TOTD Feb 13, 2018: Celebrating Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras — literally “Tuesday, Fat” — is simply the day before Ash Wednesday, when us Roman Catholics and a few relations begin a period of self-deprivation and critical self-reflection.

The idea is that one must get in a good dose of revelry (and maybe even some debauchery) to tide one through the 40-day drought.  And it is more than just tacitly endorsed by the church hierarchy, as many parishes host a varieties of parties.  Well, they endorse the revelry, at least.

Unfortunately, I find that I can’t really enjoy the parties.  I feel a nagging guilt about partying to escape the impact of my upcoming Lenten obligations.  And yes, I know that I choose these obligations by choosing to be Roman Catholic — there’s no real compulsion outside of my faith.  That actually makes it  worse for me — I’d be delighted to thumb my nose at a government-imposed religious observance.

What to do?  I’ve found that if I dwell on it, I just end up starting the self-critical examinations a day early.  My approach in the last few years has been to pick up a good book — something unserious I can read for pleasure — and a tumbler of good Scotch.  Ash Wednesday will come soon enough, and I’m already fat. /-:

If you observe Lent, what do you do for Mardi Gras?


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TOTD 1/2: Small Business

Mine, that is.  Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the startup of my LLC, and also marks the year my total of independent employment exceeds my years as an employee of others.  Although the legal details were prepared and registered (quietly) in December of ’02, fifteen years ago today, three of my peers and I simultaneously resigned from the industrial systems integration firm of which we were senior employees.

We each had discussed our frustrations with the 51% owner’s management style, and his apparent intention to never yield any more ownership to future partners.  Gaining ownership was a five-year goal I had stated outright when I interviewed for that job, with that owner, four years before.  Or more precisely, when asked for my five year goal, I answered “Ownership of or partnership in a company like yours.”

The early years were quite difficult, as we had taken the high road with existing customer relationships — no hint whatsoever what was to come prior to our actual startup.  A few customers followed us to the new company, but most took a wait-and-see approach to the new startup.  And our old boss wasn’t shy about sharing his feelings about his former staff.  Our partnership’s (actually an LLC operated as an S-Corp) size fluctuated in the first few years as the rigors of full independence exposed some flaws and highlighted some opportunities.  The LLC stabilized at three members by the end of 2006.

The downturn of 2008 hit my last two partners quite hard, as their customer relationships were dominated by residential and commercial building products manufacturers.  With Obama’s economy failing to bring any normal recovery, they both left in 2011.  The first solo year for me was a great year, as I discovered that my own projects were quite profitable under the new low-overhead regime.

Juggling multiple customers entirely alone does have its downsides, and I put a fair amount of effort into cultivating complementary relationships with other contractors with related skill sets.  I also expanded the scope of the business to include more software content (SCADA in particular), something my less-geeky former partners were never comfortable pursuing.  The slowly morphing direction of the company has inspired other changes: for the first time, the company (me!) hired an actual non-owner full-time employee.  Given that one can’t actually hire someone out of any engineering school with the combination of skills that make me valuable in the market, I went outside normal procedures and hired a non-degreed whiz kid that I knew from a Linux users’ group.

I’ve not regretted it.  First, a non-degreed employee is cheaper to hire.  Second, you don’t get any mistraining in industrial concepts that engineering schools are prone to produce.  And if you pick someone with demonstrated self-motivation and an aptitude for technology, you can expect their skills to match a degreed individual in relatively short order.  I’ll probably have to pay this kid’s way through a tech degree to keep him, but I expect it to be worth it.  I’ve poured more resources into the company this past year than in any previous year (training the new minion, mostly), and am looking forward to the rewards of business risk-taking.

It almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if Hilary had won.

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TOTD 12/27: Appeasement Then and Now

My wife was clearly paying attention some weeks ago when I was waxing eloquent over a Victor Davis Hanson podcast appearance, where he was expounding on his latest published work, The Second World Wars.  Not that she was paying attention to any of my commentary on the content of the podcast, but rather was noting my interest in acquiring the subject of the podcast.  After 29 years of marriage, she doesn’t quite read my mind, but one sometimes thinks so.  Christmas was good:

Even better, she rolled the dice and picked up some of his prior works, not realizing that I have a couple already.  Fortunately, his oeuvre is large enough that the odds of a duplicate were low, and indeed did not happen.  So Ripples of  Battle, The Savior Generals, and Why The West Was Won have also joined A War Like No Other and Mexifornia on my shelf.

I’ve worked my way through the first fifth or so of Wars, and the theme is coming through like gangbusters:  The Axis Powers were simply outclassed in sheer ability to wage war, in weapons production, manpower, consumables, and all of the logistical considerations needed to put the above into the fray.  But pacifism had a great hold in Western Europe between the wars, and Isolationism in the U.S., and the military reality was therefore rarely recognized, and even more rarely believed.  Appeasement, driven by both ideologies, was the Axis’ biggest force multiplier.  Defeatism was the Axis’ next biggest force multiplier.  The latter was particularly important through the dark days of the Battle of Britain, while Britain and its Dominions fought alone.

American politics was reshaped by the Second World Wars to adopt a new militarism on a bipartisan basis.  That generation had first-hand experience with the consequences of Appeasement and Isolationism, made clearer with 20/20 hindsight, and wanted no more of either.  Sadly, the progressive movement joined hands with postwar socialism and communism, and the twist and turns of that alliance has made appeasement (on the left) and isolationism (on the right) politically acceptable once again.  The American people not only failed to raise significant objections to the appeasement policies of the first Obama administration, we re-elected the bastard to continue it for four more years.

While I am encouraged by Trump’s foreign policy actions, particularly his handling of North Korea and the persecution of Israel, there are many currents in American society that will continue to press for pacifist solutions to military problems, and isolationist solutions to global threats.  In all such cases, bleeding hearts will appeal to us to recognize the good in our enemies and antagonists, though all of recorded human history shouts of the greed and depravity that spurs the strong to abuse the weak.

Globalism cannot be undone.  Travel and technology has made the far side of the world as important as our two coastlines.  We must not be weak, neither at home nor abroad.


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TOTD 12/18: Forging Our Future

Progressives around the world are bound and determined to destroy the family as the core of society.  What they haven’t factored into their plans is that the future belongs to those who show up, and that means families.

The Next Generation

This photo from July includes my daughter-in-law, who was carrying my grandson at the time.  And recently arrived:

Snuggles

My most important job has arrived: spoiling my grandson (strategically, of course).


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