Tag Archives: Society

An on-again, off-again blogger

I suppose that publishing a new blog post every six months isn’t exactly the rate of productivity that most bloggers aim to achieve, but it is in fact the span of time which has passed between my last post and this one.

I’m not going to attempt to offer any excuses for this, nor apologize, because I clearly recognize the turmoil that has been my life since last April.

Let it suffice to say that the earlier than expected retirement of my wife, the associated decision to move back to the mountains of North Carolina, managing the work of electricians, painters, plumbers, et. al. in order to get our house ready to go on the market, the listing and sale of the rejuvenated house in four days (rather than the four months we expected that process to take), multiple house hunting trips to find our new home, hiring a moving company, packing everything we own into boxes only to turn around and over a few weeks unpack everything we own, and ultimately the joy of closing on two houses in two days in two different states all has a way of filling a good bit of one’s time for periods up to and including six months.

HomeAnd I didn’t even mention the two or three months it takes to complete all of the changes that are required to turn the new house into “our” place.

It should come as no surprise that I have declared that I will never (voluntarily) move again. I included voluntarily in this statement in order to provide for the possibility that at some point, members of my family may need to take the bull by the horns and put me out to pasture in the, hopefully, distant future. But I can assure you that I will have little, if anything, to do in making that move happen.

I’m here to stay.

Sirens in the Night

sirenI was awakened at 4:57 am this morning by the tornado siren in the neighborhood directly behind our own.

If you’ve never heard a tornado siren sound off, it’s something similar to the horn that a freight train blows as it approaches a railroad crossing or the horn that sounds (repeatedly) when the home team in a National Hockey League game scores a goal.

I was confident that no one had scored in the other neighborhood, at least not at that hour of the night, but being as I was awake away, I decided to get up and check the radar app on my iPhone to see what was going on.  The radar revealed a band of bright red, orange, and yellow directly above my location on the map.

This in turn led me to do something that in recent years, I’ve typically avoided at all costs.  That is, to turn on The Weather Channel to see what they might be reporting.

I’m old enough to remember when The Weather Channel actually reported on the weather, rather than show documentaries about Australian photographers tramping around in the Outback or endless shows on “The Top 10 Most (fill in the blank)“.

When The Weather Channel does get around to discussing the current weather, they do so in the most melodramatic and outrageous manner possible.

Who hasn’t seen the endless pronouncements by their “meteorologists” instructing us to “never go outside in conditions like this“, while they, in fact, are outside in conditions like this?

Who can forget the scene in which one of their reporters was shown desperately holding on to a tree, leaning forward, and bracing himself so that he wouldn’t be blown away by the dangerously high winds; only to have that moment spoiled by two guys wearing shorts, casually strolling down the sidewalk behind him?

Pay no attention to the man behind the screen!

Anyway, I turned on The Weather Channel.  It came as no surprise that my expectations were immediately confirmed.

There she was, their leading early morning host, gleefully talking about the dangers associated with the weather system making its way across the southeast.  She was positively bubbling over as videos of downed trees and houses without roofs filled the screen.  She was barely able to control her excitement as she reminded her co-host that there had even been fatalities associated with this storm.  Thankfully, he had enough presence of mind to change the subject as rapidly as he could.
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In disdain, I immediately turned off the TV.

I returned to the radar app on my iPhone which provided me with immediate and accurate information regarding the current weather conditions.  And it did so, without melodrama, outrageousness, and without needless embellishments contributed by faux celebrity meteorologists.

Turf War

A little over 20 years ago, a promotion brought me to my employer’s headquarters in metro-Atlanta.  Prior to this move, my family and I had resided in relatively small towns where the company had located its manufacturing facilities.
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Our first order of business was finding a new home which we quickly realized was going to be as simple as deciding which of the hundreds of cookie-cutter residential developments provided the best access to good schools, good shopping, and a relatively easy commute for me to and from work each day.

I describe these neighborhoods as being cookie-cutter because once you had seen one, you had seen them all; 2-story brick homes with a full finished basement, 2-3 car garage, sidewalks, neighborhood pool and tennis court facility, and of course a sodded Bermuda grass yard.  The only things more ubiquitous than the endless expanses of Bermuda sod are the Bradford Pear trees.

I remember a co-worker asking me which “Corporate Ghetto” we had decided on moving in to; a tongue-in-cheek humorous description which nonetheless is not without merit.

Maintaining one’s Bermuda yard in a pristine, weedless state was, and still is, considered a priority of the highest order.  Many residents take the easy way out which means contracting with one of the limitless supply of lawn maintenance firms to treat their yards on a monthly basis with a cocktail of herbicides and fertilizers.

For the first few years, I too subscribed to that method; but eventually determined that I could protect my yard from the scourge of weeds by treating the lawn myself.  As long as the neighbors on both sides of one’s home are taking equally strident precautions to eradicate weeds (or native ground cover and vegetation to use the politically correct term),  this alternative can and will work quite well.

Unfortunately, in my case, there was a breakdown in this balance.  It came in the form of new neighbors.  Let me be quick to state that they are very nice people; a family of four who are friendly, out going, and very pleasant.  The only fly in the ointment is that they are apparently totally unconcerned with the appearance of weeds in their yard and the fact that those same weeds are slowly migrating into their neighbor’s yards.

For the first couple of years, I was successful in holding off the onslaught with a chemical treatment which was advertised as being able to eradicate a large variety of weeds while having no adverse impact on the grass.

Unfortunately this year, a new breed of weed has joined the invasion and which, to date, has proved to be immune to my tried and true chemical treatment.
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I’ve identified the culprit as a variety of annual bluegrass (curse you Kentucky!).  I confirmed that this particular weed is not listed on my current treatment’s hit list, but I have been able to find another product which claims to be effective against it.

The first treatment as been spread on my lawn and I’m currently in a “wait and see” holding pattern to determine whether or not harmony and balance will be restored.

In lawn care, as in so many other aspects of life, the best offense continues to be a good defense!

 

Learning from Past Mistakes

Well now, it’s been entirely too long since my last blog post – which seems to be a common complaint among the WordPress faithful.  But one of the major problems with being retired and having a very large number of interests is in finding the time to satisfy the demands that all of those interests place on your schedule.

But I digress. The topic of today’s post came to me about a week ago as I was working out; something I now do 3 to 4 times per week.  I was doing my cardio workout, pedaling to beat the band on a LifeCycle and keeping my heart rate well up into the cardio range, when I noticed a news report on one of the 14 or so TV’s hanging from the ceiling just in front of me.

Through the magic of subtitles, I learned that medical researchers have now determined that the commonly held belief that there are health benefits to be gained by consuming one or two glasses of red wine per day is now believed to be without merit!  Shocking!

The reporter strongly implied that the belief that red wine consumption, in moderation, is good for you has possibly been the work of elements within the French government who are interested in promoting that nation’s wine industry.  Doubly shocking!

I’ve never been a big wine drinker, but if I do drink the stuff, it’s the red variety that I go for; so I’m not overly disturbed by this revelation.

All I can say is, “Don’t be funding any studies into the health effects of dark beer! ” Just leave all of those Stouts, Porters, and Brown Ales well enough alone.

Dr-adThis whole episode reminded me of some advertisements that I came across years ago during my college days.  I was holed up in the university library and for some reason, now lost in the mists of time, I was looking at old Life and Look magazines from the 1940’s and 50’s.  Particularly at the full page cigarette advertisements in which doctors, as in physicians and MDs, were extolling the benefits of smoking cigarettes!

It’s hard to believe in our sanitized and now virtually smoke-free world that doctors could have believed that smoking cigarettes, especially the brand that they personally preferred, was an activity to be so strongly promoted.  But there you have it.dentistreccomendedL

I wonder how long it will be before new research pops up which causes us to rethink our views on the use of tobacco, or the consumption of heavily sugar-coated breakfast cereals.

Hang on Fruit Loops, Sugar Pops, and Frosted Flakes; your day may yet come again!

Retirement = Free time …. not necessarily

Before I retired, I never really gave much thought to what I’d be doing with all of the “free time” which retirement was supposed to place at my disposal.  Based on the number of hobbies and pursuits that I have: such as ham radio, reading, photography, writing, etc., I suppose I assumed that I would occupy most of my time in the pursuit of those activities.

After nearly six months of retirement, that’s not been the case.  Bummer? Well, maybe.

raquel-martinez-96648-unsplWe all know that those two evil twins, Accountability and Responsibility, will raise their ugly heads when and where you least expect them!  Paying bills, balancing the checkbook, buying groceries, doing laundry, cutting the grass, running errands around town, and other mundane, yet very necessary tasks, fill as much of my “free time” as those aforementioned hobbies and pursuits.

Quite frankly, I believe that’s the way it should be.

It turns out that retirement is not like being set free on a giant playground with no responsibilities and no time constraints.

That said, I’ve recognized that retirement grants you, and you alone, a great deal of freedom in determining when and how you choose to address those things which still demand your attention and for which you are still responsible.  It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

It took a while, but over the past few months I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest reward of retirement is simply having:

           Freedom of choice when it comes to the deciding when to do those
           tasks you need to do versus those activities you want to do.

toa-heftiba-362237-unsplashIf you manage that freedom properly, it’s still possible to find yourself with an abundance of free time to do whatever it might be that you want to do each day; or conversely, to elect to do nothing at all!

And what a joy that last option can be!

I’ve come to believe that success in having an enjoyable and rewarding retirement will be determined by how well individuals balance this new found freedom with their on-going responsibilities.

In retirement, you really do become your own boss and take it from me, that’s real freedom!

That’s why, when others ask how I’m enjoying retirement, I tell them that I feel as if I’m residing in a very pleasant Alternate Universe from the one in which I existed during my working life.

And make no mistake, it’s a very satisfactory universe at that.

Photos by Toa Heftiba and Raquel Martinez on Unsplash

Residing in an Alternate Universe

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I retired recently after being continuously employed for something like 42 years.  I recognize now that while I was actively working, I really didn’t expend much effort in considering the passage of time.

timeDuring those years, management of the here and now aspects of time was a much more immediate concern.  Time was a tool which I carried on my left wrist.  It reminded me that I needed to get to work every day by a certain time.  That I needed to arrive on time for meetings, to find time for lunch each day, to ensure that results were delivered prior to deadlines.

You know the drill; like sands through an hour glass time marches on and there’s no rest for the weary.

There were only a few periods during my career when I felt like those 42 years would never end.  I guess I just didn’t have time for such contemplative, non-value adding musings.

Now that I’m retired, all of those working years seem to have gone by in a flash.  Clearly the perception of time is based on where one is standing as they are considering its passing.

Looking back at my working years, time was very rigid taskmaster populated with a maze of ever expanding benchmarks, most of which were very securely set and which demanded strict adherence.

Now that I’m retired, time has become very fluid, extremely malleable, and only occasionally demanding – and then in a most friendly and wonderfully passive manner. These days I no longer think of time as being carved in stone.  It’s more like having an amiable Pillsbury Dough Boy who looks after my schedule.

I still have things that I plan to do each day, but I hesitate referring to those events as being “on my calendar“.  That implies far too much structure in how I manage my days.

If I want to go to the gym later in the day rather than first thing in the morning, so be it.  I can just as readily sweat at 11:00 am as I can at 7:30 am.  The stamps on those envelopes that I need to mail won’t expire if I wait until tomorrow to go by the Post Office.  And since the local grocery store no longer gives the Senior Citizen discount on Wednesdays (how dare they), I can just as easily restock the pantry on any day of the week!

I’m slowly recognizing that I’ve become a resident in an alternate universe where I control time, rather than it controlling me.  And it’s really quite a nice place to be.

I haven’t broken contact completely with that other universe in which I used to reside, but I find that I’m merely an observer of it, rather than an active participant.

traffic-jamAs I drive around town, particularly during the morning and afternoon rush hours, I realize that I’m awash in a sea of folks dressed in the now standard business casual attire and tightly gripping their steering wheels as they frantically search for any opportunity to gain just one spot ahead of where they find themselves in the endless lines of traffic.  No doubt their minds are swamped with the plethora of reports, meetings, and tasks that are dictating their schedule for the rest of today, tomorrow, and next week.

I suppose that once in a great while one of the residents of that other universe may glance over at me and momentarily wonder, “Why does that old codger look so relaxed and content?”  Apparently, they can’t see the Pillsbury Dough Boy sitting in the passenger seat whimsically wondering what we’re going to do with the rest of the day.

Photos by Rawpixel and Evgeny Tchebotarev on Unsplash

Give ’em an inch…..

redlightI’m old enough to remember when drivers did not have the freedom to pull up to a traffic light which happened to be red and then make a right turn after coming to a complete stop.

Generally known as “Right on Red”, this rule of the road was legalized in all 50 U.S. states way back in 1980.

I’m curious.  Is there any state in which drivers still routinely come to a complete stop before exercising their prerogative to turn right on red?  I didn’t think so.

It appears that most drivers currently interpret “Right on Red” to mean that it’s totally acceptable for them to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll through red traffic lights as long as they meet the minimum requirement of executing a right turn in the process.

stop-signAbout now, someone is probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?”  Admittedly, this may seem like a very minor bending of the “Right on Red” statue.  Except for the fact that many drivers, at least where I live, are now also applying the assumed freedom to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll to the act of making right turns at Stop signs.

From there, it’s a very short step to assuming that if one can make right turns when the traffic light is red, why isn’t it also permissible to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll straight through red traffic lights as well?  Assuming of course, there are no other cars attempting to make it through the same intersection at the same time under the auspices of a green light.

Based on my own casual observations while driving locally, it appears that most drivers have long ago deemed the yellow caution traffic lights to be a nothing more than a nuisance and the need to pay attention to them to be completely optional.  Gradually, that same mindset is being applied to red lights.

Just the other day, I observed three cars driving back-to-back through the red light at a very busy intersection near my home.  To be clear, they were not attempting to sneak through the yellow light only to be a bit late in doing so.  No, all three cars drove straight through the traffic light clearly after it had already changed from yellow to red.

Seeing one car zip through a red light has unfortunately become commonplace, but to witness three at the same time left me utterly dumbfounded.  It’s one thing to care so little for your own safety and well-being, but to rashly jeopardize that of other people is totally unacceptable.

I’ll complete the well known axiom that I used in the title of this post, “Give ’em an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”  Or maybe it’s two.

Human nature is alive and well and, often to our detriment, being generously applied in the interpretation of the rules of the road.

Be safe out there and remember to drive defensively!