Merry Christmas

Today’s December 25; for most of us a day off, a day with family, or a day to reflect on the world we live in.

A world it’s easy to take for granted.

So much so that I think it’s just as easy to forget that for some people, this Christmas is no fun at all. Whether they’re the families of a pair of firefighters from New York State, an aide serving in Afghanistan, or twenty schoolchildren from Connecticut.

Four days ago the National Rifle Association called for schools to be protected by armed guards. Reaction has ranged from scathing to considered. Personally, I felt it seemed out of touch with reality on the one hand, but then completely reasonable on the other. After all, let’s not forget: They’re a gun lobby group. Lobbying the pro-gun position in any situation is their job.

If part of any decision making process is due consideration of various offered solutions, then hey, there’s one to consider. But it’s not the only one, and I fear that we’ve gotten so used to avoiding complexity in our mass-consumption politics that we may never have the will to fully address the issues behind these tragedies.

A simple label, an emotive motto and a position of absolutes seems to sell in the world of politics. (Consider the polarity of the pro-life vs pro-choice sides of the abortion discussion – complex situations where it’s necessary in some situations but opposed in others? too hard, doesn’t fit the absolutes, doesn’t get airtime)

In my opinion this all-or-nothing is part of the problem, and part of the cause of these tragedies. No, not our inability to find a solution – it’s our solutions and the way we market them that are part of the problem.

In David Burns’ book Feeling Good, which addresses mental health issues through cognitive therapy, he describes ten typical cognitive distortions related to depression – all of which can be found in political marketing. And the first? All or Nothing Thinking: Set ourselves up with absolute ideals, fail to meet them, feel guilty about it, rate ourselves poorly against our ideals.

If we as human beings have our society and politics as our loudest, most prominent role model, then how are we learning to solve our own problems and evaluate ourselves? Is our attempt to create a quick sell for social solutions creating the very problems we’re trying to solve through an amplifying feedback loop?

The problems facing western societies today are significant and numerous. They raise questions of gun regulation; the role of Federal power when provinces and states differ so dramatically in their needs; the definition of our valued freedoms; the value of an individual’s health; the definitions of success and wealth; the pervasive use of violence to solve problems (all the way from international relations down to consumer entertainment – a discussion in its own right).

Maybe we can’t achieve peace on earth in any absolute, idealistic, philosophical or biblical sense. But if we find ourselves wishing for it these holidays, perhaps, just maybe, we can take a moment to reflect on its complex reality. And if we feel like giving, maybe the biggest gift is if we could give a little on issues.

Here’s wishing you all the very best for the holiday season and an happy and meaningful 2013.



Sometimes, it seems to me, the best way to move forward is to take a big step sideways. So it is with this blog.

Four years ago, in November of 2008, I started a blog. As someone who has never really kept a journal, this was a new and unnatural experience, but I enjoyed it, and it gave me an outlet for something else new in my life – discovering and pursuing an interest in writing fiction as an adult. November coincided with Nanowrimo, which in 2008 I used to push myself to write and learn more on the subject than I ever had in the past – that September I’d written my first fiction ‘story’ for almost fifteen years.

And yet, in 2011, the blog of yore came to a grinding halt. There were quite a few factors in this, but I’d tentatively identify the two principle culprits as:

  • I’d achieved what I’d set out to when I started the blog. I’d used it as a means to chronicle my journey of discovery as I learned the craft, and with my attendance at the Writers of the Future workshop, it seemed that it’s mission, the journey of an aspirant, was in some form accomplished, and something new was needed.
  • Many posts had taken an advisory tone, and I didn’t (and still don’t) think myself qualified to offer general advice on writing. In contrast, there are plenty of other blogs and fora out there in which better qualified persons than I can discuss this topic, and if I want to post opinions on writing I’d rather do so there.

I mulled over this for far too long and decided:

  • Yes, I’d still like to blog, as while it doesn’t come naturally, I do enjoy it;
  • About a much wider variety of topics which are of interest to me,
  • Which might not preclude writing, but certainly won’t focus on it, and
  • I should stop procrastinating and get started.

So here we are.

If you’ve come to this site because of a now obsolete link to my old writing blog, sorry, those old posts are (for now) mothballed. However, if you’ve dropped by to say hi, see what I’m up to, catch some random essay on technology, maths, science, programming, writing, aviation, politics or whatever other topic has caught my fancy at the moment (ooh! shiny!), then hopefully you’ll find what follows a little more interesting than what used to be here.

And now to get my butt in gear so what follows… follows.