1.14.2020

A General Malaise

This post will likely be rushed. I’d apologize, but at this point, the quirkiness is more than likely something you have come to expect from me. 

It’s rushed for a couple of reasons. The first being that I have 28 minutes left of my lunch and feel like at 14 days into the new year and several months since my last post (it seems), this is long overdue.

The second reason it’s rushed is that I’m going to likely just do this in one sitting, no editing, no revising, no gut-checking any emotions or lack thereof that might find their way to this post. Again, I feel like it’s my MO at this point. 

Also, I’m lazy. Let’s be honest. Too many times this past year when push has come to shove and I’ve tried to impose deadlines on projects that I wanted to get done, something shiny has caught my eye and I dove into another, less productive time-suck. 

And that’s why I’m probably swimming in it now. That whole general malaise thing that’s going on. As is the case with just about any malaise (and specifically with a general malaise), I don’t have a good reason for the feelings. They are just kind of there. Like that sweater that was too itchy at first, to be avoided at all cost, it has been worn to the point where it seems comfortable, and I can’t really picture putting it back in the closet in favor for something that actually is comfortable and good for me.

Part of it is the writing. I know that. I know that when I don’t write every day, I hurt. Even these little blips on the blog help block the pain receptors and guide me back to that place where I feel like I’m doing something good with my life. 

And it’s been how long since I’ve put one of these out? Over two months. Sure, you’re right—I’ve guest blogged a few times since then, but in general, my lunchtime bloggy-blog has collected a fine layer of dust. And is giving me the side eye because I don’t take it out on the town and tell it how pretty it is anymore. 

It’s okay baby, I still love you as much as I ever did, and you are fucking gorgeous. 

That’s part of it, sure. I have to say though, I know that’s not all of it. Some of the other contributing factors are probably bordering on the edge of TMI, so I don’t care to dive too deeply into them. Suffice to say it has to do with the mounds of laundry I’ve kept on my bed these past few months. Because you know, there’s that little micro-infinity when you first start to come back from dreamland where you feel a presence in the bed, and it’s the person you were dreaming of and for that split second, the fact that you’re waking up alone feels like the dream, and not the reality. Again, I know some of that’s on me. I don’t do marriage all that well. Hell, to be honest, I’m pretty crap at dating, too. But I am a beast when it comes to snuggling, hanging out on the couch, watching movies, getting silly, and generally just hanging out.  Soooo, yeah. That was a little more of a reveal than I meant to give. Spoiler alert-I’m human. So, there’s that. 

On the plus side...I’m moving away from being on the plus side. Weight has dropped down around the 270’s.  It’s like a Freeway thing going on here. You see in Central Ohio, we have a highway called 315, and then our outer belt is called 270. I was on 315 for the longest time, and now I’m closer to being on 270. I’m not going to try to fool myself into thinking that I’ll ever be on 161 again (because that would make me look worse that Matthew McConaughey in that movie where he literally starved himself before shooting started. But yeah...I’m eating better. The bestie and I did meal prep for the week which has the trifecta of advantages: Controls spending; controls portions; and combats the lazy tendency when trying to decide what to eat to think that somehow spending money on Taco Bell is better than cooking something from the groceries we already spent money on. It’s Win-Win-Win. Plus...the soon to be routine of Sunday Meal Prep with my bestie is fun (takes care of some of that ‘feeling isolated’ thing).

I’m fighting the urge to cuss out the year. After all, it’s barely warmed up. And also,I feel like getting upset with an arbitrary construct just doesn’t do anyone any good and deflects some of the onus for me to own my shit. Although, I’m a little saddened by the passing of Neal Peart. And I’m also salty that people I love and care about seem to be getting mounds of shit dumped on their plate when all they were trying to do was finish the damn chocolate pudding that was 2019. 

And sure, work is busy. The fourth quarter of the year is our company’s busiest. I knew that going into it, but I still have the feeling on some days that I didn’t quite know how insane it was going to be. Still, even with all of that, this job is so much more of a better fit for me than probably any other job I’ve had in my life. Except for that time in High School when I was a DJ in training at a club geared for teens (Anyone remember Flamingo Isle, in Westerville?). Or the time I was a rock star for 6 days in 2008.

I’m not sure it’s going to be a better fit once I add New York Times Bestselling Author to the CV, but that’s not really going to be a problem anytime soon. I mean, in order for that to happen, I need to actually finish the books I’ve started. 

I’m working on that, too. I have a plan. I have a calendar. And I have star stickers. Each 500 words I write gets a star. If I get 50,000 words written in a month, I will celebrate with an evening of hookers and blow. And by hookers and blow, I mean a nice meal at a fancy restaurant.  Based on how I’ve started, January is safe. I might hit enough words to earn a meal at White Castle, but probably won’t earn a suit and tie meal at The Refectory. Maybe February.. We’ll see. At least I have a plan. And this little post that you’re still reading (dear god, are you still reading this?? I’m so sorry. You must be sick of baby Yoda memes if you’re still here) counts. 

I guess that’s one of the lessons that I’ve missed. Well...it’s one of the lessons that took me about thirty-seven or thirty eight years to figure out. And then I’m good for a few months. And then I forget it again for about a year or so. And then I figure it out again. It’s a vicious circle. I’d say cycle, but that implies that it can be broken at some point, and I’m beginning to realize that it can’t. Nor should it. You see, it’s usually when I get to this point of malaise that I figure enough is enough. Oh, I mean, sure, if you want to get picky about it, that point is usually when I run out of Moose Tracks and Coke Zero, but why be so hurtful?  Point is, here’s the lesson. 

Every. Word. Counts.

Yes. Some of the words are garbage. But you cannot edit a blank page. 
Besides, some of the words are not garbage. Some of the words give your best friend, who is easily one of your favorite authors on the planet, word-envy. OK, most don’t, but I’m hanging on to the compliments and motivations where I find them, you do what you need to do.

Oh—yeah. That. The thing about words. For me it’s words. Your mileage may vary. For you it might be every loop and knot in that macrame hanging flower pot you’re making. Or every measure you record on that kicking bass track in your basement. Whatever your thing is, it counts. Every single one of them counts. It is enough just to be doing the thing. 

You are enough.

Hey—Future Todd, when you read this, remember—You Are Enough. 

Have an awesomesauce day my friends!

10.30.2019

Marriage Material??

I had a friend call me today, fuming. I consider myself a good listener on most days. Considering that I was out of town on a work trip and doing absolutely nothing in my hotel room, my listening game was on-point.

She recounted the exchange that sent her off. I will spare you some of the more personal details, but the gist was, at one point, the dude-bro she was talking to flat out told her that she wasn’t marriage material.

Torn between wanting to be a supportive friend and being completely gobsmacked, I felt her frustration. No. That’s not quite right. I didn’t feel the same frustration she felt. I’m approaching what some consider middle age. I’m white. I’m primarily interested in women. Oh, and I have a penis. So...no, I can never truly feel the same frustration she was feeling. Or an anger that comes from the same place her anger came from. No matter how in touch I am witn my feminine side (whatever the fuck that actually means).

Instead, the frustration and anger I was feeling was because this complete waste of space had frustrated and angered my friend. And because he had further taken a big dump on any path of progress men could hope to have in quashing the rampant misogyny in our society.

And the phrase that stuck with me was ‘marriage material.’ Marriage fucking material.
What is marriage material?

I’m not even going to dive into the fustercluck of what a marriage is. (Love is love, leave your gender pronouns out of the definition of marriage).

So is marriage material, then,something on the list of things (both tangible and intangible) needed to make a marriage?

Last I checked, you needed 2 willing people with enough money between them to pay to file legal documents in whatever state they were “getting married” in, and the time to stand before a judge and get the official swearing of said marriage.

That’s it.  At its core, that’s really all of the material you need for a marriage. Two people and a contract.

But that’s not what this ass-clown said.

He said that my friend was not marriage material. SHE was not marriage material.

He was clearly reading a different blueprint for marriage. A person can’t be a document or the time to assert the vows.

So what was the not so subtle dig here?

That my friend was not worthy of a happily ever after? Don’t even get me started on that...because not all marriages lead to HE--at all.

Was he saying that she wasn’t good enough for him?  Bullshit. I’ve never met this dude, but if anything I know my friend is too good for him based on this conversation alone.

What frosts my nards about this kind of exchange is that the issue clearly lies with the dude. There’s some shit he’s got to work through about what he’s looking for in a partner. At its core, with or without the legal document or big fancy church wedding, a marriage is always a partnership. Period.

So, dude’s got some issues.

And he lashes out and puts the shit squarely back onto my friend.

THAT is the dick move.

Men...I’m begging you...pleading with you...kicking your ass in a drinking contest if necessary—whatever it takes to get this message through.

OWN YOUR SHIT.

Seriously. Own it.

If YOU have confusion about something--like how to effectively communicate with someone you are interested in (no matter their gender)...own it. Don’t push that off on someone. If you can’t see yourself in a lifetime partnership with someone and you want to keep it casual (or you want to break it off), then COMMUNICATE and FOLLOW THROUGH.

DO NOT put that shit onto someone else. Nobody has time to shoulder their own shit AND yours. And that goes doubly for most of the women I know. They already have to shoulder enough shit heaped onto them by countless men in their life.

Don’t pile on to that heap.

I can guarantee that there is no woman that deserves to have your insecurities piled on to their own shit in the form of thinly veiled “keeping it real” talk.

And for fuckssakes...if you ignore my previous pleas and pile it on anyway, do NOT call her a crazy bitch when she calls you on your shit. You had that shit coming.

Untitled Blog Post #17

I actually have no idea if this is actually the 17th blog post I have written without a title. It could be. Probably isn’t. Not sure that it matters.

What does matter is that I am actually writing. This is the third blog post I’ve written in as many days. One of them is going to be on my friend’s business site (and I’ll be sure to post the link when it’s up). The other was written as a reaction to a conversation I recently had a with a lady friend of mine (not like that). I let her read it and she said it was OK to post, so that one is forthcoming.

And then there is this. This post. I am sitting in a plane* at whatever thousands of feet planes fly at and I can hear the flight attendant chipping the ice. It’s very disconcerting. POUND POUND POUND POUND POUND.

On the plus side, it is drowning out the kids who are shouting and not understanding why they can’t hear each other (but somehow everyone can hear them).

In the seat next to me is a passenger who has the sniffles. Hopefully not a full on cold. I don’t need one of those. I had some spare fresh tissues and thought they would serve her better than the bathroom sandpaper she was using.

Across the aisle is...I don’t know what. A goddess? Probably not, but she is one of those women who has this kind of joie de vie that just radiates outward and makes her whole persona shine. I don’t know her name. I likely won’t know her name unless she happens to swipe right on me and what are the fucking odds of that happening? Not bloody likely, I can tell you that.  It’s ok, though. She seems to be one of those souls that you’re just supposed to experience and be the better for it. At least for a little while.

I don’t know where that came from, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Ya know? I mean, there is probably a non-creepy way I could have said that I enjoyed the laughs on the flight. The way the flight attendant scolded her for switching seats. The way she casually poo-poo’d it when I told her they sometimes had to redistribute the heavy ones like me when the flight is not quite full. She won’t know all of this. But those are the kind of people that somehow wind up in my book. There will be a character. And maybe she’ll read it and think, “Hey...that happened to me on a flight...I wonder…”

And isn’t that what’s cool about this life we are living? We never really know who we touch in our day to day interactions. She will likely think nothing of this, just another flight. But for me, I’ve just had the indelible image of a character for a book burned into the writing files that live in my head. Those are the gifts that make sitting in a planeful of cholera worth it.

Yes, it’s the time of year when people travel even when they are sick. So there is a call and response of cough, sneeze, cough, sneeze that would make the priest sitting in 27C proud.

I don’t know if I’m supposed to be comforted or worried by the priest being onboard. Faith and spirituality I’m good with, it’s religion that has become the estranged cousin in my life.

But I did have a realization as they were going through the safety demonstration. And I’m almost positive that I’ve posted something about this before. I guess this post is just a reboot, then.


There’s a point in the demonstration where they talk about the oxygen mask dropping from above you. And they say that if you are traveling with someone who needs help that you should put your mask on first, before helping others.

And that kind of hit me.

How many times do we run around in life trying to make sure everyone has their mask on and we wind up passing out because we forgot to put ours on?

Too many damn times. That’s how many.

People, in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, for fucksakes, put on your damn oxygen mask first.

You are going to be no good to anyone if your own mask isn’t on.

Read that last sentence again. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

On some level, you MUST put yourself first. You have to make yourself a priority if for no other reason than someone in your life is counting on you to help them put their mask on.

And what did Tina the amazing flight attendant (who came back to me with the 2nd half of a can of Coke Zero and a new cup of ice) tell us?  Put your mask on first BEFORE helping others.

It seems such a simple lesson. A lesson that is really just common sense when you think about it. But how many times DAILY do we all fail at this on at least some level?

17.

I’m guessing. Your number may be more, it may be less, but I can bet you that your number is not zero.

Here’s the other thing I learned. And this one is slightly more allegorical, but here goes.

In the (highly unlikely**) event of a water landing, your seat can be used as a floatation device. The takeaway from this is kinda straightforward.

Sometimes you are going to splashdown in the shit. It happens. You’re going to get wet. You’re going to fall right on your bum into the drink. But never fear, your cushion can be used as a floatation device. Meaning, we already have the equipment to float and not sink. Look, I never said I was Brenee Brown here. I’m just a dude sitting on a plane writing a blog. What you takeaway from it is entirely up to you. Much like the whole self-help genre in general. Someone writes a self-help book...but in the end, the self that is reading it is in the one who has to act on the help that is prescribed. I’m not sure where that fits into the whole flight safety demonstration, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere between the pretzels, Stroop waffle, and Biscoff.

I sure there is more I could say with this. And I know I took some pretty pictures of the flight safety card to go along with the post, but we’re beginning our initial decent, so Tina is going to make me stow my iPad and put my tray table back up.

So, peace out for now.

-AT




















*-People always say they got ‘on the plane,’ but that’s not really accurate, is it? We actually get in the plane. Language is weird.

**-I always get a little nervous how much they emphasize that landing in the water is unlikely. It’s like, Dude...we’re flying into and out of New York, you fuckers are known for landing planes on the Hudson, mmmkay?!


7.31.2019

Where in the What? And Rainbows, too?!

It has been what...wait. That’s not right. Has it really been three months? Three months since I’ve dusted off the keys and put something up here? Holy cow. Three months since I had it in my head that I had something important to say that I was sure that everyone would want to read.

There has been so much that has happened since my last blog post that to try to cram it all in here would not be good. For either of us, if I’m being honest.

So, let’s pretend that I’ve taken notes on some of those amazing things and that some point in the near future, I will be sitting back down at this blog to share some of those incredible experiences with you. Everyone loves a good game of pretend. It will be delightful.

Speaking of pretend, some of you may know from your visits here that I am a writer and author. I currently have two books available on Amazon. And here’s the truly exciting bit—I have a third book on the way. I have targeted the release date as 10/01. I picked the date largely to avoid giving my beta readers and editor a heart attack, but also I really liked the whole binary aspect of it. That makes more sense as you read the book, I think. Which, I hope you all will.

The book is called “The Treachery of Rainbows” and it’s been a long time coming my friends. I completed the first draft for this book as part of the 2016 NaNoWriMo and it was my first real book. The first book that was all mine from start to finish. It was not part of an assignment or anything like that. An idea popped into my brain bucket and away we went.

The process taught me many things about myself as a writer. Writing this book was one of the key pieces of thinking I actually was a writer (some days I still wonder, to be truthful).

I have to admit, I’m nervous, y’all. This is my third book, true. At it’s heart, though, it’s the first book. And sure, the rewrites and revisions happened after the other two, so I have grown as a writer. But I’m still nowhere close to the 10,000 hours that is generally considered to be the magic number to achieve Mastery of a given skill.

The book is currently with a few trusted Alpha/Beta readers and also with the editor. I might have gone out of order on the steps one is supposed to do to bring a book into the world. Although, let’s face it-I was never going to be doing things the ‘normal’ way. I never really have. I don’t see any reason to start now.

It’s also the longest book I’ve written. I’m honestly pretty excited about it. But I’m going to shut up and get out of the way of my own words.

Here is the first chapter of The Treachery of Rainbows.  Please keep in mind that things may change between here and the time it’s published. Please enjoy!

Chapter 1 - Shane
Shane sat on the park bench. At least that’s what it was technically called. Far from being a park, the area was in one of the sanctioned atriums in the city. Unlike the other atriums, this one was built in the heart of the Ministry complex. Shane felt a peach within the solace of this place when he came here. He was alone on most days. Very few of the other Narrators knew about the atrium and normal citizens wouldn’t have access to this sector, even if they were aware of it. Shane was sure none did. Any location search pulled up zero check ins. He was breaking the law by not checking in. However, his position of Narrator afforded him some privileges in regards to the legal system in this sector.
Shane often felt out of sorts with the everyday life. This park with its absence of obvious technology felt more comfortable to him. He remembered his parents talking about the days when comms were called phones and were big clunky boxes and bound by cords to a fixed location and cameras were their own device. And even as they became smaller, they still were a tool. Not something that was vital to survival. Such a notion would make the citizens of this time physically ill. It wasn’t their fault;  most born into this life. The NC’s--Nanocites were administered in the womb. It had proven safer to keep the fetus healthy until a decision was reached by the HR division as to whether that child would be able to contribute to the corporate structure or not. 
Shane was born on the cusp of this great technical blitzkrieg. The nanotech had not yet been introduced in the rural area where his parents spent their sunset years. When a couple reached a certain age, childbirth was considered risky. There was an age beyond that where attempting to carry a child to term was illegal. Shane’s parents were well past that age when they decided to bring him into the world. Shane’s mother would not be deterred. She believed in something bigger than corporate law. She was of a rare breed who believed that the human race was better than the technology it embraced.  Shane made it to his first birthday without tech. That’s when the personnel sweep discovered the unregistered child and Shane became part of the system, registered as a human resource for the corporation nearest to his parents’ home. It was also the year Shane became an orphan. 
A familiar buzz came from the left breast pocket of Shane’s crimson tunic. He waited until it was humming at a fever pitch before pulling the device out and holding it to his ear.
“Dammit Madio, what took you so long? Why didn’t you engage aural nanos?”  The voice on the other end of the call was noticeably annoyed.
“I didn’t want to.” Shane’s reply was calm and unnerved his conversant.
“Where are you?”
“On break.” Shane knew that Central wanted to know where he was, not what he was doing. A smile crossed his face, but ever so slightly. Even the Atrium had surveillance cameras and if they ever did manage to work out where he took his breaks, that minor act of insubordination would most assuredly put him up for retirement from the Ministry and back in the workforce with the rest of the normal citizens. And if that happened, he wouldn’t be of any use to anyone. A quick glance at his  TIF-N confirmed that the privacy net was still on. Even while engaged in communications with Central, they would be unable to ping him. 
“Break’s over. We have a NOD.  Sector 17.”
The smile faded quickly. NOD’s were nothing to smile at. They were the most severe of the adjustments that Shane had to deal with. Each NOD, Naturally Occuring Distraction, could serve to take the citizenry away from their tech. And citizens off of their tech were dangerous.
“What is it, sir?” Shane’s tone was all business, any sarcasm gone. As he was talking, he was looking at the sandwich in his bag, knowing lunch was going to have to wait until he learned more about the NOD he had to deal with. He folded the flap on the bag closed and headed to the door. He stopped short when he heard the next words. 
“A rainbow.”
Shane stopped. A chill crawled up his spine. 
“Sir?”
“You heard me, Madio. A rainbow. At least 4 confirmed sightings. And Enviro Control is at least 15 minutes away from a natural solution.”
“Fifteen minutes is too long. We’ll lose a dozen more citizens by that time. I’ll be there in 2.” And then Shand ran.
“Good luck Agent Madio.”
“Thank you sir.”
Shane hit the main hallway in close to a sprint as he headed toward the pod bay. Others in the hallway knew that if a crimson tunic was sprinting toward the pods, it was nothing good and they made way for Shane. 
The personal comm unit went offline as the transport pod opened. 
“Sector 17. Level Nine Clearance. Authorization Utah-zero-nine.”
“Authorization confirmed.Welcome Agent Madio. Standby for transport.”
Shane pulled the visor over his eyes just as the first sparkle of the particle beams danced on the grid inside the transport pod. Narrators always wore their visors. Shane was the odd man out. He chose to look at the world through his own inferior human eyes every chance he could.  
A ball of light filled the pod. When the light was gone, so was Agent Shane Madio.

The streets were mostly quiet when a faint blue light sparked and filled the pod. When the light faded, Agent Shane Madio was standing in the pod. 
“Sector 17 Destination Reached Successfully, Agent Madio.”
Out of habit, Shane mumbled, “Thank you.”  The AI of the transport pods was not programmed for pleasantries, but just once Shane wanted to hear a nice robotic “you’re welcome.”
Stepping out of the pod, he assessed the situation. Most of the citizens were on the way to or from a corporate post. That’s when Shane spotted them.  What had been originally reported as four had grown to nine. 
Nine citizens had stepped off of the people mover, an act in itself that caused a slight commotion as bodies shifted and exited the moving track. The official designation on his reports would classify these 9 citizens as interlopers. Thankfully the rest of the citizens on the people mover and others in the plaza were following the augmented reality stream coming through their visors. None the wiser.
“I fucking hate rainbows, “ Shane muttered, heading toward the lopers.  Reaching for his comm panel, he started through the standard program, initiating the standard NOD protocol. All of the lopers were in the system. He quickly commandeered their feeds. All location posting, all tagging, and uploading of images was scrambled. The standard status of ‘Heading in to the office’ or some variant thereof was all that their immediate circle would see. 
He then engaged the containment net so that no other passersby would be able to tag or reach the lopers on the off chance they were recognized. 
To a person, Shane saw that they had all lifted their visors and were staring off in the distance, over Shane’s left shoulder. 
He pulled a piece of historical contraband from his bag. A vintage pair of 1985 Ray Ban Wayfarers. And taking off his visor, he put them on before turning to see it.
The rainbow.
Of all of the NODs that Shane and the other Narrators faced, the rainbow was one of the most intense. He had to admit, they were beautiful. There was something about the intensity and beauty that the population responded to.
Rainbows offer a glimpse into the mystery of a natural order most have forgotten. They come into being at the point where a sunny day and a rainy day meet. They easily distract the populous. 
The thing that truly makes the rainbow a threat to the corporations is that the visor cannot filter them out. Almost all of the other NODs can be filtered in the feed, the optics adjusting automatically to reduce citizen exposure. Despite their best efforts, rainbows are one of the few NODs that cannot be filtered. Because of the rods and cones in the human eye and how color is perceived, the visors have to allow those prismatic reactions to come through. Corporations found if someone pays attention long enough, they will realize that they are actually looking at a real rainbow and not an image on their Feed. It was a treacherous loop and corporations relied on the Narrators to keep things in check.
Narrators are infused with nano technology that in the presence of a rainbow will alter how the rods and cones of the eye function, portraying the rainbow much how a dog might see it, in shades of black and grey.  
Shane preferred to use the Ray Bans to accomplish the same feat. He had the nano tech. He just chose to keep it programmed to engage only if his life was in danger. 
It wasn’t. At least not yet. If any more citizens stopped to look at this rainbow, it could be. And fast.
He had reached the crowd of lopers by this time.  Reaching down to his wrist controller, he entered a series of keystrokes.  He stood waiting for the reaction. Looking at the visorless group, he saw a strange look pass over each of their faces.  It was a look of confusion and then severe discomfort. They all doubled over. No one in the area paid attention to the fact that it was happening in unison. And those experiencing the discomfort were in no shape to notice anyone other than themselves. 
Shane stepped up to the group. “Citizens, please put your visors back in place. The sickness will pass once your visors are safely back in position and your connection has been re-established.”
As they put the visors on, Shane could see them shaking off what had hit them. Feeling better most realized they were no longer on the People Mover and got back in position to continue on their way to the office. Looking at the status bar on his comm panel, he could see the connections syncing.
Once Shane was sure they were all back on the Feed, he released the dampening field, flooding their feed with what they had missed for the last 3 minutes. Within seconds, they would be so caught up in the feed, they would think the rainbow was a passing memory or a meme they saw on a friend’s feed. 
Surveying the area, Shane found a hastily scribbled note, obviously left by one of the lopers and dropped when the NTCC wave kicked in.
“Rainbows exist.” Shane put his visor back on and looked again at the paper. It was blank.
“Not today they don’t,” he said and dropped the scrap in his satchel as he headed back to the transport pod.
Before stepping in, he saw the clouds roll in seconds before the first rain fell.
“I don’t know why they always bring the rain to the sunny side.”
The blue light filled the pod. 
When it was gone, so was Shane.




And there it is. Hopefully it was enough to get you interested in reading the rest of it in October. Have an awesomesauce day my friends!

Peace!
-Todd






























5.07.2019

The Kindness of Strangers

This post is going to be a little bit all over the place. If you know me, you are probably used to that by now. If you don't know me, welcome. My name is Todd. I'll be your slightly insecure author and docent on this tour of randomness we call Todd's Mind.

I am going to get a little real, and probably a little raw here today. I would normally be terrified of that. Of exposing myself to the world at large. But in looking at the stats for this blog in the 22weeks or so since I've left Facebook, the reality, I'm exposing myself to about 10 of you. Less if some of you come back and re-read some of the posts. So...yeah. Here goes.

I can count on 1 finger the number of times including today where I have run out of gas. Not talking about pulling into the gas station on vapors, but actually having the car die and coast to a stop because that life-giving dead dinosaur juice was no longer in the tank.

One time.

Today.

It's my own fault. I don't like to admit when I've done something stupid. OK, that's not entirely true. I will admit to it if I can do it in a self-deprecating, yet charming way that somehow endears me more to you. Then I totally will. We can laugh about it. I can tell you that I thought putting flame thrower backpack on bearded dragons would help them become real dragons and how could I have been so stupid. And you'd tell me that no, it's fine because you really didn't like that heirloom sofa and matching doily set all that much anyway and after 500 years of being in the family, it was time for something new. Maybe from IKEA. And we'd laugh, and dodge bearded dragons.

THAT kind of stupid I can roll with.

The kind of stupid where there are built in safeguards (at least 2) and that could have been avoided, I hate admitting to. But I'm going to anyway.

I ran out of gas today. Full on ran out. The car was like 'hey...I'm tired. I'm going to just slow down here and take a little nap, is that cool? No? Oh. Well, I'm doing it anyway. Goodnight.'

And then the engine died. And the car coasted. I was able to steer it to the side of the road. About 1/4 from the gas station that I was heading to anyway.

But Todd, how could this have happened? You're a relatively smart man. What gives?

Glad you asked, italicized plot device.

Because I was stupid and didn't pay attention.

The low fuel light came on last night (the first warning). This meant I was getting low on gas. It probably came on as I was heading to bowling. I, in all likelihood, ignored it-thinking I could get gas in the morning. So I drove to bowling. Yellow warning light. Drove home from bowling. Yellow warning light. I drove to work. Yellow warning light AND estimated miles remaining shifts from a number to the word LO (the second of the two can't miss methods for remining me that it's time for gas.

I think hubris and pride got in the way. I was thinking that there was no way I could run out of gas. I was thinking that I had done the math way better than the computer. In the car. The one specifically designed to tell me how much fuel is left (more on that in a moment).

So I coasted to the side of the road. I called my roommate to let her I know I would be late. I called Roadside assistance. They told me an hour.

Then I see a guy across the street (the 7 lane street) with two kids shouting at me, trying to ascertain why I parked where I did. I was finally able to communicate that I was out of gas. He shouted that he was going to bring me some gas and then walked away with his kids.

Forever and 27 minutes later, he pulled up behind me and pulls a gas can from his trunk. I sheepishly accept his help and mention that this has never happened. He smiles and tells me that it happens to everyone and that I'll probably pay better attention next time. This isn't said in a condescending way and I didn't take it as a dig. It was a conversation filled with kindness and concern, and gratitude. I was grateful he decided to help. He was thankful that it was just me being out of gas, because he could help with that.

I offered to pay him for the gas. He shook my hand and said No, sir. I started choking up, and he said that I can just pay it forward.

Then I got in the car and wiped the tears from my eyes. He put the gas can in the car, waited to make sure I was OK then he and his kids went on their way.

I immediately pulled into the gas station that was less than 1/4 mile away from where my car stopped and filled the tank the rest of the way.

I am quite grateful for the kindness of that stranger today.

Also, I'm a little pissed. At me. And at my car.
And here's why.

First off, I know better. I knew I was close to fumes as I was coming home. I passed 4 gas stations because I wanted to get to the gas station that I knew had the cheaper prices.

Secondly, I made a few extra stops in a vehicle that I knew was running low on fuel (remember, I had 2 different warning indicators to that effect).

 Those first two are reason enough to be at the very least, annoyed with myself. But the third pissy annoyance I blame on the car. Or more specifically, the car manufacturer.

Queue nostalgia music that lets you know that an old fart is about to say something completely self-serving about the way things were back in their day.

So back in my day, when I was first learning to drive, all the way through until, well-this car actually, the fuel gauge on a car was just that. It was a manual/analog, physical indicator (usually a needle dancing somewhere between an E and an F to let you know approximately how much fuel was in your tank.

This was a good system. you can see that needle getting near E every time you get in the car. When you get below E and into the reserve tank, a warning light would come.

It worked. My whole life it worked. I never ran out of gas.

My current car has an electronic dash. The only actual needles are the speedometer and tachometer. The fuel indicator is set up to display the number of miles that I can drive before needing to put more gas in the car.

And that would be fine. If it worked.

It works most of the time. 
The times when it doesn't work, though, are a bit baffling. Firstly, the calculation to display how many miles of fuel are left is fuzzy. By that I mean when I fill up the tank, it will say that I have 300 miles worth of fuel left. I can then drive 15 miles on the highway. The number should go down to 285. It doesn't. It goes to 390 or something like that. So there is no one to one match up.

And then when it hits the damn LO portion, I can't do any calculations at all at that point. I know it's the expectation of the car manufacturer that everyone is going to immediately to the gas station to fill back up. Only life doesn't work that way.

I need there to be a needle. Or a percentage of fuel. And it can't disappear and go to a fuzzy work like LO.

But that's not going to happen. So I need to be better about keeping gas in the tank.

Both in my car, and in my soul.

Fortunately for me, a stranger took time out of his day today to help me with both.

Peace,
-AT

4.28.2019

FOMO is Real AF

It’s been almost 30 years since I’ve had cause to look through the pages of the DSM. Back then I think it was the DSM-3. Now I think it’s up to 5. At the time I’m not sure they had a diagnosis for FOMO-heck, they still might not, but I can assure you it’s a very real thing.

FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out is a condition whereby otherwise sane and rational people do shit they wouldn’t normally do just to feel that they aren’t somehow missing out on something. It’s one of the primary reasons that Clickbait and email phishing works so well. Along with that is the theory of the info-gap. But for the purposes of keeping things straightforward for the three of you that still make your way over to this dank corner of my mind, we’ll stick with just talking about FOMO and save the whole info-gap theory for another time.

Back in the fall/winter of 2018, I listened to a podcast on the topic of digital minimalism. I was fascinated by the concept. I recognized some things in my own life that I thought might be able to be addressed by cutting back on some of my online vices.. I wrote a blog post about cutting back on my digital interactions and trying to build my in-person interactions more. To focus on the joy I felt when I was in the same room sharing a joke and a deep belly laugh and not just a thumbs up and LMFAO. I had a clear intent in mind when I wrote that post. It didn’t necessarily meet with the kind of reception that I had in mind. Some of my friends saw it as kind of  me saying ‘fuck you, I don’t wanna bother with our friendship if we can’t hang out in meatspace.’ I wasn’t really saying that. But that doesn’t really matter at this point. I think I have strained or damaged some friendships from that post. I don’t know what I need to do to repair them at this point. But again, that’s probably a topic for another time.

Along with the whole podcast, blog post, alienating friends thing... I fired another salvo of self-death in the cyber realm. I deactivated my Facebook account. Only I didn’t do it in the normal way where you post on your wall that you’re thinking of deleting your Facebook account and then a handful of your friends tell you not to do it. That they would miss you. That you brighten their day. That it’s easy to cut back and only look at it sometimes. That the addiction of having to see who liked your post and wondering if someone really likes you or just likes the convenience of your friendship on Facebook. No. I didn’t do any of that. I just quietly deactivated my account one Sunday in December. No bells. No fanfare. No thing. Doing so further strained some friendships. And downright ended others.

I reasoned that my friends were all perfectly capable of reaching out to me if they wanted to. What I got when they did, though, was a heavy dose of ‘why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?’ And a whole slew of other things. I’m not even going into this. Some of the emotions tied to some of these conversations is still a little too raw.

So here we are. It’s almost May. It’s almost six months of not being on Facebook. Here’s the rub...I’m actually thinking about getting back on. And that’s kind of eating me up inside.

First and foremost...Facebook Messenger is an asshole of an application. You see, apparently if you deactivate your Facebook account, the page is still there. Waiting for you to come back. ON that page is a button. People can message you. From the page you deactivated. I guess the tech turds at Zuckerberg Central figure that if you aren’t on their social media drunk, they can get you with that sweet, sweet FB Messenger wine. So...6 months into my indefinite FB hiatus and I’m sitting here wondering just how many people messaged me. How many people thought I was an asshole for not messaging them back.

Enter FOMO.

I am an obliger. A people pleaser by nature. I don’t want people to be upset. I want to keep the peace. The thought that I could have hurt people by simply being ignorant of the fact that they still had the capability of messaging me when I thought I was making a clean break is really fucking with me in ways I didn’t think possible. That’s the fear. The fear of missing out. What message did I miss? What declaration of love from some ardent admirer worshipping my creative genius from afar? OK, the likelihood of that last one is rare, but the sentiment is there. WHAT DID I MISS??I didn’t know that Messenger still worked. So now I feel guilty. I feel selfish. I feel like I let someone down. I don’t know who I would have let down. But clearly I did. 

Clearly there was something I missed.

And then there is the fact that there are some clear challenges and holes with not taking the FB Blue Pill. I still find myself smiling like an idiot when I’m am in a conversation containing the phrase “…did you see the post on Facebook…” No. I didn’t. Because I am a cyber-leper or some nouveau hipster Luddite. I am, in fact, none of those things. 

But there are some things I miss. I miss feeling a part of people’s lives, even in a peripheral way. Is it better to have that peripheral exposure than nothing at all? I’m not really sure yet. Some days I’m OK with it. Some days I miss the invitations…the discussions…the feedback when I posted something on my blog and had the sense from a blue thumb icon that someone either read the post or at least was happy that I could still write something—I’m still not sure which.

Now…because my mind just can’t let things go (I swear the meds are helping, but there probably isn’t a cure)…but because I can’t let things go, and some days I have super shitty self-esteem, the flip side of the whole I let someone down because I didn’t see all of their missed messagesfeelings is the fact that if I doreactivate my account and look at Messenger (or even just load the Messenger app), that there be nothing there. That no one will have reached out or missed me. Either because they were pissed I just left FB without telling them, or that they really just didn’t notice that I wasn’t on their feed any longer and I had such a zero sum impact on their life that it didn’t matter that I left.   The sad part is…there are some friends that I do still see in real life that I have that feeling about. That it’s just easier to not stay in touch with me. 

Yes. I know that this post is very focused on the Me of this. Well, I mean, it kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? I can’t really speak for anyone else (this doesn’t stop me from thinking through entire conversations playing the role of another person and coming up with the worst case scenarios).

I have thus far fought the urge to log back in. I have to remember why I walked away from Facebook. I spent too much time on the site. To be fair, I have come to learn through a recent job change, that part of that may have been because I secretly hated my job. Or at least strongly resented my job. I also left each session I spent on the site feeling like everyone else had their shit together and I’d never have a life worthy of someone else’s online envy. Also, I have to be honest about the fact that there is quite likely an addiction element, too..

I miss some groups I was a part of. I miss some conversations I had.  I would like to have those conversations in person. I also miss those things that I don’t know I have missed. 

It’s weird in my head, ok?

I’m not going to log in. I’m not going to check the messages (or lack of messages) in messenger. If you messaged me, I’m sorry. I didn’t see it. I don’t know when I will see it. Probably never. I’m probably also going to forget your birthday since that is one of the things FB was really great about. So, sorry for that, too.

The wave of FOMO has subsided for the evening. I can’t say it’s gone completely, but for now I think I can cope. I have a few friends I can reach out too if I’m feeling too terribly alone. It’s weird, that list seems to be shifting. People I thought would be there no matter what seem to be fading and others stepping in. Again—thought vomit for another time.

With that, I’m off. I have some laundry to fold and some hip, irreverent photo to put on Instagram while I mention this blog post and hope that the counter spikes above the 3 Views that always come from me when I post something.

Have a wonderful evening my friends.

-Todd

4.08.2019

Earning the X for Today

Some of you might know this, some of you might not. Although, if you're here, I suspect that you do. But, I am a writer. I am also a musician (of sorts). I am a painter (less so than either musician or writer). 

And right now, I'm a reader. Well, not right NOW. I mean, right now I am writing this blog post in a misguided attempt to earn my X for the day. I'm still not sure if I'm going to count it yet or not. I'll likely decide at the end of this bit of brain-dumping that I refer to as blogging, if I'm going to count this as productive writing for the day or not. 

Todd, just what exactly is 'earning the X' and can you circle back around to this thing where you think you're a writer?

I'm glad you asked, well, that is to say, I'm glad you asked half of the question that you did. I'll answer both just because I'm feeling saucy. At least at the moment. 

I started this thing sometime in March where I stopped counting words or time that I had written for a day and just made a conscious effort to write something-anything.

In fact, as I type this, I think I may have already posted about this on the blog already. Hold on a sec. 

OK. Just checked. Apparently I haven't-yet. At least not in so many words. 

Anyway, earning the X. It's something that a lot of writers do, so I'm told. Basically, for me, if I have done some writing that has cleared some mental cobwebs or has advanced my story forward--either or--or has served for me to just get some thoughts of a personal nature down on paper, then the calendar gets an X on the day. Pretty soon, there's a good little string of them on there and the last thing I really want to do is break that string. I don't want there to be any days without X's. 

Normally it's pretty straightforward, I pack a lunch...each it...then do some writing on my lunch hour. And boom. X-time. Today I went out for lunch, so, not so straightforward. But no matter--I could do some writing when I got home. Easy peasy. Only tonight I've been a reader. I've been reading the second book of the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. And it's so good!!

Honestly, I'm going to get back to the book now. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to count this as my X today. But maybe that's OK. Maybe I start something new. 

I days I write, the calendar gets an X. On days I read, it gets an O. And on the glorious days I do both, it gets both. 

I like that plan. 

So, maybe half of an X for today, but definitely an O. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to get back to!

Have a great evening my friends!

-AT

A General Malaise

This post will likely be rushed. I’d apologize, but at this point, the quirkiness is more than likely something you have come to expect fro...