In the face of despair

Mon­day morn­ing I woke up feel­ing the most despon­dent I have yet since elec­tion night. Well, since after elec­tion night. That night was pret­ty bad.

But I’ve had a sort of ener­gy since then, maybe a bit man­ic, that may have been prop­ping me up. Yes­ter­day, I woke up and read the news as I usu­al­ly do, and it hit me. We are in for four years of unmit­i­gat­ed crap. I don’t like this feel­ing, so I’m set­ting about to fig­ure out what I can do to, yes, make myself feel bet­ter. Here are the prob­lems I see, in big wide gen­er­al­iza­tions that sure­ly don’t address all of the impor­tant issues. And here is what I am doing about them, per­son­al­ly, local­ly, and nation­al­ly.

  • Trump’s cam­paign, whether inci­den­tal­ly, demon­stra­bly, or even inten­tion­al­ly, has made it okay to be a misog­y­nist, racist homo­phobe.

What am I doing about that? Per­son­al­ly, I’m wear­ing a safe­ty pin, both to pro­vide out­ward evi­dence that not every­one is an ass­hole, but also to remind myself to be more inten­tion­al in my inter­ac­tion with folks who might feel tar­get­ed. I live in Kansas, and I don’t run into many mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple, which makes it all the more shame­ful that I have not reached out.

There are any num­ber of good groups, local­ly, I am sure, to which I could give mon­ey, or ener­gy. There’s a Social Jus­tice com­mit­tee at my church, and I am hop­ing they will help me iden­ti­fy places I can give my time. Our church does a great job with hunger issues and Islam­ic out­reach. That’s a start.

Since the elec­tion, Tiffany and I have become month­ly givers to the South­ern Pover­ty Law Can­ter and Planned Par­ent­hood. SPLC coun­ters and pro­tects those who are sin­gled out and attacked in hate crimes. Planned Par­ent­hood pro­vides ongo­ing health ser­vices and sup­port for women and poor fam­i­lies through­out their lives.

  •  Trump’s Pres­i­den­cy will roll back much of the progress we achieved under Bill Clin­ton and Barack Oba­ma. The trend­ing of the nation’s vot­ing coun­ties towards the right will lead to more chal­lenges for real people’s lives. The econ­o­my will pro­vide less for more. The influ­ence of Trump’s white suprema­cist friends, his oli­garch cronies, and the oppor­tunis­tic extreme right will turn actu­al, real free­doms upside down.

In a nut­shell, he has the full pow­er of the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment, for at least two years, prob­a­bly four, to enact the agen­das of his friends and sup­port­ers.

What can I do about this? I can stay active in pol­i­tics. I work in state lev­el pol­i­tics in Kansas, where we actu­al­ly had a retreat from con­ser­v­a­tive posi­tions this elec­tion. We’ve seen the destruc­tive results of unfet­tered extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy here, and Kansans have cho­sen change direc­tion. There’s much more work to be done, espe­cial­ly to make this a last­ing change, and I will keep work­ing at it.

We’ve also opened up our pock­et­book on this issue, becom­ing first-time month­ly sup­port­ers of the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union and the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil. The ACLU works to pro­tect civ­il lib­er­ties at the local lev­el with an eye towards nation­al influ­ence. The NRDC pro­tects the envi­ron­ment, among oth­er ways, by fight­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions that affect our future on the plan­et.

  • In two and four years, the coun­try will vote again. The chance that we could con­tin­ue down this path is fright­en­ing, and must be pre­vent­ed.

Per­son­al­ly, while I’m not cut out to actu­al­ly run for office, I have skills and expe­ri­ence that would be use­ful to those who are. I will con­tin­ue to be active in pol­i­tics, in get out the vote efforts, in sup­port­ing can­di­dates who will change this direc­tion. I’m well versed in local issues (and the max­im that all pol­i­tics is local is unques­tion­ably true) and yet I will work to explore issues I don’t know much about.

I plan to learn more about how the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty works nation­al­ly, what can be done to sup­port those local Repub­li­cans who are on the right side of the issues I care about (remem­ber, I live in Kansas), and how I can encour­age more peo­ple, espe­cial­ly women, to step up to pub­lic ser­vice. Is there any­thing more awe­some than Tam­my Duckworth’s smile?

I’m encour­aged by the num­ber of peo­ple who are look­ing to get involved, and the num­ber of groups step­ping up to offer them an avenue, from estab­lished groups to new ones.

This is how it starts. That’s how you defeat despair. You do some­thing.

Where is this horse you speak of?

It has been a lit­tle over a month since I have writ­ten any fic­tion. Not a word. But I am get­ting back on that prover­bial horse.

A lit­tle over a month ago, I was offered a half time job by a friend, and I took it. Thus a third, part-time career was born. I am writ­ing words for a small, local, mod­er­ate polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion. It fits me polit­i­cal­ly pret­ty well (I’m an unabashed Lib­er­al, but a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can), and there is a des­per­ate need here in Kansas for any­one with a mod­icum of sense to speak out. I am encour­ag­ing peo­ple to be get­ting on that. I write for our social media prop­er­ties (see, jar­gon!) and also “craft” our mar­ket­ing mes­sage. And I’ll be blog­ging once we get our new web­site up.

So, you know, get­ting paid to write!

And even if it isn’t get­ting paid to write my fic­tion, I do get to put words togeth­er, and that part has been fun.

But.

I’m here to do this. I quit my mod­est but bet­ter-than-this pay­ing job to write fic­tion. And this past month, I have not done that. It’s been the usu­al cock­tail of work I want to do, work I’m not sure I want to do, per­son­al moti­va­tion issues, Life Stuff To Do, and now Job that Must Be Done.

But.

I am up, and I am at ‘em. And it is five in the freakin’ morn­ing.

And I am writ­ing.

Ow

I am forty three years old. I have been bless­ed­ly healthy all those years, with nary a seri­ous ill­ness, a bro­ken bone, nor a hos­pi­tal stay. But yes­ter­day, I had the plea­sure of my first CT scan.

Let me back up.

Three morn­ings ago, I had a lit­tle back pain. Then the pain shift­ed around to the front, and became abdom­i­nal pain. Then it became very strong gas/bloating pain. And then I was writhing around on the guest bed, try­ing not to wake any­one up with my mewl­ing. I was retch­ing, and twist­ing, and curs­ing and in about as much pain as I have ever been. I final­ly woke my wife up, and not being in a hazy fog of agony, she sug­gest­ed med­i­cine. I took a gas thing, and the pain went away.

The rest of the day was fine. I had some plen­ti­ful but innocu­ous gas lat­er on, and I thought all was well. Yay, flat­u­lence!

Two morn­ings ago, I woke up fine, but my stom­ach mus­cles were a lit­tle sore. From all the retch­ing, sure­ly. After all, I’d giv­en the mus­cles a real work­out when I was busy dying the pre­vi­ous morn­ing. Then the gas came back, slow­ly, but sure­ly, and soon I was gri­mac­ing and stamp­ing about. At this point we decid­ed I was clear­ly in labor. Walk­ing felt bet­ter, breath­ing made it tol­er­a­ble, squat­ting relieved the pres­sure. Yay! A new baby! We laughed about that, I took more gas stuff and painkiller, and it went away.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, it was back. The Inter­nets had been con­sult­ed back on day one, and while abject mus­cle sur­ren­der and gas were still the num­ber one choice, appen­dici­tis start­ed to rise in the ranks of prob­a­bil­i­ty. I prac­ticed my New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to curse more vio­lent­ly, and even the dog slunk away to hide.

And final­ly I decid­ed to see my doc­tor.

Turns out, I have a kid­ney stone.

Which is a great relief. Because, you know, peo­ple die from appen­dici­tis.

But I have to tell you, I antic­i­pate that there will be moments in the near future when I will beg for a nice hos­pi­tal stay and some surgery.

Plus, there’s a cer­tain cachet to appen­dici­tis. After all, there’s infec­tion, fever, surgery, maybe even an ambu­lance. It lends a very seri­ous aura to your suf­fer­ing. That is a mys­tique that kid­ney stones just don’t have, because, you know, “Ha ha! It hurts when you pee! Har!”

For the record, the CT scan showed this wee lit­tle rock to be six mil­lime­ters in diam­e­ter. Please find your­self a ruler and check that out. I have pain drugs, and I intend to use them.

One more month of writing

Hey all. So, it was about a month ago that I post­ed that last update on my writ­ing career. You may be won­der­ing how the writ­ing career is going.

Yeah, how is the writ­ing career going?

Okay. I spent this last month doing a lot of world­build­ing, which was fun.

An aside for non-SF/F fans: if you’re writ­ing fan­ta­sy in a world that is not our own, or sci­ence fic­tion in worlds sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent than our own, you need to spend time work­ing out how it is dif­fer­ent, and what that means. World­build­ing can be brief or com­pli­cat­ed. Mine was both, I spent most of my time try­ing to rec­on­cile two suns and no moon, but I’m “build­ing” the rest as I write.

In that time I’ve also start­ed and scrapped four short sto­ries. The one I am work­ing on now is real­ly more of a pro­logue to the books I’d like to write. What hap­pens in it is impor­tant but would have hap­pened off-screen in the books. It is fun.

So, I am writ­ing. But career? Not yet, I am afraid.

What else is up with the not-work­ing thing?

Not-work­ing? I see what you’re doing there.

Well, I got canned from my social media writ­ing gig, which was sad, but okay. As a result, we decid­ed to dump our house­clean­ing ser­vice ($$$!), and I have tak­en those duties on. But we also decid­ed we can’t live with­out col­lege bas­ket­ball ($$!), so we’re going to add that back in this month. Still a net sav­ings. And I am pur­su­ing a web­site design job (just a one-off, not a career!) to help make ends meet.

Today, I dust­ed. The whole house. Blinds, fans, pic­tures, sur­faces, etc. Took about an hour.

But you still like what you’re doing, right?

Oh, yeah. I love it. I dream about it. I think about it all the time. I write myself notes in church about things I want to put in my writ­ing. I would rather write than do just about any­thing else. I have fun doing it. I even have fun doing it when it is hard.

I had a moment a few weeks ago, when I broke for lunch. I was look­ing for some­thing to read, and I real­ized that what I real­ly want­ed to do was read my sto­ry. My book. I want­ed to write it more so I could find out where it is going.

Whaaaat? You don’t know where your book is going?

Yeah, so it turns out that I am not a detail plot­ter. Or rather, I do plot things out ahead, but as I write I come up with new, bet­ter, more detailed ideas. I start­ed writ­ing the sto­ry I’m writ­ing now from one character’s per­spec­tive. But it was tak­ing too long, he was describ­ing all the things, and they were all new to him (and to the read­er). And then I fig­ured out a major plot point that is cool, but he was only tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed to it. I mean, he’s in the mid­dle of it, but doesn’t know any­thing about what is going on. There was no meat for the read­er. So I scrapped that, and now I’m writ­ing the same sto­ry, but from five (hope­ful­ly six) char­ac­ters, each with their own scene. I think it’s work­ing out real­ly well. But I ful­ly believe I may have to go back and change some­thing again when I fig­ure out how that sixth char­ac­ter fits in.

It is a bit messy, as process goes.

But you know what? It’s fun.

So, you’re hav­ing fun?

Darn tootin’.

What’s next, then, guy who doesn’t plot ahead

Well, I hope to fin­ish this sto­ry soon. Then I’ll have to do a sec­ond draft. I’ll write about that lat­er. Then I hope to get it out to a few trust­ed friends and/or fam­i­ly for them to com­ment. Then I’ll draft it again, and then I’ll send it out and see if any­one thinks it’s worth pub­lish­ing.

One sto­ry? That’s a lot of eggs in one bas­ket, no?

It is. And I should prob­a­bly have a cou­ple oth­er sto­ries going, too, but I don’t have the time, real­ly. 8am to 3 pm goes by real­ly fast. And dur­ing that time I’m clean­ing, eat­ing, and walk­ing the dog, in addi­tion to writ­ing. After three, the kids are home and we’re man­ag­ing home­work and chores and dish­es and din­ner and activ­i­ties (swim­ming, soc­cer, Lego League, scout­ing, etc.) and then we have oth­er stuff (like col­lege bas­ket­ball, did I men­tion that?) and gro­ceries and laun­dry and all that stuff.

It would appear that I may get about two to three hours of writ­ing in a day.

Sev­en weeks in, I am not sure that is enough time.

Don’t be a down­er, dude

No, no. I have to say, even with all that, I real­ly do love my life. Absolute­ly love it. And the absence of my pre­vi­ous job is still a won­der, I go to sleep on Sun­day not dread­ing the next morn­ing. But more than that, I love build­ing these sto­ries, even the ones I have tossed on the waste bin. I lurve it, even.

So, yeah. I want to be writ­ing more, and I want to write for the rest of my life, and those are my goals. And I am the one that can get me there.

iTunes Match Airport Wall Wart

Delight­ful name, no?

I would like Apple to build a wall wart1 that con­nects to my iTunes Match account (nee, my iCloud account) to stream music.

It should be very much like an Air­port Express, being wall-wartish, and hav­ing an audio out option, but it should be pur­pose built to con­nect to my music in my Apple ecosys­tem. I would set it up via my Apple i(OS)X device, con­nect to my WiFi, log in to iCloud, save my cre­den­tials, and it would be ready to go.

This mag­ic wart would then let me lis­ten to my music, via iTunes Match, with­out a com­put­er or a copy of iTunes run­ning. I wouldn’t have to plug my iPhone in any­where, or use minutes/battery to stream music. I wouldn’t have to “Start iTunes, Hon­ey, so we can lis­ten to music.” I could still use Remote (or iTunes on OSX?) to skip, pick a playlist, etc.

How sweet would that be?

Real­ly sweet.

Bonus, it would be ready for iRa­dio, or what­ev­er Apple calls their even­tu­al stream­ing music ser­vice.

Yes, I know this is very spe­cif­ic to the Apple ecosys­tem. And it would be fab if Apple would let you con­nect it to Pandora/Rdio/Spotify/whatnot, but Apple would nev­er do that. On the oth­er side, Apple would nev­er allow a third par­ty wall wart to con­nect to iTunes Match, so. I am, in my cir­cum­stances, stuck with Apple. I can live with that.

But I can’t live with­out this thing. Build it, Apple!


  1. wall wart (n): elec­tron­ic nub­bin with plug prongs on the back that you plug into the wall where it sits like a par­a­sitic lump, doing “some­thing.” 

AT&T or Verizon for my new iPhone? (Updated answer: AT&T)

Updat­ed! — dis­count on Vz, too!
Update #2 — no voice+data on Vz
Update #3 — done and done

Hi all. Back to the mun­dane. Apple announced (or rather, con­firmed what we’ve all known for sev­er­al months now) a new iPhone today. The iPhone 5 will be avail­able for pre-order this Fri­day, to ship a week lat­er. I will be get­ting one, as will my wife, as we lurve our cur­rent iPhones 4, we are out of con­tract, and we would like faster more capa­ble phones.

There are three car­ri­ers avail­able to us: AT&T (our cur­rent car­ri­er), Ver­i­zon (with whom we car­ri­er-ed for a decade before we got iPhones), and Sprint (actu­al­ly a home­town com­pa­ny here in KC).

Sprint is out right away for poor cov­er­age and con­fus­ing plans that don’t actu­al­ly come out to any­thing bet­ter than the oth­ers. They do have unlim­it­ed data, mind you, but we actu­al­ly use our phones for phones, and their “add a tablet” options are ridicu­lous­ly expen­sive should we ever go that route.

Which leaves the oth­er two.

Ver­i­zon. We loved Ver­i­zon when we were cus­tomers, we always had a sig­nal and nev­er had a call drop. Of course, this was in the stone age of cell phones, and the num­ber of phones, the tech­nol­o­gy of the air­waves, etc. has changed a lot since then. But we hear from the hoi pol­loi that Ver­i­zon doesn’t drop calls. The plan would cost us $150 per month. Adding a tablet, if we should go there, is $10 per month, per tablet.

AT&T. We have AT&T now, and when we first start­ed two years (more, now) ago, we dropped calls like crazy. Not like, cray cray more-often-than-not crazy, but fre­quent­ly enough that we pined for good ol’ Ver­i­zon. But I reg­u­lar­ly use voice and data at the same time (look­ing up my cal­en­dar while on a phone call, for exam­ple), which you can’t do on Ver­i­zon right now. The plan would cost us $150 per month. And adding a tablet is also $10 per month, per tablet.

Research! Root Met­rics sur­veyed KC and com­pared voice and data reli­a­bil­i­ty for major car­ri­ers. The results sug­gest that AT&T has improved their dropped calls fre­quen­cy a lot (borne out by our anec­do­tal expe­ri­ence), but Ver­i­zon still has faster over­all data speeds (and few­er dropped calls, tech­ni­cal­ly). But most­ly, it seems a wash between those two. Here is the link. Apolo­gies to those of my friends in small­er mar­kets. Also: ha ha!

There are two oth­er fac­tors that will weigh on this deci­sion:

LTE. This is the new supa-fast mobile net­work the iPhone 5 uses, and both V and A sup­port. From what I read, LTE only does data, and can­not be used for voice. Instead, both use the pre­vi­ous 3G net­works for voice calls. (This will change some­time, maybe soon?) There­fore, when an AT&T LTE phone tries to do voice and data simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, it actu­al­ly drops to 3G for both. A lot slow­er than LTE, but you can do both. A Ver­i­zon phone with LTE, cur­rent­ly can do data and voice simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. It con­tin­ues using LTE for data, but fires up the sec­ond radio device for voice, and runs both at the same time. The jury is out on whether the iPhone 5 is equipped with two radios at once (I think Apple made beef about there being one mag­ic-task­ing radio in the iPhone 5 that did all things, but I don’t recall).

Research! Some­one explained the rea­sons why simul­ta­ne­ous voice and data are not pos­si­ble on all net­wor… zzzz, tl;dr. Basi­cal­ly, what I said up there. If you real­ly need to read it, here is that link.

State of KS Dis­counts. AT&T offers a dis­count for ser­vice to employ­ees of the State of Kansas, which we are. Our cur­rent AT&T plan has this dis­count applied. I would expect we could get the dis­count applied to a new plan with AT&T, which would make it cheap­er than the equiv­a­lent Ver­i­zon plan (though I don’t know how much cheap­er).

So, what do I need to do?

  1. Find out if the iPhone 5 can do simul­ta­ne­ous voice and data on both AT&T and Ver­i­zon.
  2. Find out if there is a dis­count for State of KS employ­ees for AT&T still, if there is one for Ver­i­zon, and how much a dis­count might be.
  3. Before Fri­day.

Update. Okay, so Ver­i­zon also offers a dis­count to employ­ees of the State of Kansas. So yay. Also, it appears from the Intar­webs that both car­ri­ers will be able to pro­vide simul­ta­ne­ous voice and data when you are on their LTE net­works. Also, when not on the LTE net­work, AT&T will still pro­vide that abil­i­ty. But we still have no ver­i­fied ver­i­fi­ca­tion of iPhone 5’s abil­i­ty to do this on Ver­i­zon once you fall off LTE. Not sure it mat­ters.

Update #2. So, in this arti­cle, it unequiv­o­cal­ly states that no, the iPhone 5 on Ver­i­zon will not be able to do simul­ta­ne­ous voice and data. Apple would have need­ed to add a third anten­na to the phone for that, and they chose not to. The short of it, tech­ni­cal­ly: AT&T does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, does data and voice over 3G. Ver­i­zon does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, drops to CDMA, but with too few anten­nas in the phone, they can’t keep work­ing the LTE for data, so presto, no data while talk­ing.

Turns out it does mat­ter to me, so we’re stick­ing with AT&T. Also, the Future will be awe­some, and you can see how by Googling “VoLTE” (Voice-over-LTE), which is com­ing Real Soon Now. Hon­est.

Update #3. Ordered two new iPhones. Had to use the Apple site, because AT&T’s was borked, and had to order them one at a time, because the Store’s sys­tem can’t han­dle more than one car­ri­er sub­si­dized phone at a time, so, what­ev­er. They ship in two weeks, and take five days to ship, and may require a sig­na­ture. That’s… like, Octo­ber 3rd or some­thing. Arr.

Forty freakin’ two

Too old to be a child prodi­gy, too young to be an elder states­man. Today is my birth­day. Seri­ous thoughts on the date itself lat­er today, but for now, I just want to give a shout out to my par­ents, with­out whom I would not be here, and my fam­i­ly, with­out whom I would not be here. My life is pret­ty good right now, and I have only had a lit­tle part in that. Much love.

Son of a… blog

Not quite a decade ago, I forked over sev­er­al hun­dred dol­lars to sup­port a lit­tle web host­ing com­pa­ny that could, TextDrive.  In exchange, they gave me a life­time host­ing promise.  It was a good run, and they even hon­ored their promise across a cou­ple of acqui­si­tions and merg­ers.

But a week or so ago, they sent out an email to those of us who had sup­port­ed their ini­tial bid for funds, and told us that their life­time com­mit­ment was being “end of lifed.” We had two months to get out, or we could sign up for a free year on one of their new servers, with a $275 year­ly bill wait­ing for us after that. Have they have gone from small pota­toes to too big for their britch­es?

A lot of the peo­ple who got this email were pret­ty pissed. (A support/bitching group or three have popped up around the Inter­net.) Most of them were clear that they would not be stay­ing. I just packed up my stuff, and with this blog post, the move is over. Every­thing now lives at A Small Orange, with whom I am pret­ty pleased.

Stuff is bro­ken (most notably the images on… I am afraid, all the posts) but those will get fixed even­tu­al­ly.

Here we go, again.

Molting tree?

It would appear that the real­ly big sycamore in our back yard is molt­ing? Um. Help?

Our yard with tree bark all over

Our yard with tree bark all over

This is one piece of bark

This is one piece of bark

UPDATE: I’ve been informed by peo­ple more knowl­edge­able than I that sycamore trees do this on a reg­u­lar basis. In fact, since this event, we’ve had sev­er­al more bark­falls, prob­a­bly exac­er­bat­ed by the drought this sum­mer.

Simplify: our pre-sort laundry system

When we first moved in to our house in Lawrence, we got a pret­ty big walk-in clos­et in the mas­ter bed­room. We’d not had one like that before, and imme­di­ate­ly set about using it to sim­pli­fy our laun­dry tasks.

Before this, we’d col­lect all our laun­dry in one bas­ket (occa­sion­al­ly we’d try two, whites and darks). We’d do laun­dry on the week­ends, and it would invari­ably require a tedious sep­a­ra­tion of the laun­dry (usu­al­ly onto our bed) into warm whites, warm col­ors, cold whites, cold col­ors, tow­els, and jeans (fam­i­ly of four, dontcha know). Then we had to spend all day doing all that laun­dry, lest we end up with a slight­ly small­er huge pile of laun­dry on our bed when it came time to sleep. Then you end up with Mt. Laun­dry on the floor.

Instead, and armed with all this extra clos­et floor­space, we bought six laun­dry bas­kets. I gave in to my OCD and labelled each as above, warm whites, warm col­ors, etc. Then we trained the kids (and our­selves) to sort the laun­dry in situ, as we went. Undress, sort your clothes. When it came to laun­dry time, we just picked up a bas­ket and off to the races.

This had the added ben­e­fit of let­ting us do one load of laun­dry every night, leav­ing the week­ends mer­ci­ful­ly free of laun­dry chores. In prac­tice, we usu­al­ly have two or three loads to do on a week­end, but that beats six loads in one day (or sev­en if we went through a lot of jeans).

One of my great­est con­cerns in find­ing a new house was whether we would be able to accom­mo­date our six ham­pers. As it turns out, not quite. We have four in our not-walk-in clos­et (whites and col­ors), the tow­els in a bas­ket in the linen clos­et (big linen clos­et) and the jeans in a bas­ket at the bot­tom of the laun­dry chute. Yeah, we got a laun­dry chute.

Regard­less, the sys­tem still works, and I haven’t had to sort laun­dry in five years.