Archive for September, 2015

tricks for an old dog?

Every year is one year closer to my death.
Every month is one month closer to my death.
Every week is one week closer to my death.
Every day is one day closer to my death.
Every hour is one hour closer to my death.
Every minute is one minute closer to my death.
Every second is one second closer to my death.

Why am I wasting any of that time?

This acknowledgment of my impending demise it not a morbid or fatalistic fascination with my death, but rather an appreciation of the life I have left. The slide down the backside of life gives you a new perspective. In the past, days went by and days went by and each day was a day that just went by. Now, each day, hour, minute, and second have a new importance, an urgency that will not be denied.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t be spending my time snoozing in front of the television, or swinging in a hammock reading a book, or going to work every day. It means that I will be participating in those activities (or lack of activity) because I consciously choose to.

I think that is the big difference between my youth and now. I would float through days without regard to the value those days held. Time seemed to be an unlimited resource. Now, I can almost count the number of days I have left. That once limitless number of days has become a very finite commodity. And, just as in market economics, a short supply makes a thing much more valuable.

In these downhill days, your health has a way of constantly reminding you that there is limited time left. I was walking through the grocery store yesterday and I suddenly had a severe stabbing pain in the left front side of my chest. It was bad enough that I stopped walking, waiting for it to pass, wondering what it was, and even if it would pass, or if I would shortly be lying on the floor croaking, “Call 911.”

But it did pass, and as I did not appear to have any other symptoms related to any medical emergency that I know of, I went on my way, wondering if I was just given a momentary reprieve. So far, I seem to be okay, but who knows what lurks within the chest of this old man? In fact, I just had a twinge as I picked up the phone to answer it. Nothing else, though. Indigestion? A new blood clot in the lung? Who knows? Wait to see if it happens again or gets worse, I guess.

So all the more reason to take the best care of your health that you can, and to do the things that you want to do, rather than pretend like you will live forever regardless of your dwindling resources. It’s a lesson that I am learning very late in life, but not too late (hopefully) to take advantage of the lesson. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions – Alex Rosenberg

Interesting that I read this whole book and ended up the same place I began. I thought that perhaps the author had some different angle on reality that justified “enjoying” life. After all, the title pretty much promises that. Alas, it is an empty promise, as I suspected from the beginning.

The truth is that life is meaningless. The only purpose we serve is the continuation of the species, and even that is beyond our ultimate control. There is no emotion, no feeling, no hope, no joy, no sadness, that isn’t merely a matter of chemical reactions in our bodies (mostly in our brains). There is absolutely nothing for us beyond the physical realm in which we are living right now. We have no real control over our lives, only the perception of control.

The question then becomes, why write a book like this at all? I suppose because he had no choice – he has no free will and was predetermined to write it, just as I was predetermined to read it. Expand that question further – why bother with anything? Actually, there’s no reason at all, except, perhaps, the continuation of the species thing.

So what do you do? You say, “Fuck it! It just doesn’t matter.” And you keep on living as though your life, and the lives of the people around you, actually matter. You live like you and others actually have free will, because, whether you do or not, that is how you function as an organism. No matter how well science can define the facts of our universe, the almost infinite complexity and adaptability of the system is likely to defeat any effort at converting people into precise, controllable automatons.

This is not a criticism of the author’s efforts. I followed most of the line of his thinking. Somehow it seems that he thinks that we are naturally intended to fall to the liberal side in the political arena, but I think just as valid an argument can be made for the opposite. Also, he claims that there is a difference between fatalism and determinism, but who is he fooling, except perhaps himself?

Overall, I found it an interesting book. I even appreciated the bits of humor the author sprinkled around. However, it certainly is not a book for everyone. If you are an atheist, you have probably been exposed to at least some of the information in this book. If you are not an atheist, I doubt you will get through the first couple of chapters before giving up. Indeed, I would wonder why you bothered to even start the book. And if you are an atheist struggling to find meaning or enjoyment in life, you won’t find it here. Except, if you are really stressed out about it, the author does have advice – go take a pill and get over it. Pretty close to my advice to accept the fact that “it just doesn’t matter.”*

*(Yes, it’s a movie quote, my favorite in fact.)

(Finished 9/13/15)

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors – Sarah Stodola

From an early age I wanted to be a writer (more about that in a later post), so the writing processes of authors is a subject that attracted my attention. Author Sarah Stodola has researched and revealed the writing processes of several well known authors, characterizing their different styles and pairing them up, sometimes as reinforcing comparisons and sometimes as disparate examples.

She has created mini-biographies of the authors, showing how their lives relate to their writing, and how their writing processes came to be. While some of the authors are living, she has done the research necessary (or has relied on those who have) to be able to describe the writing processes of authors of the relatively recent past.

Having an appreciation for biographies, I found the book interesting, but of even greater interest was the wide variety of writing processes represented. It is not like I couldn’t have guessed this, but there is no standard writing process, other than actually writing. This is actually rather encouraging to me, giving me hope that perhaps I can establish my own writing process and accomplish something. The author has also provided me with a few writers to add to my reading list.

If you are interested in the writing life and how authors do what they do, this book should help satisfy your curiosity. If you are interested in writing yourself, it may also serve as inspiration.

(Finished 9/7/15)

labor day weekend

In spite of the sentiments I expressed yesterday regarding retirement, I certainly would not like to give the impression that I prefer work days over weekends, particularly three-day holiday weekends. Heck, it’s the regular work week that makes the weekends valuable. Once my dad retired, he rarely even knew what day of the week it was. The only reason he had for caring was catching the grocery store sales on the first day.

I seem to be able to waste away a day with ease, but lately I have actually been getting stuff done on my days off. For some reason, the days seem abnormally long, like I’ve squeezed two days into one. Freaky. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that along with my weight loss, my general mental state has improved and my body is a little bit better at doing something other than sitting. (By the way, 291 on the scale this morning. I’m almost breaking 290!) I have projects that I am actually working on, instead of just thinking about.

So I welcome this three-day weekend and, though I am taking a break from my “labor,” I will labor on my own stuff at my own rate in my own time. Gotta love it!

a life change strange

Today one of our twenty-plus year long employees retired. She had thought that the company might want her back occasionally for special projects or to help with issues that might come up, even though her replacement has been in place for some time and is well trained. One of our earlier retirees “retired” and then came back part-time almost immediately, so it’s not an unlikely situation.

I stopped by her office to say goodbye this afternoon and asked her if this was the official end or if she was going to actually be back at work next week. She said that the company had made no requests of her, nor seemed to have any expectations that her help would be required again. So that meant that yes, this was her last day.

Heading back to my office, I pondered that concept. I’ve never been one to define myself by my job. I do what I do for a living not because I love it or chose it intentionally earlier in life, but rather because it is just the job that I fell into when I first joined the adult employment world. It’s not a terrible job and, quite honestly, it’s not very difficult. Hell, I’m a subordinate desk jockey – how hard can that be? I’ve had my time in management, and at this point in my life, I don’t need that hassle.

Given all that, I still was struck by how very strange it would be to not do the same thing you have been doing for over twenty years (forty-five years for me, including time with other employers). It becomes so much a part of your daily routine that I can imagine feeling almost lost without it. Instead of being defined by the job, you become defined by the routine.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t thought about (and wished for) retirement, but I see no way that I could maintain anything like my current standard of living (even as low as it is) without working every day. So why retire from my “regular job” just to have to go work somewhere else or come back part-time? Makes much more sense to just stick where I am, and so far I’ve heard no grumbles from the company that they want me gone. Why should they? They would just have to hire someone new and train him/her and probably pay more money than they are paying me?

But disregarding the financial aspects of the situation, not going in to work would most likely mean that my world would shrink. Going to work every day, I see the people who have almost become like family (it’s a smallish company). But work is the only thing I have in common with pretty much every one there. I never see any of them outside of work. Heck, I don’t have any friends outside of work (except my wife), so I would be pretty much alone.

Would I change my way of living if I retired? I think so. Even on weekends it can get lonely enough that I sometimes go to the store just to be around people, even people I don’t know and don’t give a rat’s ass about me. I suppose I would join something, some kind of group oriented around a common interest. That’s what we old farts do, isn’t it? Well, there’s a good reason for it, I guess.

While retirement does have some attraction, I somehow can’t see myself doing it any time soon. Theoretically I can retire with “full” Social Security next year, but I have absolutely no plans to do so. Shit happens, though, and I know that at my age I can’t count out some physical complication that would make “retirement” a necessity. I sure hope that doesn’t happen.

And who knows? I may change my mind or circumstance may change, like maybe I’ll win the lottery (great financial retirement planning, eh?) Otherwise, I plan on getting up each weekday morning and going to work. It’s what I do.

more 10 troubles

No, not for me, not yet at least. One of the guys I work with called me from home and told me about his HP printer woes. Seems he went to print something and nothing happened. He had upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 a couple of weeks ago, and it was working fine right after the upgrade. So now what?

A call to HP seemed in order, so he got customer support on the line. Apparently the young woman he was talking to was able to get the printer working again. Great! Until today, when he again went to print something and the little circle went round and round and round . . . and nothing came out. He went to check the installed printers and found that the HP printer was no longer marked as the default printer. Easy fix, right? Just make it the default. Except that all the buttons on the printer and device window were greyed out and he couldn’t get anything to take. Another call to customer support at HP didn’t get him any further as they were stymied, too.

So, a call to the computer company, Acer, seemed in order. It did no good, of course, as they were as stymied as the HP support person was. They did, however, offer to sell him a one-year support service contract. They were out of luck, though, as HP had already been successful in selling him a two-year support contract and he was in no mood to spend more money, particularly when he got no satisfaction from them.

So, the amateur tech person was next in line to call – and that would be me.

I advised him to ignore Acer’s service offer and instead call Microsoft. I explained to him how Windows 10 was in a constant state of upgrade and revision and that the problem was most likely Windows 10 and not the computer or the printer. Sure enough, I got a call back a short time later telling me that Microsoft had straightened out the printer. It had somehow lost it’s “connection” to the computer so the Microsoft guy removed the existing “connection” and established a new “connection.” I’m not quite sure what that was about, but it fixed his problem, for now. And they didn’t try to sell him a service contract!

Again, fair warning to those of you who may be less than tech savvy – if your computer is telling you that it is ready to install Windows 10, you can just ignore it and go on your merry way. You have all the way until next July to upgrade and I suggest that you give it at least a few months before you do. As a matter of fact, that might be a good New Year’s project. Hmmm, if I don’t hear any really horrible things, I just might do it then, too.

a fond farewell – wayne dyer

I just found out that Wayne Dyer passed away on August 29. He was a young 75 years old.

If you are an old fart like me, you’ve known of Wayne Dyer for many, many years. If you are into self-help stuff, you most likely know him, too. And if you are inclined towards “spiritual” stuff, I’m sure he was on your radar. Heck, if you watch public television you cannot help but to have seen him. I’m not going to repeat what you can find everywhere else on the Internet, but I would like to make a couple of personal observations.

I’ve watched many of Dyer’s presentations and read many of his books. His earlier books, like “Your Erroneous Zones” were pretty popular. I always found something interesting and useful in his work. One thing that has stuck in my head is an example he used in one of his presentations. He was talking about a pair of running shorts, and said that you can stretch those running shorts to a degree that will allow them to return to their original shape and size, but that once you have stretched those shorts beyond that point, they will be forever changed. Even to the point of no longer being able to define them as running shorts.

This was an analogy of personal growth, or at least personal change. Many times since I first heard that, whenever something caused me to have a shift in mindset, I have thought of that example. Inevitably I think to myself, “There goes another set of running shorts.”

His thinking and his teaching became more spiritually oriented over time, and sometimes it got a little too much so for me, particularly as my thinking has traveled in the opposite direction, moving away from the soft fuzzies of “spirituality.” However, I admired the good that he was trying to do in the world and recognize that, in spite of the “new age” slant of his work, there was stuff of value there. Sometimes all it takes is translating the words he used into something more reality based.

My wife was the one who told me about his death, and forwarded a link to me to a movie, called “The Shift,” that they were letting people watch for free for a week, because Wayne had wanted to have a lot of people see it. I watched it – all two hours of it – and enjoyed it. I had to do some “translation,” but the message was valuable. Perhaps I appreciated it more so because of my stage in life, but there is something in the movie for everyone. I won’t post the link here. I’m not sure it’s even active still, but you can find Wayne Dyer’s page on Facebook pretty easily and find the link there.

Unlike many of his fans, I’m not convinced that he has merely moved over to another form of being, but I’m sorry that he is gone, and appreciate all that he did in his life.