Mourn not

Mourn not the waning of the moon

Nor weep at the departure of the tide

Lament not the setting of the sun

Rejoice the fallen for as above it is below

With the dawn they arise with old skin anew

These are our demands

Today the U.S. Government is held randsom by a vocal minority who are placing their ideology above the greater good. I applaude the passion, I really do, but something feels a bit short circuited about the whole affair. I’m not really interested in talking about that but the one sided nature of the argument gives me the sense some kind of counter demand must be shouted back to our now defunct congress. The precedent has been set that legislators will not perform their civic duties when they cannot get their way. Again, I do not write this to debate the merits of one side versus the other because frankly both political parties that strangle our nation are damned and they inflict upon its citizens a slow rot from within. People like to equate corruption in politics to cancer but what is happening to us feels more like a virulent strain of H.I.V.

I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Libertarian. I am not a Socialist. I am none of the things that pundits love to typecast in order to pre-emptively discredit anyone who does not tow the party line. I am a new kind of American that is weary of hard lines that dictate how I should vote. You cannot marginalize me with the application of a simple label. You will be forced to address my grievances with critical thought and real solutions. You cannot blame the other guy because by doing so you have absolved yourself of all responsibility as an American citizen. Once you have done that, there is no discussion to have and I kindly ask you to find the door.

It saddened me to see the Occupy movement become little more than a whimper. Of course I’m angry that the special interests were able to wage a successful propoganda campaign which cut it off at the knees. I am more angry at those who were the strongest proponents of the movement. With no unified message and no clear voice to make all of our grievances visceral for the majority who sit on the fence, fearful of losing their meager comforts and desperate to echo the voices who calmly say “Everything is ok”. The problems are overwhelming, I get it. There are simply too many things going wrong and they are all intertwined in a spaghetti mess that makes it nearly impossible to find where the fault lies.

The GOP has provided the rest of congress with a list of demands before they will fund the government. I now retort with my own list of demands. My demands are not directed just at the GOP, they are directed at the entire congress of the United States. They are directed at the president. They are directed at the business leaders who now fund our legislators and they are directed at anyone who votes. Let this be the vox populi for our generation. As I have stated I have no partisan agenda and my demands are beholden to no political platform and no ideology and so people of every political persuasion should have no issue with with what I am asking for. My desire is to see the United States government represent the will of the people and to become an apparatus of our collective desire for quality of life and so called inalienable rights.

The first four demands are not negotiable and must be addressed immediately before we can move forward as a democractic nation. Put bluntly these are demands that existing law is observed and enforced. The remaining demands for change should naturally follow but I acknowledge that they will take time to phase in.

 

1. Amend the constitution to state that only a living, breathing, human being enjoys the rights and privileges of citizenship in the United States. Dismantle the farce that is Citizens United which allows corporate entities to dump unprecedented money into political campaigns. This practice has allowed special interests with deep pockets to sway legislative agendas and override the will of individual citizens whose voices are being ignored because money is a far more persuasive political motivator. The fallout from this has been audacious deregulation that threatens the very foundations of our nation’s economic stability as well as our health and environment for the benefit of a minority elite class. The obvious pervasiveness of plutocracy in the United States is unsustainable and will provide the engine for the worst type of unrest this nation has ever seen. Couple this constitutional amendment with a clause that makes using private money to fund public election campaigns illegal and provide transparency requirements in order for this to be enforceable. Once elections can only be publicly funded it will open the political debate to people who do not come from wealth and it removes the advantage of special interests. This is our number one priority.

2. Enforce laws that prohibit public officials from receiving money, gifts, or promises of gifts in exchange for influence on the political process and on policy making (http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/11/201). This would mean and end to lobbyism which is the primary engine for special interests to override the will of the public. Create requirements for transparency that would make all of a public official’s finances a matter of public record.

3. Reinstate the affiliation restrictions that originally existed in the Glass-Steagall act and were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act. It was this decision that allowed securities investment banks to merge with commercial banks and gamble with public money which in turn brought about the financial crisis in 2008 and has left the global economic system in shambles ever since. This is where “Too Big to Fail” came from and it should never have been permitted. Much of this legislation was put in place in the wake of the original financial collapse that we all know as the Great Depression. This has given select financial institutions far too much influence over the economic well being of the United States as well as the rest of the global community who rely on our stability for their own. It is not the government’s responsibility or domain to prop up failing private businesses with public money. Doing so incentives continued risky behavior which perpetuates our economic dependence on the financial elite. This is unacceptable.

4. Enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust laws. We all feel the pain of monopolies in our every day lives. Many of the household name companies were are all familiar with are all owned by a handful of mega corporation conglomerates. The consequences of this should be obvious but some of the more destructive effects of this are price fixing and the ever increasing disparity between wages and the cost of living. Companies that are not forced to compete have no incentive to innovate and without any check beyond their own bottom line there is no incentive to maintain quality conrol or social responsibility. This creates a scenario where public well being becomes secondary to profit margins. This has been demonstrated time and time again throughout our nation’s history. The most devastating example of this is the consolidation of media companies. Publications and radio stations and news networks have all been sucked up by a handful of politically motivated corporate entities and as a result journalism in the United States has been irreparably compromised which has breeded political corruption and the nuetralization of any incentive for self governance. A healthy democracy must have uncensored journalism.

5. Public elections must accurately reflect the will of the voters. The United States must implement Run-Off Elections (The Alternative Vote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE&feature=share). This will allow us to break free of the two party gridlock we now find ourselves in. The benefits of having more than two parties sharing in policy making goes beyond fresh ideas. Currently there is not enough distinction between our two party platforms and when there is disagreement there is no incentive to compromise and no effective recourse for the public to replace officials who cannot or will not perform there duties. This would also eliminate the necessity of “voting for the lesser evil” which continues to disenfranchise voters who would otherwise become politicly engaged. A healthy democracy must have public engagement.

6. Enforce term limits for all public officials. Politics is not a career, it is a civic duty and therefore should incentivize all citizens to participate in the process. Permitting public officials to remain in office for no longer than 8 years would encourage new ideas and keep politicians in touch with the realities all private citizens must face. This would also serve to make the consequences of their policies more visceral as there is no promise of incumbency to buffer them.

7. Eliminate subsidies for public officials. Politicians should not enjoy additional privileges not available to private citizens. This includes benefits like government funded health care and immunities from the rule of law. This would also serve to keep politicians in touch with the realities faced by private citizens. This would incentivize politicians to enact policy that benefit everyone and not just themselves. The law should apply to every citizen equally.

 

This is the platform that all politicians should run on moving forward. This is the message the Occupy movement should have shouted. These are the demands that our citizens should make on the government if they have any desire to retain its tradition as a free democracy with any kind of moral authority. If these demands are not met then we will collectively face dark days ahead. One needs only look at historical precedence to see where the path we walk now leads. Only when these demands are met will the United States be exceptional once again.

What keeps me awake at nights

It’s 4:30 AM and in 3 hours I will be walking out the door to catch the bus down town to my job. I love my job. It pays the bills. I work in an industry that I love and can stand behind with good moral conscience knowing that I am doing some good by contributing my skills. I love my family. I am proud that I can provide for them adequately and we are able to live quite comfortably even if we are not worry free. My quality of life is good and I consider myself immensely fortunate. 

I awoke not long ago before I started writing this. I got up to use the bathroom which is pretty typical only this time I did not fall back asleep. Instead I lay in my bed facing the dark wall and considered all of the things that had gone wrong the day before. Is that not the time for such things? It is the time there is truly enough silence in the world around me to contemplate my purpose and take stock of my personal fears. Where had the world gone wrong? Something happened yesterday that gave me pause and made me think that I should reconsider how I interact with the world around me.

Those who know me have no doubt had to suffer through my online soapbox ranting at some point. I spend a lot of my time online reading articles and opinions to help me paint a broader picture of what’s going on in the world. Usually I try to share my findings with friends and family. I’m pretty sure most of them gloss over when I post my walls of text as I rail, dumbfounded at how they cannot possibly be outraged by the realities in which we live. I find it exponentially frustrating knowing that left to fate, things can only grow more dire and those who approach facts with apathy will soon find themselves bound by chains they cannot escape. I cannot do the same. Anxiety will destroy my body long before then.

I read an article yesterday regarding the recent government take down of the Lavabit email service. I urge people to familiarize themselves with this case as I expect there will be a lot more of this following the recent revelations regarding pervasive domestic surveillance. This news outraged me almost to the point of frothing and why shouldn’t it? We are seeing the dawn of a new era in the U.S. Where secret laws and shadow courts are becoming accepted and fascism is emerging into the open. What once made our nation a shining beacon of the ages is now a forgotten dream and a darkness rushes in to fill the void. I commented on the aforementioned article in an on line community that I participate in and was met with such extreme pathological apathy about my own outrage I felt as though the wind had been knocked from me. I was called a fearless armchair hero. It was pretty clear to me that this person was a troll but I couldn’t ignore an element of truth to the comment. To be fair to myself I don’t consider my political commentary to be simple blustering. I share information with the specific purpose in mind of educating my peers so that they can make more informed decisions. Clearly the media outlets have faltered in their responsibilities so it falls on private citizens to root out information between the rampant propoganda and make the truth known. I don’t consider myself to be of the tin hat variety either because as they say you’re not crazy if the sky really is falling. My purpose is to influence the outcome by starting a ripple. Perhaps that is not enough. I feel like my words fall on deaf ears any way so maybe the troll had something valuable to share.

So I laid awake in the middle of the night with no hope of returning to my unsettling dreams and I considered my options. I imagined what Abraham Lincoln would say if he saw what we had done to our government. Would he rub his hands together in envy wishing that he had tasted of the unchecked power that our politicians now abuse? Or would his heart sink in pure disappointment that we had taken something that he had cherished and worked so hard to preserve and tossed it aside like an old shoe that was no longer in style. Would Thomas Jefferson share my immense disappointment that we had fallen prey to the very things he warned us about in his writings? Over two hundred years later the monarchs are having their revenge. Did they know that we would eventually collapse back into the old system that we fought so desparately to separate ourselves from? Have they been biding their time all these centuries?

I consider my options and contemplate my weapons. I grew up observing that the pen is indeed a mightier weapon than the sword. How do I use this in a world where both are used to obtain a desired outcome? I feel a growing pressure to use both myself but I also feel as if I now stand at a precipice. I know what awaits us at the bottom of that precipice. It’s a misery most of us have never experienced. There has to be a better way. I appeal to man’s enlightened ideals that there simply must be a better way to step back from this damned precipice.

Dualing Pens

The urge to start writing again happened earlier this year. I had been throwing around some ideas in my mind and discussing it with my wife who plays a skilled devil’s advocate. She is an avid reader as well and had some of her own ideas for novels that she had shared with me. I had read some of her past work which consisted mostly of short stories and poetry and I found her style to be quite inspiring. I think the reason for that inspiration came from her differing style. We joke about how I’m the left brained one and she’s the right brained one so together we fit naturally together and that’s why we are able to function despite being such different people. Functional relationships are functional because the individuals involved are complementary right? The funny thing is that she can be quite left-brained as well. She commonly under-estimates her own intelligence and I play along but secretly harbor tremendous respect for her intellect.

A funny thing happens when we start discussing writing unlike other topics we might casually banter about. Something triggers during our discussions that compell us to rush our thoughts so that we can interject before the other person does that same. A placid surface of water immediately becomes a roiling and boiling pot alight with inspirations and completed thoughts. Often these sessions climaxed into what we call our writing challenges. During these challenges we would offer up a concept, a writing style, or a phrase and we would each write a short story and compare. These stories would often be restricted to one or two pages in order to promote focus and strain our descriptive muscles. You would not believe how challenging it is for me to write a one page story. My wife on the other hand, excels at this. Eventually, I expanded these challenges to include my mother who is also a skilled writer (she’s the only one amongst us that’s actually published). This went on for a while and I found the entire experience extremely rewarding as it prompted self discovery. Not only did these challenges force me to attempt things I had never tried before but it also helped me find my voice. This was enough to prime the engine and soon enough I started working on an outline for a major novel.

When my ideas were developed enough I shared them with my wife. I had been researching best practices for organizing my ideas as the scale of the novel was overwhelming – like I said, I never do anything small – so naturally I shared my findings with her when I found something that really worked. She was encouraging but also offered caution that I might be biting off more than I can chew. She suggested I start with something smaller to get more practice before diving into something so epic. It was sound advice and I had been tossing around another idea for a number of months for something that was much more accessible. It was little more than a shell of an idea which I eagerly shared and much to my surprised she latched onto it immediately. We spent the rest of the day fleshing it out and before long we realized that we had created a story together. Our differing perspectives and interests in the story created a synergy that inspired us both. For at least a year or two before that we had discussed the possibility of collaborating. She had repeatedly cited the collaboration of Michael and Kathleen O’Neill Gear who wrote the vast “People of…” series of books. Their relationship is not unlike our own it seems. I agreed that such a collaboration would inevitably be fruitful given our individual strengths.

I mulled the idea around for a month of two and in the meantime I was fully submerged in the outlining of my larger novel. I was unwilling to let any inspiration pass me by and spent my time writing character profiles and scene outlines. We didn’t discuss the other idea for some time until one morning on the bus the muse struck me and I began to write the first chapter. What’s funny is at the same time, Catt (that’s my wife by the way) had been struck by the muse as well and had written a scene for a different story in a frenzied fashion. She shared it with me and she was suddenly ablaze for her own novel based on a concept that she had been internalizing for the better part of the last three or four years.

At that point we began feeding off of eachother’s enthusiasm and for a period of about a month we both poured ourselves into our writing. I wrote nearly 40 pages of the beginning of our shared story and she wrote 50 pages of her own story and we exchanged chapters as they were completed. Together we explored our voices and traded ideas about methodology and style. One thing we agreed on was to generate first drafts without going back to revise until we were done. For the most part we followed those guidelines but we did not hesitate to violate that rule when the stories demanded it. The combined surge was a liberating experience. Something unexpected came to life in the process however.

As you well know by now, it has always been my intention to eventually become a career writer. The trouble I run into more often than not is that my inspiration comes in fits. I will spend weeks or months during one of these fits churning out pages as fast as my fingers will create them. Inevitably comes the stall. The stall is a period of absolute desolation where no ideas come to me and I write nothing. The reasons for this vary – life circumstances, major work load, or perhaps a new video game has captured my fancy for a time. I had arrived at a scene in the story I was working on that was particularly difficult for me. I knew what was going to happen in the scene but I was unable to get motivated about it. I haven’t added any pages to that story since. I’ve also added very little content to the outline of the larger project. Quite remarkably however, Catt continued to progress on her own project. It appeared the genie had been released from the bottle and there was nothing that was going to stop those words from pouring onto the page. It’s been at least a couple of months since this whole process started and she has been spending every possible moment writing.

I have been permitted to read very little of what she has written at this point so I can’t comment on much beyond what she has shared but what I can say is that what she is accomplishing is nothing short of inspirational. What I have witnessed is how I would imagine a condor takes flight after an extensive sedentary rest. I look up in the sky now from where I stand on the ground feeling both a sense of pride and a sense of envy. The envy comes from my perception of what appears to be a readily accessible firehose of ideas for her. She has managed to find a direct line to the muse and so I watch with great interest as she progresses and I slowly plan for my own flight which I hope will be equally inspirational for her. She is my partner in life in every way.

Who I am

This blog has had as many incarnations as a cat has lives. Some of you who have been here before may be confused by the new format since originally this was a technical blog that focused on development. It got good traffic and had some neat content but it was difficult to get motivated about writing articles. I work all day on code and as much as I am passionate about it I often didn’t want to spend my personal time writing about it. I have a lot of interests in my life and code is only one of them, albeit the most profitable one. If you are here looking for my old technical articles I apologize – they are gone and I have no plans to archive them anywhere. Everything is long obsolete now. Funny how technology is like that. This is not to say that I still don’t write those articles. I just host them elsewhere now. I had some other blogs too, one in particular that focused on politics and atheism but it was a pain in the ass maintaining multiple blogs and I found myself spending more time worrying about which blog to post to than writing the posts. I just want to write what’s on my mind now and I don’t want it to be complicated.

When I was a child I decided that I was going to be writer when I was older. I used to write novels that spanned hundreds of pages when I was in middle school. It was mostly science fiction and high fantasy. I still keep my writing in a box in the closet and every once in a while I burn a few hours reliving some of those memories. It’s an experience that’s both wonderful and embarrassing. The imagination was there and there was even the spark of personal style but as you would expect from the writings of an adolescent it lacked something extremely important… life experience. There was a point during my teenage years when I decided that to put down the pen and come back to it after I had lived a decade or two. In the interim I decided to become a software developer.

I take great pride in that most life goals that I have set for myself I have managed to hit. I can recall a night I spent hanging out with my mother at the beginning of my senior year of high school when she point blank asked me what did I want to do with my life. I had been struggling with high school, socially, so naturally I was extremely unhappy. I want to be a computer programmer, was what I told her without even taking a breath. It was something I had become passionate about in the last 2 years and I was convinced that I wanted to make it my career. Maybe it was my conviction or maybe it was that I had chosen an industry that was exploding at the time and held ultimate promise but she basically gave me the green light to pick myself up out of my rut and get on with what I wanted to do. This meant leaving high school to start a more useful curriculum in college. I was thrilled by this and immediately took flight. Within 3 years I had my college degree in hand and I was working on my next goals, the largest one being to marry my best friend. Somewhere in there was a goal involving a Lexus by the time I was 30 but due to economic circumstances beyond my control some things had to wait.

Fast forward a decade or two and I find myself at the peak of my career as a software developer. I manage a growing team focused on maintaining one of the largest WordPress sites on the web. I sit here now looking back on my time since leaving high school and find that I can finally tap into a wealth of life experience. I feel that I can finally pick my pen back up and resume where I left off. My new goal is to write all the time. I am going to write as much as I possibly can. I suspect my friends and family on Facebook will be grateful that I have found a new outlet for my walls of text which I dump liberally onto unappreciative streams of food porn and canned opinions expressed through internet memes. I apologize to those of you who have found my opining insufferable and I hope that you were able to pick some insight out of my rants. I admit that I am a man of strong opinion. I do my best to build my opinions on a foundation of verifiable facts and I will likely continue to do so through this medium but sometimes there’s nothing to be done for people who want nothing to do with reality – or my interpretation of it. The realization I’ve known for some time is that social media is a useless medium for soapbox ranting and at best all I’ve accomplished is to uncover who agrees with me. This has been frustrating as it has always been my goal to flush out those who disagree with me and have them convince me of their view. I admit it – I love to debate. It seems no one else does.

So here I sit typing away on my laptop. I am a father, a husband, a son, a developer, a cat lover, a writer, a humanist, a science enthusiast, a reader, a gamer, a redditor, an asshole, and plenty of other things I’m sure. It’s unlikely I will have another job as a developer beyond the one I now hold so that means to me that I have reached the next phase of my life. Or maybe I’ve come full circle. Everyone spends the first couple of decades of their life figuring out who they are and my life was no exception. I was pretty confused up until about 28. I’ve had to make enough hard decisions by now and I know who I am now and I know what I want to do while I’m still on this planet. I’m going to start by picking up my pen. I’m going to tell you a story.

Frederico

I awoke to the sound of despair yesterday, the wailing of my wife as she had just learned of the tragic death of the Green Grocer’s shop cat, Frederico. I rushed down the stairs to learn this for myself and immediately the tone for the next untold number of weeks was set. Our 16 pound long haired white and orange friend to all had been taken from us abruptly by vehicle in the night. I don’t know who the driver was or if the slaughter of an innocent soul was their desire or intention but I can attribute a handful of qualities to this person and if karma is a force that exists in the universe then this person has some rough times ahead of them.

My wife and I rushed to the store seeking more information since we were unable to contact our informant directly where we were able to tend to the body once inhabited by one of the friendliest creatures that had ever graced me with their presence. In times like these we are flooded with a number of emotions which prompt a number of questions among which include the why’s and the how’s of the tragedy but ultimately I think we find that the details matter little and all we have is the wake of what is left behind. This includes lifeless staring eyes and the absolute devastation from such a traumatic loss not unlike the ripping of an organ from your living body. This is only an account of how I feel. The collective grief of an entire community which is sure to follow can only be described as overwhelming.

We wrapped him up in his favorite blanket which he often slept on when kept in the shop overnight and laid him beneath the old tall tree which shaded the store, the tree under which he had spent countless lazy days basking in whatever sun the Oregon sky could spare. He was not flipping back and forth mindlessly deriving whatever strange pleasure he received from immersing himself in the dirt but he still seemed oddly at peace on that overcast morning. I sat there completely at a loss for words next to my wife while we waited for the store owner to come claim her fallen companion.

It was an inexplicably cold morning for late July and our extremities numbed but we would not be moved from watching over our friend until we could be certain he was tended. In moments like these the brain goes into an unusual state whereby emotions run things for a little while. You try to make sense of the situation but often find yourself looking for a place to lay blame. Some people place it on the driver, others place it on God, and others still place it upon themselves as irrational as that can be. These are the moments that remind us that we have one of two positions we can take in our power struggle with universe around us both with inescapable consequences.

In my heartbroken daze I chose to observe little white spiders as they went about their day, crawling across whatever lay in their path. They traversed the blanket that bound our friend and I wondered inwardly if they had any awareness of the tragedy evidenced by the cold presence in their domain. Did they mourn their dead or did they simply go about their daily business perpetually accepting their existence as what it was? At the base of the tree was a type of grass or weed that reminded me of wheat. They were no more than six inches high and when I ran my fingers upward along the stock small seedlike pods became dislodged and dropped to the ground. I assumed they would eventually take root and grow into new stalks where the cycle would start all over again. The ground was thick with brown lifeless stalks between the green standing stalks. From where I sat on the cold ground, the dead stalks outnumbered the living ones 3 to 1. From the perspective of a human I translated this in my mind, imagining mankind mired by the dead in similar proportion. Was this a reality hidden by the habit of burying and burning our deceased? This was a subtle reminder to me that we are not unbound by this harsh cycle of life. I tried to comfort myself with this thought but could not shake that poor Frederico was not given the chance to complete his part of the cycle. It is hard to justify the ending of a life by way of ignorance or malice. It is a true test of fortitude that stays your hand from reciprocation in tragedies like this. Was it chance, fate, or evil that did this thing? In either case my eyes were drawn to the weeds that had prevailed through a raised crack in the asphalt of the parking lot and I was reminded that time will ultimately do its part.

I am not a religious man but I consider myself a spiritual one in a way. I know that Frederico will go where he needs to go and I know that somewhere new life drew breath. Perhaps a beautiful newborn kitten entered the world with the destiny of bringing another person untold joy. Certainly Frederico’s body will release its energy to the garden under which he was buried and nature will express her gratitude in beautiful and bountiful ways. How can she not be grateful to receive back a beautiful thing which she created to experience the universe. I take solace knowing she will take that experience into herself and get to feel the intense collective love that Frederico drew from everyone around him. He will be missed.

 

frederico