Some Working Notes on Bullying

There has been of late a new and popular campaign against bullying, and that’s laudable, but they are going about it the wrong way.

What follows are some working notes from what may become a longer work, but I dared some people on twitter to read my blog, so some of this is for them. Some of it is truly working notes.

I’m skipping the part where I establish my expertise. You’ll have to trust me: I have a lot of experience with this from both sides.

The current tendency is to target the bullies. While you won’t find me stopping you, that approach will never really work. You may stop some bullies, but more will always take their place.

Bullying as a social tactic is both easy and alarmingly effective, and therefore will always be popular. Bullying is not used so much to steal lunch money – though that surely happens – but to raise one’s status among one’s peers.

That works because we collectively let it work. We let it work because we tend to equate people who are difference as threats, and therefore confer status upon those who join us in suppressing them.

We are not wrong about this.

The trouble with weirdos is that you may not be able to guess with any safe level of certainty how they might react in any given situation. Given that the number one predator to human beings is other humans beings, this causes alarm at a primal level. Our history overflows with people attacking other people for no reason beyond perceived differences and tactical opportunity.

This attitude, of course, is at odds with our expressed desire to build a more just social society. While any useful remedy for the underlying psycho-social tension eludes us, it’s relatively easy to point out the big kid picking on the little kid and say “There! He’s the problem!”

So we bully the least of the bullies. Ok – that kid totally had it coming. But you are not likely to solve anything beyond that one incident. Hell, you have a better than even chance to make it worse.

In the 1970’s, when I learned to deal with bullies, I was taught we are responsible for our own emotions, specifically how we react to those emotions. Make no mistake, emotions are going to hit you. They are auto-triggered in the brain. But outside of some very specific adrenaline circumstances, we then choose what to do about them.

Let me distill the lesson I learned the hard way:

If you let the abuse affect your reactions, you are giving a bully more power over your life than he needs or deserves. Yelling or crying or other fits will only ever make it worse. Now you’ve validated the underlying premise – that you are weird and unpredictable and to be shunned.

I am also leery of counseling kids that they should always appeal to authority. Many times the worst bully in the classroom is the teacher. May times the worst bully at work is the boss.

You fight bullying with what you can control – which is you. Don’t take the bait when you’re the target. Don’t pile on if you’re a bystander. Oh- and don’t be the fucking bully.

This is easier written than done – for these are totally natural impulses. I’m over fifty, and I still struggle with this. But that’s the answer. Tolerance, kindness, understanding, just like in the Bible, or Sesame Street.
OK – housekeeping.

The week before last I made 4500 words – close but no cigar. I’m not going to list it out – you’re welcome.

This week I did even worse 3500 plus this blog. Some of that has been work. Some has just been a funk.

I have lost my super-powers.

I used to make a to-do list and it would all get done – somehow. The shortcomings above are matched all across my life.

I used to be impervious to bully bait , and here I wasted half the night getting pummeled on twitter- when I knew a hundred times better what the actual agenda was. As an explanation, not an excuse, I think the reality of living alone is catching up to me, now that the logistics of the separation are mostly settled.

My first impulse is to talk about these things with my wife but…And that, actually, has been the hardest part for me.

I have had many friends offer to listen if I needed to talk, and I appreciate their concern, but what  I’m really missing is the deeper context. Being near the boat once in a while is not the same as being in the boat every day. It’s the difference between “the noisy thingy”, and “ the ratchet on the forward portside railing that makes the disturbing clacking noise”.

There is no one left in my life that knows what I mean by the noisy thingy. And that has been the hardest adjustment to make.

Now we know.


Maybe I shouldn’t be left alone…

I have the house to myself for the first time in a month. Earl has gone back to Tucson to sort his life, and my daughter has gone back to NAU. I paid off a credit card with the meager profit from the house, and drank good whiskey to celebrate.

It’s only been 24 hours, but so far – it’s been good to be alone.

That’s pretty much the news.

From the Armadillo group we learned:

The EEOC has well written guidance about sexual harassment. No, seriously, they do.

Six years ago, when we came to EEOC as commissioners, we were struck by how many cases of sexual harassment EEOC continues to deal with every year. What was further striking to us were the number of complaints of harassment on every other basis protected under equal employment opportunity laws the Commission deals with today. We are deeply troubled by what we have seen during our tenure on the Commission.

With legal liability long ago established, with reputational harm from harassment well known, with an entire cottage industry of workplace compliance and training adopted and encouraged for 30 years, why does so much harassment persist and take place in so many of our workplaces? And, most important of all, what can be done to prevent it? After 30 years – is there something we’ve been missing?

Once you realize that the other gender(s) are of equal status to your own, the lines aren’t hard to puzzle out. It’s that first realization that seems to cause all the trouble.

It has been posited that 1070’s Des Moines, Iowa is the blandest  time/space coordinate possible.



None are so bland

But Google image searches for 19670’s Des Moines turn up weird shit:



Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump and Andre the Giant from back when they were all equally respectable.


Word count:

Last Monday’s WHWL? counts for 1000 words.

I wrote an interlude of Echoes (the sequel to One of 64) of about 1000 words about the Imperials, gianr silicone spheres what inhabit gas giants and used to rule the galaxy until they basically got tired of it.

I shared that at the same writer’s group where we talked about the EEOC and 1970’s Des Moines. 500 words.

I sketched and inked 4 panels of One of 64 – webcomic version(200 each =800 words).

I hand-wrote wrote another 750 words on Taliesin’s Last Apprentice, the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond.

And whatever this word count is puts me comfortably over the limit. I’d say drinky time, but I have already started.

Now we know.

The Plan Going Forward (2018+)

I am not one to make a big thing out of the new year. It’s one more day;, an arbitrary marker. Nothing really starts and stops except the tax year. A measure of how seriously I take this: I once made a New Year’s to never make another New Year’s resolution, and I have faithfully kept that for decades.

That this weekend marks a change of direction in my life is a coincidence. From the time my life fell out from underneath me  to the point where I could realistically transition from damage control to forward progress again happened to line up with the new year.

I am emotionally reconciled that my marriage is over. Most of the financial transition that situation forced has been completed, or is on schedule to be completed. I have completed moving the giant pile of crap that I take responsibility for from one address to another.

I have a pile of old tax returns to set on fire in my new yard, and on that occasion, I will allow myself some self pity over this matter for one last evening. You are welcome to join me. I will be drinking good whisky.

Then we are done with all of that shit.

What follows now is as much for my reference as any other purpose. If you came just for writing advice, or random facts, or the antics of octopi, nothing below here will satisfy that. It’s all about me. If you stop reading here I will not take that personally.

People have a much higher chance of achieving goals if they write them down. I am putting myself publicly (even though I average like six hits per post – this is a public blog) on the spot for this.

Here’s the plan going forward.

Finish the damn books.

A chapter a week in both the Jack sequel and  the 64 sequel, and starting in spring some non-fiction project as well.

I have no shortage of ideas, and have been blessed with the ability to describe them in writing at a professional level. The trick now is to keep my ass in the chair.

It is a known dynamic of publishing that if you get three good books to market, you begin to develop a readership, and by ten books, this becomes a feedback loop swelling into a following.

They have to be good books – but I feel I am up to that. Quantity/time is my major challenge.

This can be done if 5000 words per week becomes my minimum. The default format for this blog will be documenting my progress towards that. (And other things that come to mind.)

This week I hit 4000, counting this blog. Since I’m working tonight, that’s going to stand.


Divesting myself of all this crap in a rational manner

I still find myself valuing things and stuff more than perhaps would be best-practice Buddhism. Couldn’t quite bring myself to leave it all for the dumpster. I left a lot – but that is kinda hard to tell from walking through my house now. About half of my total possessions are still in piles. That you can walk around my house testifies to my ability to stack efficiently more than my economy of inventory.

The plan, over the next few years, is to get myself down to an inventory level that is actually mobile. To get there, some things have to happen:

  • For everything I acquire, something has to go. I am replacing, not adding.
  • I have some memorabilia and collectables that are wasted on a thrift store shelf. Collectors who want these things will seek them on the internet, and I plan to put them there for them to find. That project replaces the non-fiction book until it is done.
  • I’m going to limit my books to what can fit on the bookshelves. I’ve given myself some time for this, first because I lost nearly half my bookshelf space in the move, and second to give myself some time to read these books before I get rid of them somehow. Also crucial to this plan – more bookshelves.
  • Now that I have an appropriate space, I’m going to transform this pile of tools and hardware into a workshop, and make stuff out of the accumulated materials that I couldn’t bring myself to toss in the trash. Maybe some of it will be worth something – I don’t know.  There is no downside to trying.
  • A workshop also enable more efficient home repair and renovations, which will be ongoing.  I rent this place well below market value on the assumption that I take care of upkeep and repairs.
  • I am going to eliminate my unsecured debt. I have a budget that alloows me to live within my base pay, so I can throw my extra income (Rhino and what-have-you) into debt relief until it is gone.

For the record, this is nearly identical to my plan before my life fell apart. It took me three months, but I am back to where I can pursue that again with a straight face. This point coincidentally marks the promise of new year.


Coda: The end game

If you made it this far, I can tell you how it ends. I am resolved not to die in this house surrounded by piles of stuff I can no longer manage. My grandfather has already done that gag, in the very room I write this from, and I would find a different path.

I daydream of a compound, shared with other parties, where we have combined resources into a big workshop, a big kitchen and an expansive library. I don’t have much to add to the kitchen, but I can help out with the other two. Then all I need is a bedroom, and a place to park the RV I otherwise work out of. By work out of, I mean drive somewhere nice, write through my 14 day stay limit, drive somewhere else, come back to the compound when the circle leads me there. That would be my ideal endgame.

There are, of course, a lot of moves between here and there. But now we know how I want it to end up.

Then I’ll figure out what comes next.



The Depressing Truth Behind Making Word Count

I have an ongoing weekly goal of 5000 written words a week. I have from Monday to Sunday to write, edit or otherwise create 5000 words worth of new material for a range of projects. (Yes, blogs count.)

I made my word count today for the first time in months, and that might be cause for rejoicing, the underlying reasons for my newfound productivity are not.

First, we brag.

On Are We Lost Yet, I finally recount my adventures in and around the Johnson Canyon Railroad. (Featured in Five Star Hikes: Flagstaff and Sedona).

The article is a few hundred words, but the video counts as a thousand.

In general, I need to figure an hour of total production time (writing, shooting, editing) for every minute of good You Tube video. The footage for this one (and ones like it) was shot years ago as personal notes, so that skews the formula. Nonetheless, I spent over three hours editing it.

Over on Curious Continuity, I popped out a thousand words ( separated by stolen, if credited images) on Fermi’s Paradox, and why our universe might remain terribly lonely.

I also did some artwork for The 64 (and drafted 1300 words on the sequel), but the artwork isn’t scheduled for months, and the novel for years. But we’ll get there.

Nobody on their deathbed laments that they wished they had made word count more often, or any other sort of job-related regret. They all wish they had spent more time with their family. I will to, I suppose. But this week, and perhaps many more to come, all I have is the work.

My wife of 29 years has left me, as in changed her address. As in I had to go start an account at a different credit union just to make certain  there is a hard line between our accounts now.

This was not my idea or desire. There was no problem with my wife or  the marriage that, from my end, I could not deal with or circumnavigate. She saw it differently, and here I am making word count.

I must, then refer you  to her, if you know her, for an explanation of why. I have gotten different answers, and I remain uncertain which if any I believe. There was, so you know, no particular incident or crime, or specific breach of faith. She was unhappy, and felt that leaving me was the way to deal with that. And there was nothing I could do – because I asked – to change her mind about that.

I’m not writing this in an attempt to elicit pity. I am still ahead of the curve in overall human experience. But I’m going to write these next paragraphs anyway, so that it doesn’t just plop out of me on Facebook or the like.

My marriage was one of the few enterprises in my life that I truly took seriously; the endeavor I put the most time, energy and money into (though the kids muddy that measurement), and it has failed. So when I write or speak of the scattered positive aspects of this situation, that is not, an attempt to disparage my wife or our relationship history. Rather, it is an attempt to convince myself that this is not the end of the world.

I have never been a single adult. I met my wife on my first day of college and we were dating by the end of that September. I was married at 21, and have remained so,  to that same woman, ever since. (Divorce is coming, but not here yet).

I have no clear idea how actual adults date in the 21st century. And, so we’re clear, I am not in a hurry to find out. In the summer of 1986 I rented a studio apartment for six months. Penny and I were still just “dating”. That was the last time I actually resided alone. I am kinda curious to see how I handle it.

Now, by alone, I mean with Penny’s two cats (also not my idea) and my daughter’s rabbit, all of which require food and attention. We all live together in a crumbling monument to all the compromises I made in the interest of a now failed marriage.

So bit by bit, I am reconstructing my house now that I no longer have to accommodate other human beings.

I am also working on developing a social life, because I haven’t been able to say yes to a party without side negotiations in 29 years. But I’m still not getting so drunk I have to sleep on your floor.

I still have to feed the pets.

This will be an adventure! So say the optimists in my life They may be right.

Being on a sinking ship is an adventure. And you will learn a lot about yourself and your true limits and priorities; things you might not have learned any other way.

But in your few quiet moments, you are still going to wish that the ship wasn’t sinking.

This was 850 words towards my goal. By the time I add links and tags, I can count it as a thousand.


Now you know.



Accumulated Notes from Writer’s Groups

First an announcement: I have started One of 64 as a web-comic. Every Thursday, you can watch me teach myself, perhaps painfully, how to produce a web-comic. The first four pages came out, by accident of Friday. That has been corrected.

Start here.

For those who might be new here, I go to a fair number of open invitation drop-in writer’s groups. More about that here, if’n you care. Sometimes I share first or second drafts. Most of the time I take notes. Here are some that have accumulated over time, in more or less the order they appears in my notebook.

Most of these notes are things I am reminding myself to look up afterwards, and the link would be the most relevant site I found in a few minutes searching.

I am told by multiple sources that 24 reviews of your work on Amazon bumps you up a level in exposure via their algorithm.

The Cheyenne Tribe speaks of their prophet and greatest medicine man, Motzeyout. The piece presented at group suggested he was a time traveler who predicted the coming of the white man.  That’s not mentioned in the summary here, but not ruled out either.

I have a note that says “Iowa Bird Museum” which does not seem to exist. You can go visit the Talbot Collection at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History, and/or the Stempel Bird Museum in Macedonia Iowa. Both are sizeable collections of dead birds in various poses, but I think our author was describing the Talbot Collection. If you yearn to see living birds in Iowa, try the Iowa Raptor Project in Solon Iowa.

I have a note reading “history of Pima cotton in China” which I’m going to skip. You’re welcome.

I have two books noted:

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes 

Poltergiest – a Study in Destructive Haunting by Colin Wilson.

Below these I wrote: “Crackpot psychiatry is good fuel for fantasy”. So you were warned.

I have written “Akasha” which is either the Hindu equivalent for the Ethreal Plane or the name of the first Vampire. I have no idea which I meant here.

Finally, Skylark of Space is the first commonly recognized published space opera. The Author, EE Smith would go on to write the Lensmen series that gave us about half the known tropes in that genre. You can read it on Gutenberg, and so can I.

Now you know.






Confessions of an Old Rookie

So I haven’t been updating blogs, but I have been plugging along on longer form fiction projects. A trade off. There’s that, and the learning curve of a new job.

I don’t have the advantage of being young and ignorant. I am simply ignorant. There’s some tolerance left to the occasional oh-that-adapter-won’t-work-with-that-gateway-because-reasons that I still encounter. But practical logistics I should be on top of. Case in point:

If you have a four am call, get your information in order the day before, in the sober daylight while informed grown-ups will answer their phones. The location in question was one small section of a labyrinthine medical facility. This particular section was nearly finished (they expected patients by 6am – hence the hour) while the rest of the sprawling site remained a dark wilderness of scaffolding and drywall studs and doors marked no entry.

Anyone on a construction site before sun-up generally knows what they are doing, and not much else.

It took me longer to find the section than to actually do the job. Happily, there was not much to it, and I wandering around looking for a way back to my car comfortably before doors opened.

My previous day job was a 24/7 operation, and I have already made the mistake of wandering around a maze of locked doors if the wee hours of the morning because I forgot to get a more specific location ahead of time.  I may be new but I should know better.

I should have a book launch/party thing planned for Beanstalk and Beyond, but I don’t have books in my hand. Because I kept forgetting to order them. (There was also a paycheck gap as I transitioned jobs). From now on, that’s in the contract – author copies.

Yeah, it’s my first novel, and my first book launch. Neither of the hiking guides had such an event. Of course, I also had 12 copies shipped to my door without asking.

I do not yet know if my publisher will have a table at Westercon, but I will be there anyway running Go Action Fun Time.

I should know better than to put that at the bottom of the post by now, huh?

Now we know.


Beanstalk and Beyond is Out!

They misspelled my name, but Beanstalk and Beyond is now an actual book that you can buy. You’ll need the link(s) below, because it’s nearly impossible to find via search engine at the moment.



Barnes and Noble:

These links might not be good after they correct my name.

Meanwhile, for those who have asked…

Environmental regulation has literally created my job. Though new building codes vary widely by jurisdiction, it is becoming increasingly common to require a higher level of conservation control in architectural lighting. Specifically, lights that turn themselves off when the room is empty and/or lights that dim themselves in bright sunlight.

These require specific programming, which is a large part of what I now do for a day job.

Even so, by the end of today, I was staring at a troublesome dimmer rack, and did NOT say, “Oh, there’s your problem right there. See on the front where it says Colortran?”

Also, I finished a 14k word short story about how Atlantean wizards saved the world from collision with a comet, but at a terrible price. . I have no particular market in mind for it. I finished it though, and I’m happy about that.

Someday, it may be published, with my by-line spelled correctly.

Now you know.