St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Resolutely Unresolved 2015

For many folks, the end of the year is spent reviewing the past year; the events, the successes, failures and the changes that came about. What went right and what went wrong and what to do to make next year better.  

For others, it is a time to celebrate, drink and eat to excess, and to move into the next year, guilty for the binge and in a proper frame of mind to make resolutions also to improve for the next year.   

Not me!  What is past is gone; what comes next is more fun if it just happens!  

I get irritated by the retrospective past year regurgitated to us on TV, in newspapers, magazines and on the internet.  I still have a sound memory, and reminding me that Robin Williams done himself in or someone won a political race does nothing to make my life better.  

I don't dwell on the past, and I don't make big plans for the future just because it is the end of the year.  Instead, I do these things whenever I feel the spirit move me (yes-- I was raised a Fundamentalist and have drifted into Complacentism in my tin years).  Being retired, frugal but well pensioned, and in health good enough not to think about that lets me be free!

What might I do in 2015?   Maybe in a few weeks if winter continues frigid, I will feel the urge to move; hook the truck onto the camper and then ask Margo "Want to come along with me to Mississippi for a month?"   No planning, no preliminaries, just make sure the furnaces are running and the water turned off and get out.   No cats, no dogs depending on me, just a wife who is independent enough to make up her own mind to chose to come or not, and in good enough health to not need my help. 

Or if the weather moderates, I will get back to outdoor work.  I really dislike being stuck indoors, but want it at least 20 degrees to get outside and work and milder would be even better.  Without some sun and physical work, life is boring.  However, the work has to be varied.  I like the farm as there are 10 buildings all in need of repair; 40 acres all that could have some adjustments (several potential ponds) and an orchard, garden, well, septic system, all with the potential to fall apart at anytime; 4 cars in the 1990s with lurking failure; 6 tractors age 50 or more all with major shortcomings and a wife who is more often than not in need of maintenance. 

Some folks are born needing adventure, variety and excitement. Others prefer routine and stability.  I like novelty--no repetition, no regular hobbies--has to be something new that stretches my brain. Learning something new is good.  But it can't be just anything. Learning another language is boring  You just communicate the same things with a different set of words; like washing clothes in front loader versus a top loader.  

The same thing happened when I learned Morse Code and radio theory to become a technician level Ham Radio (KA0KZF).  Once I got there, I realized I wasn't interested in what was communicated via code or voice -- shop talk about the toys.  I loved the learning part -- and still can rattle off some CQs and messages I beep by car horn to the cows as I drive to Luck or St Croix (telling Margo the horn needs exercise to keep it functional). 

Hell would be anyplace where there was a routine.  Even playing harp more than one hour a month would be punishment.  An eternity anywhere would be unbearable if we still had any consciousness left--so promising eternal bliss or eternal punishment are equally abhorrent.  

The worst part of my jobs over the years was anything routine.  In teaching, having the same subjects year after year; having to grade thousands of math and science problems from kids.  It drove me out. I was too conscientious not to carefully look at each algebra problem to note where it went wrong, but at the same time hated doing it.  Too good for my own good I suppose. 

I found the only way I could grade the huge stack of papers was to get plastered Friday night so a stiff hangover Saturday let me plow through them in the proper frame of mind.  I realized this was probably not the right career for me if I wanted to keep a sound liver.    

Working at Mayo was the same.  As soon as I got competent and mastered an area, I tried to find something different.  When given a routine or boring task, I spent most of my time figuring out how to make my computer automate the task so I wouldn't have to do it. Only when I was learning something new did I feel alive and useful.  Of course, my bosses thought the opposite.  Conflict with management helped things stay interesting. 

One task at Mayo Clinic was to record signals coming from the digestive tract into a computer and then have the computer find every "bump" on the signal and count them up and so on.  It took the place of people doing it by hand with rulers and papers and pencils.  From 4 person days  to 4 computer minutes and later 4 computer seconds.  Automating boring repetitive tasks was sometimes my job as a computer scientist.  Computers don't get bored nor jaded with repetition.   Above is a print made from my computer program for a research paper about food moving through the digestive tract.  It moved too fast, too slow or just right! 
Most of my best and most valuable work at Mayo (my opinion of course as I don't speak for Mayo nor against them) was done in escaping something boring and repetitive.  One job, I was a research administration computer database expert for a few years, and was repeatedly asked to write queries to look up information for doctors about their research grants.  Out of desperation,  I created the "My Research" web page for Mayo researchers where the doc could look up the information directly.  I think it is still in use and probably grown a lot in the 9 years since I retired--but don't really care as I was there, did it, and moved on. 

In retirement, I find that, although doing things on my computer is often interesting and often innovative, I get stuck in ruts of my own making.  I volunteered to help folks put their genealogy scrapbooks into "real" printed books through Amazon (cheap, easy, and nice).  However, each page has to be scanned, edited and monkeyed with to get it to look good, and that bogs me down in misery.  I think my future "help" will only be to teach others to do this and be hands off on the actual boring detailed parts.  

I put out newsletters for a couple of groups.  I can do it fast, but it is sooo booorrrring to do -- fold staple, stamp address, as well create the newsletter.  Got Scott and Margo to do that with the last one!

This week I think I will buy ten 80-lb bags of Menards sidewalk sand to carry around in the back of the truck for traction weight (not a 4-wheel drive) with the plan to use them later to repair the old beaver dam on the dry run on the farm this spring and flood a 1 acre pond between the fields.  May have to disguise the sandbags with sticks to simulate a beaver dam for fear of running afoul of some regulation, but as it is a spring run-off draw and won't flood onto any neighbors or roads, nor stop any fish, shouldn't be a problem.  My field renter, Chuck, might get stuck if it creeps into the field, but that should be interesting too -- never really saw a huge tractor buried in the mud!    
Ten sandbags across the dry run should do something interesting!

I have been 20 months now in remission from myasthenia gravis with no medication needed. While MG was an interesting experience, one year of it was plenty.  I haven't been to see a doctor since April of 2013.  I feel fine; I can do what I want physically, and my mind is still functioning at 93.2% efficiency and THEY haven't caught up with me yet--so 2015 will be fine as long as something interesting comes along. 

The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.

Soren Kierkegaard