THE PHANTOM PRESIDENCY

        I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now. This isn’t about partisan politics, it’s satire about a personality, maybe even a Cult of Personality. The personality being housed in the body of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Say what you want about the woman, but you can’t say she isn’t smart. I think she’s way smarter than many of us gave her credit for.

        I have no evidence to back this up, but it’s an interesting thought experiment for me.

Hillary had an appetite for politics since her middle teens, active in young Republican groups. Her world was rocked by MLK and she changed to the Democratic party by the time she had graduated college. Picture a young, ambitious woman turning twenty-one in 1968, the most incredibly dynamic social and political year in modern history. The world was changing and she could feel it in her bones, but it wasn’t yet time for a woman president. She wouldn’t be thirty-five for fourteen more years. And yes, society was changing, however, it probably still wouldn’t be ready in 1982 for a woman president. But what if … what if she could find the right man to polish?

        Enter William Clinton. He’s brash and full of energy and has political aspirations of his own. He’s someone she could use to her advantage. He had great potential. He wasn’t perfect, but she could fine-tune his lesser qualities, groom him for greatness. Law School and introductions with the right people put her into powerful circles of influence, and not by chance, but by subtle manipulation.

Continue reading “THE PHANTOM PRESIDENCY”

Communicating in the 21st Century

communication
Creative Commons Anne Worner – Communication

I recently watched a video of Celeste Headlee doing a TED talk on 10 Ways to have a better conversation.

Celeste’s TED Talk

It was sadly eye-opening for me. For a long time I know I’ve struggled to be a good listener. Actually most of the time I don’t struggle; I just don’t listen well. I am a chronic interrupter. But, as usual, this is bigger than my poor listening skills. Celeste hits the nail on the head in pointing out that as our children grow up in this new connected environment we all live in, with a cell phone usually within arm’s reach, that we’ve become accustomed to transmitting, but not receiving or interacting. Or if we do receive it is on our time and without the worry of interruption. There is little face-to-face conversation. I touch on this very issue in my story Quintessence where being connected in the future is not just habitual, it’s the law. But I think these communication issues are very real. Continue reading “Communicating in the 21st Century”

Are Electronic Search Tools Ruining Our Memory?

These stories are all over the internet lately. They play right into the the premise of my story Perfect Working Order.

Google and electronic devices are ruining our memory

NBC Story on Digital Amnesia

UK Daily Mail story

Newser 6 signs you’re Suffering from Digital Amnesia

What happens when you become completely reliant on these digital aides when they are taken away? You’ll have to read it to find out!

The Dark Side of Public Discourse and the Internet

scary clown
Graeme Maclean/Creative Commons Graeme Maclean/Creative Commons

This is a very broad topic and some smart person could probably do a doctoral thesis on this subject. The internet is an amazing technological gift and I don’t think anyone envisioned the sort of potential it had when in its fledgling state. The ability to connect people from all over the world in real-time has unlocked an unprecedented global community. It’s facilitated the Arab Spring, which the jury is still out on whether that is going to turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ve seen a young woman (Justine Sacco) vilified for making an off-color tweet in a poor attempt at humor that cost her job and ruined her reputation. Continue reading “The Dark Side of Public Discourse and the Internet”

I Will Not Be Boycotting the Olympics

There has been a lot of grousing on the interwebs about the Sochi Olympics and how homophobic the Russians are; the fact that the village isn’t completed, or there may be tens of billions of dollars in graft and corruption. Several of my friends and people whose blogs I read are talking about boycotting Sochi.
I don’t get this.
How is any of that relevant to how hard the athletes have trained? They have devoted their lives to getting ready for the next Olympics. We can debate how important sports are. Or if there is any value in watching sports, but how does boycotting Sochi have anything to do with the events that are televised? The TV rights are bought and paid for. The tickets are already sold for the events. I have never spent a dime on anything related to the Olympics, and I don’t plan to now. About the only thing I can think of is that some Neilson rating number will get an infinitesimally small blip from me watching a televised event.

Continue reading “I Will Not Be Boycotting the Olympics”

Nine Eleven Revisited

Eleven years ago today I was at work in the morning.  I had been in this new job for almost a year.  Some of you may know, I am an Air Force Reserve Technician Pilot, meaning I am a civil servant 40 hours a week and a reserve pilot on evenings and weekends.  I was the Assistant Chief Pilot, meaning I was the scheduler for about thirty pilots in my squadron. 
That particular morning I was alone in the office, but had the television on and set to Fox News.  I was busy working on the schedule when I looked up to see the reports about an aircraft hitting the first tower.  Several weeks prior to this a small single engine aircraft had hit another building in New York, and it was simply pilot error.  I chalked it up again to some dumbass pilot getting in over his head.  It amazes me how many people get in an aircraft without much thought as to how dangerous it can be if you aren’t prepared.  I remember thinking, “Holy crap, not again.”  My focus went back to my excel spreadsheet.  We hadn’t heard anything yet about what kind of aircraft it was, so I assumed it was a similar sized plane.

Minutes later the second jet crashed into the second tower.  I stood up out of my seat and ran to the television.  “That’s not right,” I said to myself.  I knew immediately down in my bones that it was intentional.  I called my wife and told her to turn on the news.  In retrospect, probably not my smartest move.  My wife was nearly nine months pregnant at the time, and it put her under a great deal of stress, enough stress that it caused preeclampsia and the premature birth of our 4th child.  However, at that moment I just needed to share the news with someone.  After speaking with her I ran down the hall to tell my boss I was going to take some leave and get off the base before they locked it down.  He also had the news on and came to the same conclusion.  I wanted to get home and see to the safety of my family before I was unable to leave the base.  He relented, and I went home to watch the rest of the news at home.
The next several days were a whirlwind, being the largest reserve tanker base in the world meant we were going to have a role to play in the coming conflict.   Our members are some of the most patriotic folks you will find anywhere and they answered the call to serve in a huge way.  We managed to break some records getting out of town to support the war effort that was just starting, minus a few of us, as my wife went into labor and one of my co-workers wives did the same.  Both our wives delivered boys on the same day.  I missed the first rotation but ended up serving three rotations that following year at overseas locations.  It is a time I will never forget.
Clear Ether!

Is Marriage Disposable?

Okay this post has very little to do with writing, but I ran across an item that struck a chord with me about something fundamentally wrong with our society these days. I just read a post on Scalzi’s Whatever page written by Lara Zielin. Her post was about a personal event that happened while she was on a storm chasing trip. It ended up inspiring the story behind her book The Waiting Sky, which I’m sure is lovely, but her revelation is about how she realized her marriage was not what she expected it to be. She found attraction to another man while alone on her trip chasing storms in Oklahoma. But while I was reading it I began to wonder which came first, her attraction to the new guy or the fact that she was unhappy in her marriage.

It’s not really clear, but the way she describes the events leads one to believe that in her mind she knew she was already unhappy but just hadn’t faced it. I can’t speak from firsthand experience but it seems to me that most people that cheat on their spouse will concoct a reality to justify their actions. The thinking goes something like, if I cheated on my spouse I must have been unhappy or I wouldn’t have cheated. So they start coming up with reasons why they aren’t happy. That’s not to say that some people aren’t justifiably unhappy beforehand and then cheat, but in this instance she hadn’t really come to grips with being unhappy beforehand. She talks about not wanting to return to her “mundane” life after meeting the exciting new guy and falling in love all over again. She began to see her life as unexciting and apparently came to realize she didn’t see her spouse the same way anymore. Her quote, “When was the last time my spouse and I had thought the other was a badass?”

The whole thing bothers me. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s become way too common. I don’t know her, and I don’t mean to pick on her, but she put it out there for all to see. It relates to a fundamental problem with our society. When did we stop valuing marriage in this country? This is not about Lara, but about everyone who treats marriage like something disposable. I can’t put my finger on when it happened, but we stopped teaching our young people how to be married. We focus way too much attention on the Wedding and hardly any on how to be married to someone. A marriage is rarely, if ever, a fairy tale. It involves people and most people have issues of one sort of another.

Marriage is work, even in the best circumstances. Learning how to be in a relationship takes time and both people have to be committed to the venture. They need to be thinking about their spouse a lot and trying to put them first. If both people are doing this it goes a long way to working through most problems. We haven’t armed our young people with the right tools for dealing with it or where to focus their energy. I don’t know when this turned sour, but somewhere along the line we stopped teaching the merits of trust and empathy and commitment and providing directions for how to do it right. We treat our vows as something less.

 

 

 

vow/

noun

1. a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment: marriage vows; a vow of secrecy.

2. a solemn promise made to a deity or saint committing oneself to an act, service, or condition.

3. a solemn or earnest declaration.

We promise our spouse that we will stay with them through better and for worse, richer or poorer and in sickness and in health. At least most have something similar to this. It’s not kind of a promise or half of a pledge. I can’t even think of a word for a ‘not promise’. We don’t say as long as it’s convenient. We give our word to something it should mean something, but in this case you actually have a contract. Ultimately, of course, the only real arbiters of that contract are the parties involved.

I really wonder how much effort Lara made to focus her energy on being the best wife she could be. Did she ever talk about her feelings with her husband? I have no idea, but we throw marriage away way too easy these days. The bright shining object always looks enticing, the strange, the hunt, all those things are exciting, but just because it’s not exciting anymore is a horrible reason to get a divorce.

It does take two to make it work, but perhaps we enter into these things too lightly, without much preparation or forethought and it’s not necessarily the fault of the people getting married these days, because we stopped teaching them how hard it is and what commitment means. I am on my second marriage, so I hate to cast these stones from my glass house, but my second marriage is completely different, it is wonderful. It’s not perfect, but we have both worked at it every day for the last twenty years. Our marriage is stronger than ever and keeps getting stronger, but it’s not by accident. I have learned my lessons and I am trying to pass those on to my children. We talk about commitment and service and love and how hard it is. But these are things that should be discussed before the marriage, not afterwards when the commitment has been taken.

Is it fair to ask someone to stay in a marriage they are unhappy in? It’s not easy. An unhappy marriage is up near the top of the list of shitty things that we may have to deal with in life, right up there with severe medical problems or death of a close family member or friend or trouble in our career. But a relationship can be repaired. That part isn’t easy either, but it all comes back to the pledge we made when we got married.

Marriage has great value. It has been the cornerstone of our civilization for hundreds of years.

Parents, talk to your kids about marriage. Don’t just spend all your energy and time and money on the Wedding.

Teach them about honor and service to their significant other.

Teach them how to keep the marriage fresh by doing the little things they did when they were dating, to not take each other for granted.

Teach them to not put the other in a position to worry about fidelity.

Teach them about talking to each other and how to work out differences and provide each other with expectations.

It’s not just young people that suffer from this lack of education. People my age and older suffer from it just as much, this has been going downhill for a long time and the only way to get it back on track is to talk about it.

Step one- recognize we have a problem. My kids may not have a great marriage, but it won’t be because they went in with their eyes closed. I have high hopes.

Teach your kids and spread the word. Soapbox put away.

Clear Ether!

It’s not censorship but it sure stinks

Holly Lisle recently posted about trying to get a book published for Apple’s iBooks, but was rebuffed because she mentions Amazon in one of her teaching methods.  I don’t know about you but that just ain’t right.  While it may not be censorship by definition, it’s not cool, and Apple is using its power to block any mention of a rival.  Holly pulled all of her self-pubbed books out of iBooks.  I have never been all-in with Apple, but I like most of their products.  I have an iPod, and iPhone and an iPad, and they work pretty damned well, but this behavior stinks and I wanted anyone who reads this blog to know about it.


Clear Ether!




Image attribution Beachblogger42 via creative commons license

Why Can’t We All Just Be Cool?

Every now and then I hear stuff over the internet (okay I read it), where someone is being an asshat to someone.  It is actually a fairly common thing these days but the heat seems to move from place to place, video games, book reviews, paparazzi, news sites, it’s everywhere that people interact.  It’s ubiquitous.   And it seems to be getting slowly worse. Scalzi has a blog about it, Stacia Kane, Chuck Wendig and many others are pointing it out.
Why is that? 
It bothers me that somewhere along the way our society has stopped teaching our children what it means to have manners and even though you can remain anonymous, you still should show some regard for other human beings.   You know, do the right thing.  Sadly, I ‘m not sure a lot of people even realize that what they are doing is wrong.  They spew frothy hatefulness like it is their right and it doesn’t matter that the person that is the target has feelings and a family and a life that they might be impacting.  Do they really want to ruin someone’s life over something that in the big scheme is trivial?

This problem isn’t limited to the young people of today, it seems to be peppered through several generations now, and has been a systemic problem in the United States since maybe the mid 60’s but it is getting worse I think. 
I would really like for my kids to be able to play MMOs without having to listen to the other players dropping eff bombs on the voice server, some games you can’t filter it.  I play MMOs and people eviscerate other players for no reason other than they are playing wrong in some way, innocently in most cases.  Readers write reviews of books that are often brutal and unkind in a very personal way that really has nothing to do with the content of the book.  Authors sometimes are dumb enough to reply to horrible reviews, it never ends well.  I’ve seen people say horrible things on Twitter about someone semi-famous that they don’t know at all, and for no reason other than … hell, I don’t know why.   To get attention I guess.
Some people you think might deserve to be mocked because they put themselves in a position to be ridiculed, like the people on the Jerry Springer show or actors because it’s part of the job to be in the public eye.  But really?  Do you have to stoop and say something shitty, even offhand?  You know, I’m fine with you having an opinion and maybe even sharing it someone, but does it have to be at the expense of someone else publically?  Once you post something publically that denigrates someone else you are taking part in the fracas.  You are helping to bring us all down incrementally.   You may not think it is a big deal but combined with everyone else doing the same thing it all adds up and drags us all collectively down. 
My old roommate used to say, “Why can’t we all just be cool?”  That really says it.  Just be nice to each other, stuff we learned in Kindergarten.   They still teach the Golden Rule in Kindergarten don’t they?  The Golden Rule still applies to the internet!
I get the fact that the internet gives us the ability to be anonymous and maybe be a little braver than we might be in “Real Life”, but does that mean we should lower our guard and our standards of decency and just be horrible to each other?   It’s a little like road rage.  Somehow, just having windows between us and the ability to escape without a real face-to-face confrontation emboldens us.  Multiply that by 100 (a 1000?) and you have the internet.  But doing the right thing is still valid since by definition it is making the right choice even when nobody is watching you.
I think I figured out what true freedom is in today’s world, and there are very few people that have true freedom.  It is the ability to publically do whatever you want, say whatever you want, expose whatever you want and not have to worry about the ramifications.  Most of us have a job where they work for someone else or sell things that require other people to buy them in some form or fashion.  Very few of us are in a position to give absolutely no care at all to what anyone else might think.  Even the people that can financially afford this kind of freedom have friends, families or spouses.  They still have to guard what they say, at least a little bit for fear of ostracizing themselves or bringing shame to their family or friends.  With this in mind doesn’t it make sense to try to keep things civil?  To watch what we say or do in the public eye, and if you don’t think posting something on facebook or Twitter IS in the public eye I can show you some examples to refute this premise.  Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
I swear I don’t understand where people have the idea that you have a right to vent publicly and have no blowback.  Everything you say and do in the public square is being watched by someone.  I am going about this wrong…you can say whatever you want but just because you can does not mean you should, but if you do it anyway, you should expect people to react to it, because they are acting the same way you are, by exploiting THEIR right to vent at you. 
I guess it bothers some people that you have to filter yourself when you are interfacing with the public.  It’s just not fair that they can’t do or say whatever they want, it’s their god given right.  Isn’t it? (Okay for some of you that is me being facetious if you can’t see the sarcasm)  Really though, putting stuff in print online is worse than getting a tattoo that you don’t end up liking.  At least with the tattoo you can get it removed someday.  It hurts like hell and it’s not free but it can be done.  Once you put something in print online it can haunt you for the rest of your life if it gets the wrong kind of attention.  That includes emails, facebook, Twitter, blogs … whatever.
If you have to vent do it privately.  Scream until you are blue in the face.  But don’t do it where we can see you.  Is that too much to ask?  If you still feel like that’s not enough and you want to go online I’m the opposite of Nike: Just don’t do it.  Bill and Ted had it right, “Be excellent to each other!”  You do your part, and I’ll do mine.
Clear Ether!

A Life of Consequence

It’s the end of the year and it usually brings an overabundance of introspection and reflection and for me it’s not just “what did I accomplish this year” but I find I’m looking at the big picture.  Is my life shaping up the way I want it to?  Am I having an impact on things that matter to me?  Am I positioning myself to be able to influence things that are important to me?  I’m approaching the big 5 0 and that may have something to do with it.
I can remember being a fresh-faced lieutenant and looking at what seemed an endless dark tunnel of training and hoop jumping to get where I wanted to be.  It was great to finally get through that tunnel and into the daylight again.  It took years of hard work and dedication to see the light at the end, but I made it through.  The thing is, once I got over the fact that I had achieved my initial goals, I found that I was sitting on a knoll looking down at several more tunnel entrances.  It had opened up possibilities and I had choices but I was going to have to go through more training and learning if I chose to come down off the knoll.   It was nice sitting there for awhile, basking in the sunlight, but eventually you want more challenges.  You find that you are not fulfilled for whatever reason.  Maybe you aren’t doing what will really make you happy or have the impact that you want.  You have to choose a new tunnel and start the process all over.

I’ve come to the point in my life where I’m sitting on the knoll and I’m ready to come down.  I tell myself I know where the road ends up going through, because I want to write fulltime at some point.   The other options I have will likely pay a lot more and be positions where I can have an impact on some aspect of either military or federal service.   The time I’ve spent training and working has made me eligible to make the leap to the next level if I want to take it.  The question is which one is the right one for me and my family?  I pray for an answer regularly.
I think we all aspire to be consequential or to have some sort of validation that what we are doing is meaningful or has value.   At what point do we except our fate and stop trying to make a difference?  Or do we ever reach that point?  Can’t we always have an impact on those around us?  These are concerns of scale or scope.   It is also a choice of balancing personal happiness versus fulfillment or whatever it is we get from doing something meaningful.  Is there a way to get everything in one basket?  One wonders if even Gandhi was satisfied that he had done enough with his life.
I recall seeing a piece on William Holden the actor on Biography.  He had achieved the pinnacle of the acting career.  Here is a guy that could have had just about anything in life he wanted but he was still unhappy.  He was heralded as a great actor with many accolades but he didn’t feel like being an actor was a life of consequence.  He decided to cut back on acting and started getting involved with wildlife preservation.    He was never satisfied with his life and ended up dying, drunk and alone.    That story stuck with me for some reason.  I don’t want to turn into a bitter alcoholic later in life because of choices I may make now. 
I know that I want to continue writing.  The ideas keep coming.  Faster in fact than I can keep up with.  I am not sure when it will become my fulltime gig, but it has a great deal of weight in my decision making process.  It will depend on many factors, some of which relate to the impact I’m having in my current paying job and the satisfaction I am getting from it in whatever form that will take.  I also wonder if being a genre writer will be fulfilling enough.  I think all writers have in the back of their mind the idea that they might actually have at least one great novel in them — one that will be consequential, whether commercially successful or not.   It can be done in any genre I think.  Time will tell.
I walked outside last night and it was crystal clear.  I love the night sky.  Seeing the constellations and the Milky Way really puts things in perspective for me and it also lights my fire for writing science fiction.  Something about the vastness of space that just enthralls me.  It begs the question: is there really such a thing as a life of consequence?  Maybe someday I’ll have that answer; in the meantime, I will just keep plugging away trying to improve my craft.

Clear Ether!