Monday, April 30, 2018

Old School Mechanical Engineering

Working on the rear brakes of my MGB yesterday, I ran into an interesting problem. I needed to remove four nuts from the right rear drum so I could remove the drum and get at the brake shoes. The car has wire wheels, so the wheel obscures the nuts. Removing the wheel allowed the hub to spin freely as the emergency brake wasn't working on that wheel and engaging the transmission didn't make a difference, making me wonder about that whole thing*.

In any case, with the hub spinning freely, I couldn't remove the nuts. I needed a way to lock the hub in place. I took some rope and tied it to the body up around the front. I took the other end of the rope and looped it around one of the nuts, like so.

It worked conceptually, but the execution left a bit to be desired. I ended up breaking two ropes doing this. I then went to Lowe's and bought some chain. I haven't tried again, but I'm going to give it a try tonight.

* - With the visual acuity that comes of hindsight, the transmission mustn't have been fully engage, otherwise the rear wheels wouldn't have moved. I think. Another thing to try tonight.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Kanye And Candace

This made me really happy.

I had a brief, partial rush of the feeling of joy that we would get if we stopped grouping people by race.

If you don't know, Kanye is a famous rapper and Candace Owens is a black, conservative firebrand. One of Candace's big things is that blacks need to get out of the victim mentality because it's mostly rubbish and their lives are dominated by their own behavior, not something someone else is doing to them.

The Sunday previous, I had been at the close of a Catholic women's retreat where the women were sharing what they had picked up from the retreat. One was a black woman who talked about the same kinds of things that a lot of the women do - anxiety, fear and self-doubt and how the weekend had shown her that by recognizing Christ's love and sacrifice for her, she could see herself as loved and valued.

It was beautiful. I wanted to get to know her. I wanted to chat with her about her family and children. I wanted to hear her experiences as a Catholic parent and what she was doing to help her kids navigate a culturally hostile world and tell her my own strategies.

In that moment, we were peers and we could be friends and confidants for life. What Kanye did was to crack open the door, just a little, to a world where we can all be confidants and peers for life instead of being members of our tribes.

I loved it.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Hey, At Least I'm Being Realistic

Wife Kitteh: Would you like to go out to dinner tonight?

 Me: Sure! I'll pick out three restaurants that you can turn down and then we'll go out for Italian.

(Wife Kitteh laughs.)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Give Us This Day Our Daily Frogs

Or, Buried Under Frogs Is A Wet, Squirmy Place To Be.

I'm a fan of self-help books. I've consumed about 20 of them. For me, the very best of the lot is Brian Tracy's Goals. I just finished his Eat That Frog! and I think it places second.

Eat That Frog! makes a simple suggestion. On your list of things to do, do the biggest and very worst task first, before you do anything else. Do it to completion. Don't open email, don't go on social media, don't do anything until you eat the frog. When you're done, eat the second biggest, ugliest frog and so on.

The rest of the book is spent on frog identification and differentiation as well as the benefits of an all-frog diet.

I was convinced, so I tried it and it has worked like a charm. Each day, I make a list of the day's frogs and I go at them, one at a time. Unless email is directly related to frog consumption, it doesn't get opened until the afternoon. By about 1 PM, my brain is usually toast, so the most I can do is email and small tasks. I have discovered that I can eat a couple of frogs each morning.

The premise is that you will never run out of little, nagging things to do. Your email inbox will never be empty and all those small odds and ends will never be completed. You can burn up your day's mental energy dealing those relatively unimportant problems and never tackle the big ones. In order to get large, difficult and complicated problems solved, you need to go at them when you're fresh and have the most energy.

Frogs are addictive

I've been doing this for a week now and I love it. I have dealt with a couple of major tasks that have been hanging over my head for months and it feels great to have them behind me. So much energy is released when you eat a frog! I feel like I'm getting things under control even though I'm not working longer hours than I had been before.

Devouring frogs gives me hope. I've lamented on this blog lately that I have more to do than I can possibly get done, but my successes in the last week have shown me that I really can get it all done, at least everything important. This weekend, my frog list is simple: deal with all of the paperwork associated with my father's recent passing. Insurance claims, pension documentation, account modifications and so on, that's this weekend's frog. I won't stop until it's done. Possibly more importantly, I won't waste my time worrying about anything else.

Eating frogs has one more advantage. While you're doing it, you can easily find yourself in the zone, that mental place where all of your attention and energy is focused, directed at that one task. I'm convinced that this is a direct result of knowing that what you're doing matters, not to anyone else necessarily, but certainly to you. You know that this particular frog has been pestering you for a long time and when you're done, it will be gone from your life forever.

So there you have it. I recommend the book highly and I further recommend a diet rich in frogs.

Trust me, they're delicious!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Goodbye, Evernote

... I'm moving to Google Keep. I live entirely within the Google ecosystem, with the exception of our Amazon Echoes. Using Evernote to keep little tidbits of information just doesn't seem to make sense. All of the Google apps work really well together.

Transferring all those notes from Evernote by hand (CTRL-A, CTRL-C, CTRL-V) is going to be a pain, but there it is.

As for the Echoes, I'm seriously thinking of buying a Google Home just to compare the two. Alexa doesn't play nicely with Google and sometimes it's answers are inadequate. A prolonged side-by-side experiment would be interesting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Millennial Androgyny And Sheep

So my innocent and well-meaning musings on Millennials being a pack of flaccid, limp-wristed wieners and frumpy, pseudo-masculine trolls garnered significant comments. I can't understand why, I was so even-handed and fair! Oh well. Pondering your excellent input, I thought I'd revise and extend my remarks. Here are the data points I'm trying to explain.
  1. Muslims are having more babies, per person, than us infidels. In some places, the ratio is about double. Do that for long and you'll be living in a majority-Islam nation.
  2. Modern wars in the West are fought at the ballot box. Majority-Islam means Sharia in one form or another.
  3. Muslims are pretty strict with their sex roles. There's not a lot of STEM outreach for girls in the Muslim world and I'd bet that their military recruiting ads don't feature chicks in every one.
  4. American military ads feature women all over the place, looking like they could strangle small horses with their bare hands. Or something like that.

    Caveat for my dear friend Foxie: I'm all for women in the military. They can perform well in all manner of roles with a few exceptions. Women in the infantry, for example, is a bad idea. Hopefully we are still friends after this blog post.
  5. Lurking at places like Costco, waiting for security to throw me out, it seems as though American Millennials don't cling to traditional sex roles in appearance or behavior. As we used to say in college during the Pleistocene, "(locating being disparaged) - where the men are men, the women are men and the sheep are nervous." Only in this case, it's more like, "Where the men are confused, the women think they're men and the sheep are sustainably raised." Or something like that.
  6. Listening to my wannabe-transgender friend, I hear the familiar gibberish of the progressives - that gender is fluid and sex can be chosen and there aren't any real differences between men and women and that's why you have to be one sex or another which you can choose even though you don't have the characteristics at the cellular level and if you disagree, you're a hateful bigot. Prior to going completely insane, she wasn't the sort you'd have picked for becoming a man. If ordinary people are succumbing to this cult, there's something significant happening.
  7. I'm not certain, but I think Muslims are even less interested in transgendering each other than they are with sheep being nervous. And that sheep thing is right out.
So explain away. My thought is that you can't redefine sex roles or at least significantly soften the boundaries of sex roles without having some impact on the whole point of sex roles in the first place - making babies. I'd suggest that the simple data point of birth rates supports this.

I could be wrong.

Manly superstar Clark Gable performing with his good friend Roger Schwartz who is transitioning into a basket of cucumbers by way of becoming a woman, a snail and then a small pile of leaves first.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Questioning Support For Slave States

... was something that never happened to Bernie Sanders.

It's difficult to do, but it helps to step back from a controversy and see what generic question is being asked. "Do you support slavery?" is the theme of much of our fascination with racial discrimination.

Something I was pondering this weekend was Bernie's "honeymoon" in the Soviet Union. The USSR was a slave state where all citizens, save for the powerful members of the Party, were slaves. One way you can tell is that the barbed wire and guard towers faced inwards. That is, they were all meant to keep people from escaping.

Another way to tell was that citizen/prisoners were only able to keep trivial amounts of the wealth they produced. The rest was appropriated for the use of the wealthy Party members. That sounds like a plantation to me.

It would have taken no effort at all to have found thousands of examples of slavery in the USSR with which to confront Bernie in interviews. Bernie's support for slavery was way worse than anyone's support for statues of Robert E. Lee. Lee's service to the Confederacy came to an end more than 150 years ago. Appreciation for Lee the man can genuinely be separated from a long-defunct nation.  Bernie, a socialist, visited and supported a slave state while slavery was in full swing.

Here's a sample question they might have asked. "Bernie, how can you say you support civil rights when you directly supported slavery?" He would then sputter and squawk in indignation and demand an explanation of the question to which you would reply with example after example. Game, set, match.

I know this was never going to happen and never will. Still, it's a nice dream.

Bernie and his wife ought to record reminiscences from their honeymoon which would provide a soundtrack to this.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Millennial Androgyny

At Costco yesterday, it hit me again: millennials must be the most androgynous generation we've ever had. There were plenty of girls with short hair and no makeup, dressed in jeans and sweats and lots of guys with soft voices and feminine manners, it's kind of creepy. On an individual basis, it's no big deal to me, but when it seems to be the majority, it's really weird. I can't help but wonder from where the next generation of babies is going to come. The other thing I wonder is how many of the guys know how to work on cars.

Yes, yes, I know, I'm a curmudgeon and the good old days were never as good as curmudgeons remember. This isn't a rational analysis, it's a gut feel that I get when I'm out in busy, public places. Perhaps I've become over-sensitive to it after reading too many polemics about gender rubbish.

The other thing I can't help but wonder is the difference between a generation of gender-indecipherables and Muslims who have no such ambiguities. In a Darwinian sense, shouldn't the subspecies that practices sexual specialization win out in the long run? Is this just a symptom of what we see in European demographics?

Finally, is this the result of the LGBT movement of the last ten years? Is there a certain amount of celebrity to be gained from appearing gender-fluid? Does it spice things up to have people wondering about you? Or is it that being explicitly a man or a woman is inappropriate these days?

Oh well. It's not really my problem as I don't have to relate to Millenials in any way where their genderless appearance makes a real difference.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Starbucks And The Evolution Of A Religion

Blogging Note: I need to spend mornings doing something other than writing, so I'm scaling back from obsessively blogging every day to committing to a Monday and Thursday blogging schedule. I might still jot something down or share a photo on the other days, but I'm not promising anything.

I haven't kept up with the news lately, but as I understand it, two black guys were arrested for loitering in a Starbucks, leading Starbucks to have a thousand (was that the number?) stores stand down for racial sensitivity training.

When Congress passed Hate Crime legislation several years back, part of it mandated the FBI to maintain statistics on hate crimes. Here they are for 2016.
In 2016, race was reported for 5,770 known hate crime offenders. Of these offenders:
  • 46.3 percent were White.
  • 26.1 percent were Black or African American.
Blacks are about 13% of the population which means that blacks double up on hate crimes on a per capita basis.

So I get why Starbucks wanted a refresher course on race relations, but where are the corresponding ones for other groups? There are all kinds of other statistics that could be trotted out, but I'm not going to give the Stormfront cretins more ammunition than they already have. The thing that hits me is not just the Nazi-esque nature of our dominant racial narrative: the Jews whites are exploiting the Germans people of color, it's how it is in direct contradiction of the facts. It's doubtful that many people are even aware of the hate crime stats. I wasn't until very recently.

Is this how Jim Jones worked? Did he control the flow of information in order to create a narrative for his followers and confirm the beliefs of his cult in their minds?

How do you deprogram a nation?

These cult things rarely end well.
Bonus tidbit: I just found out that Jim Jones was a socialist. Well, that caption goes double then. These socialist things rarely end well. (Someone tell Bernie Sanders, OK?)
He considered Jesus Christ as being in compliance with an overarching belief in Socialism as the correct social order.

Friday, April 20, 2018

SJW Joke

While driving yesterday, I was talking with a friend from work and the topic turned to politics. We thought the same way and swapped stories. When we got out of the car at his offices, we both agreed to not tell others what we'd been saying. Our ideas weren't all that controversial 3-5 years ago, but now it is verboten to even speak of them. We made Gestapo jokes as we walked into the building. It was pretty creepy and it was very real.

Soviet / Nazi jokes are funny again, adapted for our times.

A university professor who is secretly conservative sees his pet parrot fly out the window and escape. Terrified, he goes to the dean of his department and reports the bird missing. The dean looks at him incredulously and says, "Why are you telling me this? Just go report it to the police or animal control."

"I will, but I just wanted to let you know that I don't agree with a single word that bird says."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pushing Against A Building

Going through old draft posts that I never published, I came across this one. I'm not sure why I didn't think it was worthy of sharing. Oh well. Enjoy!

... and trying to get the building to move.

I was walking between buildings at work yesterday, grinding my teeth and grumbling about some issue so small that I can't remember what it was, when I realized I was just wearing myself out. I was tired to begin with, having stayed up reading far too late the night before and this was not helping at all. I realized that my aggravation wasn't accomplishing anything but self-exhaustion and I suddenly felt very silly, like I had been spending hours pushing my hardest against a building, trying to get it to move.

When I studied Kung Fu, the school had us study some Tai Chi as well. Favoring the far nastier and more kinetic Kung Fu, I didn't spend much time on the Tai Chi, but I did learn the lesson of going with your opponent's energy instead of pushing back. In Tai Chi, you relax and feel the flow of the motions, trying to get your opponent off-balance to take advantage of the situation. When you're the one pushing, you end up tired and usually on the ground.

Solving problems in life, like winning a fight, requires calm thought and energy. Draining your energy through anxiety and anger doesn't leave it available for constructive use.

Phillipians Chapter 4:
Always be joyful, then, in the Lord; I repeat, be joyful. Let your good sense be obvious to everybody. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything; but tell God all your desires of every kind in prayer and petition shot through with gratitude, and the peace of God which is beyond our understanding will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


... play a big part in your success. That is, the expectations your parents (or caregivers) have on you as you grow up.

In both Hillbilly Elegy (poor white folk), My Grandfather's Son (poor black folk pre-civil rights) and Please Stop Helping Us (poor black folk post civil rights), the authors talk about how they made it out of poverty, drug abuse and crime while so many of their peers did not. Money plays some role, but not much. None of them were starving or living in migrant worker camps. They lived above that level of subsistence, but not by much.

What made the biggest difference in their lives were the expectations of their parents and grandparents. They grew up under expectations of hard work and sacrifice to get ahead in life. Each author notes how this made them unusual in their communities in some way. Each went on to achieve success.

There are similar common threads in the self-help books I read such as the ones from Zig Ziglar, Jordan Peterson and Brian Tracy.

Something to ponder.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lessons Learned From A Digital Fast

It's all about the gas tank.

Every day, you only have so much energy for thought, emotions, work and watching those really horrible daytime courtroom things on TV.

Stimulants like the Internet, politics, caffeine and dealing with flaccid Nazi progressives, but I repeat myself, use up that energy to no practical purpose. They are effectively entertainment.

My 7 day Digital Fast taught me that life was better without them. I could get just as much information by sampling them once in a great while, if at all.

Caffeine: By the end, I was down to 1 cup of coffee a day. The results were excellent. I had my cuppa in the morning and could be productive, but I didn't come home with chemical stress and anxiety from caffeine crashes. The last two days, I felt great driving home, something that was new to me. No kidding. I have a pretty great life right now and this little experiment showed me I was unhappy coming home because I was going through a caffeine crash.

Politics on the Internet: Curious about my 401K, I opened this morning to see how things were going. On their front page was an article about Sean Hannity having ties to Argle Bargle. Golly! I'm sure that was important. It's all a bunch of high school gossiping. Yawn. I can definitely afford to tune in once every week or so. After day 2, I didn't feel much temptation to look at it.

Smartphone Games: I was seriously addicted to a brick breaker game on my phone when I started. It was one of the reasons I decided to try the Fast. I realized that it was just a space filler. I was desperately trying to fill every second of my life with stimulation, not realizing those stimulants were all draining fuel from me. I might play now and again, but I recognize them for the parasites they are.

Music: I still love it, but I love it now as a treat, not a constant companion. When I decide I've worked and thought enough, music is a nice way to force my brain to switch off. Now that I see it for the distraction that it is, I can find times when embracing that distraction is a good thing.

Social media: I don't miss Facebook or Twitter. Thanks to flaccid Nazi progressives making everything political*, there's a certain amount of anxiety to checking out relatively harmless Facebook. Even my religious Twitter feed can sometimes get polluted with politics. I refuse to surrender my time and energy to that.

Result: I feel GREAT! I started running again, too. I have a lot more energy and I'm not wasting nearly as much time on silly things. Coming home, I still have gas in the tank for wife kitteh. That's important.

I'm going to make a few changes here on the blog that I'll discuss later. For now, that's my lessons learned from the last seven days. I'm glad I did it.

* - Remember Mussolini's dictum: Everything inside of the State, nothing without. All of the marches and protests and politically-based mob actions on campuses and in the tech companies are Mussolini (and Peron and Obama and Sanders), straight up. The State is driven by politics and politics is arguing. The bigger the government becomes, the longer its reach through regulations, the more we'll be at each others' throats. Yay.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Perfect Song To End A Workout

... when you're getting as older is this one.

As a result of my Digital Fast, I've started the Couch to 5K program. It's a lot better than just walking the Catican Guards, but not as good as weight training which, as ligneus says in a comment on an earlier blog, is essential. I need to find time to start doing that. In the meantime, running won't hurt.

Tomorrow is the end of the Fast and I plan to blog my findings.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Parade Of Songbirds

... at our backyard birdbath. I set up my little point-and-shoot to record the birdbath for half an hour and then edited it down to just the birds. There is an apricot tree out of frame on the left that they love and that's why they all come from that side.

Don't worry, none of them are bathing so this is rated G. The video is HD and I think the little guys are pretty, so it might be worth watching in fullscreen mode. Enjoy.

As far as the Digital Fast went on Day 5 - more of the same. I'm coming to a conclusion on the set of changes I'm going to make as a result of what I've learned.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Digital Fast - Day 4

  • The rules. No social networking, Internet surfing, music or alcohol and less caffeine.
  • Day 1 - music is a big distraction can work is easier without it.
  • Day 2 - Success and failure. 
  • Day 3 - Rule changes regarding music and caffeine. A discussion of caffeine leading to alcohol.

Lessons from Day 4

It was a good day yesterday. I skipped the afternoon shot of caffeine, so I'm down to one cup of coffee in the morning. There was a hint of the withdrawal headache, but nothing unmanageable. As I suspected, not having the afternoon Diet Coke led to no anxiety in the evening. I had a couple of beers last night, but they were atypically unsatisfying, probably because there was no caffeine crash to overcome. Illuminating.

Driving around with tunes made things more enjoyable until I realized I needed to think about what I was going to do with the rest of the day. For months now, I have had many more things I need to accomplish than I can actually do, so while it seems trivial to think about what to do next, in my current situation, it's really a triage of potential crises. This experiment has shown me that when I need to ponder something, I need to ditch all distractions and music is one of them.

Why Am I Doing This?

I'm getting old. That's it.

I'm approaching retirement which means I will be changing careers. That change is going to require concentrated effort and thought. In the last year, due to changes in my family and work, my days have become almost spasmic. A pile of forms to complete, ailing parents to visit, multiple jobs to cover at work - it's a frenzy of tiny tasks. I could tell that it was affecting my thought processes and ability to concentrate. Add to that the intellectual junk food I was feeding myself in the form of social media and political rants and then pile on the caffeine and alcohol and you had hundreds of anxiety-filled days strung together where nothing of significant substance was being done.

On top of all that, the frenzy of tasks made exercise impossible, outside of lunchtime walks and walking the dogs. It's a cliche, but it's true that as you age you need more exercise, not less. I still have delusions of diving more often, but to be honest, I'm afraid of it. I'm not worried about sharks, I'm worried about lifting the gear. With each trip, it gets harder and harder.

Finally, there are the chemical addictions - caffeine and alcohol. An aging body doesn't need these piled on top of all of the other stresses and changes. But how to get rid of them? The caffeine helped me fight my way through each day's impossible list of tasks and the alcohol was a sweet release in the evening.

In the back of my mind, I knew much of this was self-inflicted. I knew full well what my social media, Internet, caffeine, alcohol and smartphone game habits were doing to me. I'd read enough about the human brain and achieving goals and willpower to realize that all of these things were not helping me. It was just a pile of greasy snacks for my psyche and it was making me sick.

How sick? That's what the experiment is revealing. How much do I really need to surrender? All of it? Some of it? All the time? Only during those times I need to concentrate? Do you need mental cool-down periods to transition from cheap stimulants to serious effort? Do I really enjoy all of this mental junk food or is life better without it?

Finally, I really do want to be able to do more than take walks when I retire. From where is that time to work out going to come? It seems like a hopeless cause right now as my list of things that have to be done is still unmanageable, but can I find a combination of things to change or give up that will get me close enough to start?

Hence, the Digital Fast.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Digital Fast - Day 3

For starters, the rules are no Internet or social media, no music or alcohol and less caffeine. The time frame is one week. The idea is to see what changes these sacrifices make to your personality.  Here are the rules in detail. On Day 1, we discovered that music is a serious distraction. On Day 2, we found that we could read long passages again. Here's what we learned yesterday.


Outside of not giving up my afternoon caffeine, yesterday was a success. At work, we went out to Pizza Port Brewing to celebrate an event, so instead of getting a beer like everyone else, I contented myself with a Diet Coke. I felt postponing the further caffeine reduction was no big deal. I had another very productive day and was better able to concentrate on complex tasks and reading. I slept much better and was better company for wife kitteh, too. Victory!

Changing the Rules on Music and Caffeine

Giving up music was crucial to discovering what was happening in my brain, but it's overkill to give it up for the entire day. Unlike political agitation sites such as Instapundit and Twitter, music doesn't have a significant emotional half-life. Turn it off and you're not still thinking about it an hour later or even five minutes later.

Rule Change: Music is OK as long as I'm not doing anything complicated. For example, driving and cooking are not mentally taxing, so they can be accompanied by tunes.

Caffeine is a catalyst for bad things later. Caffeine energizes you by squeezing your adrenal gland. It takes about 8 hours to completely metabolize the caffeine from a cup of coffee and long before that, you've run out of adrenaline. If you really overuse the stuff, the shakes come from adrenal exhaustion where there isn't enough adrenaline in your body for normal functions.

For me, I get caffeine crashes about 3 hours after I consume a cup of coffee or a Diet Coke. 3 doses a day was way too much and my body was chemically worn out by the end of the work day. Cutting down to 2 doses helped, but yesterday I discovered my evening alcohol craving was partially due to a caffeine crash.

My caffeine crashes manifest themselves in anxiety. At the end of the work day, after 2 cups of coffee and a Diet Coke, I've got stress from having way too much work to do and then I compound that with my caffeine chemical withdrawals. What's the best thing when your anxious to sooth your nerves? Alcohol! Yay for alcohol!

Err, no. The alcohol then whacks my sleep patterns and makes me poor company for wife kitteh. It's a destructive biochemical cycle that needs to be broken and left behind.

Rule Change: One cup of coffee in the morning is the limit. Even if I go through caffeine-withdrawal headaches, the Diet Coke in the afternoon has to go. Frankly, I won't miss it. It was more of a talisman than a cure. The pick-up I felt from that dose never lasted more than 30 minutes because my adrenal gland was already practically empty.

Tomorrow, I'll lay out the underlying motivations for this craziness.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Digital Fast - Day 2

... in which KT Cat finds success, failure and revelations. The rules are here. Day 1 is here. In short, I'm giving up the Internet, social media, digital games, music and alcohol and cutting my caffeine intake to see if it changes me.


As I had suspected before I started, avoiding agitating sites on the Interweb Tubes left me more mental energy to be creative. You only have so much fuel in the tank every day and each stimulus spends some of it. Yesterday, I went to work and was able to knock out a lot of fairly complicated things I had been postponing. By about 3 PM, I was mentally fatigued, but that happens every day and in this case, none of that was due to me waving my arms and yelling about distant things.

Still no coffee withdrawal headache caused by going from 3 drinks to 2. I didn't feel any kick from the midday Diet Coke, so I'm going to drop that one as well and go down to just the morning cup of French Press.


Work is different than puttering around the house. My day at home was something I wanted to do. My day at work was fine as I like my job, but it's still a job. By the end of the day, I "needed" a brewski or two, so I had them. Zig Ziglar says share your give up goals as your friends will help you stay on the straight and narrow, so I'm being honest on that one. I pondered dumping that requirement for the digital fast, but for reasons I'll share later in this series, I decided it was best to stick with the hard core approach.


Music is a waste of energy at work. As I said yesterday, that has shocked me. I can't get over how much mental fuel is spent just listening and how much of a distraction it is. The YouTube rants I occasionally throw into the mix are complete poison. No, no and no.

Yesterday, a coworker left for lunch and unwittingly left his laptop playing music in the background. In this case, it was 1950s doo wop. When Randy and the Rainbows' Denise came on, it was unbearable, even though it was quiet. I put on my own headphones and tried to drown it out with some Gregorian Chant, but both were insufferable. I ended up stuffing his laptop in the trunk of my car. We all laughed about it, but the conclusion was inescapable. Music is a drag on your mental powers. That makes sense as your brain can only hold 4 things in front of you at the same time. The music is going to take up one of those slots, so unless it's masking something even worse, it's going to be a hindrance.

I Can Read Again

It's only been two days, but I can read books again. This is another surprise, although it shouldn't be. It stands to reason that the more quick hit pieces of information you consume, the harder prolonged concentration will be. This morning I was able to sit and read a book I started at the beginning of this fast and consume the required section without effort. Had I been on Twitter or my latest smartphone game, reading anything for more than a few minutes would have taken effort.

So today - less caffeine and no brewskis. We'll see where we are tomorrow. Thanks for all the comments. I really enjoy hearing how y'all have experienced similar things.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Digital Fast - Day 1

Yesterday surprised me.

To recap, I'm giving up my smartphone and the Interweb Tubes for a week, except as necessary to communicate and learn. I threw in alcohol and music and vowed to cut my caffeine consumption from 3 drinks to 2. The plan is to discover how it changes me.

Without Music, Work Got Done

Over the past several months, drowning in a tsunami of impossible tasks from all sides, I've taken to setting three goals every day and if I can get those done, I consider it a good day. Yesterday, I took a day off of work and set myself to:
  1. Clean the garage which had become a storage site for everything I didn't have time to put away,
  2. Replace the front brake calipers on my MGB where the brake lines feeding the calieprs had been frozen on from rust and had resisted all removal attempts and
  3. Learn how to solder properly.
I went 3 for 3.

Usually, I'm listening to music and podcasts all day. Not just listening, but singing along or talking back or otherwise interacting with the sounds. When I'm working in the garage, if it's a good song, I'll go over to my phone and hit pause if I need to go inside for a minute. It's active listening that changes what I'm doing and, it turns out, slows me down. 

No music and no podcasts meant I was able to focus 100% on what I was doing. The garage wasn't just tidied up, it was vacuumed as well. Tools and parts found new homes and the place is in excellent shape. I now have a soldering station in the third bay with a new, 40W, Weller soldering iron. Yesterday, I discovered that I had been trying to do my electrical work with a hobbyist's toy, the Easy-Bake Oven of soldering irons. $60 later, I'm ready to work for real.

Without The Internet, I Was Happier

Just like music, I react all day to what I read. I formulate blog posts making arguments in response to tweets and articles designed to make me do just that. I know I don't have any real effect on the "national conversation," but most days I can't resist throwing in my two cents. I didn't and the world didn't end.

Caffeine and Alcohol - Who Needs 'Em?

I do. Well, the morning coffee, that's for sure. Giving that up, at least now, would be suicidal. I discovered that the afternoon Diet Coke was extraneous, but I had it anyway just to prevent a possible caffeine-withdrawal headache, to which I am prone. I could see myself getting down to one cup of coffee a day.

As for beer, that was really, really tough. From 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, my body craves brewskis like nobody's business. It's a dopamine release in anticipation of the daily suds. Like a dog going crazy because they know it's feeding time even before the food bowls are taken out, I get excited about the prospect of a really good IPA. That's not good, particularly when your life is full of stress. Enough said about that. I skipped it yesterday and I'm glad. 22 hours of happiness more than offset those 2 hours of unrequited craving.

Day 2

I'm going back in to work today. I typically wear my headphones as much as possible and sneak in a YouTube rant video every couple of hours to spice things up as I toil. No music and no rants? It should make quite a change in how I experience the day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Digital Fast - It Begins

Have you ever wondered how your smartphone and Internet consumption are affecting your life and personality? Who would you be in a world without them? Do you spend so much time with them that they warp you? I keep thinking that they must. They are designed to stimulate and arouse. That much input, usually negative, must have an effect.

Thus the Digital Fast. For one week, I'm going to avoid as much content as possible from my phone and computer just to see if it changes me.

The Rules: My smartphone can only be used to communicate. That includes telephone calls and text messages. It can also be used to obtain necessary information such as store hours and locations and to guide me, when necessary, with the navigation app. No more Twitter, games, YouTube or the rest.

My computer will be used to blog daily updates on the fast and, like the phone, obtain important information for daily life such as repair manuals, weather, vacation reservations and so forth. No more Wall Street Journal, Instapundit or any of the other spasm-inducing sites.

My podcasts and music-on-demand services will be shelved for the week as well. Spotify, Pandora, the Andrew Klavan Show - it all falls into the category of stimulation, so out it goes.

Just for fun, we're going to throw in caffeine and alcohol. I usually have a coffee first thing in the morning, another around 9 and a Diet Coke in the afternoon. I'm going to cut out the 9 AM coffee. As for alcohol, that's gone entirely. For the first time in my life, I need to lose weight and all that beer isn't doing me any good at all. It's going to be a dry Digital Fast.

The Exception: English Premier League. Come Saturday and Sunday, I'm going to watch a couple of games. The experiment is important, but I'm not missing Newcastle United for it. Howay the lads! Besides, I figure that the EPL isn't in the same class as my political and economic surfing. It's exciting, but it's not designed to make me angry.

The Photography Quandary: Should this include photography? If I take photos or videos, can I use the computer to finally learn how to use selections, masks and layers in Photoshop? How about making time-lapse videos? I don't see that these fall into the same category as the agitation sites and apps, so I'm going to go with it. If you think that's cheating, feel free to let me know.

Work: My job is all done on the computer and involves social networking. Fortunately, it's all work-based, so I think I will be able to do my job while living within the spirit of the Fast.

So there you have it. A week without digital stimulants. Onward and upward! Excelsior!

Good God, I miss it already.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Manhood As A Fashion Statement Versus Feral Manhood

I'll bet on the feral men every time.

Progressives tell us that being a man is a choice and has no intrinsic meaning.
(Progressive) parents don’t like the term gender-neutral, explains New York magazine. They prefer gender-open, gender-creative or gender-affirming. For them, the gender binary is a trap constructed by society to imprison their children and restrict their human potential. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary, they argue. They hope that freeing our children from the shackles of arbitrarily imposed gender norms will be the first steps in a sweeping cultural change to create a better, fairer, more egalitarian society...

Swedish teachers encourage boys to play in the kitchen and girls to shout “no.” Some boys show up in dresses; no one cares. Sweden’s national curriculum requires preschools to “counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns” and encourage children to explore “outside the limitations of stereotyped gender roles.”
On the other side, the Muslims in England and elsewhere are suggesting that maybe men are born men with all of the power and uncivilized aggression that comes with it.
Grooming gangs abused more than 700 women and girls around Newcastle with “arrogant persistence” after police appeared to punish victims while letting the perpetrators walk free, a case review has found...

Investigators said the abuse could not be stopped without work to understand the profiles, motivations and cultural influences of perpetrators, after finding similarities with grooming in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.
How much more "understanding" is needed here? Of course, if you downplay or ignore the grooming gangs, it's impossible for the culture to take the necessary steps to deal with the situation. Since admitting the existence grooming gangs is a heresy, I wouldn't expect the progressive religious in the media, entertainment and academia to dwell on it.

A sampling of the groomers from Newcastle. I'm not seeing many gender-open people here.
Except maybe that whatever-it-is in the lower right.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Manhood As A Fashion Accessory

I had some more conversations recently with a woman I know who is considering "transitioning to a man." I put that in quotes because it's utter rubbish. If she has the surgeries and takes the drugs, she's not going to be a man any more than she'll be a banana. She'll be a mutilated woman, drenched in drugs.

As we talked, I realized that to her, being a man was a fashion statement. Since it is no longer acceptable to have an objective definition of manhood and masculinity, she's essentially correct that she will become a "man." It didn't start here, though.

When we decided that all family structures were equally valid, we started the destruction of sexual roles. That we've reached this point shouldn't be a surprise. That we will go farther is almost a given. In reality, men are designed to protect and provide for a wife and children. In our fantasy world, men don't have to fulfill that role at all.

Without that anchor, what then is a man? You don't need to be aggressive or focused or strong or accomplished. You don't have to expect that anyone will depend on you, so those traits are unnecessary. To me, that reduces manhood to a hair style, the need to shave and a voice an octave lower. Those are fashion statements and nothing more.

American GIs in Burma in WW II. 2 of the 6 of them were born female, but transitioned to men.
Or maybe not.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Trump Is Absolutely Right On China

Just like the Russia collusion story, this one is pretty basic and is being totally missed by the press. Russia had no reason whatsoever to prefer Trump and China holds almost no cards at all.

Chinese Exports to the US

Value: $462B
Chinese GDP: $11.8T
Exports as a percentage of GDP: 4%

US Exports to China

Value: $115B
US GDP: $19.4T
Exports as a percentage of GDP: 0.6%

So trade between the two countries is 7 times as important to China as it is to the US. Trump is negotiating from a position of strength and is doing just what we want a president to do. China has gotten away with the unfair trade practices typical to a fascist / corporatist nation for years against administrations from both parties who were advised by the "best and the brightest." It has also practiced intellectual and electronic theft and piracy on an industrial scale. Additionally, Chinese expansion in Southeast Asia has violated all manner of International law.

That the Chinese hold vast sums of US Treasuries is a weapon I don't think either side will use. We'll see. In the meantime, Trump has a good hand to play. Not that you'd know it from the hysterical, little girls in the press.

China is building military bases on artificial islands. Quite the aggressive bunch, no?

Friday, April 06, 2018


Out on maneuvers with the Catican Guards, I saw this little patch of grass and for whatever reason, it spoke to me.

In other news, following up on yesterday's post about Trump taking on China, the plot seemed to thicken today. The markets certainly didn't like it. As I'm more, err, invested in my 401K than politics, I never like to see anything that leads to a market dip.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Mixed Feelings On The Trade Wars

... or maybe just a growing sense of confidence in the Trumpster-in-Chief.

As a conservative, I have theological problems with trade wars, tariffs and the like. As a long-time reader of right-wing thought-rags, I am always afraid that trade wars will end in economic slowdowns and chaos. Still, when Trump started his recent trade wars over steel, aluminum and the rest, I was less certain than I had been.

My growing confidence in the orange-haired nutjob came from, among other things, the way he got results from North Korea by taking a hard line. The more I see him work, the more I see that he likes to ask for things way beyond what he really wants and then negotiate back from there.  As far as I saw with the aluminum and steel tariffs, South Korea came to the bargaining table and we got some concessions we didn't have before.

His policies are leading to good times in lots of places. Dig this.
ELKHART, Ind.—The self-proclaimed RV capital of the world gives a glimpse of what the American economy looks like when operating at full tilt.

High-school students around here skip college for factory jobs that offer great pay and benefits. For-hire signs sprout like roadside weeds. And workers are so flush that car dealers can’t keep new pickups on the lot.

At the same time, the strains are showing. Employers can’t hang on to employees, and house prices are zooming. The worker shortage prompted a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant to offer $150 signing bonuses. A McDonald’s failed to open for lunch last fall because managers couldn’t corral enough hands at $8 an hour to serve the lines waiting at the door.
His most recent trade war with China doesn't worry me much at all. I imagine that it's going to end with a negotiated settlement where we get more than we had before.

I wonder if he's read this book. It looks like he has.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Looking For The Playmobil Skid Row Set

Buried in work from all sides these days, I took some time to visit the bank to take care of some of my father's estate issues. That took two trips and more than 3 hours. I joked to wife kitteh that I was trapped in the Bank of America Adventure Playset. Then I looked online to see if there really was a bank playset for tots. I found this.

A bank robbery playset for children? What, was the Meth Lab Playset a bit too much? I'm hoping they move on to a homeless tent city encampment like we have out here in SoCal. What fun it will be to set up the tents! The kids can get a bag of tiny, used hypodermic needles to scatter around on the floor. Yay!


Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Could No-Pasaran Have Spoken At The Children's March Against Guns?

I think not. He's* from East Germany, where Bernie Sanders-types ran the place and only the government had guns. He's also on Twitter, if you want to follow him there.

The media could have brought him in to participate on one of the panel discussions with the kids. After all, if the tots derive moral authority from having friends shot by a loon, he's got it from having friends oppressed by a government with a monopoly on force. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen, was it?

It's no surprise that he wasn't on TV. The MSM's job is not to inform you, it's to identify good guys and bad guys so you know who to hate. The children are good guys. The NRA are the bad guys. No need to muddy up the waters with true stories from socialist tyrannies.

Don't worry. If our guns are confiscated, enemies of the Party will be treated in a humane fashion, like this fellow, who is being given a lift to a local treatment facility.
* - Yes, I know it's a team blog. Singular sounded better in prose. Work with me here.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Are Ethnic Jokes OK Again?

If the Education Department is paying for whiteness studies, talks on toxic masculinity, demands for some to apologize for their white privilege and the patriarchy, is it OK now to go back to ethnic jokes? Maybe we've moved on to he point where all we can do is hate straight, white men, but can't laugh at ourselves. That would be sad.

I'm old enough to not have been indoctrinated into the culture of the constantly-offended. Some of my favorite accents and jokes make fun of myself and my heritage. There's so much good material out there, too!

I hope we can go back to the jokes. I miss listening to guys like Jackie Mason. The video below, by the way, seems to have been delisted by YouTube. When I searched for it by it's key, 6aJ63JhvpTA, it didn't come up for easy insertion by Blogger. My bet is that the peach-fuzzed censors at Google thought it was triggering. Oh well.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

He Is Risen!

Today is the day when we celebrate learning the answer to the question, "Why?" As in, why should we forgive? Why should we continue to fight our sins? Why should we love? Why practice humility?

I've used this image and link before on Easter, but I love it so here it is again.
This image comes from a beautiful resurrection story.
Happy Easter, everyone!