Shared Vision

It’s time for our species to have a shared vision.

…stop…

I drove to visit my parents in my home town yesterday. It’s a rural place. Forgot to prep my car’s batteries before the charge so lost a lot during the drive there in the cooler weather. No chargers in that town so had to drive to the nearest city to charge. That city was a quarter of the size twenty five years back when I worked there. Now it is an ugly sprawling metropolis of mini-malls: Fred Meyer, Starbucks, Lowes, Target, Barnes and Nobles. Miles and miles of this, concrete and consumerism. There was not attempt to make the city beautiful or inviting. It was an ugly mess.

…stop…

I think about how few people lived on the continent two to three hundred years ago and how many millions do now. I think about how small towns have turned into sprawling cities that look alike in ugliness. I think about how we’ve created this for more people working more minimum wage jobs without benefits while a few elite earn millions and billions off their labors while they have to drive further and further, polluting the planet, so they can live this, the American dream, the dream of reaching for something they can never have in a concret strip mall.

…stop…

It’s time for our species to have a shared vision.

Is our purpose simply to work and consume? That is what it seems those with money and power seem to believe. If not, why did I not see trees and grass and parks? Beautiful walk ways and charging stations? Where were the local businesses, the smiling faces?

…stop…

We cannot continue this way as a species. We must learn to be sustainable. We must learn to create cities that are planned, that aren’t carbon copies of one another funneling wealth elsewhere. Wed need to recognize that we cannot continue to grow exponentially without irrepably harming the planet and ultimately causing future wars.

…stop…

Imagine it. Driving into a city that feels welcoming and beautiful. Imagine feeling the personality of that city melt into you, inviting you, making you wonder what it would be like to live there. Imagine knowing that if you did that ten years later it wouldn’t be overrun by store after store after store, but a well planned layout of roads, parks, businesses, a vista pleasing to the eye and the heart.

…stop… It’s funny. In my few visits to Europe that’s exactly what I saw. Sure, there was a bit of the ugly here and there, but towns and cities were beautiful, warm, inviting, and in many cases, sustainable. I wonder what it would be like for America to one day have that attitude about how we (want to) live.

It’s been awhile (again)

Stop, start, stop, start, keep going, stop, start again, reward yourself, and mix in a drink. That’s the pattern of smoking simplied, one that’s dominated many years of my adult life.

I had my first Camel on my 18th birthday. I purchased the pack at the local 7-11 not because I wanted to smoke, but because I wanted to secretly do something to get back at my parent’s for some percieved wrong. I didn’t even inhale for a long time, I just sucked the fumes into my mouth then slowly let the smoke tendrils trickle out. They tasted like shit but the Super Big Gulps covered that up. Such is the modern American diet.

That was a long time ago, back when I used to want to get as close as possible to people and open up about EVERYTHING. I’ve changed a lot since then. And it’s why I don’t write that often. I don’t have this burning desire to open up anymore. Sometimes. Maybe after a few drinks. Usually not.

I’m not sure if it’s that I’ve become much less insecure and socially anxious. I mean, I don’t really care much about what anyone thinks about me anymore except professional colleauges because, well, I haven’t won the lottery yet (paychecks are fairly important to keeping a roof over the head and food on the table). And lonely much either which is a blessing and a curse. I used to feel loneliness so intense–I’ll simply say not many people have experienced loneliness until it causes perpetual 24/7 physical pain.

But now I sleep better. I haven’t had more than a puff in four or five days. My digestion is getting back on track. I have the fundemental companionship I need. And the desire to write, to put myself out there, to be heard, is gone. Echos of the past and another person. Writing is a chore, not an imperative.

Trying to change that. Blogging. Working on my shorts stories. Thinking about finding a few pen pals again.

Well, it’s time to get back to work.

Cheers

Facebook Has Lost its Mind

I think Facebook has lost its mind (not that it really had one). Within 24 hours of that attempted coup I started getting advertisements related to guns. And today, when posting a quote from a certain Italian fascist during WWII about a certain Germain fascist leader from WWII I was banned for 24 hours despite having only posted the quote.

What the hell?

This happened for one of two reasons:

1. Someone on my friends list (the only people that can see my posts) reported the post.
2. The Facebook algorithms are looking for mentions of certain historical figures.

I honestly don’t think anyone on my friends list would be dumb enough to think me posting a quote from Moussilini (sp?) is something supportive of white power movements in America. One simply would be able to determine that by looking over a day of my posts: cats, guinea pigs, a few COVID memes to lighten the mood, and a fair amount of social and political commentary. I share a lot of news posts from the BBC, NPR, and the like, in hopes of educating people. And sometimes when I’m feeling passionate (and yes, angry–but who can blame anyone these days) I voice some pretty strong opinions.

But those opinions have never been pro Republican or pro alt-left or pro white power.

I use Facebook regularly. It keeps me up to date as to what’s happening in the world, the country, and my community. I try to do so skeptically and intelligently.

But I’ve never been a huge fan of Facebook’s lack off accountability and that, in my humble opinion, is why I got blocked for a day. They’ve been slow to do anything meaningful about hate speach but after the events of last Wednesday they’re freaking out. Mark Z., who I’ve never had a lot of respect for (he seems like a priveleged college kid who can solve technical problems but doesn’t have a big picture view of reality combined with a sense of moral duty), and what I see happening is an extension of what I view as his poor leadership.

Take for example in the spring of 2020. They recognized that people were spreading an enormous amount of fake news about COVID on their platform. Solution? Anytime I shared a valid news article that had the word COVID in it I’d get a warning essentially saying, “What you’re posting has the word COVID in it do you want to post?”

Really? I’m so stupid I didn’t notice “COVID” was in the post?

Mark? Do you really think that’s going to stop any bullshit right wing type from sharing fake news about COVID

Their algorithms are notoriously crap. Yes, they’re good at addicting people but it’s not Artificial Intelligence folks, and anyone that tells you that isn’t a software engineer (as myself). When I’ve listened to more technical talks about their algorithms they’re pretty simple. To put them in laymans terms they work something like this:

1. Feed child candy and junk food and soda pop every day for three months.
2. Block child for 24 hours.
3. Shrug when the kids throws a tantrum or ends up in the Emergency Room.

If they truly wanted to make some positive changes I have two suggestions.

First, when someone’s made a complaint or their algorithms have blocked them, a full and complete reason should be explained (pointing to the “community standards”–which say nothing about posting quotes from historical figures–is not that). Then, instead of having a few options to protest, use what in computer science is called an expert system. Expert systems are pretty dumb forms of AI but make use of tons of data. The system would ask users multiple questions until it can either make a determination about the post or route it to the right human for review. All I could do was say, “Facebook misunderstood my post.”

That doesn’t help their platform get better or smarter, does it?

The second is stop with the bullshit algorithms intended to manipulate us. Here are some ways to do that:

Give users more flexibility in how they see things. For example, I want to see ALL posts from friends and family first, followed by news, followed by science, then it’s all kittens from there. Also, I want to see posts in the order they were posted. Finally, I want to see ALL posts, not have them filtered based on emoticons and comments (this is how FB has become addictive–it uses large data sets to decide what people want to see, not anything remotely suggestive of a real AI system). Give me options to do that. And yes, I understand that the platform is free for me to use so continue throwing in advertisements like you already do, but when I hide and add for mattresses don’t show me ads for mattresses from five other companies.

(assholes)

I have a lot of other ideas and they are, frankly, quite simple. The problem is, they weigh in on the side of the user, not the company. Manipulate people and play on their emotions is how Facebook became as rich and powerful as it has become. They have a duty to humanity, in my view, to figure out how to have a successful business while putting aside practices that are, psychologically and neurologically speaking, not much different than a drug dealer stringing out their users, keeping that flow going.

The Brightest Timeline

I have a few lottery tickets stuffed in my jacket. I haven’t checked them yet but I’m pretty sure I didn’t win; that’s about as easy to predict as last week’s insurrection at the capitol. But if I did win, besides purchasing a cabin in British Columbia far from the insanity of what’s going on in America, there are a few places I’d like to travel and do.

1. Take a road trip through Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming.
2. Spend a couple of weeks exploring San Fransisco.
3. Fly to Hawaii (and visit the smaller islands).
4. Explore Paris and Normandy.
5. Road trip through Scotland.
6. Visit Victoria British Columbia for a week.
7. Spend a month visiting friends and family in Australia.
8. Hong Kong.
9. Tokyo.
10. Rome.

Okay, now that I think on it I have so many places to visit and for so many reasons. Some I’d like to visit to figure out if I’d want to live there. Others because of the culture. Others for the history. Mostly, I feel like I’d need to spend at least a year traveling if I were filthy rich because my immediate gut reaction–given I’m extremely introverted by nature–is to find that cabin far away from the rat race. If I were to be rich I’d want to be someone who sees it as a responsibilty, not just a chance to hide away and do my own thing. Since I am by far nowhere near perfect and often grow most by doing what I’m most uncomfortable with, i.e. being in unfamiliar places ultimately around strangers, traveling would be an excellent way to broaden my perspective.

I should note I would want, whenever possible, to make my travel environmentally friendly. Whenever possible I’d be traveling by train or electric vehicle or boat (sailing ideally). I’d support businesses (restaurants, hotels, etc.) that are or moving towards sustainability. I’d do a lot of walking (which reminds me, two weeks in San Fransisco is not enough–a month there would really help me get into excellent shape without doing much more than exploring the city by foot!).

RE: my previous note about getting out of my “safe” space, I’d plan on blogging and vlogging my entire experience. The first would be easy for me. On my two week trip to Disneyland and back many years back I spent every evening winding down after dinner by blogging the experiences of the day as well as my reflections on them. Vlogging, or Video Blogging, would push me to share in a manner that makes me cringe thinking about: face and voice. To put simply, I’ve never liked my looks. I mean, I guess I look okay, but mostly I’ve always think I look like an awkward dork–and to be blunt after a year in lock down I’ve started to look like Santa Claus. Then there’s my voice. Nobody else agrees with me, but when I hear it on tape I sound like Kermit the Frog; I don’t sound anything like I sound to me. Sure, I could force myself to grow in this manner right now, but I’d first need to purchase video equipment and second it is emotionally draining and I simply don’t have the spoons to jump in with both feet if I’m at the same time working a full time job.

Oh, last but not least, I’d like to travel with certain friends and colleauges. For instance, I have a good friend and old coworker from India–what better person to show me the sites and culture? Australia? I’d love to take my nephew and niece. And so on and so forth. I may be an introvert, but when it comes to travel I do like having a couple of people on board with me even if I spend much of the time in the car, on the boat, on the plane, reading a book. Traveling alone is something I left behind with my motorcycling days. And that, as they say, is that.

I think in my next post I’m going to ramble about about the insanity of how the last four years have culminated in the last week.

Cheers

Talking About Odd Dreams

With COVID a lot has changed. What we eat. How we socialize with people. Where and how we earn our daily bread. And how we dream.

I’ve always felt my dreams were a little more bizarre than normal. For one thing, being chased by monsters or space aliens has never been a nightmare but an adventure influenced, I’m sure, by television shows I grew up on like Star Trek and Doctor Who. For another, the likehood that anything I dreamt about could be easily explained to another has always been low. But now?

This morning I had a dream that I was on a motorcycle riding next to someone down a long dirt road with pastures of dry dirt on both sides. Ahead were two horse drawn carriages. I wanted to pass but they were riding side by side, very fast, so I couldn’t pass. Worse, there were now several cows racing behind them. So we veered our motorcycles into the pastures which were covered in so many cow pies we were bound to step in them (I was no longer on a bike at this point but walking and/or on a horse myself).

We finally reach the ranch where the carriages are headed. I meet two workers in the field but both are native Spanish speaking and I don’t remember how to say, “Parle vous Espanyal?” in Spanish. Someone else comes up and invites us into his house.

From there on a lot is a blur but it was clear we were stuck there until we could get this shit off the motorcycles and would have to wait for awhile. Meanwhile, in the house, I’m making a mess of things. Spaggeti sauce on the carpet. Mud all over some items we’ll be taking back. Little rescue critters everywhere (which has become a recent theme in my dreams). My hands are covered in some kind of yuck at all times and the guy tells me he’s old school and has no sink so it’s outside ot use the high power water hoses some of the workers are pointing at anything that’s covered in mud and shit and I can’t walk anywhere without the noxious mixture ending up on my feet.

Worse, depsite the owner’s hospitality, I’m mortified by the family and friends coming and going from the house–but no one is wearing a mask. At some point I decide, “Fuck it!” I’ve been there so long I’m likely infected with COVID by now and hell, it’s the first time I’ve been around people for so long I’m willing to let sanity go to the wind.

The dream must have gone on and off for several hours, as has become the norm for many of my COVID related dreams surrounded by anti-maskers. And it seems in my age, my dreams have often become obvious, both to me and those on the outside. Perhaps my brain is too bored with the monotony forced upon us by global circumstance. All I have to say, brain, is: Less cow pies, more hot sex fantasies!

Okay, I’m done!

For those of my thousands of followers reading this, I’ve finally finished writing a bunch of PowerShell code to allow me to post blog entries from my Linux server. When I say “Linux Server” I mean a “server-server” where everything is command line. There’s no Graphical User Interface.

So why do I have a machine that’s only command line? It’s simple. For years I’d install Ubuntu on various machines or in VM’s on other machines and while I’d use it, I always ended up doing things via the GUI. I didn’t learn a heck of a lot. So I put the server version on this ancient laptop (with an SSD mind you) and it’s been awesome. I’ve been forced to google the hell out of things as I learn how to do thins like allow the mouse to work, connect to mail servers, get dotnet to work, etc. It’s been a great experience–though time intensive. For example, I’d say the entire work to now have the ability to publish to my website has taken probably hundreds of hours–though not at once. That’s the joy of building up one piece at a time then seeing how all the puzzle pieces combine.

Okay, I’m going to post this, delete all the test posts, and see if HTML means anything when I post via this tool. Wish my luck!

Proposed AMENDMENT (XXVIII) to the Constitution of the United States

AMENDMENT XXVIII
Section 1.
The third and fourth paragraphs of Article II, Section I, of the Constitution of the United States, are hereby repealed.
Section 2.
The third and fourth paragraphs of Article II, Section I, of the Constitution of the United States is hereby superseded as follows:
Legally eligible voters in their respective States shall vote by Ballot for two Persons. Each State shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall certify and transmit sealed to the Seat of Government of the United States, directed by the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Popular Votes counted; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Popular Votes shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.
The Congress may determine the Day on which the Vote is counted; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Up Late

Working. I had a feeling something like this would happen. As a result I took more breaks than usual. Boom! Around 13:46pm I got a message from someone. The roof, the roof, the roof was on fire. Since then I’ve had to refactor some code and run some tests that are taking hours (10+ for one). Refactored more of my code to speed things up a bit. Not sure when I’ll be able to go to bed. As a general rule, IT doesn’t learn about the fire until it’s consumed the entire roof.

I spent part of my day working on my book in the Mac application Scrivener. It’s a professional application for writing books and screenplays and can compile projects into any number of formats including E-books which I can copy directly to my Kindle for proofing. I hope to some day learn how to write a screen play, but for now I’m working on my first book which I plan to self-publish by the end of the month.

When I was young I wanted to be a published author. Maybe it was because both of my parents were teachers. Maybe it’s because as a family we’d often sit around on a weekend or during vacations reading books. Maybe it’s because my dad published a handful of novels while we lived in Australia. Whatever the case, it’s been a dream of mine.

In my late teens and early twenties I spend a good number of years writing on a regular basis. Mainly I wrote short stories and poetry and sometimes I submitted them to magazines for publication. I didn’t have much of a self-esteem so only a few rejections ended that, but I kept writing, at least for other people, and worked on a book, which I’ve come to revisit more recently, now that I have more maturity under my belt.

Over the last year I’ve been taking and massaging my old short stories. All but one now are (nearly) ready for publication. That story, my favorite, will likely take me another week to edit before I write introductions to each. The book will come in at just around one thousand pages, something that totally blows my mind. And I plan to put it online for sale as an E-book for around $3, paperback for $4. I don’t expect to sell a lot of copies but then again, the goal is to be published, even if it’s self published. And frankly, I’ll be pretty happy to hold a copy in my hands.

Goodnight, for now. Going to wind down my early morning work and crash here on the couch.

Changes

Assuming I win Powerball and the my dream house is still available, I plan to only make two changes to the inside.

First—and while I love the cinema room the way it is—I’d have it completely overhauled to look like the bridge of the Enterprise-D. Assuming the room is large enough I’d have two rows of seating. The first row would be comprised of two chairs designed almost identically to those of the conn and ops positions but the console would be redesigned as desks so they can be used for using computers via the main screen. The back row would be leather theater seating for watching films. And if there’s still room left over the back wall would be identical and contain real computers folks could use. In other words, it will be a working bridge and in the uber scenario a Star Trek simulation could be designed to allow a group of people to explore the universe.

The other thing I’d do, and this is a big if, is invite Banksy over. There’s a beautiful room with a bar and a brick wall but that wall needs an overhaul. Who would I love more than to do something with it than him. And what would I ask him to do? Something progressive. Something to remind me and visitors of our responsibility towards the rest of humanity. A daily reminder that with great privilege comes great responsibility.

The Saturday that was a Friday

Woke up this morning and could have sworn it was Friday. Needless to say, it’s felt like a long week. Made the mistake of sleeping without my earplugs last night and woke up around 4 or 5am to one of the next door neighbors going to work. This particular neighbor is a real asshole; they’ve woken me up a number of times. One time they were out by their car “talking” with someone at bar volumes for about half an hour. This morning they had their windows down and stereo blaring. I don’t know what they’re trying to prove, but 5am? Really? I feel like I’m living in an apartment again.

Obviously I’m a little frumpy and still trying to wake up. Would have some coffee but it often makes me feel strung out. Just gotta take a shower and get to it.

Feeding the homeless

We do a lot of things to feed the homeless. Most notably, seems like every Thanksgiving and Christmas everyone comes out to help. The rest of the year. Not so much. And I keep wondering what we can do to feed those without throughout the year.

Here’s what I’d do as a rich mojo:

  1. Every month I’d work with one restaurant. I’d ask them to close to regular customers for a day and cook as many meals as possible and I’d work with services like DoorDash and GrubHub to deliver them to those in need. I’d of course pay for each meal and delivery charges.
  2. I’d publicly challenge other millionaires in the area to do the same. There has to be at least 29 more that are capable of footing such a bill on a monthly basis and it would be pocket change to them. Plus it’s tax deductible!

The result?

Hundreds of meals every day of the year for those in need.

Even better: Guaranteed income for restaurants, especially those currently struggling with COVID restrictions.

It’s a win-win-win!

A Republican Agenda

If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last six months or so, you may have noticed that there hasn’t been a second COVID stimulus package. While there’s been much talk, it comes down to the fact that the Republican held Senate wants to build into the bill articles that prevent individuals from suing companies (particularly employers) if they catch COVID while on the job, even if said company fails to adhere to CDC guidelines.

This is unacceptable.

On the flip side, there’s a push from these very same people to pass legislation that would allow individuals to sue FaceBook for offensive content that other users post. In other words, I could share a news article sharing information about something Trump said, it offends some Qanon supporter, and they could sue FaceBook.

People post billions of things to FaceBook every day. To expect any social media company to be able to reasonably vet every single post would bring these services to a grinding halt. And that’ just part of the problem.

The other part is about personal responsibility and accountability. If I, say, post something libelous, shouldn’t I be the one to be legally responsible for such behavior? Opening litigation against FaceBook only means sue happy people will start doing this to make money and again, it will potentially cripple a tool that millions find invaluable.

Going back to my original comment about the senate, I find it hypocritical that they’d put a stop to people needing help during a pandemic so businesses that aren’t actively protecting their employees can get a free pass. What they’re saying is essentially that you or your loved one, who needs to go to work to pay the bills, must accept any risk imposed by an employer who would rather save money than ensure they’re following CDC guidelines. Yet at the same time the Senate is also saying if someone posts something to FaceBook then FaceBook is legally liable, not the person posting the content. It’s a disgusting demonstration about how they view “responsibility”. Corporations aren’t responsible for anything related to COVID, even if it means someone dies, while other corporations are responsible for users who abuse their services. To be blunt, there are already laws in place if people post libelous content, threaten people online, and so on and so forth. Use those. In regard to preventing the government from helping citizens in need so corporations can continue to put people at risk, that’s just unethical and inhuman.

Disgusting.

Buy My Old Houses/Apartments for Charity

I’ve always had a deep connection with the places I’ve lived. Whether they’ve been a farmhouse in Central Oregon or a dump falling apart and musty in Eugene, the walls and ceilings that surround me touch my heart and become part of me.

If I were to, say, win the current Powerball, which is upwards of 200 million, one of the things I would do is purchase each of these properties.

Next, I would fix them up.

While they are being worked on I would spend time thinking about each. What did they mean to me? What memories do I have of them? What were the good times? What were the bad? What did I learn about life, the universe, and everything?

For example, the first house I moved to in Eugene…well, it’s not a short tail. I was suicidally depressed when I “ran away” from home at a more than ripe age of 17 or 18 and had gone there with little but a pack of cigarettes and the clothes on my back to be with my recent high school sweetheart. I didn’t know where else to go. My time there was often fraught with emotional struggle, questioning, personal exploration, and the rare and usually uninspired suicide attempt. I was lost and fears of homelessness plagued me. Indeed, given my constant mental and emotional strain combined with an inability to sleep, I spent many nights simply wandering Eugene, meeting people of all stripes on the streets, striking up conversation, or simply sitting in a park staring at the moon. Eventually, after decades (probably less than a year, but it felt like an eternity) I started attending college again and slowly, ever so slowly, though still battling severe depression, to earn my Associate of the Arts degree in Psychology. I wanted to help people going through struggles like I was. And I met the person, who later moved in with us, who would become the woman I’d spend the next ten years viewing as the love of my life, my soul mate, my first wife.

That is, admittedly, a gutted summary of my time in what I refer to as The Fairy House. But it does give me an idea of who I’d like to gift it to. While this a short list of bullets, one’s that would be massaged and amended if I were to purchase, fix, and regift the property, this is who I’d want to give it to:

  • A couple or young family
  • Who were homeless or were struggling with homelessness
  • At least one attending college to work in psychology, social services, or some type of social justice work.

The only ask is that they’d complete their degree.

So that’s pretty much the essence of it. I’d do this for the ten or so residences I lived in. Some are apartment complexes so that would be interesting, but hey, why not, with that must $$$, purchase them, leave them rent free for struggling students, families, and the like? Why not turn another into a homeless shelter or a mid-way house? And why not use each of these be an example to others who are blessed by having too much money to know what to do with as to what they can do with it?

Skunk Works

One of the things I want to do on this blog is share ideas I have for building a better world. I have thousands of ideas but this is the first I am writing about.

This idea assumes I win the lottery. No shit. It’s just easier that way as I’m introverted by nature and don’t have a ton of energy (it comes in spurts).

What I want to do is hire half a dozen or so people, mostly programmers with backgrounds in the sciences, as part of a skunk works project. Their daily agenda:

* To brainstorm ways to improve the world via existing and upcoming technologies. As an addendum they would be tasked with writing software, including web sites, software, and mobile apps, to achieve smaller aims, and reach out to large companies suchs as Google, FaceBook, and Microsoft, to facilitate the creation of new ones. The team would obviously spend time writing patents and would recieve fair royalties on those, otherwise the patents would be nearly free for companies, organizations, and governments hoping to make them a reality.

Those are, quite frankly, the cliff notes.

Here are some examples of things they might do or work with other companies to create:

* Build a phone app that allows individuals to immediately get information about the products they intent on buying by simply taking pictures of their bar codes. For example, say I want to support companies that invest in sustainable agriculture. I could set the app up to tell me if a product did and also give me a list of products from companies that do. Say I don’t want to support a company that gives money to homophogic candidates. Same.
* Bulid apps to help network people involved in social justice issues.
* Build an AI to monitor all public finances so anyone can determine what individuals or companies support a given political candidate for instance. The idea, of coures, would be to make our financial institutions, companies, and governments, completely open and easily searched (like Google) by the average individual.
* Create apps that allow regular folk (esp. blue collar workers) to invest in things that matter to them.
* Create apps that would allow ideas for solving problems from around the world to be shared in a common forum. For example, how have some countries solved homelessness and poverty? Or how has another made voting more fair? How has another provided every citizen affordable health care? I know it’s a lofty goal, but with the technology at our fingertips we should be able to have a centralized place to share solutions to common problems in easily digestable chunks.

I admit this is a high level, throwing it out there. Still crossing my thing on the lottery thang.

Recent thoughts on Religion

This past year—2020—my views on religion have changed. I suppose in some respects they’ve long been this way, but with the Trump Presidency and COVID I’ve come to feel more bold in those beliefs. I’ve seen how the world has been effected by superstition and can no longer remain quiet and polite. As I recently told someone, “I don’t know why we’re told to automatically respect all religions. Shouldn’t they have to earn it just like anyone or anything else?”

And like that I woke up.

At last count there are 7.8 billion human beings on the planet. That’s the largest population of any mammal in the history of our small, blue planet. For most of that history we’ve governed ourselves by beliefs that were handed down to us, beliefs that were often not based in reality. We’ve believed in gods plural and singular. We’ve believed that mystical powers control the night and the day, the passing of the seasons, the health of our crops. These beliefs have, to some extent, provided adequate to ensure the human race survived to the next day, but not necessarily better or healthier as a whole. Now, as a globally interconnected species, the application of ancient belief and tradition in key decisions of governance only serves to harm us.

Take for example the obvious: America’s handling of COVID.

Handling a pandemic is straight forward. Prepare. Test, test, test. Contact trace. Wear masks. Social distance. Close down non-essential business. Modify existing business and organizations to ensure the virus doesn’t spread. Devote money towards research and a vaccine. It’s not easy, as we’ve seen, but the steps are made obvious by science.

America has not consistently used science, however, to guide its hand. Both states and the federal government have changed their strategies at the beck and call of political and religious belief (are they not, in many respects, one and the same?). It is not uncommon to hear an individual flaunt restrictions either based on their belief in some undefined “freedom” claimed to be in the ancient text we call the U.S. Constitution or that if it’s time God will decide. These singularly selfish, non-scientific, and frankly superstitious beliefs have resulted in the deaths of millions of people now. It is unconscionable.

So the question is, why should I respect any religious tradition if many of those who are members make decisions based on superstition when those decisions have negative and even deadly impacts on non-believers? Why should I respect a politician or voter who supports legislation that is sexist, agist, racist, or otherwise pushes their own sense of “right” and “wrong” and others? Why should I have anything but disgust for people who quite literally believe in gods and demons, fictions such as “original sin”, or that such anachronisms should be forced on intelligent, critical, free minded people?

To be clear, I have no problem that people are religious anymore than I care what folks eat for dinner. Just don’t eat babies. And don’t force me to eat babies if that’s your thing. To me that’s freedom. It’s starts with believing what you want to believe and doing what you want to do as long as it doesn’t put other people in cages. And that’s, in my humble opinion, the only true sin: to rob someone of the ability to believe and live as they choose. As the core tenant of Wicca teaches, “Do as you will as long as you do no harm.” You’d think if America really were based on the idea of freedom for all we’d follow that path.

I hope I’m able to.

Chapter 2

Writing is still difficult. Actually, it’s always been difficult. But there was a day and a time where I filled my spare time with writing hoping, in large part, to become a professional writer some day. I thought what I had to say had meaning. More important, I thought what I wanted on paper worth reading.

In less than 24 hours I’ll be 47 years old. It’ll be almost a decade since I blogged on an almost daily basis. Back when I thought I had something worthwhile to share. I don’t know what happened between then and now. Maybe it was the Lyme, robbing me of years of my health, my life, and tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Maybe it was all of the social drama I experienced or put myself in or created. Maybe I just realized what a small cog I am in the big picture and that fundamentally, the universe could do just fine without me. And maybe it was simply that I realized for all the things I’d learned in this so called life I really couldn’t make the kind of impact on the world I want to.

I’m back to editing old stories, short stories I’d written in my youth for people I’d loved, admired, and/or was infatuated with. These were stories with meaning. But as with most past endeavors I look back and see how clunky my steps were. Can I improve? What effort would be necessary? Is it worth it?

Will anyone ever care to read what I have to say?

It’s my hope that once I’m happy with these relatively minor edits I can publish these old stories in an e-book, possibly even self publish soft bound copies. “There,” I’ll say to myself, “I’ve done it.”

Reasons 11 through 38

I know, I know, I said I was going to write every day. In my defense, I stopped smoking two weeks ago and have been somewhat scatter-emotioned ever since. And I just don’t feel compelled to write like I once did. There are many, many reasons behind that. One day I hope to “feel compelled” again so I can write about how I haven’t cared about writing or sharing or opening up anymore. For now I will say this: I’ve become so tired of the level of bullshit that’s come to permeate the internet—especially the political “discussion”—that I’ve all but stopped using Facebook and have absolutely stopped giving a shit about whether anyone will listen to any evidence I have regarding the doomed Trump administration. America has really become a country where we’re going to fist fight on the playground regarding the merits of Ford vs. Chevy and we’re willing to put people’s futures on the line for such brainwashed idiocy.

Anyway, I’m not going to waste my time digging into these other reasons I was going to write about, the titles speak for themselves:

Reason #11: Trump Cares About Winning (more than he cares about you)
Reason #12: Trump Doesn’t Want Everyone to Vote
Reason #13: Trump Ignores Experts
Reason #14: Trump is a Male Chauvinist
Reason #15: Trump is Obviously Predictable
Reason #16: Trump Lacks Humility
Reason #17: Trump Manipulates the Government to Fill His Coffers
Reason #18: Trump Spreads Doubt About Trustworthiness of Elections
Reason #19: Trump Trashes the Medal of Freedom
Reason #20: Trump’s a Disgrace to the Office
Reason #21: Trump’s Blatant Disrespect for Veterans
Reason #22: Trump’s Continued Obfuscation Regarding His Tax Returns
Reason #23: Trump’s Disgraceful Lack of Knowledge of American History
Reason #24: Trump’s Disgust for the U.S. Constitution
Reason #25: Trump’s Disrespect for His Own Base
Reason #26: Trump’s Hypocrisy Regarding Protests
Reason #27: Trump’s Near Silence on the Historical Western Fires
Reason #28: Trump’s Nepotism
Reason #29: Trump’s Requirement of Complete Loyalty
Reason #30: Trump’s New SS (the DHS)
Reason #31: Trump’s White House Pays Women Less than the National Average
Reason #32: Trump’s Wild Claims about COVID Treatments has Killed People
Reason #33: Trump’s Willingness to Supporter’s Lives at Risk
Reason #34: Trumps Views of America’s Enemies vs. His Enemies
Reason #35: He’s the World’s Most Accomplished Failure
Reason #36: Trump is a Bigot
Reason #37: Trump Runs Things Like a Reality Show
Reason #38: Trumps Sides with Kim Jong-Un

Reason #9: Every Fucking Day

Every fucking day Trump does one of the following:

– He lies
– He contradicts himself
– He contradicts a Subject Matter Expert
– He makes a sexist, homophobic, or racist remark
– He slanders another person
– He shows contempt for the U.S Constitution

All you have to do is turn on the news. Any station will do, even Fox.

Do you really want to vote for a politician that puts all the rude jokes about them to shame?

Reason #6: Trumps Disrespect for a Free Press

If you take the time to study your history, you’ll learn that pre-Nazi Germany was one of the most democratic countries in the world at the time with the most broad protections for free press and speech. In Berlin alone there were dozens of newspapers supporting, sharing, and discussing many, many points of view. And their government reflected this broad range of views and agendas.

When the Nazi Party took power all that changes. Other points of views were buried either via rhetoric, changes in the legal system, or violence. At worst students like Sophie Scholl were put to death by printing pamphlets uncovering Nazi atrocities. Goebell’s, the Propaganda mister, was quintessential in ensuring everyone in the country was presented with one story, the superiority of Germany and its citizens over all other countries, cultures, and races. Anything that didn’t agree with that philosophy is what we’d call in our modern parlance, “Fake News.”

So study your history. Trump has slowly whittled away trust of our press to the point that nearly half of our country will believe nothing if it comes from a “moderate” right wing “news” outlet like Fox or more extreme “news” outlets like Breitbart and The Federalist. And this is dangerous. A sufficient number of Americans who get their news from these sources refuse to listen to anything else, including non-partisan fact checking outlets.

What can you do to fight this? Subscribe to sources that don’t conform to your political ideology. Me? I really want people listening to National Public Radio. After a few weeks listening to actual news, news that is designed to educate not pull on your emotion strings.

So that’s my challenge to you. Turn off everything else. Take one week, just one week, of your life and get your news from NPR.org.

Cheers.

Reason #7: Trump Thrives on Creating Chaos

Since before Trump even became President he’s thrived off chaos and this strategy is true to this day.

Take the protests in Portland, for instance. Instead of getting the facts or supporting local leaders as well as those speaking out, he regularly makes statements to encourage fighting on both sides. He’s called people on the right engaging in violence good people and called for those on the left to be labeled terrorist organizations. He’s targeted cities with regular protests.

Take the Coronavirus. He regularly disputes the experts in the White House. He spreads Qanon theories about the virus. He calls it by the racist “Chinese Virus” term and imposes his will on the CDC, which has gone from a respected institution to one that nobody can trust on either side anymore.

Chaos is how someone like him thrives. It pits us against each other, uses our brain chemistry against us, and ensures that the facts get relegated to the background while we bicker about fictions like the liberal child sex trade. People who twenty years ago I might have called “good” Christians now pray for the deaths of opposition members or ignore Covid restrictions putting everyone’s life at risk.

Trump sits back and laughs at us. And he’s said as much in public and in private.

Reason #5: Trump Politicizes a Pandemic, Costing Lives, Money

I remember at the beginning of the year reading posts about the spread of COVID-19. The entire time I was waiting for the White House to say something about it.

Silence.

At the time the virus was spreading across the world and people in the know were starting to wake up about cruise ships. But the White House said nothing about the one means of travel that was bringing the virus to our shores in less than a day: air travel. Even after the White House acknowledged this as a problem the solution was to limit then stop travel from countries Trump didn’t like: China and Iran. His decisions did not reflect any acknowledgement of the data, but was obviously political.

And so it’s been since day one. His entire response to the pandemic has been that of a reality TV host going after ratings, not after a world leader trying to ensure the safety of the citizenry of his country.

I don’t have all day to detail all the behaviors that support this argument. If you’ve been paying attention to the news since January you have the data, you just have to choose to pay attention to it. Whether it’s Trump suggesting “treatments” that either don’t work or have lead to unnecessary deaths of people that took him at his word, he’s not demonstrated leadership, intelligence, or compassion for Americans. Nearly every day he says something so far beyond stupid I never thought someone so mentally frail could be in the most powerful position in the world. He “downplayed” the pandemic because he didn’t want to frighten people? Yeah, that really doesn’t make any sense given his constant use of abusive language to set people against each other, even promoting violence. Now he’s claiming a vaccine will be ready a few days before Election Day despite every drug manufacturer saying this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Over 200,000 American’s have died as a result of the virus (that’s a third of deaths on the entire planet). Trump continues to blame China and sidestep any responsibility. He has never promoted the most simple strategies for saving lives: wearing a mask and social distancing. This is evident at his rallies where he packs in as many people as possible, few of whom wear masks. Worse, he’s been heard telling his staffers that this was okay because he wasn’t close to them and wouldn’t catch anything. He also stated that he liked it because he preferred not having to shake hands with those losers.

You heard that right, Trump has been overheard saying he couldn’t care less about the lives of his supporters. His behavior during this pandemic has been un-Christian, unsympathetic, self-centered, scientifically ignorant, and quite frankly, traitorous.

Reason #10: Trump is a Faux Christian

I grew up in a highly engaged Lutheran family. We went to church every Sunday, even when we were traveling in the summers. I was baptized, confirmed, went to Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. As a teenager I went to the Lutheran youth group and branched out to the Baptist one as well. And then suddenly one day I decided to explore other religious and philosophical thoughts. I became a Christian Zen Buddhist, then a Zen Buddhist, then a Buddhist, then found myself exploring all sorts of wild ideas, wound up leaning towards agnosticism (as atheism lacks full logic, in my humble opinion), and would now consider myself a staunch Diest.

I am not a Christian. I make no bones about it. At the same time, I understand the teachings of Jesus Christ and try to follow them in my life. And though I do not regularly attend church I do so for weddings and funerals (having a particular attraction towards the Catholic tradition and their customs) and attend Christmas Eve Mass every year.

In the past couple of years I have only seen Trump attend church a couple of times. The two I remember were when he want to Senator McCain’s funeral (where he seemed uncomfortable and frankly looked like an ADHD kid trying to escape, especially during things like sermons and liturgies) and when he stood in front of a church with an upside down Bible to do a photo op.

When asked what his favorite book was he joked it was the Bible, after The Art of the Deal. When asked what his favorite verse was he fumbled and said basically all of them.

Some have argued with me somehow that belief that we are all born in sin makes him a Christian because he a) sins and b) claims to believe in the Christian God. This makes no sense. If you believe in Christianity and original sin then a) aren’t I a sinner? And b) does it matter whether or not I say I’m a Christian? God will stand in judgement over my sins, right? Should I get special consideration from you if you say I’m a Christian? And if not, what did Jesus say about treatment of gentiles (what we’d, in the non-Jewish tradition, probably consider non-Christians)?

I could go on and on, but the basic argument that Trump saying he’s a Christian makes everything he does unimportant because he was born into original sin like the rest of us, well, it’s lazy and it’s bullshit. Using that same logic we could have easily have done the same thing with Hitler in Nazi Germany, someone who also claimed to believe in God and His love for the homeland and its chosen status in the world.

I digress. My point is this: Trump is in no, way, shape, or form, a Christian. He is a demagogue. He is a narcissist. He is a racist and a chauvinist. He is self-serving. His behavior demonstrates a complete disinterest in the lessons of Jesus Christ except in how mentioning him will score him points here on earth. And that’s all he cares about, winning. And what better way to win with his base than to use the name of the Lord in vain.

Stopping Smoking

For this of you that can’t, you’re likely to never have smoked. If you have, you should be able to relate that like me, you’re really good at stopping smoking given all the practice you’d had over months, years, or decades. We’ve all become experts; the only problem: We’re just as good at starting again.

I starting smoking at 18 as a way to get back my parents. They were both teachers at my high school and as a straight A student I thought it was the best (most passive-aggressive) way to get back at them. Needless to say, I had it as much as possible from them. I didn’t smoke at home and generally only smoked in the car with all the windows open. Hell, for at lest six months to a year I didn’t really “smoke” at all as I just liked to light up, suck a mouthful of smoke in, watch it dance the air as I exhaled. And I absolutely loved flame.

This year I’ve had limited success quitting. Already having multiple pre-existing conditions, the COVID pandemic made it a very clear choice: either I quit smoking or potentially die. Even then, it’s been stop and go. Every other weekend or so I’ll go cold turkey or put on patches but never seem to be able to make it to the other side. I like smoking–no, I love it! I love sitting on the deck several times a day reading the latest news and articles on my Facebook feed. I love that it wake’s me up in the morning. I love I can focus on it when I’m frustrated, tired, scared, angry, or feeling defeated. I love that it makes me feel tough. And I especially love, after a long day or all my emotions are frayed, sitting on the deck with a dram or two of Scotch drinking, commenting on FaceBook articles, and forgetting all the physical pain I’d been in all day.

Damn, smoking is damn good.

It’s not easy to quit. I’ve smoked on and off for decades. Even changed from cigarettes to a pipe back to cigarettes and then finally on Swisher Sweet Cigarillos. But whatever the input device, the reality is quitting is never quite the same any time. Generally though, the several days I tend to feel increasingly confused. For example, if I were sitting in a chair ever minute or two I’d wonder why I was sitting there watching tv instead of doing something more important. If I get up to do something important in hopes of keeping my mind off of it (as if one can as it’s completely screwing with ones thoughts) I find my mind will go into all sorts of wonky territory. Why did I go into another room? Why am I cooking? Why do I go to the work in the morning? Why am I here? As it gets worse uncontrollable anxiety kicks in, something no drug or meditation can put a dent in. And regular actives, like reading news, becomes pointless. The mind wanders uncontrollably. Then when I go to sleep at night, at least that first couple of nights, I’m likely to wake up with night terrors, my mortality somehow being thrown like a giant Redwood tree into my face. Somewhere around day two the mind is a chaotic confusion. Time slows down. One minute can become five, five ten, and so on—the whole idea of saying to oneself, “This will all be over in n days,” becomes meaningless when time stretches ones patience to its limits.

So here we go again. I’ve only had a couple today, one this morning, two this afternoon. Since this is a three day weekend I’m going a combination of patch and cold turkey tomorrow, in hopes that I can lower my dependency enough to be full cold turkey come Monday (Labor Day). I know I won’t be running on all thrusters come my first day back on Tuesday. And despite how difficult it is to write while “Jonesing” I will continue my daily reasons for not voting for that jackass in the Oval Office.

Gotta keep moving forward.