Living in Peace

I saw an article today that stated that the rate of gun deaths in the United States is 10X comparable nations. There is a reason for that.

Scott Adams has been running a series of Dilbert strips wherein Asok, the Hindu intern, is accused of being a terrorist. In one, he points out that he is a pacifist Hindu, but “You use violence as a tool and worship one of Islam’s prophets.” If it hurts to read that, tough, because both of those statements are true. Jesus is the 4th prophet in Islam, and we do use violence at a tool.

For instance, many of us buy firearms because we feel the need to defend ourselves. I see postings about how the guy who broke into a car is going to “get shot” if he shows up again. Or little stickers stating “insured by Smith & Wesson.” Funny, in its way, but definitely using violence as a tool.

And there is violence and there is violence, you know? I’d be happy to give someone breaking into my car a nice martial arts lesson, if you get my drift. They could think about their life choices while the bones healed. But death for petty thievery? Bit over the top, I’d say. And I am not blaming the guns; I am blaming people who use guns without thinking about what they are doing.

Guns are great tools, and no mistake. But they make violence impersonal, which apparently in some people makes it okay to act badly. Those people are wrong, of course. Bad action is bad action. Personally I think it is more satisfying to be able to defeat someone with brains and cunning. (That is what martial arts does, by the way, whatever you may have seen in Kung Fu movies.) It’s not guns, it’s attitudes.

Deadly force is a legitimate answer to deadly force, and for nothing else. Being the first to use deadly force in a confrontation makes you the guilty party, no matter what sort of asshole the other person acts like. That’s why people complain when cops shoot a feeing suspect in the back. Heck, it’s against the code of the west, if nothing else. And our attitudes about violence cause other problems as well.

Those idiots who occupied the bird sanctuary in Oregon? Some of their points are valid, and should be hashed out. But taking over a wildlife preserve with firearms? Who do they think they are? Jason Bourne, James Bond, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all rolled into one? They ended up looking like idiots, so they got their reward. But the fact is that they used violence as a tool.

I saw another article that reported on the results of a survey of people all over the world. One question was “Who is the biggest threat to world peace today?” In most places, the answer wasn’t ISIS. Care to guess who it was? I’ll give you a hint: it was a country that uses violence as a tool. Yes, that one. I’m sitting in it. Ouch, huh?

Image is in Public Domain. From WPClipart.com
Image is in Public Domain. From WPClipart.com

 

Resting the Work

Last week I posted about doing nothing. Since then I’ve finished the second draft of a YA romance. It still needs plenty of work, but it seems to be readable. Now once again I’m doing nothing. I hear you ask, “why?”

Because I need a week or so away from the project in order to see what truly needs to be done. This is not just my opinion, but one shared by most of the writer/bloggers I follow. Second draft isn’t as bad as the first, in the sense that I’m no longer in love with all my wonderful creations. In fact, after the slog of editing the thing into readability, I think I’m starting to hate some of them. They make too much work!

But I’m still much too close to the work after editing it intensely for the past week. It’s a good story. The ending brings tears to my eyes. But I still read what I meant to put in there, not what is there. In a week or so I’ll open it again and (I hope) see what’s there. Then I can compare that to what I remember intending. If there is a discrepancy, I’ll make the work match the intent. That’s how it goes.

And, how come in chapter 4 that guy is in the room, but in chapter 16 (same scene from another character’s point of view) he’s not? Sheesh!

My Tale of Woe

I have done almost no editing the last few days. We have this place in Arizona, 900 square feet, 2 bedrooms, outbuildings, on a bit over 2 acres. We bought it May 1st, 2012. Nice place. But, last Spring, in looking for a way to spruce up the landscaping (it’s mostly Junipered up now) we checked out a place for sale a few miles away in the same subdivision. We discovered that it was bigger, nicer, had central heat, and that we could afford it. Cool, huh. So, we bought another place right in the neighborhood.

Of course, that leaves us with the first place, nice place that it is, empty. So of course we need to rent it out. We didn’t go about that right the first time, and we ended up getting $600, while everything that wasn’t real or chattel was stolen. Hmmm. Which brings me to the actual tale of why I haven’t worked much.

We listed the place for rent on Craigslist in two different places (Prescott and Flagstaff) and boy did the phone start ringing, as it were. Actually, it was phone, text, and flat out begging for a chance to rent it. (Own property outside Ash Fork, Arizona? Rent that sucker!) I went up Saturday, and signed a lease Tuesday morning. Mind you, we have a nice house up there, but the only computer (this will change shortly) is an old laptop running Windows XP. Boy, I liked Windows XP when it first came out. Boy, I sure hate it now!

But that’s my tale of woe. Tough, huh? I bet your heart’s pumping putrid purple peanut butter, innit?

 

Get Your Kicks . . .
Get Your Kicks . . .

Yep, this place is the reason I got into Historic Route 66. Said road runs right through Ash Fork. Lotsa Kicks!

SUBSCRIBE!

In the spirit of moving into the 21st century, I deleted the old subscription protocol and switched to MailChimp. Now there is a link in the sidebar, under Contact Steve, that says SUBSCRIBE! Three guesses what it does, but the first two don’t count!

If you like this blog, why not subscribe so you’ll see every post as soon as it appears? It’s the next big thing! Be a part!

What I’ve Been Up To

Besides no good, of course.

I’ve been editing a Young Adult romance. I admit that I stole the plot idea from a great writer, but trust me, you won’t be reading the same thing they (see how I’ve given up on that personal pronoun?) wrote when you read this story. Editing is something I’m decent at. I must admit that, like whom I know not said it first, I’m not a good writer, but I am a good editor. And that is today’s topic.

I drafted this particular book last year and set it aside to be edited later. That was deliberate on my part, because for one thing I wanted to try to “finish” Messy Meisner, whatever that means. Messy may have a rough row to hoe, for reasons discussed in “How I Became an Author” (link on the sidebar.) But I think that this project, about a couple of teenagers in love against odds, may actually grab the attention of a professional publisher. (I don’t think of myself as one; for one thing I haven’t made any money at it yet.) The book is written in three parts, with three points of view. I started on part one first, possibly because Word opens a document to that page by default. What I found was a wall of dense prose, information dumps, telling not showing, superfluous modifiers (really, truly bad, eh?) and frankly something that was hard for me to read. And I wrote the thing!

But, taking it paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, I’ve managed to convert the first portion of the book into what is, I kid you not, a decent story. (I’ve only just started on the second part. I hope to have the entire thing ready to submit by the RWA conference next summer.) By editing the manuscript (funny term for something banged out on a computer) one bit at a time, I find that I can pay attention to each little detail to a degree that lets me actually convert the dense prose etc. into something someone might actually like to read! And that is the point of this post.

Don’t worry about getting things right on your first draft, because you won’t. That’s all, you simply won’t. Instead, learn to go over your messy draft and polish that sucker into the next Huckleberry Finn! Gravity’s Rainbow? Horton Hears a Who? Well, you know, whatever it is.

Have fun!

Comfortable? Happy?

There’s an article on a site called Quartz titled 10 Things Americans Get Wrong About America.  You should read it, actually, because it’s mostly true. I have travelled in foreign countries, all three in North America, and also several (six I believe) in Europe. But I want to talk about just one of the points made. That is, that many Americans mistake comfort for happiness. Those two things, it seems to me, are definitely not the same thing. For example, I’m really happy when I’m zooming down a bowl with maybe four inches of fresh powder on it on shaped skis, kissing my ski tips and throwing up huge rooster tails of snow behind me. That really makes me, well, ecstatic, if you must know. To do that requires maintaining a position guaranteed to make my thighs burn, occasionally suffering frostbite, and probably being almost too tired to move by the time I’m done for the day. All of those things are extremely uncomfortable, but taken together in the proper combination they make me so happy that, if I died while doing that, at least I’d have been having a good time when it happened. Happiness is not kicking back.
Comfort is a temporary state, just like happiness. Much of the time I’m just neutral; doing whatever it is I’m doing. But sometimes I find happiness in odd moments. Maybe not willing to die at the time moments such as the one above, but still, happy moments. Petting a dog, for instance, usually makes me happy. Building something that looks good and actually works makes me happy. Finishing a good job of editing or drafting makes me happy. And my profession of writing is not comfortable at all. Sitting messes up my hips, which makes my lower back sore. And stand-up comedy, which is more of a hobby right now, involves, you know, standing up a lot. Interspersed with sitting around a lot. On uncomfortable chairs. But both of those activities make me happy!

There is more to the article that is worthy of a post, but I’m going to stop where I am, because at least here my point is coherent. Don’t try to stay comfortable if you want to be happy!

End of lecture.

Denver, Colorado

One of an irregular series of travelogues.

The iconic Big Blue Bear peeks into the Denver Convention Center
The iconic Big Blue Bear peeks into the Denver Convention Center

I used to live in Denver, for seventeen years, in fact. Now I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, another metropolis, and quite a different one. We moved here over eleven years ago, and I was of course anxious to see what all had changed. Less than I’d imagined, in truth, but the place is much bigger than it was when I lived there. I’m jealous of a few things Denver has, such as light rail, a pedestrian mall downtown, and my favorite kind of Mexican cuisine. But it gets pretty cold there (It went down to about 33 degrees Fahrenheit in Vegas this morning,) as low as 7 degrees one morning. It also snowed. The snow in Denver isn’t that bad, usually, because it generally melts the next day. Sometimes, though, it’s so cold that the snow only melts where the sun hits it, or in the streets where they spread sand to help warm the ice. That’s how it was when we were there.

But, what the hey, it was a good time. Not home, but a good time. We got to visit with all of our offspring and their significant others. I have a photo of one of them that would really embarrass him, but I’m going to be nice and never post it. Here they are, though, all looking good:

All of 'em. The three central ones are ours.
All of ‘em. The three central ones are ours.

(These photos were all taken my me, by the way. Click for full size.)

When they were kidlets, we used to go to Zoolights at The Denver Zoo. So, we dragged them there this time, too. And they all came! We saw lots of lights, and were so amazed at the changes that my wife and I went back on Christmas morning, which was great because we were two of about ten people in the park. Very nice! Saw this guy:

An Amur tiger enjoying the winter morning at The Denver Zoo.
An Amur tiger enjoying the winter morning at The Denver Zoo.

Then we went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the day after that we saw The Martian at a cheap theater. I reviewed them both last week, in case you missed it.

At the History Colorado Center, formerly the Colorado History Museum, we had a good time in an exhibit about classic toys. In the sixties room I was able to sing along with the Slinky commercial without making a mistake. A sad thing, I know. Here’s that room:

A room full of toys from the sixties at the Colorado History Museum
A room full of toys from the sixties at the Colorado History Museum

They also had a Lady Lionel train set (weird) and I saw a video of the rocket launcher/exploding boxcar that I once loved so much.

And we also enjoyed lots of good food, antiquing (got some excellent glassware that my grandfather may even have made (not kidding.) Tiffin, which was top of the line stuff.) And we spent an afternoon in hot water at Indian Springs Resort, in Idaho Springs, Clear Creek County, about 30 minutes up I-70 from Denver. My favorite Hot Springs. I know, Nevada has them, too, and so does California, but the Nevada ones are too hot or too cold, and the California ones are Chlorinated, of all things. If you visit Denver, try Indian Springs; the water really does seem to heal.

And then we came home. But one more thing before I stop writing. Can someone please tell me what is the point of this pencil?

This is in downtown Denver. I believe that it must have some point, but I can't see it.
This is in downtown Denver. I believe that it must have some point, but I can’t see it.

 

 

A Review of Tew. I Mean Two.

We spent Christmas in Denver, where we used to live. While there we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens as our annual Christmas movie. The next day, I think, we went to a cheap movie joint and saw The Martian. So, here are two movie reviews for the price ($0.00) of one!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m looking forward to Episode VIII. And especially to Episode IX, which will put an end to the series. I dearly hope. As for this one, read this carefully: If you enjoyed Episode IV, you will enjoy Episode VII, because, as another reviewer said, there’s a lot of cutting and pasting here. I’ll say no more.

The Martian stars one of those two guys nobody can tell apart, ever since Good Will Hunting. It’s a good movie. And when the man is stranded on Mars, nobody starts praying for his deliverance. Instead he, and everybody else, starts figuring out what to do about it. I like that.

Stuff That Offends Me

I’m less easily offended than a lot of people, I guess. I don’t care what religion someone follows, for instance. I’m okay with jokes about someone’s religion, too, in particular if it’s Christianity, because that’s the one I was raised to believe in. I don’t get upset at strong language. In fact, as someone who uses language professionally, I like strong language. Take the famous word fuck, for example. It used to be so strong that it implied the worst sort of thing imaginable. Then over millennia, it got weaker, until by the nineteenth century in the West, it was used as a general sort of modifier. Besides meaning having sex with, I mean. George Carlin commented on the sexual aspect, suggesting that a really loving thing to say would be “fuck you, Mom!” Try that and let me know how it goes. Now it’s so watered down and weak (at least compared to its former self) that it has been used on network television as a modifier and no FCC fines have resulted. I’ve considered putting together a memorial service for a once powerful word, in fact.

But some things do offend me. People who express righteous indignation at strong language offend me. It’s just words, people! What the fuck is wrong with you?

Stupidity offends me, especially if it’s willful. It is simple enough to check the veracity of something you see on Facebook, but so many people just click share and maybe add their own bit of indignation that it seems that the Internet has become a refuge for the misinformed, misogynistic, and maladjusted to spread their idiot lies, theories, and venom. If you repost something without checking the facts, you’re being willfully stupid.

Most of all, people who just assume that naturally their beliefs are the best and should be applied by everyone in all situations offend me greatly. Do you know why the Romans persecuted only Christians out of all the wacky religions that were practiced in the empire? That’s what happened, you know. A person such as the ones I’m talking about will say that it is because the Romans, and all non-believers, are being seduced by Satan. Never mind that there isn’t one shred of evidence for the existence of such a creature. No, their way is The Way and we all follow it or suffer eternal torment. Who in Hell would worship a Creator that would subject its own creations to eternal torment? Nobody I’d care to hire to babysit, I can promise you that.

My overall point here is that much of the world is offensive. Most of the world is also dangerous, or at least the fun parts are. And finally, of course, we are all going to die, anyway. One at a time or all at once, we’ll be the same amount of dead in the end. So, really, is it worth getting all worked up and offended all the time? (If it is, just tell somebody else. ;-))

 

A Change You Won’t Notice

I’ve always let anyone register here, thinking it might come in handy some day. I just turned that off. You get nothing out of being a “subscriber” anyway (unless you use the link to the left) so it means zippo. None of my regular readers has ever registered anyway, so who cares, eh? I got tired of deleting obviously fake registrations no doubt related to somebody’s scheme to defraud the unwary. No, they were never able to use this site, but if I were into that sort of thing, I’d do blanket registrations on the theory that some of the sites at which I registered would give me access to a position from which to do mischief.

Wow, what a sentence! Can you tell I’m studying German? :-)