Friday, December 31, 2010

Privacy Issues




First, let me apologize for the low light level of this video. If we'd had any idea we were going to get something worth sharing out of this little venture, we would have left the lights on. We set up the laptop with a webcam to record what our hounds were doing while we were out. We did this because we worry about the new hound, Bean, getting into some mischief now that we are letting him roam free instead of putting him in his crate. When we got home we discovered that the video had stopped. We had to watch to the end to see what happened.

Turn your sound up so you can hear the snuffling and the key clicks. I love this dog.

Somehow Bean discovered the key to toggle the record function off. Hell, I don't even know where that is. I use the mouse. Now I have to believe that the dog is a technical genius - at least by canine standards. Guess we'll have to put the keyboard up higher next time, out of his reach...or not.

Maybe I should just respect his privacy issues.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Obsessions Collide

Some things aren't made to go together. On the other hand, sometimes seemingly incompatible items are forced together by circumstances. For example, the more you spend on your car, the less you have left to spend on your house. Or, conversely, the less you spend on your house, the more you have left over for a really nice car.





Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taking Up Golf after Sixty: Soothe the Soul and Vex the Intellect

Oh dear! I seem to have shanked my last drive into Lord Vader's BMW.

I've spent most of my life avoiding golf. I've never been very sports-minded, probably because neither of my parents were. Mom thought sports were trivial, and Dad carried a pronounced and physically limiting limp, the result of being struck by anti-aircraft flak in the belly of a B-17 during World War II. My best, and perhaps only, sporting triumph was a fluke home-run during a pick-up softball game on the last day of 8th grade. As to golf, the prospect of chasing little balls around in an electric cart with a bunch of yahoos in gay-palette pants and silly shoes didn't hold a lot of appeal for me.
I have almost always worked for men who played golf. A few of them were passionate about it. Several of them cheated at it. I figured if I spent 5 days a week, and often 6, being abused and swindled by these men, why would I add a 7th day of misery to my lot by taking up their sport, which undoubtedly I would have to play with them. Sunday was sacrosanct. Sunday was my day not to be abused, cheated, or otherwise taken advantage of.
Even so I have always been interested in golf for the simple reason that golf stories are fascinating to me. At some level, all golf stories seem to stand for something larger and more significant than the mere hitting of balls, looking for balls, and hitting them again. Some of the best jokes I know are golf jokes. That golf is philosophical is evidenced by the fact that the best of the golf jokes contemplate the availability of tee times in the afterlife and the fact that God Himself is a player, although perhaps not so good a one as Tiger Woods before the fall.
Best-selling novelist and environmentalist, Carl Hiaasen's, book, Downhill Lie, an account of his year-long quest to get game, is a fascinating compendium of humor, tragedy, and Stygian complications. Hiassen gives great credence to Arnold Palmer's assertion that golf “satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect.” Golf resides somewhere between physical and mental activity. Golf's difficulty seems rooted in the inability of the mind to consistently get the body to do what it wants. Even though golfers focus relentlessly on as many of the structural components of the perfect swing as they are able to keep in mind at one time, every bad stroke seems the natural consequence of a mental deficiency and every good one seems a happy accident.
Golf is custom tailored for over-thinking. Hale Irwin once said: “Golf is the loneliest sport. You're completely alone with every conceivable opportunity to defeat yourself. Golf brings out your assets and liabilities as a person. The longer you play, the more certain you are that a man's performance is the outward manifestation of who, in his heart, he really thinks he is.” How can you help but be overwhelmed by the gravity of a belief such as that. This explains, I think, why so much has been written about golf and why so much money is spent by golfers trying to improve their games. They are not primarily interested in the golf so much as improving the inner person for which golf provides the best testimony. The problem of golf is that, when it comes to this evidentiary testimony, even incremental improvements are elusive...and maddeningly so.
I bring all this up because I went to play golf for the first time in my life last week-end. I'm not counting miniature golf, computer golf, or the two times I found myself on a par three course in my late teens. I should probably concede one round played on a full size course at Sheppard Air Force Base in 1970, but that was more than 40 years ago and I did not go willingly or happily. I took twelve strokes on the first hole, which was my best hole of the outing. Even last week-end I didn't really play golf. I went to a driving range with my brother-in-law, and hit two buckets of balls.
My wife gave me a gift certificate to the range to do this because I happened to mention in passing a couple of weeks ago that I had been thinking of taking up golf. She is a good wife to indulge me like that, although I suspected for a time that her reason for giving me the certificate was to ensure that I never actually took up golf.
It has been my fate since we met to give up the pursuit of anything for which my wife ever gives me a gift. So when she gave me a bowling ball one Christmas, I never went bowling again. When she gave me a set of panniers for my bicycle on my birthday, I never rode that bike again. When she gave me a set of stackable airfoil kites one year, just because she knew I would love them, I flew them one time. They have been in a box in the garage for the 20 years since their maiden flight.
So I suspected, quite naturally I think, as she had seemed less than enthusiastic about my announcement that I might take up golf, that she might have been taking out some insurance, as it were, against my throwing myself headlong into the misery that is the greatest game ever invented. She denies any such intent, and I'm inclined to believer her, but it would be just like her to manipulate the fates like that in order to protect me from myself. She does know a thing or two about golf after all, and its attendant sorrows, as both her dad and her ex-husband were avid duffers.
Saturday morning we packed a bag of clubs and headed out to the range. The range itself was unkempt to the point of shabbiness. The cost however was $17 for the two of us for a whole day and an unlimited number of balls. For that kind of money, a little shabbiness does not dampen the fun. My brother-in-law hit his new titanium driver. I hit his number one wood. In a short time we had whacked ourselves into a state of relative contentment.
After I got into the rhythm of it, I began to think that I was doing rather better than I had a right, given my advanced age, diminished fitness, and general lack of experience. I was consistently hitting the wood about 220 yards in the air, and a couple of balls sailed out around the 250 marker. Some of my shots were flying straight as arrows. I had a tendency to slice, but I'm told this is a common problem, and my slice was not as bad as some I’ve seen from guys who spend a lot of money and time at golf. All in all I was pretty satisfied.
After about half a bucket of balls each, we switched clubs. The driver was longer but lighter than the wood. At first I didn't like it as well. I had gotten acclimated to the wood. Its shorter shaft and heavier head felt more natural in my hands. I kept after it with the driver, and soon I was hitting it as far as the wood. No further, though, which I found curious but not unsettling.
I was still having fun. There is something innately satisfying about hitting a golf ball, repeatedly, as hard as you can. It is a calming thing. It soothes turmoil and renders one all placid within. It is meditative and relaxing. I decided, my wife's gift notwithstanding, that I wanted to do it again. That was before the pro showed up.
The pro came by to drum up a little business. He was in his seventies, a lifetime PGA member and teaching professional. He was blessed with the gift of gab. He was originally from my parents' home town in Ohio. That meant he came with a familiar way of expressing himself and a familiar set of Midwestern sensibilities. I liked him immediately—even before I knew where he was from. That was before he tried to teach me how to improve my swing.
An effective golf swing is a rare and wondrous thing. It is composed of many small bits of posture, motion, and timing—some of them physical, some of them mental, and most of them completely unnatural. Yet when they all come together properly they look to all the rest of the world like they are fluid, organic, and cohesive. For the person swinging the club, however, nothing could be further from the truth.
Some anonymous wag once remarked that a proper golf swing only requires that you keep about 300 things in mind as you perform it. My guess is that this is a very optimistic estimate as to the actual number. I say this because I have, just in the past week, noted at least that many things in Internet posts about golf that I need to adjust in order to get rid of my slice. If you need to be aware of that many things just to fix a fade, imagine how many more you need to keep in mind to perfect an entire swing over a range of clubs, lies, and circumstances.
You can find a computer that will process the millions of possible moves in a chess game to come up with the sequence to beat even pretty excellent human opponents. You cannot, however, find a proper humanoid robot that can swing a golf club with good results. The reason? You can't get enough memory into one robot to process all the things it needs to remember correct its swing. Modern science is capable of sending C-3PO into deep space, but it can't give him a 5 handicap.
The pro wanted to prove to me that it would be worth my while to take some lessons from him. To make his case that he could help me, he had me hit a ball. I actually hit a pretty good one—about 220 yards and straight as a Rotarian. He got a little twinkle in his eye.
“You sure this is you’re first day hitting a golf ball?” he asked.
I thought he was going to tell me I had the greatest untapped natural ability he had ever seen in a 62 year old fat guy, and that with a little work and some expert coaching, he could have me on the senior tour in a few months time. He didn’t tell me that.
Instead he said that he thought I had an okay backswing, but I wasn't getting any power in my drives because I was hitting flatfooted. I needed to get my hips into play, he said, and I would be hitting the ball a lot further. He stayed to work with me until we saw some results from his instruction. By this point you probably will not be surprised to hear that this took longer than either of us imagined.
Before the pro arrived, I was only thinking about one thing when I swung the club, and that was to pull the stroke through with my left arm. I don't even know where I came up with the idea that I needed to do that—probably from a magazine I picked up in a doctor's office back when I had medical insurance. I don't even know if it was sound advice. I do know that when I remembered to think about it, my slice disappeared and my drives went straight. I thought it was pretty remarkable how that one little half-remembered tip was paying off for me.
The pro started adding new things for me to think about. He wanted me to swivel my left hip forward at the end of my back-swing, and to follow it forward with the rest of my body during the swing on the ball. He wanted me to pivot on my right foot and lift my right heel in the follow-through. He wanted me to square my shoulders to the ball and keep my left arm stiff. He wanted me to allow my arms to follow my body around. He wanted me to be natural and fluid. He said that if I felt unnatural and uncomfortable, that would mean that I was finally making progress. It would mean that I had actually changed something. I made quite a bit of progress by this reckoning. By another reckoning, the less ethereal and more objective reckoning of hitting the ball further, I made no progress at all. After I started processing all this new information, my average distance diminished to the point where I was lucky to hit one out of my own shadow.
In the pro's defense, he did eliminate one thing to think about. He said I didn't need to worry about where the ball was going. The swing was the thing. The ball was meaningless. It's a good thing he told me that because, had he not, I would still be concerned about the fate of some of those balls. They disappeared off the tee as if by magic, and I have no earthly idea what direction they took. I never saw them again. My wife might as well have given them to me for Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Naming the New Dog Blues

der Beanerschnitzel

The Bloggess has a very funny post up about a new kitten they just got named Bob Barker...or Anderson Cooper...or Pterodactyl. I'm not quite sure which at this point because the cat's name seems to be in a state of flux, and understandably so, as they are letting the cat have some say in the matter.
I totally understand how this works as we also had some difficulty coming up with an appropriate name for our new dog, Bean, although after two months time Bean's name is mostly stabilized. Bean is a 5-year-old greyhound that just came off the track. When we got him his name was Blue, and therein lies the story.
Blue was supposed to be a blue fawn in color. He's registered that way. I've always wanted a blue fawn hound. Blue fawn is an unusual and striking color. In my mind anyone who has ever seen a blue fawn hound forever after covets a blue fawn hound. Blue fawn is a designer color—opulent, velveteen, subtle. It is comprised of fawn hair shafts tipped with gray. Gray greyhounds are called blue. Blue greyhounds are rare. Blue fawn greyhounds are rarer still. On balance the color of blue fawn is taupe, but there is an almost iridescent quality to it. It changes with the background and the lighting. It is silvery or bronze according to the necessity of its surroundings. It is what it needs to be. It is magical. It goes with everything.
Going with everything is a useful quality in a greyhound's coat. An adopted greyhound it is going to spend a great deal of the rest of its life curled up on your furniture in iconic repose. Once you realize that the hound has become part of your d├ęcor, you are going to have to work it into your color scheme. There are only two possible ways to do this: change the color of your dog or change the color of your rooms.
Notwithstanding the existence of neon hued poodles, you cannot change the color of a greyhound. Greyhounds are too naturally regal to tolerate this kind of foolishness. That means you are going to have to paint your walls, replace your carpeting, and buy new furniture. That means, once you have a hound, you are limited to a design palette that matches your dog. What a happy circumstance then to be blessed with a dog that goes with everything. It is for this reason that whenever a blue fawn hound comes available for adoption, it is snapped up within minutes by people in the know. This is what was supposed to happen to us.
We were in the know. We were first to find out that a blue fawn hound was coming off the track. We weren't in a very good position to take on another dog. We already had a sweet little brindle girl in our tiny house, and I was still unemployed. On the other hand we might never get another chance at a blue fawn. Most people have never even seen a blue fawn hound. We were getting first crack at taking one home. We decided to go have a look.
We took the brindle to meet the blue. She would have the final vote. If she didn't like him, he'd just have to go elsewhere. If she did, well that would just ice the cake. I already knew how it was going to go for me. I'm a sucker for greyhounds. Besides the brindle we've had for 8 years now, we've tried to foster two other greyhounds. Fostering is taking care of them in your home while the agency tries to place them in a permanent home.
I say we tried to foster because I didn't get either dog all the way home before I decided we were going to adopt them ourselves. They were just that charming. So fostering didn't work out so well for me. I needed a deeper commitment, so I made one. I figured the same thing was going to happen with Blue. Once I saw him, I was going to want to keep him. But I was really only going to look because he was a blue fawn. I may be a sucker for greyhounds, but I am a slave to fashion.
When we got to the kennel, the director came running out to meet us as we were getting out of the car.
I'm so sorry,” she said. “You're going to hate me.”
I didn't really think so at that point, but I've learned over the years never to underestimate people's capacity to piss me off.
Why is that?” I asked.
He's not a blue fawn.”
What is he then?”
Fawn. Plain old fawn.”
How did that happen?”
I don't know. All his paperwork, all the way back to his initial registration, says he's a blue fawn. He's not though. There's not a blue hair on him.”
It must be the wrong dog then,” I ventured.
No. I checked his tattoos. He's Blue, but he's not blue.”
I was thinking just then that I might be a little blue. I'd just driven two hours on the promise that I could have a blue fawn dog. I couldn't. However it came about, the promise was a sham—a trap to suck me in and dash my hopes. This was all beginning to sound familiar. It was beginning to sound just like the rest of my life. Expect one thing...get less. I knew the drill. I was going to have to figure out how to settle for what I actually had coming to me. I know how to do this. It's one of the things that makes me too wonderful to deserve the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.'
They had some other dogs we could look at. I tried several. There was a big black and white spotted boy that looked like a holstein. He was missing half his tail, and he pulled on his leash like an ox. I didn't need that. We had a labrador/chow mix once that pulled on his leash. He pulled my wife's shoulder out of joint. I had to twist her arm back into its socket. I learned two things doing that. One, I can do a lot of disagreeable stuff if I really have to, and two, orthopedics can be really disagreeable.
There was another fawn boy, besides Blue, and a dark brindle girl. I considered the girl for a while. She was a pretty little thing, but she also was a little churlish to my taste. I'm the designated churl in our family. I don't need any help, and I don't need any competition. The fawn boy, the one who was neither blue nor Blue, was skittish and slovenly. I knew he would clean up, but I really didn't want a timid, fearful dog. You just never know what to expect from them, and I don't have the patience or the expertise to rehabilitate one.
the very cool scar with stitch tracks!
The best of the lot then turned out to be Blue...even though he wasn't blue. He was a little ratty looking too, and he was sporting a fresh 6 inch scar on his left flank. The stitch marks were still raw and pink. I was concerned that he might have been in a fight, but it turned out that he had torn his side on a fence at the track compound.
Greyhounds are notoriously thin-skinned. It is unusual to get one off the track that doesn't have scars or other signs of a strenuous and hazardous existence. Blue's scar was an impressive one in scale and shape. It gave him an air of danger and mystery, when in fact it was born of sheer clumsiness. It was kind of like the eye patch on that guy in the old Hathaway shirt commercials. Blue might have been a pirate in a former existence. His disposition was friendly and genteel, but the scar made him look a little dangerous. I liked him. Our brindle seemed to like him too, and that clinched the deal for me. We took Blue home.
We started thinking of new names for Blue on the way home. He'd been called Blue for five years, but near as I could tell he had never actually been blue except on paper. The obvious misnomer did not sit well with me. There was no way I was going to call a golden dog blue. The very notion offended me.
We came up with a few notable names including Old Yeller and Scarface, but neither of those was very satisfying. Old Yeller ended up sadly, and Scarface was just wrong on several levels. I thought of Schweppes, and kind of liked it, before I realized that the Schweppes tonic guy was not the guy with the eye patch. He may have had a pirate kind of look and feel, but schweppervescence is not the equal of an eye patch when it comes to commanding admiration.
Hathaway would have made a classy name, but it may have been too classy. You can't shorten Hathaway up very well, and you certainly can't call a dog by a three syllable name when you are trying to get him to stop eating your shoes or the TV remote. That's when you need a short, distinctive name that gets his attention without making him feel like he is more distinguished and better looking than you are—no matter how much he may in fact be. No, Hathaway wouldn't do either. (Besides I didn't remember that the eye patch guy was from Hathaway until I just Googled it 10 minutes ago.)
Nothing else really tripped my trigger. I was going over stuff to say about the dog in my mind, hoping that something about him would suggest a name. That's when I was suddenly overwhelmed with a foul odor from the back of the car. A green cloud of noxious gas settled over my ruminations. I knew it couldn't be our brindle because I had never fed her road kill or swamp sludge. That's when it came to me.
How about Beano?” I asked my wife.
Beano? What's that got to do with anything?”
Well, we drove down there to see a blue dog. When we saw him, we looked all over his hide and hair very carefully, and saw that there be no blue.”
That's it,” she said. “You're going to make his name a bad pun with bad grammar?”
You have a problem with that?”
I have a problem with Beano. It sounds like that gas pill.”
I know. Isn't that great?”
We started out calling him Beno, and spelling it B-E instead of B-E-A, but we were always thinking of B-E-A, so we changed the spelling to what everyone was thinking anyway, and then we shortened it to just Bean because there's so much more that you can do with Bean in terms of derivative endearments, and so far that's stuck on him pretty well. He seems to like it, and so does everyone else. Bean is a good name for a dog. It's one you don't hear very often—ever in my case—but it seems to roll off the tongue and convey a sense of casual conviviality that matches up well with our non-blue dog.
Now that we are settled on Bean for a name, we have started to expand on the theme of it. We call him Bean and Beano mostly, but also Beanie, Beanie Baby, Beanie Weenie, Mr. Bean, Beaner, and my personal favorite, der Beanerschnitzel, all interchangeably and as circumstances warrant. He answers to them all because, well, he's not blue. He's just bubbling over with schweppervescence.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A TYRANNY OF LISTS: 6 Good Reasons to Avoid Making Lists

A short list of required attributes of the ideal man.
Good luck with that.
My wife and her sisters like to make lists. They make lists for everything. The purpose of the lists is to prevent them from forgetting anything important. While lists are indeed good for just this thing, there are some important side effects of lists that ought to be considered before one embarks on a list-keeping adventure of one's own. Lists are not the nostrum against forgetfulness one might hope for. Here then is a list of 6 things that are wrong with lists.
  1. The more one relies on lists, the more one needs them. Memory is not unlike a muscle. The adage, “use it or lose it” applies. The less you challenge your capacity to remember stuff, the weaker your memory will become. Lists are a crutch that you will not be able to chuck away when you are healed—the reason being that you are not going to be healed so long as you use the crutch. Instead you will become increasingly dependent. This is not unlike the ubiquitous use of sanitizing hand cleaners. My wife washes her hands 40 or 50 times a day to keep from getting sick. Her immune system has pretty much shut down from lack of use. The result: when she is exposed to the puniest of bugs, she gets knocked down for days. Better to challenge your memory by not writing anything down. That way, when you forget something of consequence, the fear of the consequence will motivate you to remember better next time. Consequences are true memory aids. Lists are not.
  2. Lists expand to fill the space allotted, whether this space be the size of the piece of paper or the time that elapses between beginning the list and having to execute the items on it. The bigger the paper or the more time available, the bigger your list is going to grow. Lists are self-perpetuating. Our Thanksgiving menu now contains 127 dishes. New ones get added every time a new family member comes of age or someone gets married, but nothing ever comes off the list. We have to cook them all every year, even the ones nobody eats. Items on a list have a way of suggesting new items that are not yet on the list. The bigger the list grows, the easier it becomes to add new items. Before you know it, you will have so much stuff to do that you won't be able to complete your list, either making it or performing it. You will then need to make a list of personal and social obligations that are going to suffer as a direct result of your having too much stuff to do on your lists. Eventually you will be crushed under the weight of your unfinished lists.
  3. Lists are tyrannical. Once you put an item on a list, you have to do it. There is no escaping the stuff on the list. To cross off an uncompleted item is to admit your fundamental inadequacy. Bucket lists are the worst. Now they've been popularized by a pretty good movie, though, so every poor slob who passes on with an uncompleted bucket list dies unfulfilled and depressed. It's much better to forget an item that is only logged in your memory. If you just don't remember that you're supposed to do something, there is no guilt or self-loathing associated with not doing it. What you don't remember can't hurt you. Not the same for an item on a list. It's there on the list until you do it, mocking your inability to get it done, reaffirming your low self-esteem.
  4. Lists get lost. This is not the same as forgetting something you have only recorded in your memory. If you forget something, it is gone from your consciousness and no longer has any power over you. This is not the same as forgetting where you put your list. Forgetting where you put your list means you have to stop everything and find the list before you can get on with the items on the list. The list and the items on it still have power over your life. They will define your agenda (find the damn list) and your mood (foul) until you find the damn list. Nothing else will get done. Forgetting an item that is not on a list is nature's way of clearing your decks for peace and contentment. Forgetting where you put your list is a hell of your own devising.
  5. Lists are indiscriminate. If you rely on your memory, your natural tendency is to hold on to the important things and let the unimportant ones slide. Your memory is a great judge of the relative importance of the things you have to do. Memory perfoms an organic triage on the chaos of your life. Lists on the other hand just record the chaos. Lists admit every stray thought you are able to write down. Lists do not make judgments. Every item on a list has the same permanence. Sure you can rank items on a list by their relative importance. You can color code them and arrange them into some sort or order. None of this carries any real weight though when it comes to performing the list. The insignificant items nag with the same persistence as the significant ones. You will perform three unimportant tasks to avoid having to do an important one, but by the time you get around to the important one a whole host of new trivia will have been added to the list. There is a reason for this. It's easier to write stuff down than it is to do it. Making lists is easier than striking stuff off of them.
  6. Lists give us a false sense of security. When you've reduced your life to lists you are convinced that you have gained some measure of control over it. The opposite is true. You have lost control. You are now at the mercy of your lists. Your lists are in charge of everything you think, say and do, and they are feeding on your energy. No wonder you can't get anything done. There is only one thing worse than being at the mercy of your lists, and that is being at the mercy of someone else's.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

When Your Funny Bone Lacks Conviction

It's easier to spot the horny girls during the holidays.

I have occasionally considered using this pic on our Christmas cards, but, truth be known, I'm afraid that I'll offend someone with the more obvious captions that have to do with chatting up the horny bitch and so forth. I suppose this means that I am not edgy enough to be truly funny. I lack the courage of my funny bone...or maybe my funny bone lacks conviction. I don't know. If I did this, I might have more social media friends, but my family would feel compelled to pray for my immortal soul. Oh wait...win, win!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trickling Down: Theory and Practice

Glop Down Economic Theory
Trickle down economics hasn't worked for thirty years. That's the period where we've dumped huge amounts of largess into the top of the hopper to stimulate growth from which everyone was supposed to benefit. Only we didn't benefit. Middle class earnings have actually fallen during this period. The largess enriched the rich, but it didn't trickle anywhere. Instead it fueled a series of bubbles that deluded us into thinking things were going great right up until they burst and stripped us of our wealth our delusions and our hope.


Now we're getting some trickle down, but you couldn't call it a benefit by any stretch. While Wall Street is turning in record profits and policy makers are touting the recovery the stuff dripping out of the pipes at the bottom of our economy doesn't smell so sweet. Today in the Washington Post there is an article about community colleges not being able to fill the needs of workers trying to gain new skills in the hopes of finding work. Classes are full and budgets are shrinking. Community colleges are not able to meet the needs of real people in real trouble because they are in trouble too. Everyone knows, or should, that the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession are not coming back anytime soon...if at all. There may eventually be more jobs, but they will not be the ones we lost. Getting a job at the individual level, the level where economic benefits are supposed to trickle out of the pipes, is going to be a matter of having the skills the market wants. Community colleges and vocational education programs are at the forefront of providing these skills, but find themselves with shrinking resources at precisely the time that they are most needed.


Meanwhile the Fed is trying to stimulate growth by printing money and buying Treasury securities. They call this quantitative easing. This is supposed to drive interest rates down and accelerate the flow of money into the economy. Eventually, they say, it will result in the creation of new jobs. Of course if they let the markets decide where those jobs are going to be, they are likely to be in China.


I don't know were the easing is, but I know down here at the bottom there's a prodigious clog when it comes to benefits and what does manage to seep out onto us is extremely unpleasant. Nothing the geniuses at the top are doing has been any help at all. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Open Letter to Congressman Tom Rooney of Florida

I received your e-mail regarding your decision to vote against extending unemployment benefits. I can't help but think that this decision was taken along party lines and represents further Republican obstructionism calculated to make the Obama administration look bad. While I applaud your sense that we need to put an end to failed strategies and do something constructive to create jobs, I can't believe that punishing the victims of the economic collapse is the correct way to accomplish this.

I'm a registered Republican. I've voted a nearly straight Republican ticket for as long as I can remember. I'm not a Tea Party protester or a crackpot. I'm a pragmatist who believes we need sensible compromise to work our way out of the fix we're in. I've had it up to here with partisan bickering and overwrought idealogues. You guys need to work together to move us forward, and you need to do it now.

You can't wait until you have a Republican in the White House and a majority in the Senate as Well. America does not have that long. Furthermore, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have demonstrated that they are able get anything meaningful done in that happy circumstance anyway. We need viable solutions now, and that means there are necessarily going to be some ideas from the Democrats included in the mix. Please find us a way forward, and, while you're at it, try to find one that does not sacrifice me and thousands of other long term unemployed citizens on the altar of fiscal responsibility. We didn't do anything to deserve this, and so far you haven't done anything to help.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Divine Retribution and Karmic Comeuppance



 
Saturday I got two pretty good retribution stories from my brother-in-law. These are not tales of personal revenge, but rather of the kind of divine retribution that leads one to believe God is on one's side in a particular matter. These are instances where karma is visited in unmistakable fashion on someone who clearly has it coming.
In the first, my brother-in-law and his wife, who is my wife's sister, were towing their boat to Lake Cumberland in southern Kentucky. They were on a narrow, winding country pike that had more to offer in scenic vistas than it did in travel efficiency—especially in the case where one was towing a large boat. So while the view was pastoral, and the mood pleasant, the pace was leisurely at best.
All seemed right with the world until a fellow in a battered pick-up truck came up behind them and started trying to pass. The frequent bends and hills and the resulting profusion of double yellow lines on the tarmac made this a dicey proposition, and the inability to get around my brother-in-law's rig apparently worked havoc on the other driver's capacity for patience. When he was finally able to pass, he did so with more commotion and speed than was probably necessary. He also felt compelled for some reason to flip my in-laws the bird as he came by—final evidence that he was ripe for a comeuppance.
Now after this fellow passed, my brother-in-law noticed a brand new gas grill in the bed of the truck, tethered to one side by some twine and several bungee cords. We surmise now that the fellow was in a hurry to get the appliance home so he could begin cooking a Sunday repast. Perhaps he was having friends and family over for a barbecue. Perhaps he had stolen the grill, and thought he was being pursued by its rightful owners, or the local constabulary, or both. Whatever the reason for his haste, it continued unabated after he had passed...unabated that is until the truck hit a bump in the road. At this point things started to come apart, quite literally, in the pick-up truck.
The lid of the grill flew open and caught a great scoopful of air at something north of 60 miles per hour. The resulting pressure over-strained the twine and elastic bindings holding the grill to the side of the truck. At the same time bits and pieces from inside the grill started flying about, taking wing like so many celebratory doves released at an elaborate wedding. The grill itself slid backwards and crashed into the tailgate with such force as to cause it to unlatch and fall open. By this time the driver had realized what was happening and slammed on his brakes. The grill, now unfettered and free as the still flying bits and pieces, skidded forward in the bed and crashed headlong into the back of the cab, shattering the back window in the process.
The flying debris settled, some of it on the roadway, and my brother-in-law picked his way carefully through the mess, passed the now parked truck, and proceeded on his leisurely way to the lake. The driver of the pick-up truck did not flip him another bird as he passed. He was, it would seem, sufficiently chastened by the karma he had invited.
The second of my brother-in-law's tales also has to do with his boat. In this story he had arrived at the lake on another occasion and was backing the boat on its trailer down the incline to the ramp where he would launch the boat. He stopped some yards short of the water to prepare the boat for launching. He inserted the plug into the drain hole in the stern, and loosed the straps that secured the boat to the trailer.
While he was thus engaged another driver backed another boat and trailer down the incline next to him. Now, while there was more than sufficient room on the ramp to launch two boats at the same time, the other driver, owing either to lack of skill or a level of meanness that would be unusual in most week-end boaters, jackknifed his trailer behind my brother-in-law's rig in such a way as to take up twice as much room as he needed and thus deny my brother-in-law access to the ramp and the water.
My brother-in-law is not one to suffer fools lightly. He has no patience for incompetence. He has even less patience when that incompetence manifests itself in ways that are also inconsiderate. He was ready to launch his boat, and this fool was in his way. He was not about to give the guy a pass.
Hey,” he protested as the guy got out of his SUV, “you're in my way. You need to pull your boat back up the ramp so I can launch.”
The guy, for reasons we can only guess at, was not agreeable at this point. “I'll only be a minute,” he said.
My brother-in-law did not like this answer very much, and so he suggested again,  this time with a righteous peppering of expletives, that the fellow needed to get the hell out of his way so he could launch his boat, that he had been there first, that any fool could see there was room for two boats to launch, but this particular fool had managed to botch a simple operation like backing a boat trailer down a ramp in such a fashion as to render the commodious facility useless to anyone but himself.
I already told you,” the guy said, “I will be through in a minute.”
So my brother-in-law watched with mounting fury while the guy launched his boat, tied it up to the dock, and left his wife watching over it while he finally pulled his trailer out of the water and drove off to the parking area about a hundred yards up the bank. Able at last to launch his own boat, my brother-in-law left his wife in charge of their boat, which was tied to the opposite dock. As he was pulling his trailer up the incline toward the parking area, the other fellow's wife came frantically pounding on my brother-in-law's window. He rolled it down.
Catch my husband,” she said, “and tell him he forgot to put the drain plug in our boat. It's filling up with water.”
My brother-in-law nodded as he processed this information. He probably didn't mean to convey to her that he would do what she asked. He was just doing what men do when they are confronted by hysterical women—nod while they search for the quickest way to extricate themselves from the immediate vicinity. The woman went back to watch her boat sink further into the lake along with any hope she might have held for a pleasant afternoon on the water.
Women who are married to callous and ignorant men cannot themselves be prideful. Pride will not suit their circumstances nearly so well as humility. These poor creatures spend a lot of time swallowing their pride and throwing themselves on the mercy of those whom their husbands have wronged. If they do not, nothing much good will ever happen for them. Even if they do, a good outcome is not a forgone conclusion.
My brother-in-law decided, on his way up the hill, that the fellow who's boat was filling up with water had already demonstrated a singular lack of willingness to take suggestions. He had already made my brother-in-law suffer consequences from this lack. My brother-in-law did not see any profit to be had in supposing that the fellow had somehow changed his stripes on the way from the boat ramp to the parking lot. He supposed, rather, that the fellow would still be loathe to take any direction from him, especially as it was likely, my brother-in-law not having changed his stripes either, that any further direction would also be laced with profanity.
By this time the other fellow was walking back down the hill to join his wife at their boat. My brother-in-law, having reasoned all the forgoing out to his satisfaction, passed him by, careful to ignore the scornful gaze the fellow cast his way, and careful as well not to assume any expression that might be construed as gloating. He had to continue this non-gloating demeanor as he walked back down the hill and passed the fellow once more, coming up the hill, this time with a great deal more panic than scorn in his expression.
Eventually the fellow was able to rescue his boat before it went to the bottom, although getting it back onto his trailer and getting it out of the water so that it could drain provided my brother-in-law a lot more entertainment than he had expected when he had hitched the boat up to his SUV earlier that morning. Presumably the fellow and his wife did not enjoy their karma nearly so much.
Proverbs 24:17 says, "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice." Whether you take this as a commandment or merely as sound advice, this may be the hardest proscription in the Bible to follow faithfully. I know I can't do it. I can try to love my enemies, and I pray for them regularly, but if I ever see them come to what I think are their just deserts, I will be hard pressed not to let my heart rejoice.
And when I think of all the misery I've suffered at the hands of the fools I've worked for, the bastards who took my job, and the thieves who've robbed me of the possibility of getting another one anytime soon, I'm equally hard pressed not to pray Psalm 35 that they may become “like chaff before the wind,” or Psalm 58, that my God might “break the teeth in their mouths.” All retribution ought to be biblical in proportion, don't you think?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Acknowledgement

Something unusual happened this week. I got e-mails from two places that I had submitted resume's to, telling me that they were moving forward with another candidate. Although I'm no closer to getting a job, at least I won't be wasting any time following up with these employers to see if they got my application and what its status might be. It is rare to get any kind of acknowledgement at all in this market, and by rare I mean that I have been sending out dozens of resume's and letters every week for two years now, and this week marks the first time that I have received anything indicating that a potential employer knows I exist. That I am encouraged by this indicates how low my expectations have sunk.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quantitative Easing II

Bernanke and the Fed are taking a lot of heat, and deservedly so, for their proposed new round of quantitative easing. It's a lot like this picture of the Flash Fire Jet Truck. Although capable of 375 mph, when they haul this thing out for demos at air shows and whatnot, it's all about the smoke and the noise. It's a crowd pleaser, but it doesn't do anything useful. Bernanke is trying to look like he's stimulating the economy to produce jobs, but he's likely to have the opposite effect. Round 1 didn't work. Why should round 2? It's just smoke and noise, and it's not nearly as entertaining as the jet truck.

Neal Darnell and the Flash Fire Jet Truck at 2010 Stuart Airshow.


For a brilliant, concise, insightful and hilarious explanation of QEII in an XtraNormal video that seems destined to go viral, GO HERE.

Warbirds



T-28 fusilage detail - 2010 Stuart Airshow.



Monday, November 15, 2010

Progress

Have about 32,000 words assembled and edited from my 120,000+ written total. Probably 1/3 of the way there. Going slower than I hoped, but still making progress. Also designed a new WebSite using Flash designer at Wix. I'll put this site up when the book is ready to release. Wix is a very cool app with intuitive user interface. Check it out.

Calling the book 40 for Naught. I like it for a title, but would appreciate input. Agreement is best, but constructive criticism will be tolerated. Use comments below to rattle my cage.

Spent most of Saturday at the Stuart Air Show thanks to my sister-in-law scoring tickets by calling into a radio show and remembering that the line, "Play it again, Sam," came from Casablanca. BTW the script for Casablanca was written on the fly as the movie was being shot. Still regarded today as one of the best scripts ever written.

Got some good pics at the air show...about a dozen out of 700 snapped. Okay, I think, when you consider most of the 700 were rapid fire shots of the actual aerial acrobatics. Didn't realize before this how hard it is to catch an F-16 at low altitude with a telephoto lens. The P51 below was hard enough.

TF 51 dual control Mustang in aerial loop at 2010 Stuart, FL Air Show. The sound from the Rolls Royce Merlin engine is unique and awe inspiring. It is apparently the precise pitch to maximize testosterone production. You can fly this gem if you're so inclined. Orientation flights available even if you've never flown before. Details, history, videos, and more pics here. I so want to do this!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tin Foil Hat Republicans

          A couple of months ago a guy posted on Freep (Detroit Free Press Online) that there needs to be a spokesperson or champion for the unemployed. The people commenting on his post think he didn’t have a right to say anything at all because he wasn’t from Detroit. They also took exception to his lack of proof or corroborating evidence for the observations he made when in fact all he did was recount his own personal experiences from being unemployed for 17 months. One commenter even faulted his math because he said he’d worked for 22 years and been a journalist for 23—like make up your mind dude which is it? The commenter wasn't smart enough to realize that it could in fact be both. Why do people this ignorant insist on being heard? They’re just clogging up the bandwidth.
          I note this morning, in the same vein, that the new Republican House majority is already throwing its weight behind a cut in jobless benefits. I guess I knew this was going to happen. Even so it saddens me that millions of displaced workers are going to suffer further in the name of fiscal responsibility when it was fiscal irresponsibility in the form of deregulation and shortsighted policy making that cost them their jobs in the first place. I say this even though I am a freaking Republican. I'm all for deficit reduction and judicious spending cuts, but when we undertake these things in service to an overarching ideology rather than common sense we have the capacity to do a lot of harm to innocent people.
          If you see a guy wearing a tin foil hat sitting on a street corner with a cup and a sign that reads “please help,” or “homeless and hungry,” or even “unemployed and beerless,” and you are motivated by the sight to remark that he should get a job, then I would suggest to you that it is already too late for you to don a tin foil hat to protect your brain from being stolen by aliens. That ship has sailed. Honestly I don’t know why I’m bothering to tell you this. That ship has sailed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Transitions

I posted with some enthusiasm the other day that the time for personal reinvention is upon us. I meant of course, specifically, that it's upon me. I need to follow my own essential three steps:

  1. figure out what's making me miserable and excise it
  2. figure out what's my bliss and embrace it
  3. make a plan to get good at what makes me happy
I've already done all of that. I did it before I wrote about it. I'm not finished, but I've made a good start. I know I'm miserable working for fools and charlatans. I got rid of them. (Actually they got rid of me, but who's splitting hairs at this point?) Writing makes me happy. I write a little every day. I made a plan to get better. I've been working the plan with some evidence of success:



Highest score possible in every category! First time this had ever happened in this particular contest. I didn't win. I came in second. The final judge was not one of the initial evaluators. Some subjectivity naturally came into play. Even so I won a cash prize, and came away with some validation that I'm good enough to at least pursue this course.

I'm telling you all this because it's time for me to concentrate on making something happen in my new career. It's time for me to take all my disjointed scribblings and to make a book. I've given myself until the end of November to make this happen. I actually started last month. That's why my blog posts have been sporadic and infrequent. I'll keep those of you who are interested in my progress updated here as I go. When I'm finished, this blog will take on a new direction. Up until now it's been about me and my struggles with my circumstances. I'm changing my circumstances. I intend to succeed. Then this blog and my online presence will be all about my new work and the new guy I work for.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Taking Wing

Even the skillful and attractive sometimes have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

          I’m not kidding, and I’m not making this stuff up. I’ve been looking for another job for just over 2 years now. I’ve known how difficult this is going to be for a long time. So has everyone else among the long-term unemployed. The rest of the world seems to be just waking up to the ugly truth. This includes many economists who should have predicted this months and months ago.
The economy is a different animal than it used to be. A lot of the jobs that were lost in 2008 and 2009 are not coming back, not ever. Every day you hear about companies doing more with less, getting the same revenues and higher profitability with fewer employees, and certainly with fewer high-priced American workers with their attendant benefits and tax burden.
Jobless saps like me might wish that these companies would hire Americans back to do the jobs they used to do. That would be crazy though. Why would they? If they staff back up with high priced labor, they won’t be able to compete in the global market place. They’d just have to let everyone go again when they were forced to idle capacity or even shut down for lack of sales. For the same reason it would be folly for the government to either mandate or artificially incentivize this kind of re-hiring. As a solution it only delays the agony.
This being the case, it’s up to us displaced workers to come up with a Plan-B that fits the new reality. For me this means becoming a writer as soon as possible. I can't wait for the economy to recover, not that that is likely to help me anyway, and I surely can’t wait for Congress to fix it for me. Those bozos seem committed to remaining mired in grid-lock forever. I have to do something now. How could I not?
A person possessed of deeper faith than I might rely on God to provide: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matt 6:26) I happen to believe this promise on principle, but I also believe that God provides wherewithal more often than he provides pure serendipity. He gave the birds keen eyes and quick wings to enhance their foraging. Me he gave a quick wit and a flair for words—maybe not to the extent He did for Shakespeare—but adequate to my needs I think. My job is to make something of it, and if I fail, well…there’s always that serendipity. Even preening little dandies like the painted bunting occasionally find that someone has hung out a great hulking bin of seeds for them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

3 Essential Steps to Reinventing Yourself

          If you find yourself without work, without prospects for finding work, and pissed off enough about your situation to wonder if you ever want to work again, then you need to become something that you have not been before. In modern parlance you need to reinvent yourself. Let’s face it. We’re all in a pickle. Many of the jobs that have been lost because of the recent and continuing Great Recession (better described as a greed and folly induced financial debacle) are not coming back. Why would they? They didn’t make any sense when they were here. Now that they are gone everyone is perfectly aware that they weren’t needed. The economy is not about making jobs. The economy is about allocating resources in the most efficient way possible. If this means that labor is most efficiently applied in China, then so be it.
          No one knows how to create jobs in the U.S. Not the Democrats. Not the Republicans. Not the liberals. Not the conservatives. They all think they know who to blame, but none of them have any real, good, workable ideas about creating jobs. If you are waiting for that to happen, then you are going to be screwed. You need to take responsibility for your own financial future. You need to do something now to make sure that you have something meaningful to do that will feed your family and keep a roof over their heads. I don’t say this because I think you need to be motivated. I say this because you are the only sumbitch in the world that knows how to do that just now. If you don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for you.
          Here’s what I think you need to do.

  1. Figure out what it is/was that is making you miserable. 
    •  You have a right to try to be happy. There’s no guarantee that you will be, but the Founding Fathers sought to guarantee your right to pursue it. At a minimum this means getting rid of the stuff that is an impediment to your happiness. For me it was always working for fools and charlatans. I hated that. I never minded working. Work can and should be fulfilling, but when you work for people who do not understand or appreciate what you do and who seem bent at every turn on undermining whatever value you bring to the table, then it’s time to move on to something else. 
    • If I’m going to be happy, I need to quit working for dumb-asses, philanderers, liars, cheats, thieving bastards and scalawags. I need to be my own dumb-ass. I need to work for me. If you’re like me, then you need to be your own dumb-ass too.
    • If you don’t mind working for someone else maybe it’s the work itself that you don’t like. Change it. Maybe it’s the customers. That happens. We dealt with a lot of customers in the yacht business that had more money than sense. They usually came with an over-developed sense of entitlement. They felt empowered to walk out on the plant floor and personally direct the craftsmen who were building their boats for them. They would regularly make design changes without consulting the engineers or the sales group. They burned up huge gobs of production time massaging their egos—so much so that we had a saying that if it weren’t for the damn customers we could get some work done. If you can’t stand the exposure you’re getting to the customer base of your business, you need to look for your satisfaction elsewhere. 
    • Take some time trying to figure all this out. Sometimes you’ll think that one thing is making you crazy when it’s actually something else altogether. Find out what is standing in the way of your achieving some measure of job satisfaction and excise it from your life. Get rid of it.
  2. Figure out what it is you do that makes you happy.
    • This is not as easy as it seems because it’s not enough to just find something that makes you happy. It also has to make other people happy. You have to be able to monetize it. It has to be something for which you can reasonably expect to get paid…or, at a minimum, it has to be something that you can connect to something for which you can get paid.
    • In the depths of depression occasioned by my own long term unemployment, the only thing I really enjoyed doing was sleeping. I could sleep all day long, and still be tired enough to go to bed when the day was done. So not only did I enjoy sleep—I was exceedingly good at it. Trouble was I just couldn’t think of a way to get paid for sleeping. Nor could I connect sleeping to anything for which I could reasonable expect to be paid. I had to give up on the idea of monetizing sleep, and move down the list to consider my next favorite thing. For me it is something creative.
    • I like writing. I especially like writing funny anecdotes and fictional stories that shed some light on the small universal truths of life as I know it. I like photography. I like taking pictures of things that interest me. I like exploring unique and unusual angles on mundane things. I also like drawing, especially cartoons. I like the way that you can convey emotions and emphasize a particular point of view with just a few lines in a cartoon face. All three of these things, writing, photography, and cartooning, can be monetized—eventually, hopefully, by me. What I mean is that there are people getting paid very well to do each of those things. Each, by itself, is capable of providing a nice living. 
    • These things are all different from the sleep I mentioned earlier. Taking a nap when I am depressed does not make me feel better. I don’t wake up refreshed and ready to face a challenge. I am instead just as tired as I was before the nap. That is why I could sleep all day and still be tired when it was time to go to bed. I may have been good at it, but I wasn’t getting energized by my proclivity for it. 
    • Writing, photography and cartooning are different. These creative pursuits charge me up. When I write a particularly lucid piece of exposition or some sparkly dialogue that makes my characters come alive on the page, when I snap a bunch of pictures and upload them to my computer to find that I have made some really compelling images, or when I turn a doodle into a drawing that is engaging and evocative, I feel great. 
    • What's more, I lose track of time when I'm engaged in doing these things. I may go for hours, working with intensity and purpose, and when I quit I feel better than I did when I started. This is how I want my working life to be. I don’t care about the money. Sure, I need to make a certain amount to live on, and sure, it would be nice to get rich doing something cool, but the fact is rich people pay good money trying to feel as good as I feel doing these three things that don’t really cost me very much to do. What do I need to be rich for if all my joy comes from doing my work? I don’t. It’s as simple as that.
    • I know what my bliss is. It took me a while to work it out, and you could argue that I knew what I liked doing a long time ago. Now I have a certainty about it though that I didn’t have before. Do whatever it takes to find yours.
  3. Once you’ve found your bliss, get good at it.
    • Here is where No. 1 (get rid of the things that are making you miserable) and No. 2 (find your bliss) come together. This part may take some time. It won’t be easy, but if you’ve truly found what it is that makes you happy and fulfilled, you’ll enjoy all the hard work. What you won’t enjoy is all the other stuff you’re going to have to do to keep body and soul together until you are good enough at your bliss to make a living at it. In other words you may find that you have to continue to toil at the place that’s making you miserable until you’re good enough at the blissful thing to get paid for it. 
    • If you can afford to just quit and take up something new, I say go for it. Most of us aren’t in that happy boat, although I think that many of us may be closer than we think. If your family is depending on you to put groceries in the fridge and gas in the mini-van, you need to figure out how to discharge your obligations while you develop your new skills. This is a sad fact of life. You need a plan to keep the sad fact from spoiling the burgeoning bliss.
    • This is the part I did wrong for years and years. I’ve known forever that I wanted to write. I’ve also known that I had a talent for it. I’m not Faulkner, but much of what I’ve written for public consumption has been well received. The first short story I ever submitted was published. I got a check for $15 for it from a little literary quarterly. If you’ve ever talked to anyone in the business of writing/publishing, you will know that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. Writers spend years trying to get published. 
    • Do I think this makes me some kind of literary phenomenon? No—not at all. I know I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, but I also realize that I’m good enough to make writing work for me. Now maybe you’re not very good at whatever it is you want to do. This is true of me and cartooning. I'm not terrible, but It will take me a lot of work to get where I need to be. If it was the only thing I had going for me, it would be worth it, but it's not. I'm way better at writing than I am at cartooning. To me, that means I need to focus on the writing.
    • What's true of me and cartooning is true of a lot of people and writing. I heard just today at a writer's conference that 83% of adults in the U.S. think they would like to write a novel. They think they want to be writers, and thinking that is part of their problem. They want to be writers, but they don’t want to write. If you really want to write, you’ll be good enough at it to pursue it. I know this because writing is a really hard thing to do. Writing is a bitch. It is painful. It is frightening. It is frustrating. But, when it’s going well, it hurts so good you can’t imagine doing anything else. 
    • This is how you know that you’re on the right track: when doing the thing is the best part of being the person who does the thing. If the best part is something else, you’ve got it wrong. If you’re doing the thing to get rich, or to get famous, or to get dates, or to have people buy you drinks at the local bar, then you’re doomed to a life of unhappiness. You need to want to do the thing, whatever it is. If you truly want to do the thing, the hard work required to get good enough at the thing to make all that other stuff happen won’t be so bad. You can manage it. You have to manage it—no matter how hard and impossible it seems at the outset. Whatever it takes to get good at the thing you love is going to be way easier than working a lifetime at something that makes you miserable. You don’t have to trust me on this. You already know it’s true. So get busy.
    • Writing is something I know that I can squeeze until it pays. I haven’t done a very good job of squeezing it so far though. I got a slow start because I didn't have a plan, and because I didn't have a plan I got squeezed instead by my miserable jobs and my miserable circumstances. I wasn’t pursuing my bliss like I should’ve been—with focus and purpose. I was trying to be an accountant and a businessman first while I dabbled in writing. I was waiting for something good to happen on the writing front while I made the pursuit of misery my full time avocation. I had it backwards. I spun myself into a rut.
    • I’d still be doing it if I hadn’t been fired. Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me. I hate the bastards who railroaded me out of a lucrative situation, but I owe them my heartfelt thanks for being the venal, stupid, egotistical louts they are. They set me free of all my excuses. They liberated me from my misery to embrace my art. If you don't have your own venal, stupid, egotistical louts to set you free, then you need to do it yourself. Don't wait for them like I did. Even if your louts are way better than my louts, you just can't depend on them to do the right thing by you. If you're miserable you need to get the source of you misery out of your life. Make a plan, and get on with it. The sooner the better.
    • Some resources to help you on your way:
      • What's Next - create the life you want - advice, inspiration, self-assessment tools, links, blogs from those that are doing it, all excellent stuff.
      • Brainwashed - Seven Ways to Reinvent Yourself - by Seth Godin, author of many books including his latest, Lynchpin, and creator of SQUIDOO - creative, inspiring, philosophical, visually stimulating...or go directly to SethGodin.com - books, blog, free stuff. This guy is brilliant.
      • Escaping the 9 to 5 - Maren Kate, Forbes #4 woman entrepreneur to follow on Twitter, blogs and podcasts her way through ways to shed the daily grind - kind of reinvention lite, but lots of ideas to think about.