Writing is a Silent Art

This post is just to say, I’m writing! Not here, obviously, but my novel is taking shape. Nearly ten thousand words in, and still feeling the roll. New things keep showing up, and the first action of the novel is about to happen. Half-elves, disease, anti-human racism, elitism, and elemental energy keep me thinking and moving forward. I hope to keep this pace and reach 30,000 words by the end of February.

I feel the anxiety of it, thinking that all this work might be for naught. I have two other half finished novels, with plenty of time invested, and yes, I would like to finish them, but the time and motivation is not there. I know them. I want to write them down, but when this when appeared in my mind, and began to take shape, I knew that it was also about our time, this time, especially 2020, but something bigger.

So if my blog stays silent again for a few weeks, know that I am working and thinking, and that this thing is under way. Tolkien and the Half-Elf Envoy is the working title, and I’m bringing my favorite characters from old days in my life, back to the world.

When not writing, you’ll find me like this…

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2021 Writing Projects Update

As I string along through this pandemic, some writing projects have taken shape, and 2021 is the time to put them to action. First up, I have an assignment to write an article on a topic I know well, and though the pay does not compensate me even for the time it will take, I’m happy to put it out there. On the heels of that, I have given a lot of shape and attention to my next novel project, and if I put my writing hat on and jump in, I can make quick work of it. The inspiration for the novel is a combination of factors which I hope to incorporate to make something familiar and yet new.

The article should be a good warm up, and on a topic I know well. The novel will pick up some cultural clues from Tolkien and the multi-species history of our own world, looking back to a middle-earth of genetic hybridization, with the human species changing as it breeds with elves, in particular, but also dwarves and gnomes. The topic of magic is also tackled, explained in terms that influenced the early alchemists and religions. Of course, the central story and plot also have to work and build to the end of one novel, and open up questions for a possible sequel. I have the main characters planned out, and the first few chapters. The plot of the (first) novel is also shaped on a pandemic situation that drives the characters to search for a solution, or at least a way to address the problem and make it better. Trust will be a big issue driving the story.

My research preparing for this has to do with Tolkien himself, elves, as he knew them, other novels on hybridization in middle-earth, and the power of stones and elements. I need to work on those plot elements leading up to a possible second novel and the backgrounds of a few key players, but the setting and some main scenes are already built in my head. Zombie magic, light missiles, the introduction of the master wizard and a discussion of “over-fishing” and the fate of guilds, all add spice to the unfolding narrative. No spoilers here though. 🙂

Oh boy, I get to write a zombie scene!

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Portland Camps Calendar 2021

True, this isn’t a real calendar, but my daughter and I were talking about making a calendar of places around Portland, and I thought, really, the homeless camps are a big thing now, especially in 2020. We spend a day taking these photos and gave each one a month, as if it were in a calendar. I love Portland, and it is a beautiful city, but it is struggling with an influx of people who cannot afford to live here, or who lose the ability to keep up with bills, health care expenses, etc. The junk piles remind me of poor countries who accumulate plastics and waste, but do not have enough space to put the junk. It is perhaps the future view of the world, even a bit apocalyptic. First up, January.

Near the old horse track, makeshift camps line the empty roads.

Wires, batteries, tarps, perhaps even a solar panel. Almost a homestead. Water?


Northwest Portland, a variety of drifters, counting time.

2020 has devastated large sections of downtown Portland, and transients wait on doorsteps. Perhaps next year, the stores will return.


Empty lots double as camps for mobile vagabonds.

In some parts of the city, churches or temples have opened up spaces for people to camp and live. Sometimes, an open space nearby will fill up too. Overflow.


An underpass near the MODA center.

Underpasses provide great cover from the Portland rain, but the trash piles up, and there’s no place to go to the bathroom. How many people live in a camp like this?


Abandoned vehicles litter the areas where camps proliferate.

Cleaning up after the camps eats up a large part of the Portland city budget, and property owners don’t want to put up with it. What is the solution?


The city requires the pathways to remain clear, so tents press up against buildings.

Pedestrians navigate through downtown, and the tents set up quickly, ready to fold up and move on if needed.


Camping is … fun?

It would be nice just to camp in the city, but staying on the freeway might prove to be a bit noisy … and dangerous.


Community in the camps near Lloyd Center.

One tent, then another, and then someone brings a barbeque and it might seem like a party.


The road less traveled, North Portland

In some sections of North Portland, the trash stretches on for miles, but you have to go out of your way to find it.


Downtown in the background, the camp spills into the interstate.

Some of the camps have great views, and if you appreciate nature, maybe it isn’t that bad. Sometimes, I think they might be doing it right.


Right in front of the signs, SE Powell

The camps are not welcome, but when the buildings are abandoned, squatters will appear.


Breaking Bad? Serial Killers?

People are living in these conditions because society has failed. Food, clothing and shelter should be a common provision. We should support everyone having the basics, just because we are in this together. When we allow some people to fall to desperate measures … society will pay the price.

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2020 Review of the Hard Hits

Adding to the commentary on 2020, yes I have 2 cents. It was a hard year, but made harder by circumstances that could have been so much better. A year ago, I was driving for Uber, searching for other work, and gearing up for a tough winter. Driving Uber in Portland depends a lot on tourism, and that slows down from January through March, so I was hoping for a big December to carry me through, but that didn’t really happen. January and February were slow, difficult months, but I got a job lead working online, writing and editing for an international company. Yeah!

March 2020, the virus became a reality. Around the tenth of the month, I started to see masks on people in shopping areas, and my first rider with a mask appeared. Suddenly, going to the airport became a concern. The fifteenth, the governor put the state on lockdown, and that week, ridership dropped by half, or even less. By the 25th, I was done driving, both because I was worried about my health, and because ridership was almost nothing–Uber assured us we would qualify for new unemployment money too, so I filed my first unemployment request at the end of March, and started waiting.

Our daughter also got interesting news in March–her school shut down after spring break, and she never went back. As a senior, she was also assured that her completion was already secured. She just had to file her paperwork and walk on the appointed day. She was home full time, and my wife also lost her job. April and May we started binging movies to fill the quarantine time. I started a journal of drawings, and my wife started making coronavirus inspired art work. At some point during that time, our daughter got the great news that she was accepted at Colorado College with a full scholarship. She also applied and received a few additional local scholarships to help with fees, books and insurance.

Our daughter’s graduation photo, taken by her friend Adamari

The job I found writing fell through. The company closed operations for the virus and I’m not sure if they are coming back. I started writing more blog posts, Black Lives Matter protests shook Portland, and Alisha had her graduation in the old Kmart parking lot, driving through to honks and cheers from her teachers. She had many online celebrations, but was sad that it ended that way. We followed the developments in Portland, and also began to follow news of Shushant Singh Rajput’s death in India, which I have blogged about here as well.

Summer went by quickly, immersed in media, staying home mostly. My unemployment wasn’t coming through. After they sent me one week’s worth of money, they sent a letter asking me to reapply for benefits that might increase my weekly income, and though that application went through, no money showed up, and by August, the extra pandemic money was set to end and I was still waiting.

We drove to Colorado in early August, where Alisha was part of an early arrival group that would be quarantined and tested, living in isolation. We were surprised when driving across the nation how people in many areas were not wearing masks or taking the pandemic seriously. Her orientation was unusual, but she made friends in that tight knit group. After she left, my wife kicked into full artist mode and the kitchen became a workshop. We were looking ahead to our employment vacuum, and I started working on my own writing projects. I put up two stories on Kindle, to get things started, and started going through old computer files, looking for my novel. I am still working on what I found, which is not the complete draft. I also started drafting another novel with the hopes of writing it in early 2021–a fantasy novel about racism in a time of epidemic/pandemic level disruption.

By September, my financial situation was critical. Aside from the one week of unemployment, we had received the stimulus check and another 500 dollar bonus from the state of Oregon, but we also hadn’t been paying rent. I put out an SOS and some friends came through for me, and then, a job prospect, beginning mid-September, in a print and mail house, working on election material. That was certainly a godsend, but sadly, the hard work and long hours aggravated my hernia (and my back), and after four weeks, I had to go see a doctor. I could not continue, but I had made a few thousand dollars to keep going. Still, nothing from unemployment.

Luckily, we have avoided Covid, but we heard more and more stories about suffering and death. From Bangladesh, there were a lot of people we know affected. In Canada, a friend was hit with long-term problems, and lost her job. Colorado College tested Alisha quite a few times, and sent us many updates about the situation on campus. She was in the clear, but it kept popping up on campus. In December, she came home before the end of the semester, but she had already dropped her last class, so she’s on break and waiting to hear what will happen in the spring. Her plan is to return in February, and maybe move to an apartment off campus.

This December, my wife and I also heard from Independent University of Bangladesh, offering us jobs teaching starting next August. Depending on the vaccine situation, we are thinking hard about it. Uprooting is difficult, but with nothing on the horizon here, it might be our best bet to stay professionally engaged. Almost the 15th of December, and still waiting for unemployment money from April. Will we have a Christmas miracle? I pray it happens. Will 2021 bring better things? Again, we can only hope and plan for the best. Here’s wishing everyone a great year ahead. Put 2020 in the books and move on!!

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10 Things You’ll Never Hear a Republican Say (About Deregulation)

How do you feel about buying chickens from here?

Recently, I finished reading Peter Kropotkin‘s book, Mutual Aid, and while thinking about that book, the common good, and what is happening in our politics (USA 2020), I am still astounded at the attacks on socialism. When socialism is couched in democracy, it still runs the risk of fascism, but as our society grows, we need to find that balance between social order and freedom that lets us all cruise down the interstate of life. On the right hand side, driving at roughly 65 miles per hour, in a government approved vehicle with a licensed driver. We could change those things and start driving at different speeds, in different vehicles, but the thing is, we have to agree on those things or we’ll have chaos, and giving up to those rules should not be taken as oppression.

Socialism is rightly placed in opposition to capitalism. Unregulated, free market capitalism is touted across this country as the end all, do all solution to life. However, it took a pandemic to expose that unregulated capitalism does not care about sickness or death among the workers, the elderly, the disabled. There is no profit in helping those people. We will soon be distributing the vaccine, but not on a pay-first basis. Instead, it will be distributed like rationed goods. Should we open it up to the rich get it first? There are other terrible things that would happen when we don’t regulate the market place, the work place and even our neighborhoods. If there is a world guided by free market capitalism, it would be hell.

So if we didn’t regulate, some of these things might happen, and I think we can all agree that it is good that we have regulations in place to protect us all.

1. “I don’t really like my neighbor burning plastics on my property, but I waved my gun at him and fired a warning shot. He won’t do it again. After all, I can police my own borders.”

2. “My son started working in a restaurant, and he was shocked to see hundreds of cockroaches and mice in the kitchen. Everyone loves the food there, so I guess it is ok. If it wasn’t, people wouldn’t eat there–let the market regulate itself.”

3. “I’m glad the Imperial rule no longer tells me I have to drive on the right side of the road! It is so much easier to make a left turn from the left side–and I don’t even have to slow down! Just slam the horn and pray!”

4. “My two thousand dollar computer stopped working an hour after I got home. I mean, I don’t like it, but buying things is a gamble. Next time I save up that much money, I’ll buy a better brand.”

5. “My neighbor told me the butcher has been giving him raccoon meat, and calling it chicken. I really don’t know who to trust, but God knows we can’t trust the government to stop people who want to fool us into eating raccoon!”

6. “My wife is allergic to nuts, but the last thing we need is knowing which foods contain nut material. That would kill a business’s profits with all those labels I wouldn’t even trust!”

7. “A bunch of nudists were hanging out in the mall again. It wouldn’t be so bad if they showered before they went, and they didn’t defecate in the fountain. Ah well, what can we do? Freedom.”

8. “We picked up some aspirin from the store, but I think there’s something wrong with it. I’m having trouble breathing, and I’m leaking from multiple places. Can you call an ambulance? They want paid in advance? In gold bullion?”

9. “My neighbor just hired a 12 year old foreign girl to work in their home. She’ll be there, chained to the kitchen table, and they promise to mail her parents ten dollars a month, minus what she eats and needs in the house. If the unemployment rate stays high, I’ll be able to get someone to sell me their seven year old so I can get a deal like that too.”

10. “The brakes in our new car failed and five people were killed. That’s the risk we take in this world. Someone told me the brakes were made of cake and wine, and should never have been used at all, but I can’t hold anyone responsible for this. After all, regulators are corrupt, no one follows rules, and it is up to me to check the safety of everything I buy. Besides, nothing will help the dead now.”

Regulation and Public Health go hand in hand. We expect the government to be there to protect us from danger, from criminals and from each other when we have disputes. Regulations are supposed to make work places safe, protect workers from exploitation and ensure that products sold meet a minimum of expectations. This is social order, and it works to protect all people, overseen by people who choose life over profits. This does not directly relate to the economics of socialism, but hopefully it indicates a direction for that behavior as well. I might post on the economic importance of Kropotkin’s ideas next. Stay tuned.

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More on Shushant, an American Perspective

My last post introduced my interest in the Shushant Singh Rajput murder investigation, and there hasn’t been much development in that case recently. I wanted to explain a little more why this case is so important to me, and why it should be important to everyone around the world. It comes down to transparency and power, police corruption and the role of independent media. In the era of Trump, it also comes down to listening to calls for justice, or locking up “agitators” who expect transparency in police investigations, and the fight between “fake news” and real independent media.

The independent media, which includes just about anyone with a cell phone camera, were all over the “suicide” scene when it was announced that Shushant’s body was found in his home. Because of this, there were immediately questions about how the scene was managed (or not) by the police. Who called the ambulance? Who found the body? Why was that little scarf in the room proclaimed the instrument of death? The footage is chaotic, and yet there are many who have taken note of the known and unknown actors on scene. Due to his ongoing projects, media contacts and general success, the idea that he killed himself did not, does not, ring true. Yes, he recently had a bad break up, but just that day he had been working on a new deal and planning for the future.

Fans wanted to know, how did the declaration of suicide come out in the first place? As soon as the independent media began to piece together clues and call out players, such as his ex-girlfriend, the media came under attack. Other players from Shushant’s circle who pointed to police corruption were also targeted. The drug bureau is now involved, and the connection between the murders and drug dealing goes through the ex, and through the local government leaders. When their names came up, accused of corruption and murder, the police fought back and arrested Arnab Ghoswami for public accusing politicians and police leaders for blocking the investigation, and linking them to other accused. Lies and slander. Fake news.

Arnab reports the news,and is the news sometimes.

The world was watching, and highest court in India sided with the media, and there was much celebration. Still, will he be killed? Run over in the streets? Will Shushant get justice? Will the drug cases catch the public’s attention instead? Are they turning the tables on the mobsters, or are they just delaying and distracting? That is why I keep watching, and why it is a great case to see if corruption can be caught and rooted out, or if can corrupt everything to the highest level.

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Following Sushant in Portland. What I’ve Learned.

Everyday for the past three months, we have to tune in to Youtube to see the updates on Sushant Singh Rajput, and the mysterious events surrounding his death. It is more than that, however, as the Youtube experience in India, young journalists and fans, sending out questions, studying film and playing detective has led to further conflicts between the media and the ruling party, exposing corruption, and fueling further conspiracy theories about the Bollywood underworld.

I try to keep one toe in the developments of Bollywood, but I hadn’t really noticed the popularity of Sushant until the news of his death flashed in June. The very day it happened, word came out that it was suicide, but that morning around his house, there were plenty of cameras, and also plenty of suspicious activity. The declaration of suicide meant it was not a crime scene, and more than a dozen questionable characters swarmed in and out of the house, some carrying bags, and there even seems to be two bodies coming out, going in two separate ambulances. The one carrying Sushant’s body was driven far out of the way, past several other hospitals, to end up at a private hospital owned by a prominent politician. It turns out the politician’s son had been dating Sushant’s agent, Disha, but she turned up naked and dead, also reportedly of suicide, just a week or so earlier.

Scene from his detective movie

Two suicides, and witnesses missing, stories didn’t align, rumors that his agent was gang raped at a party, and later her body was dumped and police called, who took the body and did a shoddy autopsy before disposing of the body. Rumors that he knew or suspected her murder, and he was killed the night before by a gang of marauders, led by the politician’s son. In the wake of these rumors, his fans spoke out, and a few in the media also began to ask questions. Youtubers were born, impromptu journalists who played out images from the past with lots of questions.

It took some time, but eventually the national government of India took some action on the case and opened up an investigation that is still ongoing. Still, when the local government is implicated, when the police can’t be trusted, and when Bollywood hotshots appear to be involved, it attracts a lot of attention. How far does the corruption reach? Time goes on, and the distractions in this case are many, from the ex-girlfriend who might be part of a drug ring in Bollywood, to the attacks on the media by the local police, the villains appear to use the same tactics as other corrupt leaders: attack the victims, attack the media, and delay questions of justice.

I have more observations on this case, but will leave it here for now. How do any of you feel about it? I’d love to hear other opinions. Sushant was clearly a smart, talented guy with a bright life ahead of him, and there is definitely something fishy going on.

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Watching the Election day fallout and thinking, what if…

I hope all goes well here at the end of 2020, but based on what the year has given us so far, I have to wonder about the troubles that might be coming in the next month or two.

Instead of conceding, the WH puts out a call to the militia to protect the WH from being taken over by “traitors”. What if they show up in the thousands, armed and ready? How long would that last before the mayor of DC or some other person tries to break it up? Street riots?

Even if he concedes, there arises the specter of revenge on the new WH occupants. Calls to resist the new president, to invalidate him, to state “not my prez” but with armed, angry militia, not just hippie mobs. The divisive talk continues, fueled by the sore loser, and pockets of resistance form that will refuse to comply with new laws, policies, etc, including the pandemic and how to handle it.

Other “What ifs” emerge if we remember that DJT is still facing many criminal cases, including tax trouble, sexual assault charges, etc. Will he call out his loyalists to rise up in his defense? Will he go bankrupt? Will foreign governments/entities demand he settle some of his debts? Will he continue his “love affair” with North Korea? With Putin?

Could he sign a TV deal to be the next live family drama on TV? Would he start a political style “Apprentice” show? Will he brag about “owning” the Supreme Court? Will he try to get back on the Miss USA/Universe shows? Will he take his family to “Family Feud”?

Our leader in chief, verifying qualifications…

Will dementia set in, fully unleashed? Mad tweets? Tirades against a multitude of villains? How unhinged can he get? Will he retire to Florida and golf his final days away?

Then, there’s the movie of his life, or his presidency. Will he help script one himself? Will there be a scathing documentary that reveals more lunacy, with Jeffrey Epstein and others?

I don’t see anything involving the Supreme Court. I see a lot of fuming. I see the international community laughing. Let’s see if any of these “what if”s appears. Fingers crossed, I am all wrong.

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Limits of Faith, now on Amazon/Kindle

Ready or not, here it is, my first short story collection available for sale through Amazon and Kindle. It is just two stories, but they leave a strong impression about the limits and reach of faith. Included is a short introduction, and at a low cost point to encourage those who haven’t read my work before to check it out.

If you are new to my work, there is plenty here to browse on my blog, and coming soon will be my novel Three Girls, which was published in Dhaka in 2006, and also a serial novel Paul Bunyan: The Movie, which I hope to launch before the end of 2020.

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Life without an Agent: Milking, Harvesting and Selling

The constant battle of making money to live has kept me reflecting on how other people are able to do what they want, and survive. Aside from generational wealth, or living as a trust fund baby, how do people do it? How do writers and professional humanitarians make it without simply catering to others? So I am making a plan, and putting it on my blog to share and to remind me that I have to milk, harvest and sell. This is the creative process, and I have to work it like a farmer. My degree and my experience have given me something to work with and the ability to generate topics and stories to discuss, but they don’t do any good sitting on my computer. I have started an Amazon author account and plan to put up a two story short piece to start with, from stories I have written recently. Then, I’ll update (edit) my novel, Three Girls, and make it available on Kindle. Probably I’ll add a new cover.

The next step is to start a serial novel, which I hear are very popular on Amazon. It will be the Paul Bunyan novel that I have been sitting on since 1998, touching off an on since then, but almost finished. If I can work it as a serial, I can then finish it off and try to build up readership. I also have a fantasy type novel in the works based on a disease that kills humans, and the response by half-elf and elvish societies. I hope to work it out/write it out and sell it to a fantasy publisher, but that would be next year.

The hard life of artist turned entrepreneur

The craft of writing is hard for me to turn into capital. It feels strange because I write out of interest, out of crafting something, and then I like to share it. Asking people for money is hard. It is easier to let a publisher or bookseller do it and just collect money from them, but with modern technology, I can do it directly (through Amazon) and hope to support myself so I have time to do more creative work. It is certainly much easier to ask someone to buy a written product then it is just to ask for money. So I will make the attempt to cash in as a writer as my future plan.

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