Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I've gone to the Dark Side......

I love books.  I love everything about them - the way they feel, the way they smell. I love books autographed by my favorite authors. In the not so distant past I read 50-75 books a year. Now I freely admit these were not War & Peace or the like - I am a huge fan of mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and so on.  Give me a  Dana Stabenow, Les Roberts, Dave Barry - I've read and reread the Travis McGee series by the late, great John D McDonald.  Ditto the Spenser and Jesse Stone series by the late Robert B Parker.

You see - I firmly believe quality mystery fiction speaks to society and its quirks and foibles as well as the so-called classics or so called serious writers and they - the mysteries - are a helluva lot more entertaining. Plus, I live today.  Unless we're talking the ancient Rome of Marcus Didius Falco or Gordianus the Finder I'd typically rather read something more current.  Want to know what life in Alaska is like?? Pick up a Kate Shugak or Liam Campbell novel by Dana Stabenow.  Ditto Cleveland and Les Roberts.  Seattle???  Read a Thomas Black novel by Earl Emerson. My home turf - the SF Bay Area Grab a Nameless Detective novel by Bill Pronzini. Vermont???  Archer Mayor's Joe Gunther is your guide.

Alas - all of that came to a halt the last few years.  My wife Lynn is afflicted with Huntington's Disease.  I am her primary caretaker - and my other full-time job is writing product descriptions for the company I work for.  So - that's 2 full-time jobs.  I was still able to read a bit at night until the light became a trigger that sets Lynn off on one of her violent tirades. So - no light, no more reading.  Poor me. 

Now I mentioned my paying job - writing product descriptions.  I had occasion to write descriptions for several  eReaders - Kindles, Nooks and the like.  It's not like I was unaware of them - I've worked in the electronics industry for almost thirty years. I just never gave them much thought until this past Christmas season.  Something about the Kindle PaperWhite device caught my fancy while I was working on the Web content and I sprung for one.

Now of course you need some software - aka books - so I promptly acquired the latest two Dana Stabenow novels, the latest two Randy Wayne White Doc Ford novels, the latest two Les Roberts Milan Jacovich novels and sundry short stories along with the most recent Harry Dresden novel by Jim Butcher. 

The planets have realigned - the display on the Kindle adjusts to the point Lynn doesn't even notice.  I've read everything I purchased and am ready for another round of purchases after I finish the real book my friend Ramana sent me called The Wonder Box.  That make take a while as I have to sneak reading time - I cannot read it in two sittings (layings since I read in bed?) but I suspect there'll be another dozen or so titles on my Kindle within a couple of weeks.  I have some catching up to do and there's a new Preston/Child Pendergast novel calling my name. I bet there're even some Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee novels available on Kindle.

My pal Bob - aka Arch - is understanding yet somewhat aghast.  Nothing will ever get him to read an eBook.  Just not in his makeup.  He does knows my circumstances call for what can only be deemed desperate measures.  He's an even more voracious reader than I.  Years ago we met Earl Emerson at a bookstore in Dallas and Arch was quoting dialogue from the very first book in the Thomas Black series word for word.   Emerson was astonished - and I'm sure quite pleased - LOL.

The bottom line is I have recovered a piece of what keeps me sane.  As Lynn's condition will only worsen over time, I still have my literary friends through whom I can live vicariously. I look forward to the evenings once again.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Self Improvement

Self improvement.  It's big business these days. We're constantly bombarded with adds to help us lose weight, get educated,  improve our social skills and the like.  Clearly we are a race of inferiors that need these self-help gurus to line their pockets with our hard-earned cash while leading us to the promised land of a new,. improved self.  Of course the cycle is constant.  We never quite make it to the promised land as another guru quickly points out in his/her ad, keeping the collective paranoia running along quite nicely.

Now - clearly we all need to improve ourselves.  Staying informed, learning and growing with the pace of society these days is not an easy task but one that can be accomplished with effort. Things change too rapidly to be caught with your head in the sand. Just be smart about it and don't let the barrage of self-help ads dictate your direction.

Religious leaders preach to us their path is the way to salvation and  happiness.  That works for some of us. Funnily enough they often reach deeper into our pockets than the self-help gurus bombarding us with ads.  I'll leave it to you to decide if religion is the path for you.  Just leave it out of my politics if you please.

There are those who believe rational self interest in the self improvement model that will lead us to the promised land. The  man's happiness is the moral purpose of his life crowd.   I suspect many conservative-minded folk find that appealing.

There's Tony Robbins, David Allen and many other "power of positive thinking" gurus, all adding their own spin to Norman Vincent Peale's notions. Bury the negative in optimism types. If that works for you, feel free to indulge and spend your cash

Then there's something like The Wonder Box - a book recently gifted to me by our resident Indian gurus of all things human - Ramana.  It takes a look at the historical perspectives of many of what I call blinding flashes of the obvious and puts them into context, among other things. I'll have a cpm[plete review when I finish the book.

The point to all of this? Simply stated, to grow is to improve. Inform your self.  Improve yourself by seeking help when YOU need it.  Ask a trusted confidant - one you trust to be honest with you about things.  Above all, act - don't sit on your duff.  Problems do not go away  by being ignored. I read that somewhere on the Internet and we all know the Internet doesn't lie.

Improve yourself by checking out what the other LBCers have to say ion this topic:  Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, The Old Fossil and Will

Friday, January 18, 2013

Good intentions

He/she meant well but....
The road to hell is paved with......

Intent is not an excuse for actions. gone awry.  To mean well is not necessarily to do well. It may well somehow reduce the consequences for said action but there're no guarantees.

We've all been there at some point. Something has happened that begs for action/response and in trying to do the right thing we makethings worse. Hurt someone's feelings.  Make a disasterous business decision.

Brings to mind the so-called Obamacare initiative we are facing in this country,  Typical political fubar scenario.  In trying to make healthcare more affordable to many we now face a system more expensive and consequences not imagined as fast food and some restaurant employers begin to cut hours of employees to eliminate the necessity of providing healthcare. Many workers will now be even further under-em[ployes as a resuly of this well intentioned mandate.  I merely use this as an example - discussion of the merits of the program are for another time and place.

How about the doctor or good samaritan who gets sued for attempting to aid  the victim of an accident on the side of the road. It' possible and it has happened. Makes you want to rush right over and provide first said - doesn't it? It may surprise you to know that the unintended consequence I am speaking of is the reluctance to provide first aid thanks to the well intentioned laws that allow lawsuits in every imaginable scenario.

Every action - besides having an equal and opposite reaction - has a risk/reward relationship attached to it.  Is the reward worth the risk?  That's what you must decide.  In the case of aiding someone in distress I am not trained in first aid so my decision is automatically to provide comfort by being there and seeking assistance from someone who is qualified.  Call 911, etc.

I have no doubt we've all suffered an attack of foot-in-mouth disease and offended someone unintentionally.  We can only hope that if the offended party is a friend they are a true-enough friend to forgive your transgression.  It may take a while but a real friend will come around. Someone else may not but hopefully the unintended result makes you think about what transpired and makes you less likely to repeat the offense.

My bottom line?  It is better to try and do the right thing in every scenario. The right thing may not be as appealing as something else but it is still the right thing.  Intent does matter to the way you live your life.  In that very broadest sense it is always best to be well intentioned.  The negative fallout - over the course of a life - pales in comparison to the good you can accomplish.

To see what the other LBC folk think, please check out  Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, The Old Fossil and Will

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Dreams and How I've Fulfilled Them

Dreams.  My dreams specifically.  How I've fulfilled them.  Or have I?

Most of us dream of something big when we are young.  Something "big" for ourselves.  We set our expectations for life and then set out to reach those goals. And then life happens and we make adjustments to those goals and attitudes about life. At least I think that happens for most people. 

I only honestly remember one dream - and that was twofold. Part one was pitching a no-hitter in game 7 of the World Series with part 2 being hitting a walk-off home run in the last of the ninth to win the game 1-0. No more Bobby Thompson's shot heard round the world - it'd be little Butchie Higgins everyone remembered - Butch being my neighborhood and home nickname and at the time I used my mom's maiden name as my sperm donor was nowhere to be found.

Alas the gap between dream and athletic prowess was sufficiently wide that my dream expired on the HS ball fields in Hayward California. I settled for 4 no hitters in Senior League (Little Legue for 13-16 year olds) and leading the league in home runs and strikeouts (as a pitcher) 2 years in a row. I even struck out 20 of 21 batters in one of those no-hitters. (I should point out that at 13 I was already 6'2" and about 230 - I am now 6'2" and a few X's more) Seems I was built more for football than baseball and was a better wrestler than either of the former.

Beyond that I had few - if any - dreams that I can recall. I just assumed things would work our for me.  Maybe I should have dreamed more.  Ya see - things always came fairly easy for me.  Even though I was - and to a degree remain painfully shy - I always assumed I'd end up with a family.  Mission accomplished. Non-dream fulfilled.

I never worried about money.  I always earned plenty. Until the day that stopped being true. And that was a bit of a shock. I was always one of the smartest kids in class - why would I ever have trouble making money? I always had a job.  Kept my friends and I in beer working at Sears - after spending the requisite time in fast-food hell at McDonalds and Jack in the Box.

School always came easy.  I was usually bored in class.  Perhaps I was an early poster child for ADD.  Or maybe just lazy.  But always bored.

I stumbled into a job I actually enjoyed in 1977. That's when I started working for a large electronics retailer that became the source of my current nickname and several people I am happy to count as close friends. I loved music and audio stuff and I actually made money selling it.   Not a dream but a positive step forward. Never got rich, usually made enough to get by. Still working there and due to circumstances beyond my control retirement is not in the cards.  I'll go just like Robert B Parker - an author fave of mine.

Fast forward to 2013.  Little Butchie Higgins (and those of you on Facebook can see me back then) is now  Chuck McConvey - aka shackman - and life's been interesting to say the least. Married to the same person for 41 years.  There're 2 kids, 5 grandkids with one more on the way just announced. The family? Dysfunctional as hell but a family none the less.

There's a BA in Political Science.  Real useful in electronics.  Maybe I'll finish my novel and the writing skills that got me through college will mean something.  Or not.  I have an interesting story mapped out - I kinda hope I finish it. It's one I'd read if I saw it on a bookshelf.

So what's my point?  I guess it's to say that dreams did not get me here.  I can honestly say that my choice of friends did.  Early on I was part of a great group of over achievers and I willingly rode along with them, picking up notions of right/wrong, work ethic and the like from a future dentist, airline pilot, architect and civl servant.  Along the way I acquired a philosopher fossil digger/computer programmer, an Indian guru, a quirky multimillionaire jewboy (he laughs heartily at that description), a bestselling songwriter from the sixties and sundry writers and philosophers from around the world.   

And when I look at it that way I'd say dreams be damned - this way has not been bad at all.

Of course there's some appropriate musical commentary. Just can't help myself so for me I offer this little ditty from 1969:

And then there's this for the Doc Fords, Thomlinsons, McGees and Meyers amongst us
Check out how the other member of the LBC feel about this topic - which came to us via Maris - the Silver Fox -  Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, The Old Fossil and Will


Friday, January 4, 2013


It will no doubt surprise very few that to relax I pour a nice single malt or some good bourbon in a glass, sit back and crank up some music (Or a nice cup of coffee if it's early in the day like today). My life is so hectic these days I relish those few moments I can truly call mine.

What you may not know is the 6 months that I have most enjoyed was the 6 months I spent in Hawaii in 1986.  Here's one of my Hawaiian faves from then. The lead singer is the late Moe Keale - who became a friend during my stay there.

Then there's my wayback machine that takes me back to the 60s -
Looks like I'm stuck here - this was written by my good friend Ron Ryan - uncredited -
And then there's this John Fogarty classic by Gene Clark and Carla Olson
I'm an old folkie at heart so this is up next...
That's a sampling of how I relax.  Check out how the other member of the LBC relax -  Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, The Old Fossil and Will.