One blog to rule them all
Welcome to my blog!
I would make some sort of clever introduction here, but most of us already know how blogs work; if you like me and like my writing, you might also enjoy my personal ramblings and assorted thoughts. If you don't like me, you're probably not reading this anyway. And if you're undecided in your opinion of me, I invite you to read as much or as little as you like and decide for yourself.
Please read on and, if you find something worth discussing, don't be shy about submitting a comment!
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 20
As tempting as it would be to indulge my vanity and choose to have a thirty-year old body for the final sixty years of my life, I'd choose to keep my thirty-year-old mind instead. Yeah, that's right. I'd forego all the Dorian Gray jokes, then wondering whether I'm some kind of immortal vampire, all the money I'd make as a spokesperson for some anti-aging supplement, and instead I'd choose to have a sharper mind and the full clarity of a brain at its prime.
Mostly, what it comes down to is the kinds of activities that I enjoy. If I were a more outdoorsy person or enjoyed physical activity, I could totally understand wanting the resilient body of a thirty-year old so you could run a marathon every year for sixty years, or so you can play pick-up basketball games every weekend with your friends forever. But the things that I enjoy doing (reading, writing, watching films, thinking, etc.) are all things that don't necessarily require a clear mind, but are definitely enhanced by one. I'm the kind of person who can enjoy just sitting there and reading a good book, and gets an enormous amount of satisfaction out of thinking through a problem, or typing at a computer and making up stories. I could do those things forever, so I'd love to have the mental acuity to be able to continue doing those things as well at 80 as I was in my prime at 30.
These kinds of "either/or" questions always make me wonder whether my answer would change if the particulars of the scenario changed. For example, would I still take the mind over body option if I knew I was only going to live to be sixty? What if it was the body and mind of a forty-year-old? What ratio would I choose if I could take 60 years off my mind and body (e.g., would I rather have an unbalanced 30-year mind and 90-year body, or would I split the difference and go with a 60-year mind and 60-year body at the age of 90)? Honestly, I think that would be kind of a fun way to go through life, if rather than a dramatic 60-year difference between one or the other, if I was just perpetually 30 years younger in mind and body than my chronological age. To be physically and mentally 30 at age 60, 45 at age 75, 50 at 80, etc. would be awesome.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 19
If I only had a year left to live, I would probably spend a lot more time focusing on making sure my family is taken care of after I'm gone. I'd probably sign up for a bunch of life insurance, make sure I'm spending as much time with them as possible rather than working so I can make as many memories as possible with them, etc. I would also probably make a more formal bucket list and try to spend time doing those things that I've always wanted to do. For me a lot of it is travel-related, but I'd also want to pick up a few skills (playing an instrument, try a bunch of different foods, etc.).
Part of me would want to work hard to get to an idealized version of myself (finally lose the extra weight I've been carrying around for years, improve my understanding of spiritual concepts, etc.), but that would be a "ten years left to live" thing. With only a year left to live, I'm not sure I'd want to put a bunch of miles on the treadmill at the gym, or stuck with my nose in a dense philosophy text when I could be spending that time with my loved ones and enjoying new experiences for as long as I possibly could.
Among things on my bucket list would be to have a book published (for which I'd most likely go the self-publishing route for the sake of expediency). I'd probably also try to make a movie of my own, even if it was a low-budget one, since I've been meaning to do that again. There are a ton of books I want to read and movies and shows I want to watch. Most importantly, though, I think I'd just want to spend as much quality time with my friends and family as possible. It would probably be lots of meals, coffees, and outings with everyone that's important to me.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 18
If I were choosing one particular chore, it would be cleaning the bathroom.
But the biggest dislike I have about cleaning is more a general category than a specific task. I hate doing the detail work. I'm more than willing to clean up big mess. Sweeping or mopping the floor? Cool. Wiping down the mirror and scrubbing the toilet and the shower? Fine. I'm all about doing the heavy lifting and getting it 80% of the way to being spotless. It's that extra 20% that kills me. The scrubbing every crack and crevice, or the spending several minutes on one particularly stubborn stain on the carpet. When I clean, I'm all-in for quantity over quality. I want to do the biggest and dirtiest jobs that, after twenty minutes, will have the greatest visible indication that I have accomplished cleaning. I love to clean off the counters, or pick up clothes off the floor, or put the kids' toys away because all of those things give you a huge return on your investment in terms of making the house visually cleaner. Not so much with the grout work, or getting those final pesky streaks off an otherwise clean window.
And while this might sound like a cop-out, I'm not going to tell a story about how to get out of doing a chore I hate because I'm a freaking adult and my choices are either to buckle down and get the cleaning done, or live in squalor. When I was a teenager living at home I might have tried to come up with some creative excuse to avoid responsibility, but as an adult with my own place, I honestly don't want to get out of doing the thing that I know will make me happier and more content to live in my home. If there's one thing that quarantine and shelter-at-home has taught me, it's a renewed appreciation for tidiness and how much more relaxing it is to live in a space that's clean and not overflowing with junk. It's not particularly creative, but if I wanted to get out of doing a particular and specific chore that I didn't want to do, it would involve trading something else with my wife or kids. If I don't want to clean the bathroom, I'll scrub the food spatter off the stove. Or sweep off the patio. Or vacuum under the loveseat and the sofa in the living room. The thing I've come to learn about being an adult is that it's not about getting out of doing something you don't want to do... it's about tradeoffs and figuring out what you're willing to do (or pay) in exchange for getting someone else to do it for you. Not doing it isn't an option.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 17
Funny enough, one of the things on my bucket list has always been a cross-country drive, and I've always thought that a fun way to do it would be to connect with a group of people (like the folks here on WDC) and stop and see people all along the way. So, in the spirit of that fantasy road trip, I went ahead and looked at all 26 of my other 30DBC competitors this month and, for anyone who listed a location on the Biography page of their port, I plugged them into the following route and based potential conversations on interests they listed:
First, I'd start from my home in Los Angeles. The nearest competitor is Toffeeman1957 , just a few hours south of me in San Diego. The first leg of the trip is 120 miles. Based on his interests of English football, cycling, and reading, my guess is we'd be spending a lot of time reading because I don't know a thing about the other two!
From San Diego, I have a 330-mile drive (approximately 5 hours) to where I'll meet up with Prosperous Snow welcoming 2021 in Las Vegas. She and I both like fantasy and science fiction and I know very little of Baha'i but find it fascinating, so we'd either be talking fiction, or talking religion. Maybe both!
800 miles (approximately 12 hours) or so after that, my next stop is to see GeminiGem🎱 in Colorado somewhere. I've always wanted to visit Colorado, so I'd love to be shown around for a bit and then meet her rescue dogs and play with them for a while before jumping back on the road, because it'll take me about 16 hours and around 1,000 miles to make it to The_Cavity has wisdom teeth! in San Antonio, Texas. I've only been to San Antonio once (and briefly) to catch a flight after visiting family in Austin, and I never got a chance to check out the river walk. Since she's a fan of movies, I'd probably trade stories of my experiences working in the film and television industry for quality recommendations on barbecue places and other eating establishments.
After that, Cadie Laine is only about 500 miles (7.5 hours) away in Wewoka, Oklahoma. I've never been to Oklahoma, but we both like music and have written erotica, so we'd have something in common to discuss while we explored around. From there, it's 10-ish hours (650 miles or so) to QPdoll in Illinois. I'm not a fan of camping, but I am a fan of reading and writing (obviously), and we've run into each other during a few activities on the site, so I have a feeling we'd get along just fine while we traipsed around Illinois. I've always wanted to go to Chicago...
500 miles (7.5 hours) after that, I'll arrive in Parkersburg, West Virginia to meet up with Chaplain Marvin Schrebe, CPRSS where I'd love to talk to him more about his faith, Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, and Star Trek. Then it's off to meet Robert Waltz in Virginia proper about 6 hours (350-ish miles) away. Waltz is definitely one of the people I'm most excited to meet because we share a lot of the same interests and have both been around WDC a good long time. I have a feeling we'd hang out and chat for a good long time before I had to hit the road and drive another 6 hours (350-ish miles) to meet up with Apondia in Pennsylvania. She and I both like horses but I have very little experience, so I'd love to hear more about her experiences as a rider and trainer.
That does it for the USA. hopefully I'd be able to meet up with Beacon-Light Forever and SusanFarmer and BlueMoon who live somewhere in the country, but then I'm headed to our neighbors in the Great White North. SandraLynn lives in Sundridge, Ontario (about 7.5 hours / 500 miles away) and maybe we could talk 💙 Carly - BLUE!!💙 who also lives somewhere in Ontario into meeting up there as well. SandraLynn and I both apparently love to travel and to laugh (and eat!), so hopefully Carly is on the same page and we can eat and laugh regaling each other with our travel stories! .
After that, it's a long, long way home. It'll take me about 40 hours to travel the 2,600+ miles to get to Rocklin, California to meet up with Cheddah . I'm from the Sacramento area too, so we could compare notes about the best places to eat and visit around the city, and we can also compare notes on mystery books, cooking, and our mutual love of authors Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Finally, I'm onto the final leg... 6 hours and 400 miles later, I'll be back home in Los Angeles, hopefully with lots of great stories and memories for years to come.
On a side note, I would have loved to have visited WakeUpAndLive~No cig for me! in The Netherlands, and Alexi January Let's have fun. in England, but I'm honestly not sure how I could have swung by Europe on my road trip. Maybe if there's a future prompt about a 30DBC fictional world tour?
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 16
I'm somewhat agnostic when it comes to the idea of ghosts and the supernatural. I don't have any personal experience with them, and I certainly think that some believers attribute a little too much to the supernatural rather than looking for a more natural explanation, but at the same time I can't rule out the possibility that the supernatural might exist. There are far too many inexplicable occurrences in this world to fully disregard the possibility that there may be things in the universe that we don't understand.
I wouldn't say that I've ever experienced something that can't be explained, although I've definitely been in situations where completely random coincidence would have infinitesimally long odds. Things like running into friends while on vacation halfway around the world, or having an employment or financial situation work out in just the right way, or having a near-miss in what would have otherwise been a catastrophically bad accident or mishap of some kind.
For example, my wife and I took a honeymoon nearly a year after we got married. We booked a trip to Hawaii and, when I told my boss about where we were going, he was like, "Oh Hawaii is great! In fact, we're headed to our timeshare there in September."
The rest of the conversation:
Me: "Oh we're going in September too!"
Me: "We leave on Monday the 15th."
Him: "That's the same day we fly out."
Him: "United, 10:45AM."
Me: "OMG that's our flight too. We're in Row 22, A&B."
Him: "Seriously? We're in Row 23, A through D."
This is a completely true story. My boss and I booked flights to Hawaii completely independent of one another, and ended up on the same flight sitting in adjacent rows. Although we were staying on separate parts of the island, our families met up for dinner one night and it was honestly the point at which that boss became a friend and mentor rather than just the executive whose phones I answered for a paycheck. As it happens, this is also the person who I bake cakes for every day, as referenced in my prior entry, "Cooking Submissive" , and in retrospect, I truly believe this extracurricular connection was at least in part responsible for getting our professional relationship to the point where he's played an instrumental role in a number of professional opportunities I've had over the years, including landing my dream job at Marvel.
Even though I'm technically a Christian, I don't proclaim to know with any degree of certainty what causes these things. What I would attribute to God, someone else might attribute to karma, or fate, or benevolent spirits. I don't have any practical experience that confirms for certain who is correct or why these things happen. All I know is that they do and, as previously mentioned, that means there's either a supernatural explanation for them, or we are all just walking around having statistically improbable things happen to us with highly irregular frequency.
|EDIT: updated to correct the date
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 15
My wife and I set aside a percentage of our income for charitable donations every year. We don't have anything particular in mind at the beginning of the year, but rather just wait to see what we feel pulled to help contribute to throughout the year. Sometimes it's a mission trip someone we know is going on. Sometimes it's a friend or acquaintance who is experiencing financial hardship. Sometimes it's random gifts to show appreciation for the people in our lives who we feel could use a pick-me-up or a little encouragement.
The general motivation for this giving is to generally share some of the resources and finances that we've been blessed with, and it's a practice that we try to observe regardless of how fortunate or strained our finances are during any particular year. After all, a percentage of your income works whether you make a bunch of money or just a little. Whether you want to call it karma, good vibes, the Christian thing to do, paying it forward, or just good old-fashioned altruism, we really try to make sure we're able to bless as many people as possible each year.
The results have been incredible. Not only does it feel really good to be able to do something nice for other people, but it's encouraged other people to do the same when they're in a position to do so. The world is such a negative place these days, with so many people fighting and arguing and bringing out the worst in each other, it's a really nice change of pace to promote some good in the world, and some connection to other people.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 14
The worst email I ever wrote was during my first full-time job out of college. I was extremely frustrated with a casting director and their assistant, who just couldn't seem to return a signed contract and start paperwork. At first they sent back the contract but forgot to sign one of the pages. Then they sent back the fully-signed contract but no start forms. Then they sent back a start form that had been filled out, but not signed. Then they sent back a completed and signed start form, but the scan was so bad it was illegible. All the while asking where their payment was, which would prompt me explaining to them what was missing and/or needed to be fixed.
At one point, I got so frustrated that I fired off an email to my boss along the lines of OMG why can't they get it right and just send us what we need? What I didn't realize is that I had left the casting director and their assistant cc'ed on the email. it was my first and most prominent exposure to the issue of inadvertently copying someone on an email they should never have seen.
On the plus side, they never said anything about the email and the next time they sent their paperwork, it was 100% correct.
This scenario definitely taught me valuable lessons about email etiquette, such as:
Don't talk shit in an email.
If you are going to talk shit in an email, don't do it about people on the email chain.
If you are going to talk shit in an email about people on the email chain, don't reply all.
If you are going to talk shit in an email about people on the email chain, and you do reply all, double-check to make sure you delete the recipients you're talking shit about.
These are important life lessons in the information age!
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 13
I despise this prompt. I despise the concept of writing sprints in general. I know some people swear by them and, to be fair, they're a great way to get words on the page. The problem is, they're usually not very good words. I have a lot of friends who swear by this method, and proudly proclaim that they cranked out five thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand words in a day doing writing sprints where they just sat down, hammered the words out, and didn't look back. Editing was an afterthought, structure was an afterthought, taking the time to think deliberately about what you want to write is an afterthought. And do you know what my response is to people when they most often say they wrote something using this technique? "Yeah, I can tell."
There's a certain frenzy to the words that are churned out in a writing sprint, not to mention the exponential increases in typos, poor grammar, and other technical issues like repeated words and phrases, and saying the same thing multiple different times within the body of the work. And lest you think that I'm just sitting here judging, I've tried this technique as well. And I'm doing it to the best of my ability for this entry. It just never feels right for me. It gives me too much of a mess, and I don't want to have to go back and clean up that kind of a mess later. For some people, this technique works. But they have to be super diligent about going back and fixing everything that's wrong with it.
I have a few friends who write screenplays like this. They can finish a draft of a 100 to 120-page screenplay (roughly 20,000 words) in a couple of days. They then go back and spend weeks reworking all the stuff that was a mess in that draft, and probably throw out 90% of their words before they have something that they would consider fit for reading. The problem I often see is that someone either doesn't take the time to throw out that 90% and hone and refine what's left... or they look at the whole lot of writing they just threw out and get discouraged. I'm definitely in that latter camp, where I question why I even wrote something if I'm going to throw out 90% of it.
When it comes to my own writing, I would much rather take the time to craft the words that I want to use. That doesn't mean I never go back and revise or edit, but when I go back to do those things, I want to do know that I'm looking at some semblance of the final product. I want to truly refine and edit, not throw out and redo. I know everyone's mileage will vary, but I find the gamification of writing with these "sprints" to be a really counterproductive way to write because it prioritizes the quantity of words you're generating over the quality of words you're crafting. For me, there has to be an element of art to it, an element of style where I can take the satisfaction in a clever turn of phrase, and know that the draft I'm writing won't be riddled with so many mistakes that I don't even want to look at it when I go back to revise.
And now that my time is almost up, I feel that I should point out that this blog post is exactly why I dislike writing sprints. Did I write a whole bunch of words and get them done real fast? Sure. This blog post is probably about twice as many words as one of my average 30DBC entries, and it only took me ten minutes instead of my usual twenty or thirty minutes. But did I gain anything writing twice the words in half the time? Not really. I gained a bloated blog post that, if I reread it (and I probably won't) will be meandering and have a lot of superfluous words and will, if I'm lucky, have only the merest hint of what I was hoping to achieve. It will be the kind of thing I'd look at and say, "You know, if I threw out 90% of what I wrote and started over, there might be a kernel of something interesting in there." But then I'd have to question whether it's even worth going back and exploring the topic all over again or if I should just chalk this up to a failed experiment and move on with my other more appealing writing endeavors.
If writing sprints work for you, that's great. More power to you. But they just don't work for me, and I really dislike the idea of being pressured into doing them, or into comparing the writing output they generate against what I'd be able to achieve otherwise. At the end of the day, nobody's going to read one of my books or one of my screenplays and go, "Yeah, but how quickly were you able to write it?" It doesn't matter how fast you were able to write, only that what you wrote has resonance with your audience. If you can rush resonance, more power to you. I just can't write like that.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 12
Back in Spring 2018, I made the difficult decision to leave my dream job working for Marvel. While I really loved working there and was proud of the work, I had taken a huge pay and title cut to get my foot in the door, and our corporate parent (Disney) had just made it abundantly clear that no promotion or raise would be forthcoming. I was a bit resentful of being hired (and a bargain to them) under the pretense of having ample opportunities for advancement, and then discovering those opportunities were merely false promises. So even though I wasn't looking to leave, necessarily, when another opportunity presented itself, I decided to leave.
There was a lot that went into the decision, but ultimately it could be boiled down to materialistic choices. The new opportunity offered me a title and salary that was commensurate with my experience (and a major upgrade from my situation at Marvel), and it was a startup company so there was a ton of opportunity for growth. It was the kind of job that people take to make a major jump in their careers and financial situation... in my case, from a low-level manager at Marvel to an executive-level and on a path to grow into a senior executive and department head role. The only problem was that I wasn't particularly excited about the job. At Marvel I directly contributed to the productions themselves, and this was a step back into the kinds of jobs I had before Marvel, which is to say very corporate, very administrative, and very little connection with the projects themselves.
If I had chosen the other path, i.e., to stay at Marvel, I would have continued to love my job, but I can only assume my resentment would have grown at continuing to be sidelined and offered no opportunities for advancement. I likely would have been in a much worse financial situation, and even though I would have still enjoyed my job immensely, I have a feeling the politics surrounding it would be really, really frustrating.
The lesson I learned from the experience, though, is that the money and the title and the trappings of success don't really matter so much to me. I'd rather like what I do than be paid well to do a job that doesn't excite me. It was a valuable lesson, and guided me on my job search after that startup company went under after only a few months (long story, but the founder apparently didn't raise the money he claimed he did).
And the story has a happy ending too; less than a year later, Marvel came calling and asked me to come back for the improved title and salary I had been asking for and Disney had previously refused. So I essentially got my dream job back, at a salary and title level that is appropriate to my experience. But if I had never left in the first place, I'd likely be doing my old job at the reduced salary, and be resentful about it. So even though it was a roundabout way of getting to where I ultimately wanted to be, it was a circuitous route that showed me what's really important in my career (prioritizing the work I do over than the money I earn), and it showed Marvel that the work I did for them had more value than they previously thought.
Since it was a roughly 15-month process from when I quit to when I rejoined the company full-time, I often think back to that time in my life, the different paths that were available to me, and what the likely result would have been depending on the choice that I made. It all seems to have worked out in the end (and who knows for sure what would have happened if I had just stayed put at Marvel and ground it out), but it's definitely a lesson in how roads in life can lead to forks... and how sometimes those forks can end up leading you back again.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 11
Next to the door of our home there's a framed sketch, which is actually taken from a photo that was taken when my wife and I were first dating. It's of us sitting at a table in a bookstore cafe. We're holding hands and looking over our shoulders toward the camera and smiling. A friend took the photo while we were all hanging out one day.
My sister-in-law, for a gift one year, took the photo and did a realistic pencil sketch and had it framed. It's a nice reminder every time we walk by the front door of that moment frozen in time. After the photo was taken, we continued to date for several years, got married, and have been happily married for over a decade.