Monday, December 30, 2013

12 Steps to Self Care



This saccharine graphic, "12 Steps to Self Care", to living your life, has been making its way around Facebook. I'm sure it was meant well but it is so basic as to almost be useless. For these elements to be useful requires a degree of reading more into them than they offer here. As they are, they are simply too general. Which really is the point of these things, unless they become too general when they can become counterproductive.

These steps to "self care" imply that they aren't concerned about anything else; except you. However, in taking that tact, they can themselves become negative. Nothing is black and white in life and if you think they are, you are misleading yourself, doing yourself a disservice and setting yourself up for failure.

Ordering these elements up and seeing their limitations is as important as their original intent. On the surface they are useless. But they do hold a measure of help with a bit of help. So here is that bit of help.

1 If it feels wrong, don't do it.

 Okay, but working for a company every work day feels totally wrong to me. Should I quit? If I did, I would lose my house. I'd have no where to live. Be of no use to anyone else. Sometimes you have to do what feels wrong and yet it is the right thing to do. So how do you decide what you should do? Life, is all about balance.

2 Say "exactly" what you mean.

 This one, can get you killed. It refers to transparency. If I were to say exactly what I mean much of the time, it could affect my life and lifestyle poorly. However, if I try hard to be clear to others and communicate more rather than less clearly, with some degree of restraint in my honesty, with an attempt to be politic (gentle) in my dealings with others, but truly honest and heartfelt, there will be less ambiguity in my life and in dealings with others. Life, is all about balance.

3 Don't be a "people pleaser".

 Pleasing people is how one networks and sets oneself up for success in life. But to do it to excess, to get in a habit of constantly sacrificing oneself for pleasing others, will certainly be destructive. Please people whenever appropriate, when it falls in line with who you are and how you want to be, and how you want others to relate to you. Life, is about balance.

4 Trust your instincts.

 If you have good instincts in life and find you are not trusting them, and that things in your life are not going well, then trust them more. When your instincts become wrong on a continuous basis, then what? Review your internal and external existence and compare those to what you want out of life and how much you are using your instincts and adjust accordingly. Life, is about balance.

5 Never speak bad about yourself.

 Aside from questionable grammar, this can lead to delusional thought. Letting others know that you know where you are bad (or good) is useful, and can gain you a very valuable commodity, Trust. Be honest about yourself, be open. But work to make better what is bad about yourself. People seeing that you are aware and bettering yourself, progressing, give one another valuable commodity, Faith, in your abilities and your character. Self deprecating humor can be entertaining, it can relieve tense situations, it can be... endearing. But too much can be detrimental to you and how others perceive you. Stretching the truth to make oneself look good is one thing and useful, but breaking from reality becomes lying and negative and can come back around to cause you grief. Life, is about balance.

6 Never give up on your dreams.

 Better still, know when to give up on your dreams. Dreams don't just happen, they usually require hard work... and time. Time and effort are important elements in life to achieve anything. But you also have to take time to enjoy your efforts on the way to achieving your dreams. Otherwise you will burn out and never get to your goals. Life, is about balance.

7 Don't be afraid to say "No". 

 Better to be "concerned" about saying "No", while being able to say it when necessary. Still, don't always say "No" either. I have found that saying "Yes" more often than not, is useful in life, too. But as with anything, don't get addicted to it. Life, is about balance.

8 Don't be afraid to say "Yes".

 Like with saying "No", it is better to be "concerned" about saying "Yes", while being able to say it when necessary. Still, don't always say "Yes", either. Life, is about balance.

9 Be kind to yourself.

 This is probably the most important of all of these. Just be aware of whether your being kind to yourself is far out of proportion to what it is costing those around you. Is your being kind to yourself costing others at a degree far outweighing any justification you could openly make? Do you shun being nice to yourself? Life, is about balance.

10 Let go what you can't control.

 This is important as it goes along with "Never give up on your dreams". Sometimes, you should. But to give up on your dreams can also lead one to giving up too soon on them, as dreams are typically achieved after that point at which one wants to give up, even multiple times. Life, is about balance.

11 Stay away from drama & negativity.

 In general this is good advice, but if everyone always shunned drama and negativity, what would the world look like? Surviving drama and negativity also makes us stronger, smarter, it shows us ways to avoid them in the future. But being around too much drama and negativity is sooner or later destructive and sucks the energy out of one's life. Life, is about balance.

12 LOVE

 Let the feeling of love into your life. But don't let it become all consuming or the drug you are always chasing. Also, don't try to keep it from you simply because it can lead to pain. Experiencing love in life is what gives life it's fullness, it is the reward for all the rest and avoiding it is removing one of the most rewarding features of life, from life. Life is, after all, about balance.


In the end, we really don't need to know all these things. One simply needs balance in life and when one finds that life has come out of balance, then alter whatever it is you have been doing. Be aware that at that point however, altering things usually requires altering them to the point that it is at least at first, uncomfortable. Usually to the point that at first it seems like the counter-intuitively wrong thing to do.

That is when the twelve elements mentioned above can be useful. But you will find at some point that what it all comes back down to is that Life is, after all, about balance.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
From my family to yours!
Cheers!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Where's all the information on the internet?

I wonder.

I've been trying to research something that happened years ago back in 1974, in Tacoma, Washington, and I'm having a lot of trouble with it. Like, is someone locking down all the online info? Sure there is still a lot out there, but it seems to me like there was more out a while back. Maybe there even is more out there now, but I used to be able to access more types than I can now.

All this talk about security and hackers, who are indeed out there but, how much is it a selling point to lock things down so we can be charged for it, for security reasons, for access, for info, for knowledge, for power?

He who holds the information holds the power. Is this a trend? Should we be worried? Is it too late?

I've been involved in many levels of security and technology in my life. I've been in the military, had a secret clearance, worked in keeping systems secure, learning about it, networking, I've been in rooms with people, talked to them, asked them questions, people who most of you will only ever see on TV. I see this from a variety of perspectives. Information should be free to people to better humanity. We need secrecy in some cases for purposes of national security. These both are true.

There is an old saying in the IT (information technologies or internet technologies if you like) world that you can have complete business or you can have complete security, but you can't fully have both. It's a continuing balancing act that by necessity slides from one end to the other, hopefully never being too far to one side or the other that in the end, that is dangerous for both endeavors.

Back in the 80s I was on newsgroups (remember those, pre WWW? before the "graphical internet"). I was one of those screaming that information should be free, the internet should remain free and open, knowledge should be free for the masses around the world. Well, to some respect, I've come around. Artists should be paid, obviously. So should writers, musicians, programmers, even software companies and certainly retail businesses but that's a bit different and not at all what I'm talking about today. Though that's all gotten a bit out of hand in some ways, too.

They started charging in the beginning for access to the internet (AOL, Compuserve, etc.). The web started up and took over and then ecommerce started up, which we were very against.

"Free the Internet", we cried. "Keep the internet free." Or more correctly, make it free. No someone has to pay for it, obviously, but free to just sit and use. As free as our roads and highways. Paid by most, used by all.

The internet should be free, as it was at the universities where we originally were accessing it from.

Well, we finally lost that battle, but then we saw the cool things coming up from it. There's some good stuff out there, buying online, saving our infrastructure (roads, gas, working from home, etc.), though now they don't want to support our digital infrastructure and make access to the internet free, or fast, or even, consistent. Or safe, but that's another matter.

And what about this "singularity" that could spring up, a sentient AI (artificial intelligence) that could one day come into being? We would have no control whatsoever over it. And it could do a lot, to everyone. Culled from so much of the nasty out there, what if it found God? God help us.

Fantasy? Thirty years ago, the internet was fantasy.

Now I’m starting to think that after all, we may have been right to start with. "Keep the internet free, information should be free." Certainly public information should be free, but not only free, but free to access. And, it's not. Now a days the term "free" has come to be relative. "Free" as long as you pay for it.

My brother had this to say recently:

Searches are getting weird. Things I used to be able to do easily are now almost impossible. Google used to put forth thousands of responses now I'm often getting just one or two. And some of these are of known info. Also, it's suddenly gotten stupid when it comes to simple misspelled words. For instance, before if I put in the phrase "Sitiacum Puyalup Indian Tribe", it would easily pick up on what I was looking for by associating the words. I could get everything wrong and it would still figure it out. Now it's barely picking these up at all. Sometimes not at all. Hopefully this is some oversight that will be corrected soon. I can't believe that they will let their system slide backwards like this. It creeps me out that I'm thinking about having to talk to actual humans to get info. What is this the 1980's?!

That last part was obviously in jest, but he has a point. Lately, and with my current situation where I'm trying to research something and can't find any useful info unless I pay for it, pay for a service that may turn up nothing and yet, they will still charge me; it's really making me wonder if we weren't right after all.

Knowledge does need to be free, for whoever wants it. Maybe though, we do still need to mature a bit more, maybe. Maybe not.

I just keep remembering "1984" and "Brave New World", and others.

As concepts remain, history and technology progress. That is, as we have an ideal remaining constant ("information should be free"), the world changes around that, and what that originally meant may change with it, and so we need to keep up. Our government, our elected officials need to keep up. Not to ground us down under history, or grind us under status quo, blinding us with Zeitgeist, but to maintain our ideals by evolving our processes to keep us at a qualitative level and to advance that, to progress us to where we never thought we could go.

We  should be getting smarter, with more leisure time but we are getting dumber, with less time for ourselves and more time devoted to the God Corporation, or Money. We don't need money so much, as we need our resources, clean and well thought of. Barring that we do need our money so we can do for ourselves. But we've been cut off from both.

We need apparently now, to justify and indemnify those who should remain or be responsible to see, that what should be, should be. And will be.

Decide where you should be in life and wonder why you aren't there. And vote with your ballots, your mouths, words, thoughts and actions. Be good to one another but strive for better. Set an ideal and try to achieve it in any small or big way you deem fit.

"Of peace on earth, good will to men (and women)." - "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" lyrics
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867)

Remember too, good will to yourself.

Peace.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Edward Snowden

I happened to catch this guy on the radio yesterday and even paid for the pdf to read it all. I found what he had to say, compelling, to say the least. I'm not into conspiracy theories, I like to deal in fact, if and when you can divine what that might be. And with government recently, it's been getting harder and harder to tell what is going on.

Not to mention, our enemies have been getting harder to know of, deal with and stop from causing us grief. Albeit, as times we may have asked for the grief we have gotten. Even though it may have been something we did long ago. Not to mention, we may now be getting blamed (honestly, as we always have and somewhat rightfully so, but less so today, perhaps) for things corporations have done. Corporations have morphed far beyond our understanding or control. The puny controls we had in place to keep them in their place have been superseded long ago. They have grown so big and multinational that they are now, at least to some degree, controlling our government.

I do think our government means well, mostly I think people in government mean well, with a side of greed and lack of empathy many times, but I also think they need to be kept under control (as our Founding Father made it abundantly clear, time and time again). Much like like a pit bull trained to kill, needs to be kept under control. You just don't let it run free. It's not unlike a loaded gun, if you don't pay attention at ALL times as to what its up to, well, you are responsible for what happens.

Years ago when I first spoke out against terrorists and their kind, it was a concern regarding being targeted. Faint though that may be. Not that I think I'm anybody important or greatly noticed. One just never knows about these things, right? Ones to whom a finger might be pointed and great attention paid to. After all the ones to raise their head or be noticeable in the wrong ways, tend to be the ones who get beat down. It's nearly the law of sociology. I just never thought that one day my concern about being watched, monitored, or abused, might come from my own country. The freedoms are becoming thin, and the potentials for abuse, more pronounced.

Sadly, our government much of the time isn't. Responsible, that is. It hides its actions, misdirects attention and out right lies to its owners. Not all the time to be sure, it's not as bad as some conspiracy theorists would have us believe. Still today, at this time, things are pretty bad and we do need to reign things in. Our security industry is out of control, in size if nothing else. We need protection, but we need competent diplomacy over that of security and secrets to make us safe. Leaning on security techniques over diplomacy is always dangerous, and lazy.

Some of the things that look the worst in government are simply a multiplicity of processes going in unforeseen directions, being mismanaged, and you can add in some greed and self-serving interests (like the extreme and not so extreme, conservatives out there).

Anyway, this guy had some very interesting things to say about Edward Snowden, things we haven't heard in the media, or on the news and I highly suggest listening to what he has to say. Who is this guy and what does he have to say? Here is the lead in from the program:

RAY McGOVERN - Whistleblowers
University Temple United Methodist Church, Seattle, WA 17 October 2013
"Ray McGovern is a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency. He helped form Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. Sam Adams was McGovern’s colleague at the CIA. McGovern and several other former intelligence officials went to Russia in October to honor Edward Snowden with the Sam Adams Award. Ray McGovern also works for Tell the Word, a ministry of the inner-city Washington D.C. Church of the Saviour."

Now I expected this to be utter nonsense. I have a background in military and studied the cold war, while it was happening. I'm hard to fool. But after a few minutes of listening to this guy, some of my undecided opinions on Snowden, started to coalesce, and were not what I had expected them to be. It's worth a few bucks to hear what this guy had to say. I could quote it here but it would be best in his own words. He rambles a bit, but bear with him, and hear what he has to say.

We all need to start rethinking things and getting the powers that be back under OUR control. Not that they ever were completely, but this is ridiculous, how things have gotten. Be well.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Welcome to the Machine" Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd's seminal song, at very least, one of them, "Welcome to the Machine", came out while I was in the Military. I was there for four years in active service, two years inactive service after that where I could be pulled back in. I had myself seen others pulled back in who had gotten out. I mean by that, they got pulled back, in part because of work I did. Four guys were sent to federal prison, two of them had to be pulled back into the military to be sent to prison. It was a horrible thing to contemplate but what they had down was pretty horrible.

When people blow off that there is a last two years of inactive service after your active service, where you aren't really any longer active in the service, well, you do still know very well that you are walking on thin ice and at any time, things can change. In a heartbeat. That's just the nature of the military and something that is hard to understand, if you haven't lived it.

It's a facing up to a higher authority who is sometimes literally, right in your face and can make you do whatever they want. Or at least, it feels that way, and in some cases, it is that way.

"Welcome to the Machine", was a reminder to us of how things are. It was poignant. It held purpose. Later after I got out and worked for large organizations like the University of Washington, or later, corporations across multiple states, the song never lost its impact.

Much like Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" song. It too is one of those songs that points to your entire existence and asks the question, are you where you want to be? Are things as you always wanted them? Are they as you want them now? Should you have done things differently?

And is the reality of all this now, crushing to you? For anyone working for any corporation or entity far, far bigger than them, this song offers compassion. Understanding. But also, obviousness and transparency. With an underlying sense of a call to action.

Which was what we felt back then in the military. There was a call to action and we couldn't answer, we didn't even know what that action was and that was part of the issue. We thought we were answering it in joining up, but then we found we weren't. How could that be? Trapped by our own decisions, we found we were unable to act. At least until we got out. So one did what one could, while still in, while being kept down, under control, always available. Available, at any moment day or night. Available if need be, as canon fodder at the mention of a word.

"The song describes the band's disillusionment with the music industry as a money-making machine rather than a forum of artistic expression. The plot centers around an aspiring musician getting signed by a seedy executive to the music industry, "The Machine". The voice predicts all the boy's seemingly rebellious ideas ("You bought a guitar to punish your ma, you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool"). The boy's illusions of personal identity are further crushed with lines such as, "What did you dream? It's all right we told you what to dream."
-Wikipedia

I never knew that till today, that what the song meant to the band was so much about their own situation. Even still, with what that song meant to some of us, with the power and import that it held for us, it has been an anthem. An anthem for those who are trapped, especially so if it's all by their own decisions.

How many times have many of us said that we are not where we are because of the choices we have made and now we would do it quite differently, in some other way?

The point of course is to think, to act appropriately ahead of time and, when you find yourself in that wrong place, to fix it. Act. To do, something. But in the mean time we do need songs to point a finger and say to us, "I feel your pain, but it's your responsibility, so now do something about it."

YouTube video of song
Pink Floyd Welcome To The Machine Lyrics
Songwriters: WATERS, ROGER

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
Where have you been? It's alright we know where you've been.
You've been in the pipeline, filling in time,
Provided with toys and Scouting for Boys.
You bought a guitar to punish your ma,
And you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool,
So welcome to the machine.
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream.
You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar,
He always ate in the Steak Bar. He loved to drive in his Jaguar.
So welcome to the machine.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finally, quality shows abound in the video wasteland. Great! Right?

Do you have a favorite TV or cable show? Have more than one? A few? Many? More than you can watch? Have you had trouble recording shows on your DVR  (digital video recorder) because there are more shows to record in one hour than your machine can handle? Recording on a second DVR in another room maybe? Feeling at all frustrated, even minimally, that you can't record (or watch) all of what is now available to you?

Remember when cable and TV were "video wastelands"?

But now you can watch on your DVR, stream shows, even watch on your cell phone!

I've finally hit a saturation point. I never thought I'd see the day. For years it was a video wasteland out there. Then Cable hit. Horrible, horrible cable TV that I told people would some day be great.

Things like tape (VHS, BETA) were wonderful and we could record off TV, buy or rent tapes and could finally enjoy a film straight through without commercial interruption.

Then, pay per view and pay cable channels arrived.

Then came TiVo and the DVR came to be. Awesome.

Now I could record shows and movies to watch as I spent increasingly too much time viewing as the amount of quality shows to watch grew and grew until today (see, I told them we'd get here, it just took nearly 30 years). I became concerned that I was watching too much video.

Then it happened, it came out of the blue. One day I realized that I had more video to watch than I could ever conceivably handle. And when you hit that saturation point, after worrying that you would be forever frozen to the screen (a thing which grew out of a long term sparseness of quality shows), finally, you could simply...let it all go.

Why?

Because. Since you have way more shows than you could ever conceivably watch, your internal responsibility checker, that software in your mind that tells you that you can't miss good shows because there are so few of them; you have to see them all. Finally we have passed through that now fictitious barrier to catch all the interesting stuff to watch and has led to opening the flood gates to reality.

Now you have got to let it go. You can finally back away. Away from too many shows to watch where you are watching all the time. Now you don't have to watch as many shows and that my friends, allows you to cut it down, to only a few of the highest quality shows, or the ones you are most attracted to. You can go out and breathe fresh air again, go visit friends, see something live and in person, music, plays, libraries, the sky's the limit!

And so here we are back again to where we all started. Except that now we do have more quality shows to view, when we are in the mood. Of course there is still the pablum out there available to when you feel like being mindless. Or for those who like remaining in that state, day in and day out.

Only, then you notice other shows that you feel compelled to watch, and so you again you increase your viewing till it gets saturated and then, one day, you realized it's too much again.

So you comfortably cut it back down, to reality and reasonableness. And so it goes, over and over....

Unless, you get a handle on it, adjust your lifestyle and lock yourself into only a few hours of only the most special shows per week. Just like we need to learn to limit our intake of luscious foods so we don't become morbidly obese, so we have to limit our intake of luscious and addictive shows and movies, so our life doesn't become morbidly obese with sitting and staring at the screen watching one after another after another, after another show.

So we have finally made it to where the video wasteland is filled also with very good shows and within that situation, we have a trap. Now that finally TV, cable, YouTube, Netflix and other DVD and streaming companies can supply us with  all we could ever want and then some, it is time we catch up to them and restrict ourselves and build our lives so that we are enhancing our human experience and learning, and not just watching, watching, watching.

Even if we only watch the best shows or the best documentaries, we still need to consider and limit our viewing behaviors, otherwise we face the prospect of some other countries whose interpersonal relationships are suffering from all this technology and media. And their population is decreasing because of it. Something that in the overall context is good, but only up to a point. Countries where it is too much trouble to interact and make intimate relationships do to fear of rejection, or a lack of desiring drama we can get elsewhere and prefer superficial relationships as we have all those needs taken care of elsewhere.

Like in Japan where you can go and for a price have two cute girls smother you in attention for the rented amount of time, bolstering your ego, eliminating the need to deal with the fears of the drama of real relationships, social diseases, monetary issues and loss from things like divorce and familial situations. And women have the same options to purchase beautiful young men, sans sex, sans guilt, sans negative aspects so apparent in most romantic relationships.

Are we losing the emotional toughness required through having relationships?

So the next time you turn on that next great show after hours of viewing others, ask yourself if you couldn't be doing something more real and useful. Or if this is your solace after working long hours, or because you can't afford to do real things, ask yourself why that is too.

Is quality viewing now the new drug of the masses? Not that the concept is new but the availability of so much good viewing certainly (and finally) is. Is this excess of quality viewing becoming the new Soma, as in the novel, "Brave New World"? The drug that calms the masses so the leaders of the country could do whatever they wanted.

"..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon..."

and

"the warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was!" From Brave New World - 1932 by Aldous Huxley

Sounds kind of like TV, doesn't it. Have you ever taken a "staycation" because you couldn't afford to go to a real location and so you stay home to "relax" and work around the house or just watch and catch up on your viewing habit?

Perhaps this is all just more complicated than you ever realized? But how is it you haven't noticed?