In1 the 70’s CEO compensation was based on the size of the company. So, companies became bigger and bigger, even when it didn’t make sense. In the 80’s unscrupulous/valiant corporate raiders/shareholder rights advocates took advantage/fought this trend in frequently lucrative ways.

As a result, there was a desire to tie management and CEO compensation directly to owner wealth creation, so companies started issuing stock options. Which still didn’t align management and owner’s interests because management suddenly was more interested in stock volatility than in long term growth. So, the 2008 financial crisis happened.

And no, it wasn’t because of unscrupulous business men, unless you want to include unscrupulous government actors, the largest of which is Congress (both sides, all of them, with very few exceptions). Congress had already passed Sarbanes Oxley, as if we could legislate away already illegal behavior, under the theory that auditors self interest can be managed by government managers2. It did approximately squat in 2008, and unlike the 1980’s S&L scandal, virtually nobody went to jail, retired, or even lost their promotion.

We have a leadership problem in this country. We have managers and politicians running our organizations, not leaders or stewards. Google stewardship. Go ahead, I dare you. On the front page I found five definitional or lexical links (e.g. Merriam-Webster), five religious, and Wikipedia, which mostly talked about stewardship of the environment. Apparently, we have the concept of stewardship. but only religious nuts3 care about it.

It’s not like this is a new issue4:

When power, therefore, is placed in the hands of so small a number of men, as to admit of their interests and views being easily combined in a common enterprise, by an artful leader, it becomes more liable to abuse, and more dangerous when abused, than if it be lodged in the hands of one man; who, from the very circumstance of his being alone, will be more narrowly watched and more readily suspected, and who cannot unite so great a mass of influence as when he is associated with others.

In government, we talk about governance theory, because it would be disreputable to tie manager compensation to organization outcomes, or something. And when government bonuses come up, it’s usually not in a good way. Despite the potential for bonuses to tie managers self-interest to organizational results, without a profit motive, there is little tying those granting the bonuses to those same outcomes. It quickly devolves into managing optics, not results.

Despite all the crap I pulled prior, during, and after the 2014 Grand Jury document release; after a $1.2 million forensic audit documenting, amongst other things, a pay for play scheme: after at least $30 million in illegal payments to a single vendor; I got in trouble for a draft internal report reviewed by a couple outsiders, because it would make the District look bad if released, and imperil its ability to raise bond funds5.

In our talking about managerial conflict of interest, the most obvious conflicts are never mentioned. The interest of managers to look good, please their boss, go on vacation, not work hard, pull a nice paycheck, jump to that next rung, or better job, and retire handsomely. At my work, I don’t know anyone in management6 that is willing to risk any of this to do right. If they were, they wouldn’t be management7.

The idea of doing what’s right, instead of what’s rewarded is so endemic we don’t even notice it. When I was a whistleblower, occasionally I would get asked why I was doing it. I always wondered about that question, because I thought it was obvious. I doubt anyone in management ever understood any of my answers. But if they did, they only understood in the way bird watchers understand how birds fly.

I hope where you work is better, but I doubt it. I’m willing to be wrong.

More later.

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Brotherhood is different from friendship. Friendship happens in society, obviously. The more you like someone, the more you are willing to do for them.

Brotherhood has nothing to do with how you feel about the other person. It is a mutual agreement, in a group, that you will put the welfare of the group, you will put the safety of everyone in the group above your own. In effect you are saying, I love these other people more than I love myself.

There’s A New Paradigm Coming

There used to be IBM and everyone else. Then there was IBM versus Apple, then IBM versus Microsoft. Eventually (we’re talking only about fifteen years here) Microsoft became so big that it was Microsoft versus the world. When Microsoft showed up wanting to “partner” with a startup or competitor, they didn’t know whether to thank your lucky stars that their ship came in, or prepare to have the roof collapse around them, or both.

And then something else happened. The software crazies at Gnu, who believed in “free” software, free as in speech, if not always free as in beer, became almost the only competition left. And in the form of Linux and other Unix variants become the major alternative to the Microsoft ecosystem. And Google, and Facebook, and cell phones, etc., etc.

And none of that matters to Brent Ozar. He makes his money off of the 21st century Microsoft version of big iron, and is completely comfortable recommending open source servers.

As far as I can tell, he is all about transparency, because keeping secrets makes him no money. Worse, it makes his clients more dysfunctional.

It is clear after this election, if not before, that as a society, as a people, and especially in our organizations, big and small, that we have become so concerned about making sure that nobody knows our shit doesn’t stink, that we have forgotten where we have had to stick our heads to get that job done.

Western Civilization is at a crisis. You can tell because it is now disreputable to talk about Western Civilization. The world as we know it has stopped working.

We used to understand that with all the politicking, big and small*, somebody still had to make sure things worked. Somebody had to make sure that the pot holes were filled, that the borders were safe, and that children were not afraid that the “wrong” person got elected.

We are no longer there.

When the people in charge decided that their job was to look good, and get the kudos, retiring rich through doing good for the world, something changed. Because making sure things worked became somebody else’s job, somebody less smart and less well paid, Somebody less important.

Things have started not working. People have lost their trust**.

Our only way out of this is to start telling the truth. We can call it transparency. We actually have laws mandating it. And the people in charge have started using the laws mandating it to reduce it. I don’t know anybody that both says they believe in it, and does it personally.

Funny how that works.

I see a new day coming. There’s a new paradigm dawning.

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What is a Man

Back in the 90’s I was in a Men’s Group for six years (yes we did drumming, mostly Samba). It was good, I loved those guys. All of us were looking for something we had missed somewhere along the line of growing up. I don’t know if I found it. I probably did, since I have stopped looking for whatever it was that I was missing.

Anyway I seem to have graduated into a world where the chauvinist landscape is mostly dominated by those of the female persuasion. Men sharing their feelings has been a hot topic most of my adult life. The thing is, men have always shared their feelings. You’d know that if you talk guy speak.

The classic conundrum as a guy is that here you are in a relationship with somebody who shares their feelings constantly, at high pitch, to everybody around them. And they want you to do the same. And when you do, they’re the “wrong” feelings. So you shut down, or you learn to fake it, or something.

And if you’re lucky you can find a place with other guys that understand what your feelings are, sometimes without you even having to say anything. Or at least most guys did, or some guys used to do, or a few guys still do, or maybe on the dark of the men, outside away from prying eyes we still do, if it won’t get us in too much trouble.

But I digress: Too often the “modern man” is more like this guy. Men without chests. Why do they always seem to find a spot in The New York Times? My first reaction was why was this gay guy telling me how to be a heteronormative cisgendered man? Then I realized that this is what passes for an alpha male in some parts of the world.

1. When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.

Why are you buying shoes for your wife? Do you have a foot fetish, or do you have a hard time letting your wife go out on her own? Apparently you know more about your wife’s shoes than I do about my own.

2. The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.

You may not want the world to know when you’re down and out, but you are in a world of hurt if you don’t have a couple guy friends to talk it out with. And no, your wife doesn’t count. Neither does your therapist.

3. The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won’t munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.

Dude, why is a grown man worrying about eating popcorn at a movie? Yes I buy popcorn. Yes I eat it. But if it isn’t gone by the time the opening credits roll I give it to my son to finish. If your life is filled with worries like, am I offending people with my noisy eating, either learn to eat with your mouth shut, or stop eating popcorn. Life is too short to worry about popcorn.

4. The modern man doesn’t cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.

If you are eating a steak, why are you worried about how someone else is enjoying theirs. If they want to cut off the fat and gristle, does it make yours taste any worse? A gentleman1 generally doesn’t notice what other people are doing with their food, unless it lands on his lap or the floor. And probably not even then unless he’s on cleanup duty.

5. The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.

A man generally knows what he wants, and is willing to put a little effort into getting it. He also doesn’t make a big deal about not getting it. The writer is starting to sound like the guy who keyed my twenty year old land yacht because I dared park next to his new SUV.

6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.

My wife has an Apple iPhone. I’m not sure how to spell it, forget about plugging it in. I have a manly phone based on a manly operating system, Unix. I am vaguely aware that my kids have devices that need charging, but no idea which ones still work and where their chargers are. My version of teaching them responsibility is to let them worry about it.

I found out shortly before he died, that my friend Frank, as a kid, paid the rent for his parent’s basement apartment by shoveling coal for the entire building. It took me that long to find out about it because he didn’t think it was a big deal. When I was a kid I liked going to Sears because I might be able to play Pong on their one demo machine in the entie store. Apparently Modern Men™ make sure their kid’s toys don’t run out of juice by plugging them in at night. I see trend here, wait a moment while I figure out the slope.

7. The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.

A man doesn’t worry about what other men drink, unless they’re in danger of getting sloppy drunk, or drinking a single malt whisky, and a nice dry oak aged wine, or something equally exquisite. If your idea of acceptable stops at Mountain Dew (well actually mine stops at Mountain Dew, but I won’t notice if yours doesn’t), then you’ll have a hard time surviving outside of Manhattan, San Francisco2, or Beverly Hills.

8. The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.

If I want to say hell, I’ll say hell. And if I want to say chopper, I’ll say chopper. And it won’t be because I’m too gauche to say helicopter, or veg-o-matic, or something else.

9. Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.

If you think you can only learn things from daughters, you are a sad little man. And I bet you have a shirt in your closet that says “This is what a feminist looks like.” And I also bet your wife bought it for your birthday.

10. The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.

Are you trying to impress me with how equally you share the household chores? My wife puts dishes away wet. I don’t. And she does most of the dishes. I don’t notice the water marks on the glasses that aren’t there. If I noticed, which I don’t, because life is too short.

11. The modern man has never “pinned” a tweet, and he never will.

I’ve heard of a tweet, what is pinning, and why are you worrying about it? And if some people like it, why are you trying to take it away? Has this come up in therapy? I suggest you walk away from the mouse and spend a day in the woods.

12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.

Bah. If I need anything more than using some of the extra shampoo as a body wash, I go straight for the Fels Naptha soap like my Grandma used on my dear old mom. Sure it stings a little, but that’s how you know it’s working.

13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.

Something is seriously lacking if Wu Tang Clan is what you think of as adult music.

14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.

You take a grocery list shopping? And you don’t lose it so you can buy what you want instead? Really?

15. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.

Now we’re getting to the real stuff. The modern man used to speak with a British accent, now he has wooden floors. I bet he also goes to parties and complains about inequality.

16. The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away.

And I bet he doesn’t do it with a weapon either because, well we’re obviously going for moral victories with this list, so why stop now.

17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?

I had to look it up to find out it actually isn’t what it sounds like. They actually make a thing for those things that mysteriously show up at work every other Friday morning. Who knew? Sometimes I actually eat a few if I make it out of my office before lunch. They’re not bad. I recommend them melon baller thingies.

18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.

Why are you thinking about shoehorns? If you want one, buy it. If you can’t afford it, stop thinking about it. If you don’t have one, put your dress shoes on properly so you don’t break the heels. It isn’t that hard.

19. The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.

I totally agree with this advice. Your marriage will work much better for it. Unfortunately I managed it for only the first few years. Now I’m lucky to hit Safeway on the way home from work on the Friday before Mother’s day.

20. On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.

I was married twenty years before I figured out what people meant by spooning. I had just been doing it without knowing that there was this whole etiquette/propriety thing going on. You might try that some time.

21. The modern man doesn’t scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.

No, he hands her a broom. You seem to worry a lot about things that don’t bother most people. And do son’s exist in your world view?

22. The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.

The second thing I agree with. Though I do try to make sure the neighbors aren’t out yet.

23. The modern man has all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).

Heat was good. Hancock was worth ten bucks. I watched Miami Vice on T.V. Except for Heat there are better directors and better movies. If your idea of being a man is based on what you watch . . .

24. The modern man doesn’t get hung up on his phone’s battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.

Who are these men that you hang out with that worry about their phones’ batteries?

25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.

What happened to number 16. What, you plan on leaving your wife a widow? Or are you working out with a boxing trainer or at a dojo every week? I didn’t think so.

26. The modern man cries. He cries often.

I thought there was a problem with number two showing up on this list. I think it was wise of the author to separate the two as much as possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind crying. I don’t even mind crying in front of men. I even got verklempt the other day at work. But the Modern Man™ seems to make a fetish of it. Especially when it get’s him laid.

27. People aren’t sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.

I’m a terrible dancer. When I was dating my wife I loved to go dancing, even if I did it badly. Now I work late and have different hobbies on the weekend. If you’re good at it, great, more power to you.

I hope my point isn’t lost in the sarcasm. Being a man is not about personal taste in music, movies, drinks, or electronics. Half the time the writer seems to be making a try at manliness, but in such a half hearted, whiney fashion that it loses any appeal. Plus he can’t finish the article without reversing himself on his best points.

Manliness is, amongst other things, about work and sacrifice, truth and honor, love and obligation. Most of all it is about largeness of heart. Somehow we have convinced men to stop acquiring manliness, without realizing the consequence is they’re remaining boys.

And boys trying to make up rules for how to be men doesn’t help.

PS. If you want to see a real man, you could do a lot worse than this guy.

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Broken Ankles

My new pressure regulator and shut off valve.

My new pressure regulator and shut off valve.

We have gone without water for 36 hours. When we finally got it hooked back up again around 6:30 today I took a picture. My wife is grateful that she can take a shower, and we can start flushing the toilets again. My wife is probably to kind to say that she’s even more grateful that I can take a shower. And if she isn’t, I suspect the people in line at Home Depot are.

The new bronze fittings and copper fiddly bits1 cost me about two ten hour days, ten diet Dr. Peppers, one regular Pepsi, 12 trips to Home Depot, two trips to Lowe’s, 3 spools of solder, two tanks of gas, one spool of Teflon tape, my wife’s help for a full day, my son’s help for half a day, and my friend Ron’s help at the end for fifteen minutes. I told him he was the closer, because it would have taken us at least another hour and a half without him.

As my son and I were working on it, a lady driving by asked if we were fixing a water leak. When we said yes, she said that she had had one also, but called a plumber in who cost $400. Even if we count our time as free, I don’t think we saved much money.

One of the things that I had to learn in the process is that you have to go the distance. If your joint is tight everywhere except one little spot, you have to tear it apart and start over. If there is water in the pipe, it doesn’t matter how much you would like to finish, you aren’t going to without first getting the water out. It doesn’t matter how close to done you got two hours ago, if you aren’t done now. It doesn’t matter how much you want a bath, if it’s dark and you can’t see, even with the flash light set on bright.2

I have another friend who tells a story about an acquaintance with a broken ankle. She didn’t know it was broken, and was putting all sorts of energy into it healing. In fact, the entire group was putting all sorts of energy into it healing. Everybody agreed that it was healing, That is until my friend noticed it was actually broken3.

Sometimes reality intrudes. Sometimes you have to go back to go forward. Sometimes you can’t have what you want, but you can usually get what you need4. Something like this:

The Chinese martial art of Xing Yi has what they refer to as the Six Harmonies, or connections. The inner three connections are Mind to Intent, Intent to Chi, Chi to Power. We could refer to this as body, mind, and spirit5. More broadly it could be referred to as reality, intent, and energy.

Some things can be done with just one or two, but much better to have all three pulling in the same direction. If you want to manifest in reality, you pretty much have to deal with reality, even when you don’t like what it is currently manifesting.

That’s my lesson from today. And next time I plan on calling a plumber.

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What is Religion, Part 4

What is Religion, Part 1
What is Religion, Part 2
What is Religion, Part 3

We live in a highly materialistic society. This is not an unusual sentiment, with the usual critiques of capitalism, shopping malls, and Christmas. Most of the complaints about capitalism are really about freedom, shopping malls with the choices people make, and Christmas. . . well lately the crass commercialism of my youth seems preferable to the “don’t make us acknowledge the reason we’re taking your money” attitude I’ve been seeing.

No the materialism I see is deeper, wider, more prevalent, and seems to be winning almost everywhere I look. Without being either an historian, nor a philosopher (my life has been too short to try to do either well), I would point out a few things.


Neils deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson – science enthusiast

I believe Mr. Tyson (or perhaps his fans) is making the logical fallacy of mistaking the map for the territory. Reality is true, science makes inferences about that truth. Some how we have elevated science from a methodology and a tool for discerning truth, into a goal in and of itself. Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the solar system is no more scientific than Ptolemy’s geocentric one, nor Newton’s conception of gravity less scientific than Einstein’s, even though in both cases the former conception was replaced by the later.

In religious terms we have constructed a false idol, a tower of babel, that some have substituted for God. People have promoted science into a religion because it is convenient, both psychologically, and as a weapon against their cultural, political, and philosophical enemies. Because belief in God cannot be scientifically proven, or more correctly disproven, belief in God has been declared unscientific, as if science had something to say on the matter.

But that is hardly the worst. This is:

Marxism is not the first philosophy to promote communitarianism, but it may be the first to promote it at the point of a gun. That a philosophy promoted for the betterment of mankind could end in the death of a hundred million people is shocking. That the leaders of that communitarian philosophy live(d) in absolute luxury is more shocking. That educated people still take Marxism seriously is not only shocking*, but severely depressing.

From Wikipedia:

Marxism builds on a materialist understanding of societal development, taking as its starting point the necessary economic activities required to satisfy the material needs of human society. The form of economic organization or mode of production is understood to give rise to, or at least directly influences, most other social phenomena – including social relations, political and legal systems, morality and ideology.

Because Marxism does not allow for non-material influences, the moral and spiritual is deprecated. America is simultaneously the last bulwark against Marxist thought and has surrendered most, if not all, of our national institutions to its fellow travelers.

I am not a philosopher, nor do I much read it. But it is too important to not include. Nietzsche perhaps started it with his famous “God is dead”. But it continued on with philosophers such as Heidegger, Foucault, and the Frankfurt School. When there is no objective truth, no God to judge, when all judgement is politics, and all politics displays of power, then there are no barriers to human ambition. The effects of which we have seen.

Freud was brilliant, ground breaking, and essential. He was also either the first therapist to elicit false rape memories, or decided to conveniently ignore the actual cause of his patients psychological trauma, or both. He both brought a modern interpretation of the psyche to the fore, and impeded it’s development for another two generations.

As with philosophy, people have sought for a substitute for God in psychology. The idea that universal truths are to be found in human endeavors, rather than increasingly better accommodations with it, seems foolish to me.

Rather than taking on the task of educating the young, or training them for professions, universities seem to have taken on the role of incubators of cultural change. Unfortunately they have largely been successful.

It is impossible to understand the policies of World War II Japan without understanding the influence of Japan’s junior officers on its senior leadership. Likewise, when Mao was in danger of losing power, he turned to the young and created the Cultural Revolution. We are now in danger of being led  by a generation that is willing to call any true statement a “micro-aggression”. What was done to those two nations can also be done here.

I have rarely met people that did not acknowledge in some fashion that there is something beyond the physical, more to being human than a body and social conditioning. If there is not, then there is only biology and conditioning left. It is evident that Marxists and Post-Modernists of all stripes think so, or else they would not so foolishly keep trying to change human nature.

The brain is a marvelous instrument, of which we have barely begun to scratch the surface.  But the idea that a hundred billion neurons could self organize into a personality that, for example, could go toe to toe with grown adults by the age of five is laughable.

Or that it could make or appreciate these at any age:

Ansel Adams Moonrise, Hernandez , New Mexico

Ansel Adams: Moonrise, Hernandez , New Mexico

Asian Cat

Asian Cat

Just as science hasn’t found God, neither has it found consciousness.

But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
Job 32:8

Though the body may be essential, it is not in the way we think it is. We exist before birth and after death. We may fear this knowledge, but our fears are hardly controlling. Death comes for us all.

What is Religion, Part 5

* I mean shocking for future generations. I went to high school during the 70’s in semi-rural America (State College, PA), where one of my better teachers praised Mao and the Chinese example of using human feces for fertilizer. Meanwhile Mao was near the end of killing 30 million in the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately the “modern”, or perhaps more correctly “post-modern”, sensibility is not shocked at all.

Special Places

When my wife and I were younger we would put a couple sleeping bags in the trunk and drive up to Yosemite for the weekend. After maybe a day of rock climbing, or perhaps hiking up past Vernal Falls, we would throw our bags under a boulder in a rock field behind The Ahwahnee Hotel.

Yosemite valley entrance

Yosemite valley entrance

Yes it really does look that good, not just part of it, all of it.

But my wife and I are older, have teenagers, and get tired more easily. We’re much more likely now to take a walk in the Redwood Regional Park,

Large Trees highlighted by the sun

Redwood Regional Park

or go to New Brighton Beach after eating clam chowder on the wharf in Santa Cruz.

New Brighton Beach

New Brighton Beach

We go there to get away from where we live, both literally, and metaphorically.

Every place feels different, part of it is the geography, the spirit of the planet if you will, part of it is the people. If you don’t believe me, take a walk just outside a prison. I occasionally drive by San Quentin.

San Quentin prison by the bay

San Quentin prison by the bay

I once knew a woman who lived in the small community right outside the prison. I had no desire to emulate her, no matter how cheap her rent, and how good her view of the water.

On my daily commute I can feel the place changes as I drive. Antioch is not the same as Pittsburg, which is definitely not the same as Concord, which is different not as light as Martinez, and much different than the grassland before Hercules. Hercules feels more like Concord, but changes when I get to Pinole and San Pablo, which are more like Richmond. Richmond feels dangerous, somewhat like Oakland, but not as big or as impersonal, but not as bad as it did in the 80’s.

I’m sure you could play this game also with where you live. When I was riding a bike in Inglewood, CA I could note the changes, sometimes from crossing a single street, from LAX to the 110 Freeway. From light industrial, to middle class, to working class, to middle class again, back to working class, and ghetto, all in the space of a few miles.

I met a man in Inglewood who lived with his wife and son in two small un-air conditioned apartments. Between the two apartments was a small tree, so small it looked like it had been in danger of dying. But the breeze between the apartments, and shade of the tree, brought peace unknown outside his courtyard.

Though I live in Antioch, which is not the best of places, but also far from the worst, I also live on the edge of a field. I can see through my back fence, past some “weed” trees into the field where it is reputed to harbor a pack of coyotes. We built a small pond that is shaded by two of the “weed” trees growing in our yard. It has at times sheltered two turtles, given water to some of the wild animals, and currently has feeder goldfish. My wife turned another part of the yard into a walking/meditation path. Which sounds much more exotic than it is to look at, but it works for us.

The thing is, we need special places to go to to get away.But these places are also affected by us, as much as we are by them. We all have the ability to make our own place more special than we started with. We just usually don’t.