Some will say, “I’ve made a decision – right or wrong. The important thing is that I made a decision.”

Some will say, “Someone else should make the decision. I don’t want the responsibility.”

Some will say, “There must be more to know before I have to make a decision.”

Some will say, “Occam was right – keep it simple.”

Some will say, “I make a decision based on how I feel. If it wasn’t the right decision, I’ll make it again.”

Some will say, “A decision is all about the vision – even if we have to move to Cuba.”

Some will say, “What is the decision I need to consider?”

Some will say, “What’s in it for me?”

Some will say, “I avoid making decisions.”

Some will say, “Just tell me what to do.”

– – – –

All of us are in this list somewhere. Decision making is like shifting gears; it changes our focus, our energy, even our scruples, even our sanity. Add the perspective of those who are obsessive and those who are attention deficient and the world becomes a conflicted decision-making environment. Further, add those who are bright and those who are dull and it is amazing that useful decisions are made at all.

Then add in those with ulterior motives: any middleman, any corporation, and God forbid any politician. Given their contribution to decision making, we may not know what decision was made!

There are different classes of decision making. Should I marry this person? Should I quit my job? Do we want children? Do I want to have a dog? There are procedural decisions: Should I go to the bathroom before I go? Do I need gas? Where are my keys? What color should we paint the living room?

Do I really want to argue with this ass? What is on TV? Life cannot move through one day without decision making skills. The downside is if we don’t know our own decision making style. So many arguments have been provoked by style rather than substance. To some extent we are constrained by our personality and often by dire circumstances. But resolution may require more than one style to be resolved. This is the main reason group discussions often are the only way to arrive at a rational decision. In business, team management is important. Virtually every organization has a group-based decision making group.

The advice here is to know thyself and accommodate other’s styles and conclusions – something the nation has in short supply these days.

Ancient Mariner

Mariner’s calisthenics for older millennials+

Mariner is growing older – well, a lot of growing older already has occurred but still, he is growing yet even older than that. Like many elders, he has aches and pains that lead him to a rehab center where he is led through a series of namby-pamby stretching exercises. Mariner agrees that the stretching drills do relax the skeleton’s pressure points and ease pain a bit  but when one is out in the garden and has one foot under an azalea bush and the other foot is in midair and must execute a one-legged bunny hop to land outside the garden, the little stretching drills do not help.

The reality is that, because humans have invented things like chairs, tables, chainsaws and elevators, we don’t use the muscles as they were intended. You know the trope: use it or lose it. As we age, stretching is important but it doesn’t help keep a body that is serviceable for daily life. If one is to be spiritually alert, strong and have a good feeling about one’s self, one must have muscle that works in the real world. So mariner proposes a muscle-based exercise rather than a joint-stretching one. The legal caveat: these exercises may not be helpful when recovering from injuries or operations.

If the reader has ever found themselves on the floor and literally can’t get up, e.g., mounting a lawnmower deck under the tractor or reaching the baby’s pacifier under the sofa or are prone to losing balance whenever the legs are off center, the following exercises performed every other morning may help:

  1. Squat thrust – Keeping your body over your knees, squat as close to the ground as possible. Place your hands on the floor and using them for balance, kick your legs back until they are straight behind you and your toes land on the floor. Once landed, quickly return to the original squat position and without hesitating kick the legs back again two more times. Then stand up, take a breath and repeat. Do this repetition five times as a beginner and work up to ten easily performed. In all exercises do not stop breathing and exhale at the point of maximum exertion. See:
  2. Weight-assisted squat – Find an object that you can hold easily and weighs five to ten pounds. Stand with legs ready to squat and hold the object at arm’s length in front of you. Squat as deeply as you can and immediately return to an upright position. Do ten squats at a slow pace. For a sample squat without the weight see:
  3. Pushups – Compulsive jocks may do a full pushup hands to toes but mariner recommends using the milder version, hands to knees because many individuals have injuries and arthritis that may be aggravated. Lying flat on the floor, use your arms to lift the body off the floor so that only the hands and knees remain in contact with the floor. Lift until the arms are straight and keep the body straight throughout the lift. Work your way up to ten; do more to show off in front of friends. See:

For upper back and posture issues, e.g., peeling potatoes without pain and remaining a fully erect hominid, here are a few exercises to help:

  1. Middle back. Have at hand a pair of small hand weights weighing two to five pounds each. Lay flat on your stomach with body straight to the feet. Stretch your arms out so you look like an airplane. Slowly lift the weights as high as possible without bending at the elbows, hold for two seconds then slowly drop back to the floor. Start with five repetitions but quickly build up to ten repetitions.
  2. Back and Shoulders. Find something that is easy to hold onto that can hang from your hands and down your back; a hand weight weighing ten to fifteen pounds would be perfect. Grasp the weight overhead and let it pull your arms down from over your head, letting the weight hang down your back. Very slowly lift the weight until your arms are straight above you. Very slowly allow the weight to fall down the back. Slow is better in this exercise. Do ten times; do more if you don’t feel satisfactory stretching of the upper back and arms.
  3. Shoe tie. This is all about balance. Put on a pair of string tie shoes; tennis shoes would be perfect. To tie the shoe, stand on the opposite leg fully straightened. Raise the target shoe to knee level but do not rest it on the other leg. Keeping the foot at knee level, tie the shoe. Repeat for the other shoe.

General posture is important and requires similar muscle-building exercises. These exercises are more difficult only because it requires constant attention to accomplish them:

  1. Easiest of these exercises is to walk at a comfortable pace for thirty minutes without stopping. Walk outside, not inside or on a treadmill. Walk every day; this exercise has meditative aspects to it. Distance is not the issue; mariner’s wife walks twice as fast as mariner. Walking together for exercise possibly may not be a shared experience.
  2. This is the most difficult exercise because you must do it constantly while awake for the entire day. Pretend there is an attached string at the center of the top of your head. Pretend that it kept in tension to hold your head as high as you can while keeping the chin in. Maybe God is pulling it or four eagles or an F-15.
  3. The strut. At the same time, push your chest out in front of your shoulders – all day whether sitting, standing, walking, etc.

You will find these posture exercises to be the most difficult because you must train your brain to pay attention constantly. It is important, however, because posture is what keeps the skeletal frame in place and enables muscle-centric health.

Mariner finds that the quads are the most diminished and need exercise if one is to be active or keep balance. The rewards are subtle but guarantee an enjoyable life in distant years. If the reader can sustain the effort, the posture exercises alone can improve one’s general well being.

Ancient Mariner


Among many words that describe the lifestyle of older folks, mariner feels the word ‘gumption’ is a major descriptor. Researching the usage of gumption suggests that the general meaning of the word is to have ambition, motivation or, colloquially, ‘get-up-and-go’. But being old can’t be captured by one behavior; it takes a lot to be old – or conversely it takes losing a lot to be old.

Gumption has a lot to do with energy. As folks grow older, their power supply becomes worn and becomes harder to generate. Using an old automobile as an analogy, the engine’s piston rings aren’t as tight as they used to be; it takes more gas, oil and electric current to create the same horsepower; the carburetor, sparkplugs, distributor and air filter aren’t as finely tuned. Translate the analogy to a human being and the parts become internal organs, angina, aneurysm, lost muscle and less resiliency.

Gumption is more complex than just having energy. Older folks don’t have much to motivate them. Society leaves them behind; their careers are over, family members have passed on, all leaving little social purpose and little need to ‘get up and go’. There is no need other than a compulsive disorder to jump out of bed at 6 AM before the alarm clock has finished its chime. As the trite phrase says, “use it or lose it”. Motivation can wane just as muscles do.

The brain has a large influence on gumption. Using the automobile analogy again, brains are like tires: the tread wears out. Without tires the automobile may have a brand new engine and still not be able to function. The brain isn’t called the brain for nothing – it controls every aspect of a person’s physiology from the shape of toenails to the ability to think. Unfortunately, such a complex organ is easily affected by wear and tear.

Most notable about brain dysfunction are concentration and short term memory. It is hard to have gumption if a person is easily distracted. It is hard to perform tasks if they can’t be remembered long enough to be completed.

The advice to oldsters is to have gumption to experience life in whatever intellectual or physical way that sustains a relationship with life in general.

The advice to youngsters is to have respect for folks who can live day after day without fancy mental tools, any power tools or any reason to have tools but they continue performing as a human being. That requires its own definition of gumption.

Ancient Mariner

Let it Be

Here’s a humbling statement from mariner’s desk calendar:

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

– Helen Keller

“Fidelity to a worthy purpose.” Everyone understands the virtue of fidelity. It represents commitment to something which requires personal value and personal discipline. Anyone, without regard for faith, politics or personal circumstances has some obligation to an idea or behavior that shapes their life and sets the standard for daily behavior.

No one would make it through a day without some set of values that keeps them anchored to who they are, what they need and how they interact with reality. While it is true that many of us need to improve our skills when dealing with daily life, the real issue is fidelity to what?

One can’t fault the fidelity of Trump followers; the question is whether that set of values is worthy of fidelity. One can’t fault the fidelity of socialist liberals; the question is whether that set of values is worthy of fidelity. This criticism can be made about any opinion. The question that must be answered is, “are these values worthy of fidelity?”

Frankly, the world, its nations and its societies are in great transition – some may say dysfunctional. What will future society look like? Taking into consideration the fact that many social institutions are on decline, e.g., churches, colleges, social service organizations, governments at all levels, reduced income opportunities and the intense interruption of global warming, what institutional structure will rise to overcome all the trauma?

Mariner suspects it will be small communities; perhaps urban neighborhoods as well; populations of about 1,500 – 10,000 or so. What has slowly disappeared is community bonding. The large agricultural family has all but disappeared; the ease of travel and a broad range of employment opportunities leave much of the population without the friendly surroundings of large families, local clubs, or common career familiarity. In mariner’s small town, the glue provided by large, multi-generational families is gone. The many clubs and organizations that afforded social gathering have dwindled to a precious few and no longer set the pace for the town; the common employment base of agriculture is a memory.

Nevertheless, in the name of sanity people must belong to something meaningful in their daily life. Without community, society cannot heal, grow or reorganize. Without community fidelity, more sophisticated institutions cannot be stable.

The best thing you can do to weather this era is to be friendly and helpful with your neighbors.

Remember the words from the Beatles song ‘Let it Be’?

“And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be”

When government fails, when society is disheveled, when calamity and uncertainty are in the air, people will gather into small groups to minimize fear, provide social stability, and establish common fidelity.

Evolution has declared that Homo sapiens is a tribal creature.

Let it be.

Ancient Mariner


Interplanetary Travel

Mariner is an old codger – almost as old as many legislators. The truth is, the world today is quite alien to him. It is not his planet. Back on his planet, there is a President named John F. Kennedy; in fifteen minutes Charles Kuralt tells the news of the world with no gossip, no allegiance to viewer share, no conspiracy threats. Social media does not exist, only thick daily newspapers with pages of funnies and sports; mariner delivered them every day for a few years.

Computers are around but they don’t poke into everyone’s business. The U.S. is at war, as usual, but it is a strange no-bullet war with Russia. There are no mass shootings of children every month or so. In fact, when mariner was 12 years old, he would take the streetcar downtown without even knowing about the social dangers that lurk the streets on this planet. On mariner’s planet policemen walk their neighborhood beats and stop to pass the time of day.

Mariner could go on and on about how different his planet is from this planet. On this planet, he feels out of place and irrelevant because he does not understand this world. He is not rooted in the life of a child who is given a computer tablet in kindergarten. It likely is appropriate training for children on this planet but mariner finds himself confused about social values. Humanist philosophy is at a nadir.

Even television on this planet seems irrelevant. Mariner switched to a modern ‘smart’ television to no avail; little is of interest. The few programs he watches are broadcast on his planet. Listening to news today speaks only of Armageddon. Mariner’s planet, while it has issues, has no reason to fear the future demise of humanity.

But mariner can visit his planet. There is a dimension called ‘music’ that has a direct link to his planet. He steps into this dimension by listening to what people on this planet call golden oldies. Golden, indeed, and eternal.

Stack up the old 45 with names like Penguins, Everly Brothers, Presley, Ronstadt, Platters, Domino, Brightman, Little Richard, Carpenters, Ray Charles, Joni James and Cline. Or capture the next decade with Diamond, Denver, Peter, Paul and Mary, and ABBA. Mariner settles down in the music space ship chair and travels back to his planet.

Ancient Mariner

GIG Work

Mariner is acutely aware that the Internet and its future iterations definitely will change the world of work. One of the new work models emerging is the GIG world of employment. GIG means that jobs are in response to corporate need rather than in response to career development and all the trappings of lifetime security that the +60 crowd understands.

Gig workers, generally, enjoy the freedom of earning an income providing the link between corporate automation and the corporate need to have personalized service. A simple but common example is food delivery services. With the Internet as a tool, GIG workers have unparalleled  opportunities to live where they want, with their lifestyle from living in cars with an Internet link to living in Thailand to enjoy better benefits than are available in the U.S.

Statistical studies have shown that the freedom to travel, to live eccentric lifestyles, to earn just enough to sustain their lifestyles, is all that’s needed. While it is a world of independence, it suffers from the lack of unions, standardized employment models that provide insurance, retirement and minimum wage. In the United States, a more traditional labor relations society, these shortcomings have become a court issue.

In some respects the GIG movement and the homesteader movement have a lot in common: Society has become an intense competition for assets – not lifestyle. It is not possible for everyone to be successful in the world of dollar security; especially not in the world of self-identity and personal gratification in life.

Mariner discovered a pleasant review of GIG work (that is, not politically abused) on PBS Passport/ROKU. It may be available as a local PBS documentary – mariner doesn’t know since he switched to a smart TV. The program is titled “The World Of Work – The Next Generation: Why I choose to live and work in my car”. It provides an insight into the conflict of pressurized economics versus the desire to live an unencumbered life.

Check it out.

Ancient Mariner.

Consumers have control

Here’s an interesting quote from ProPublica about the two-decade long drought conditions affecting several western states and the disappearing Colorado River:

“A majority of the water used by farms — and thus much of the river — goes to growing nonessential crops like alfalfa and other grasses that feed cattle for meat production. Much of those grasses are also exported to feed animals in the Middle East and Asia. Short of regulating which types of crops are allowed, which state authorities may not even have the authority to do, it may fall to consumers to drive change. Water usage data suggests that if Americans avoid meat one day each week they could save an amount of water equivalent to the entire flow of the Colorado each year, more than enough water to alleviate the region’s shortages.”

It isn’t just cows. Mariner knows for certain that blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay have a shrinking population; Maine Lobsters are moving to cooler waters in Canada; the wild salmon are threatened by new open faced mining near the Arctic Circle; Australia has drought conditions, too, so there goes ostrich and emu; Has anyone priced bison lately?

What consumers need to do is have cities and towns change their ordinances so consumers can raise rabbits, chickens, geese and invasive species like the Burmese python or the Tegu lizard – both in Florida.

But give up thick, juicy T-Bones or country ribs? It’s a lot to ask but consumers are now in charge of climate change.

Ancient Mariner

Wife versus smart TV

Mariner often publishes the fine poetry his gifted wife produces. He has always claimed she should make a living as a poet. But now, his wife is showing that she is multi-talented. She wrote an accounting of our introduction to a new smart TV. She sent the piece to the Fort Madison Daily Democrat, a newspaper published in Fort Madison. The editor was pleased with her description of our adventure and encouraged my wife to send more articles.

Her article was headlined across the top of the opinion page and took more than half of the page. Below the article is printed in its entirety:


Adventures in the Brave New World of Television

When a thin purple line appeared down the middle of our TV screen, it didn’t seem too ominous.   Within a few days, the thin line became a thick stripe of purple and we knew the end was near.  I suppose we could have watched it that way for a long time–like using up the last of the shampoo in the bottle–but  we had already cut the cord of our DISH subscription, and we were ready to step into the new world that awaited us with a smart TV.

Have you bought a new TV recently?  I went online to read reviews.  We wanted to replace our massive 43 inch screen with one of the same size.  It turns out that 43 inches is no longer considered massive.  It is the size you buy for a second bedroom or a dorm room.  If we wanted to stay with that same puny size, we would not have all the bells and whistles that are available on larger screens that start at the small end at 50 inches and go up to 85 inches or larger.

We decided we did not need all the bells and whistles or have room for a theater experience in our living room,  so we ended up buying  a 43 inch TCL Roku TV that we found at Walmart.  Did I mention that it is a smart TV?  Did I mention that we had cut the cord to our satellite service?  We thought we knew what we were doing as we had used a Roku stick on the old TV to get free streaming TV from the internet.   We plugged in the new TV and it said “Welcome!  Let’s get started setting up your new Roku TV.”  That was a good sign.  Then it asked us to find the internet using our wifi password.   We knew our wifi password and typed it into the box on the TV screen using the remote control.   We were feeling fairly confident that we were just as smart as our new TV.  Then the TV screen said, “Great.  Now let’s set up your Roku Account.  Type in the email address linked to your existing account.”

The Roku stick that went with our old TV was a gift from our California son in law.  He had bought the stick, stuck it into the back of the old TV and set up a Roku account.  We did not know what email he used to set up the account.  We did not want to start a new account as we had saved a number of channels and we did not want to start over from scratch trying to find them again.  The screen said, if you do not know the email that is linked to your Roku account “go to settings/account/help.”  We couldn’t find a settings link anywhere on the TV.  I thought maybe settings was on the Roku account on the internet so I googled  In order to sign in to my account I needed….the email address that was attached to it.

Fortunately there was an 800 number to call if all else failed.  You may be wondering why I did not call my California son in law who had set up the account.  He was at that very moment on an airplane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and we did not want to bother him.  Instead we bothered Vineesha, a young woman who was possibly somewhere in India.  She asked for the number on the Roku stick from our old purple stripe TV.  Vineesha stayed on the line while we found the old Roku stick in the mess of cables behind the new TV.  With the number from the Roku stick Vineesha was able to give us the email address linked to our Roku account.  It was my daughter’s email account.

My daughter was not on a plane, but she was far away in California.  I called her to explain that she would be getting the code numbers to type into her computer that would link our new TV to the old Roku account.  She got an email from Vineesha with the code, she typed it in to her computer in California and instantly our Iowa TV said, “Success!   Now there is just one more step.  Type in your Roku password.”

Do you see the problem with smart TV’s?  They are a little condescending in their helpful tone.  They are a little smug in their assumption that we had all of our passwords in place.  Our password was, in fact, flying somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

My daughter in California  texted her husband on the plane, he texted the password back to her,  she called us with the password, we typed it in on our Iowa remote control and our TV was finally, finally set up and running.  It did not have a purple stripe down the middle of the screen.  It had all of our channels in place.

So what have we learned?   We learned that it takes a village to set up a smart TV.  A global village that spans the globe across multiple time zones from Iowa to India to California to a transatlantic flight somewhere in midair over the ocean.  It is a humbling experience to realize that your household devices can be controlled from a few lines of code transmitted from thousands of miles away.

And yes, we learned to use old fashioned paper and pencil to write down the email and password to our own TV.   Our wonderful new TV that is smarter than we are.

Multi-talented, indeed.

Ancient Mariner

Fire up some briquettes

As regular readers know mariner is home alone for a couple of weeks. As a result of cooking only for one, he dug out his old hibachi to grill food instead of using the regular gas grill. His experience was positive enough to wonder why he hasn’t used the hibachi all along. True, it takes a bit of patience to start the briquettes but the efficiency – if only measuring that the hibachi is just outside the kitchen door – was significant. A five-gallon bucket of briquettes easily will last as long as a 7 liter LPG tank. A bucket of charcoal is about 30 pounds at an average cost of $25. A tank of LPG gas costs about the same.

The hibachi is convenient as a substitute for a campfire to cook hotdogs and make s’mores. Does anyone still have an old metal 6-cup percolator coffeepot? Make morning coffee and toast! The hibachi can substitute as a crockpot, too.

When mariner was in Taiwan, many restaurants had nothing more than a couple of ceramic style hibachis shaped like large flower pots. In Tainan mariner visited a restaurant which claimed to have the longest continuously burning hibachi fire in Taiwan. The primary menu items in these restaurants is what a crockpot or wok is used for in the U.S. Interestingly, a standard wok always seem to fit those flower pots perfectly. Genuine Chinese herbs and spices made the best stir-fries mariner has ever tasted.

Many small neighborhood restaurants were totally portable. Each morning the kitchen and seating were set up in what we would call a garage with no utilities. Customers ate outside on the sidewalk. In the evening these restaurants lit up the entire block with colorful lanterns. When the restaurant closed, everything was packed and removed leaving an empty garage. This setup method was common among many small retailers.

Being a foreigner, these kinds of social experiences were enjoyable. But alas, across from mariner’s hotel was a McDonalds. At least the food was still Asian. Mariner worked in the ‘down country’ of Taiwan. Visit the City of Taiwan on the north end and one would think they’re in New York City except everything is written in mandarin.

There are many other ways of living besides living amid Interstates and gazing at smartphones. Perhaps next our travelogue will visit Kazakhstan.

Ancient Mariner


Television versus Real Life

Science Magazine – The scenes were apocalyptic. On 20 July, a flash flood in Zhengzhou, a city of 10 million on the Yellow River in China, caused a low-lying, kilometer-long section of the city’s Metro Line 5 tunnel to fill with water, trapping more than 500 riders in a subway train. In real time, passengers posted terrifying videos and photos on social media sites, showing people standing in chest-deep water that was still rising. Rescuers, hampered by extensive street-level flooding, arrived 4 hours later, but 14 people did not make it out alive.
So many things are happening in the last year or two: century floods and droughts, fires and dying coral, disappearing Pacific islands, melting glaciers and seafront catastrophes. Is something happening we don’t know about?
– – – –
Mariner is experiencing a personal renaissance, small r for sure but it ends a killing ennui, depression and isolation that started with the campaign of Donald and continues with the help of commercialized news broadcasts. What launched the renaissance was living without family for two weeks while cutting the cord on DISH and suffering empty space and time throughout the day.
Mariner has new found energy and interest in things to be accomplished. He calls it his ‘homesteader’ phase, last experienced on his farm where there was much to do in many areas of equipment maintenance and building construction, a lot to pursue agriculturally, home maintenance and still holding down a fulltime job.
The culprit: television. Having given up on the news, stopped watching lame late shows and meaningless comedy from sitcoms to SNL, the TV was forcing dissatisfaction on mariner. Not even movies were of interest. The short of it is that one’s life is all around them – not on television or smartphone or even on the Internet. Have we forgotten so quickly what we did with our hands, our family, our hobbies and sustaining our local social network and environment? Does the reader lament not being able to shop in a real store?
So when were you going to fix that screen door? When were you going to remodel that spare room? When were you going to make some cash with your hobby? When will you upgrade your rec room with ping pong, cornhole or billiards?
Remember – sociologists have identified ‘aspiration’ as the key word for the middle class. To what do you aspire by suppertime? (retired, especially)

ASPIRE [uh-spahyuhr ] to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value (usually followed by to, after, or an infinitive): to aspire after literary immortality; to aspire to be a doctor.

Archaic: to rise up; soar; mount; tower.

Ancient Mariner