Friday, January 31, 2014

It doesn't have to be perfect!

I once re-finished furniture for a living. A lady came into the shop one day with six chairs, wanting them colored white.  So I started bleaching them. I figured the “perfect way” to color them white was to get down to the bones of the wood. I spent days bleaching those chairs and although they lightened they didn't get white. The lady eventually stomped into my shop and took her chairs before they were done. All that work for nothing and all I had to do was spray a couple coats of white opaque lacquer over them.

Dining room set finished by the writer.
The job would have been done in two hours and the customer a happy camper.
Why didn’t I do that!? I suppose I think in the back of my mind a job has to be hard. No matter how simple every job has to be hard.

I’m learning. I don’t aim so much for perfection now. I aim to do the best I can. Perfectionism is motivated by errant thinking. Maybe it's motivated by a subconscious desire to get more kudos from a parent. Maybe it's caused by a deep seated mindset that accuses you of not being good enough; you feel a need to strive for perfection to prove that's not true.

Perfectionism is like a ball and chain. It punches the air out of you.

I want to do good work. I obtain much satisfaction from doing a good job on any task. Thinking back about the best work I did when re-finishing furniture, it was always inspired work. Spirit was enabling me to do the next right thing. I wasn’t sweating and had composure. Even if I was not certain how to match a rare color, I felt intrigued by the challenge so much so that it felt like an interesting journey.

Japanese tansu re-finished by the writer
I’m a beginning Spanish learner. When I try to talk perfect Spanish I’m going to stumble the words. I’m going to fret over how to speak with perfectly correct grammar. I took a bunch of cans and plastic bottles over to the recycling center a couple weeks ago. The young fellow taking and weighing the bottles speaks some Spanish too. We conversed in Spanish with almost complete mutual understanding and fluidity for about twenty minutes. If I'd worried about making mistakes or insisted on trying to talk in perfect Spanish---that would never have happened.

Many people have a positive form of perfectionism that drives them to achieve great results in their endeavors. I'm writing today about a negative form of perfectionism. I know people whose work is so well done it couldn't have been achieved without the force of a perfectionist spirit that comes in its positive form.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What kind of blog post suits you?

Technology is like hammers and saws for building a house. It’s a parcel of tools. It doesn’t ruminate or go nebulous. It’s for getting a job done. And that's what I like about technology posts.

Need to count the stars for a project in science class? Type into Google “I want to know how to count the stars?” Want to learn how to start a blog?  Type “How do I start a blog?” Google puts the most popular answers to the question at the top of the resultant page. You can go through more pages of lesser ranked results to find an answer perhaps better suited to your needs.

Google is like a taxi.  You tell the driver where you want to go.

I question Google a lot to find instructions on how to improve the internet visibility of Me Speaking. I want to know how to use hash tags or write HTML and how to improve my blog writing. Blogging is at this point almost more about reading than writing.

What motivates me to write? The core of it is writing itself. I write about what interests me and what I’m moved to write about. In the meanwhile I hope what I write also interests readers. I don’t write aiming at any particular niche or concentrate on a single subject matter.

I believe we share a commonality in our species. If I write about an experience or memory or about an idea or subject in the news and write well, I think readers will hear an echo and take an interest.

Besides technology posts, I like to read about personal experiences. A novice Spanish student explained how she conversed in Spanish all evening when she ditched perfectionism. That blog post captured my interest.  Every post at Bitchin' Ol' Boomer Babe is a story based on personal experience. You can’t contend with personal experience. It’s what happened.

If you have an interest in a subject, and you google the subject, many blogs will appear that focus on writing about that subject. Subscribe to a blog you like and you’ll get new posts whenever published. You can read and often comment. Any blogger worth his or her salt will reply.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The side effect that moves me.

I feel better when I rock. This subtle tension exists inside that I can’t abide. It's like I need to rock. Sit me down, except when driving, and I’m more than likely to start rocking where ever I am. I don't rock back and forth when I'm getting a haircut or when I'm typing.

Do people notice? I’ve had Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) at least four years, and once in a while I've caught a few. But most people don’t seem to notice. Only my best friend has ever said a thing about it or asked why I do it. It hasn’t made a difference in my social relations. It doesn’t change who I am. Only once did I observe that anybody looked askance at my rocking.

I think a huge majority of people respect norms of civilized social behavior. It must be so. I don't know how else to account for the respect people show me by ignoring my rocking back and forth disorder. I don't give a hoot about my TD either. I'm relaxed about it and people can sense that I am.

What causes Tardive Dyskinesia?  It’s caused by years of taking medication to treat mental illness. The very recently developed medications appear not to produce these side effects as compared to those developed earlier in the 20th century. Most psychiatrists prescribe the latest medications and it’s thought in medical circles that incidences of TD will diminish in the future.

I started accepting injections of Prolixon twice monthly in the early 1970s while going to an outpatient treatment center in Marin County. I had had several nervous breakdowns and know what’s it’s like to be strapped on a cart or put into a rubber room. I know what’s it’s like to look through a window and watch Fidel Castro exit a spaceship.

I’ve been taking either lithium or valproic acid regularly since 1983. Yet I earned a four year college degree. I worked as a journalist. I worked as a professional in furniture re-finishing. I know what can be done if you refuse to believe you are limited by those who assume you are.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five Helping Hands Websites

Want help? Below are descriptions of five websites that offer help in different ways.

Begslist is a cyber-panhandling site where people build their personal donation center. Begslist claims this is easy and shows you how. The site is free for donors and solicitors. Once you write and post a beg, people who read it may help and can donate. A list of categories on the left of the homepage organize the types of begs. Examples include “disaster help”, “help paying rent”, “money for travel”, and “family crisis.”  

Lumosity is a website that is like a gym for the mind. It consists of more than forty exercises that improve, among other mental assets, memory, attention, flexibility, problem solving and speed. Lumosity recommends daily training and the sessions last about fifteen minutes. A month to month subscription costs $14.95. Lumosity tracks your scores for each exercise, and as you improve, gives more challenging exercises. It compares your scores to median scores for other people within your age range. One exercise shows the first three letters which can form various words. The more words you recall the higher your score.

Making Home Affordable allows entry to a U.S. government sponsored program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. The site presents step by step procedures which list various options which can make the difference between losing and keeping your home. Eligibility requirements exist, but the program aids homeowners to obtain lower monthly mortgage payments or to switch to a different loan at a lower rate. Unemployed homeowners can have their payments reduced to 31% of their income, or have their payments suspended for twelve months or more. The website offers HUD approved housing counselors who help to find your best option and guide you through the steps needed to navigate the process.

Retirement is the focus of this page at U.S. News Money. The page consists of retirement planning tools, news and advice. It shows where affordable locations in the U.S.A exist. It contains a blog called “On Retirement” with article titles such as “An Action Plan for Aspiring Early Retirees” and “How moving Overseas Cuts Retirement Costs.” Eye-catching, interesting looking links to various reports and info about retirement fill the page. There is information about how to make the most of your Social Security income and Medicare, and a section exclusively devoted to retirement concerns of the Baby Boomer generation.

No Longer Lonely is an online social community and dating website for people who live with the challenges of mental illness. Joining is free, but the site creator asks for voluntary donations to keep it going. It is like any other dating site, except it has chat rooms where people who have joined can talk about anything, including their mental health issues with other people more likely to understand. The site offers platforms for the display of member art, poetry and writing. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is The Borg about something happening to us?

It is central to the global transformation taking place bigger than ever. Like it or not, we are becoming more digitally connected. For some baby boomers, the loss of privacy has felt like a displacement. We prefer face to face contact. Others relish hours in chat rooms typing to “anonymous” people identified by “nicks.” I see people almost everywhere connected by devices.

We’ve got a world of Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter accounts. We’ve got millions of bloggers. We pick and choose the news we prefer to read. We follow the buzz and what’s trending. A few times though, I’ve wondered if this new digital age in which we live is producing an unintended outcome---a collectivization of the mind. I mean a global mind that hampers individuality. I’m going out on a limb. We’re not The Borg of Star Trek fame. The e-mail and social networking capacities provide significant leverage for individuals to be themselves to a greater audience than ever. So what am I trying to say?  Part of it is that privacy has been eliminated. Digital bread crumbs follow everybody using a cell phone. The Spokeo app allows access to virtually anyone. LinkedIn toots work accomplishments. Twitter allows you to follow trends on hot topics in 17 different countries.

This gets me thinking about The Borg. Star Trek fans already know. The Borg were a frightening interstellar species of cyborgs that consumed other species to incorporate the technology of that species within the Borg to enlarge its capacity. “…every Borg brain in contact with every other Borg brain at all times. They share a group mind---a kind of organic internet accessed with thoughts instead of computers.” The digital world accomplishes wonders and is used for great good. But is the human urge to connect and to know leading us astray?

The fact is scientists are developing a brain implant (chip) that will connect a person with the internet.  Estimated time of completion is 2020.
By Steven Yates, Star Trek and Collectivism: The Case of the Borg
Star Trek Shows What a Society Ruled by the Collective Mind Would Look Like
April 1, 1997

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Lone Survivor" lives against all odds.

Was the mission portrayed in the new movie Sole Survivor cursed from the beginning? It doesn’t appear so at first, but later, in the new Afghan war film starring Mark Wahlberg, it shows how an undercover Navy Seal mission code named Operation Red Wings encounters almost completely fatal opposition by the Taliban.

The team is inserted by helicopter into the Afghan landscape and hikes deep into rocky and forested mountain terrain. Their objective is to maintain a look out on a village and then terminate resident Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.
Excellent cinematography in the film shows panoramic mountain vistas, majestic sun rises and the rugged beauty of terrain in Afghanistan. Costumes, setting and varied characters add dynamic realism.

Sole Survivor opens with scenes of Navy Seal training. Soaked by waves on a beach for hours. Crawls through mud. Jumps into a swimming pool with tied feet. Interspersed scenes depict the Taliban. In one an Afghan man is getting his head hacked off.

While hidden in brush waiting for their target to appear, goats and three Afghan goat herders stumble upon the team and are captured. What to do? They carry a radio and that's evidence they’re Taliban. But one’s a boy, one’s an old man and the third is young adult with a scornful face. The team debates whether to “Terminate the compromise,” "tie them up," or "free them." The first option is murderous but appears the safest way to secure the mission. Team commander Michael Murphy, portrayed by Taylor Kitsch, orders the goat herders set free.

One released prisoner leap frogs down rocky slopes apparently with news of what he has encountered. Later the Seals see a nearby ridge alive with Taliban.
The ensuing carnage grips the theater and propels the film into some of the best war movie action I’ve seen. The Seal Team inflicts enormous damage on the Taliban, but so outnumbered are the Americans that they get forced back time and again by not only rifle but rocket and machine gun fire.

Repeatedly they tumble down rock slopes amid explosions, wounded and hurting but returning fire. The visualizations are outstanding.
When two double bladed chinook helicopters arrive with reinforcements, one is demolished by an enemy rocket. The other flies away amid a palpable sense of wrecked hope.
The death scenes of the three Americans who perish are slowed and highlight their demises.

I felt the story of how Marcus Luttrell lived the most compelling part of the movie. If you like war movies, and if you’re not bothered by the politics of the war in Afghanistan, I’d say go to this film. I give it an eight on a scale of one to ten.      

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What's the missing ingredient in our politics?

I believe in the value of individuals. I value the belief so much that abortion goes against my grain. What about the homeless mother with two young daughters collecting cans and bottles out of garbage cans and sleeping in parks? She's pregnant. Looking at her situation, I’d view abortion in a more acceptable light and probably alter my perspective.

The ability to switch perspective is important. Most of us have emotional buttons and strong feelings. We're convinced our point of view is the only possible one correct. We're immune to perspective change because when our buttons are pushed by someone who espouses a differing opinion, we automatically don’t listen. We almost can’t listen because our takes are welded tight into our identities. Our defenses are automatic.They shield us. They protect our perspectives so we can’t look at matters in a different light. My argument is that's part and parcel of the human condition.

I’m naturally a Democrat. My instincts endorse the view that vulnerable people deserve protection from powerful interests. I support unions because I’m more an employee than business owner. Unions sit on one side of the teeter totter and because they do that balances the equilibrium between owner and worker. I support that. However I'm not going to bash Republicans as people. I’m not going to sling personal invective. I’m not going to douse the fire of political discord with gasoline.

I’m going to search for common ground. I’m going to live with momentary, unsettled feelings and respond rather than react. If Pat Robertson says something of value, I’m not going to discount the remark because Pat Robertson made it.  

What happened to courtesy in the politics of the United States? I don’t care who the President is. The position itself confers a dignity on the office that obligates respect. The President is the elected representative of the country. The liberal faction fumed against the second President Bush with unrestrained venom. The conservative faction is doing the same against President Obama. We have the strongholds of the Left and Right hurling boulders against their opposites and refusing to collaborate for the good of the country. Grouped in the middle is the majority that simply wants things to work. They want food and shelter. They want jobs and a good education for their kids. They want affordable housing. They want security on the streets.

Some of us are perhaps willing to no longer care how things work as long as they work. Jobs created by an elected official to aid impoverished constituents through a technically illegal manipulation? Is that getting things to work?

I stray off topic. I mean to emphasis that the whole social and political climate in the country would improve if we began to treat Americans with different views than our own with more courtesy and respect.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Bad Boys

The Bad Boys? What provoked the enmity between the brood of my siblings and The Bad Boys? It just had always existed. The conflict was about who would dominate the acre of weedy field separating our houses.

A staked wood fence divided our grass back yard from the field. The fence guarded our house and served as a last line of defense.

Kids against the Bad Boys

We won and lost in this kid conflict of the middle 1950s.  We built a fort in No Man’s Land. We set fire to the field. They shot BB guns at us. Rocks and dirt clods flew at moving targets. Both sides had metal and wood sling shots. I preferred wood sling shots because they were hefty and solid.

In the heart of a fight a Bad Boy twirls as the rock I throw hits his chest. They press against us. We’re forced behind the fence and when they start to clamber over,  my older brother asks to let him use my slingshot. I refuse but soon consent. Into the back yard out strides our eldest sibling demanding an end to the fight. The Bad Boys immediately run. They must have mistaken her for our mother.

One hazy early morning I notice a truck size pile of smooth throwing rocks dumped in No Man’s Land. The threat is apparent. Without a share of those rocks we’ll be at a pronounced disadvantage. A sister and I huddle to counter the threat.

We arise at early dawn and sneak to the rock pile. We place them into a pail one at a time because we want it kept quiet. It’s frustrating because we’re in a hurry. I don’t know to this day how the Bad Boys discovered we were there. It was a complete surprise because we didn't see them coming. Four rushed at us throwing a shower of rocks. I took one in the temple and stunned, managed to stay on my feet.  I yelled to my sister to scram and covered her by throwing rocks at the ambushing team as fast as I could. I then slammed out of there myself, our mission failing.
Siblings against the Bad Boys
It’s a quiet afternoon. The Bad Boys loll in their trench in front of their house on the far side of the field.  I ritually eat grasshopper legs for courage. My brother pats me on the shoulder. I sprint toward them with a fist full of dirt. Not directly, but around the side. They're caught off guard when I throw dirt and run full tilt back to our side. It’s symbolic. It’s important however to let the Bad Boys know we will provoke. We’re going to unsettle them too.                          

I remember one battle is unusually pitched. We don’t fist fight, but we mix it up hurling rocks back and forth with unusual intensity. The Bad Boys suddenly break and run.  The unexpected event strikes joy into us. We repeatedly leap and shout exultant yells. We not only win that day, we prove the Bad Boys can be as afraid of us as we are of them.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Repeat...I am a senior citizen!

I’m getting used to being a “senior.” I’m getting accustomed to people calling me “sir.”  When people first started calling me "sir," I felt it a mistake. “I’m no sir!” I protested to myself, “Why am I being called sir?" I said to myself  “This is happening way too fast!!”

My maternal grandfather and sister circa 1947.

I’m 64 years old. When I was 55 or so years old, I glimpsed the top of my head and saw a bald spot. “Holy Moses I've got a bald spot?!" I inwardly exclaimed. I felt taken aback. Then once a jive kid calls me “grandpa!"

With this feedback I have begun to accept that I am a senior citizen.

I look at pictures in Facebook of friends who were grammar school classmates or pals from the late 60s, and they're seniors. I deduct I've got to be a senior as much as they are.

I walk on the treadmill at the gym.  I ran on the treadmill 20 years ago.

I’m enjoying aspects of being a senior. I feel more “entitled” to speak my mind. I enjoy feeling more free to talk without worrying how other people might think or respond. My sense of humor has enlivened with the onset of years. I like that. I like the slower pace of being an older retired man. I can read a book at leisure, watch a movie, write an e-mail or talk on the phone with little outside pressure.

I’ve felt bad sometimes as I’ve entered the older years. I’ve felt I didn’t reach my potential. Although I still feel that way sometimes, I don’t as often because I realize the past is spilled milk. I look at my accomplishments in better light and see I made a beneficial difference.

Grisham one of a kind book writer.

If I see a book by John Grisham I’ve never read, I’ll enjoy reading it.
I like how most of Grisham’s books deal with legal and moral issues in small towns of the South. The pithy dialogue he writes for his individualistic, flamboyant characters entertain.

I’m reading his latest novel now, “Sycamore Row.” It’s about what happens when a wealthy white man, close to death from cancer, hand-writes  a new will the day before he hangs himself from a tree.  He bequeaths 90% of his $20,000,000 fortune to his black housekeeper.  With that Grisham creates high impact word pictures of racism in the South, greed among the deceased man’s children, and conflict as attorneys contest the handwritten will. Most of Grisham’s books teach lessons on how the legal system works. He incorporates the drama of stories into structures of the law.

John Grisham

Grisham’s “The Painted House” was a memorable book to read. Unlike the legal drama, the book tells a story amid cotton farming in the South of the early 1950s. One reason I liked it was because a boy narrates the story and the book speaks in the vernacular of the time and place.
The cotton crop needs harvesting. Mexican workers arrive in cattle cars. Ozark Hill people arrive and put a tent on the front lawn of the family house. Grisham’s familiarity with little while growing up enables him to write well the backdrops of poverty in many of his books.

He entertains with telling details expertly thrown into the mix of his novels. He amusingly shows how people pretend. I don’t find wasted or hazy words in his writing. Grisham wrote thirty two published books and nine the film industry made into movies.

Two other memorably enjoyed books by Grisham are “The Runaway Jury” and “The Street Lawyer.”  The first tells an intriguing story as two opposed interests outside the legal system vie to manipulate jurors to win a verdict. The second tells a story about a corporate lawyer who changes his values and starts practicing law for homeless people.

Grisham brings to life the culture of segregation and country characteristics of what life probably is like in the rural South. He was born in Arkansas and raised in the South. He lives in the South now and knows its characteristics. Grisham in his early years traveled from place to place in the South with his family, until settling in Southhaven, DeSoto County, Mississippi. His father did construction and cotton farming. Grisham worked in a nursery watering plants, as a plumber’s helper, as a sales clerk in a department store and in a road crew spreading asphalt.

He first graduated from Mississippi State University with a BS in accounting, and in 1983 with a JD from the Mississippi State University School of Law. He returned to his hometown of Southhaven and practiced law for the next decade. Sometimes he was chosen by courts to represent indigent clients and gained valuable experience in civil and criminal law. He served from 1983 to 1990 as a Democrat in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Grisham is on the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, a national organization which advocates for DNA testing to prove the innocence of wrongfully convicted prisoners.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My take on Facebook

When Facebook friends comment on my news feed, I like that. I enjoy reading about what they have done or seen or feel. I prefer these rather than canned, eye-catching messages. These put distance between people. It’s like marching in a protest and carrying a sign. People see and respond to the sign. The person with the sign gets hidden. I've enjoyed reading articles FB friends have posted. I would still prefer to see more posts from individuals simply sharing about their daily lives.

When someone “likes” a comment or photo I put on FB, the positive reinforcement feels good. I like to read threads of conversation on my news feed. If a friend posts a comment and I respond, and her friend posts a comment, dialogue between strangers can ensue. I like discussions on FB. I suspect many feel an unwritten rule that stipulates no talking to people you don't know.

FB has great potential as a forum for entertainment. People could discuss a book or movie. A thread of conversation could ensue. In my four years of experience, this happens infrequently. Many people are perhaps shy and some afraid they might be mocked. Many seem uncomfortable with speaking their minds to strangers. Probably many are too busy with work and family to spend more than a little time on FB.

When I joined FB I was gratified to find long lost friends. I'm now in touch with people I knew when I was in grammar and high school. I didn’t know where they were or if they still lived. Kudos to FB for allowing me to re-connect with them.

One benefit to FB is the ability to start your own “FB Room”. You name the room and have authority over the room. You can allow people to join the room and can eject people from the room. Most of these types of rooms are created with a special purpose in mind. One room was built for people living in, or planning to move to Ecuador. Valuable advice, networking and knowledge are dispensed. Another room was built for people in a 12 Step program. In these rooms people freely share about themselves with others in that particular 12 Step program.

FB offers benefit to the world, but the world in my estimation doesn't use FB to its full potential.