Unregretted decisions

Historically I have a difficult time making decisions because I too easily see the other side of an argument. Which is an unusual problem, because too often people are unable or unwilling to consider the other side of an issue! But there have been two decisions I have never regretted, never looked back on, never had second thoughts about.

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The first was a decision to surrender my appointment to a service academy. I was appointed out of high school, and went through the bulk of that first summer. Truth be told, I was admitted by virtue of mind and test tacking abilities, and the body was never, EVER, as good or good enough. The decision to leave was difficult, mostly because of the reaction I would face back home and the need to get into school someplace that fall so I wouldn’t be trapped at home. But although it was difficult, I have never, in all the years, regretted the decision. I still think I could have made a good military officer (more Al Haig than David Petraeus), but I’ve never wished I had stayed, never was sorry I hadn’t pursued that path.

The second decision that I never looked back on was the decision to have a family. Alright, it was a very small family, just one child, but the decision to do it was a long time coming. It took me years to get to “yes”. In fact, I think my then-wife despaired of ever having a child because of my reticence. And yet, once she arrived in our life, I never regretted, never looked back.

It’s interesting that these are the two decisions I have the most confidence in, because they have had very different outcomes.  The decision to leave the academy meant I ended up in a school that would take me rather than one I had selected.  It meant my major was decided through a certain randomness of taking copious ‘introduction’ classes in my freshman year rather than the history/political science/oceanography major I to which I had aspired.  And the major lead to all sorts of ramifications in my career path when an accident (TMI) and politics (Reagan recession) substantially altered my planned paths.  But all has turned out acceptably, as I have found a passion for environmental sustainability and planning that I would not have expected.

The decision to have a family….ah, now that’s a different outcome.  The divorce and subsequent estrangement from my progeny has produced years of sadness and pain, and even a nervous breakdown. That’s just from my side of the divide, from my perspective. I have to imagine it’s at least as bad from the other side, to grow up in half a family, to have life so dramatically changed.  And yet….and yet. I still don’t regret the decision.  Even through the emotional distance and disconnect, the love, pride, joy, hope that I feel for her outweighs the pain I’ve felt.

Two decisions.  Two turning points in life.  Neither regretted.  I suppose that is something  for which I should be grateful.

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Marine mess

There is, many think (and I agree with them), no greater fighting force these days than the US Marine Corps. Their bravery and ferocity are legendary. They have had a reputation of that for years, and while there have been a few groups who have been in the same category (in particular I think of the French Foreign Legion), none have remained atop the pyramid for as long as the Marines.

But I have to wonder about them.  About their mindset, their leadership, their ability to take care of their own. ESPECIALLY about the latter. Too much has come out in the past few years that shows they have lost their inner values and core beliefs. They’ve lost the corps, the unique mental aspect that differentiates them from other forces.

Camp Lejeune.  Storied home of Marine Corps basic training. For over thirty years the drinking water of the base was contaminated with a variety of toxic, cancerous chemicals.  Not only were the Marines in training exposed to it, so were the families living on base. Young families with children. For thirty-five years.  Even after it was known, it took years and years for it to be acknowledged; approval for funding for medical benefits didn’t occur until ….2017.

US Naval Academy.  Storied home of the best and brightest officers in training for the Navy and the Marine Corps. Duty, Honor, Country.  A Marine instructor pleads guilty to both obstruction of justice by lying to investigators, and encouraging another officer to lie.  His lie involved a sexual misconduct case with two female midshipmen that occurred while he was an instructor and ranking officer to them. So much for duty or honor.

Marines United. Sharing pictures (clothed and naked) and personal information on fellow female Marines, on Marine wives, on Marine girlfriends on Facebook, and since the story broke on dark web sites.  Violating the corps again, by violating fellow Marines.

And these aren’t the only cases, just the most recent.  Look back at the blood-pinning scandal of the late 1990’s. Look at the issues of rape within the Corps and where they are stationed (particularly Japan and Okinawa). Is there a thread here?  Yes. It is the callous disregard for the lives, the welfare, the well-being of others in the Corps itself as well as outside of it.  It is a failure of character and leadership that originates in the very heart of the training centers for Marine personnel and officers.

I value the Marines combat ability, their skills on the battle field, their superiority over our enemies.  But that can’t come at the cost of losing the character and humanity for which we are fighting.  Once again, and too often, Marine generals and leadership say this doesn’t reflect the Corps, that things will be changed.

The lack of change that occurs reflects, sadly, yet another failure of Marine leadership.

The Exodus

I love how this is presented, how it challenges some of my thoughts, and confirms others. And how well it is written.

Dave Barnhart's Blog

Frans Francken I. Hans skola: Den rike mannen och Lazarus. NM 429
I have seen your religion, and I hate it.
I have heard your doctrine, and I loathe it.
Take away your empty praise songs,
your vacuous worshiptainment.
Your mouth is full of religious words,
but your proverbs are salted manure.

“The sick deserve to be sick.
The poor deserve to be poor.
The rich deserve to be rich.
The imprisoned deserve to be imprisoned.”
Because you never saw him sick, or poor, or in prison.

“If he had followed police instructions,
if he had minded the company he keeps,
he would not have been killed,”
You say in the hearing
of a man hanging on a cross
between two thieves.

“People who live good lives
do not have pre-existing conditions,” you say,
carving these words over the hospital door:
“Who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”

“It is the church’s job, not the government’s,”
say…

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Cobbler commentary

There is a certain very distinctive atmosphere that is part and parcel of a shoe repair shop, that takes me back in time.

I’ve been in shoe repair stores for a large portion of my life.  I had flat feet and needed special shoes and special inserts, so I’d have to go to the cobbler to have the wedge inserted and the heel modified.  The shoes themselves were a particular orthopedic style (which cause me no small amount of unhappiness and teasing when I was younger) with a steel arch.  The shoes were expensive, so there was a need to be able to re-sole and re-heel them on a periodic basis that my friends with tennis shoes and docksiders didn’t have to worry about.

Time has moved on, the orthopedic shoe stores are now gone, and I’ve been reduced to going with standard off-the-shelf shoes from a generic big-box shoe warehouse store.  My newest shoes needed a quick repair on a heel –the heel was hollow, surprisingly. I’d worn through the thin portion of the heel that covered the void, exposing the opening.  The problem with the void was it made sounds when I walked, and was constantly picking up rocks.  So I opted for a quick trip to the local cobbler.

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I went to King’s Cobbler in the King Contrivance Village Center.

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Walking in, I was immediately aware of the look, the smell, the atmosphere of the store.  Clearly a cobbler live here.  The air was rich with the odor of warm polish and glue. Small piles of shoes, some paired and some not, lay in various parts of the store, waiting for the next task or the next phase of their re-creation. Ahead of me were the equipment of the trade, a craft which despite the years and increased automation in other fields still relies on manual labor, personal skill, and …. equipment that probably hasn’t been built since FDR (okay, likely a bit of hyperbole there, but it certainly looks o-l-d).

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It caused me to think back to the days when a cobbler existed in every nearly every mall, every shopping center.  We used to go to the cobbler regularly, working to glean a little more life and time out of our shoes before they had to be replaced.  I remember having shoes re-soled five or six or more times.  Heels were done even more frequently because of the orthopedic issues of how I walked and wore the heels out.

Those days seem to be gone.  Cobblers are not very common anymore, and there seems to be little interest in the millennials to take on the trade craft.  More significantly, the big box shoe stores sell shoes that have little to no leather or repairable materials in them. My last pair of Rockports were not repairable because of the synthetic material employed in the sole. It’s unfortunate that the materials we use aren’t repairable and that the skills needed for repair are themselves becoming endangered.

Time, and society, move on.  Shoes no longer repairable, and no one who can repair them.  Chicken and egg.  But at least in this case I have an idea which came first — unrepairable shoes.

At least I was able to support both the craft of the cobbler and a local business this time 🙂

#HoCoBlogs

 

 

 

Slothy

The other day I was on WordPress looking at postings, and looked at the statistics on my page.  I realized that, mid-way through April (okay, 2/3’s of the way through) I’ve only had one post.  I don’t know why I haven’t blogged more, but clearly I’m way below average even for my lackluster publishing.  I’m not sure why, unless it’s just sloth.

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Now the idea of me being a sloth would amuse many people.  My current boss is amazed at how many projects I tackle. My previous boss, who I clashed with frequently, said that he’d only need a two person division if everyone did as much as I did.  And yet…..here I am, stalled in writing again.

It’s not a lack of ideas; Lord knows I’ve so many ideas and things about which I want to write and explore.  I have piles of articles, notes, drafts all waiting for publishing.  It just seems that recently, even with the advent of spring, even with the brighter days, when I get back to the apartment I just want to sit with the cat and chill until it’s time to go to bed.  The number of times I’m drifting off with Benny is surprising to me (it’d be even more but he has this tendency to feel the loss of muscle tone as I drift off, and yowls at me which then wakes me up).

I know. First rule of write club is to write.  I’ve violated it.  Again.  Yet again.

Well, I guess this is the first effort at kick-starting the process again.  At worst it was a good excuse to post a cute sloth picture 🙂

More to come, I hope.

Pence pensiveness

There was a story that came out a few days ago about Vice President Mike Pence and that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.  Apparently the Twittersphere blew up on both sides over this (of course, there is an aspect of redundancy in that, as blowing up is apparently what Twitter is about these days).  The Right extols the practice, while the Left ridicules it.  And I end up with mixed emotions, but with a sense of unease that bothers me.

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On one hand, I think there are times for this sort of approach to life.  In particular Rev. Billy Graham has lived by this rule for his entire ministry.  In his case, it makes sense.  So many are willing to cast aspersions at even the smallest issue or sense of hypocrisy that avoiding even the opportunity for someone to create even the appearance of an issue seems appropriate. For the job he has, and the way ministry works, this seems right.

The article in the Post that has raised this whole issue is a bit odd. The sentence that started this is standalone, not part of a paragraph, and not directly related to either of the two sentences around it.  Simply, “In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”  The reasoning is that this builds a zone around the marriage.

It leaves a big question though: how does he interact at non-dinner events with a woman?  If that answer is out there, I haven’t seen it. And it’s important because if it is dinner events only, it’s much ado about nothing.  If it is all types of meetings, it becomes a concern.  If he doesn’t meet with a woman or women without someone else around, what he has done is relegated them to a secondary status in the political machine.  Much political work is done in private discussions with senior staffers,chiefs of staff, private staff, etc.  If a woman in those roles can’t meet with the politician, then she effectively can’t be in those roles in his office or in anyone else’s office that needs to meet with him.  And that seems unduly restrictive. And totally patriarchal.

I think what has caused my sense of disquiet has been the reaction of the (religious) right (of which I know many) saying that this situation is as it should be.  It bothers me because it conveys a sense of impropriety/danger/problem inherent in individual male-female interactions. It has to be a pair reaction or it’s the appearance of something untoward.  It makes it seem as though neither gender can be safe around the other. I ‘get’ that people do wander, stray, cheat, etc.  But not everyone, not even most.  I have married female friends at work that I talk to one-on-one regularly.  At least one of them was a major reason I survived a nervous breakdown 7 years ago (thank you L1!). I value and seek female perspective, especially in a male-dominated work world.

If he wants to value his marriage, great and good.  But don’t do so at the expense of others.  Take a position where there isn’t the impact on women that comes from politics.  Take a position where you don’t limit the role and value of women.  Excluding half of the population because they have X not Y seems like bad solution.The world has enough problems; it would be nice if we could bring all our combined resources to deal with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melting on the roof of the world, Tibet.

I follow environmental and sustainability news fairly closely (alright, not as closely as I’d like to given a work schedule) and I tend to be reasonably well-informed.  However, this particular article brought me up short. It showed me how little we really know about what is going on in the world, how few people appreciate it, and why they need to.  An area of the world that is difficult to access, that we in the US and the west don’t understand well, that impacts billions (with a “B”) of people, is having its own crisis.

What do we do if Tibet goes dry, and takes the Mekong, Yellow and Yangtze rivers with it? We don’t see it, but the results could be staggering in terms of geopolitical stability.

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https://www.chinadialogue.net/blog/7422-Tibetan-plateau-faces-massive-ecosystem-shift-/en

https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/9654-Source-of-Mekong-Yellow-and-Yangtze-rivers-drying-up