Finding Watson.

Look into this subject even superficially and you’ll find the benefits of pet ownership, particularly and especially dog ownership, are so significant they should pretty much be a requirement. This is especially true for elderly people, who are at significant risk of loneliness.

Although I never considered myself to be a “dog person”, my family always had pets. I grew up around pets, and we invariably had dogs. But I never had a whole lot of interest in them, and they never seemed to have more than a superficial interest in me. In South Africa where I lived alone in an apartment, I never had pets, and I never missed them. When I married, my wife insisted on us having dogs, so we did. But to be quite honest, I could have done without them. For whatever reason they were all pure-bred, and pure-bred dogs can be high strung, have health issues, and generally be demanding.

Then we moved to the United States. Due to living restrictions we couldn’t have pets for the first year, but the moment we moved into our own home my wife dashed down to the pound and rescued Watson. He was in such bad shape the pound almost refused to let him go, for fear he would die.

Watson changed my life. For the better. When my wife told me what she’d done, namely snuck off to the pound and rescued a dog, I was more than a little irritated. At the time our house was tiny at about 1200 square feet with two bedrooms, both filled with two people.

Where were we going to keep a dog?

That irritation dissipated the moment Watson came into the house. He looked at me with these terribly deep soulful eyes that entreated me not to beat him. I don’t know what the people who left him at the pound had done to him, but Watson knew we had saved him from certain death. It took years before Watson stopped cowering and stood tall and dignified once more. In all the years we owned Watson, we only saw him growl at one person, a man that came down the driveway to read the electric meter. As I write this, the sudden feeling that Watson growled at that man because he knew him strikes me.

Watson died with his head held in my lap. Yes, that was a very sad day, and one which I have no doubt we’ll relive when Bacon, another pound rescue, eventually dies. Sadly, dogs don’t live as long as people. However, into their much shorter lives they pack more love than most people are capable of giving in all of their much longer lives.

The bottom line is that Watson bettered our lives, and there is good news!

There is a Watson waiting for you right now, and you are his final chance. If you’re not “a dog person”, then find the courage to go and rescue Watson, and in turn you’ll gain something you’ve never experienced before. The unconditional, absolute love of a friend who will never forget you, always be there for you, come at your every call, be happy at sight of you, be sad when you step out, be solemn when needed, be playful when the time is right, be mischievous, be greedy, and always, always be giving. In return all you need to do it feed them, exercise them, and care for them. There is something therapeutic in caring for others, whether those others be animals or not matters little.

Dog-ownership is a win-win, but I think the real winners are the “I’m not a dog person” people more than the dogs they rescue.

When it comes time to pick your Watson, pick wisely. Don’t go to a pet store, he doesn’t live there. Don’t go to a puppy farm, he isn’t there either. Yes, your Watson might have been born in a puppy-mill, but that isn’t where you’ll find him. You’ll only find your Watson in one place. On doggie death-row, where someone else has left him, unaware of the treasure they held. Your Watson might be big, he might be small. He might be hairy, or he might be shorn. He might bark, or he might be still. He might be black, he might be white, or any color-combination at all. He might be old, or he might be very very young. Why, your Watson might even be a she. Yet whatever your Watson is, when you see him, or her, you’ll know. And if your heart is so injured it remains so blind you cannot even see, then rest assured, your Watson will recognize you.

Go on, find your own Watson today.

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Keys, to things past.

Last night my entire immediate family had the good fortune of being together. We were all talking about “old times”. My daughter Dannielle asked if I was in any serious relationships before marrying their mom. When I said I had been engaged once before, Dannielle was quite startled. I don’t think this is unusual, for some reason few of us ever think of our parents as having had a life outside of “us”. Anyway, one thing led to another and eventually my wife mentioned how I still had a necklace that my first fiancé had given me. {Which is somewhat of a stretch of the truth as she is the one who actually had the necklace :)}. She then went on to mention how the necklace was engraved with “Charlie”. I asserted that is was not as I never allowed her to call me that. My wife promptly went to get the necklace in order to prove me wrong.

Indeed I don’t allow anyone to call me anything except my name, which is Charles, and this includes my wife, which is probably why she seemed a bit irritated as she went upstairs to fetch the offending piece of jewelry. My daughters all noticed this. They mistook it for jealousy, a misconception I actively encouraged until I heard my wife coming back down the stairs. Yes, I enjoy mischief as much as any three year old and I apologize for it as seldom as they do :)

As is often the case it turned out my wife was correct, however the strangest thing was that even when I looked at the necklace I still read it as “Charles”, right up until I really examined it closely under good light.

As I haven’t worn the necklace in over thirty-five years I said any of my daughters who wanted it could have it. Julia immediately claimed it, after which Dannielle said, “But what if I also want it?” To which I replied, “Then you two can share it.” Dannielle then responded, “No, what I really want are your dog tags.” To which my wife asked, “Which ones? Dad has two sets.”

This prompted a flood of further memories.  I agreed, “Yes, the first set was issued to me on my conscription, and it has the number 124041. The second set was issued when I was commissioned, and it has the number V4051″. At this my third daughter, Tamryn, butt in, “Well if you have two sets then I want one of them.” So Dannielle got one set.  According to Dannielle, she got the real set as I had used them while on I served on active duty. Dannielle kept asking what they had been laminated with. I don’t know why Dannielle had so much trouble understanding that the so-called laminate was the results of 3 years of sweat imbuing them and the parachute cord from which they were suspended :)

In case anyone is interested enough to question why there are two tags, one is highly resistant to acid and the other is highly resistant to fire – no, I don’t recall which is which.

strange memories, of irrelevant things that make us wonder... why?

My Rhodesian Army Dog Tags.

So what was this post really about? Well, I entered National Service in the Rhodesian Army in 1978. My basic training lasted six months, yet somehow I still remember my conscription number. I don’t remember how the symbol of a passed love, from the past, had been inscribed with a name I will not tolerate anyone using to address me, and perhaps might even be the cause of that particular element of me. I don’t remember what the strange little symbol vaguely indicative of a Bactrian camel on that chain represents.  Of all the important things I could remember, why did my brain retain two utterly irrelevant numbers?  Why do I specifically remember striking the zero into that tag twice?  Why do I remember the feeling of resentment that they made me scribe a religion?  Why do the memories I so badly want elude me, yet memories I don’t need, remain? Twisted…

Oh, I did place a condition on both Tamryn and Dannielle, which I didn’t place on Julia. I told them that under no circumstances are they allowed to give away or dispose of the dog tags. After all the excitement settled down my wife admitted she was quite irritated with me. She is sure our girls will just take them off and discard them, I am not, but if they do I don’t really know that I’ll care…

Strange how we hold onto some things that really have no value other than the memories they embody isn’t it? In this case I didn’t hold onto any of those things, but my loving wife did so for me. However, and this is the real point of this largely pointless post, there is a loss from way back then which I deeply regret.

The loss I mourn most, is that of my personal poetry book, it held thoughts I cannot recapture, from an era that will never return.

Somehow, somewhere, I misplaced that little black book, along with all the poems I had transcribed therein.

Those are the things I miss the most, the memories I’ve lost.  Things, those we can replace, thoughts and the memories they make, those we cannot.

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Daniskira

Similar to Faroene, this is a character poem wrenched from the heart of the Symbologist, Daniskira.

As poetry so often does, it lays bare words, feelings, and fears that Daniskira dare not consider while she remains trapped inside my epic tale, Malmaxa. Should you find yourself confused, don’t be distressed. Sometimes we mistake our intuitions for suspicions. At others we mistake our suspicions for intuitions. Perhaps one of those circumstances leads to our confusion.

~ Daniskira ~
~
My match’s memory sets my heart aglow.
Such fire burns deep.
Such fire burns slow.
A smiling face to the world I show,
yet when my eyes close,
to my Demons I’ll go.
~
Demons that in my dreams await,
Demons that stir my fears,
their hungers to sate.
My opening eyes their feast do abate,
yet their shrill screams
still cast doubt on my fate.
~
How I long to take comfort,
in the arms of my mate.
~
Will my match’s love last,
will his feelings for me hold him fast?
To these troubled thoughts,
my Demons emit a derisive blast,
“Surely such good things
as Beltamar must pass!”
~
How I dread the days spent apart,
will our return to Malmaxa,
grant us
a new start?
~
Deaf ears to our pleas do our Demons turn,
and on our shoulders they pile
and heap up their scorn.
You see, it’s for misery our Demons do yearn,
and so,
our happiness do they spurn,
and into our hearts cast Doubt,
in which each of us
eternally burn.
~
My back bows beneath such weight,
the hours grow long,
the hours grow late.
Till finally from slumber I wake,
and from my dread dreams I escape.
A clear mind shows me the path,
that leads from their miserable hate,
yet toward whence I know not,
nor my ultimate fate.
~
Oh how I yearn for the arms of my mate,
Beltamar will offer me comfort.
And yes, his comfort,
I’ll gladly take.
~
My hanging head releases my tears,
from my eyes to the earth,
do I watch them pour,
my misted vision blots out all fears,
and in my Chukrah’s embrace am I,
once more,
secure.
~
Sunrise heralds a new dawning day,
bringing relief, as into my duty I wade.
The unmarked wait in slow moving lines,
My task, my duty, my goal,
and also my why,
is to etch in their flesh their Soul sign,
Soul symbols,
granted by ancestors on high.
~
Soul signs shimmer…
these symbols of the Soul do I see,
my Chukrah reveals their aura to me.
Pure images in my mind flash on by,
Soul signs,
overlaid, on a starless, blue sky.
Pure colors coalesce,
Segattoo quills into these colors combine.
And then,
with fingers made nimble and sure,
by the gift of my Chukrah,
Soul signs into their flesh
do I draw,
~
Soul signs simmer…
Soul signs burn,
Soul signs into living skin
do I set,
Soul symbols,
which I simply, can never forget.
~
In the dark depths of my mind
Soul Symbols digress,
Chukrah calm staunches my unshed tears,
Chukrah joy fills my heart,
and my head,
Chukrah joy…
oh why,
does it seem,
such is ecstasy’s sigh.
~
Safe in my Soul
and in my heart too,
my match does dwell.
I long for comfort in the arms of my mate,
comfort Beltamar granted,
comfort,
in which I so sorely long to partake.
~
Till Beltamar’s return,
till Malmaxa into the night sky will rise,
till Malmaxa beneath the full moon does swell,
in the clutch of my Demons I’ll dwell,
held fast by their claws
in misery’s hell.
In Malmaxa I’ll be freed from
my Demons’ tight grasp.
Beltamar’s love is the key
by which, at last,
I’ll soon be set free,
so onto his dream, and his match,
I hold fast.
~

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Gaza

Why am I writing about the current conflict between Israel and Gaza? Because my principles demand I do. Regardless of who you are you aren’t going to enjoy this post, however I assure you it is the truth as I see it. It certainly isn’t going to win me any friends, it isn’t going to help me sell my books, and it has already resulted in a number of unpleasant encounters on Twitter by people why strictly adhere to the mainstream American media’s view of this conflict.

If we hear about it in the mass-media it must be right.  Right?

Wrong.

Read on and learn about a truth that is never told in the USA. Let me correct myself. Read on and learn about a truth that has never been told by the mainstream media in the USA. Thanks to the emergence of Social Media like Twitter, that is beginning to change,

Changing views of perpetual conflicts.

I was born and raised in Rhodesia. In the late 1970s, I served as an active-duty combatant in the war that embroiled that beautiful country. Back then, I held Israel in high esteem. Everything I knew told me Israel was the underdog, and I usually root for the underdog. I saw many parallels between Israel’s military and the Rhodesian military. From a military point of view history has shown the effectiveness of both. I felt sympathetic to Israel.

I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa in the early 1980s. It had a significant and highly influential Jewish population. The view of Israel presented in the South African media was extremely positive.  Indeed, the South African public’s perception of Israel was much like that consistently presented by the US Media, where I’ve lived since the mid-1990s. I remained sympathetic to Israel.

I only learnt how biased those perceptions were when the internet emerged. The internet has made internationally unbiased information widely available to anyone with the desire to learn more than a single side of truth. I stopped being sympathetic to Israel.

My reasons for my change of view appear below.

I’m not sharing my sources with you. Search the internet for the facts for yourself. The evidence is overwhelming. Everything I mention below is widely available on a staggering number of reliable, unbiased, and non-commercial websites. However, you have to do the research for yourself. Why?  Because the deeper you dig, the more you’ll realize how badly you have been misled.

To start your research Google this search string, “number of Palestinians killed by Israel”. Now start reading, making notes, noting sources, checking validity, ascertaining impartiality, and falling into despair as you realize just how brutal one people’s treatment of another has been, and continues to be.

It is shocking to realize something you’ve accepted as unquestionable is a biased lie. It is shocking to realize the nation you long assumed is the underdog is a brutal bully. It is shocking to realize Israel is a nation far more deserving of the title “Rogue” than even North Korea.

Under what circumstances is it permissible to kill civilians using military might? Yes, both sides of the Palestinian / Israeli conflict are guilty of this. However, speaking strictly numerically, Israel is far, far more guilty than the Palestinians.

Under what circumstances is it permissible to use civilians as human shields for military operations? Impartial evidence gathered by highly reputable, unbiased organizations proves that Israel has done this multiple times, it also proves that the Palestinians have never done it.

Under what circumstances is it permissible to assassinate opposition leaders? Evidence proves that Israel has consistently used this “tactic” hundreds and hundreds of times, both inside and outside of active conflict. And the Palestinians? They have only used it once, but even once is one time too many.

Under what circumstances is it permissible to shell impartial observers?  Israel has, multiple times.

Under what circumstances is it permissible to steal land simply by occupying it?  Israel has, multiple times.

Under what circumstances is it permissible to demolish entire civilian neighborhoods as punishment for the acts of the insane unknown?  Israel has, multiple times.

Under what circumstances is it permissible to kill ten for every one of your own slain? Biblical text in Matthew 3:38 states, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’” Apparently Israel has misinterpreted this to mean an entire jaw for a single tooth. By the way, if you decide to read that text please read the entire passage. It is quite enlightened in its encouragement of tolerance and forgiveness. Sadly tolerance and forgiveness are two admirable traits both sides of the Palestinian / Israeli conflict lack.

Under no circumstances should it ever be permissible to kill children. I am not going to tell you the numbers of children killed by either side. You must find that out for yourself or the truly appalling level of this ongoing brutality will just become a number, and murdered children deserve to be considered as more than a mere number. However I will say that the ratio of these murders exceeds ten to one, and the worst offender is not Palestine.

Yesterday I tweeted this:-

How is it that a nation which survived Nazi atrocity, has become so accomplished at committing it?

I have great difficulty understanding how a nation whose people have been subjected to brutality can adopt practices that can only be described as excessively brutal. I have great difficulty understanding why a nation that actively practices racism by subjugating and denying basic human rights to an entire ethnic culture is tolerated in today’s world.

The USA’s mass-media coverage, and the US government’s ready adoption of rhetoric biased toward the Israeli side of this conflict does not serve the best interests of the American people.  That is my opinion, which I am not only entitled to as an American Citizen, but which I believe I am justifying throughout this post.

I am disgusted how the facts and real scale of the Palestinian / Israeli conflict are actively disguised with immoral euphemisms. Fancy words are well suited to disguise abhorrent behaviors.  The mass-media and the US Government uses them for just that purpose with alarming regularity. I’m talking about the little sound-bites that continually crop up, and are invariably pro-Israel. Disingenuous, immoral sound-bites such as:-

  • Proportionate Response. Proportionate means balanced. Ten Palestinians does balance the scale of a single Israeli.
  • Retaliation. There is no such thing as pre-emptive retaliation, yet measured over the duration of the state of Israel’s existence, Israel initiates the majority of conflicts.  Brutally attacking a civilian population based on unsubstantiated data is not retaliation, it is punitive aggression.
  • Surgical strikes. Couch a murder in the cleverest words you like, it is still a murder.
  • Containment. Locking people away behind thirty foot high concrete barriers is not containment, it is imprisonment.

Over the last thirty years my view of Israel has gone through a 180 degree turn. I continue to believe that the Jewish inhabitants of Israel have a right to exist, but not if they extract that right with the deaths of other people.

I strongly believe the American people have been misled by their government and by the mass-media. I strongly believe we need to change our perception of this conflict based on the truths we research for ourselves, versus the ones we are spoon-fed by the biased.  I strongly believe that when America befriends a state like Israel, it should understand why it has so many enemies.  I strongly believe we must start doing what we know in our hearts is right.

The time for political expediency is over. Conflict is never right.

This is the age of Social Media.  The age of people blindly believing whatever political rhetoric their governments and the mass-media spew at them is rapidly drawing to an end. Use your new-found ability, the internet, to find and verify independent, non-partisan, unbiased truth. Then use your Social Media voice to raise awareness of whatever situation fills you with passion.  If enough people speak, change will come.

Please remember what some wise person once said… “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.“[*1]

Staying silent, is doing nothing. Even though it costs me, I refuse to stay silent.

If you’ve got this far you might be interested in another example of my refusal to stay silent.

[*1] – Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence attributing that quote to Edmund Burke.  Don’t be so ready to believe whatever you are told…

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Reflections of Divinity

~ Reflections of Divinity ~
~
You are the voice of reason,
I am the one that’s insane.
You are the bringer of joy,
I am the one filled with pain.
You are the one that gives,
I am the one who gains.
You are sunlight so bright,
I am the moon on the wane.
You are the essence of pure,
I am a spreading, dark stain.
You are the glow of warm sunlight,
I am the dismal dark of cold rain.
You are the most delicate moth,
Irresistibly drawn to my flame.
~

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An issue, clear cut.

Have you ever heard the expression, “This issue is black and white”?  It essentially means that whatever the issue is, it is so clear cut that there is no possibility of misunderstanding.  It is so obvious we can’t mistake right for wrong.

However, before we decide the nature of right and wrong we need to clear the slate and start with no assumptions at all.  This means we have to root deeper and deeper into fundamental issues.  We have to dig through layers of societal debris that cover our core being.  We have to dig until we find our real self.

People often say something like this, “The issue isn’t gray, but black and white for me.”  I must ask where statements like that came from. Why is black bad, and white good?  Is it because we’re diurnal creatures who hunt with our eyes, and fear the darkness for the predators it hides? Since this perception of black being bad and white being good is so ingrained into so many cultures, it probably does boil down to something as rudimentary as our most primal fears.

But now I must ask you this.  Has humanity not evolved at all since our most primitive of days of hunter and hunted?  Why is the time we’re programmed to kill still considered a better time than the time we’re programmed to gather close within the company of those most special to us?

Maybe the whole black and white thing is completely reversed.

Before we follow the path so neatly marked out for us by thousands of years of programming by man, not by god, and not by our divine souls, we have to recognize that it really is a planned path.  If we can’t see that, then we are doomed to never progress.  We’re doomed to follow a path that does not lead to understanding, wisdom, or salvation.  We’re doomed to follow a path that leads to our children’s obedience to an utterly broken humanity.  A cruel collective in which there are a very very few with absolute power, and a vast multitude who will never be more than unwitting slaves.

If individuals can’t break free, what chance is there for humanity?

Personally, I am not willing to walk that predetermined path any longer.  I am going to raise my voice and question things that are so obvious we shouldn’t question them.

If you’ve read Beltamar’s War, do you recognize that sentiment? Perhaps more importantly, do you understand why this is so important to me? Do I scare you?  And if I do, why?

Let me leave you with this thought.  The easiest place for wrong to hide, is within the guise of right.

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Integrity

A short while ago, I tweeted this.

Intergity, when our heart knows right, and we do it, when our heart knows wrong, and we don’t.

Before you continue reading, be warned this post contains graphic imagery which might disturb you.  If you’re squeamish, please stop reading now.

The issue with integrity isn’t right and wrong at all, it is that we are trained to perceive things a particular way.  If we’re unable to determine that we’ve been trained, then how can we ever know if what we think is right really is?

How can someone who has been indoctrinated since birth break free of the bonds their indoctrination binds them with? How can they do something they’ve been taught since birth to believe is wrong?

This frames one of the many things I hold against every organized religion I have encountered. Dogma. Ask any free minded person what they think about something as elementary as a prohibition on eating the flesh of pigs and see what they say.
Religiously based morals are not based on right and wrong, they are based on mental control.

At its most fundamental level, morals must break down to matters of life and death.  Yet even there, where are the clear lines defining the one from the other?

We all think we know we shouldn’t kill sentient beings.  But sometimes we also know that is the only right thing to do.

Years ago my wife accidentally reversed over a kitten sleeping behind one of the rear wheels.  The kitten’s spine and rear legs were crushed, it’s stomach burst open, emptying its entrails and most of its organs, which remained attached.  We heard it mewl, I got out of the car.  A single glance told me the only right thing to do was to kill the kitten in order to spare it a slow, cruel death.

My wife had stopped the car halfway up the driveway.  Along with her, our two young children were craned forward trying to see.  I indicated she should reverse the car out of the driveway, my intention being preventing our young kids seeing the painful death of the kitten.  She reversed back about 20 feet and stopped again.  All three of them still craned forward.

By now I was extremely angry since every passing moment was unnecessary agony for an innocent animal.  I made a very emphatic gesture at her that meant “GET THE #$$%^ OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!!!”  After looking momentarily affronted, she finally reversed out of the driveway and down the road to a point the children could no longer see.  I closed my heart and crushed the kitten’s skull with my heel.  It died instantly.  But that instantly came many seconds after the determination of right and wrong had been made.

What would an unquestionably ethical religion like Buddhism have had me do?  Let the kitten suffer, while appeasing my conscience with mental mumbo-jumbo about the ebb and flow of life from one state to another in reincarnation?

The only absolute, is that every absolute has exceptions.

That is the fantastic thing about our true soul. It knows what is right, and it encourages us to do it, it knows what is wrong, and it encourages us to not. All we need to do, is hear its voice.  But to hear, we first have to learn to silence the ambient noise of a society gone deaf.

The problem, is the things we’re taught, not the things we know.

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Giving thanks, where thanks is due.

This post is based on a recent email conversation.

I have to say that the generosity of honest reviewers never ceases to amaze me. They  spend their time for no reward other than being transported out of our troubled world into a world that only exists in the mind of someone else.  And then they spend still more of their time compiling words that give away both everything, and nothing.

Honest reviewers are courageous.  They talk about both the good, and about the not so good.  They don’t sugar coat their words, but neither do they coat them in bile.

Honest reviewers are easy to spot, but incredibly hard to pin down.  They’re easy to spot because their reviews don’t contain generic, nonsense catch-phrases that could be {and probably have been} used to describe an encounter with a particular brand of laundry soap. They’re incredibly hard to pin down, because every honest author wants their attention. {Dishonest authors have no interest in honest reviewers, their only interest is in 5 star reviews, the more generic the better, and they all seem to have lots of these.}

Honest reviewers are humble, invariably putting the needs of the work they’re reviewing ahead of their own needs.  They are often authors themselves, but they seldom plug their own work, and if they do it is relevant to the review.

In this burgeoning world of self-publishing, honest reviewers hold a very high position on the publishing totem pole.  Yet they seldom receive any compensation other than a “free” copy of the work they’re reviewing. “Free” is a word that should not be used, for it comes at such a significant cost of time.  Honest reviewers do a lot of work, and they get nothing in pay.  I’d like to see some creative way to rectify this bizarre situation, but I don’t see how without compromising their integrity at worst, or casting a shadow of suspicion on it at best. {For now, I make a point of personally thanking them if I have some way of contacting them.  I also try and ensure they have the opportunity to read my up-coming work before it is published, but I question whether that is an adequate reward, or even a reward at all.}

In summary, writing honest reviews is a largely thankless task.  So, to every honest reviewer, please accept my thanks.  I’m sure every honest author joins me in that sentiment.

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Multi-Tasking.

Though some of us like to think we’re great at juggling jobs, the research simply doesn’t back up this little bit of self-delusion.

When it comes to multi-tasking, humans are terrible.  This is not only my opinion, it is backed up by vast amounts of research.  Sadly, most people simply don’t realize just how much time they waste trying to do more than one thing at a time. It is a staggering amount, and since few of us have any spare time, it is something we should look into.

A minute saved, is a minute earned.  If I’m correct in that assertion, then spending a few minutes reading about how much time you’re wasting “multi-tasking” might be the most sensible investment of your time that you ever make.

To get you going, here is a seeming thumb-suck piece of information. Except it isn’t.  The average office worker loses 17 minutes of productivity every time they switch the task they are working on.

Unfortunately, time isn’t the only thing we lose when we multi-task.  We also lose effectiveness.  What does this mean?  It means that we do each of the jobs we task switch between worse. Period.

I came up with what I think is a rather neat analogy that illustrates human multi-tasking.  It is based on the other term often used to describe multi-tasking, namely juggling.

Imagine we’re juggling three reasonably complicated tasks.  Imagine that each of those tasks is a colored ball, and that we’re juggling them with one hand.  Pretty impressive, right?

Wrong.

Yes, it looks impressive to see one hand magically holding three separate balls aloft.  However when we analyze it, it is anything but impressive.  For the sake of this analogy let us assume work is happening on the task whenever a ball is physically in hand.  This casts  the impressive feat of multi-tasking in an entirely different light.  Why?  Because the maximum amount of work the hand can do is limited to 50% of its time.  The hand spends half of its time empty, doing nothing useful except switching to the next task.

Were this analogy to carry into the real workplace, multi-tasking workers are actually wasting a staggering 50% of their effective working time.

Now for the bad news.  It turns out the analogy does in fact translate into the workplace.

And the more research you do, the worse it gets.  I’m not going to do that research for you, you must do it for yourself.  However I will point you toward just one article on the subject, titled “The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking.”  That article opens with this line, “You could be losing up to 40% of your productivity” – I think they’re being too generous.

If you still think you’re a great multi-tasker then let me pose this question.  How many people can you hold a decent, one-on-one conversation with at precisely the same time?  There is only one answer, and that answer, is one.

If you don’t believe me try doing this.  Take two cell phones, dial any two people you know, place one cell-phone on your right ear and the other on your left.  Now talk to both of them at the same time about two different subjects.

There is only one answer, and that answer, is one.

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Streams, of Time

Time is an interesting thing.  We spend it without consideration.  We mistakenly think we’re investing time, yet for what return? The reward of time spent is never time gained. Time, something we can never replenish, seeps from our grasp, until we run out, at last.

In the past I thought love might be the fuel on which souls operate, but I now see now this is likely incorrect. Love is the product of souls, not the fuel they consume. Soul fuel is time, and time is finite.

Time is like a river flowing by, we can sit idle on its bank, or we can dive in and swim with its flow. Idle spectator, or active participant, in the question of our time only we may make that choice.

Likewise is time in separate streams.  We have clocks with which we measure it, and those clocks compensate for time differences between disparate parts of this infinitesimally small place we so arrogantly term, “our world”. Yet our clocks cannot combine two time streams into a river, or a myriad time streams into an ocean. Only Fate, an instrument of the universe can accomplish that.

Sometimes Fate is as a cruel blade, cutting us away from the ones we love. And sometimes Fate is a threaded needle that sows together timelines that once were separate.

Are we the masters of our destiny, or is destiny the ultimate master of us all? For you, the only one that should decide that, is you.

As these thoughts pass through my mind, prompted by the difference in the timelines of myself and those most precious to me, I find myself hoping Fate might assume its role as needle, and thread our timelines together.

Just a hope, but hope springs eternal, or so someone said.

Your swimming companion, in another stream.

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The Facets, of Character.

What elements lend life to imagined character?

Katie Salers, a young lady I had the good fortune of meeting on Twitter, recently published a review of Beltamar’s War. I am sure she would appreciate it if you’d pop over to her blog and read what she has so generously shared.

In her review, which I enjoy and appreciate a great deal, Katie raised some important points about Malmaxa. I would like to focus on one question in particular. Namely, why does Malmaxa present such a large cast of characters? I’ll try and answer without revealing any spoilers.

More than anything, Malmaxa is about people.

As individuals, people are complicated enough, yet what really makes us who we are is not ourself. We are who we become because of our interactions with others. It is our perception of their actions that shape the raw gem of our inherent personality.  Each interaction polishes our personality into the multi-faceted, ever changing jewel our character becomes. Considered in that way, were we to interact with only a single person, the finished jewel of our character would only have a single facet. And perhaps more than anything else, that single facet would be a mirror of the person with whom we interacted.

That is highly unrealistic.

In reality nobody is limited to acquaintances with just one or two people. Yet in literature we artificially constrain our antagonists and protagonists to few interactions. Why? To keep things simple? What a terrible motivation! Do we truly think so little of our audience that we limit our writing to simplistic views, and even more simplistic characters?

In life itself there are more colors than black and white, yet in many books those two shades are often all that is required to classify any character dwelling within. Why not allow the individuals that fill the pages of literature to blossom, gradually revealing the spectacular variations of color, texture, and shade dispersed throughout humanity?  Real people have depth, and real characters, though imagined, should also be deeper than a shallow pool.

Katie’s review made mention of specific character development in Beltamar’s War several times. I’d like to highlight two instances in particular.

The first was Katie’s mention of Adelmar, the antagonist, of whom she said, “I actually loved them all. Even Adelmar. I hated him for a bit. However, something changed. I became interested in him. I wanted to know more about him.

In our lives nobody is simple, even the people we dislike the most are incredibly complex. Indeed, we might find ourselves wondering why they are as unpleasant as they are.  Or perhaps we might look at that coin from its other side and ask ourselves why we dislike them as much as we do. We might even question whether the apparent failing lies within them, or with us.

The second instance is where Katie insightfully mentions the aspect of forbidden love between Faroene and Beltamar. Katie notes that Beltamar is matched to Daniskira and goes on to say “Normally this would bug me. Here, it didn’t. I wanted to know more.” Earlier in her review Katie said this, “I really do not even know what genre Beltamar’s War is in… Fantasy?” Great point, Katie. The overriding reason I framed this tale in the guise of the Fantasy genre, is that it encourages the reader to step outside of their normal, comfortable, safe, and ultimately judgmental box in order to examine ideas that would normally be taboo.  Fantasy allows the reader to loosen the reins and consider thoughts with a mind more open than usual – and in wanting to know more about something she would normally abhor, Katie has done precisely that.

Our world is divisive. We are trained from a very young age to look on anyone who doesn’t approach life the way we do with deep suspicion. In fact, we’re so effectively primed to be prejudiced against difference that we don’t even realize we’ve been trained! For Malmaxa to work, the reader needs to throw out their preconceptions of how people should behave, and instead focus on why they behave the way they do.

In Malmaxa, I try to plant the desire to understand motivation. I hope to have the reader opening a dialog with themselves in which they say, “I can see where they stepped wrong, but now I want to understand why they don’t realize they have.” That Katie vindicates my efforts truly delights me.  She sees how one of the most troubled people in Malmaxa is more than a monochromatic monster.  Katie also recognizes taboo behavior, but rather than judging it out of hand, as we are so prone to do, she struggles to understand why.  Thank you Katie!  {Please don’t misinterpret this as my advocating any particular behavior.}

In reality, people are extremely complicated. Shouldn’t it be likewise in literature?  I believe characters should have the opportunity for more than superficial depth. And thus the apparent plethora of characters in Malmaxa. Every named individual in the tale has purpose.  Every one of them is the grit upon which others polish their facets, gain their depths, and reflect their vision of light back onto everyone with whom they interact.

To me, character is much more than a one-dimensional reflection glimpsed from a flat mirror. Character is a precious, multi-faceted gem into which we must peer deeply if we are to appreciate its real beauty. My writing uses the mechanisms I’ve discussed in trying to achieve this depth, and thus the large cast of characters. Of course, it is entirely up to Malmaxa’s readers to decide if I am successful. I wonder if it is even possible to be successful, or whether my ambition in this regard has made me overstep my bounds.

Finally let me say that I would be happy for you to judge my efforts, though I’d be as unhappy for you to judge me.  If you’re tempted, then why not start reading Beltamar’s War right now, right here on my blog in your web browser?

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Facebook “Friends”.

Perhaps because we harbor fears of being different there is something deeply gratifying in finding someone whose thoughts align with our own. I recently found someone like that, an author using the name P J Fox. For this I thank David Grigger, who happened to mention @PJFoxWrites on Twitter. Among the many interesting posts on her blog is one about Facebook Friendships, you should pop over and read it.

Since friendship is important to me I have written about it before, indeed I’ve even written a poem about what friendship means to me, which I’m fairly sure is different to what friendship means to you.

Friendship is so much more than an alert out of nowhere that someone now “likes you”, or likes what you’ve just said. Yet that seems to be what social media sites such as Facebook attempt to reduce this rare and special thing called friendship to.

I can see that Facebook works for certain people. For example, my wife uses it to keep in touch with some of her family and a few of her friends. Note my choice of words, “some of her family and a few of her friends” – she specifically doesn’t accept friend requests from anyone who happens along. What my wife doesn’t use Facebook for is a marketing platform to reach a wide audience of people who, as easily as a mouse-click, can like her or the things she has to say.

Friendship is so much more than allegedly agreeing with a single random thought. Friendship is so much more than the explicit expectation you will reciprocate for “likes” from someone you don’t know and will probably never meet by “liking” something they have to say in return for them liking something you said. Friendship doesn’t happen in a mouse-click, it just doesn’t. Friendship takes something the social media effectively steals from us, while simultaneously fooling us into think it is granting us. Friendship takes time.

An attraction of social media, and I think this extends to most of social media platforms, not just Facebook, is that it tricks us into thinking, “I can say something personal to all my friends at the same time!” Obviously, this is an enormous time saving. Just think how much time it would take to call each of our friends and say the line we can so easily post to social media.

There are a couple of fundamental problems with this premise.

First, an issue that ardent users of social media seem to have completely forgotten… Something you shout to the world is in no way “personal”.

Equally important, if you were to actually call each of your friends and tell them exactly the same thing… Well you would be extremely insincere, indeed if two of your friends discovered you’d told them precisely what you’d already told all your other friends they might even consider you to be shallow. Would they be wrong?

Which brings me back to the most essential element of friendship. Friendship is personal.

There simply isn’t a quick and easy path to friendship. Friendship takes time, energy, synergy, and commitment to build. Friendship is one-on-one – it is not one on many. Even in the smallest group of close friends, there are people who simply would not associate with each other if it weren’t for their real friends in the group.

And that is OKAY!

We are all individuals, we are all unique, and we should all accept that friendship is something incredibly special that we invariably share with a single, unique individual. Every friendship we have is as unique as the person with whom we share it.

If, as so many of us are, you’re entwined in social media don’t mistake what can barely be termed an acquaintance for a friend. There is an enormous difference between the deeply satisfying joy and contentment actual conversation with your true friends brings, and the momentary, yet horribly addictive little surge of pleasure an alert informing you someone has “interacted” with you on social media brings.

Perhaps that leads us to another significant difference between social media acquaintanceships, and real friendships.

The stimulus of social media is addictive. All those innumerable little alerts social media constantly feeds our appetite for interaction mislead us into thinking people we will never know actually care about us. Not only do they not care, but us expecting someone we’ve never had a one-on-one conversation with to care is unrealistic in the extreme.

Juxtaposed to social media’s addictive little “someone cares” alerts, along with its urgent requirement for a response in order to show we care back, is real friendship. Real friendship is not addictive. Real friendship places no demands on you in its regard. Real friendship is not established in a single mouse-click, and it is not so easily broken as with another. Once real friendship is established, time’s passage ceases to matter. Literally years can pass between conversations with your real friends, yet you can pick up precisely where you left off so many years ago.

How much time can pass between “interactions” in social media? Hours? Days is pushing it. And as for weeks… well the prevailing wind of social media has completely changed by then, and “Sorry mate, but who are you again, and more important, what can you do for me?” will likely be the response you get.

Now please don’t think I’m saying true friendships cannot form on social media. I am not.  However I am saying that regardless of where friendships form they require the same stimulus to growth and development.  Personal interaction, commitment, understanding, and most especially time.

How many true friends do you actually have, versus how many acquaintances you have on social media?

If you’re on social media at all, I know the second number is greater than the first. Often vastly greater.

Now allow me to pose a question. Which number is more important to you? If you answer honestly, after anything more than superficial consideration of the question, you might learn something about yourself.

I know I have, and furthermore I don’t think I particularly like what I just learnt.

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What lies between the lines.

I recently wrote,

One of the downsides of being a writer is that not only do we write words that aren’t there, fully expecting people to intuitively see them, but we also tend to read words that are never written.

Which brings me to this post, which is in fact a review of “Beltamar’s War”, the first book in my epic series, Malmaxa, by one David Grigger, or @DaveGrigger as he appears on Twitter where I met him, in the virtual sense of that word.  David kindly gave me permission to republish his review here.  It was originally published on Medium.comGoodReads and Amazon. (The links will take you to those websites respectively).

Why am I re-publishing David’s review here?  Foremost, as this is my blog I like to post things that mean a lot to me. This review means an enormous amount to me.  Why?  For the very reason highlighted at the top of this post.

We write things “between the lines”, in anticipation people will see them…

It becomes very disheartening when nobody seems to see the thoughts we think we have hidden in plain sight.  David was the first reader to really see between the lines in my writing. As such he has earned a very special place in my heart.  David, just so you know, it is for people like you that authors like me do what we do.  Thank you!  As partial payment of this Karmic debt I will be sending you a free copy of “The Pilgrimage” per this offer.  However your copy will be rather special, it will be printed not electronic, and it will also be be signed (I’ll email you for your preferred mailing address nearer the time.)

Now, without more of my unnecessary verbiage, here is David Grigger’s review of my magnum opus, exactly as it first appeared on GoodReads.

۷۸۷۸۞۷۸۷۸

By Dave Grigger.

my full review is extremely verbose.
why? Because that is how my mind works.
swirling chaotic seemingly unrelated thoughts & ideas
converge in my mind in such a way, that most just shake their head
and that is ok

this pre-mini review is for those that can’t/won’t invest time in reading full review.

condensed version.

10 out of 5 stars.
Unique & completely without comparison.
regardless of your “preferred” genre,
will make you laugh, cry & become TOTALLY invested
in the characters & the storyline.

twitter version: top notch eye opening unprecedented finely crafted work of art. Regardless of preferred genre, anyone will enjoy.

now for those who want the full story
I offer this:

start hear
!won

wtf?!
what in the world does that mean?
at first glance it appears to make no sense.
and how does this relate to a book review.
allow me to explain.

C.G. Ayling has posted the beginning of his book here:
http://cgayling.com/malmaxa/samples/m…

being the crazy synchronicity anomaly twitter is, i don’t remember
how i first came upon the author. i do remember loving his tweets.

so i followed.

the more enamored i became w/his mastery of the english language;
the more i wanted to read.
occasionally he would provide a link (the one above)
and at least three (possibly more) times i started to read.
first few lines and i knew.

NOT for me. not my genre, prolly a little more than over my head.
it just plain didn’t make sense (to me).
so.

start hear = start here, listening
!won = flip & you have “now!”

so by twisting the traditional way most of us are used to thinking,
you have to stop, pause & THINK.

“start listening here, now!”

this disconcerting non-sensical feeling came over me when I tried to read just a few lines.
but once the story unfolds a little bit, it clicks.

why use this technique?
because this is not “just a story”.
this is an alternate philosophy of how things should be.

to allow your mind the latitude to consider what is being said,
you have to be kicked out of your comfort zone.
once out of your element, you are able to see things differently.

you may start to c things in a different light.
because what you sea & what I see may not be the same.
how come i’m doing a review on a book i’ve never read?
well, i did eventually read it.

now for the rest of the story
just so happens that he posted a review someone else had done.
and in this review, it was mentioned how in the beginning it is hard to follow.
but that if you stick it out through the first chapter or two, the payoff is huge.
so then i go back & notice this:

“…my philosophic vision of a world stripped bare of all the trivialities that make humanity act so poorly.” ~C.G. Ayling
philosophy! oh HELL YEAH! now we’re talking. ok, i’ll give it a go.
since i was confident in the review (and the writer) i ordered the book.
and so now the review.

i was in the middle of a book when it arrived. so i just took a little taste.
read the first 8 pages. lot of emotion & detail.
the detail though had me like
how i started this review.

start hear, !won

little bit lost & confused.

but lest you think this is a negative, here is a tweet from after finishing the book:

how many books have you ever read & the next day open it back up & re-read? “Beltamar’s War” by @CGAyling is the first for me.

so i had a plan. went back to book i was reading
(2 days later set it to side 1/2 read, too anxious to start “Beltamar’s War”).
once i started, i knew for me i would need help through the first chapter or two.
so i got out my notepad. wrote names & relationships of the main characters.
when i got at spot i was unsure, just referred to my “cheat sheet”.
after 20 pages i was golden. everything clicked & i was hooked.
so much so that by page 80 this happened:

crying so hard had to close my book & literally sit down. @CGAyling less than 1/4 of way thru kin-ected me to character so forcibly!

and for those that trend towards conspiracy theories.
NO, i am not he, & he is not me.
he is however my sister. (inside joke)

but I digress

another thing I recommend doing while reading this book is pay close attention to every detail.
the craftmanship is impeccable. It is literally a piece of fine art. the care, devotion & time (and there is no way you can convince me this was produced in less than a few decades) is self evident. the characters will become part of your family & you will wear their marks with pride.

i would like to interject just a little food for thought & how it relates to this work.

talking to my parents recently, we had a conversation about families & society. they related that how in their childhood there were not any “day cares” or “nursing homes”. extended families lived together (in smaller homes than average small family lives in now). also, daily baths were unheard of. saturday was bath day.

so with all of our “progress” as a society; are we really better off?
after you read the book, hit me up on twitter @DaveGrigger & we’ll chat.

should philosophy not be your “thing”, that is ok.
This work stands on it’s own as pure entertainment.

As I mentioned earlier & wrote about here: https://medium.com/@DaveGrigger/i-cam…

“but then someone else has a perspective of their work that intrigues me & i say wth let’s see what this is about. and my intuition doesn’t betray me. because the twitter identity is so true & real to the author identity i connect.
in fact i connect so hard that i literally had to close the book & sit down & cry. twenty minutes later (lunch break is only 30) i get up & return to my so called “real life”. My connection to a simple water monger was so real. so true. so visceral as to belie any logic. i still tear up thinking about it.

this all in less than 80 pages in to a book that is closer to 400. when an author can touch me @ that depth that quickly, in a genre not in my repatoire. he deserves special mention. @cgayling is one such author.
my encounters with him on twitter, reignited a passion for words & poetry
i honestly never knew existed. and should you think his interaction is merely a “ploy”. dig through his timeline. if something does not set with him, he will say so. not in a derogatory way, but more of a “agree to disagree” fashion.”

I have not discussed this next bit of info w/the author. Just intuition. But I suspect that a significant percentage of this is autobiographical. This is not just a hobby. Nor is it a quick way to earn a buck. I dare say (though who doesn’t like money) that the main motivation is to take humanity by the shoulders & say “wake the “f” up.

pay special attention to EVERY detail. there is not any frivoulous element here. if it is mentioned it has a purpose. twigs, rocks, trees symbols on the page. ALL have a meaning & a purpose.

now halfway through my second reading this is even more evident. and if I know him at all, i believe the author has elements that won’t come to full fruition until the trilogy is complete. but his mastery of his craft is such that should you only read the first book, you will be pleased. *it is my firm belief though, that if you do take the leap of faith & read “Malmaxa I Beltamar’s War” that you will HAVE to read II & III.

have you ever read a book (or watched a movie) and at the end go “hell, they used such & such plot device to manipulate me.” none of that is to be found here. the characters ring true in interactions with each other & their environment.

if asked to compare to another author, i can honestly say that there is none that compare. this was not crafted for an easy buck. this is a mans soul, laid bare in hopes of helping humanity. as such, there is no equal. many things i have spoken of here i do not have “direct knowledge”. what i do have is an intuitive personality that allow me to connect with a few special people in a way that all would envy if they were to ever experience it.

and speaking of understanding. while reading this book once will be rewarding & fulfilling to you. being half-way through my second reading i am confident in saying that multiple readings will be required to even begin to unravel the full message. the layers & nuances will transend any traditional understanding you believe you have about storytelling.

this is fiction that contains a truth so real, so true; that to stare at it unfiltered would be as if to stare at the sun unaided. you would be enlightened, but in the process also possibly blinded. truth undiluted typically is not palatable. as such it is offered in a format as to which you can suspend disbelief, if even for just a moment so as to understand the universal truth that is held within the protective shell of “fantasy”.

@DaveGrigger

 

 

 

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If I May.

This is a melancholy poem, motivated by friendships that die beneath the stresses imposed by our relentless struggle to merely survive.

~ If I May ~
~
Each and every day
I try to do the things that matter,
if I may.
I pat my dog,
I hug my children,
if I may.
I hold my wife and tell her,
“I love you, today”,
if I may.
I go to work,
not because it matters
but because I must,
for, you see,
I have obligations to meet,
and bills to pay,
if I may.
A family to feed,
a family to clothe,
a family, to house,
and animals who in me
place their unspoken trust,
and so to work I go,
I must,
if I may.
Though my mood at work,
is far from gay
I try to smile,
if I may.
Woeful hours,
till my workday is done,
and then to home
I’ll run,
if I may.
For what matters
is not the hours misspent
at the place I get my pay.
Oh no,
what matters most,
is my family,
and my friends,
with whom I share
real smiles,
silly speech,
unforced laughter,
and joyful play,
if I may.
With the ones I love,
is where I’d spend my days,
if only
I may.
~

Where do you spend your time? First your hours, then your days? Count the hours spent in the company of those you love, and weigh times scale against the hours you spend away. Which way does the scale tilt?

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Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Yesterday, Julia donated 12 inches of her hair to the non-profit organization, Locks of Love. Locks of Love is an extremely worthy organization that takes donations of hair ten inches or longer and uses them to create hairpieces for disadvantaged children who suffer for any form of medical hair loss.  Can you think of any better way to use the hair you shed? I cannot.

Julia has been donating her magnificent hair to Locks of Love since Elementary school.  Though I can’t be certain of the number of donations she has made, I think this is her 4th.

hair today

hair today

My favorite youngest daughter, Julia, with her locks of love intact.  This picture was taken on Sunday, the day before her donation.

gone tomorrow

gone tomorrow

And here Julia is, a couple of hours after donating her hair.  Though I am unashamedly biased, to me Julia is more beautiful for her loss.  I know that the recipient of her gift, though already as beautiful as every child inherently is, will benefit from its gain.

Hair is something we take for granted.  We should take nothing for granted…

If you’re interested to know more about Julia, and discover for yourself just how wonderful a person she is, then please search my blog for poetry. Much of it is Julia’s. Perhaps my favorite of her poems is “The Wind and the Tree“.  In addition to writing poetry, Julia draws, babysits, and most important of all, she truly cares.

Like all my children, family, and friends, Julia is a constant source of inspiration to me.  Indeed she is also the principle Hero in my epic work, Malmaxa. {Hero is not a typo, but you’ll need to read “Beltamar’s War” to find both her, and why.}

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