Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday morning thoughts

I'm cold and the heater isn't warming things up fast enough even though I actually got dressed instead of lounging around in my flimsy nightgown, but I'm happy. I feel like the yellow dog who lives across the street when he plopped down in the snow and rolled around on his back with his legs in the air, kicking up snow and writhing ecstatically.

It snowed yesterday, a big, wet, heavy, clumpy snowfall that covered everything in pristine white that caught fire when the sun finally burned a hole through the white sky. The stiff and creaking capillaries and veins scratching across the pale membrane of the sky at the end of the solid cracked grey-brown trees dried out from the desiccating winds of wind drooped under the heavy wet burden, sending clouds and gouts of snow tumbling to the ground, lost to view in the near whiteout conditions yesterday. Most of the snow is gone, leaving swaths and stretches smeared across the yellow-brown grass where the sun has yet to glare down and burn it away and I love every bit of it, even as I wish for it to stay around a little longer. I'm caught in that land between reveling in the soft hush of winter snow and yearning for the pastels and warm whispers of wind that wakes the trees and bushes back to life. But work must continue and the coffers must be filled.

I've been reading the next book from the review box and it has invaded my dreams and turned them to nightmares. Freeing Yourself from the Narcissists in Your Life has locked me in a permanent state between shock and understanding. Unfortunately, I recognize many people from my life within its pages and am no longer confused by the way I have been treated by these people. It's as if the book was written with me in mind, a handbook with a secret code revealed. The book is as frightening as it is amazing, so you can imagine what my review is going to be. This one will not leave my shelves and I will read it again and again.

The book explains the charm and Machiavellian maneuvering the narcissist employs to gain a following and keep people enthralled and enchanted until they destroy whoever no longer serves their needs or goals, and how to recognize these venomous chameleons. It explains a lot about some of the people I've encountered and freed me from further worry, guilt and confusion and I highly recommend it to everyone. My review will be posted at next week, but don't wait for the review. Get the book now and keep it close. You never know when you might need it.

I also spent a little time reading science articles this morning from my Discover magazine newsletter and one of the articles gave me an idea for a story. It also explains the genesis of characters like Stephen King's Charlie from Firestarter and The Manitou by Graham Masterson. To think such power lies in the very cells of our bodies and could, if tapped, create the kind of devastation imagined in the show Heroes. What's really amazing is that a scientist found the way to measure that energy, as if we really needed proof that man is a storehouse of electrical energy.

It's a usual Saturday morning full of chores and empty of the work that chains me to my computer during the week, but an interesting Saturday with enough snow still cushioning the ground to keep the smile firmly on my lips and the memory of a yellow dog rolling happily across the ground in my heart, and it's enough.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Guest columnist

A very good friend sent me a new column this morning and I have to share it. So, without further ado, I present the bovine relocation specialist and philosopher.

"What's Under My Hat"
by Monte Tucker
January 28, 2008

Howdy friends and neighbors. Come on first Tuesday in November! I have already had about all of the Presidential election I can stand. Surely, somewhere out there in this great nation is a "good ol' boy or gal," that is worth voting for. You know, someone that has actually done something, not just talked about what they think they have done. It's only the first quarter in the game between the R's and the D's. Both sides keep talking about time for change. Just what are they going to change? They obviously haven't changed the game of politics. Billary and Bama Lama Ding Dong boost the word "change" every time I see the media put their face on my boob tube.

The first place they could start changing things would be on the Senate floor that they're already on. Just go and look at their voting records for the last several months and you will find they aren't showing up to vote.You know, the job they campaigned so hard to get by promising "change," but they just don't have the time. McCain isn't immune from this either.

Let's talk "change." What in the world do these hot air compressors think they are going to change and why? Again, I'm just a professional bovine relocation specialist (it's the 21st century, we used to call them cowboys). But the way I see it from Sunny Point , Oklahoma , how are they going to change the greatest nation in the world? All of the candidates are demanding we must change! OK. I wake up a free man every morning and I'm free to do anything that is morally right or I can do nothing. If I choose to do something productive that day, well I can whistle at my dog, start up my ol' tan feed truck that I bought with the help of a free enterprising banking system I hose to use. Plus, there's the fact that other free Americans assembled this truck, and the companies that bought, sold and hauled parts and supplies to make that pickup possible. As I turn the key, ol' tans fires up on diesel fuel that a mean, nasty, big oil company conveniently made very accessible and affordable to me. I turn out of my land that I can freely own, onto a county maintained road that leads to any point in North America I would choose to go to that day. Also, in this country, I am free to own livestock and free to care for them so that the livestock will return a profit so I can repay my bank, buy my feed and fuel, and provide for my family. On Sunday Morning (or any other day that ends in "Y") my family is free to drive from our house on a ribbon of roads that lead to the Church of our choice and worship the real owner of all things we know, God. We can give praise to Him for all and especially for Jesus.

Why can't these hopefuls for the highest-ranking governmental seat see that it is just that simple? Provide me infrastructure and protect me from these knot-headed whack's that think they can take away our freedom. Billary, Bama Mama or McNobrain aren't going to change anything. The foundations of this great country can't be changed by one person, no matter how much they think they can. As Americans, we have the right to succeed or fail and try again as we please. As a free man, I'm getting good at failing but I get smarter when I try again.

When presidential candidates tout change, the only thing I see in this country that needs changing is them. Life in America is good and for those that don't think so, you're free to leave at any time, go to another country of your choice and try to change it.

I'm Monte Tucker, and that is what's under my professional bovine relocation specialist hat. Wait, I'm not changing, that is what's under my COWBOY hat!

Remember our freedom is not free; try to wear a red shirt on Fridays to show support for our troops.

I don't know about you, but I like his style. I will add one thing. You can tell how good a nation is by the number of people waiting to get in -- or out.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not even the butt crack

I think spikesleman has given me her insomnia, or at least disturbed sleep. I've been up for an hour. I felt hot and uncomfortable and I tossed and turned and finally gave up. I think I slept somewhere in there but I'm a little too fagged to know for sure. Yesterday was a busy day.

I only have eight more newsletters to do. I picked up this month's issue at the printer and labeled, stamped, sealed with the sticky little round mailing disks (2 per newsletter so they don't get chewed up in the mail machines) and mailed them. I do this in my car in the parking lot near the printer's because there's a mailbox there and the office that picks up from there is the only one in the city that will send them for one first class stamp without tacking on a whole bunch more postage. I don't know why it weighs one ounce at that station and 1.1 or 1.2 at every other station. The driver who picks up the mail there gave me a whole bunch of big ol' rubber bands to hold them together when I stick them in the box one day when we happened to be at the mailbox at the same time. In fact, I haven't seen too many other mailboxes out in the wild like that. Most of them are outside post offices. You'd think there'd be mailboxes all over the city in practically every shopping mall or near every big chain grocery store, but there isn't. Just one more reason this city is a bit weirder than any other place I've lived -- but I love it anyway, the way you love an awkward child or a schmuck.

I also received a letter with a release form attached. I have to sign it before another one of my articles is published. I'll have to keep that in mind the next time I submit to them, but they're paying me and another one of my articles will be published in a major national magazine. Not too shabby says I. And two of my books are out this month and should be on the shelves either now or some time this week: Cup of Comfort for Single Mothers and Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul, the latter has been on the shelves since January and I still haven't been paid. I hope they send the check soon. My story is on page 98 in the Chicken Soup book. And there are more coming, lots more if this week is any indication, since I received two more acceptances. I need to get back to writing more regularly; can't keep going to book signings, readings and doing interviews if I don't keep writing.

That's another thing. Looks like I'm paired with two other Colorado writers (one in Aurora and the other in Pueblo) who are setting up the signings and they've contacted me to jump on board. Those women have other books out there and they've been doing the book signing/reading and interview thing for a while. Nice to know they're letting me tag along, and at least I'll learn something in the process. So, keep an eye out for news from Barnes & Noble and Tattered Cover bookstores because I'm a comin' and I won't be alone.

Research and work on the new project is coming along. I've already had an offer to syndicate the article from a major national newspaper I queried who is associated with the syndicate. I had no idea things would move along this fast, but I'm hanging on for all I'm worth. Radiantsun has helped enormously with notes and links and contacts since she's "in the business". I've approached Alternet, a group that has nationally syndicated my articles before, and they're very excited and want to move on this as quickly as possible. Reprints are half of the original article fee, but they want to syndicate it to hundreds of alternative newspapers and that's going to add up -- same thing with the national mainstream syndicate. I think I've picked a winner and I'm not quite sure how to handle all this, except to get back to work and move things along as quickly as possible. I always do my best work when I believe in what I'm writing, which makes me a lousy writer when I have to write something just to make money. I'm not good at hack work. I can churn it out, but it lacks heart and, I think, appeal. I could be wrong because people still like what I write and I have received my share of fan letters. From what I've been told by the publicity department at Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort, I should expect more fan mail from my stories. I may have to get a post office box. At least it's tax deductible. I can use more of those since I'm making a lot more money from writing now.

Well, I don't feel tired yet and I have to get up soon anyway so I think I'll dive into some of the food I paid for and eat something nourishing -- like one of the four cantaloupes. I ordered four pounds of cantaloupe but they sent four cantaloupes instead. Good thing I love the stuff or I'd be miserable. What's really strange is opening the refrigerator and the freezer and find them both full of real food. That's a first since I moved in here. I was even forced to put canned goods in another cabinet, ruining it's pristine not used look. The way things are going, I may have to violate another empty cabinet because I broke down and ordered wine glasses for the wine that is currently resting in the fridge and one of the cabinets (white cold - red room temp). I'm becoming quite the connoisseur -- or something like that since I haven't actually opened the bottles of wine. I do occasionally cook with wine, but use only one bottle at a time. Nel and the landlady often give me a bottle of wine for holidays and my birthday and they go into the pot as well. I have to go out and buy some burgundy because I'm making this really wonderful chuck roast for dinner on Friday night since I have a date and we're watching a movie together. The chuck roast and a bottle of Shiraz are on the menu, along with the movie and good company, which is why I bought the wine glasses since I doubt they would appreciate drinking wine out of the bottle or in a mug or water glass. Some people can be so fussy.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Is it worth it?

Hold onto your seats and your hats. I'm going to make two posts in one day. That hasn't happened in a very long time and might not happen again for a while. If you need to go to the bathroom, get something to drink or stretch your legs, do it now. This might take a while. Then again, it might not.

As I sent another ham club newsletter to the printer I thought about what I've done and how hard I've worked to maintain a position that gives me more grief than pleasure. When I was first approached about the newsletter I was congratulated for taking over. No one bothered to inform me that I had been chosen or that the entire ham community in Colorado Springs had already decided to hand the reins to me. I went to a board meeting to find out what exactly was going on and was asked my credentials, something I found very surprising since, to my knowledge, no one before me had had the professional writing and editing experience I have. I answered the questions and offered a copy of my resume. Then I was asked to pay the membership fee in order to take over the job, and I did.

Getting information from the outgoing editor proved difficult and it was only after the first of the year he sent me a garbled email with even more garbled instructions and said, "Here you go and good luck." I didn't know how much I would need the luck. Emails for help went unanswered as if they had floated off into the cybervoid and gotten lost. I soldiered on but was unable to get the January issue out. No one was available to answer my questions, but one person did offer to pick up the newsletter from the printer, except they had forgotten to tell me who the printer was or where they were located, not to mention in what form he wanted the newsletter sent to him, mailed to him or hand carried to him. I still didn't know where the printer was located a year later when the same helpful member told me I'd have to start picking it up myself. I found out in a hurry. The past two years have been just like that rocky beginning, except twice a month every month I send out an email to the membership asking for news, articles, notices, ads, columns or even just a joke that isn't copyrighted to no avail.

Every month I pull together the ragged ends of whatever I can find, rewrite the misspelled and grammatically horrific articles I blackmail members to get to put out a 12-page issue. Sometimes I have cut the issue to eight pages just to get by since there's nothing else I can do to fill the pages without spilling blood and abasing myself for a single paragraph of content. People have made comments on my monthly nag and beg sessions in email as if it's a big joke, and I signed on for this gig.

After the first month, I put together a newsletter for the second month only to be told I would have to audition before I would be allowed to take over as editor. I faced down the president with what I had learned. They had never had a professional writer or editor to do the newsletter and no one wanted the job until it was thrust on me. The previous editor begged for two years to get someone -- anyone -- to take over. And he was requiring me to audition. He backed down and I got the job. Last year when the new officers were elected and another board chosen, I was attacked once again by one of the brand new members who was taking over everything he could get his hands on. I defended myself with no input from the board although the attack was carried out in public through emails to the board. One lone board member said my attacker should remember we are on the same team. I offered to step down and the board got together and gave me a vote of confidence. Like I said, I signed on for this. Now I wonder why.

This afternoon I wrote the president and gave him my notice. He has until December 2008 to find someone else to take over as editor. I'm done fighting for something no one wants and most people complain or joke about. I have no doubt that the same two or three members who always publicly thank me will do so again, and probably offer to pay for my dinner at the annual Xmas dinner, just like last year. Or they will finally break into the dusty vaults of the bank and vote to give me a plaque to thank me for my hard work and service over the past three years. I don't want their thanks but if I were going to give a speech in thanks, this would be it.

I'm supposed to thank you all for recognizing my contribution over the past three years and tell you that I am reluctant to step down. I'm not. I look forward to no more deadlines, no more begging and hounding and no more newsletter to put out for people who don't care except to complain. The time for your thanks is past. The time for your thanks was during the past three years when I asked you to get involved, to send in articles, pictures, jokes and stories for the newsletter. That is the thanks for which I've waited the past three years.

In various forms I have explained what it means to be a volunteer and how your input is needed to keep the lights burning and the newsletter full of something other than dry meeting minutes and a short presidential message that never fills a full page. I have changed the format and made it more colorful, easier to read, more accessible. I have added content to the email and web versions to entice you to get involved, all to no avail. I have spent hours of my valuable time giving you for free what other associations and professionals have paid me to do, and I have done it without your help and input only from the same one or two people. I have answered your complaints and fixed whatever was wrong. I have gone through endless web sites and begged local amateur operators to tell me their stories and send in the pictures, and I have had some success, but not nearly as much as I would have had if you had cared enough to get involved. I have watched the board put together programs and events that few people attended, stretching their own personal resources and time to cover the jobs that no one would take, and the same people kept showing up all the time. I have watched as board members begged for someone to take over as chairman of the Megafest or just show up to set up, take down or even take tickets, but the only ones who answered are the same small group of people who always step up to take your place. I know they must be as tired as I am right now and just as frustrated. So, no, I am not sorry to step down. I am eager to let someone else find the right words or twist the right arms to make you all care enough to get involved in your own club. Were the past three years worth my time and effort and the fight I put up to keep the job? Right now, I don't think so.

Goodbye and good luck. You are going to need it.

I think that goes over pretty well. Don't you? At least it isn't screw you and the horse you rode in on.

That is all. Disperse.

Secret abuse

I'm on another bug hunt. This time it's something that has bothered me for years, something I grew up with, something I have researched and come up empty-handed. It's verbal abuse. Ah, but you'll say. There are plenty of books and articles about verbal abuse, how to recognize it, how to stop it. No, I tell you there aren't, at least none that are focused on men being abused by women. There's the rub.

Men, those big, strong bastions of protection for women are being abused by women and no one seems to want to talk about it -- least of all the men. Why would they want anyone to know that some fashionably thin virago torments them, screams at them, denies and denigrates their feelings? They wouldn't. That's why all the books on verbal abuse are for and about women with barely a side note about men. And so, dear reader, that is why I've decided to write about it -- not here, but in a real mainstream magazine article, and maybe a series of articles or possibly a book.

I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or even a counselor, except of the ad hoc variety, but I am a writer and I have access to many knowledgeable sources. I will just do what I always do: interview, research, listen, learn and write. I've watched too many men in relationships being abused who had no one to tell them their partner wasn't just a screaming, nagging bitch but that there was a bigger problem; they were being abused.

From what I've already run into, it may be a hard fought battle, even with professionals, because they want to focus on women being abused and not the men. That's feminism for you. This morning I found one counselor (the right one) who told me about several women in the area who work with abused men and he would be happy to introduce us. He and I will meet next week and begin the interview and collecting sources. His colleagues will provide me with more material and case studies and introduce me to some of their clients. I have put an ad in the Writers Weekly forum for men who want to tell their stories and will put together a questionnaire based on what I get out of my meetings with the counselor and his colleagues. They may even have a questionnaire I can use to help gather and collate information for a statistical database. I am on the hunt and this will be consuming what few free hours I now have. I guess I'll have to give up my wild social schedule in favor of research and writing. What a shame . . . NOT.

If any of my readers are currently involved in or have been involved in a verbally abusive relationship and would like to tell their story, contact me at fixnwrtr at gmail dot com (I'm sure you know the drill). Initials only will be used for stories that are used in the article(s) and the information gathered from those who don't want their stories used will be included only in the statistical database. A release of information must be signed in order to be included to protect all concerned.

What it comes down to is this: no person, male or female, should be overlooked or ignored when they are in pain, even when they don't see it themselves. Since the established psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist/counselor authors have not addressed this issue, I will. It's about time someone did.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Procrastinating no more

I don't have a writer's block problem so much as a procrastination problem. I like to avoid unpleasant things, such as not having anything to say when I have a couple of pages to fill. Then I get going, writing off the top of my head (Gram always said that was the fertile part) and finally pull something together. No one is more surprised by what comes out than I am.

This time I started with a discussion I have been having through LJ with about the environment, global warming versus cooling, sunspot numbers, Maunder Minimum and the sun. He's a self professed information junkie and I'm just plain curious. As a non-engineer type ham radio operator I have a basic knowledge of how the sun's radiation affects high frequency, which we use to make the radio work by riding the frequency waves (so to speak), but not much beyond that. I do have a good bit of historical knowledge, but after talking with I knew I needed more information. I was intrigued and in bug hunt mode. For those of you that are just tuning in, bug hunt mode is my term for being in research mode to satisfy my greedy curiosity. Okay, back to the issue after I get another spoonful of peanut butter. Yummy.

The whole global warming issue, as put forth in An Inconvenient Truth (something I've written about before and recently) is that because of the excess of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and the way it keeps in the sun's rays, trapping them in the Earth's atmosphere (like a greenhouse), we are headed for a greenhouse effect. The polar ice caps will melt. Coastal areas will flood. Arable land will turn to desert as the water supply dries up and we will live in the land of Soylent Green where people may become the next item on the menu when plankton sources die from the heat as the seas evaporate. (I always did wonder what would happen to all that water if it evaporates. It has to go somewhere. Even greenhouses trap moisture, which is why you raise the windows to vent things or you end up with a steaming jungle. But that's another topic for another time.) That is the premise that Al Gore sold to the people and to the Nobel prize committee. Turns out the inventor of the Internet might not know as much as he wants the rest of the world to think.

Yes, the movie was awful -- or so I heard -- and it showed polar bears clinging to melting ice floes as the polar ice caps shrink and fall into the sea. Greenhouse gases (CO2) abound in the air. We are polluting ourselves to the edge of extinction where a nuclear war will finish us off as countries battle for the last sources of food and water before turning on their own population for food. Bullshit! Yes, you heard it here. Bullshit! And I don't apologize for what I say. If I say it, I mean it.

There were much higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere during the age of dinosaurs and the world was a hot house, a jungle, a rain forest -- if you will. There were much higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere during the early 17th century at the advent of the mini ice age, about which I have written before, and the levels continued to rise as people burned more coal and wood to keep warm. The levels now aren't quite so lethal. Of course, that doesn't address the issue of polluting our rivers, streams, lakes and ocean or the pollution that is poured into the soil to make crops grow better and keep away the weeds that soaks into the water table.

The inconvenient truth is that we may very well need the CO2 in the atmosphere in order to maintain the airy envelope that surrounds Earth and keeps us from frying up like Venus or turning into a frigid world like Mars. The real interaction between solar radiation and CO2 is not as well understood as scientists -- and Al Gore -- would have us believe, and messing with the balance, even to bring it down, may put Earth on the road to Venusian Hell or Martian Ragnarök.

What some scientists -- not the popular ones screaming the sky is falling -- now know that the sun has been hotter over the past 50 years than it has been in recent memory and that is what has caused the temperatures to rise, the weather to be wildly erratic and the winters in the Midwest to be milder than previously. Since the sun is hotter and much more active, it bombards the Earth with higher levels of radiation that could have turned us to a cinder by now if not for the cushioning effect of CO2. Since December when a new solar cycle began (the sunspots changed direction and polarity), we have had very few sunspots, going for days without any activity, which is probably also responsible for the very cold winter we have had worldwide, the complete opposite of Al Gore's claims. It is doubtful we are headed for another ice age -- yet -- but it is possible, far more possible than a runaway greenhouse effect and cries of "Soylent green is people!" It may be that the sun has been having hot flashes or just a temper tantrum for the past 50 years and will return to more normal operations soon, although the solar scientists (the ones Al Gore doesn't talk or refer to) believe we are in for a very busy period of sunspot activity once this cycle gets cranked up. That means more solar winds headed towards Earth, longer period of Aurora Borealis activity that will be seen nearly to the southern United States, more cosmic radiation bombarding the Earth and a probable increase in skin cancer if we don't have sufficient CO2 to protect us from the effects.

In effect, the inconvenient truth is that we may be doing ourselves more harm than good because we don't have enough experience or knowledge or understanding to know how much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will hurt -- or help -- us. We're like children with a little bit of knowledge: we are dangerous to ourselves and to our planet. As it stands, we are more likely to be faced with another mini -- or full blown -- ice age than we are of becoming food for the masses when we die and are ground up into soylent green, and then the CO2 levels will climb as we burn whatever we can to keep warm. I know what you're thinking, I write too much. You're probably right.

That is all. Disperse.