Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘commuting

Too Funny

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My weather app didn’t get the memo. Look at the warning they sent me last night…

Nope. Other than the fact it is Christmas Eve and none of my former coworkers will be driving in this morning because the place is closed for the holiday, or the fact it is Friday and I haven’t worked on-site on Fridays for years, I’m not going to be doing that commute anymore.

They can adjust that warning for me to: Watch out for wet conditions in the paddocks and stay alert when moving around the horses.

Oh, what a relief it is to be done with navigating highway traffic during the twice-a-day commutes.

This feels like retirement already.



Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2021 at 7:00 am

Final Commute

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I am one to never say never but in the case of commuting to the day-job that I have allowed to occupy my time for longer than I ever imagined since moving to the countryside of Wisconsin, today is my final time. Starting tomorrow, my ability to give my full attention to managing our Wintervale property will become my new primary occupation.

Another way to put it is, I am retiring. I am choosing to end a career that began in 1981 as a graduate of a technical education in electronics from an institution known for educating radio and television personality-hopefuls. Their electronic technology degree served me well and provided opportunities to work with some brilliant people on some breakout technologies over the years.

At that first job at a manufacturer of vacuum technologies for the surface analysis sciences, I was introduced to the nuances of manufacturing. During my 18-years with that company, I met and worked with Gary Engelhart, an electrical engineer who became the person I would follow to several different versions of system engineering and electronics manufacturing jobs for the rest of my days working in the field.

I tried to quit several times over the years, but Gary always made it clear I was welcome to return when my circumstances warranted. I am forever indebted to his confidence in my abilities. There is sadness in ending my time of working with all the staff at Gary’s electronics manufacturing company, but it is definitely offset by the thrill of claiming the rest of my days as my own.

I will not miss the stress of the day-job responsibilities.


Starting tomorrow, here’s to leaving my car in the garage more often than not.



Written by johnwhays

December 23, 2021 at 7:00 am

More Sky

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We seem to have fallen into a pattern where the sky is our focus for photography of late. Cyndie shared this wonderful sunset view yesterday:

As I enter the final month of commuting to the day-job, this brings to mind the sunset of my career in electronics manufacturing, which next leads to the sunrise of my expanding days on the ranch. This is where I thought I would be shortly after we moved so far away from my place of employment nine years ago.

Back then, I thought I might find work closer to home so I wouldn’t have to drive to the far side of the cities for work. I never planned to keep going back to the old job all these years.

We didn’t really plan on living in the midst of a global pandemic, either, but now that’s what we’ve got.

Leaves me a little timid about guessing what the next few years will bring. For now, caring for our rescued horses and coming up with a different way to keep chickens are two highly likely areas of focus.

And beyond that, a lot of soaking up our glorious views of the always fascinating sky.



Written by johnwhays

November 29, 2021 at 7:00 am

Twenty Questions

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I’m not going to number them, so you’ll have to count if you want to find out if there really are twenty. It’s just that a question came to mind during my morning commute yesterday and I found myself mentally careening down a rabbit hole of not-necessarily-related questions that went on for so long –pretty much the rest of the way to work– I figured it deserved to become a blog post.

Now, if I could only remember what it was I was pondering so deeply in that westbound commute at almost zero-dark-thirty. Oh, that sentence triggered a memory of feeling really grateful to have been able to drive west in the morning and east in the afternoon during most of my working life. I’ve avoided fighting the daily glare of sun in my eyes while driving.

Speaking of being triggered, a song lyric during the morning commute got me to wonder, do people know who it is that taught them how to love? Or how come some humans can play instruments faster than my ear is able to discern? Have you ever heard Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper play Tall Fiddler? Wow. Seems pretty fast, until they suddenly go even faster.

How come I’ve never been able to get my left and my right hand to work together at breakneck speed to hit the correct notes at the correct time on the strings of my guitar? That’s just black magic to play that unrealistically fast and actually produce recognizable melodies with every note presented, if only for a micro-fraction of a second each.

When it appears like our dog is trying to bite the cat, is it possible to know which of the two was the instigator? Does Delilah suddenly start barking at something outside our house because of a sound she hears or some canine sixth sense that tells her there is an invisible thing out there that needs to be barked at?

Actually, I think it’s become a learned behavior that she is unconscious about. There was once a squirrel up in the big tree towering above her kennel outside. She barked up at it, logically. Unfortunately, now she barks up at that tree every time we put her in the kennel, regardless of any squirrel sightings. Does she associate being in the kennel with needing to bark up at the tree? Apparently so.

Are digital HD subchannels radio’s best-kept secret? Is it weird that one radio or television station is actually multiple stations?

Is there a general age break where the reference of something being bigger than a bread box no longer makes any sense? Maybe it has been replaced with, “Is it bigger than a video game console?” Of course, I have no idea if game consoles have a general size at this point, but I have seen pictures of people opening wrapped packages of the latest impossible-to-get hot item that have me thinking there might be.

Have you noticed how Cyndie’s photos have been more interesting than mine for the last few years? I am very lucky that she shares them for use on my blog.

Does it matter if I don’t offer answers to all the questions I am bringing up? Can you tell when my posts run a little long? Who’s counting words, anyway? It’s all about how long it takes to read, not how many words there are. You just skim the sentences like a speed reader after all, don’t you? What words catch your eye enough to slow you down and really read a full paragraph?

Without knowing any of the answers, it still just boils down to the question that started it all, do you know who taught you how to love?

I heard the question in a song.



Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2021 at 7:00 am

No Story

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There is no story here. No beginning, middle, or end. No dramatic challenge or rewarding resolution. It’s the first Wednesday in November of 2021. November 3rd, in fact. Happy Birthday, Elliott. I’m commuting to the day-job another time. The same challenges that have been burdening us at work for the last two years will be waiting anew.

Weather is stable for the time being. Past, present, and future are all where they need to be. Everything just is, from where I am sitting.

Every time this happens, I am struck by the thought of how many others are enjoying no such luck at this same moment. The people who are refugees stuck where no country wants them. People caught in endless cycles of poverty. People struggling against terminal illnesses.

I’ve got it easy.

Even when it feels hard to me, I have it embarrassingly easy compared to the trials and tribulations others face.

My response is to send thoughts of love out into the world, confident in the power it wields.

I practice gratitude. I accept there are things I don’t understand.

We tend to our animals with attention to their needs and appreciation for their wisdom.

We marvel over the natural world living and growing around us.

I strive to be in the moment. Where is the story in that?

Okay, never mind. The story I’m not telling is my pending retirement from the day-job. My goal of ending the need to drive 65 miles away from our home for work. I’m not writing about the angst of trying to successfully transfer the details of my primary daily tasks to others before my end date arrives.

The challenge of figuring out Cyndie’s and my health insurance options before my employment ends.

Since it has been my intent to maintain a healthy distance between details of the day-job and this blog, the command of my headspace by work issues often leaves a gap in my blogspace. It can tend to leave me with no story available to tell.

I will admit to longingly looking forward to soon having that headspace released from the responsibilities of employment with hopes of replacing it with pursuits more aligned with my creative interests.

The story is, I will be retiring from my day-job in December.

There. I wrote it.

I gotta say, it gets a lot easier to write when there isn’t a great big something I’m busy trying to not write about in my personal blog. Otherwise, it makes me feel like I’ve got no story to tell.

And that’s just unlike me.



Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

Don’t Crash

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As one who commutes many miles to the day-job, I have a request to all other drivers. More than a request actually. Call it a plea.

Please don’t crash.

Simple as that. Just don’t.

Beyond the risk of personal injury and hassles of damage to your vehicle, crashes create traffic jams. I hate traffic jams.

On Wednesday, there was a road closure outside River Falls that forced a detour to unfamiliar territory because of a crash. Crunched cars, a battalion of emergency vehicles, and I had to make a left turn where I wanted to go straight.

Yesterday, I checked the traffic congestion before leaving work and saw that a crash had backed up progress so much I needed to pick an alternate route. Too bad someone crashed on my second option just moments before I arrived. Our little traffic jam needed to open a lane for a fire engine responding to the incident.

Stop crashing, you guys!

The recent rash of crashes helps me to recognize how much luck I have had for quite some time that traffic jams haven’t been an issue for me. There is one section of construction that creates a slowdown but people have done pretty well at executing the zipper merge where lanes get reduced from four to two.

Not crashing is laudable.

My only other idea would be to find a way to no longer need to commute.



Written by johnwhays

October 29, 2021 at 6:00 am

One Less

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Back in July, I reduced commuting to the day-job from four days a week down to three. I now drive into the Cities on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. That one small change is providing a large improvement to my quality of life. Just one less day on the road is saving me expenses and reducing stress. I also moved some documents online in order to allow more productive use of my remote days, a step that probably should have happened a year ago when COVID moved much of the world’s workforce out of offices and into homes.

When the pandemic first materialized, our customers quickly assured us we were “essential” as manufacturers of high-tech industrial products, so we maintained our normal schedule without interruption. I just kept doing things the same as always.

Now the increased productivity during my two remote days is freeing me up on the other three days to give more attention to on-site issues that arise. Now if I could just control things so that issues only arise when I am on-site, everything would be perfect.

Being available at home an additional day per week is providing rewarding benefits, too. Yesterday afternoon I was able to double-team two small projects with Cyndie that most likely wouldn’t have happened in the few hours after I normally get home on commuting days.

All that is needed now to recover some normalcy in our workplace is two or three skilled high-tech assemblers to walk in our doors and fill openings that have existed since before the pandemic even became a thing.

While I’m dreaming, I’d also like my government to never again invade another country with the idea of overthrowing a less equipped but incredibly patient group of local fighters. Fool us once, fool us twice…

Might as well keep going with dreams of solving world problems. What if we found ways to move impoverished peoples off of islands where earthquakes or hurricanes, and sometimes both in rapid succession, repeatedly occur?

The people of Haiti could do with one less disaster right now.

The people of Afghanistan could do with one less day of everything that is out of control there.

The people in the western states of the U.S. could do with one less drought and raging wildfire combination.

The doctors and nurses treating unvaccinated COVID sufferers in over-crowded ICUs could do with one less highly contagious coronavirus variant.

I could do with one less global catastrophe, but for now, I will settle for driving my fossil-fuel-burning vehicle one less day every week.

Small changes can sometimes lead to proportionally bigger rewards.



Written by johnwhays

August 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Olympic Influence

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The 2020 Olympic summer games are over but after having watched daily competitions for over two weeks, the residual influence is strong. Yesterday afternoon, I was cutting the grass beneath our fenceline using the power trimmer. Beneath ear-muff hearing protection that also has a metal mesh face shield, my world gets reduced to the ground immediately in front of me and little else.

While trimming away, there was a moment where I thought I might have heard an uncharacteristic sound. I took a quick glance over my shoulder to see if there was anyone in sight and was immediately reminded of Olympic marathoners doing the same turn of their heads as they tried to check the competition behind them.

In the split second of feeling a connection to the competing Olympic runners, I had a thought that power trimming could become one of the new sports they add in the future.

There could be categories separating light trimming around features in a front yard –similar to short distance races– and thick field grass trimming under a fence –similar to running a marathon.









Performance can be timed or judged, or probably both.

Points taken off if you nick the fence post or leave uncut tufts around them. That would be like when divers make a splash as they enter the water.

Why stop with just power trimming? All the property management chores could become Olympic competitions. Kicking manure piles in the field can be rather sporting. Changing engine oil in a lawn tractor. Sharpening a chainsaw blade. Repairing a busted fence. Oh, pounding down frost-heaved fence posts would be a good one.

Might as well expand the focus to include a competition of commuting an hour to a day job. Fastest time without speeding more than 9MPH over posted speed limits takes the gold. Must be accident-free and can receive bonus points if no other drivers are made angry throughout the entire drive.

I’m sure televised broadcasts of the competitions would inspire kids to want to become farm chore professionals when they grow up.

I wish I could take this thought exercise of Olympic comparison all the way to the part where the hard work only lasts for two weeks and then there is a great big party with fireworks and drone-shaped patterns in the sky.

Lots of laughter and selfies, maybe a few hugs from strangers.

It’s a nice distraction from reality. My reality early yesterday morning involved a certain cat who apparently missed me over the weekend. Pequenita made a point of walking up my body to head-butt my face and knead my chest starting at 3:30 a.m. and repeated the exercise again at 4:30, 5:00, 5:30, & 6:00.

I foiled her annoying shenanigans this morning by getting out of bed at 4:30 to do my planking and stretching routine before work.

Come to think of it, maybe Pequenita just forgot that I now work from home on Mondays and she thought I needed to get up that early.

She probably thinks she’s in some cat Olympics, competing in the “Manage Your Human” event.



Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2021 at 6:00 am

Insects Aplenty

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I’ve seen reports that our insect population is plummeting around the world. It makes me sad to contribute to the decline by way of my summertime driving.

There was a particularly large visual of carnage on the front of my car before we even started our drive north yesterday.

On the bright side, it shows that there are still enough flying insects in our area to make a mess of our vehicles.

I can report no shortage of mosquitos showing up at dusk at the lake place. We went for a walk with Paul and Beth after dinner and paused at the tennis court to gaze up at one of the pair of eagles who nest in the large pine tree there.

After standing still to take that long-distance picture with my phone, I looked down at my legs to find them dotted with many feeding insects. Ended up doing the awkward dance the rest of the way on our walk, goose-stepping and swiping arms and legs like a madman.

Despite the bugs, we enjoyed eating on the deck under the open sky, I snuck in a short bike ride before guests arrived, and Cyndie and I swam in the lake. The days of high heat are softened greatly by proximity to large bodies of water.

On tap for today will be more miles on the saddle. Hopefully, with no bugs in my teeth as a result.



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June 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

Speed Perception

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Did the year 2020 feel like it took a long time to transpire? Does it seem surprising that we are past the middle of March already? We all know that time passes slowly or quickly depending on how we consider it, despite the fact it ticks off at the same rate no matter what. It’s our perception that changes.

On my commutes, I find myself surprised by how easy it is to spot a car ahead that is traveling significantly slower than the rest of the traffic. It comes in handy for making lane changes well in advance of needing so to do. Spotting vehicles in my mirrors that are traveling much faster than I am usually provides a lot less time to react.

It is common knowledge that water takes longer to boil if you watch and wait for it to happen.

How fast is the impact of rising greenhouse gases on the earth’s climate? It is occurring right in front of our eyes. We are living it. The thing is, I remember hearing about this threat decades ago from explorer Will Steger‘s first-hand eyewitness accounts of changes in both polar regions of our planet. We know the ice is melting. We know weather events keep getting more intense.

Will climate change take longer to happen because we are watching it? I wish.

Yesterday, I had a meal inside a restaurant for the first time in a year. That was a long time in coming. So long that it exceeded my ability to perceive whether it felt like a long time, or not. It just felt strange.

Let’s hope we are racing at breakneck speed toward a post-pandemic world that includes less poverty, more equality, zero emissions, greater social justice, the end of food insecurities/homelessness/violence/hatred, and reaches record levels of love beaming throughout the world.

That’s something I’d really like to see coming up in my rearview mirror faster than I expected.

I wouldn’t need to get out of the way.



Written by johnwhays

March 18, 2021 at 6:00 am