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by Jeff
Rated: 18+ · Book · Biographical · #1399999
My primary Writing.com blog.
Logocentric (adj). Regarding words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality (especially applied as a negative term to traditional Western thought by postmodernist critics).

Sometimes I just write whatever I feel like. Other times I respond to prompts, many taken from the following places:

         *Penw* "The Soundtrackers Group
         *Penw* "Blogging Circle of Friends
         *Penw* "Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise
         *Penw* "JAFBG
         *Penw* "Take up Your Cross

Thanks for stopping by! *Smile*
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December 13, 2022 at 12:28am
December 13, 2022 at 12:28am
12 Days of Christmas Logo

| Day 5 |

"Underneath the Tree"
by Kelly Clarkson

Like "Santa Tell Me, this 2013 hit from Kelly Clarkson is often considered one of the modern successors to Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas (Is You)" in terms of contemporary holiday standards. The song has repeatedly made the list of "best Christmas songs" by a variety of outlets including Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Metro, O, The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Men's Health, Good Housekeeping, Country Living, and Time Out. A 2019, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution listed it as the only new song from the past 20 years in their list of Top 50 Christmas songs.

This is one of my favorite songs to play when everyone's gathered together. Our family often makes tamales to honor my wife's family's tradition, and it's the perfect song to play in the background while everyone is working to assemble them. It's uptempo enough to keep everyone plugging along and feeling the Christmas spirit, even as we're assembling our hundredth tamale. *Wink*
December 8, 2022 at 12:58am
December 8, 2022 at 12:58am
12 Days of Christmas Logo

| Day 4 |

by Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins are a hit-and-miss band for me. I know people who absolutely love them and others who hate them with a passion, and I've always been somewhere in the middle. I'm not sure they're ever anywhere near the top of any of my playlists, but when certain songs of theirs come on, I enjoy them and wonder why I don't listen to the band more. This is one of those songs that make me wonder why I never listened to them more, because I remember it being one of the most-replayed songs I listened to on that A Very Special Christmas album it was included on. That and, of course, "Santa Baby" as performed by Reverend Run, Mase, Diddy (back when he was Puff Daddy), Snoop (back when he was Snoop Doggy Dogg), Salt-n-Pepa, etc. *Bigsmile*

I was reminded of this song after watching The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special last month, and I added it to my holiday playlist and have had it in circulation ever since. I'm probably going to have to add another entry or two from that holiday special to my list this year because there are a couple of great new songs that I'll probably end up listening to in future years.
December 8, 2022 at 12:44am
December 8, 2022 at 12:44am
12 Days of Christmas Logo

| Day 3 |

"One More Sleep"
by Leona Lewis

This is a song I discovered this year, courtesy of Spotify. I had no idea that Leona Lewis even had a Christmas album and, while I don't necessarily think that this is necessarily a straight-up Christmas classic, she has a great voice and I think the cadence of the first verse in particular is really entertaining. I really love her song "Bleeding Love" but, being mostly a one-hit wonder, I haven't really followed her career and didn't realize that she had released several albums, including the Christmas one that this song is featured on. To me, it sounds a little similar to Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas (Is You)," or at least shares a lot of the same catchy pop elements.

A couple of fun facts that I learned about Leona Lewis while researching this song:

1. Her breakout came as a result of winning the third series of THE X FACTOR in 2006.

2. Her biggest hit ("Bleeding Love") was co-written by Ryan Tedder (of OneRepublic) and Jesse McCartney.

3. She and Anthony Kiedis from Red Hot Chili Peppers were jointly named PETA's Sexiest Vegetarians of 2008.

December 5, 2022 at 12:27am
December 5, 2022 at 12:27am
12 Days of Christmas Logo

| Day 2 |

"Please Come Home for Christmas"
by Charles Brown

Most people are probably familiar with the cover versions of this song by the Eagles in 1978, or the Bon Jovi version in 1992, or more recently Kelly Clarkson in 2013. Or any of the other various covers by the likes of Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, Ryland James, etc. But this year I want to pay tribute to the original version, co-written and performed by blues singer and piano player Charles Brown. This ended up being the most popular song he ever came up with, and I love the old vinyl sound of this recording. It's a testament to the quality of the song that so many really famous artists have covered it for their own Christmas albums over the year.

This is one of the songs I listen to when I'm feeling a little melancholy around the holidays. I've found this season to be particularly difficult over the past few years after losing my mom unexpectedly in November 2020, and one of the things that's surprised me is how often I want a bit of a sad song to listen to and just sit with my feelings of loneliness and missing her. It's a careful balance though, because if I listen to something too sad or somber then it puts me in a worse mood. But certain songs, like this one, are upbeat and positive enough while still maintaining a bit of the twinge of sadness that it just kind of works when I want to be just a little blue while I'm feeling nostalgic. This song strikes that right balance for me, so while I didn't often listen to it before, it's definitely become one of my holiday standards in recent years... particularly this version.
December 5, 2022 at 12:03am
December 5, 2022 at 12:03am
12 Days of Christmas Logo

| Day 1 |

"Santa Tell Me"
by Ariana Grande

This song is probably my current favorite in terms of "contemporary classic" holiday songs. It was released in 2014 and has charted every holiday season since its release. It's become such a popular standard that Ariana Grande has been dubbed by some to be the "Princess of Christmas," a nod to the fact that Mariah Carey remains the undisputed "Queen of Christmas" thanks to the unbelievable success of her 1994 hit "All I Want for Christmas (Is You)." It's really kind of amazing that any song is considered in the same league as that massive success, and it's even more impressive that this song from Ariana Grande came along twenty years later and is considered popular enough to be the runner-up among modern-day Christmas pop songs.

Longtime Soundtrackers might recall my ride or die attitude toward "All I Want for Christmas (Is You)," but if I'm being honest, after being out in the world for nearly thirty years, I might, might be willing to concede that I listen to this song more at Christmastime these days that I do Mariah Carey's hit. Shh, don't tell Beth... *Laugh*
December 1, 2022 at 11:12pm
December 1, 2022 at 11:12pm


         *Movie* The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
         *Movie* I Am Vanessa Guillen
         *Movie* Samaritan
         *Movie* The Star
         *Movie* The Swimmers


         *TV* Partner Track
         *TV* Tales of the Jedi
         *TV* White Lotus (Season 2)
         *TV* The World Cup

On the movie side of things, I really liked THE SWIMMERS a lot more than I thought I would. It's a biographical drama about the story of real-life Syrian refugee sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini, who crossed the Aegean Sea by swimming alongside a dinghy full of other refugees to lighten the load. Yusra eventually became an Olympic swimmer, and Sara joined a refugee rights group. I'm normally not big on biopics, but this one was really well done, with a great underlying true story and excellent acting and filmmaking to accompany it. The only other notable movie I watched as SAMARITAN, although not because it was a good movie. On the contrary, it was actually pretty bad, but it's notable because it has a twist at the end of it that I've contemplated for one of my own scripts for years, and it's always a little frustrating when you find someone else has beaten you to an idea, especially when it doesn't quite live up to the potential of the concept.

For the television I watched this month, the second season of WHITE LOTUS is decent and I like the idea that the new season is basically a new set of characters at a new resort somewhere in the world. Talk about a great concept. Every time they want to renew the show for another season, they go to the showrunner and he probably goes, "Okay, the next season will be set in the White Lotus luxury resort in... hmm, where do I want to travel next?" *Bigsmile* And TALES FROM THE JEDI is an interesting collection of shorts. There are six of them and, like any collection of shorts, they're not all winners. I'd say there's probably one really good one, two okay ones, and three that really didn't do much for me at all.

The real highlight of this month has been watching the World Cup. I splurged on a Hulu + Live TV subscription so that I could watch a few of the games. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it because the whole thing being set in Qatar has been a real case study in corruption and human rights violations, but the actual sport itself has been great, including some surprisingly results, really intense games, and amazing goals. I'm not a huge soccer fan like my brother, who follows a ton of the international teams throughout the years between, but I get on the bandwagon every four years for the World Cup and have really enjoyed watching it so far.

TOP PICK: The World Cup
November 23, 2022 at 2:46am
November 23, 2022 at 2:46am

I came across this blog prompt tonight and it's the perfect question because I'm currently frustrated with my writing output. This is another NaNoWriMo where I've failed to write much, in a year where I haven't written much, in a season where I haven't written much.

You know the saying, you never forget how to ride a bike? I'm not much of a cyclist and a few years back, I decided to try riding again after more than a decade without ever getting on a bike. And even though it's true, I didn't actually forget how to ride, I sure as hell was out of practice, wobbling away and desperately trying to keep my balance at a speed I can only describe as embarrassingly slow.

Ever since then, I've had a new perspective on my various skills. I haven't necessarily forgotten how to do anything, but I do get out of practice at things I don't regularly maintain. I'm out of shape physically, and I'm out of shape as a writer, because I haven't devoted the time or focus to maintaining my abilities.

All that I've accepted.

The frustrating part for me is that I haven't really found anything that's worked to get me back into practice. I join activities like "I Write: Enter the Second Decade (which I'm writing this blog post for) in hopes that the regular writing will help me shake the rust off, but so far nothing has helped me regain that spark I used to have for writing. Maybe it's just the phase of life I'm in now, as a father with a demanding day job who's still grieving his mother's death two years ago and trying to find meaning and purpose behind everything. Maybe I'm not dedicating enough time to my writing, or not following through enough with the ideas I do come up with.

I honestly don't know where to go from here. As I close out NaNoWriMo in a few days, and I Write with this blog post, I'm going to need to really think about what it is that I need to do to get back to my writing, Because my inability to hit my stride with my writing is my current frustration right now.
November 20, 2022 at 9:47pm
November 20, 2022 at 9:47pm
I have a couple of colleagues at work who were just turned down for promotions and/or raises for no other reason than the company doesn't want to promote them or pay them more. Both of them have consistently gone above and beyond their assigned job duties (the expectation being that they would be rewarded with advancement sooner or later), and both of them have decided that a little "work-to-rule" (or "quiet quitting" as it's come to be known recently) is the only real recourse they have against an employer who is arbitrarily preventing them from achieving career advancement.

I've never been a fan of the term "quiet quitting" because it has nothing to do with quitting your job, and the expectation that you're somehow deficient for only doing the bare minimum that a company is paying you for is a toxic one. "Work-to-rule" literally means doing no more than the minimum required by the rules of your contract or job, and I actually prefer the term "act your wage," as I think it's a better description of the action in today's world where over-performance is expected (to the point where just doing the job you were hired to do is called quiet quitting!).

In my experience, a lot of employers are still riding high on the past decade-plus of favorable conditions for companies. Since the Great Recession between 2007 and 20009, companies have been emboldened to make excessive demands on employees' time and energy. There are entire online forums dedicated to employees sharing stories of how their bosses and companies have set unrealistic expectations, whether it's working mandatory overtime, taking on additional responsibilities above and beyond their job description, or even being pressured to forego benefits such as taking all their vacation days or expensing valid items.

For myself personally, I have benefit of a relatively high paid, white-collar job with a large amount of flexibility. But at least half of my job at this point is comprised expanded responsibilities that are above and beyond the job description I was given upon being hired years ago, including: managing other employees, entire processes and responsibilities that have nothing to do with my core duties, etc. During the pandemic, we worked remotely from home for two years and continue to work hybrid from home at least two days a week if not more, but the company has never reimbursed us for our cell phone or home internet usage, both of which are used regularly for the company's benefit.

Much of the world has gone through an economic shift recently. It's not unexpected; these kinds of ebbs and flows are natural where at certain times jobs are scarce and employers enjoy enormous influence over a workforce that needs their jobs more than the companies need them. But then things swing back the other way and there are more open job positions than qualified people to fill them, and the employees have more leverage to negotiate higher titles and salaries, have their pick of jobs which allows them to pass up ones that aren't a good fit for their needs, etc. It's just the natural cycle of business.

But something has happened with this latest phase of employee empowerment, and it's that the companies - after over a decade of having the stronger position - are now resentfully opposing the a world where employees have the power to object to a company's working conditions. How many op-ed articles did you read during the pandemic about how remote work is terrible for business and people just need to get back to the office? Most of those were written by CEOs and corporate HR professionals. How many reddit forums and Buzzfeed lists and the like are dedicated to stories of unreasonable managers, supervisors, and bosses who think employees should make work their sole priority? How much pushback has there been at the idea of work-life balance, where the idea of (gasp) putting in your hours and going home at the end of the day is seen as tantamount to (quiet) quitting?

Even before the pandemic, my parents never understood why I switched jobs every few years. They were raised in a generation where you could work for the same employer for decades, receiving regular promotions and raises, and very little reason to leave outside of a national economic downturn or the desire to leave. I grew up in a world where, over the first fifteen years of my professional career, I've worked for over half a dozen employers and left because I liked the place but was told there's no path for advancement (3x), or because I've been laid off (3x). I've only left one employer by choice based on it not being a good fit. For most of the years I've been a working professional, I've worked for employers who have made it very clear that they value their profits above their people. And that's not to say I haven't liked the jobs I've worked; just that they've been in an environment where the companies I've worked for have not been as loyal to me and they've expected me to be to them.

All that said, the idea of "quiet quitting" is one that I understand. The desire to just do the job you're hired for and not give 100% of your time and energy to your employer is a reasonable and human one. And that dynamic of treating your job like a job and just one part of your life instead of your whole life shouldn't be something that's viewed derisively as a character flaw... it should just be "acting your wage."
November 19, 2022 at 8:15pm
November 19, 2022 at 8:15pm

When it comes to big questions like "is there extraterrestrial life out there" and "can humans thrive on other planets and/or moons," I tend to take a statistical look at probabilities rather than go with my gut instinct. While there were a number of unlikely conditions and factors that had to take place in order for life to exist here on Earth, one also has to look at the sheer size of the universe and wonder if, statistically, life is possible elsewhere. So let's do a little math... *Sob*

First, you have to figure out how many planets are out there. This article   does a great job of laying out some basic assumptions, but the main takeaway is this... our galaxy likely has trillions of planets in it, and current best estimates are that there are at least 200 billion other galaxies in the observable universe, so we're talking about 10^25 planets in the universe. If you want to see that number written out, that's 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in existence in the universe.

But not all of those planets are likely habitable. There's a term in astronomy and astrobiology called the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ), or "Goldilocks zone" colloquially, which refers to the range of orbits around a star where the planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure. Within our own Milky Way galaxy, it's assumed that there could be as many as 40 billion planets roughly similar to Earth (i.e., in the Goldilocks zone with comparable sizes and geological features to that of Earth.

Multiply that assumption by the 200 billion galaxies out there and out of the 10^25 total planets in the universe, 8^21 (8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) of them would presumably be in that Goldilocks zone and have the raw setup to be able to support the evolutionary processes that created humans. But let's assume that those unique systems are extremely rare. Maybe 0.000001% (one in every million planets that could support life actually do), and you're still looking at eight quadrillion planets (8,000,000,000,000,000) in the known universe. If you want to factor in time (i.e., assume that only one out of every million of those planets currently has sentient life because the rest either haven't gotten there yet or have since gone extinct, and we're down to eight billion (8,000,000,000) other planets.

Oh, and by the way, these numbers are just for planets. There are also untold number of other moons, asteroids, comets, and other celestial bodies that aren't being counted here.

When viewed like that, it seems almost egotistical to think that we're the only planet that managed to evolve its way to sentient life. That's not to say that sentient life on other planets looks anything like us, communicates like us, or even that conditions are close enough for us to survive on their planet... let alone whether any of them have developed technology possible to traverse the space that separates them, but the question of "whether there is sentient life out there," for me, is a probabilistic "yes." I don't know whether that sentient life has any resemblance to our own, but it just seems likely that some other planet somewhere in our vast universe has figured out how to nurture and sustain intelligent life.

And regarding the other questions of whether humans can thrive on other planets or their moons, I think the answer to that based on our own demonstrated ingenuity, is a resounding yes. As a species who has exponentially advanced its technological capability and understanding in the span of just a few thousand years (and made massive leaps in just the past few decades), I think it's likely that problems of acclimatization are ones that are solvable, whether it's developing technologies that allow us to breathe a new atmosphere, or create structures to insulate ourselves against a hostile (but habitable) atmosphere, I think it's probable that, if we were to find one of those planets similar to our own, whether already inhabited or not, we have the ingenuity and resourcefulness to figure out how to survive in a new environment that has the basic building blocks for sustaining life.

This is one of the reasons why I love reading and writing science fiction so much; figuring out what may or may not have developed elsewhere in the universe at the same time we're finding our way on Earth is a puzzle with endless possibilities and end results.
November 15, 2022 at 12:38am
November 15, 2022 at 12:38am
"Take up Your Cross | Prompt

This is an interesting question because the concept of "reputation" has both pros and cons.

On the one hand, if someone does not have a good reputation, people don't listen to them. If a Christian has a bad reputation, their ability to evangelize and communicate the message of the Gospel becomes compromised, if not downright detrimental to the cause. In a world where we're supposed to be the living embodiment of a better way to live, how do we convince people to follow the path if our own reputations are tarnished. It's often been pointed out by critics that Christians have almost the same rate of divorce as non-Christians. That churches and other Christian organizations are just as susceptible to corruption and poor management. And on and on. Without having outstanding reputations, Christians won't be able to convince anyone that their way is better than any of the other alternatives out there.

On the other hand, it's very easy for reputation to become an idol, for someone to become more concerned with their reputation than anything else including their commitment to following Jesus. Again, it's often pointed out by critics that many Christians suffer from the idol of reputation just like everyone else. There are pastors who have let their concern for their reputation harm their churches. There are Christian worship leaders and authors and missionaries who have prioritized their personal reputation over their mission for the church. If reputation becomes an idol, Christians won't be able to convince anyone that their way is better than any of the other alternatives out there.

When it comes to the concept of reputation, Christians need to be concerned with maintaining a good one so that they can effectively evangelize, but they must stop short of letting their reputation become an idol that replaces their kingdom work.

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