Heaven Help Us All

Heaven help the black man if he struggles one more day
Heaven help the white man if he turns his back away
Heaven help the man who kicks the man who has to crawl
Heaven help us all

                            Stevie Wonder

RBG has died. In the strange and interesting way the universe works, an optimist might have hoped she had lived another 90 days or so. It was clear her race was nearly run. And it was amazing. She was amazing. Beautiful. All the grace and beauty and kindness and intelligence we see in only in true greatness. Mandela. Gandhi. MLK. RBG.

It’s been over a month since my last post. But goddamit, these are strange times. And strange times require alternative methods of engaging in the world. And, I’ve been busy. Busy AF. Working my normal day-2-day and putting in time at Earth Explore. I’ve now turned over most of the EE duties to Brian. He is completely capable and I don’t want to be a constraint. He will need to lead us through this next phase and get us into production. We will continue to work together on R&D and I will focus on selling and business strategy. He will take operations and finances.

Besides, I had about a week where I felt for the first time in years like I was a little off my game at work. And that is not a good feeling for me. Right or wrong, I cannot handle not killing it at my job. Not that I am perfect or even close to it, but I always give it 150%. And I felt like I was being pulled away too much on the start-up. So I put that shit down quick and we now are back in the groove. Brian running EE and me handling my business as a paid consultant.

So much has happened in the past 30 days that I won’t even try to re-construct it with any kind of accuracy or continuity. I will just post here some random ramblings taken down over the past 5 weeks. Most of it fueled by whiskey and cigars and not a small amount of tears as we see the continued social injustices against the backdrop of nature on fire and 200,000 COVID deaths, all while an entitled and empowered whiny bitch sits in the Oval Office and feigns statesmanship. Poorly.

But I refuse to succumb to sadness in total. There is fun yet to be had. Drinks to be drunk. Food to be cooked and eaten with family and friends and laughs and jokes. Cigars to be smoked and love to be made. I’m sitting by the fire on my patio and having a nice single malt and a Oliva Melonio and all is well.

I got sick, the other day. It hit hard and fast and felt very much like the flu. So in the COVID world, when you get a cough and all achy, the first inclination is to just go ahead and call your friends and family and tell them goodbye. Seems a foregone conclusion it’s COVID and you’ll probably be dead within a few days.

But alas, I was sick for about 36 hours and then just started feeling better. Probably just a normal flu. Who knew.

There is sadness in the world. And it can consume us if we allow it to. It is always there. Day after day. And it will destroy you if you don’t figure out how to compartmentalize it. But the trick is to do that without becoming numb and distant. We must feel these things, because that is the essence of humanity–the ability to recognize the pain of others and yearn to help. Still, we put one foot in front of the other. Knowing the suffering of so many but pretending as if we can’t stop it.

I’ve struggled with that from time to time. To not allow a certain story or knowledge of systemic suffering inhabit me and consume me from the inside. Especially when I was younger. Springsteen says ‘it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive‘. That’s a decent trick to allow us to keep moving forward.  It has helped me learn to appreciate my own blessings without drowning in the suffering of others.

There are certain things in America we know to be true. And one of those things appears to be that white cops will continue to torture and kill black people with impunity and immunity. Qualified immunity, which is systemic and institutional. Each day the stories and headlines are there. The rational among us wince at the pain and feel for the families and feel rage at the injustice. The irrational, do what they do–which is rationalize irrational behaviors and policy in society. The latest, a white cop, caught on video of course, shot a black man 7 times as he was unarmed and calmly walking away. That cop will get off. Probably even keep his job.

“There are days when the places we’re from turn into every other place in America.
I still go to watch fireworks, or I still go to watch the brief bursts of brightness glow on the faces of black children,
some of them have made it downtown,
miles away from the forgotten corners of the city they’ve been pushed to.
Some of them smiling and pointing upwards, still too young to know of America’s hunt for their flesh.
How it wears the blood of their ancestors on its teeth”

                                                 Hanif AbdurraqibThey Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

Another headline today. A fisherman tells of trying to rescue a dolphin, in Mauritius, where dolphins are dying by the dozens due to another oil spill. This particular female dolphin was clearly dying, but in her last efforts she used her nose to try to nudge her baby to stay on the surface where it might be able to survive. A tragic tale of a mother’s love–told through the tears of the dying mother, as is so often the case.

How brutal is that? Humans are really fucking special aren’t we? Where is the joy in living when so many are suffering? How is it relevant to say ‘at least it’s better than it used to be‘. Which is a popular way of re-framing the conversation.

We’ve eradicated polio with science. But racism persists in excess. Who knew the social sciences would be the hardest to crack. We’ve proven sustainable energy is viable and endless–yet we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, knowing very well we are screwing the nails in the coffins of all life on the planet.

Just before I left Monticello to check on my place in Cleveland for a few days, a huge storm blew through. It was an inland hurricane basically. They call it something different, but it’s basically a damn hurricane. The morning after, I surveyed the destroyed camp site. As these things go, after a terrible storm, I woke to a stunningly beautiful day. Which makes picking through the wreckage seem even more odd. How could yesterday have been so violent and loud and today be so calm and still? I dug around and found my camp stove and eventually coffee and my press and made coffee in the loft. I had some early calls, but I found an hour during the day and just pushed everything into a pile and covered it with a tarp. My canopy was destroyed and there was a little damage to my car where the canopy aluminum structure smacked into it.

The life of a rogue spirit can sometimes be a little chaotic, but I had my coffee and read the paper on a calm and beautiful morning so no need to get too upset over a blown up campsite.

Work is the bigger concern right now. Smoking busy with no moments left for the start-up or other things.

This prototype is an order of magnitude better than the last one, but aesthetically is far from acceptable. The one in planning now needs to be a home run if it is to be commercially viable. We’ll see. Money still going the wrong direction, but of course start-ups are hard. That’s why most people think about it but never do it. Too scared of the money and time investment for no guarantee of success.

Brian made a nice Doodly video and I got some cost modeling done and a decent start on website. We had a pretty major setback in design, but we will figure it out. I put the nail in a logo. We were going back and forth and forth and back and it’s just one of those things where somebody has to make a damned decision. So I did. We needed to pull the trigger on some things that required the logo to be done. It is done. Right or wrong. A tree in Autumn with leaves a ‘blowin.

Another very long week. Everyone is flat out right now—but every time someone gets a few minutes, they ask if they can lend a hand somewhere. We have a good team. It is just that there are terrific downward cost pressures right now. Which to some degree makes sense given the environment. But many years of experiences suggests if you cut too many corners, you wind up paying more in the long run.

I spent the first half of my career thinking I wasn’t good enough to compete in the real business world. I’ve spent the second half trying to understand why I should try. It’s all such bullshit. So many people in high positions are actually such non-critical thinkers. So average. It’s depressing

Anyway, I focused most of the past two weeks on rolling-up total expected cost estimates and building the presentation deck to rationalize and justify it all.

Interesting that at times like these, when business has the upper hand over workers, rate pressure comes down hard on consultants. But it’s a dick move. You should pay for the experience and skills of people who know what they are doing. If you force them into a bad rate, they will leave when a better rate comes along. And, it’s just the right thing to do. ERP implementations have failure rates of somewhere between 60% – 75%, depending on whose metrics you read. But it is high. A big part of the reason is the ignorance in which some companies undertake this endeavor. CCF did it 100% wrong and is paying a punitive price. My current company appears to mostly be getting it right, at least in these early stages. But there is talk about shaving a little too close to the bone to save a few $. And that could backfire. It always cost more to dig back to the surface from the hole you’ve excavated than to get it right the first time.

I have a couple of good recruiters I work with in DC and Atlanta. They work in the better rate categories—mostly $175 – $225. Some of the others I work with are much lower. Make no mistake, given the option of working or not working, I will take whatever rate I can get. But the minute I can get back to something that is more in line, then I will jump. It’s a stupid game and we’re all playing it with the same short-sighted vision. But the companies make the rules and we are just playing along. Amazing how many times I see a major program, $20M+, headed up by some young buck with no real chops. Then it goes south. Always. There is a valid reason to pay for a few grey haired people on your program.

Anyway, my current gig is good. Smart, thoughtful leaders. And my co-workers are the same. It’s been a good while since we’ve brought one home on time and on budget, but we have a reasonable shot here.

I woke up early again this morning. 3:45. Thinking about the little dog. She gives me no peace at times. It’s been 18 months. But in some ways it feels more acute now than it did last year. It comes and goes. Intellectually, we know that putting a dog down that is in great pain and clearly in last days, is an act of love. Emotionally, it still feels like betrayal. And if that’s true, why don’t we do it for humans? I hope someone puts me down when I can no longer walk and am in pain and ready to go. Funny, I know my life is rich and interesting, comparatively, but I still find the experience here sort of boring on the whole. What’s left to do that I haven’t done?

Had dinner in downtown Monticello on my last night. A cute and quaint little square. No good food, but it’s mostly decent and the atmosphere is nice. Lots of burgers and wings. But the little square is cute as can be. A few of the streets are blocked off to traffic to facilitate outdoor seating at the pubs and restaurants. So I had a chicken sandwich and side salad. I wanted some dessert, but they didn’t have a dessert menu where I ate. But there was a DQ next door so I got a hot fudge sundae and had that with a red wine.

There were two gay guys sitting at the table next to me who were hilarious. One of them cussed like a sailor and they were carrying on a funny ass conversation with the waitress who they knew (apparently) from college. But they also had two sweet little dogs. A 14-year old rat terrier named Hobbs and a 2-year old Frenchie named rugby. So I loved on their dogs while we chatted. Nice guys. When we were about ready to leave, the one who cussed a lot said “fuck it, let’s have a shot. We need some fucking shots“. So we had a shot.

I woke early. 3:30 again. I dreamed about rugby and Mandela. This happens a lot. Maybe after 57 years, my life distilled down to bare elements equates to a great love of a dog and a sport.

I am now thinking of the drive home. And am anxious to get on the road. Funny how that it is. Yesterday, I was contented here–even as tumultuous as this week was. But once the decision to leave is taken, suddenly there is an urgency.

At the restaurant last night I kept up a long rambling text conversation with my friend Sheri. Nearly always we talk about food but but also some social policy and our friends and family. Last night a little about her kids. Her oldest son is about to leave for college and they are super close–so that will be very hard for her for a while. Sheri and I have been close friends for around 23 years. We used to work together in Cincinnati. But then I moved to London and she and her husband moved somewhere–I don’t remember where. In the past 22 years, we’ve only actually seen one another two times. Once I went to their house after they had moved back to Cincinnati and I was passing through and then last year we met for lunch in Chicago. Otherwise it’s been phone calls, emails and now mostly text. It’s a good friendship. An important one. Her husband’s one of those rare men who are confident and completely cool with his wife having a close male friend. A good guy. Smart, successful businessman in medical device field.

In the great debate of some sort of continuation of our existence after this life, there is of course no persuasive evidence in either direction. We are surrounded daily by evidence of the ignorance, greed, callous indifference of humans to each other, and other species and the planet in general. So it’s easy to see that a creator would have had to been off his rocker to invent such a mean ignorant bunch of assholes that a great many humans seem to be. Or maybe it was a cruel joke of some kind. Two creators making a bet about who can make up the most fucked up species.

But if you see John Prine in ‘Summer’s End‘ video, it’s hard to imagine this is all random and arbitrary. Maybe in the end, art is all we have that is genuine.

Health care in America. I went to pick up my prescription at CVS in Monticello. They are my primary pharmacy, whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean. Anyway, the prescription that I normally pay $6 for was going to cost me $96 at that particular CVS. So I bought 5 pills from them, just to get me back to Cleveland. I went to a CVS in Cleveland and they wanted to charge me $56. I ask why and am told that it is lot more costly to pick it up in person rather than when I get it mailed to me (from CVS). I asked them to look up my account information again and they came back and said they had made a mistake, it was actually going to cost me $60. I called them a bunch of nazi’s and the head pharmacy chick put in some sort of special discount code and got the cost back to $56 in Cleveland. When she was checking me out, she asked if I wanted to ‘round-up‘ to the next dollar for some charity or the other. Sure, why not. I go to pay with my HSA card but it turns out I cannot pay the round up charity portion with the HSA card, so have to run a separate charge for .14 cents on my debit card because I had no actual money with me.

Only Americans are dumb enough to pay twice as much for health care while receiving half as much; all the while shouting we have the best health care system in the world. To no one really. Everyone except us knows it’s bullshit, as the evidence is absolute. But we must keep everyone’s hands in the supply chain well oiled.

Americans in general do not seem to seek truth as much as the easy comfort that comes with willful deceit. Acceptance is easier than critical thought I guess.

My mailman often rings the doorbell when he comes, so he can personally hand me the the mail–which is sweet. He is a nice guy and we became friends when I was working on the canoe this spring and always outside. He doesn’t ring other people’s door–just mine. Just likes to say hello. Cool guy. He is now running 3 routes to cover for all the USPS craziness. I got my mail at 5:30 today. It used to come at 2. Which I don’t give a damn, I just feel bad for him although he did say he’s making bank with all the overtime.

I watched ‘The Weekend Sailor‘. Lovely movie about a crew from Mexico, with virtually no sailing experience; they won the first ’round-the-world’ yacht race. True story and very inspiring and cool.

I was thinking about Kevin the mailman. Walking his beat–delivering to house after house. What I got today, after being gone for 3 weeks? 100% junk mail. Flyers for local businesses, all of which I have not ever stepped foot in. And yet there he is, spreading information nobody wants made from trees everybody needs. But at what cost. Do we still need to subsidize junk mail at ridiculously low rates so other mail continues. Surely prescriptions are needed. And for many people, other information. But of every 100 pieces of mail I get, perhaps 2 are worth opening. All my information lives on line and it is fine.

I was talking to my friend Maureen the other night. She is some sort of big wheel in the Army public health corps. Like, super solid. She is living in Arlington going back for yet more training. I am going to go visit her soon.

We first met because she is the sister of a good friend of mine, Michael. Michael and I were in the Navy together and got out on the same day, although he later joined the reserves and got called up to go to the bullshit wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maureen had moved to Idaho from California to get her masters and I hired her at my coffee shop. Maureen was a distance runner. Hard core. She won every race she entered; even after having a baby, she won most of the races while pushing a baby carriage. She coached the Idaho State women’s cross country team. But when she got her masters she joined the army and shipped out. Her mom Sue, was a superb woman. I was/am a friend of the family. But Sue died a couple of years ago, which is too bad. Michael, got blown up in Iraq and is not the person now that I knew then. Which is a tragedy. He is for all intents and purposes non-functioning. He has paranoid delusions and cannot hold a sensible conversation. When I knew him he was a terrific tri-athlete and probably the most endlessly optimistic person I ever met. He was a superb bicyclist and he and I rode together a lot.

Michael is a fraction of the costs in humans and dollars of stupid fucking wars.

Iraq is no better off today than it was before we killed Hussein. And in Afghanistan, we are currently negotiating with the Taliban to give the country back over to them–which was the excuse we used to invade in the first place. Couple of trillion dollars later and tens of thousands killed or displaced and we walk away with the country in the same shape it was in when we showed up. Of course this outcome was well predicted by everyone who ever took a world history course.

A favorite story of Maureen and Michael. I was playing rugby with my team in Idaho and we had a game in Salmon. Salmon is a little town in Idaho in the middle of nowhere but happens to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet–right on the cusp of the ‘Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness’; We used to meet there once each summer to play Missoula, because it was fucking beautiful and roughly equi-distant between us and Missoula. It was always a great spectacle because in a head-to-head match, we all played our hearts out. It was always tough but fun and fair rugby. Two equally matched sides with just honor to battle for.

On this day, I was meant to get back to my bartending job at Buddy’s by 6:00 that night, which meant we would have to leave right after the match ended. That was a bad plan from the beginning. I had asked for the night off but was denied. So after the game, we drank and partied a bit. I kept looking at the time and doing the math, but time was not on our side. This was before cell phones of course. By the time we got to Idaho Falls, it was clear we were not going to make it. So I said fuck it, and we just stopped in IF and hit a few bars and had some drinks. Then to Pocatello and a few more bars and drinks and finally we made our way to Buddy’s where I was formally fired in person. But we sat and had a beer with the owner anyway. I got re-hired a few weeks later. I was a damn good bartender and he should have just given me the night off. Michael was driving that day and we had a grand time. But no more. Not for him.

Seems there are two kinds of people. Truly. Those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t. Or maybe that’s a different story. But those who enjoy life; and those who don’t. Those who find fun every day. And those who finds reasons for drama every day. So many people I run in to who are constraining themselves in their life choices because they want to live a year or two longer. They curb their drinks, they take safe routes when there is an adventure at hand. They hang out with people who are stodgy and anal and scared to death to have a little fun. I don’t get it, but thankfully I won’t be in the retirement home with those types of regrets. This is one of the things I have in common with Sjoerd. Sjoerd lives every single day like it might be his last. And I respect that.

I put food on the table
And roof overhead
But I’d trade it all tomorrow
For the highway instead
Watch your back if I should tell you
Love’s the only thing I’ve ever known
One things for sure pretty baby I always take the long way home

                                                       Tom Waits

I stopped and had a smoke and a couple of whiskeys at The Standard when I got back in to town. Said happened to be outside and waved me in to a great parking spot. The patio was too crowded so I joined the 12 or 14 dudes smoking cigars out front. But soon enough, the talk turned mean. In this case, the gross injustice of these conspicuously white dudes having to deal with the trauma of the Washington redskins changing their name and the Cleveland Indians giving up the Indian chop and and the local high school no longer being allowed to be the rebels. They were offended. These white Yankee childlike-men. These dipshits 170 years removed from confederacy had gone to a local high school whose mascot was The Rebels. They had no (apparent) real attachment to the south and yet they were hurt by the high school’s decision to change their mascot to something more acceptable.

Anyway. On we go.

In Namibia, Sue has been quietly gathering donations from whoever we can shake a few dollars from and using it to buy and deliver gift baskets to needy families. She is an angel.

A host of random photos below. Some of Larry and Terri’s restaurant. Some from EE and some of my random days and nights out and about in either Cleveland or Champaign or Monticello.

One of my fabulous mom who cooks two pies for the restaurant every day. She’s a rock star of course. My rock. My Star.


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