Where I’ve been, where I’m going.

 

At risk of sounding uber-Minnesotan, this winter has crushed my soul in a broken little toy.  It seems like the feeling of non-artificial warmth on skin will never return and we have somehow awoken in a dystopia Minnesota of yore where everyone is angry and sad always.

That said, I did do some fun/interesting-to-me things in the past couple of months.

Here we go:

  1. I passed the 6 month mark at my new-ish job. I am currently a junior consumer compliance examiner for community banks. It feels as both that I have been here a lifetime and that I learn 100 new things every day.
  2. I got under the 200 lbs. mark in my weight management goal! In the doctor’s office (where the scale is legitimate and doesn’t lie to me like I tell myself mine is doing on an almost weekly  basis), that I came down to 198 from  243 9 months ago. I still have a ways to go, but running has helped, and generally not eating garbage constantly might have played a small part.
  3. I visited Montana! I went a mini-exam in western Montana a couple weeks ago. Standing in front of Mesa’s that have existed for millennia and the complete absence of anybody around was exhilarating and terrifying.
  4. I have about 5 books going right now. I have a goal to go to my dad’s house before he sells it and collect all the books I inherited/collected before he throws them away or decides they’re his.
  5. Special shout out to “An Appetite for Power” by John Ramsden, which is an absolutely brilliant recounting of the Tory party’s quest for ultimate domination from 1848 to 1996. Highly recommended.
  6.  Spending time with my family. It sounds incredibly kitsch, but the sadness of all the recent loss in my family has really firmed up my family’s sense of community. My sister and I are on better relations now than at any point since I was born. My mother’s strength at going through what she has and still continuing on with such grace is a sight to behold.

 

Whats new with you, internet?

New Look, Same Snark

Good morning, interwebs.

This morning I have loaded a new theme, called, “tonal”, to give the blog a more stripped down feel. From now on, posts will cascade down the middle column with no more gadgetry on the left and right.

Let’s hope this works out.

Through The Tough Part

We buried my maternal grandmother, the Matriarch, on Saturday in my hometown of Milwaukee.

There’s a certain peace that comes from the finality of a long life lived that slowly faded out.

But then of course, there comes the crashing agony of the absence of that person and you are reminded that the passage of time has moved onward and that you are somehow robbed of another person in your life.

I spent a lot of time on my bereavement leave writing. None of it very good, to be honest.

My mother’s grief blog covered her own thoughts on the profound sadness that comes at losing your last parent. It would be offensive to say that I could write of that experience in the same marked way.

Instead, I will say only that she saw the world in a happier way and lived mostly contented with the choices she made. If I envy any part of her life it would be that she made life choices and then owned them with an unapologetic smile.

How I Keep Happy

 Like probably every neurotic millenia/ Gen Y’r out there, I have days where I am manically excited at being alive, and then also Wednesdays, where the ennui of modernity is stultifying.

So what to do to drag yourserlf kicking and screaming back to your happy place? Mine are pretty simple, and pretty great.

  1. go for a run. Since i have gotten above the 6 mile mark, I have found that an hour spent running leaves me too tired and sapped to be unhappy about anything. Doing this typically 5 days a week helps maintain sanity.
  2. Listen to the Thermals/dance. When unable to go for a run, I put on some classic alt/punk from Portlandia’s heroes The Thermals and dance it out.
  3. do crossword. I am awful at the NY Time crossword and am convinced that Will Shortz is a time-travelling super hero.
  4. build my amazon prime wishlist out. Because America.
  5. clean. this is mostly my OCD speaking.
  6. drink coffee. Normally iced, never mixed with sweetners. With enough coffee I could do most anything.

Those are some of my personal tactics. What are yours, dear readers?

 

Ukraine Is Not the Vendee, and I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain That.

 It being “Thermals’ Thursday”, I open with this great live performance of Never Listen to Me.

David Bell, writing in TNR online published a companion piece illustrating the similarities between current tension in Ukraine and the Vendeen Revolt of 1793(ish) in Revolutionary France.

TNR:

If the Crimea does turn into the Ukrainian Vendée, however, one large departure from the original template is all too possible. In Vendée, although the rebels pleaded for British intervention, it never came. The British were not in a position, militarily, to land troops in western France. In the Crimea, however, if the province goes up in flames, it is not likely that Russia will just stand by.

The miltiary strength argument of Britain at this time feels like semantics. The British did not intervene in the Vendee because it was not practical to expend resources on a backwater area, and the French Republic teetered on disaster anyways, so a lare scale intervention was not neccesary. David Andress’ opus, “The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France,” illustrates this beautifully. Britain’s inaction was partly pragmatism, partly confusion, but I doubt it had much to do with military neccesity.

In addition, The Vendee crisis was resolved by the butchery of the nobles who led the revolt and quasi acceptence of limited autonomy in religious practices. Lazar Hoche, the Republican military commander, enforced a law passed through the national convention that was somewhat tolerant of the Vendeen peoples practices that ended the mass violence.

So, Putin could of course order the Russian military into the Crimea, kill everybody, and then allow a pacified population to cower in the corner. That seems unlikely, but it’s possible. Wholly a foregone conclusion in my mind however, is that the UK will not intervene. Tories don’t like shedding blood normally. It’s expensive and time consuming. The unfortunate irony of history here is not the Vendee and the Crimea, but that we’re making these allusions and still stuck with the same Tory hostilitiy.

 

 

 

Do What You Want To

During a morning roundtable as we all prepared to get to work on our various assignments, one of my colleagues mentioned she was celebrating her 34.5 birthday next week. I wasnt too taken aback until I realized I am (only) 26. I live like a cantanqerous 40 year old most of the time and have to remind myself that the way I view myself is not the way that others will view me in regards to maturity.

After graduation from university I either subconciously or knowingly decided that I was going to make a career of the financial services industry. I think at first it was partly because there were a) no options  (See Recession, Great), and b) I was GOOD at it.

4 years later I really can’t imagine doing anything else. My career direction, if I have one of those at all, was towards regulatory exams and now that I am a junior analyst, I feel for the first time ever in my working life of not planning my next jump in 18-24 months.

That said, I really want to keep moving up and growing, but it’s a strange comfort to want to get to know people at work because I might actually a) like them and b) forsee spending lots of time with them.

Not many people are lucky like that, and I am not ponys and rainbow kisses all the time either, but on at least one level I am okay sitting in this waiting room careerwise for a while, before the next avenue on the road is shown.

I kind of hate that I just wrote that, but there it is.

I don’t believe in fate or eventuality, but I think we choose certain circumstances that then show themselves to be right or wrong after we live them, and objectively are neither good nor bad, but dependant on how we choose to remember them.

Now dont go building a straw man here. Of COURSE there are real and tangible goods and bads. But for the more awkward ordinary moments in human experience, (careers, home buying), consequences are more in line with how one chooses to remember those events.

Choo Choo Choose

Qualifying a Revolution

There has been a plethora of information and historiography concerning the nature of revolutions, Hannah Arendt’s eponymous titled book dissects the nature of revolution with vicissitude.

However, for my own benefit, and perhaps for someone else’s, I am primarily interested in the dichotomy of two revolutions that occurred within a decade of each other and proved a reordering of ancien regimes in the West.

The American Revolution, set against British (read English) dominion, created a new state which at its inception was little more than a confederation of equal provinces, and only later collected into what we now recognized as the United State of America in form as well as function.

in contrast, the French Revolution very quickly set about to create a new state with a vision of a new transcendental order. Regicide, brutality and anarchy followed, but for a short period in and around the period of the Terror, the veil was pulled back just slightly to reveal a remarkably transformed society.

The question for me, (and perhaps others), is this: whose revolution was more of a revolution? It seems pat and trite to pull out a kindergarten euphemism that “everybody was the same”, because in real and demonstrable ways, they were the complete opposite of each other in both aims and means.

Simon Schama is widely known to have written in his tome, “Citizens”, that violence was the French Revolution. Instead of being a great force of change-minded bourgeois lawyers, the revolution to Schama was more Greek tragedy than modern politk. Schama defends the nobility as enlightened middle-class families who had recently been elevated to peerage as a result of financial success and the king as a hopelessly unprepared monarch who never quite understood what he was doing.

I mention the treatment Schama gives the revolution because when he places it in contrast to the American Revolution, he has nothing but ulgilating praise for the Virginia slave owners who designed a document to protect their “sacred” rights while a significant portion of the men, women, and children living on that continent did so in chains.

meanwhile, in the French area, innocent men and women were also being butchered under the guise of public safety and welfare.The tens and even hundreds of thousands who would go on to die either as victims or heroes of the new French Republic were cut down from across the political,religious, and economic landscape.Girondists died just as quickly and brutally as Royalists or even the hated Jacobins.

So how does one go about qualifying who suffered more, or who gained more? It would certainly seem that on the face of it the American Revolution was a more lasting enterprise, being one that has lasted over two centuries without a complete re-write of the founding document. Incremental change, in the fashion of Burke or Oakenshott is the principle design of the American political structure.

By contrast, the revolution that ended the lives of kings and commoners in France was swept up and consumed by its own fervor and ruled by a despot for the better part of 15 years until modicum or moderation and order was imposed.

If the American Revolution wins for its longevity, it certainly fails in what it accomplished.

American independence was born in the streets of Boston. Specifically, the wharf and shipyards. Anglophone merchants, ‘colonials’, by English definition, were bristling under a tax policy imposed to pay the exorbitant costs the mother country had incurred securing the North American continent for the English speaking peoples.

Heavy regulation of trade, and above all tax on that trade and its accompanying fees on every piece of paper that were required to facilitate trade, was seen as an offensive imposition to men and women who still viewed themselves as Englishmen and Englishwomen. The fact they were merely transposed to North American continent did not matter more than if they had been citizens living in Ulster or York.

Further, the taxes levied by the quasi-elected House of Commons were distasteful because English law had ensured that those taxed had to have agreed on taxation in arbitration with the King. Being that colonials were not represented in either the Commons or certainly not the Lords, what right then did the collective Parliament have to tax?

Not to be a bit of a nitpicker, but the above line or reasoning from early ‘founding fathers’ always struck me as somewhat irrational. Yes, their lack of representation was an unfortunate problem, but what the Seven Years War (aka the French and Indian War in the colonies, despite the fact the French and Indians were allies against Britain) accomplished more than anything was a final securing of open trade routes for raw materials that the Empire required for the burgeoning textile industry. For colonial citizens to complain that the war that essentially opened the whole of North America to their expansion cost too much seems vapid when compared with the plight of the French peasant that had not seen representation in 150  years.

In spite of all Schama’s pronunciations about how forward thinking Louis XVI and his court were, it was no substitute for an even marginally democratic institution like the English Parliament.

That said, when the fissure between King and Subjects broke, it broke wide open. Laws abolishing slavery, the state church, and forced tithes worked like a legislative crowbar against monarchism and its cohort of supporters.

I think in the end a calculated reasoning could discern that while the American Revolution was the most long-established of the new democratic republics, it is offensive to try and make any association with the French counterpart outside of the loose correlation that they both occurred at the tail end of the 18th century. Correlation does not equal causation, and the two should always be analyzed within their own frames as significant events.