Forced to Go Low Tech

This weekend had me with moments of childish fits and tantrums as my phone was out of commission. By itself the Samsung Galaxy 3 I carry is out of date and running slower each day. Each time my apps update the machine runs slower to the point I finally deleted the Facebook app and Twitter. Honestly, I wanted Twitter gone because of Trump’s tweets. While one could point out I don’t have to follow that fool, there is no other good reason to use twitter other than seeing what the twitter in chief has to say.

That night I sat at a Royal KMM typewriter that I left at my girlfriend’s house and started to write a story that I have been running through my head for months. While zombie books and economic collapse are prolific in post-apocalyptic fiction I have often wondered how to write a book pertaining to global warming. The problem of a long-term event taking decades to happen left me with a puzzle on how to write a story to fit the event. Typing out the first few lines I think I figured it out and continued until I had three full length, single spaced pages sitting next to me. A modest start but the plot was beginning and the world starting to take hold.

Saturday morning, I left my house without bringing a charger and by the end of the day I refused to run home to retrieve one. I spent the night at my girlfriend’s place and the next morning retrieved my charger from my car to use it while riding with her out of town to visit her family. Five minutes down the road the cheap Aldi product broke leaving me with a dead phone for the rest of the day. I tossed the charger in the back seat throwing a fit and stuffed the phone in my pocket.

An hour later my thinking had reverted back the 1980s. a time when there was no cell phone and the homes we were visiting still have landline phones on the wall. We talked about books and shared oven baked cookies.

With my new job, adapting to the work environment and slightly different schedule has left me off of Facebook the majority of the time and with Twitter long gone I don’t receive annoying notifications in the early hours of the day from our demented president. Running around in earlier hours and trying to change my schedule to fit everything I was doing before has become a challenge. I missed my podcast schedule last week and finally recorded the next episode for Top Ramen today. This blog hasn’t been updated as I would like it to be and my writing schedule has been sporadic at best. Although I will say that the rough draft for my zombie book (as if the world needs another one) Last Call was finished last week. It needs a lot of work but I hope it will offer something different in the market from the carbon copy material that is out there now.  Game Over is still being edited and I’m hoping for an April release, it would be nice to have something out before summer and show something for my time spent on it over the winter months.

The upside to being closed out of the internet loop is not being bogged down with Trump news and being able to reclaim some sanity in my life. There is too much going on, too much news every fracking day, and too much commentary to keep up with what is happening. I have three trump podcast I’m subscribed to and not enough time to keep up with what is happening. At the moment, I’m thinking about unsubscribing to all of them just to clear my head. There was a time that I could turn on some jazz music, place a sheet of paper into my typewriter and start tapping away into a story until I became lost in another world. That is something I need to reclaim. The phone at the moment only has Instagram on it for my short fixes of connecting with the worldwide web. Facebook I currently don’t miss and if anything, I simply need to stick with my author page that has been neglected for weeks.

A project that I started last weekend is an old task that I hope will improve my writing. Many writers of a time long gone, learned their craft by sitting down at a typewriter and copying the works they admired most. Hunter S. Thompson would type out, from start to finish, The Great Gatsby and For Whom the Bell Tolls. He believed there was a rhythm to their writing and wanted to tap into that. Plus, there was the joy of trying to connect with how it might have felt to write those great American novels for the first time. A journalist who befriended Hemingway later in his life, learned grammar and sentence structure by copying Hemingway’s short stories over a weekend in an attempt to keep his journalism job. The practice worked and he later wrote Papa Hemingway in Cuba.

I didn’t read Gatsby for the first time until last year and since then it is one of the only books out of the 176 I read that year which has stayed with me. The writing style, the story that still speaks volumes today, and the fact that it was unsuccessful in the market spoke to me about how a great piece of literature could be overlooked until decades later. Again, I’m forcing myself to go low tech for the sake of improving my writing. The world is massive, with too much to take in. Stepping back and clearing my slate is a much-needed task if I’m going to be able to focus on what is important in my life. I’m thankful for the new job that I have, the security it affords, and while I wonder if it is a mistake to close my windows to a world that appears to be falling apart, I can only admit that as a small fish in a vast sea, there is little if anything I can do about it except continue on my path and maybe write something that might make a difference for those that read my stories.

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Surviving Trump’s America

Something happened last week that changed my life for the better. I started a new job in a place that I have loved since I was a child. The public library had a job posted that my girlfriend found on their website. She sent me the link and said I should apply since I qualified for the job. It was a mixture of custodial and maintenance and had the same hours that I was currently working. The position was closer to my home and gave me more freedom to do the things I enjoy doing rather than limiting what a person could do. In previous positions, I was restricted from fixing machines or doing repairs I found in my area. I applied for the job and after a series of interviews I was offered the position.

Finding a job like this in Trump’s America is a rare thing. The policies put into place by the Republican party since the 1980s have made jobs like mine a dying breed that continue to go extinct. Let me explain. The library has a union that has been in place since the days it was part of the Public-School system, because of that the library has benefits that continue on until today. I have better insurance than either of my previous jobs which included a local non-profit hospital and the county government. one would think the best of the best would be found at institutions like these, but sadly they follow the status quo and are short sighted on their thinking. The staff has gone out of their way to greet me and learn about the new guy in their facility. In larger organizations boasting thousands of employees one is overlooked and viewed as just another cog in the machine. The financial security I now feel comes from the jump in pay I received in my new job, almost doubling what both on my previous positions paid. Granted, that is partially due to added responsibilities I received with the expectation of doing repairs and keeping up the grounds around the facility but these are things I did at my previous jobs with no added pay. Simply put, if I repaired a machine I needed to perform my job somebody else was paid for it while I prevented a complaint from being received by my boss.

The policies and economics of my new employer are exactly what I had been arguing for since I left college and joined the workforce full time. Working at a hospital for 14 years taught me that most organizations, even the ones that boast how well they treat their employees, are quick to slice the pay of their workers before cutting own profits to save an image, the wrong image or prestige rather than charity. It always bugged me that the CEO of a non-profit hospital was paid over 3 million dollars a year while many of the departments of that hospital were understaffed and had equipment decades older than they should have been. When I left the hospital, the ER still had machines with 3.5-inch floppy disk drives for detecting heart attacks. Note to self, when an organization has to continue screaming about how great they are, they usually are far from it. Those who are great are too busy being great to fight for recognition.

For the past 17 years, I have been living off of a pay of twenty thousand a year, and the early years it only came from overtime if I made that much. The sad reality is that most people are unwilling to fight for more and how can they in a country that destroyed their unions and took away the rights of workers for fair pay. If one did complain about how little they made it wasn’t uncommon for employees in higher positions to say “be thankful for the work you have.” If the conversation continued they would become irritated or angry because I was questioning their position on the hierarchy ladder. In truth that wasn’t the case. I knew many nurses who worked endless overtime or had second jobs to pay the bills. They were required to continue their education with the payoff being little in the end with more responsibility and longer hours. This wasn’t just in the hospital either. In the County, we had republican economics playing out with a majority of Democrats in office. I never once saw a Union representative and when the Union negotiated the new contract with the County we received a higher cost healthcare plan with a higher deductible that ate up the raise we received. Our pay increase was only a few cents and the county approved the construction of a new courthouse at the estimated cost of 70 million dollars. Even Democrats run on the policy of investing in short term projects with little benefit instead of people.

So where do I go from here? I have a few plans. My little ambitions include filling my modest wine cellar. Stashing away some money in my savings account. Finally repairing my fence that currently fits the image of a ghetto alleyway. Finally, and the most important task, paying off my house years ahead of the thirty-year schedule. Most people either forget or don’t realize that if you only make the monthly payment you actually pay three times the amount due to interest. My $60,000 house will cost me $180,000 if I only make the minimum payment. That is not including the cost of interest and taxes paid on the property.

Why paying people more isn’t a national call of duty I will never understand. I have known so many people in my life that worked their asses off, sometimes to death, without ever having a sense of financial security. Charles Bukowski wrote about this phenomenon in several of his books. People think that the artist must suffer and be driven to write great works of literature. Bukowski argued that his best works were written when he was financially secure and didn’t have the pressure to rush something out. I found myself in that boat a few years ago after writing After the Day and rushing to finish the sequel Red Tide. Trying to stay afloat and keeping a roof over my head I continued writing and releasing books that were poorly edited, if at all, and lacked the rewriting they needed to make a better story. Currently Trump is cutting funding to the arts and in doing so will hurt the quality of our culture adding pressure to those who are trying to survive and therefore undermine the quality of their product for a short-term goal of paying the bills. Welcome to Trump’s America, the Republican wet dream of destroying that which the majority of people love.

While some will argue that I am being over paid for what I will be doing I will leave you with this. My pay will afford me to buy a bottle of wine I could not buy before, paying for the truck driver who delivered it, the wine maker to stay in business, the field hands that picked the grapes, the advertising agents that promoted it, the glass makers that produced the bottle, the graphic designer who made the labels, and the list goes on. People who make more money contribute to the economy, rich people do not. End of story.

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Confessions of an Atheist Prepper

I have had people in the past ask me how what got me involved in the prepper (survivalist) movement? While many reasons are religious based and involve practices taught to them by their faith, I can only attest to a partial truth in that answer. I did grow up during the 80s and while baby boomers and a few numbers of Gen Xers can remember the nuclear drills that schools did back in the day, I can still recall in detail putting a book over my head and thinking this was somehow going to protect me from the radiation and intense heat that would strip the flesh from my bones like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. The drills were ridiculous and even one kid in my class asked the question on how to not look once you saw the light when a nuclear detonation happened?  As he pointed out once you saw the light your retina was already burned. The drills and precautions done during that time were pointless and amounted to nothing when the real event came upon us and fortunately for us it never did.

There was something else that happened when I was in middle school. The administration at St. Monica’s had gathered together and tried to figure out what issues the future generation might have to be prepared for. Out of nuclear war, plague, over population, or devastating asteroid, climate change ended up being the winner of the conversation. Our class learned about gardening solar energy, and peak oil, an issue they were hoping might happen sooner than later in order to counter the effects of climate change. Global Warming was the term we heard back then until the Bush administration changed the term to make the effects sound more natural and less dangerous. Regardless there was an importance instilled in me about the future and what science said was coming.

During that time my parents were doing a lot of things around the house that were also prepper related. Buying large amounts of canned goods and storing them away, canning their own vegetables, growing a garden, attempted bouts of hunting that ended with throwing the deer in the bed of the truck after hitting it in the road. Most of these activities were for the purpose of saving money and instead resulted in the hobbies being quickly dropped due to the time and energy involved in them. I was seeing and learning these things as I grew up but the thing that turned me off from it for a long time was the religion aspect that was tied to it. With every event, news story, political concern, and scientific study there was a reference to the book of revelation or the apocalypse. During the cold war, we faced nuclear annihilation and that was God’s plan. After the fall of the Berlin wall it changed to the Iraq war and the battle of Armageddon where Saddam was the anti-christ and America was the Christian warriors who were fighting for the side of good. I remember my mother worried about Saddam’s chemical weapons and destroying the planet, an irrational fear told to a child and something that a more intelligent person would have found to be ludicrous. Still this was the world I was growing up in and no matter how many times the end of the world didn’t happen there was a push by the religious right to find the next big thing. I became tired of this and other aspects of religion as I grew older.

Going to catholic schools there were several times that what I was being taught and what the school did were opposites of each other. While the teachings of the new testament were prioritized as the most important aspect of the bible, the school and church were run under old testament rule. When I pointed these things out and argued against the things I was seeing I was told that was not how the real world worked and not to question authority. Wasn’t that exactly what Jesus did? Question the old rule of the Jewish state and try to change minds to a better world? And why was I the only one who was trying to practice what was being taught?

I never went back to the catholic church after graduation feeling no need or desire to connect myself to an organization that blackmailed people with threats of where they would be after they died. I later married into a Methodist church where I thought there might be a resemblance to the teachings I was taught but that fell to the wayside after a pastor complained about a person calling the church asking for help, then demanded that the parish donate to the church so that they could install air conditioning. I quickly left the church after that.

For a few years, I found a home in Buddhism and practiced that philosophy for a while until there was an issue with what the “true path” was. I still find meditation handy and feel disappointed with the organization of a philosophy whose teacher stated, “Everyone can find enlightenment in their own way, this is what worked for me.”

Since then I have found a comfort in atheism. After all of the ridiculous stress and anxiety that came with being the member of a world ending religion seeing a reason and logic behind what was said had a comfort, the book of revelations would never offer. What was the point of doing anything when those around you were constantly saying “this is the end.”

With science, climate change came back into view. Because the effects of this event continued to come into play over long periods of time it didn’t have the effect for the churches to claim it as part of their world ending religion. The end of days has a very specific short term time line for any idiot to follow. Climate change on the other hand is an event that takes years if not a century to show its full effect. While religion depends on events like solar eclipses and other events that can be predicted through science to legitimize it, a long-term event like climate change is something that churches or religion in general have not only been unable to fit into their dogmatic role, but also denying its existence regarding it as a threat to their own existence. I can’t help assume that not only do the leaders of these churches know that climate change if real but that they deny it for the simple short minded reason that it will cost them money in the end. The shell corporation knew that climate change was real in the early 1970s and even taught their staff members about it to figure out what to do in order to stay in business while not destroying the planet. In the 1990s they changed their tune and started a campaign to deny the existence of climate change and not reduce the use of oil but figure out more ways to extract it in more costly ways.

Becoming an atheist didn’t change my view on the end of the world, it focused my attention to the one route it was proven to take that religion was denying. Sure, there is still fear of nuclear holocaust and another world war considering the current administration in office, but if I had to put my money on anything, climate change is the one circumstance that won’t change even if other events don’t happen first. A hundred years from now, if we don’t have a nuclear holocaust, world war, or plague that wipes out half of civilization, the earth will still be warmer, the seas levels will rise, and a good portion of the species on the planet will be gone. Out of all the ridiculous situations that we consider to be a threat to our way of life we ignore the one that is in our face and currently happening.

These days our government distracts us with things that are less likely to occur like terrorism from a threat that will cost their donors money. Terrorism is one of the issues that can promote while making a profit. To wage war on climate change is anti-climactic and while it does save the planet the enemy is hard to see and the positive effects of the efforts are difficult to measure over time. During war, bodies can be stacked and counted. Saved lives are harder to measure. How does one estimate lives saved from doing something that some would argue “might happen.” This argument was made at the end of WWII to justify the use of the atomic bomb against the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The White house argued the lives saved was greater than the lives lost to end the war early. History would later show that not only was this assumption false but the reasons were more sinister than that.

Al Gore tried to bring the issue of climate change to the forefront and succeeded for a short time. His efforts were overshadowed by the Bush administration’s war on terror and soon Gore was forgotten and his push to change light bulbs was thrown to the wayside. Gore’s attempt to save the world backfired like Jimmy Carter’s attempt to change the American psyche.

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