Ramblings of Charles Prier – Writer-Insomniac-General Know-it-All

Free Kittens for Sale

Not really, I only have one cat and he is part-time. He comes here on weekends and sometimes evenings, when the office next door is closed. That office is occupied, during business hours, by my son and my animal-loving daughter-in-law.

The title is more of a philosophical statement than an advertisement. You may have to think about that for a moment. To me it’s reminiscent of everyday adages and familiar clichés such as: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Thinking further you can even conjure up other saws that are applicable to everyday situations, e.g., the purchase price is only a down payment. That’s particularly true of pets. A blank check is limited by the amount in the account. And even unconditional love ultimately has conditions.

To me it’s an important reminder that I should diligently think through all the circumstances before I invest money or, more importantly, life energy in exceptional situations whether these are perceived as opportunities or problems.

When considering opportunities I find that I tend to not only rationalize the expenditure but sometimes do a lot of wishful thinking about the expected results. For example, I might forget a kitten too soon becomes a cat who, depending on gender, either odorously marks his (and my) territory and prowls or periodically generates numerous other cats.

 Problems are a different matter because there are so many different kinds. I often think of obstacles that prevent me from being right or having my own way as problems. I know that my moral compass should rule in these cases but its bezel is often clouded with stubborn selfishness and pride. The clouds usually go away with time, a little pouting and giving or pretending to get an apology.

Sometimes fate deals us a hand we can’t see beyond. The problem attacks us on several fronts, questions worthless to even think about, spring up. Why? What did I do to cause this? I could’ve. I, we, they should’ve. Thinking through requires the realization that answering these questions and mulling over possible missteps will not change the situation one iota and will drain away valuable energy that should be directed toward finding solutions, carrying out those that are possible and living hopefully.

There are two things I sometimes forget when I’m thinking things through. The first is that I’m not alone and my reactions to opportunities and problems will impact, to some extent, my friends and loved ones. These deserve consideration. And the other is: Everything in life, good or bad is temporary. –CP

Advertisements

Well that’s almost true. Most of my success in investing has been due to ignorance. For example, part of my incentive pay was once from stock options. At the time I didn’t know what to do with them. Fortunately they were good for five or so years. I felt a little foolish thinking about them from time to time but because of the complications and my low tolerance for confusion I just let them sit. Over time the options increased in value, the stock split several times and continued to grow in price. Before the first batch expired I had to do something. I got up enough nerve to ask a few questions of my friends at happy hour. I learned that you didn’t really have to have the cash to buy the options to start with. You could sell them short and then pay for them from the proceeds. It worked out well I made it a good piece of change by being ignorant of the process.

I had learned another valuable lesson, which was that I could ask a few questions at happy hour while everybody was happy, without appearing too ignorant. So I asked how day-trading works. The know-it-all from Finance said, “That’s easy, here’s the deal. You select the stocks you will buy somewhere in the $10 to $15 or $20 range and set aside $20,000, or there about, to play with. You buy 1000 shares of a stock near the close or the next morning. Then you watch it for a one dollar uptick in price, then sell it. Don’t get greedy waiting for a higher price and don’t fall in love with your selections. If it hasn’t gone up a dollar within a week sell it anyway and pick another stock. You could make $1000 to $2000 a week without much effort or a lot of risk.”

I picked some stocks and pretended to buy them just to check out the system. It worked! I made and imaginary $28,000 in less than a month. Lost some too, also imaginary thank goodness. It was obvious that I needed to know a great deal about the companies I selected and the businesses they were in if day-trading was to become a major income stream. I put my Happy Hour University Diploma away in my Someday Pouch along with all the fun things I was saving for someday. I think of it from time to time . . .  between fun things.  –CP

Stumpset’n

Claude Parker, a Navy comrade of many years ago once told me that he could just sit around and think and learn stuff. He said he tapped into the universe for new knowledge and could assimilate facts from his memory. I thought the idea was preposterous.

I was wrong. Through this process he noted that elements of fundamental truths among unrelated things often correspond. For example: while thinking about questions on an intelligence test, he noted as fact that Paper is to pen as chalkboard is to chalk ;therefore, many of the characteristics of paper might apply to chalkboards and the same for pen and chalk – new facts to consider and assimilate.

A simple example yes, but it illustrates the underlying process of Stump Sitting (pronounced Stumpset’n). Stumpset’n involves clearing out those ingrained notions, attitudes, and prejudices that are queues for the repetitious sequence of everyday thoughts. Once the sequence is broken new facts can be observed.

Why is so much effort involved in solving everyday problems?

We don’t usually carry around problems looking for solutions but we carry a bag of solutions with us at all times. When a problem is encountered we reach into our bag for the solution. If we can’t find a solution that fits the problem, we lapse into a quandary and launch a sequence of thought to redefine the problem to match a solution in our bag. The path is set, redefinition follows redefinition and is not likely to lead to an effective solution.

Frustration is added as a new ingredient to the process. Further mental effort is demanded, intensifying the repetitious sequence. Our thoughts diverge further and further from the needed solution. It’s not until the sequence is broken that an optimum solution is reached.

Stumpset’n is not for solving specific problems but for practice in clearing the obstacles to unencumbered thought. It adds to your bag of solutions by creating new solutions, variations of old solutions, adding options, smoothing out and filling in details.

Find a stump in a quiet spot (physical or mental) where there is just you and God. Relax to the point your shoulders are no longer touching your ears. Observe nature, relive happy and triumphant events, savor the moment, and follow the threads of random thoughts until they become obscure or excite you to the point of action. Now you’re Stumpset’n.    –CP

 

Parson Marcus Burns was a blessing to the Villagers of Ballycarry in 18th century Northern Ireland. When he came to visit, if their floor squeaked it stop squeaking, if their roof leaked, it stopped leaking. Babies stopped crying, dog stopped barking, colors were brighter and the air throughout their home took on a clean and wholesome fragrance. The Parson’s visits brought peace and tranquility to the family along with a sense of security that there would always be plenty of everything they needed.

Some thought the Parson was accident prone because he was known to suffer numerous bruises, scratches, and minor lacerations from odd accidents. Actually, Satan hated him, he cursed him and placed obstacles in front of him to trip him up everywhere he could. He would cause otherwise friendly puppies to bite him and kittens to scratch him. At inconvenient times, bees and unprovoked wasp would sting him. Parson Burns was undaunted by Satan’s efforts. He kept his faith and cheerfully continued his visits with the villagers.

One day while visiting a newlywed couple the bridegroom mentioned that he was concerned that their well was going dry. While leaning over to look into the well, Parson Burns slipped falling headfirst into the well. The young parishioner, trying to save him grabbed the Parson by one leg. Unfortunately, he kept slipping and slipping until he was holding him only by his shoe. Finally the Parson’s foot slipped out of his shoe and he continued to fall into the well which, since being bless, was filled with water. All efforts to save Parson Burns from drowning failed.

The newlywed parishioners kept the Parson’s shoe, placing it in a position of prominence in their home. Throughout their lifetime their home was abundantly blessed with plenty of everything they needed.

Since that time the Villagers of Ballycarry have given a single Parson’s shoe to newlywed couples to remind them of the Parson’s blessing, encourage them to keep the faith and to symbolize their wish that everyone in their home would always have plenty of everything they need. –The Towne Crier, 1796

My Friend Finis

Although some would say he was a sissy, having Finis as a friend was advantageous; he lived nearby, was usually available for an adventure of some sort and best of all, he had a brother-in-law. Having a brother-in-law was always an asset if you were 13 or 14 years old. It gave you access to all sorts of information about sex and girls and women and more or less made you an authority to all your other friends on these and other grown-up subjects.

Finis was not particularly creative but had an unusual imagination. For example, when someone asked why his brother-in-law put an envelope instead of money in the plate when it was passed around at church each Sunday, he said it was because he and his sister were married in the church and had to write on the envelope the number of times they did it each week.

“Everyone who puts their offering in an envelope is reporting the same thing. Even the old people that were thirty or thirty-five,” he said. “These were read by the preacher and the deacons to make sure that the marriage was going okay.”

You would be surprised at the number of his friends who actually believed he was telling the truth. Of course, he was speaking from the authority of having a brother-in-law, so no one could dispute him.

Finis and I used to camp out in the woods or in a field nearby. I don’t believe we ever stayed out all night because Finis had large and very sensitive ears. He was good at hearing scary but imaginary sounds no one else could hear. He would get scared of some monster, often a panther he heard in the woods and we would break camp and go home.

I remember his mother as being an older woman who suffered from some nervous disorders. She was not like my mother or the mothers of our other friends. I always wondered why she named him Finis. Of course Finis does mean the end and he was the last of her children.

I have some fond memories of Finis and some of the things we talked about during our adventures together. He always had cigarettes or roll-your-own tobacco and could make a nice campfire. We told jokes that we both had heard before and always laughed when hearing them again.

The last I heard anything about Finis he had passed away. I had a moment of silence out of respect and thought of the bicycle accident we had riding in tandem down Dennison Hill.

Rest in Piece my old friend.

The End (No pun intended)

Ol’ Vernon

Some believed Vernon to be a good Christian man. Others believed the goodness might just be camouflage for his vitiated character. This contrast is varied among those who knew him. I believe there is clear evidence for both conditions. I knew him when I was a young teenager. My spiritual consciousness had not been awakened at the time so I was able to observe, probably with prejudice, evidence favoring camouflage.

He was a distant cousin of my mother and, as my dad used to say, from the halfassed side of the family. Me and his son, Elvin, who was a couple of years older than me, ran around together some in those days.  I can remember spending nights at his house. On those nights, after dark we would sit around the living room chatting, playing a board game or working on a jigsaw puzzle, Vernon would abruptly stop everything and read a chapter or a passage, out loud, from the Bible. He spoke with a dry monotone voice and thankfully added no commentary. After the Bible reading, he would insist that all the lights be turned out and we sat silently in the dark for a period of time. He held a flashlight and would randomly click it on for a second or two. I reasoned that it was to check that no one was asleep. Near the end of the dark time he would creep to the front door and appear to listen intently for anything he might hear outside. I wanted to ask why but didn’t.

Sitting there in the dark was awkward for me. I didn’t know what to do. Usually I would just fantasize about stuff I don’t wish to discuss here. . . Okay, just this one thing. His daughter, Joann, who was a little younger than me, frequently sat on the porch up at the store and ate ice cream. It was rumored that if you would buy her an ice cream cone, she would let you look up her dress while she ate it. I don’t know if that’s true since I never had the money to buy her an ice cream cone. My fantasy was more about having a nickel than buying her an Ice cream. Thinking back, Joann gained a lot of weight that summer.

Vernon used to ask questions that lacked grace. If I wore a new shirt he would ask, “How much did it cost?” I always answered with a lie. He often asked how much money my dad made. I always said I don’t know. His facial expression told me that he didn’t believe me, but actually I didn’t know.

Vernon used to take up collections for people. This was in the days before abundant welfare programs, and whenever someone was down sick and couldn’t work, the custom was to take up a collection for them, a love offering so to speak. Vernon was the first to begin taking up a collection. I wondered how much of the collection made it to its intended recipient and how much of it went into Vernon’s pocket.

Vernon was able to spin elaborate stories of those ailing and needing a collection. “Ol’ Ted Atkins  ’as been laid up for a while,” he would say. “You know he had appendicitis and an infection set in after that. He ain’t been able to do a lick of work in more than a month. It’s good that they don’t have no rent to pay but he and his family has to eat. They’ve already eaten a bunch of their chickens. Only have a few left, just enough for a few eggs. And them hens don’t lay very much since they only eat what they can scratch out of the ground. The kids are doing the chores around the house and keeping wood pile up. And Nellie, she takes care of him, cooks and keeps the house up, though some say not so good. She’s never worked outside the house. So, anything you could give would sure help them out and we’ll see they are taken care of as best as we can,” he’d conclude.

Vernon died in 1995. I hear someone took up a collection to help pay for his cremation.  –CP

Dancing in the Rain

I have come to the conclusion that good fortune is allocated to this planet daily. The allocation is relatively small compared to the population. Only a few of us will have good fortune on any particular day. The absence of good fortune is not necessarily misfortune; it could just be indifference. That’s because misfortune is allocated the same way as good fortune except with a smaller portion. It’s a lot like yawns which, as you know, hang around the room probably no more than two at a time; these are simply passed from person to person and back and forth in random order. Yawns do seem to congregate and linger in places where speakers are speaking to a group. Sometimes there are more than two in the room depending on the speaker, the subject and whether it is before or after dinner.

Again, good fortune is allocated daily, probably on a random basis. In ancient times it was thought that the charms and spells of a sorcerer could influence where good fortune settled. Nowadays we credit ourselves when we have good fortune and find someone else to blame when we don’t.

Some still cling to the ancient rituals of charms and spells. There’s the guy that confidently twirls his keys that are tethered to a rabbit’s foot which clearly represents misfortune for the rabbit. And there is the young lady who meditates in a painful yogic position to rid herself of bad karma she picked up in a past life through some misdeed she can’t remember.

I’m not sure that charms make any sense at all. I usually lose mine in the laundry or they simply vanish like the mate to the single sock remaining from my once favorite pair. And what is bad karma anyway but baggage from poor choices that will eventually catch up with you anyway. No, good fortune distribution is either random or some cosmic joke, else someone would have figured it out scientifically and bottled it. Maybe they have and are keeping it a secret; how is that for a conspiracy theory?

Perhaps the best we can do it take the bumps as they come and avoid blaming those receiving the day’s ration of good fortunate. I remember a quote by someone about weathering the storm that in essence says “don’t wait for the storm to pass, instead, learn to dance in the rain.”–CP

%d bloggers like this: