Hammer Down

Wow. TWO blog posts in a month? Whatever could be going on??

I feel as if I’ve dropped off the writing map, and I guess that’s because I have. You might remember the sig in my email that reads “And if I go cold, I won’t get sold, I’ll get put in the back on the discount rack like another can of beans…”(B. Joel)  Well, that’s where I feel as if I am.  No longer really relevant when it comes to being an author.

Anyway, as you know from the last blog post, I’d had enough with the shit hole I worked in and started looking for a new job. But, because my life is never, EVER simple, a new wrinkle was tossed at me. Two, actually.

One: The plant I work at is closing and getting rid of EVERYONE.

Now this isn’t as much of a blow to me as it would have been had I not started getting my shit together already, but it still tosses a rather large element of urgency into the mix. In typical corporate fashion, they’ve told us notices will be going out starting sometime in the new year, but, of course, not exactly when. Hey, at least we get sixty days notice.

But of course, the story doesn’t end there, because as I said, things are never simple.

When I get laid off, I will be getting severance pay — except that the state that I live in immediately steals it from me.

Let me say that again: The state I live in steals my severance pay.

How you ask? Like this:

Our lovely Republican governor and his happy band of asshole republican cronies (I will NEVER, EVER vote for a republican again!) changed the rules of the state so that people like me — older people, who’ve worked for YEARS to build up any kind of severance (while STILL paying into the unemployment fund!), and who need that money to maintain mortgages and heath care — don’t get to use our severance. Instead, what happens is that the state decides that it will take the pittance it allows you per week (say… 400 dollars), will be divided into your severance, then won’t pay you a red cent until ALL of your severance is gone at the rate that they think you should spend it! This means that the money I needed to maintain my healthcare and my house is now effectively GONE. And before you even THINK of telling me “Oh but your severance is a benefit and not everyone gets that” let me respond with “Oh, but there are people with twenty thousand dollars in the bank, and maybe they should have to live off that the same way until it’s all gone before THEY get unemployment” because it’s the same fucking thing.

So maybe (if you’ve gotten this far), you’re wondering if that was the second wrinkle. No, of course not. That was just a side trip on the first one. Here’s the second one:

I’ve developed a new health problem — right about the time when I will be losing my insurance. And it’s one of those things that could be nothing, or it could be life threatening.

Fun, no?

No.

At least while I have the insurance, my doctors are being very helpful and I should soon know if it’s the nothing or the something. I’m hoping for the nothing, of course.

So anyway, if you’re even the least bit curious why I haven’t been around, even on twitter, now you know. I don’t want to post a continual stream of negative comments on twitter, I want to talk about sex and my writing. But I’m not really writing at all and I’m STILL relearning the tech (when you go in as a junior person, they don’t expect you know much, but when you’re a senior person well… that’s a very different story!), and will be until I find a new position. No matter that I know there are many other people out there that are worse off than me, the fact is there are ALWAYS people out there worse of than someone, and that doesn’t make me feel any better about my own situation.

Anyway, I know there are a few people who want to know if I’ll ever return to Avatar. All I can say is that it is my intention to do so. But my writing — especially free stuff — isn’t enough to live off of, so I really have to stay focused on keeping myself employed in a United States that has become a country that is By the Rich, For the Rich. So wish me your best, and keep Avatar in the back of your mind.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Tic-Toc

Where have I been?

First, I’d like to say that I’m sorry I haven’t posted any Avatar. It’s still there, sitting on my mental shelf and on my hard drive, asking when the hell I’m going to continue it. The only answer I have is that I’ll continue it as I can. I still have probably 20 chapters or so finished ahead of what’s been posted, but I just haven’t the time to post them.

I haven’t been writing much — certainly not enough — and I miss it. Just the other day, I spent some time writing part of Cindy’s initiation into the Circle, but before that? Months, I think. Hell, I finished a book over the summer — including 99% of the editing — and I haven’t even gotten that to the publisher. Well, to be fair, there is more than one reason for that, and a big one is that I really like this book, and I want a good cover for it. I just can’t afford a good cover, and the publisher, as much as I like ‘em, will just slap any old shit on it and call it done. Also, I’m a bit worried, because I really like the book and the universe, but you guys might not. That would suck.

The main reason, though, that I haven’t been writing is because of (surprise!) my job. It’s nothing short of horrid. I could go on for hours on just how bad it is, but that wouldn’t help anyone. What would help would be one of the main reasons I haven’t had time to write: I’m on a job hunt.

There are reasons, very good reasons, why I stayed with that shit hole as long as I did. I’m still there, actually, but now I’m also actively looking for a new position, which is a full time job in and of itself. But, as usual, nothing is simple. It isn’t just that it’s still a crappy economy (and I’d love to personally thank our idiot Congress for that — with a special thanks for the treasonous group called the Tea Party. Yes, what they did recently was treason, and if you or I did it, we’d never see the light of day again.), it’s that my decision to stay in the shit hole had consequences. One of which is that my skills are seriously out of date. Software development is anathema to the idiots who don’t understand that EVERYTHING we do there runs on software. My chosen career is not only ignored, but actively denigrated by my management. Lovely people.

And no, I’m not just whining about this, I’m fixing it. But it takes time to bring back rusty skills, then update them. This is much easier when you’re twenty, but you’ll find as you get older, it ain’t so easy. For one thing, most people don’t want to hire you. For another, companies want it all, and they want it all RIGHT NOW! Doesn’t matter if you’ve got most of what they want, it’s not enough. And they can be choosy because the economy sucks and people who work for cheep on H1B visas flood the market. It infuriates me, but again, I’m not going there.

IF I can get some time between relearning my trade, working in the shit hole and trying to accomplish other goals (like perhaps getting our house sold and maybe moving somewhere warmer), I’ll polish off that book and try and get it out. I’ll probably get out a chapter or two of Avatar before the end of the year as well. And I’m sorry that it’s so slow. I’ve been saying that for years, but it’s still true. My work life has destroyed so very much of the rest of my life, but I’m determined to get it together and get the fuck out.

So you’ll be seeing more Avatar — I’ve put too much into it to just let it go. But I’m afraid you’re going to have to bare with me for a while longer.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments

Still on hold… and holding on…

Still On Hold

People have asked, over the years, why I don’t put Avatar up for sale. They say they’d be happy to pay for it, and while I appreciate the sentiment, there are a bunch of reasons why I haven’t, and won’t, do it.

The first is that yes, there are about four people who would be happy to pay for it. The rest would not, and then I’d lose tons of readers

The second is that I started it as a free story, and I’d rather keep it that way. Once I finish Book two (yes, I will finish it), there are a few more stories floating around in my head in that universe and those I might consider selling. And I might not, who knows.

The final reason is one that many of you are aware of: We live in a nation of hypocritical prudes.

Lea says it to Ken the very first time they meet:

Again, there was that flash of sadness in her eyes. She sighed. “Your people are so… strange. You deny your own sexuality, yet use it for currency. You deny sexuality to those who are below some artificially created age, yet exploit them in secret, subtle ways while longing for the youth that they have and you do not.”

So, plainly put, Avatar can’t be sold. I’ve posted and tweeted in the past about corporate censorship. The list of thigns we can’t write about grows by leaps and bounds.

Love that whole free country thing.

Anyway, Avatar is still on hold until I can wrap my head around how I wanna get from where I am to the finish line. I’ve been doing some other writing, but mainly to just keep writing because, you know, they say you should write every day. I write most days. Lately, I’ve gotten interested in a story in a world I’ve been working on a long time, but haven’t actually posted or sold any stories in. Who knows, this might be the first.

My work situation is still bad. I still have a job, but it’s like walking on eggshells every day. The manager I work for is, well, pretty unhinged, but repeated complaints to upper management and even the “ethics” people (corporate ethics, which is why I put that in quotes) have gone unheeded. I could understand — somewhat — if I was the only person complaining, but mine is only one voice in the crowd. And we’re still ignored. I can only hope that I can hold on there until I can get work somewhere else. But, of course, the same corporations that are fucking people who work for them, are “saving money” and not hiring people. And that’s before the effects of Sequestration, which really haven’t hit yet.

Our country’s a fucking mess. I think things haven’t gotten really bad with the people yet because we cling to several illusions: Upward Mobility (that’s pretty much gone) and Freedom (severely curtailed). The biggest illusion we cling to is that we can choose our government. News flash folks: We can’t. Most of us simply don’t have the money to effect the outcome.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that I’ll get back on track with Avatar sooner rather than later. We’ll see. In the mean time, thanks for checking in.

Posted in Avatar, Politics, Social | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Time… stands still. NOT.

Holy shit! I haven’t written a blog post since OCTOBER?? Damn how time flies.

Well, you all know that in December I posted a chapter a week, which was a great thing. Now it’s March and I haven’t posted anything since. Not here on my blog and not on SOL. You might be wondering why. Or you might not. Of course, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you might be a bit curious about what’s going on.

A number of things, actually.

Life, for one thing, hasn’t been all that great. There are the normal ups and downs, but the downs have been a bit deeper, and the ups don’t seem to go up very far. Much of that has to do with my job — which is seriously shit-tastic. But it’s a shit-tastic thing that pays the bills. They fucked me over pretty badly this year, and because of that — and our awesome congress (they don’t deserve the capital C), I don’t know if I’ll have a job much longer. If I don’t, things will spiral downward pretty quickly. My wife and I actually need the medical benefits that the job provides and I rather doubt I need to tell any of you just how fucked up the job market is right now, even, or perhaps especially, in the tech sector where I work.

To add to the fun, after a several month decline, one of our pets died. I know that to some people their pets don’t mean much, but to my wife and I they are good friends and part of our little family. The loss of one of them — especially a young one who should have had many years ahead of him — was very difficult. The day we had to put him to sleep was especially unpleasant, since I started out that day with chest pains and an ER visit. I’ve already had one heart attack, so chest pains are nothing to fool around with. Fortunately the pain was from stress (both work and home), but unfortunately, when I left the ER EIGHT hours later, I had to go home, gather up our sick pet and take him to the vet with my wife. Not a banner day and the worst Valentines day ever.

I’m really not happy that my life has turned into such a fucking drama. I hate drama and I’d hoped that by this point in my life things would smooth out. They haven’t though, and in spite of all our work, they might never. Certainly if I lose my job things will get very bad.

I stopped work on Avatar a while ago. I have things all plotted out and thought I was rolling along pretty well, but there are some elements of the story that just don’t seem to be coming together the way I think they should. So I put it aside for a while in hopes that I’d be able to take a fresh look at it. Then shit started falling apart and there were many weeks of no writing at all.

The good news is that I’ve started to write again, but the bad news is that it hasn’t been on Avatar. I know I will finish the story, but again, the when will depend on how life goes. If I lose my job, I doubt I’ll be writing much of anything since I’ll be putting a lot of time and effort into searching for a new one. Which will suck for any number of reasons — not the least of which is that I really don’t like what I do for a living. Not any more. Corporations run by idiots with MBAs have seen to that.

Anyway, I have been writing, and if things go well and my life doesn’t detonate on me again, I’ll get back to Avatar, sooner rather than later. If I don’t get back to Avatar in the short term, well, the book I’m currently working on seems to be coming along pretty well, so maybe you’ll go buy that once it’s out. Or not. Times are tough all over.

Finally, I’d like to thank people for the emails reminding me that I haven’t posted Avatar in a while. And I’m serious about that. It lets me know that people haven’t forgotten it, although I’m certain I’ve lost quite a few readers since I’ve been so fucking slow about getting the story out. I’m sorry about that, and to those who have stuck around, thank you very much. And since you reminded me, I went back into the story this morning, edited another chapter and put it up. Enjoy!

And again, thank you.

(The title of this post is a reference to a Rush song, in case you were wondering.)

Posted in Avatar, Social | 4 Comments

Keep Calm and Read the Chapter!

And another chapter of Avatar is posted. When I look at where I am with regard to the writing this story, verses what I’ve posted, I feel a little guilty. Also, when you read this chapter, it’s my hope that you’re neither pissed nor confused about what the hell is going on.

I feel guilty because I’m probably twenty chapters ahead of what you’re reading. Okay, eighteen. And I don’t post all that often. But the thing is, the story’s become complex. There are a lot of moving parts and I’m afraid if I don’t give myself enough leeway to make sure that all those moving parts don’t crash into each other, that they’ll… well, crash into each other. This would annoy you.

Even with all my caution, I’m afraid the moving parts are gonna crash into something they shouldn’t. I never meant for Avatar to be this complex. I mean, it was just supposed to be about some guy and a sex goddess and lots of sex. I think I’ve delivered on the sex, but all of these plot lines! Yeesh!

You’re probably not going to want to hear this, but the fact is that Avatar is my practice piece. I’ve learned a huge amount about how to write while writing it. At least, it seems that way to me. If it turns out that you don’t think so well… don’t buy any of my books. Another truth is the fact that I could take any of the plot lines that currently exist — the Costas, the stuff with Sensei (which I don’t think you’ve read yet), the direction that Jane is going, the Tankers… any of it really, and turn it into a full length book. So the trick is to give you enough info to make the story flow, but not take any seriously deep detours.

This new chapter might make you wonder about that, and rightfully so. This portion of the story was meant to stand alone, and then I changed my mind because it dove-tailed so well into the main story. So there you have it. Another plot line. But it does come together, I promise.

From where I am in the story, things are finally getting to the point where I can start to resolve well, pretty much everything. Once I do, and Establishment is finished, I have no idea what I’ll do next. Avatar will remain a closed world (meaning no sanctioned fanfic), at least for the foreseeable future. Hell, I might even write a few Amazon-worthy tales and put ‘em up for sale. I’m sure they’d sell. At least one or two copies. Or not.

So anyway, I guess my point is that you guys are my beta testers. Avatar didn’t, and isn’t, being written like a book. A book is proofed and finished before it’s seen by the intended audience. For me though, it’s better than a book because you guys email me and TELL me things about it while it’s in progress. So I guess it’s more of a live ARC.

So anyway, enjoy the new chapter. Feel free to let me know what you think of it. And please accept my apologies for the times between postings. Once I’ve actually finished the story, I’ll be posting a hell of a lot more frequently.

Posted in Avatar, Stories | 14 Comments

Why Apple has pissed me off so much.

Hype. That’s what it all comes down to: Hype.

I thought that I’d treat myself to an iPhone 5. I’ve been feeling kinda shitty lately, and could use a pick-me-up. Plus, while I’m not an Apple Fan Bouy, I do have a love for new tech, and they make nice machines. My current phone is an iPhone 4, so I thought it was time to upgrade. Now, I really didn’t want to stand on line for 12 hours to get one, so I figured I’d wait a week or so, then go to the store and buy one. Mistake.

I spent hours on the phone — admittedly while I was doing other things — trying, just TRYING to get someone to tell me if they even had one of the fucking things in stock. Nope. No go. A fucking WEEK after the launch of a HUGE product, the stores — all of them — are sold out.

So screw it, I thought. I’ll just order one online and wait a FUCKING MONTH to get it. Oh well. Then, on a lark, I call again. Yes sir, I’m told. We have some. Not many, but some. Come on down. This, mind you, after 45 minutes on hold. So, I get in my car, drive the half hour to the Apple store (Get one at an AT&T store? You’re joking, right?), and I’m told, oh no. We haven’t had those in for HOURS. Now I’m kinda pissed.

So I’m back to fuck it — I’ll order one. Until someone says, hey, they have this online thing. Between 10pm and 4am, you can order on line and pick it up at the store. Huh, I think. Interesting. I’ll give that a try.

So I do. What a laugh. By the time I go through the process of giving the All Mighty Apple all the required information, there are no phones left. That was about 10:10, mind you. Ten minutes. And they weren’t just out in the store I selected, they were out in stores as far as a hundred and twenty miles away.

Over the next two days, I refine the process of going through Apple’s gauntlet. Last night, I actually picked a store that had what I wanted in stock. So I click to order it, and Apple throws up a NEW road block: The Apple ID.

This is a new thing for iOS 6. You apparently don’t use your itunes information anymore, it’s been usurped by the Apple ID. I don’t fucking WANT an Apple ID, thank you very much. But, because it’s Apple, I don’t have a choice. If you want to play in their walled garden, you must bend over when they want you to. By the time I get through the Apple ID debacle, well… you guessed it. The phone that I’d clicked on and had been ready to pay for, was gone. NO ONE had any, not in any store. None.

I thought I’d give it one more try tonight. I had EVERYTHING ready. EVERYTHING. I was signed in with my shiny new Apple Approved Apple ID. I had my credit card info ready to cut and paste. I had EVERYTHING. So I wait.

Then it happened. At 10:01, a store within range showed my product. I selected it then clicked on Check Out Now. However, having been fucked over now for three nights running, I’m only the tiniest bit optimistic. Then, I get it again. YOU MUST NOW SIGN IN USING YOUR APPLE APPROVED APPLE ID. WTF? I’m ALREADY signed in. Well, I’ve prepared for this, so I quickly input my info. The little wait dial spins and my order comes up. Hey, look, they’ve already got my credit card information! I do a quick check, then hit final checkout. I might actually get it this time!

The little spinnie thing comes up as I wait for my final confirmation. Aaaaannnnd….

BZZZZZT!!

Sorry, the store you selected is out of stock.

WHAT?? BUT I FUCKING HAD THE FUCKING PHONE! I FUCKING PAID FOR IT!

BZZZZZT! Thanks for playing you stupid fuck! We got you again! HAHAHAHA!

Elapsed time from when I clicked on the store that had it, until I clicked to pay for it: less than 2 minutes. Elapsed time from the 10pm start time? 3 minutes.

Three. Fucking. Minutes.

And there are no phones available within 120 miles of where I sit.

In THREE MINUTES Apple sold out of all of the phones they graciously dribbled out the their adoring public.

Hey Apple! Could you maybe FUCKING SEND OUT MORE THAN THREE FUCKING PHONES PER STORE?

It’s all about the hype. Keeping the rabid Fan Bouys rabid. Keeping the supply low so the demand stays up. And it’s a good plan, because people will fall for it again and again and again. Even if they’re not Fan Bouys, but just someone like me who likes tech. I use Apple phones because they just work. I don’t use Apple computers because I don’t like them.

I blame myself, of course. As I said, I’m having a shitty week, and a new phone would have been just the thing. My wife gets my iPhone 4 (which she really wants), and I get a new toy. But nope. Because of the Apple Hype machine, and their AWESOME business model, that ain’t happening. I’ll have to look for my pick-me-up elsewhere because all Apple has delivered is disappointment, and, quite frankly, a lot of serious anger. In fact, they made my week a good deal worse by dangling the prize in front of me, then laughingly yanking it away just as I think I might get it. If it were up to only me, at this point, I’d be looking at another smart phone. But my wife is, alas, NOT a techie, and trying to get her moved over would be… difficult. Besides, she doesn’t have to deal with this shit, and she really, REALLY likes her iPhone (can you say addict?). The pain of trying to get her to change phone type would be… significant. Plus, I find it hard to deny her pretty much any thing. So we’ll probably stick with that.

Probably.

But in the mean time, I won’t be forgetting this. And when people ask me what I think of Apple, and their products, well… a glowing review is out of the question.

Posted in Tech Stuff | 1 Comment

The New America

As I sit here for my fourth day in the hospital, I’m realizing just how much damage has been done to our country in the last 20-30 years.

It’s not the terrorist attacks, the wars that our “leaders” have gotten us into or a bad economy that’s killing us. It’s the way we do business. President Calvin Coolidge once said “The business of America is business.” People suggest that his statement was overconfidence after the depression. I don’t know, but I can’t help but think he wasn’t talking about the way we do business NOW.

Because, you see, business in American used to be about BUILDING something. About making something that worked, something that people want to buy and use. No longer. Thanks to people like Jack Welsh from GE — along with many, many others — business is about one thing and one thing only: Making money and funneling it to the top.

I use to think that it was the insurance companies that had ruined our health care system. They weren’t the only reason Healthcare in American was failing (can you say lawyers and greedy patients?), but they were at least 90% of the problem. Now I see that’s not completely true — they are only the logical result of the actual problem.

I look around the floor here, and I see overworked nurses doing their best to see to the patients. I see doctors always in motion, handling one problem after another. What do I also see? Paperwork. Tons and tons of paperwork. These people have to fill out a form to fill out a form. I KNOW most of that is driven by the insurance companies. But it appears that the same idiots that foisted CMMI and “Process” and all that bullshit on the software industry — absolutely gutting our ability to actually get something done — have done the same thing our health care system. All in the name of “Affordability” and “Process”. And of course, protecting their collective asses from the carrion eaters we call lawyers.

I wish America would wake up. CMMI, Process, bureaucracy and FUCKING BEAN COUNTING are KILLING our industries the way they’ve destroyed what little working ability our government had left after politics got finished with it. And all of that process is for one reason and one reason only: Profit.

Profit for the top “earners”. You’ll note I put that in quotes because the majority of these people don’t earn anything — the new system just GIVES them the fruits of other people’s labors. Without meaningful regulation, the stockmarket and financial rules have been manipulated into a system that funnels vast sums of unearned wealth into the pockets of people who have the means to make the system work for them; and the means to rewrite the rules.

People who don’t have the means are frozen out while at the same time being told that they have to play. Companies get rid of pension plans and replace them with 401ks. You want to retire someday? Stop working when you’re too old to work? Fine. Put your money into the market, because social security and pensions aren’t gonna do it for you. But “We the People” don’t have the money to play that game in any meaningful way — our money is essentially stolen and give to someone else.

In America, earning wealth used to mean WORKING for it. PRODUCING something for it. At least for the middle and lower classes. I suspect, judging from our own very short history, that the rich — the old money rich — just live off someone else’s abilities. In American, we don’t have a huge number of examples of people actually EARNING their wealth. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are people who come immediately to mind — love ‘em or hate ‘em, they still produced something that changed our country, and the world. And that’s the way it used to be. Cars, airplanes, electricity and many other things were invented in America. Not anymore though. It costs too much.

This is the New America. The country where everyone wants to be rich, but no one wants to work for it. Worse, nowadays it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to work for it because the system is gamed. It’s owned by the top dogs, who have obeyed the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. They don’t want to build — to innovate or create. Not in any concrete way, although they DO get to be creative when they find new ways of skirting laws meant to keep them from out and out stealing from everyone else. The effort big money puts into finding ways around rules that are already weak is astounding.

It’s so sad when my boss comes to me and says “The company wants you to be affordable, creative and innovative in your work.” Last time he said that to me, I just looked at him and said, “The end result of most creativity and innovation is failure. Please show me a time in our process driven and created schedule where I’m allowed to fail, and I’ll be happy to try new things.”

As you can imagine, I received silence as an answer.

American used to have a Golden Goose. It was the working class, be it middle, lower or upper. That goose was Producing Something Concrete. Not a derivative or a stock option, but REAL object that held WORTH. The Golden Goose, however, is starving from cut backs and constantly being fed paperwork while being ordered to make more eggs.

Just a warning: If the New America and its class of profit driven overlords don’t get it through their thick skulls that that golden goose they’ve been living off of is about to die because they aren’t letting it get enough food, this country will go the way of Rome. Just a lot faster. Maybe even in their lifetimes — which would be a fitting end.

By the way, this youtube clip sums up very nicely so much of what is going wrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h__uutzcQXc

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments