A Total Failure of Empathy

Yesterday afternoon, I came home from felling a big sappy spruce and liming a fir and felt absolutely awful. After washing up I crawled into bed and zonked for most of the afternoon. I woke up with a headache and some sinus pressure and of course, the first thing I thought was “I’ve got it.”

The surge of anxiety alone made me feel ten times worse. I wanted to contact anyone I’ve been near in the last couple of weeks, but I didn’t have the energy to contact a single one of them. I felt miserable.

My truck coated in pollen. Different day, similar experience.

My truck coated in pollen and wood dust. Different day, similar experience.

Only later did it occur to me that during the morning I’d gotten a huge dose of pollen without a Claritin. “Ah, that’s why there’s no fever,” a wave of relief. I took an allergy pill. About a half an hour later I started to improve. By midnight I felt much better with only the lingering symptoms of a snot full of pollen to mark the experience.

Nerds, this is what it feels like when you realize the zombie you passed in that supermarket raid bit you. Most of us enter each day believing that we’ll be one of the lucky survivors hold up in the prison, safe behind barbwire and chain-link. Those monsters can’t reach us and they never will because otherwise how could we feel hope for ourselves or our future?

That’s an utter and complete failure of empathy. Today, the news is filled with people suggesting that we return to work. They do this because they imagine themselves “lucky survivors” in an age of contagion. They’re unable to imagine themselves getting the virus and can’t be bothered to envision how it is affecting those around them.

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I realize that there’s nothing I can do to encourage or grow another person’s ability to see things from my point of view — to understand my experience as if it were their own experience. So many of us, especially if we’re Americans, are only practiced living within our own privilege, but, if there’s one thing I hope people learn from this virus it is how to see other people’s love, loss and pain.

Gratitude

Eight years ago today I was fixing something in the bathroom of our townhouse. When I finished I walked out into the front room, looked at my wife, and that’s really about all I can remember. The seizures just kept coming for months on end and nothing really seemed to help.

I missed a skimo race I had been training for all season and simultaneously let my partner down.

Today, I look back at that cluster event and marvel at all that’s transpired since. I’ve been seizure free for a seven years, so I can be super grateful for that. My wife and sons still love me and help take care of me when I need their assistance. My Mom and Dad have done every thing they could, up to and including moving from Colorado to my adoptive state of Washington, to be part of my life.

My life then and that ordeal seem today almost unreal, like they had nothing to do with the guy that sits here writing this account for you.

Digging it all out

It’s been a while since I put time into either this blog or writing anything at all. There are a variety of reasons, but the elephant in that crowd is that last year I started a new business. Yep, I’m self employed. I’ve been working as a “tree guy” which is the humble brag for uncertified arborist.

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Added to that rather sizable deduction from my time/energy wallet was the personally catastrophic collection of rejection I endured prior to changing gears. I know, I know, “everyone goes through it.” Still doesn’t change the fact that rejection doesn’t pay the bills and after a while it takes a personal toll that erodes one’s sense of self worth. I’m here to tell you that if you’re examining yourself through those lenses it’s a good chance you need to see an optometrist for a new prescription.

Today I went for my first run of the season. A three-ish mile jaunt into the park between scheduled events. I started feeling pretty low energy, but that changed as soon as the ol’ heart rate got moving and now that I’m done and stretched I’m feeling more me than I have in a good long time.

And that’s really what this is all about — feeling like myself. Feeling like I’m worth something to myself. So, now my challenge is to make it through the spring juggling the time/energy requirements of my work and the time/energy requirements of my family and the time/energy requirements of living up to my own expectations. And I can do that if I stay on top of all that budgeting and ensure priorities are adjusted as necessary.

I’m going to start keeping track of that rat’s nest of requirements here again, so earmark some writing and serious self examination into that personal economy. Get ready folks, we’re going for a run.

Gratitude o’ the day

It’s not every day that one get’s to show gratitude for nuts, but today is just such a day.

Over the last two months I’ve been rebuilding the turbo in my 1991 Mitsubishi Delica L300 Star Wagon. My car is just another one of my weirdness markers and often precedes my oddity as I move through the world. I’m convinced that if Wonko the Sane ever drove anything he probably had one of these, too.

Anyway, because it’s so odd, when something breaks down on this beast “fast” and “inexpensive” are never really options. Getting parts from Japan or Korea can take ages and the parts price plus shipping usually blow my budget. And all this was true with the turbo project. As I was putting things back together I realized that most of the remaining hardware I’d removed off the manifolds and et al. turbo assembly was stupid rusty. Rusty as if it had been pulled from an abandoned 1890’s molybdenum mining operation in the San Juans. Seems the original (or replacement, can’t be sure) nuts in particular were *very* prone to corrosion.

Early investigation helped me discover that the price for OEM replacements was going to top $80 clams and could take as much as two months to arrive on my shores (where my shipment would likely languish in customs for a while longer). And that’s for a handful of *nuts*.

Most people wouldn’t get too upset over this, and initially I wasn’t either. That’s because if you know the size and thread pitch of the nut you’re trying to replace it’s pretty easy to pop over to your local auto parts store and find exactly what you need. My problem was that thread pitch wasn’t something I knew nor was it something I could tell by trying to fit old rusty bits back on testing studs to figure out. Consequently, I have a pile of otherwise worthless nuts and washers cluttering up my mechanical works.

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Life lesson I’ve just been reminded of? Yeah, “If you don’t know, ask.” It took a fair amount of asking, but eventually, armed with my trusty phone and the aid of the internet I found the critical answer. Mitsubishi uses M10 and M8 x 1.25 nuts on the exhaust and intake manifolds as well as turbo mounting studs.

Finally, this morning, I stopped in at Vashon Auto (recently renamed Vashon General Store) and David hooked me up with the nuts I need. If I work at it I should be able to turn the van over for the first time in two months this afternoon.

Pacing

Legacy

It hasn’t dropped yet, but the anthology Chronicle Worlds: Legacy Fleet is being re-released sometime real soon according to Samuel Peralta and Nick Webb. The original edition was released under the Kindle World’s imprint, when KW got deleted those stories went with it, so I’m glad that Nick and Sam decided to re-issue a second edition. LUMP will see light of day one more time, this time in paperback.

Captain Obvious

When the re-release was announced I realized that it’s been a really long time since I’ve dropped a story. I guess there was a variety of reasons I’d stopped. I’m not certain that iterating them all will do much for me or anyone else, so I’m just going to catch you all up by saying that I’m writing once again. My pacing is much slower than before and I’m spending considerably more time to ensure I’ve got outlines for any project I’m working on these days.

We can chalk up my slowness to the desire to write at a sustainable rate. Besides, a little bit every day is, over time, generally much more productive than a lot one day followed by a week or more of nothing.

To this I’d like to add that I’ve taken everything down from Amazon save The Big Red Buckle. I’ve decided that I prefer to write episodically. Add this desire to the notion I don’t really care to endure endless rejections and you’ll likely arrive at the same conclusion I have. WattPad seems like a good, low cost solution for the time being. You get to read what I want out there, for free even. I get some kudos from time-to-time as well as an easy way to publish episodic stories. All of this minus the guilt and social anxiety that seems to come with Patreon.

What’s Coming Soon?

Boy am I glad you asked. I’ve been digging into some more B-List stories lately. You can check out the additions to that collection now. I’m also working on a re-write of Fire Weather, which will be novel length when its done. I’m planning on releasing it episodically, or chapter-by-chapter anyway, but only after I get some more written and edited.

Buckle Up

I’ve been sitting at the coffee shop again, killing time before school lets out early in anticipation of the Seattle Snowpocalypse that’s anticipated to being any moment now. While I’m here, I’ve been attempting to reconstruct a plot for Fire Weather and mulling over our heating situation. We’ve been toasty for a while now, but I keep recalling the last big freeze we experienced in the area (back in 2006), and I’m sort of anticipating that we’ll be without power again.

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Under these lines of thought is the notion that I haven’t talked about what I’m grateful for in a while. And away we go!

Seat belts and safety nets, yep all those things that keep people safe or prop people up when they invariably fall down. Catastrophic mitigation efforts that are everywhere, and I am grateful that they are.

Recent Reading

Bernard Cornwell’s latest War of the Wolf consumed most of my January. I felt sort of obliged to read this mostly because it’s a continuation of Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s tale. And it’s the consummate, well-crafted storytelling as one should expect from a master such as Cornwell, but, and it took me two readings of the novel to realize this, it’s about an old man. That’s what makes it, in the cannon of Uhtred, super special.

Truth be told, there just aren’t that many good stories about old people. Why? Probably, because no one wants to read about some old dude’s sword swinging sciatica. Instead, most audiences apparently wish to learn about the youthful genesis of all those pinched butt nerves. You yong’uns and yer hopping about and booty shaking. GET OFF MY LAWN!

During my second listening, I realized that Cornwell’s craft was directed to the concept that age can limit our activity, but it doesn’t change our character. Uthred is still Uthred, despite the limitations age has imposed on his body. Wasp’s Sting still hisses in its scabbard, Bebbanburg still stands implacably at the peak of Northumbria, but Uthred is slowed and takes more care as he deals with the upstart Sköll and the Saxon’s to the South.

So that’s my first fiction insight and the second? The second is that life before safety belts genuinely, without question, you-can’t-argue-this-even-a-little-bit, sucked. We’ve come so very, very far since the days when a scratch could end a life. When death and brutal violence were our mainstays and not rare exceptions to the norm.

SOTU

Yes, I actually watched the highlights of the State of the Union speech. Yes, I felt threatened. And yes, I acknowledge the multitude of lies that were told in a setting that should only allow brutal honesty. But there’s no riddle in any of that. Nope. “All that was to be expected,” he’s says while breathing a cognizant “Oh shit!”

Safety belts? Yeah, here’s the up-sight I’d like to share. During the SOTU He Who Should Not Be Named uttered the following, “America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

With the prospect of too much snow headed my way I can unquestionably say that I welcome government intervention. Please come plow my roads. I’m glad there is a quality education available for my kids. Please, help prepare my offspring for the future. In fact, in just about every aspect of my life, I’m pleased that the burden’s of living can be shared and the risks to my life can be equitably mitigated.

I do not embrace the anarchy that deregulation and “independence” will inevitably bring. These are not the words of contemporary Conservatism, rather the fiddle song that plays while Roam burns.

I’m grateful for safety belts in cars, for snow plows on roads, public schools funded by tax dollars, ambulance services, interstate highway networks, maintenance crews, single-payer healthcare, grid electrical supply, housing projects, and the whole damn enchilada that is modernity. I’m grateful for all of this because the alternative is hissing steel in leather scabbards, and I’m too old for that.