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Closure, with some napalm for kicks November 18, 2014

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This is the first entry I’ve made to this blog since September. September! No excuses, I just haven’t felt like blogging. Other things to do, kids. That first book of mine I’m renovating to make less a POS and more something worth reading? Still in progress. Kind of like doing a kitchen remodel and discovering your whole house has asbestos-based insulation and lead pipes for plumbing. May as well just burn it down, and that’s pretty much what I’m doing. Controlled burns, but still, fire. I love the smell of napalm on my writing!

Looking at its pages, this whole blog could use the same. The “Buy J.P’s Books” link is out of date. I have some new Seldom Asked Questions to add, and a few to update. Sheer Arrogance needs a lot more of it. All things that would semi-pleasantly kill a cold winter Saturday and hey, we’ve already got some of those. Give me time. I know, not so much of it left these days, but give it to me anyway.

So, what drove me back to throw in one more entry, probably the last for awhile? Discovery. I found an old friend.

It’s not the first time I’ve found this old friend. The first time was shortly after April Fools Day, 1991. I don’t wish to embarrass her, even accidentally, by writing here the gory details. Suffice it to say I was acting on a odd whim to see her for the first time since childhood, to see how she was doing twenty-seven years into life, because I wasn’t sure I was doing all that well. I needed a reference point. Seeing she was still in my head after all this time, she seemed like a good one.

It turned out she was doing well indeed. Well enough to do me a fantastic kindness that day. For about ninety minutes of her time–something which in her profession does not come cheap–she listened to me. Just listened. She knew that was what I needed and she just did it.

The older I get, the more I appreciate what she did. Someone willing to let another human being just be, is becoming a fantastically rare thing.  Have you noticed that? We all have to be the star, heaven forbid we get stuck supporting someone else. So we end up in dueling thoughtless competitive interruption calling itself “conversation.” I’m as guilty as anyone else. I’m sure I was damned guilty of it that day, but she was kind enough not to call me out on it–even if she should have. Kindness. Pure kindness.

Twenty-three years later, we have all kinds of wonderful new tools to promote even more dueling, even more thoughtless, even more competitive “conversation:”  Facebook and Twitter are your big two. Pinterest seems to be going that direction. Add Your Favorite Here, there’s a bunch.  Oh, and blogs, for old nerds like me to bitch about it.

Let’s stick with Facebook. Remember as recently as 2010 when you could have real conversations on Facebook?  You still can if you try hard enough, but more likely your feed and wall are covered with ads, memes, cat videos and ridiculous personality quizzes, punctuated by an occasional thought about something mundane or banal. Like mine. Guilty. 🙂  Fun is fun. But with the rule-proving exception of a truck driver buddy whose posts blow my mind every day, Facebook doesn’t lend itself to wit or philosophical depth.

One day, looking through that sea of junk food for the brain, I caught myself thinking about the friend I caught up with all those years ago, the one who actually listened to me if only just once, and wondered what she was doing now.

So, as millions of us now do when we want to figure something out, I invoked the Power of Google. I typed her name and added her profession, figuring it would help narrow things down a bit.

Two pages of links later, paydirt:  One click revealed she’s alive and well, apparently married, in the same profession she was the first time I caught up with her, but with a much bigger firm; and appears to be doing quite well with them. If  her picture is recent, she looks terrific, especially for someone… my age. Not important, but nice.

The important thing is she’s kicking ass and taking names. Good. I would expect nothing less of her. I’m happy for her.

No, I’m not going to go see her again, I’m not checking Facebook or Linked In or especially Twitter–I strongly doubt she, being someone with class, has anything to do with Twitter–to see if I can find her there. I’m not writing her business address, I’m not calling her business phone number, I’m not emailing her, I’m not crashing her life like I did in 1991. No way.

See, 23 years later, I have a spouse too, someone whom slowly but surely I’m learning really is the best thing to happen to me. I have work now proving rewarding and reasonably secure. I’m okay, dammit! And while it was great to see her, bluntly, my reason for seeing her was awful. Period. I feel like I used her. It’s no good to use people, for any reason.

That said: If she ever needs to crash my life like I did hers, for whatever reason, I’m here, no questions asked. I owe her that. Hopefully I haven’t made myself too tough to find if she ever does. If she doesn’t? No worries.

The shrinks call that “closure.”

I just call it well and good.

Perspectives and Just Plain Sick Analogies September 25, 2014

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Normally when my brain is this tired I avoid writing altogether, but today my brain tells me if I don’t write, it will punish me horribly in my sleep. I’ve been punished horribly enough in my sleep this week. I’ve also been punished horribly enough by three cats who keep wrecking my horrible sleep, thinking they have some divine right to be fed at one a.m. instead of four a.m. like they normally are. Mentally this cannot go on without consequences. What consequences I’ve no desire to find out.

So here I am again, writing for therapy. That’s my wife’s term for everything I write. Supposedly it all reveals things about myself that she well knows, being my wife; but others do not and perhaps have no business knowing. She’s somehow wrong and right all at once. That’s why I love her. That’s why men love women, isn’t it? They can be something we never can, wrong and right all at once?

Am I loopy right now? Yes. Yes, I am. I blame it squarely on editing ISO documentation at work today. It’s one of two things I’m writing about in this entry, at personal risk because my employer does not like it when its employees blog about it unauthorized. I’m safe if I keep things as general as I can, and this first thing I can keep fairly general.

It may piss you off, but at least I shouldn’t get fired over it.

It’s an analogy that occurred to me near the end of the day about editing ISO documents. I’ve blogged about them before, so click the link if you need to bone up on what they are.

Editing them is like operating on malignant cancer:

* You don’t know exactly what you’re getting into until you start,

* It’s always worse than you expect, and

* It takes an absolute freaking miracle to get it all.

If that analogy offends you, I understand, and I am sorry; I know people who have or have had cancer too and I know there is no form of income-producing work whatsoever that is literally on par with the pain and suffering of cancer. The analogy offends ME, for crying out loud. Yet at the end of a day of editing the damned things it is the only one that is apt, at least in my world, in my place; and if you have to deal with them at your place of employ, I’m sure you understand me too.

______________

Here’s the second thing, and this one’s a little riskier because I have to get more specific: My employer is adding a social media piece to its customer support. This is more than just another job responsibility. This is a whole new staff, lock stock and barrel, whose mission it will be to address our customers in the world of Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and yea, so many others.

I worked with our customer support department for many years before transitioning to auditing dealer support. I still get their emails. I thought my boss would like to see the one about this. I added the comment that if I were 25 I’d go for it in a heartbeat.

“Good grief–this job is PERFECT for you,” she emailed back. “Why do you think you’d have to be 25?”

I emailed her back my two major misgivings. First, the job description and its requirements sounded very entry-level to me, enough so I suspected I’d have take a cut of a third of my current pay just to get a sniff at it. Second, the job description and its requirements sounded, as much as job descriptions and requirements legally can, like they were looking specifically for young people.

“I don’t think they’re looking for 50-year-old ex-English majors who won’t get on Twitter as a matter of principle,” I wrote.

She offered to ask for me what the salary range was and let me know while she didn’t want to lose me from her department, she did want my work to be my happiness, and this looked very much like something that would make me happy.

I thanked her, but told her something I’ve been thinking for some time now but never put into words until right then. I’ll tell you the same thing:  Whoever said “Age is nothing but a number,” is a liar.

Things change. Perspectives change. And well they should. If they don’t, why do we age at all? What’s the point of aging if we don’t learn from living?

More pointedly, what’s the point of aging if the only lesson we get from living is “Do what makes you happy?”

I’m not discounting the value of happiness in one’s work–just pointing out that in doing one’s work, the older one gets, the more he realizes he’s not working entirely for himself. The older one gets, the more he realizes other people depend on him to do exactly what he’s doing right now, and if what he’s doing right now is not his happiness, then by God he’d better find a way to make it so. A determined mind can make any drudge a joy. A creative mind can make that joy useful and productive for all. An intelligent mind can use that joy to elevate both the job and himself out of drudgery. By fifty, we should know this intuitively, instinctively, especially in a country like our own that affords us the freedom it does.

When running out of time, it’s better to work within reality than to chase rainbows. Even if that reality leads to a just plain sick analogy from time to time, because the work gets a little unpleasant.

Flash: All work is unpleasant from time to time, even that which you love. Better to deal with it than run from it.

I’m flying in the face of pop logic, I know. But it’s the simple truth. We could use more of that these days.

With that, I’ll put my loopy brain to bed. G’nite. 🙂

Now, then! November 29, 2013

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Been a long time since my last post, for good reason–projects! Lots of them!–and it may be a long time ’til my next post for the same reason.  I’ll go into that later, right now just consider it’s good to keep busy with what we do best. If we don’t, the vapid among us happily will let us impoverish ourselves making them very, very rich (I’m talkin’ to YOU, makers of Candy Crack, er, Crush). It may be good thoughtless fun in short spurts, but it is no way to live.

On that note, my grandson has something to say to you:

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He says, “I sincerely hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving, full of family, good food and good cheer. Huzzah.”  Well, he would, if he were older than one.

Hard to believe the little man hits his first anniversary of existence next weekend. Hope Mom and Dad realize that now the fun really begins. This year was just basic programming. In the coming year, the code starts to compile. By the time he’s three his personality will be set and other than good old fashioned discipline there will be nothing on Earth they can do to change it.  Seriously. Scientific fact. Look it up!

So, for those of us whose code has been compiled for decades and have had to deal with both the grace and curse of our hopelessly set personalities, what are we to do? Well, here’s my little suggestion: Join Facebook.

You may have noticed the national media, in its ongoing effort never to see the forest for the trees, has had something to say about Facebook lately: The teenagers and twenty-somethings who built it, are now rejecting it! They deem it unworthy! They are moving on to other social media because they seek to escape their parents, not witness them confront their mortality; and therefore Facebook is doomed, doomed, DOOOOOOOOMED!

Not hardly. In fact, Facebook may have stumbled upon the thing that will ensure its existence forever.  A friend of mine from high school unwittingly tipped me off on it. She posted:

 I have absolutely no memories of some events in my life that should have been memorable. Like both proms, and graduating high school and college. 

I’ll confess here that my first reaction–considering some of my memories with her–was “oh, thank God.” 🙂 (Read nothing evil into that!) Then I got curious and pried a little, and she said:

The crazy thing. . .  is that I remember tons and tons of useless details from my childhood, but not a lot of the major events. I remember Randall the cat’s hiding place in [a neighbor’s] coat closet and what the crabapples tasted like off the tree in their front yard (I still taste crabapples when I run across them, but the [neighbor’s] tree grew the best ever). I remember where I sat in trig and physics and calculus and chemistry in high school. I even remember some particular zits I had over the years for goodness sake! But not one thing about prom or graduation other than what I see in pictures.

National media–if you are paying attention, here you have why Facebook’s audience is getting older, and why that’s a good thing for both its audience and Facebook, and if Facebook gets this and adjusts the service appropriately, it will exist forever.  Why those kids its supposedly losing will come back eventually, too.

It’s this: Memories stick. For better or worse, what we choose to remember, sticks; what we don’t choose to remember, does not.

Facebook performs the valuable public service of unsticking those chosen memories and letting us put them in the proper perspective.

I’m a bit different than my friend in that I remember what feels like a metric ton of the events of my childhood, including the people involved in them and how they treated me, what they were like when I knew them then, and inevitably if I linger on those memories they depress me because either I couldn’t live up to those people or they couldn’t live up to me, and there those memories and impressions would be stuck, forever–if not for Facebook giving me the opportunity to see who they are now, how they are now, and from that perspective where they were coming from then.

I am a “now” person. The past can’t be changed, the future is not guaranteed, the time where we must live is now.  Facebook helps tremendously with doing that.

Two other Facebook friends on my mind, from my high school class, to help make that point clearer: One about to turn 50, who says he dreads old age because nothing good ever comes from it; another already 50 and fighting the struggle of her life.

To the first friend, I would suggest this, something I’ve learned from my parents, in their mid-eighties and while not running marathons, still vital as ever: The one way to fight the aging process is to embrace it.

Start with simple acceptance: We’re finite beings. We enter the world to replace someone leaving it. We leave the world so someone can replace us. This is normal and healthy in all living things. Science and religion often conflict but here they agree, this is nature’s will for us, this is God’s will for us.

A funny thing happens when we accept that and live accordingly. We stress out less. As we stress out less, we get sick less. As we get sick less, we stop doing things to excess to forget for awhile that we’re sick.  We don’t “need” to drink as much, smoke as much, eat as much. Life naturally becomes more moderate, without losing the fun.  Our bodies recuperate easier from whatever sickness comes.  We may or may not live longer–again, the future is not guaranteed–but we live better, less painfully, less strained from existence.

This, I believe, is the philosophy of my second friend, fighting cancer right now. You would not know from her Facebook posts that she is in any pain, because as she fights for her life, she still lives.  She accepts that this is part of it and deals with it accordingly. She cannot lose, no matter the outcome. Her friends, me included, pray the outcome leaves her with us a great while longer; but whether the good Lord wills that for her or not, she will have run the race, fought the good fight.

Life’s great irony: Embrace your struggles, and you will suffer less from them.

______________________

OK, about those projects… My oldest brother sent me home from a trip to see him a few weeks back with some old VHS tapes containing our infamous Butterfield Fishing Shows from the early ’00’s. They’re now on my computer and getting edited down to suitable family viewing for future generations.  An artist friend of mine likes to preview his work on a private YouTube channel, I may look into that and see if once these are done I can share them with the world that way. WordPress has an option allowing direct-to-site video posting, but it’s expensive, at least for lil’ ol’ me.

I’m also working on a complete rewrite of my first self-pub novel, The Rain Song. Once finished, it will be available for free on Kindle under a different title, and the original book will go off the market. Why? Because after looking at the original book, I firmly believe it should never been have been “published.”  I’ll go into that some other time, right now, consider it a collector’s item you can purchase before it’s gone forever–if you can endure its weaknesses, there is a decent story inside of it. The updated Kindle version, I hope, will eliminate the weaknesses and show off its strengths.

Thanks for slogging through all this. 🙂  Blessed Holidays!