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Blog Archive

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Diabetes-Friendly Sugar Free Eggnog

I'm back again, folks, with another diabeetus-friendly recipe for the holidays. If you're like me, you love eggnog, and it was a kick in the gut the first time you realized you couldn't buy it anymore because frankly, it's loaded up with sugar. Once again, Splenda (or Stevia, if you prefer) comes to the rescue. Eggnog is so crazy easy to make, I find myself wondering why I ever paid for it to begin with.

Before I jump into this recipe, a necessary disclaimer: I use raw eggs in my eggnog. Yes, just about everyone has heard that you can get Salmonella from raw eggs. It's true, and I include this disclaimer by way of an "at your own risk" thing.

That being said, a recent study found that the actual odds of getting sick from raw eggs is astoundingly low. First, many eggs these days are pasteurized. Second, only about 1 in every 30,000 eggs has a Salmonella contaimination inside. Contamination is much higher on the shells, but we're not eating the shell. 

So there we have it: eating raw eggs is relatively safe, but do so at your own risk and don't say I didn't warn you of the potential dangers. If you want, it's possible to slowly cook the mixture to 140 degrees, but then you'll have to cool it off before you eat it. 

Also, you risk turning the eggnog into custard or sweetened scrambled eggs. Just saying. 

So here we go! Once more unto the breach!

Easy Sugar-Free Eggnog

Ingredients

4 raw eggs
2 cups milk
2 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup to 1 cup Splenda or Stevia (depending on how sweet you like it)
2 shots of dark rum (optional)*
1 tsp rum extract (optional)*

*one or the other, for gods' sake, not both!

Directions

Crack eggs into a blender. Add milk, vanilla, nutmeg, sweetener, rum or rum extract (if desired). Blend until frothy. Pour into tall glass and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No-Sugar-Added Apple Pie

It's time for another diabetes-friendly recipe!

This time it's apple pie. Now, let's be fair right out of the gate. There is no such thing as sugar-free apple pie. Apples have sugar in them. Period. This is no-sugar added apple pie, meaning you don't add extra sugar.

I am not 100% certain what the exact carb count for a slice would be. However, my guess is that there's probably about 30g of carbs in a single slice, about 19 of which would be sugars from the apple, the rest from the pie crust. So you'll want to account for that. It's likely that there's between 5 and 7g of fiber from the apples and the crust and the corn starch.

So this isn't a "free food," or something you want to just go overboard chowing down on. Still, it's something you can enjoy on a cheat day, or at the holidays, without worrying about a full cup of added sugar.

So, without further ado, here we go!

Recipe for no-sugar added apple pie:

Ingredients:

1. Pie crusts (2)
2. 7-8 medium apples, cored, peeled and sliced
3. 1 cup Splenda (sucralose), Stevia, or other sweetener of your choice
4. 2 tbsp. corn starch*
5. 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
6. 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Prepare

(Preheat oven to 425 degrees)
1. Core, peel and thinly slice apples. Set aside in a bowl.
2. Roll one pie crust into a 9" pie pan
3. Mix splenda, corn starch, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle over apples and toss.
4. Spoon apple mix into pie pan over crust.
6. Roll second pie crust over top. Flute edges and cut slits in crust.
7. Bake at 425 degrees until top is golden brown (35-45 minutes).

*I used almond meal instead of corn starch, as corn starch is high on the blood glucose index, though it is only 2 tbsp. Using almond meal wasn't as effective a thickener and resulted in a bit more liquid inside and less syrup. I ended up having to drain what amounted to about 1/3 cup of mulled cider from the pie, but hey, bonus! Mulled cider!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Philosophy of Universal Reconciliation

I've noticed a disturbing trend on social media lately. So disturbing, in fact, that I will not be sharing these musings on my social media accounts, because someone, and likely multiple someones is absolutely guaranteed to assault me verbally with their gods-given right to outrage and hate, arguing that their hate is, in fact, better than the hate of someone else because that someone else is pure evil and who the hell am I to take that away from them?

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, but hopefully that at least got your attention.

We live in a world of hate. Of righteous (or self-righteous) hatred and rage. The right hates, well, anyone who isn't white and Christian. The left hates everyone who doesn't agree with any view they hold, and claims that they have the right to do so, because they are, in fact, morally superior. I'm sure some folks on the left are going to show up to argue that's not true, and to those people: you need to do some self-reflection.

If you've ever spent a day screaming on social media about how some person or group of people, no matter who they are, deserve to be wiped off the face of the earth, you're in the wrong and you're behaving like a monster. I don't care who they are or what horrific beliefs they espouse.

I cannot put this simpler than this: we are not supposed to punish people for wrong-thinking. 


Rejection of Hate

I have posted a quote from season 2 of Twin Peaks on my Facebook account several times recently. I'll reproduce it here:

Albert Rosenfield: Yeah. You might practice walking without dragging your knuckles on the floor. Heh heh heh.

Sheriff Truman: Albert! Let's talk about knuckles. The last time I knocked you down, I felt bad about it, the next time's gonna be a real pleasure.

Albert Rosenfield: You listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchet-man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I'll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely: revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method... is love. I love you Sheriff Truman.

Dale Cooper: Albert's path is a strange and difficult one.



This quote rings so true to me these days. The more I see hate on Facebook from everyone out there in their self-rigteous, self-justified addiction to rage and anger and fear, the more I work to stick to it. Gods know I've not always been successful; I've been vindictive. I've had the urge to do violence. I've been angry and felt the world would be better off without so-and-so. 

Does that make me a hypocrite? I don't think so, and here's why: I recognize that as a failure on my part. I recognize that I failed to live up to a philosophy of love and goodness. I don't claim that my hate, my drive to do violence is okay while at the same time proclaiming to champion love. 

Therein lies the problem. People think they're entitled to their hate. 

Universal Reconciliation

There is a concept in Christian theology, popularly attributed in its earliest forms to the scholar Origen, who lived in the late 2nd/early 3rd century, CE. It's called Universal Reconciliation. This is a very complicated philosophy, but it's also at the root of Unitarian Universalism. In brief, it states this: Everyone can be redeemed, and everyone should be given an opportunity to do so. Origen had an interesting philosophy on the End Times--he didn't believe it would be a time of fire and blood, a time where there would be a great battle where the forces of Heaven destroyed the forces of Hell. Rather, he believed that the end of days would arrive when the Devil himself turned to God, bowed his head, and asked for forgiveness with true reconciliation in his heart.

You read that right: an early Christian philosopher believed that even the Devil could be redeemed in the end. 

Of course, Origen was then declared a heretic and driven out of Alexandria, to spend the rest of his years wandering and eventually be tortured under the Emperor after Christian magic was accused of bringing a plague upon Rome...to die 3 years later as a result of the injuries he sustained. Cute, right? 

Hate Is Wrong

I'm going to be blunt and address the elephant in the room. 

Nazis suck. There's no way around it. They're hate-filled, violent people who espouse a hate-filled, violent and abhorrent philosophy. The problem is, too many otherwise very good people think that gives them the right, the justification and the responsibility to hate them right back. It doesn't, and that's wrong thinking. You cannot claim to espouse love and acceptance, and then say except those guys. 

Does that mean if a Nazi points a gun at you, you should sit there and get shot? No; even the Dalai Llama says that if you have a gun and another man points a gun at you, you are correct to shoot him first. That's hot hate; that's self-defense. 

You know what is hate, though? So-called "pre-emptive strikes." 

If you see a group holding a rally in the streets--even if they are screaming and shouting abhorrent things--you do not have the right to physically assault them for it. Even though their beliefs may be worse than yours, the act of you striking first makes you just as bad as them. You're not justified in punching someone in the face because they said something despiciable. You're justified in punching them in the face if they try to punch you or someone else. 

Violence is excusable only in direct defense of yourself or another person. Defense is by definition a reaction. I carry a handgun. I'm licensed to do so in the State of PA, and I only carry in areas where it is legal for me to do so. I don't carry a handgun in the hopes that I'm going to get to shoot someone someday. I don't dream of being a hero. I carry a gun and I desperately hope that I never have to fire it, except at a target at the range. 

The simple fact is, though, I live in a world where there's a lot of good people who are just so damn angry they can snap at any time, and I want to be ready to defend myself in such a situation. In fact, contrary to the "cowboy yee-haw" image cooked up by the anti-gun crowd, I'm here to tell you that between myself and the many friends I have who carry, we actually are more likely to go out of our way to avoid conflict while carrying, specifically because we don't want to have to hurt someone. 

It Won't Mean You're Weak

Yes, there are exceptions to every rule. And am I judging people who have this self-righteous hate? No, really, I'm not. I'm putting out a call to not do it, but I get it. I really do. I understand the rage. I understand the frustration, the anger. Hell, I feel it. But I won't give into it, and you shouldn't either. 

My dad taught me a lot of things when I was growing up: how not to take shit from people. How to stand up for my beliefs and for what's right. And one of the most important things he ever taught me: it takes a lot more guts to turn around and walk away from a fight than it does to start throwing punches. 

I pride myself on the fact that never once in my entire life have I thrown the first punch in any fight I've been in--and I've been in fights. I've also walked away from plenty of fights, and ignored people hurling slurs at me as a result. 

Someone's bound to say, "you're a white guy; you don't have the right to take this stance," or, "you can't understand the struggles, so you should shut your mouth." 

Did you know that, while I'm not gay, I've been inches from being gay beaten by a bunch of rednecks in a parking lot because I dressed in drag for the Rocky Horror Picture Show? I've also been threatened by a bunch of dudes attending a local hip-hop night at a nearby bar, for the same reason--my RHPS costumes. I may not face it every day, but yes, I've looked that hate in the face. 

I could go on and on and defend it with examples of times I've faced prejudice and hate, even as a white male, but the truth is, I don't need to defend the right to have an opinion about this, and violent verbal reactions to the contrary, I have a right to it. Your reaction is a reflection upon you, not me.

Earlier I talked about exceptions to the rule. Here's another song that's uniquely applicable to this day and age:


Everyone considered him
The coward of the county
He'd never stood one single time
To prove the county wrong
His mama called him Tommy
But folks just called him yellow
Something always told me
They were reading Tommy wrong

He was only ten years old
When his daddy died in prison
I took care of Tommy
'Cause he was my brother's son
I still recall the final words
My brother said to Tommy
"Son, my life is over,
But yours has just begun."

Chorus:
Promise me, son,
Not to do the things I've done
Walk away from trouble if you can.
Now it don't mean you're weak
If you turn the other cheek
And I hope you're old enough to understand
Son, you don't have to fight to be a man

There's someone for everyone
And Tommy's love was Becky
In her arms he didn't have to prove he was a man
One day while he was working
The Gatlin boys came calling
They took turns at Becky
And there was three of them

Tommy opened up the door
And saw his Becky crying
The torn dress, the shattered look
Was more than he could stand
He reached above the fireplace
Took down his daddy's picture
As his tears fell on his daddy's face
He heard these words again

(Chorus)

The Gatlin boys just laughed at him
When he walked into the bar room
One of them got up
And met him half way 'cross the floor
Tommy turned around they said
"Hey, look, old yellow's leavin'."
You could've heard a pin drop
When Tommy stopped and locked the door

Twenty years of crawling
Was bottled up inside him
He wasn't holding nothing back
He let 'em have it all
Tommy left the bar room
Not a Gatlin boy was standing
He said, "This one's for Becky,"
As he watched the last one fall
I heard him say

I promised you, Dad
Not to do the things you've done
I walk away from trouble when I can
Now please don't think I'm weak
I didn't turn the other cheek
Papa, I should hope you understand
Sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man
  
We could go 'round and 'round about the meaning of these lyrics. Admittedly they can be used to defend either side of the debate--would it have been better for Tommy to beat down the Gatlin Boys before they hurt Becky? Maybe. Or maybe they would've just killed her out of revenge had he done so. 

Violence is a neverending cycle. No matter what your justifaction is, it tends to come back on you. If you really believe in being accepting and loving, there should be no justification. Fight to defend yourself. Fight to defend your home. Fight to defend your country. Fight to defend your loved ones or strangers on the street. But fight only in the face of an immediate and imminent threat, and not one that you're rationalizing as such. 

Some guy who lives in his mom's basement who does paintball drills in the woods and waves a red flag screaming, "Take America Back!" is not an immediate or imminent threat. Not unless he actually tries to hurt you or someone else. Until then, the best way to fight back is to take away his power...by just walking away.

Seeking Redemption

Hate doesn't grow in a vacuum, folks. We can argue all day about whether some people are just awful human beings, but in the end, if someone hates, it's because they were taught to hate by someone else. It's a vicious cycle and it can end, often by showing the person who hates, a little bit of love. Sometimes it takes a lot of love, but everyone deserves a chance to change, to learn to be a better person.

Do I hate the alt-right? No, I don't. I feel sorry for them. Because they're horribly misguided people with a hole that can't be filled up. They're angry and miserable and nothing will ever make them happy because they need an enemy. And you know what? I'm seeing good, wonderful people about whom I care a great deal start to go down that path, and justify it with the "they started it!" argument.

The United States has become a second-grade playground.

This Isn't 1935

Someone's bound to come along and say, "That's exactly what people were saying in Germany in 1935." Folks, this isn't Germany in 1935. The political climate here isn't even close to what it was, then. Even with a douchebag in the Whitehouse, a shit show in Washington and the so-called alt-right screaming on the Intarwebz, it's not even close to that. Our checks and balances are still working--see all the Supreme Court decisions over the past several years (and the several this year alone). See Congress' veto-proof bill limiting the power of the executive office. 

The National Socialist Party in Germany in 1935 wasn't some dudes waving a flag and conducting survivalist drills in the woods. They were a legitimate political party with legitimate political power. You don't fight that by punching them in the face. You fight that here, today, by voting against people like that when they run for office. 

There's not going to be a militia coup in the U.S. Our, you know, real military is too strong for that to happen on the strength of some loser militia group. We're not moving towards a totalitarian dictatorship. If anything, this administration is just crippling us in a neverending cycle of business as usual because the people chose the wrong renegade to fix things, and after this shit show, business as usual will be a welcome return.

What Are We Supposed to Do, Then?

Nobody's saying practicing what you preach is easy. It's not. I fail as often as I succeed. But when you fall, you have to recognize you've fallen, get up, brush off, and try again. 

Instead of hitting someone or committing a crime of your own, instead of ranting on social media about how so-and-so should be killed or why aren't we punching these people, or announcing to the world that your social media posts are "taking a stand," try going out and actually doing something positive, something constructive. 

If you've got the time, volunteer to work with disenfranchised communities, at a soup kitchen, at the local teen center, at houses for humanity, the Wounded Warriors project, hell, even at your local library. 

If you don't have time to put in volunteer hours (and to be fair, not everyone does), then help an old lady (or old man) carry their groceries to their car next time you're at the store. If you spot someone who looks unhappy, stop and ask them if there's anything you can do to help, even lend an ear. Pay someone a heartfelt compliment. Tell someone they look nice today (in a respectful, genuine way). Just smile and say hello to a stranger you're walking past on the street. Pay for coffee for the guy behind you. 

That's how you change the world, folks. And we're all going to fail time and again, and that's okay. We're only human, after all. But nothing changes overnight, and the more hate and rage I see, the more determined I am to just, simply and basically, be kind to people. That's how we'll change the world. That's how we'll save it. By making a few people's day a little better, every day, one day at a time.

This is probably falling on deaf ears and outraging as many people as it's reaching, if not more, but as Dale Cooper said, Albert's path is a strange and difficult one. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Oz Chronicles of L. Frank Baum

Wow. It's literally been years since I posted here. I don't even know if I have readers left. Guess we'll see. I'll also cross-post this over on my Wasted Lands blog, as it has interest to the fantasy gaming set as well.

So, many many moons ago there was a huge book store called Borders. Millennials may be too young to remember it; Gen Z definitely is. Okay, saying Millennials are too young is stretching it; Borders was still alive into the 21st century.

In any case, back in the day I liked Borders better than Barnes & Noble. It had a very "homey" feel to it; they even had a lounge with a fireplace. They went the way of the dodo because they foolishly ignored the ebook craze; while B&N was busy creating the Nook, Borders failed to produce an e-reader, and when they finally did, they partnered with Kobo, a floundering company that used a proprietary format and store that nobody ever heard of. It was too little too late.

But that's neither here nor there.

LONG before B&N began putting out their amazing collection of leatherbound classics, Borders was doing it. Back then, Borders produced a 3-volume set of L. Frank Baum's works. The first two volumes had all the Oz books (save for the short story collection Little Wizard Stories of Oz) while the third had his other faerie stories. All were bound in green leather covers with gold foil stamping. Here's a few photos for reference:




I bought these when they came out. They're gorgeous and they include the author's notes and introductions for each book. What they do not contain, and I always felt they suffered for it, is the original, beautiful illustrations by William Wallace Denslow. But for years they were the best, nicest set you could get without paying through the nose for beat-up copies of the originals.

Flash forward to last year. Barnes and Noble comes through with this:


Followed in late 2016/early 2017 by this:


I recently picked these up because lo and behold, they contain not only the original illos but the missing Book 15 (Little Wizard Tales of Oz)! They're gorgeous, high-quality leatherbound presentations with foil edged pages (emerald green for vol. 1, silver for vol. 2). Alas, these only cover the first 10 books. I expect vol. 3 later this year or early next year, however.

Until then, they've released all three volumes in their discount hardcover dustjacket editions, which are an outstanding deal at about 8 bucks (currently as of this writing they're marked down to 5 bucks, so grab them fast!) They look like this:




I picked up the non-collector's Magic of Oz just to have all 15 books until the leatherbound comes out.

So, as I was flipping through real quick, thinking about whether to sell my Borders editions, I discovered that, sadly the Barnes and Noble ones are also not complete. They don't contain Baum's author's notes, prefaces and the like, which to me have as much charm as the books themselves. I'm glad I checked; now I have a reason to hang onto both sets.

Of course, if you don't want to pay out for the books, they are in the public domain and you can download them for free online. The best source for public domain ebooks I've found is Feedbooks.com, and the original 14 novels can be found here in epub, PDF, or .mobi for Kindle here:

http://www.feedbooks.com/list/4/the-oz-books

This download list also includes 15-18, written by other authors after Baum died. They are authorized by the Baum estate, but personally, I don't like them and they're not part of "my" canon (they change too much and don't fit the mood and themes of Baum's books, IMHO).

Little Wizard Stories can be found at the following link, though I have not vetted it and cannot vouch for the quality or the files themselves:

https://freeditorial.com/en/books/little-wizard-stories-of-oz

Finally, there's also a very nice hardcover boxed collection of the series out there. It's been awhile since I looked through these ones; I don't recall if they have all the original illos in them or the author's notes, but I ordered them for the library I used to run, and remember thinking it a good set. It runs about $70, though, which is more expensive than the B&N 3-volume set:



https://www.amazon.com/Oz-Complete-Hardcover-Collection/dp/1442489030/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

That's that. Hope this wasn't too boring. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter - The Final Hours!



Project image


A couple more days, folks! We're officially down to counting HOURS, now, and are only 12 backers away from $200! Check the Kickstarter--we have unveiled a TON more really cool stretch goals! Let's see if we can hit $21,000 in 2 days!!!

Science, sorcery, pugilistic pummeling, gun-toting, sword-wielding, B17-flying, gadget carrying adventure. Own it!

http://bit.ly/amazingrpg

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter - The Final Countdown

Well, folks, we've got less than 6 days remaining in the Kickstarter and a long way to go, still, to hit that all-important $21K stretch goal. I want more than anything to see all three of these books in hardcover, and I think that people are going to like the Companion enough that they'll be disappointed in it being only softcover.

So, while we're funded for the core book in hardcover and the Manual of Monsters and Companion to be produced in softcover, WE STILL NEED YOUR SUPPORT. Please consider pledging, or sharing the link around. Help a starving game designer!

Thanks!

http://bit.ly/amazingrpg

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kicksarter - Upping the Ante!

Greetings from the Troll Dens!

Regarding the Amazing Adventures Kickstarter, some of you may have noticed an extra "S" in the 10K stretch goal.  Steve and Jason were talking last night and have decided to do a little something extra:  When we open that door, anyone at the $99 or above level will get 2 Amazing Adventures Players books for your table.  And -- hint, hint -- expect a few more secret doors to be popping up.  :-)

We also have a little bit of a challenge put forth by Steve and the TLG Trolls. We currently are at about $8,300 now. IF we make $10,000 by Friday (midnight), everyone at the $99 or above level will get a digest sized copy of the Amazing Adventures Core book! So if you are considering adding more, or changing your pledge, now is the best time. 

And if you can help spread the word about it, we'd appreciate it. Here's a link you can share for the Kickstarter:  http://bit.ly/amazingrpg

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Amazing Adventures Second Print Kickstarter is Live!!!

The Kickstarter for Amazing Adventures Second Print is Live!!!

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I haven't been around for some time, folks. For that I apologize. I hope to rectify that in the future--life has been too crazy of late.

However, I'm back and pleased to announce that Troll Lord Games has launched the kickstarter for Amazing Adventures Second Print!

What is Amazing Adventures?
It is Pulp Siege! The newest core game powered by Troll Lord Games' celebrated SIEGE engine (this is what runs Castles & Crusades). It allows you to create any type of pulp adventure hero you want, and customize them as you like! Be it arcane scholars, mentalists, tomb-raiding archaeologists, Asian martial arts masters, or gangsters and G-Men, this game has you covered. And best of all, if you're a fan of Castles & Crusades, you can pick this game up and get playing in a matter of minutes! Inside this book you'll find:

• Eight brand new character classes: Arcanist, Gadgeteer, Gumshoe, Hooligan, Mentalist, Pugilist, Raider, and Socialite
• Character customization options: Generic Class Abilities, Traits, Backgrounds, Fate Points, Pulp Costumes, Sanity Rules, and more!
• The complete SIEGE engine rules, adapted to use a single Challenge Base
• Rules for vehicular combat
• Guidelines on how to run a pulp game
• A rogue's gallery of foes, pre-generated characters, NPCs, and a ready-made adventuring society to get you up and running fast
• A complete starting adventure for 4-6 new pulp heroes
• And tons more

The Amazing Adventures Kickstarter!
We want the Amazing Adventures core rulebook out in Hardcover and Kickstarter is the platform to make that happen. With you on board we can not only put AA out in hardcover but we can, with a little hard work, add Amazing Monsters to the mix and the next release in the series: The Amazing Adventures Companion, filled with all manner of new material, from classes to vehicles and more.

If we hit our funding goal, the core rulebook will be in Hardcover. We also hope to get both the Manual of Monsters and Amazing Adventures Companion through stretch goals. We feel very strongly that if we hit $20K we can meet those goals and have all three in Hardcover!

The great news is that after a soft open this weekend, we already hit our base funding goal! However, since our public opening, pledges have dropped off a bit. Help us get the word out and reach that $20K goal!!!

Even if you can't contribute, it would be awesome if you could spread the word. Thanks!

You can find the kickstarter at:

http://bit.ly/amazingrpg

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On Being My Own Boss and Why You Should, Too



I came to a sudden realization this morning.

I'm living my dream.

It's not in the way I thought it might be, not remotely. But life is full of unexpected surprises. 

I've been in the "independent contractor"/"work for yourself" mode for about 5 months, now, but I have to say it's incredibly liberating. Yes, there are things about it that are terrifying, but it's nice to know my fate is in my own hands.

For those unaware, to say that a brand new library has limited funds is a gross understatement. The funding here isn't even enough to provide me benefits. So I am employed here as an independent contractor. I pay my own taxes and am on the justifiably-maligned Obamacare health system (which sucks--everything good you've heard about it is a lie, and if you're not actually ON it, you don't get to disagree).

Aside from the Obamacare bit, though, things are pretty good. Sure, I don't get PTO from here, but again, my fate is in my own hands. You see, I am also doing web content writing for a company called Optimized Scribes and quite frankly, that stands to be more lucrative than librarianship--at least at this stage. The amount of money I make from that is really up to me, but to put it bluntly, this two-week pay from OS is going to be easily as high as that from the library, and I've put in less than half the hours.

So why stick with librarianship at all? I mean, here I do have a boss, my contract can be terminated, and I can be out of work--I'm technically not my own boss at the library, and I don't even get sick days because there is (literally) nobody else to run the place on a moment's notice.

I stick with librarianship because I love it. I love this place, I love the kids and patrons, and I love what I do here, even if it's not quite as expansive as I thought it would be when I signed on. And guess what? I have the freedom to do this because I love it. I didn't go to school for my Master's in Library and Information Science just because, and I certainly didn't do it because it's a lucrative career. Hell, it took me two years to find a job and the one I did finally get pays way below the median salary for librarians. There's just too many new librarians and not enough librarian jobs. No, I went for the degree because it's a field I feel passionate about.  Sure, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to find a job, but even still. Baby steps.

I have a strange back-and-forth view of my two paying gigs. Technically the library is my day job and OS is my supplemental income. It's odd, though, because my supplemental job pays me more than my day job does, when it breaks down.

It's also nice to know that if things go south here (which given the state of libraries today is a very real possibility) I have a fall-back position. I can increase my writing output and likely more than make up the difference. Indeed, were all things to remain as they are, I could be making nearly six figures from content writing alone, just by doubling what I did this past week, every week. Anyone who says you cannot make a living doing this probably just didn't have what it takes to pull it off or has listened to propaganda from those who failed to pull it off. Ever hear the old fable about the fox and the grapes? Yeah, look it up.

Granted; I'm lucky. The owner of Optimized Scribes is a good friend and a very canny businesswoman, and is also *very* good at researching and bidding jobs for her freelancers. Her company is growing so hopefully you'll be hearing more from them in the very near future. 


So here it is.

For years I've said, "I wish to God I could make a living as a writer. I'd give anything for that."

I've also said, "It would be a dream come true if I could be a librarian."

Guess what? I'm a librarian who is also making a living as a writer.

Sure, 99% of what I write is ghost written, and little of it is creative, but I am, in fact, making good money writing. It's just not the kind of writing I always thought I'd be doing. I have given thought to the possibility of going full-time as a content writer, but the truth is, content writing is feast or famine and the library makes a strong fallback position for those times when there's no work in the writing. If you're going to make a living at writing alone, you have to do all the work you possibly can when it's there, and put as much money away as you can while you do it, because there will be times when the work goes dry--perhaps for months--and you'll still need to pay bills. Since the library is stable for now, I look at it as my main job while the writing, lucrative as it is, is supplemental. If I ever lose the library gig or the writing just goes through the roof, I'll re-evaluate.

There's all kinds of other issues at play--taxes are fun when you're self-employed, but you get used to that and you really just need to be diligent about putting away 30% of every pay for taxes. I also recommend a good accountant, but that's neither here nor there so far as this blog goes.

So what's the point of all this? Am I bragging? No, I'm not--at least, that's not my intent. You would not believe the number of arguments I've had with people over the years I was wildly unhappy as an administrator for a University. People told me, "I don't know what your problem is. Suck it up. Grow up and do what you have to do. Nobody gets to do what they want. As long as you're making good money that's all that matters."

You know, I learned the hard way that those attitudes are sheer bullshit. Do what you love and don't sweat the money. As long as you are paying your bills, that's what matters. Quit being jealous of people who go on cruises or travel the world. Many of them do that shit because they so desperately need to get away from their soul-crushing but high-paying day jobs which they secretly hate.

I'm a lot happier not hating having to go to work every day, and just scraping together the funds to go to a gaming convention every year. And you know what? I'm pretty sure that if I keep on keeping on, eventually the money will follow. I may never be making 200 grand a year, but I'm stable.

The truth is, most of us live either at or just beyond our means, regardless of what we make. If you make more, you'll spend more. If you make less, you'll spend less. And you will spend less if you make less. I know, because I do.

I took a 53% paycut to come to the library from my last gig, and even with the supplement from writing I'm still about $5,000 a year less than I was (though if I keep on increasing my earnings from OS, that will change). I spend less because I know I have to, and it didn't take a hard conscious adjustment. It just happened.

Yes, since I know you're wondering, it was scary making that move. Terrifying, in fact. It certainly helped to make the decision, that I had fourteen years of successive administrative jobs that paid me more and more and made me less and less happy. I also discovered that while I was a passable secretary and administrative / executive assistant, once I climbed into the upper management levels, I was really not good at that job, no matter how hard I tried.

I was at a point where I didn't have much to lose. I was going to change my life or succumb to a pretty severe and possibly permanent depressive funk. So the thought process of whether or not I should go from almost $45k a year with full benefits to under $23k a year with no benefits but in a field I really wanted to enter took about 1.5 seconds. For many people it'd take significantly longer and the terror of the uncertainty might be crippling. I get that.

You know, I have only one response to the people who don't make the move because they're afraid of not having security. 

Nobody in this world EVER achieved great success by playing it safe. Nobody. If you can't take the risks, you can't play to win. If you take security over happiness, you've thrown in the towel, and the two are not the same thing--it's nice when they overlap, but make no mistake: security and happiness are mutually exclusive concepts which can be complementary but one is not requisite to the other.

It takes balls to walk away from upper middle class pay and full benefits for a far less certain future, but if you have the balls, it's almost always worth it. Yes, it's better to do it when you're younger, but it's never too late. If you're not happy and someone tells you to "suck it up," it's usually because they're too afraid to make their own change, and misery loves company. Not always, but usually.

The moral of this story is, have courage to make the change you need to make. Do what you love and the money will follow, and there are, in fact, opportunities to pay your bills doing what you love. You just have to hunt for them and grab them when you find them.

If you think I'm stupid or full of it, that's fine. If you're too scared to make the change or are otherwise dismissing me out of hand, it doesn't matter. If you don't believe me, so be it. All I can do is speak from my own experience. It took too long for me to get there and I no longer have time for negativity in my life.

Is my life perfect now? Nope, not by a long shot. Nobody's is. I still have job-related frustrations and really shitty days. Hell, I still may fail. Guess what, though? Here's an uncomfortable truth: any one of you can fail at your job at any time. This is true no matter good at your gig you are. One mistake can end it all, and it doesn't even have to be your mistake. If there's one thing 2008 showed us it's that even major multinational corporations can fall apart in a day and you can be out on the street.

I'll tell you what: I'm a lot better off emotionally, spiritually, and in all other ways than I have been for a very long time, and I hope it stays that way for a long time to come. The times are changing, the economy is changing, and the middle class is going away. There's not a damn thing we can do about it, except make our own middle class by finding our own opportunities and doing what we love. The future of corporate work is haves and have-nots, not upper and middle class. The future of the middle class is self employment.

But enough of my rambling. Quit your job; you'll feel better.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What is a Library, and Why?

(This post is evolved and expanded from a comment I made on a friend's Facebook page).


The above photo is circulating on Facebook currently, with the following caption:

"You want to photograph me eating chicken?"
"Yep."
"Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message."
"What's that?"
"I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It's my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me."


I'm not sure whether the gentleman being quoted is a librarian or a part-time staff member. I'm not even certain whether this quote is real or just made up, though given that this guy appears to be in his 20's or early 30's, I'm inclined to believe it's fake. If the library in question is in fact a research library, he's been going there since he was in his early teens at the oldest? Somehow I doubt it.

But let's roll with it. What I am sure of is that regardless of whether it's true, the message is written by someone who really...really doesn't get it. 


So this research collection is being sent to another institution. Sad? Yes. Well, actually, really, it's not even that sad. It's not as though the collection is being mothballed or destroyed. It's just getting moved to a different library. So it may be sad for the residents of Manhattan, but change happens.

Now, it is very sad that a few branches look like they're going to close with whatever consolidation is going on. That makes my heart hurt and it is unfortunately something that's happening all too often, but is mostly happening to libraries that refuse to evolve, and/or in communities that are not supportive of their library systems.  When the Carnegie Library system here in Pittsburgh was in danger of closing branches because our financially-beleaguered City Council could not uphold their "in perpetuity" funding agreement to Andrew Carnegie when one accounted for inflation, the entire community rallied and went so far as to approve a 0.1 mil (miniscule and not even noticeable by the vast majority of Pittsburghers) property tax increase, which went on to generate well over a million dollars annually for the library system. Perhaps New York should look at a similar strategy (expanded possibly to a miniscule rental tax?). Think about how much money a meager 5 bucks a year (41 cents a month) from each New Yorker would raise for the New York public library system. 

But I digress.

Talking of change happening, and speaking as someone who is (I can finally and happily say) a career librarian, libraries are no longer buildings with books. If they remain solely buildings with books, they will ALL close down. Libraries MUST evolve and change to survive in this day and age--I would argue, in fact, that despite the etymology of the word, libraries have NEVER been "buildings with books." What a library is, and always has been, is a center of information exchange and information archiving. Equating that solely with books is a gross misunderstanding at best, a logical fallacy at worst. Electronic delivery of information is the "industry standard" in society, as it were. Libraries having something in common with Internet cafes is not necessarily a bad thing, all told.

"So, then," you ask, "Why bother with libraries at all, when I can just Google what I want?"

"Google can bring you back 100,000 answers," Neil Gaiman answers. "A librarian can bring you back the right one."


At one point in time, information was best delivered by books. Hence, libraries were repositories of books. Delivery of information has evolved; so must libraries, which now serve as community hubs, gathering places, meeting facilities, and facilitators of all manner of information exchange.

In addition, assuming (based largely, let's face it, on skewed statistics you get from a Google search) that everyone has easy access to the Internet is also a patent falsehood. Libraries are what provide this easy access to the Internet and the technology to access it (read: computers, tablets, and e-readers) for MANY people.

Also consider that what this gentleman's message is not saying is that, in all likelihood, this "unparalleled research collection" is probably 90% WAY out of date.

I also find it difficult to understand how "use the space for a lending library" equates to "will become a glorified Internet cafe."

In the same way that public libraries are no longer stuffy institutions where children are shushed and only the academic elite hold sway, libraries no longer are solely book-centric. Do we love books? Hell, yes! You'd be hard-pressed to find a librarian who isn't a bibliophile. But this message is just the disgruntled ravings of a grognard who doesn't get it and is afraid of change. If you take the time to do the research, what libraries are evolving into is extremely exciting and will ensure that, yes, you will actually have a repository for real books for many, many years to come.


As a final thought, converting the space to a lending library says to me that they're increasing accessibility to the public, rather than focusing on stuffy academic-types. After 15 years of working in Universities, I've about had it with stuffy academic types. Kudos to doing something that will attract the general public to a higher degree, and possibly ensure the survival of the institution for many years to come.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soul Searching - a Work in Progress

I recently stated on Facebook that this has been a summer of ups and downs. I've had two amazing trips this summer--one to Rehoboth Beach, DE, with the family, and one to Gen Con which was probably one of the better experiences I've had there in the years I've been going. On the other hand, there have been some serious low points--some about which I cannot speak, but others, such as my current job, which I thought was an amazing opportunity, going very sour. I've been wondering a lot why this keeps happening to me, why for three jobs in a row, now, my position that looked good at the outset, ended up just going sour. "Is it me?" I wonder, and I'm sure there are some people out there who don't give me nearly enough credit who will think it must be. But I've worked hard at these jobs, tried to do what I had to do and even a bit more, and things have just gone bad. I also have to consider that for the three (very long term) jobs prior to these, I was pretty darned happy. I just fell prey to the "you need to make more money," bug, and the "you need to get out of this job--grab the first thing that comes along," bug.

That's not to say I bear no responsibility. The events of this summer have made me start to do a lot of deep soul-searching. I do have a tendency to self-sabotage. I'm very bad at checking my own work--I overlook things that I probably shouldn't overlook. I make mistakes. These are things upon which I really need to work, but I'm not sure how to fix the issue. I do check over my work, sometimes four or five times, and I still miss things. I'm not sure what the solution is. Now, I normally don't repeat mistakes I make, but it would be really nice to not make them in the first place. I'm not sure how to approach and resolve that issue.

I'm working on fixing the general work-related stress issue by not applying for every job I think I'm capable of doing. I'm only applying for jobs that I really want. Jobs that I think will fulfill me, or at least be low-stress enough that I'll be able to work on things that will fulfill me. I'm tired of the rat race. I'm tired of, "I need to make more money because that's what everyone else does." I am learning that really, I just need to be able to pay my bills. If I can't afford to go out to nice, high-priced restaurants with everyone else, so be it. I don't need to do that. About five years ago I was working as an executive assistant and receptionist at another department here at Pitt, and I was pretty damn content. I was making ends meet, paying bills with no real problems, and I had the time and low stress to enable me to work on writing and other projects. So what happened? The bug, of course. I talked myself out of being content there. I decided I needed to make more money and do something "important."

I'd give anything to go back to that job.

What I failed to understand is that it's not something "important" that I want to do. It's something fulfilling to me on a personal level. And I had that at that job, in the ability to pursue my writing. Things have developed on that front that may indeed make my writing a source of decent supplementary income, which will in turn enable me to pay down some debts, but I need to be patient. I need to stop rushing things, or wanting them to rush.

But my soul-searching lately has been more than work-related. I've been taking a good, long, hard look at myself and trying to focus on personal areas that need improvement. I think this kind of started at Gen Con this year. I posted on Facebook about having tipped a waitress at Fridays there, on behalf of a table of rude patrons who did not do so. When I did that it made me think, that's the kind of person I want to be all the time. I don't want to be the person who gets irritated at someone for being slow on the uptake, or being an asshole (or just ignorant) driver. I don't want to be the guy who gets angry over a drive-thru getting my order wrong. I want to be patient and kind. I want to be thankful every day for people in my life who enrich it, like my wife. I want to be able to look up at the sky and think, "What a beautiful world," at least once a day. I don't want to think "why me?" all the time. I want to think, "Thanks for what I've got." I want to help people--even just little random acts of kindness. I don't want to be so cynical and bitter about things. I want to be the kind of person who makes someone's day better for having encountered me.

I'm going to take a minute to wax spiritual, so for those amongst my friends and readers who are atheist, I apologize if this irritates you, but for what it's worth, it's my own spirituality I'm talking about--I'm not advocating it for anyone else.

They say, "God helps those who help themselves." I've often angrily wondered why I don't get helped, then--after all, I try really hard to better myself and to do what is expected of me, do what's necessary, etc. But usually those bitter wonderings are about things like "I'm putting in all these damn applications and I'm qualified--why won't You just help me get an interview, or get a better job??"

Maybe, I have to wonder, helping myself means more than that. Maybe it means helping myself to be a better person as well as doing what I need to do. Maybe it means being less self-centered and more giving. And maybe it means doing it for the right reasons--ie. because I want to or because it's the right thing to do, rather than "because I want to build up karma."

Maybe that's what it means to do something important. Maybe living a life of meaning is paying it forward, appreciating what you have, acknowledging that appreciation, and doing what you can to make someone else's day a little bit better. Maybe helping yourself means being a better person, not just doing the practical or material things you need to do.

My heart and gut are telling me that's the way it's supposed to work.

I don't know. I do know that at this moment, I'm a work in progress.

Let's see how things turn out.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Frustration and Confusion

So yesterday was my birthday. I had a nice time with my sister and brother-in-law, low key but enjoyable.

Starting a few years ago I kind of battle a minor depression on my birthday. This is because I can't help but look back on my life and realize that I'm pushing 40, and I've really done nothing worthwhile by my estimation. By others' estimation I've done okay, but I don't measure success by my title or how much I'm making. The truth is, I'm not doing what I want to do with my life and have met failure at every turn in my efforts to do what I want to do.

I'm having to face the harsh, cold truth that I'm really not good at my current job. I'm trying. I'm trying really hard, but I'm very much not good at this, and by continuing to be not good at this (despite my best efforts) I'm doing harm to my department. So at this point I'm doing everything I can to hold it together here in hopes that either something clicks in a big way (unlikely at this point) or I can by some miracle find my way into a career path that I'm good at and that I find fulfilling on some level, instead of just physically and mentally exhausting. Please note that I'm not complaining about my job. I'm not saying I made a mistake coming here--indeed, I made the only choice open to me at the time. I love my co-workers. I love my department. They do great work here. The sad, simple truth is that I'm just not qualified for this job, and I have had zero success learning the incredibly complex skills set needed to perform here. I wanted more than anything to be good at this job. I wanted more than anything to make certain people--family, friends, and my current boss--proud of me.

I've failed. That hurts more than I can possibly express, to say. But I've failed.

So I guess it's back to the drawing board. But again, I'm pushing 40, and that's too goddamn old to be wandering in the forest.

There's been some hopeful news on the horizon, which I can't reveal just yet, but it's at least a good year or more away, so somehow I've got to hold it together until that glimmer of hope becomes any sort of potential reality.

Gods, the mistakes I've made. I'm so full of regret there's very little room for anything else. I've spent my entire life for the past 13-15 years doing what was expected of me instead of following the path I wanted. I spent the 90's blowing off school and sabotaging my own chances to enter a fulfilling career, so that I didn't have much other choice but to take what was available, and do what was expected of me. Now? I'm stuck in a room with no doors or windows.

I went to school and got a Master's Degree hoping that it might actually help to jump start a real career for me. That's the common wisdom, right? All I've gotten for it are doors slammed in my face and middle fingers. Oh, and people saying, "I know lots of people with graduate degrees that aren't working in their field of choice," as if that's supposed to somehow make me feel better--if that's the case, what's the point of a Master's Degree? No, the truth is, if I hadn't screwed around so much back in the 90's, if I'd done the path then, when I had the youth and ability to hold limited employment and do internships, I'd be in a very, very different place right now.

Unfortunately, self-sabotage is my super power. Too bad you can't make a good living doing that.

So where am I now? Back at the door of potentially making the same mistakes, thinking about going back to school to get ANOTHER certification to try and shift career paths. And I keep asking myself, "why bother?" It's not as though it'll make any bit of difference. Nobody wants educated people--they want experienced people. We've done a complete 180 from where we used to be. It used to be that a college degree was everything--doors opened for people with degrees. Now? Formal education isn't valued anymore. Only experience. Which nobody wants to open the door, to grant. Our society is rigid and immobile, the American Dream be damned. You end up in a career trajectory, and there's no way out. That's where you're stuck. Woe to those of us who aren't satisfied with the career into which we fell.

I get really, incredibly angry at people who fought and worked for a career of their choice, achieve what they wanted, working in the field they chose, and then complain about it. Some of us didn't get to choose our careers.

"So," you ask, "What exactly DO you want to do? What WOULD be fulfilling for you?"

Okay, maybe you're not asking that. In fact, given how I seem to go through this soul-searching bullshit once every year or two, it's really likely that you don't give a shit. But I'm going to pretend you do.

There are a number of career paths that I'd love to tackle, that would bring me joy. Most of them are closed to me for one reason or another.

1. Writing. I want to create. I want to write. I want to use my love of written language to pay my daily bills. Be it tech writing, fiction writing, game writing, or what have you. This is my talent. This is what I am best at. Sadly, game and fiction writing aren't realistic. Far less than 1% of game and fiction writers get to make a living at their talent. Tech writing, educational writing, or some such would be fine, except that again, we run into the "experience" roadblock. As my sister pointed out yesterday, tech writers tend to fall into their jobs by sheer luck, and there's no tech writers around here where I work, for that to happen. As it stands, writing is a hobby that doesn't even pay for itself, but pays a bill every so often and buys me coffee here and there. To be able to put out the amount of material I'd need to make a living these days through self-publishing, I'd have to write for 8 hours a day, and I don't have 8 hours a day to write. Now I'm not one of those phony writers who claims, "I'd write if I just had the time." That's not what I'm saying at all; I try to get in a couple hours every day as I can, but again, it results in a comparatively small word count against what I really would need to crank out if I wanted to try to make a living, and without a steady income, Julie and I would be out on the street, so I can't just quit my job to write full time until I have a steady income from writing. It's a terrible Catch-22.

2. Librarianship. This is what I went to school for. I'd give almost anything to be a teen/YA librarian. But again, everyone wants 5-10 years experience in addition to an MLIS. Which leaves that age old question, "how can I get experience if nobody will give it to me?" I have a laundry list of transferable skills and a very impressive GPA which I earned while working full time as a grants and research administrator. But transferable skills are meaningless nowadays, it seems. I can't even get a job interview for a library gig. Managing a book store would be satisfactory, but with no retail experience under my belt, that too is highly unlikely, though I have been looking at trying to land a part time evening/weekend bookseller gig to supplement my income and pay down some debts, so we shall see.

3. IT Services. This is what I'm considering getting certified to do. I would enjoy being a systems administrator very much. I love computers. I love to muck around with computer hardware. I have a passing knowledge of computer networks and would love to learn more. I love to solve the puzzles that come with IT troubleshooting--I've spent hours wrestling with viruses and malware rather than simply reformatting a PC, because I enjoy figuring out how to beat it and root it out of the system. I also think I have a better sense for customer service than most IT guys do. This one is still hanging out there. I'm deciding whether it's worthwhile to bother, or if I'll just end up with another useless degree/certification on my resume due to lack of experience.

4. Entrepreneurship. This is my ultimate dream. I want to run my own business that would be a combination book store, coffee house, New Age shop, and geek/gaming store. My Elevator Pitch for it is, "A small Barnes and Noble for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Geeks." I'd have a cafe area, a New Age shop that would host an apothecary (run by my wife), sell crystals, pendants, candles, etc., a book store that would sell gaming, sci-fi, fantasy, history, and religion books, and an area that would sell DVDs, Blu Rays, action figures, collectibles, board games, etc. The ONLY thing stopping me there is funding. I'd need a minimum of $250,000 to get open and keep running till I got solvent. I've planned this business for years; if I had the funds I could be up and running fast. But I've got no way to get the funds. It'd take a decade or more for me to even save a quarter of that, and see the "pushing 40," issue. I don't have decades to spend anymore.

So there you have it. Four different career paths I'd love to travel, and four different career paths that are pretty much closed, locked, and dead-bolted against me despite my best efforts. I could list others--acting, music, etc.--but those may as well just fall in with writing as pipe dream careers at which few get to make a living.

And here I am, facing another year full of false promises, fake blessings, and too much regret.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Spellcraft & Swordplay Summer Sale!

Okay, folks, for a limited time from now till the end of July, you can get the Spellcraft &Swordplay core rulebook in print (hardcover) plus a PDF of the game for only $15!!! That's 50% off the cover price of the core book alone, for $15! Just use the following link--and feel free to share it with others!



http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=94105&filters=0_0_0_0&manufacturers_id=3869&affiliate_id=1762&src=CommunityForum1&discount=61181
 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ramblings

I've been feeling a bit lost, lately. It's not a heavy, soul-crushing depression like I was suffering with, nothing like that. Just...kind of lost in the woods. I'm not where I want to be in life, but where I'd like to be is so far away that it's just unreachable. I know, I know, someone (or multiple someones) is bound to say, "nothing is unreachable."

Truth is, that's wishful thinking. Some things are.

Before anyone says "I told you so," or says something like, "You'll never be satisfied, no matter what job you're doing," I'd like to clarify that I'm not bitching about my job. It's not a dream job, not by any stretch. But it's not bad, either. It's very stressful, like, all the time. I think about work even when I sleep. That's not 100% healthy, but it's also just the nature of the job I do. I'm responsible for managing a whole lot of imaginary money that unfortunately has all-too-real effects on the institution for which I work. I have no experience doing this, and the learning curve is steeper than I ever imagined. I think I'm doing well, but because it's my nature to think this way, I also think I'm not doing as well as I should be.

 But that's neither here nor there. This job was always meant to be a way station. I'll do the best I can, learn what I can, but I need to keep looking to better myself. I lost sight of that at first, thinking I really owe them for taking a chance on me. But as my 1-year anniversary at this place comes up in less than 3 months, I think it's time to set my sights back on the Big Picture.

The problem is, I need to (first) clear away my debts, and (second) come up with a BARE minimum figure of $20,000-$30,000 before I can even put together a business plan and go for a small business loan. That's BARE minimum. Where I'm going to come up with that, I have absolutely no idea because at the moment I can't even pay down a couple of medium-level credit cards. If I WAS able to clear away my debts, I could probably save it in somewhere between 3 and 5 years. Maybe less, if I scored enough in the way of writing gigs that I used to power it as well.

It's do-able, but man, I don't want to spend another half decade crunching numbers in an academic institution.

People think I've done the right thing. Moved up in my current career path, gotten big raises, bought a house, I'm getting ready to raise a family...somewhere in there, the word "sacrifice" became the definition of my entire life, and somehow even people I care about think that's okay. It's all about money first and happiness second (if at all). I'm getting tired of living that way, but I just don't see a way out. All I do is sacrifice, and sacrifice, and sacrifice, and do what I'm supposed to do and what's expected of me...when do I get to do what I want to do? When do I get to try something that'll make me happy? Why am I always putting what others think I should do ahead of what I want to do?

Man, this isn't why we were put on this Earth. But then again, this Earth is a beautiful planet that we've kind of pissed all over anyway.

Doesn't matter, in the end. I'll never have what I want. Why keep bitching about it? May as well just live with the hand life has dealt me and accept the fact that other people get to have happiness. I don't. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I am Generation X

I am Generation X.


We are those who were born in the 70's,

raised in the 80's,

and came into our own in the 90's.

Our parents were baby-boomers, and many of us now have children of our own. 

We remember Saturday Morning Cartoons like the Smurfs, Hulk Hoagan's Rock n' Wrestling, the Pac Man adventure hour, the Gummi Bears, and Dungeons & Dragons.

We remember weekday morning and afternoon cartoons like G.I. Joe, The Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man, She-Ra, Mask, Speed Racer, and Robotech. We remember these things before they were remade for a new era with new sensibilities.

We remember when Megatron was a Walther P38 instead of a jet or tank. We remember playing war with toy guns and none of us grew up to shoot up our schools (For the record, Harris and Klebold were Gen Y). We played Assassins in high school and nobody called it a "Dangerous game."

We were the first generation to have Dungeons & Dragons and were the consumers responsible for launching the modern role playing industry.

We remember when the woods were a safe place to play.

If we got bullied in school, a playground fist fight usually settled the case, and nobody went to prison or court for assault.

We didn't get expelled from school for having G.I. Joe toys or making gun shapes with our hands.

We remember a black-and-white, dark and gritty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as a brightly-colored pizza-eating cartoon version.

We were defined by Star Trek and Star Wars. We watched Knight Rider, The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, Grizzly Adams, V, The Cosby Show, Cheers, and Night Court.

We ate dinner in front of the TV. With our families, be they one- or two-parent homes.

We were latch-key kids whose parents both worked, and nobody got arrested because we were home alone for a few hours in the afternoon.

We think The Lost Boys and Near Dark were two of the greatest vampire films ever made.

We had E.T., Indiana Jones, The Last Starfighter, Conan the Barbarian, The Goonies, and Back to the Future.

Films like Dream a Little Dream, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Waiting..., High Fidelity, Pump Up the Volume, Say Anything, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, or Reality Bites resonated with us on a deep and fundamental level and told us that other people knew what our lives felt like.

We hung out at the mall as teens and at dimly-lit coffeehouses as young adults.

We smoked cigarettes and weed, which was the inexpensive drug you could grow with a sun lamp in your basement, and nobody died from it.

We lamented how dead of a decade the Clinton 90's were, but look back now with nostalgia on those days, and only now realize what a decade of quiet progress it was.

We felt like we had no heroes and nobody to look up to. We were so desperate for a

We spawned the celebrity voyeur culture and reality TV. You're welcome.

We could've changed the world for the better. Instead, we've made it more divisive than it ever before has been. Good work, folks.

We embraced heavy metal, then killed it and replaced it with grunge. 

Our social network was the mall instead of street corners and smart phones.

We didn't ram our politics down each others' throats.

We went to school to get good jobs doing things with our lives that we wanted to do. We looked for fulfillment. We appreciated music, art, and books, and didn't steal them (as a rule) off the shelves at stores, only to justify it as "sticking it to the man," or "information should be free." We recognized the rights of artists to make a living from their talents.

We were proud to be American and for the most part, the world respected us.

And yet, now we do all those things we never did before, in spades.

And yet, the world we have now...is all our fault.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Motivation is a problem

So I've been having a real problem with motivation lately. I have all these ideas for novels whirling around in my head, and several that are already started, but I've barely put any words down in months. I'm not sure why. I'll get determined--today I'm going to do this--and then just won't. The one time I tried, last weekend, the result was, well, disappointing, to say the least. I got about 1800 words out and they were pretty much garbage. Not remotely provocative or exciting. Could be that I'm out of practice, or it could be that I've just not found the perfect way to start this one yet. Only way to be sure is to soldier on, I guess. Hell, Broken Gods went through four or five different beginnings before I got it right, so...

But anyway, I'm not sure what's going on. The life situation, nominally, has improved. My new job is worlds better than my old one, even if it is a ton of stress. I'm thinking that's part of the issue--this is a different kind of stress than I'm used to, and I need to find some way to manage it. I've never had a job before where I can't take a day off without feeling the need to check my e-mail to make sure there are no emergencies or disasters or fires to put out. It kind of weighs on me at times. It's hard to recharge the old batteries when you have to think about work even when you're not there. But I'm still relatively new to this job--only been here for 8 months and they say it can take up to 2 years or so just to get a handle on the position. So maybe after awhile I'll find a good place of balance. I hope so.

Yesterday I was really down and really emotional for no apparent reason. Not sure what was up with that. I just dealt with it by kind of withdrawing into myself and riding it out. There's still a bit of it lingering today. Hoping it diminishes instead of getting worse. 

Tonight after work I need to clean the house--it's gotten almost to the state where I'm afraid I'm going to see us on the evening news as having "deplorable living conditions." Julie's working late as she usually does on Wednesdays, so it'll be a good time to get things done. I am vowing right now that the television will not go on, unless it's to tune to a music channel or put on a music/concert disc for background music while I clean. Then I need to settle down, look through my various writing projects, pick one, and finish it. My publisher is going to open up for new submissions this summer, he thinks, and I need to have at least two books ready to send to him. One is done and waiting. I can finish one more, I think.

I'm losing weight--it's actually starting to be visible. That's a great thing. Mostly I'm just being more aware of my portion sizes, and have been getting more exercise just by virtue of how my commute works, now. I'm getting in at least a good half hour of walking every day, and working in hills and stairs to that. It's helped a lot. I feel a bit lighter, though I haven't yet got to the point where I can run without feeling a bit of..."bounce." That's the goal. That and dropping at least 2 inches off my waist. I think I'm down about an inch, but don't quote me on that. I don't keep a scale in the house because I would obsess about it. I know I'm starting--just starting--to be able to see my jawline in the mirror again, which is great.

Anyway, yeah, I've got a problem with motivation and drive. I have ambition, but my drive has once more gone far south. I'm not sure how to get it back. But one thing is certain--I need to figure it out fast.

Okay, rambling over. Thanks for listening, whoever you may be.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feeling unhealthy again...

My ears are hot.

And I've been getting nosebleeds again.

It's largely stress-related. I'm much happier at the new job than I have been at any of my past ones (save perhaps my first-ever job here at Pitt, which alas paid shit), but unfortunately there's a ton of constant stress here, which gives me headaches, nosebleeds, makes my ears hot from the pressure, and sometimes interferes with sleep.

This is the type of job that even when you take vacation time you need to check e-mail to make sure there's no major explosions that need to be dealt with immediately.

At least the money is better, which will allow me--if I can get disciplined--to get my practical shit in order--pay off some debts, get my monthly bills in order--which in a perfect world would then result in me being able to take a less-stressful, lower-paying job in the future.

I need to lose weight. Really badly, I need to lose weight. I've been starting to feel unhealthy again lately. I need to cut out the sugar in my diet--I've been splurging and indulging FAR too often lately. I need to get back on a hardcore low carb regimen. The trick is actually taking care of lunch at home. When I get up in the mornings I am worse than an angry zombie. I can't even THINK about preparing food to take to work with me. And usually I fall asleep on the couch in the evenings, then wake up to stagger up to bed, so doing it before bed isn't a realistic goal either--at least not until I manage to successfully change my habits, which really needs to happen.

Maybe I should start getting it together first thing when I get home from work every day. That could work. Come home, make and bag tomorrow's lunch so I can just grab and go when I get ready for work tomorrow.

And I need to kick up my exercise.

I was lifting weights with a friend, but I really just didn't feel like I was getting out of it what I need. It's not the type of exercise I want. I understand the whole concept of building lean muscle mass and whatnot, but really, if you're not feeling better after exercising, it's pointless. The only way a person is going to keep up with an exercise routine is if they can find a form of exercise they enjoy and/or that makes them feel better after, and lifting does neither for me.

I need to start going to a gym with a good variety of cardio equipment and start an actual exercise routine. One that gets my heart rate up and lets me work up a sweat instead of one that just makes my arms, back, legs and shoulders ache for days. When I do cardio--jogging, walking, whatever--I feel better afterward. I feel healthier, and better about myself. For some reason when I lift weights I feel worse about myself after I'm done, and I don't mean just physically beat up (though that happens, too); I mean my self esteem takes a dive for some reason. During the work out I count the exercises, thinking, "how many more left to go?" whereas when I do cardio-related workouts I often find myself thinking, "Oh, that went fast," at the end of it.

Anyway, yeah...it's time to make a plan and follow through. I've been too haphazard for too long, and it needs to stop if I'm going to get healthy again, especially if I'm going to be working a higher stress job.

Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and Mary Magdalene.

I'm not a mad bible thumper--Sophia, however, is my inspiration and always in my heart