Monday, September 29, 2014

Quality in Life

Aside from the primary elements of this article, this touches on something we don't talk about much and I don't think about it half as much as I used to, when I was younger. I used to be much more concerned with the topic of quality in life, art and action.

It is now more intrinsic in my life and in my writing so I don't have the need to think much about it now than I did before, as I've come to some conclusions about it over time.

Things like, well... life, family, kids, bills, surviving, keeping one's head above water, These all replaced those seemingly more esoteric concerns of what Life is, what Perfection is, and just what is Quality? Where do they fit in the mired functionalism of living, as opposed to being, "alive"?

Or, Living as opposed to surviving, or merely existing.

Getting along, eating, paying bills to live (home, expenses, insurances, healthcare, licenses, permits, even vehicle license tabs, etc.), these all seemed to take over.

For me, the military (eventually making me more sensitive to the degree of their control over my life), and then after that the government in general, became very important in order to avoid falling under their heels.

Especially because of the culture I grew up and and lived through in my late teens, twenties and early thirty. College dampened those concerns for me about authority in my life for four years as I was living in its closeted and protected environment. Then later eventually, when I was making it as an individual, as a citizen, a husband and father, these things in my life took over.

Idealism seems to be one of the first victims of adulthood for many of us. Partially because it needs it's place and need not be the end all, be all of life, for us to survive. Idealism in some views is merely foolishness and an immature view of Life.

But in reality, not completely and it does after all and in the end, have its place. A very important place.

One does find a need to compromise in life, in order to make it. It is those who do not compromise, who we hear of, who we hold in highest esteem. Some of us have lost it completely, as life can crush you underfoot.

We do not have to compromise in some areas and music is one of those elementary forces in our lives where we simply don't have to compromise. We can be as elitist as we see fit, or necessary. Art and Literature are yet others. Cinema, is yet another.

And yet, does music mean as much to you now as it may once have as a teenager, or during your early twenties? Did you even truly understand Quality back then?

It is good to consider the smallest unit of things as times. The tiny, minuscule, the moments that "don't matter", the things that "aren't important". Moments, not minutes. A sound played just right, over that of a song. A look, over that of a time shared. To appreciate the look within the time shared and not just the over all time that was shared. "Sensate focus", over lovemaking.

We tend to see the macro over the micro, when many times it is the micro that is so important to us and we completely miss what is the wonder in an experience.

Much in life is about the journey, not the destination.

If you've lost those tiny things, they are still there for you to reclaim them. It is up to us to re-evaluate our lives from time to time and consider where we've been, where we are, and where we want to be heading in all aspects of our lives. Especially, in those we have full control over.

Here is one example: Jazz music. I know, I may have just lost many of you. Certainly those who dislike Jazz music. Still in Richard Brody's article (see link below), he talks of these things I mentioned above and I do believe they apply not just to Jazz, not just to music, or the arts, literature, or the cinema. But to life itself and, our very lives.

It's something to think about.

Richard Brody Lists His Perfect Jazz Recordings....

Monday, September 22, 2014

IS there a New Guard coming into the NRA? Finally?

If this silly article weren't so Tea Party-ish, biased and sad, it would be quite laughable.

"Why the “New NRA” Terrifies the Political Left."

Seriously? What a pathetic attempt to draw attention to oneself.

Be not afraid, embrace this New Guard NRA (if they really exist), as they send off the Old Guard (finally) to their retirement homes, their delusional, senile care facilities. That is if they haven't died of gunshot, yet.

I just don't see that the political left is going to be terrified (or even slightly fearful) in the least by this article or what it espouses.

If there is truly a new, younger contingent of Americans who are into firearms and the "sport" of shooting, good. Though I don't see standing around shooting as a sport; soccer is a sport, fencing, sport, tennis, skiing, a sport. I think we're counting too many things as sports when really, their not. If you are overweight and out of shape and can still do your "sport", then it's not a sport.

This new guard is what we've been needing to replace the old guard, the moronic likes of the current NRA leaders we've all seen in the news this past decade or two, and as well been embarrassed (and horrified at times) by, as a nation.

I own guns. Ever since I was a child, actually. I was also in the military. I've done the whole macho sports routine. Although, I couldn't really care less about team sports, for the most part. I mean, I love when the home team (Mariners or Seahawks or, Sounders, etc.) win. But if you want to push it, in my mind the truly "manly" sports (if you'll excuse that kind of ridiculous orientation) aren't team sports at all, where you have protection from others on a team, or where you wear hyper protection suits as in American Football (Rugby maybe, those guys are nuts).

I've always appreciated individual sports of one, against all of nature, or simply another opponent. One on one. It always seemed...cleaner, to me, somehow. But then it's harder to make money off many of those individual sports, for the most part.

After all, we're all about making money off of what we love to watch (and not do).

Then there's UFC style fighting, now that's nuts, that's spectacle, and something I can appreciate. One against one. I like a sport where I can tell who the guy is on the field without having to read his name on his football jersey over all his protective gear. Head injuries? Yeah, well whatever. That's a sport that will look different in ten years or less.

I was told when younger that you shouldn't compare yourself to others as much as yourself, and your own limitations. You are the challenge you need to excel over, not some other guy who may be genetically predisposed to kick your ass regardless. YOU.

Nothing wrong with team sports, I've just always been into gauging my capabilities against my own standards and pushing beyond my own limits. Many times in the end, those turned out to be limits that exceeded those of others. I've usually done quite well, actually, when put then into a team environment. It just wasn't my thing is all. I had wanted to join the football team in junior high, but my mother was afraid I'd get hurt. That was after her having taken me down to a Karate dojo where I had about five fights a night and then fought in tournaments. All one on one.

Not to mention, in non-team sports (like racquetball, and how I played, it wasn't a gentle sport; tennis, full contact fighting, etc.), there simply IS no one else to "fumble the ball" but yourself; no one else to blame, but you. Sports don't have to have a "winner", just someone knowing they have exceeded their own demands, and surviving a situation where they could have been hurt, or died.

But sports don't have to be like that, as in tennis, or shooting sports, other than ones involving killing.

From very young I was into things like climbing, cliff surfing (where you leap off cliffs to land on loose soil and small rocks and "surf" down along a steeply inclined, loose surface), firearms (not hunting), martial arts including full contact later on, backpacking, SCUBA diving (usually alone, but I don't recommend that for others), sky diving, car racing, and so on; then into darker pursuits.

Anyway getting back to the article, the best thing that could happen to these young gun lovers, as well as for the rest of America, IS for a younger generation to take over, One MORE intelligent to replace those moronic dinosaurs running the NRA these past couple of decades or so.

Unless these younger sportspeople are brainwashed by that old guard and continue to push their nonsense, this is all good! It's great! Though, I just don't see it happening, their being brainwashed that is; and surely hope it doesn't. And it most likely won't as they are mostly more intelligent than those they will be replacing. Or so one can only hope, anyway.

I mean seriously, the NRA suggest if there are guns killing people in mass shootings in schools, more guns are the answer? Remember the Cold War and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)? Yeah, that was a Great Idea. Pouring gas onto a fire is a great way to put out a fire, right? Maybe in a Bizarro world (see old Superman comics). Yes, MAD worked for what it's worth but really, we're not talking about a limited nation state situation, but millions of individuals, without controls and checks and balances between them and their pulling a trigger.

So like I said, NO ONE is terrified of a New NRA.

I suspect, they may actually just be a saving grace in the end.

So let's welcome them!

We may just finally be seeing the end of the OLD NRA!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Birthday in Bellingham, WA and the awesomely amazing band, Breaking the Spell

In August 2014, I had a couple of weeks off from work for my birthday. Actually, I just wanted to do a blog this week on something fun.

There is so much distressing stuff going on in the world, I just thought a little Me time was needed. That is, Us time, you and me time; that is to say, you time.

You'll see what I mean in a moment. I just want to share a few ideas with you about birthdays, as well as what my birthday was all about this year on my 59th birthday. Good grief, how'd I ever last this long? Considering my life overall, it's a little bit amazing. I don't feel like I'm 59, just my body does.


I always take my birthday off. I do this because at some point in my life I had realized that up to that point, I never yet had worked on my birthday. This year for my birthday, I drove my daughter (22, stage name, Gosling) and I up to her home in Bellingham. She had stayed a few days with her mother and I stayed a few days up there with her.

You can read about her travels over at her blog on Tiny Bird Travels. I'll also be mentioning two bands below in this blog today, Skitnik (her new band) and Breaking the Spell (friends of hers and now mine),
Our faithful German Shepherd, 12 today!
I have awesome kids and I couldn't be more proud of them. My son (26) is working doing IT work in Portland and is very good at math and physics (I'm not) and is planning starting a new business soon, and has many ideas for a variety of interesting projects. He also taught himself keyboards. Both of my kids are talented in art and music.

I lived in Bellingham when I was at Western Washington University. I didn't want to leave after I graduated, but I wanted to eat. I had a degree and no job and couldn't find a reasonable job in Bellingham. It's a small community and after graduation time, all of the jobs (degree related) are usually long gone. So I ended up going back to my old job in Tacoma at Tower. They had just started Tower Video and my old boss and friend from our Tower Records days, hired me back.

We then transferred to Seattle, got an apartment and managed that Tower Video store. I worked with Jeff Ament, bass player for Pearl Jam (Green River at the time, pre Mother Love Bone). In fact he turned his job as media buyer (I had been the media buyer at the Tacoma store) over to me when he quit to try and be a "real musician" as he put it. Such a n ice guy and so talented himself! He did well, I think.

Getting back to it, my daughter and I partied on my birthday and had a great deal of fun.

On that day, August 30th, we had drinks at a great establishment with her friends, so many flavors there in their drinks and infused alcohols. We went elsewhere for some delicious foods and more drinks and saw Breaking the Spell, a very talented band at their CD release party. I'm listening to their CD now as I write this, a gift from the band to me on my birthday.

It was one of my best birthdays in more than a month of Sundays. Well, in nearly a decades anyway.
But, I'll get to that in a moment....

My never having worked on my birthday, was something to speak of. In considering how impossible that was in my life, it was a truly markedly amazing thing. When I was in the Air Force, they had told me we (the guys in the Survival Equipment Shop, I was a Parachute Rigger) could have off either our birthday or our wedding anniversary (as I was married). I chose my anniversary, but also got my birthday off every year. Just luck I guess. But then I was in many ways their golden boy.

So when I decided years later about this, to simply make a thing of it in for rest of my life, as could be possible depending on things, I would just try never to work on my birthday. And it's lasted this long.

My family, my mother actually, always thought you should celebrate your birthday. Considering how life can be, the one day you can guarantee for yourself is, your birthday. Christmas is nice, but that's about everybody. Your birthday, is about you and only you. Well, except for me. You see, my mother was born on my birthday. Yes, on my birthday.

Anyway, even if no one else celebrates it, you can. You simply have to just do it. On our birthdays as kids we had to do no chores and we were treated like kings (or my sister or mother, as queens). No picking on the Birthday Kid on their day!

And so I've always tried to celebrate the birthday of others in just such a way. But I've been surprised by the push back on that from some people through my life. Still, in my house on your birthday, you are King or Queen for a day.

At some point I decided to start taking time off beyond and before my birthday. Since Labor Day is near to my birthday, it just made sense to attach my birthday holiday to a real holiday and in doing so, save on my vacation time from work.

As my birthday is on August 30th (and my mother's having been born on my birthday perhaps having something to do with my feelings about celebrating it), I can put my vacation days together and turn a three day Labor Day holiday into a full week off for only an additional four, not five days.

Eventually, I ended up taking off two weeks. It just kind of evolved that way over the years. Update, because of the weather around here lately, I may stop that long vacation thing and back it up in the summer so I have more consistently nice days so I can ride my Harley more. Climate change, sucks.

I remember at times when I was looking for a new job, one of my make or break issues in taking the job actually was, if they wouldn't guarantee for me to take my birthday off. I simply wouldn't take the job if I would have to work on my birthday. Hey, it just turned into a "thing" with me, what can I say. Luckily, that never came to be an issue.

At some point in my life, after I had kids mostly, I took on the idea of giving to others closest to me on my birthday. I figured that if it is my birthday, whether anyone gave to me or not, really mattered little, as long as I got to do what I liked. Which was to give to those I loved most, celebrating my appreciation for their being there in my life and helping to make my special day, special.

So this year, during my two weeks off, I had wanted to ride my Harley on a trip somewhere.

Alas, weather and timing didn't work out well for me. As it turned out, my daughter needed a ride home back to Bellingham. So we worked it out that I would pick her up at her mother's and drive her home the couple of hours it would take driving north, and bring my dog, and stay few a few days.

She told me later that her mother said (as we're divorced now some twelve years) that I think my birthday is a national holiday. Quite, and it should be. Everybody party!

So we got up to Bellingham to her home. This was the second time I saw it. The first time was a month ago when I helped her move into it from her huge house on Lake Samish with its view of the mountain across the lake.

On my birthday, we rode our bicycles (I brought mine up with me on the bike rack on the back of my 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo. We rode the couple of miles into downtown to meet with her boss at the record store where she works. She has several jobs, kayaking and teaching it, giving tours and recently got hired as an art teacher at a school.
Redligh bar, Bellingham WA
They are known for providing fine, carefully made cocktails. I loved this place.
Inside Redlight bar, Bellingham WA
We hung out with a few of her friends.
Temple Bar, Bellingham WA
Sorry for the blurriness of some of these photos but they were kind of a spur of the moment after many drinks kind of effort. After a while we got hungry so we walked our bikes over to the Temple Bar on the other side of town, along with her boss. We had more drinks and tasty samplings of their food.
Looking out from the Temple Bar
At one point, after so many drinks (it wasn't ridiculous over the time we took, along with hydrating with glasses of water and food, but it was more drinks in a night then I am used to anymore) I needed to take a walk outside on such a beautiful night. We were having a great time. I just wanted to burn off some of he alcohol. So I walked to the end of the block. The night was so beautiful I had to take a few shots.
Down the street from the Temple Bar
End of the block from the Temple Bar
After a while it was time to head out. On our bicycles. I hadn't ridding that buzzed in a long, long time. But we returned home without incident. Then we decided to go to her friend's CD release party for their band, Breaking the Spell. They also have a Facebook page. You can listen to their music and buy their CD here.

A word about my daughter on music. She has traveled Europe twice, starting in Iceland, with her accordion. The first time she traveled alone for nine months paying her way by playing music. She's been in several bands and recently was just accepted into the band, Skitnik, a Bavarian kind of fun music band, and right up her alley. She can really get a room up and moving and laughing and basically just having a great time with her music.

Sadly we got to the release party just a bit late and only caught the last two songs in the set. But it was enough to be able to appreciate the awesome talent of this band.
Breaking the Spell
The party was at the Circus Guild building.

The first thing I saw entering the building were these mermaid sculptures. It is a big space where there is plenty of room for circus type stuff to happen. A winter home for a circus venue or a place where those types of talents can be performed. They also rent out their space for things just like, a CD release party.

The music coming off the stage was amazing and I do love a good sax. After the show the band were signing CDs and I definitely wanted one. But in being good friends of my daughter's and knowing it was my birthday, they wouldn't let me pay them for a CD or autographs. But they gave me both.

We talked to them for a while and then headed home. I for one, was exhausted. So much so that I headed home with my dog, the next day. But it was an amazing time and one that I will never forget, for the rest of my life!

Take the time to make your birthday your own special day. Break out of the mold. Go do something, extraordinary. All the best to you! This birthday is going to be a hard one to beat in the future. But sometimes it's not about what's bigger or better, but more beautiful, more relaxed, more pleasing in enjoying things, like a beautiful night, a good drink, or time with loved ones.

Cheers to you, and a happy birthday to you when your birthday arrives!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Should you publish whatever you write?

There was a recent Indies Unlimited article titled,

"I encourage YOU to write, but even more importantly, to publish."

Well, sort of. But not really. There is another side to that which I'll briefly explore below and yet another side explored briefly in this article, "One Size Does Not Fit All For Self-Publishing".

I actually have the opposite argument to everyone writing and publishing. I've read not a few writings by "writers" who everyone would wish not to publish. Then there are those who are quite fearful of publishing who I wish I could convince to take the time and effort to publish.

I encourage everyone interested in writing to write but Please, don't just then publish. Not as a defacto event following writing, anyway. Publish only with thought and consideration for others.

First let me say that although posting online is a form of "publishing", I define "publishing" as not just putting your writings online, but actual publishing in the somewhat traditional sense as in a book, ebook or audiobook format. There is shall we say, publishing as a verb, and publishing as a noun.

My overall point being, there is already enough junk writing out there as it is.

Writing should come easy, rewriting, editing and publishing should come harder.

To suggest people publish easily, frequently, is to flood the market. If you want to publish, there are blogs, there is Wattpad.

So please, don't publish; unless you have a good piece of writing that you have worked on, over and over, perfecting it until it is worthy to be published.

A Professor of mine once told us in class that to show your first draft to some one is on par with showing your own shit to others (his words, to shock us, to make the point, and it worked). As that is something few would do, don't do it.

Many would argue that they wouldn't show their first draft off but some are actually good enough to do that; many others have a multi-draft pieces that appear only to be of a first draft level of quality due to their lack of knowledge, practice, skill or expertise.

The point is here, unless you have put the actual thought and effort into producing a readable piece, don't publish. Not unless you have first crafted a piece with a level of quality that deserves to be read by others.

That is your decision of course, when it is actually ready, and the decision of your beta readers. You do have the control. But control indicates thought and effort and a decision. To simply write and publish is almost offensive, unless it is truly worthy of others who do not know you to take their time to acquire, perhaps pay for it, and read it.

A writer should be qualified to publish, but also compassionate in not wishing to put into the public reading sphere, works that are worthy of others spending their hard earned time and money, to read them. All you are doing otherwise is to flood the market with poor writing, as has been done now for some time.

We used to value our good writers. Now a days there is much talk about how bad some published books are. We need to change that, to turn things around.

There are certainly good writings out there by amateurs and that's great; that IS wonderful. Just be sure what you are pushing out into the world deserves to be out there. Put effort into it, have it vetted, read by others first, then publish it. And understand that what many think is "effort" to publish a book, many times now a days isn't really effort. It seems to them to be effort. But there is a big effort in putting out a good book. I've been doing this for years now and it still seems like more effort than I remember from the last time, every time I do it.

So get get help, get an editor if you can, join a writers group, barter for skills of others, do whatever you can to not put poorly written works out into the readers' domain.

Because in the end, everyone will thank you for it and you will get so much further for those efforts.

That all being said, I'd like to also mention another important issue that has been crippling our nation: Education... and our chastisement of those young (and old) who wish to achieve an educational level higher than that of High School, which really now is not to high. Why is our nation so stupid as to do so much harm to ourselves and our future. Check out the link to see what I'm talking about.

#authors #writers #education

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day! Now, about that....

First, remember that I'm still celebrating the re-release of my book, Death of Heaven. Check out my Blog from this weekend, if you haven't already seen it. Today is the last day my ebooks are up for free during this even. After today, my free short story ebooks are back to their normal .99 price, but I have lowered the price of the print version to $4.99 from now on.

Now, about labor....

I've been saying for years how the American worker is being abused by corporations, management and, our Government, who are heavily swayed by business interests, big money, conservatives and lately for some reason, religious factions.

I've been saying for decades that we should be working toward fewer hours, fewer days per week per worker. We hear complaints about there being not enough jobs and yet, workers are working more hours, rather than fewer (for the same pay) and more days; taking fewer vacations days, many times out of fear of losing a job. Where there could be jobs for others, the current workers (in the jargon of conservative and Republican types), are "STEALING jobs" from the unemployed.

How is all this not obvious?

On Fareed Zakaria this weekend Fareed had a piece on just this topic. It was rewarding to hear it finally being discussed on a national show.

Did you know that American workers are the only advanced economy country of workers in the world not guaranteed paid vacation days? As many as 23% of Americans get no paid holidays or vacation.Americans who do get paid time off take only about half of it on average according to one survey.

In contrast Europeans see a need for a work/life balance.

Why don't we? I do. I have worked for a health insurance company for years in their IT department on their web sites, for, well, April 1st, 2015 will be nineteen years. Nine months proceeding that I actually started as a contractor. So really, September 9th will be nineteen years, but it doesn't country toward benefits as I was a contractor and not a hired employee, yet.

My point in mentioning this company is they are a good company to work for. They want people to take vacation time as a relaxed and refreshed employee is happier, makes fewer mistakes and in general leads to a more functional workplace. They have also found that allowing remote workers was a plus for everyone involved. Since I work on web servers that are located in datacenters in Utah, Oregon and Washington, there's no real need for me to be in the office in Seattle.

So I have been able to work full time from home now for a couple of years. A big benefit for me as my commute is two hours long one way, twice a day, in driving to the park and ride, waiting and taking the bus, waiting and taking the ferry (which can be awesome in Puget Sound), and then walking. In the afternoon I'm reversing that. It's great for the exercise and reading time it allows, but it's four hours out of my day for no good reason, not to mention, it adds a burden on our state infrastructure and pollution levels. That's four hours I now have back for writing, or personal issues, which enhances the overall quality of my life.

Getting back to it....

German workers work 600 hours less than their Greek counterparts, but German productivity is 70% higher. There are many examples of this around the world which shoots a hole in the argument that more hours means more productivity. What corporations and government don't account for in expecting us to work more hours is the overall amount of money that is made and where it goes. There is no reason we cannot be working toward a four day work week.

If you ever bring up a four day work week to companies today the standard response is one of two. Either they say no, outright, or they smile and say yes, four work days a week is acceptable, of course you'd be then doing ten hour days to make up for it. But why shouldn't we by now in his most advanced country in the world be working four day weeks and six hour days? Then money is actually there for this and that would allow many more workers to make a living, to get off the government assistance in many cases, lead to a far happier worker and more money into the marketplace when workers have more time off and money to spend.

Adding those extra days and hours to workers lives can also allow them the choice, the leisure time to delve more into personal pursuits, family, the arts, entertainment; it could be a boon to the economy. There is a (and conservatives and Republicans will love this term) "trickle down" effect. According to a study commissioned by the US Travel Association (by Oxford Economics) shows that if Americans just used all their currently allotted time off, there would be an additional $160 billion in sales, not just in travel related businesses but across several sectors. That would generate an additional $52 billion dollars in earned income and 1.2 million additional jobs.

So if you are getting vacation time... take it! "Take it," as Fareed Zakaria said today, "as your patriotic duty."

And yet, big money pushes government to allow them to extract the money from the workers, to continue to burden the workers with extra hours, and therefore, fewer workers to do the job.

The accounting firm of Ernst & Young did a study on their own employees and they found that for every additional ten hours taken as vacation time the company saw their profits go up by 8% in improvement ratings.

This is not just a fantasy I've dreamed up. There are hard cold facts involved here. The things I'm proposing, these things I've been proposing for decades, are doable.

Consider also if you are salaried, if you are required as I am to work 38.75 hours per week, if you work on minute longer, you have just lost that salaried amount be a degree. Let's say you work one week double hours at 77.5 hours. How does that not mean your pay has literally been cut in half? So every minute you work longer than your baseline expected hours, is actually taking money from your bank account. Or your retirement.

Corporations put a major spin on this of course. Just ask them about that and see what they say. They have a very good and practiced argument for it. But don't let them fool you. The problem with most managers is that they cannot see the bigger picture either.

But, the bigger picture is indeed there.

Labor Day is a celebration of the worker, the laborer. Let's not just celebrate them, us, but let's dig deep and find out we can all step into the future, into a better future for everyone and not just those at the top, or the very rich and truly appreciate those who Labor Day is really about.

Wouldn't you like to be able to afford to take time off, go on vacation and enjoy a better life with more and not less, freedom?