Tag Archives: Personal

It was just 2016 a month or so ago I swear

Summer has basically been and gone since my last entry here. It feels like autumn already, too. With hurricanes, fire or drought afflicting much of the U.S., I have no complaints at all about an early autumn, itself, certainly.

But honestly, I scarce know where this year went.

Since… I think it was with the real intense push against Trumpcare in the Senate that things “went to 11” and stayed there. Since then, life has just been full, whatever happens. All day, every day of the week, every week.

I have obtained more than 130 signatures for the Fair Districts ballot measure. And that’s like a when-possible activity, that fits into such “gaps” in my schedule as I can identify.

This past week was relatively calm. Yet it included

  • distributing literature for Jeff Johnson’s campaign
  • handing out dog biscuits at the Lakewood Dog Swim
  • Live-tweeting a City Council meeting
  • an interview about Hancher vs. Hilton with Iowa Public Radio
  • Dropping by an open house about the Icebreaker offshore wind power pilot project
  • Visiting Senator Portman’s office (once again) to express my opinion
  • Putting together two extensive e-mail newsletters

Read More →

2016 Year in Review

My experience of this year mostly lends itself to sorting into two, very different, categories: political, and other.

Except that politics isn’t really something separable from other areas of life, however much one may wish or believe that to be so.

Once again, I confront election results that are not only distasteful, but could very realistically make me a healthcare refugee in the foreseeable future. I’m self-employed, I have an expensive preexisting condition, I’m ineligible for Medicaid and a long way from Medicare (both of which will also come under fire anyway). If a Republican federal government junks the Affordable Care Act (and rules out substitutes which feature either redistribution or heavy-handed regulation, which are the only real ways to make private health insurers cover someone like me), I’ll have to look for other governments that might be more helpful. Which, right now, probably won’t include Ohio.

Meanwhile, even in my own life this year, “political” bled substantially into “other,” although this was admittedly voluntary to a great degree.

I really feel that, looking back, I actively “volunteered” for very few of the political activities in which I found myself immersed in 2016. But if I was recruited over and over, I rarely said “no,” and perhaps after a time that amounts to volunteering.

Oh, Lakewood politics, you’re crazy but maybe that makes us a match.

Read More →

10 years without Dad

It is a super-busy day, here, with the culmination of that campaign I have been working on in one form or another for nearly two years.

But I’m not letting the day pass without some remembrance of my father, who left us exactly 10 years ago.

Dad, my brother and me

Before the illnesses, in 2003

My upcoming book is dedicated to him. I like to think he would have enjoyed it.

John Kevin Kuhns, 1948-2006

First Seven Jobs

A #firstsevenjobs meme has been doing the rounds in the past week. I am participating here, rather than on Twitter, because…

  1. tele-fundraising
  2. cashier
  3. graphic designer for newspaper
  4. graphic designer for family planning organization
  5. graphic designer for private university
  6. graphic designer for boutique studio
  7. freelance graphic designer

It just seems to make a mockery of the concept. And not even in the intentional way of Warren Ellis’s list, which is otherwise an exemplar of the rubbish, low-level jobs that one is expected to show off.

I, on the other hand, have two mild offerings in that category, followed basically by the same near-profession over and over. The one for which I went to college, and from which I have earned my living, my entire adult life. In fact, in terms of a job meaning “on-staff employee” this is really my entire list at age 38, and even now I only achieve a first seven by cheating, in essence, and including self-employment as item seven. As my last traditional job, at item six, ended 10 years ago it seems fair to make an allowance for having supported myself somehow all this time since. But it still seems like I just don’t have a proper #firstsevenjobs list.

I don’t mind, really. I would say that I have been quite fortunate. I didn’t need to go looking for work in adolescence, which seems like a good thing for any number of reasons, not least being that I don’t think a part-time job really helps with the studies theoretically meant to open up broader horizons. I didn’t even have a summer job until after my freshman year of college, and the brief succession of these is basically my list: One crap job during first summer break from college, another crap job during second summer break, an excellent internship during my third summer break, and then consistent employment in my chosen field.

I sense that part of the #firstsevenjobs concept is that those odd, rubbish jobs build character or something. I can only say that I have my doubts, frankly. Boring list aside, I don’t feel like I missed out by not delivering newspapers or slinging french fries or detasseling.* Variety of life experience is not to be dismissed, by any means, but I’m just not sure how much truly life-enriching experience the typical #firstcrapjobs really provide. At best, I suspect that the point of diminishing returns arrives rapidly, and that menial jobs often take more away from the soul than they contribute before long. For this reason, I think there is a lot to be said against making people perform them in an age when lots of them probably make negligible contribution to any important goods or services.

Of course, since I failed the #firstsevenjobs game so completely, I may just be making excuses. Say, perhaps I can interest you in a #favsevengames list…?

* Here’s a brief explanation for anyone who didn’t grow up around this phenomenon, as was apparently the case for the editors of the dictionary which WordPress uses to spellcheck my posts.

Thankful Thursday, 2015

I have been thinking, lately, that for all my frequent moments of despair, the past five years have been a decent run, for me.

On this formal Thanksgiving without any of the usual activities (having held those early this year), it feels like a worthwhile time to attempt some sort of exploration of this idea.

There’s definitely reason to believe that the preceding five years of my life, roughly 2005-2010, were an era to make a lot look good in comparison. I was fired. My father died, in most of the ways you don’t want someone to exit: early, of multiple debilitating diseases, in a non-luxury nursing home, and agonizingly slowly. Let’s see, the occasional, diagnosis-proof failings of my horrible Pontiac finally reached the point of a realistic danger to my safety, and then I got to discover the joy of used-car shopping without any help for the first time, while under a lot of pressure and still effectively locked out of full-time employment because being fired does that to you. The work I found consisted of temporary contract jobs which, while they had their good points, involved long, nerve-wracking commutes and on two occasions a micromanaging sociopath boss even more deranged than all those who’d preceded him. I also made a failed, first attempt at earning a living from my own clients, wrecked by a combination of overconfidence and an ill-timed global economic crash.

All of this, meanwhile and to very modest surprise in retrospect, eventually produced two years or so of serious, relentless physical tension that screwed up my body to the point of an extended period of plain agony. Having to quit any regular running near the beginning of this period, due to innately substandard joint design, hadn’t helped at all. Nor did much of the medical advice I got, some of which eventually triggered a whole additional gastrointestinal condition on top of things.

Yeah. Politically, 2005-2010 was rather more encouraging, but personally that didn’t help so much because my own life was kind of crap during that period. (The Thankful is coming.)

Read More →

More Cotton’s Library fans

I think the brief rainbow moment is now closed securely between the pages of history books. Back to real life, including the disheartening omnishambles known as the Greek Crisis.

But, as there is nothing particularly important for me to say about that, right now I’m going to extend the positive a bit longer, here.

The summer 2015 issue of The Quarterdeck newsletter has included Cotton’s Library in its book section; I thank them for the notice and endorsement. You can download the issue for free.

Meanwhile, on a personal level I am even more gratified that my younger brother has actually read both of my books and enjoyed them. Possessed of many good qualities including some keen perception, mah bro is not exactly a dedicated reader, all the same. Let alone a history nerd. So I’m touched that he has read through two nonfiction history works, one of them about long-dead English antiquaries and their obsessive documentary collecting. And enjoyed them.

For anyone who might be curious, I will have both books with me at Author Alley, Saturday the 11th. Stop by!

Ten years in exile

The other day, I recalled that this spring I passed the one-decade mark since moving to Ohio, and have made no real comment. Honestly, I suppose that I really have little of great interest to say.

I have spent a large part of my life here, at this point. More than I spent in central Iowa, even if one rolls together the years in Des Moines and the schoolyear residencies in Ames that preceded them. More than half my adult life, even if one starts that clock at 18.

Yet my living here is really still the product of a random life accident. (So long as I remain, people are never going to stop asking “how ever did you end up here?”) I found myself here largely by chance, and have remained because… Let me put it this way:

Cleveland is okay, but it’s just a place. Lakewood is a comfortable corner, but it too is ultimately just a place. I recall the final issue of the 1990s Starman series, when Jack Knight is heartbroken about parting from his beloved Opal City; if any character’s Opal fetish surpassed Jack’s it was the Shade’s, and yet the Shade offers a reality check to Jack’s handwringing: “Opal is a city. Beautiful, but in the end just a city.” That’s about where I am, at this point in life, not just with Cleveland but anywhere else.

The starry-eyed dreams of my 20s are put away. I realize that some people’s lives really do change dramatically as the result of a change of address, whether because a community offers these or those particular advantages, or because they simply fall in love with it. I’m happy for those people. But I’m not one of them and don’t expect to become one. Falling in love is not my strong suit; buy-in is not my strong suit. I always see the flaws. This goes for Cleveland—the decay, the corruption, the incompetence, the hang-ups, the disgraceful senescence of the local media—but it goes for the alternatives as well.

I know that utopia means “no place,” now. I know that incompetence and corruption flourish in most communities. Meanwhile, potentially offsetting advantages are usually offset, themselves, by other drawbacks. Appalling climate. Too far from my family, commercial and social ties. Expense; most cities are too expensive compared with Cleveland, and local wages are unlikely to affect my remote-working freelance income. I keep an eye on things, and some day circumstances may change. I have lots of boxes ready to go should that happen.

Meanwhile, here I am, and I really have no deep observations about Cleveland or Ohio. The closest I can come is to explain that in a lot of ways I have never really left the place I grew up in; a lot of America and indeed the modern world is increasingly generic, these days, but within the prairie core of the Midwest the differences are vanishingly small from one end to the other. There is variation, I’m sure, but I don’t think it has much to do with which region you’re in, within the Midwest. Having lived in all three, I can say with some confidence that the difference between life in a small Iowa city and a large Iowa city is much greater than the difference between a large Iowa city and a large Ohio city.

I do prefer the city, and I think I prefer a city on the scale of Cleveland a bit over the scale of Des Moines (though the difference is shrinking year by year). Otherwise, one Midwestern city (or inner suburb thereof, for the pedantic) is much like another for my purposes, just now. I live in one, it’s okay, and such things as I want to change about my life seem unlikely to be furthered much by exchanging this city for any other within reach.

Unless anyone has an artist-in-residency program, or some other grant incentive they want to talk about. No? Right-o, then.

Good things, August 2014

I had some tests done today. At the moment, the internet does not need my complete medical history, but I feel like noting that the whole process (though it is quite a process) went relatively well. And, all of the results were what one would hope they would be.

This has really been a good summer in fact, on a personal level. So I feel like briefly remarking on a few positive items from the past month or so (which has witnessed much that was negative, on a larger scale).

Lakewood has a nice farmer’s market every Saturday. I usually walk or bike up and buy some produce. A variety of other goods are also on offer, though, as is entertainment on may weekends.  A couple of times this summer, Diana Chittester has performed. I did not know who she was, but I liked her sound, and last Saturday I just sat listening for a while. Wonderful stage presence, even when the stage is a tiny temporary pavilion between the farmer’s market and Marc’s parking lot. I also bought her new CD, which along with all of the others she priced at “what you feel comfortable paying.” I see that it’s basically the same system online, too. Pretty cool.

I went up to Holden Arboretum for the first time a few weeks ago. That was lovely. Beautiful central area and ornamental gardens, plus some excellent hiking, at least for me. I hiked way back on the optional loop trails, and felt it for days afterward. (Fortunately I’ve at least done enough hiking that I knew to wear boots.) But it was wonderful, just getting away from everything into plain peaceful trees and nature.

A Twitter friend pointed me toward another list of archives that emphasize sharing their content to use, rather than hoarding it with copyright threats and usage tolls.

Warren Ellis has been updating a blog again. I’m not entirely sure why it’s here rather than at his main site, but whatever. I’ve been enjoying these little entries since the discovery. Meanwhile I created a favicon for my own site, here, a few days ago and its humorous homage still makes me smile.

Finally, the Opportunity rover set a new record last month. I can’t find where I saw it, now, but I recall someone making the observation around the same time that “Mars is now the only planet in our solar system populated entirely by active terrestrially manufactured robots” or something to that effect. That’s also pretty cool. Manned space flight is not really producing much excitement… but, it is possible to look on the bright side and recognize that some kind of colonization of Mars is under way.

New hat! New hat!

Same hat! Same hat! No, wait, it really is a new hat:

Me in Panama hat.

Yes, this is me. Hi.

I received this lovely new Panama hat for my upcoming birthday. Just the thing for summertime and a balding man who feels some small desire to raise the bar sartorially, at least personally, above logo shirts and ballcaps. (At least, on those rare occasions when I go outside.)

Same old me, though.