Freeman tree farm visit

You can never win the battle against brush & brambles, but you can hold them at bay and try to establish competing system that you think are more appropriate

Open pinelands
In my pinelands, I have two options of appropriate, and lots of other choices. The two appropriate ones are closed canopy, where they trees are so close together than nothing much grows on the ground and open woodland with grass forbs and some bushes. My preference is for the latter because I think it more ecologically balanced. Getting there is a fight.

Landscape painted by fire

In “nature” open pinelands are maintained by fire and this is ultimately how I want to manage mine. But fire is a dangerous tool. I am not competent to use it as much as I think I should. In the meantime, I depend on chemical and mechanical tools.
I spent all of yesterday and a very long day last week cutting with my brush tool and accomplished not very much. It is physically difficult work and there is more to be done than I can do. I think I will hire someone to spray the Japanese honeysuckle. They use helicopters and can get at all those parts I cannot.

My goal is to get at an open forest, as I mentioned. My longleaf experimental patch is doing well in that respect. An interesting development is sumac.

Wrote elsewhere that sumac is nearly fireproof. It burns to the ground and comes back stronger. You can see in the first picture, we have a thicket developing. We have both shinny (winged) and staghorn sumac. The shinny are the ones making the thickets. The pines are up on top, so I don’t think they will be harmed. The sumac shades out brambles, which is good. Having patches of sumac could be good for wildlife I want to encourage, like bobwhite quail. And sumac are attractive in the fall (beautiful red) is good for bees and provides food for wildlife.What’s not to love.

Prickly pear and the rattlesnake masters
My prickly pear and rattlesnake master are thriving, as you see it the next picture. Both these are native to Virginia pinelands, but I have never seen any. Chrissy got them for me and I am trying them out.

Bald cypress
 I also did some work cutting around the bald cypress in the marshy area long side the longleaf. My friend Eric Goodman planted them at the same time (2012) as the longleaf. The biggest are around 10 feet high, but some are only about four feet. They were sandwiched under some unthinned loblolly. When we harvested the loblolly last year, they started to get a lot more sun and are doing well, but so is the competition. I helped them out but cutting back the gum and poplar. There are maybe 30 of them. Some/most are okay. They can survive with their feet wet and most others cannot.

A prairie ecosystem with trees
Next picture shows the milkweed/butterfly bush. I am trying to encourage plants like this under the pines. Next is how that goal is coming along. Last are just pretty flowers. I think they are black eyed Susan.

Wide ranging

“Range” is a good title for this wide-ranging book. The subtitle is also descriptive – why generalists triumph in a specialized world. I want this to be true, not sure that it is. Everybody purports to value the generalists as leaders, innovators and visionaries, but nobody wants to hire generalists. The generalist challenge is sequencing. You need some sort of specialty to get most jobs. After you have cleared that threshold, you can spread out. Being a generalist is essential at the higher levels of leadership, but you have to get there first by a specialized route.

Diverse sources
Returning to “Range,” the author is very wide-ranging. He refers to dozens of books that I have read over the past couple years. In fact, you could read “Range” as a kid of frame for others. I wonder, however, if I would have gotten the same benefit from “Range” had I been less familiar with books like “Peak,” “Grit,” “Late Bloomers,” “Where Good Ideas Come From” or “Super Forecasters,” among others.

The advantage of borrowing
The author freely borrows ideas from all those, which is part of the main theme of the book. Lot of ideas are out there. Generalists find them, compile them and put them into new context. Discovering is important; assembling is too. Generally, assemblers are responsible for more effective innovation.

Innovation cannot be created directly; else it would not be innovation. Epstein encourages lateral thinking and that is best accomplished by broad knowledge and broad contacts. Recall that innovation is not the same as invention. Innovation involves using new inventions but more often by applying existing – sometimes very prosaic – factors in new ways.

Foxes & hedgehogs
Epstein uses the old Izaiah Berlin metaphor of hedgehogs and foxes. Hedgehogs know one thing very deeply; foxes know lots of things but not in detail. Both sorts are necessary. Hedgehogs develop inventions and ideas. Foxes assemble. In settled or limited situations, hedgehogs do better, since they can apply bodies of knowledge and experience. This is where grit pays off. MOST of life is like this. If this was not true, there would be little use in any sort of professional expertise or practice. When board a commercial airline, we hope the pilot and crew do NOT need to innovate, that they will follow well-known and established procedures. The division of labor works and innovation can be overrated.
In new or uncertain situations, however, it is the foxes that excel. Foxes beat hedgehogs consistently when trying to predict uncertain events. Epstein mentions the work of Phillip Tetlock, who did a multi-decade study of experts in political pundits. He found that the experts were no better than random chance in predicting big political events out more than a short time or innovations. In fact, the specialists were often WORST in their own specialties, and the most famous were often worst of all. (I recall this from when the Soviet Union fell. Nobody predicted this, although some have now implied that they did.) Tetlock (and Epstein) speculate that the reason is that famous pundits get famous by making radical predictions and then not backing down when they are wrong. They can also tell better stories. Those experts are hedgehogs.

The foxes do much better because they are willing to listen to broad and new information and to change their minds. Theirs is a more iterative procedure, incorporating new information as available and a willingness to “flip-flop” when it makes sense.

Is grit overrated?
One of the things I liked a lot about the book was that it was wide ranging, but that means that the story line is something a little tangential. Epstein spends a lot of time talking about grit and persistence. He is not against it but says it may be overrated. This is especially true for young people. They have to make commitments to studies or career before they know themselves, before their personalities are formed. It might be a bad fit. Sometimes the best thing you can do is quit and move to something more appropriate.
We tend to double down because of the sunk cost fallacy. The more time or money we spend on something, the less likely we are to abandon it. It is called a fallacy because that is exactly what it is. Even if you spend $1 million on something, if the payoff from additional investment does not pay off, the sunk cost does not matter.

It reads more logically than it was lived
His closing advice is that you have to experiment and try lots of things. Epstein points out that the stories we tell of success and innovation tend to be more orderly than the reality. It is the narrative fallacy. It is hard to tell as story w/o a narrative, which explains it. Stories are more logical and plausible than reality.

I recommend the book. It is well written and the themes appropriately diverse. My only complaint is one I have for almost all such books. They include too many personal stories. They are kind of larded into books. I cynically think they are there to make the book long and heavy enough to be taken seriously, but I suppose readers like the human stories. My problem is that lots of the authors use the same stories or at least the same people. As I wrote, I read a lot of these sorts of books and I have heard many of them before.   Range Check out this great listen on “Urgent and important…an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.” (Daniel H. Pink) “So much crucial and revelatory information about performance, success, and education.” (…     1

Prosperity paradox

Prosperity is a process, not a place. Having money is important to prosperity, but not enough to ensure it. There are people and countries with lots of money that are not prosperous. The key not to have wealth but to have the capacity to create it, and that capacity comes from innovation that create sustainable markets.

He starts the discussion with South Korea. When the author lived in South Korea as a young man, it was abysmally poor. It was poorer than most of the poor countries today. Now it is one of the richest, and most prosperous, countries in the world. It got that way by innovation and market creation. You have to concentrate on the non-consumers and on what they want AND are willing to pay to get. It is easy to underestimate this.

There is the example of mobile phones in Africa. Today they are ubiquitous. Not many years ago, it seemed ludicrous that poor people in Africa would have mobile phones. After all, they needed so many other things. But selling mobile phones in Africa met a need.
The author points out that the USA was abysmally poor only a few generations ago. In 1860, for example, the USA had per capita incomes less than places like Angola, and there is no place on earth today so poor in the measure of overall human development as the USA was then. We came out of it through innovation. The book profiles innovators like Henry Ford, Charles Goodyear and Isaac Merritt Singer. None of these guys invented so much as made things more generally available. Singer’s case illustrates. He figured out how to make sewing machines accessible. Investors told him that the market for these machines would be too small to make money. But they filled an important need and they created markets. Sewing machines made clothing more efficiently and cheaply, and then spawned related industries, creating jobs and further growth.

So what is the prosperity paradox?

You cannot create sustainable prosperity directly. You cannot eliminate poverty by trying to fight poverty. The authors make a distinction between pushing and pulling. Development agencies often push. They give the example of building wells in developing counties. Who does not want that? If only people had easier access to water. Problem is that the recipients cannot or will not maintain the wells. It is not that they are lazy or stupid, but rather that this piece of development is plopped down without an the human ecosystem to support it.

There is also a strong limit to generosity. For something to be sustainable, it needs to make a profit, at least be self-supporting. It is not to say that everything must be bottom up, but that prosperity cannot be granted. Thinking of it in relationship terms, it must be something that the people themselves want and can sustain. It is much better to have a job than to be granted money. Having a job, doing something that you know is useful, is what gives people dignity. W/o dignity, wealth is not much use and prosperity impossible.
Good book. I recommend it.   The Prosperity Paradox Check out this great listen on Clayton M. Christensen, the author of such business classics as The Innovator’s Dilemma and the New York Times best-seller How Will You Measure Your Life, and coauthors Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon reveal why so many investments in economic de…

The Marshall Plan

I would have been a socialist back in 1946. Who could have believed that we could have done so remarkably well with the free market, with “capitalism?” The world was really in sorry shape right after the world’s greatest and most destructive war. And if you looked to the fascist/communist dreadful economics of the decades immediately past, you would not have had reason to expect better.

Never before or since in the history of the world has a country or a group of men acted with such wisdom and generosity as Americans did after World War II. I understand that this is a bold statement, but I think it is easily defensible with the simple challenge to name a more enlightened ending of a great war. Of course, there is a lot more to it. We could make a long list of leaders in Europe who were necessary for the success and a longer list of various contingencies of history that could have gone the other way.

Like any pivotal time in history, the closer you look, the less magisterial it looks. As the saying goes, it is not pleasant to watch laws or sausages being made.

We talk today about the Marshall Plan, but this is much easier to see something that looks like a logical plan with the perspective of history than it was at the time. At the time, there were a lot of false starts, improvisations and muddling through. It was much more an evolutionary process than it was an intelligent design. We are often beguiled by “plans”, when what is really happening is process.

“The Marshall Plan” by Benn Steil is a great book because it goes into detail about the process, personalities, conflicts and uncertainty w/o getting lost. It is a superb book.
It is hard for us to look back at those times w/o reference to subsequent history. We know how it came out. We know that Western Europe recovered, that the world recovered from the worst war in history. We know that NATO succeeded in its fundamental – if not officially stated – goal of keeping the USA in Europe, the Communists out and the German under control. People at that time knew none of this.

The war destroyed a lot more than the buildings, bridges and factories. They system in general was broken. Society was torn. Habits and spirits were broken. The author points out that people in occupied Europe faced a moral problem. During occupation it had been moral and patriotic to resist the occupation. Not working hard, stealing, lying to the authorities and actual sabotage had been positive virtues. Trust & habits required for a functioning market democracy were damaged or lacking. Rebuilding physical structures may be easier than building culture and human capital – the habits of the heart that make society work.

Europe was on the edge. Communists thought – and the Soviets actively tried to make it happen – communism would take over in Europe. The Soviets actively tried to sabotage recovery. Their goal was to keep the ruin and rule those ruins. Communist propaganda portrayed the Marshall Plan as a way for the USA to enslave Europeans. It is amazing that it turned out as well as it did.

Of course, this period was also the start of the Cold War. Could the Cold War have been avoided? I don’t think so. Communism is antithetical to free market democracy and Stalin’s regime was truly evil. He really did want to establish communist control. We were not wrong to think that about them. On the other side, the USA DID want to get communists out of governments in Western Europe. We DID want to reestablish market democracies. Stalin was not wrong to think this about us. There was no middle ground. The Marshall Plan helped the good guys win.

I enjoyed the ending – the coda – talking about the fall of the Soviet Empire and the birth of our world. I recall those events. They were momentous. This was also a time of great risk. Things could have turned out a lot worse, and many feared they would.
The world is never as good as we could imagine, but it is better than we could logically have expected in 1988 and worlds better than we feared in 1946. Lots of people made good choices and we were lucky.   The Marshall Plan Check out this great listen on In the wake of World War II, with Britain’s empire collapsing and Stalin’s on the rise, US officials under new secretary of state George C. Marshall set out to reconstruct western Europe as a bulwark against communist authoritarianism. Their massive, cos…..     1

My birthday 64 years old

Rituals are important, even little ones. Since I was 40 years old, I have been doing the bar flip on my birthday. That is now 24 years. The other pictures are from lunch. Chrissy & I went to Blackfinn. I forgot about the pictures before the beer was gone, as shown in the photos.

Next day
A typical Saturday. Chrissy & I went walking around near Navy Federal and then to a new (to us) brewery in Manassas, called Two Silo Farm Brewery. The Brewery was a nice place full of families. There were also lots of the Rolling Thunder motorcycle participants, all enjoying a beautiful spring day.

Did you consider other careers?

Story Worth – Did you consider other careers? How did you choose?

Little boy dreams

I wanted to be a paleontologist. I was maybe five years old. Most boys like dinosaurs. I loved dinosaurs. I could spell that word before I could read because before I could read my mother read me “All about dinosaurs.” Over and over. I respect her patience and persistence. It was not all about dinosaurs. A lot of it was about the author’s – Roy Chapman Andrews – adventures in the Gobi Desert, where he found fossil dinosaur eggs. Andrews was a kind of Indiana Jones, a worthy role model for a little boy. My next career aspiration was archeologist. It required a similar skill set but fit with my then current interest in ancient history. I could read by that time and I read a book about Henrich Schliemann finding Troy and Mycenae. I was worried that I was too late. All the good things had been discovered, I feared.

My interests drifted throughout my childhood. I got interested in becoming a “naturalist” sometime around 5th grade after a day camp experience at the Kettle Moraine Forest. I thought that there was such a job that I could apply for, but I was not sure what a naturalist would do besides be in nature. My 7th grade ancient history class convinced me to be a historian, but my 8th grade life science teacher said I should be a biologist. Nobody ever told me that I should be musician and unlike many kids of that time and place, I never aspired to be a rock star, race car driver or football player.

I was on swim team in HS and briefly flirted with being a gym teacher and coach. I told this to one of my swim teammates. He told me that I did not have the personality for it. I am not sure how much thought he put into his answer or why I cared, but I decided that he was right and never much thought about that again. I don’t like sports. I liked to swim, run and work out, but I never got into watching sports. A coach should be interested in sports.

To college

I went to University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point to study wildlife management and forestry. I was a horrible student. I didn’t go to class enough during the day and I drank way too much every night. You could drink beer legally in Wisconsin when you were 18. I did. Absent that, I may have been successful, but it is a kind situation like “besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play.” When I finally sobered up a little more than a year later, these subjects had become less relevant.

I drifted into history and anthropology because I could do those subjects naturally well. They fit well into some of my old interests in history and archaeology. I ended up majoring in those subjects. Sometime in my junior year I decided that I wanted to be a college professor and teach ancient history. I had no real idea how to go about that. I only knew that I would need to go to UW Madison and get a PhD. I set about making that so. My time horizon was never more than a couple years.

No jobs for history majors
It is hard for me now to conceive of my decision-making process in those days. There was no future in teaching ancient history. But I set about learning Greek and Latin and doing research into ancient lives and sources. In retrospect, I can see this is good preparation for becoming a gentleman of leisure and it is the classic way preparation from a diplomat, but those I things I know only in retrospect. Back then I knew nothing and that was blissful ignorance.

It took me a couple years to figure out that I would never find remunerative work in ancient history, so I bailed out after my MA.

With no other prospects in mind, I got a book called “International Careers” that told me that a guy with a liberal arts education could get well-paying jobs in international business if he took some courses in accounting, statistics & organizational research. People make money publishing those books, but nobody ever makes anything from having read them. I have described my attempt to become a military officer before, so I will skip that here. Just having taken accounting and statistics did not work as the book mentioned above implied, so I decided to get an MBA.

Gender discrimination

My MBA concentration was market research. I chose this concentration precisely because it was different from what I did before, the career path that was not working out. It was math heavy and statistics dependent. I figured those skills would be useful. My career goal was to become a market researcher. Specifically, I wanted to work at a place like General Mills (they make Cheerios, among other products), which was a big deal in Minneapolis where I went to business school.

I know it is considered bad manners for white males to complain about their lack of privilege, but I think I have a legitimate complaint. Many firms, including General Mills, interviewed ALL the female MBAs before any of the males, and on the day before my FIRST interview, one of my female friends told me that General Mills offered her the job. They made the right choice. She was better at market research than I would have been, more appropriate for the job, but you interview with less enthusiasm when you are aware that the job has been filled. I can be magnanimous after the passage of decades. It hurt at the time, but worked out very well in the long run.

I could tell you that I always wanted to be a public diplomacy foreign service officer, but that would not be correct. My career advice is NOT to do what you love, but rather learn to love what you do. I knew I could learn to love the FS. Public diplomacy was also not my first choice. In fact, I scored lower on the public diplomacy part of the FS exam than on any other part. My best was commerce. I scored 94% on Commerce. Public diplomacy was only 82%, but public diplomacy offered me the job and I took it. My rationale was the public diplomacy was much like the marketing I had studied in my MBA. The choice was a good one.

My plan was to work at the FS for around 7 years and then get a high-status job in the private sector, make the big bucks. I thought big bucks would be good to have. Lots of the self-help books I read implied that should be a goal. I figured that 7 years was the ideal time to stay in the FS. You got enough experience but not too much specialization. I meant to leave after that, but never got around to going. There was something interesting to do in the FS, so I ended up hanging around like a fart in a phone booth for 32 years.

Big bucks not all there is

At about seven years, I wandered back to Minnesota and talked to some of my old MBA colleagues. Every one of them earned more money than I did. In fact, new MBA graduates were usually making more than I did in the FS after around seven years. So much for those big bucks. But my job was interesting, more interesting than any of my former classmates. And it meant something to me that I was serving the USA.

Frozen peas
There is no such thing as a businessperson. Everybody has to do something specific and that is usually boring. My most successful colleague worked at Green Giant. He made the big bucks and has high status. As I recall, he was a brand manager. He was in charge of frozen peas – not all peas, not all frozen vegetables – just frozen peas. While I am sure that is fascinating, and I am sure that by now he has moved up to all frozen products, maybe even canned goods too, but I thought my work was better, so I doubled down and decided to finish my working days as an FSO.

Let me share a few insights into my FS career. Foreign Service is not something you do; it is something you ARE, at least that is what it was for me. But in 1998, I decided that I needed more to life than the FS. I was desk officer for Russia, and I was working those 12-hour days you hear about. I decided to analyze my work, so for a couple weeks I wrote down exactly what I was doing in fifteen-minute intervals. I figured out that I could bunch some of the tasks, streamline others & eliminate some entirely. I got it down to nine hours a day on average. This was effective, but it did go against some of the State Department “face-time” culture. I also made an effort NOT to do work after hours. In fact, when I ran the worldwide speaker program at State Department, I forbade my subordinates from working form 10pm until 6am. I did not want to see any emails read or sent between those times except in dire emergency. And I discouraged any work outside 8am – 6pm. Working too much is as bad as working too little. I did not always succeed.

“Work,” however, is hard to define for and FSO. In Brazil I worked lots of hours, but it was joyful work, studying Portuguese, meeting with Brazilians or learning about that great country. Diplomacy overlaps with tourism or intellectual activities. As a gentleman of leisure, with no “duties,” I attend lectures and do outreach in almost the same ways I did for my FS job. I do it now for pleasure and they don’t pay me to for it. My choice of subjects is a little different, but not that much. Love what you do. I did and still do.

A success secret
Finally, let me share a secret of my success. I used to ride my bike to work. It was a 17-mile ride each way. It was fun in the morning. Since I was heading east, I had the west wind pushing me along most days. It is also mostly downhill from Vienna, VA to downtown Washington. The way back was arduous, usually against the wind, in the hot end of the day and mostly up hill. So, I started to ride down and take the Metro back. You cannot take your bike on the Metro until after 7pm, so I waited until the time and stayed at work. I had no place else to go. People saw me in the office or found m there when they called and they thought I was working hard. In fact, I was working much of the time, since I had nothing else to do. You can get a lot done when others have gone home. But some of the time I was just waiting for the Metro. I benefited from the extra time on the job AND being seen on the job that extra time. I am convinced that contributed to my promotion. I told anybody who asked me that I was just waiting for the Metro. Even that worked in my favor. People thought I was being modest. Sweet serendipity is my life.

Pictures show “All About Dinosaurs,” the college of natural resources at UWSP and a big bur oak at Dover Street School.

Asian carp

They jump right out of the water
People are familiar with Asian carp because they leap spectacularly out of the water, sometimes causing injury to boaters and water skiers. Absent that, most people are unaware of the big changes in lakes and rivers. What you don’t see, you don’t notice.
This book is good on the history of Asian carp. They were introduced often deliberately, often with government support and usually with good motives.

Grass carp providing ecological service
Species like grass carp were introduced to ponds and irrigation ditches to replace damaging herbicides. The carp do an excellent job of cleaning up ponds and ditches and would be ecologically beneficial but for their proclivity to breed and out-compete native species. They have become invasive.

What is invasive?
The author discusses the term “invasive” and why that term is imprecise and misused, but there is not currently a better term for newly introduced species that rapidly change and dominate ecosystems. This brief and tangential discussion is one of the better parts of this book.

He talks a lot about how we might stop the spread of the carp and even if we should always fight them.

The most effective counter so far has been fishing them out. We have over-fished all sorts of species we like, leading to collapse of some valuable fisheries. Maybe we can do the same with these carp. To that end, studies are being done on the fishes (there are different species) breeding habits.

If you can’t beat em, join em
Parallel to this are studies of profitable uses of the fish. Carp are bony fish, but they are part of Asians and European diets. Gefilte fish is made from carp. The carp meat is mostly tasteless, so it can pick up any flavors sauces and preparation. Ground carp recipes are being developed. On the cheaper level, the fish can be made into fertilizer.
The general principle is that when you have too much of anything, you have both a problem and an opportunity. The Asian carp perform some useful ecological services and they could prove economically viable in the right circumstances. This leads to the other old saying, “if you can’t beat em, join em.”

We cannot beat the Asian carp. We can manage, tolerate and maybe even benefit from their invasion. Like almost everything when talking about ecology, it depends.
Michael W. Fox might be interested in this book, because of his interest in the Great Lakes and the fact that Chicago is the epicenter of the fight against Asian carp. This is a good book to accompany “The Death & Life of the Great Lakes.”   Overrun Check out this great listen on Politicians, ecologists, and government wildlife officials are fighting a desperate rearguard action to halt the onward reach of Asian carp, four troublesome fish now within a handful of miles from entering Lake Michigan. From aquaculture farms in Arkans…..     2

How America has changed in my lifetime

My story worth – How has the country changed in your lifetime?

The surprising success of a fundamentally lazy man

I thought of writing a book about my life’s experience. I didn’t get very far, but I came up with a title – “The surprising success of a fundamentally lazy man.” I am not saying that I was not active, but rather that I was always very lucky and did not have to exert myself doing lots of things I did not want to do. My luck, however, was not the windfall type. My sort of luck has been the changing environment in our country. On several key occasions, conditions developed in ways that suited my peculiar talents and predilections, so I have a personal view of how the country changed in my lifetime.

My chances would not have seemed that good when I was born in 1955. There were fewer opportunities for people like me. My father, like everybody else in my family and neighborhood, was a worker. He was intelligent and a hard worker, but those were the kinds of opportunities available to people like him. Nobody had a college education. My father never even graduated high school. Nobody traveled internationally except at the invitation of their Uncle Sam to fight in Europe, the Pacific, the Korean Peninsula or Vietnam. There is no reason to believe my life would have been any different had I been born a few decades earlier.

Right time and right place
But things were changing, and it was good to be born in America in the 1950s and this was my first bit of good luck. Call it “American privilege” along with “temporal privilege,” i.e. right place at the right time. America had become the richest and open large society in the history of the world and opportunities were everywhere. This lucky break was further enhanced by an emphasis on science education and physical fitness in school in response to perceived threats by the Soviet Union. When the Russians launched Sputnik, the USA responded urgently, and a generation of Americans benefited. It was like standing on an escalator. I am not saying that individual effort was not important, but we were all moving up. So, I grew up in the Space Age and was immensely proud to watch Americans bouncing around on the moon. In all candor, the images were bad, and our crappy TV made them worse, but it was enough to know that they were up there. The moon would never look the same.

Boomer babies and the generation gap
My generation was part of the baby boom, the largest generation of Americans. Each generation must reestablish civilization by converting barbarians (i.e. young people) to the ways of civilization. Our generation almost overwhelmed the system. There were more of us and more of us went to college than ever before. Our parents’ generation was much less educated. Many of us were the first in our families to go to college, and that made some of us think that made us better than those on whose shoulders we stood. It created a “generation gap” and the young often rejected the values of their elders.

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” – this quote attributed to Mark Twain. The whole country went through something like this in the 1960s.

Not just for rich kids anymore
And opportunities were becoming more widely available. I have often quoted what my father told me when I told him about the Foreign Service. “Don’t bother. That’s only for rich kids,” he said. He was wrong for me and my generation but probably right for him and his. People like my father could not aspire to something like the FS, if they were even aware that it existed (usually not). That clearly changed in my generation.

The 1960s were a time of great change. Technically, the 1960s started in 1960 and ended in 1970, but if you look to how events played out, it is more accurate to say that the 1960s started with the Kennedy assassination in 1963 and ended with the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. The 1960s produced a lot of change, much of it good especially in the area of civil rights, and the music was good, but the times were generally unpleasant and divisive because we were fighting a divisive war. The Vietnam war was permanently changed the way Americans saw their country and created political fault lines you can still see today. President Johnson fought the war at the same time he was expanding social programs. In the parlance of the times, he wanted both guns and butter. It worked for a while. We paid of it in the 1970s. Overspending in the 1960s and the breakdown of the post-war economic system stored up inflation and economic challenge. When OPEC quadrupled oil prices in 1973, the good times we had enjoyed since the end of WWII were not what we were living anymore.

A cold, dark and generally depressing decade
I graduated HS in 1973 and the country was embarking on a decade long series of crises. We had an energy crisis, a population bomb, an ecological crisis, and various political challenges. Even winters were worse. The 1976-7 & 1977-8 winters were record cold and snow, at least in the Midwest. We worried about global cooling in those days. In those years it had never been colder before and it has never been as cold since. Anyway, the 1970s sucked, and the prognosis was for worse. If I went back and told my younger self how life turned out, the young guy would not have believed it. During those dark and cold 1970s, however, technology was being developed that would help me personally. They were calculators and computers that could check spelling.

Technology takes away rote tasks
I am reasonably competent at math, but I cannot do arithmetic well. Similarly, I can write well, but I spell poorly. Arithmetic ability and spelling well are/were “threshold skills.” I would have had a hard time jumping over that threshold. Technology cheapened those skills. It is helpful to be good at arithmetic, but you no longer need it for math. Spelling is now almost optional. If I type anything near the word I want, the machine fixes it.
This is part of a very important change in America, but one that is almost invisible. Technology like this changed our point of view about the very meaning of intelligence. In that past, intelligence was associated with skills like doing arithmetic or being able to recall facts. This has changed. What matters today is capacity to assemble and relate concepts. The ability to add, subtract, multiply or divide columns of numbers is more a curiosity than a valuable skill. Just as power tools replaced human muscles, computer power has replaced human clerical and arithmetic skills. People used to do what machines do. In Dickens’ famous book “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit, is a computer. That is what they called people like him in those days. His job mostly consisted of doing arithmetic and filling in forms. Today, as Excel program does in seconds what Cratchit had to stay late to do on Christmas eve.

And the Internet
I dreamed the impossible dream in grad school. I envisioned a world where knowledge would just be available. I thought how great it would be if I could just search through the accumulated wisdom of the ages. I thought that would never be possible. The very rich could hire researchers. The rest of us could haunt used bookshops. The dream came through faster and better than I imagined. How much is the Internet worth? It does not appear on our accounts because it is free. How impressive is that? Today, I have better access to the world’s knowledge, to maps, charts and research than even a president had when I was young. We take it for granted now. It is so big that it is hard to see.

America became much more open and diverse in my lifetime. In many ways, this was back to the future. America in 1910 was more diverse than America in 2010 in that there existed a greater variety of cultural norms and disparate lifestyles. It is true that most of the immigrants came from Europe, but a Polish peasant or an Italian worker in 1900 would have had less contact with Americans than just about anybody has today. The world is just much more connected today. But America in 1960s was the least diverse in our history. The Immigration Act of 1965 changed this. The 1960 census found that almost 89% of the population was white. Immigrants made up the smallest percentage ever of the American population. Immigration was the experience of our grandparents. We thought of it as a historical heritage thing. The country had gone through the homogenizing effects of the Great Depression, World War and Cold War. Most people had access to no more than three TV stations. We all watched the same things. (72% of Americans tuned in to watch the last episode of “the Fugitive” in 1967) Much of this changed in my lifetime. It is great to have the variety but maybe a little sad to lose the unity.

Healthy, wealthy & wise?
How would I assess the changes in my almost 64 years? America was great when I was born; it is even better now. Most of the thing I worried about as a young man were either problems solved, or situations transcended. I was profoundly worried about the environment. It is so much better now. I worried about the energy crisis. That has been transcended. We have our share of problems, but we are certainly healthier & wealthier than we were when I started to pay attention around 1970. You know the phrase is “healthy, wealthy and wise.” I do not think we have acquired much wisdom as a country and in fact maybe lost a little. The long prosperity did not make us so much complacent as resentful. It is odd in people so well off. We have magnified our little problems and they seem burden us more than some of the big problems faced by other generations. My father’s generation faced existential threats. They experienced real hunger in the Great Depression. Their world was almost destroyed in the great world war and they lived with the real threat of nuclear annihilation. Yet they persevered and gave us a fantastic legacy. Maybe it would make us happier to be more grateful and less demanding.

We don’t know how good we got it.

My pictures are not related to the story. They are the usual beer photos, plus around Washington

Brodnax visit May 2019

As a gentleman landowner, I am unaccustomed to actual work. Today was a lot of actual work in the forest.

I had some success and some not success. I cleared a couple acres of sweet gum and poplar in order to give oaks a better chance. This took two tanks of gas on my machine, i.e. a little over three hours of cutting and another hours of pilings and pulling. I think it will work.

Next I went after the gum and popular in my 2016 pine plantation. Here I ran into Japanese honeysuckle. This is a beautiful plants with a wonderful fragrance. It is also a horrible invasive. It can overwhelm, cover and kill small trees.My machine did not work well against them – too many stems, too close the ground and the vines move when you cut at them. I worked hard but accomplished little of value.

The only viable option is chemical warfare. I am going to have to spray them or maybe get someone to do it for me with a helicopter. I have around 30 acres of this 2016 pine. Not all is inundated with honeysuckle, but a lot of it is. I am not sure I can take it all on with my backpack sprayer. Actually, I am sure that I cannot. I will need to call in air support.
Also checked out the burning. The winter burn is looking good. I don’t think we lost any pines. We will need to burn a couple more times to establish a nice grass and forbs layer.
The burn from May of last year killed a couple dozen trees. It got too hot. I was very depressed when I saw it, but now with the passage of time it has become a kind of science project. I planted some longleaf under the dead trees and I am using this as one of my oak regeneration experiments.

Biochar is one of the parts of the science experiment. I have long been interested in “terra preta” in the Amazon. This is anthropogenic soil created by the natives by mixing charcoal with soil. It holds water better and produces a lot more plant life. We created some terra preta by accident. When the fire looked like it might escape, DoF pushed a line and trapped lots of wood in with dirt. It burned slowly and turned to charcoal and dirt, i.e. biochar. I will watch how it does.

My first picture shows the honeysuckle. Next shows the dead trees from the May burning, follow by the biochar heap. Picture # 4 shows the winter fire result – live trees and quick recovery. Maybe too quick. It did not burn enough. Last is some of my oak preference. I knocked down the gum, red maple, popular and sycamore anywhere near an oak. All the time I was working out there today, I was thinking of the Aldo Leopold essay “Axe in Hand.” –
“When some remote ancestor of ours invented the shovel, he became a giver; he could plant a tree. And when the axe was invented, he became a taker; he could chop it down. Whoever owns land has thus assumed, whether he knows it or not, the divine functions of creating and destroying plants.”

Freeman May 2019

Feeling overwhelmed today. Visiting the farms. So much to do. I have an idea what I want, but there is so much land and so little me.

I know this happens to me every spring and I will get over it very soon. But just now I am down. I also picked off two ticks. Generally my Repel works to keep those little nasty things off, but it seems a season of numerous ticks. Maybe all the rain.

Some of my wildflower/pollinator flowers are coming up. My plan was/is to plant patches in hopes they will spread. The seeds are very expensive and I could not cover all the territory even if seeds were free. Give it a month.

I am staying down south tonight. Tomorrow I will use my power tool to clear around some white oaks, so that I can help with oak regeneration on the Brodnax place. I identified the places last time and now I have to do the work. I dis like the power tool because it makes so much noise, but it sure is faster. I can clean off several acres with the tool. With my hand tools I can maybe do 10%.

My first picture is one of my “wildflower nodes”. I don’t know what flowers those are, but the are nice. I planted the seeds in handfuls of dirt. It seems to have worked. I have lots of those pods around. Hope they proliferate. Next shows the problem with longleaf. One is a longleaf in the grass stage. The other is actually grass. It is hard to tell the difference visually. If you touch them, they feel very different, but it is hard to find your new longleaf. Picture #4 are the longleaf now in going into their 7th year. The new growth is nice. Last is my prickly pear and rattlesnake master. They are growing.