Friday, April 27, 2012

MBTA 2nd Edition

The Second Edition of Murder by the Acre is now on sale! Purchase it here!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Civility

"There's not enough civility today among people with different points of view, let alone camaraderie. We don't have to agree on everything, yet we can still like and respect each other. We can say, 'Hey, there's another point of view -- okay, let me hear yours.' And who knows? I've come full circle on a lot of things in my life.

"Too many people start out with preconceived ideas, and they decide they don't like you before they even know you. And that's dangerous. That's how you become a zealot. If you aren't willing to hear another point of view, how do you grow?"

-- Georgette Mosbacher as quoted in the book Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You by Betsy Myers with John David Mann

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Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Temerity

There are people you can't help.

It always takes me some time to realize this. It feels like giving up, but when you give suggestion after suggestion and offer help time after time, but the other person always has some reason  that the suggestions won't work and refuses the help because he/she knows -- KNOWS -- the change won't work ... Eventually even I have to realize that person is a shining example of a particular insanity: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

For some people, venting their displeasure with their way of life is their way of life. They don't want people to point out possibilities. They want confirmation that their failures are unavoidable, that they couldn't do better. Perhaps they do this because then they can believe they're blameless. And I've had them bite at me because I had the temerity to suggest that their lives could be different if they would only choose differently.

I recognize there are many things over which we have no or little control. Accidents, health problems, our childhoods, etc. But just because we're knocked down doesn't mean we have to stay down. Or even stay in the place where we were knocked down. The world is full of possibilities.

One thing I've always done is shoulder my failures. Admittedly, I have taken on burdens that didn't belong to me -- the wisdom to know the difference is something I still struggle with -- but at least I know that my losses are my own work. I don't try to blame my parents or the church or God or my friends or anyone else for my mistakes.

And frankly, I can live with my failures. (Obviously.) I'm surviving, making my way, the government isn't supporting me --although I'm going to work on that soon -- this is my world. For all my problems -- health, financial, spiritual, mental, etc. -- I'm still here. Still working. Still getting out of bed each day.

Perhaps I'm just as insane as the people who choose to wallow in their safe, comfortable mud. But it doesn't feel like I am. It feels like something I can be proud of.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nemesis

I have never started out to thwart anyone, to be their nemesis as it were. But I have been. More times than I care to remember. I don't know why. Not really. I know it has something to do with my hatred of bullying and bullies. I also know I have strange fondness for lost causes, for battles fought for the greater good even when the most casual observer knows the battle is lost.

It may come down to rebellion, plain and simple. I've always had a rebellious streak. Tell me I can't do something, and I'll try to do it. Tell me I shouldn't do something, and I might. Tell someone I love that they're wrong or stupid or fat or untalented, and brother, expect an apocalypse.

I'm better at defending those I love than myself. In some ways, I have a ... desire is too strong a word; let's say ... inclination to self-punishment. I'm like a lot of writers in that we can hear a thousand words of praise and one word of criticism, but that one critical word is what keeps us up at night. No matter who unfair the criticism or how unfounded, we have that self-doubting gremlin who tells us that it's our fault in some way.

I don't enjoy standing up to bullies. I've had to do it too much. My life would have been happier or at least not as unhappy if I had just gone along with the flow. If I had let the bullies in my high school pick on whoever they chose. Not that I did enough. I was always frightened because I knew there was no such thing as earning their respect, like the stupid after school specials would spout. No, all I could do was make sure they knew I was unbalanced enough to do anything to them or their car or their locker or whatever if I was backed into a corner.

Still, I took a lot of shoves, heard a lot of stupid insults, swallowed a lot of self-respect, hid too many bruises. They taught me hate and fear. And I guess in more ways than I can ever acknowledge, they made me what I am and gave me that burning fire that stares out my eyes and says, I don't think so. You see, I don't want anyone else to be taught hate and fear. Not if I can help it.

One last thing: Bullies are afraid, too. That's what makes them so dangerous. They operate out of fear and stupidity. I could draw a comparison between them and Congress, but I think you already see the similarities.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Maven

I used to be a tech maven. I loved new tech. New computers, new operating systems, new phones, new stereos, new MP3 players, etc.. They were all wonderful.

Now, I find myself lagging behind. Part of this is because of money. I don't have much these days, and the new tech is an expensive habit. The rest is that I'm not that impressed by the tech anymore. Nothing new out there. Just variations on themes. Faster perhaps. Smaller maybe. Different colors. A few more bells and whistles, but anything game changing?

No.

Microsoft is going to try to change the game with Windows 8. While I applaud their willingness to attempt something sort of new, I'm appalled that their new is basically just taking a phone user interface and ramping it for desktops and tablets. Sigh. This is what tech innovation has sunk to.

So chase the new tech if you will. I will watch from the sidelines and sip from a Luddite drink. The taste is not unpleasant these days.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Labyrinth

Did you do taxes yet? How did they go? Well, I know they went to Washington, D.C., where they will doubtlessly be spent on important things, such as gifts to interns or $1,000 toilet seats. But what I was asking was how clear were the instructions? Were they easy to follow, or did you have to find the income tax equivalent of a GPS unit?

Mine are somewhat confusing because I have writing income. And I use “somewhat” in the sense that the presidential candidates are somewhat untruthful about their desire to serve the public or Lindsay Lohan somewhat likes publicity and is somewhat a mess. Not that I'm dealing with large amounts of money, mind you, but that doesn't free me from filing schedule D1 unless I'm using Exemption A3 during a new moon in a month with a T in it and the cherry blossoms are blooming, then use Schedule 14C ... Or something like that.

I can never navigate the labyrinth of my taxes, so I have someone else do it. They tell me what to pay and what I need to submit, and that's what I do. I have no idea if the amounts are correct, but I trust the tax preparer, and like I said, the amounts are very small, so no one is getting rich off any errors. In fact, I've received condolence notes from the government and once a crate of military issue ready-to-eat meals that had expired dates.

It may not be totally the tax form's fault that I’m confused. The form uses a lot of math, and I’ve always had a love/hate/loathe/detest relationship with math of any type. This is a shame since math is so important to success, particularly if you're a nuclear scientist or a math teacher or a pole dancer, although why anyone would want to dance around Polish people has always baffled me.

Really, math is simply evil. I kept telling people that, but they keep pointing out that many wonderful things have been built by math, like bridges, satellites,  buildings, casinos, nuclear weapons, machine guns, dirty bombs, etc. They lose me after buildings. Truthfully, I’ve never forgiven math since I found out Pi was approximately 3.14159265 and not a round delicious baked good.

That reminds me of this old joke: “Pi are square? No, pie are round.” I said it was an old joke, not that it was a good one. And yes, I know “Pi are square” should be really be rendered as “π r 2” but I thought I would make it easy on those of us who are mathematically challenged.

That formula, by the way, is how you find the area of a circle. In other words, the area is equal to Pi times the radius squared. And the radius is the distance from the center of circle to any point on it. And you can find the diameter of a circle by 2 times the radius, and find the circumference by 2 Pi times the radius blah blah blah. Hey, wake up! The math lesson is finished.

By the way, it’s totally possible I have those formulas wrong, so be careful if you’re building your own nuclear reactor or orbital weapon platform to conquer the world. Any apocalyptic mistakes are strictly your own responsibility.

Anyway, my taxes are done and sent. I’ve done my part to pay the outrageous salaries of Senators and Congressmen. Sigh. It’s almost enough to make me want to be Canadian. Almost.

Copyright 2012 by Stephen B. Bagley. Excerpted from Return of the Floozy. All rights reserved. No copying without express prior written permission from the publisher and author. Thank you for reading.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kind

I love Lost Horizon, both the book by James Hilton and the 1937 movie starring Ronald Coleman and Jane Wyatt and directed by Frank Capra.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the book:

"Hugh Conway, a veteran member of the British diplomatic service, finds inner peace, love, and a sense of purpose in Shangri-La, whose inhabitants enjoy unheard-of longevity. Among the book's themes is an allusion to the possibility of another cataclysmic world war brewing. It is said to have been inspired at least in part by accounts of travels in Tibetan borderlands, published in National Geographic by the explorer and botanist Joseph Rock. The remote communities he visited, such as Muli, show many similarities to the fictional Shangri-La. One such town, Zhongdian, has now officially renamed itself Shangri La (Chinese: Xianggelila) because of its claim to be the inspiration for the novel.

"The book explicitly notes having made war on the ground man would now fill the skies with death, and all precious things were in danger of being lost, like the lost histories of Rome ("Lost books of Livy"). It was hoped that overlooked by the violent, Shangri-la would preserve them and reveal them later to a receptive world exhausted by war. That was the real purpose of the lamasery; study, inner peace, and long life were a side benefit to living there."


In the movie, the High Lama makes a speech about the philosophy of Shangri-La. It's one that I wish we would all adopt. The world would be such a better place.

"Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? But when has the world known any other time? What madness there is, what blindness, what unintelligent leadership. A furiously racing mass of bewildered humanity, strengthening not in wisdom but in vulgar passions, crashing headlong into each other, motivated by greed and propelled into brutality. The time must come when evil will destroy itself.

"For when the day comes that the world begins to look for a new life, it is our belief they will find their reservoir of hope here. So here we shall stay with our books and our music and our meditation. Here we shall be to guide the footsteps of a weary people. Here we shall be with our way of life based on one simple rule: BE KIND.

"And it is our hope that Shangri-La's brotherly love will spread throughout the world. And when the strong have devoured each other, then, at last, the meek shall inherit the earth."


Wouldn't it be great if we could all be kind to each other? Even for a day. What world would we have then? It would be better than the one we have now.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jackboot

Do you know what jackboots are?

High boots usually worn by villains in movies. Like the Nazis of World War II. Usually black leather, but sometimes brown. In a lot of the old movies, the villains wear black boots while the heroes wear brown boots. Old movies made it easy to tell who was the good guy. I appreciate that. Wish bad guys had a dress code now.

I use jackboots as a shorthand for an overbearing person. A bully. It's my slang. You can use it, too, although it may be doing a disservice to a perfectly good piece of foot gear that has the misfortune to be favored by people wanting to conquer the world. Or at the very least, impose their will on the rest of the world.

Which leads us -- or at least me -- to Windows 8, which has an interface guaranteed to make me leave Windows once and for all. It's their mobile phone interface -- big color square boxes that look like a child learning his shapes -- an interface that has not taken the world by storm, but they're going to cram it down our throats no matter what.

I hope it fails in a major way. I hope it makes Windows Me and Vista look like huge successes. Maybe then Microsoft will take off those jackboots and try to satisfy the customer.

But don't hold your breath.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Insidious

A couple of weeks back, a friend of mine shared his experience with his first marriage, which ended badly many years ago. He took most of the blame because he was unfaithful. Not that he started out to being unfaithful, he said.

No, it started with a bit of flirting at the office. Nothing major, mind you. Just a few comments on about a friend's dress and how good she looked in it. A couple of slightly naughty birthday cards. A few lunches where they discussed the problems of their respective marriages. A handful of phone calls when he was on a business trip. Several hugs that went on a moment too long. And then finally a kiss.

"An insidious kiss," he told me. Oh, they swore they wouldn't kiss again, and he said he tried to stay away from her, tried to make their relationship strictly business again. They succeeded for a few weeks.

But then they were alone at the office together one day. And they talked. And kissed. And ended up in a hotel room. And finally in divorce court.

His affair cost him his wife. And his daughter because she sided with her mother. And his business because he had neglected it while the affair sizzled, and the customers went somewhere else, and the divorce settlement took care of the rest. His ex-wife got the house and half the assets and remarried four years after the divorce to a wonderful man she's still married to 13 years later. She's pleasant to him now, but he hasn't been able to get close to his daughter again who has never forgiven him.

His lover went back to her husband. They moved to another state. They haven't spoken since.

Three years ago, he remarried. He's happy now. Has another business that's holding its own. But he makes sure he's never in the office alone with any of his female employees, and he's friendly but distant with them. It's for the best, he says, even if he's past the age when affairs are more common.

He never wants another insidious kiss. It cost him too much.

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

G is for Goofy

In case you didn't know, Blogger and GMail are changing the way they look this month. Mind you, this isn't for functionality or to offer more options. It's just a cosmetic change that someone is doing because they have to justify their jobs.

We used to get that in the insurance company I worked at. Changes for the sake of changes. Truthfully, insurance hasn't evolved much over the past hundred years. Yes, new sales and service avenues have opened, but the final product is the same.

Likewise, what Blogger and GMail provide hasn't changed much. Just the way we look and interact with it is going to be new. A will be moved to where C was and C moved to where B was and B floated to a new place that nothing was. It's non-productive to have to adjust to the new settings. But somewhere some designers put this forth in their on-going quest to keep their jobs. "See, we're being productive. Our programs look different." It's the ultimate in busy work.

Not that I object to any change that makes a program work better and easier, but that's not what's happening here. It's just new for the sake of being new, and that's goofy.

Anyway, this is what I did this week.

1. Continued to input final corrections on Creations 2012, the local writers group anthology. I'm proud of the design of the book. I think it looks quite professional.
2. Met with a friend about helping publish his book. On Target: God's Word for Our Lives should be out this summer. Maybe by the end of June. I've been working on this book with him since January. I'm ready for it to be born.
3. Household chores, of course.
4. Ate lunch with a friend on Wednesday.
5. Walked three days. Can't seem to make it four.
6. Continued on the low carb diet. Not as successfully as I have been. Was too rushed and had to grab food on the run. Not fast food, but fast choices that aren't as healthy for me.
7. Kept thinking of and fooling around with Murder by the Mile, but no significant progress.
8. Made a few more birthday cards for my portfolio. Oh, that reminds me. I went to a birthday lunch for a friend on Monday. That had nearly slipped my mind.
9. Got my old car started and actually was able to drive it to the car wash and get the dust washed off it. Sure wish I could get it fixed.
10. Worked on a new budgeting plan.

This week:
1. Work on Creations 2012On Target: God's Word for Our Lives, and Murder by the Mile.
2. Household chores.
3. Walk at least three days and try for four!
4. Continue the low carb diet, and do better about planning meals.
5. Call the On Target author Tuesday and remind him I need a bio ASAP.
6. Lunch Wednesday with a friend.
7. Pay bills.
8. Writers group meeting Saturday morn. We're supposed to sign contracts then. I hope everyone shows up or makes arrangements to get their contracts signed. I so want to order the books that afternoon.
9. Work on my front yard. I got flowers bought and put out in the pots, but need flowers in the flower bed. Haven't decided if I'm going to attempt tomatoes this year or not.
10. Blog on Harbor Street.

That's my report. Signing off. Over and out.


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Friday, April 06, 2012

F is for Fine

Fine. I've often used that one word answer as a way to keep people from asking other questions. Not that I'm particularly private -- although I guess most people think I am -- but because sometimes it's easier to carry your burdens than talk about them.

"How are you doing?"
"Fine."
"How are your finances?"
"Fine."
"How's your health?"
"Fine."
"How's your love life?"
"Fine."
"How's your family?"
"Fine.
"How's the writing?"
"Fine."
"How's the diet?"
"Fine."

Fine, fine, fine. I hear myself saying it until I hate the word. But I don't know how to approach life any differently. It's not that I don't think people aren't sincere when they ask. Most of them are. It is ... unseemly to share such things in public. I guess.

And let's be very honest about this. My life isn't that interesting. Writing all the time doesn't give me much time for adventures these days.

Anyway, I'm fine. How are you?

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

E is for EndlesS

In my book of poems, EndlesS, the title poem was inspired by a science program about black holes. The scientist was taking about the possibility of white holes, anomalies that are connected to black holes and spew forth the material a black hole collects. A wormhole as it were. The scientist thought the odds were against their existence, but the possibility is fascinating. Particularly if brave travelers attempt the trip ...


EndlesS

black in the sky black sound in the mouths of those who stare blindly
at spiraling void descending on jagged wings soundless screams
swallowed by endless hunger the awful infinity of the void
requires our presence in the last dance Hawkings
would approve as the events of our lives
vanish beyond the horizon spiraling
down into eternity beyond
which we cannot see
divide by zero
divide by
zero
o
the
stars like
a thousand diamonds
but I see your face and laugh
I kiss your face and laugh and angels
dance on pins the skies pour forth blinding light
and powers move upon the deep and the seraphim sing
as we hurl ourcometselves together our bodies feeding glowing
hunger gasps your hands grab my back we burn through pain sorrow
we’re falling flying soaring shouting exclaiming exclaim shout sigh breathe
and you turn to me eyes alive as we defiant can only be and say let’s do it again

Copyright 2012 by Stephen B. Bagley. Excerpted from EndlesS. All rights reserved. No copying without express prior written permission. Thank for you for reading.



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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

D is for Devouring

We've all met people that have a devouring personality. They suck the energy out of everyone they meet. A friend calls them "energy vampires." I've become very conscious of these lovely folks over the past few months. I can't tell you the times that I've spoken about a new project only to have the hearer start shooting holes in it immediately, even though I didn't ask them to point out the shortcomings.

I'll be the first to admit that everything needs editing, refining, polishing. But it has to exist before it can be fixed. These people keep new things from existing.

Not that energy vampires are new. They've been around since the beginning of human history. They ridiculed the Wright brothers, mocked Henry Ford, scoffed at NASA, and generally have been a huge hindrance to anyone attempting to do anything.

I have to watch myself on that. I've been trying to give positive opinions to people instead of negative ones. Not easy for me since I have this constant voice in my head that belittles me, and it spills over into my interactions with other people.

It's important to me that I support other people. That I help make their dreams possible in what ways I can. I don't want to do to them what has been done to me. Their success does not diminish me; in fact, it lifts me up because it shows what can be possible.

What about you? Do you lift up people? Or do you suck the joy and life from your sister, brother, parents, children, friends and other folks?

If you don't change, just remember what usually happens to vampires. Their end is never pleasant.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

C is for Cinnamon

Her lips tasted of cinnamon.

That's what he would remember in the long years that followed their parting. Not cinnamon sweetened by cloying sugar, but the true spice that could make a man draw a deep breath and taste the aromatic oils with the back of his throat and feel the burn in his face.

He never knew why her lips tasted of such. Probably a lipstick or lip balm or some other commonplace way to add favor to a kiss. He never asked. He would wonder later, but it would all be part of her glamour, the way she could glide quietly into a room and all there would focus on her, the way she could slip out of her clothes as if she moved to slow music, and the way she could look at him and make the most banal comment infused with sexual intensity.

When he first bit her bare body, he remembered being surprised her skin didn't taste of cinnamon, but the passion of their heat soon consumed all other thoughts. When he would look back -- when he was on trial and when he was in prison after that -- he would remember those moments on that bed with the crimson sheets and he would taste cinnamon. Even when he knew the truth, he remained her chattel.

So it's no wonder that when she asked him to betray everything he held sacred, he never hesitated. Not even for a heartbeat.

From Red Hot Sinner Man. Copyright 2012 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

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Monday, April 02, 2012

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A is for Abeyance

Do you ever feel your life is on hold? That your dreams are in abeyance? Suspended?

It's mostly "if onlys" that hold us back.

If only she loved me. If only I had the money. If only my boss would promote me. If only I had the time to write. If only I could find a gym. If only I had a new car. If only my computer was faster. If only, if only, if only ...

It's a bad way to live a life. And that's what we're doing. We don't think we are -- we think our lives will start when we have love, a new car, lose weight, etc., but while we're waiting for perfection, life is going on without us. Time, the ruthless river, flows on to the sea.

Let's not live in abeyance.

Today's the day.

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