Sweet emotion…

I read a lot of financial news, but I’m the furthest thing from an expert in the field. I do it because I have a basic interest in how that part of the world works. When a guy says you should do X instead of Y, I like to have some basic understanding of the “why” behind the statement. If nothing else, I like to be able to ask intelligent questions when I don’t quite understand why things are the way they are.

Much of what I’ve been reading over the last few months is hammering the notion of fear in the market and the various behaviors that are being driven by it. It’s academically interesting enough, I suppose, but I feel like the discussion could be taken a step further. Emotion, not just fear, drives the market. I suspect it drives far more than that – and often enough it points people in a direction that isn’t particularly helpful.

I’m sure there are those out there who say they don’t feel emotions. I can only assume that a large percentage of them are lying, sociopathic, or a combination of both. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with feeling the emotion – whether it’s fear, lust, joy – but people seem to get themselves into a world of trouble when they never get past the feeling stage. They dwell in it until whatever it is they’re feeling causes some kind of mental paralysis.  

There’s nothing wrong with feeling the full range of emotions. It’s inherently human, but I see very little good that comes from them being the master rather than just elements that serve the whole. Control is illusory, but I do think it’s entirely possible to manage your emotions, despite what the clips of people having public meltdowns on TikTok want us to believe.

Look, I’m not saying everyone needs to be an automaton, but maybe finding a way to channel some of the good and the bad into more reasoned and less knee-jerky responses to outside stimuli would be just a little bit helpful in going about the day. Not everyone needs to be a philosopher king, but swinging from pillar to post based on the market, the news, or life events feels like a damnably bad way to run a railroad.

I support personal liberty and choice…

A few months ago, I kicked around the idea of starting up a weekly limited feature focused on topics that some people might consider controversial, unpopular, or otherwise not appropriate for polite company. Nothing much came of the idea then, but it has stewed in my head ever since. This is the next of what I like to think will be a recurring series of Friday evening contemplations. If you’re easily offended, or for some reason have gotten the impression that your friends or family members have to agree with you on every conceivable topic, this might be a good time to look away. While it’s not my intention to be blatantly offensive, I only control the words I use, not how they’re received or interpreted.

Well, it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hand down a ruling this summer that will overturn 50+ years of “settled law” and precedent. On January 22, 1973, the court’s ruling in Row v. Wade found that the Constitution protects a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion and that right could not be broadly restricted by the government. Associate Justice Blackmun hung his argument on the idea that such restrictions violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Blackmun’s opinion in Roe was further exercised in a number of subsequent cases to enlarge a Constitutional protection of personal privacy rights. And before anyone says it, no, a specific right to privacy is not mentioned anywhere in the text of the Constitution. The right to privacy, however, is strongly implied by a plain text reading of the 4th, 5th, and the 14th Amendments. The whole intent of the Constitution was and is to restrain the actions and behavior of government. One might say there’s a compelling national interest in keeping the various levels of government as far out of people’s business as possible.

The people are, after all, the font of sovereignty in this country. And on this particular issue those people believe that Roe should be upheld by a 2-to-1 margin. 

My position on abortion is consistent with my position on most other things. Don’t want a gun? Don’t buy one. Don’t want a gay marriage? Don’t get married to someone of the same sex. Don’t want an abortion? Don’t have one. See what I’m getting at here? Personal liberty = good. Jamming your religio-political beliefs down everyone else’s throat = bad.

Yeah, if the thing you care so desperately about doesn’t actually impact you in any way, just mind your own goddamned business. I have no idea why that’s idea is so hard to glom onto for 25-30% of the people in this utterly beshitted country of ours.

Aging and other inconveniences…

This week, I’ve had an appointment with my dermatologist and two physical therapy sessions. Next week I’m back at PT for two more rounds. The week after that it’s an appointment with my primary care doc. Three weeks from now it’s a follow-up with the dermatologist. Then, four weeks from now, I’ll turn 44. 

I’m not saying all those things are in any way related, but I can’t help but feel like there is, perhaps, a vague connection between the never-ending parade of doctor’s appointments and the increasing number of times I’ve been around the sun. None of these appointments are for critical care issues. Just a bevy of regular appointments, follow-ups, and treating some minor issues.

My inner historian can’t help but note that our caveman ancestors right up through our dark age predecessors had a life expectancy of about 35 years. From the Tudor era right through the dawn of the industrial age, expectancy creeped up to almost 40 years. Over the last 200 years, expectancy has raced upward into the low to middle 70s. So yeah, we’ve managed to eliminate or at least mostly control many of the common causes of early death – ranging from accidents to disease – but we’re still walking around in meat suits that evolved over millennia with the expectation to get no more than 35-40 years of service.

From that perspective, it’s not hard to understand why there are occasionally bits and bobs that aren’t working quite right or how waking up in the morning so often reveals a new and unexpected pain somewhere. Sitting here looking at 44, I’m well past my warrantee date and from here on out will apparently need increasingly skilled mechanics to keep the whole thing cobbled together and running tolerably well.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here reading reviews on hyperbaric chambers and researching gene therapy.

Meat, hunting, and home decoration…

A few months ago, I kicked around the idea of starting up a weekly limited feature focused on topics that some people might consider controversial, unpopular, or otherwise not appropriate for polite company. Nothing much came of the idea then, but it has stewed in my head ever since. This is the next of what I like to think will be a recurring series of Friday evening contemplations. If you’re easily offended, or for some reason have gotten the impression that your friends or family members have to agree with you on every conceivable topic, this might be a good time to look away. While it’s not my intention to be blatantly offensive, I only control the words I use, not how they’re received or interpreted.

It’s hard to go out for groceries without seeing another brand that’s introduced a new variety of plant-based ham or some other all natural, vegan certified, socially responsible food product. That’s fine. Some of these products aren’t half bad tasting and I’m happy to allow the substitution where it makes sense. 

Even so, you’d be hard pressed to fully break me of a lifetime of omnivorous eating. If I haven’t been shown satisfactory evidence that bacon can be made from turkey, there’s really very little chance I’m going to suddenly be convinced it can be made from pressed plants. In some cases, taste really is king.

I go through all that to demonstrate that I’m an unashamed meat eater.

I grew up in a place where hunting and fishing were a regular method of supplementing what ended up on the dinner table. Even though my days of wanting to sit in the cold waiting for a deer are long gone, I respect the hell out of people who are out there doing it for the right reasons. Despite what PETA tells you, taking game for sustenance or to control nuisance species are perfectly valid things to do and is considered a wildlife management best practice.

Trophy hunting, by contrast, pretty much makes you a douche. Yeah, I’m looking directly at whoever out there cuts off the antlers and leaves the carcass laying on the side of the road. Look, I love duck and goose hunting – but I don’t enjoy the taste of duck or goose, so I settle for taking clays and staying out of the blind. Going out just for the thrill of the kill or because you need a stuffed and mounted giraffe is about as asinine reason to hunt as I can imagine. 

That’s not the kind of statement that will endear me to some of my gun toting brethren, who would be perfectly happy to keep blasting a hundred ducks at a time with a skiff-mounted punt gun until they empty the river.

To enjoy any kind of legitimacy, hunting has to be about conserving the resource today and for the future. The most dedicated hunters I’ve ever known have approached the whole process with a reverence for the animal and full understanding that an animal was losing its life so that the hunter could eat. If your hunt is all about home décor choices, then honestly, I don’t even want to know you.

I can vaguebook with the best of them…

It may not always be obvious, but I’ve spent a lot of time simplifying my life. With the exception of time spent working for wages, I do what I want, when I want to do it. I know my own mind and have things here ordered in just the way I like them. There’s very little now that catches me by surprise or off my guard. It is a remarkably peaceful way to get through life.

If you’re trying to fit into this little world of mine, though, there’s a singular catch: The amount of drama you bring can’t outweigh the overall level of improvement your presence brings to my life. Having spent two decades putting the bits and pieces in order, if your presence causes more stress than happiness, I don’t have time for it.

I’ve become something of an expert at excising the extraneous stress and drama from my life every bit as completely as the surgeon cutting out cancer. It is, to borrow a phrase, the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.

I’ll freely admit where I’ve been wrong. I’ll apologize for whatever shortcomings there may have been. I won’t, however, go about wearing eternal ashes and sackcloth. If that’s not sufficient, good luck on your journey and you go with my blessing.

The taming of the yard…

I could have been justified in cutting the grass here on the homestead for the last two weeks. Two factors have led to that not happening. The first is that every spring my yard turns into a sopping, muddy morass any time it rains and generally just at about the time it’s dried enough to risk moving power equipment on it, there’s more rain. The second, and more personal factor, is simply my own procrastination. I know that from the moment I start it will be a recurring (at least) weekly lawn care project that historically stretches from sometime in April straight through to mid-January. 

Yard work is one of the very few kinds of work I do where, when it’s done, I can point to something and see a physical accomplishment. Maybe there’s even a little sense of pride there. It’s not the feeling of having done something I get when I’ve jammed together a really unwieldy PowerPoint or mastered the intricacies of a 6000-line spreadsheet. Yes, once I get after it, I’ll be pleased to see things looking neat and orderly, but if I’m honest, I’ve really enjoyed these last three months of not needing to keep up with it. 

I could probably get away with the procrastination for another week or two if I really put my mind to it. Alas, I have a yard rather than a lawn, so instead of a slightly-too-long expanse of grass, I’ve got a lumpy conglomeration of grass, clover, thin spots, and spiky miscellaneous weeds all growing at different rates and truly looking like a burning hot mess. If I can get one more rain-free day I might actually be able to properly begin the taming of the yard.

I want my money back…

I’m going to a few weeks of physical therapy in an effort to resolve some lower back issues. I don’t love it. Being laid out flat on my back (or front) in an open bay storefront getting worked over by a perfect stranger just isn’t my idea of high jinks. That’s not the worst part, though.

The worst part is the five pages of “homework” that I’m supposed to lay down on the floor and do three times a day. Firstly, have you ever tried laying down on the floor in a home occupied by a young dog who lives for attention? Yeah. Then thrown in a cat who thinks he’s a dog and insists he should also be part of the program. Something that’s supposed to be 30 seconds and three repetitions takes approximately nine minutes to get through. Then there’s four more pages of things to do, each more ingeniously designed to provoke more attention from the resident canine who’s determined it all means uninterrupted playtime.

I’m pretty sure I dislocated my shoulder trying to keep the dog from licking my eyeball this afternoon. I guess that’s something I can bring up with my new PT guru next week. Maybe there’s some other kind of supine bend-twist-arch-single-elbow-tuck I can try out to get after that one. 

I can’t believe we’re living here in the 21st century and this can’t all be solved with a pill or a shot. This isn’t the future we were promised and I want my damned money back.

The power of mute and block…

In spite of myself, I like Twitter. Maybe it’s just the least awful of the big social media sites, but I check myself scrolling around over there far more often than I do on Facebook these days. That said, Twitter is still a cesspit of users who are ill informed, under informed, and some who are downright obsessed with whatever propaganda they’re drowning in at the moment.

I’ve found over the last year that Twitter is a much more useful and interesting place when you avail yourself of the block and mute functions quite liberally. I’ve recently started muting or outright blocking anyone who showed up in my feed spouting Russian propaganda. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even look past the individual tweet to determine if there’s any residual value to what these people are saying on any other topic. If you’re a mouthpiece of Putin, there’s really nothing you can say that I’m going to have any interest in hearing at this point. 

All people everywhere are free to speak out in support of whatever it is that gets their motor running. Their right to speak, however, doesn’t negate my right not to listen to them… or call them blathering cockwombles and then not listen to them. I’ve never had much of a tolerance for fools – particularly for the special breed of fool who are convinced they alone have the One True Answer. The older I get the less inclination I have to suffer fools gladly or otherwise. I owe them nothing… least of all the attention they seem to so badly crave. 

I don’t have the time or inclination to be part of whatever echo chamber they deeply want to be living in. The best I can do is smash that mute or block button and move on without laying out in extreme detail why they’re quite simply dumber than dog shit.

Not for public consumption…

I’ve looked at a dozen potential topics today and rejected every single one of them with some version of, “Eh, I don’t give a shit.” I’m sure there are professional writers who aren’t deterred by whether they care about a topic or not, but my fingers just don’t seem to do the work when confronted with raging indifference. It’s always been something of a personal constraint when it comes to what and when I choose to write.

Over any stretch of time longer than a day or two, my mood tends to be pretty consistent. Some would say it’s consistently bad, but I don’t think that’s true. It just doesn’t generally swing too many degrees off center line, which happens to be a few points towards pessimistic. Overall, I go through most days in my own head being never too happy and never too gloomy. When it does swing, though, boy can I be a right moody fuck. 

That’s where today’s lack of topical interest comes in. Take any six things you can find and I’m fairly sure I could build a full-throated rant about why they’re bad and will be always. That would probably make for a decent bump in my views for the day if I were motivated to chase those.

So, instead of putting up something interesting, what you’ve got here today is just a space-filling admission that I’m feeling decidedly off center without going into any of the contributing factors that would probably be at least marginally interesting. Sorry about that. Even when I am in a mood, some things aren’t for public consumption.

You have my interest…

When gas prices were at their previous all-time high, way back in 2008, I walked out of the local Toyota dealership in Memphis with a gas sucking 5.7 liter V8 Tundra. They had at least a hundred of them sitting on the back lot. They might not have been paying people to take them away, but it was awfully close. That original Tundra of mine came with four or five thousand dollars off sticker and 0% financing. They were just happy, it seemed, to get it off their books.

I knew then that the price at the pump was going to be painful, but not necessarily less painful than buying one of the small, fuel-efficient econoboxes that were flying off the sales floor. Sure, I was paying for fuel, but a pretty significant percentage of that was offset by the lower cost of the vehicle, “no cost” financing, and the preventative maintenance plan they threw in. As far as I’m concerned, I took my savings all on the front end of that deal rather than spreading it out over the life of the vehicle through lower fuel costs. 

The same math doesn’t work in today’s environment. Getting into a new truck with the same trim level I’ve currently got comes with an eyewatering price, well above zero percent financing, and about a one mile per gallon improvement in fuel efficiency that does nothing to offset increasing prices. If I had to be in the market for a replacement vehicle right now, I’d be hard pressed to justify the purchase and operating costs.

I hope I’m not forced into a position of needing to replace a vehicle any time soon. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an interested eye on the roll-out of more hybrid and all electric truck and SUV platforms. I always said I wouldn’t be interested in alternative fueled vehicles until they were every bit as comfortable for my fat ass as my big Toyota pickup. It feels like we’re nearing an inflection point where these options won’t be limited to “toy” compacts and bland sedans. True to my word, I’m beginning to get interested.