Wearing the Uniform

Freelancing has its perks. There’s flexibility of schedule, a comfortable working environment from home, and no employee handbook to memorize.

My membership in free agent nation is coming up on three years. During that time, I’ve managed to cobble together a myriad of paying gigs—unique reports, video production, facilitation, teaching writing, and managing grants. I’m also learning to be more patient, during the dry and uncertain patches.

Last year, a unilateral decision was reached that the JBE needed to update his writing portfolio. So 18 months after setting that goal, I’ve managed to write for a number of newspapers, including the Boston Globe, did a couple of critical pieces about Portland (one of the few not sugarcoating life in the “golden” city that sits on Casco Bay), plus putting together a series of monthly travel features for the Lewiston Sun-Journal. I had hoped to do a bit more muckraking, but there aren’t many venues that pay local writers to dredge up stories about Maine’s kakistocracy. Continue reading

Less United

Over the weekend, a group of Texans gathered in Bastrop (outside Austin), concerned about the possibility of the federal government declaring martial law in Texas. This was reported in this morning’s Boston Globe. What’s the basis for this fear?

Apparently media operatives like Alex Jones have been piggybacking on a large scale military operation, called Jade Helm 15, to spread fear via his daily fear-fogger, The Alex Jones Show, a syndicated radio program. Many of those gathered in Bastrop no doubt got their information about this from Jones, and others on the outer fringes of the media.

Alex Jones using the fear-fogger.

Alex Jones using the fear-fogger.

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The Process of Aging

I try to swim two times each week. Usually, my swim days are Monday (or Tuesday, if I miss Monday) and Friday. If I leave my house just after 5:00 I can be in the Bath Area Family YMCA pool around 5:30-ish.

For a guy who never thought he could learn to swim, let alone swim well enough to complete triathlons, this has been a revelation. It’s taught me to never underestimate your ability to learn new tricks, even when you feel like an old(er) dog.

Actually, age is relative, or that’s what the salesman is now selling. What, with all the talk about 60 being the new 40, Botox treatments, and Google—shoot, they’ll probably eradicate death one of these days. Or, maybe not. Continue reading

Obama’s Got a Twitter

Well, it’s official. The president has a Twitter account. Great to see @POTUS yucking it up with @billclinton about Hillary’s run to be Obama’s successor.

This is big news in a nation where we no longer have the means and the will to fix our roads, bridges, or other infrastructure. No, let’s just reduce everything to 140 characters and be done with it.

President's on Twitter.

President’s on Twitter.

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Baseball Eye Candy

I’ve been talking and writing (at least on this blog) about infrastructure because it seems obvious to me that rebuilding and upgrading our nation’s structural foundation is essential—economically for sure—but also to stave off literal collapse and disaster.

I’m not in the business of reading tea leaves. Occasionally, however, something happens that lends an air of prescience to some posts—like when a train goes off the rails on one of our busiest rail routes between Washington, DC and New York City.

As a writer, my hope was to parlay some of this interest and research into paying gigs on the topic. Alas, like the lack of spring rain, my freelancing has hit a dry patch.

It’s always disappointing when you think you have something to say about an issue, but instead, editors only seem interested in the same old claptrap re-purposed with new ribbons and colorful bows—offering nothing new about politics, economics, and the way the world works.

The local news used to be a morning ritual. Lately, however, as soon as I get my weather forecast, I’m tuning into last night’s baseball highlights via MLB Network’s Quick Pitch with old Boston friend, Heidi Watney. It’s less stressful than being fed lies, obfuscation, and outright propaganda about the world.

Baseball highlights, Heidi-style.

Baseball highlights, Heidi-style.

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Making Things Last

Planned obsolescence—designed to break and eventually fail—has been fueling our consumer culture for at least 60 years, if not longer. Being beholden to throwaway products will eventually bring everything down at some point.

This morning, I grabbed a t-shirt in the dark as I was dressing to head out the door for my twice-weekly swim at the Y. The fabric felt worn and lived in. When I got into the light, I saw it was my Uncle Tupelo shirt I bought at Bowdoin College in 1994, when the band came through town on their Anodyne Tour. I don’t have any other similar shirts that have lasted 21 years. The shirt is a Fruit of the Loom, 100 percent cotton, pre-shrunk tee, which was also made in the USA. My shirt actually outlasted the band, which splintered when the band’s creative duo of Jeff Tweedy left to form Wilco and Jay Farrar went on to form Son Volt.

I wonder when Fruit of the Loom offshored its manufacturing? Probably soon after.

Well-worn Uncle Tupelo rock tee.

Well-worn Uncle Tupelo rock tee.

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Games of Chance

Driving Maine’s roadways is challenging. With all the bumps in the road and potholes, it’s a bit of an art form avoiding throwing your front-end out, or snapping a tie-rod, while not smashing into one of your fellow travelers passing from the other direction.  Austerity is a beautiful thing.

Bump sign

Speaking of austerity, our allies across the pond have opted for more of it, in resounding fashion, as David Cameron and the Conservatives were victorious in the British general election, securing an overall majority in Parliament. Listening to the BBC, while dodging potholes on my way to the Bath Y for my Friday morning swim, I heard a host of political “experts” prattling on about the vote. Listening to talk about “shy Tories” and confounded pollsters reveals that their pundits are just as clueless as are our own in the U.S. God save the Queen! Continue reading

Building Bridges

Political dialogue of the binary type, common in these late days of empire, usually centers on a small set of topics: taxes, government size—big for liberals, small for conservatives—military spending, entitlements (like social security), and a few others (maybe). Like a feedback loop, once begun, it continues without variety.

Also, the race to become the new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016 has begun. Establishment candidates—Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, maybe Chris Christie—will be opposed by more marginal candidates on both the right and the left. They’ll debate the issues, or at least create the aura that a debate is actually taking place. Then, the party bosses will demand that everyone line up behind whoever they deem most electable, and the sham we participate in every four years will again occur a year from November.

Do you really believe that 73-year-old socialist, Bernie Sanders, has a snowball’s chance to get the Democratic nomination? And if you say that his role is to push Hillary to the left on issues, then I fear you might be giving our current political process far too much credit as means for necessary change. Continue reading

Step Back

It’s easy to react, especially if you’re a reactive person. That would be me.

There have been numerous times when I experienced something and my first reaction was criticism. Later, after reflection, I came to a different conclusion. Then, there are the times I thought something was great, only to debrief later and my assessment had changed. That doesn’t mean I’m wishy-washy, but that space and distance often delivers a different sense of an event, person, or circumstance.

Our ever-present, ever-on technology platforms allow us to emote, bloviate, and impose our opinions on others—in real time—without any space or distance to ruminate. Our media channels do the same thing. No one reads newspapers, and few people subscribe to thoughtful publications offering opinion backed by facts. It’s simply garbage in, garbage out via Facebook or Twitter.

The natural world is a perfect place to reflect.

The natural world is a perfect place to reflect.

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