Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Saturday, June 17, 2006

On Greatness

As I sit here, listening to some music to try to pull myself out of this funk I'm in, I am struck by a sudden thought about "greatness".

Almost since time began, there have been arguments about what makes "greatness". Is it inborn? Is it a lifelong pursuit? Is it just luck? Or, is it a combination of all of those?

As I listen to my rather ecclectic collection of music, I have come to the conclusion that it is all four of those, plus, a healthy dose of "flash in the pan". I'm not trying to be vague, or, even wishy-washy. I'm just telling y'all what I have noticed about "greatness".

F'rinstance, Gordon Lightfoot's song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is an absolutely great song. Argue with me on that. I dare you. Please. Pretty please? No? Fine. We're in agreement. It's a great song. Now, what is amazing about it is that it isn't even his best song. BUT, it is his greatest. It was written and produced at the right time, in the right way, by the right person. A person whose body of work increased the likelihood that he would create a song of the caliber of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. So, Gordon wrote and sang a great song with a combination of lifelong pursuit, luck, and a bit of timing.

Another example is American Pie, by Don McLean. Quick, name me two other songs he's written or performed. Go ahead. I'll give you some time to even Google it. But, when you come back with three or four other song titles that he's written or performed, you and I will both know that you had to hunt them down, which is kind of my point. American Pie is a great song. It's one of the greatest "rock" songs ever written (I disagree with just about every modern music writer about whether Thunder Road, by Bruce Springsteen, really is the greatest rock song ever done). Now, Don wrote and performed a great song. BUT, he's done nothing before or since. Not one thing that would have ever led one to believe he could even produce a song at half the quality of American Pie. So, Don became great by "right place, right time", and a bit of luck, and not much more.

Jim Croce, on the other hand, wrote many great songs, in only a few years. If he hadn't died, tragically, too early, he would probably written at least five more songs that would still be ear-worms for people who currently don't even know who he is. So, Jim became great through a total body of work, without much luck.

What's the point of this rambling? I'm not really sure. But, I think it has something to do with one common feature of all three writers. They were all willing to take the chance to fail, in order to be in the position to be great. Their greatness is, frankly, the result of them all willing to fail. Greatness is sometimes acheived, sometimes thrust upon someone, and sometimes, just lands on someone lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. But, what I have noticed is that, overwhelmingly, the great people in history spent unbelievable time and effort getting to where greatness could be thrust upon them.

I'll spare y'all the historical examples of this that I can think of, just off the top of my head. I've rambled enough as it is.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Happy Homecoming Anniversary


Hard to believe it's been exactly one year since I escaped the Frozen Tundra of Wisconsin.

While I'm still hurting from some personal issues, the reasons I moved to Texas are still valid. I pay NO state income taxes, less in taxes overall, and the weather down here is...awesome. I tell ya, if the weather doesn't change from partly cloudy and warm soon, I'm outta here...in about 60 years. Seriously. In the past 365 days or so, I *think* about 30 of them have been something other than partly cloudy and warm. I only check the weather report to see if it's going to rain or not. The weather is that predictable.

In addition, the people of Texas are even nicer after a year than they were during my two pre-Cheesehead Invasion visits. I've had quite a few people actual WELCOME me to Texas, once they found out I wasn't from here. Waitresses smile and talk to you, people behind the counter in stores expect you to chat with them, and most people go through their day with smiles on their faces. Yeah, there are the jerks, but, they are more noticeable due to how much they stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Traffic is what you'd expect from a metropolis of around 1.5 million people, but, by and large, the drivers are MUCH smarter and nicer than the morons on the road in my previous hometown. This is going to sound racist, but...except for the Mexicans. When you see someone driving down the middle of the road like they're the only vehicle on the road, or driving with the centerline right down the middle of the car, or driving 30 MPH BELOW the speed limit in the middle lane of the Interstate (I only care about the right and middle lanes. When I'm in my work truck, I can't use the left lane. A law I actually like...), or slowing down to (seriously. no joke) 1 MPH to make a right OR left hand turn, or to go over a speed bump, I immediately start looking for the Mexican flag on the vehicle, which I always find.

Speaking of Mexicans, due to Austinistan's idiotic "immigrant" policies, illegal immigrants are as common as dirt down here. Where I work, there are about 36 or so of us, and 20 of us are Mexicans...and at least 10 of them are illegal. Because of that, manual labor jobs (frankly, the only jobs I am qualified for, and, truthfully, the only ones I enjoy) have artificially depressed wages. I have found out recently that I am one of the 5 or 6 highest paid people at my job, and I make about 2/3rds of what I did, doing the same job in Wisconsin. The "white collar" jobs down here pay unbelievably well. I know of an overglorified electrician who makes over $70,000 a year, and he isn't even that good at his job. But, because my overall tax burden is MUCH lower than in Wisconsin (no state income tax, and 8.25% sales tax, versus 8% state income tax and 5.5% sales tax...and, while I don't have enough knowledge of the property taxes to say anything for certain, home prices are unbelievably lower down here than in Wisconsin, which means, even if the mil rate is higher, the actual taxes are lower for property down here), I have just only slightly less discretionary income than I did at my MUCH higher paying job in Wisconsin.

At some time in the future (not any time soon), I may move from the Austin area, but...for now, I'm here until I have a reason not to be. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to get all my friends from Wisconsin to move down here, so I can have almost everything I want...

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country