The Day the Sky Fell

No, not a Chicken Little Reference.

On this day in 1997, Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma was struck a glancing blow on the shoulder by a 6 cm piece of space junk. Later identified as a tiny bit of a Delta Rocket launcehd by NASA launched a few months before, the bit of trash was the first (and so far only) piece of junk to ever strike a human being on reentry. While I’m keen to keep it that way, it’s a testament to how much crap we’ve thrown into orbit and just left there or forgotten about. I’m plenty eager for the second Space Age to get under way, but I have this feeling that a good chunk of the early work involved is going to be cleaning up the stuff we don’t use anymore.

So why celebrate it? Well, the fact that there’s enough stuff we’ve put in the big black to consider some of it garbage is a testament to the pretty incredible things the human race has accomplished in its time in the universe, at least when we put our hearts and minds into it. Greater things are coming, without a doubt, and it’s a good reason to ask ourselves two questions:

  1. What do I want the future to look like?
  2. What am I doing to help that future get here?
  3. What else can I do?

All things we each need to answer for ourselves and then reach out to other like minded people. It’s the only way we’ll get the future we really want.

Be well, everyone.

Happy Universe Expansion Day!

The first of my created holidays for the Year of Celebration, Universe Expansion Day celebrates the release of the paper by Sir Edwin Hubble, “A RELATION BETWEEN DISTANCE AND RADIAL VELOCITY AMONG EXTRA-GALACTIC NEBULAE” which, by showing that the farther away things are from us, the faster they’re moving away from us, ultimately showed we live in an expanding universe.

Reason enough to celebrate? Well, I suppose that depends on your point of view. It’s certainly neat and gives us more to appreciate about the universe, but unless you’re a science or science fiction geek, it probably doesn’t play much into your everyday life.

So how about this: try expanding your personal universe today. Consider a viewpoint on something that’s completely different than yours and see if it has any merit. Search for something random on Google and click the “I feel lucky” button. Talk to a stranger.
The universe is expanding whether we like it or not, but we get to choose how we expand our view of it.

Be well, everyone.

To Resolve or Not

Not.

I only do one New Year’s resolution, and it’s the same one every year.

But in the spirit of the New Year, I do tend to set a variety of goals, enough that they need to be broken into categories. Leaving aside my writing goals for the year (you can see those over on my author’s site if you like), martial arts goals (which are very specific and look mainly for benchmarks I’d like to hit in my training), and other physical goals (e.g. getting back into real running condition this year), there are a handful that fit into the general category of ‘personal goals’.

Lose 20 Pounds

I actually did this last year, although December holiday eating cost me a couple of pounds. If I can manage it again, I’ll be down into the “ideal weight range” for my height. A little diet control and a little exercise. Well, and a little perseverance. And a few less chocolate chip cookies.

Return the House to Baseline

In late December of 2002, we moved into our house with two small children and one more on the way. Ten years later with three not so small children, we’ve got a lot of stuff hanging around. And kids are always messier than you think they are. We need to de-clutter. If I count bathrooms, hallways, the laundry room, and the garage twice, we need to completely reclaim one area every three weeks to get things back in line. Some of them will be quick and easy. The laundry room won’t be. Neither will the garage. Or any of the kids’ rooms, especially the one that needs redecorating. It’s a major task, but will make everyone feel better, I hope. It’ll make me feel better, anyway.

Get Better at the Telephone

Okay, I admit it, I suck at telephone. I blame the internet and texting and just plain laziness. Personal contact doesn’t mean what it used to, exactly, although it still can if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort. There are people in my life who I’m willing to put in that time and effort and this year I’m going to get off my a$$ and actually do it. On a certain day each month, I’m going to call someone I don’t talk to enough just to say hi. And I know who this week is going to be, because I owe him a phone call.

The Bucket List

My bucket list grows all the time. The target this year is to actually cross some stuff off of it, and the deal I’m trying to make with myself is that to put something on, I have to cross something off. Sounds easy enough, but there’s going to be some picking and choosing involved. Probably a half of my list involves either traveling somewhere or doing something when I’ve travelled somewhere. There are a lot of things I want to see while I have the physical capacity to do so. TV doesn’t count.

And that’s plenty

So there’s this year’s group of goals. I emphasize goals, not resolutions. These are things to strive for, to get better at, not necessarily to check off a list. Well, there is the bucket list. And the list of rooms to reclaim. But you get the idea.

Be well, everyone.

Year of Celebration—January

So, I blogged last month that 2013 would be a year of celebration, that I’d find something to celebrate every single day this year. While I still have a few days to figure out (including several in February), I’m pretty set up for the year, so the Year of Celebration™ begins today.

Not everything is an official holiday, of course, or even necessarily related to anything that actually happens on that day, but that’s fine. The idea is more about finding a little extra joy or meaning in life this year. And, while not every day is an excuse to party, there may be a couple of those mixed in with the joy. Who knows?

January 1st is pretty obvious. It’s New Years Day, the day the calendar turns over and we get that brief feeling of ‘this year can be anything’ before life settles back down onto us and reminds us that nothing has changed. (I’ll take an aside here that this year can be anything if you want it to be, but you also don’t have to take my word for it. Make the new year whatever you want and find as much joy in it as you can.)

But what about the rest of the month? Well, here’s what else I’ve got outlined:

 2         Run it Up the Flagpole and See if Anyone Salutes Day
3         Festival of Sleep
4         Trivia Day
5         12th Day of Christmas
6         Cuddle Up Day
7         Old Rock Day
8         Bubble Bath Day
9         Mermaid Day
10       Houseplant Appreciation Day
11       1st day of Carmentalia
12       Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day
13       International Skeptics Day
14       Huygens Day
15       Youngest’s Birthday
16       Religious Freedom Day
17       Universe Expansion Day
18       Thesaurus Day
19       Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday
20       X-Ray Day
21       National Hug Day
22       The Sky is Falling Day
23       Pie Day
24       Compliment Day
25       Opposite Day
26       Spouses Day
27       Chocolate Cake Day
28       Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day
29       Puzzle Day
30       School Day of Non-violence and Peace
31       Chimps in Space Day

I’ll probably tweet and post to Facebook for each one, along the lines of “Happy {blank} day, everyone!” and maybe with a link to the source of the holiday. If I’ve made it up, it’s more than likely I’ll do a quick blog entry about it.

Happy New Year, everyone, and be well.

Damn, I Feel Old

I’m not, but typing this, I feel it.

This will be set to post at 1:42 a.m. on December 19th, 2012. This is a noteworthy date and time in my life as it’s the exact 14th anniversary of my son’s birth, according to the watch I had on at the time.

Yup, if you’re reading this my oldest child is now 14.

So yes, I feel old. Other upcoming events will help reinforce that feeling, but this is the one highest in my mind: my first baby is 14.

14!

When I get up, and he gets home from school, we’ll totally celebrate. Tonight, I’m letting myself feel old.

Be well, everyone.

When Did I Become That Guy?

It Just Took Some Time

Gradually, so gradually I didn’t really notice, I’ve made an interesting mental shift.

You know all of those silly chain letters and urban legends masquerading as status updates on Facebook or, less frequently, links on Twitter? Well, more than chain letters: anecdotes with not at all veiled You-see-Timmies, missing children, fake news stories designed to create an indignant emotional reaction in the audience. You know, the ones you roll your eyes at and ignore or, if someone has actually posted enough of them that they’re really cluttering up your stream, you start to hide that person’s updates.

That was me. I stress ‘was’.

Sometime in the last couple of years, I’ve gone from rolling my eyes to thinking, ‘how could you possibly believe the hoax you’ve just helped perpetuate?’ to actively pointing out the ones that sadden or annoy me.

I’m not a jerk about it; at least I don’t think I am. I’ve never called someone out or called someone a name or busted their chops for not thinking before they posted. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually wanted to do any of those things.

“This seemed a little weird to me, so I gave it a quick Google…”

“I remember hearing about this in the news last year…”

“Sorry dude, but as nice as the sentiment is, I first got this one in e-mail sometime in 1999…”

“Um, sorry. This showed up in my stream a couple of months bag along with a warning…”

And I take a few seconds to research the hoax or fraud so I can provide a link or two. Or three or four in some extreme cases.

I get a few acknowledgements here and there, but most pass by uncommented and, probably, unnoticed. That’s okay.

It’s not a big part of my day, or even a part of every day, but I feel like it’s important, even if only to me, and I’ve been thinking about that a little bit.

As a parent, it’s part of my job to teach my kids to think. Not what to think, and I believe quite a few people make that mistake (a discussion for another time), but to think, as in how to use their brains.

Extending that to the rest of the world seems a little unkind, at least without a bit of explanation to go with it.

To Steal From Douglas Adams

“Anything invented before your fifteenth birthday is the order of nature. That’s how it should be. Anything invented between your 15th and 35th birthday is new and exciting, and you might get a career there. Anything invented after that day, however, is against nature and should be prohibited.”

I don’t know that 35 is the appropriate cut off anymore—we are getting more flexible just due to the pace of change we have to deal with—but that’s beside the point at the moment. Fifteen is probably still pretty good for the low end.

The generally accepted date for the creation of the World Wide Web, what most people refer to as the Internet (but that takes in more), is the 6th of August, 1991. Yup, the Internet as we know it is only 21 at the moment. But really, it’s younger than that to most of us. Google was born in 1998, the same year as my oldest child. That’s probably a good benchmark for the “modern” internet, and makes for a nice convergence as they’ll both be 15 next year (which makes me feel old, but what else is new).

Add those together and if you’re under 30 right now, the way things are is the way they’ve always been, more or less.

But don’t forget that includes people.

Those of us on the far side of 30 tend to have to think about things a little more and, sometimes, work to keep up. A different problem, but sometimes amounting to the same thing: we’re a little rushed.

Search Your Feelings

A hoax used to be really hard to pull off. It was hard to get the word out, to find people willing to believe because the evidence you presented looked convincing.

Not so in the Internet Age.

Make it emotionally convincing and post it in half a dozen places. If it hits the right emotional buttons, a few people will pick it up and repost it without checking. A few of those reposts will get a few reposts, and so on. If you’re lucky, your hoax will go viral and you can sit back and laugh about what a clever douchebag you are.

Better still, pick something you know has worked before and recycle it.

Wait, let’s make a few little changes to make it seem a little more relevant or target a specific audience. Now you’re not just being a jerk, but you’re marketing a particular worldview, pushing a position for or against something.

How can you best play on my feelings so I won’t take the time to think about it? It’s all about the spin, baby.

And now, your moment of Kolinahr

Being passionate about things is great, as long as that passion is directed by reason.

Lately, I’ve started seeing more people pointing out the hoaxes and fallacies and cruel jokes that get perpetuated by the ease of communication we have these days, and the time crunch we all seem to live our lives in. Some people are gentle about it, like I try to be. Some people aren’t. Some people just type the word hoax and attach a link.

Maybe some of those people were always there and I’m just seeing them now. Maybe some of them are recent converts, sad or angry about how much stupidity has been thrown at them or has even caught them.

Someday soon, there might be enough of them to start making a difference in everyone’s time stream, and wouldn’t that be an awesome thing?

Be well, everyone.

The State of My Immortal Soul

Okay, fair warning. If you consider yourself religious and that religion is a major part of your life, I’m probably going to offend you in this post. Proceed at the risk of your spiritual sensibilities. You’ve been warned.

I’m not kidding.

One would think that the state of my immortal soul is something that’s uniquely my responsibility, something that’s between me and God, should {insert pronoun of choice here, selecting gender and number as applicable to your personal beliefs} exist. Somehow, that belief is mistaken, at least according to some small bits of the universe around me.

You see, hardly a day goes by where there isn’t some bit of religious dogma tossed into my path targeted at getting me to convert to whatever particular branch or sect the proselytiser happens to believe in, or at least get me to come to church. Because, obviously, his/her/their way is the only right way and it should be easy for me to see that.

I’m relaxed. I’m open to new thought, and my universe has the space in it for you to believe whatever you’d like. If any particular person gets solace or comfort or happiness from their particular flavour of religion, I’m fine with that.

Just leave me out of it, okay?

Your freedom ends where my nose begins.

The local religious peddlers have learned not to bother me. I’m polite, but I’m firm, and the message is a simple one: Go away and never come back.

Go away and never come back!

Go away and never come back!

I don’t want to hear the Good News or that we’re in the last days or anything about God’s Plan or God’s Will or about how God is great. Really. Honestly. And that’s not going to change next week when you’re making a fresh round.

If only the news media and internet were so easy.

Freedom of Thought

Free will, as I’m fond of saying, is a wonderful thing. You are free to have and spout whatever opinion you care to have on any subject. But remember that not only am I free to have a different one, but I’m also free to ignore yours or disagree with it.

Really. Honestly. And that’s not going to change next week.

I’m free to have my own way of thought. Whatever relationship happens exist, or not, between me and God/des((s)es)), is between me and God/des((s)es)). Go about your business and leave me alone.

Oh, and for reference, I’m not going to let you try to indoctrinate my kids, either. We’ll have a stronger conversation about that if it comes to it.

And Another Thing

If you made it this far through the post, please understand that I’m not angry or upset with anyone in particular, and I’m not out to offend the world. All I want is the freedom to choose my own path, as enshrined in the laws of the country I live in, and have that freedom respected by all comers.

I wish that were always as easy as it should be. Mostly it is, but sometimes…

Thanks for reading, and be well everyone.