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65 and Then Some

66 today. By Bismarck’s reckoning, I was supposed to die last year, so any days lived going forward are gravy. My guess? I’d better get used to gravy. I foresee a lot of it. (Gravy, after all, is penance offered for cooking the turkey a little too much.)

I blew past the traditional boundary of old-guy-hood pretty satisfied with the general state of the old guy:

• I’m healthy. This is a matter of good luck more than clean livin’, though I do what I can.
• I know who I am and what I’m good at.
• I am a free man, in an era when an appalling number of my friends have sold themselves into tribal slavery for, well, nothing.
• I am not alone. I walk upwind in life with my soulmate beside me.
• I understand my limitations and have come to terms with them.
• I have arranged my daily life so as to be no at one’s mercy but my own.

This is a pretty good place to be. I could write several books about how I got here, but probably won’t. Such things are highly domain-specific, and your mileage will vary. I’ll postulate a few explanations:

• Luck is real. I recognized good luck and capitalized on it. I recognized bad luck and minimized its consequences.
• Anger is a trap. It killed my grandfather. I will not allow it to kill me.
• I was careful. Whether this interferes with good luck is an interesting question. I’m pretty sure it interferes with bad luck, which is most of what being careful is about. And being careful in turn requires knowledge of things like gravity, kinetic energy, integrity of materials, coefficient of friction, the hiding places of banana peels, and consequences of decisions.
• I learned fast, especially from my mistakes, and doubly especially mistakes due to not being careful.
• I tempered rational thought with emotional thought, and calibrated emotional thought with rational thought. Overall, this amounts to rendering unto the left brain the things that are the left brain’s, and to the right brain the things that are the right brain’s.
• With all my strength I resisted the siren call of tribal slavery and the transparent bullshit of political ideology.
• I can get along with anybody until they go on the attack. When people attack me, I giggle a little and write them off. I don’t tell them I’ve written them off. I just don’t take them seriously anymore.
• I learned fairly early (if not quite early enough) that nothing is simple, and nothing is certain.

My great-grandmother, Martha Winkelmann Duntemann, lived to be 96. That’s my target, and barring some peculiar and unlikely advance in anti-aging technology, it’s a reasonable expectation in the 21st Century. It means I have thirty years to go. That’s a long time and a short time; thirty years ago I was editing Turbo Technix, which seems like yesterday. My plan file for those thirty years is fairly simple:

• I will love my wife;
• I will tell my tales;
• I will exercise my mind;
• I will enjoy the company of my friends;
• And I will revel in a life lived at what I consider the best time in human history to be alive, in our beautiful and extravagant creation.

I invite all of you to join me, chill out a little, and (as my grade school friend Rich Maas says) enjoy the ride!


  1. Larry Nelson says:

    Congratulations. You are lucky. And you made your own luck.

    Luck is the residue of perspiration.
    – by some famous person who apparently can’t be googled

    We can approach luck in a couple of ways. I believe the perspiration quote is factually truthful but not spiritually whole. Just as luck is tied to perspiration, luck is anchored in grace.

    My whole life is grace upon grace. Even that which I have “earned” through perspiration is a gift from all those who helped me learn skills and then taught perseverance in perspiration.

    Our response into the grace we have received is gratitude. The grateful soul recognizes the grace, receives it through a measure of perspiration, stewards it for a time, and then becomes grace to others.

    Happy Birthday.

  2. RickH says:

    Happy Birthday!

    I always use hexadecimal for my age. We are both 0x42 !

    1. This didn’t occur to me until just today, but that means that we’re both The Answer!

  3. Happy Birthday, J. D. !
    I’m a little less than one year younger, so I’m watching you carefully to see what it’s going to be like for me in the near future.
    I remember when I became aware that increasing age was moving some options out of reach. I was 22, and I realized that I was never going to be a professional football player in the NFL. Mostly, the forfeiture of options has been a positive experience, as it has allowed me to discover what is really important. For example, today I talked briefly with a beautiful young girl; I am enormously grateful for the fact that I felt no need to impress her. Being married to my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA DEFINES me, it doesn’t restrict me.
    So, here’s to loving your wife, and being content with what you have, and being grateful for future opportunities to serve God and man. It’s the best way to fly!

    1. It is. I think our success, both of us, has the same roots. Much is attitude, some is raw cussedness. A great deal is having a formidable woman beside you, faith in God, and friends at your back. I think we both have all of that, and I hope that both of us live long enough to actually meet in the real world. Good luck and keep at it!

  4. Dave M says:

    Happy Birthday Jeff

    I agree with Larry (above) regarding grace. God gives it, and (ideally) we recognize it, receive it and pass it onto others.

    I very much enjoy your writing and especially enjoyed this post. Please (re)consider writing at least one book about your philosophy regarding aging.

    “Luck is the residue of design” – Branch Rickey

    1. Yes, I could write that book. However, my philosophy regarding aging would not be limited to “old people,” whoever they are. I was aging when I was 14, but facing a whole different set of challenges. A book about aging as I see it would therefore be a sort of value-added memoir, and something about that strikes me (being a book publisher and not simply an author) as dicey. Self-help books of that sort are stylish, fersure. But I’m looking at what Jordan Petersen is going through and wondering if fighting off online nutcases is the best use of my time and energy. I’m not in his intellectual league, obviously, but publishing is a fluky business. A book of that sort could net me attention I might not want.

      To have to expand on the issue of tribal hatred, for example, is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, as I know quite a bit about it. Alas, a lot of people think any discussion of tribalism puts a target on their foreheads. It’s not that I don’t have a right to say such things; I do, and would say them in a nonconfrontational manner. Wouldn’t matter. There are factions in this world who simply cannot abide disagreement, and I think most of my readers know who they are. Purging heretics and siccing Twitter lynch mobs on people is what they live for. I’m actually enjoying my retirement and would like to keep on enjoying it.

      All of this is a way of saying thanks for the vote of confidence, really, but probably not. Stop by here now and then, and you might find elements of such a book. I’ll do my best. And again, thanks!

  5. Tom Roderick says:

    Jeff, many happy returns of the anniversary of your nativity! Or as my Father used to say, it is better to just keep having birthdays than not to and he made it to 86.
    As you have probably noticed, time is relative. When remembering events in the past it is hard to believe it was THAT long ago — it seems like yesterday. However, trying to contemplate your future even a decade or more seems like forever. And this effect gets more pronounced with each passing year! Again, Happy Birthday and keep em coming!

  6. Donald R Doerres says:

    Happy birthday, Jeff!

    As I say, there is still a little gas left in the tank, still a few adventures on the trail ahead.

    It’s more the journey than the destination.

  7. Michael Riley says:

    Happy Birthday Jeff. Having you as a friend for so many years has been a blessing. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, wit, and common sense.

  8. jim f says:

    Excellent advice Jeff.

  9. Vince says:

    Jeff, congrats and many more years to you. I’m a long time Contra reader since 2003/4/5?. Was also an occasional reader of VDM in the mid 1990s (occasional, as in no more than a total of 2 copies; this was in a 3rd world country where copies were quite rare and expensive).

    Two questions:
    – You’ve never talked about your financial life lessons. Seeing as you seem quite comfortable financially, care to share a few lessons? Was that the result of windfall selling Coriolis etc, luck, or some principles you applied in life?

    – I don’t get the reference to Bismarck’s reckoning. Pls clarify?

    Thank you

    1. Bismarck invented government retirement pensions, and did some crunching to figure the age at which people tended to die. His number was 70, which I got wrong; the German government later reduced it to 65. I should read more history.

      As for the other part of it, Carol and I have three secrets:

      1. We save a lot. 2. We live well below our means, and 3. we abhor debt and pay it off as soon as possible. I wrote and sold a small program called Mortgage Vision back in the ’90s to reflect my discovery that even small amounts of extra money paid early shortens a mortgage hugely.

      What? These aren’t secrets? Huh.

      I will admit that the jobs I’ve held paid very well, at least once I stopped being a Xerox machine repairman. It’s also very good financially to have a $65 computer book that’s been in print and selling steadily for 29 years.

      Carol and I lived at home through college, in an era when college didn’t cost all that much. (DePaul’s tuition was $1800/year when I went there.) Again, no debt.

      Sure, luck was involved, but as I said above, luck favors those with their eyes open and a map of where all the banana peels are hiding.

      I’m not sure I can add much more to that.

  10. Vince says:

    Thanks Jeff. I’m glad to learn we’re exactly alike with regard to 1,2,3. My wife and I are in good company.

  11. Jason Young says:

    A little late but happy Bday friend! So glad I got up the courage to write that email address I found in the back of the book. It’s good to know you!

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