Facebook Political Posts

candy-store-ebook-finalLast night I was involved in a political dispute on Facebook. A friend from high school, who I haven’t seen in almost 45 year but with whom I’ve reconnected on FB, posted a political cartoon. In the first frame was FDR with the caption “Social Security”. In the second frame was LBJ with the caption “Medicare/Medicaid”. In the third frame was President Obama with the caption “Health Care Reform”. In the fourth frame was a battered and bruised elephant under the name “Republicans” with the caption “Opposed Each”.

I know from prior posts that this man is on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me, so I should have let this go. But instead I posted the following.

How’s that Social Security working out for us? Soon will be bankrupt. “Soon” as in measured by generations. It won’t be long till, like Greece, we will run out of O.P.M.

To which he replied:

Working out fine for me thank you! Medicare has provided me with the ongoing care I require for my cancer treatments. Please- just refuse to take the money and benefits if you feel that way….just try and cool it with the hyperbole. Better yet: just stay off my page. I don’t watch FOX so your opinions are mostly odious to me.

I didn’t read his whole reply. I stopped after the first two sentences; more on that later. Two others then came on and said more or less the same thing about being very happy they were receiving these benefits and believing all these government programs are working just fine. To which I replied:

Maybe it’s time to take a longer view than just ourselves. Yeah, when I start collectng something when I retire I’ll thank my children for paying for my retirement and healthcare. Just as I hope my dad thanked me. But some day we will either run out of other people’s money or other people’s will, and it will all collapse. Look beyind what’s best for you.

This failure of baby boomers to take the long view is one of the things I discussed in my book The Candy Store Generation: How the Baby Boomers Are Screwing Up America. Well, this post brought this response:

As long as you paid into it, you have every right to collect

To which I replied:

Not really. The government used my money to provide a subsistence level retirement to my parents and grandparents. They put nothing away for my retirement. That’s why it’s called “Social” Security (as in socialist), not capitalist security.

By “they” I meant the government and its program, not my ancestors. A couple of people replied to that, including one who said:

…make up your mind… A capitalist believes in survival of the fittest… A very selfish way of living. (In that regard) they don’t really care about “the longer view”

To which I replied:

Not true. A retirement security program that involves a combination of support for prior generations with a personal account is the right way to go. You look at corporate America which fails to look beyond the next quarter and you have a company that will fail in 10 years. The smart capitalist takes the long view first, the short view second.

It was at that point that I went back and re-read the thread, and noticed that the person on whose timeline we were writing had asked me not to post there. Shame on me for not fully reading his post. So at this point I posted:

———, I missed your earlier comment. I will henceforth stay off your timeline. Say the word and I’ll delete my posts.

That’s the last post in the thread at this point. The host hasn’t come back and responded to my offer, or to any of the posts other than the first one.

Personally I don’t think my original post was hyperbole. We will most certainly run out of other people’s money at some point, as Greece is learning, and as other European countries are learning. I don’t see any hyperbole in that. Obviously my friend posted the cartoon, not for critical discussion, but for providing evidence of his own views. That’s fine. His timeline, his purposes. Now that I know, I won’t be posting to his timeline again.

I think instead I will go herd some cats, which should be a far easier task than what I originally set out to do.


Crisp, Cold, Windy, and Snowing

I drove to church this morning alone, my wife being down in the back after driving home yesterday.  Snow flurries were forecast, and sure enough they started to fall as I was walking across the parking lot and into the church. When the worship surface was over an hour and 30 minutes later, the flurries were coming down pretty good. An hour later when I left Life Group, same thing.

This is the first snow I’ve seen this season. I was gone last Sunday-Monday when it snowed 2 to 3 inches. It was still on the ground when I returned Thursday, but nicely off the road. It was good to see it on the ground, but would have been better had I been able to be out in it.

As I type this, I’m looking out the windows of The Dungeon, our walk-out basement. I see the flakes falling, the snow on the ground down in the hollow behind the house, and on the un-raked leaves in the back yard. It’s a pretty picture.

Well, I didn’t have much to say. I enjoyed the cold have the hot church and classroom. I enjoyed the snow. Now have to head over to the other monitor and do some work.

Back in the Saddle—Hopefully

After five days of traveling to a conference, and presenting a paper (twice) at it, I’m back at work, back at home, batching it right now. It’s time for me to get back in the writing saddle.

The busyness of life continues unabated. However, somehow, I need to find a way to do all that I must do and to write as well. This weekend I’ll work on that.

Part of being back in the saddle is writing for and posting to this blog. In fact, I think that is my top priority. My other blog, An Arrow Through the Air, will remain dormant for the time being. Whether I ever start it up again, or just post to this blog, is something I have to determine. For now, I’m going to try to establish a regular schedule of writing here.

Meanwhile, the only real writing project on tap for now is my poetry book, Father Daughter Day. An artist is just about finished with illustrating the cover. She expects to finish today or tomorrow. So, my plans are to format the book for print this weekend, and to try to format it for an e-book and see how it does. I’m not really sure that poetry will display all that well where the text size (and thus the need to line wrap) is adjustable. But I’ll try it and see. I also have one more poem I’d like to write for it. I’ve started on it three or four times, but, lacking inspiration, abandoned those attempts. Thus it’s necessary to turn to perspiration and get the thing done if I’m ever going to, or decide if the book is complete without it, and just go to publishing.

So, stay tuned for more blog posts. I’ll let you know when FDD is out.

Four Years of Self-Publishing

Dastodd coverFebruary 13, 2011, my first self-published item went up for sale. It’s a short story, “Mom’s Letter”, a fictional piece which has autobiographical elements to it. It was a practice piece. When I made the decision to self-publish, I figured my first novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant, would be first. But it wasn’t quite ready, I wanted to get something published, I had the short story ready from work-shopping and a contest submittal, so I self-published it to practice the mechanics of the self-publishing platforms at Amazon and Smashwords. It went live on Amazon four years ago today.

Kindle Cover - DLA 3Then I thought it would be good to do a book-length item, but I still wasn’t quite ready to put up my novel. What else to do? I decided I could put together fairly quickly my historical-political book, Documenting America: Lessons from the United States’ Historical Documents. So I did that, and it went live for sale in May 2011. Later in the year I managed to get out a paperback version of it.

Eventually I published that novel. Then another. Then another. Then a novella. Then another novel. Along the way I added more short stories, and an essay, and three more non-fiction books. By the middle of 2014 I had 17 items published, six of which were print and e-books, the rest e-books only.

Cover - Corrected 2011-06I won’t say it’s been a wild ride, but it has resembled a roller coaster at times. Get a day with a sale and my spirits rise. A week with two sales and I’m really high. The come the months with one or two sales, or none, and I’m in the dumps. Just when sales seem to be increasing, Amazon changes something, and what few sales I have dry up like a tumbleweed.

Several things I’ve learned through this. I discovered I really don’t feel comfortable tooting my own horn and promoting myself. This is a disaster for a self-published author. Then, I really hate the process of making covers, doing the graphic arts work. I have no talent in the graphic arts. I’ve done some of my covers. They probably aren’t very good and should be replaced with ones professionally done.  But then, I really enjoy the formatting process, both of e-books and print books. Except for the cover, I think I do okay with formatting. And, I enjoy editing my own work, something that most writers say they don’t enjoy.

Last, I have no idea what the future holds, but I know the busyness of life can sure sap what little writing time a person has. I have one completed project—a poetry book from years ago. An artist is working on a cover for it now. If she finishes it, I’ll publish the book within a month. It was done in 2006 and has been sitting, waiting for the right time. I have four other works started, all temporarily abandoned, waiting to see if life will turn in my favor any time soon. I’m purposely suppressing ideas as they come to be. No point in aggregating ideas for works that most likely will never be written.

Hopefully, this will all turn around in a year. Life will grant me time to write again, and I’ll get those four works done and many more. Meanwhile, I seem to be stuck on 345 sales of 17 items over 48 months.

Movie Review: Unbroken

Last weekend, that is nine days ago, Lynda and I went to see our first movie of 2015. Two movies that came out over Christmas that I wanted to see were Unbroken, and the one about breaking the German code in WW2, which may have been named Enigma. By January 23rd I figured both of those would be gone, and we’d have to wait for them to hit television. However, Unbroken was still there at a nearby cinema. We went, to celebrate our anniversary a day early.

I was surprised to find the theater quite crowded. This is a movie that has been out for at least a month, for which the ads quit running around Christmas. Most movies will be gone by then, or will be on their last weeks, showing to a handful of people. But this theater was crowded enough that we couldn’t get as good seats as we like. Clearly this movie has legs.

It did not disappoint us. It’s the story of the son of Italian immigrants in California, Louis Zamperini. To keep him from going the way of a delinquent, he is steered in the direction of running track. He worked hard at it and became good—good enough to make the 1936 US Olympic team, and to be the highest American finisher in the 5000 meters. He said that Olympics was only a warm up for the next one, scheduled to be held in Tokyo in 1940.

But World War 2 got in the way. Zamperini wound up in the air corps (Army air, I think). The movie showed him continuing to train between missions. Only two missions were shown: a bombing run and a rescue mission. This latter one went awry when the plane crashed due to mechanical failure. Only three of the crew survived the crash, and one of those died during their time in life rafts.

The movie does an excellent job chronicling their time at sea, from catching fish to worrying about circling sharks to being shot at by a Japanese plane. After 47 days in rubber life rafts the two fliers are rescued—by Japanese forces, not American. The rest of the film chronicles Zamperini’s time in Japanese captivity, which lasts till the end of the war. The man who headed up two of the camps he was in was a particularly cruel captor, who was particularly hard on Zamperini. They are released from the camp when the war ends. A poignant denouement indicated that Zamperini was able to forgive his captors, seeing most of them after the war.

Everything about the movie was excellent. The acting was superb, the photography great. The parts of Zamperini’s life chosen for the story were excellent. One could sense the trials he went through, and how he was able to triumph over his circumstances and come through the ordeals unbroken in spirit, with his mind and body strong enough to be fully healed and lead a normal American life after the war. It’s hard to find fault with any aspect of Unbroken.

I don’t know how long this will be in the theater, but it was still there this weekend. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to. It will be hard to not be moved by Louie Zamperini’s story.

Have Photographs, but No Camera

Our house is piled high with photographs. Okay, that’s hyperbole, but sometimes it seems that way. In the basement, in an antique dresser in the downstairs bedroom, are boxes and envelopes stuffed with photos, along with many loose photos. Photos Lynda and I took. Photos my parents took. Photos their parents took. Photos with negatives. Photos without negatives. Negatives without photos.

Then in the basement storeroom are boxes of photos. Photos from our China trip, and other trips. Photo albums of ours from 1976 to 1986. Boxes of developed Photos Lynda’s parents took. Photos her grandparents took. Photos from even earlier generation.

And I’m not even close to the end. In the secretary in our bedroom, one drawer is all but stuffed with photos we look in later years. The number of these have waned over the years, especially when we had a digital camera. This drawer contains hundreds of photos. Together by the roll of film they came out of. But otherwise un-annotated.

And, one more batch. On our dining room table, and in boxes around it, are hundreds of photos that belong to Lynda’s mom, Esther. Over a year ago, before Esther moved to her current, small apartment, Lynda’s brother began the process of putting these in photo albums. He didn’t get very far. Lynda picked it up, and made good progress. However, not one album is put together; the photos are spread out on the table; others are in boxes next to the table; and the end is not yet.

Since the rise of digital photography, the era of printed photos has mostly come to an end. Today a shutterbug fills a card with bytes, rather than a box with prints. How those cards eventually get to easily viewable media is a question. And, how many of those become prints is another question. But for sure, future generations won’t be filling up antique dressers, storeroom shelves, and dining room tables with thousands of prints.

We have a monumental job to go through these photos. The oldest one I know of is from August 1877. We have lots that are from England that are unmarked. I know these are of either Hepburns or Todds, but beyond that I have no clue who they are. And no way of knowing.

I wanted to illustrate this blog with pictures of the piles of photos. Alas, I have no camera right now, except for the kind that require film. Our digital camera bit the dust almost a year ago. Lynda’s iPad-mini takes photos, but we haven’t figured out how to do it very well. And neither of us have a cell phone with a serviceable camera. So, irony upon irony, I can’t take a picture of the photo problem.

I suppose we’ll get through this. Since we are in good health and neither of us expects to assume room temperature any time soon, we have years to get the job done. If we can complete Esther’s photo albums in a month or two, clear away the boxes, and return excess photos to those who sent them, I’ll feel good about it. After that, I’ll check back in here and let you know where we stand. Or maybe I’ll wait a year or two, till I have something new to say about it.

Despite the Time Crunch, Writing Tasks Continue

What time I have for writing I have to steal from something else. That might be sleep, home chores, home business, day job, etc. Since around the first of October last year, the Time Crunch has been in effect. I first projected it would last until March this year, but right now I think it’s going to last longer.

However, having said that, I can actually see some light at the end of the tunnel. A few reasons for that are:

  • Family finances are up to date, as of the Saturday just past. This is usually a major headache for me, keeping up with the checkbook, filing receipts, and budgeting. But all of those are up to date, and have been almost since the first of the year. I still have a task or two to do in these responsibilities, but that compares to normally having dozens of tasks. It feels good.
  • Tax season is fast approaching, and for the first time in decades I’m actually ready for it. All receipts bearing on taxes are in a folder marked “2014 Taxes”. I have calculated profit and loss from our home business, which is stock trading. That’s subject to confirmation when the brokerage statement arrives, but normally I don’t get to that calculation till March. It feels good.
  • Household chores are mostly up to date: upstairs, downstairs, and outside. I have a few things to do in each area, but the amount on the to do list is way, way down from normal. Four hours on a Saturday and I will be able to declare everything caught up in this area. It feels good.
  • Miscellaneous writing chores not related to specific works, while not as caught up as other areas, are not in bad shape. The main thing I need to do is choose a new layout/theme for this blog and update it. I hesitate to do so for fear of doing something wrong and accidentally dumping the whole thing. Since I’ve never backed it up—because I don’t know how to back it up—that’s a concern. So my order of tasks are: learn how to back up my blog; back up my blog; search for a new layout/theme; install the new layout/theme; then consolidate my two blogs into one and say goodbye to An Arrow Through the Air. That will be hard, but it’s necessary. After that, I have some writing filing to do, and more culling/discarding. I did a bunch of that back in October, but I’m really not done yet.

So, what’s going on with writing? I have active three writing tasks in progress. I also have other writing tasks started, but I’m not working on them at present, so won’t list them here. What I’m working on are:

  • Editing A Harmony of the Gospels. I have 60 pages of discontinuous text to go, about 10-12 days of reading at my current place. Edits will follow, followed by printing two copies, one each to keep at home and at work. That might take another month.
  • Father Daughter Day for print publication. Actually, I’m on hold on this at present as I wait for the cover designer to do her thing. Once I get an acceptable cover, I’ll have a week of intense formatting/submitting to do.
  • Expanding a genealogy book I wrote, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. I self-published this using company facilities back in 2006 and 2008. In preparation for a summer family reunion, it’s time to make this into a proper book, and expand it to include things left out of the original and revision. Today I merged most of the files I have, and it comes to 113 letter-size pages. That would probably be almost double that for publication size pages. That’s a little longer than I thought, but not bad.

So that’s where I’m at. Despite having had to put most writing away for at least half a year, I can’t say I’m really unhappy about things.


I’ll Be Back Soon

The busyness of life constrains me. Holiday activities at the house, then travel to Oklahoma City, and coming home with a deep cold, then going back to work to a pile of stuff to do, and I’ve not been able to carve out time for either blog. No time for writing, either.

Hopefully by next week I’ll be back on a regular blogging schedule. That’s the plan, at least.

Working Through Discouragement

I rarely read the posts at The Kill Zone blog, but went to one today, by James Scott Bell. I met him in 2004 at the Write to Publish conference in Wheaton, Il, though I haven’t seen him since or corresponded with him. The gist of his post was: Yes, sales for self-published authors seem to have hit a wall, or even dropped; but, no, we can’t be sure this is due to the launch of Kindle Unlimited or saturation in the marketplace.

His post is good, though not necessarily convincing. He might be right that KU had nothing to do with the widely-reported, sudden, dramatic drop in self-publishing sales exactly corresponding with the launch of KU. Or he might be wrong. Publisher Mark Coker from Smashwords disagrees. Jim’s post is uplifting, encouraging self-publishers to power on through this, keep writing, keep publishing, don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, work for the long-tail effects of e-books.

I appreciate those sentiments. However, in the comments, I see this posted:

If someone even considers quitting, it’s time to hang it up. Your heart isn’t really in it for the long haul.

This hit me square in the face. If you are ever discouraged to the point of considering quitting, you don’t have what it takes to be a success. In response to her, Bell agrees:

Thanks, [XXXXX]. You’re right. The heart has to be on fire for writing because the publishing world can get awfully cold.

Based on these two, I don’t have what it takes, because I am often discouraged about writing. I don’t know, but that sounds like an awfully elitist attitude to me. I’m frequently discouraged and consider quitting, wondering if the little bit of precious time I spend on writing could be better spent elsewhere. So since I’ve considered quitting, it’s time for me to hang it up?

I know I have a couple of writers who read this. What about it? Do you agree? If you even consider quitting, is it a sign that you should hang it up? Or do you agree that this is an elitist attitude?

Barely Writing

Yes, this week I did even less writing than last week. After making a good start on that short story I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t written at all on it this week. It stands at around 400 words, waiting on me to come back to it.

One reason I backed off was I wasn’t sure that the woman whose name I’m using for the heroine, with her permission, still wanted me to continue using it. Changing the name would be difficult on the third story in. After waiting several days I finally contacted her, and she says it’s fine to keep using her name. So, as time allows, I shall be charging onward with “Sierra, Kilo, Bravo”.

The other main task I’m doing which could be considered a writing task is editing my A Harmony of the Gospels. I’ve mentioned this work in previous posts, but not for some time. I began this in 2002 (if memory serves me correctly), and finished it in typed form 2009; I finished it in manuscript somewhere around 2006 or 2007. It was always a project to be fit in, never a priority. After that I’ve been reading through it, mainly for devotional and study purposes, but catching typos along the way.

The Harmony is in three parts: the actual harmony of the four gospels; a section of passage notes that includes overlapping gospel passages side by side, with my notes on how I harmonized them; and appendixes that include lengthier discussions on some sections, passages, and events for which I wanted to clarify my approach.

Over the years since I finished everything I’ve read the Harmony part a half-dozen times. The last time through I didn’t catch many typos. A month ago I finished reading the parallel scripture portion of the Passage Notes for the second time. I caught more typos, but not as many as I expected. Currently I’m reading through the Appendixes. Here I’m catching a few typos, but more so edits needed to clarify what I’m trying to say.

I should finish reading the Appendixes by the end of the year, maybe before. I never did finish the last appendix, and one of the earlier ones is sort of left hanging, as if I meant to come back and add something, something of which I have no idea now. I’ll get through these, then do the typing, re-print a copy for work and a copy for home. Then, what?

My text for the Harmony is the NIV version of the Bible. This is a copyrighted work, with Zondervan owning the exclusive right to publish it. My putting it into a harmony didn’t change enough words to make this something I could publish myself. It could only be published through Zondervan. Given the very low chance of that ever happening, I don’t ever plan on submitting it.

No, this is for me only. I also gave copies to my current and previous pastors, with a warning that they are not to copy and distribute it. That should keep me out of trouble with copyright laws.

Author | Engineer