Too Much Self-Reflection

Zoom meetings and Teams meetings and all of the online video conferencing software has me doing something all the time now: looking at myself.

It isn’t narcissism. I’m not in love with what I see. Far from it. The meetings start and my camera picks up my face, and it’s there in front of me along with everyone else’s. I can’t help be see myself.

My hair is thinning. I look tired. My face is easier to look at when I smile.

I can’t be certain that people are seeing me the same way. It’s my face, so I’m going to be hypercritical of the flaws, which stand out to me. If there is beauty in my countenance, I do not see it. If someone were to find my ever-punchable mug attractive, I cannot fathom why. Yet it’s there every work day in front of me, ready for me to judge in the harshest terms. Harsher than I would ever be with someone else.

My cruel judgement is not reserved my appearance alone. In fact, I am more for critical of my voice, personality, and abilities. I wonder sometimes how anyone can stand to be in meetings with me, or take me seriously when I offer suggestions.

If you ask Melissa, it’s not a lack of confidence. She will tell you that I’m brash and cocky, which is more or less true. I think I’m just tired of my living in my own head, putting up with all of my own bullshit, and feeling trapped inside myself. Have you ever met someone that you just can’t stand, and you’re not sure why? That’s me putting up with myself.

In spite of all that, I’m doing the work. I pretend I’m as good as everyone around me need me to be, and no one seems to see through it. I roleplay as a version of myself that is competent, and somehow tasks get done. Maybe not as fast as I want them completed, but that’s a matter of time management and energy levels. I don’t ever have enough time, and some days it’s hard to get anything done when on the inside, I’m spending so much effort trying to ignore myself.

This all feels too personal. Too honest. Too much self-reflection.

Like I’m staring at myself in the Zoom call again, wondering why eyes keep getting drawn there, wishing I could look away.

Tomorrow, my critique group will meet again, on Discord this time, and we’ll go over the next 10,000 words in my story and Mike Baltar’s. My image will be up on the screen again, and I’ll put on my best smile and try to be as present as possible. It might be a good day, and I might be all there. Or it might be a bad day, and it’ll be one of those meetings I get through rather than enjoy. I’m not sure. They’re good people that I enjoy and respect very much, so I want to be present for them.

They will have things to say about my story that my ears will hear correctly, but my mind will twist into barbs. The words might be “I liked this, but I wish it was…” and my ears will capture their voice but my brain will be interpret it as “If you were a better writer, you would have done…” I’ll spend a significant amount of energy focusing on the words, trying to translate them back to reality, rather than allow the suggestions to become fuel used by my cruel inside voice.

We’re all going through this, aren’t we?


Vaccine Mandates

The Supreme Court struck down the Biden mandate that all businesses with 100 employees or more require vaccination or testing. Healthcare workers can still be required to vaccinate, but it’s not going to be enough.

At the same time, we have a truly frightening surge of Omicron right now. The numbers are bad.

As a footnote, Glenn Beck has Covid for the second time. He never got vaccinated, and he’s apparently taking de-wormer.

Vaccines shouldn’t be a political issue. Vaccines save lives. They’re proven to be effective at keeping people healthy. We’ve had them for a very long. They don’t cause autism. They aren’t a way for the government to track you. It’s just good science applied to keep people alive and healthy.

I’m not entirely surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision, but I am disappointed. I had some hope. There was a vaccine case that went to the Supreme Court in 1905 in which the court upheld that a state could enforce vaccines, for the purpose of protecting the common good.

When it’s not political, we don’t have a problem complying with rules and laws that are there to protect people. People aren’t citing a religious preference to driving on the left side of the road instead of the right. People aren’t using conspiracy theories or debunked science to keep restaurant workers from wearing hairnets or washing their hands. Seatbelts laws are enforced. You will get in trouble if you are caught shitting in public outside a restroom. You’re not allowed to just hit someone, even if they make you angry.

You know. Laws. We have lots of them that infringe on an individual’s ability to do whatever they want, so that the people as a collective are protected.

If vaccines and masks and this whole stupid virus wasn’t the subject of political grandstanding, this wouldn’t be a question. We’d look at the numbers, squeak a collective “YIKES,” then do whatever we could to protect our friends and family. Barring that, we’d do whatever we could to protect our precious economy.

Make no mistake, having everyone get sick for a while, repeatedly, is a bad financial decision. It causes delays and shortages, and scarcity makes the prices go up, and… oh look! The exact problem we’ve all been facing since shortly after the pandemic began!

The Supreme Court blocked the federal government from trying to stop the spread of the virus, but individual states could still enact their own mandates. They should, but most won’t. So people will still travel across state lines, unvaccinated, unmasked, and the virus will continue to spread.

Omicron is bad. What will the next variant be like? And the one after that? With the way Omicron is exploding right now, we should probably expect multiple variants taking hold in the coming weeks and months.

I want to tie this in to writing, somehow, but the only thing that comes to mind is that this is what is occupying my mind instead of fiction. This is the kind of thing that distracts me from work. I’m not in any direct danger, but this is my home, and whether I like them or not, these are my people. How can I look away when I see us headed for a cliff?


Gaming PC: The Money Pit

I’m staying in on Wednesday nights, and since I’m not ready to do much writing, I’m playing a lot of computer games. Thankfully, I’ve got a group of friends to play with, which is really helping me get through some tough times.

Just before Cyberpunk came out, I decided I needed a new gaming PC. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about it a little here. This was right before the 30X series of NVidia graphics cards came out, and right before it became ridiculously difficult to get a video card at all.

I started building the system in September 2020 and ultimately finished it in February 2021. I had most of it at the beginning of November, but I had to get a temporary video card while trying to get a 3080. When I did finally get a 3080, it came with a custom water block on it. Which meant I needed to learn how to do custom water cooling.

Honestly, this was great! I’ve always been a bit of a technophile and getting into water cooling expanded my enthusiasm for this already expensive hobby. I watched a lot of tutorials and then went relatively cheap on the radiator, pump, and tubing. I already had an AIO for the processor, so I had somewhat limited space in the case for cooling the video card. But I managed to get it working, and it was great! Even if it was a little bit ugly.

The pump was ridiculously loud, so I ordered another one. The new one worked pretty well for a little while, but then the cheap plastic filter inside broke down and filled the entire loop with floating bits of waste. The temps on the card went through the roof, and I was afraid I was going to ruin it if I didn’t do something. I temporarily switched to the old, noisy pump, long enough to limp along while I waited for a more expensive pump and reservoir combo to arrive.

With the new equipment, I was able to internalize the loop and suddenly, my gaming computer started to look a little bit more professional! But some of the fans were kind of loud. So I replaced all of those. Now they all match!

But now, the cheap reservoir I started with is starting to seem bad, and the flimsy tubing might be restricting water flow, so while the system is working, the temps are kind of high and the system is not performing as well as it should. Last night, I ordered hard tubing, a 360mm radiator to replace the 240mm, and all the fittings I should need to install fresh plumbing in my system.

What’s the lesson to learn here?

  1. Don’t go cheap unless you really know what you’re doing. I could have saved a lot of time and money and emotional stress if I’d paid a bit more from the beginning.
  2. If you care about something, be prepared to put the maintenance in. Just throwing the parts together and hoping for the best isn’t going to lead to a lasting solution.
  3. Expensive hobbies are expensive, so don’t be surprised when the money pit has no bottom.

I think there are parallels I can draw between the build of this system and a writing career. I keep considering self-publishing The Repossessed Ghost and I keep hesitating because I can’t shake the feeling that to do it right, I’m going to have to spend quite a bit of money. I’m going to want to hire an editor, a cover artist, and pay for some kind of advertising program in order to spread the word about the book. It’s starting a business, which itself is a money pit with no discernable bottom… at least at first. Money is supposed to flow to the writer, but sometimes the writer is a small business owner, which changes everything.

If you were wondering, my gaming system runs Cyberpunk really, really well. I play it at 4K, ultra settings, at just under 60FPS. When I get the radiator replaced and my cooling situation under control, I’ll probably get over 60FPS consistently. And maybe that’s the last parallel: whether it’s a gaming rig or a writing career, you have to decide what you’re willing to settle for. At this point, while I still have the will and patience to hold out, I’m not ready to settle for less than my dream.


Living with Uncertainty

I dreamt of some code changes I wanted to finish before a meeting today, where I needed to present the current state of a project I’m woefully behind on. I stayed up late last night getting the project past a milestone, and I took some time to polish it this morning. Then, in the meeting, it didn’t go well.

The code is cleaner and easier to read. It’s just not quite there yet.

I worked on it when I could today, but my new schedule and responsibilities keep me from coding most days. It’s good and it’s bad. Good, because this is the natural evolution of my career. I can’t remain a programmer forever, because there isn’t enough time in the day for me to stay up-to-date on all the changes. I can help other people by bringing with me all the things I’ve already learned, but year after year I’m just going to fall further and further behind the technology until we reach a point where I don’t bring a lot of value to the table.

So I’m a team leader, now, with more non-technical responsibilities. It’s an exciting time! But it’s also a time where I feel uncertain a lot. As a programmer, you can look at the product you’ve created and know objectively if you’ve done a good job. Does it compile? Does it run? Does it satisfy all of the requirements? You’ve done a good job.

My new responsibilities aren’t quite so cut and dry. Am I providing enough help to my team? Am I shielding them from stuff so that they can focus on important tasks? Am I acting as a good bridge when I’m called upon to convey the needs of my team to other people? Who knows?

My boss has told me I’m doing a good job, so I’m trusting him on that. There’s still a lot of uncertainty, but I guess that’s part of the job.

Maybe when I get better at handling the uncertainty in my day job, I’ll be better equipped to handle it in my writing career.

The parallels are obvious. I can know with some degree of certainty if I wrote the story well. However, I can’t know if it’s going to sell, and most of the time, I won’t know if I’ve done a good job selling it to an agent or publisher. Maybe I did a terrible job, and that’s why they’re not picking it up. Or maybe I did a fantastic job, but the work isn’t right for their slate, or one of a thousand other factors are at play making it impossible for them to pick up my story. Again, who knows?

This is the Uncertainty Phase of my life. I have to keep working and trying to move forward, even if there’s fog on all sides and I don’t know if I’m turned around and going the wrong way. I have to trust that I started off the write direction, and try not to veer one way or the other, while hoping that there isn’t some chasm right in front of me.


How to Gain More Executive Function?

Yesterday, I wrote a really nice blog post detailing what I could learn about writing from my experiences with my 3D printer. Not a writing advice post, where I talk about verbs and adjectives and different ways of telling a story. Yesterday was more about the mental health of the writer, where after some trauma, things may not be in balance and writing simply won’t work until some maintenance has been performed.

That was about all I managed to do yesterday. I’m a little bit behind on a project at work, and I had every intention of making some progress on the code. There’s not that much left to do. Instead, I sat in the garage, staring at code, unable to make myself program. I spent around 6 hours in that state, trying to trick myself into moving the ball forward. It just wouldn’t happen. In the evening, I gave up and let myself watch videos and play a few games. Nothing too serious or intense, because the same lack of energy that kept me from programming kept me from doing anything else too involved.

Last night, I had trouble sleeping. I kept waking up with my limbs numb and tingling. Flexing my fingers, I could feel every tendon and ligament, and all my joints felt stiff, like they were locking into different positions. This happens to me from time to time, and I usually just wiggle my fingers a bunch until my circulation is flowing again. Last night, it wasn’t working. I struggled all night.

When I finally got up to the alarm, I knew I couldn’t work today. It was going to be worse than yesterday. I had no energy, and I knew it would be a bad idea if I tried to deal with anyone today. I called in sick, then went back to bed for another hour. I wound up out in the garage anyway, with the code open in front of me. Again, I could not bring myself to program.

This evening, I’m going to try again. Maybe I’ll be able to snag a tiny success, which can lead to some more productivity and I might be able to push things forward just a little bit more.

I know I’m not the only one that struggles like this. I’ve seen people describe it as a shortage of executive function. Some days, I can do anything. Saturday felt pretty good, as I focused on several intense tasks throughout the day. Sunday and today, I couldn’t do anything. Tomorrow must be better, because I have work to do.

What do people do to gain more executive function? There are some tricks I’ve used in the past, but it doesn’t seem to come without cost. I can distract myself music. I can force myself through sheer will. I can make lists or notes on a whiteboard. I can do small, easy things first, which sometimes give me enough of a positive kick that I can ride it into doing larger, more complicated things.

Yesterday and today, I didn’t have the energy to even try this tricks. Everything was just… hard.

I’m writing this tonight. Obligation is pushing me forward, and I’m hoping that when I’m done and I hit “publish” that it will be one of those small victories that will propel me on to the next task. I don’t know, though.

I need to seek help. The problem is that takes a lot of effort, and when I’m having trouble accomplishing anything already, there’s no room in the budget to take that kind of action.

Tomorrow will be better. It has to be.


Writing Advice from my 3D Printer

I’m feeling like Cassandra this morning. After reading some news and some very bad takes on Twitter, I’m looking into the future and seeing things clearly that I’m powerless to change, and no one would believe me if I told them. So I’m not going to talk about any of that.

Instead, I’m going to talk about 3D printing and how the lessons I’m learning apply to writing.

The 3D printer is my big Christmas present of 2021. There are a few projects I’m really interested in doing, including a completely homemade keyboard and a radio controlled plane. These projects are going to challenge me in new and interesting ways, and I’m going to have to develop some skills I haven’t used in a long time. To prepare myself, I’m doing smaller, easier projects on the 3D printer.

After setting up the printer and watching a few videos to help me learn how to balance it, I sent a test print that came with the device. Then I downloaded some models and printed those. Then I tried some different filament and a couple of other models, including prints that helped me upgrade the printer itself. Now the spools can hang off the side of the printer instead of on top, making the device short enough that it can fit on a shelf, and allowing the filament to enter the bushing at a far less severe angle.

The printer works! It does a good job! I printed a couple of benchies to check the quality of the prints, then gave them to Melissa. She loves the little boats and has them sitting under her monitor in her work space.

Satisfied with the quality of these prints, I moved on to the next step which is creating 3D models of my own. I decided that I wanted to print a small drawer set. It isn’t particularly complicated, and once I get it right, I can store loose screws and hardware in my work space. A really functional learning experience.

I started the print for the main body on Friday night. The application said it was going to take 40 hours to print, which seems like way too long, but I figured I’d let it go over the weekend. Long prints are common with these devices, right? And while this piece was going to be the largest thing I’d printed to date, it didn’t seem particularly complicated. It’s all flat planes and right angles. Should be easy.

When I got up Saturday morning, I found the printer still going, spitting loose black strings into the air. The glass printing surface was on the ground along with the malformed print. I stopped the printer and put everything back together. It looked like part of the print peeled off the printing surface, so when the extruder swung by that section, it caught the print and pulled everything out of place. The glass unclipped from the aluminum, and the whole thing tumbled to the ground. I’m lucky the glass didn’t break.

Stilling wanting to complete this project, I went back to my 3D model. Maybe it was too large a surface to stick directly to the glass. I decided to put a bunch of holes in it and break it up. It doesn’t have to be a solid piece. It also might look cooler with the holes. I changed the 3D model, compiled the gcode, and sent the new model to the printer.

This print attempt didn’t go that long. It looked like the filament wouldn’t adhere to the glass. The lines it laid out were not precise, and it was obviously going to go bad if I let it keep going. I killed the job, then took a step back. Did the first failed print mess up the printer? I tried printing another benchie. That print job failed, too.

Was it the filament? I changed to a color I hadn’t used before and tried another benchie. Another failed print. So it’s not the filament. It’s the printer itself. Something happened with that first bad print, and I had to fix that before it would print anything properly again.

I feared the worst. Maybe the temperature gauges were incorrect, so the filament and the platform weren’t reaching the right temperatures in order for the print process to work. Maybe the extruder was damaged when it unclipped the glass. Perhaps it was some other mechanical failure I couldn’t imagine.

After a few minutes of worrying, I went back to the original videos I watched when I set the printer up in the first place. A major part of the setup was getting the printing surface balanced. It’s manual, and it takes a bit of time. I went through all of those steps again, finding the printer badly out of alignment.

Twenty minutes of fiddling later, I printed another benchie, this time in mustard yellow. It worked. Then I printed a calibration cube in the same black filament as the failed print. This one also worked, though it wasn’t perfect.

The printer is fine. It was just out of balance. Last night, I tried the large print again, and while I had to cancel that job before it failed completely, it was doing a better job than before. The balance still isn’t quite perfect, but it’s good enough for smaller jobs. I’ll need to keep tweaking it before I try something large again.

And that’s the lesson.

As a writer, I was producing really decent stories right up into 2020. I had inertia going for me. Then the pandemic hit, which threw me off balance. For a while, I wasn’t able to write anything at all. Then I was able to muddle through some smaller jobs, none of which were perfect, but they were serviceable. I’m still not able to take on a larger project, because I’m still off balance. I need to get myself back into some kind of alignment, maybe get back to basics, and then I’ll be functional again.


Shutting up and Writing

Today, I’m participating in a virtual Shut up and Write meeting. I haven’t attended Shut up and Write since late 2013. I didn’t think I’d ever attend one again, and certainly not during the pandemic.

But my friend Mike Baltar invited me and to join, and he even provided the link and password this morning. All of the lame excuses I would have used to dodge such a meeting failed, because Mike is a good friend that follows through.

Odd how my friends are named Mike and Michael. I’ve talked about Michael here before. This seems like a good point to talk about Mike.

Mike is part of my current critique group that started in late 2019 and is, miraculously, still going. Maybe it’s not that much of a miracle. Just like how this morning, Mike provided links and reminders of the Shut up and Write meeting, he has been administrating the “Woodthrush Astronomy Club” writer’s group, making sure the Discord we use is up-to-date.

While I’ve been in my pandemic-based writer’s slump, which as I’ve described the last few days is really more a matter of me losing faith, Mike has been playing games with me. We found out at the end of the last Writing Excuses Cruise that we both play Valheim, so I set up a dedicated server for us to play together. We’ve been meeting at least once a week, building a base and going on Viking adventures. It’s been really great.

He also invited me to join him with a couple of other friends for online gaming on Wednesday nights. We meet on Discord, get into a first-person shooter game, and have a good time that doesn’t involve the pressure of productivity. It’s been like being on a vacation from my regular life.

I’m not sure if he’ll see this or not, but Mike has been a solid pillar that’s been helping me get through a very difficult time. I didn’t ask him to, and I’m not sure if he’s aware of how dark things have been for me. I really appreciate his friendship, even as a large part of me feels I don’t deserve it.

The Shut Up and Write virtual meeting has been good, though. It feels low pressure, yet wearing my headphones and being on camera provides some pressure, which motivates me to stay on task and get stuff done.

Today, it’s broken into two sections, with a lunch in the middle. During the first section, I revised the next 10,000 words of Spin City to submit to my critique group. These revisions I’m doing are extremely light. They’re mostly just adjusting some of the prose to make it flow a little bit smoother. I also updated the synopsis the critique group has access to, so they can review what’s happened previously before reading the next section.

Another quick aside about the critique group… I’m not sure that it functions to provide useful feedback for any of us. Since there are 6 of us and we’re submitting 10k words from our stories every other month, it will take 2 years for any of us to finish a 120k novel. That’s too long. If we artfully set up something towards the beginning, none of us are going to remember much about that setup a year and a half later. If we take the feedback we receive to heart and make adjustments to our story based on that feedback, we’re going to make our stories misshapen messes.

The value of the critique group, at this point, is community and accountability. That’s fantastic value, probably better than any writing advice we might offer to each other. I do not devalue the critique group, but I think it’s important to look at the function of the thing for what it is, and not expect it to do more than it can. If we want writing critique, we’ll probably have to change the way do our submissions so that we don’t draw stories out over 2 years.

Back to Shut Up and Write.

During the lunch period, we were free to open up our mics and cameras and chat. I spoke with Mike and the co-lead of the group about blogs and social media and the business of writing. At the same time, I had tinkercad open, revising the model for my 3D print project.

I started the print last night and discovered this morning that things went wrong. The printing surface separated from the aluminum underneath, so the whole print and the glass wound up on the floor. When I came out this morning, the printer was drawing black spaghetti in the air, with twists and turns of malformed PLA gumming up the works. Quite a mess, and a learning experience.

I’m redesigning the print so that it won’t require as much time or material. I think it got cold in the garage last night, and part of the print separated from the glass. The printer caught on it, pulled the print and the glass out of the clip, and sent it tumbling to the floor. If it didn’t take as long to print and required less material, the chances of it going wrong should be smaller.

I dedicated the last part of Shut Up and Write to this blog post. Now that I’m coming to the end of the post, I’m coming to the end of today’s Shut Up and Write. At least my part in it.

It’s been good! I didn’t think I’d ever attend again, but it seems to be under different management and is functioning more like it should. Maybe I’ll attend again in February, when they do their next virtual marathon.

Maybe by that time, I’ll be writing fiction again, and not just blog posts.

Before I try to write something new, I want to finish the revision of Synthetic Dreams. I want to get the full revision completed and then get that into the hands of a few people I care about and trust. I hope I can get Michael to read it. I’d like to get a couple of people from the Writing Excuses community to read it. Maybe not to give me a full critique, but just to gauge the temperature. I’m too close to it and still think it’s wonderful, but maybe it’s only wonderful to me.

I need to remember that one story doesn’t represent my entire writing career. It only represents what I was working on at that time.


Two Videos to Restore Faith in Humanity

I’ve been talking about how my faith in humanity is shattered, and how it cripples my own sense of self-worth, which in turn incapacitates my writing. It helps to go through these ideas and thoughts, getting them out of my head and in a place where I can analyze them. It relieves some of the pressure just forming the words.

Writing about it isn’t quite enough. The constant sense of hopelessness weighs on me. I try to stay positive while interacting with my coworkers, putting on a smile when I can. I show up and do the work, and when I’m not working I seek distractions. Under it all, I feel like I’m about to fall down a dark well and never come out.

Last night, I tried to work late but I ran out of focus. I didn’t have enough executive function to form the code, so I tried listening to music. I wound up clicking through some of the videos I favorited last year and I found two that had me crying in my seat.

Here is the first:

Here is the second:

Both Violet Orlandi and Voctave are amazing, and I love their performances for different reasons. But these two songs brought tears to my eyes, especially the last one.

Watch them both until the end.

In both, the performers take a backseat and then it’s just people singing. All of them different, but all of them like you and me, just doing their best and putting something out in the world. Altogether, it’s greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s beautiful. It makes me feel beautiful.

Understand, I rarely cry. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before. I’m don’t refuse to cry because of some outdated idea of masculinity. All people should cry once in a while, but I’m a little bit broken inside, and I rarely cry when I need to. Music can put me back together enough that I am able to shed tears. It tricks my brain into thinking it’s okay to let it out, and I do.

After everything I said about my faith in humanity being shattered by recent events, there were these two videos that shifted my perspective to something more positive. Beauty and empathy. Music and art.

Maybe even stories.

That last one especially touched me as the words repeated “you are not alone.” I’m sure that every one of the performers in the chorus was alone, at least while recording their part, but when the camera pans over them, too many to fit in the frame, we see that none of them are alone. And maybe none of us are, either.

This all feels a bit sentimental and saccharine, but maybe the sweet will balance out the bitter.

In unrelated news, I’ve created my first wholly custom 3D model in a free CAD tool, turned it into a file that my 3D printer can consume, and it’s whirring away behind me. I’m creating a small drawer set for storing loose hardware. It’s not particularly complicated, but it’s a larger print than I’ve done before, and it’s the first thing I’ve done from scratch. Whether this turns out well or not, it’s been a good learning experience.


January 6th and The Big Lie

Joe Biden won the election in 2020.

That should not be a political statement, should it? We had an election. Votes were counted. Some votes were disputed and taken to courts. Audits were completed. An insignificant amount of voter fraud was found, mostly for Trump, and it was not enough to change the results of the election.

Trump appointed judges, Republican-led auditors, and independent sources verified the results.

These are statements of fact. They are not political opinions. It is observable reality.

In 2016, when Trump won, I found it difficult to believe, too. I had to take a lot of deep breathes. I squinted my eyes at some districts, and I definitely believe that the Russia-empowered social media bots and ads played a part in influencing American voters, but I don’t think I ever believed that Trump stole the election. I believed Clinton lost it. And, believe it or not, I spent a couple of weeks thinking that maybe Trump would surprise us all in a good way and maybe be good for the country.

He was not. He surprised us, sure, but it wasn’t good. He was worse than I could possibly imagine.

Those are my opinions, which are political. My opinions were formed after observing with my own senses the words and actions of The Former Guy. They’re still my opinions, which are different from the fact that Biden won the election in 2020.

It’s important to restate this, making clear the difference between opinion and fact. Some folks get these two things mixed up. A whole lot of those people are currently wearing or have worn red hats.

On January 6th, 2021, Trump told his followers to march to the Capitol. He fired them up. And they showed up, with zip ties and Trump flags, and the material to erect a gallows. They beat police officers and broke down doors. They spread capitol defenders with pepper spray and bear repellent. They climbed the walls, broke windows, rifled through desks and cabinets, spread feces on the walls, and some of them were looking for the Vice President with the intention of stringing him up to the gallows they erected. They did this in order to overturn the election, which I cannot stress enough, was legally won by Joseph Robinette Biden.

In the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, some portion of our country lost their goddamn minds and tried to overturn democracy. It’s kind of a big deal.

And, there are still people promoting The Big Lie, that the election was stolen. The people that were part of the insurrection a year ago believed The Big Lie then. Too many people a year later believe it now. Elected officials are promoting it. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Greene are idiots and dirt bags, but they’re still elected officials. They’re conduct should be held to a higher standard, but who is going to censure them?

Gaetz is under investigation for sex trafficking. Greene ran unopposed in her district, doesn’t have an office in her district, has been removed from all of her board appointments in congress, and has been banned from Twitter and Facebook. In the fullness of time, I think Gaetz and Greene will reap what they’re sowing today. But for the short term, they’re promoting The Big Lie and effectively keeping the insurrection from a year ago going.

This is why my faith in humanity is so shaken. Idiots that prove their idiocy with their words and actions aren’t ignored and shunned, but instead trend on social media platforms and take up space in our conversations, and they get media coverage and followers.

The “Grab Them By The Pussy” Guy should not have won the vote of conservative Christians. The “Jewish Space Laser” Lady should never have been taken seriously again after uttering those words, and she shouldn’t be given a microphone and screen time. And the sex trafficker should be in jail. None of them should be taking up 3 out of 5 headlines when I look at the news.

I pinch the bridge of my nose and I sigh and I think about how we’ve come to this place, and it always goes back to money. We gawk at train wrecks and car crashes, and the gawking equates to clicks and view time when it comes to media. For news agencies, that turns into profit, as people clicking their articles and watching their programs means that advertisers will give them their money.

The problem always traces back to money.

This isn’t even what I wanted to talk about. I thought it would be interesting to compare how we reacted to September 11th to our reaction to January 6th. With the former, we came together for a brief time. With the latter, we became more divided than ever. We’re still taking off our shoes before we get on an airplane. How have we changed after January 6th?


What’s a Person Worth?

What do you think of people these days? Are humans actually good or terrible? After two years of pandemic, with so many anti-science, selfish people spreading conspiracies and lies about vaccines and Covid-19, I’ve been leaning towards the latter. There are lots of us that are staying home, wearing masks, getting vaccinated… but it’s like whatever we’re doing to try and prevent the spread of a deadly virus is being undone by people that just don’t give a shit.

Then there’s the Trump supporters. After all this time, there are still people that think Trump represents the best of America. There are people that think he’s a good Christian, a good American, and that he’s virtuous. You can hate Biden and I can get along with you, but if you love Trump after everything that’s happened? I’m sorry, but I don’t think we can be friends.

There’s a lot of really shitty people in the world. So many. More than a small percentage. In the US, it’s fully a third to half the population appears to absolutely not care about anyone but themselves. They claim to love Jesus but their actions do not match the person that died for their sins.

Why am I going on about this?

Because I don’t think I’m better than these people.

I think they’re just people. Just like me.

A whole bunch of misguided people that are regurgitating information that is shared with them by sources they deem reliable.

Am I much different than that? I think so. I try to keep an open mind, but maybe most of my sources of information are biased. I try to think critically about the information I’m taking in, especially before I restate those things verbally or in print, but I’m human just like everyone else. I have biases I’m not even aware of.

So, I don’t believe I’m any better than anyone else. But I also spend a lot of time looking around seeing the ugliness of humanity, the lack of compassion, the disrespect, and the meanness.

If I’m no better than anyone else, why should I demand someone’s time? What makes my words special?

They’re not. I’m not special, and neither are my stories. I used to think much more highly of myself, but the truth is that I have everything in common with the society I live in. I’m a part of the whole, and the whole is rotten. We’re killing each other and destroying our home. Just like the virus that invades our bodies, turning us into factories to produce more viruses, we have infested the Earth, shaping it to our darker impulses, turning everything into capital.

I think I need to have faith in humanity, and that faith was challenged before the pandemic. Now I feel it as an acute, spiritual pain, and I cannot separate myself from what I see around me. People suck, and I’m a person. Therefore, I suck, too.

Writing requires audacity, and I don’t feel it right now. I feel humble and ashamed. I don’t feel like a person that is worthy of commanding the attention of anyone else.

And yet, I’m trying to will myself back into writing. I’m still showing up and working, even though it’s hard most days.

I guess I need to keep showing up until I start to believe in myself again.