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.

People

I started writing this post several months ago. Put it on the back burner as I got tied up with other things. Distractions, work, my ongoing frustration and funk. Fascination about the third President of the United States. The unabomber and Henry David Thoreau. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pearl Jam and Bob Dylan.

Now I come back to it during the COVID19 stay-at-home situation. I actually spent the morning in my office. TRUE. I went to work. I have been able to go there over the whole stay-at-home ordeal, if only for a few hours. Quite deserted, but on occasion, I would see colleagues that I work with. Face-to-face is so much better than over the telephone. It certainly is better with my kids. It is certainly better with people.

I will probably never understand people. I know that I may not be the easiest person to talk to. I am an introvert. I have no problem doing things on my own, exploring, hiking, going to the movies or museums. I do not do well in terms of making small talk, either in groups, or one-on-one. I tend to keep to myself. My communication skills are not polished. I deal with it and at different times I have tried to improve upon those skills. But I can still “um” right up there with the best of them. I hope to improve my writing skills through this blog.

Don’t get me wrong. On most days I don’t hate people. Well OK, on some days I might. On other days there are people who I will never like. So does my personality type influence people that I interact with, whether it is my coworkers or my friends? Are the people with whom I met over the years friends or acquaintances? Or are we like ships that pass in the night, forgotten or a desire never to meet again?

An article in Inc. ( https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/psychologists-say-there-are-5-personality-types-heres-how-to-tell-which-one-you-.html ) tells us that there are five personality types according to psychologists. One’s personality influences everything from the friends we choose to the candidates we vote for. Many people never really spend much time thinking about personality traits. I’m guessing that includes me. Understanding my personality can give me insight into my strengths and weaknesses, and that it can also help me gain insight into how others see me. Does it also help me understand others? Is this why some people are dog lovers and others are cat lovers, and there are others who like all animals. I’m in the dog-lover (and horse-lover) camp. OK son, I also like Johnnie the hamster.

At this point, I would venture off and talk about how this article ties into this posting. But as I researched the personality types, I found different types have been qualified and quantified. One article talks about four different types. Another talks about eight. Another has three, then there are seven, eleven, and twenty. Do I hear nine, fifteen, thirty-one?

This article from Northwestern suggests that there are four ( https://www.haaretz.com/science-and-health/there-are-only-four-types-of-people-psychologists-say-based-on-new-data-1.6489904 ). The four are: average, reserved, self-centered and role model. Another article ( https://www.today.com/health/personality-types-average-self-centered-role-model-or-reserved-t137902 ) quoted the same Northwestern study and provided more detail that the groupings make more sense. This article was altogether confusing because it went back-and-forth between personality types and personality traits. People fall into one of the four types based on how they rank on the big five personality traits: openness, agreeableness, extra version, neuroticism and contentiousness. Understanding how high or low someone ranks on each of the traits can be useful and predict things about people, such as their risk of mental illness or likelihood of divorcing.

In the end I suspect that a person’s personality is comprised of a great many types of traits. Each and every one is unique. One’s personality is comprised of a mixture of traits. Some are more pronounced than others, some are more endearing than others. I’m not a psychologist and I have already said that I do not understand people.

My spin in writing this post was going to suggest that there were only two types of people. There are people who like people regardless of their personality. The other are the people who only like themselves. Are these types, or traits? The workplace is full of different people, different personalities, different traits. How can I say this, and yet argue that there are only two types of people? Let me continue.

The genesis of the “only two types of people” was reinforced when I was walking the dog. I was thinking about the types and traits of people. Don’t you get up at 5am on a Saturday and then read obscure articles about the traits of people? Of course this was some months ago, but it is as true today as it was then. Jewel and I were about 3 miles into our walk near the East Gate dog park. I spied a former coworker, who I have known for 29 years. We worked together for about four years when I first arrived at Los Alamos. Now the lab is a big place, and we went our separate ways in terms of career, working on different projects in different parts of the laboratory. We followed different pathways, and over the years we would cross paths again at different times, albeit the interactions were very limited.

Anyway, I was walking Jewel, came across my coworker who was there with her dog. I said “hello” and she replied “hello”. I then ventured to ask “how was it going”, to which there was no reply, other than “I need to get my dog to the park to play”. No “take care”, “nice dog”, “how are you doing?”. That was it. Like two ships passing in the night.

Over the years, I have met and encountered many people. I find that I enjoy those encounters. As is often the case, people come and go. Whether those contacts continue over time is often guided by whether I liked them, or whether I felt used by them. Time causes people to drift apart. Time also allows one to to think, to reflect, to determine if it was a genuine positive experience, or was it mutual admiration, working towards a common goal, or just one of being used. It is also possible that time doesn’t leave people with the opportunity to catch up, to talk, to laugh.

In the case of the individual with whom I passed walking the dog, I immediately jumped to that type definition. I was the one who was being used. I have seen this individual use many people over the years to advance her career. We all characterize this person the same way. Those who have been able to get away have gone on to be successful. I think that I am in that category. Those who did not get away suffered, eventually leaving into obscurity. Clearly, in my opinion, this individual is self centered.

Now as the months have gone by since I started this post, I have read and reread the words that I put down. I have changed some of the sentences, added some qualifiers about today compared to several months ago to put things into context. My opinion of how I characterized the encounter has not changed, filtered through the passage of time. Still think that there are only two types of people. Weather hasn’t changed my feelings, my environment has changed since the COVID19 but that hasn’t altered my thinking about the types of people.

…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.

At home. Quarantined. No school. No going to work. Life has changed.

It has been a few weeks since my last post. I had started several posts but never finished them. Much has changed since my last post.

Sadly, we are coming up on day 14 of the 15 days to slow the spread. They call it “flatten the curve”. As it is, I am starting my second week of working from home. Only so much of my job that I can do at home. Lots to do but working on things, trying to access my work computer from home has been difficult.

For the kids, the school year has been cancelled. In New Mexico, we have 208 positive cases out of 10,977 total test as of the latest information on the New Mexico health website. I am sure that the numbers will only increase. At present, no one in Los Alamos County has tested positive, but several people in every county surrounding us has tested positive. It’s just a matter of time I am afraid. But I fear that there will be a rush to return and that will only make things worse. We have been instructed to work from home in order to limit the number of people at work. Well if you cram four to five to ten people per office, the outcome will not be good. Some people have been designated as essential to the national security mission. So for them, work continues. I don’t like to be considered “non essential”!

Yes we will pay in terms of our economy in the short term, but the longer term and many unnecessary lives is not worth it.

Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others. It is crucial that you do your part to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

The only times we head outside is either out for food, to the grocery store, to walk the dog, or to the stables to feed the horse. Have plenty of supplies in terms of food. Dreary Sunday morning. Ruby is fine.

Ruby at feeding Sunday morning, March 29, 2020.

Spend lots of time reading things on Facebook. Whether it is posts from friends who are similarly locked up inside, or the news spinets that are for or against the President, we all have to pull together to beat this illness.

I find this interesting in a scientific way. Several times a day, I venture to see the updates on the Johns Hopkins website ( https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html ). It saddens me that it is a scoreboard,

From https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

much like when I turn to CNBC to catch the daily scoreboard of the stock market. Certainly have taken a hit as far as my retirement accounts, but that will recover over time, just like we will recover over time from this illness.

It’s times like these that make me ponder, make reflect, about what are the best things in my life. Family. My kids. This adventure of mine that will soon surpass 59 years on this planet.

I do not have the illness, not that I have been tested. I find myself checking my temperature several times a day. Wash my hands frequently. Drink lots of fluids. However, those damn seasonal allergies make people look at you if you are in the store and sneeze, cough, blow your nose, or look sullen around the eyes.

Soon, this too shall pass, and our lives will return to some semblance of normalcy. I am sure that the dog would like to have her days of peace and quite.

Jewel sitting still for a moment.

Don’t forget to fill out your Census 2020 forms. I did. Every ten years we count the number of Americans, well at least we try…Until then. Everyone stay safe, hug your family, and be careful.

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.

Frustration and a funk

FRUSTRATION – the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of the inability to change or achieve something.

FUNK – a state of depression. The dumps. The doldrums.

It has been about ten days since my last post to The McKeeSpot. Of late, I have found myself in a funk, frustrated with work, frustrated with myself and where I am in my life. Over the years I often find myself looking internally over time. It’s always good to evaluate life, identify opportunities to grow, to change. Decisions made, questioning and reflection.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/path-less-traveled_n_3732398

This frustration and funk has led to a haze where I think of a subject for the blog, start to jot down a few lines, but I simply could not complete the thought. It was not coherent, cohesive, or even interesting. This funk has lasted for awhile over the past few weeks, and to varying degrees. I still like my job, overall. Great people. Everyday is a new challenge. However of late, I find it more and more difficult to go to work everyday. Not great in starting my day as a cremudgeon. Overall my health is good, I am at good point in my life. Am I being accurate? Truthful?

It often overshadows my morning meetings and coffee cabel.

I see elements of this frustration and funk everyday at work. I am taking longer to complete work products, reviews, documents. Earlier this year I developed a presentation to introduce new and young staff on the project I manage. It was well received. However, putting that presentation into an article that can be published has advanced slowly over the past several months. Why is that? Too much work, too little time, too many demands on my time, striving for perfection, details that need to be reviewed, tested and implemented. I see lots of anger in the words that I have drafted for the paper. That anger is the closest that I have come to express my frustration with work.

These details exist across the program, across the multiple work products, across my coworkers. I sense that I am not alone in these issues at work. Management fails to see it, comment on it, assist in reducing it. There may be part of the problem.

Could it be that I have done a poor job evaluating my life, opportunities to grow, to change? Have I ignored the signs that could have led me in another direction? Is it that I never experienced a mid-life crisis? Are past decisions coming back to nag my subconscious? I am keeping it to myself, keeping it internalized isn’t a better situation.

Meetings

I have been lamenting of late to many about all of the meetings I have at work. Of late it has been nonstop, from 7 am to 4 pm. Meeting, meeting, meeting. It has been this way for weeks. Meetings do not make me feel that I have been successful, or have accomplished much. Review this document, discuss that topic in this meeting.

All of the meetings are largely associated with work process, work issues, or difficulties in getting things accomplished. First off was a two hour meeting to gather data and understand a process upset late last week. Such gathering of data can be a time consuming and lengthy process. That was followed by a one hour meeting explaining a timeline of the process upset and to speculate on what happened. This information was discussed in detail, or at least as much detail based on limited details, more conjecture, and then the development of a plan to get operations back up and running.

Then the next 6 hours ( 5 hours plus lunch) of today was working on work planning and schedule it of process details and cost and process efficiency over the next 5 to 7 years. I can plan my next day and have that schedule change, who thinks we can plan work details for the next year, let alone 5 to 7 years. Luckily, I have more of those meetings tomorrow.

This past Monday and Tuesday were just as bad. Monday typically starts of with a weekly update on a special project that we have been working. The special project is behind schedule, but also woefully underspent. The staff engineers, scientists and technicians have been bouncing back and forth between two to three distinct and separate projects. The root cause of the poor execution of the special project is poor planning, taking longer to get procedures and process equipment and operations in place.

The majority of the meetings on Monday and Tuesday focus on our main project, which is a $60 million dollar a year activity over the next decade or two. The big Tuesday meeting lays out the details of work processes for the next several weeks. This is used to make sure the necessary resources are available to meet the goals of the overall plans being executed. We are within weeks of meeting our 2019 production goals, which has to be met by the end of September. Our production has been moving very far very fast and we are well on our way towards meeting next year’s production goals. This is being accomplished with much change in the process. Investment in new equipment, which takes several years to accomplish, is progressing. Such investments will improve efficiency, reliability and maintain ability of equipment. Many areas to work on in supporting this effort, some travel, many reports and documents to produce. Charts and monthly, and biweekly reporting.

I need to spend future posts and discuss where I work and what I work on.

The Coriolis Effect

In yesterday’s post about politics, I showed a photo of a toilet flushing blue water. One could infer much symbolism in the photo if they chose to do so. The image is a prime example of the coriolis effect. It’s a term in physics (definition copied here from a Google search), whereby a mass moving in a rotating system experiences a force (the Coriolis force ) acting perpendicular to the direction of motion and to the axis of rotation. On the earth, the effect tends to deflect moving objects to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern and is important in the formation of cyclonic weather systems.

The coriolis effect explains why a toilet flushes clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Actually this is not true. Go to

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/06/03/videos-synced-up-across-the-globe-prove-once-and-for-all-which-way-water-swirls/?utm_term=.09af76098326

to get the real story.

But the image of a flushing toilet is so powerful in terms of describing a bad day, a bad period in your life, the world that we are leaving for our children. For my children. This subject often comes up in our morning coffee cabals.

Today was a bad day at work. We are trying to deliver on our annual production milestone and everything that was the basis of our planning and the schedule is being overtaken by events, causing less time for work to get completed, and at much higher cost. “It takes too long” is met with the refrain “well I’m sorry about that but it will take what it will take”. On top of that, critical infrastructure is breaking down, causing additional and unnecessary outages. As I sat in a two hour meeting trying to understand all of this, all I could hear were excuses, people pushing responsibility onto others, and the sound of a cash register. Why a cash register? Well there were about 100 managers at the 2 hour meeting. Nothing was resolved after listening to all of the hot air and the estimated $160,000 of money being wasted; a work-in-progress that has no procedure, as required. Just shows how broken and flying by the seat of the pants we have become. Cha-Ching goes the cash register.

Senior managers explaining how PhD’s were difficult and inferring that they were not contributing to the solution. Reminded me of a great refrain I heard from graduate school: “not all PhD’s are created equal” (I will save that for another day). Technical people being ridiculed by non-technical high school graduates for this and that. The drill is typical: create lists of action items and assign them to people who will return in a few days with very little resolved. It went on and on. I tuned out because this has been the paradigm for the past several weeks. Overworked people being verbally chastised for not doing something when they in fact did, but the tool was ineffective in capturing it. Nothing was accomplished. Aside from the money, I am sure that there was an increase in air temperature (hot air) and the carbon dioxide levels in the room probably added a tenth of a degree to global warming. We used to be better than this people. At one time we used technical reasoning to make decisions. Not any more.

And sadly, that is what I see across the technical landscape of where I work. I see that and wonder how the next generation of employees that we have just hired will be able to accomplish what the past group of workers were able to accomplish. Short answer is that they will not. It will take longer and cost more. Try to do work and someone will call out a process deviation in the work-free safety zone that our workplace has become. I try to care, but my PTSD after 28 years is so bad that it has become easier to stop caring, come in and do the job. No more, no less. “It takes as long as it takes”. Make no waves and collect the paycheck. At one time I often worked 50, 60, up to 80 hours a week because I felt deeply and had passion for the mission. That too is gone.

How does this translate to my children? I am saddened that their lives will not be as rich and as fulfilling as mine. Hard work and determination are now a lost cause in America anymore. Intelligence and reasoning has been replaced with guesswork, participation awards and games. Our word no longer means anything. We have evolved to a generation that wants everything handed to them. The middle class is gone. Setting goals and achieving them is an art no longer practiced. The wealthy in this country continue to take and never return. They make fancy promises of contributions to help certain causes. Those pronouncements sadly are nothing more than cheap promises that make them feel larger than the rest of us. Nothing ever enriches all, it enriches a few.

Our nation no longer makes things. We provide services. Some services pay well, many do not. More and more people are left on the sidelines, they lack the skills and abilities to move along with the nation. They lack the ability to compete for fewer and fewer jobs. We move what little things we make to cheaper places. In the end, ther will be nobody left in America to buy anything, or to use the services that remain. Peopl tune out, drop out and just meander through. Rugged individualism is a thing of the past. I am afraid that more of today’s children, my children, will be caught up in this quicksand and never move ahead. Sadly that is the image I see in the coriolis effect.

Tired

It’s about a quarter past nine as I sit and write this. Trying to write something every day. Kinda like Chemistry in graduate school. Equally important that I ran one experiment a day. Whether it was the necessary synthesis for starting materials, kinetics of chemical reactions, spectroscopic evaluations, or even modeling on the computer, I felt it necessary to do one reaction a day. So it is true with this new adventure. Just took son back to his mothers place; talked to daughter earlier as she is at Goose Downs working and riding in preparation for this weekends event.

I have been awake now for about 18 hours. A typical day. Never get much sleep on the weekdays. Three to five hours is the norm. Eight is sleeping in on the weekend. I usually start the day between 3 and 4 am. Hot tea or coffee, read, shower, take the dog for a walk. This morning we walked a little longer than normal and managed to come across 4 deer feeding in the yards around the place where we live. Got to work by 5:45 am. Usual day in terms of status and schedule meeting. Addressed questions about some equipment, worked with the quality assurance engineers on a new certificate of analysis for product specifications. Meeting on implementation of some new process monitoring to make us more efficient.

Left work after 4 pm to pick up son from summer camp. He didn’t want to go but I think he is actually have fun. It is tiring him out, a good thing. Cooked dinner, had to get dog food at the grocery store. Dropped him off at his mothers. Strangely, I too find myself very tired, having eye trouble. Looking at the dog who picks her head up from the sofa at the sound of the hospital lifeflight helicopter flying overhead.

That about does it it for me. It is hot this evening, not much of a breeze. Will make sleeping difficult. Until tomorrow.

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.