Justin: In the Feast of Being Able to. Amen.

Men at Forty

In this, my 40th year of life, I came across a familiar poem in one of my old college writing anthologies. The connection is obvious, but it goes further. I was privileged to hear and to meet Donald Justice at a poetry reading in 1992.

After the reading, people were approaching him for autographs with copies of his books. I waited until the crowed thinned, then approached him and extended to him a clean, white baseball, and a Sharpie.

The older gentleman took the ball in his right hand and gripped it fully. “Oh my goodness,” he said softly, rolling his fingers around the ball. “I haven’t held one of these in years.” The serious demeanor of a legendary poet in his element left him for a boyish smile. He shook it a couple of times to feel its weight. As if maybe a few shakes might coax it to sing to him some old song of days passed. “I’d be happy to sign this.”

And he did.

Men at Forty
by Donald Justice

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

Mrs. Turna Phrase

What I heard in 2012. Ohhh, if only I had recorded them all.

“Well, now that I look at it, I’m not sure. I may just be shooting from the wrong side of the tracks.”

“My mouth just had a brain fart.”

“If you get a chance to tell him, please do… just at some point there in your circle of life, let him know.”

“So, you’re telling me this Sixteen Thousand gigabite texting charge for my son is last month, not this month?”

“That’s a good quote. You know, they’re not all good, but I do really like quotes.”

“You bet, I can give you his phone number. It’s xxx… hmm.. xxx-xxxx. I’m not positive, but I think so, I’m just shootin’ blanks here.”

“Oh yes, he loves broccoli. You give him broccoli and he eats the whole fam-damily.”

“I don’t mean to throw anybody under the fire here.”


August 26, 2012

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

I’m here. Right here, standing at the border taking deep breaths, psyching myself up to step across. No, no. To be pushed across. I’m about to be forty.

I look over that line and not a thing looks different there than here. I feel the same weather, the warmth of the same sun, and the breeze that knows no boundaries. The unmowed grass in the yard just flows back and forth smoothly, and its not easy to see where the neighbor’s yard begins. Just four borders around me that I’m suddenly reminded are imaginary.

You know, you could take all the yard markers from a football field…. all the identifying marks of every kind except for the sidelines (the boundaries) and the goal lines (the beginning and the end) and you could still have a full fledged football game. The yard lines are just way points along the push to the goal line.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

I keep crossing these yard markers, but this year is a milestone. Forty. It is cause to stop and think back on how I have spent my 30’s. Time to consider what I have done that will last when I have crossed that very, very last milestone at which I am precisely aimed.

No further enumeration here, I’m just saying. This is what turning 40 feels like for me; introspection and epic awe of the compounding nature of time’s passing. And that’s when I think on it, which I hardly have.

I could write another Lovesong for Prufrock. I’d make it American, removing the tea for coffee, replacing the marmalade with donuts. The men in windows with sleeves get to be bald men in convertibles.

Someday I’ll have a Jag. It will be used and have high miles, but someday…

Perspective for the Wealthy

from May 2012

So I applied for a new position within Goodyear. It was a management position that would take on a considerable amount of responsibility, naturally requiring longer work hours. I interviewed well but didn’t get the position.

Immediately upon telling my buddies (who don’t work for this corporation) that I had applied and felt that I had a good shot, I started getting the most inane comments and advice. “Don’t take less than 80 grand,” “Is it six figures? I wouldn’t take less than six figures.” “I wouldn’t take that kind of job for less than 100k.”

You talk about degrading and discouraging. These friends are mostly computer guys, and any talk of income reminds me of our differences… reminds me of the white castle that IT often resides in. Since some of those friends read this, I’ll just say that in discussing such comments with other friends (who make above average salaries themselves), we agreed as to how such disheartening comments can be uttered in all sincerity.

They’re computer people. That’s their world and they think it is normal across the board, for all of us. When they speak of being stuck in a rut, they mean they don’t know how to top 70 or 80k. The average adult in Arkansas quite literally looks to the future in hope of making 40k a year. But even at 38k (the average), they are within the top 5% richest people in the world.

Here are some numbers, gathered from more than a dozen websites. No guarantee of accuracy, but on most sites I saw corroborating numbers that make me feel these are sound.

Remember: Arkansas recently ranked 21st position as the best States for Business according to Forbes. We have an extremely low cost of living, as well, making our dollars go further.

Average Arkansas Salary: $36,800
Median income in Sebastian County: $38,724

Average salary in Fayetteville: $37,000
Benton county, home of some of the greatest wealth in the United
States: Median Income: $52,417

RN’s in AR : $39,000
CNA’s: $29,000
Ultrasound Technician: $52000

Medicine and Health Services Managers 1,890 of them avg: $49,020

General Managers and Top Executives 25,760 of them, mean: $50,800

Food Service and Lodging Managers 2,260 of them avg: $27,230

Education Administrators: 3,560 at $52,380

Financial Managers: 4,080 at $46,180

Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations Managers 1,970 at $51,330

Engineering, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences Managers 1,520 at $60,200

Anyone who makes over 40 grand in Arkansas SHOULD be living one of the most comfortable lives in the history of mankind. Sound wrong to you? It likely does because we have have been conditioned to unprecedented wealth. But I remind you: 50k a year puts you in the top 1% wealthiest people in the world. http://www.globalrichlist.com/

SIX FIGURES? Oh, sure, there are many people making six figures in Arkansas. If I play my cards right, I can attain that within the next twenty years… If I want to play my cards that way. But that would come near the end of a full career, after years of working hard and proving myself over and over and over. It is the result of walking very, very slowly up a long hill. We have to keep our perspective realistic when looking over the castle wall.

Not always, but typically the longer the schooling, the greater the avg income. Here are the ‘wealthy’ careers in Arkansas:

The average salary for computer programmer jobs in Conway, AR is $68000.
Average Computer Programmer Salary in Little Rock, AR: $71000
another site puts the overall state average much higher at $85,000.

That puts IT people on par with attorneys, who are variously reported to average $49,000 – $80,000 in Arkansas.

Greater money is made in the medical field, though not as much as some might think:
Median Dentist: $122,000
Average Doctor: 103,000 – 140,000

So there you have it. The average person in Arkansas makes around $38,000 a year, and of those exceeding this amount, most jobs are below $60,000 a year. A small minority of people earn above this, and they are primarily doctors, lawyers, I.T., and large corporate executives.

If you earn $50,000 you are in the top 0.98% richest people in the entire world.

I Like My Job. Relatively Speaking, of Course.

3 Requirements For A Satisfying Job

Author Malcolm Gladwell writes that there are three things necessary for a satisfying job:

Autonomy – You get a role in deciding what you do every day. Even if you might not always get decide exactly what you do, you can choose how to get it done.
Complexity – It must be an intellectually stimulating challenge. As the book states, it should “engage both your mind and imagination.”
Connection Between Effort & Reward – The harder you work, the greater your income or recognition (at least eventually).

No Joy In Voting, But I Did

November 4, 2012

Thursday I voted. The basement room at the courthouse was bustling with people early voting, though I did not have to stand in a line. The 10 electronic voting stations was about perfect for the traffic.

Scores of people have already early voted this election; over 20%. The number is expected to reach 35% of voters.

There are so many reasons to be concerned about the outcome of this election, but in my own humble but accurate opinion, there is one reason that means life or death for the health and prosperity of our nation… one issue that is going to mean the difference between a country that is in a recession, but probably will emerge from it, and a nation that is no longer in a “recession” because the current state is permanent.

That one issue is the national debt.

Since we are in the TRILLIONS, let me first reflect on how much that is.

That’s a lot of nuts

Stop and think what an incredible military undertaking the wars have been during the past decade and a year. 11 years of salaries for hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The cost of all that expensive war machinery that we are continually amazed at. The cost of all that food, water and transportation. The cost of the jets and ordinance dropped and fired and wired from the sky.

Also, consider the cost of rebuilding efforts in both nations. Hiring entire fleets of contracted crews from the states to send their people over for twice their normal salary to install plumbing, electricity, sanitation, internet, medical services, etc.

The cost of all this for two nations is mind blowing. So how much is it?

U.S. Accounting Office Numbers

Three weeks ago the national news agencies reported that the U.S. accounting office priced the cost of both wars on both fronts for the first ten years at 850 Billion dollars. I see that cost to be somewhat higher as of the beginning of 2013, at around 1.2 Trillion. Here’s my source, the Congressional Research Service.

For the sake of argument, I’ll consent to work with the higher number of the two.

1.2 TRILLION dollars for a decade of two wars. What could possibly be more expensive than 10 years of military spending?

George W. Bush took office with roughly 2 Trillion of National Debt. In his eight years, most of it fighting the two wars, he doubled the debt to 4 Trillion.

In 3.5 years Barack Obama, who promised repeatedly to cut both deficit and national debt, has taken that mind-numbing number of 4 Trillion and not just doubled, but by the official U.S. Accounting Office tally, quadrupled it to around 16 Trillion dollars. And that’s just for today. Estimates of the next 6 – 10 years of Obama Care place us at around 25 Trillion dollars in debt. I believe this will prove to be low. Their spending estimates seem to always be low guesses.

I’m not convinced we can come back from the 16 Trillion debt we have currently. I am, however, convinced that 25 Trillion is at the very least, irreparable by a single generation. Just for a moment, lets say that a tax hike on the wealthy will not actually hurt the economy. Take the tax rate increase that the president asks for those making over $250,000 and DOUBLE IT, and even that would be just a scratch which would mean little to the deficit, and less to the debt. Tax rates are almost purely a red herring.

In truth, our debt liability is well over 200 Trillion dollars.


Even if Congress and the president could agree to run a balanced budget, making this year’s deficit “officially” zero, says Kotlikoff, “the nation’s true indebtedness would still rise by $4.15 trillion.”

Tis The Season

For happiness, joy, workplace treats, and diabetes!


In Awe of Creation

The highest definition video ever recorded of a Cheetah running at over 60 mph.

Fail Flail – Be Careful Little Fingers What You Type

You don’t shop for groceries when you’re hungry, and you don’t write emails when you are angry. After a couple of fast rewrites, I decided to get some air and a cup of coffee, then try the sentence again. Here is the progression:

It’s hard for me to remain calm in the face of so much fail. The incredible irresponsibility of XXX and XXX has caused several people much grief. The dispatcher’s Friday night was ruined, the driver’s entire day was ruined, several agents have had their time claimed in mediating the dispute, and worse than these, this has possibly cost a dealer a $30,000 account.

Alright Justin, you’re perpetuating the drama. A professional, or at least a dignified one, wouldn’t rant so. Lets try again with composure.

It’s hard for me to remain calm in the face of so much fail. The incredible irresponsibility of XXX and XXX has caused several people much grief and possibly cost a dealer a $30,000 account.

Let’s remove names. There is no benefit in naming the people when they are already tied to the issues in a way evident to all involved. It’s cruel and unnecessary.

It’s hard for me to remain calm in the face of so much fail. The incredible irresponsibility of two agents has caused several people much grief and possibly cost a dealer a $30,000 account.

Alright, lets remove the trendy lingo and the adjectives. You still sound mad.

It is difficult for me to remain calm in the face of such failure. The irresponsibility of two agents has caused several people much grief and possibly cost a dealer a $30,000 account.

Okay! Okay! The first line is emo. You’ve known it since you wrote it, get it out of there.

It is difficult with such failures as this to properly emphasis the importance of correcting this behavior. This is serious fail, by two agents.

EHHH there you going with using FAIL blog terminology.

It is difficult with such failures as this to properly emphasis the importance of correcting this behavior. This is a serious failure, by two agents, and there have been consequences.

Great job! Now what about paragraphs 2-11?

The D.A.’s Prayer

Grant to me a proper hopelessness
That I not be too often alone with joy