Category: Life

Out of Habit?

Out of Habit?

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To me, my X-men.

There are a number of things that I wonder if I just do out of habit.

The thing that I’m thinking of this morning is reading X-Men comics. Online subscriptions are a thing, not that I couldn’t get other ways I want to, but I’m getting closer and closer to being caught up to the present. I think, right now, what I’m reading is near the middle of 2017, so I’m not even a year and a half in the past now. It’s taken me a number of years to get from the beginning to here, with easy, essentially unlimited access, and there have been a lot of great stories along the way. That hasn’t always been the case. It isn’t currently the case.

Keep in mind that I’m talking about the X-Men piece of the Marvel universe, specifically.

The 1960s X-Men were, frankly, immature, though fun. After all, it was the early days of superhero comics, so you got a lot of straightforward stories without much twisting us and very rarely dealing with anything beyond surface appearances.

In the 70s, and 80s, the storytelling was bigger, sometimes epic, broader, and mostly better. In small ways, at first, it began to deal with societal issues in ways that viewers of 1960s television would recognize: not very subtly and not very deeply.

In the 90s, things branched out even more. More titles, more frequent, just more. The universe became staggeringly huge, too big for any one person to take care of, to keep up with, to remember everything in. Continuity issues became constant, and those go on into today. Characters disappear only to reappear with a complete overhaul after years of absence and no explanation of what happened to them in between, no justification for why they’ve completely changed or why they hadn’t. Even if they’d been dead.

In the 2000s, the storytelling went downhill, and that continues into the present, too. You get multi-issue story arcs that resolve nothing and don’t even do anything to grow the characters because any character growth that happens disappears again as soon as the next story arc starts.

Honestly, reading the X-Men titles from say the past 10-12 years has been looking for the one good story mixed in with 10 mediocre and 14 crappy ones. I might be misrepresenting the ratios a little bit since mediocre versus crappy tends to matter of taste, but the good story arcs are definitely few and far between.

It really doesn’t seem to me like most the writers actually care about the characters. “I need the character to act this way for the story I want to tell, and I don’t care if it makes no logical sense, or if they would never do that. That’s what the going to do.” Consistency is actually important, folks.

And time compression is worse than soap operas. I’m honestly supposed to believe that the primary characters have gone through the comic events of the last thirty years while aging only a few months.

So if I’m really that unhappy with the state of the X-verse, why am I still reading?

I think it might be out of habit. Reading X-Men comics is something I do, so I read X-Men comics. And I seem to keep reading them no matter how frequently I’m disappointed in the result.

I wonder if that may be part of what keeps me coming back to other things as well. Habit.

Am I allowing myself to become stuck in various ruts?

Is it time to let go of some of them?

Are there things that would be a better use of my time?

That last one, at least, has an easy answer. Yes, there absolutely are. So that leads me into another question: why aren’t I spending my time on those things?

Be well, everyone.

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Perception Is Not Reality

Perception Is Not Reality

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It’s actually a stupid statement, whether you mean it literally or figuratively, but it’s been so often repeated over the last several decades and in so many places that it bears making the point again.

Perception is not reality.

But people do react to their perception, and the picture they built in their heads of you is a reflection of how they perceive you. It’s entirely reasonable to remember that every person you have ever met has a different perception of who you are. That perception can never be based on complete data and always comes coloured with whatever life experience and mental baggage they are bringing to it as well. That’s a piece that most people miss. Who you think I am is in part based on your experience of the world and how that experience has shaped you. And you probably no more know the real me than I know the real you.

And most the time, that doesn’t occur to most of us.

Perception is not reality but people react based on their perception of reality.

I do think it’s reasonable, however, that once you learn of some person or group’s perception of you that you examine that perception. Not so much to find out if you agree with it not, but to examine your actions and motivations to see if that perception might be reasonable in their eyes.

Let’s say your perception of me is that I’m a giant jerk. What if the way I see things is that I’m constantly in a position of having to make quick and concise decisions without the ability to be able to explain those to everyone every time. If I examine that through your eyes, can I see how you might see it that way? Can I then soften my approach?

If your perception is that I’m slow to act and wishy-washy, but my reality is that I’ve strong preference for information gathering and making as informed decision on something as possible, and then, perhaps, changing course when new information becomes available, can I see how you might view me that way? Can I see that you’ll be surprised if I pull you up short and cut you off on something when a decision changes because I’ve got new information?

In either case, I’m not responsible for your perception of me, but in both cases I am responsible for my presentation me.

And let’s muddy the water a little more. Can both of those perceptions result from the same set of actions? If you only see the quick, decisive action, then maybe I come across as a giant jerk. If you only see the slow gathering of information, slow decision, and flip-flop, then maybe I seem slow to act and wishy-washy. If you see some piece of the slow gathering of information and after perception that I’m soft and weak but the decision, when it comes, is quick, decisive, and doesn’t fit with your view, am I both wishy-washy and a giant jerk?

Are both perceptions true at the same time? Is neither? I don’t know. I can’t see inside your head.

Only I know the reality of who I really am. But I can also fool myself, and many people do.

Perception is not reality, but it does matter.

Be well, everyone.

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My Little Car

My Little Car

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So I keep saying that I would like to get at least two more years out of my car. I still feel like that should be possible, but there are days when I wonder.

Fuel efficiency is not quite as good as it was when I got it in the summer of 2017, surprise, but I’ve had a very little in terms of repair work that wasn’t as result something stupid I did. Sure, it has a few little issues here and there—the driver’s side door doesn’t unlock from the outside, and I can’t open the trunk because the cable inside that releases it has snapped—but my little Honda has more than 382,000 km on it. I’m hoping to get to half a million.

But sometimes, like today, it makes noises that concern me. Not a safety perspective but from a perspective of advancing automotive age. It might only be 11 a half years old, but it does have more than 382,000 km on. I think 300,000 is usually considered good for a well-made car. These days, I only put about 400 a week on. And not even always that much. Once in a while, and more often the winter, I take my wife’s much newer car to work, but most of the time it’s mine, and I do drive it on weekends too, so maybe 400 km a week is still a good average. For my previous job, it was more like 750.

But I can see the time coming where it’s no longer a reliable car and that makes me little sad. My little Honda has done really well, and I would like it to continue doing well, for a couple of years yet. At the current mileage usage, it will take me until early 2024 to tick 500,000. That would be kind of cool. My last car was an Acura and only made 408k.

Be well everyone.

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Satire

Satire

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It is time to turn some of my creative energy to satire. I’ve dabbled in it here and there, but never for long and never seriously. There’s nothing wrong with the bit of slacktivism I’ve been doing, sharing memes sizes trying to stir people up here and there and starting or participating in online conversations as I see the need. But I need more, and I feel like, at this point, I have developed a bit of a talent for writing. If the satire only amuses me, that’s fine. If it only preaches to a small choir, that’s fine too. In either of those cases, it’s probably not worth a tremendous amount of time. But if just one person, or more than one person, or whole bunch of people gets irritated at something I satirize, maybe we can actually get some new discussion started about the things that are wrong with our society. At the moment, by our society, I primarily mean Ontario and the bigoted premier we seem to have elected and who seems to want to run the province if it were his own sandbox and with 19th century policies.

Not acceptable.

So, satire.

I feel like I want to start by taking my cue from Piet Hein, one of my favorite poets, famous for short, stabby verses in at least two languages, and starting during World War II. I’m not suggesting Ontario is currently like Nazi occupied Denmark in the early 1940s, but, to my eyes, much as south of the border, there are flavors of it in the wind.

Not in my Ontario.

However, I also have to recognize that live in the Internet age, and probably there are no underground newspapers are going to be willing to publish said satirical poetry. At least nothing with significant distribution. There is, however, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. And I can certainly find unflattering pictures of my targets in the huge public archives and attach my short, stabbing versus to them.

And so I will.

Be well, everyone.

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October 1st

October 1st

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It’s the first of October in the year 2018.

First of a new month. Writing month, business month, calendar month.

It’s breast cancer month. Pink belts at the dojo.

The tenth month of the year, the tenth month of my 48th year, although that really started a couple of days ago. My birthday doesn’t exactly match up with the calendar, but with a birthday on the third last day of the year it gets close.

I am more and more reflective lately.

I’m also more and more exhausted lately.

And I’m more and more angry lately.

The reflective is probably due to being comfortably ensconced in middle-age, and I have to think about all of my choices, all of their effects, and the best path forward to leave things better for my children and grandchildren.

The exhausted is almost entirely due to my job, and I still want to say new job. I’m trying hard to be all things everyone, but there’s so much to catch up on, so much to do, so much that’s been ignored in the past. My wife is being very understanding, and we have had worse working situations during our marriage, but there are limits. If we’re not approaching one, we should be. I need to have a life too and this job is interfering with it too much so far. I think that will change eventually. I just need a few more months to catch up and get even.

And the angry? The angry has a lot of sources, and some of those will tie back into the reflection. What can I do? What can I recently hope to accomplish? How can I make a difference?

There are too many problems, there is too much wrong, and there are too many people with their heads in the sand.

I’m angry because I believe in a Star Trek future, positive, growing, maturing, inclusive. I’m angry because not enough other people seem to believe in that future at the moment. Our society seems to breed selfishness and self-centeredness and a complete lack of respect for other people, other creatures, and the world around us. Fuck them all, only I matter.

How do you fight that? How do you fight the selfishness, self-centeredness, the refusal to see the real world, the bread and circuses?

The problem is, I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if I will ever have an answer. But we really, really need one.

Actually, we really, really need a whole lot of answers.

I have a lot of things I think will help, but there’s so much momentum to work against. It’s frustrating that the most I seem to be able to do is set a positive example, because I don’t think it’s nearly enough.

Be well, everyone.

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Being Right

Being Right

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right and wrong checkbox on a blackboard

Everyone likes being right, right

Usually, that’s the case. This morning, I’m less happy about it, at least in one specific instance.

This week, on apparently a variety of news media, our still-new provincial government followed through on a campaign promise that almost no one thought it would keep. In spite of everything, in spite of all the evidence that it was good for people, good for the economy, and good for the job market, the Ontario Progressive Conservative party appears to still disagree with the idea that raising the minimum wage was a good thing. And they disagree to the point where the minimum wage increase that was scheduled for January 1 of next year, just a little more than three months away, will not be happening. It is canceled.

Oh, there’s no legislation yet, but they’ve specifically announced the intent to “fix” the Liberal law that was making it happen.

I’ve had this argument gently with a number of people at work, but no one thought this government would shoot themselves in the foot. I have, mostly, being careful, particularly in business-related settings, to couch this in potential terms. What if? Still, they did make the promise to do it. I wonder if they’ll follow through.

Well, guess what? Our premier is an arrogant little sheet stain who refuses to let reality interfere with his beliefs.

I don’t know why this should surprise anyone, since he was clearly planning to ignore the rule of law by invoking the notwithstanding clause so he could have his way with Toronto City Council and screw over the people who hadn’t cooperated with him and his brother back in his councilman days.

But seriously, someone needs to remind Mr. Ford that the P in PC stands for Progressive.

Although, I suppose you could argue things mathematically. The PC party of Ontario has made tremendous amounts of progress since it took office. Really, it has.

It’s just all negative progress.

To switch back to English, I suppose that makes them the Regressive Conservatives, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, whether they voted for them or not.

Welcome to the new Ontario, where if you’re a rich white guy, you’ll do okay. Everyone else is fucked.

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Middle Age Is Not for the Weak

Middle Age Is Not for the Weak

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To be middle aged is to be caught between worlds sometimes. You still remember your youth very well, and frequently the dreams and aspirations you had. But you’re caught up in the day-to-day, the survival, making the right decisions, the best ones for your family, younger and older. Not easy place to be.

But you can also look ahead and see larger digits, recognize that at this point in your life, there are fewer days ahead than there are behind. And still, you’re caught in the day-to-day, a survival in life and getting by in providing support you need to for your family, younger and older.

The thing is, you often have no idea what that support needs to be.

You look at your children, if you have them, and other younger relatives, and understand they’ve grown up in a vastly different world than you did. But when you look at those younger family members, you can see in them the dreams and aspirations little different than yours in a fundamental level, you can see that they want to learn and grow and change the world. You see all the energy and vitality of youth that you are, probably, fighting to hold onto.

You look your parents and the rest of their generation, and you are always shocked at how old they are, because when they’re out of your sight, you remember them as the much younger, much stronger people who raised you. And you know that they grew up in a different world than you did, and because they’ve seen all of the change that the world has brought for you and your children, they have an easier time understanding your kids than maybe you do, even if the attitudes and issues they have don’t match up. And you really have no idea what they need, because they’re not living the same world that you are. They have that implicit understanding of aging that’s going to take you a couple more decades of direct experience to gain.

And so you realize that you are in your middle years, caught between youth and old age, and maybe, just maybe, you have enough wisdom and experience to figure out what you’re doing if not necessarily where you’re going.

You wonder what happened to all the years between youth and now, and you’re just a little bit afraid to look ahead to what’s coming in the years between now and the end.

It’s become a tagline here and there that old age is not for the weak. You’re starting to recognize that and when you look at your parents and you think about how strong they must be.

And then you look at your children you think about how strong they must be to live with the society we have in the world they’re inheriting. Youth isn’t for the weak, either.

I’ve seen it suggested, and maybe even backed up by some actual research and behavioral science here and, that midlife crisis, or whatever terminology is currently in fashion, is often a product of fear that we don’t want to admit. Fear of what we’ve lost, and fear of having to recognize what we still have to lose. We’re not thinking about the gains, of course, because somehow they don’t seem significant next to the stunning realization of our own mortality.

I think I might suggest that middle age is also not for the weak.

And I think that leaves us with the realization that the human experience is a tough one, that we are all stronger than we realize. We learn, grow, we strive, we go on.

But only until we don’t.

The human experience, whatever your version of it is, requires strength, so we all have it, manifesting differently for each of us.

A difficult thought.

Recognized or not, you are strong. We all are, and that’s not easy thing to know or believe or understand.

Be well, everyone.

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Eternally Star Trek

Eternally Star Trek

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So I’ll be 48 years old soon, which makes Star Trek 52 now. Read here and there on this blog, and you figure out very quickly that that’s important to me.

You’ll probably find somewhere, and more than once, the shared fact that I believe one of my earliest memories to be sitting in my father’s lap watching “The Immunity Syndrome”, you know, the episode with the giant space amoeba. It’s hazy memory: the small TV screen, the spaceships, the splash of color and giant single-celled organism, the old green chair (which I might be filling in without actually remembering).

You probably know that I’m a diehard original series fan. As a kid, as a teen, as an adult. I watched it with dad when I was small. I spent most of high school with it coming on just a few minutes after I got off the bus. I’ve seen every movie first run in the theater beginning with The Search for Spock. The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan came later in theatres for me, long after first run, but still wanting that theatrical experience.

I love The Next Generation, the Star Trek of my teen years.

I tried to love Deep Space Nine, which was hard for some reason at that point in my life, but I came back to it in later seasons and enjoyed it. I’ve rediscovered it recently, watching from the beginning and it’s a lot better than I remember.

Voyager was fun, cranking up the technobabble, but giving me a new cast of characters to watch come together.

I hated the theme song for Enterprise, but the show wasn’t bad, and had moved into some great storytelling just as it got cancelled.

There was a long wait until the reboot movies, which most folks will know I’m not really a fan of. Action movies with a Star Trek overlay and an essential Star Trek-ness removed. The third one was better, but I’d put it no higher in rating than The Final Frontier.

I want to love Discovery. It’s trying to be Star Trek but isn’t satisfying in the same way. It’s a different kind of storytelling, necessarily considering the story it’s trying to tell, and maybe showing one of those bumps along the way to the future we actually want. To my viewing, it’s also not giving sufficient respect to the original concept of Star Trek. I have said that I’ve decided it’s good science fiction, but I haven’t decided it’s good Star Trek. I also haven’t actually finished watching the first season because I’ve been disappointed in a variety of ways during the first ten episodes. There’s still hope.

But I’ve been a fan of Star Trek as long as I can remember and I don’t see that changing until I’m no longer able to remember. Sometime after I stop breathing, sometime after my heart stops, from a certain strictly physical point of view, brain activity ends and I’ll technically stop being a fan. But that won’t change the decades when I was.

I credited Star Trek for helping me with social attitudes being more progressive in my mind than they may have been in society at the time. I credit it for helping me to learn to use my brain when some many people around me were trying hard to abandon theirs. I credit it in no small part for the person I’ve become.

Star Trek has been summarized by many people over the decades, and I’m no exception. In my eyes Star Trek is about what it means to be human and the path towards a positive, inclusive future where we all strive to be better than we are. It’s a storytelling collective to give us hope that there are better days ahead, that we will mature and get better as a species. There will be, and are, bumps along the road, and we will work together to overcome them.

Star Trek is about hope for a brighter future, inclusion in the diversity of human experience, recognition that we all have a place in that experience, and the drive make that experience better than it is.

Star Trek. Always Star Trek. Gloriously, eternally, through every incarnation and fresh aesthetic, back to the core, Star Trek.

I have been, and always shall be, a fan.

Live long and prosper.

 

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Submission Log and More Commentary On Society

Submission Log and More Commentary On Society

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I have decided that I’m going to reboot the Submission Log, mostly because it’s been a long time since I’ve done any serious story submitting. I have a lot of short fiction I would like to get in front of readers and there’s no reason I shouldn’t get paid by someone for some of it, right? Even if it’s only a token payment here and there.

I’ve never written or submitted to “exposure” markets, because I disagree with the concept. If the publisher is expecting to make any money whatsoever, some of that money should go to the author. If you’re not interested in paying your authors, I’m not interested in doing business with you.

I have a couple of times written for royalties. One time, that was okay. The other, the editorial process was so long and involved that the royalties would have needed to total several hundred dollars to bring me up to minimum wage (at the time) for all of time and energy I put into the process. They were not.

Now some out there may be thinking that writers and artists shouldn’t expect to get paid a lot of money. To which, politely, I suggest that you’re misguided. No artist expects to get rich on their work, but if money is changing hands for a product then the people involved in producing that product should be making a living wage from it, and that includes the artist. I think that’s entirely reasonable, without going into Ellison style rant (but it’s well worth watching – here).

If, on the other hand, it’s your thought that artists should be happy getting their work out there and not be concerned about money at all, my slightly less polite response is, fuck you. You don’t expect your favourite movie and TV stars to work for free, your favourite sports players to work for free, or your favourite musicians to work for free, why would you expect artist to?

See how easy it is to go into a commentary on society?

But it is frequently worth commenting on society, and maybe that’s why I do it a lot. Sidesteps in blog posts here and there, entire blog posts sometimes, frequently in conversations by off and online, and, well, pretty much all the time time. Like or not I live in a society with a lot of problems that need talking about and dealing with. Expectation of writers and artists working for starvation or no wages is one of many.

Back to the point.

The submission log is still on file and looks back to even the first couple of stories I submitted way back when. Since I’m trying to make both submissions and short story publishing part of my overall plan, I really do need to track them. Independently published collections are part of the publishing plan in 2019, as is some novel-length work, fanfiction, and poetry. I’m doing a bunch of Star Trek fanfiction individual stories and a collection, although those will only be available for free. Fanfiction by definition has to be free unless sanctioned by the owners of the property. I’d love to, but never expect to, write Star Trek for money. But, if people like my Star Trek work, maybe it’ll lead some of them into my non-Trek work. If not, oh well.

Releasing something for exposure or giving it away for a little while is far different than someone only willing to pay exposure in order to make money themselves, btw. It’s a valid marketing tactic for indie traditional publisher, but the traditional publisher, no matter how small, needs to be aware that their authors deserve to be paid.

I’ve also got plans to do one themed collection a year for about the next five years, and that doesn’t stop me from just pulling together some of what I feel is my best work to do a non-themed collection. And I will be doing novels, and a poetry collection so self-publishing will be strong, but it’s not the only path. As I’ve mentioned, I will be looking for an agent or small press for some work.

I track word count and goals and I’m certainly going to track who I investigate for agents or publishers, so if I’m targeting five short story submissions per month for the rest of the year, including September (and 8-10 per month in 2019), I need that submission log. I need to know where I send things, who liked my work and should get more of it, who doesn’t bother to respond on rejections, who gives feedback.

Tracking is important. So, beginning any moment now with the first submission of 2018.

Be well, everyone.

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Lost Hobbies

Lost Hobbies

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Image result for penny blackWhen I was a kid, for a bunch of years, I collected stamps. Lately, I think it’s called. I still have most of the box, having tried twice in adulthood to go back to it, but not since my oldest child was very, very small, and he’s almost 20 now. I used to love it, the detail put into many of them, the old printing processes, the tiny variations that could happen just from some little flick of the machine, things being printed backwards or upside down, stamps from all over the world. I have a couple of boxes full of albums and envelopes. Thousands of stamps. Tens of thousands.

I have a stamp collection, but I don’t collect stamps anymore. I don’t know why, it still seems like it should be interesting to me, but there’s only so much time.

Image result for telescope bausch lombIn my mid-20s until my early 30s, I was seriously into backyard astronomy. I had a decent, if not particularly high-end telescope, and I still haven’t actually, and most clear nights would find me in the backyard, even living in downtown Toronto, trying to see everything I could see. There was a surprising amount in the washed out urban sky. They’re probably still is. When, at the end of 2002, we moved to the small town that we currently still live in, I was very much looking forward to darker skies, but the box that contained all of my telescope lenses somehow went missing during the move. I think it was the only thing we lost during the move, although even at the time I couldn’t remember what else it was packed with. Clearly nothing else I missed.

I wanted to replace the lenses, spent the whole first winter shoveling off the cement pad behind the house that was going to be my personal observatory, but money was tight, and I never quite found the couple of hundred bucks to do it. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me to try to scrape together enough for one good lens and go from there.

I still read things about astronomy, online and in books. I still have that telescope. A few years ago, during a super sale, I bought another telescope, this one with some tracking and a battery-operated motor, hoping to maybe interest my children and it, but I never got any of them in the backyard more than twice, and guessed that that ship had sailed. If I’d started trying with them sooner, it might’ve worked. And, at this point in my life, I can only justify so many activities that don’t involve my kids. The ones left home, that is, and those two are in their mid-teens. That’s starting change as they don’t need me right there as much as they did when they were little, but I still haven’t gotten back to the backyard astronomy in any significant way.

Unlike stamp collecting, however, I still have the desire to. That desire just needs the right focus. It needs to ramp up high enough in me to actually pull one of those telescopes out into the backyard and point it at the sky.

There have been other things over the years, but hobbies come and go, and don’t always sticking in your life. Circumstances and conditions change, and your life changes with them.

At one point I might have considered writing a hobby, even if I aspired to become a published author. I’ve long since stopped thinking that way. Even though I’ve had times in the last few years, stretching weeks or even months at a time, when my primary focus has been on other things—always family, but often career to support that family—writing is still there, and I always come back to it. It’s not a hobby, it’s part of who I am.

I could say something similar about karate. With apologies to Funakoshi-sensei, it may not be my way of life, but it’s an integrated part of my life, and does color how I see many other things, affect how I deal of the things. Having put it that way, maybe shouldn’t apologize. Maybe, in a way, it is my way of life. However I might squint at it, karate is certainly not a hobby. It may have started as one, something fun with my oldest child, for a while, and for a longer while my wife, and for a while my oldest daughter. But they’ve all moved on of the things. For them, karate was a hobby. Me, I might be less than a year away from testing for my third degree black belt. Not that I think I know nearly enough yet, but that will be true as I walk into that grading, whenever it happens to be.

But karate and writing are not hobbies anymore.

Image result for geocachingI think the only actual hobby I have left that I can call a hobby is geocaching, which is done sporadically and at varying frequencies with my youngest daughter. Her interest in it seems to be waning this year, but not all at once and she enjoys it when we go out. My wife enjoys sometimes do, and it’s still a very fun activity for me. Not something that’s going away anytime soon.

Actually, geocaching is certainly my only hobby. My only hobby in a life that has been full of hobbies and interesting pursuits, and maybe it’s the third one that will somehow integrate itself in my life, become part of who I am. Feels that way right now. I can manage to not do it for a while, but I miss it.

Somehow though, I feel like everybody should have at least one hobby, one leisure activity that lets them put aside the stresses of regular life for a little while. I don’t think our society has evolved to the level where that’s possible for everyone yet, but perhaps that’s still coming.

If you have a hobby, enjoy it as much as you can. If you don’t, I hope you find one that suits.

In the meantime, be well, everyone.

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