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This is a wee bit — coff — late because a family member had a routine procedure which required me to spend a lot of time in a hospital waiting room.

And while waiting, older son and I got to talking, and what we got to talking about was innate versus trained traits.

The truth is no one knows what the cause of the way any individual is: environment or genetics.  I mean, we know both go into it, but not what proportions, nor how easy it might be to train someone out of really counterproductive or difficult genetic traits.

We know humans aren’t cattle, whatever else we are.

What I mean is, as far as we can tell you can’t take the traits of the dam and the sire and get more or less consistently the same traits.  Part of it is because cattle is less genetically diverse than us.  Which btw means that they’re REALLY not diverse at all.

The Marching Morons effect — for lack of a better term — in which the least intelligent people reproducing over a long period of time would make the entire population moronic is possible. But it’s not possible over one or two generations, because intelligence in humans is not that simple. There are multiple traits that feed into it. And some of them are recessive and inheritance is complicated.

And then there’s environment.

Oy, environment. From what you ate as a child to how prioritized intelligence or a certain type of intelligence was in your culture all of it will affect how your present as an adult and how you express what you have.  If you talk to doctors and social workers, you’ll find any number of people who adopt kids of disparate backgrounds and all the kids mimic the parents’ IQ. Which is statistically unlikely for mere genetic inheritance.


The reasons we were talking about it was agreeableness, particularly in familial settings, which older son and I were discussing because it’s sort of how were trying to figure out my er… “life transition.”

By which I don’t mean what most people mean by “change of life” for women.  That happened years ago surgically and kind of suddenly.

No, I mean as the boys are almost flying solo, and though it’s a highly anticipated and indeed delayed (because their professional track was difficult and protracted) change, it’s affecting me weirdly.

Part of this, is my “agreeableness.”

This is not quite altruism, but a tendency to set your goals and your identity in relation to other people, which in my case, for reasons genetic or of upbringing mostly is family or adopted family.

So I have a tendency to default to “mother of all living” but more so of course my biological kids.

Which means I find myself trying to reorient and figure not…. not who I am (because I know that, unless I’m busy being a character) but how to orient what I am and how much I like other people’s needs and expectations to affect me.

What I want to do is easy: I want to write.

But it takes time to ratchet away from “pleasing others” to “producing writing” (which also pleases others in a different way.) Because this type of internal turning takes time.  Humans, like societies, have inertia and it takes time to change direction.

I’m not proposing, mind you, to stop caring for or about my family and friends. That would take quite a lot and perhaps becoming not me.  What I wish to do is stop prioritizing all of my family and friends over me and my routine and the work I wish to do.

It’s harder than you think because agreeableness is both an innate and trained trait.

Also because despite the importance put on women having jobs, society also still expects us to care for others, perhaps more than in the past, since people today have this myth of the woman as universal nurturer. (Which is not true for all women.)

It feels bad and possibly evil to wish to take time for myself and pursue my goals.  Yes, I do understand it’s not either bad nor evil, it’s a way to achieve goals which are not in themselves bad or evil.

Feeling this is bad or evil is probably non functional and stupid.  But it is there, and it needs to be dealt with in its own language, which is something very difficult, since I neither communicate well with my brain nor with my emotions.

It’s hard to take all the psych-advice books that tell you to think of yourself as worthy and not feeling guilty for pampering yourself, because it always makes me think they’re just making people become selfish.

So, what I’m trying to say: that it’s difficult for cultural and genetic reasons to even believe that you must look after yourself.  And yet it is demonstrably true. And yet if you go too far that way it is also demonstrably bad and can rip societal structures apart.

So far, the best advice I’ve found, and what I’m trying to hew to is Peterson’s “Take care of yourself as though you were someone you love that you’re responsible for.”

It’s hard to understate how powerful that idea is.  It shouldn’t be. It should be common sense. But between the demands of pathological altruism that have been built into our society and the equal demands of pathological hedonism it’s sometimes hard to hew your way without fearing you’ll fall too hard into the other pole.

But that is a good way to evaluate.

If you were in charge of another person you loved, of course you’d give them their meds and not let them eat only candy.

In the same way, if you were in charge of another person you loved, and this person had a special thing they felt called to do (and which wasn’t, say, chopping up the neighbors and putting them in a trash bag, of course) you’d try to get them time and mental and emotional space to do so, right?

So, I’m now trying to do that.  Of course not as straight forward as it sounds.  Nothing human ever is.

Agreeableness might be both trained and genetic. But it is still our job to control and aim our traits of either kind.

I’m just having trouble with the idea it’s not either easy nor instant.





*I was looking for a BFP and this one made me sigh and think “I’ve been me for a long time. As you can see, I was groping towards being a wrong fan who had wrong fun already.”


Lately, partly because I’ve been trying to kick off whatever bug has got me since November – it keeps coming back – and because when I’m tired or sick I can’t read fiction, I’ve been reading books on the proto- Indo-European culture.

Now, you go back long enough and it’s like reading tea leaves. Oh, okay, not tea leaves. Horse’s teeth and grave sculptures. However, through all this, it is possible to get a picture – vague and confusing though it is – of our most distant ancestors.

I’m not going to play psychologist, but themes emerge from what we can salvage of the very oldest tales: sacrifice and loss, love – often not eros, but agape or family love – blood and death.

Pratchett in a lot of his books says if you go back far enough you find that almost all the old stories are about the blood. I’ll add to that. The oldest stories are about blood, death and rebirth.

I think this is part of the reason that vampires are so popular, but that’s a side line I cannot pursue right now.

One of the things that surprised me is how the themes that echoed through the oldest fragments of legends we can find are the same themes we find again and again in science fiction and fantasy: twins; quests; bringing something magical/healing back; finding who you are.

Part of this, I think, is that humans are not like other animals creatures that live in a certain way because of instinct. Humans are domesticated creatures, as much as our dogs or our cats, but we domesticate ourselves. We are at the same time Fluffy who wants to pee on the sofa and the human who stands over her and tells her no. Only the human is often embodied in a myth.

Of course a lot of us believers get a lot of our morality from religion. But that’s an overt morality. It declares itself. It says “this you shall do” and “this you shall not do” and “here you shall go” and “here you shall not.”

Useful, of course, but it’s rather like the choke chain or the owner literally standing over you to prevent you from going on the sofa. The other part is more important – you don’t go on the sofa because you know you shouldn’t. You know you shouldn’t, because you’ve internalized the experience.

I was thinking about this and it all got tied up with different generations of science fiction and fantasy. Our myths are very much part of what we think the world should be. And what we think the world should be is both fed by and feeds the myth in our head that keeps us acting the way we think humans should act.

As I said, you find a lot of the themes of our oldest myths in fantastic literature… Until, that is fantastic literature decided its more important part was not dreaming of the future – or fantastic lands – but the last part of its name “literature”. It decided its most important function was to astonish the world. In doing so, it lost track of that “what humanity should be” and of reaching back into the sense of what humanity – or our branch of it – was and has been since we’ve had words and long before we had writing.

And so the self sacrifice was lost, and the discovery, and the sense of wonder. Instead we got either purposeless rambles, or people telling us life was brutish and nasty and then you die.

This is I think, an attempt to “count coup”, i.e. to claim to be superior to the vast uncounted multitude of our ancestors who first clawed their way to civilization and to an idea that there might be something better hereafter. And I think in that attempt we – as writers and as a civilization – only make ourselves mental and moral midgets.

Do you ever get to the end of a short story – or worse, a novel – and go “and your point was?” Worse, do you ever get to the end of a short story – or worse a novel – and go “Uh… I followed these characters around for this long for you to either twist them beyond recognition and/or kill them? Do you ever get the impression the author veered away from the ending that could and should have been to go in search of a glitter in the weeds of disappointment and bitterness?
No, I’m not saying that happy endings or happy-go-lucky stories are the only ones worth telling. Why in heck would I? If you’ve read me, you know well that’s not my attitude. But even in the nastiest of settings it is possible to be caring, to be a hero, to fight on. Even in difficult – particularly in difficult situations – it is important to remind others of what it means to be human.
Why would a bad ending be considered more mature or deeper than a happy one, or one where the character acted honorably?

Finding Your Way


Was life ever simple? Or do we just see it that way looking back, because for good or ill all decisions have been made, and things are the course they are? I don’t mean just personally, but collectively, as for lack of a better term “a civilization.”

I know people — particularly the left, but the right too, in a sort of strange, wishful way — have a way of looking at the period of the thirties through the fifties as very simple, and clear.  Part of the reason the left thinks MAGA is “racist” is that they have in mind this time period where (they think) people of other races/cultures were shoved out of public or professional life, and all you saw was the perfect white family with two children, a dog and the — white natch — picket fence.

Life was never that simple or that clear, either in racial terms, or really, anything else.  First of all, humans mysogenate. It’s what they do. I’m fairly sure we haven’t had any aliens land, or we’d all have alien DNA.  Might be just a little bit, might not even be compatible with ours, but some ancestor would have found a way of doing the dirty dance with the alien, and now there would be “weird, we all seem to have some amphibian DNA of unknown provenance.”  Because humans.  We’re complicated, and we fall in love with the weirdest people/things.  In fact, I remember reading something about the heart being perverse, which I take is Biblical for what Jordan Peterson talks about.  We like to imagine ourselves as our conscious mind, ONLY, but heaven help me, the rest of you gets a vote too. And it’s very often a stupid vote.  My body for instance doesn’t seem to know how to communicate “we’re tired” or “We should take a break now” except by throwing a major wobbler that sends me to the emergency room.  And the non conscious parts of my mind, which is where my writing comes from?  Yeah, those are fun.

I am not, as it might sometimes appear by what I choose to write when completely gormless about what sells.

True, I don’t read many bestsellers.  Mostly that is because most bestsellers have an “easy pattern.”  Okay, not easy, but very common. There’s something to the pattern of their plot that ties in with the human mind so well, that it’s “intuitively obvious.”  Unfortunately, like my younger son’s, my mind sees patterns really easily.  Which means when I pick up your big hit thriller, I know every step of the plot in the first chapter.  So the only way I read those is when I’m marooned at some vacation resort and those are the only thing to read.  This is not likely now with the kindle, but it used to be that those were the books people bought and left behind, and that being in a constant situation of being broke, those were the only things I had to read for months on end.

The problem is that I’ll make plans on what to write and plan out the details, because I know what sells.  This came up because we were having a discussion with friends on facebook about what — for lack of a better term — sells best for a little bit of again for lack of a better word “kink.”

For instance, if you’re writing urban fantasy and add a gay male couple, you’ll probably sell better (yeah, even if you put in woke politics) because most of the readers of urban fantasy are women, and women don’t mind that (as long as you don’t go ridiculously, explicitly graphic.)

In the same way, if you’re writing adventure/action sf/f you’ll sell better if you add in a lesbian couple (sans politics) because most of your readers are male and that’s fine with them.  In fact, it might make the books marginally more interesting.  Again, if you don’t put in graphic stuff, not that males object to that but because they tend to prefer their erotica visual.

When I said that someone asked something like “So, Sarah, A Few Good Men? Why?”

Well, because the part that actually writes the books couldn’t give a good goddamn about my years of careful observation and tabulation of “what sells.”

And if I try to write something that part of me isn’t interested in, it just won’t. I get hours and hours of sitting and staring at the computer and nothing happens.  While if I write something it feels needs to be written, things flow out so fast that I have trouble keeping up with the 5k words a minute.

Which is why Peterson advises we bribe and reward that part of us.  Which is not really easy right now, because we don’t have money to bribe it (my writing self understands very few things as enough of a bribe.  One of the few things it “gets” is weekends away in a hotel.  Writing weekends away, even. But those set us back $500 a weekend, and right now we’re already overcommited, until younger son finds some sort of part time work to finance HIS part of the expenses.  (Not as easy as you think. There isn’t much in part-time engineering in our region. He’s doing what he can with his typesetting business, and he’ll soon have a website where you can see what he does and his work. But… well. We’ll manage. I just can’t bribe myself effectively to do what I must do to make money so I can bribe myself…)

It occurred to me it’s not just humans who are thus divided.  All of the world pretty much is.  There is this memory of “the simple times.”

And then you get hold of primary sources on the thirties or fifties.  Let’s say it’s particularly hilarious to read stuff from the right lauding that time of great freedom in either of those decades.  Let’s just say that if some of the things happening back then were happening now we’d all be talking about how we were ready for revolution.  (And the only reason they weren’t then is that the press was mass-media.  You think it’s bad enough now, with a lying press? They had the same, but no way to check it. It was that concentration and lack of individual communication or access to the public by individuals unfiltered by the media/publishers that put us in the situation we’re in, with what is functionally the enemy of western civilization in control of the vital organs of culture.  Before you get discouraged, it helps to remember, we’re only now fighting back.  Continue fighting, but remember things take time. The larger a movement is, the longer it takes for it to become noticeable, much less prominent in the culture.)

And as for the left thinking that everyone before the oughts were good white Christians or whatever…  Oh, sweet summer children.  Let’s say when they get their freak on, with witchcraft or being naked in public, or talking about their poli relationships, or whatever the actual hell they have in their heads that day, they rarely if ever (I’ve never seen it) would have managed to shock their ancestors or ancestresses 100 years ago.  Those Edwardians… well… Let’s just say they had fewer hangups.  Yes, I know what the public image is. But none of them would have worried about things that the left worries about now like “differential of power” or “implied patriarchy” which meant they were much freer to do whatever crossed their heads at the moment.  Of course they also thought they would have shocked their ancestors.  And I bet you they wouldn’t.

At some point, if you have a chance, read a book called Our Bones Are Scattered about the Indian revolt in Victorian times.  I only read it once because it’s a deeply disturbing book, one of those clashes of civilization where you feel sorry for both sides.  But it is very well written, and the beginning of the book is…. revealing.  The British commander was… well… sort of married to a woman who had been sort of married something like six times before and who went from man to man, collecting kids along the way.  Notwithstanding which, they were Victorian nobility and had a bunch of kids of their own and…

Let’s just say Victorians aren’t the way we’ve learned to think of them either.  In fact you can be sure pretty much no one ever was.  People kept and keep the front they need to, but behind the scenes things were always messy and complicated.

Which often makes finding our own way in this messy and complicated way very difficult.

I was talking to friends about finding the right marriage partner, and I had to explain that even if there is someone you’re “meant”to be with “before time itself” and you do go along with this plan, it doesn’t make it perfect or strife free.  In fact almost all the couples like this I know are… well, if they weren’t “meant” you’d think they were utterly unsuited.  (Take us, for instance.)  But there’s an undercurrent, something you can’t express or explain in words, because it isn’t a thing of words that makes it possible. And that would make anything else much harder.

I suspect it’s the same thing with career.  I know I hate, writing. Well, not writing. I love writing.  In fact we were joking that if we won the lottery it would give me “more time to write.” The fact this is a goal tells you how broken I am.  But I hate the business of writing.  When I came in, I felt like I was trying to climb a ladder that was dissolving under me.  In a way it was.  I was also perfectly clear on the fact that my politics were probably already hurting me and would hurt me more if I came out of the political closet.  Because our world was permeable, and there were acquaintances from before publication who knew my politics, it’s possible I was never in the closet.  Which frankly explains much.

Talking to older son yesterday, talking about changing “goals” — which is not quite right, but changing your goal within the goal — I told him my ambitions have been broken so many times I don’t even know what I’m aiming for right now, mostly because I’m having trouble believing in a goal or that I can reach it. (Yes, this is a personal problem. And don’t worry too much. I’ll figure it out. It’s just some psychological wounds are deep and take time to heal if you don’t want them to fester.)

But you need a goal. You need something that challenges you, that pushes you to excel.  You rational self must have something to strive for, or you can’t convince the mute, annoying part of you who actually does the work to work.

And I think that’s part of the issue, with our civilization at large.  You see, the world is very complicated, and people are given the impression that it’s never been this complicated — which is a lie — and know for a fact that things are changing very fast.  They no more find a path, than it dissolves and crumbles under them.

We’re preparing the new generation rottenly for this, too.  Look, every generation is educated according to what their grandparents thought was desirable. Which is why I had the education that would have helped an upper class Portuguese Lady in the mid 19th century to make a good marriage and shine in society. For practical purposes, other than diplomacy (which only my mother ever thought I was suited for and which elicits snort-giggle from most other people) the only use for my degree was academia by the time I took it. Though business desperately needed translators, we weren’t being taught office skills, or the terminology we needed to translate science or industrial stuff.  (I learned those on my own, through running into them head first, as I learn practically anything.)

Kids now are being educated to the dreams of the early twentieth elites: for a communitarian world with a strong central government.  They’re being told this is the future and what to expect, because when that idea made it into academia, and slowly worked itself through to curriculum and expectations, that was the future everyone EXPECTED. Even conservatives thought that the future would involve central planning. They just wanted to keep a little more individual freedom with it.

I remember blowing the world of Robert’s third grade teacher apart when we informed her that no, in the future there wouldn’t be a need for MORE group work, and that all creativity wouldn’t be communal (which frankly is funny. Creativity doesn’t work that way) but that it would be more individual, probably with people working on their piece of the project miles and miles away from the rest of the “team” and having to pull their weight alone.  Dan and I explained why based on tech and trends, and all the poor woman kept saying is “that’s not what we were taught.”

Our kids were prepared not only for a world that doesn’t exist, but the world that idiot intellectuals (all intellectuals are idiots. They mostly don’t know a thing of the real world or real people) thought would come about, somehow, automagically.  Think of Brave New World, but everyone is happy and doesn’t need the soma.  (rolls eyes.)

And then we sneer at millenials for not finding their way, when people my age, who are self-directed and battlers, and have vocations, find ourselves caught in the grinding gears of change and get our goals and work broken over and over again, and yeah, also don’t find it easier to find our way.

Talk to the kids. Help them find something they’re “meant” to do (that’s not how it works, so make sure they know there isn’t only one goal and only one vocation, but there’s almost always something that their skills and ability are useful for RIGHT NOW.  And the ability to learn more to change.)  If needed, hook them on multiple streams of income. Help them see it’s possible. Dispel their illusions that life was ever easy.

Sure, in the past there were people who got “the one job” and stuck to it through thick and thin to the golden watch at the end.  But I don’t think they were ever the majority. And by the time I came along, you couldn’t have any loyalty to your company, because it would have none to you.

But there was a way. There were paths.  You had to be nimble and stay awake (not woke, because that’s just an agrammatical word for the embracing of an irrational and ever changing philosophy proclaimed from above. So the opposite of what you need in a fast changing world.)  Acquire skills when you can. Learn new things.  And be ready to jump sideways, backwards and forwards, into a field of endeavor that might not even have existed when you started on your way.

Dream big. Dream of new and undiscovered ways to succeed.  And then chart your course and adjust it. Daily if needed. But it’s probably more productive to do it every few months.

How can you support yourself, but also how can you do something you find worthwhile in the middle of these choppy seas?

You’ll manage it. Your ancestors did. Tech change might not have been as fast for them, but I will promise you their lives were also no picnic.

Learn, think, change, but above all, do. Challenge yourself daily.

The winds are contrary and the compass is spinning like a top.

But if we stick through it, there is at least the possibility of a better future ahead.

Hands to the wheel.  Let’s go.

Sunday Fiction Challenge and Promo


For some reason I didn’t get a vignette prompt today.  Either my faithful challenge-makers were busy or more likely the internet Hamsters ate it.

So, instead, I’d like you to use the above visual prompt for the BEGINNING of a novel.  (If you’re seeing this on Facebook, you’ll have to click through. Facebook doesn’t let you choose the post image, and I suspect this one will be of the last book promoted.)

Remember either in old style editor offices or on Amazon, when they look at your sample, you must catch them in the first 100 to 150 words.  So make those as intriguing as possible and if you can hint at the genre and subgenre the novel will be and how the plot will develop.  It’s a slightly different challenge but one that will sharpen skills needed to do well either in traditional or indie.

Let’s see what you do.

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com.  One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM DAVID L. BURKHEAD:  Shiva’s Whisper (FutureTech Industries).



The Third Eres War is over.Lieutenant Commander Nobuta Tanaka hopes to avoid a fourth. Working as the Military Liason the the embassy on the Eres homeworld, he aids in the delicate negotiations between the Eres and the Terran Confederation. Yet something strange is happening in Eres space. The Eres are almost too willing, even eager, to reduce forces along their mutual border, a willingness that sets some in the Terran High Command to look for the trap hidden in the Eres agreement.When Tanaka’s counterpart in the Eres government calls him in to deal with the case of a Terran freighter that had a run in with…something, something which made the freighter a very political problem for the Eres, Tanaka learns that the threat is greater than he knew.As matters escalate, Tanaka’s superiors face the threat of war on a scale that neither humanity nor its allies have ever faced before. And while some seek to avoid a fourth Eres War, others are more than willing to fight a Final Eres War.None of them imagine the true nature of the threat they face and by the time they learn, it may already be too late.

The Right To Go To Hell


The left is very adamant about charity not coming “with a sermon.”  It is most of their excuse for wanting government not churches to preach.

But while I understand the convinced Christian’s need to preach and to save everyone from hell, which if you believe it is an eternal sentence and an awful one is mere human decency, I don’t understand the left’s similar need to ensure that everyone lives “a decent life” by its lights.

They refuse to understand that just as people are entitled to disbelieve and deny eternal salvation (and if you’re a Christian you know they are entitled to that. It’s called free will. Just as they’re entitled to sin. Doesn’t make it right. They’re still entitled to it. You can’t force anyone to be holy) they can refuse to live a middle class life. (Or better. The left keeps imagining that middle class is much further up than it is. Possibly because so many of them these days are spoiled rich kids.)

This came to mind last night, thinking of someone in the comments (sorry, I don’t remember the name) who said that maybe 10% of the homeless were aggressive and dangers to themselves and others.  Others simply were mentally ill or caught in the trap of child support but behaved like decent human beings.

The child support thing is iniquitous, and usually on both sides.  No, seriously. Women on the make will drive a man to ruin to finance her lifestyle in the name of “the children.”  Men on the make still find ways not to pay, and if the woman is decent and doesn’t want to turn her kids’ life into unending strife she ends up living in poverty to provide for the kid. I’ve known this on both sides, partly because it’s impossible for a judge to adjudicate fairly without truly knowing the parties involved. Partly because scammers gonna scam.  (It’s almost like no-fault divorce and marriage as a transitory fancy is a bad idea particularly when there are children involved. Never mind.)

The mental health… I’m fairly sure there are still services available should someone need them and know how to look.  And perhaps without the noise of the violent it would be easier for those people to find help.

But I still wonder if the mental health issues are such. And I wonder about other things like “but what if people just want to live like that?”

I have learned through rather bitter experience that you can’t help everyone and also that what you want for yourself and your life is not what other people want. Some people will do the absolute minimum to keep a roof over head and food on the table, even if the roof is leaky and substandard, and the food is whatever and they never do any house keeping and live in what can only be described as utter squalor.

I found long ago that given the absolute same income as someone else, we tend to live better.  Why? because we work beyond the money we have.  I don’t mean just that we work to get out of that level of poverty, I mean that we will trade time for the money we don’t have.

So, when my husband was the sole provider because my writing wasn’t selling yet, I made a lot of my clothes, refinished furniture and, of course, cooked absolutely everything from scratch.  Other than our cars, which we always bought used and fully paid for and drove into the ground, we easily kept up with our dual income friends.  Why? Well, not child care was part of it, but furniture, clothes and food were the other part. It’s just cheaper to do for yourself.

It was also a massive amount of work. Particularly since I was trying to break into writing, and was getting up every day at five am to write for two hours before the routine with the kids started.  I remember years of being short on sleep and going to bed with a long list of work that still needed to be done and I hadn’t got to in my head.

Was it worth it? Well, it was for me. I don’t like living in squalor.  I wanted nice furniture and a nice, clean house.  And I wanted my kids to have good food.

All of which amounts to: it was for me. It might not be for someone else.

It took me forever to figure this out. Let’s say the dime only dropped in the last ten years.  So, I kind of get the left not “getting” it.

Partly because if you come from a background where everyone worked a lot all the time to secure the best lifestyle they could, it’s almost impossible to visualize someone wanting to live in what we’d consider unacceptable circumstances.  Or perhaps not even “wanting” as fundamentally not being willing to pay the price to get a better situation.

Look, I’m not even a hundred percent sure of that last one.  We tried for decades with someone, and everything you gave that would bring a better life got either broken or ignored or thrown away.  Perhaps there is a Petersonian thing there, of people believing they only deserve to live at a certain level and anything above that making them uncomfortable. (Peterson says in terms of people not taking necessary meds, etc, that having seen our own brokenness and that we’re often untruthful and evil — even when we don’t mean to be — we think we don’t deserve to be well, etc.)

Or perhaps it is simply that doing anything, even using the thing that makes it easier is too much effort.

I’ve said before that I think the vast majority of people don’t feel the need to work above a subsistence level and that those of us who do are the mutants.  I still believe so. In evolutionary terms, if you continued hunting after you had mammoth in your cave, you were just going to deplete the game and end up starving eventually.

That’s not the way it works now, but the human brain is not a thing of the industrial revolution.

I believe a great number of the people who live in “chronic poverty” are in fact at the level at which they wish to be/the level for which they’re willing to work.  The left keeps coming up with increasingly fancier explanations, which are now devolving to “invisible demons” of oppression (seriously, in our society? Besides, if societal disapproval caused you to be poor, then a lot of gay people would be historically poor, instead of statistically at the top.)

It never occurred to me that a lot of people who are “homeless” might fall into the same category.  By which I mean the ones who aren’t crazy, addicted or dangerous to others.  Maybe what they have and what they do is the level they wish to live at.  Or at least it’s comfortable enough they don’t wish to do anything to get out of it.  But it makes sense.  After all, by the numbers, these people already live better than your average medieval peasant.  At which point, honesty, my only problem with their choice is whatever help they get that is non voluntary, i.e. taxation, not private charity.  If they’re living like that and it’s their choice, and they’re wholly financed by private charity? Don’t care. None of my business.  Everyone has the right to go to hell in the way of their choice.

What disturbs me about the left’s inability to recognize that choice is that those choices end up being financed from my purse, and the purse of the others who choose to work.  That they are in fact holding up a gun to the heads of working fathers and mothers and demanding money to keep people who (what was Occasional Cortex’s cutesy phrase, exactly, I can’t remember) “aren’t willing to work” in the level of comfort they are okay with.

And then the fact that those people aren’t living at what the left thinks American middle class level should be, in a decently ecologically approved house, with the car and the organic meals and full health insurance, the left will come back and demand more.  More and more money to pour down the hole of trying to change people’s choice on what they consider an acceptable level of comfort and living.  What they aren’t willing to work to get out of.  What, in fact, they’ll preserve if they get more “help” by doing even less to help themselves.

That’s what I object to. I object to the use of people’s choices to blackmail other people out of theirs.

I object to this holy crusade of the left that turns anyone who has less than you into a de-facto saint who needs to be championed, while you need to be tormented because you worked (or your ancestors did) to get to a level you consider acceptable.

I object to this Christian heresy with no redemption, no hope, no future, and no one being good or holy except those who envy and live at the expense of others.

I don’t think there’s ever been a civilization as rich as ours, but even in rich civilizations of the past, there were people who lived at all levels. And though social motility was smaller or slower or hidden, it was possible.  It could happen. It might take multiple generations and grim determination, but it happened.  Just the same, there were any number of people who were satisfied once they reached the “we’re not starving” level and went no further.

There still are.  In the infinite variety of humanity, what you consider comfortable I consider insupportable.  And it’s not just poverty, either. I’d probably die if forced to live the life of a socialite, forever minding what people thought, and having to have the latest styles.  I don’t want that. I’m not interested.

In the same way I suspect any number of the “poor” would think I was crazy, keeping the work hours I do, and taking time to refinish furniture, or clean, or…  Because they don’t feel the need to it.

And that’s their right. They are entitled to live as they want and to do just the minimum to get there.

And the left is NOT entitled to use holy envy to make everyone who wants better and works for it to feel guilty. Nor are they entitled to rob us to finance the lifestyle of people who don’t want to make any extraordinary effort and feel fine the way they are.

And it’s time we stopped this nonsense.

You choose what you want to sacrifice for what. I will willingly sacrifice time and effort for a clean and decent house.  You won’t because you place more value on time on the sofa watching your favorite program? You do you.  Just don’t ask me for money to get you a better house.

You see what you want and you pay the price.  And the do-gooders can go take a flying leap.  As long as your hand isn’t in my pocket, I don’t care.





Compassion is a beautiful thing.

Just as humans are naturally self-interested, we are also (no matter what those who hate all humans say) capable of great compassion.  In those terms, btw, Americans are probably the most generous people in the world.  Not just in terms of the money that flows in to any victims of disasters, but if you have any minor contretemps in public, people rush in to help.

I remember a very minor thing: the kids had Irish caps for the winter, growing up.  Mostly because I had one, and they liked it, and it was the only way to keep it safe.  Robert “lost” his one day at the grocery store (turned out he hadn’t. He’d “lost” it in our car. But never mind.)  Before we left there, the clerks had bought him a cap to console him, and given him pennies for the horsey ride.  (He was like… 3.)  Just because this little kid was crying inconsolably.  (But not loudly, mind.)

When Dan was briefly unemployed about 20 years ago, neighbors kept dropping big cardboard boxes of canned and boxed food on our front porch, like once a month. We don’t know who. It just happened, because the kids had told someone at the school.  (It was welcome, though at the time our money worries weren’t food-related. We still had the larder of the apocalypse.  But just knowing people cared helped. It also amused me, because in our small hippie-dippy mountain town, half of what we got was gourmet/organic.)

We, ourselves, send out money/help to people we know about once a month (not the last year, because for various reasons we’ve been so tight, we squeak.  This too shall pass. But we normally do that en lieu of say a vacation once a year.)  It’s no hardship.  We know it will come around.  And besides it feels good to help people. I think humans are wired that way.  You get a little mood-boost.

Note all these cases are individuals helping individuals.

In fact, in all but cases of disaster or famine (and notice those haven’t really happened anywhere in the world in the last 10 years or so) we help individuals. Which means it’s not deductible, but we also know exactly where our money is going.  And if we make a mistake and help those who don’t benefit by it, we regroup and move on.

These days I’m not even sure about big, organized charities.  I used to give reflexively to the Red Cross because they helped US back in Portugal when we were in need.  But the things I’ve heard recently… yeah, no.

So, what is this in the name of: homeless.

Oleg Volk, probably the best photographer working today (and the only one who makes me look good. I have a face that looks like a cross between a pumpkin and a potato in most photographs.  You know how the camera adds ten pounds? imagine me strapped with cameras all over.) visited the Denver area and was shocked at all the AGGRESSIVE homeless.

I confess we hadn’t noticed.  We rarely go downtown and when we do it’s usually for specific events/things where we park and take short routes to the museum/restaurant/whatever.

Also, honestly, we saw this happen in Colorado Springs while we lived close to downtown, and also I grew up in a large Atlantic port city, which means “being pursued on the street by a crazy man calling you names” was so “normal” for a young woman as to make it into song lyrics as an example of an annoying thing.  I carry a knife.  I don’t behave like a victim. My eye edits out homeless.

Yes I know, I’m an evil nasty person.  Which was the conclusion someone had on a thread on Facebook, when I said we don’t have a lack of affordable housing, we have a lack of mental health services authorized to commit those who won’t stay on treatment and are dangerous to themselves and others.

In fact, this seems to be the general leftist view, now that homeless exist again — of course they didn’t, under Obama. All those homeless populations were just illusions of your lying, capitalist eyes — that if you’re not willing to throw a lot of money at the problem, then you’re evil, heartless and “authoritarian.” (That last one is a complete confusion.)

Before you jump on me on the “price of housing” yes, I know it’s a problem in many places in the country, mostly deep blue areas.  (And Denver is one of those.)

Most millennials I know did some time “homeless” and many of them what I’d call “real homeless.”

But the post I was commenting on, referred to what I call “deep homeless.”  Chronic homelessness, with aggressive behavior towards businesses and passersby.

There are roughly three categories of “homeless.”  They are conflated by the government for the purpose of getting more tax money to throw at it, but they are really QUITE different, and the solutions to them are not only not uniform, but “throw money at it” hurts the “deep homeless.”

The first level of homeless I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t hit it at some point.  We did 26 years ago when we moved to Colorado.  We returned the keys to our rental in South Carolina. Had all our belongings transported and stored in Denver. Stayed in a hotel in Colorado Springs (the old Drury Inn) for two weeks, while we tried to find a place to rent.  It wasn’t easy because everyone in MCI had just moved from DC to the Springs and there was a shortage of housing units.  (Which is how we ended up downtown at the corner of Cache la Poudre and Weber, in a student apartment.  And loved it.)

We were “homeless.”  Our mail went to “general mail” at the downtown zipcode, and we had to ask for it.  And, stuck in a hotel room with a toddler, I was pulling my hair out in great handfuls.  Particularly when the kid got sick.

Did we need help?  Well, no.  We needed time (since Dan started his job immediately) which we didn’t really have, to look for a place to rent.  We were tight has hell.  A lot of the stuff in the refinishing mysteries, about having to live on pancakes was from there.  But we weren’t homeless-homeless.  We were just between homes, and tight, which is not unusual for a young couple who just had a difficult (emergency Cesarean) delivery while on COBRA.

Then there’s the second category of homeless, those that could probably benefit from a little help: some money to stay in a hotel, maybe. Some help finding work. Maybe a few meals.

These are the people used to portray homeless in every book and movie and tv show, btw.  People who are basically decent, middle class, temporarily embarrassed.

As I said almost every millennial I know has done time like this.  Usually a lost job, and a move to try to find work lands them in this.  Some were homeless for six months to a year.

And then there are places like California, or NYC where the building restrictions and regulations make it impossible to find housing that anyone making less than six figures can afford, even with roommates.  I hear of medical residents hot-bunking with six people in a 300sq foot apartment.  And a friend brought up silicon valley.  I know I have a couple of friends there, making good money and living in their cars and showering at the Y.  I know this because when I offer signed books they explain they just want ebooks, because space.

Do those people need help?  Hell yeah.  In the case of CA and NYC they need thorazine applied to their “elected” (SO MUCH FRAUD.) officials until they get over their “green” and elitist obsessions.  I’m honestly surprised there aren’t people with yellow vests on the streets.

The others, in other parts of the country?  They might need help finding jobs/making accommodations with student loans.  They might need nearby friends who can invite them to dinner. Government is not the solution. Throwing money at homelessness is not the solution.  Mostly because you get more of what you pay for, and trying to help the people in this category will GROW (massively) the number of people in deep homelessness in your city.  Because they are people very adept at exploiting charity and benevolence and they’ll move where there’s more “benefits.”  The big problem with downtown in the Springs was a combination of the Marian House giving “no questions asked” generous help and the city laws going very lax on homelessness.  To the point of giving them places to shoot up in the city park.

The problem is that no government is equipped to distinguish between “homeless for six months to a year while they find their feet” and “deep homeless.”

The “deep homeless.”  This falls under “dirty and menacing, and chronic.”

The problem there is not that we aren’t throwing money at it, but that we make it WAY too easy to live like that.

It has turned our downtowns into places that normal human beings avoid (no amount of cheery banners on light poles or festivals makes up for having someone who is high as a kite rush at you saying they’re going to kill you.) It has — at least in the Springs it did — destroyed small businesses. Downtowns are becoming just restaurants, only at night, and even then they need some kind of security at the door. It has turned libraries into homeless shelters, to the point legitimate patrons are afraid to go in, and more importantly to take their children in.

And when people who don’t like being menaced and threatened move to suburbs, we get called heartless and “racists.”  (For the record, 90% of the homeless I see are white. As much as you can tell what they are.)

Again, the problem is that we give these people TOO MUCH.  I saw the problem grow in the downtown are in Colorado Springs, and to the extent that I did all my business there on foot, I HEARD their conversations.

These people don’t want to clean up. They don’t want jobs. Most of them have mental health or addiction problems. I heard young people (though they didn’t look it, because meth is a hell of a drug) talk about how they could go home but the parents would require them to go clean and they wanted to be “free.”  And they were.  Free to get free meals everywhere, free to shoot up on the streets. Free to wander into local businesses being menacing and evil.

The problem is that most middle class people — particularly those not coming in contact with these people — and just about all do-gooders in government look at that last sentence and see the homeless as the victims, and the businesses as “fat cats” who should “be afflicted” because they’re “comfortable.”

Most of the businesses who get in trouble with this are small businesses: cafes, restaurants, used bookstores.  They can’t afford to have a burly person with great people skills at the door to turn away the invaders who come in and scare away their customers.  Most of the owners aren’t rich. They’re barely making it. Add this stress and fewer customers… and they go under. And become people in distress themselves.

The deep homeless? They don’t care. If one place turns harsh, they bus to the next place where the pickings are good.  And the more services you offer to “help” the homeless the more this category of people will descend on your city and kill business and make it unsafe for tax payers.

Note, I’m not …. uncaring.  These people are in legitimate distress.  It’s a distress they’re not even aware of.  Most of them are mentally ill and addicted, and those who weren’t when they “dropped out” of society to live “free” have since become so.  Why? Because they have no structure to their days.  Nothing is required of them.  The left treats them as pets who are given leftovers and asked for nothing in return.

This is not good for humans. Humans need some kind of social structure. They need to be required to do something for their keep, even if it’s just “take a shower and don’t menace people.”  Though “Stop doing drugs” also helps.

The problem is that for people to change at that level requires motivation.  We have amazing psychiatric drugs, but they require people to take them regularly which — duh — mentally ill people are NOT good at.

What is the solution?  I am deeply, deeply suspicious of involuntary commitment, mostly because it was used in so many “socialist” (aka communist) countries to confine anyone who opposed the regime. (If you don’t like our lovely utopia, you’re mentally ill, comrade.)

That said, there must be a point at which “unsafe to self and others” kicks in.

There is no point giving the deep homeless money or housing. They’ll end up where they were in days or weeks, and leave a trashed place in their wake.  They are often covalent to what I call “the permanent semi-criminal population” i.e. assault, theft, that sort of thing are kind of in the spectrum.

And they won’t get better just by having money and benes thrown at them. In fact, being treated like pets turns them into a sort of animal, undisciplined, demanding and completely remorseless.

Feral humans are like that.

Also as some of the newer “designer” drugs hit, these populations are often outright dangerous to random strangers.

So… what is the solution?  Well, for one I think that we need serious vagrancy laws.  And then we need private people to weigh in and find the difference between the two kinds of homeless and help those who can be helped.

Rehabilitation? Mental health help?

They have to WANT it. And the only way to want make them want it is to make their current way of life UNCOMFORTABLE.

Contrary to what people abroad think, our homeless are not a symptom of the failure of capitalism, but of its success.  Even in a harsh climate like Colorado, there is enough free shelter, enough free meals to keep people going without their doing anything to deserve it.

But the flip side of that, because there really ain’t any such thing as a free lunch is that those people are making the whole economy less healthy and life in general less pleasant in the affected areas.

And throwing more of the region’s wealth at them will only attract more of them.

It’s time to try civilization. It’s time to try treating them as human beings who can exert some measure of self-control or be hospitalized until they can.

Because the alternative is to let the aggressive and addicted destroy the rest of society.







Ah, Love


It occurred to me this morning that our concept of love might be struggling to go back around to the historical mean — and not the sensible part of the historical mean — but the easier, and less civilized part.

Look, our entire concept of romantic love as shaping and creating your entire life was partly a construct of the same wonderful Rousseaunian philosophy of the “natural man”.  If you’ve ever read Tess D’Ubervilles, not to mention suffered through Effie Briest in German with a slightly deranged teacher, you are aware that the “natural” philosophers of the 18th century more or less invented the concept that you should abandon everything for love and reshape your whole life around it.  Also, that there was only one true love, and you couldn’t really have another.

I’m not a hundred percent sure who came up with the idea of soul mates, because mostly I hear it from new agers, and minutes later there is something about my aura and crystals and such.

Note I’m not saying love doesn’t exist. I’m also not saying that soul mates don’t exist.

I’m saying the idea of them being a single person, cohalescing into a unit, and if you marry/elope with that person you’ll be happy your whole life is recent. Also a bit delusional.  Mostly because life — and humans — aren’t like that.  Though it does make fine poetry.

Because it’s a weird and idealistic thing, it has more or less been sloughed off from the culture, while we still hold onto the shape of it. We’ve returned to the more familiar — Shakespeare would recognize it — shape of love as infatuation and love as really good sex, while retaining the idea that we should drop everything to follow this.

Which is sort of a one-paragraph explanation of the divorce crisis.

Recently I bought — because my friend Dorothy keeps talking about it! — the seven love languages, which I think I’ll pass on to son and lovely fiance.

It’s not that Dan and I don’t have different love languages — considering how different our cultures are the amazing thing is that we meet somewhere in the middle — because we do.  Our upbringing was markedly different, particularly his being from New England.  I remember the first time I raised my voice in enthusiasm in the deserted grocery store at 2 am and got told not to make a scene. I thought he’d lost his mind.  (Robert’s lovely fiance is dealing with this too, from the other side, since my family has evolved over time and the fact Marshall and I have hearing problems to communicate in shouts, and in very loud shouts when enthusiastic.  The other day Robert and I were upstairs discussing books; she was downstairs, and she came running up to see why we were about to kill each other. We weren’t. In fact, we were in VIOLENT agreement.)

It’s more that we’ve (mostly) already learned to communicate.  The fact that the portion of Portugal I come from has a strong substrate of English culture, or that dad’s family behaves more like that, and love is expressed (when not in high flung poetry, which is a family affliction) by doing things your spouse needs/wants, or preparing elaborate surprises for your love doesn’t hurt.

I read the whole “you’ll be fascinated by each other for two years, and the end of that can feel like the end of love, but isn’t” was a “duh.”

Because of course, we’ve gone through it, and no marriage survives over 30 years without you figuring out that feeling was completely wrong, and you actually still love each other, it’s just not the crazy lust of early marriage. Which is just that, lust.

I find the fact that traditionally published romances have regressed from romantic love (an unsustainable and often silly ideal, but more conducive to leading to the idea that love remains after lust) to lust-love is probably worse for society, over all.

I gave up on contemporary romances ten seconds after I discovered them. Look, I (rarely but sometimes) read erotica.  I’ve even written erotica (once and weird as the guidelines were it must happen between a married couple.)  But erotica is its own thing and has an honesty of its own.  It’s the confusion between “he’s great in bed” and “I’m in love” that bothers me.

I also eventually gave up on regency romances published by traditional presses. First all the women were suffragettes or proto-suffragettes (if there had been that many, you wouldn’t have been able to move for them), all the ladies ran shelters for abused women, (regency ladies were encouraged to be charitable, but their concept of “deserving” was different. I have no problem believing some of them would run charities for abused women, I have problems believing that ALL of them would or that their concept of abuse was the same as ours. (It wasn’t even the same in the village. A man who controlled your every movement would be considered an admirable pater-familias with a care for his women folk (blame that Arab occupation.)  Here people would tell you to leave him. (Often with reason. No, not every time. Look, other people’s marriages are totally opaque from outside. No, I wouldn’t be happy being controlled. Neither would my husband, because I tend to run the other way when pushed. But I know women where their husband is their mobile/detachable sanity unit. They relinquish control because they need the structure. I know men in those relationships too. I truly don’t judge. The human heart is complicated. And the human soul more so. I’ll just say for such units, it’s heartbreaking when the sane one dies.)

Second of all, even in regency romances, it was all about the sex anymore, as though writers (or more likely publishers) had completely forgotten the psychological game of wooing or the romantic ideal.  When I came across the regency where a stranger takes a virgin from zero to anal sex on a terrace outside a ball, that was it for me and traditional regencies.

Mind you, I still read them.  In my rotation regency romances are usually for “I’m exhausted, just finished a book, don’t feel so well.” They’re most of them so predictable they don’t hold up well to “I’m okay now, and I want something stimulating.”  They’re relaxa-reads.  But I read “Sweet”or “traditional”regencies on Amazon. Mostly on Kindle Unlimited. Which is good because one can’t re-read Heyer forever, just like one can’t just re-read Heinlein forever.

Anyway, it’s entirely possible all this is because of the de-Christianizing of the west, with the concomitant fall of the ideas of duty. Or it can be the same reason we don’t have big families: we’re too rich.

Used to be, particularly for women, you needed a family structure so you wouldn’t find yourself old without anyone to care for you.  I think it’s stupid to have replaced that with money and government, but hey… who am I to say anything. (I just don’t think government will be there to look after my generation, not that way.  And money… we’re in for interesting times.  Not that single women as a rule have tons of savings.)

It used to be man and wife had to learn to be a team after the lust faded (not that some of us don’t still have a lot of fun, even at our advanced age, but if you’re married you remember the weekends where somehow there was no time to get out of bed.  Usually the first 2 to 4 years.  And you weren’t sleeping.) because they were an economic unit, there wasn’t a ton of ways for women to earn a living outside the home (though most worked at some craft inside the home) and there would be a passel of kids more likely to survive if you were together.

And through that, you learned the real love.  You know “Love is patient, love is kind.”  Even though humans aren’t naturally any of that, you learn to be.  You have to, to stay together and not miserable.

And somewhere around year 10 or so, you find what you have is better than the lust years.  You have trust, you have confidence, you have someone that allows you to not watch your back all the time. You can say “you and me against the world.”  And the whole is much, much better than the sum of its parts.  We discover new interests together.  We find that even, you know, going for a drive and nowhere in particular is fun so long as we’re together.  You find even the things you liked doing before are better now, because there’s two of you and over the years the person has learned to understand your sense of humor.  You can make each other laugh with a look. You can encourage each other’s pursuits.  You can reach higher.

But if you think love is really good sex, you’ll never get there.

I like Valentine’s day because it’s a memory of the way things used to be before love was all about sex.  I have a stash of cards somewhere that my husband has sent me for Valentine’s and my birthday (yes, they usually have cats on them. Deal.)

And that kind of love is necessary to rebuild a healthy society. Even if our money and wealth as a society allows to ignore the necessity of a partnership.  Remembering that love is more than the appetites we share with dogs might help create healthier families.

Not that I think there’s only “One person” for any of us.  Okay, some of us are really weird, and even finding one person was a miracle. But there’s a lot of people in the world, and there are probably one or two others in the right age range with whom we could be happy.

As for “soulmates” I have a few.  You will know them. They’re the relatives/old friends you suddenly meet for the first time. (Some of mine are regular commenters here. You know who you are.) They’re one of the few persuasive arguments for reincarnation, but that’s not necessary to explain it.  As RES (that wallaby!) says, the soul is not bound by time and space. Perhaps when you meet your soul mates you just remember knowing and loving them in the future.

It’s just that sort of love is no tied in, nor should it be to romantic love or sex. These people are just companions on our journey to forever, but trust me, I don’t want to sleep with them.

If you’re doing things right — I have a lot of young friends, not just older son, marrying this year and I want them to know this — your spouse is far more than that.

Your spouse is, or should be a real safe space. The person who sees you with no social mask on, the person to whom you can reveal your fears and anger, and who will still love you despite all that.  Your spouse is the person who sees all of you and who, when you’re down on yourself, can also say “But you’re so strong.”  Or just “but I still love you.”  Because Peterson is right and all of us hate ourselves a little, having seen us naked too many times.  Our spouse is the one who sees, but forgives or doesn’t even know there’s something to forgive, but just loves and accepts.

As such a marriage is invaluable, long term.  Because human life is tragic.  And all of us, at some time, will be poorer, sadder and definitely uglier and often horribly ill as we age.  I’d say it’s necessary for sanity and not to fall into bitterness to know at least one person loves us through it all.

Which is worth the times when you had to make an effort to understand, or when it “felt” like there was nothing between you (feelings are treacherous. And just because you can’t feel an emotion it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  When tired or sick I don’t feel much of anything, and I don’t think I’m unique.)

We need to take the ashes of the “natural love” and the crazy illusion of “lust-love” and build something, perhaps on the foundations of chivalrous love, the foundations of honor and duty.

Because man (or woman, even) were not meant to be alone.  And while it’s possible to have great platonic love for my friends (I do. Agape, not eros) I don’t and can’t demand they consume their life to have my back when I’m attacked, or support me when I’m down.  Some of them would, but there’s a limit. They have their own lives, their own loves.

And I’m very glad I have mine.  I’m very glad my husband married me almost 34 years ago now.  I’m even more glad that we stuck together through some truly horrible times, even the times when it felt like we couldn’t raise the emotions anymore.

Because it’s a joy to wake up every morning and find him by my side.  And I know he has my back and believes in me even when I don’t.  And I’m ready to do battle for him too, when he needs it. (My being the unstable Latin he often has to grab the back of my shirt and pull me back when I deem battle should be engaged.)

I’m glad I have him, and he’s for keeps, and it’s me and him against the world. And I have a place I can let my hair down, or indeed metaphorically speaking, shave my head and run around setting fire to things, and it will be understood.

The journey would be unbearable without a companion.