Ripples (Words and Actions Have Consequences)

​https://youtu.be/1VR3Av9qfZc

Sometimes we aim to misbehave

Most often, we don’t aim at all

In an intricately interconnected world

Our actions and inactions have meaning

Beyond our circle of friends
Beyond our monkeysphere 

Beyond our field of vision

We dance on spider’s silk

Intricately interwoven

Each step sets the strings vibrating

For good or for ill

For ourselves and for those a world away

Myths of violence prime our minds for war

Spinning up from children’s cartoons

To novels and political speeches

Desensitizing, Dehumanizing

One American life is worth

How many Pakistanis? 
How many Afghans?

How many?

Chocolate grown by slaves tastes sweet,  but not to them 

Clothes, Coffee, Rice, Diamonds, Gold

Products of foced labor, by children

So many things it’s hard to know where to start

None of us is pure.

I doubt we can be in a world like this.

Where powerful interests throw their rocks and hide their hands 

What can we do?

I’m no expert, but I have a few ideas.

Ironically, the first comes from Ayn Rand: Call evil “evil.”

Don’t give your silent sanction to things you oppose

Don’t give unspoken approval to things that appall you.

The second is simpler, but requires some self discipline

Pick a few things that are products of slavery,

And stop buying them.

Buy more clothes second-hand, if you can.

If you’re 6’7″ like me, that may not be possible.

Find something you can do, even if it’s small.

Only buy chocolate that’s ethically sourced.

Change where your money goes.

The third is simpler yet: spread the word

Sign petitions. Write your congress people

Post to social media. 

Get the word out, to people who matter.

Praise President Obama and the responsible legislators of both parties for tightening restrictions

For keeping dozens of slavery products out of the US  

Even if you don’t like their other policies

Fourth, if you are a writer or content creator

Be sure that what you create reflects your heart

Every work has a message

Every work shows and tells how it’s world works, 

How things get better or worse, 

What brings happiness and justice

Money? “Winning” the sexy love interest?  

Outwitting a nagging wife? 

Killing or beating up the right bad guys? 

Every story tells a story… or it wouldn’t be a story. 

Pure entertainment doesn’t exist

A Tale of Three Pens

Like most of the American population, I’ve become more of a visual learner in the last few years. 

I like taking notes in multiple colors, using different pens for different categories or to separate different thoughts. I like having multiple highlighters for review. 

And, of course, I like to use pens that write well.

I know, I know: first world problems. But who doesnt like a smooth pen, especially when you have a lot to write?

So I keep a number of gel pens and quality ball points in my bag. But I often don’t have that with me,  and there’s no good way to carry a half-dozen pens in my pockets. 

So I started carrying one of those four in one ball point pens (The one at the top). They’re not expensive,  and they’re a compact solution,  but they are horrible pens. 

The colors are so dark and still I have to faint to tell the green from the black once it’s on paper. The points scratch and drag across the paper, allowing my writing down considerably.  And that’s when they write I  the first go,  and I don’t have to spend time trying to get them primed to write at all. 

Great concept, rubbish execution. 

So, after conversation with a co-worker who really knows pens, I decided to buy the red pen in the picture above, a Uniball Jetstream.

It was $9, a manageable amount for a pen, it comes with four colors and a mechanical pencil,  and it feels great the hand. I think it looks pretty good, too.

It is world better than it’s predecessor, both in writing experience and in ink color, and definitely worth the extra cost. It’s even refillable. 

It does not write like a gel pen. But the more I write with it, the more I like it. I really don’t need another multi-pen…

…But that doesn’t mean I won’t buy one anyway. Right now I’m looking at the Sarasa Zebra multi-pen, a well-reviewed gel multi, and the Pilot Coleto Multi, a hyper-custonizable gel multi that comes in 2,3,4, or 5 color barrels, and allows you to choose your own colors (or pencils or styluses).

I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Long Journey, Part 2: A Long Road That Has No Turn

​https://youtu.be/sGs9V7iDuZU

Yesterday, I talked about how the changes I want to make in my life all promise a lot of effort, even pain, with no guarantee of arrival. 

I’ve been thinking about that since I wrote it,  and it occurs to me just how  fortunate I am.  

The goals I have to struggle toward are self-actualization goals. The first four levels of Maslow’s needs hierarchy are pretty much taken care of. 

I have a good job (one I enjoy most of the time)  with benefits and truly good co-workers. 

There is plenty of food in our panty,  fridge,  and deep freeze,  and money to eat out of we don’t feel like cooking

Our house is safe, dry,  un-infested, and everything works. 

I live in  a safe neighborhood.

I only drive about 2 miles to work.

As a white (cis, het) man, the world is an infinitely safer place for me than it is for most other Americans. 

I have a loving wife and daughter. 

I have an extended family, and we love each other (even my in-laws, which I understand makes me really lucky).

Truthfully, my stakes are low. If I fail at these personal goals, I will be upset with myself, and my life will not improve. 

But my kid won’t starve, I won’t lose my house, I won’t be raped and then watch my rapist get 6 months in prison, and I won’t be gunned down while buying a bb gun at Wal-Mart.  

We all want to improve ourselves and our lives, but it’s easy to lose track and think that if we can, anyone can. For people like me, that kind of thinking is part of the problem. 

A Long Journey, with Much Pain, and No Guarantee of Arrival


I realized something today about all the things I want to change about myself: 

Every one well be painful and long.  None will be accomplished overnight. They will require me to hurt for a fairly long time. 

Muscles will ache. My mind will wrack  with ideas and extended effort, long after inspiration has passed. 

And not a single one of them comes with a guarantee of success. 

There are smarter ways to work, tactics to prevent injury and burnout, and tips to lighten the load, but there will be no more easy victories. Becoming vegan was the only one of those I’m likely to get. 

The sooner I accept this,  the sooner I can really get started. 

Heh. Does this mean I’m finally growing up? 


Another Update on Building My Writing Muscles: Deconstructing Rubbish

When practicing anything to try to get better,  it’s inevitable that some sessions, some output, some exercises, won’t go so well.

Sometimes you’ll know it immediately.  Sometimes it may take a while. But either way, you’re faced with the question of what to do about it.

That’s what happened in yesterday’s session. I used the first half of my lunch break to write, before I even ate. It was good to put first things first, so to speak. But the output wasn’t so great, and it wasn’t because I was hungry.

The initial writing came to 500 words, which was longer than some of the other exercises. I did it in under 15 minutes. But it was far and away the worst so far. Why?

Well, that’s what I spent the next 15-20 minutes figuring out. I analyzed what went wrong, and what I might do differently in the future, and it came to almost 600 words. Yep, it was longer than the passage.

Without intending to, I’d written a dialogue exposition info-dump. The dialogue had no internal conflict, and there was no reason to give that much setting information in one scene.

There wasn’t any conflict in the scene, and that meant it was almost destined to be boring.

There was no setting information given, nothing for the senses. It could have taken place in a white room or on a rocky beach for all the information I gave.

The characters didn’t even react strongly or do much. Dialogue, I think, should take place during other actions. Yes, in the real world, a lot of times we stand around or sit around just talking. And those conversations can be very interesting to be a part of. But unless they are really earth-shaking conversations, they’re not that interesting to read.

But hey, I call the exercise a success, because I thoroughly deconstructed a failed effort and came up with solid steps to do better next time.

 

 

 

On TaskBar, But Off-Task (PC Distraction)


I just noticed a bad habit I have: whenever I’m working on something and I get to a tedious, annoying, or difficult part, my eyes glance away, looking toward the taskbar, seeking out something easier or more interesting. 

I physically felt it happen today, but I know it’s been going on for a long time. 

I know now more than ever that I really need to keep “up” (active)  only those things I am currently working on. 

If I need a break, I can take a break. I’m valued where I work, and my supervisors know that a lot of the work I do takes a lot of skill, focus, and mental energy. 

But I won’t be at my best if I’m constantly flitting from task to task, from analysis to email to course shell. 

I’m sure I’m much worse about it at home on my laptop,  when I’m on my own admission have video games, Facebook, Netflix, and other such entertainments to distract me. 

Maybe this is why George R. R. Martin and Dean Wesley Smith write on computers with no internet access. 

So here it’s my new role,  for work sends at home:  only keep those Windows up that are needed for the current task.  Finish it,  then move on. 

We’ll see how it goes. Maybe this trick.will help on my home laptop:

https://youtu.be/s-rPXMIiPjE

Rebuilding My Fiction Muscles by Starting Small

I often have trouble getting started on projects. I think it’s because I know just how long writing a novel takes,  just how much can go wrong in the process.

I know from experience just how easy it is to either not finish, or have to drag myself across the finish line by sheer force of will, spite-writing something I’ve grown to abhor. 

I’m not really art a place, personally our emotionally, where I can spend that kind off time writing something I don’t enjoy. 

And I can’t really face the thought of putting hours and hours into something without finishing it, ending up with nothing to show for it. 

I remember feeling like this year’s ago, and I’m going to do what I did then: I’m going to write shorter things, things I can finish in a day or two, even at my current limited time and energy budget. 

These may be short stories, even flash fiction. They may just be scenes. They may never be a part of any larger work. 

But they will be short-term, achievable objectives, things I can pan ahead of time and then do. 

I know I said I was going to do something like that at the beginning of the summer,  but the difference was that those had to be complete sorry stories,  Asics I got jammed up trying to think of plots and premises for them all. 

Now, it just has to be short,  achievable. 

I hope to rebuild my fiction writing muscles to the point that I can duo NaNoWriMo in November,  and carve out enough time early in the morning that I won’t inconvenience my family while I’m doing so. 

Nothing helps you sided like confidence and practice.  Nothing builds you’re confidence and motivates you to practice like success. So let’s build some small successes. 

Pressure, Stress, and Mindsets


Kelly McGonigal spent many years telling people that stress was dangerous,  but it turns out that research shows that stress is only dangerous to people who think it is bad, dangerous, or harmful. 

It turns out that people really can thrive on pressure. 

Dr. McGonigal made this video to help correct some of the old perceptions. 

Now,  why am I writing about this?  Because I’ve never been great at handling pressure and stress. I thought that was hard-wired, unchangeable,  but apparently changing your attitude toward stress can help change its effects on you. 

So what now?

Dr. McGonigal showed us one immediate,  easy to use stress intervention.  Whenever you feel stressed,  tell yourself “My body is preparing me to meet this challenge.  My heat is beating harder and my lungs are pumping faster to get more oxygen to my body and brain.

Tell yourself that until your believe it and you can eliminate the cardiovascular dangers of stress (mainly blood vessel constriction) and make yourself less flustered and more energized. 

Additionally, connecting with others,  especially caring for others, makes us more resilient to stress. Community and compassion can actually nullify the health damages of major life events. 

Also, “chasing meaning is better than trying to avoid discomfort.”

I’m going to try to our these into action. I’ll report back later and let you know how it goes. 

Rekindling the Creative Spark: An Experiment Upon Myself, Part 1: Stating the Problem


I have allowed the quotidian to conquer my mental landscape. 

I have let this happen because I won’t just pull the trigger and go the ¿#☆€ to sleep.

Although I work an enviable 8 to 4, Monday to Friday schedule, I feel like the narrator in R.E.M.’s song “Daysleeper.”

How did this happen? I let myself read too many scattered articles on the internet (I’m beginning to hate Facebook), and too few really good books … especially paper books (I love my kindle, but it’s just not the same).
I’ve let this happen by listening to too much disposable radio music and too much nostalgic 80’s music, and not enough music that’s actually poetic, with imagery and metaphor in the lyrics. 

I’ve lost touch with the music that fired my when I was younger and had imagination to spare. 

And heaven knows when I last read actual poetry.

To make a long story short, I  have let my creative gas tank run empty.

That’s fairly easy to fix. Ideas are cheap, and quick flashes of inspiration can be found almost every day. 

That isn’t the real problem. Grab a gas can, get a ride to the gas station, and fill up.

The real problem is that I have let the moving parts get dry. I haven’t done the deep, long-term maintenance to keep the engine in good running order.

So even when the tank has gas in it, and I try to write, it’s like grinding gears together. 

I went years without an oil change, and now I need a major tune-up.

This isn’t unfixable: creative engines have come back from much worse, and in worse conditions. 

But it does have to be fixed. Even if I didn’t want to write fiction again, I’d still need a fully-functioning imagination. 

Next time,  we’ll look at proposed methodology for fixing the problem.  I may even throw in a hypothesis or two. 🙂

August So Far: Sleep, Exercise, and Rekindling a Creative Spark


I’ve outlined some writing goals and life goals for August.  I’m writing this on August 7, so I thought I’d report  on how the first week went. 

I’m still struggling with sleep, but I have determined that 7 hours a night is not enough for me.  My next test will be to see whether I need 7 1/2 or 8 hours. 

I did manage to exercise three times the first week. I swam twice,  I did chair squats once,  and we took a walk the park once.  At this rate,  I won’t be ready for the 2020 Olympics,  but it’s a good start. 

As far as writing fiction goes, I’m beginning to wonder whether planning plots is really the best move at this point.

After I finished my dissertation, I immediately started writing what I thought would be a novel or novella,  but ended up being alongish short story. 

It’s rubbish, of course,  and by the end I just wanted it to be over. I only finished it at all because giving up so close to the ends would have been a self-sabotaging defeat. 

And I’m still stuck right there, in a mess of my own making. 

I get enough sleep to do well at work, but not enough to have any energy or clarity left after we’ve put the little one to bed. 

Honestly,  I don’t have any desire to write our do anything else after we put Daughter to bed. Most of my experimental cooking is on the weekends, even.

 and I’m not getting to bed early enough to get up an hour early to write or do  whatever before work. 

Still I’m simplifying my goalsfor August:  Forget everything else.  Sleep matters. 

As for my creative side, I’ll be taking some concrete steps to refill the old gas tank,  beyond just getting more sleep,  but I’ll talk about those in an upcoming post.