Thursday, October 31, 2013

Facebook Prison Blues

I was recently blocked from sending friend requests and then chastised for it on Facebook. This is apparently a routine occurrence based on the feedback I got from my post that pasted at the end of my rant for your enjoyment. For those of you that don’t recognize it, the song is Folsom Prison Blues by the legendary Johnny Cash. I’d like to think if he was still with us that he wouldn’t be offended.
What bothers me about being chastised and blocked is the hypocrisy. Facebook is taking the position that users should only send friendship requests to people that they know in the physical world.

I have a personal problem and also a logical objection to this apparently contrary opinion. My personal problem is that I have developed many friendships with people solely through electronic means. People I trust and have done business with and collaborated with yet never met in person. Despite knowing them at this level before I sent them a friend request on FB, I am still in violation of their rules by sending the request, and that is just plain stupid.

My logical objection is that FB puts a limit on friends at 5,000 people. If you have a page, it can be liked by significantly more people, but a users personal page has a limit that is radically higher than anyone could every maintain in the real world.

A British anthropologist named Robin Dunbar proposed that there is a cognitive limit to the number of 250 people with whom any human could maintain stable relationships. Her theory further speculates groups of people fall into three categories equivalent to bands, cultural lineage groups and tribes. The upper limit of tribe ranges between 500-2,500 people. So a maximum number anyone could realistically “know” in the real world is 2,500, yet the FB limit is twice that at 5,000.

I’m not the most extroverted person, but I’d bet that the realistic upper limit is actually around 500 with an average closer to 250. Regardless, not only is the limit dramatically higher but FB acts contradictory by posting friends suggestions directly on the peoples feeds. Worse, they recommend people with few friends in common. I’ve received suggestions for friends with only 1 other friend in common. Now I appreciate FB trying to help me out by suggesting I may know someone that I may want to connect with and yet am apparently too incompetent to find on my own, but in the “Real World” I have less than 250 in my personal and professional circle and I can find them all on my own.

What would be really cool is of they could mine my data, and not just use spyware on my browser to determine what products I’m interested in buying, but real data mining so they could find people that I used to go to school with or served in the Army with back in the day. Now that would be useful and I really know or at one time knew those people so there would be no need to chastise me if those people refused my friend request. Because if I’m completely honest, I haven’t had positive relationships with everyone I’ve ever met.

So why does Facebook go through this dance, especially when despite their instance, neither their customers nor even they themselves believe FB should only be used to communicate with people you already know in the real world? Great question, I can only speculate that it’s to cover their ass. Friend requests are sent and sometimes they are rejected. Some customers will undoubtedly complain. Perhaps they are on FB to only share information and pictures with their closed circle and one of the people in their circle is a little more social so they show up the suggested list of friends FB sends to others.

I think a better solution than FB Prison would be for customers to be able opt out of the whole mess. If they only send and want to receive requests from people they already know well, why would they want to be on a list sent to strangers? This seems like a simple solution, so why didn’t they think of it? Perhaps they did, but that would run contradictory to what Facebook as a company wants, which is people having the most friends they can possibly have. More friends mean more posts. More posts means that they will stay on FB more often which in turn exposes them to more advertising. Even when they get you hooked on games, they design the games in such a way that the players are rewarded for getting more people hooked on those games, hence all of the damned game requests.

You best friend from high school doesn’t care of you play the game he or she is hooked on, but to get a bonus level or some feature unlocked, they are willing to pimp your ass out to FB. If you get hooked in the process so be it.  I get irritated at the requests, but these folks are game junkies and need our help, not our anger. A twelve step Farmville program would come in handy, because I AM NOT GOING TO WATER YOUR FUCKING CROPS WHEN YOU GO ON THAT CRUISE MOM!! Sorry, lost my mind there for a second.

You see, they make money from outside advertisers, but they also charge people to advertise their pages throughout FB. Pay them enough, and even though some people may have no desire to see your writer’s page, they will get a recommendation to like it. If you pay enough, everyone on FB could potentially get your page as a suggestion.

I send out friend requests for a variety of reasons. First, I get a kick out of many of the post. There is a lot of great content out there and I see more of it the more friends I have. True there are repeats and occasionally I get a new friend that ends up being a bigot, but I can un-friend those few exceptions.

If I am likely to see a fellow horror writer at a convention, and especially if a person I already like tells me he or she is “good people”, I’m going to try and friend them. If people are fans of horror I want them to read the stuff I write and also the stuff I publish through my small press. I have a page for Stygian Publications, but without paying FB to advertise, I can only get likes by sending invites to my friends….

By George, I think I got it, or at least another reason why they put people in jail for sending out friend requests. At least I would like to think that they are sophisticated enough to put two and two together, but I’m not able to test my theory. It would be interesting to know if people that had pages they were trying to drive traffic to were put in jail more often that people that only have their personal page.

I would also like to know how many is too many when it comes to sending out friend requests. Does only one person have to click the box saying they don’t know me and that is the reason they are denying my friend request or is does it take ten? If I have ben in jail once, do I have a record? Am I considered a convict? When I am able to send requests again (the block lasted about a week), am I on double secret probation or does the counter reset to zero?

I’m afraid I have only questions and will likely not get them answered. I do know that the punishment is not that severe, just irritating and if FB’s goal was to rehabilitate me, then they failed. I’m back out on the street and they are baiting me with tempting new friends and I am only human. I’m going to send out more requests, it’s only a matter of time.

Posted on FB Oct 30th, 2013:
Apparently, this establishment frowns on sending friend requests to people that I don’t have a relationship with in the “Real World”.  I think this is a mixed message since they post a link on my newsfeed suggesting friends. I was put in Facebook Prison and it gave me the blues, so I wrote a song about it called “Facebook Prison Blues” and goes a little something like this,
One, two, one two three…
I got my bad boy notice
While I’m sitting in my den
And I ain't sent a friend request since I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Facebook prison, and time keeps draggin' by
But those people keep a posting and sharing stuff I like
When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Farmville just to watch him die
When I get those game request, I hang my head and cry..


I bet there's strangers posting some cool new Vader memes
They're probably getting lots of likes and sharing all their dreams.
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free
But those people keep a posting'
And that's what tortures me...

Well if they freed me from this prison,
If that Facebook page was mine
I let people meet each other without having to do time
Far from Facebook prison, that's where I want to stay
And I'd let my new friends, post my blues away.....

Copyright, R. Scott McCoy, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

And now for something completely different

I love British bathrooms.

There, I said it and I’m glad.

Before I explain why British bathrooms are superior to those in the US, let me first do some level setting.

I’m not a rabid anglophile. I do appreciate much of the history, though only from a military perspective. I like Dr. Who but I’m not a rabid fan. I love Sherlock Holmes. That’s it, no qualification around that, I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collective works and don’t care who knows it. So while I do appreciate some things British, I never had an overwhelming desire to travel there any more than anywhere else with the exception of Africa. Sorry Africa, but while you have a lot going for you, if I wanted to be hacked to death or burnt alive, I’d insource that job domestically and go to Detroit.

To be fair, as a child it never occurred to me that travel was even in the cards for me beyond the occasional trip to Wisconsin and the dream of some day seeing the Twin Cities. I dreamt of being Spiderman, knowing it was a dream. The cruel truth of economics and logistics prohibited me from dreaming of things I thought were firmly out of my reach. So England became no different than Narnia. Places I read about, but as far as I was concerned, I had a better chance of finding a portal in a wardrobe.

Then I grew up and achieved more than I thought possible. I dared to dream of cruises and foreign travel. England, Scotland and Ireland were at the tope of my list. So my company sent me to India in 2006. What I found is that except for the jetlag, I liked it. Two jobs and a bunch of travel later, I finally arrived in the UK for the first time.

This is my third trip and all have been for business. I haven’t been able to do many tourist activities, but I have seen a few sites. I did get to see the relatively new 221 B Baker street museum and gift shop. I did get to see Big Ben from a taxi window. Those were cool, I won’t lie, but they pale in comparison to my greatest UK discovery, the British bathroom.

For those of you that have never traveled between these two countries, let me explain. The entire bathroom isn’t necessarily superior, though most have a better design. The key feature that makes them superior are commode the stalls. Urinals are about the same, though the Brits do seem to space them out a bit more and have better dividers. I’ve also never seen a sink design in the UK with a flat counter top and over pressured faucets that cause water to pool so that when you lean forward to wash your hands or check something in the mirror, the water absorbs into you pants in the groin region.

While not all British bathrooms are so well equipped, I have to share this pic of a this brilliant vending machine that takes care of all of the man's and woman's needs and manages to address some of the most common excuses as well.

If only they had these a century before, though I'd rather not meet the man or woman that needs the giants 100 pack of tic tacs.

And now back to my story.

First I’ll describe the British stall. Have you ever heard the term “water closet”? Well, that is appropriate, because each stall is a small room with a solid door and no gaps or cracks. It shuts and you have true privacy. I’ve been in a few now and they don’t skimp on wall thickness either. The guy next to me could be suffering from a trip to Chipotle, but I would not hear his screams. Added bonus feature in case you’re not sure of the door is shut by accident, most have a lock on the inside that triggers an “Occupied” sign on the outer door similar but not quite like they have on airplane bathrooms.

The US stalls on the other hand are poorly crafted from sheet metal and painted horrific colors. They are designed poorly and quickly thrown up so most have larger than planned gaps and are about 18 inches off the floor and top off around six feet high, leaving plenty of gap before you reach the ceiling. Because of poor alignment, many of the flimsy slide locks do not fully seat and a large percentage open when any of the connected walls are bumped.  Worse, since almost all of them shut as their default position, you have no way of knowing if they are occupied by looking at the door. There are several slick moves used by men across America so we aren’t mistaken for some pervert trying to catch a look. There’s the quick duck down to look for feet, but this move is rarely done when someone is at the sink or at a urinal. You can walk by as if uninterested and glance quickly through the ½ inch wide crack to see if there is a shape in the gloom. A more patient person can hang back by the door and listen for movement or breathing, but if detected that might only narrow it down to one of the two being occupied, not definitively identify which one.

Desperate or impatient men just grab hold of the door and pull. This only works if it is empty. If not and the lock miraculously holds, most occupants feel the need to say something like. “I’m in here” or “be done in a minute”, as if the locked door weren’t a giveaway. Sometimes the door gives and you’re face to face with someone in one of several stages of completion.

You may argue that the British method is more expensive, but I challenge that assumption. Post construction work would be, but if it were part of the plan, the increase per building would be negligible. We broke away for many reasons over two hundred years ago, but we have bonded since then and it’s high time we recognize we can still learn from our brothers and sisters across the sea. I call on all of my fellow American’s to rise up with me and demand a better bathroom experience.

Who’s with me?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Marriage Equality

For the record, since some that read this would have no way of knowing, my disclaimer is that I am straight and married.

The title of this blog post is Marriage Equality, but it’s really just about Equality.

There are those that oppose marriage equality and claim that it's on the grounds of their religious beliefs, specifically referring to the Christian bible. The problem with claiming that you are against marriage equality because of your Christian faith is that it is contradictory to Christ’s teachings and it does make you a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is part of the human condition. Few people that act hypocritical are aware of it at the time. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid but I’m painfully aware that I’ve been guilty of this in the past and will likely fall into this trap again. I will continue to strive to avoid it and do some reflection when it’s pointed out to me.

I don’t believe that changing your mind is hypocrisy. If you have a firm opinion at 20 and through investigation or reflection or perhaps by someone presenting new information or old information in a new light and you change your opinion at 21 or even 40, I don’t believe that makes you a hypocrite.

What makes you a hypocrite, is saying you believe one thing and then without stating a change in opinion, you do another. Hypocrisy is especially obvious when a person puts forth their opinion, acts contrary to that opinion and then states the opinion again, especially when casting judgment on the conduct of others.

With regards to the issue of homosexuality, you have two choices:

Either you believe being Gay is a choice, and since it is called out in the Old Testament as an abomination it is a sin.


You believe people are born gay in which case it is not a choice but how god made them and can’t be a sin.

Let’s assume you fall in the first example and you use the bible to argue against marriage equality. The odd thing about this is that despite it being the Old Testament, I don’t hear people of the Jewish fail making this claim. Christians fall under the New Covenant and have since the resurrection of Christ. The Old Testament is no longer binding. And while the Old Covenant held to the letter of the law, the New Covenant holds Christians to a higher standard by requiring them to meet the Spirit of the New Testament. So before Christ, you were only in trouble if you killed someone as it would violate one of the 10 Commandments, while after the Resurrection, you are now in trouble even if you spend night and day wishing someone were dead even though never act on the impulse.

Speaking of the Ten Commandments, let’s just say you’re old school and want to cleave to that old Covenant. Thou Shalt Not Be Gay is not one of the Ten. I’ve read through them and it’s a pretty good list of things you shouldn’t do if you want to be a functioning member of society. Then there are the Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy and Gluttony. Nope, being gay is not one of the seven.

While we’re on the topic of sin, if you are a claiming to be a Christian, then you know that there are two types, venial (or minor) and mortal (which are pretty serious). Most Christian scholars claim that homosexual thoughts or urges would be venial, while acting upon those urges would be mortal. Why? Two reasons. First, that it is sex that occurs outside marriage, and second, that the specific act is considered unnatural.

The first is a catch 22, since if we allow homosexuals to marry then it will no longer be a sin to have sex with your spouse. The second one is pretty straight forward, but guess who else commits unnatural sexual acts? Anyone that does anything besides Missionary Position, that’s who.

I think this is the part where we quote the big guy himself:

John 8:7 “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Or how about this oldie but goodie:

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Matthew 7:1 is the perfect segue to my next point. Even if you believe and can prove once and for all beyond a shadow of a doubt that homosexuality is a sin and those that practice it are going to hell, it is none of your (what for it) fucking business!

A person’s relationship with whatever god they do or do not believe in is a personal one. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s not your job to stop people from sinning. If it was, you should start with the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins. When you manage to stop committing them yourself and manage to get the rest of the world to stop committing those, you can take on Homosexuality. In fact, let’s agree that it is #18 on the list. Go fix 1 through 17 and come back and talk to me.

But hey, let’s pretend that you have completed that miracle and you want to tackle #18. Even if you get to that point, you have no business trying to enforce your religious beliefs on others through the law of the land. Their soul is their business, what we are talking about is public policy.

The United States of America was not founded on Christian freedom. It was founded on religious freedom. Some people forget that. The constitution is there to protect people from your oppressive views just as it is there to stop others that may want to interfere with your right to worship Christ.

I know that’s a tough concept for some people, but you need to deal with it. People have the right in the USA to believe whatever they want to as long as those rights don’t infringe upon the rights of others. This could occur if some devil worshiper claimed sacrificing another person was a religious right. No, sorry but that crosses the line and impinges on the other persons freedom to live.

Our Constitution also claims that all people are created equal. We know that isn’t true. Blacks were 3/5ths for a long time and women only got the right to vote in 1920. The law is not always compassionate, but Christianity is supposed to be. It’s kind of a requisite for being a Christian unless you are a Hypocrite.

But it’s even worse than that. We aren’t just talking about some random public policy issue. Using any argument to fight against marriage equality allows an environment of intolerance to flourish. By not recognizing homosexuals as equal members of society, we allow some people to see them as inferior, just as blacks and women were seen as inferior and still are by some. I consider it counter to Christ’s teachings to allow a group of people to be treated as less than human. Whether you like it or not, you are actively contributing to the creation of the hostile environment where others, that also see homosexuals as inferior find it acceptable to take violent action against them.

You may lull yourself to sleep by convincing yourself that you are just against marriage equality for personal and religious reasons, but you are lying to yourself if you deny that you are actively contributing to a climate of hate and violence. Only through acceptance and equality, can we stop the cycle of violence. If you claim to be a Christian, you have no other choice than to stop the oppression of homosexuals. Your loud and angry voices only add fuel to the fire. They give strength to those that strike the blows in the USA and abroad. The intolerance and cruelty that translate into the culture of intolerance and hate is fueled by your words and deeds. It emboldens cowards to brutalize those they see as less than human and worse you manage to convince some people when they are young that they are less than human and unworthy to the point where they kill themselves.

Do you feel proud of these acts of violence? Do you truly believe that you are in no part responsible for these heinous acts?

For my part, I was never homophobic. Despite that fact that I am not a good Christian, I was raised to believe that people have a right to pursue happiness as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. In my twenties, I was ambivalent to the LGBT cause because I didn’t see how it affected me and I personally had nothing against them. If it was brought to a vote, I would vote for their equality, but it wasn’t something I gave much thought to. I felt that because I saw them as equal under the law and morally, I had the high ground and that was enough.

It took the violent actions and cruel laws passed in Russia for me to wake up to the fact that being on the side lines when it comes to equality for all people is not a justifiable position. I’m not sure why it took me until I was 47 to have this epiphany, but it isn’t good enough to simply stand idly by. Edmund Burke was right, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We can update that quote to ‘good people’.

Does this mean that I’m going to start marching in LGBT parades? No. I hate parades, always have. What will I do? Try to change minds by posting up a blog on the subject, teach my children love and tolerance of those that are different from themselves, when given the opportunity respectfully debate the issue with someone that I think is salvageable and vote out politicians that contribute to the culture of hate and intolerance.

Is that enough? I don’t know, but it’s better than nothing.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I Call Bullshit

There has been a lot of political rhetoric on the Internet in the last few weeks around Syria. The latest is this poster. Read it and let it sink in.

I’ve had enough and I have to call bullshit. First, let me make it clear I think we need to stay the hell out of Syria. I will explain why later, but let’s start with the fallacious argument laid out in this pithy poster.

Using Benghazi as a basis for a reason why Obama shouldn’t interfere in Syria, is bullshit. And this is all about Obama, not whether or not the US should get involved in Syria. Everything is partisan these days and that’s the problem. When we talk about putting US troupes in harms way, we need to drop the political party bullshit and do what’s right for the USA.

There were 12 attacks on US Consulates while Bush Jr. was President resulting in 60 deaths. Some of those deaths were even US citizens. Clearly, no one gives a shit if some foreigners working at our Consulates die, or they’d bring up the attack on the Peshawar, Pakistan Consulate in 2010 when 8 people died. But those dark faces don’t make as compelling of a poster as the 4 US white faces in the Benghazi tragedy. But to pretend that Obama doesn’t care about the deaths of the American’s in the Benghazi tragedy implies that Republicans do care. This is blatantly false since neither side raised the issue of any of the previous attacks, of which there have been plenty resulting in a lot of deaths of both American and non American people working in those Consulates.

Besides the Consulate attacks, Bush Jr. also got us into two wars that to date have resulted in the deaths of 6,756 US War Fighters. The total casualties are slightly higher than that but clearly we don’t give a shit about the deaths of our allies either. Fuck them until we need their support to go do some more killing, and then they are pussies unless they back us, right?

By the very fact that all of these deaths are completely ignored in context of the Benghazi outrage, it is clear that the deaths of the 4 American’s isn’t the driving force behind this obviously political attack.

Try fitting 6,756 young faces on a poster if you want some outrage. The largest percentage of these deaths occurred in Iraq. Between the two wars, even some of the more liberal democrats out there have agreed that we needed to face our enemy in Pakistan. Remember our enemy? Al-Qaeda and the Taliban? The ones that attacked us on 9/11/2001? There was no Al-Qaeda, Iraq link. There were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. When that became clear, what did the Republicans fall back on? They brought up the fact that Saddam Hussein was an evil bastard because he gassed his own people. Sound Familiar?

Now that a democrat in the White House is trying to use military force against an evil bastard that gassed his own people, the Republicans are going batshit crazy. I guess Obama should claim there are Weapons of Mass Destruction in Syria. Guess what, there ARE. Sarin is defined as a WMD, and we now have proof that they have it and used it. Actual proof, not some bullshit lead from the CIA that didn’t pan out and was so weak not even a liberal rag like The New York Times wouldn't have run with the story until they had a more reliable second source. But so what? WMDs do exist in countries outside of the United States and we will never get rid of them all. Deal with it.

Just in case you think this is some rant from some anti war liberal, the Republicans aren’t the only hypocrites. It just so happens that with Obama in the White House, their hypocrisy is just more obvious because they are on the attack.  The Democrats and their completely unbiased news agencies (we really need a sarcasm font) made every casualty during the Bush presidency a news story. Death toll stories ran monthly in print and on the air and there seemed to be constant video footage of the violence. Suddenly, Obama gets into office and no one cares about the number of US dead anymore. When was the last time you saw horrific images from Afghanistan on the nightly news?

When the Republicans were faced with the reality of no WMDs in Iraq and used the monster gassing his own people angle, the Democrats scoffed, but now the shoe is on the other foot. Not only are there WMDs in Syria, but a Democrat is using the excuse that a monster that gasses his own people should be stopped with American military might.

Which is it people? What is our stance in America? Are we justified intervening when a government gasses their own people? Is it OK if they just blow them up and shoot them?  Are we the world’s police? What about the WMDs? They exist, but does their existence present a Clear and Present danger to the United States? I hate to break it to you, but the UK has Nuclear weapons. Israel has Nuclear weapons. But hey, they're our allies so that’s OK. We have nukes too, but killing people with nukes is OK, just not nerve agent. We signed a treaty saying it was bad so there is no way we still have some hidden away in some bunker.

Fact: Syria has not attacked our allies or us. Fact: Neither side of the civil war in Syria would be our friends or friends of our allies. Fact: Syria has WBDs and has used them on their own people in a civil war that has raged for two years with a death toll estimated at 100,000. Fact: The number of deaths from the Sarin gas attack is around 1,300, which is not even 1.3% since it brings the other number to at least 101,300 (these are all estimates but close enough and in ratio to each other).

What is the right course of action for the US with regards to Syria? Let’s break it down from a policy perspective, especially given what we’ve learned in the Middle East in the last twelve years and slanted with my bias.

I think we were wrong to go to war with Iraq regardless of how evil Saddam was. I think we were right to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. I think interfering in Syria’s civil war is not only wrong, but also at this point hypocritical. We would have stood by and let the death toll rise to double 100,000 or more and never lifted a finger, but because Bashar al-Assad used Sarin gas, we must intervene by killing a bunch more Syrians? Both political parties have changed sides and are now arguing their opponents previous positions because the fact is they don’t give a shit about Syria. This is about winning elections because both sides want to either stay in power or get back into power for as long as they can. For the last forty years it has become fashionable to use our armed forces for strictly political gain, literally greasing the wheels of politics with the blood of our War Fighters and the enemies that they in turn also kill.

We need to actually have a documented foreign policy that clearly spells out when we try diplomacy first and when we simply move toward the use of military force. We need further gradation to describe circumstances when we use remote force vs. “boots on the ground” force. This policy should not be administration specific, it should be divorced from the Executive Branch with a clause to allow a President to make their case if they feel the situation is not clearly covered by the policy that is voted on by the people and enforced by Congress.

The main requirement for this policy would be to require a clearly stated goal of the military action. What is our goal with Syria? Are we attempting to remove Assad? Punish Assad? Destroy any other chemical weapons? All I’ve heard is the President making a case for military action in Syria using remote weapons with no “boots on the ground”. What is the objective? How will we know when we are done? How many more terrorist attacks will we suffer in the future as retaliation for our action in Syria?

Will there be any collateral damage from our bomb and missile attacks? You bet your ass there will be. Will the number exceed 1,300? Hard to say, but if they do, who would rationalize justification to attack us in response, or will be OK because we killed them with conventional weapons?

To summarize because I covered a lot of ground in this rant:

1.     The Democrats are hypocrites.
2.     The Republicans are hypocrites.
3.     Anyone that claims to care about Benghazi because of the deaths of 4 Americans are either lying or ignorant and probably the latter.
4.     Iraq war bad.
5.     Afghanistan war bad but necessary.
6.     Fuck Syria.
7.     We need a real foreign policy in place that is less driven by the best interests of two political parties and more focused on the interested of the citizens of the United States of America that reigns in the Executive Branch's abuse of power over the last fifty years.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's been quite a year

I started this blog thinking that I could be a blogger and that I would have something interesting to say on a regular basis. That has clearly not been the case. What I discovered about myself is that I need time to reflect on something before I share it. When I hit a creative dry spell in 2010, I gave my poor neglected blog a reboot by posting short stories of my life. I posted the stories that I easily remembered and thought that readers would find entertaining.

After several posts, I decided to capture those stories in a memoir. My fiction was not flowing so I wasn’t sacrificing yet I had no idea how much if anything there was to say. I wanted to only select memorable stories that had some impact on me, whether it was positive or negative.

I’m not sure how many of you know your parents. I mean really know them, not just as they are now but also as they were as children, young adults and early parents. My parents didn’t volunteer a lot of information beyond a few choice family stories, but I’m persistent and over the years I got what I consider about a 30% insight into who they were and perhaps 75% insight into who they are as adults. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to leave that gift for my girls. For better or worse, I wanted them to know not just who I was and who I’ve become, but perhaps why.

I ended up with 110,000 words. Twice as long as any fiction I’ve ever written. It wasn’t a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account, I assure you. I hit only the highlights and some of the stories were years apart. Years where I plugged along and little happened of note. When I was done, I thought that I should publish it. The draw back is that I’m not famous. I’ve also never used drugs or alcohol. Many of the memoirs that get published are either coming of age stories or rehabilitation stories. I’m not sure mine qualifies for either. I only submitted to one publisher, so it isn’t like I gave it a serious go, but the more I thought about it the stranger it felt.

One thing that it did do for me was to break the logjam in my mind. I was writing again and I turned my eyes back to fiction. I got my short story collection, Hunter’s Moon: Visceral Tales of Terror, published by Omnium Gatherum. Then something odd happened. I got laid off from ATK.

I knew it was possible after five consecutive years of cutbacks and in a moment of clarity in 2011, I even predicted it. Yet the reality was too unpleasant to focus on and I believed in the company and the importance of the job to the point that I kept my blinders on. Five years after leaving Xcel Energy for a new opportunity, I was out on the street with 5 weeks severance and no clue what to do next.

The next five months were unpleasant. For those that have been through it, you know. For those that haven’t, it isn’t something you can imagine and I hope you never find out. That same month the Masters program I taught at St Mary’s was redesigned and a new program manager was hired. I was not officially informed that my services were no longer required, but I was also not contacted to write up a new lesson plan.

For those of you that were fans of Necrotic Tissue, you know I had to shut the magazine down for financial reasons in 2011. In less than a year I lost my magazine, the part time job I used to help fund my magazine and my full time job that pays all my bills. Good times.

On the plus side, I did get to spend the summer with my family. Job hunting takes persistence and patients, but there was rarely more than two hours of work needed per day unless I had an interview. You’d think that I would have been able to write at least one full-length novel in those five months, but the reality is that I felt guilty doing anything besides job hunt and family time. No writing and no Xbox and not that much TV.

August 2012 started out rough. I’d been short listed for two jobs that hadn’t panned out and I’d had five interviews at Thomson Reuters. It was starting to feel like the last two short list situations, but I kept being called back for more. Then I got not one, but two very special birthday presents.

The first was a great job offer from Thomson Reuters, which I took, and the other was a blog post by AJ Brown. I’ve never met Mr. Brown, but I did publish him in Necrotic Tissue. His blog post can be found here. It was posted just two days before my 46th birthday and one week after I started my new job. Despite being incredibly relieved to have such a great new job, I was far from “whole”. Mr. Brown’s unexpected post did more for me than he will ever know and I thank him for taking the time.

Since then, it’s been a very busy year. I didn’t get to spend as much time with my family this summer, but we also didn’t lose the house. I began a project with a good friend of mine, Jimmy Pudge. We just completed the first draft of a novel, a first collaboration for us both. We plan to have it ready to submit to unsuspecting publishers in September. Regardless what happens it was a great experience. I may even dust off the memoir and get serious about submitting it to unfamiliar memoir markets.

After all, it hasn’t just been quite a year, it’s been quite a life and I hope there is plenty of track left on this roller coaster.