people act versus how proactive people react. Somewhere, my path shifted. At one time I was proactive, then I shifted to being reactive. And now I want to shift back to proactive. It is a difference in what is my circle of concern versus what is my circle of control. It is clearly the frustration and funk that I have written about in past ramblings. It is my contemplation of trying to tie everything together. For what purpose is unclear.