Monday, December 26, 2011

Do you know who packs your parachute?

I was channel surfing recently and caught one of Joel Osteen's sermons (my girlfriend, Tanya, is a fan).  I'm not religious, unless you consider Ignosticism a religion, but his message in this one sermon was one that people of any faith, or no faith, can and should use in their lives everyday.

Fighter pilot.  He gets shot down in Vietnam.  His plane is half blown apart but somehow he ejects, deploys his parachute, and floats down into the jungle, where he is quickly captured.  Becomes a POW for 5 years or so.  Comes home.  Many years pass by.  He's at a diner with his wife.  A man walks up to him.  He calls the pilot out by name.  The pilot does not recognize him.  The man says his name and says, "I'm the seaman that packed your parachute on the carrier." 

They chat for a while, pilot goes home.  He's bothered by this.  How could he not recognize this guy?  Or remember his name?  He'd walked past him 100 times or more, and never even bothered to commit the boy's name into his memory? 

From there, Joel took it to the next level.

You don't always see them.  You don't always know they're there, or even what they are doing, but there are people doing things, often behind the scenes, that are making your life better.  They are doing things to help you, to promote you to some higher place.  Do you know who's packing your parachute?  Do you have any idea?  How meticulous did each fold and twist have to be on the pilot's parachute in order for it to deploy properly?  (I've jumped twice and on the first one, I got to see some guys in a hangar packing parachutes and it's like a surgery).  How did that one man's actions for another that he didn't know allow for the pilot to make it home?  For the pilot to live many happy years, right up to that moment in the diner with his beloved wife? 

When I started thinking about, my head just about imploded.  Until then, I didn't realize how many people had helped me.  How many people whose name tags I hadn't bothered to commit to memory.  Not the obvious ones, like my girlfriend, who has supported my every decision and need.  Or my sister Kelley, who has stood behind me when others would not, because she knows that I have a good heart and I want the best for people and because we have a relationship that cannot be broken by anything or anyone (feel free to try; oh, Kev has THAT kind of confidence it it?  Indeedy).  Not people like Joann, who not only lit a fire under my butt to make me finish my first three novels but who has shown up time and time again when I was at my lowest and weakest to help the pain go away.  Not people like my friends Shane, Jan, Jennifer, Claudia, or so many others who have reached out a hand and said to me, "Kevin, I will help you.  I will help you."  Those are the obvious ones.  Those are the ones I give thanks for every single day.  Those are the ones I OWE, no matter who among them might say that I owe them nothing.

But do you know everybody who's packing your parachute?

How about the check-out lady at the grocery store who notices that a package has been opened and asks if you'd like to go get another.  How do you know she didn't just save your life?  How about the guy that noticed that you left your car door open with it stock-full of gifts you just bought for your family and kindly shuts it to lower the chances of theft.  You never knew about him.  You can't thank him. 

Do you know who's packing your parachute?

The police arrest a known murderer who's walking past your house, looking for some house to break into to get some food and maybe some money to continue on his spree.  The mechanic that fixed your car went ahead and put in new spark plugs without charging you and didn't mention it, because he knew you were hurting for money and he couldn't fathom the thought of you stuck somewhere on some lonely night.  The janitors that clean your office at night and sprinkle some baking soda into the bottom of the can because you once requested it and they never forgot.  The stranger that gets out of his car on a dangerous curve in the road to remove the fallen tree that probably would have killed somebody.  The nurse that noticed you were about to be given a toxic combination of medication and stopped it at the very last moment.

Do you have any idea at all who's packing your parachute?  My hope, as was Joel's and the pilot's, is that you figure out who they are.  All of them.  And go out of your way to recognize them.

I know some of them, but not all.  This blog would have to go ultra-viral for me to possibly even be able to thank a majority of them, but for what it's worth, for all who have helped to pack anybody's parachute without needing recognition, I see you now.  I see you in my heart, and you will be in my heart from now until I die.

Thank you.

Kevin A. Kierstead
Skydive survivor

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The bleeding heart is the only heart I wish to save

Trust me 100%, please, in that I do not want this article to get political.

The problem is that over the past 30 years or so, we have so intricately intertwined politics with personality that it's nearly impossible not to.

It's time for me to post my beliefs, and why I have them (if I know; some of them are just "there.")  I hope I don't lose any friends over this; I do care about you all and please remember, these are only differences in opinion.  I'm still going to feed you if you show up at my house hungry.  I'm still going to pick you up out of the ditch if you wrecked your car on some back country road.  My hope is that we can share some values.

1.  The bleeding heart.  You often hear the term; bleeding-heart liberal.  Do you know what that is?  It's a varying definition, but the average definition is that it's somebody leaning to the "left" who believes that something should be "taken" from other Americans and given to less fortunate Americans.

Tax systems have been around from about 500 BC on (that we know of).  That's taking money from everybody, for an elected few to decide what to do with it.  Depending on the leadership and, especially, the purity of heart and true love of a nation, those few would make good decisions.  Those decisions would include investing in a growing economy, bolstering defense, repairing infrastructure, investing in science and associated research, and, finally, turning toward our sick and hurting and saying, "There is something we are going to do for you, because there is something we CAN do for you.  You are one of us.  Maybe you don't have a job and you should have one.  Maybe you are a hero of one of our recent battles and you can't shake the vision of your brother's head being removed by a 42-inch broad sword.  You're obviously not living the dream.  We're going to do something for you, and we're going to try to inspire you to try to do something for yourselves if you are able."

Do I have a bleeding heart?  Yes.  I care about people I've never met.  You see a bum laying in front of a liquor store.  You don't know if he was in a car accident a year before, killing his entire family as well as another family, all because he was trying to swerve to save the life of a dog.  You see somebody begging for change.  You don't know if he's very close to dying from cancer and, in fact, has to get people to take his money donations for him to go buy him food and drink because he cannot walk, and it is often stolen, and he can't go to a doctor because he has no money or insurance.

There's a bit of a caveat I have to this feeling of caring for others.  As a good friend, Jo, got me thinking about in an excellent book called, "Ishmael," there are always going to be about 5 or 10% of the world's population starving.  That's what brings it back down; that's what keeps it under control.  If we feed the world's hungry, guess what?  They breed.  And those babies need food.  The more you feed, the more they breed.  Do you realize that some believe that this great planet of ours can support no more than about 12 billion people and that we'll run into water availability problems long before that?

So what's the answer?  I don't know.  Require a two kid limit, worldwide.  Require an injected birth control for those that are starving.  We gotta do something.  We gotta do it now.  Not in 2018.  NOW.

2.  Guess what else my heart bleeds for?  It's my fellow American.  I'm going to keep this short.  We are quickly (rapidly, seriously) losing our superpower status, and China is in a boom that you can't quantify.  With booms come money, and with money comes defense, and with defense comes the desire to expand your horizons, as well as the desire to be the sole superpower (just ask Niccolo Machiavelli because the idea is to TAKE OUT ALL THREATS; consequently, his masterpiece, "The Prince," happened to be Bill Clinton's favorite book).

That means we need to do some things.  Don't cut defense; not now.  Get to work HARD on robots, drones, and lasers, because I goddam guarantee that the Chinese are (and don't forget that some or many may ally with them to take down a superpower; it's an exciting prospect).  Again, we can't start on this in 2015 or 2020.  It has to be NOW.  NOW.  NOW.  Spread this message to all you know if you want this country to last another 100 years.  For us to win this, I promise you my soul, we need to get started early on leading the world again in science and defense.  Just trust me!

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Want to enjoy your holiday? Take off the fault-finding goggles.

I'm going to try to quickly take you through some macro and micro views I have on why things go bad during the holidays for so many people.  Maybe you can dodge that bullet that seems to find so many people standing flat-footed when Fall finally arrives...

The why: it's a few things.

Money seems to always be short during the holidays, because people are generally generous to those they know and love, and they want to give a lot.  But when your paycheck finds its way to cruising altitude and is barely enough to survive on, you can hardly think of how you'll rake in more for the holidays to take care of everybody... to buy the fattest turkey, give the most gifts, or throw the grandest parties.

Not being near family can cause us to throw pity parties for ourselves.  Whether it's our children or parents, siblings or cousins, it can make one feel ultra-alone to be regular-alone during the holiday season because there is a stronger contrast drawn between being away from family at a time of year when families typically find ways to come together.

Old family rivalries can be the worst.  They often drag out, lasting all the way up to the present and beyond, no matter how long ago they began.  It could be that you have one narrow-minded family member who is extremely racist or sexist and insists on airing his or her views right in the midst of that otherwise joyous holiday atmosphere.  Could be political discussions.  Could be that your uncle always gets sloppy-drunk and starts picking fights with his brother who seems to have taken the right path in life.  There's no limit on how crazy or seemingly nonsensical the cause of a holiday gathering issue can be.  We are humans.

And don't forget the weather.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is real.  Your brain works with various chemicals, and when any one or more of those chemicals aren't just right (in quantity, quality, re-uptake rate/volume, or dispersion rate/volume) then depression is one big, bad-assed beast that you absolutely will not beat without taking action.

What to do

Money: forget about it.  You're lucky if you want the easy way out, because right now, in this economy, there are some good reasons you can pull from popular headlines as to why you can't buy the quality/quantity of gifts you'd like to give away, or throw the parties, or buy the fattest turkey.  But even in a glowing economy, you should never let your financial hardships weigh on you in the way that most people do, which is to imagine what others will think.  To bloody Hell with what others think.  They are NOT in your shoes, NOT living your life, and they do NOT know what you're going through day-to-day.  It is NOT their business, and you should inform them of as much.  It is your business what you can and cannot afford to pay for, and no matter what that amount or budget turns out to be, it says nothing about you as a person.  NOTHING.  If you're a good person, you're a good person and those that should matter to you know it.  If you're not, well, they'll know that already.  Money does not fit into the equation, so let it GO. Frankly, I stay broke, and the hardest thing you can learn (but a valuable lesson indeed) is how to be broke and survive.

If you can't be near family, see that as the gift that it is.  Somebody once said, "Give your partner the gift of letting them miss you," (ok, that is a pop. culture quote that was almost certainly snatched and modded from a more classical, timeless quote, but it's solid).  That gift translates into any and all that you care about, and that care about you.  By being gone, you are forcing others to miss you.  People who are missed often can take on a legendary status, even if only temporarily, among the family/friends/significant others that are missing them, especially at gatherings where you are being talked about.  Moreover, and way more importantly, each moment that a person spends missing you (and you them) anchors deeper into your mind and heart the good will and love you have for them.  When you reunite, you will have a solid, well-defined understanding of what your world is like without them, and theirs without you.  That's golden.

Family politics can be far more daunting than anything you'll see in public politics.  There can be deep-seated rivalries and even hatreds from one member toward another.  All you can do is make sure that you do not allow yourself to be a "host" to such insanity.  When somebody starts talking politics or religion or bashing Aunt Gloria's creamed corn, you have the option to stay silent, excuse yourself, or counter-attack.  The only time you should ever counter-attack is if somebody has come under attack that is entirely innocent and you know it.  If it's political, and you feel strongly, you can simply say, "I'm not going to enter this discussion because this is a (friendly, family, co-worker/business) gathering and it's likely that people's feathers will get ruffled, and I suggest that we toss the topic out right now and switch to something more pleasant," or whatever line you want to prepare for just such an incident.  Keep in mind that some people actually seem to enjoy stirring up a shit-pot and then acting surprised when the shit hits the fan.  I know some of these people personally.

To battle the blues or its more serious cousin, depression, something as simple as standing in the sunlight for a half-hour per day can turn things around.  On a medium scale, taking some medications might put the chemicals where they should be.  If things are extremely bad for you, it may require a counseling program and a medication one-two punch.  Whatever is needed shouldn't be a factor for you; the fact that you are broken should be the only driving factor when seeking repair.

Above all, and this applies in-general terms, do not find fault in others.  If you can only take a break from fault-finding for the holidays, you'll notice that your happiness improves drastically,  Those finding fault have to spend an enormous amount of negative energy defending their own faults so they feel they can find the faults in others while on a pedestal.  And even those who find faults while admitting their own faults are subjecting themselves to the murky filth of negative thought.  Take a moment to realize that the person you're finding fault with may be, on some scales, better than you.  If you had their life, their mind, and their history, you'd think EXACTLY the way they do, and just because that doesn't groove with your way of thinking with your mind, life, and history doesn't mean there is something wrong with them.  People are different.  A relative few are truly "bad."  How about "forgiving" the faults of others or as I tell people; you can point out my faults to me when you have your own life perfected.  Forgive the imperfect.  In doing so, you'll forgive yourself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

America, stop blaming your government. She's working perfectly.

I was on the Occupy-Wall-Street-vibed bandwagon of being a hater.  Hating on my government, on Wall Street, the banks, foreign influence....  From the rise of the Tea Party to everything that followed, there has been a paralysis in our government.  What I'm going to say does not excuse the Republicans that aim to derail the current administration at any cost.  They ought to face whatever punishment we have in store for them.

But what is in store?  Just voting them out?

And on that note, I think it's time we lay the blame for this gridlock flatly where it belongs.  It's on us.

Maybe we aren't a perfect union, but in building this union, some rules and principles were adhered to rather strictly; the biggest one arguably being that our government must be of, by, and for the people.  The two-letter word I want to focus on here is "by."

We went to the voting booths (or neglected to do so) resulting in a near perfect divide in our government.  That's By the people.  We elect representatives to represent what?  Us.  They represent the majority of the area that they represent--the majority of the people and their thoughts, beliefs, and sentiments--and the result is a government so equally divided that in this tug of war, the flag isn't moving.  At all.  This battle was created By the people.

The government IS representative of US.  We are divided, as a people.  One man thinks that the right is catering to the rich not as a way to create jobs and have the goodies overflow in that Reaganesque trickle-down economy, but in order to maintain their money lines.  One lady thinks that the left is a socialist-communist plot to take away all of the money from the rich and distribute it to the poor and that it must be stomped out like a bad street gang.

WE are divided.  Our government is a perfect spectre of what we are at any given time; this government that was put in place By the people.  That means that about half of America is for Obama, his job bill, getting health care for all Americans and protecting social security and Medicare.  An equal amount of folks are for protecting big earners as job creators, and warding off that threat that the poor (a.k.a. those too lazy to work who want to take from them, a.k.a. the system) bringing them down.  Who's right?  Doesn't matter.

I believe what I believe as a moderate with a slight-leftward tilt, and who cares?  What you should care about is not only that this current government slam-dance is not of their own doing, but more importantly that we created it; not intentionally, of course, but by just voting for who we believed in, who represent what we believe in; who represent us.  We created this government, By the people.

America's government is exactly what the people have made her, so stop blaming her and instead, ask yourself why we are so evenly divided, and how to either reach deeper understanding on both sides and the center or to jolt us one way or the other or this tank ain't moving out of this mud-hole anytime soon.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Your Five Senses are Only the Beginning...

Sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing.  Your ancestors had none of these senses, at one time.

They developed over tens of thousands of years.  I don't like the term "evolution," primarily because it suggests that we are evolving toward a better end.  It's not accurate.  We change to match environment (or die) and environment is in no way intelligently shaping us to be "better." 

Is there a "use it or lose it" concept at work?  What if you lived in a soundless environment (humor me, don't hang me on technicalities)?  What good would hearing be?  Our "changes" would cast out hearing.  It isn't worthy of physical features (ears) or the brain allocated toward its function if, in fact, it serves no function.

If that's true, then couldn't we just as easily be introduced to new physical or electrical stimuli that require additional sensory features?  This "sixth sense" we keep hearing about; isn't it possible that it's just a new sense that humans are slowly developing in response to the presence of at least a suggestion (environmental) that such a sense would serve a protect-or-promote service for us?  Nature's creatures adapt.  Slowly.

I've believed for a long time that we had the capacity for--even a propensity toward--developing further senses.  And not just two or three, but maybe forty or fifty more.  Maybe hundreds.  To save you some trouble, it's almost impossible to try to imagine a sense that you currently do not have, and even harder would be to explain it if you could imagine it.  Imagine trying to explain sight to a creature that could not see (and had never seen).

It's relatively alarming when you consider that we are only looking for things we can already sense.  Do you realize how much that leaves out?  Some of today's scientists are starting to put it together.  With the rise of the term, "dark matter" and "dark energy," we have, essentially, given definition to that which cannot be experienced.  That's encouraging.  That is truly thinking outside of the box, and I think we need a lot more of that, right now, to solve/prevent problems that human beings are going through/heading toward.

One of the things that impresses me more than most other things when I'm evaluating a thinker or theorist is one's ability to break out of the extremely limiting bondage of searching for only things that can necessarily be sensed, or even just breaking out of the typical framework of popular thought.  I feel a sort of crush on this idea; I just love thinking entirely outside of the norm.  Maybe there is an adventure to it... an Indiana Jones kind of unexplored-terrain feel, but more than that, I think it's attractive and useful.  That's not to say I've done any good with it.  I have yet to unearth any useful discoveries in my purposefully zany thought paths, but that's not the point.  The point is that these zany paths are where the good stuff is... maybe I'll discover something interesting to others and maybe I won't, but I'll most certainly be satisfied just in exploring these paths with no footsteps on them.  It's almost a way of life.  It's entertaining with the tease, like a lottery ticket, of a potential big payoff.

It should be no surprise that I hate cliches.

Your senses, if humans manage to survive long enough, will continue to grow if nature offers the bait to the depths of your mind that would spark such change (not to rule out the possibility that some major, sudden change in environment could make this happen much faster).  When our offspring look back, many thousands of years from now, will they wonder how we survived without (fill in the many blanks)?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Half-times in your Life: Fear Fate or Fight Ferociously?

When I played football in high school, I never really told anybody but as the coach would have us gathered 'round way off of the field in the dark by a fence that we first peed upon before gathering near to hear the goods and the bads of the first half and the plans and corrections needed for the second half, I favored... watching the band.

They were awesome.  BOOM BOOM bom bom boom bom bom boom boom boom boom... the dancing, the energy of their performance... it fired me up, even as I struggled to see them from the steam usually rising off of our heads, making a virtual fog between those placed toward the rear (facing the band) and the band itself.  But the band performed with energy... such intense and pure energy.  The whistles of the drum majors and synced movements of the flag girls.  The fanatic beat of the drums and electric charge in the air that matched perfectly with the other instruments--this made me want to go out and destroy anybody in the wrong-colored uniform, and I usually did my fair share of it.

Injuries were throbbing by this time in the game--this half-time--as we chugged on our Gatorade and nodded at our coaches as they took turns in lecture.  The muscles in our legs were begging for relief, but something coming from a greater place than just brain-chemical magickery seemed to rise up inside most of us as we went out for the second half.  This was, in essence, the "real game..." quarters three and four. This is where you can lose all greatness you had in the first half, where you can recover from any shame you had... this is where the men really were separated from the boys because endurance was not always athletic in nature--it was of the mind, heart, and will.

Today, I got to thinking about what half-time really meant for a lot of people in different circumstances.  My nature told me to believe that half-time in life (in this case, believing that I'm about halfway through or maybe even more at the age of 39) meant a few things.  First, you better be well on your way toward fulfilling your dreams, because the "real" clock starts ticking now.  Secondly, you have no more time to procrastinate or squander even if you don't feel any needs or goals tugging at you to come toward them unless you are perfectly content to just exist (some people are, and they are ones I envy).  Finally, you are now beginning to succumb to the insurmountable forces of nature working to take you back down into the Earth.  The aches become pains, the pains become severe pains; bone is lost, muscle atrophies, testosterone levels drop, menopause, sexual desires and abilities begin to fade, weight control becomes all but impossible... oh yeah, Mother Nature is a bitch and she won't be making any apologies for it.  She's got to keep shit moving.  And she will.

I'll confess that I'm getting a bit... realist/pessimist in my thinking.  Not in all areas... just that life is painful more than pleasurable, no matter how "good" it feels to be alive as compared to ("what?").

But instead of accepting that rather bleak view I offered of what life could and possibly should be seen as as you pass through your half-time lectures, what if you chose a different view?

What did Secretariat do in the first half of his races?  Hung around in the back.  It was the second half that was his turn to whoop ass... to dig into the track with hooves of fire, not to just pass everybody... that wasn't enough... but to blaze past them like they were standing still.

What did Muhammed Ali do in Rumble in the Jungle with a younger, stronger George Foreman during the first half of their fight?  It was in that fight that he proved in many ways, not just a few, that brains beats brawn.  Not only was he throwing right leads (a punch that has to travel further to get to an opponent, meant to embarrass that opponent if he can't stop or duck it with the extra preparation time).  He hadn't thrown right leads in the films Foreman's camp studied.  He introduced a brand new strategy to the boxing world, the "Rope-a-Dope," in which a boxer absorbs the best shots from his opponent to tire him out by simply relaxing against the ropes instead of doing the traditional "stick and move."  That, also, was not in the films the Foreman Camp studied.  In fact, Foreman had been training in the ring by focusing, more than anything, on cutting the ring off--that is to say making it harder for a dancer like Ali to get away from him.

But all that training was for naught.  Because Ali stopped moving and lay stationary in the ropes.  George swung.  And swung.  And swung and swung again with loud thuds, being teased with the occasional left jab as he drew back.  People believed Ali was hurt and used up. 

As half-time came and went (the middle of the 8th round) and the 2nd half began, that's when Ali began.  Stiff jabs.  Hard counter rights.  He saw that Foreman was absolute Jello, and finally just turned on the Secretariat storm of not just competing, not just winning, but winning hard.  He knocked Foreman out before the end of the round.

I'm sure you can think of 10,000 other examples of how half-times in people's lives have not meant half-over.  They say life begins at 40.  There seems to be something to that, doesn't there?  Are the half-times in your life as well as all of those half-time moments within your life a call to accept that the first half has decided the second half, or are they, really, whatever you decide to make them be?

Monday, September 19, 2011

You will live again. And again. And again. Like it or not.

If you've never seen Through the Wormhole on the Science Channel, then you don't know what you're missing. It's not all geeked-out science, nor is it as grossly boring as a lecture in quantum physics. It really circles around life, and even the episodes that don't focus on life seem to circle around discovery and how it relates to life.

In other words, it's not all nerdy (though parts are: Dr. Michio Kaku is practically the Oriental Mr. Rogers who calls himself a conservative revolutionary... pffft) so fear not the incomprehensible depth or bore factor because neither is an issue.

There is a currently running episode or two focused on eternal life. They are truly interesting and in my usual form, I like to shop the minds of the greatest thinkers I can find to try to bring something to people that they can turn into a meal.

The theories gaining some speed seem to focus in a few different areas. In one, we manage to "upload" our brains and live that way, forever, by essentially having all of the information in our brain, including our conscious and such other intangibles, loaded into hardware. In another, we take it a step further, cloning ourselves and then downloading the mind, with all of its experiences, into the clone's brain, becoming ourselves again, only with a young body again and a new lease on life.

A couple of others are similar to each other; in one, the eventuality of the evolution of humans leads to our descendents being interested in our "time," and reviving it in order to learn about or experience it using their advanced technology, essentially creating a fake Earth with real people and events from the past (all of us) who, once created, never need to die again. The similar one suggests that time travel either is already occurring or will occur, and that anytime anybody "visits" a period that was during your life, you are, of course, re-animated and living again.

These are only a few that I've seen getting some respectable thought by thinkers among us; there are many others that are getting attention and more theories that are coming out every day. They all deserve a look, I believe, but I favor a few of these or some combination of them that makes a few things seem to be highly probable to me, and that's what I want to share.

First, although I'm not afraid to step outside of the laws of physics or thermodynamics or any other man-made "law" or "rule," when I propose a potential theory, I will stay within the confines of those laws for this post.

Time travel has not only been proven possible by mathematics already, but it has been proven physically (wiki is a good place to start if you wanna check those experiments out). While the science community wobbles on the legitimacy of the experiments and the research, most accept that if Einstein says something is definite, then it is at least possible and he was certain that space-time could be deformed, and if and where that happens (or when) time travel (and travel through space) will happen. I won't get into the time/space theories I like to probe that involve various events (I have many) like the Nazi Bell (a time machine, some suggest, designed by the Nazis) showing up in Pennsylvania in 1965 having jived perfectly with Einstein's theory--the thought that they indeed zapped from Germany in 1945 to land in PA in 1965. That's for another post... or book... but here, we'll look at how time travel and other theories suggested above will directly affect you, and how many days your brain will be allowed to exist, in total.

First, time travel. I say it's coming, or it's here. Do you? If so, this is the thing that beats me up about it: what are the chances that this moment is one you're living for the first time? If you are re-animated every time somebody visits the present, isn't it almost foolish to think that this just so happens to be our first time through? Mathematically, isn't it more likely that as you are reading this, this is your 50th, 100th, 10,000th time being in this moment? If all of space-time is connected, then this applies no matter which "species" of life is using the technology, no matter how far they are away. Arguably, they may not even have to land at a time that you existed--they may only need to pass through it in order for all of the moments between their departure and arrival point to be forced to exist again. That means you are popping back to life constantly as time travelers make their ways through time to see or experience or change whatever they are trying to do such things to.

Under that theory, you do live forever, but you never realize it.

A better theory might be this (I'll take one from above and just build on it a little): one physicist believed that eventually mankind would have evolved so far that every person and every moment will be brought back for observation... his theory was much deeper; I'm simplifying (his involved a tying in of meeting consciousness with God with all information). Here's how it can work. Look at the growth rate of our technology. It's fast. It's also accelerating. The only thing that's going to stop it is global catastrophes that take away billions of human lives and/or our ability to develop technology.

We have 4 or 5 billion years before the sun destroys our planet. We are already planning for colonizing the moon and I expect that the colonization of Mars is close behind. We will spread out. We will spread beyond our own solar system, and eventually, our galaxy. That's really a pretty safe bet. That whole, "Don't keep all of your eggs in one basket," thing has people realizing it's time to spread out just to keep our species alive. If you think about it, this isn't a lofty goal. It's a probability that borders on being a certainty.

So, we do.

Humans spread, and they develop, and evolutions begin "splitting." Humans living on a moon of Saturn are going to evolve differently than those on a super-Earth with different environments, populations, and events. What that means and what is really exciting about it is that if we humans now are essentially defining ourselves as a "missing link," that won't, of course, be missing--we are the core species from which many other families of humans will evolve. We are going to be, as they look back in 10,000, 50,000, and 100,000 years from now, the parent species.

Before I got off into another direction, though, as I'm prone to do, let's bring it back to how this will affect you and how long your mind gets to live, total.

You must know, just by the common expectation of eventuality, that one or more of those human-evolved branches of beings will come back. They will come back to this place and this time, and as their populations grow and grow, so too will their trips to "see" us. But what's different about this theory is that not only will we come back to life during each visit that happens in our time period, but they will have the technology to let us know it. That will happen either by simply informing us in ways we can't deny (showing us proof that this is not the first time we've been "alive at this moment") or they'll truly re-create us from DNA or some other science and anybody that can bring you to life using that kind of science will almost certainly have available to you the ability to visit any moments in your life however many times you want to with the clear knowledge that you are visiting a moment (or re-living it vs. just living it) in addition to that new life you'll be living that they have given you. If you want to tie this in with religion, go ahead; my problem is that religion is too simple, so I present a theory like this to say that even if there is no religion or none prove to be accurate or true, you are going to live again and you will have the option to live forever.

That, of course, brings up that question of why you might want to live forever. In my book, The Lost Dialogues of Table 18, there is some discussion of why we might even want to consider living forever... this life, filled with more pain than pleasure. All told, though, if you can live a moment or re-live it at will, couldn't you find pleasurable moments to live or re-live over and over, and won't technology have come far enough to give you a way to experience pleasure constantly, even as you explore new moments in your life (micro or bio-tech that essentially gives you the effects of a great drug, constantly)? Of course that will be available.

So, here's Kevin's good news for you. You're going to die, but you are going to be given life again--that I'm certain of, deep down. What I'm not certain of is whether or not you'll realize you're alive again. I believe it's coming--I believe that you will know you are alive again. I believe you'll have available to you choices on how to live those moments, through traveling to/through your past, traveling into the future, or just hanging out in the present, marveling at the choices available to you. In that, you can't find anything but beauty.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Help Me Fight the Creepy Smile!

Know what I love about blogging? I have two issues to address in this post, but I didn't have to burn brain wax to craft a title that would encompass them both. Easy to love that if you're a type "B," like me.

For some order, I'll keep this first part true to the title.

You probably already know what I'm talking about with regard to the creepy smile. I couldn't tell you when it started... maybe 2005ish? It's when somebody is speaking about something that is clearly and plainly not related to something a human being would generally smile about, yet they smile anyway. Not a flashy smile. Not a simple, "I'd-like-to-make-others-smile-so-I'll-toss-one-out-while-I'm-speaking," smile.... no sirs and ma'ams. This smile is a deviant smile, and it is easily spotted because it begins to slowly spread across the speaker's face, not while he's talking about a hot date he once had or a prank he pulled on somebody, as you would expect... not when he's about to deliver the punch line of a joke or say anything related to humor or sarcasm or anything else that can even be loosely connected to a normal human reason to smile or try to make others smile.

No, no.

These smiles begin to creep onto a face while one is talking about deep space or capital gains tax or sentences with the word "draconian." It comes across the faces of many prominent, regularly-interviewed folks when they are talking about the most non-smile-related shi8 you can possibly think of.
What is it? It's a sad and scary thing, all in one. It's a major and flagrant display of confidence--one that says, "I'm so gd sure of myself and what I'm saying that I'm going to make sure that you know that I have absolutely zero reserves about saying it (see my smile starting?) and, in fact, I'm so confident that I'm going to keep it on... not a flash, no, but a 5 or 10-second face deformation that shows that I'm so comfortable in my own shoes that I can talk about the decline in urban infrastructure funding while bearing my teeth, slowly, first two, then four, then six or ten. Why am I doing that as a little personality trait deal and not just keeping a straight face until the context that would support a smile arises? Well, because I saw others do it on TV or at work, so now I do it. I do it because they do it. If they are doing it, it must be cool."

The raw truth is that there is irony here, and I know that because I'm a bona fide irony hunter.
These people trying to show their strength are actually imitating others. They are being led by a weak and very creepy fad... a trend set by the pompous. My studies of psychology in school were not nearly enough to qualify me to explain this. Only the deepest thought in the inquisitive mind (about human nature) could bring this issue into the light as I am, and that's not a pat on my own back--it's an admission of an affliction. I can't stop finding this stuff.

Help me destroy this creepy trend of the haughty and their sycophants. It's truly disturbing--this creepy-smile deal--when you think about it. I hope.

When you're listening to somebody speak in person and they start giving you that creepy smile at a most inappropriate time (you'll know), simply interrupt them. I hate interrupters, but by the crack of St. Peter's white arse, I will interrupt them when they start this smile and ask, "What is that smile for? No, you were just smiling. I don't understand. I wasn't smiling at you; I was just listening with a straight face, and you were telling me about how you knew your boss delegated his hardest work to you and that you knew his job better than him and that you were getting tired of doing his work on your pay, which in no way involves humor or should invoke a smile of relief or gratitude or any other kind of known smile, yet you started smiling, got this big smile on your face as you were talking. What are you smiling for? What is the cause and meaning of the smile?"

Shine the light on them.

And while we're aiming lights around, can we focus one on anchor reporters? Well, not necessarily anchors, but the ones that are sort of shuffling the stories to and fro between field reporters?
Watch national news sometime (it happens with world and local, but especially nationally-focused news folks). You'll have a news dealer, of sorts, bringing you 1 minute spiels from the medical guy and the weather guy and the finance girl and the fashion girl and as they give their headline for the segment and finish up, the anchor-at-hand will almost always add her little 2 cents to it, when she is not the expert. What should she do? Say, "Thank you..." and move on to the next effing line on the teleprompter. Just this morning, I saw it twice; an unnamed anchor-at-hand was talking to a doctor who was talking about disease and a new organization that had been started by a family with diseased children and as he finished by saying their new "mantra," something like "Live for today, hope for tomorrow, and pray for a cure," she adds in something like, "Always be thankful for your family, for the moment, and realize how bad others have it..." blah blah mc-effing blah.

No, anchor-at-hand. No no.

You may not teach us your morals. We just heard from somebody who went to school for eight or ten or twelve years and did all the research for this story and did the story and then delivered the family/new organization's mantra and now you are going to to take that piece of cake, drop your two grains of unrefined sugar on top and sell it as your own? No, I do not accept your ploy. You go out in the field, you become the expert and do the research for your own stories, and I'll be fighting the anchor-at-hand that is trying to grab your jet pack straps to sneakily rise above the fray with you to deliver his message from the same elevation.

 Human nature. The parts that I love, I really do love. The parts that I hate are few. Unwarranted confidence, masking a weak nature to be a follower (indeed, a need to be led) is one that bothers me. Taking credit for the work of others and pushing morals (or religion/politics) bothers me. And hypocrisy (not addressed here) drives me batty. I'm always looking to enlist folks into my army that will battle uglies. Help me, please, battle these uglies.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hollywood vs. Politicians... Pick Your Damned Side

Good Will Hunting was a great movie; not one I'd watch repeatedly like Saving Private Ryan or Gladiator or Braveheart, but good nonetheless. The problem is that, I think, since that movie, Damon has taken on mostly intelligent roles wherein his character is intelligent--as his character was in Good Will Hunting--and it has crept over from his character mind to his reality mind. That would be okay if his intelligence was that high, but it isn't. And if there is one thing Americans don't like in addition to listening to somebody thinking they are smarter than they are (which usually equates to them thinking they're smarter than everybody else), it's our Hollywood people crossing over the line into the land of our politician people. As such, we don't like when stars preach to us. You have to be one or the other.

Ronald Reagan acted, then when into politics. Fine. Schwarzenegger acted, then when into politics, then acted again. No problem. Fred Thompson repeatedly broke the politics/Hollywood rule but was dismissed because he was never a major character in either place. His presidential bid was a lot like his acting career; stand behind the stars, stay quiet, and quickly bow out.

But Mr. Matt Damon has crossed a border that we don't like crossed. He has become relatively active in politics (like others have done and I believe paid a price for, ala Tim Robins). The problem with the whole thing is this: we ascribe a certain amount of hero glitter to our stars in Hollywood. They are always "good." We always like them. They become icons after only a few well-marketed movies. All that is fine and typical. The problem is that when they begin to put on their politician faces, we believe we are being sold to by a salesman who stole his selling platform by sneaking in some side door.

Let me explain.

We don't mind our politicians selling to us. Matter of fact, chances are that if they are in office, they already sold their ideas to the majority of the base that turned out to the booths. We meet them, the very first time, whether through TV or in person or internet ads or even radio and they are selling, straight away. On the very first meeting--on our first exposure to them--they are selling. We don't mind that.

But when an actor, who has gained our admiration and (somehow) trust suddenly jumps up on a soap box and starts pushing an agenda that clearly serves one or another political party, we feel betrayed. He didn't come up the hard way, selling, like our politicians did and we know our politicians already took their "beatings" of getting rejected and debated and insulted and having their private lives pretty much exposed by their opponents and government. They have worked on campaign trails, tirelessly, while our actor friends were yelling for makeup to fix their hair on windy days.

So when one of those actors pops up preaching, we are appalled and immediately want them to stop, no matter what they are pushing. You are our hero, actor, because of what you do in the movies. Don't take that status and think it'll transfer to the real world, because it will not. Real world heroes, to us, are like the ones on CNN Heroes or other ones we read about in the newspaper who sacrifice greatly to help others.

Mr. Matt Damon is among my very favorite actors. I only own a few "trilogies," but the Bourne trilogy is one of them. I identify with the character in that series closely and I don't think another actor could capture the character the way Damon did. So when he jumped up on stage recently at some education seminar or something of that nature (his mother was there, too; she's a teacher), he made me queasy. He talked to some reporter who was suggesting that he wanted to work hard because he was an actor and he had a huge motivation for working hard since acting certainly didn't offer job security, which is where he took issue. He then began lecturing her, and the problem came here: he lectured this reporter about what he called an "intrinsically paternalistic view..." regarding "ed policy..."


My Go-Go-Matt-Damon-Idolatry-Gadget snapped in half and crumbled to the floor of my mind. Is he politicking or religioning me? My sentry guns started firing at his image. My radar activated all defense systems and slammed his voice silent in my head in a matter of milliseconds. Is Matt Damon (gulp) preaching to me? Oh, no.

No, Mr. Damon. Don't preach. If you intend to get active in "ed. policy," get the hell out of my action movies first. Then, once you've taken your beatings from those who have worked a lifetime in education policy and their constituents, if you rise through that abuse and your message gains a following, I'll give you a look with my politician spectacles on, but not until then. Otherwise, get back to kicking people's asses and blowing shit up, because that's what I like you for right now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another Young Man Taken By His Own Hand: TIME FOR A CHANGE

I live in a small town. No traffic lights. Hard to find a store open past 11:00 pm. Only about 10,000 people, total, and it's on a fingernail of one of Virginia's few fingers sticking out into the Chesapeake Bay, so it's not a place you'll find through-travelers. It is at the end of a journey. When you get here, you either stay or go back the same way you came in, unless you brought a boat or aircraft.

And in this small town, like the rest, everybody knows everybody's business.

The big news last week was of a young man, barely out of high school, who killed himself. I didn't know him personally which will allow me to keep this relatively objective, although many of my friends did. I haven't heard why he took his life. From most accounts, he was a funny guy. A country boy. He wasn't the type of guy people disliked. He was on a promising career path.

I heard about this and I was immediately taken back to 1997. I was on the back-end of my freshman year in college (back when I had the fire in my belly and cared about nothing more than keeping up the 4.0 GPA which I eventually squandered). It was PSYCH 102; the 2nd half of a fat textbook we worked through, although my professor used the book rarely. He drew on his experience more than anything as a clinical psychiatrist, combined with some more rustic elements of his personality... he was an ex-Marine. If you wanted to compare him to a recognizable figure at least in personality and behavior even if only slightly in appearance, he was like Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis in the original Halloween.

Despite his somewhat rogue approach... despite his air of being a rebel, serving not the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders... the psych. field's bible), he did most of his work for free in counseling and gave at least 10% of his salary to charities every year.

Those two things alone--the charity combined with the rebellious, killer Marine with his rough edges--introduced a dichotomy in his personality, really. And that wasn't a problem; he once held up the DSM-IV and said, "I promise you that everybody in this room falls under at least a couple of the labels in this book," and for him, maybe that was a duplicity in thinking. He did seem to stay away from centrist views.

There was one thing he said, though, that I know I'll never forget. He was in the middle of lecture one evening, my pen burning up the paper on my notebook, when he brought up suicide. He might have said a couple of things about it first but he finally said, "Some people just need to go that way."

And that was the end of his very short suicide discussion.

He had led into the conversation talking about a lab assistant from his younger days who was always depressed. This man that he worked with would always slouch and appear miserable and complain about everything. It bothered Dr. Dooley. He let us know that it wasn't normal. You can't live in misery. What he was implying, far as I could tell, was if you don't have happiness, go get it. If you can't find it, oh well. "Some people just need to go that way."

I think most people can agree that they have at least imagined the early ending of their own lives. Maybe not the act; maybe just what the world would be like without them. Maybe just how nobody would have to hear their problems anymore... nobody would have to help or support them or sacrifice for them. Even perfectly healthy minds are capable of contemplation of the worst, even if the contemplation is only in its most abstract form or hypothetical form.

"Some people just need to go that way."

It sounded brash. I couldn't picture this charitable professor who had the tenacity of a Marine just giving up on somebody. He had built his life around understanding the human mind to best fix it when it was broken, and he had uttered those callous words. I think it stunned the whole class, but we paused not...

This kid named Chris hadn't apparently suffered a job loss or love life issue or loss of a loved one (those things they call "stressors" in the field... they even rank them) and had even spent time with friends not long before he ended his life. Because I do make some effort to keep my nose out of the details, I don't know what else was going on, but I do know that people that end their lives can be described by one or more of the following:

1. They are in intense physical and/or emotional pain (injuries, guilt, anger).
2. They believe that of all of the ways "out," death is the only viable one.
3. They rarely let anybody know what's coming; they just do it.
4. Occasionally, you'll see signs such as loss of interest in things they used to care about (sex, eating, social life, hygiene) or they'll give away their possessions or they'll say things with finality. But all too often, you'll have no indicators, and possibly even some deliberate misdirection by somebody so as not to raise suspicions (they may act very carefully to appear normal and happy).

So, let's have a look at this. Pain. If it's physical pain, maybe he needed meds and didn't know where or how to get them. If it's emotional pain (owing somebody, feeling guilty for having hurt somebody) maybe he needed forgiveness and didn't know where or how to get it. Whatever it is, a person hurting bad enough to want to END their LIFE needs something, and that something is relief.


"Some people just need to go that way..."

Take a quick side-trip with me: the human mind is hardly understood. What we know is we have grey matter... we have billions of neurons which, through small electrical charges caused by calcium and potassium sliding along their sheaths, store and share charges (if my memory serves... ironically). Neurotransmitter chemicals are released and re-absorbed in a synaptic event... like a bunch of fish food thrown off of one dock, picked up by another dock once it floats over there. Add in some hormones and environmental influences as well as foods/liquids/meds that combine in unique ways. It is the chemicals, their level and speed/accuracy of transmission/movement, that combine with unique memories, knowledge, behavioral patterns (learned and inherent) and other things/chemicals/reactions we have not yet discovered that make for our thoughts and actions. That soup, if you will, is never served the same two days in a row, and its contents (regardless of how many people are trying to get their names into textbooks, credited for figuring it all out) are largely a mystery.

The short version; we don't know a lot about how a human mind works. We really don't.

That kid, Chris, needed relief from something. Maybe he needed counseling, but we have not yet removed the labels placed upon those that seek such help, have we? "He's in psychological counseling," even in modern thought equates to, "He's effed up. Unstable. Can't be trusted. Genetically weak or broken. He's not normal."

We killed Chris.

Chris is gone because if he had asked for money for something he needed, the shame that WE, as a society, connect to asking for money was too much for him to imagine taking on. He is gone because WE have not recognized and made clear to our young ones that getting counseling is NOT something reserved for weak and damaged people anymore than going to the doctor when you're bleeding profusely is a sign that you aren't normal. We killed him, because whatever it was that he needed--whatever relief it was that he was looking for--had such a social price connected to it that when he put that price on a scale and he placed his life on the other side of that scale, the burden sunk lower.

Sure, it's true that people kill themselves in episodes of drinking or using drugs who would normally not consider such things, and I can't rule out that something of that nature happened. What I do know is what I've read and heard, and I've read and heard a lot.

People kill themselves because of extreme need for relief and I know that most of the time, that relief COULD have been obtained from other people by the affected person and would have if the price weren't so high. If I can't ask for money to help me buy a prescription to treat physical pain, that pain may push me over the edge, all as a result of my avoidance of the emotional pain of having to ask--the shame connected to it... the inference that I am not a man if I can't pay my own bills. If I need counseling because I'm having suicidal thoughts in my otherwise normal life, I may just jump off of a cliff because as soon as anybody finds out I'm in counseling, the labels fly and I don't want to pay that price. If a woman breaks my heart and I believe she was the one, and I can't go to my sister to vent and get re-assurance because I don't want to be labeled needy, or I can't get counseling because my friends think it would be weak ("Hey, just get over it...") then I might find some rope and a tall tree.

So it's time, my friends. Please don't read this and think a few of my friends in the city might read it, like it, and pass on the philosophy. I need everybody who reads this (and agrees, to any degree) to help by sharing your views that shame must be removed from the game. Shame must die so others do not.

I'm asking you to talk to anybody and everybody in your life that you even remotely think might be having thoughts of taking their own lives. Ask them if they are having financial problems if you think you can help. Ask them if they are in pain of any kind, and make some type of real effort to connect them with relief. Most importantly, convince them, no matter how long it takes, that there is no shame in needing help. Chris is gone. He's not coming back. What if he would have been the man that saved your child or grandchild from a burning building? What if he had a second chance and started a movement toward feeding the homeless in America or found a cure for cancer or prevented a nuclear war? From all accounts, he was certainly capable of such things and had a good heart, but he's gone. He's gone because we made it too hard for him to get relief from his situation.

This is not going to be a fast change. It's going to take years, but it shouldn't take decades. Start sharing with your friends and family that there is always a way to find relief without ending your own life. I don't want to bring philosophy or religion into this but I do need to say this; some people don't believe in an after-life and that makes them believe, to some degree, that life is pointless.

It is now up to us, with this movement away from religion, to define reasons to live for them. If they can't see the value in a life fully lived, we need to show them. Find out what their passion is and help them envision scenarios. You have the capacity, as long as you are alive, to help other people and living creatures. You have the capacity to help your environment and to add to the richness of human history. Don't cut that short. Be determined to last as long as you can, and to give when you can, and especially, be that relief that those teetering on the edge may need. Offer them what you have if you have anything. Don't assume that because they worked the day before and smiled when you saw them that they are ok; your effort must be pro-active in making sure that those close to you not only know that you are available for help, but exactly what type of help you are available for.

If you have forgiven somebody for something, don't assume that's enough; reach out and tell them in clear terms that they are forgiven, or you might just find out the hard way that they didn't know you forgave them. If you are younger and don't have financial or other big help to offer (place to live, car to use), make sure you friends know that no matter what their darkest, ugliest secrets or fears are that they can share them with you and do so with confidentiality.

If we can combine that with working, daily, to spread the word that it is not shameful to ask for help--that a person asking for help will most certainly have an opportunity to pay it back or "pay it forward,"--that getting counseling from a professional is actually a responsible thing to do--if we can accomplish those two things together, I can promise that tragedies like Chris's will decrease. Because the truth is that nobody needs to go that way.

Rest in peace, Chris. We will try not to let your passing be in vain.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sleep, I got something for you.

What is it that's in this saltwater air? This moist, summer linen that sweeps through my town.

It does something to me, for my whole life so far, to get my mind going berzerk and not let it lie down.

What will I have to do to please sleep, to get it to visit for a few hours per day?

If I ponder a ponder at what sleep might be, might she come over to me for a stay?

It's the two of us, sleep, right here and right now, bright, clear and with light on the the who, why, and how.

What if you're a spell? A daily sorcerer's recipe that repeatedly, incessantly avoids and gets the best of me?

What if that spell comes from a place that controls us? That works us like puppets? Like Muppets? Toy soldiers?

What if you, sleep, are a cloud of invisible instruction sent by some force to save SOME from miserable destruction?

Without you, it's clear that things just can't go on. Your justice made my brain stop again and my eyes are propped open. Like when cops drop a rock on a propped perp they're groping.

It's like you know, and you reward those who earn your company. Your billboard is blank when you collect your blood money.

Isn't it?

Because you don't advertise.

What if you are a sickness that man takes upon him, between dusk and dawn then again with a yawn if he doesn't drink coffee or snort something strong?

What if that sickness has no cure, neither pure nor unpure, because a man like me can't lure you for sure. My demur for your style makes my best vision blur, expected from a man who isn't sure you're a visitor.

I didn't ask to be born, and shant ask to die, and I live like a water-bug, swimming in your eye.

Sleep, are you a drug dealer that stays way back from the road, flushing minions down your toilet to mend what you sold, to give gold to the lives that you righteously stole? Are you just an asshole who gets off on the role?

Whatever you are, I'm tired of your shit. I'm tired of your game of exclusivity. Be elusive. It's conclusive. This panel has met and decided that the groupies you've excited will be failures, impaled on the drug you provided.

I might not make it long without you, a bastard I've never really known, but I'll die knowing that your blasted cover is blown.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weiner, Palin, and Uncommon Sense

Maybe because it's easier, or maybe because I've had some positive responses to it as a style, I'm going in rapid-fire fashion tonight, to try to help give some visible structure to what we are seeing and not seeing lately, what we're loving and hating, what we want to say but can't, or won't (or, maybe, shouldn't), my two cents tonight have deflated to the following suggestions...

To Weiner:

1. Get out

To Palin:

1. Stay out

2. Study

To Chris Matthews, Anderson Cooper, Bill O'Reilly, Jon Stewart, (gulp) Glenn Beck and most other media figures of today:

1. Stop interrupting guests. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. STOP. STOP. STOP. STOP. We don't expect you to let them use your show as a platform, but for God's sake, let them finish a FREAKIN' sentence! You guys mentioned above are older and ought to know better than to follow this trendy interrupt-because-I-think-I'm-smarter-and-wish-to-show-less-respect phase that the younger ones have latched onto. STOP. Let people finish a sentence or two. For viewers and guests, MAKE THEM STOP!!! Say something (guests) on the spot or write e-mails, call or set up peaceful protests. :)

To guests of above hosts (or any hosts) including field/associate reporters:

1. Answer the gd question! Do not answer, "That's an interesting question..." as it is offensive; a host tends to PRIDE themselves (hello? their, umm, JOB?) on asking interesting questions. They go get degrees and stay up late at night and rehearse and re-rehearse and get professional feedback on questions before posing them to you; they do NOT need to hear your opinion of the value of their question. Not only do they not need it, but it sounds condescending, like something a professional father/mother might say on bring-a-parent-to-school-day when a second-grader asks a "good" question. Keep your opinion of the value of the question to yourself; WE, the viewers get to decide that and if we don't like it, we'll tune out... The host does NOT need to hear that YOU think they have just asked a $64 mil.-dollar question: they DO need to hear the effin' answer!

Mika from Morning Joe (and other designated giggle/nod dudes/chicks)

1. Stop nodding and smiling like a parrot on Joe's shoulder when you have no idea what he or others are talking about. Joe, shame on you. Shame on you for bringing on somebody like her to make you look smarter. I consider that professional assault and abuse. Other designated prop. people: don't like being professional ass-kissers and foot-rugs? Stop acting like it, then.

American voters who give a damn where this country actually goes:

1. Don't vote for somebody because of their sex, religion or race.

2. Don't vote against somebody because of their sex, religion or race.

3. You're free to vote for anybody for any reason in America. But you're also free to try to belly-flop on top of a hot-air balloon from a moving 747, while drunk (after all necessary permissions are granted, ahem).

4. Stop pretending. If you want Obama out because you dislike blacks, say it. Have courage. If you voted for Obama just because he was black and you don't give a damn where America goes, say it. Have courage. If you insist on constantly defending Sarah Palin because she's a woman (when you know, deep down, that she's a functional vegetable), say it. Have courage. Why? It'll tell us where we really stand as a nation. When we stop the posturing, we start the understanding.

5. If you vote for people regardless of "party lines," because, in your heart, you honestly believe that those leaders would propel this country closer to a more perfect union... more toward freedom and security, both economically and otherwise... more toward a nation that has people in better health, in better circumstances... more toward a nation that leads not by bullying and back-alley politics but by examples through individual and group achievement... if you are not a slave to form, but to the best commonly-understood-and-agreed-upon meaning of the U.S. Constitution, based on what you honestly believe the forefathers and the many who have died in our defense wanted for this country, you have intense, sincere and ever-lasting respect from me and anybody else that I can manage to tell your story to.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. (Forgive typos; very late, very tired...)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Tangible Reminder of D-Day: Man and Child Bleed on Beach

June 6th, 1944, is the greatest day in American military history, ever, as far as I'm concerned. Thousands of brave American, Canadian, and British men rushed the shores at Normandy... many never even making it to the actual shoreline because of the shelling, MG44 machine-gun crossfire, or drowning from abandoning their landing craft and sinking with all of their gear on. The men had been giving a huge breakfast that day, too, and had a seasickness rate of about 65%. Bad, bad seasickness.

The ones that did make it to the shoreline lost even more.

The shelling continued (big artillery shells/little bombs exploding on the beach, sending shrapnel out like a thousand bullets in every direction... some of those bullets as big as baseball gloves... some as small as grains of sand--some were grains of sand). Then, if the shrapnel didn't get them, they had the concussion from the blast to worry about, which essentially shakes you to death.

If they survived those obstacles while watching their friends and fellow soldiers getting shredded and blown to pieces, they still had 800-1000 yards of beach to cross before getting to the bottom of the cliffs/hills where they could begin their assault on the bunkers that housed the enemies that were killing them by a factor of about 100 per minute.

That 800-1000 yards of beach is not only still being shot to Hell by the machine guns and artillery, but now there are land mines to step on, not to mention the machine guns are getting more accurate as you get closer. Moreover, those Hedgehogs you were able to hide behind initially (German chunks of tripodic metal meant to stop tanks and landing craft; one of four levels of barriers they had against landing craft) disappeared along that last 800 yards. Just bare, open beach, and running, charging men.

Estimates vary, but we lost about 6,000 men that morning of the Allied Forces (2,500 Americans), and that doesn't include the pilots and paratroopers that were killed the night before on botched bombing runs and drop zones, due to cloud cover.

I have two tattoos, and almost got a third. I probably would have if I could have afforded it. The thing I asked myself and answered before I got my tattoos was, "What can I put on my body that I will not ever be ashamed of?," and my answers were my daughter and my country, so I got tattoos honoring both. The third tattoo I almost got was going to be of the beaches on D-Day. I was thinking about adding an artistic element of making D-Day happen at night (maybe 4 hours before the actual landings). I still may get that tattoo.

Today is June 5th, 2011. I was at the local public beach with my girlfriend, her daughter Mallory, and her niece, Whitley. Whitley got cut. They were out on some rocks about twenty yards from the shoreline. I could see the blood coming from her foot. I rushed out to pick her up and bring her to shore, and the moment I picked her up and turned to walk back to shore, I stepped on a sharp rock and cut my own foot open.

We were both bleeding like broken dams. I kept telling Whitley that the water makes little drops of blood look like lots of blood. I kept my cool (matter of fact, I didn't even notice my own cut until one of them pointed it out, although I sure felt it when it happened... adrenaline does strange things to the mind).

We rinsed hers off in the water, and mine, wrapped our cuts in towels, and applied pressure until the bleeding stopped. Whitley said, "I feel funny." I asked what she meant and if she was dizzy. She said she was dizzy and a little sick. I told her to sit down but keep the pressure on the cut. What I didn't tell her is I was getting dizzy and sick, too. Sweat was pouring out of my pores. The nausea was staggering.

For just a moment, there, on that free, American public beach, I felt a sample of what those men at Normandy felt. In an effort to save something or someone that mattered to me, I was injured, and bled the sand red just as Whitley did. But even with all that drama, I can swear on all things precious that this statement is true: I didn't need to go through that to appreciate what those men did on D-Day. I really think about that day regularly and in high regard. But the panic, nausea, bleeding, cuts... it put me in the D-Day frame of mind, on a microscopic scale, for a few moments, and except for Whitley being cut, I actually am glad it happened, because it makes me feel closer to D-Day than I already was.

There is a reason they called them, "The Greatest Generation."

Please take two minutes to think about those brave souls that died that day, and what they lost to give us what we won.

Friday, June 3, 2011

When the planets fall, I think I may have other obligations.

I keep thinkin’ there’s a fire in the fireplace that I didn’t light.

It’s always one of the cats, licking her shoulder, flickering.

I don’t ask why the one gets confused with the other in the front and back of my mind.

Cats are not like fire, nor fire like cats.

The absence of bondage to normal Earthly fears that I’ve killed are giving me nightmares.

I usually don’t remember them. I just wake up fearless, still, and exhausted.

When a bird flies into a window, now, I look at it, and in my mind, I only shrug.
I shrug in my mind.

The reason for that is that nagging question: why should I go through the physical act of shrugging?

I used to feel fear and shock and concern for the bird.

Now, I know he’s just another living creature on the assembly line toward death.
And, if he wants to spend some of that time unconscious in my front yard, who am I to intervene?

What if there is a really advanced civilization nearby, or God? Either shows up, and there’s only one thing you can know, and that is that you are stupid. That God, or that something greater, is what we follow, because we are so easily programmed by nature to follow leaders.

And some leaders are not leaders at all; they are simply entities or non-entities that we ascribe depth of meaning and power upon or into.

I have lead a few times and believe I do it well, yet my own hate for authority pushes me naturally out of leadership positions.

I’m anti-authority, and no authority cares until they try to exercise authority over me.

Egos. Testosterone. Estrogen. Spicy food.

Ron is anti-establishment. He knows that the whole thing is rigged, and he’s not letting anybody get away with a fucking thing, ever.

Love is sweet-tasting, pink lemonade, as long as it is served in a glass, with ice, on a warm day with perfect weather, when you’re thirsty.

My head aches, roughly. Everything below it is in a state of accelerated dying.

I wish when I died, I could keep my brain alive in a jar for a while until I was actually tired of thinking.

Have you noticed that all the fears you have, or almost all of them, never materialize? How many have killed you?

A baby will love you, then like and love you, then love and hate you, then hate you, then love you, then love you for the rest of your life.

We have five senses that we know of. Do you realize that, biologically, the number of potential senses is endless? What if an adjacent society has 22 or 545 senses? You cannot imagine that, can you? I could, because I’ll just start guessing and never stop. Until my brain is in the jar, and I've imagined them all.

Pork is not the other white meat.

How can somebody praise God emphatically for letting them live as they survive a tornado, while claiming that they are a christian who is promised a castle in the sky, where there is no pain or traffic jams or sprained ankles.

We're so limited. So, so limited.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Little bits of knowledge that oughta be beaten into people, if necessary

1. Lose and loose are different words with different meanings.

2. Barack Obama is not black, and is not our first African-American president. He's bi-racial, being 50% white and 50% black.

3. The thing in the middle of the road is not a medium. It's a median.

4. Using cliches when speaking to people and expecting them to act surprised at your originality or intelligence should be punishable by law.

5. Negative people suck (keep in mind, the rules listed here aim toward making a more positive world by lifting the moods of all of us).

6. Don't bring your drama to work. Ever.

7. Stop trying to "teach" your kid by their early 20's, and accept them for who they are. If it doesn't pain you, too much, give them encouragement and praise. (Sarcasm was necessary).

8. When people ask how you're doing, spill your guts sometime. They'll probably never ask again.

9. Racists and sexists suck.

10. Just because Obama won doesn't mean black people are "beating whitey."

11. If Obama loses, it will not mean white people are "beating blackey." Get past race, people; nobody gets to choose which color they will be, and none are "better" than another. If you must judge, judge people as individuals.

12. You can't prove your religion is right and that another is wrong, so stop shoving it down other people's throats and accept that all you really have is faith and hope that you are right.

13. Don't preach about any religion that you can't even follow the rules of.

14. Cheating on your other half is the most painful thing you can do. For most, that "act" is one of trust and intimacy, and if you break it, you have broken everything. Plus, if you have to cheat, are you with the right person?

15. The Washington Capitals will eventually win a Stanley Cup.

16. Just because somebody is family doesn't mean they should necessarily own your acceptance and respect without earning it. Family or not, if they are negative, condescending, or judgmental, cast them out of your life (unless they are your child; that's the only exception). If someone's life is half wrecked already, they sure shouldn't be criticizing the life choices of another family member.

17. Pot is not harmless.

18. Alcohol is as dangerous and deadly as any poison out there; stop down-playing it.

19. Men are biologically, by design, prone to "dominating the gene pool." It is only the most civilized among us that can say "no" to this natural tug in order to respect our partner. Women also cheat way more often than the statistics will show.

20. Women are biologically, by design (or eventual biological progression) better able to multi-task (I'm a huge follower of evolutionary psychology even though I believe evolution itself is a farce): imagine the cavewoman for thousands of years that had to hear the baby, listen/smell for local food, and deal with the horny caveman on her rump all at the same time. It stuck.

21. Just because men aren't as likely to be able to multi-task doesn't make them "dumb." Men can focus laser-sharp in areas where women typically cannot (the multi-tasking strength can become a curse, just as the focus can for men).

22. If you just FOLLOW the natural, legal order of traffic on the road, things will move more quickly than if you decide to stop and wave on another person. Those with solid green lights do not yield. Those turning right have priority over those turning left, all other things being equal. SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT. Turn signals are as much a courtesy as a law. Take it easy on the brakes, gas, and turns.

23. Don't close your mind on any subject, or you have killed any chance to gain further education on that subject. Leave a "working truth" in your mind, subject to change based on convincing evidence.

24. No invisible guy is better than any other invisible guy, and if your religion promotes killing or harming others, then your religion can kiss my hairy, white caboose. If your belief in your religion has no reasoning other than you were "brought up" that way, you should be ashamed. Know why you believe what you believe, and if you can't disprove another religion, don't dismiss it. You have a right to believe in your faith and practice it to perfection, but you do not have a right to punish others for not believing what you believe.

25. There are 7 billion people in the world; you are not THAT important, but you do matter, as does everybody else.

26. You are no better than any other human.

27. Legacies are created by deeds, not beliefs (making a note).

28. The world is not out to get you. Nor does the world revolve around you or exist to serve you. You are a part of it, and that's that. You make do with what you have and what you can get, or you don't make do at all.

29. Global warming is real. And if you say, "It was 10 degrees on a late spring day, and they say there's global warming!" you really, really, really need to educate yourself on the issue before speaking again.

30. You can't do it alone.

Your comments are welcome! Please add to my list; it will be a book, sooner rather than later.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Patience, for writers and everybody else

Fast forward through my first twenty years.

I was 21. I was in the Air Force, in a little town called North Pole, Alaska (the base was Eielson AFB and was not in North Pole; I lived in North Pole). I was not only doing the Air Force thing, but I was also writing for the local paper, the North Pole Independent. Somehow, I even got an exclusive interview with Olympic gold and silver-medalist, Tommy Moe.

But those weren't incredibly important to me. Sure, getting my first check ever for writing, for $85 which wasn't shameful in 1993, was cause for celebration. Especially sweet was that I took over feature writing, and the paper let go of their 4-year college-grad. lead journalist. I didn't need any patience; those things were almost a gift. An instant career with the Air Force. An instant, fulfilling hobby/side-job with writing for the paper.

What took the patience was the third thing I was doing. For the first and only time, I coached a little league football team. It was a first-year team, and I was a first-year coach.

Imagine having 30 kids buzzing about for 2 hours per day, from 8-11 years old. Now, organize them into defense, offense, special teams... separate line players from backfield players. Practice blocking, passing, dodging, hitting, tackling, handoffs, and other tactical processes while teaching them the discipline and focus needed to win, all the while making it FUN. Now, halfway through the season, take a cheerleader for the team and incorporate her into your offensive line as an offensive tackle, because, by golly, she wanted to play football. She hung up the pom-poms and bought some cleats.

Now, there's patience.

And with patience, you get good things. We won that year; even though we lost twice (our only two losses of the season) to a team known as the Fairbanks Bulldogs, a good friend of mine and assistant coach Mike Dubowski who played college football helped me coach the North Pole Lions in how to stop the Bulldogs, so that when the season was at an end and it was time for the "Arctic Bowl," our Superbowl, we won 26-0. The League president walked over, through the snow that had fallen and handed me a 5-foot tall trophy. I handed it to the kids and said, "I didn't do it. They did." (The man then said, "Ok but don't let them break it...").

Point of all this is that I'm living proof that although you may get some instant successes in your life, you can't get rejected a couple of times and then give up on a thing. You can't assume or believe that if something has beaten you before, it will again. You can't snap when the stressors in your life pile up and just "go off" or quit. If your ultimate goal is success, all you need are three things and I'd bet my very life that you get your success, and those are: patience, confidence, and determination.

Go get 'em. Be a Lion.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book excerpt: Flight Fortamente, Vol. II of the People Phenomenal series

Hans sat on the floor of his cell. He looked at the bleach-white, thick band that was wrapped around his left ankle. The rumor had only been part true. There wouldn’t be any shocks if they made it outside the perimeter of the prison, unless warden Denny "Dick" Jennings was just holding back that little fact for an extra surprise if somebody made a break for it. It would just set off every alarm known to man. Dick had bragged and raved, over and over… “Wave of the future…” “It will trip flood lights, silent alarms, loud alarms, and we can add whatever we want to it,” Dick had said, hands on his hips, chin tucked back into his three other chins.

“You guys gonna love the next thing,” he had said as they lined up in the cafeteria and started having the bracelets put around their ankles by two men in shirts and ties among six guards.

“Your hero is going to put trained K9 dogs—the ones that had a bit too much ‘aggression’ to be used by police—I’m gonna put those bad boys in cages that get automatically opened if the perimeter of this fine domicile is breached. But,” he had said, walking down the long, single-file line, pointing one finger in the air, “your hero is a fair hero. See, I’m gonna give you a chance. I personally have elected to only put the tracking range of the devices at four-hundred yards. If you can get over our impossible primary wall which, as most of you veterans know, is seventy-five feet high and smooth as shale, then get past our highly-trained, extremely observant guards, then over the twenty-five yards of razor wire, over the seventy-feet-tall secondary wall, where, upon your descent, my dogs will have already been turnt loose to offer you what your hero is going to call a ‘Welcome-to-Freedom Committee,’ if you can get past them and over the final, third wall which is a mere fifty-five feet high, with my highly trained marksmen shooting at your dumb, escape attempting asses, and you can get four-hundred yards away from the perimeter, still alive… well,” he said, his smiling face changing to a serious one—he believed he was an excellent actor … “Hell, you got a chance to escape your hero.”

He looked around to see who might make eye contact.

“Now,” he said, hands back on his hips, “I know how much you love this hero, so I have zero doubt that you would have no desire to leave these fine accommodations that I and your government are providing for you,” he said. “But, if you should,” he said, smiling again, catching as many eyes as he could before speaking again, “I’m going to ask my gentlemen marksmen to hold off, and we’re gonna let the dogs welcome you into freedom. And every dog has his day,” Denny “Dick” Jennings yelled, then, shouting quickly,” ain’t the right, Wacko Hansy Fonzie?”

Hans looked up, wanting to lay low but knowing that laying low would raise suspicions… he was, on the deepest threads, popular with the other men because he never cowered to warden Dick Jennings, and the fact that he did not befriend anyone made his allure even stronger… he was mysterious to them. He marched to his own drum… some said just a crazy loon, others said he must be the guy that they based the character of Michael Myers on in Halloween… even Biggie Smith, the giant black man serving life plus 20 that ruled everything Dick couldn’t get his paws on, had mentioned that he wouldn’t mess with Hans, saying, “It could make for unnecessary hostilities,” which was Biggie’s way of sounding smart while paying tribute to someone who may be, at least in some cases, worthy of his own feeling of fear.

But time was ticking, and all eyes were on Hans. And one area Hans was admittedly weak in was finding balance in-between two extremes.

“Yes, sir. Every dog does have his day. Even that wretched bitch you call your momma.”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book excerpts: The Unbitten Onion, Powerhorns Study

Winding down a seven-year study focused on enhancing and promoting effective communications between individuals, the American Communication Association released preliminary results Friday, citing the most effective supplement to meaningful communications is the electronic power-horn, the latest form of the dated megaphone.

Spokesperson and study participant of the ACA, Mehki Vivu, claimed that this type of tool should and will be used more often. "Take a standard two-person conversation; you get lots of nods and head-shakes, but the people aren't really hearing one another. They're just waiting their own turn to speak." Picking up a 10-watt power-horn with built-in siren and detachable mic, she demonstrated. "Can you hear me now? God##amn right you can."

The study focused on two-person communication aids in three individual settings: home, work, and social. School was not chosen as a setting due to various laws regarding state-run schools and noise/interference policies.

To do the home environment, the ACA chose hundreds of families across the U.S. to participate in the study. One participant, Doug Baker of Nags Head, NC, reported dramatic changes in the way he and his wife communicated with one another. "First thing in the morning, I'd grab the horn and get right up next to her in bed. Then I'd say, 'Honey, do you want eggs or pancakes?' Up she'd come, swingin' and spittin'." Before that, claimed Baker, she would just mumble and continue sleeping.

In the work environment, results were mixed, but with overwhelming favor toward the power-horn.

Vivu personally tried the power-horn tactic at several retail outlets, including McDonald's. "Normally, before this [power-horn study] I would order a double-cheeseburger without pickle, and invariably, it would either have pickle, or I would get like Chicken McNuggets instead of what I ordered. So in three of the McDonald's that I went into, I said the very same thing; 'I want a double-cheeseburger withOUT pickles,' right into my 10-watt power-horn. Not once did my order come back incorrect."

Although Vivu's McDonald's orders were correct each time, she did have other problems. On her second visit to the golden arches, a customer in front of her passed out after her announcement. He had been wearing a particularly sensitive hearing aid, according to witnesses. On her third visit, a frightened worker launched herself out of the drive-thru window into a customer's vehicle, later claiming that she thought it was a robbery. "Small stuff," claimed Vivu. "Those things happen everyday--the difference now is that we can get the correct order, every time. It's worth a little confusion, isn't it?"

In a social setting, the power-horn was rated top-notch for getting a message across. Study participant Andrew Behrmer of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, took his power-horn to the beach with his wife and children. "My target," said Behrmer, "was the people who somehow manage to get sand on you. Happens every time. You have your little spot, away from everybody, but they throw a frisbee or whatever and next thing you know, your ham sandwich has crunch nuggets."

The first person Behrmer used his power-horn on was a three year-old boy who was chasing his beach ball too close to Behrmer's blanket. "Yo! Stop there. I'll get your ball, kid," Behrmer said through his more powerful 70-watt power-horn (necessary, according to him, because of the breeze on the beach). "The boy never stopped moving; he was coming at us quick, and when I hollered into the horn, he stayed quick, just in the opposite direction. His parents came to inquire but I held them at a distance with, 'Stand back, or I will increase the volume.'"

In another social setting, Behrmer targeted people who's car stereos were too loud. "At one stop light, this guy had some kind of techno-rap song playing so loud that my rear-view mirror was rattling. I came up with the power-horn and cranked her full power--said, 'Turn that sh$$ off before I throw my wife at you.' Zip. Silence. That felt good--I did it for the rest of the day at different traffic lights."

As the news was released about power-horns, manufacturers are scurrying to up production to meet the expected demand. Vivu is optimistic about the change, claiming that if people could only communicate more accurately with one another, half of the problems in our daily lives would disappear. "And don't forget the pure entertainment value of the power-horn," said Vivu. "Ever walked up behind somebody in a bathroom and barked out a Howdy-Doody with one of these? It's priceless."

--The Unbitten Onion, Issue #31, Study Reveals Boost in Communications Through Power-horns

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stuff you probably didn't know about my books: Alt's Name

Alt's name came from a cat I used to have. His name was Alton. I couldn't resist; I was at the SPCA one day, checking out dogs and cats when this Air Force couple walked up and asked if I was looking for a cat. I said no. They said that they couldn't bring him on their change of station, so they would be giving him back to the SPCA where they got him. So I took him.

What is unique about Alton is that he had been hit in the head with a hammer by their two-year-old son (he was just playing) and as a result, Alton could often be seen staring off into space. The choice was clear.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book excerpt: The Lost Dialogues of Table 18

“Here you go,” I said. “How about if we put the popular thoughts up and lace them together. Bill Cosby said, ‘The problem with women is that they are always ‘c’mere, c’mere, c’mere, get away, get away, get away!’ Then the Venus/Mars dude said just that; we’re from two different planets. He also said men favor their ‘caves’ for retreating to during arguments, in order to figure things out, while women want to solve it right then and there. He said women are vocal creatures… wanna talk about any issue, all the time, right away when it happens. Men, he suggested, needed time and space to figure out anything related to the relationship and other issues, really. He basically said that men do not do dialogue to solve problems. And to be honest, we don’t.”

“The dude was right,” he said.

“He must not have included guy-on-guy dialogue though because as far as I can tell, you and I are solving the problems of the universe, right here at table 18, are we not?”

“No, not really. He was right. Guys aren’t constructive with dialogue; we have merely found ways to entertain ourselves with it.”

“Deep, bro. Seriously.”

“That guy did pin down some truths, though. Especially the cave and the dialogue,” he said.

“Yeah, but that was only a couple of ornaments on the real tree of man v. woman. Plus I think he ended up getting divorced. How about the old saying that if you put a nickel in a jar every time you have sex in your first year of marriage, or, in more modern realities, the first year of your relationship, then you take one nickel out every time you have sex after your first year of the relationship, you’ll never empty the jar?”

“You paid for sex?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Not directly.”

--The Lost Dialogues of Table 18, Ch. 5, "Men and Women"