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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.

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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.

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…It is all a blur now

Today is April 21. I think that I have entered the 5th week of the mandated “stay-at-home” orders from our governor. I can’t be sure. It’s all a blur now. It is rumored that she plans on extending them through mid-May. As of today, the state of New Mexico has a total of 2072 cases. This represents less than 1% of the population in the state. And we have only tested about 2% of the total population in the state. Where I live, in Los Alamos County, we have 6 confirmed cases.

https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html

I continue to work at home, often logging in as early as 5 am. It has been very problematic. The system automatically logs us out after 2 hours. For almost all of the work, I can network to the computer sitting on my desk in my office. How cool is that! It is cool. It is also stressful. I find myself working at about 50% productivity, feeling twice as stressed. Working longer days to get less done. My body aches because my work area is not economically sound.

By any measure, I feel very lucky as I see what is happening across this country. Yes I can continue to work. Yes I can continue to be paid. Yes I am thankful that myself, my children and friends and family here and elsewhere have avoided this dreaded illness. Given my age, general health and such, I certainly do not want to catch this illness. Some people have no symptoms, others fall quickly. I find myself checking all the websites. What does the Johns Hopkins map show today for the country? For the world? I check to see if the market is up, or down. How much has my 401k been decimated. Time to take your temperature again.

I make the occasional trip to the grocery store for supplies. Was able to get toilet paper this week. Many of the restaurants are open, continue to serve take out. I try my best to support them at least several times a week.

I try to continue the routine. Get up at the same time, do the same things. Go to bed at the same time. I try, but yes I can hit the snooze alarm a few more times because I don’t have as far to go to work. Jewel still gets her daily walks, but they often come later in the day to break up the monotony. We go to feed the horse, take daughter to ride. Son tries to continue Jazz Project through weekly video classes. Both kids are still at home. Schools has been cancelled for the rest of the year, but the teachers are still giving them online assignments, daily meetings, trying to stay connected.

Jewel on her daily walk. We are practicing our social distancing.

I understand the stay at home concept. Minimize interactions, practice social distancing. Wear a mask when you go out and about. But the rules are so all over the map. Grocery stores limit the number of people based on square footage and such. Outside construction. Take out food but no sit down service. Pools closed. Gyms closed. Parks open, Hiking trails open. OK I can go for awhile without a hair cut, a tattoo, getting my nails done. The casinos around the state are closed. But I can buy a lottery ticket? Gun stores closed. Hardware stores opened. Dentist no. Microbrewery no. Liquor store no. Pet store yes.

Our government has now passed three laws to help during this pandemic, a fourth is on the way. We will have spent close the $3 trillion dollars to help people who are out of work, help big and small companies stay in business, keep people for when this is over. We have about 22 million citizens out of work. Last month we had something like 164 million people employed. I see may people on edge. We are probably in a recession, if not a depression. The market has become a bear market. It will not come back right away. What took literally days and weeks to unwind, will take years to recover. I am lucky and thankful on this, the eve of my 59th birthday.

I have many questions for our leaders. Why, in a nation so rich, so prosperous, with so many intelligent people, why were we not prepared? Why did the basic necessities that we need to get through this, get outsourced to the other side of the world. Bring all of those jobs back home now. We need to invest here! We need to manufacture here! We need to understand what failed? How did we get this far, with over 40,000 deaths. This is tragic. Oh its like the flu. Flu takes months, we can test for the flue. We have a vaccine for the flu. Every year I decide whether or not to get the flu vaccine. Those years I get the vaccine, I get the flu. The years I don’t, I don’t get sick. Just lucky? I guess. Wash my hand a lot. Don’t venture out into big crowds I guess. Practice rugged individualism.

Every day I stop work to catch the President’s daily brief. Yes it is to long but I understand why he is there every day. Every day we get an update on what the government is doing, where there are problems, where there are glimmers of hope. I like it when the press ask questions that are clearly meant to make him look bad, and he puts them in their place. We can save the general politics for a future post. It is good that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

This past 5 weeks has provided me with a bit of insight into my future that I plan to venture on down the road. I have had much to ponder, much to reflect upon, which way do I turn. That part of my future is also a blur, but I can begin to see where I might be heading.