imageVery quietly this week I pass a wholly artificial boundary called a “birthday.”  Everyone has one, but few people use the occasion for the purpose of hard introspection or to sit back and reflect on their learnings in the past year.

I’m pleased to report in this morning’s State of the George report, that the state of George is good.  This process I go through is very much like the annual employee evaluation so cherished by human resource types.

So we begin with the basics:  Would I still hire me to do whatever it is I do?

The basics first:

George is still happily married.  His health is robust.  His mind still (somewhat) agile, and his sense of wonder and awe at the simplest things is unabated.

What do I have to show for the past year?  A good bit, really.  But therein lies a nested topic for this morning:  What are the metrics by which we measure our lives?

Religion once served that purpose, almost universally.  But there is a new “religion” on the block and we call that Science and bow down to it as surely as we’d have bowed to Jesus, Moses, or Lao Tzu or perhaps the Buddha.

Indeed, when we pass the collection plate anymore, it’s less likely to happen in a Church, but instead it will be passed by Government, which has ascended as a new religion in the sense that it holds what seems an unlimited growth of Issuing Decrees, a right once reserved to the Vatican or the Caesar.

Somehow, along this bumpy road of history, we have become dull-witted.  We have stopped seeing the need for introspect, measurable personal metrics, and honest analysis.  We expect that will be done for us; yet it is not.

Science is a fine religion, I’ll have to say.  But paradoxically, those who often lead the Church of Science don’t believe it to be a religion at all.  They argue that science works to find only the purest and most repeatable of laws.  As a result, so far the majority of what has been proven to these new priests and priestesses is of the gross and physical sort.

There is an unhappy alliance between the new religion of science and the lawyers of today’s world.  The scientists are the ones seeking laws, but the lawyers are the ones who capture it, assign it value.  They issue forth degrees through legislatures and the national congress and demand tax compliance by all present.  Absent that, they punish, just as the evil agents of King George had done before them.

But we forget that.  We open our hymnals to the Creed of Denial and read loudly. But it doesn’t change a fact.

There is a fine quote from the 1971 movie Billy Jack from the Internet Movie DataBase that sums it up well.  It’s in the exchange where Billy Jack is talking to the female lead:

Jean: We’ll go someplace else, someplace were it doesn’t have to be like this.

Billy Jack: Oh, really? Tell me, where is that place? Where is it? In what remote corner of this country-no-entire goddamn planet is there a place were men really care about one another and really love each other? Now, you tell me were such a place is, and I promise you that I’ll never hurt another human being as long as I live.


Billy Jack: Just one place! “

No, I don’t think of that every morning, but I do think about it every time our ex-pat readers in places like Central America and Ecuador write it.  Perhaps they’ve found that place but I’m not sure enough of it yet that I could commend it to you entirely.

We were going to take some time off this week and go somewhere like Key West (never flown the Keys in anything smaller that a 737 or cruise ship, before).  But this is verging on spring and there’s never a shortage of work to be done around the ranch.  The tractor calls and when I can no longer answer that call, then it will be time to move into the city and take our chances with the mores of others; not that we are anxious to do that.

With luck, we’ll continue on for another decade, or so.  But we’ll play that by ear.  Health becomes delicate over time.

Eventually, we return to the employee evaluation.  Since I’m predominantly a write (or so I would allege), that means I should be able to point to some body of work in the past year as evidence to that effect.

The highpoint of the year was getting the novel DreamOver done and on Amazon.  It met one of my personal objectives; namely to write a book that received as many stars as the worst of the Clive Cussler novels, and so far that goal has been met.

As to the number of copies sold?  Disappointing, but dreams of sugarplum ferries and a movie version spring eternal in the hearts of writers, along with winning the Lotto Saturday night.

In terms of shear volume?  Oh, no problems there:

Finishing up the novel was 50,000 words.

UrbanSurvival (about 3,000 words per day) is 12,000 words per week and I didn’t miss any weeks this year, so 624,000 words there in all.

Peoplenomics is generally 6,500 words per week, so we can toss in 338,000 words not to mention a selection of usually 6-charts per issue, times two per week, times 52 and pushes out 624 charts, not counting the specials.

Add them all up and before email, or any of the rest of it, we’ve hit the million word mark for the year. 2,772 words per day, day in and day out.

At least for the purposes of this year’s review, I would hold that this is evidence of a reasonably prodigious writer, or at least someone who is inclined in that direction.

At 25-words per minute that is 674 hours of writing.  Which would only be 13-hours per week, but somehow it is closer to 40.
That may be because we didn’t include an equal amount  of time for research – which usually runs 1-to-1 at a minimum:  One hour of research generally means about 20-minutes of content writing as a result.
Toss in all the .PDFs of economic papers, news source scanning, article analysis and the picture begins to sharpen.
Do all your own accounting, web site development, advertiser relations, and so on and it becomes clear that the single “fault” of the alleged writer is that he hasn’t managed to improve revenue or reduce time because at 67, I’m supposed to be retired.
Thus, at the end of this year’s review, I put myself on probation for another year with the “notice to correct” requiring either a 50% increase in revenue, or I shall be forced to do the one thing I really don’t want it to come to:
I might have to fire myself.
It is said that “What gets measured gets done” and it’s as good an axiom of any.  So with luck and a bit of more focused hard work, I can get to the year’s new lofty goal.
I would have asked you to sit in on the review and add comments, which you are welcome to do in the comment section below this article.

What Other Personal Metrics?  Hobbies!

That is a hard one.  Hobbies are the most fun:  How about we measure ourselves by how much joy we have in Life?  Seems to me like a fine plan.  I mean, it’s MY review, right?

imageFlying, our Big Trip in 2015 was up to visit family and friends in Tacoma.  I don’t remember if I shared this with you before, so enjoy it again (click to enlarge):  This is 11-months back taking off out of the Tacoma Narrows airport (upper right part of the frame) and turning to shoot the gap in airspace between Joint Base Lewis/McChord and the south end of the approach lanes into Seattle-Tacoma.  This a freeze-frame off the GoPro footage Elaine was shooting.  One of these days I should do a video compilation on flying from Texas to Seattle – the Rockies are always spectacular, but this left turnout from downwind off KTIW wasn’t bad…

We put in 70.9 hours from January 1, 2015 to now…

The ham radio hobby is alive and well.  The Rohde & Schwarz SMY-01 signal generator has been incredibly useful.  Morse code speed is still well over 20 words a minute.  Copied the 25 WPM text off W1AW (the ARRL home station) the other day while sitting out on the screen porch dinking with the Tecsun PL-600 AM/FM/LW Shortwave Radio with SSB Reception. $85 bucks.

Just for the hell of it, I fired up the Rohde and measured the 660’s sensitivity on 20 meters:

Honestly, I was happily surprised.  Without going to the trouble to shut down all the computer noise around here (Panama’s computer and monitor, mine, and kill all the wall-warts – some create a lot of noise) the little Tecsun came up with a –125 dBm on receive or about 0.13 microvolts.  Hell, that’s just plain great!

On AM (again on 14.016 on the bottom end of the 20 meter ham band where there is no AM as a practical matter) the sensitivity was –110 dBm which is about 0.71 microvolts.  Very damn respectable. 

On the AM band (1030 KHz, 50% modulation) the signal was good down to 4.73 microvolts, way better than the better than 1 mV (1000 uV)promised in the manual – like 20 times better (-93.5 dBm).

A couple of caveats:  This is with a noisy RF setting (my office when not “rigged for silent running during ham radio contests) and using the external antenna jack.

To my way of thinking, it’s a fine way to sit around, television off, and hear the world.  And al least the one I have is just ridiculously better than specs and that’s after a year of being schlepped all over the countryside.

Fitness?  Well, still busting hump on the tractor…the only minor nit is a corn on the bottom of my foot, but that’s going away.  Then there’s always another deck to build and before summer gets here, a small swamp cooler and a “lettuce hutch” are on the docket.  More about that, one of these first days.

I also lost 50 pounds in the past year.  30 of them found their way back, however.

Emotional relationships are all in good shape – we’ve gotten closer than ever to our kids over time.  I think that’s the trend now:  Kids are getting uppity and leaving home early, then they make their way for a while and eventually reconnect with the parents.  “You know, parent, this shit’s a lot harder to do than I thought…” kind of thing.  But we help where we can.  Skyping kids seems to work better than calling cell phones, BTW.

Note to Our Troll

imageThank you for the note questioning my honesty when it comes to disposing of hard drives with an AK.

But no, I do make make (at least this part) up.

You may not live in an area where people can act as they please, but out here in Texas, a man is what he says he is or he’s not a man at all.

Enjoy the attached picture.

By the way, out in the shop sniffing the Hoppe’s #9 during clean-up, I finally learned why the AK’s have a shorter stock than most rifles.  Hell, I thought it might be sawn down for parachuting or so kids in third-world countries could handle them.

No…it’s because the Russians learned a lot from the Battles of Moscow and the like.  Winter exposure gear adds at least and inch and maybe two…” my B-I-L schooled me.

Have to admit I hadn’t thought about it much.  No rest and 200 feet and an iron sight brought complaints of “my eyes are getting old…”  It was a “please God, make my eyes old like that,” moment.  My right eye is considerably weak so at 200 feet center of mass would be accidental.  Two-handfed pistol with the left eye in?  Sure 30-50 feet, somewhere in there, depending on caffeine loading and the previous evening….

The Annual Robert Service Poem…

And what better way to remember it isn’t how old you are on the outside, but how motivated you are on the inside, than this:

“When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil,
it’s according to Hoyle To cock your revolver and . . . die.

But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred. In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!”
Well, now, that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!”
I know — but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.

It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten — and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
Why, that’s the best game of them all!

And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.”

There.  I could only add:

And so off to play with another year away,
We’ll call and report what is right.
The World’s full of crooks
With all their damn hooks,
But at least it’s an honest, fair fight.

There are, after all, two of us.

Write when you break-even and thanks for participating in the “hell served for breakfast” old pard…