A Little Progress

We just concluded a good Thanksgiving weekend. Four glorious days of nothing more than sitting around at home, a quiet home. Our family gathering will be for Christmas this year, due to our son’s work schedule. So, it was just me, the wife, and the mother-in-law. I had considered inviting an older couple to join us on Thursday. I should have, for they spent the day alone. No, not quite alone, for they did some neighborhood things in their retirement complex.

Thursday was cooking, a late walk, and cleanup. Plus watching some television. Friday we thought about going to look for a new car. But Lynda couldn’t find what she wanted on-line, so we decided against it. I cleared away leaves, then went to The Dungeon to write. This was probably 3:00 in the afternoon.

But what to write? For the last two months my new composition has been Adam Of Jerusalem, the prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant. I’m only in the second chapter, and have been laboring under it, as ideas and inspiration have been in short supply. Lately I’ve started to think more about the sequel to The Gutter Chronicles. It resides on my computer at work (actually, on our cloud storage, somewhere in the ether). From time to time I open the file and consider working on it. On our trip to Indianapolis and Branson this summer I brought a printout of it with me, and edited the three and a half chapters written so far.

Beyond that, I hadn’t worked on TGC-V2. But people at work have been asking me, “When will there be another Gutter Chronicles?” “Are you working on a sequel to The Gutter Chronicles?” On the other hand, no one is telling me, “Are you going to write a prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant? Knowing I could get 30 to 40 sales of a new volume of TGC, and maybe some sales of the first one, I decided to spend some time on it at home this weekend.

So, on Friday, I decided to work on TGC. Although the computer file was not available to me, I opened new file. With the manuscript in hand to see where I left off in the fourth chapter, I began. I worked only a little more than an hour Friday, and had just shy of 750 words in my new file.

It is now Tuesday morning. I had to interrupt my writing of this post yesterday, and I never got back to it.

On Saturday, after yard work, and after deciding I wouldn’t do my Wal-Mart run till Sunday, and after deciding we wouldn’t go out to look for a car, I went to The Dungeon and wrote. An hour or so later, I had a total of 1500 words. Sunday, after Life Group and church, bringing lunch home, going to Wal-Mart with Lynda for groceries, I sat down to write about 3:00. I stopped at 5:00 to fix something for supper, went back after supper, and wrote till 9:30 p.m. By that time I had 4,463 words as my three-day total.

That felt good. I hadn’t really thought through the two chapters I worked on (well, just a little), as I had Norman spend time with his love interest, and then introduced the CFO character, so I was quite pleased at how the words flowed. Clearly this is the book I should be writing now.

Last night I was unable to spend time writing, as the hours after supper were consumed with checkbook balancing, bill paying, and stock trading. Tonight will be a TV show we like to watch (The Curse of Oak Island), so probably no writing tonight. But tomorrow night may look good. I think I’ll plan on it.

Will This One Be The One?

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was a good day. It was just the three of us this year, as our large, family gathering will be a Christmas, a change from our normal routine. I fixed a turkey dinner, but without all the side dishes. We ate our full and have plenty of leftovers. Yes it was a good day.

"Mom's Letter" was the first in the series. This is the cover my son did for it.
“Mom’s Letter” was the first in the series. This is the cover my son did for it.

But, we couldn’t find much on television that was of interest to us. So Lynda wanted to see the latest episode of The Curse of Oak Island. She couldn’t get it in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. So I fired up the Roku, had to re-set a password (since it had been a while since we’d used it), and found the show. I had seen it, but it was good to watch it again.

We decided “why not watch some back episodes?” I intended to go to last season, which was season 4, and watch some of the later ones. Somehow, though, I went back to Season 1, so I decided to just start with the very first episode. It was almost as if I hadn’t seen it before, it was so long ago.

One thing that struck me was the similarity of the rhetoric. The searchers for treasure were saying the same thing in Season 1 as they are in Season 5. The narrator’s shtick hasn’t changed at all. It’s always one more search will get us there; we’re inches from the treasure; today may be the day; this new find gives us the motivation to keep on going. That much hasn’t changed, so far into the fifth season.

Published in May, 2011, I've sold a whopping 54 copies of this.
Published in May, 2011, I’ve sold a whopping 54 copies of this.

It suddenly occurred to me that that’s exactly how I am with my books: hoping this next one will be the breakthrough book, the book that gets widespread attention and lots of sales. My first publication was the short story “Mom’s Letter”. I had no expectations for it to sell. It was a story I wrote for a contest (that I didn’t win), and I self-published it because I didn’t have anything else quite ready, so I published it to see what the mechanics of self-publishing were like.

 

This was my first book to write, fourth publication. It remains my highest selling book.
This was my first book to write, fourth publication. It remains my highest selling book.

I was intending to publishing my first novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant, but I didn’t feel like it was ready. So I pulled together my newspaper columns, expanded them, added fifteen new ones, and had Documenting America: Lessons From The United States’ Historical Documents. I didn’t have high hopes for this one either. It sold 30 or so copies in it’s first year.

It wasn’t until the next year, 2012, that I finally published Doctor Luke’s Assistant. It became, and still is, my highest selling book at 128 copies, adding seven to the total so far this year. Now, you’re going to note that 128 is NOT a lot of copies, and if that’s my highest selling book, how low are the others? Good observation. I had high hopes for my next book, The Candy Store Generation, being a political book in a political season. But it sold poorly: 15 copies its first year and a few each year since.

I was very surprised when this one didn't sell.
I was very surprised when this one didn’t sell.

Then came my baseball book, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I thought it was good enough to sell, and would be popular. Alas, not. I sold a few more in 2016, when the Cubs won the pennant, but it still hasn’t sell.

My point is, with each publication (now 26), I’ve thought “this will be the one, the one to breakout.” But each one disappoints. I don’t do a lot of marketing, just Facebook posts. I did one Facebook ad that resulted in no sales. I’ve interviewed authors on this blog, who have sometimes reciprocated. Each of those has resulted in no sales. I did an hour long radio interview, which resulted in no sales. I haven’t done any paid ads yet. Maybe that’s what I need to do. But I’ve thought my publishing should pay for itself, and so far haven’t seen my way clear to buy an ad. Perhaps I’ll change that in 2018.

Even dropping the e-book price to $0.99 has resulted in no sales.
Even dropping the e-book price to $0.99 has resulted in no sales.

So I’m much like the people searching for treasure on Oak Island. Just keep going, sinking costs—in my case the cost of time—into the endeavor a little at a time, hoping for change, for lightning to strike. My recent publication, When Death Changes Life: The Danny Tompkins Stories, is a boxed set of six related short stories, reaching all the way back to “Mom’s Letter”. I set the price of the e-book at $2.99, and the print book at $6.00. I sold zero. I do have three pre-orders of the print book, which will happen next week once my copies arrive.

I have two works-in-progress. One is a prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, which is more laborious than expected. The other is the sequel to The Gutter Chronicles. I actually have people at work asking for this, so maybe I should turn my attention to it. I could sell 30 copies without difficulty, and might sell 10 to 20 of the first one to people who are new at work.

But will either of these be a breakthrough book? I can hope, I suppose, because without hope there’s no reason to go on. Hope is starting to grow thin, however.

Worn Out

As I mentioned in prior posts, my schedule at my day job has suddenly changed. While still having the title of Corporate Trainer, I’ve been assigned three projects—failing projects—to manage. One of our project managers became overloaded, items weren’t handled well, and the projects moved from construction to crisis. I’ve come up to speed on each of them, one after the other, and am now tackling outstanding issues. Supposedly, two other projects, all for the same client, are waiting for me to deal with, but are not yet assigned.

So, Friday evening rolls around. End of the work day. Time to go home and forget about them, get some writing done, get my weekend work done, worship God and study His word on Sunday, and get some more writing done. I told the wife I was hoping to write 5,000 words over the weekend.

I get home Friday, and I have to prepare supper. I did a simple one, including some frozen and fresh stuff. I decided I would put off writing until Saturday (which is what I usually do), and just sit in my chair, watch television, and read. My current read is Day of Battle by Frank Atkinson, about WW2 in Sicily and Italy. I was now in the section on the invasion of Italy. This was the operation my dad was scheduled to be in when his transfer to the Stars And Stripes came through, and he was plucked off an LSI to go to Algiers, with a very high air priority. But that’s a story for another post. Since Dad soon found himself in Italy, with a mobile edition of the Stars and Stripes, I find this part of the war particularly interesting.

Alas, I fell asleep in my reading chair while watching TV. That’s not unusual. I enjoy my little naps there. It wasn’t a long nap. Soon I was back awake, watching TV. I multi-tasked, however. I took a geotechnical report from the third problem project and re-read it. I had read it earlier in the day, didn’t quite understand it, so printed it with the idea of reviewing it in depth over the weekend. I got that done.

I slept well Friday night, was up early Saturday morning, and got to work with personal filing. I usually let this pile up for a month or so, then do it over a couple of hours. Lately I’ve been doing this Saturday mornings, before anyone else is up. I don’t want to go outside and create noises there that will disturb the others. So I worked on this and got a lot done, including sorting through and marking miscellaneous receipts that I need to enter in the budget. By 9:00 a.m. I was back upstairs, ready to work outside, mainly removing leaves. But…it was now raining, with strong wind. Outside work was impossible. Lynda was to drive to Oklahoma City that day, and my main work was helping her get packed and on the road. I did that, and she got away about 1:00 p.m.

But, before she left, I sat in my chair, intending to catch up on
Facebook and other websites, and promptly fell asleep. Again, this was a short nap. I shouldn’t have been tired as I hadn’t done much physical work that morning: just walk between where I put stuff for filing and where the file cabinet is. Before long I was up and helping Lynda get on the road.

So finally, around 1:30 p.m, I went downstairs to begin writing. I had an hour I figured before heading to Wal-Mart for the weekly grocery trip. I activated the computer, opened Word and my files, opened a browser, and…the computer was barely functioning. The browser kept crashing, Word was crawling. I closed out of everything and headed to Wal-Mart.

That chore done, I went back to the computer around 4:00 p.m. and…same thing. I did a re-start and went upstairs, deciding to just read and/or watch college football. I think the minute my head hit the chair I was asleep, and slept for at least an hour. I woke up later, and couldn’t believe the time.

I pondered all of this. On a day when I had little physical work, I had three naps in my chair, one of them a long one. What was causing me to be so tired? I finally figured it must be just the pent-up emotions of the week, and the physical toll that took on my body. The intense work on the newly assigned projects, trying to keep my training activities going, plus the annual training exercise Tuesday and Wednesday, and, well, I was emotionally and physically drained. Must have been.

Saturday after supper I decided to just read, a most enjoyable activity for me. Sunday was a restful day with Life Group (I didn’t have to teach), church, a two-mile walk, and down to The Dungeon for writing, only to find the computer never did restart and it was still sluggish. I did a couple of hard boots and it still didn’t do anything. The third time it worked, while I was on the phone with Geek Squad. Naturally, as soon as you call for help, it works. Apparently the slowness was related to an update that hadn’t finished updating. Multiple hard boots is somehow the answer for this.

So I sat down to write, having only 30 minutes before I would have to go upstairs and prepare supper. I couldn’t do it. It just wasn’t enough time. I think I completed a paragraph and did a little more, maybe 100 words. Alas.

I don’t know if working with these projects is going to leave me so tired I won’t be able to write. Somehow I’m going to have to figure it out.

The Crunch Continues

Today was an incredibly busy day. This came after two full days of hosting/facilitating an off-site training session, in town, something we do every year. It went well, with fewer glitches than normal.

Still waiting on the paperbacks to be printed and arrive. I have a grand total of 3 ordered.
Still waiting on the paperbacks to be printed and arrive. I have a grand total of 3 ordered.

But, while I was doing that, the troubled projects I took over haven’t advanced any. I should say I’m going to take over. I’m still just the old engineer who’s helping out the youngins with some difficult situations. Three particular projects have gone bad, all for one client. Last week I dealt with one of them, made decisions about remedial work that needs to be done, and gave that to the client. I understand that’s been given to the contractor, who is mulling it over.

The second project I also dealt with last week. Nothing has been decided, but we have to wait on some tests at the site, and a report by a geotechnical engineer. E-mails this week indicate there’s been a slight delay in that, but it’s getting closer. Meanwhile, they aren’t ready to do investigative soil borings on-site, so I won’t be heading to the St. Louis any time soon.

So this week, interspersed with the training, I have been working on the third project. Early in the week I studied a long e-mail chain, and came to a basic understanding of the problem. Today I started looking at our design and construction files to see what we did on the project. Then I had to look at City and Watershed District standards to see what the outstanding issues are. Today the client e-mailed the current project manager to get an update on what we’re doing. I was able to answer it and keep them informed.

By the end of the day, including working almost an hour past time, I think I figured out what needs to be done to correct some problems at the site. The main issue is the client has $290,000 in a financial assurance bond that can’t get closed out. By the end of today I think I figured out how to get half of it released why we keep the rest in place as we deal with the problems. I’ll try to confirm it in the morning, then contact the client—with good news for a change. Only moderately good, but still good. I will still have issues to investigate, and some modifications that will have to be made at the site, but I can see this third one coming together in the next week. Possibly easier than either of the other two.

So a few people want Volume 2. Maybe I should finish it.
So a few people want Volume 2. Maybe I should finish it.

Meanwhile, today, I attended a pre-construction conference in Centerton, functioning as city engineer for that project. I brought another engineer with me, the one who is preparing to take over for me with this client. She sat in on one pre-con already. Since this was her second, I said the next one she would be in charge. She doesn’t seem real anxious to take over that role. But she’ll do fine.

While in Centerton, the head of planning asked if I had brought my next book. She buys everything I have in paperback. I said no, it was ordered, but might not be here for almost two weeks. She also asked when I would have another edition of The Gutter Chronicles. I said I’ve started it, but was only on the fourth chapter.  Several people have asked about this, making me think maybe I’d better get back on it again.

I’m hoping to be able to put in a fair number of hours this weekend on Adam Of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, I’ll spend what time I can at work—breaks, noon hours, before hours—on the other one. Maybe I’ll get one of them done some day.

Be Careful What You Pray For

The time of my retirement from my day job draws closer. As of this morning it’s 1 year, 1 month, and 17 days away. I’m not sure how vacation will play into that. I might actually have my last day a bit earlier.

My problem is, I’ve been having a bad case of senioritis. Yes, many school students get that both at the high school and college level. As the end draws near you no longer care about doing your work, and you slack off.

That’s how I’ve felt at work of late. My position as corporate trainer is one that requires me to be a self-starter. I have to make work for myself: figure out classes to teach; look for classes for others; have the gumption to work on our standard notes, details, and specifications. I’ve found that harder to do lately. It’s so tempting to sit at my desk and just wait for people to come to me with problems. As I am the senior engineer in the company, that happens a lot. People come to me with a design problem they can’t figure out, or a construction problem they’ve not encountered before. It’s quite fulfilling for me, actually, to help the youngin’s through these.

But all that won’t even fill an hour in a day. My work for the City of Centerton is little more than that, though it comes in spurts. Of course, I’m in the process of turning that over to another engineer, and soon she will be taking lead in our work there. That will end my 17 years as city engineer, or substitute city engineer, for that small, nearby city.

So, due to this growing senioritis, and knowing I couldn’t just sit there at my desk and draw a salary. It wouldn’t be right to work on my books during the work day, other than normal break time. I was starting to grow dissatisfied with the work and especially with my performance.

So I made it a matter of personal prayer. I asked God to help me shake off the growing lethargy, and do a good job for my employer. I began to look at the job with a little more concern. I sensed my prayer was being answered.

Then came last Monday. By 8:30 a.m. my boss, the CEO, was in my office. He said he had an urgent situation he needed me to work on. We were having problems with a certain client. The project manager over that work was overloaded, and they needed to reassign some projects to others. He wanted me to take over that client, solve problems on three already constructed projects that can’t seem to get closed out, bird dog two other projects about to go to construction, and see what could be done to improve the engineer-client relationship.

Now, I haven’t actively managed projects in over ten years. I happened to be entering two weeks with some special events in them, or with personal things scheduled (annual physical; eye exam; etc.). The timing wasn’t great, but I was glad for the challenge and the work, even if it would become all-encompassing to me.

The week was full of coming up to speed. I first tackled a project in Ohio with failing pavement. This project seemed to have the most correspondence of late. Then I shifted to a project in the St. Louis area that has a failing environmental pond, and may also have an improperly designed and constructed retaining wall. The third project is in Minnesota. I haven’t had time to even look at it yet. Hopefully I will today, with the other two somewhat in hand and waiting on outside data.

For the St. Louis project, it will likely require me to go there to observe some remedial investigations of the retaining wall. I spoke with a retaining wall expert on Friday, and he hopes to be authorized to do some drilling behind the wall. If so, it will be on a weekend, since the facility is open for business on weekdays.

About three days into this new adventure, I remembered that I’d prayed about my senioritis situation. Now, I was asking God to help me be more faithful in my self-starter work, not to load me up with new work, urgently needed. But that’s exactly what He did. I suspect He’s laughing at the situation. “Oh, so you’re worried you’re not working hard enough, that you’re having troubling getting motivated? I can fix that real easy.”

He sure did. I came home each day this week exhausted and mostly brain dead—but truly fulfilled, knowing I was working hard and making a difference.

The Dream Is Still Holding On

I changed the final e-book cover some from this. I keep forgetting to upload it from my computer at work.
I changed the final e-book cover some from this. I keep forgetting to upload it from my computer at work.

Not too long ago I posted that I had published my latest book, When Death Changes Life, as an e-book. As always, I have a lag between publishing the e-book, which is relatively simple, and publishing the print book, which is much more involved primarily due to the cover. I uploaded the print book more than a week ago, but kept finding little errors in it: a poem that had a widow on one page; failing to start something on the right hand side; things like that. I ordered a proof copy, but while waiting on it I worked on fixing those errors.

Finally, the proof came yesterday. I had already fixed the errors, uploaded them, and had them approved by CreateSpace. So I pressed the button, and the print book published yesterday. It still hasn’t synced up with the e-book into one listing on Amazon. That typically takes two or three days to happen. Sometimes I have to turn in a manual request for Amazon to make it happen.

What are my hopes for this book? It doesn’t have anything new in it. It’s the six Danny Tompkins stories pulled together as a box set. How well did they sell as individual stories? Here’s my sales numbers, lifetime.

  • Mom’s Letter – 39
  • Too Old To Play – 9
  • Kicking Stones – 10
  • Saturday Haircuts, Tuesday Funeral – 4
  • What Kept Her Alive? – 4
  • Growing Up Too Fast – 0
Zero copies sold of this one. Perhaps the market is speaking to me.
Zero copies sold of this one. Perhaps the market is speaking to me.

Clearly, the series hasn’t caught on. Even the original 39 purchasers didn’t come back to see if there were more stories.

So, will they sell better as a volume? That is the hope. I feel badly for a couple of people who bought four or five of them early in the year. Someone coming in now could buy all six for $2.99, whereas the others paid $0.99. I suppose that’s life. They have sales. Sometimes you get in on it, sometimes you don’t. Still, what happens if I drop the e-book to 99 cents as a promotional and see if anyone bites? (Still no sales of the boxed set.) Same too bad.

But, in talking about it to people, at church and in the office, it seems like the title is catching, the subject is of interest, and a few people have said they would buy a copy from me. Some may even follow through on that. I can think of three or four sure sales.

With each book I publish, I think “This will be the one to catch on, to sell in the hundreds if not the thousands.” Alas, each time I’m lucky to sell in double digits. A few will go to 10 to 25 copies, a couple have sold in the 30s. Only two have hit 50 or more, and only one 100 or more. What makes me think this one will be different? I don’t know that it will be, but I hope.

The dream hasn’t quite died. It’s holding on for dear life, battered by busyness at the office and at home, by a tired brain and a tired body, trounced by hits from every quarter. I’m tired of late, really tired.

Still, I have to hang on to the dream. Otherwise, there would be no point of going on.

What’s Consuming My Imagination

This is the e-book cover. The print book cover will be very similar.
This is the e-book cover. The print book cover will be very similar.

It’s been a while since I wrote anything new on my works-in-progress, or even about what new things have come to mind. I guess it was less than a month ago that I laid out my 4th quarter writing plans. Nothing has changed in these plans—officially, that is. I published When Death Changes Life as an e-book, and am about a week away from having it published as a print book. So that’s good. I haven’t yet resumed work on Adam Of Jerusalem or The Gutter Chronicles: Volume 2. However, Sunday afternoon I actually wrote a little on AoJ. And today I looked at prior edits to TGC with an idea of typing them later. So both works are simmering, and may boil soon.

But, I find my gray cells consumed—my creative gray cells, that is—by two other things. Some things I’ve been discussing with my grandchildren, especially my oldest one, have gelled into what could become a book, or more likely two small books. For now I’m titling this Nine Life Freedoms Gained and Lost. For some time now I’ve noticed how my grandchildren have developed, and how freedoms have come to them. The first freedom is learning how to walk, which is a freedom of mobility. How much more territory can a toddler claim than a crawling infant?

The second freedom is when you are potty trained, and free from diapers. This is a freedom of control over bodily functions. It gives you great freedom of movement; you aren’t tied to a toilet any more, or, worse, covered in a diaper. It signals physical growth.

I started thinking of these somewhat over a year ago, maybe even two years ago, as I watched my grandchildren develop. Since they live four hours from me, and I see them five or six times a year, I see their development in spurts, not continuously. I’ve noticed these freedoms they develop into. I’ve thought about the additional freedoms they will someday have. I’ve expanded this into a total of nine. This was all sort of organic, I guess you would say. I was mainly trying to understand the growing up and maturing process, not thinking about writing a book.

I’ve also noticed over the same time period how these freedoms are lost to people as they age. The ability to walk is lost in whole or in part as your legs grow weaker with age. Incontinence is the manifestation of loss of the freedom of control of body functions. The other freedoms, gained during childhood, youth, and early adulthood, are slowly lost with age. Perhaps not all of them, and perhaps some not at all, but all can be lost. It is when one of these freedoms is lost that the person requires a caregiver. The caregiver has to help the person who has lost one of more of these freedoms.

This has been rattling around in my head, consuming so much of my creative gray cells that I’ve had little energy left for actual writing. That it could possibly become a book became evident to me in the last month. But would it be a book for parents, for caregivers, or for both? The latter didn’t seem like a good idea, and the first one seems to be too crowded a field. That meant it would be a book for caregivers. Today in church it hit me that perhaps I have two books here: Nine Life Freedoms Gained, which would be for parents; and Nine Life Freedoms Lost, which would be for caregivers. They wouldn’t be large books. I’m somewhat leery of starting them. For now they are nagging ideas. At some point I’ll put a little more on paper. Perhaps that will free up my mind for other things.

Speaking of other things, a new book idea came to me a week or two ago. Yes, yet another book idea. This one came to me as a title. I was studying in Romans for teaching Life Group when this idea came. I was thinking of Paul’s impact on the early church, and how the story and teachings of Jesus were disseminated. The title came to me: And So It Begins: The First _____ Years of Christianity. It would be non-fiction, but would draw from what I have written or plan to write in my church history novel series.

This book, if I ever write it, is further down the road than is the freedoms books. It will be after AoJ and one more book to be sandwiched between Doctor Luke’s Assistant and Preserve The Revelation. I’ve already written some ideas for the contents. Once I get them put in a notebook, and hence retrievable in the future, their activity within my mind will soon die, and I can concentrate on current work.

NFL Player Protests

I wrote a post some time ago about Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the playing of the national anthem at the start of NFL games. Since then, many other players have joined the protest. They won’t stand for the anthem, looking at the flag with their hand over their heart. Instead, they stand, kneel, sit, or raise a fist. What Kaepernick started has grown significantly. No end is in sight.

The protest is mostly by black players. It concerns unfair treatment of black Americans by police forces throughout the nation. They say that police are harsher in their dealings with Blacks, and are more likely to shoot and shoot to kill, whereas with Whites the police try more extensively to work it out with verbal commands. I hope I’ve stated this position correctly.

The protest is very visible, as they intend for it to be. It has also produced considerable response from NFL fans, a response that is, perhaps, exactly opposite of what the protesters want. Fans are tuning out in anger. Attendance at NFL games is down this year. Television ratings are down. Both of these drops seem to be more than statistical anomalies, and rather reflect that something’s going on. The NFL has suggested it’s due to over-saturation, and that they’ve gone too far in pushing the NFL out to the public. Most people, however, believe the drop in attendance and viewership is fan backlash against the protests.

You could say that the fans are making their own protest, a private protest against the protesting players and against the league, which is allowing them to do this. But is a silent protest any good? Shouldn’t protests be visible? Otherwise, how to you bring about the change in the situation you’re protesting? To not do a thing is passive. To do a thing is active. Players are actively protesting, and fans are passively protesting the active protest of the players.

I haven’t heard any fans who say the players have no case, or are protesting a problem that doesn’t exist. Fans are simply saying the protests are at the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong way. Or, perhaps another way of interpreting this, is fans truly aren’t sympathetic to the protest, i.e. they don’t see the same problem as the players see, and thus don’t want to hear about it. They don’t say this, but they believe this. Who knows which is correct.

Into this mix, throw in the concept of free speech. The players have a right to protest, a God-given right of free speech protected from government interference by the Constitution. Yes, this is true. Also true is that everyone who works for a living gives up some of their rights when they enter their employer’s place of business. Some even give up some of this right outside of the place of business. A public school teacher who posts nude photos of themself online, outside of normal working hours, will almost certainly be fired. Long ago I realized that I shouldn’t put political bumper stickers on my vehicle, since my employer seeks to win public projects and any political display by me might hurt those prospects. My employer never said don’t display political leanings in a way that would harm us. It wasn’t necessary to mention it; I was smart enough to know not to. But, had my employer said that, my rights would not have been restricted. It was an employer saying that, not the government.

So where am I going with this? I look at the protesting NFL players. Their employer—either the teams or the league—could restrict their free speech as a condition of employment. But the teams haven’t, and the league hasn’t. What’s going on, however, is they are losing their audience. Their protests are backfiring. Because the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees you a right to free speech (i.e. no government infringement on free speech) but it does not guarantee you an audience. You have to earn an audience, earn it by the way you protest and the words you say. Earn it by making plain what it is you are protesting, not just grandstand the problem. Earn it by trying to actually make a change, not just call attention to it.

Someone might say, “Some are in a position to make changes; others are in a position to call attention to the changes needed but not necessarily to bring about the changes.” That’s a valid argument. However, everyone needs to consider the effectiveness of their work (in this case their protest), and decide if the audience is getting the message, which would suggest that change is coming. If the audience isn’t getting the message, or if the audience is rejecting the message, it’s time to reconsider the protest methods and perhaps do something else.

This is where we are right now, it seems to me. The NFL players who are protesting are losing their audience. Meaning they aren’t bringing about the change they desire. It might be time to change tactics.

I assume the NFL players are trying to make me see the need for a change: that I’m part of their target audience. I don’t know for sure if that’s what they want, but I think that’s the case. I’m just a part of who they want to reach. They want to reach the whole country. I’m part of that demographic.

I would say to the players: Look around you. See how your protests are being received. Is your message getting through? If not, change what you’re doing. Protest in another manner. Or, better yet, rather than just calling attention to a problem, DO SOMETHING to solve the problem. Your platform is huge; your influence is great. If you would work to solve the problem, rather than just call attention to it, maybe, just maybe, you will change the world.

Stream of Consciousness Post

I haven't seen "Eustace" for more than a year. Wonder if he and his family still live under our lower deck.
I haven’t seen “Eustace” for more than a year. Wonder if he and his family still live under our lower deck.

As I start writing it, I have no idea what this post will contain. Just whatever comes into my head.

I write this Sunday afternoon. After a good Life Group (which I didn’t have to teach) and worship service, I came home exhausted. Ate my hamburger, then retired to the sun room to read and rest. I read about five pages, then set the book down, put my head back against the swivel easy chair back, and fell asleep. I’m not sure how long I slept. I became aware of voices near me. Through the closed door I could hear my wife and her mother speaking. At one point my wife said, “Looks like Dave’s sound asleep.” I kept hearing noises in the leaves outside, and kept getting up, making as little noise as I could, to see what was out there. I thought maybe the groundhog that has taken up residence under the lower deck would be there, but I saw nothing except a couple of playful chipmunks. Perhaps they were making all the noise.

I believe this is a book I will enjoy—if I can ever get through it.
I believe this is a book I will enjoy—if I can ever get through it.

The book I just started reading is Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson. It’s a thick book. I got it out over a week ago from my reading pile, but it looked daunting due to its size, so I just let it sit there. Friday I finally picked it up and started reading. It’s about WW2 in Sicily and Italy. Since Dad was in Italy with the 5th Army, I had bought this to read. I’ve now read in it three straight days, and find it quite interesting. I believe I’ll enjoy it. Just due to the length, however, and the many things I have to do, I may not finish it before Christmas.

Saturday we made one major decision. We ordered a new dishwasher at Lowe’s. This is where we replaced our fridge about five years ago, so I figured we’d have the easiest time matching it there. However, they really couldn’t convince me that the one that is supposed to be part of that appliance set had the same textured finish as the fridge. So, we decided to get a different one. It has a black finish like the fridge, but isn’t textured. It was on sale, at the same price as the supposedly matching one. And, it’s about 5% quieter. Installation should be sometime this week.

What else? I spent time on Saturday updating the checkbook and budget spreadsheet. That was after balancing the checkbook Friday evening, and finding no errors in it. Also on Saturday we went to a funeral here in Bella Vista. A family here had lived in Meade, Kansas, and Lynda and her mom knew them. In fact, her mom was the one who invited them to church, an invitation accepted that eventually resulted in them turning their lives around. From Meade they moved to Talequah OK and then retired in Bella Vista. We would see them from time to time, at church or in the community. Eugene died five weeks ago, and Marie died this week. Sad, but at the same time good to know one of them doesn’t linger here without the other.

This is the e-book cover. The print book cover will be very similar.
This is the e-book cover. The print book cover will be very similar.

I haven’t felt much like writing new material for a while. Ideas for new books continue to come into my head. I have two that I’ve documented within the last month. I don’t expect to work on them any time soon. This week I hope to get the print book done for When Death Changes Life. The interior design and formatting is done. All that remains is the cover. I have that mostly done. I wanted to tweak the front cover a little to improve the spacing. I’ll then have to load it into t he G.I.M.P. file and do some work with it there. Other than that, I think all I need it some words on the back cover, and I’m ready to submit it. I have no sales of it so far, and may just drop the price to 99 cents. I won’t make a lot of money, but anything is more than nothing. I also haven’t ordered any print copies if Headshots. I put out two calls on Facebook for local folks who wanted a copy, and got no response. So I’ve not been sure how many to order. Still, I’ll put that order in fairly soon, maybe this week. It won’t reflect boldness and confidence.

My stream of consciousness has pretty much run out. I’m not sure what I’ll do next. Possibly another nap. I’ll try to find something productive, however.

Book Review: Perfectly Imperfect

The book has a companion, of imperfect people in the New Testament. I imagine I'll read it someday.
The book has a companion, of imperfect people in the New Testament. I imagine I’ll read it someday.

Last June I picked up a copy of Perfectly Imperfect: Character Sketches From The Old Testament in the bookstore in the exhibit hall during the quadrennial General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene. I finished reading it last weekend, not having started reading until the last week in September. Dr. Busic’s point, that God uses imperfect people, is well made in the book. In each of 13 chapters he focuses on people and how they formed part of God’s plan, despite having flaws.

On the bookstand, it looked attractive to me as a possible Life Group study series. The author, David A. Busic, is a General Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene. While I had the book tucked under my arm and was still browsing the bookstore, my pastor walked up to me, and we began talking. He asked what I was buying. I showed him, and said I was buying it in hopes it could form the basis for a Life Group lesson series. He said he’d read it, and it would make a great Life Group book. In fact, he said, he had used it for some sermons, and as I read it I might recognize some things he’d said in sermons. On that recommendation, I bought the book.

So now, having read it, two questions come to mind: How do I rate it? And will I use it for a Life Group series?

I have a hard time rating this. Busic gave me reasons for lowering my review, and some for raising my review. Here are some specifics.

  • Forward and Preface are present, and a little long. Lose 1 star. Dr Busic is well enough known that no Forward is necessary, and it’s presence is distracting. As for the Preface, it was more Acknowledgements than Preface, and was also distracting.
  • Conversational style of writing. Lose 1 star. Now down to 3 stars. Maybe some people like that conversational style, but not me so much. I believe the book was written for Gen Xers and Millenials, not a crotchety, aging Baby Boomer. That’s okay. All books can’t appeal to all people.
  • The treatment of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Lose 1 start (down to 2 now). This a passage I’ve studied and studied, taught in Life Group more than once, and heard sermons on about every two years. I disagree with some of his interpretation. Sorry, Doctor Busic, but that’s how it is. Explaining exactly what would take more words than this review should be.
  • The chapter on Elijah and things I believe were left out. Lose 1 star (in oh, down to just 1 now). Again, this is a passage I’ve studied much, taught on, head in sermons much, and pondered. I was disappointed at things I believe Dr. Busic left out. Saying what would take a lot of time and too many words.
  • His denigration of my home state, Rhode Island. Lose 1 star (Amazon won’t let you rate a book 0 stars). Yes, in Chapter 13, pgs 174 and 176, he talks derisively about Rhode Island, using it to represent weakness. I guess he knows there aren’t many Nazarenes in Rhode Island, so he figured he wouldn’t have many Little Rhody readers. Well, he got this one, and he loses a star as a result. Actually, Busic uses RI in a playful manner, not a denigrating manner. Still, as a Rhode Islander (I may have left the state 43 years ago, but I’m still a Rhode Islander), I have no choice to deduct a star. And, I’m being a bit playful myself with this comment.
  • Incorrect use of the logical concept “Beg the Question” on page 105. Lose 1 star. C’mon, Doc. You don’t know what “beg the question” means? It doesn’t mean “demand the question be answered,” or “bring the question to the table for consideration”, which is how you use it. It means to avoid answering the question. Common usage by ignorant people is resulting in a cheapening of this important logical concept, and you just jumped on the bandwagon. Shame, shame.
  • Excellent treatment of Esau, Isaac, and Stewgate. Add 1 star. Yes, Chapter 4 is well written, informative, illuminating. Good work.
  • Excellent treatment of Nehemiah and the wall building project in Jerusalem. Add 1 star (back up to 1 star in aggregate). He brought out some things I’d never considered, and has spurred me on to study the passage more.
  • Good discussion on Nabal, Abigail, and David in chapter 10. Add 1 star (back up to 2 now). I won’t say “excellent”, because I believe some concepts are left out, concepts another Bible teacher has focused on that I agree with. I think the chapter would have been stronger with a couple of paragraphs added on these things, but the chapter is good as is. While I could say that this only adds half a star, I could also say that the star I took away concerning the sacrifice of Isaac also should have been just half a star—so it washes out.
  • Moses and the glory of God in Chapter 6. Add 1 star (up to three). We did a comprehensive study on Moses in Life Group a few years back, and it is still much on my mind. Dr. Busic covered this well. I enjoyed this chapter, perhaps best of all in the book.

As to such things as length of chapters, length of book overall, layout and design, ease of read, etc, the book gains another half star. So, I rate it 3.5 stars out of 5. Since Amazon and Goodreads won’t allow half stars, when I post the review there it will be a 3-star review.

This book will remain in my library, though how much I’ll re-read it in the future is a question. After reading the book, I felt that turning into Life Group lessons will be harder than I expected. Still, I’ll do the lessons, and will keep the book, for now.

Author | Engineer