Imbolc 2022 – Part Two

Imbolc is the time for observation on the winter in passing, and preparation for the coming spring. With this post, I am sowing the earliest of seeds for the coming season, and stepping into the sunlight with what I hope to grow. This is a message for family, friends, or any interested, to whom I have not yet shared this part of my journey:

Part One is here.

In 2018, a partner introduced me to the book, The Four Agreements. I read it end to end on a cross-country flight. I was skeptical. There are many parts of the book I took issue with or held in disbelief, and I still do. However, the essential philosophy of the book is sound:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

The central idea is a key to greater happiness is living a more honest and authentic life with yourself, then the people around you.

With time, I found I had already been resolving conflicts based on previous expectations of others around me in my life. I had left Christianity, and reset those expectations with my family. I had been through challenges with marriage, and had begun working through those with my wife, albeit not in the best way. I had missed the time in nature from my childhood, and spending more time in places where I felt more connected to the greater world expanded my connection with myself and others.

As I explored these concepts from a spiritual perspective, I began reading about Toltec shamanism and the history of shamanism as a whole. I expanded on meditation techniques I had learned as early as second grade, and explored journey states over the next year.

This culminated in processing a traumatic event from my teenage years related to how I dealt with anger and other emotions. Released from this trauma, I found I had developed tools to aid me in processing trauma and experiencing a broader range of the emotional spectrum.

I also no longer felt spiritually inert. I felt connected to a greater universe, to people, to nature, to the earth, in ways I hadn’t experienced before.

There was also more to do. There were ways I wanted to develop, more trauma to address, and new ways to discover of learning how to experience and live in the world. I’ve always been concerned about climate change, the environment, and our impact on nature. Since my grandmother’s death when I was 5, I’ve thought deeply about death, how we process it, and how people address (or don’t address) the impact of loss.

Yet, various forms of indigenous shamanism weren’t suitable for this, and were in multiple ways problematic for me. This isn’t to reject the notion of it as a valid path for many others, but it didn’t connect with me wholly in the way I needed to develop more useful experiences. There’s also the aspect I am in no way indigenous or connected to most of the traditions I was reading about.

The search for a further framework of spiritual exploration began in the fall of 2019, and didn’t take very long. Decades before, I met a student of Druidry and we discussed his practice. He was introspective, intelligent, and seemed very peaceful on his own path. I respected him and what he was doing, although my own spirituality was vastly different at the time.

I began reading about Druidry, its history and philosophies. I learned about reconstruction and revival Druidry, and explored the different groups practicing today locally and internationally. I researched all I could about it before even talking with anyone, because if there was anything I didn’t like, I wanted to know about it early before I started exploring it further. I found some things I didn’t like. While I found some groups, and uniquely some people, who I didn’t agree with their ideas, I found many aspects of Druidry something I could connect with.

Further, Druidry worked with my own personal heritage. While not a requirement aside from a few more dogmatic groups and individuals, Druidry would allow me to learn more about the history of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Britain.

I attended a local Druid ritual in late 2019. I met people practicing Druidry, discussed some current issues and differences among various groups, and learned more about my potential path. In December 2019, I joined the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, commonly called OBOD, a revival Druidry order based in the United Kingdom.

OBOD is a popular introduction to Druidry for many because of its remote correspondence course, created by prior Chosen Chief Philip Carr-Gomm, on prompting from the order’s founder, Ross Nichols. This course is mailed to students over the course of the initiate’s first year, and guides students through the Bardic Grade, studying, among other things, Druidry history and philosophy, lore, cosmology, poetry, and inspiration.

None of this is like the pop culture version of Druids we have in America, influenced in part by games like Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft. Druidry is a nature-based spiritual path, but depending on your type of practice, it can range from a philosophy focusing on art and creativity with practitioners from many religions including Christianity, to a complete polytheistic religion focused on various pantheons of gods and goddesses. If you wish to read more about it, please check out OBOD’s page on Druid Beliefs.

I began the course in January 2020, initially keeping pace with the weekly structure of the lessons. 2020, however, was a notably difficult year. When the pandemic struck, and later the forest fires here in California, I was both stuck inside and away from the places in nature I had connected to. Like many others, I experienced depression, weight gain, and other symptoms of the trauma we were collectively experiencing. I paused working with the lessons in July 2020, but kept what I had learned with me in meditation and recognizing the Wheel of the Year.

Druidry was not my only means of self-exploration and care through this time. I also sought professional counseling for what I experienced, and was diagnosed with ADHD. This became a process of reviewing my life and unexplained behaviors since childhood, along with the tools I had found on my own to mitigate them. I also helped build an online community of local polyamorous people who supported each other through the pandemic, which still exists and is growing. In person, I was in a bubble with my wife, son, and partner, and it went a long way in strengthening our own connections.

Social justice issues came to the forefront in 2020, and OBOD took a firm supportive stance. I wrote a post for OBOD’s Druids for Justice section titled An American Person of Color in a British Druidic Order.

In April 2021 I was ready to begin again. I reviewed all the lessons I had covered in 2020, and the journal entries I had written. I picked back up, yet took my time, and the lessons unfolded naturally with the progression of the year. I found new places in nature to connect, including small, unexpected ones in urban areas. I don’t think I would have learned how if the places I had access to before had been available.

I finished the Bardic Grade in January 2022, taking two years to complete. It has been a moving, transformative experience, and I feel I have walked further down the path I set out on with this journey.

However, I have done this silently. Aside from my wife, partner, and a few friends, no one outside of Druidry has known about it. I have challenged myself to live openly and transparently, which has come at great cost, but to greater benefit. The next stages of this path mean walking more openly.

Along with writing a book, which is based on some of the Welsh mythology and lore I have studied in Druidry, I have enrolled in a course on End of Life celebrancy. My vision is to help Druid and pagan families to process loss and grief from death, and to serve them and the deceased by hosting funeral services. This comes from my own experiences with death and grief, and I believe I can effectively serve the community in this way.

I am also helping smaller Druid environmental action groups with organizing and communications, like The Order of the Oak. We hope to make a larger impact on creating action to properly address climate change.

The other next step in this path is moving forward to the Ovate Grade, which will begin in the coming months. Along with the other changes I’ve initiated in life, I look forward to the next stages in the journey.

For some, I know this may be a shock. I have lived as a Christian, and lived as an atheist. I will talk about in the future where I stand in beliefs now, but the important thing to know is the essence of who I am, a person wanting to learn, to help others, and to live a good life, has not changed.

With Peace, Harmony, and Balance,

Alex

Imbolc 2022 – Part One

I have a long history with religion.

I was Christened in the Methodist church in the late 70s. My baby pictures show the sepia tones of sunlight shining through stained glass windows on my family and little me at a beautiful ceremony.

My grandfather’s brother was a Baptist minister. I remember running around his church with my cousins, singing with the other kids, and starting to read an old Bible handed to me by one of the women of the church.

For a while, my mother was my Sunday School teacher at my grandfather’s Methodist church. It was one of the most consistent bonding moments of that part of my childhood, after my grandmother’s death. I grew to love Bible stories, and was a voracious reader. My young mind craved the concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, and the unconditional love of an omnipotent God.

When I was 11, we started going to a Southern Baptist Church. I was re-baptized by immersion, and through my teenage years was taught the Bible was a literal and direct message from God himself, homosexuality was a sin, along with a list of many others.

In college, I was on the Baptist Student Council. At one point, one of my ideas in response to a campus minister who angered half the campus by calling them names was to stand in the campus square and hand out Valentines from Jesus for Valentines Day. Yeah, if you were at Eastern Kentucky University in Spring 1998, that was me. I was also part of a ministry group, singing and acting at churches in the area.

I considered seminary, and was given the opportunity to speak at a very rural church in Eastern Kentucky. Before going, our campus minister prepared me; King James Version of the Bible only, men and women sit on different sides of the building, and they were likely all white. I spoke passionately, and seemed to be welcome, although I was likely the first black man to have spoken at that pulpit.

After college, I saw the rise of the megachurches and the strengthening of the bond of politics, money, and Christianity through the preaching of prosperity gospel and the war on terrorism. I was a voracious listener of conservative radio, and a frequent viewer of Fox News. I read Hannity, Savage, and O’Reilly, among others. I was surrounded by right wing ideology.

Over time, I lived in different cities, and saw how this affected me and the people I met, many who were on the fringes of the society I thought existed from my rural, small town. I always had confidence in the scientific method. I had found tenuous excuses to allow both conservative Christianity and scientific knowledge to co-exist.

Eventually, the cracks in my worldview began widening. I had never personally been homophobic, but I had seen how homosexuals were talked about and treated by fellow Christians throughout my life. I felt a kinship as a Person of Color, because for every Christian space I was in where LGBTQ+ people weren’t welcome, I knew not ten or twenty years before, I wouldn’t have been.

In 2007, I found myself trying to bridge the relationship of a fellow Christian coworker with several others, and I got to really look at our views from their perspective. Over the next few years, I noticed more of the hate, the anger, and the inconsistency of the modern Christianity I was a part of, and I tired of it.

At first, I thought, I would always hang on to Jesus. I thought even if the rest of the dogma, the conservative media, and the inconsistencies of words to action weren’t a part of my life, Jesus would always be.

A few years later, that thread too was gone, not by sin or denial, just no longer needed. I felt better. I felt free of the anger and mistrust of others and the world. I felt free from the dogma and expectations of a religion which seemed to have grown more out of touch with what I was experiencing.

I began to consider myself an atheist somewhere around 2010. For years I described myself as “spiritually inert”, and I embraced the world of engineering and knowledge around me. I found ethics which fit my already existing beliefs of equality, harmony, and peace through Humanism. I encountered a binary world of 1s and 0s, and made sense of it with what was available to me at the time. I got into a comfort zone, and I didn’t need to consider an intuitive, spiritual, or more complex universe than the material one I could see.

In 2016, I learned I had survived a heart condition which could have killed me at any moment my entire life. I’ve lived through being shocked with paddles in an emergency room. I’ve survived being awake while cardiologists burned extraneous electrical pathways on my heart.

In 2017, my son was born. The first week, I saw every family member I had loved in him. I felt them again, many for the first time in decades.

Processing these experiences I began to feel there was more than I was getting from my life the last few years. I had achieved success, money, and notoriety in my field. I found myself increasingly unhappy.

In 2018, many people already know my wife and I opened our marriage, dating separately, and I started practicing polyamory. About that time, I also became vegetarian, and began spending more time in nature, hiking, camping, and spending weekly time in the woods. These were the external changes.

It’s time to tell the story of what occurred internally and privately the last four years.

Part 2 is now up and here.

Why Do I Keep Getting Back Up?

My confidence comes from learning my greatest ability is the capacity to change. To improve. To learn. To be a better version of me.

I recently read an article with an in comic explanation of why three different heroes keep getting back up – Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel. The article goes on to analyze why each get back up when knocked down. Iron Man gets back up because he believes in the future. Captain America gets back up because it’s the right thing to do because of his morals. Captain Marvel, though feeling weary of it, gets back up because she’s stubborn.

It made me think about my life, the times I’ve gotten back up, the time I said I only had one last time in me, and even now today, why I keep getting back up. 

I’ve come a long way from where I started out. Some would say I’m fortunate, and I can’t deny there are a lot of things in my life that have looked fortunate from the outside. There is truth and privilege in that. I went through times when I would ask myself why I would be worthy of luck or opportunity while others weren’t. I went through times when I felt misfortune for having persistent health issues, weight management problems, or just being me. The reality is, most of the positive, good things which have happened in my life have happened because I was on my feet and ready for them. I had planted seeds, or been the right person in the right time and place, or I saw something interesting and chased after it. 

I’ve also failed. I’ve felt miserable. I’ve been defeated and broken. So far, thankfully, for each of those times, it wasn’t long before I got back up and into something else. Even now, in the midst of recovery from the initial part of the pandemic, and recovering from leaving my career at Apple, a company I loved, bled, and sacrificed unrelentlessly to for 12 years, I have gotten back up and I’m healing again. This isn’t my worst fall. This wasn’t the one where I said to myself “I got one last one in me”.

This was the one where I’m said “this is part of life, and I may fall again, but this time I’m preparing myself to keep getting back up”. 

Why? 

I believe in the adventure of life. I believe that everything we experience is an opportunity to grow and become the next version of ourselves. I believe in the power of change and transformation. I believe as we pick up and carry ourselves into the new, we bring along the tools and lessons from the past to help carry on in new ways into the new present. Ultimately, and this is with some measure of self-awareness at the amount of confidence it takes to say this, I believe in myself. I believe in my ability to discover and refine the life I want to live, and each version of me, the people around me, and the life I’m living comes a little bit closer to a more authentic, natural, life for me. 

I think this is nuanced from belief in the future, belief in morality, or stubbornly getting back up in spite of the universe. Granted, spite is a huge motivator for me. I know it well, and of the three, I empathize with Captain Marvel the most. The number of people, especially early on, who would have rather seen me not get back up felt staggering. 

My confidence comes from learning my greatest ability is the capacity to change. To improve. To learn. To be a better version of me. It comes from hope that the path I’m on is the right one, and acceptance that even if it isn’t, I can find it again. As I draw closer to being on the outside who I am inside, it gets easier to find fulfillment and deeper happiness.

I’m in uncharted territory now, and have been for the last several years. I’m separated from my birth family who lives along the east coast. I’m seeking out different things than I have in previous iterations of myself. I’ve had heart surgery to correct the major health issue I had the first half of my life, and while I live in the city, I seek out the natural world I was surrounded by but ignored in childhood. I’m a relatively new father, and learning to balance who I am with fatherhood has its own challenges and worries. I’ve become a leader of a small community. There are so many ways my life has changed the last few years, yet I know more are on the way. 

I keep getting back up because I believe in myself. I believe in my story. I believe I am living an incredible adventure. The only way all of that ends is if I stop, so I’m not going to. I will keep getting up. I will keep finding new ways and new paths to follow. I will keep failing and learning. I will keep being optimistic for the things I can do, people I will meet, and life I may live, because I can keep growing to do amazing, incredible things. 

Why do you keep getting back up?

Virginia Election 2021

Yesterday’s Virginia election results were disheartening, but also show the path to build a consistent foundation of liberal victories lies in building across racial divisions, minority and majority. We need to evolve racial perspectives further toward understanding and harmony.

We have a large number of people we have vilified, who have also vilified us. We can’t expect to win elections unless we give them a better story than what they’re getting from right wing media, or even our own media!

What I’m saying is, and this is going to be the hot take that seems controversial, while at the same time for our democracy, and even for liberal ideas, is necessary – we have to get better at reaching out to white people with our message. Even Trumpers. Even “deplorables”.

The values of liberal ideas, open ethical government, and a social safety net should be made accessible to all because they are beneficial to all. UBI, Universal Healthcare, Public Education, and other programs don’t just benefit minorities, they benefit everyone.

I think that messaging gets lost. I think demanding everyone to fully check and understand their privilege before stepping to the left makes the chasm too wide. We first have to reach out to people where they are, then we can bring them with us. Process, not revelation.

To build a party open to all is to figure out how to stand with those who have been hostile to us. Who have hurt us in some way. We have to protect ourselves, but we also have to heal ourselves, then others. We have to live and model a better way.

A rebrand, with more new stuff coming…

I have lived many stories. I have done many things. Through all of them, I’ve never had something I’ve had interest to write so much as to write a book about it.

Writing has been a near life-long interest, hobby, and benefit to my career. I started reading at 4, with spelling and writing coming along shortly after. Until the joy of literature and creative writing was beaten out of me by uninspired and end of career teachers, and one specific very likely racist English teacher, I might have taken a more active, professional interest.

Instead, writing was left to personal notebooks until I realized my reports as a police officer were well regarded. As I left law enforcement and went into business, my professional style developed with a shift toward business writing. Eventually, I became a technical communicator as an intrinsic part of my roles, which brought new methods and skills to my writing.

Through storytelling, social media, and other blogs, I have received continuous, healthy feedback from friends and family. At work, I have been encouraged by prior managers and coworkers. Finally, throughout my life, I’ve heard a repeated, mostly serious, and occasionally pejorative phrase…

“You should write a book.”

I have lived many stories. I have done many things. Through all of them, I’ve never had something I’ve had interest to write so much as to write a book about it.

Yet privately, some things changed…

The last few years I have explored inspiration and creativity again, revisiting the joy of my younger years, and healing some of the wounds I had from childhood teachers. I have been properly diagnosed with ADHD, and I’ve developed tools to help me beyond the personal tools I had through the first part of my career. Through a renewed spiritual interest, I have explored literature, poetry, and committing emotion and artistic meaning to writing. Essentially, many of the things which would be necessary for me to even consider writing a book have now happened, but there was one final problem.

I needed an idea.

Among my reading, among the stories, among everything I have explored the last few years, I have found something unexplored which uniquely aligns with me, and is a story I am very well inspired to develop and tell. Part of me is deathly afraid that someone out there is in the process or already has a head start on writing it, but another part of me comforts and assures that even if they did, they could not and would not have the unique take for this story I do. The other part of me fears that in the uniqueness of this story, I may not gain either readers or following for more, but that is a problem for another time.

The important thing, at least right here, right now, is that I now have at least a book to write, with ideas for storytelling, art, and other mediums for a long time to come. They have come through like a fissure suddenly opening from green land, erupting lava, forever changing the landscape of my mind.

So now I do have a book to write, or at least an idea supporting one. For some people the ideas come easy, and while for me this is true, finding an idea worthy of taking action on the scale of writing a book has been new. Here’s the catch…

I don’t know how to write a book, or at least, I don’t assume I know how to write a good one.

So as with all things, the decision to write a book also begins with learning how to do it. I could assume I could start right now, write a few stories as chapters, mash them all together between a prologue and epilogue and call it done. I imagine especially in the beginning this process won’t be too far off that. I also have the benefit of this coming about two weeks before November, when the annual NanoWriMo competition (?) begins. I’ll be working on the book through the month of November, provided I get some of what I need to do done before Nov 1. I don’t want to rush my work, but I do want to do it well and get it done.

Finally, it will not be my only writing. It can’t be. To keep the skill of writing sharp, you have to keep writing to hone it. So that’s how I’m using this space, apart from my other notebooks. Here I will write about what I’m doing, my process, and from time to time I might drop other writings about other things. Maybe even some poetry as I encounter it in myself.

So I come back around to you as a newly aspiring book writer, what are your tips, tricks, and tools which you use for writing novels? What are your pains, your gotchas, and your watch-outs? I’m also interested in any groups or workshops which might be a good fit, and I’m looking out for those separately.

Finally, I want to thank anyone who has told me, at least halfway seriously, that I should write a book. I’ve usually either responded with extreme humility or absolute certainty I will, but I have never been sure the day would come where I would be inspired for it. Here we are, and here it is. Thank you. I would not be doing this if it weren’t for the encouragement I’ve received, and the support of friends, family, and loved ones.

Peace, Harmony, and Balance,

Alex

Fixing divisions

Today is my 44th birthday.

Hearing the sound of my 4 year old singing Happy Birthday first thing in the morning is one of the blessings I’m happy I’ve lived to receive. There are many others the last few years particularly I’ve been blessed with. Travel. People. Given the circumstances, even survival.

This year I lost my father, although really it was last year because of politics and disagreement. The things that tend to divide people right now are important yet dumb things to be divided about. Common ground is found easily enough when you stop a moment. Most of us want a peaceful life, a warm home, a full belly, and to be surrounded by others important to us. We get lost in the details of how we get there, and how much we acknowledge and ascribe these same concepts to others.

Don’t get me wrong, my views and my politics are still there. I got opinions. Lots of them. I think there is space to have them while acknowledging commonality. That’s the only way we find our way to some sort of harmony.

It’s easy to point fingers at another person or group. “We could live good lives if not for those people over there.” “Why can’t those people stop doing whatever shit they’re doing that is pissing us off?” Barring active harm to others, that’s what most of this squaring off is about, manufactured by others still to further division, discord, or maybe just to get views.

Our world, our media, our platforms and services and ways we share haven’t been working for us. Not in ways that bring us together. I know the irony and even hypocrisy in me writing this, as I’ve had my own part, and carry my own culpability in where we are now.

A few months ago I started trying something different. I stopped the direct confrontation about views. I stopped posting out of anger and frustration. I stopped showing anger or contempt online for whatever my feed or my news sources had been showing me that day.

I started engaging people without judgement of them. In discussions, I started just stating where I stood without frustration with others. I started treating others with a little more space and care for where they are, because another thing we all have in common is we’re all tired and frustrated and angry and sad and confused, and just trying to figure out the best way to get through this life with the people we love.

It doesn’t stop the anger. It doesn’t stop the discord. It doesn’t change the daily messages coming in that the world isn’t going the way we want it to.

Giving people more space does change our conversations. It changes the way we connect with people. It changes the burden we carry of people we alienate or feeling of otherness from saying “things would be fine if not for those people over there”. We don’t have to share opinions to talk about them. We don’t have to be on the same side of the political, economic, social, religious, or ethnic view to get along with each other. We only need to recognize our common humanity, dignity, and needs. That’s universal. We can all still be heard. We can all still be listened to. We can’t expect it to start with our leaders, or the media, or our apps or platforms or employers or anyone else but ourselves, and how we conduct our own lives.

I started. I’ve given it a shot. I’ve still talked about my opinions. I’ve still listened to others who have disagreed. I still get angry and frustrated and upset, but I’m walking away from more conversations feeling better about how they go, and feeling we actually listened to each other a little better than before. 

If I had learned this lesson a few months earlier, my father may not have died alone in a hospital room in Philadelphia with us never reconciling. So if I can use this pain, this weight, this thing I’m carrying from that for any good, it’s to encourage any of you or all of you who have read this far to start thinking about how you defy the messages of division from wherever you are, stop saying “but for them” and figure out how you can start changing the conversations around you. Wars have been fought for the worst of reasons. The worst reason is to fight one when ultimately you want the same thing.

It’s hard to change what you’re doing, to look at the same thing one day differently than you did the day before, the week before, or the 43 years before. I’m not asking you to change what you believe, or think, or watch, or identify with… I’m asking you to consider how you move through the world. This wild west of a hyperconnected, brain bending, propaganda laden, fake news, talking heads world that we’re all having trouble navigating. 

If you’re struggling with this, if you’re reading this and you’re feeling hesitant, blocked, challenged, or some other kind of way about it, let’s talk. Even if we haven’t in a while. Even if the last time we did it didn’t go so well. Even if I called so-and-so a something or you just can’t see why this is even a thing to begin with. It’s ok. Things change two people at a time. 

With peace, balance, and harmony;

Alex

This post is public for reshare. Do as you will. 

Where have I been?

I logged into WordPress today to make a comment signing an open letter for the UN’s COP26 conference next month when I realized this blog was still dutifully up and running. The letter is important to me, and from its topic, content, and fellow signees, there’s been notable changes in a few things for me in the years since my last post.

I don’t write here anymore, although I do write quite often, and have started a path of creativity and art I didn’t know or understand the first part of my life. With my family, partners, and others, I’ve navigated the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Apple, and a myriad of other changes which have set the course and tone for the next few decades. Rather than an exhaustive post outlining them all, which is less interesting to read, I’m leaving this post as an end cap, at least until such time is suitable to pick this blog back up, or continue an open journal elsewhere.

Until then…

Balance and Harmony,

Alex

Looping Back Around on President Trump

A few years ago, I wrote a post about then President-Elect Trump, calling out concerns I had about his election. My writing style then was… diplomatic. I’m not so diplomatic anymore, at least I’m emerging from behind the filters I had in previous iterations of myself.

Today, I’d like to get back around to the scorecard of what I wanted to ask of then President-Elect Trump.

I don’t want to build a wall.

Trump failed my expectations while still managing to fail building a wall. I think the designs they’ve put up, hours they’ve spent talking about it, and the massive amount of resources they’ve channeled to try to fund it have all gone to waste. Wall development has been a parade of flag-waving opportunists trying to grab for potentially lucrative contracts while not coming to terms with the fact walls aren’t the solution.

I don’t want to start mass deportations.

Trump failed badly. If you had told me we’d have concentration camps at the border where we split families up, I’d have never believed Trump would have set it up. It’s almost like his sycophants and cronies had plans already drawn up to execute. I use that word about literally, because people are dying down there.

I don’t want to regulate immigration on the basis of religion.

Trump failed. His administration tried to execute it literally through an executive order, then got smacked down because the basis was religion.

I don’t want national stop and frisk.

Trump failed, if not in letter of the law, but definitely spirit, even going so far as to pardon Bernard Kerik, the poster child of stop and frisk policy. The Trump administration hasn’t been able to get far with the Supreme Court on this yet, and there is a massive backlash by Civil Rights and police watchdog groups fighting it, but it’s clear where Trump stands on this.

I don’t want to cut the protection of a free press.

Another failure in spirit that isn’t for lack of trying. He has notoriously attacked the free press, and has screamed about changing slander and libel laws to make it easier to get convictions. Ultimately, you can’t slander someone when what you’re saying is the truth (and you can prove it), so even if he gets these changes, he’ll lose.

I don’t want more involvement in overseas conflict.

So, so, many fails.

I don’t want women, minorities, and LGBTQ people to lose hard fought civil rights protections.

Trump may not be solely responsible for the downfall of the Voting Rights Act Section 4, it happened before his election, but the spirit of trying to block out anyone but Christian white male landowners is evident in his policies. We now have a formal team in our government that is set up to de-naturalize and remove the citizenship of US citizens. It’s heinous. It’s unethical. Yet, here we are. FAIL.

I don’t want people to lose health care insurance.

Failed. Hard. The number of people without health insurance has gone up since under Trump.

I don’t want sexual harassment to be acceptable.

I should have never put this one Trump. Whether that asshole believes it or not, it’s never acceptable. There is part of our culture that resists this level of decency, and it tends to be associated with Trump, or at least his brand of patriarchy, but even all of those assholes can’t make it acceptable.

I don’t want you to try to be a moral compass for me or my family.

This one is admittedly interesting to watch. Trump plays to his different audiences, and while I don’t think he tries to put himself up as a role model, he has a streak of self-aggrandizing behavior with anyone he’s around. If he’s around scientists, he talks about how awesome a scientist he would have been. If he’s around military, he talks about how tough and strong and how much of a leader he is. When he’s around clergy, he acts like the Messiah himself, and even manages to say things directly opposing to Christian theology to a largely Christian audience without getting called out. I have no doubt if someone asked him his thoughts about whether he should be considered a role model, he would exuberantly answer yes. I just could never take him seriously as one even if he tried.

In retrospect, this list was far more optimistic than I would ever make now. Trump is a narcissistic, arrogant, corrupt, and increasingly challenged asshole of the first degree, and we should never have even considered electing him President, but that also says a lot about us and our culture. That’s a topic for another time.

Today it’s enough to look back and see the misery of the last three and a half years. Our swamp is drained and now we have a toxic waste dump.

However, dear reader, there is hope. We have another election coming up. Even if we can’t vote for a candidate who will put in place the policies we want, we can at least vote to get rid of this undeserving wretch. This year, no matter who Democrats put on up on that national stage, of the ones remaining, I’ll give my vote to them over Trump on their worst day and his best. Let’s vote Trump out!

On a nuclear North Korea

I woke up this morning to feed our five month old son and saw the news of North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test. While we have known for some time of North Korea’s nuclear plans, and watched their increase in rhetoric and testing, today’s news will solicit a stronger reaction than before. Today North Korea’s nuclear threat got much more deadly.

My initial response is to think about my family. I am angry I live in a world where I have to consider my family’s safety from the power plays of a far away dictator. My gut reaction is to raise my voice to encourage a harsh, swift, and violent end to the Kim regime in North Korea, and return the country’s technology to an earlier state of human existence. A big part of me wants to see the North Korean nuclear threat eliminated at any cost, turning a blind eye to any consequences but my own family’s safety.

It’s easy to have such a response. We are engineered for survival, and eliminating things which threaten our survival is what we do by nature. The gutteral response to strike first when under imminent danger is a survival mechanism unto itself.

However, this is more than just about me or my family. Across South Korea and Japan are fathers and mothers with similar fears as me today. Maybe they are all having the same response, I don’t know. However, the threat to those in closer proximity has to have a dual edge. It’s easy to think about lobbing nuclear bombs back across an ocean, it’s another to consider the possibility of nuclear war on your own continent. There is no scenario for them where a nuclear first strike against North Korea is a safe bet.

I then think about the other set of mothers, fathers, and children we don’t see — the people of North Korea who have been ground under the heel of the Kim family for decades. They’ve been told we want them dead, that pursuing nuclear enablement was for their own survival against an unfriendly world. Maybe they are being told that if they don’t launch a first strike against their enemies, their children will not be safe. If we (the US) strike first, maybe that just reinforces what they’ve been told all their lives.

So my gut response this morning isn’t the right solution. Yes, it could keep my family safe, but at an ultimate cost to other innocent families. We need something that works for the people of South Korea, Japan, and yes, even North Korea. One despot has endangered millions. We need to be the voices of reason.

The First Signs of my life at Apple

As I approach my 10th chronological and official year with Apple (Sept 2017 and Feb 2018, respectively), I am looking back at what led me here and what the road has been. This is the first post about some of my experiences on this path leading up to next February, when I hope and plan to celebrate that 10th official year. I never take the next day at work or in life for granted, but I’m excited about the next few months.

Identifying a problem

August 8, 2005, I wrote:

Mom had bought a new Dell computer, and despite my warnings, actually paid them $100 for home installation. She said the guy wasn’t there long, and after he left, the sound still wasn’t working. I took me about 20 minutes to fix what he didn’t do right (the sound and he even used the wrong I/O monitor connections), and then spent the rest of the evening installing necessary programs and getting her Outlook set up. It almost disgusts me that so much work has to be put into a new computer to get it up and ready for the individual person. I’m about to go to a CompUSA, so I think I may go by and check out the Macs.

Discovering an old archive

I recently downloaded and logged into SpiderOak, an encrypted backup service I trialed many years ago, to give it an updated look. I thought everything had been deleted from the service when I stopped using it, but I was surprised to see it had about 3GB of data in use. I found the 3GB in the trash file, and the data was recoverable!

I was impressed the service had kept 3GB of data for years in a Trash bin without so much as a login on my part. I downloaded the data to find it was an old version of my Documents folder, complete with a backup archive of my old blog. It has posts from May 2005 through January 2006, covering the separation from my first marriage and subsequent decision to leave law enforcement and my hometown!

Perusing an old blog archive

I spent time today reading through the posts. It has been almost twelve years since that place and time. In my writing I see the sparks of the person I was to become. Early signs of the growth I was to experience in leaving my first career and hometown in search of something different.

In twelve years, I have changed religious beliefs and political parties. I have lived in four different states, including moving across the country to the west coast. I have remarried and had a son with my second wife. I have had a life-altering surgery to correct a heart condition which had not been properly diagnosed at the time. I have built a second career in Information Technology, and I have worked for [what I believe is] the best computer and personal device company in the world for almost the last ten years.

Many things have changed since I was the person writing that blog. Yet, among the differences, I see the foundations which would become the life altering events the last twelve years.

Getting a solution

Before I was in tech, I was a cop. My interest in tech blossomed during that time, and I began learning what I consider now to be the basics. By the time I had written the quote above, I had become the “tech guy” in my family and occasionally at work. 

When I wrote the first quote, I was outlining a problem. I didn’t know that problem would lead me to recommend an iPod to my stepfather early the next year.

January 30, 2006:

Ok, something has been on my mind since my trip to Charlotte last weekend. I set up my stepfather’s new iPod Shuffle 1 gig, basically from scratch. This included downloading and installing iTunes, ripping about 15 of his favorite cds to the computer, and adding them all to the new shuffle. Having not used iTunes since version 1, I figured it would take me a bit to figure it all out and that it would involve reading instructions, directions, or maybe even a call to tech support (those of you that know me KNOW it is an absolute last resort). I was wrong, and that is my problem. It was all so simple and easy to learn. The interface was so intuitive and user friendly. My beloved podcasts are integrated into the program, without a need for a separate program like iPodder that I use with Windows Media Player 10. Transferring files to the new iPod was fast and simple, unlike the complex world of syncing with WMP. Somewhere in the simplicity, I was hooked. I thought of the ease of conversion of my current music library from the unprotected WMA I use now to the AAC format of iTunes. I even came to accept that the files that did not transfer well could easily be purchased through iTunes, having never given myself over to the confusing cacophony of various music stores available through WMP (fear of obsolescence, I guess). Having received an offer from a coworker just last week to purchase my current RCA Lyra, I have found myself perusing the Apple store online, searching and deciding whether to jump on the iPod bandwagon.

I didn’t know that recommendation would lead me to buy one myself, or that it would lead me into an Apple store. I couldn’t have imagined those early trips to an Apple store would influence me to apply to work at one in 2007.

Ending up on the right path

I’ve been asked many times why I left law enforcement and how I ended up in tech. The months of the archive I read today cover the answer I’ve always given: I had a choice between staying where I was and looking for something different. I took the bold choice, the one of a dreamer, the one that didn’t make sense, and it eventually worked out. It wasn’t all roses. It was far from it. Tech wasn’t the first career I tried. Apple wasn’t my first employer.

Before that decision, I was never the risk taker. Making that decision was the single pivotal choice between the life I knew before and the life I have now. It was the first decision that challenged me to think differently than before.