Baked geese crap

Everything we do matters — whether it’s making smoothies to save up money or studying for the bar — even after we’ve already achieved the success we sought. Everything is a chance to do and be our best. Only self-absorbed assholes think they are too good for whatever their current station requires. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and wherever we are going, we owe it to ourselves, to our art, to the world to do it well. That’s our primary duty. And our obligation. When action is our priority, vanity falls away.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/how-you-do-anything/

I sometimes think back to a summer I spent working on a golf course. As a grounds keeper. These days, I’m still pretty fast with a string trimmer. A job string-trimming a golf course teaches certain skills. Every day that summer I hopped on my trusty red 10-speed bike—I think it was actually originally my mom’s bike—and ride… just for fun I Google’d it… 5 miles to work. I distinctly remember the coolish Pennsylvania mornings.

It just this moment occurs to me that my “the weather today will be…” prognostication skills are generally quite good. Probably something to do with riding a half hour while wondering if I was going to get roasted in the sun, soaked in the rain, or pleasantly browned.

Meanwhile I learned many things. About getting along with other people to greater or lesser degrees of success. About how laughter makes work lighter. And about good healthy, sweat labor. I already mentioned the string trimming. But my favorite was how we used to edge the sand traps. Every day—at least as far as I can remember—there’d be the same work to do; we’d simply advance our way around the course based on our boss’s early-morning directions on a whiteboard. “edge traps 8/9” for example… along with a few more. One guy was the greens keeper. His responsibility was just to mow the putting greens and tend that grass. Move the pins (the tall flags stand inside special metal cups set into the ground) periodically. Another guy—an aged adult, so he was probably like 38 at the time—was the fairway mower. Willie was his name. I remember his last name, but I don’t want anyone hunting him down. He’d drive a large farm-sized tractor pulling gang-mowers like a flock of geese behind him. All the grass was always cut with reel mowers.

Anyway. Sand traps. We used to edge them with a machete. You see, the edge of the trap, where the grass meets the sand, has interesting geometry. The lawn may not be level, it often was sloped or curving like a little hill. So the “cut” is not just, “hey yo, no blade of grass sticking out that way!” but also, a perpendicular (to the plane of the grass bed) curb of sod (the grass, roots carpet part) and dirt. A string trimmer just sort of beats things up into a rounded mess. With a machete—and a crap-ton of stooping, back-breaking, labor—you can cut everything in a perfect plane. It’s as if you made the perfect cut through layer cake, creating a smoothly undulating curb perimeter, angled perfectly. wack wack wack wack …we’d just walk around the trap backwards, walking on the grass. wack wack wack wack… fifty, maybe a hundred swings. Every sand trap is different. Then we’d clean the trap. Weed it, rake it, sift it, then shape the sand. When we moved on, there’d be not a single bit of anything besides sand in the trap. It’d be gorgeous.

Craftsmanship.

One day, “trim the lake” was on the board. Again. We’d just done that the other day. It was one of the most god-awful horrible jobs. It was basically a very big pond, with not much water flow, particularly mid-summer. The bottom was muck-tastically nasty with geese crap and—wait for it—9 gazillion golf balls making for treacherous footing. The weeds grew in the water. With a string trimmer you can actually trim a bit below the water level if you’re adamant about it. (As we were.) When doing this chore you had a choice: You could stroll into the water and muck to reach the weeds 6 feet out in the pond, or wreck your back, (I don’t care how young you are, this wrecks it,) straining all around the lake to reach out there with the trimmer. Regardless, in the heat of summer, those water-whatever weeds needed a wacking every few days.

On this day, I stood by the artificial rock weir that impounded the pond. I looked at my work boots, being well-shod to deal with the muck, but not so much for standing directly in the water to trim. I looked at the weir. I thought about having to sacrifice my back to reach the weeds. At the weir. I looked at my golf cart—we had the best ones. Special motors for hauling trailers and actual loads and extra batteries. And my we don’t screw around here double-string trimmer and gas can. My face shield. I looked back at the weir.

And I went for it.

I strolled into the stream, moved a bunch of rocks and pierced the maybe 2-foot tall weir… and drained the entire lake. Then I spun up my trimmer and… there are two ways to string trim: One way is a sort of judicious, scalpel wielding, if I twitch it leaves a mark that takes a week to grow away, and I’m going to have to clean up all the mess I make. And the other way is BANSHEE STYLE! I strolled into that disgusting muck and strode around the entire thing with the trimmer throttled wide open… non-stop… at like 6:30am. Muck, geese crap, golf balls, weeds… everything flying every which way… none of it on me of course because, duh, string-trimming guru.

Meanwhile, the sun crept higher.

I don’t know how long it took me. Not long. I don’t think I even had to refill the trimmer’s gas tank. But all the while, the sun started to bake the mud and muck.

Now the area (the general regional area I mean) had a lot of farms and you got used to all sort of smells. Pennsylvania smells (to me) like petrichor, and maybe a dash of cow or horse manure baking on a field. Us Pennsylvanians are all like, *yawn* “whatever bro’.” But baking geese crap and muck, as it turns out, is another thing.

Yes, when I finished trimming I reassembled the weir, but as I mentioned, the little creek’s flow rate was low, and it took all stinking-to-high-heaven day for that thing to fill submerging the muck. I was vindicated amongst the groundskeepers, including my boss who went to bat for me so I could keep my job, because we all freakin’ loved it. It looked awesome and stayed awesome for like TWO WEEKS!

But to my knowledge, no one ever did it again.

That was the first time I effectively closed an entire golf course.

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Scenes

Because they can only show scenes, …

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/sorry-an-epiphany-isnt-whats-going-to-change-your-life/

Check the following against your experience: Except for sleep, or fits of unconsciousness, my life is a perfectly seamless and continuous experience. It has no montages, elisions of time, “jump cuts,” nor cross fades. I’ve never experienced a rerun of any moment; every moment is the next moment found directly after that moment that was now, but is now just past.

From my point of view, every other person… every book… every movie… every image painting film story… I experience those in one, compressed form or another. I catch up with a friend over lunch; I get two weeks of their experience compressed into a thirty-second story. Rocky goes from zero to hero in a two-minute (I’m guessing) montage. That person experiences an entire year; I experience their birthday dinner.

Everything out there is a small scene from some real experience. Is it any wonder it’s difficult to understand?

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The Guilty, Crazy Secret

The bullshit— …well, it disappears for a fleeting second.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/the-guilty-crazy-secret-that-helps-me-write/

I have playlists for this exact thing. Hundreds of individual songs selected and shuffled, for very specific purposes.

Sometimes I go “hunting” to find new tracks for these lists; My Mac says my music library has 9,121 items, 26.5 days, 77.96 GB, and I have a “smart” playlist which grabs 250 least-recently played. It avoids some genres (like “Spoken Word” so it doesn’t pick out French lessons, etc) and it avoids any track I’ve one-starred (my way of saying omg no)… It’s basically an endless series of, “I forgot about that!” I often flip over to the original album, start from the front, and sometimes I add a track to one of my play lists.

What? Why? …best of both worlds. I have playlists that do what I need—hide the world, hide everything. And I’m continuously startled with delight by my tiny music collection.

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Stoic Ethics

The Stoics argued that it’s not feelings and pleasure that control our primary impulses but reason—and because of this, reason, like a craftsman, overrides impulse. Sometimes what feels good leads to bad results. What we feel is good for us often isn’t. Reason alone allows us to keep our individual nature (what’s good for me) and universal nature (what’s good for my kind) in harmony.

~ From, https://dailystoic.com/oikeiosis/

I believe the key thing which distinguishes us from the other animals is our faculty of reason. If any of my myriad ramblings about Stoicism have peaked your interest, this article is a proper discussion of Stoic ethics.

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No and yes

Because we can’t say no—because we might miss out on something if we did. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, will give us more of what we want, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/how-to-say-no-advice-from-the-worlds-most-powerful-man/

Accepting and rejecting are two sides of the same coin. A lot—I contemplated writing “all”—of my problems came from being unable to intentionally say, “yes,” or being unable to intentionally say, “no.” When completely lacking the skill from either side of this coin, I’m a puppet for others. I’m one of those doormats that says, “WELCOME,” come on in and use me.

But simply developing both of the skills is not enough. I needed to learn to balance the skills; To balance the requirements of life with the pursuits of pleasure, leisure, and creativity. That requires a finer control of these, “yes,” and, “no,” skills.

I occasionally encounter people who speak of, “always saying, ‘yes and…’.” That’s utter nonsense. One can only say once to the pan-handler on the street asking for money, “yes, and take my house.” Or to the myriad of people clamoring for one’s attention online, “yes, and…” scrolling scrolling scrolling and… the whole hour is lost.

The mastery level of, “no,” and, “yes,” is to go beyond reacting to life—figuring out which tool to deploy in this situation—to intentionally using, “no,” and, “yes,” to navigate life.

Distraction, Busyness, Hurrying: No.

Discovery, Reflection, Efficacy: Yes, and…

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blog by a Stoic

Stoicism has long surged in times of difficulty—the decline and fall of Rome, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Civil War, depressions, and periods of strife because it is a philosophy designed for difficult times. It says, in effect, you don’t control these alarming events going on in the world, but you do control how you respond. And in fact is a framework for responding with courage and virtue, and with the good emotions that accompany and sustain them: joy, caution and well-wishing. None of these inspiring figures were guilty of emotionless acquiescence.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/secret-singular-philosophy-todays-politics-desperately-missing/

I’m certainly not going to transform my blog to be entirely about Stoicism. Not because others have already done so, (others have, and have done it better than I could,) but rather, simply because this blog doesn’t have a single specific topic. It’s one long stream of consciousness where I’m leaving a breadcrumb trail of my thoughts. That being said:

Stoicism is turning out to be a powerful toolset; an excellent fulcrum for leveraging change in my personal life. Over several years, I’ve become increasingly interested in it, and have read slowly, but steadily. Very recently, I started a morning practice I’ve labeled “philosophical reading.” It’s simply some time set aside in my mornings to read and reflect on philosophy.

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Time management

As addicting as it is, desire is the enemy to proper time management. Poor sleeping habits, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and just plain dissatisfaction are all byproducts of a poorly managed life.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/5-stoic-lessons-on-time-management/

Time management is the only thing—the only major skill critical for leading a good life… Time management is the only thing which no one ever attempted to teach me explicitly. Everything else was covered to some degree: science, religion, morality, philosophy, work ethic, hygiene, sexuality, language, geography, personal finance, and more, depending on how you want to subdivide all the stuff in my head.

Time management isn’t the most critical thing to know. Language and critical thinking are the top two, because with those two and sufficient time you can bootstrap everything else. However, things would be far better for everyone, if the third item on the list of must-have skills to be Human was a basic grasp of Time Management.

For me, I was trying to fix my sleep when it became obvious that I needed to arrange my day around sleeping. That lead immediately to an entirely new need for time management. “I need to be at work by 8,” is not Time Management (with capitals.) I then took a circuitous route discovering the needs and methods of Time Management.

But where do I wish I had actually started? That’s an excellent question. Right around 18 years old, I wish someone had handed me a copy of this tiny book: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by A Bennet.

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Focus your attention

One of the most powerful things you can do as a human being in our hyperconnected, 24/7 media world is say: “I don’t know.” Or, more provocatively: “I don’t care.” Most of society seems to have taken it as a commandment that one must know about every single current event, watch every episode of every critically acclaimed television series, follow the news religiously, and present themselves to others as an informed and worldly individual.

~ Ryan Holiday from, The Daily Stoic, p39.

Stoicism is a terrific tool. (It’s not about suppressing your emotions.) One of the practices is to pay attention to where your attention is. If I know I’m not going to do anything with this information—this news show, this political argument, this batshit-crazy conspiracy theory, this story, that solicitation, this bit of entertainment, that bit of distraction . . . If I know I’m not going to do anything with this information, then it turns out that it is trivial to not be distracted by things. People think I’m ignoring things, or that I’ve not noticed things. I’m simply choosing where to allocate my attention, (and therefore my time and efforts.) I choose to be in control of where my attention is placed. Only then can I apply it where it will do good.

What in your life can demand your attention? Are you okay with each of things that you just thought of?

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Let the news come

And what better use could you make of that time? A day that could be your last — you want to spend it in worry? In what other area could you make some progress while others might be sitting on the edges of their seat, passively awaiting some fate? Let the news come when it does. Be too busy working to care.

~ Ryan Holiday

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Thought experiment

We should apply the same ruthlessness to our own habits. In fact, we are studying philosophy precisely to break ourselves of rote behavior. Find what you do out of rote memory or routine. Ask yourself: Is this really the best way to do it? Know why you do what you do—do it for the right reasons.

~ Ryan Holiday, p24 The Daily Stoic

I sometimes imagine that the things I can choose to do can be placed on an aspirational spectrum. It’s not a linear, ordered list, but rather a thought experiment to do the pair-ordering; for any two things I could do right now, which is higher on the aspirational spectrum?

I could go even farther than just the pair-wise comparing and imagine all the things in my life might be orderable as…

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Fortunately—not a typo—the incessant work of ordering things to pick what to do next is exhausting. It forces me to notice that when I zoom out, I could imagine I’m doing things in the “j” through “q” range…

a b c d e f g h i ( j k l m n o p q ) r s t u v w x y z

I can make things better simply by making some space in my life. If I just drop that “j”-thing entirely I can be comfortable in knowing I’m improving, without having to actively micro-worry about everything all day. Dropping that “j”-thing leaves me with…

a b c d e f g h i j ( k l m n o p q ) r s t u v w x y z

Whereas before my average was between “m” and “n”, just by eliminating something from the lower side, my average moves up. Clearly I can improve my life appreciably by occassionally thinking about all the things I’m doing, and identifying a lower-end thing to drop.

Yes, of course things aren’t really this simple. But it took me a long time to learn the lesson that removing something can produce marked improvement. Some would say that removing is the very definition of how to approach perfection.

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