What I Learned in 2015

What I learned in 2015. Snark and sarcasm are lazy excuses for lack of talent. Vitriol is a mask for ignorance. Outrage is a moot justification of fear. Fear mongering is a sneaky way to showcase intolerance, racism, sexism, and prejudice. Love and tolerance really are the answer. Don’t bother loving the world or everyone … Continue reading “What I Learned in 2015”

What I learned in 2015.

Snark and sarcasm are lazy excuses for lack of talent. Vitriol is a mask for ignorance. Outrage is a moot justification of fear. Fear mongering is a sneaky way to showcase intolerance, racism, sexism, and prejudice. Love and tolerance really are the answer. Don’t bother loving the world or everyone in it – focus on the people you encounter. Don’t try to fix the world, focus on fixing the places you can touch right now.

I am thankful that I was fortunate enough to learn these things and more in 2015. It’s been a very valuable year.

Happy New Year World.

My 43rd Year in Review

Tomorrow, I turn 44. It’s a magical number only because it is a doubling number and so, I like to think it will herald a magical year. For the moment, on the eve of my 44th and the last evening of my 43rd – I’m going to do what I’ve done the past several years and look at my 43rd year in review before jumping into what I’d like for my 44th.

It’s been a good year – remarkably drama free in my personal, family, and work life – though the outside world has been boiling in chaos. Most of my year has been devoted to work, work, work – mostly in the form of buying dead people’s undervalued possessions and then selling them to people that value them a bit more. There were some live people’s things as well – we did an estate sale for a woman who was moving in with her children and bought a few estates from people who were moving and downsizing. Mostly though, I trafficked in the goods of the dead. It was not a year or much travel or adventure – but it was a good year.

Much of what I bought and sold was low dollar value this year – unremarkable furniture, general household stuff, low end art, watches and common jewelry, glassware, dishes, ‘collectibles’, junk, and decorative knick-knacks. I’ve learned that I hate that shit. If I ever own a thrift-store I will hire someone else to sit and deal with the people who shop in it. I get no pleasure from them for the most part. I feel like this low dollar selling is a big reason that I had to spend so much time working this year – it’s just not that profitable and it sucks up my valuable time. Yes, it paid my bills and allowed us to improve our businesses and life – but it was not enjoyable and took away from what is.

But back to my year end review – every year, I create goals for myself. These were my major goals for 2015:
1. Keep my family safe, happy and healthy – Yes! I accomplished this. At the end of 2015 we watch less TV, play more games, and eat better. We are alive, safe, and happy! Grade: A
2. Improve my health and fitness – My cholesterol and blood pressure improved but I gained a few pounds. I didn’t increase the amount of exercise I get or cut out sweets. I began having anxiety attacks but meditation has helped to curb them. Mentally and emotionally, I feel like I made a huge amount of progress. Grade: B-
3. Improve my business and finances. I fell about $45k short of my goal for this year, but I did improve revenue, start a small newspaper, and pave the way for making more money in the coming years. My credit rating improved.I didn’t purchase a home but I did get a car less than 10 years old. I earned a solid middle of the road grade in this category. Grade: C
4. Make Great Art – I painted a little, I did a bit of wood working, but overall – I didn’t make any great art to speak of. Grade: D
5. Sell more stuff – declutter my life. I sold so much stuff and let go of so much stuff this year it is pretty astounding. I did not realize my goal of doing 2 or more antique shows though – so I can’t give myself higher than a B- on this one. Grade: B-
6. Write More – Sell More Books. I wrote a little bit on this site, but not much more. I did not sell very many of my own books at all, though I have started to sell a lot of used books in my shop. Grade: C-
7. More Joyful Living. I taught my daughter to read and introduced her to the joys of camping and travel. I took walks where I felt fully aware and have tried to be more mindful. I have been meditating and feel like I’ve grown through much of my anger and resentment – things which have hindered me greatly in the past. Grade: B
8. Unplanned Accomplishments. I ran for office and got 35% of the vote with no campaigning. I rekindled several important friendships and hosted a mini-family reunion in my home. I traveled internationally with my wife and daughter and managed to do some kayaking. For all of this, I give myself a Grade: A+

So, how did I average in what I dubbed the Year of Business Success and Financial Freedom? Averaging my GPA from the above I get a 2.74 – or a B-. Not bad but not great. I’m shooting for a 4.0.

When I look at where I was a decade ago and where I thought I’d be today versus where I am – it’s humbling. I was so insecure, so egotistical (at the same time – they go together, I think), and I really thought I’d be a millionaire by now. Not even close. And yet – I have more than I ever thought possible. I am proud of what I’ve done and who I am in the process of becoming. I’m on the right path to the best possible version of me. I’m not anywhere near where I thought I would be. I’m not nearly as cool as I thought I was or would be and yet – I’m happy with me. I’m proud of who I am and what I do in this life. I look forward to getting to know the best possible me in the future because I am getting closer.

Now it’s time to work on my goals for next year. This shit works.

Mixed Christmas Feelings at Middle Age

This has been a strange Christmas for me. There hasn’t been any drama, which is nice. There were no big family Christmas gatherings and the pressure therein- which is also nice. Also, on a more internal note – I think this may be the first Christmas in my life where I didn’t want anything. I’ve been able to provide myself with most of what I want materially – within reason -I mean, I admit it, I’d still like a nice yacht in a Mediterranean port and to own a beach house somewhere – I still have a bucket list of travel destinations and experiences – but in terms of the kind of stuff you get for Christmas – I’m good. My dad sent a little cash which helped with holiday expenses and my wife bought me a few goodies to feel guilty snacking on – other than that – I can’t say there was anything on my wish list. Having a four-year-old – Christmas has been more about figuring out what would make her happy and also finding a way to get my wife a present she would love. I think I succeeded on both counts.

I’m not a Christian – though I think Jesus was a pretty wise teacher who deserves an international holiday devoted to love and tolerance and peace – so I’m cool with the holiday. I don’t go to church (since I’m not a Christian) so that isn’t a part of our tradition – in truth – we are building our traditions – on Christmas Eve, I bought us all new pajamas which we opened and I made chowder two years in a row. On Christmas day, we woke up and watched Sophia open up all her gifts which we gave Santa most of the credit for – and now I start to move into the reason I am feeling a bit of discontent – her gifts were generally expensive crap! I bought her a $40 kids doctor kit and it was packaged nicely and looked like a good quality toy – not so – once out of the package it was so much easily broke plastic crap. The beginning sewing kit was like the leftovers from a yard sale in a pretty cardboard lunch box. The painting set has so little paint in it that we’ll be lucky if it lasts three sessions. None of these were cheap! Except to produce. The fancy kids tablet her grandparents got her is a great idea but burns through batteries like no tomorrow and has a super slow processor which doesn’t do much more than a 2007 smart phone – actually it does considerably less – and if you want to get any games or apps for it – the cartridges and downloads are $25 each or more…her best gifts in my opinion were a wood puzzle and multiple pairs of socks and underwear. She was ecstatic at each gift which made me happy but the quality of these things – it soured my mood. Not because of the money I spent – but because of the trickery of the packaging and products. What happened to quality products and standing behind them? I should know better – customer service has been outsourced to 3rd world nations where poor workers are taught to say “I’m sorry sir, I will file a complaint for you” and if you choose to rant and rave only say the same thing again – and no, there is not a resolution ever.

I didn’t know what to do today. I took a couple of walks. I took a drive. I surfed the net and watched an old Jerry Lewis movie about an alien coming to Earth – I feel like I’m the alien. I heard a pretty interesting interview with Dick Van Dyke on NPR while I was driving. He’s 90 now – he said the world is Orwellian but instead of the governments having control – it’s the corporations – then he said he’s going to Disneyland for his 90th birthday – he called it his home country.

Man, this society we live in – it makes it hard to find peace. It makes it hard to be content. It makes it hard to have an internal human revolution. On the up side – I don’t want anything. On the downside – I want more for my daughter than apps that offer in game purchases and plastic toys that don’t work. I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful family and to not be in need of anything. I feel blessed. I feel so fortunate to not be a refugee, not be being tortured, not be starving or freezing or imprisoned by an unfair and unjust system. My health and my family’s health are blessings. Everyone should be able to have these simple things. Everyone should be so lucky. Most are not. I’m not sure if that’s part of what is under my skin today or not…

Merry Christmas Friends. Merry Christmas.

The Human Revolution

Now is the time for all great humans to come to the aid of themselves and their world. The way to do that is within each of us. I am engaged in a great struggle within myself these days – a moment of turmoil, an epic battle between the best possible me and the just sort of okay, muddling along, middling version of me. I am caught up in the human revolution and at stake is my happiness, my worth, and my entire being. It’s the greatest possible battle I can be engaged in and it will never end – nor should it. Every moment of every day, the battle rages on – each decision and the decision of how I spend each moment determining not just my fate, but the fate of those around me, and around them, and around them – like ripples in a pond echoing outward until virtually the entire world is touched.

I’m afraid, my friends, that many of our fellow humans have lost the battle or are losing the battle. They have given in to the dark side of this existence. They have allowed themselves to tap into the baser side of things. We all do it – from time to time- but unfortunately, some people create more powerful waves than others on the great pond of our reality. WE are constantly hit by the selfish, angry, greedy, and manipulative waves of those who are lost in the pleasure principal of this world. They are taking this life for everything they can – regardless of the cost to they or us. Violence, degradation, murder and worse surround us and are used to push us into the same sorts of behavior, the same sorts of desires, that the sick are addicted to.

A great deal of my life has been spent trying to outwardly fight, to expose, and to resist these forces. It is only now, as I approach my 44th year that I realize just how misguided I have been. I may have made a positive difference from time to time, but ultimately, I have not changed anything with my anger, my rage, my fear, or resistance. I sought an external revolution. I was wrong.

The revolution will not be televised because it cannot be filmed. It must take place within us. The revolution must be individual and it must be internal. Rather than hating the circumstances of the world – we must accept them. We must make peace with them. We must discover peace in the midst of turmoil. As the waves smash into us, we will drown if we try to calm them. Like surfers on a breaking wave – we can be wiped out and smashed against the reef – or we can ride the wave. The revolution must come from within. It will be a silent revolution. When the revolution is complete – people will not even realize that it has happened.

I am engaged in my human revolution. I am telling you about it. Those who don’t read this will never know, they will simply wonder why I smile more and why they enjoy being around me. Viva la revolucian humano.

On Trolling and Trolls and More

It’s been a strange trip since the internet arrived. I remember the first time I saw the internet in about 1993 on Marine Corps Air Station New River – Corporal Hansbury showed me how he could use his computer to talk to base ops and how he and the duty NCO there would exchange jokes over a chat relay. I thought it was neat.

In 1996 I used my first cell phone at the radio station I worked at. In 1997 I got a Yahoo email account. By this time it was pretty normal to prep for our morning radio show using an ‘online’ service. Around 1998 the internet was really blossoming.

I was in my 20s. My favorite writers were irreverent and anti-pop-culture. I was convinced that the best way to get people to see the real vulgarity in the world was to shock them with vulgarity. I even wrote a song called vulgar. It was all about how words weren’t vulgar but the world was with pollution, war, wage slavery, and other ugliness. It was a pretty good song – but not one that most people want to listen to. I discovered chat rooms. I became a troll. For a little while. It was fun to bait people and then torment them. It was awful – now that I think of it. At the time – it seemed harmless – it seemed like it was just playing with a computer, not making someone feel bad. It took me a while to realize there were real people on the other end. It was about the time of Friendster and Napster and MySpace that it hit me. I started meeting people through the computer. That made a profound difference.

Too bad I got so lost in that perverted form of winning. There’s a lot I could have done during that time as the internet grew. Instead I developed a blog called fukn.us Fucking Us. I started an online bookstore called Fukn Books – silly move. I thought I could be an acceptable form of offensive. Offensive was a way I shouldn’t have tried to go at all.

The truth is – I’m mild mannered. I’m polite. I’m nice. Perhaps unbelievably, I’m a bit of a prude. Maybe that was what I was fighting all along. I don’t know. I think that’s the problem with trolls though.

Like me – they hide behind a screen trying to project themselves as something they are not. They use false names and false avatars. Maybe they are really creeps – but my gut suspicion is that they are mostly just frustrated people living in this artificial world of ours with all of its artificial boundaries and weird invented rules. Here we are – advanced fire making primates quickly building the walls of our cages higher and higher. I like to think I’m fairly intelligent – but when I try to comprehend the difference between 1993 and 2015 – I’m not sure that I can. I lived it, but I don’t think I really understand it. I know I’m not alone.

I used to think that my grandparents saw the greatest changes in human history. They went from horse drawn carriages and telegraphs to men on the moon and broadcast television. I feel like I may have already surpassed them. I lived through the last years of independence from electronics. Those days are gone now. The days of kids freely playing in neighborhoods.

A friend came in my shop today. He’s a holdout on technology. Doesn’t even have a cellphone. His car broke down two days ago 12 miles from town. No one stopped to help him, not even the police. He had to spend the night in his car then walk back to town in the morning. My aunt and uncle talk to their adult children every day – when my cousin didn’t answer her phone over 8 hours – they called the police. It turned out she was hiking. When I was a little kid – we were frequently out of contact with our parents for 10-12 hours every day we didn’t have school.

I’m rambling a bit – I know it. It’s all connected though. I’m not defending trolls – I don’t like them either. I’ve got a friend on Facebook who seems to still be stuck in it – he’s still single, doesn’t have kids – maybe that’s a part of it. He’s a nice guy, but he always responds to things with lots of vitriol and f-bombs- looking for a reaction – I think, but then again – maybe he’s not the nice guy I remember anymore. Maybe he’s unhappy with the world and where he is in it.

I’m tired of being unhappy with the world and where I am in it. I’m tired of being pissed off and bitter about life. Actually, I’m happy with life. Life is interesting and fine. Maybe that’s why things are starting to be more clear. I hope so.

I’m Getting Old – I’m Glad Not to Be Young Today

I’m getting old and I don’t mind. Thank God I’m not young in today’s world. I’m so happy that I traveled while Europe still had open borders and while the only insane gun violence was happening here in the USA with gun nuts who were strictly home grown. I’m not reveling about the changes in the world – on the contrary – it makes me deeply sad. Donald Trump is painting himself more and more as a neo-Hitler figure and the proletariat seems to be eating it up. They are working and getting nowhere and they want someone to blame. They are scared and they need a target to focus on. They need a violent hero. Meanwhile the maniac Islamists are working a masterful plan that our policy wonks and media are helping right along. It’s simple and they’ve said it was what they were going to do. 1)Occupy chaotic zones and subdue them with hard line intolerance loosely based on authoritarian readings of Islam 2) Randomly attack safe areas in the world where Muslim populations live in order to turn non-Muslims into anti-Muslims and then to open their arms to the Muslims they have marginalized. Their plan counts on Western media and governments to drum up fear and hatred of very generalized almost cartoon versions of Muslims as mustache twisting evil masterminds or gullible young brown people sucked into cults easily. The fear/hatred versions don’t offer us images of mom’s cooking beans, kids playing tag, or dad’s working on cars – all of which are more common than the media/government version of Muslims. Ridiculous. And making the world more dangerous and unpredictable than ever before.

Anyway, the borders are closing. It seems like the only young people who are allowed to flirt are the very rich or very good looking. From any of the rest (who make up the vast majority) it is ‘unwanted attention’ or even worse sexual harassment. Thank God I’m married and not trying to find love and companionship in this world.

It seems to me that the world has become much more expensive and materialistic. The barriers to entry are higher than ever before. There is no clear path to success – not even in America. My thought is that there may have never been a clear path – it was an illusion – work hard, keep your head down and your nose clean, do the right thing. That’s the golden path to success – but as our view of the successful becomes more clear (they too, cannot hide like they used to) it becomes obvious that the path to success is much more black. Be merciless, watch for opportunity to climb over the other guy, take as much as you can get away with. Yuck.

There must be a better way. There must be a better place.

Perhaps increased connection and mobility was bound to ruin us.

Where is the reset button?