Thursday, June 26, 2014


Let that image sink in for a moment.  The most important part of the body is the brain...according to the brain.

Some of you might be thinking, "Well, duh!"  But really think about it.  If some other organ were responsible for generating thought and  decision-making?  Wouldn't that organ tell us - tell itself - that it is the most important organ?  Wouldn't it say, "Yeah, those other organs are important but not without me"?

Okay, now apply that same methodology to humans.  Don't human beings believe we are the most important species on the planet?  How can the species making the decisions be allowed to choose itself as most important?  That would be like J. Lo voting for herself on American Idol.  The judge should not be allowed to participate in the contest.

In business, they call it a conflict of interest.  The same person cannot represent the interests of more than one party, because there will always be a bias.

That is what speciesism is really all about...the bias that humans carry into the animal world.  Humans tell themselves they are the most important without having a valid argument other than, "because we said so."

How can anyone even stand behind that argument?

My understanding of why most people believe this is two fold.

First, humans are the only species who communicate at the same level as ourselves.  We cannot effectively communicate with any other species in the same manner in which they communicate.  In the human mind, that means those other species are inferior; which ultimately leads to the notion of "different equals inferior."  (Is there any wonder slavery has been such an issue for so many centuries?  If different is synonymous with inferior, then all of those inferior beasts need to be subjugated.  Ridiculous.)

Secondly, we have the amazing books supposedly dictating the word of supernatural beings who granted humans the right to call themselves superior to all other animals.  If that belief is part of your religious doctrine, fine.  I have no right to attempt to sway you any other direction.  (But I'm still going to make my argument.)

Every living creature on the planet is equal to every other living creature.  To believe otherwise is to engage in speciesism.  Just like racism is believing that people of other races are inferior to one's own, or ageism is believing that people of a different age bracket from one's own are inferior, believing that a fish or a mosquito, or a tree is inferior simply because we cannot perceive any level of intelligence similar to our own is considered speciesism.

The truth is, other forms of life on our planet may not match the intelligence level of human beings at all.  But to simply dismiss this as fact out of hand because their anatomy is physically different is ridiculous, and to simply destroy other forms of life, calling it okay because they are inferior, is dangerous at best.

The short-term effects of depopulation may seem minute when compared to ourselves, but the long-term effects can only be detrimental.

The bottom line is this:  don't simply make the assumption that something is inferior because, either, that's what you've always believed, or that's what you've been told.  Stop and think about why you believe such a thing.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Importance of Schedule and Routine

I'm a writer. I could be considered an author, as I have authored several short stories and one novel. I could even be considered a published author, as - to date - one of those short stories has been published.

So far, I haven't really spent much time discussing writing on this blog. I'm certain there are far too many blogs about writing that one more isn't going to matter much. So, I'd rather spend the time blogging about other things - things that are important to me, my points of view, my life stories.

However, today I am going to use the world of writing as a springboard into a different topic: routine.

There are as many different writing practices and techniques as there are writers in the world. Several common questions seem to be repeated over and over again to authors by fans hoping to become as good as those authors. "What is your process?" "Do you outline, keep notes, or otherwise logic your story out first, or do you just go with it?" "Did you go to school for writing?" "Where do good ideas come from?"

These questions are pretty much a joke, as any good writer will tell you that the answer is, and always will be, "It depends." It depends on the particular writer, and one author's techniques or process isn't going to be the same for another author. Everyone is different and comes to problems with different perspectives.

There are several universal truths that almost every author will agree upon, however, that have nothing to do with the individual.
Any author you meet will tell any aspiring writing that you must read. Reading is key. Read everything. Read anything. Read good writing. Read bad writing. Just read. Analyze the craft of writing. Be familiar with the words, the rules your teachers spout all through high school, and how, when and why to break those rules.

Authors would probably also agree that any aspiring writer must write. There's only one way to get better at something, and that is to actually do it. Anyone can have innate talent for something, but it still takes years of practice doing something to perfect a craft (and those whom other see as having perfected their craft would still suggest they know very little). Write. Write. Write. It's simple. To do something well, you actually have to do it.

Finally, most authors would probably also agree that a writing schedule or routine is invaluable. Everyone knows that it takes time to accomplish the first two items on this list. If you're like me, reading a short novel can take over two weeks. I'm a slow reader, and my daily schedule is jam-packed with things to do. And don't even get me started with writing. Anyone who has sat down at a blank sheet of paper or an empty Word document and attempted to fill that space with meaningful words understands how long that can take.

Our minds are always full of shit when we sit down to first write. Did I empty the trash? I should set an alarm so I'm not late picking up the kids from practice. What are we going to have for dinner? Did I eat lunch? Maybe I should call Bob back about our meeting next week.

Hell, it could take almost an hour to empty our mind of all of the daily bullshit running through it.

This is why so many authors lecture on having a writing schedule. Set aside an hour, two, three or four hours that are dedicated for nothing other than writing.  And then stick to that schedule every day. Some would say, it doesn't matter if you don't type a word and stare at that empty monitor the entire time, as long as you haven't done anything else, you're doing okay.

The reason for this is need for routine lies in repetition. Doing something often enough makes it familiar, and things that are familiar allow our brains to loosen up, not be afraid of this overwhelming work called writing. How many of you park in the same parking space at work every day? How about when you go to the grocery store? Same general area of the parking lot? What about when you go see a movie? Sit in the same seats as often as you can?

Humans thrive on routine and repetition. We become less anxious about doing something that might seem scary if we have something familiar to hold onto.

I move regularly. I moved out of my parents' home on my seventeenth birthday, and never stopped moving. I think I average a move every three years. Some moves are just across town, some moves are across the entire country. Every single move, but one, was easy and exciting, and actually fun.

That one move, however, I nearly lost my mind. I moved from the familiar - a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Santa Barbara (and for any of you who have been to Santa Barbara, you understand how beautiful, peaceful, and relatively safe it is - despite recent news that would suggest the contrary), to a slightly larger one-bedroom apartment in Oakland.

It wasn't that I was terrified of the extreme contrast between the clean and idyllic Santa Barbara and the filthy ghetto that can be parts of Oakland (and was, in fact, the part of Oakland I was moving to; I was able to land the apartment I got for a deal because the entire building moved out following a gang shooting of one of the tenants).

No, the area didn't frighten me as much as the unfamiliarity. So what made all those other moves so easy? So much fun? I made them with my wife. She was there with me, a piece of the familiar in an unfamiliar world. My move to Oakland, I made first and my wife was going to follow me out a few months later.

All I wanted to do was curl up in the corner of that apartment and hibernate until she got there. I was terrified of the unfamiliar. But, I eventually forced myself to leave the apartment, find a job, and start school again. She eventually showed up and I knew I was able to be there for her in that unfamiliar world that frightened me at first, too.

The point to all of this is that familiarity in things is a comfort to the human mind. It allows the brain to relax. And when the brain isn't focused on assimilating the unfamiliar, it can spend its time working on other tasks.

This is why routine is important. It's okay to allow certain upsets to a daily routine, but if one truly expects to accomplish anything, setting aside time to do that is the first (and I would argue, most important) step.

Dave Ramsey, that Total Money Makeover guy, talks about setting aside the money you need to save first. From each paycheck, put that money aside before you pay bills, and then don't touch it. This will insure you have a good savings built for emergencies, and that you aren't spending every dime you make on other things. The same concept applies to time management. You need to schedule time to set aside to do the things you want to do. Schedule it every day. Treat it as a job you cannot say no to. If you skip a day, you could be fired. There are consequences.

Do you want to get into shape? You need to go to the gym every day (there are other theories on this I might get into, but for more information check out Mike Matthews' blog). You can't skip a day or your body will fire you. Want to be a writer? You need to set aside time every day to write. No skipping.

The excuses, "I didn't have time today," or "Today was just so busy," don't cut it. You have to do it. If you worked at Burger King, do you think your boss would take kindly to you telling him you didn't have time to make a customer's sandwich? No. You'd be fired. That applies with any job. The difference is, with things like working out, writing, or any other self-improvement action one could take, you have to be accountable to yourself.

It's the only way to succeed in life. You are your own boss. President Obama said that we needed to be the change we wanted to see in the world. Those aren't just pretty words. They are true fact. If you want to see a change, you need to implement that change. You need to start with yourself. Take baby steps at first, if that's what it takes, but you have to do the work, because if you don't you will never accomplish your goals.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Equality through Apathy and Indifference

So, I'm toying with a new personal motto or creed:  "Equality through Apathy and Indifference."

When I posted said motto on Facebook to hear general comments and feedback, one individual responded with, "Sounds like the easy way out."

I'm not entirely certain why her comment bothered me.  It shouldn't.  It's only her opinion and should only affect me if I cared about her opinion - and I like the think that I don't (because...well...I don't).  The truth is, however, that her comment bothered me because I made an assumption that she made an assumption.

Allow me to elaborate.  My creed:  Equality through Apathy and Indifference is short, succinct, and to the point.  It is also a little general or vague and could be misinterpreted depending on an individual's background or personal history (see this post for more information on differences).

My assumption was that the commenter saw my creed as something negative.  I assumed that she interpreted the words apathy and indifference to mean something other than what they were intended.  For example, perhaps she thought I meant one shouldn't care about anything.  I also assumed she did not spend the time to actually analyze what those five little words could possibly mean.

My assumption was that she assumed the worst based on her own experiences and acted upon her own assumption.

I don't know that to be the case, and really it doesn't matter.  I disagree with the notion that following a creed like this is "easy."

Before I get into the whys, however, I would like to ask:  Who cares if it's easy?  Why does everything have to be difficult?  I know that "they" say that good things never come easily, that you have to work (and work hard) for the best things in life, but I disagree with that philosophy as well (and I might post about that at a later date).

Here's why I disagree with the idea that my creed is an "easy way out."

First, let me fully clarify this creed.
  1. Equality:  The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
  2. Through:  By means of (a process or intermediate stage).
  3. Apathy:  Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
  4. and:  Used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences, that are to be taken jointly.
  5. Indifference:  Lack of interest, concern, or sympathy
In other words, I would argue for a processes that allows a state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities, for every creature on the planet by means of a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern, as well as a lack of interest, concern, or sympathy.

This is what I see on a daily basis.  We, as human beings, are constantly judging how others behave and react as if doing so creates some form of higher sense of self-worth, and in the process we subconsciously create barriers and categories that set others apart from ourselves.  Those barriers become stereotypes, and over time those stereotypes hinder the abilities of those other people to prove that they are anything but the stereotypes we have created in our minds.

Some time ago I listened to a radio broadcast out of Texas (I don't know how I stumbled upon this broadcast living in Minnesota, but that's not important).  The broadcast was a clip from a local morning show, and the radio personalities were discussing the abuse of government subsidies by American citizens.

These guys (they were all men - but that really doesn't matter) had apparently been decrying the "lazy bums" taking a "free ride" on the backs of American tax payers.  A local woman called to voice her opinion on the matter, and as it turned out she and her husband were taking advantage of all of the government subsidies programs available to them and refusing to work because she "can make more money on welfare than she could in a 'real' job."

Now, understand that this is a woman who isn't qualified for anything more than a job at McDonald's or Wal-mart.  She isn't going to make more than minimum wage.  Through the subsidies she and her husband receive, they pretty much live for free.  They have food stamps for food.  The government picks up the tab for her utilities (electric, gas, and water).  She only needs to pay $50 of her $1600 apartment rent.

I appreciated that one of the radio personalities was willing to listen to this woman honestly and ask her real questions that mattered about her situation, rather than jump down her throat as a lazy freeloader.

I can imagine the outrage of other citizens hearing this woman talk about, "If someone were to offer you a million dollars, wouldn't you take it?"  That's what she says she's doing.  She's taking the million dollars over her entire lifetime.  She has no plans on finding gainful employment.  She plans on living off of welfare for her entire life, and teaching her children how to do the same.

Why be upset about that?  That's simply one way to live.  It's different from how I live, but it isn't necessarily better or worse.  Is it?  This woman made a choice, and she's sticking to it.  It works for her.

I understand the argument both ways, and ultimately I don't care.  Equality through Apathy and Indifference.  I do not care about this woman and her plight, nor do I care about what her and "her kind" are doing to our system.

I need to care about me.

I'm not the kind of person who could live off of the government.  I have been instilled with the drive to perform well at whatever job I'm doing.  That's who I am.  That doesn't make me better.

Should I be upset that all of my hard work is paying for this woman to live?  Why?  I could be upset if I allowed myself to be, but what good will that do?  I did not create the government subsidies programs.  I am forced, by law, to pay into those programs through the taxes I pay.  I will be alive another forty-plus years and then I'll be dead and none of it will matter anyway.

So...why let it upset me so much...especially if I'm not going to lift a finger to do anything about it?

I could bitch and complain about what this woman is doing, or what a million other people are doing - believe me, my views are a far cry from what is normal and there is a lot of bitching and complaining I could be doing - but ultimately what good will any of that do?  I would bitch and complain, and then I would sit right back down and go about my daily life because, in the end, I need to worry about my immediate here-and-now, and not worry about what someone else is doing somewhere else.

So, back to my creed.  It shouldn't matter whether or not I agree with the motives, actions, or thoughts of anyone else.  There are many I don't agree with.  What does matter is that I shouldn't judge any of those people for them.  They are all the same as everyone else, because I care about them just the same...which is not at all.

We are all the same.  We might have different thoughts or opinions about what is important, but in the end, we are all human beings who live for a short time and then die.  Why should I waste that short amount of time worrying about what all these other people are doing?  I don't.  Simply put, I don't care.  Take advantage of government subsidies, pirate movies, music, and television shows online, be crazy.  I don't care because I'm too focused on being the best me I can be to worry about what you other idiots are doing.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Idiocracy: a film by Mike Judge

Have you seen this movie?  Don't.  As much as I wanted to hope that it would be a smart, scathing commentary on the American social system, it simply wasn't a great movie.  The concept is appealing, but the execution was somehow flawed.

That being said, this post is not a movie review.  Sure, I love Luke Wilson, and Mike Judge had me at OfficeSpace, but this post is about what this movie should have been about.  The dumbing down of our culture.

I'm feeling this right now as I stare at the brightly lit screen in front of me and attempt to generate some manner of creative output without actually using my hands - just pounding away on some buttons.  The concept behind this film is basically, "What if an 'average Joe' is cryogenically frozen as part of a military science experiment and then forgotten only to wake hundreds of years in the future and realize that he is the smartest man on the planet?"

But we're talking orders of magnitude more intelligent.  We're not talking the difference between Stephen Hawking and Jonah Hill, we're talking the difference between Albert Einstein and a sloth.  These people of the movie's future don't even understand simple irrigation.

Okay.  So, what the movie could have been, what it maybe should have been, was a commentary on how the planet became so dumb.

We all think we understand the process.  Technology leads to less time spent actually doing things that exercise that muscle we call a brain.  We allow machines to do our thinking for us.  We blame video games and television and movies for all of the "bad" in the world.

Is anyone reading this old enough to remember the invention of the pocket calculator?  How many people did you hear complaining about how using such a machine would make the population stupid?  Has it?  It's doubtful that one device has made an entire population stupid.  However, an extension of the pocket calculator is an adding machine and its extension is a cash register, and I cannot tell you how many cashiers today cannot count back change without the aide of that machine.

Does this sound accurate to you?  It certainly does to me.  I guess the question is:  "Is this a bad thing?"  There are a lot of opinions on the subject, but my gut reaction is that the answer is undoubtedly Yes.  And not simply because we're not accessing all of that information to advance our knowledge base, but that in reality we are not even being as "social" as we think we are.

Check out one of my favorite videos that perfectly illustrates this point.

What's interesting here is that I'm against all things social.  I'm happy being a recluse and not seeing or speaking with anyone for days on end.  I don't really Facebook or Tweet all that often, but when I do I am more than likely re-posting something I found amusing or poignant.  I have a smart phone, but I don't pay for a data package.  Instead, I use my phone as a phone.

However, I am just as guilty of the "Smart Phone, Dumb People" era as the next guy.

Let me ask you this?  How many of you crawl out of bed every morning wishing you had a few more hours of sleep available to you?  How many of you spend your day at a job that does not challenge you either mentally of physically; you simply wander around the halls of work performing mindless tasks and taking part in the theater of the corporate macabre?  How many of you come home from your grueling day feeling unsatisfied, but telling yourself "this is what people do," or "this is just a stepping stone on the path to what I truly want to do with my life"?  How many of you have said that for ten, twenty, or even thirty years?

How many of you come home from your day feeling so exhausted at having done nothing that you can't even think straight?  How many of you nuke some food, plop down in front of the television or computer and occupy the rest of your night with filler:  Facebook, YouTube, entertainment to be sure but really just the more of the same day in and day out, "stuff" to do just to fill the spaces between sleep and any other required task?

Does putting it out there like that make you feel like shit?  It does me.  How long ago did you give up on your dreams?  How long ago did you settle for less than who and what you are because, well, it's been so long that you can't even remember what you wanted to do?  How long ago did you let the priorities of other people supersede your own priorities?  ...all because it was easier...

I can honestly tell you, I'm on the cusp of that right now.

I graduated high school almost twenty years ago.  At that time I wanted nothing more than to spend my days being creative.  Photographing people, making them look amazing, writing amazing stories that moved people.  I chased after that dream, but always with one arm tied behind my back.  Tied to the realities I was told I needed to follow.  I needed to have a job - any job - so I could pay my rent and buy food.

I attended universities in pursuit of my goals, but ultimately the need for food, shelter, and financial stability - the needs that our society demands we have of risk being seen as a pariah and outcast - took over my life.  My mundane nine-to-five took priority over my creativity.  I tried to continue the pursuit of my goals in my off hours, but I was so mentally exhausted from dealing with the mundane at work that I couldn't focus on anything.  My brain needed time to reboot and recharge.

I wanted to do my job well at work so I could maintain the status quo that seemed so important to the world.  I didn't want to get fired for poor performance, and in truth I needed a promotion to afford my increased cost of living.  That smart phone wasn't going to pay for itself.  So I worked hard at my job.  My work ethic told me I should.  I was hired to do my best.  But in doing my best, I spent all the energy I had each day doing something for someone else and leaving me with nothing at the end of the day for my own pursuits.

Not only did I not have the energy, a second job meant I didn't have the time.  I was doing everything I could to simply feed myself and keep a roof over my head.

They always say, "If you really want to do a thing, nothing will stop you.  You'll find a way to do it no matter what."

I guess that's true, but it sure felt like I should have simply given up my dream and simply existed...and not lived.  But I wasn't going to do that.  I needed to know if I could continue to be the creative person I set out to be.  Yet, I had so many different things that were equally important to me.  I had a wife and a job.  We weren't having children, thankfully, but I had a way of life that meant something to me and I was afraid of giving all of that up to follow what had once been my dream.

I realize that dreams can change.  Maybe I wanted to be an astronaut one day, but fell in love and realized that I couldn't do both - that our mutual goals had changed my specific dream.  I wouldn't give up my wife for anything.  Even the chance to be a well sold author.  But I also know I don't have to, because she's fighting for me to do everything I want to do.  Some people might realize their family is their new dream - their wife and kids.  I'm grateful I don't have to make that compromise.

My dreams haven't changed.  My wife and I found a new place to settle and new jobs that would allow me the opportunity to have large chunks of time each year (seasonally) to spend working on nothing other than the creativity that I so desperately need to express.

I spent an entire winter writing my first novel.  Who knows if it will ever get published, but I'm trying.  Unfortunately, something happened.  I finished the novel and went right back into dumbs-ville.  It was almost as though my brain said, "Okay, we've had enough that creativity for a while, time to dumb it up a little bit."

I got lost in a world of video games for nearly a month, and then the seasonal job started again and again I don't have the time or energy to think about anything other than the job.  I have attempted to work on the outline for my next novel, and in the preceding months I have come up with very little.

Now, I have no one to blame but myself for allowing myself to be distracted by the video games.  That's all on me.  However, as I started work again this spring, and the season unraveled into a full-time job, a thought occurred to me.

Could it be that it isn't the technology that is making us stupid, but rather the demands our society places on us that are making us stupid?  Our cultures need for results in the workplace over quality of life seem to have a stiffing affect on people.  How can anyone go home at the end of the day, having spent the entire day building someone else a house, or crunching someone else's financial numbers, and still feel motivated to spend six to eight hours following their own dream?

How can anyone even think about doing that when they have kids to care for, or sick family members?

No.  Technology may be making our lives simpler and easier, but it is the demands we place on ourselves that are making us dumber.