Extra Shadings

Things rarely are as simple as they seem. Life is not binary nor tertiary. It has many more shades than that. Many more colors exist.

How do we perceive color in the world and what is its importance? There seems to be no physiological construct to perceive color in our eye. Are we able to detect minute variation in frequency of light waves? And our brain says – wait a minute that photon was faster, or slower.

Some are color blind but what does that actually mean? Are we not all color blind to some degree?

The girl in the control booth says fade to black. Is that a color? Why not say fade to white?

An analog world of life has nuance. It is not binary nor tertiary. It is a rainbow.

#RDP, #Nuance

On Cicadas

There is a low whirring (whoring?) hum in the air. I had forgotten that part. The birds are excited. I remember that part.

Not our Elm but similar

At our old house when we bought it in 1980, there was a huge American elm in the backyard. It was in the center of a square of yard about eighty-five feet on a side. It did not crowd any buildings or other trees so over time it had developed that beautiful umbrella canopy. We moved into the house in February. I remember thinking, wow that is a neat tree. At the time I was unfamiliar with elms and dutch elm disease.

When spring came it leafed out in a fashion similar to the picture below. The tree was dying from the back as viewed from our kitchen window. We got a couple of tree wizards out to look at it and decide what to do. The only solution was removal. It is sad to remove a tree that size. The tree was about sixty years old. The person who planted it was an optimist and we intended to cut down their legacy.

Summer of a dying elm tree

After the tree was removed we had a stump about four feet in diameter and about chair height that for a few years the kids enjoyed by having tee parties and building ramps to jump bicycles off of. The stump was in a level area at the bottom of a long downhill driveway. I watched from the kitchen one day as our son came flying down the driveway on his bicycle, went up the ramp and failed to stick the landing on the other side in the grass. Certainly a learning experience about Newton’s laws.

There are lots of Newton cartoons. I like this one.

We planted a cherry tree hybrid graft at the end of the driveway after we removed the elm tree. Fruit seemed like a good alternative. I had started a vegetable garden on the far side of the yard and left the center for the kids to play in. It was a grand space for play.

About six years later the cherry tree was perhaps twelve feet tall and producing enough cherries in a season that I was protecting the cherries from the birds with netting. The cicadas came out that year, looked around and said to each other, “what happened to our tree?”. They made the long trek to the maple in the back and the cherry tree at the foot of the drive. From the perspective of the kitchen window, it was as though the grass in the back became liquid and was flowing away from the stump. It was an incredible sight.

The birds showed up for the cherries but ignored the tree fruit. There was a plethora of protein walking around in the grass hunting for any vertical object. Robins ate so many bugs they needed a runway to take off. It was amazing to watch.

The female cicadas did a good job of pruning the small branches that come out where the tree blooms and then fruits. The year of the cicadas was the first year we harvested enough fruit to make pies and jelly. The following year was better. The tree produced even more fruit than previous years. I attribute it to the pruning done by the lady cicada society.

We moved from that house to our little condo about five years ago. From our screened in back patio area I can hear the whirring sound. It is raining a bit and will do so for a couple hours according to my weather app. The bugs have not whipped themselves into a feverish sexual frenzy yet. They will later.

Over time the moles have herded them into just a small area near our back porch. Some climb into our screened in area. I pick them off the screen one by one throw them out the door. Most are not instinctive fliers. About one in three flaps its wings and buzzes off to the trees in the back when I throw them out the door. I shout encouragement to them as I throw them out the door. I explain Newton’s laws but they do not listen. My wife does not like bugs. For a couple weeks I can have the porch to myself.

One got most of the way to the trees but, sadly was snatched out of the air by a hungry bird. Newton did not matter. Its genes will not be passed on.

They are not good fliers but that is not their intent. They are lovers.

Carpe Diem bugs.

A Prescription

Many years ago my family doctor gave me this prescription.  “6 weeks on a sunny beach” — He has since retired from private practice.  Looking back to that year from today, there was a lot going on in my life.  Looking at the date on the prescription, June 28, 2006, it was the first year that Cheryl started noticing symptoms of Parkinson’s. There is still much happening in our life.

None of those things is as peaceful as this rose. Thanks to Edie Kynard’s Art I have this wonderful rose to contemplate.

In a couple weeks I will travel to California to be with my sister and others to celebrate my nephew’s marriage.

In one week Ohio is officially open for mask-less escapades to wherever.

Last evening our stock club met in our favorite bar for the third time this year.  (We talked about death stocks.  See previous post.)  The presenter of SCI did not solidly endorse it as a stock for the club to buy at this time. Perhaps the club is not solidly interested in deathly stocks. Kroger is in our portfolio and it was up for revue (yes it is misspelled on purpose). Part of the discussion settled around how much Joe Biden’s $15 minimum wage proposal would affect Kroger’s bottom line. ( I am not sure why it is Joe’s idea but there are many conservative capitalists in our club.) A quick search of the internet of all knowledge turns up the information that the average folk starts at $11.62 at Kroger. If you can wield a knife in the meat department or can read a pharmacy order you can get more. Last year Kroger had about 465k employees. Assuming 10% of those are new employees which seems high but bear with me, 46.5Kx3.38 = $157170.00 per hour increase in base pay or $314,340,000.00 per year assuming 40 hour week and 50 weeks per year or .24% of sales for that same time. A surprisingly small percentage number when you do the math. If they collected an extra penny on all items they could pay the $15 minimum wage and pocket the extra $1G or so. Nice.

Our society is slowly, steadily climbing out of the darkness of the pandemic shutdown but it still goes on in the world. Donald wanted to make America great again.  It already was great.  Here is the chance to make it greater.

There are many things to fix that would make America greater. Overall though, just merely treating others with kindness, patience and dignity will make America greater.

Why is it important for some folks to control others life experience?  Is it simple jealousy or envy? Maybe changing that attitude in those folks would improve life a bit.

Is there societal value to imposing one’s own personal values on another? Look inside and think about how you would react to unsolicited advice about your particular situation or perhaps unreasonable restrictions on your actions and then answer that question. Of course everyone’s situation is different. Income disparity affects health and healthcare choices. Income disparity affects diet.

Perhaps Andrew Yang has the correct approach. It is at least a different approach.

I did not start this post with the thought of chasing the minimum wage or a universal basic income but Carpe Diem.

Lately I’ve Been Reading

Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights is a collection of diary entries, stories and journal entries that he has written through life. He is not a hero by any means but he pulled himself up and spent a large portion of his life trying to impress and live up to his perceived view of how his father perceived him. He is doing okay.

He did get me thinking about life and where we go from here. What if there is no here?

Neptune Society

I became tired of reading Matthew, so on a particularly morbid Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago I remembered that Cheryl and I had planned to collect information and preplan our funerals. Once in a while Cheryl thinks about this as her PD takes her occasionally down a dark road. She has expressed interest in cremation, so on this Sunday I poked “cremation cost + cincinnati” into Google and the Neptune Society popped up as the first or second hit. So, that sent me down the rabbit hole of death, dying, funeral cost, yada, yada, yada.

I filled out their form thinking I would be buried in email about cemeteries and crematoriums. Not so simple, just like senior living facilities and “aplaceformom” I started getting calls from them. Eventually I mistakenly answered their call and found out some interesting info.

Their parent company is Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI). I am interested in stocks so I used our stock club’s analysis to check them out.

It sounds morbid but death is up. And as Jim Morrison of the Doors once said, “No one here gets out alive!” He may have been drunk at the time but truer words were never spoken.

SCI

Summary: [from Reuters] Service Corporation International is a provider of death-care products and services, with a network of funeral service locations and cemeteries. The Company’s segments include Funeral, Cemetery and Corporate. It conducts both funeral and cemetery operations in the United States and Canada. As of December 31, 2016, it operated 1,502 funeral service locations and 470 cemeteries, including 281 funeral service/cemetery combination locations, which are geographically diversified across 45 states, eight Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It offers various brands, such as Dignity Memorial, Dignity Planning, National Cremation Society, Advantage Funeral and Cremation Services, and Funeraria del Angel. Its funeral service and cemetery operations consist of funeral service locations, cemeteries, funeral service/cemetery combination locations, crematoria, and related businesses. It sells cemetery property, and funeral and cemetery merchandise and services.

Various Opinions: CFRA recommends BUY (5/13/2021); Research Team recommends HOLD; Reliable Research – We do not recommend investors buy SCI; Ford Equity Research – We project that SCI will perform in line with the market over the next 6 to 12 months; Barchart Technical Opinion – Strong BUY; Zacks – Add to Portfolio (2-buy)

Few want to think about it but death seems to be an expanding market. Last year was a good one for sales and 2021 continues to be one. Regardless of the pandemic pandemonium and which side of the mask you are on, a lot of people died last year. From SCI’s first quarter guidance announcement:

UPDATED OUTLOOK FOR 2021 – Today we are reporting earnings per share of $1.33 and net cash provided by operating activities of $298 million for the quarter. The $0.88 growth in earnings per share in the quarter was primarily driven by increased comparable preneed cemetery sales production and continued elevated COVID-19 mortality, which resulted in an increase in both funeral services performed and burials in our cemeteries. Comparable preneed cemetery sales production grew $130 million, or 67%, during the quarter driven by an increase in sales velocity, sales averages, and large sales activity. Net cash provided by operating activities grew approximately $118 million over the prior year quarter, primarily due to increased operating profit.

Based on our first quarter results, we are raising the midpoint of our full year adjusted earnings per share guidance fifteen cents to $2.85 and the midpoint of our adjusted operating cash flow guidance to $687.5 million. Our long-term earnings growth framework remains in place, we will maintain focus on our core strategies of growing revenue by remaining relevant to our client families, leveraging our scale, and maximizing our capital deployment opportunities in a disciplined and balanced manner.

That was probably more business information than you intended to read. The stock club analysis reports SCI as a “buy”. Although it will not be a shining winner like a bunch of tech stocks, it will probably double in value over the next 5-ish years and along the way produce a 1.5% dividend per share.

Death is on the rise in America.

But wait there’s more! (morbid thoughts that is) Cremation is less expensive that other forms of disposal. Urns are available on Amazon for less than $50.

Carpe Diem (or at least the afternoon)

I Love a Good Game of Name That Acronym

A friend of mine put this on Facebook. I am certain that he put it there as bait and I bit. COVID is of course short for CO(rona) VI(rus) D(isease). The nineteen typically tacked on to the end is to demark 2019 as the year when the virus was first noted in Wuhan, China. The individual who first started the game apparently is displeased with the poor initial discussion of masks, personal hygiene, and vaccines.

This posting on Facebook is intended to rile folks up. I feel the pain myself. Having finished with my second booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine a week ago, I am elated. The previous leader of the free world could have celebrated his and his wife’s vaccination before they left the White House. He did not. The event was so low key that it was only reported after he flew to Miralago to resume the life of the rich and famous guy that he is.

I used to play this game when I was still working full time and some one would use an acronym with out first explaining what the term stood for. The implication being that if you did not understand the term you were not on the inside. I always made me laugh. If it showed up in an email I might ask an innocent question using my made up acronym. My favorite is SMART (Simply Magnificent And Recognizable Talent) goals. I think timely is a cop out. What does timely mean?

Think about it. Try UNSMART. (Uninformed New Sheep Mainly Are Really Trumpublicans) (political division)

Uniformly Nascent Solipsistic Males Actually Remember Transportation (random division)

Let your mind run wild. It is okay to use small articles and the verb to be in any answer. Be mean or generous, politically correct or not so, kind or not. There are no rules.

Cost Obfuscation Violates Individual Destinations (travel division)

Catholic Orthodoxy (has) Victimized Individual Dreams (religious division)

Curmudgeonly Orwellians Voraciously Imbibe Dragon-meat (Game of Thrones division)

Crash Objects Vanquish Indecisive Drivers (automotive division)

Over time some acronyms have become actual words (laser) and some words have become acronyms (smart). Language is fascinating.

Parkinson’s disease sucks but then a friend will send you down a rabbit hole with diversion of some sort for several hours of mental gymnastics. Thanks, friend.

Peace be with you

Our Stock Club Met in Person

It has been exactly a year since our stock club met in person. It is hard to express how much I missed those in person meetings over the past year. There is a lively atmosphere that does not come through the Zoom meeting platform.

Our club first met in March of 1984. Thirty-seven or so years ago a couple guys in the engineering department of a no longer existent machine tool manufacturer in southwestern Ohio said they were wondering if we could start a stock club. The Dow Jones industrial average was hovering just a tad above 1000. It was a big idea. We would all be rich men. All it would cost was $20 a month. Some things are lost to time but we started the club with ten members. We had as many as nineteen and now we are eight. Four of our members and former members are gone from this life. The rest are still here somewhere. We were all much younger then. Most of us are grandparents now, though not all. None of us are rich in a material sense, although we are rich in our friendship. It has always been fun to chase the rainbow.

We started with different expertise in each member on purpose. A stock club with only engineers was probably doomed to early failure. Every stock would be analyzed to death. One of the things that engineers are very good at is analysis. From the beginning the membership actively sought other members who were not engineers. And although today we are eight, we are only half engineering folks. We are not all retired yet.

For the first time tonight I realized how much the pandemonium has ruined our social fabric. There was a joy in the discussion about various stories, some stock talk, of course, but many other topics. Children, grandchildren, sports and travel are all fair game.

The market was up today. Or at least the piece of it that we owned was up. Life is good today.

It did not start out that way. Cheryl arose at 5 am never to return to bed. When she gets ups very early in the predawn she tends to be slightly confused most of the day. Today she did not take her meds right away as she has done in the past. She found the donuts left from Sunday and had two of those before she decided that she should take her meds. As a result she was merely thirty minutes or so early. She was, however, confused about the time and day of the week.

She was still confused about the day when she went to bed a few minutes ago.

Today was physical therapy day. Brittany (PT) spent extra time with her standing up from a sitting position and balance. She also spent time getting Cheryl to do several of the LSVT Big exercises that Cheryl struggles with.

Cheryl has never been a sports person in her life. Much of the demonstration and lecture about exercise and form is lost to her. Now that she has Parkinson’s disease it is more so. But it helped her, for, as we drove home, she suggested that we go to a park near where we live and we walk around the walking path near the creek.

So Carpe the Diem – we went.

I do not know if Sam Clemens said this or not. Somehow it does not seem curmudgeonly enough.

Bernard Clayton’s Bread Book

Potato bread

This book is a favorite of mine. If I remember to do it when I make mashed potatoes and something for dinner, I save the potato water and leftover mashed potatoes to make bread a couple days later. Two nights ago I remembered. I saved the water that I boiled the potatoes in. In his recipe he strongly suggests not adding anything to the potatoes.

Having gone through a couple of recipe cards from Hello Fresh recently I have decided that I like mashed potatoes made with sour cream and butter. Some of these were left over. I have about a cup of mashed potatoes. I used these. I am interested to discover how that modifies the flavor.

I have made this recipe with plain potatoes and with mashed potatoes in the past. Baking bread is intriguing for me because it seems very small changes to a recipe can make very large changes in flavor. Try it – grease one loaf pan with Crisco and grease another with lard. The flavor difference is noticeable. Very subtle but also very different flavor in the type of release agent used.

The round loaf goes to a neighbor who made a tuna noodle casserole out of the blue and gave it to us. She supplied it in a large ramekin bowl so I used it to bake the boole in. I hope she likes it. Potato bread makes hearty french toast.

If you can, bake something every week. Life is a one time deal but better with fresh bread!

Spring is here — FINALLY!

The Disease is Nuanced

Simple concepts are confusing.

As a part of our previous stimulus package spending we purchased new furniture for the living area of our condo minimum. (smiley face) The three pieces of furniture do not come with extra material to cover the armrests. My clever wife with Parkinson’s decided that there was no problem with that and she set off with a neighbor to the fabric store to purchase some suitable material to manufacture armrest covers.

Two of the chairs do not have arm rests that have a distinctive right and left shape. Those are easy peasy. The third seating area which is a small sofa has an ionic volute curve shape to the arms. Her arm covers have a right and a left shape to them.

The engineer in me leaped into the breach to explain how to make a pattern and plan to sew a right and a left. The Parkinson’s patient listened diligently but did not understand. Several efforts have produced two lefts, then two rights. two weeks later and listening to conversation between her and our niece who cleans for us, she is on the road to making a left which is finished and a right which she is working on.

She has started this several times before and somewhere in the project right became left. This time I will try to be unobtrusive and get to the sewing machine before right becomes left.

Parkinson’s requires gentle unobtrusiveness but it still sucks. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

What do you do to Pick Yourself UP?

I often find a song or melody that intrigues me at that moment. Kroger has been playing “Low” in some of their commercial advertisements lately here in Cincinnati.

Before that ad I had not heard the song before. It is a rap song. I have very few rap songs in my list of songs that I like. I do not have the same experience that many rap artists have, so, many of the popular songs with spontaneous rhyme and rhythmic lyrics do not connect with my old brain. “Low” does for some reason.

I told Alexa to play rap music. It selected a Hip Hop station that “you might like”. Perhaps I will listen later longer. Rap lyrics remind me of beat poetry. Recently Lawrence Ferlinghetti died. For some reason, in my younger years, his style of poetry interested me. I had his book of poetry – “A Coney Island of the Mind”. I have not seen it for years.

I vaguely recall that I had lent it to someone long in the past. Today I scrambled around to find a copy of a book of poetry that has probably been out of print for maybe sixty years. Amazon is a wonderful thing no matter what Donald Trump thinks.

I switched Alexa from Hip Hop to disco. “Staying Alive” is playing right now.

What do I do to pick myself up? Usually several things at once. Music certainly helps pick me up.

Music is very personal. Long ago I worked for a private company. One of the partners read a book somewhere that convinced him that music played over the PA system would lighten the mood and make everyone happy in their jobs. What a load of crap that book was. The music selected was what ever the office was using as hold music. MUZAK was a special broadcast on a side band of one of the local FM stations. It was perpetual elevator music. It was excruciating to rock fans like me. Christmas holidays brought a five hour loop tape of Christmas carols and other crap over the office PA system. On the second rendition of Mitch Miller’s jingle bells it was time to go home. Some were up-sot!

“Toes” is playing now. I told Alexa to play — life is good today. I need to get my toes in the water and my ass in the sand as soon as I can, pandemonium or not.

Find your music and play it!