Like everyone, my life has seen multiple transitions from one stage to another. My recent experiences seem to have imparted a flavor somewhat different from previous changes, in that for the first time, the changes are physical rather than intellectual or emotional. It got me thinking back about what Willie Nelson called:
Running through the changes
Going through the stages
Coming round the corners in my life.
“Belief is the death of intelligence.”
– Robert Anton Wilson
“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
“Of all that I hold probable, only this I know:
My wisdom only takes me where my folly wants to go.”
– Ray Saunders
Wise Old Indian says:
(How come we don’t have sayings of old Drunk Uncle Billy Bearpaw?)
A man must discover who he is.
A man must discover where he comes from.
A man must discover why he’s here.
I’m still working on #1, have a growing understanding of #2 and have at least discovered #3.
I’m here to learn and appreciate.
When I was growing up in rural Colorado, I didn’t feel much connection with my contemporaries. For the most part, they prided themselves on being anti-intellectual, clung tightly to their ignorance and bullied anyone the least bit different or smaller. I was quite small for my age until my high school ‘growth spurt’ & was the teacher’s pet, so I came in for a lot of nastiness. Eventually, I learned to look out for myself, becoming a good boxer and wrestler who could think and act faster than the assholes, so they learned to leave me alone. That did not suddenly open the door to socialization and while I’m not anti-social, I decidedly failed to develop the usual social skills of teenagers. Continue reading
I used to fly hang-gliders, last time probably 20-25 years ago. There are two sorts of rising air: ridge lift in which an incoming wind hits the side of a mountain and rises. This frequently has turbulence caused by that same wind tumbling over the mountains on the other side of the valley and usable ridge lift depends very much on wind speed. Too strong: unflyable, too weak, not enough lift. The trick is to stay aloft long enough to pick up the second type of rising air: thermals. Once located, one can get powerful lift, Problem with that is thin air and it’s damn cold.
In a few places, a coastal cliff faces the wind and there’s nothing upwind to create turbulance. Wind speeds of 60+ are flyable and one can fly back and forth for hours. The lift from a vertical launch can be 2500-feet/minute and it’s an awesome jolt to step off a 3000-foot cliff and be 5000 up in a few seconds. Continue reading
For reasons of no particular interest here, a perfect storm of conditions recently caused my first-ever COPD flare-up and subsequent five-day hospital stay, the only time in 77 years I’ve been in for more than same-day surgery. The process left me somewhat chastened and realizing that using good genes as an excuse to ignore my health was probably not a viable long-term option. I will therefore have to take seriously the task of regaining and preserving as much as possible of my health going forward.
The process also left me with some memorable experiences which I will chronicle here, in case anyone’s interested.
When I was a teenager, I came into possession of a large amount of booze. (It’s a long story). I kept a bottle in my school locker and used to take a nip between classes – more to cock a snook at Authority than because I really wanted a drink. I used to lie in bed at night with an 8oz tumbler full of whiskey and read, listen to country radio until about 4am as I sipped my booze.
When I was growing up, we didn’t necessarily expect law enforcement to be happy with all the hell we raised. Technically, TPing someone’s house or tipping over their outhouse was vandalism but no one would have expected or condoned an officer pulling his gun under such circumstances. Putting a condom on the tailpipe of the cop’s car or plugging it with a potato were frowned upon by the victims, laughed at by the kids and smiled tolerantly at by most grownups, including the cops (once their blood pressure got back to normal).
It was common for us kids to stay out well after dark, often ‘camping out’ on someone’s lawn for all-night bull-sessions. We sometimes raided a garden – our own or others’ – for spuds and veggies to roast in a campfire. One gent in the neighborhood tried to grow corn: at 7700+ elevation & a 3-month growing season it got about 31/2 feet tall and the cob about 3 inches. Nevertheless, he was extremely proud and possessive of it. When a couple of us grabbed a few of the mini-cobs, he discovered us and let loose with a shotgun. Fortunately, we were too far away for buckshot to be very effective. But we were justifiably offended at his over-reaction.
Word got out (it’s hard to explain away gunshots in a small town) and the sheriff rounded us up next day and scolded us. We both realized he was obligated to do so, but neither he nor we took it too seriously. However, he also paid the gardener a visit and told him that if he ever shot at kids again, he’d be locked up.
Today the gardener would have an AR15 and someone might be dead – and he would be applauded for ‘standing his ground’. Today’s cop would deal with us heavy-handedly – maybe tasers for white kids and 9mm for the hispanics.
I spent 50 years in bleeding-edge IT work. I was very good at what I did, probably in the top 10-20 people in the world at one time. I credit that not particularly to brilliance or training but to the fact that I am basically a creative person who happened to hit the computer world at a time when it was in flux. It needed creative thinking because a new world was being made possible by computers and we were creating new ways of doing many things, from business to science.
I spent 25 years of those 50 years at SIAC, the IT subsidiary of NYSE and was lucky to work there with some exceptional people. SIAC was widely recognized as not only a leader in the use of technology, but also a great place to work. It was a well-deserved reputation, chiefly because during its ‘golden years’, it was run by an execptional individual, Charles McQuade. Any corporation takes it cue from the top, and Charlie was first and foremost a decent, honorable and caring human being – and he ran the company accordingly. We busted out butts for SIAC because SIAC treated us well. When my wife was hit by a car and spent weeks in ICU and months in hospitals for multiple surgeries, I took off whatever time I needed and SIAC was completely supportive. So when SIAC needed a piece of code working by next Monday, I worked non-stop from 6am Thursday to 4pm Sunday to make it happen. We both did the Right Thing and nobody kept score or nitpicked.
Friday’s Jukebox early…
Some time ago, I wrote a post entitled Cockleburs of Culture and later added Cocklebur Time Again. I was, of course, using cockleburs as a metaphor for those annoying little habits, practices, beliefs and expectations which our cultures (or ourselves) seem determined to embed in our lives.
The Great God of Cockleburs was evidently not amused by my figure of speech. Continue reading