Monday Required Reading

You Can Learn to Love Being Alone.

“People who pursue solitude of their own volition ‘tend to report that it feels full — like they’re full of ideas or thoughts or things to do. . . . In this way, it’s distinct from loneliness, a negative state in which you’re disconnected from other people and it feels empty.”

Putin’s Bloody Folly in Ukraine.

“As Putin spills blood across Ukraine and threatens to destabilize Europe, Russians themselves stand to lose immeasurably. The ruble and the Russian stock market have cratered. But Putin does not care. His eyes are fixed on matters far grander than the well-being of his people. He is in full command of the largest army in Europe, and, as he has reminded the world, of an immense arsenal of nuclear weapons. In his mind, this is his moment, his triumphal historical drama, and damn the cost.”

The style and substance of South Carolina basketball’s Dawn Staley.

“‘She loves on them hard,’ associate head coach and longtime confidante Lisa Boyer says. ‘She’s playful with them, she’s hugging them, she’s there for them. I think they sense the fairness. I think they sense the genuineness of her. She speaks to them — it’s not some fairy tale. She’s telling them the deal.'”

“‘I owe basketball,’ Staley says. ‘I’m forever indebted to it. It engulfed my life for the positive. The game has gotten more of my time than my friends and my family. I feel like on a smaller or larger scale, it can impact my players’ lives in some kind of way.'”

A Renowned Community of Quilters is Taking on Copycats—and Winning.

“’We put a lot of work into it, and it’s about our life,’ Charley says of quilting. . . . We used these quilts for warmth. It was about our struggle, and our survival.'”

“Charley might feel differently, she offers, if these makers — who may have, say, studied textiles at art school — sent some of their profits back to the community that inspired them. But that doesn’t happen. “This work is ‘inspired’ in your mind, because you see the quilt pattern,” Charley says. “But you don’t know my story. And you’re going to try and duplicate it — and go to Joann Fabrics to do it?’”

Imagine If

The doctor says it’s terminal and you only get one more walk or run. Where and when? I’d be torn between these beauts.

The Arb, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. Miles of incredible, meandering trails. Some by a river, some surrounded by head high grasses, often accompanied by deer. I always get lost and never sweat it. More miles, more better. Great anytime, but especially primo in the fall.

Bodega Head Trail, Bodega Bay, California. What it lacks in distance, it more than makes up in natural beauty. 1.9 miles of exquisite Bodega Bay and greater Pacific Ocean views. Stop anywhere, lay down, and soak up the Vitamin D. The ice plant makes great cushioning for a mid-day nap. An all-time great spring run.

Oak Bay Loop, Victoria, British Columbia. From the Hotel Grand Pacific to Dallas Road around Ross Cemetery and back. ANY sunny morning, but especially nice in the summer. If those coastal views don’t lift your spirit, you really are terminal.

Sunriver, Oregon, Benham Falls Deschutes River Trail. Another summer gem. Beautiful green grasses, a calm river mixed in other places with beautiful water falls, all framed by high desert pines. Full disclosure, since it’s my last run, I’ll be shirtless on this one.

Lastly, if the diagnosis comes in winter, really anyplace with two inches of fresh snow will suffice, but it’s tough to beat Hamar, Norway and Olympia, Washington.

What am I missing?

The United States In Free Fall

One to two hundred years from now, historians will point to the end of the Twentieth Century and the first half of the Twenty First as the time that the United States ceded its global leadership to China and a menagerie of other nations. Basically, the timeline of my life.

Why? Because we’re losing economic momentum and China and other countries are gaining it. It’s only a matter of time before the “X” and “Y” axes cross.

And with our loss of economic momentum, people and institutions are under ever greater pressure. Economic anxiety compels more and more people to prioritize their self interests to the detriment of the common good.

For the first time in a long time, parents worry that their children will not live as comfortably and securely as them. Add to that the recent damage done to our political institutions which were integral to our Twentieth Century rise. Peaceful transitions of power can’t be assumed any longer. Legislators cannot compromise to invest in green energy and physical and social infrastructure.

Consequently, our roads are rutted and many, many international airports lap our own aging ones. At the Winter Olympics, China showed off it’s new bullet trains that go 217 mph, not quite up to Japanese speeds, but give them time.

Don’t interpret this as idealizing China, because there’s a lot more to quality of life than economic growth. There’s a sense of safety, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom to protest, equal opportunities, a healthy natural environment, physical and mental well-being, and support for the most vulnerable. China fails on many of those fronts. Increasingly, the U.S. does too.

Apart from our failing infrastructure, we imprison a larger percentage of our population than anyone. Our response to Covid has been “worst in the world” especially when adjusted for our economic status. Many use alcohol and drugs to escape and more and more of our children suffer from anxiety disorders and depression.

For the historically astute, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Greatness has always been fluid. Tides rise and tides fall. Our aristocracy, the top ten percent who are thriving economically, don’t realize a lower tide lowers all boats. That it is in their enlightened self interest to reduce the income and wealth gap. To reduce the vulnerability of the least fortunate among us.

Our problem is we don’t think in terms of generations or hundreds of years. The aristocracy thinks they’ll be fine and they work tirelessly to make sure the same is true of their children. Talk of environmental degradation and climate change, is mostly just that, talk.

I’m not immune from that self-centered myopia. I think to myself, if I can just keep running in Priest Point Park, keep cycling on Mount Rainier, keep swimming in Ward Lake, keep eating healthy food, keep drinking craft beers with good friends, all is good. Which does nothing to slow the country’s decline.

But then again, history suggests the decline is inevitable.

The take-away for my international friends? If you have the United States on any sort of pedestal, update your thinking. If we ever were a light upon a hill, we are not now.

We Deserve Medals

Me for blogging longevity. You for motivating me to keep on keeping on.

Most blogs are like shooting stars, short-lived flashes of varying brilliance. In contrast, despite its utter lack of “brilliance”, the Humble Blog continues year after year. TBH, I think of pulling the plug on occasion, but that is the extent of it, sporadic periods of flagging enthusiasm.

Most of the time I still dig it for two reasons. Firstly, because many of the people whom I care the most about—family, close friends, and fave former students—STILL read it regularly. And also because many people from abroad read it. Take today as an example, despite the still small readership, there have been readers from India, the U.K., Azerbiajan, Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kenya.

I’ve been very fortunate to have either visited or worked/lived in Mexico, East/West/and Southern Africa, Europe, Scandinavia, and East Asia. And much closer to home, I love me some Canada. Which is to say, I am a global citizen who embraces cultural diversity.

Sometimes when writing a (dis)United States specific post, I think about my international readers, hoping they aren’t too bored. But maybe that’s what they’re most interested in, one (dis)United States citizen’s perspective on things that their press may not cover well or at all.

I wish I knew more about the “Internationals”. What percentage are expatriates? What does or doesn’t keep them coming back? Do they pick up on my sarcasm? How can I connect even better with more readers like them?

I never write for them specifically, but maybe I should on occasion. I think I’ll experiment with my next post which I’ll write with them front and center in my mind.

Anyways, all that’s to say thank you for reading. I haven’t said that for a long time. Send me your address and then look for your medal in the mail.

You Can’t Handle The Truth About Wealth Building

Social scientists say we can’t multitask, but they haven’t met me. I’m doing pushups and watching a business news channel. A stock market expert/analyst just said there are several market “headwinds” including the invasion of KUWAIT. Then, a few sentences later, he said it a second time. That’s an amazing two-fer. . . an embarrassing history and geography fail.

So why would anyone listen to him bloviate on what the market is going to do?!

Instead, MSNBC should’ve invited me and my crystal ball. Here’s what I woulda said.

The most credible analysts expect VERY modest annual returns over the next decade. Meaning low single digit. Even less than anticipated annual inflation, meaning negative nominal returns, especially after taxes.

So what’s a person who has gotten used to hardly any inflation combined with double digit market and housing price returns to do? To not lose ground. To continue building wealth.

There’s only one answer. Save more. How to save more? Earn more and/or spend less. Now, you probably know why MSNBC didn’t call me.

Paragraphs to Ponder

“The white house with the red door sits on a quiet block near Gonzaga University. It has two bedrooms, one bathroom and 1,500 square feet of living space.”

“Mr. Silbar, the real estate agent, has sold it twice in the past three years. The first time, in November 2019, he represented a buyer who offered $168,000 and got it with zero drama. This year it went back on the market, and Mr. Silbar listed it for $250,000. Fourteen offers and a bidding war later, it closed at $300,000.”

From “The Next Affordable City Is Already Too Expensive”. The city that is Spokane, Washington.

Should You Still Wear A Mask?

Should you still wear a mask?

Breathe. Press pause. Breathe some more. Then read it not just to figure out your own course of action, but even more importantly, to better understand why other people’s decisions are many times different than yours.

Imminently sensible.

My fave paragraph:

“But if you’re otherwise healthy and have received your vaccine and booster shots, your risk of getting seriously ill with Covid is extraordinarily small. It’s about in line with other risks people take every day, such as driving in a car.”

Another insight:

“. . . follow the norms and the rules of the business you’re entering. If the sign at the door says “Mask Required,” you don’t want to make retail workers have to enforce policies over which they have no control. Their jobs are hard enough, and everyone can wear a mask with little to no sacrifice.”

Alright, my work is done here, no more mask hostilities.

I Would Watch This Movie

Morgan Hoffmann left the PGA Tour in search of a cure. He found so much more.

Here’s the elevator pitch.

Young, free-spirited, athletic and muscular professional golfer has success on the PGA Tour until he’s diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. He becomes extremely disillusioned that the best Western docs have little hope for him living a normal life, let alone continuing his career. He puts his sticks away, moves to Costa Rica with his wife and dogs, lets his hair grow, surfs, and turns to alternative medicine. Gets better. Plans to return to competition.

Stat Of The Day

Professional basketball division. Luke Kennard of the Los Angeles Clippers is making 44.6% of all his shots this year, but 44.8% from three. The further away he is from the basket, the (slightly) better he gets. Last night he was 8-9 from 3 in a 142-111 victory over the Houston Rockets.

My “j” is similarly filthy, but I plan on continuing to dunk when the opportunity presents itself.