End of the year 2019

Twice this week I had the intention of writing several posts since I have been off for about a week now. Historically, the lab closes between Christmas and New Year’s, so the week is one without work and vacation is taken to compensate my lack of salary. Aside from the normal days that I was required to take off (paid as in vacation or unpaid as in leave without pay), an additional day of vacation gets me two weeks off. Not a bad deal if one plans accordingly.

So here I sit New Years Eve 2019 (6am December 31 to be exact) and contemplate the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2019 and ponder what 2020 may have in store for me.

See the source image
Yes, I borrowed this image from the internet. Source: https://the2020deadline.twinsystems.com/
Adequate image of the road I am still taking.

Work was rather stressful for me this year. More so than in past years. Still doing the same thing, but management sucks. They don’t have a clue about what they need to do to get things done. Spend too much time planning, developing schedules, tracking costs and performance. I literally sit in several hour-long meetings each week tracking where we were, where we are going. Why did this take twice as long? Why was this not completed on Tuesday? We need more resources? We cannot process x until y and z is finished, but z will take new work procedures and set us back weeks. Team BLAH BLAH BLAH failed to do this task last month, they had 6 months to complete it. This list of excuses goes on and on. The accomplishments become fewer. Over the past 40 days of planned work, I think we actually managed to be productive for 8 of those days. More difficult these days to pull rabbits out of my hat…they usually are pulled from my ass! Requirements not met, equipment not available, resources pulled for higher priority tasks, so and so called in sick. I find myself enjoying it less and less. YES, I actually still enjoy my job and even though the bull shit has increased exponentially, I still get some satisfaction when even the smallest task is accomplished. More often than not, I now just put in my time, get stuff done and just collect the paycheck. That said, it is clear that the return from investment continues to decrease. One puts in more time and gets less and less done. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT I AM WORKING 60, 70, OR EVEN 80 HOURS A WEEK, like I did when I was younger. It means that it takes two, three, four times as long to get things done. In scheduling, I call that the pi factor. If the task duration is 1 day, I multiply the duration by pi (3.14159). Such a nerd I can be at times. And even that creates a “success-oriented schedule” that usually fails. Funk and frustration redux…

An anniversary of sorts happened before the holiday’s. I celebrated my 29th anniversary working at the lab. I guess that you can say that over my 58 years, I have lived in this area of the country (New Mexico) the most. Pennsylvania comes in second, living 18 years near Lewistown, PA. Happy Anniversary.

With that milestone comes the obvious. What are my plans for the future? Should I retire? Can I retire? When will I retire? Do I have enough money saved in order to retire? What does it mean to retire? Where do I see myself over the next 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? Where will I live? Will I just make that change and go do something totally different.

By many analyses, I am expected to live at least another 20 years, which would mean that I would live until I am 78. Advances in medicine and such could tack on another 5 years. Of course all of this depends on how health I am currently. Have I taken care of myself? Are their things in my family history or how I currently live that could adjust that? Hell, I could die in a car crash tomorrow and never see my 59th birthday. I don’t exercise enough? I don’t drink enough red wine? I am considered obese yet managed to lose and keep off 15 pounds this year. My blood pressure is under control with medication, but my doctor thinks I need to look at my sleep habits. No thanks. I have survived 40 years sleeping on average 4 hours a night. And yes, I have read that 7 is the preferred number of hours of sleep required to be healthy. The whole concept of life expectancy, health and actuarial tables is interesting, yet at the same time somewhat morbid. Given all of that, I have planned to lived until I am 92. That is another 34 years, minimum.

Maybe I should write a “year in review” post. What did I accomplish in the past year? What did I write about during the course of this year but need to update? Did I ever finish reading “Atlas Shrugged”? Well that is an easy one to answer. My copy has 1168 pages and I am on page 90. So NO, I have not finished the book that I have started to read thrice before. I seem to stop reading at about 120 pages and so, the copy that I purchased in the summer of 2011 has some wear and tear, but remains unfinished. Should I make this a New Year’s resolution for 2020? I do need to spend more time reading.

I am never very good in the resolutions. Every year it is the same. Eat better, exercise more, spend less. Stop and smell the roses. Reduce the clutter in my house. Am I still in the rut that has plagued me and that I have written about in the past? Is my frustration and funk continuing into 2020? If I had my magic 8 ball, what would it say? “All signs point to yes”? There is another thing to contemplate. How is my mental health and how does that interact with life expectancy. Stress is not a good thing. What can I do to reduce or relieve my stress?

I am a single (divorced) white male with a dog. I have read that that divorce and male are bad in terms of life expectancy, but having a dog is good. I take dog for walk, and so I get some exercise. Jewel likes her walks and gets upset when we don’t go for a walk each and every day. That too is good, except for it being 6:30 in the morning and single digits outside like today. Snow on the ground. It is cold, there is some wind, and I have been stuck in the house for the past few days, screaming at the TV about bad officiating in several football games. OHIO STATE WAS ROBBED by bad officiating in their game.

Staying inside has other bad effects. I eat too much, don’t get enough exercise, and BAM! Put on a few pounds. Eat, drink and be merry. Get an exercise bike and set it in the living room. Read, watch TV and exercise at the same time. Unfortunately I eat too much because I try my hand at cooking. It is the only Chemistry that I perform these days. One of the posts that I had contemplated over the past week was on cooking, complete with before and after photo’s. Last night I made sausage, fennel and pasta. Over the years I have diverged

See the source image
Looks what I made last night, except I did not have any grated cheese to finish it off. Yes, I borrowed this picture as well, from https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/penne-with-sausage-fennel-and-pecorino. The recipe is close to what I use, except for the quantity of ingredients.

somewhat from the recipe. I add my own proportions of the ingredients. Equal amounts of fennel and onion. More than what is typically called for in the recipe, but not too much. Typically one fennel bulb (large) and one medium white onion. I love to cook with onions. Diced tomato instead of tomato paste. It was good, and with control, I have enough to last for several meals for myself. The kids don’t care for it. Even though it is made with love, it takes time. Processed food is easier to prepare. One can Kraft Mac and Cheese between commercials. But processed foods I read are not good for you. BTW, Mac and Cheese is good with Hatch Green Chile (and so are cheesy grits). Have not added green chile to this recipe yet. Red pepper works fine to add heat.

I could probably go on and on. But I will end it here. Let’s say good bye to 2019 and hello to 2020. No resolutions agreed upon, or posted, written down, placed on FaceBook. Just try and live every day to its fullest. Hoping that tomorrow is better than yesterday.

Sunday ramblings

Today is Sunday August 4. Spent the better part of the past 3 days contemplate my future. In the background is the Fox News broadcast “Life, Liberty & Levin”. I seldom watch the news on TV, but there wasn’t anything else worth watching. The platform is a question and answer session, which is better than many of the talking heads from both sides of the political spectrum. The subject is a discussion about the second Cold War with Niall Ferguson. It entails an economic war as opposed to a military conflict, but that the long view is that China will win because they take a long-term view and that our political system will rive change and we will loose site on the long term. Interesting conversation. I have long found that the interface between economics and history/politics interesting. If I had been smarter, perhaps I could have made a career in the field.

Daughter leaves for the US Pony Club National Championships central region. The competition is in Colorado this year, which is a 6 hour trip near Denver. Son and I will stay home to keep the stress down. I wish her luck in all of the events that she is competing in. Hopefully she will remain n the horse and finish. Both she and Ruby have been practicing hard the past several weeks. She will be competing in show jumping and eventing.

Friday I managed to visit with my financial guy to review my status on the path towards retirement. While I am on tract, I have a few areas to clean up. The discussion covered numerous areas beyond just focusing on 401k balances, debt, and what I plan to do after retirement. Of course, plans are always subject to change. Given the current political climate, I am concerned that much could change and destroy my plans and my future.

Then of course, we had another weekend of a lone gunmen and mass killings. I am pro gun and believe that guns don’t kill people, rather people kill people. That said, I have no problems with background checks, licenses and insurance much like one has for an automobile, keeping automatic guns out of the hands of people, and mental health. You need to keep guns out of the hands of some people. The issue then becomes how. You also need to acknowledge that if people want to harm others, they will. I get a check up annually as far as my mental health as required for my job and my employer. Sadly, I am afraid that the increases in gun killings recently has more to do with the declines in our society and it’s values, the fact that we continue to lesson the value of human life. This is in opposition to those who subscribe to a theory that the increase is associated with the number of guns available.

There is much hate these days, and it surfaces on social media often. Politically, we are divided as a nation and it shows in many areas. I will have more to say about these topics as we continue on the journey of this blog.

My story, or is it?

As I think about subjects to write about, I have been thinking about a pathway to guide me through the summer months. I started this blog based on a conversation at work with a coworker, during one of our morning “coffee cabels”. They often deal with work issues, but this one morning, the discussion focused on retirement, what to do after retirement, whether to retire and return part time, or under contract to another company. The work stuff focuses on what is working, what is not working, our management, solving this or that technical problem. Sometimes the conversation triggers thoughts about almost anything. I try to make a mental note about those things; ideas for a future blog post.

The pathway was my thought about the fact that my topics ramble on in terms of subject. While some themes have emerged, I think it will take some time to improve my skills, improve my subjects, and how the fit together. As an example, lots of my posts speak about my kids. I love them, but I don’t think they read my blog. I’ll keep trying.

Now in my third week, I have been exposed to many fellow bloggers in the past few weeks. I find their stories and subjects equally interesting. Some deal with writing, animals, art, a variety of topics. Some readings that I have exposed myself to suggest writing about one or more of my hobbies. I have some future plans in this area and will lay those out over the next few months. I have lots of interests, but they all clearly are not hobbies. Book reviews, movie reviews are all fair game, but I fail to see how writing about those subjects will separate this blog from others. A book review about my reading might appear. I bet you all are interested in how far I have gotten in Atlas Shrugged (7 pages). Fishing, hunting, hiking and camping are also fair game. I won’t write about sports or skiing, although an occasional shout out to my teams is permitted. Similarly, food and alcohol are things that I enjoy, but I am neither a cook, critic or a connoisseur. Lots of blogs on history and politics but I don’t want to alienate half of the audience who would disagree with my political views. But then again, I would not be true to myself if I didn’t write about these things.

Some of these topics go to the heart of why I started this blog. It’s obvious that writing and communication are important in my job, with my friends and coworkers. It’s all around us. It’s also under assault (in my opinion). Just spend some time on Facebook. Read the comments to any article. Whether you agree or disagree, there is someone who has an opinion, or will tell you why your opinion is wrong, bad, stupid, or just embark on a characterization of you in detail in comparison to a part of the human anatomy. It doesn’t matter if your male or female. That is what is wrong with Facebook. But it gets worse as they try to have “community standards” that they impose. The imposition stifles free speech and communication of diverse subjects. We cannot have a debate, which is what is destroying our country, or democracy. That is a strength of social media, and for that Twitter might be better ( I am not on Twitter, but really, the limited character size constrains us). It is why we cannot compromise, we cannot move forward together. It’s sad that this has been the turn of our country since the 70’s by my recollections. But here we are. This blog isn’t going to fix those issues, but I will at least be able to express. Myself. And I hope that you will respond in kind and join me in these conversations. I’ll keep trying. I won’t be right all of the time, or most of the time, but I need to express myself.