Monday, January 1, 2024

What I learned in 2023

This disappeared on me. And by that I mean that I was about 700 words in yesterday, had walked away to gather my thoughts for a few hours and when I came back my computer wouldn't respond, so without thinking about it I rebooted. Lost everything. In a sense kind of like last year. Not that I lost everything everything, I still have my computer and the things I did save, just not the new thoughts that had sprung forth, the progress I'd made. Because last year I had some losses and setbacks, just like everyone else, but I'd saved a lot, and as it turns out, sometimes I'm better on the second draft.

So I'm back. It's been a minute. A very long minute. This blog started, like so many other things in life, as one idea that slowly transformed into another. Short stories, screeds and philosophy, weird ideas, political takes, poetry and art appreciation. This had been a digital space to just see what fell out of my head, to make comments about life into that vast unknown ether - partially because I didn't think the people around me would appreciate them and I tend to not want bother people unless I have to. There were the occasional screams into the digital darkness, but maybe as I've gotten older I've changed. Well, I know I changed, I lost some weight, I read some stuff from some new sources, I've pared back the dumb stuff. Still indulging too much from time to time, but also realizing my knees ain't what they used to be (I pulled a hamstring taking off my pants the other day), and that two AM is not a good time to decide to start new projects. 

But around mid-year things got hectic. And a lot of things had to happen around the same time and since this was already something I was doing out of habit, this went to the back-burner. Then the closet, I guess, although the metaphor doesn't travel. I just lost this for minute. But then a lot of the things I really did intend to this year, that I actually did mean to focus on didn't get done either (duh.) Some because of my own mental machinations. Others because of things out of my control. Some things changed and because mortgage rates went up some stayed the same. But also fulfilled a few personal promises, and finally did some things I told myself I would do when I was fifteen, but kept making excuses to myself. Things came at me fast, more than once. But that's everyone and I like to believe I rolled with the punches and came up in not too terrible a position. When I think about it now, I've actually been pretty damned lucky in a sense. But that realization makes me wonder just how much longer this luck will hold.  

I still have a million scenes to the thousand stories dancing through my head, books I want to write but...I haven't really put pen to page since I stopped updating this. I need to get out of the house more, as the pandemic (and grey hair) turned me into a serious homebody, because I'm I need to grow my circle and my contacts. (Alternatively, all my stuff is in my house, so why leave?) I've lost weight but I need to lose more, and tone up a bit. Yeah baby, sexy dad body, although I have no kids, you know what I mean. But my new schedule is making the application of basic principles of self care in that regard harder than I expected. Because yes, exercise and health is self care. Important stuff. 

To start this new year, much like I've suggested every year I've offered suggestions - go do something. Seriously. Something you hadn't done. Something you've been meaning to do. I recently watched a video of a man just a little bit older than me realize that the window of life's opportunities was closing, and the list of regular things that he'd come to enjoy was soon going to lose a few items, and that things he really wanted to do might not possible soon. It was one of those odd throwaway moments that make you think when you weren't expecting it. I have maintained for years that I have more time, next week, next month, next season, next year. That may not be completely true. And some events this year put that into very real terms.

This past year I traveled. Not just the usual back to my hometown to see my parents, although that did become a major part of my year, or to the beach or something like that. No, this year I really traveled. Like clearing customs and stepping onto another continent traveled. In my youth I'd dreamed of getting away from that small town I grew up in and seeing the world. But my history had been when I had the time I didn't have the resources. And by the time I had gathered the resources I'd reached a opinion that work took precedence. Add in that I had never wanted to travel alone, I had wanted that mythical HER to be by my side. Just like it's not the food it's who you're eating it with, I'd developed the opinion that traveling was about the memories, and wanted my memories to make my heart sing. But that someone special part hasn't worked out for me like I'd hoped. She has her own plans. So last year when the opportunity came to go somewhere, I leapt at it anyway. And this year I'm going to do it again.

This year I take on new career challenges. I had been slowly building a career that I'd fallen into. I tend to get into what I'm doing, slowly building up momentum until the work becomes something else. That track, in keeping with the metaphor, got derailed this year. So again, I'm starting over. But starting over wiser, maybe more seasoned to how life is supposed to work. We'll see. But then again I realize that I'd taken that type of work because it was a quiet thing after a period of professional chaos. A quiet where I could focus and in that process I had let myself slip on so many levels. But I've always been professionally flexible and adapt quickly, and expect this new thing will push me to be better. And I need to be as good as I can be. Before I can't.  

Time is running out. This past year made it clear that my time and my luck won't last forever. And that I need to start chasing those dreams and doing those things I've been hesitating about, that I've been waiting for the right window of opportunity. I can't imagine how many variations on my future I've let die on the vine waiting for things I didn't have the audacity to begin. So as someone who has spent far too long getting ready for things to come, I need you to go out tonight and eat at that place you've thought about. Tell your loved ones they matter. Plan that trip. Start your journal, your side business, your religious awakening, your charity, your DYI project, your spaceship, your home brew, your exercise routine, to learn to cook, to learn a new language, to dance, to start walking, to mentor, go dancing, go camping, go the chili cook-off, join an improv group or try out for the national curling team. Just go do something, time is not your friend.

So that's what I learned in 2023. Go forth and do.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Art is a thing...

Ramblings Post #414
Art is a thing. I know when we imagined AI's arrival, we imagined that it would take away all the drudgery and accounting jobs, not the chasing of art. I've seen too many people giddy with the anticipation of "creation," if creation is now putting five sentences into a AI engine and hitting refresh until it spits out something they like. Or telling the AI to write a good book about subject X and to put this part and that part in it and feeling that they'd done something. It's something, no doubt...but it's not really Art. If you know what I mean.  

by Alisha Petrova - Orange mood

This might just be AI for all I know. I hope Alisha is still about that brush and strokes but this is nice, clean and calming. There is something about that skin tone in that color that is just striking though. 

by Don Lawrence

This is just feels fun. I may have to inquire about a print for this one, it's vibrant and alive and I don't know what to say. I like the hair, the color, her expression. I don't know if I have the appropriate space for it though. Like this is too much for my much subdued personal space. 

by Mike Machira

So simple, yet so nice. Colorful in her expression, in her posture, while muted in it's palette. Okay, I also have a thing for women with short hair too. To me, short or no hair on a woman is evidence of an inner self confidence, one that in a time when women use their "crown" to express themselves tells me that the person trusts their face, trusts who they are. Well, not Jada Pinkett-Smith, but all the rest of them.  

Barkeep, what wines do you have? I'd like something with a citrus, if you have it.

Monday, April 24, 2023

To that actuary, we salute you.

Ramblings Post #413
Don Lemon got fired from CNN today and it's almost a non-story. I kinda liked Don a while back, and yes, he has had his moments we all cheered that he was there, but you gotta be able to see where things around you are changing and adapt. I don't bear him any ill will and hope he lands on his feet, but man you gotta learn to check yourself from time to time, for the good of the long term. Now normally, Don might have been the focus. But sometimes you just gotta go with your gut. 

I think somewhere, in a small office at Fox News HQ, a small bespectacled man (or woman) of middle age did some very interesting math (actuarial science), emailed his boss and that boss emailed Rupert. At that Rupert called the lawyers and I'm guess five minutes after that they turned Tucker's badge off. Er, I mean, they told Tucker that he'd agreed with them to part ways.

While this is most certainty a tax write off for Fawx, as a cost of doing business, a good portion of these damages will probably be covered by insurance, the nature of which is referred to as media liability coverage. No doubt Fawx probably upped their coverage last year if it was an option, just in case. But settling with Dominion means that the impending suit with Smartmatic will probably have a similar outcome. It's kinda hard to argue when the judge starts with the premise that the defendant is guilty as hell. There may be a firm up for it, but I don't know who they might be. And as such there is a high probability that the settlement will be similar in size if not larger. Fawx has as cash on hand at this moment even after Dominion if need be, so no worries, and it too will be written off and handled by the insurer.  

But here is where the math comes in, and truth be told it's very likely that Capitalism is what did poor lil Tucker in. Let's guess that the total payout for both cases is around $1.8 billion. You may or may not be aware, but no insurer wants to pay out $18, much less $1.8 billion, although they're probably really only on the hook for 60-70% of it. But you've ever made a claim, you know what happens next: your rate goes up. So, with the Dominion payout and the the soon to be Smartmatic payout, either Fox's insurance rates just went through the roof, or any NEW policy they can find will no longer cover these circumstances - i.e., knowingly lying on the air. It's just too expensive. And although they admitted no wrong doing in the settlement, their current method of "news dissemination," which it didn't look like they planned to alter, was about to become more expensive.

So what does all that have to do with Tucker? Aside from the former producer's discrimination lawsuit? Well, it seems that on his show on Friday, Tucker stared out at the camera and denied that a Dominion settlement even existed.
Which brings us back to the at small bespectacled man (or woman) who was looking at future projections and realized what level of risk a continuation of current "news authentication" and "news opinion" was placing to Rupert's checkbook. The term "pattern" comes to mind, and patterns tend to increase judgments and therefore settlements that would come before them. The Dominion case, the Smartmatic case, the discrimination suit, the Shareholder suit I just found out about. My understanding is that Fawx literally ran the promo for Tucker's show right before the segment where they announced he that he and Fawx had decided to part ways. So, I'm thinking this decision was last minute.

I personally hope that he and his rhetoric are the first of many people that Fawx can no longer afford to keep supporting. To be clear, I doubt this ends the channel or anything else dramatic. I can already see the transition to podcasting or AM radio. But I do hope it returns some degree of civility to the majority of conservatives of this country and causes some degree of tempering of the most extreme conspiracy bound elements that seem to have been pushed the forefront as of late. I doubt that will happen, but one can dream.

Barkeep. Whiskey. The good kind. It's that kinda day. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

We Let Them Off The Hook

Ramblings Post #412
I need to get some focus. To find a center, calm the raging torrent of creativity trying to get out and find somewhere to start. And finish. At least a first draft. I've likened my production process for anything to that of freight train - slow at first, plodding but then picking up speed until once fully in motion I will put the rest of reality on hold to accomplish my goals. So, looking back, I'm thinking that might not be a good thing.

You let'em off the hook! 

In another reality, Dominion rejected the 788 million dollar settlement offer and went to trial. There there in a marathon session they went into detail about all 7,000 of their exhibits detailing what the court had already determined: That Fawx Nooz had lied. It took on Simpson trial proportions, with a nightly update in eighty three countries around the world. It was so damning even NewsMax pretended they hadn't lied as well and began covering it. That the network became a literal punchline. Then, the jury having tripled the damages to almost 5 billion, as part of the final ruling Fawx would have to make to the audience it hadn't even told it been in litigation an on-air admission. And so, in the form of an ongoing series of 1-minute spots to replace one commercial per hour - starring all the various hosts who'd pushed the election lie would tell there viewers that a)They'd been sued about their election coverage, b)that Fawx had lost, c) that the election hadn't been stolen and most importantly d) that they'd known that the election hadn't been stolen the whole time but told them that anyway. And that the judge would order these ads run on Fox, every hour in rotation, until the next election.

But Dominion took the money because...they're a business, not a national crusade and they needed the money. But to quote former Cardinals Head Coach Dennis Green, we let'em off the hook. And quite frankly it's more than a little sad.

Now, to be honest I hadn't expected a magical Matlock moment, a Legally Blonde realization or a My Cousin Vinny deduction at the last minute. It was always going to be more along the lines of an event Law & Order episode where at the end they look resigned to knowing that they'd given it the very best they could. In retrospect it was too hopeful to think this was about something larger than damages. The lawyers talked up the loss of reputation aspect a lot as we lead up to court day, but without a VERY public apology and/or a retraction of their characterization of Dominion's machines, it means that the national disinformation machine slips back into fifth and frames these damages as "minuscule" and "addressing a nuisance." The folks who believe Dominion was and still is compromised will still believe it - primarily because those people, some of whom control voting in local jurisdictions, only watch Fawx. With this little bump out of the way they will return to their bias affirming comfort propaganda with pockets just a touch lighter but not a wit wiser. The network is going to chalk this up as a victory, I can promise you that.

I can't really blame the lawyers here. They listen to their clients as to settlement. So it falls to Dominion. And I think their management was a bit short-sighted in their version how the future needs to play out. But then they have duty to their shareholders on down the line. In the end the people who choose the voting machines and who only watch Fawx are going to wake up next week and possibly not even know about the case. Dominion might have secured the bag, but at what cost. Maybe money alone wasn't the best fix if it doesn't address the long term perception, one which Fawx news can heavily influence?  

One hopes that the next defamation case, one by Smartmatic which should get a boost from this settlement, gets a little juicer. But I wouldn't count on it.     

Barkeep. A nice gin and tonic. For old times sake.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

No Bracket, so it's Meh...

Ramblings Post #411
I once opined that the least racist person in America is a football fan on Saturday Night in the south when their team is down by four with two minutes left. At that moment, if they think you can score a touchdown and get the W, they don't care what color you are. I stand by that statement.  

This year I could not spare the hours of research, player evaluation, game simulation and consideration of all of the other endless variables (height, weight, shoe size, major, beard or clean shaven) required to confidently construct a bracket that reflected my expectations for this years March Madness. Yeah, that sounds good. It's better than the truth, in that because I usually throw one together in five minutes based upon a) how impressive the team was in the mid-90s b) if I recognize the college c) if the mascot is cool and d) if my bracket needs some upset razzle-dazzle. And this year I just forgot. I remembered, but again because of my aforementioned well-honed and time-tested methodology I thought I could just do it later. I was wrong.

via the ESPN

Looking at the final four....wait, this is the Final Four? Like for the NCAA? Seriously? This looks like it would have popped out of a 2K version of March Madness, not actually happened. Theoretically, we all the love the Cinderella story, but damn. A couple FIVE seeds? A NINE seed? Was the selection committee on that Henny while setting up the brackets? We sure this isn't for baseball? Wait, if this is the final four, what the hell happened? 

I have to ask because this time around, because I didn't have any virtual skin in the game, I did not feverishly tune in. Or even really casually tune in. ... I suddenly realize why they make the brackets a thing. In any case, my usual situation would have been a pizza and/or some wings and few beers on Thursday and Friday, flipping between channels, catching snippets of a game here, listening to an announcer's thirty second history lesson of player 143, watching the drama unfold. Good game? I'm locked in. Game getting tight? I'm there. Upset alert? Changing channels now. This year? I think I watched Maine Cabin Masters. Due to some flooding and rot they put in new floors for this family retreat on one of the lakes, and tried to save the cabinets but eventually had to replace them. No, I'm not getting old. Maybe. But I wasn't watching basketball.

And I like sports. You know this. Maybe it's because I'm not as active as I could be I'm not into as much lately. Or maybe it's because I'm not into them I'm not active? In any case maybe it's because the NFL season never really ended with the Lamar Jackson shenanigans sucking up all the sports news oxygen in the room. Or that college basketball hadn't ever really been my thing. I like the pros, play the full 48 min games in whole seasons for 2k, can actually watch soccer and enjoy it, and on more than a few occasions stumbled across a sport, learned the basic rules and caught up in the drama in a matter of thirty minutes. And I'm supposed to be more social this year. So why did I miss this year's Madness? Dunno.

Barkeep. A gin and tonic. No, I have no idea why. No, I don't actually want one either. Just some juice.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

It should have never gotten to where it feels familiar...

This is a political post.  

The usual Mass Shooting cycle : Outrage - Generous use of the phrase "thoughts and prayers" followed by indicating it's far too soon to discuss anything other than grieving - denial and deflection - next major news event....

And this week's major news event was a doozy.

It used to be relatively easy to do political commentary. Well, easier than it is now. The cycle for issues that need to be addressed has reduced from weeks to days, sometimes hours. There used to be time to research a bit and craft a cogent, intelligent comment that maybe someone would read and gain a bit of new perspective. But then when I started this, and even as recently as a few years ago, things seemed much slower. I'm not naive, this stuff as always happening somewhere, it's just now with new media instead of just happening we get to hear about it. I almost miss the days of three channels and PBS. 

Step 3: Denial

The shooting, as all events of this nature are, was tragic. And almost immediately that now familiar cycle started. Video I shouldn't have watched, images of distraught mother, distraught children, etc. But it's not quite the same as before, as local conservative politicians hot to serve their base couldn't get a handle on DENIAL this time through. I wasn't sure if it was an actual total lack of empathy or just a failure to understand how media works, but they started saying the quiet parts out loud. If I was even a amateur political hack the focus of all my ad campaigns would the use of the phrase "We're not going to fix it" to batter all conservatives and their issues, from inflation to education, banking to crime. I'm just saying, they're serving up softballs here.

Then we stalled again at DEFLECTION, when the conservative media discovered that the shooter identified as trans. The outpouring of madness that ensued was as though a spigot of hate had been thrown wide open and then the handle broken off. Suddenly the tragedy was transformed into "an attack on Christianity" and proof that right wing efforts at the state level to end trans as a concept were just plain valid. Incorrect memes appeared and every mass shooter ever was apparently trans so now something needed to be done. Not ban guns - or even assault rifles - but something else. I had to stop reading when I saw someone suggest putting trans people in "camps" on one social media site. Camps? And we're arguing that kids need a sanitized version of history? Because that is a suggestion that should have set off alarms upon conception, much less been shared. I am sickened and horrified of what we are becoming.

Then, a moment we never thought would happen came to pass...Cheato got indicted. 

From the Washington Post

I'll be honest, I was in the I won't believe it until I see him an slightly more orange jumpsuit crowd, but this is farther than we've ever gotten before. Bragg ain't playin' with him, even tricked him into praising the Grand Jury when he thought Bragg was going to send them on vacay for a month. Owch.

But Cheato is another story. Our focus should be on the shooting, the new seemingly never ending violence and what we can do now to turn the tide. I understand protesters disrupted the Tennessee legislature today - not stormed as was reported. There was a lot of singing. I hope it soothed an aching soul or two.