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The Places I've Loved

Monday, 27 September 2010, 7:19 AM

I was visiting with my Uncle Vernon, Aunt Pauline, and my cousins this weekend and, as always, the area I live in came up as a topic. My uncle grew up here and now shares a cabin with other members of the family. They come and visit to stay a weekend once in awhile and often I hear how one or the other would love to move back here, that it's great up here.

It is great here. It's quiet, beautiful scenery, and the people are really nice. But it started me thinking about the places I've lived and how each one was a place I loved. I can honestly say I've never lived anywhere that I found to be miserable. Each place that I have lived I found something special enough that I could have spent the rest of my life there.

I grew up in Loudon NH, if you are a Nascar fan you've heard of it. It's a small New England town near the capital of New Hampshire, Concord. Life was good growing up. The Spring always brought great run off that I pretended were rivers that I dammed up and made lakes out of. There was maple syrup cooking in the shack a few hundred feet down the road from us.

Sometimes my parents would take us kids to a maple syrup farm (or maybe we'd go on a school trip), it was a long time ago, but I do remember people dumping buckets of fresh snow on some kind of table and being given a toothpick to roll maple syrup in that was poured on the snow.

Summers I spent fishing with Dad. We'd go to the Capitol lawns at night and catch nightcrawlers with our hands, using flashlights to spot them.

Mostly Dad liked fishing for hornpout, a small catfish. They had barbs you had to be careful of. I got nicked a time or too and Dad would rub the wound on the fish's belly. That was supposed to cure the sting, though I don't recall it helping much.

I'd often spend weekends or even a month with my cousin Allen who was my age. We'd climb trees and go swimming. He had a neighbor, a girl who was a couple years older than us. She introduced us to the Beatles and I remember wishing she would introduce me to other things, but she never did.

In the Fall it was back to school and the trees turning color. There was Halloween to look forward to and after that Thanksgiving.

The winter would come and Mom would make sure we were bundled up. We'd spend the entire day outside on the weekends. There was sledding, and snow forts. Snowball fights and eating snowflakes.

When we moved to Alaska, I was excited about going. Alaska was all about fishing and hiking in the summer. Some of the greatest times I had was catching salmon with the rain pouring down on us. Getting home, we'd change clothes and drink Russian Tea, a concoction of hot Tang and spices (sugar, cinnamon, and cloves I think).

Fall was my favorite time of year. The bugs were pretty much gone, the air was cool but not yet freezing, and the days were still plenty long enough. You could smell the cranberries in the woods and the air was crisp.

Winters there were dark and claustrophobic but there was skiing and snowmobiling. If it weren't for the lack of sunshine, winter would have been great there.

I lived in Spokane WA for awhile. Spokane is the only city around for hundreds of miles and so is a little bit of a cultural center for the high plains desert of the Northwest. I had some really great friends there. I was a little wild then, but it was my age (mostly).

Lodi CA was my home for nearly 25 years. There are basically two seasons in the Central Valley of California. There is summer and then there is rain. The 100 degree heat baked us sun worshipers all summer long. I enjoyed the heat of summer and welcomed the winter rains and chill as the counterpoint to the rest of the year.

Now here I am, back where I came from; less than twenty miles from where I was born and where most of my family originated. It is great here. I could spend the rest of my life here and be content. Of course, if I do find myself somewhere else, I'm sure I would find something to love about being there as well.

Being home is loving where you are, and perhaps that has a little to do with loving who you are and who you spend time with. No matter where I've lived and no matter how fucked up my life seems at times, I always find something special; something to love in the place I find myself living.

Posted By: Insomnius    16 Comments    (Post your comment)
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The Politics of Anger

Sunday, 19 September 2010, 7:20 AM

We're all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.
-Wavy Gravy

There has been a disturbing trend in the last twenty years that started with the proliferation of email. This trend hides under the guise of politics. This trend has served to polarize us into a nation colored red or blue. (on a side note, how did Republicans end up being red? I have to wonder if the communists are upset that they've lost their color.) This trend has served to escalate anger and to minimize rational discussion.

This trend is what I call the Politics of Anger. You've been exposed to it if you have an email address, read Face Book, and/or peruse political blogs from time to time. The story about Obama not being a natural citizen is a fine example. I'm not going to take sides on that argument, but simply point out that I have seen very little hard evidence on either side. Mostly, I see angry rhetoric thrown back and forth along with personal insults and epitaphs disparaging the intelligence of the other side.

I don't blame the internet for this; the internet has allowed us to inform one another on how we feel about anything we want to express. It is an open forum filled with so much information no one person could ever absorb even ten percent of it.

I don't blame the current political parties for this anger either. They are what they are, and I say that with the most pontifical attitude I can convey as I couldn't really begin to explain what they really are. I'm not sure I really would want to. But I digress...

The blame for this anger can mostly be lain at the feet of leisure I think. We've become the product of all the sweat, blood, and toil of our ancestors who continually worked hard for the future of their children. Well, welcome to that future. We live in such luxury that we no longer tolerate anything that appears to be hard work; like researching an argument. It is much easier, and to some, perhaps more satisfying to type out angry retorts to views opposite of those we hold. It is as if the last angry post is going to win. God help you if you try topping me!

I read a blog the other day disparaging Obama's politics. There were several accusations made and I really won't go into them here. The replies were both for and against, but after reading thirty or so, I did not find one reply against that gave any sort of thought out argument refuting the accusations. Every one of them was simply an angry retort or personal attack on the blogger.

On Face Book, an apparent democrat posted a picture of a group of people holding signs on which were written epitaphs dealing with the question of Obama's citizenship. Someone posted that the 'lily white' crowd in the picture must all be bigots. I was taken aback, and looked closer at the picture. Yes they were all white, and yes Obama has some African heritage in him, but I saw nothing to indicate that these people thought Obama was unfit for his job because he was black. They were angry because a Democrat was President; it could have been a white guy and the only thing that would've changed in the picture was the face on their placards.

The problem has reached the point where we no longer listen very well at all. We simply hurl shit at each other in the hopes that whoever ends up the stinkiest is the loser. This, I think, was a great tactic for our hominid ancestors in protecting their territory, but looks rather foolish when done by supposed grown ups of the modern world, or maybe the problem is that they are too grown up? Do we take ourselves too seriously?

I remember a comedy group who did bits of absurd humor called Firesign Theater. They had an album called I think we're all Bozo's on this Bus. I think we all need to remember that. I believe that in the grand scheme of the Universe, how much shit you can throw on your opponent doesn't really count for much at all. It might get your enemy to stink, but in the process you won't be able to avoid getting some on yourself.

The Universe is some 2 billion years old, or something like that. That is 1,000 times older than the entire human race, right back to our earliest ancestors who hurled shit at one another to delineate and protect their turf. Given this humbling fact, is spreading shit that much better than spreading laughter? Which will be remembered?

I think it's time to start handing out big red noses and floppy shoes and to start taking ourselves a little less seriously. We need to take our opponent's viewpoints with a little more salt. I suggest that next time an opposing viewpoint really makes you upset, try making your enemy laugh rather than cover them in shit.

Posted By: Insomnius    99 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Techno Blah

Monday, 06 September 2010, 5:38 AM

God how I hate it when I am talking to someone in the car and I lose reception on my phone (Of course I 'never' talk while driving, right?). And how come the darn microwave takes so long to heat up leftovers anyway? I have to stand here for a FULL two minutes while my stomach grumbles for god's sake. Don't you just hate it when you really need to know something and when you Google it you have to spend thirty seconds sifting through links you don't want? I mean really? THIRTY SECONDS?

Of course, thirty years ago I would have had to find a payphone and pull over in order to make the call and if I was heating up leftovers, I'd be using a pan or the oven and waiting 20 minutes instead of 2, and if I had a question about something that wasn't in my encyclopedia, it would have to be important enough to warrant a trip to the library before I'd seriously consider finding an answer.

Isn't it amazing that we so easily take things for granted so quickly? The things we do every day without much thought would boggle the minds of our ancestors. Things we consider simple (even though 99% of us have no idea how they work), like refrigerators. It just wasn't all that many years ago (compared to how long humans have been around) that when you harvested or butchered food, you ate it now or you preserved it through some process for future use. There was no sticking it into the freezer to use next week or maybe even next month. Frozen foods are a way of life for us, but our ancestors from just 200 years ago would have been awed by the device. Well, for the first couple weeks they had it anyway.

We rapidly grow accustomed to these amazing technologies and often even get irritated that they aren't even more amazing, or if they suddenly don't work for some reason. How many times have you gone to turn on a light when you know the power is out? Or tried to microwave some popcorn and suddenly realize that duh... there's no electricity. We take these things so for granted that they turn into expectations soon after we get our grubby little hands on them.

Not that I think we should go around with eyes wide in surprise every time we look at our car or automatic dishwasher. Still, shouldn't we stop once in awhile and give a little thought to how people did things before electricity? Maybe I should say a little prayer of thanks for all the hard work and toil our ancestors did in order that their children could have a better life. Yes, right before I start grumbling about the microwave taking so long to heat up last night's pizza!

Posted By: Insomnius    23 Comments    (Post your comment)
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My Monster - Procrastination

Friday, 03 September 2010, 4:47 AM

[ Working Currently: Working  ]
I have this thing in me. Certainly not a physical disease or handicap, but debilitating none the less. This thing holds me back, it drags down on my initiative like an anchor, and allows my laziness to rein supreme. I call this thing 'procrastination'.

I've spent quite a lot of time studying success. I've read the books, listened to the great speakers, and talked with successful people. While I always thought that success was basically luck or something inbred I have come to the realization that it is neither of those things at all. Success isn't something innate, or at least these learned and
experienced people don't think so. Success is driven by two overriding factors: Perserverance and Desire.

Desire is obvious. You must want something in order to get it. If you don't want it, you will never put forth the effort it takes to achieve. Success is especially subject to this rule as very few people have it just drop into their laps. There is a considerable amount of work involved no matter how talented a person is. Which leads into the second factor, perseverance.

In order to achieve success every successful person I've talked to, listened to, or read agrees that simply not quitting is a huge factor in becoming successful. Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) says that we are taught from an early age that failure is to be avoided. Failure is the opposite of success. He and every other student of success agree that this is the worst belief anyone could be taught.

Failure, as seen by the successful, is simply a part of the learning process. It should be welcomed for its lessons rather than feared for its setbacks. Without failure there is no success. Without learning, no one can move forward. It is in this that this 'thing' in me holds me back.

Objectively I understand failure as a part of the learning process. In my head I know it will happen and that I need to welcome it as simply a stepping stone and not a brick wall barring my path to success. In my head I know this, and yet this 'thing' hinders me, drags me back whenever I fail.

An example: I received a rejection notice on one of my stories. While I had no illusions of never getting one of these, still somewhere in me I wilted. My mind knew it was simply one letter, and I did find another publisher to send the story to that same day. Yet, this 'thing' in me went to work.

I love to write. I always have. What has kept me from it is this subtle rationalizing part of me that finds other things to do first. Oh, I'll just read my email first then get to the story. I'll just play one game of spider solitaire before getting into that story. No, today I think I'll read. Tomorrow I'll write! Pretty soon, it's Friday and I haven't so much as typed one word.

I don't know how this 'thing' gets control of me. As I said, my head knows how I SHOULD deal with failure, yet I still shrink away from my road whenever failure pops up. I make excuses, I hide from my writing as though it were some loathsome task that must be done, and I procrastinate over getting started. I love to write! I really do, and once I force myself to start, I absolutely keep going until I have to take break. I often get up from the computer with an aching back and tired muscles from sitting so long.

So, what is this 'thing'? Why can't my head overcome the lazy, scared, procrastinator that lives so strongly inside me? That, I believe after six years of trying, is tied to how I was brought up and what was considered successful by my family, teachers, and peers.

We are taught from such a young age that career, job, and paycheck are the things we need to have. A paycheck is security, a career is our contribution to society. It is so prevalent we don't even think about it. It is a given, like breathing. We assume everyone strives to hold a job. It's just the way it is. Because of this attitude, we also hold some deep rooted assumptions about ourselves.

The deepest, perhaps, is that we need to be told what to do. I grew up with someone always telling me what I needed to get done. When I entered the work force I had a boss who told me what my duties were, and how much I needed to accomplish in a given time. If I performed incorrectly or did less than required, I was subject to either reprimand, more instruction, or termination. For thirty years, that was my life. I knew what needed to be done, or if not I got clarification, then I did it and my boss reviewed. Even when I became the boss and had twenty people reporting to me, this did not stop.

I was rooted in the system of delegation and control so strongly that when I got booted out, I had no idea what to do other than find another job, get another paycheck. When that didn't work, I began my journey towards self-employment.

When I struck out on my own in insurance sales, as my own boss, the 'thing' really went to work on me. Failures are a natural part of sales. You simply can not sell to everyone you meet. Some don't need what you are selling, some don't care if they do need it, and some just plain don't like the way you are talking to them or whatever. Every sales person runs into people daily who tell them 'no'.

I knew in my head this was part of the process, but I let this 'thing' in me take over and paralyze me. I quit, basically, without ever allowing myself to say so. I'd go so far and then I would find some excuse to procrastinate a little more. Then a little more...

With my writing, I'm still dealing with this monster. If it were a huge hairy beast with sharp fangs and drool on its lips I think I could deal with it much easier. The fact that it is a part of me makes it close to invulnerable. So what do I do?

I don't give up. Plain and simple, I keep fighting it. Sometimes the beast wins, and I won't lie, it happens a lot even though I know what is happening! Yet I won't just give up. I will keep fighting it. I will find ways to overcome and keep going.

I schedule myself. I make sure that every morning after breakfast I write something. It doesn't have to part of the story I'm currently working on, but it is something. I don't let myself quit until I have a piece written that I think someone will want to read. Then I reward myself and play a game.

I set goals, I decide how much I will write, and how much I want done by lunch time or by the evening. Sometimes I let myself off the hook, and sometimes I have to admit I set goals that are just too easy to obtain, but I set them and I work.

Basically, I act like my boss would. I agree to what I will get done, and I work towards that until I get it done. It is far from easy, and getting a rejection notice still feeds the procrastinator in me. I've gone days without touching a story because of it. But I will not give up. I will not just quit.

It might be too much too hope that I will someday subdue or perhaps conquer this beast in me. It might be silly to dream that someday I will be perfectly industrious and write until I have to quit. Yet, I know it is not too much to ask of myself to not quit. I will keep fighting even knowing I will probably spend the rest of my life doing so. I do this because I love to write. I do this because I WILL be successful at it. There is no question in my mind.

I will succeed!

Posted By: Insomnius    141 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Love and Desire

Saturday, 21 August 2010, 4:22 AM

I've been wondering for awhile now if this... "THING" inside me will ever fade. You know that feeling that if you aren't part of a couple you want to be?

I feel therefore I desire. Doesn't that prove one's existence just a bit more than simple thought? If we could only think; if we were not emotional beings, I would think existence wouldn't be worth the effort for a lot of us.

The desires, the highs, the lows, the connections we feel make life what it is. As I've gotten older I understand this better, and maybe even accept these things about myself, but I also wonder if that one ingrained human desire; designed to propagate the species can be lived with intensely for very long.

I go long periods with no thought given to finding a woman to live life with. I enjoy my own company, and at my age I am a bit set in my ways and used to doing as I wish without having to regard another's feelings. Yet, this urge, this built in hard wiring exerts itself from time to time.

It's not so much sexual, certainly that urge is always present as well, but the desire to 'pair up' to be part of a couple is what I'm talking about. It's all very well to get laid once in awhile, I suppose it could even be called a physical need (unless your catholic Razz) but to be joined in life to a woman is sometimes as strong an urge in me.

I suppose it has its roots in childhood. The conditioning we receive from parents and others points us in that direction from our earliest recollections. Our society is immersed so fully in the concept of 'true love' and finding one's soulmate that it has become a part of our landscape, so to speak. We don't question it, we go with it, and if we can't, we long for it.

I'm sure there are societies still where coupling up is a logical, thought out process of two families joining their eligible progeny together. In such a society you get what your family gives you so to speak, and make the best of it. But even in such a society the underlying hunger is there. To pair up, to become one from two, to find a partner in life, the yin and the yang.

I have no synthesis in this rant. I have no idea where to go or what to do. I approach old age, from well into middle age and am frightened by the idea I may die alone, and yet the possibility of finding the wrong woman again scares me even more.

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Confessions of a wannabe chef

Sunday, 15 August 2010, 4:54 AM

[  Mood: Neutral ]

When I was eight, my youngest sister was born and my mother was very sick for awhile after. I don't remember much about that time except that I stayed with the neighbors across the road for awhile and that though they were great people, the wife was a terrible cook.

When my mother got home, she was still fairly weak and, being the oldest, I helped out. This was when I first fell in love with cooking.

My mother was a great cook. Had I not stayed with the Ashland's across the road, it would've been later in life that I realized this. My mother was the oldest daughter of 11 children and my grandmother was a Norman Rockwell picture complete with rosy cheeks and a full apron when she wasn't on her way to church. She taught my mother well, and in turn, I learned the basics from my mother.

In later years, I didn't cook much as I married a great cook and my children didn't think much of Dad's cooking the few times I did enter the kitchen. My wife stayed home, I worked, so other than BBQ's in the summer my cooking was pretty much confined to pasta or boxed meals if my wife happened to be away or at a meeting.

My wife contracted MS later on and as the disease progressed, it became harder and harder on her to prepare meals so I began taking over. I found the joy I'd forgotten when I was 8 and helping my mother.

I began looking up recipes on the internet; Chicken Marsala, Beef Wellington, Beef Stroganoff, Spinach lasagna, and whatever I thought of or saw on a cooking show on TV. I stumbled a few times, of course, and I think that is why my children got a bad impression of my concoctions, but I always learned and improved until I could make any dish I could think of and make it enjoyable to eat.

To this day, my children don't care much for my cooking but everyone else I've cooked for loves the dishes I've prepared.

There is just something fulfilling about bringing a meal together and serving it then watching people eat and enjoy something I've created. It's basic, it's rewarding, and it's just plain fun for me.

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Faith, Science, and Religion

Thursday, 12 August 2010, 9:35 AM

Faith and religion... what a way to start a blog eh? I hope I can put forth my views here without offending too many and not offending everyone.

I grew up Catholic. At one point in my life, I attended a seminary with the idea in mind that I might want to become a priest. At the time, I was 15 and the only reason I left is I just couldn't give up girls.

Anyway, I have had on and off bouts of religious fervor throughout my years and have come to the conclusion that faith means very different things to pretty much everyone who has ever lived.

I know some, actually quite a few, people believe that faith is a communal experience to be shared with others of like mind, but I think most would also agree that it is personal as well; between me and the object of my faith. Fundamentally this is important, I think, because it points to our basic needs and what we hold to be important when we go about choosing where to put our faith.

I am not writing this to convert anyone to my way of thinking, or perhaps believing is a better word, I know what my faith is and I truly hope you know yours and are comfortable where you are with it. In fact I don't really want to talk about what *I* believe here. At least not in this ranting. Smile

One of the things I think I've learned, is that even if you believe you have no faith; that IS your faith. Faith is simply a system of belief. That system can be organized and socially recognized or it can be nihilistic and negate itself.

Basically, I think what is important about faith is that we recognize these three facts:

1. Our universe is colored and possibly to some extent created by what system of faith we use to interpret it.

2. The stronger our system, the more potent; the more influence we have over how the universe is colored and/or created.

3. Science is a system of faith.

Scientists now believe the universe was created out of nothing.

Quantum Mechanics looks more and more like a religion of mathematics.

We use our faith such that we mostly have no clue that we are creating that which we experience.

Beginning to realize the power of our faith system is the beginning of understanding and the ground from which we might spring to such things as Purpose, Balance, and Acceptance.

Posted By: Insomnius    11 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Tuesday, 04 May 2010, 4:19 AM
poetry, computer games, walking, fishing



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