Late Night Update

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So, yeah, I haven’t posted an update in quite a while.

I guess the easiest way to do this is just to come out and say it: my neurological stuff is back with a vengeance. It started rather subtly about 9-10 months ago, and I honestly thought it was just the stress and strain of dual enrollment causing a few symptoms to flare up. I was already about 90% committed to resigning my position before the symptoms came back, and as I felt worse and worse, I knew I couldn’t physically handle the teaching load any longer. In the back of my mind, I kept telling myself that as soon as I got out of the stressful environment, I would feel better. All I needed was some time outdoors working in the sun. The semester ended officially on May 11, and for the first few days, I rested and relaxed but didn’t really feel any better. I’ve written before about how much I love working outdoors on the property, so I tried to dive back in and work myself back into football shape, as I like to say.

For the first few attempts, I noticed that my overall strength and endurance had declined quite precipitously, and I figured I had just gotten out of shape because of the harsh winter. I pushed myself a little harder but couldn’t get my body to cooperate. No matter what I did, I felt weak and fatigued, and the neurological symptoms continued to worsen. Also, I kept noticing that I couldn’t focus or concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. I’ve written five full novels and dozens of short stories; concentration has never been an issue for me before now. All through May and June, I kept telling myself that I just had to get back into good shape and I would start to feel “normal” again. Last summer, I had promised Finn I would build him a fort to play in this summer, so in June I tackled that project. This time last year, I built my home in seven weeks, working mostly alone all day every day. Even though I was tired, I didn’t feel broken down. Just putting together that simple child’s fort, which is in no way elaborate, I felt completely desolated, and my forearms hurt in a way they never have before. Then, at the end of June, I went to get the boys for our summer time. First, the trip to Jacksonville and back nearly wiped me out completely. I’ve made that trip several times, once in a single day. This time, it took me three, and I was absolutely spent when I got back here with the kids. Trying to play with them became more than I could manage. Still, I kept telling myself that I just needed to get back into shape.

My eye-opener came on Independence Day. When the boys are here, I like to do it up right: a big cookout, fireworks, and lots of shenanigans. It’s our thing. I spent seven straight hours that day setting up, grilling, lighting fireworks, and cleaning up after. When I got into bed that evening, I twitched and trembled worse than I ever had before. The next day, my arms and legs literally hurt from the trembling. I don’t mean I had muscle soreness. That’s something with which I’m quite familiar. This pain was something else, and it’s the first time the neurological stuff has been truly painful. That’s when I had to accept that my symptoms haven’t been from the stress of my job or that I was just out of shape. The neurological stuff is back, and this time it’s worse than before.

I saw a neurologist last week, and we’re waiting for authorization for a new MRI before we proceed. At this point, even though a lot of things are up in the air, I’m hopeful that we can find the right diagnosis and get me well. I’ll try to post updates on what we learn and what’s in store. As for now, please, send some positive energy my way.

Insert Inflammatory Headline Here

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I am the enemy. Obviously. I’m white, straight, and male. Oh, I’m also Southern and a hillbilly. Five strikes against me. I am the touchstone of discrimination, bigotry, misogyny, violence, rape culture, and animal cruelty.  According to those more learned and sophisticated than I, I’m also privileged because of the color of my skin, my sexual orientation, and my gender.

I’m going to avoid the knee-jerk reaction to call hogwash because it’s counter-productive to the point I want to make. I don’t want to get drawn into a refutation of all the nonsense about painting with broad strokes. I will say is that if you lived in a home without running water for more than a year, you can call me privileged without any argument. If you had to attend school in clothes that reeked of something worse than kerosene fumes, you earned the right to call me privileged. Otherwise, please refrain from making assumptions about the obstacles other people have had to overcome.

I’ll also say I’m tired of our culture of divisiveness and dehumanization. I’m tired of the endless cycles of liberal vs. conservative; men vs. women; gay vs. straight; jocks vs. nerds; horsecrap vs. horsecrap. I’m extremely tired of intolerance in all its forms. Yes, Mr. Enlightened Liberal Panderer, you are just as guilty of intolerance as any racist or bigot you hate. You are the problem. Yes, Ms. Compassionate Conservative, you are an intolerant jerk. You are the problem, too.

See, every time some tragedy occurs, we get the same nonsense debates about guns or gender roles or religion or whatever, but we never have the real conversation, the one that truly matters. Our culture, this corporate, bureaucratic, bottom-line, profit-driven Huxlean nightmare, has stripped us of our humanity. We don’t look at our fellow human beings as just that. Instead, we immediately jump to what it is we should despise about someone for being part of the “other.” And even if someone isn’t really part of the other, we will find some way to twist reality until they are. And once they are part of that “other,” their rights become less important than our own. We are all guilty of this.  Yes, you are, too.

Here’s one example of this insanity. A couple of weeks ago, the science fiction convention Archon rescinded its invitation to Tim Bolgeo to attend as a special guest of honor. For those who don’t know, Uncle Timmy is a long-time veteran of fandom in the Southeast. However, someone created a social media frenzy concerning a newsletter Uncle Timmy publishes, alleging that the newsletter promotes racism, homophobia, and anti-science propaganda. A mob quickly bombarded Archon with diatribes, and the convention caved to the pressure. In return, people who know Uncle Timmy personally took to social media to defend his reputation and scold the Archon committee members for hastily bowing to the vocal minority.

Though far from the truth, let’s assume for one minute that this  highly educated, well read person is filled with hate and bigotry. However farfetched it may be, let’s assume that this person is using the medium of science fiction fandom conventions to spread hateful propaganda. How does creating an angry mob on social media and threatening the convention committee do anything to improve humanity as a whole? All that has been said publicly is that one group’s rights are more important than another’s, so let’s ban the one group so the other can feel “safe” in their insulated environment. Does any of that sound vaguely familiar to anyone? To me, it would be much more productive, much more beneficial, to sit down and have a face to face dialogue, to discuss openly the perceptions and misconceptions one group has against the other. But we don’t do that in our society. We jump straight to labels like Libtards and Repugs, and bash each other’s intelligence and character without a second thought.

In no way am I trying to diminish the importance of subjects like rape culture, homophobia, misogyny, or racial discrimination. These are all topics that need serious discussion and open communication. However, we do need to stop trying to rank which group is most oppressed and which group is least. Those kinds of artificial stratifications keep us from seeing every member of every subset as a fully rendered human being, and they cause us to dismiss the perceptions, experiences, and sufferings of an individual as insignificant. They also cause us to jump to the “I’m enlightened; you’re ignorant” paradigm that prevents real dialogue. As long as we continue to segregate ourselves into these subsets and bicker about who has it worst, we will always be divided and unable to work together for the betterment of all.

See, here’s the thing: those who are really in charge, the ones really abusing human rights and keeping us from advancing civilization, want us dividing ourselves up and bickering like we do. As long as we’re fighting over some hot button issue that we can never, ever hope to eradicate fully from the human experience, we aren’t working together to expel them from power. See, that’s the real conversation that will never appear on a corporate-owned media outlet, and as long as we keep playing their game on their terms, we’ll never unite as humanity and see real change.

Those who know me hopefully know that as a human being, I’m not the enemy as described above. Despite my five strikes (and I’ll add a sixth: poverty), I strive to treat every person with respect and compassion. Even though I often fall short because of my limitations as a human being, I try to view every person I encounter as a human being worthy of love, respect, and dignity, whether they agree with my viewpoint or not. That’s the real challenge — respecting and loving someone who opposes your personal beliefs, but in the end, either our similarities will bind us together and move us forward or our incessant bickering will tear us apart. Right now, in our current environment of hate, my hope for the former is waning.

Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin

D.A. Adams:

Three sides to every story:

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

amazonhachetteThe internet is seething over Amazon’s reported hardball tactics in negotiations with Hachette.

Newspapers and blogs are filled with heated opinion pieces, decrying Amazon’s domination of the book business.

Actual facts are thinner on the ground, however, and if history is any guide, we haven’t heard the full story. Here’s how it started.

In a historical quirk of the trade, publishers and booksellers negotiate co-op deals at the same time as the general agreement to carry titles. (For those who don’t know, co-op is the industry term for preferred in-store placement, such as face-out instead of spine-out, position on end-caps, front tables, window displays, and so on.)

At publishers’ insistence, the same practice has continued in the online and e-book world, namely that negotiations regarding virtual co-op (e.g. high visibility spots on retailer sites) take place at the same time as discussions over general terms and publisher-retailer discounts.

There is a lot…

View original 1,805 more words

Late Night Nonsense

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My career in education is over. I’ve waited a week and a half to write this entry because I wanted to sift through my emotions first, but now, sitting here alone after midnight and sorting through nearly two decades worth of stuff, I’m still not sure what my emotions are. I know I feel as if I’ve wasted my life and my talents. I feel undervalued, under-appreciated, and under-rewarded for sixteen years of service. I feel trapped by poverty, by a broken body, by a crushed spirit. I feel like my society tricked me into believing one set of values — that hard work, education, and dedication mattered — only to bury me in student loan debt without any means of repaying it because those values in this country today are nothing more than empty platitudes. Right or wrong, that’s how I feel.

I want to write a lot more, but I don’t want to say anything else. I’m going to finish the final book in the Brotherhood series, and from there, I have no idea where my life will go. Somehow, someway I have to find a way to earn enough money to do more than simply survive. My body is too tired, too fragile, and too damaged for survival. On a side note, to the jackasses out there who pirate copies of my books, you’re stealing from a man who can barely keep his lights on month to month. Thanks. I truly hope there is a special room in hell for people like you.

I’m sorry to whine, but there’s little left in my tank. I feel completely and utterly spent in every conceivable way. Hopefully, now that the stress and grind of education are behind me, I will begin to recover somewhat, but right now at this moment, I feel physically and emotionally broken. In the past, I’ve always been able to push through every sort of physical discomfort life has thrown at me, but for some reason, this is different. I don’t know if the neurological stuff has worsened and weakened me or if I’m simply getting older and softer or if I’m just exhausted, but right now, I can’t push through whatever this is.

That’s all for now. Sorry to be such a downer.

The Ramblings of D.A. Adams

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I’ve got a new release out, The Ramblings of D.A. Adams. Some of you will recognize that as the former name of my blog. This release is a collection of some of my favorite entries over the years, along with a few articles I’ve put together, and is available exclusively in ebook format. Please, go grab a copy so I can afford to get some work done to my awful teeth…

Pause, Stop, or Half-Stop

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For several years now, I’ve seen multiple authors who compose writing “advice” pieces share something that disturbs me. The first time I saw it, which was about fifteen years ago, I shrugged it off as the musings of an incompetent hack, but now, as I’ve seen it several times in several places, I’m concerned that it’s indicative of a deeper erosion in the fundamentals of our language. This advice has to do with the use of the semicolon. Actually, to be more accurate, the writers advise not to use it, ever, because it’s a meaningless symbol. The writer and teacher in me bristle at the notion that a piece of punctuation is useless just because they themselves don’t know how to use it.

I don’t want to spend this whole entry on the proper uses of the semicolon because that would be pretty boring, but I feel like a basic explanation is necessary. The period represents a full stop. I’ve ended this thought and am moving on to another one. The comma represents a pause during the course of a thought, perhaps to distinguish between a group of three or more, to set off an appositive, or to illustrate a transitional clause. The semicolon is used when the writer doesn’t quite want a full stop; the two thoughts are somehow connected. It can also be used to separate a complex series such as when the writer needs to describe a place and a character; show deep, intricate emotions; or illustrate multiple actions occurring simultaneously. These uses of the semicolon are relatively simple but are important for conveying subtlety or precision of thought.

It baffles me that anyone would advise not using a tool in the chest, especially one that can offer so much flexibility in the expression of thought. I can’t imagine a master carpenter telling an apprentice not to learn how to use a reciprocating saw because they already know how to use a skill saw. Both tools are important for achieving different kinds of cuts, and knowing how to use each one allows the carpenter to do more on the job site. The semicolon is just a punctuation tool and a relatively simple one at that, so to me, the lack of understanding of how to use it points to a larger issue in our culture: a decline in subtlety of thought and nuance.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. It could just be that the particular people who’ve offered this advice are crappy writers with delusions of grandeur. I don’t know. What I do know is that the semicolon isn’t that difficult a piece of punctuation to master, so to any young writers who stumble across this entry, please, learn how to use the tools of your trade, as many of them as you can. Otherwise, you’re just a jackleg carpenter who can’t properly build a house.

The Personal Tolls of Teaching

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My teaching career is nearly finished. I’m limping along the last few days (nine more working, fifteen calendar, but who’s counting?) with some mixed emotions yet an inner resolve that I’ve made the right choice. I entered this profession because I felt a calling to give something back to my community, and while I never expected to become wealthy as an educator, I certainly didn’t expect to feel like a second-class citizen unable to participate fully in my society because of poverty either. To me, it’s disgraceful that the wealthiest nation on this planet has such disregard for its future that it has abandoned its teachers in such a callous manner. I’m not writing this post because I want pity or sympathy; rather, I simply want to catalog what I see as the overbearing tolls the current system places on educators.

My student loan debt from graduate school is now officially in default, and I will probably never crawl out from under that burden. Those loans ruined my credit early and never allowed me to establish myself financially. In order to work in this profession, I had to return to graduate school for the degree, and there was a plethora of propaganda encouraging me to take on the debt with the promise that in the long-run I would earn back more than I borrowed. However, never in my career has my salary even come close to allowing me to pay back that money. Financially, I would have been infinitely better off not attending graduate school and never teaching. There is absolutely no way this current system of over-inflated tuition and undervalued salary can sustain itself much longer. When that bubble bursts, it will do immeasurable damage to the economy.

Because of my gluten issue, I have bad teeth. A common side-effect of the disorder is that enamel doesn’t form properly, so my teeth have always been soft and susceptible to decay. For at least ten years, I’ve needed major dental work. For at the last three, I’ve needed dentures, but because of the combination of my salary, child support, and damaged credit, I can’t even afford to get my teeth pulled. If someone had told me when I first began college that I could work for sixteen years as an educator, twelve of that full-time, and still not be able to afford basic dental care, I would’ve told them they were crazy, but that’s my simple reality. I cannot continue to work as hard as I have for the majority of my career yet not be able to take care of a basic necessity like my teeth.

Speaking of how hard I’ve worked, for the majority of my career, I’ve averaged at least fifty hours a week to earn my paltry salary. At various times, I’ve also had to take on a second job and put in even more hours. Since I’ve been at WSCC, during the fall semester, I’ve averaged well over sixty hours because of dual enrollment. From mid-August until mid-December, I’ve rarely gotten more than a handful of days off through that stretch. I’ve barely had time to talk to my sons; visiting them or having them here has been impossible. For that four month stretch, my entire life has consisted of driving to work, driving back and forth to the high school, teaching, and grading. By the end of fall semester each of the last five years, I’ve been utterly exhausted, both physically and mentally. When I finally expressed last semester that I could not continue in that roll, instead of finding a workable solution to the horrendous system, my superiors chose to reprimand me. I refuse to remain in a system that puts the bottom line before humanity.

I respect all of you who have expressed reservations about me leaving a profession for which I once had such passion and aptitude, but I’ve sacrificed all I am going to sacrifice for an educational system that has taken much more than it has given back. I understand that our country needs teachers now more than ever, but until this nation makes a real move to treat us as professionals, I’m certain I won’t be the last to abandon ship. At this point in my life and with the direction the system continues to slide, absolutely nothing could make me stay. With whatever time I have left on this earth, I will write, farm, work odd jobs, and do absolutely anything other than teach English to a generation that doesn’t want to learn for an administration that doesn’t care one iota for my health and well-being.

The adventure you've been waiting for!

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