Question Everything

Rodin's Thinker

Don’t take things at face value.

Don’t just believe what people tell you. Especially don’t believe what advertisers tell you. Educate yourself. Honestly, most people are probably pretty genuine, but many aren’t, especially when you consider that corporations are considered “people” these days.

I got thinking about this today after reading an interesting couple articles about “Domestic” Kobe Beef (read it here) and how you can’t get Kobe Beef in the US, even though restaurants and online suppliers offer it to you all over the place. I’ve never ordered fake Kobe Beef, and I never really had any intention of doing so, but now I really never will.

Look at what motivates people or companies when they tell you things. What do they get out of the transaction they want you to make? What are they selling? What do they want from you?

People are disingenuous. Many of us are anyway, and I continue to learn that I, for one, really need to be smarter about what I take for face value. I think I’ve been extremely lucky in our 12 years of business–we have never been ripped off. Not once. And we work for new customers every week or few weeks as we finish jobs and move on to the next one. I have dealt with scumbags, of course, but nobody has ever really managed to pull one over on us (that I know of, anyway. *sigh*).

I’m thinking about this yet again in relation to the former friend of mine who stole from MisCon. It seems like every day we learn about things he has done over the past few years that never came to light, mostly because people didn’t want to disparage him or his reputation. I’m not going to go into detail, but he was fired from multiple jobs either for stealing or for Had we known about half of these things, we would have investigated MisCon’s fiances a hell of a lot sooner. This criminal wouldn’t have been able to get away with as much as he did.

More than anything, this makes me wonder what else he did to people. How far did it go? What could we have done to stop it? Who else is up to no good?

I’m not becoming jaded at all (at least I don’t think so), but I am becoming a lot more vigilant, even with good friends. No longer can I trust my instincts when it comes to things like this.

You shouldn’t either.

Creative Person of the Day? Josh Kyle of Engeln Photography!

That’s right–today, I have an official Creative Person of the Day for you.

It’s my friend Josh Kyle.

I chose a campfire for the thumbnail picture of this post because Josh reminds me of elemental fire–he’s passionate, can easily change from one moment to the next, and burns brightly in everything he does (which is a lot). Actually, he’s kind of like a classic dwarf (in the Dungeons and Dragons/Snow White sense of the word) in that he can have a gruff exterior and can be intimidating to people who don’t know him, but he has a heart of gold. He’s a generous, dedicated, hard worker, who’s always pursuing something interesting, whether it’s photography, cooking, costuming, the spiritual, Victorian architecture, you name it.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m all about being creative and making a positive impact on the world. Josh is a great example of someone who lives this kind of life, as you can see by checking out his pictures at Engelnphoto.com, and by looking at his photo “The Clock” which he recently sent me:

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Josh is a great example of what we should aspire to–in addition to being a photographer, he’s a hell of a cook, and is always whipping up some new (often weird) creation in the kitchen. The first time he offered me a lavender cookie I have to admit that I was skeptical. But the damn thing was very good. Not to mention his baked apples . . .

He puts a lot of care and passion into what he creates. The following photo is called “Reaching For the Sky.”

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Last but not least, Josh always ends up volunteering his time at MisCon, whether he plans to or not. Last year, before the convention, he declared that this year he was going to just attend the convention and have fun–he wasn’t going to volunteer at all. At first I tried to persuade him to do a bit here or there anyway, since he is a great volunteer and I know he loves the convention, but he was adamant, so I gave up. I suspected that once he was at the convention, he’d have a hard time not just jumping in.

Which he did.

A lot.

Creative people tend to congregate–MisCon is a great place to see a bunch of artists and writers and costumers gathered together, Josh among them.

So check out Josh’s pictures at Engelnphoto.com, then go do something creative yourself!

 

The End of an Era: Reflecting on Life, Death, and Creating Things

Gianna in her Pants Hat

The only real benefit of losing someone you love (our Minitaure Pinscher Sally just died) is that it forces you to reflect on your own life.

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Sally was the last of our first generation of pets: Dulce the Chihuahua, Sally the Miniature Pinscher, Ivan the super Doberman, King the Akita/German Shepherd, PJ the Poodle, and Monster, Chewie, and Jihad the cats are all dead now. It seems like it’s the end of an era in our lives, I guess, now that they’re all dead and gone.

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I was devastated when Ivan died 4 years ago (read what I had to say back then in my post, My Ivan is Dead and Gone if you really want to see me feeling terrible. I still can’t read it without crying). But after he died, we still had Dulce and Sally and life carried on. Later that year, we picked up that biggest of doofuses, Clyde. Then Dulce and Jihad died and we found Gretel of the Crazy Hair.

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Even though Clyde is already 3 and a half, he’s still an idiot freshman in my mind, and Gretel is like a 6th grader. There isn’t any Sally left to stumble up and snarl them into submission. They’re the old guard now. They’re moving on. They’re not dwelling on the past or old friends. They just are.

Now that Sally, bravest of my beasts, that tiny courageous hero, gobbler of all food, lover of the good life, is dead, I’m moving on too. I have to.

Death is like a slap in the face that reminds you nothing stays the same forever. We’re all getting older all the time, obviously, but it’s easy to lose sight of that on a daily basis and just run on cruise control.

We’re all born, live our lives, then we die. It’s going to end some day, so you damn well better get out there and do meaningful things. Make the world a better place. Create something. Improve other people’s lives.

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I need to get back into the swing of writing my own stuff. I have been spending a huge amount of time on MisCon lately, especially the last few weeks. I’m trying to get George R. R. Martin’s airline tickets lined up, which is proving to be troublesome, and I’m trying to get the schedule out of the way. It’s all a pretty big undertaking, and it takes time.

One of the reasons I spend so damn much time working on MisCon is that it’s a way for me to do something nice for other people. I like helping make the convention as good as it can be, and I enjoy making people happy. It’s also a creative outlet (not that I need any more of those, but still).

All the work I put into MisCon is worth it to me, but I wish I could get down how to have it affect my fiction writing less than it does. I need to get better with my time these days, I guess. Part of my deal is that I’ve been staying home with Gianna this winter, and I’ve been trying to maximize my time with her. It’s sort of tough to figure out how to manage time with a little kid running around.

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Today, in the spirit of this post, Gianna and I played outside for a few minutes in the wintry sunshine. She was very excited to get outside on her own 2 feet, and it worked well until she insisted on  heading into the snow everywhere she could. She can’t make it over much snow, so she kept falling down and getting cold hands.

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So try to remind yourself that life isn’t forever. To make a difference in the world, you need to work at it. So get out there and do something creative, positive, generous, whatever. Make somebody happy.

And give your pets, parents, kids, grandparents a special love for me. We won’t be around forever and you’ll sure as hell wish you had more time. I know I do.

You Don’t have to Worry, Bozo

I’m not a worrier.

Worrying is  not in my makeup. I’ve never really wasted the energy or the time worrying. Well, I say never, and I mean it, although just like anybody else, I have certainly worried about specific things here and there–maybe the night before giving a speech or a test, or in the minutes before some important event. But I almost never worry about anything.

Why?

Who knows? I sure don’t. I suspect it’s genetic–if you could examine my makeup, I bet you’d see that whatever gene or genes are responsible for making us worry are just not expressed in me much. It’s a chemical thing that I can’t control one way or the other. I guess my way of thinking is also just not compatible with worrying. I’m always thinking about the things I’m working on–this keeps me busy enough that I am generally constantly moving from one project to the next and don’t take the time to sit around thinking about how things aren’t going to turn out.

There’s a reason this website is called Hey! There is No Try.

So, even though I’m the way I am and don’t have to worry about worrying (pun intended), I have one idea for how you worriers might be able to forget about your problems: do something.

Be creative or productive, or do something fun. On the rare times that I do find myself feeling anxious or tense about something coming up, I just throw myself into a project 100%.

I write, or blog, or jump into the MisCon schedule, or play a video game (damn you, Skyrim! *shakes fist at sky*), take Clyde for a

On a Walk
I recently took the dogs and the kid for a walk by myself.

walk, go for a run, play with Gianna, kiss up Melissa, whatever. Exercise is probably one of the best ways to divert your attention to something positive, especially since it saps your energy and whips you into shape.

Try it.

You’ll still worry, but you’ll have accomplished something and feel better about yourself.

As a side note, I got thinking about worrying this morning after reading an excellent blog post from Dakota over at Creative Chimera. She’s talking about being present and in the moment. Plus, she’s cool since she helped put together the program book for MisCon 25. Anybody who volunteers for a great science fiction convention like MisCon has to be pretty cool, don’t they?

So, as usual, get out there and do something. Don’t just sit around worrying.

Do or Do Not. There is no Try.

So What’s the Big Deal About Doctor Who, Anyway?

Doctor_Who_logo_2010_by_TheGraphicStation

I’m a Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan through and through–I mean, I’m heavily involved with helping run MisCon, Montana’s Science

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Tardis paper cutout by Cyberdrone

Fiction Convention, so I have at least some geeky street cred, right?

I’m also a Star Wars fan, and I love Fantasy, especially the epic variety, but I have to admit that these days I’m on the outside looking in with one issue: Doctor Who.

My mom watched it when I was little, so whenever I think Doctor Who, I remember bad monster suits, crappy special effects, and a guy with lots of curly, reddish-brown hair. I was born in 1976, so I’m talking the 1980s here, although I bet most of you know exactly which Doctor I’m talking about and which years he was on the show. I’m going to hazard a guess and vote that he was the . . . 3rd Doctor? Maybe 4th?

So please help me out here, people.

What’s the big deal about Doctor Who? Why do so many people love it so damn much? I’m not saying it isn’t great (I mean, Neil Gaiman loves it, so there must be something to it, right?). But why do you love it so much? Is it better than Star Wars or Star Trek?  If so, why? Does there need to be a clear winner? Is it even a competition?

Also, what do you Whovians like about Daleks so much? What’s the attraction?

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Thanks to TheGraphicStation for this Doctor Who logo

And for all you Tardis lovers out there, check out Cyberdrone’s paper cutout tardis models on DeviantArt. You can print his stuff, cut out the shapes, and have your own little Tardis. You nerds. Just kidding–I need to get a Millenium Falcon paper cutout.

Please jump in and talk Doctor Who.

Give People a Break

Clyde the Great Dane at Elm Park

I don’t usually give people breaks, even if they deserve it.

No, I certainly do not. I tend to judge people very quickly and get caught up in getting things done, accomplishing goals, and making progress to the point that I hold everyone to the standards I set for myself (of course I don’t live up to my lofty standards all the time either, but that’s another topic).

I get fired up about things to the extent that I can be a bastard if I perceive that somebody isn’t holding up their end of the deal–I usually rip them a new one. I have a pretty well-deserved reputation for this, especially when it comes to MisCon (the science fiction convention I help run in Missoula).

When it comes to making the convention happen, I let myself become ruthless. If I think they’re not getting their work done, I might snap at people, hurt their feelings, etc.

I need to take some advice from myself: give people a break sometimes.

You know, sometimes, it’s good to give people a break, however small. You might be helping them out. I resolve to do so today at least once (if given the opportunity).

What about you? Do you give people breaks? Or are you the opposite? Do you let things slide too much?

CthulhuBob: From Arch-Nemesis to . . . Playmate?

Gianna Smiling

So a while back, I made a huge parenting mistake with Gianna.

She didn’t want my friend CthulhuBob to hold her. In fact, she wanted nothing to do with him. We were over at my parents’ house (my mom takes care of Gianna all day on weekdays, which is something I love since they’re 2 peas in a pod) one afternoon. Gianna hadn’t spent much time around Bob and decided that he was very scary. And no, it’s not because he goes by CthulhuBob. Or at least I don’t think that’s the case.

CthulhuBob Lovely and Justin Barba MisCon 25
CthuhuBob is sitting to my right, asleep.

She kept crying whenever he touched her, and I stupidly thought that if I gave every sign that Bob was ok, she should accept that and be fine with him too. So even though she cried, I had Bob hold her for about half an hour while she just got more angry and upset. I thought that to give up was to admit defeat and allow her to “win.”

Eventually, we took her outside, which always calms her down, and she calmed down and stopped crying.

As soon as we went back inside, she started crying again and wanted to come to me or my mom.

The whole damn thing was a huge mistake!

Ever since, Gianna starts crying every time she sees Bob. He terrifies her.

It’s almost funny funny how scared she is of him just from that one stupid experience. Of course it’s not funny at all, but in a crowd of 30 people, if she sees him, she instantly tries to hide her face and get the hell away from him. People laugh and jokingly ask what he did to her.

She wants nothing to do with him.

CthulhuBob Talking to Neil Gaiman at WFC 2011
Author Neil Gaiman wasn't scared to talk to CthulhuBob when we were at WFC 2011

At least this was the case until yesterday. He was over at our house with his daughter Sarah and her boyfriend Daniel-san (he’s not Asian nor does he look like Ralph Macchio, but we call him Daniel-san anyway), just hanging out in an effort to spend more time around her and see if she would finally decide on her own that he’s ok.

And she did!

CthulhuBob, Gretel, and Gianna
CthulhuBob, Gretel, and Gianna being friendly.

It started slowly at first, with her hanging out with Sarah (whom she likes) and sort of looking at Bob from across the room. Then after a while, she  waved at him. The waving grew fevered and she kept it up for a while. Then the miraculous happened: she walked over to him and started sharing her socks with him, moving them from one of his hands to the other. It was some sort of game only she knew the rules to, but she played with him for a good ten minutes.

It ended on a positive note between them, and we’ll see how it goes next time. So far so good, and she wasn’t scarred for life.

So have you done stupid parenting things like this? How did it work out?