Tag Archives: Writing

What Didn’t You Say?

Horn Antenna

I’M ALL EARS!!

I think most anyone who finds their way to this blog, whether for the first time or if they’re regular visitors, knows I’m not really trying to promote myself or to make money off of it. Since I use the WordPress.com engine for this, I know there are occasional ads that pop up, but I don’t receive any compensation from them. I’m really not interested in it. I guess it’s a vestigial behavior related to my actually having a real job for over two decades. I’m not terribly adept at promoting myself, though I will surely have to improve if I’m to accomplish anything of value from my latest endeavor. More on that below.

Nevertheless, I am interested in making a difference; in reaching people and sharing something of my unique perspective on things. Because of that, I do look for one thing other than remuneration . . . feedback. Unfortunately, I get precious little of it. Certainly much less than I get on Facebook. One of the reasons I have a hard time tearing myself away from FB is the engagement I receive. There’s almost always a conversation going on and I get a fair amount of likes, comments, and shares for a guy who is far from well-known for anything.

As far as this blog is concerned, I do watch my stats, which WordPress does a damn good job of providing. I also try to promote most of what I write here using the share buttons and the automatic sharing the engine does when I publish. It’s gratifying to see how many people read (or, at least, visit) my blog, but there’s one thing missing and I’m hopeful that can be remedied somewhat.

What I’m referring to is comments. I get very few comments. I’m not sure why and I do worry sometimes it’s just because I’m not all that interesting. :/ In some respects, it shouldn’t (and mostly doesn’t) make one whit of a difference in terms of whether or not I speak my mind. However, I think that’s about to change.

I’ve announced I’m working on a book. It will be my memoirs of activities I was involved in during the period 1967 through about 1976. This was the period in which I was most active in the Peace & Justice movement, especially the effort to end the war in Vietnam. I am currently in the process of connecting with some of the people I worked with back then and am discovering it is difficult. I need to do a lot of research, as my memory is like a steel sieve. I remember a lot, but it was nearly four to five decades ago and I’m not sure I completely trust what I recall happened. Additionally, I want to include as much as I can from others who experienced some of the same things I did, either with me or in similar circumstances.

This means I need to reconstruct what took place during that time. I spent time working with lots of different organizations and people and there are details I’m hoping to get fleshed out by others. Some of the groups I worked with were the Peace Action Council, Indochina Peace Campaign, Los Angeles Women’s Liberation Union, The Resistance, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The Committee to Free Angela Davis, the Brown Berets, La Brigada Venceremos, and the Black Panther Party. I’m sure there were more I will either remember as I get deeper into my research or that others will remind me of.

Some of the people I worked with were Dorothy Healy, Irv Sarnoff, Tom Hayden, Jackie Goldberg, Ron Kovic, Holly Near, Jane Fonda, the law firm of Margolis, McTernan, Scopes, Sachs, & Epstein, Daniel Ellsberg and Tony Russo, and many others. Some I spent a lot of time with and with others I was involved in one or two engagements and that was it. Since I did a lot of security work, some of those engagements were — shall we say — quite exciting.

I will be sharing more and more of what I’m doing, including posting portions of the book as it progresses. What I’m really hoping to see, and what I’m asking readers of my blog to provide, is a little feedback. If you or someone you know was involved in any way, e.g. anti-war demonstration, march, rally, love-in, teach-in, cultural event, or concert, etc., I’d love to hear from you and, if you are willing, I’d like to talk with you. I suppose you could call what I want to do an interview but, in this case — since I was so involved at the time — I tend to think what I’m seeking is an opportunity to reminisce.

Feedback. It’s what I need right now. After the book is complete everyone can go back to ignoring me. ;)


Breaking Away from HuffPo

Recently, I wrote about my frustration with the Huffington Post’s online presence, due mostly to the length of time it takes for the page to load and the number of refreshes one experiences while numerous pieces are fit onto the page. What I find most frustrating is the constant resizing and repositioning of what I’m trying to read as it’s loading. I’m not one to click on a link, then walk away for a minute or two waiting for the page I’m being served to settle down comfortably in my browser. I start reading the moment there’s a word in front of my face. BTW – I currently use Google Chrome and I am not going to spend time testing Safari, Firefox, or Opera to see if there’s a difference, though if someone tells me there is a substantial difference I might check it out.

Apolo Ohno

Yep! Just Like my Politics.

HuffPo is no longer the force it was when I first joined it over eight and a half years ago. At least it isn’t for me. There are plenty of alternatives, many of which are simpler and also a bit closer to my politics. Meaning, they lean to the left like Apolo Ohno entering a turn.

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader (also a friend) who said he experienced the same thing and was wondering if I could point him to some possible replacement sites for learning from a similar outlook. I should mention I know this person does not share my politics, but I’m glad to hear he’s interested in seeing things from more than one angle. The hallmark of an open mind is the willingness to see things from perspectives different than one’s own. I respect that a great deal.

Now, I go to quite a few different sites, each of which would be considered Leftist, but which are also somewhat different in how they approach the news and their reporting and analysis of it. For instance, there is a distinct difference between a site that is run by liberal Christians and one run by secular leftists. They report the same stories, frequently in similar fashion, yet they each have a particular slant on how important they consider these stories and what they think is behind them and how they ought to be resolved. These show up in how their posts are written, where they’re placed, or when they are attended to. There are numerous other nuances that I think differentiate many of the sites I get my news from, but the bottom line is I still have to sift through what they’re telling me, as well as what others are saying. Then I have to hold it all up to the lens of my knowledge and experience over the years. Did someone say critical thinking?

So . . . here’s a list of some of the sites I would recommend, along with a little bit of my thinking as to why they matter:

  • Daily Kos – What I like about Daily Kos is that many, if not most, of the stories (which they call “Diaries”) are written by individuals who have an interest in the subject they’re writing about. Some of them are excellent journalists and some are merely passionate individuals who have something to say. Diaries run the gamut from well-researched investigative pieces to highly opinionated diatribes. The page loads quickly and is customizable to your tastes, including subjects and authors. You can also create a fairly detailed profile. It’s very participatory. I post there once in a while; usually by copying over one of my blog posts from Systems Savvy.
  • Mother Jones – In addition to politics, MJ covers environmental and cultural news, much like HuffPo. They also have lots of photo essays and blogs. Pages load up quickly, yet there’s lots of info to choose from, all of which is presented pretty clearly. I’m not a web designer, so I don’t know what the ultimate is when it comes to ease of access, etc., but MJ looks pretty good to my eyes.
  • The Raw Story – I’m not that familiar with this one, but I do read some of their stories when I’m pointed to them via a friend on Facebook. The site loads up quickly and offers snippets to lots of different stories. In addition to the front page, their menu (easily accessible at the top of the page) offers U.S. and World News, Science, Tech, and a few other special areas of interest.
  • Slate Magazine – Visually, Slate is considerably different than the three above, though I think they just changed and it looks like they’re trying to create a paid subscription issue with some special content. The home page is somewhat visually appealing, but looks a little confusing if you’re just wanting to find specific types of information. There is a menu, but it wasn’t apparent to me (it’s at the top right and the icon for it is three horizontal lines. What I like about Slate is many of its articles are in-depth. They take a bit of commitment to read through, but they’re generally quite well-written and literate.
  • Truthout – Interestingly, I’m not all that familiar with this one, yet their Senior Editor and Lead Columnist is a Facebook friend of mine. I read a lot of his stuff directly on Facebook, where it is easy to engage. Doing so on any of these sites isn’t anywhere as easy or as immediate, let alone satisfying. Truthout is a non-profit and you will see far fewer ads than on some of the other sites. They also have a section called “Progressive Picks” where they offer books for sale, a portion of the proceeds (tax-deductible) going to their organization. They also provide articles, excerpts, and interviews related to their weekly pick. Everything loads quickly and there’s little superfluous junk on the pages. Truthout also has a sort of auxiliary site called “Buzzflash”, which has loads of headlines (sortable by freshness) as well as commentary.
  • Liberal America – This WordPress-driven site is one I am somewhat familiar with, as I was accepted as an author for them. I ended up not writing anything because I was admonished that it wasn’t an opinion site, yet it was clear to me there’s a very opinionated slant to all their articles. I’m fine with that, but I found the position confusing and, since the pay was very minimal, I decided to concentrate my efforts elsewhere. Nevertheless, the site is reasonably clean, loads quickly (without all the garbage that makes HuffPo so damned infuriating nowadays) and, with the exception of a tendency to republish older material (at least on their Facebook page), is timely and pertinent. The publisher and at least several of the writers are left-wing Christians.

Now for a little confession. When I read the comment asking my opinion of sites similar to The Huffington Post, which was last night, I did a Google search on the term “news sites similar to huffington post”. It was a bit disconcerting to find most of the hits returned were about HuffPo itself. I probably could have changed my query to get a more targeted set of responses, but I was able to find one site on the second page of hits that was what I was looking for. It’s entitled “Huffingtonpost.com – 50 Similar Sites and Alternatives” and I used it to navigate to most of the sites I mention above. I could have gone to most of them independently, but I wanted to check out some of the others.

In the list of 50 similar sites, there were a few that are not similar; at least not for the purpose I was asked to consider, which was sites with a definitely liberal, progressive, left-wing slant. Obviously, there are quite a few sites to check out and I suggest anyone who is interested (including my friend who requested my opinion) use this site to check them out. You can even vote on whether or not you agree with their picks.

My analysis is not terribly extensive, but I hope it’s helpful. I would like to reiterate what I mentioned in most of what I wrote about these sites. None of them take longer than a few seconds to load and, therefore, in addition to being left-leaning in content and position, they are also superior for ease-of-use and lack of irritating, multiple refresh instances. As always, I welcome any feedback others may wish to provide.


Making Contact

VVAW Button

An Honorable Organization of Good People

Since “announcing” my nascent book project the other day, I have communicated with four people who were part of the action back in the time I am writing about. One of them reached out and reminded me of some of the things we were involved in that had yet to cross my mind. Two of them I had been in touch with previously and they just happened to answer emails I sent out a couple of days ago. One I called today to give him a heads-up.

Of these four, two are Vietnam veterans; one an Army Engineer, the other an RTO with an Army LRRP team. They both played major roles in my life back then, as their opposition to the war they had fought in strengthened both my belief it was wrong and my resolve to do something to end it. I have a hard time putting into words just how much their friendship meant to me, but I’m going to try.

Right now I’m working on an Introduction; an attempt to explain what I want to accomplish in the body of the book. This is all kind of new to me. Not entirely, as I’ve had the honor and experience of working with a few other people (as an editor or proofreader) on books they’ve written. It’s just that I’ve never done the actual writing before and those books were business books (and a couple of Zombie Apocalypse novels). I’m hoping once I get going a lot of it will just come pouring out. Those were eventful times.


12 Things You Should Know About Lists

I’ve received plenty of advice or, more precisely, offers to subscribe to newsletters, attend webinars, or purchase books on how to get more traffic to one’s blog. I’ve never been all that interested in them though, truth to tell, I sometimes read a few paragraphs or so. One of the great “formulas” for blog writing is “The List” which, for some odd reason, amuses the hell out of me.

Lists are ubiquitous and endless. Virtually anything you can think of has been – or can be – reduced to a list and chances are someone has created one. In that spirit, today I did a little poking around to confirm my suspicions. For your dining pleasure I bring you 12 lists of 12 things you should know about something or another.

  1. 12 Things You Didn’t Know Your Smartphone Could Do
  2. 12 Things to Know About Medicare Advantage Plans
  3. 12 Things to Know About “Lifted” Suspension Engineering
  4. 12 Things I Wish I’d Known
  5. 12 Things Wedding Photographers Want to Tell You, But Can’t
  6. 12 Things You Didn’t Know You Could do With Mason Jars
  7. 12 Things No One Ever Tells You About Babies
  8. 12 Things Every Gender-Nonconforming Child Wants You to Know
  9. 12 Things You Might Not Know About World of Warcraft
  10. 12 Things Your Nail Salon Doesn’t Want You to Know
  11. 12 Things You Might Not Know About Elephants
  12. 12 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Yourself

I got these from searching Google for the phrase “12 things you should know about”, which returned a little less than 50 pages of reasonably relevant material. Some of the results were for different size lists. Five, ten, and seven are pretty popular size lists as well, each one returning around 40 pages, though the time-honored dozen provided the largest return.

I don’t know what this means or what it says about us (writers and readers). I’m not really big on formulaic writing, though I’ve recently done quite a few case studies, which must follow a basic format in order for them to make sense. Still, there’s something about the ubiquity of lists that grates on me a bit. Maybe my next post should be “13 Reasons I Can’t Stand Lists.”


A Different Kind of Authorship

Writer's Block

My Goal – Overcoming Writer’s Block

I have long wanted to write some fiction, maybe even some Science Fiction . . . which I used to devour back in the day. For reasons I can’t adequately express (even if I wanted to) I’ve seldom completed anything I’ve attempted. Since deciding I wanted to offer my services as an editor and proofreader, partially as a means of developing my writing chops by learning from others, I have determined to write as often as I can. I just finished a short story, which is a little over 1200 words, I’d like to publish here. Special thanks go out to my dear friend, PD Williams, who soon will be published and writes a blog called Over Easy – Notes from the Estrogen Files, for her advice. My plan is to try different styles and approaches as I work on developing my skills. This one is taken from an experience I had very recently. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. :) It’s entitled:

TRANSFERENCE

James had been napping for at least an hour. His lunch with Daniel proved a little too much for him, as the salt content of the food made him uncomfortable and a little uneasy. Jewish soul food sure was comforting and tasty, but it would never be mistaken for health food. This was especially true if one had hypertension, like James, accompanied by a deep love of Matzo Ball soup and kosher pickles. He was pretty sure, now that he had no choice but to think about it, he’d ingested at least three or four teaspoons of salt. Although it was now the middle of the afternoon and there remained things to do, the sensations he was experiencing were unsettling and he felt he had no choice but to nap, even if somewhat fitfully. He lay in bed, drifting between different states of consciousness, at times dreaming comfortably and at others becoming keenly aware of what was happening elsewhere in the house.

His wife, Doreen, had come into the room earlier and asked if he wanted to get up for dinner, but James declined, choosing to allow himself a few more precious minutes of rest and relaxation prior to assuming the chores he had no choice but to perform. After all, the trash and recycle containers weren’t going to take themselves out to the curb and, since the kids were off from school the next day, he wanted to get it out that evening rather than arising early to make sure they weren’t passed up by the trash trucks that always came at daybreak.

Unfortunately, things weren’t working out quite as he hoped they would. He could hear his children arguing at the dinner table . . . and the volume seemed to be increasing dramatically. Suddenly, he heard angry footsteps approaching the girls’ bedroom across the hall, followed by a triple slamming of the door and loud screaming. He tried to ignore it. This, of course, was impossible and he was shortly fully awake. And upset.

He forced himself out of bed and popped his head into the girls’ bedroom. His oldest, Angela, was sitting propped up in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. He wasn’t feeling sympathetic and fixed her with as menacing a glare as he could muster.

“How many times have I asked you not to slam doors? I’m not feeling well and you woke me up.”

He continued his glare. She seemed not to care, merely staring back at him with sad, tear-filled eyes. Of course, this infuriated him more. Fortunately, he managed to summon up his nurturing side; at least enough to realize he wasn’t going to help by getting angry with her. With a heavy sigh, he withdrew and moved into the family room. He sat down and instead trained his glare on the television which, to his surprise, also showed no sign of caring.

Doreen, seeing him now awake, began to recount—step-by-step—the events leading up to this latest drama. He didn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversation, arguing, and yelling between the kids had made it into his consciousness while he was struggling to ignore it and remain asleep; he had no desire to relive it all from her viewpoint, thank you very much. If he had been feeling better, he would have listened better. He wasn’t.

Ten minutes later, he could still hear Angela sobbing heavily in her room. James was finally convinced he wasn’t having a heart attack and now was becoming concerned for his oldest daughter’s anguish. He felt a little pang of guilt for having scolded her. Also feeling a bit selfish and narcissistic, he decided to do something about it.

Softly, he knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response. He knocked again and heard a quiet, somewhat surly “What is it?” He now had permission to enter the room and state his business.

James walked slowly over to her. She was still sobbing, not even looking up to acknowledge his presence. He gently sat on the bed and looked at his oldest. Her sadness washed over him and his guilt was replaced with warmth and the love he felt for this wonderful child he felt so privileged to have in his life. He took her hand. She looked up, somewhat surprised, and he stared directly into her eyes.

“Sweetheart, I’m very sorry I yelled at you for waking me up. I know you had a fight with your sister and you’re very upset.” She continued to stare at him, softening slightly from the stone-faced, hurt child he’d seen when he entered the room.

“I can’t stay mad at you, and it hurts me to see you like this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her face again softened almost imperceptibly as he continued, “I’ll talk to Annie about teasing you and being so annoying. Would you like that?” The mention of her little sister brought Angela back to the feelings she had before he entered the room. Again she began to sob. James took a deep breath, wondering how he could make this better.

Seeing one of the great loves of his life this miserable was overwhelming and, as he looked into her eyes, he felt tears beginning to fill his own. He could not look away from her and, therefore, could not hide the fact he was crying. As she saw the tears in his eyes, the corners of her mouth began to turn up ever so slightly, and her eyes took on a slight twinkle.

“You know how much I love you, baby. Can you forgive me for getting angry with you? I really, really am sorry.” As he spoke, a tear slowly flowed from one eye and began running down his cheek. Angela’s eyes widened and she smiled at him with a look of both wonder and appreciation.

“Would you like to come out of the room with me and see what Mommy’s fixing for dinner?” he asked. She nodded, and continued to look lovingly into his eyes. James was filled with a sense of deep relief and not a little wonder at what had just happened. He’d entered the room hoping to merely calm his daughter down a little. Now he had unwittingly achieved something far greater and more enduring.

Somehow, his display of emotion had managed to suck the anguish out of Angela. Since he was much older than her, it was easy for him to deal with the depth of feeling he experienced and, in fact, once he saw her reaction he was filled with a profound sense of satisfaction.

He arose and held out his hand. Angela took it and stood up beside him. “Feeling better?” he asked. She nodded. He turned and led her out of the room—this magical room where something special had just happened. Mommy was making dinner and Annie was still Annie, lying in wait out in the family room. This moment, though, was very special and he savored it. He knew there would be more—perhaps even greater—battles fought between the two of them but, for now he was content to soak up the intense connection he had found in his short conversation with Angela. Life would, indeed, go on.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

Rick's visor

What Geordi La Forge’s visor would look like if it was designed by the British Royal Family.

My youngest daughter, Alyssa (9), says I need to write more blog posts if I expect people to visit and read. Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t know what it is, but sometime you just don’t have a great deal to say. Sure, I frequently post things to Twitter and even more to Facebook, but this is my blog. This is where I give vent to the things that are most important to me . . . or, is it?

I have to admit I’ve always had trouble writing about certain things, not the least of which is my becoming a first-time adoptive father at the age of 55 . . . and doing it again at 59. I want to write about the experience, but I also have long felt the need to protect my daughters’ privacy. It is, after all, their story to tell, and it’s far more about them than it is about me and my wife. I think there may be a happy medium, however, and I’m close to figuring out what it is.

So . . . here are a few goals of mine. I want to continue writing about some of the things that are of interest to me professionally, e.g. Knowledge Management, Social Media (especially as it affects business and civil society), Politics, and Religion/Philosophy. I also want to share some of my personal experiences, especially those I know are a bit out of the ordinary, e.g. International adoption late in life, retirement, becoming a man in the 1960s (including my political activism back then), and maybe some things for which the statute of limitations has thankfully run or for which the trail of evidence is too dry for me to worry about. :)

This is a process and involves (I think) my re-doing how this site is set up. I’ll be getting to that soon. Right now I’m busy looking for ways in which to supplement my retirement income. I’ll probably be writing a bit more about that as well. I have always been somewhat of a late bloomer. Now I’m just hoping I live long enough to see my latest “career move” come to fruition. I greatly appreciate those of you who take the time to visit and read. I think, perhaps, another goal of mine will be to see if I can’t elicit a few more comments. I wonder if writing about controversial subjects will accomplish that? We’ll see.

Here’s a thought. Anyone interested in the intricacies . . . and the legal and moral issues . . . of International adoption should read this. It’s one of the issues I plan on writing about as I loosen up on the subject. It was not something we thought about prior to our first adoption, but was definitely part of the thought process when we adopted our younger daughter. Now it just haunts me. One of my goals is to live long enough to see my girls to adulthood. Then I’ll be able to discuss it with them. The reality is we just don’t know for sure what happened before they came into our lives. I’d much rather it haunted me, and not them.


Death of the Postscript?

Oh, BTW.

Just an afterthought

Do you remember the postscript? You know, that extra thought preceded by a PS, usually appearing after the signature in a letter. I’ve come to the realization postscripts are a thing of the past, a relic of the days in which we would actually write letters, cards, and notes and send them to others. When using pen and ink, one had no choice but to put an afterthought in a postscript. The computer has put an end to that. Regardless of the medium, any afterthought you have can easily be inserted in the body of the main message prior to sending. Even when instant messaging or texting, there’s no longer a need for what used to be the fairly ubiquitous PS (sometimes even a PPS). Just keep adding to the thread.

This came to me the other day when, after posting something to Facebook, I realized I wanted to add another thought. Of course, it was too late to edit the original post, but I was able to comment on my own post, which is exactly what I did. In fact, I even preceded the comment with a “PS”. It dawned on me this wasn’t quite the same usage as those of us who can remember actual written communication were used to. In those days, if you didn’t include the PS you were forever barred from adding – and let’s not forget commenting, texting, etc. are virtually instantaneous – the afterthought.

I have no clear idea how this affects our ability to communicate, though I suspect it’s an improvement in clarity of thought. Given some of the lamentations I’ve read over the decline of the English language and proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation in today’s rapid-fire communications, I assume there are those who would disagree with me. Nevertheless, that’s my story.

PS – I’m sticking to it!


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