Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Accentuate Writer's Challenge: Why I Write.

I'm late to the party, but I'll do this anyway. The challenge is simple, write about the first time you felt like you were a writer.

I don't remember what grade it was, but one of my junior high school English teachers somehow inspired me to go home and write a short story. It was probably one of our assignments, but it was just too long ago now to remember. I also do not remember asking her to read the work or even if I actually handed it in for credit. What I do remember is her coming to my desk with my story and telling me how good it was.

Apparently that is all it took for me.

Somewhere I still have my first three short stories packed away somewhere with other odds and ends from my past, but it's been so long since I even accidentally ran across them it is quite possible that they've been tossed.

One was a sci-fi story about an attempt at establishing a colony on an alien world and the doom that engulfed it.

Another was more sci-fi but tinged with horror about a young man walking alone one evening and encountering a stranger who professes to be an alien and also the young man's father...this one was very moody, lots of shivers in the dark and the scuttling of leaves...I like it. I remember reading it over on several occasions and transporting myself to that lonely, cold and dark place in the woods.

The third was ultra violent. It also had a sci-fi twist. The violence was inspired by a novel I read called The Blood of the Children by Alan Rodgers. I don't remember much about my story except that it was about an older sister who violently loathed her younger sister. The younger sister was largely hated by their mother also. So, there was this huge dramatic darkness within the younger sister and she was getting ready to do some very bad things. This was the longest of the three stories (about three times as long as the others) but I never finished it, didn't hardly start it really, but I was certainly proud of the endeavor.

Throughout the rest of Junior High and High School, when I wasn't starting stories that would never be finished, I was writing a lot of dark poetry. I was heavily inspired by heavy metal and the occult. My 10th grade English teacher in High School was impressed with one of my writing assignments and introduced me to the head of the High School English department who would go on to be my 11th and 12th grade English teacher, my Creative Writing and Modern Mythology teacher, and also my instructor for three years in the High School magazine course. It was through him that I would find my greatest motivation and also my greatest failure. He taught me to write about things that I know and observe rather than veiled copies of what I had read in the latest horror publications. Once I was elected to represent my High School for the literary arts in an annual regional competition, I forced my writing for the first time. I wanted to impress absolutely everyone that I could imagine. I did not write my entry for myself. I don't know if I would have won anything at that competition if I had done things differently, but I know now that I never gave myself the chance.

I'm 34 now and still have problems writing for myself. My blogs are my most current attempt to do just that though. I dabbled in freelancing to a couple of online article sites, but I just wasn't enjoying it. I gave NANOWRIMO a shot in 2008 and wrote two short stories for entry in the Accentuate Writer's Forum contests.

I am happy for my blogs though I am still unfulfilled. But at least I can say that I am still writing after all these years. It wasn't until I submitted my work to the Accentuate Writers Forum that I learned how bad my grammar is. Since then I've started college and am taking English refresher classes as part of my course study (electronics). Who knows, maybe I'll get something written (and finished) that I am happy with and is also well-written within the next year or two.
The sky's the limit!

Friday, September 18, 2009

How many children is too many?

I did a Google search for this question recently and was stunned by the overwhelming popular answer: two is too many. Or maybe three. Certainly more than that is too many.

Points made in some comments I read:

People with a lot of kids are selfish and irresponsible.

The world is already over populated and people should aim for 0% population growth.

Please, give me a break!

I'll tell you what selfish is. Selfish is blowing your 50k-100k salary on frivolous material possessions. Selfish is having a full freezer and refrigerator while watching starving third-world children on the news.

And how about those starving children? Why are they starving? Because there are too many of them? Or because the the governments of their nations strive to keep the populations uneducated? Maybe because even when first world nations do give charitable donations, those government officials keep most (or all) of the gifts for themselves?

What about the agricultural industry that has managed to place patents on enhanced seed and grain while pushing the original, natural seed and grain almost into extinction? So that if a third world nation wanted or could grow its own grain, they have to purchase the seed from the patent holder? In North America, private farmers are sued all the time when some stray, patented seed migrates to their fields.

Fresh water requires an infrastructure to clean waste and direct the water where it is needed. But it doesn't matter if your nation has one billion people or twenty billion people, if the government does not want to spend money on that system, or they are so corrupt that no private industry can afford to stake a claim, than any number of people becomes too many.

No, parents of large families are not guilty of selfishness (ok, I'm sure some are) but rather they are guilty of living a fantasy where people are free to live how they want to live.

Land of the free? More like, land of the gotta-have-it-alls and want-mores.

What these population control freaks often neglect to share in their published comments or articles is the number of parents who look back and wish they had dared to produce more children.

Even church is not a safe harbor for Christian families who would like to have more children. But the number of Christians who wish they could have more is steadily growing.

The truth is, having a large family is time-consuming. Do you have hobbies and self interests? A pile of kids is going to change that. You can still have hobbies, you can even get away once in a while for some quiet time. The problem is that many parents just can't fathom sacrificing for a family and when they see another set of parents who appear to be successfully raising lots of kids, jealousy abounds.

It's funny how all these educated people say we need to control the population and reduce growth. Vasectomies should be handed out to everyone. What a bunch of slackers. Here's some science for you, straight out of the Theory of Evolution, if you don't use it, you lose it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


In my life, I have tried not be too proud or arrogant. I really have no reason to be either. However, there appears to be a fine line between humility and self-loathing that I have managed to cross over.

My wife and I recently scheduled an appointment with the Pastor of our church. It is the first time we have done this in several years. He asked if we would like to meet him right away, he had an appointment, but he could post-pone it for us. I said no. We wound up scheduling the meeting for the following week.

When the phone was hung up, my wife asked if I was sure we shouldn't meet him sooner (we had some personal issues that needed to be addressed quickly) and I said that he was certainly willing to put off his plans and drop everything for us, but I didn't feel I was important enough for that kind of attention.

My wife looked deeply into my eyes and said, "You ARE that important and I wish you could see that."

This is potentially my greatest struggle. Do I have the right to stand up and declare that I am important enough to warrant special attention from anybody? I confess that I have begun to believe that doing so might be better than believing that I am worthless. My self-loathing could be the greatest threat to my family that we will ever face.

Am I up to the task to change this?

Am I man enough to demand respect?

I just don't know...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Swing Vote

The short and sweet of it is that this movie ALMOST makes a good point.

You see, someone has to choose the questions that are asked at the presidential debates. Have you ever asked yourself WHO is doing the asking and WHY the questions seem to be the same every four years?

I thought for a moment that this movie was going to have bite. That it was going to be about what happens when the nominees are forced to look an actual working American in the eyes and answer HIS questions.

Unfortunately, this movie ends with only one question asked and we don't even get to hear an answer. Instead, the movie takes the more obvious turn and shoves the lethargic voter issue down your throat.

We fade out with an image of a very pleased, finally happy, previously apathetic voter doing his civic duty. Yes, sometimes 2+2 can equal five. Yeah, I went there. And why not? The movie does not deserve a more thoughtful and intellectual comparison than the overly cliched 1984 novel.

As for Kevin Costner, I thought his acting was well done. He's not Hollywood's greatest or most popular face to put to film, but I do think he does well here. If you want to see a decent Kevin Costner film, go ahead and give this one a shot, although he does an awful lot of cussing, but it makes his role more believable here. Just don't get fooled into thinking that you are watching a meaningful political commentary, the end message is simply, "Get out there and vote!"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Business Needs More

When I re-read my last post it occurred to me to touch on the concept of MORE. I ended the last post with the idea that a business must consume ever more resources to make ever larger profits and is not satisfied with a steady line.

Some would argue that a business must always demand more because the cost of materials always only increase.

Yet, this is exactly the problem. A mining company wants MORE, the raw materials foundry wants MORE, the materials fabricators want MORE, the assembly shops want MORE, the shipping companies want MORE...

When one company demands more, it affects all other companies and their workforces.

If a company were to draw a line and say, "We are satisfied with our current profit margin and will only ask for more if needed."

Unfortunately the shareholders always say "Yes, MORE is needed."

Ethics on the Job

There is some discussion occurring on some blogs that I frequent about the current bout of lay-offs in the work environment. These blogs refer to other blogs and the discussion becomes somewhat muddied and difficult to follow. However, I've read enough across the blogs to have come up with something to say on the subject.

If anyone reading this wants to follow along (if it's even possible) here is where to go:

The Greedy Goblin

Tobold's MMORPG Blog

Broken Toys

In short the discussion goes from one party lamenting the current lay-offs while another party explains, in pure economic sense, that the lay-offs are justifiable and that the people affected have brought it upon themselves, while the third party says both views hold merit.

I'm left to wonder, where do I stand?

I was laid off for over nine months.

I just happen to live in the city with the worst unemployment rate in the country. The state itself is among the top contenders.

I was one of those guys who had a lot negative things to say about well fare participants, but I did try to keep an open mind. Some people can't help where they've found themselves due to tragic accidents or unforeseen illnesses. I also understand that some businesses can't help their issues either due to natural disasters or corruption from within.

But then I suddenly found myself on the job hunt. I often ask myself if I can try harder or if my circumstances could have been avoided had I performed better. After all, my company is still operational. I do recall that my two hour drive every day was starting to wear on me, but I felt as though my hands were tied. I could not afford to move and any job closer would pay less.

Yes, I chose to take a wife and four home-schooled children so my budget has always been tight. But was it fair for my company to experience 4 years of rapid growth and huge profits that saw it go from 20$ million when I started to over 50$ million when I left and only give two small pay increases in that time? I think it could be argued that I had nothing to do with the increased sales. I also had little to do with the quality and nothing to do with the design process of the product.

For a time I had a tremendous amount of company loyalty. But something happened along the way. I saw how much MORE the executives were making every year. I saw their new cars in the parking lot (while I could barely afford to keep my 15 year old car running). And in the four years of massive profit gains, I received about one dollar more an hour. This minute pay increase over a four year period does not make up for cost of living increases.

Some would argue that a business must meet its bottom line at all costs. I would agree if those businesses were attempting to hold a steady profit. But that is not the case with most businesses. They want MORE and LARGER profit every year. My company was not satisfied with growing from 20-50 million. They demanded 60 million for the following year.

There is something wrong when a company slashes man power and makes the remaining work force work ever harder to achieve MORE. It is not a matter of survival, it is a matter of consumption. How much effort and time can they consume from the work force? A business is like a hungry beast with a stomach that has no bottom. I can eat two sandwiches for lunch and be satisfied to eat two more for tomorrow's lunch. A business must eat ever more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quantum Bits

In the physical world that we are familiar with and live in, we understand about the role of molecules and cells, strings of sugars and amino acids, elements and atoms. But at the quantum level, where individual atoms or even parts of atoms can be studied, the natural laws that we adhere to suddenly change.

It has occurred to me that the reason is simple, if not well understood. At different levels of size, things play by a different set of rules.

Imagine if we could observe structural masses that our known universe is actually inside of. What kind of natural rules would play out at that size? What if there is a whole other universe at orders of magnitude smaller than the quantum structures that we can observe or predict?

We know so little about what we can see. Yet we know so much more than when we were skeptical about the existence of atoms themselves.