My Music List; Or, What I Listen to While I'm Writing

I'd heard about people that listen to music while they're writing. I thought it was crazy.

I was taking a writing class from Shonda Rhimes a couple of years ago. She wrote the tv show "Grey's Anatomy", along with a number of other tv shows. She mentioned that she listens to music while writing. "How odd," I thought. It seems like you would need to focus, and you couldn't while music was blaring in your ears.

Maybe she listens to classical music or something. It seems like having words ringing through your head while you're trying to write would be difficult. Nope. Shonda Rhimes listens to heavy metal while she writes. Crazy. That is, until I tried it.

Probably around a year ago now I decided to listen to a few of my favorite songs while trying to write. Just as an experiment. I wrote faster and better. I was surprised. Now, I almost always listen to music while I write. I can write anywhere, any time, but I prefer to be standing in front of a co…

Romance Vs. Love

Romance and love are not the same thing.

In my last article I worked on coming to a better understanding of what love is. While the dictionary definitions of love are okay, the definitions for romance seem bad. They all seem to say something like the feeling of mystery associated with love. Meh. Maybe. Maybe it's about the unknown possibilities of the future. I could make a case for that. But I'm going to go a different direction.

If love is either a valuation, an identity fusion, or an incorporation of another's value scale, romance is the process of falling in love.

When you're eating a food just because your friend pressured you into it, then, after a few chews, you realize that you like it. Then, after another bite, you realize that you really like it. Then, after another serving, you realize that you love it. That process of moving from indifference to love was romance. We don't usually recognize it as such because we don't know what romance means, but ala…

Three Types of Love

This will be a light and quick attempt to reach a better understanding of the multiple essences that lie beneath the confusion surrounding the definition of love.

I think the dictionary definitions of love are decent. They basically say it's these different kinds of feelings of attachment. Fair enough. I'm going to try to do better based on my own observations in life. A few years ago I gave a speech on the two types of love. My thoughts on the subject are becoming more sophisticated, and hopefully more useful.

First, we have valuation. This can be of a person or a pretzel with that weird plastic-like cheese. It's a spectrum. You value some things more than others. This basic observation is important in the work ranging from the economist Ludwig von Mises to the psychologist Viktor Frankl. Value hierarchies are how we navigate life.

I used to go to this breakfast restaurant in Muskegon called Mr. B's Pancake House when I worked in the bookstore at Baker College. I love…

A Story for Henry

I've told the school that I teach online for repeatedly that the book they have for Henry is too difficult. They won't change it, and I can't change it. It's a complete disservice for the student and the parent. So, I decided to fix it by writing my own story for Henry to read.

It's difficult to make a story on the spot that's exactly at the correct reading level for a student, but I came fairly close on this one, closer than the textbook that I was given. The ideal is to push the student's abilities, just a little. When I went through a course for a volunteer reading program in Muskegon they recommended to read at the level where the student is correct 90 percent of the time, and is stretching themselves 10 percent of the time. Fair enough.

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The cat saw a bird.

The bird was in a tree.

The cat wanted to get the bird.

So he climbed the tree.

When he got to the top, the bird flew away.

The cat looked down at the ground.

It was a long way down.


A Poem for Henry

I was teaching Henry online. We had finished reading the book for the class. I asked what he wanted to do: write, ask questions, etc. He wanted to write. I asked if he wanted to write a story. He said that he wanted to write a poem.

Henry came up with this, with a little help.

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A fox
has blue and white,

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Since he likes foxes I decided to extend that theme and see what happens.

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The fox
trapped in a box
for all of seeming eternity.

Constrained and restrained
boxed within
finding no relief.

He seeks freedom
and finds a wall instead,
and so he struggles
before he goes to bed.

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There are some good insights into the zoological nature of insomnia based on the thoughts of Desmond Morris contained in that little poem.

Then we drew octopuses in the last two minutes of class.

Read more of what Jeff deems worthy of attention at:

Life is Full of Downs and Ups

For some reason people like to say that life is full of "ups and downs." The reverse is better.

Here's a post that I made recently.

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There are downs and ups in life. I went to the state police in Rockford today and wasn't able to file, but I found some next steps forward. I talked to someone in Senator Debby Stabenow's office and she won't be releasing a statement in support of the farm, but I was offered encouragement. Five people in the wedding ceremony weren't at the rehearsal today, but we made a lot of decisions that had to be made. Downs and ups are better than ups and downs.

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Now, I can make the case that "ups and downs" is more correct. I did create the saying, "A happy ending is a story that hasn't ended yet." But, we get to choose which part of the timeline we focus on in a story. And, while you're in the story, I think it's best to always be trying to bring things to an "up."


Books for Bernie

Bernie Sanders is a joke, except that he has power. That's a horror story. Let me list the ways: Soviet Union, Communist China, Pol Pot, Venezuela, etc.

I recently heard that Bernie Sanders was complaining because so many people have sent him economics books. Great economics books by people like Thomas Sowell, Friedrich Hayek, and Henry Hazlitt. I wanted to get in on this.

The first book I looked at sending was "I, Pencil" by Leonard Read. It's a wonderful economics book that is 12 pages. I heard that Bernie doesn't read any of them, so I thought that he might be able to read 12 pages. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't have it in stock. Come on Amazon, huge letdown.

Alas, I turned to the wonderful Frederic Bastiat. I thought about sending "The Law", which is great, but I thought that 75 pages might be too long for Bernie. I finally decided on "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen". If you don't understand anything about economics…

Zuby and Passive People

A rapper named Zuby posted a video of a guy in a restaurant choking. No one did anything. The guy is signaling to people that he's choking. Almost no one even looks at him. It's disturbing. Then, out of the left side of the screen a guy runs over and gives the choking man the Heimlich maneuver and saves his life. The video ended by saying that the guy was a hero. Yes, I agree. But what about all of the other people?

The other people are little better than plants, or pet animals at best. Domesticated, quiet, passive, submissive, and useless in any important situation. They've been trained to be cogs in a wheel. Without being told what to do they do nothing. Bred to be serfs.

I posted this in response to Zuby's post on Twitter.

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It's amazing. The older I get the more I realize that most people are almost completely passive, scared, fearful, and pathetic little creatures. Courage and initiative are rare. We watch and read hero stories so we don't real…

I Went to a Writing Group Today - July 24th, 2019

The official prompt for today was "bucket." But, there was some chaos at the meeting. In the next room there was a drawing class full of kids learning to draw knights and dragons. It looked pretty cool. We only had 3 small tables to work with, so the logistics were a little awkward. I jokingly suggested that the prompt might be "chaos." Analiese liked the idea and so the official prompt became "bucket and/or chaos."

I wanted to use the ideas of "knight, dragon, bucket, chaos" all in one. Here's how it went down.

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Hazing was officially against the university's policies. So this wasn't hazing. It was considered an initiation. Officially, it was recorded as "voluntary after-class extracurricular participation." The word voluntary was misleading.

There's no real reason to feed a dragon by hand. And Kaos wasn't a nice dragon. In the pamphlets given out to parents at visitations his personality was labeled as…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 5

There are many ways to tell stories.

I wanted to introduce the idea of using fictional reference material in a story. So, the prompt was to use a letter in the story. I went over a few different ideas on how you could do this: a letter on a table, in the mail, nailed to a tree, on the ground, a text message, a whiteboard, etc. I also reminded everyone that I make the rules, but included in my rules is that you can break the rules. If something strikes you, write what you want. The important thing is to try hard, to write something down, to keep going.

I, myself, was surprised at the direction my story went. Here it is.

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John Carter of Manhatten was walking home from a movie premiere. The air was crisp and smelled of pollution, as cities do.

A light wind picked up and blew garbage from one sidewalk, across the road, and into the fence on the other side, like a city tumbleweed.

John Carter of Manhatten loved the city. The sights, the sounds, the people, the smell. He stoppe…

I Went to a Writing Group Two Weeks Ago - July 10th, 2019

Why didn't I write this article two weeks ago? I don't know. I could say I've been busy, because I have been. I even officiated my third wedding this last Saturday. But, that's not the real reason. The real reason is that I fell into a more contemplative as opposed to productive mood. I do that sometimes, but we're not diving into that in this article. In this article there is a story to behold.

Analiese had a type of sentence stem this week. (This might really be more like a fill in the blank question, but I figured I'd include a reference to the work of psychologist Nathaniel Brandon anyway.) Here's the prompt she gave us.

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Complete the following sentence and write a scene or story that begins with it: "It's strange to think that I never would have known about ___________ if I hadn't taken that left turn."

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How do I get ideas? No one really knows the answer to that. Things just happen, then... ideas. One little …

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 10 of ?

I filed the Recall for Tony Barnes. The clarity hearing is next week.

Here is the final wording that I went with.

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On May 8th, 2019 Dalton Township filed an injunction for a Temporary Restraining Order as well as a lawsuit against Hidden Creek Farm. No vote was taken for either of these actions at any public meeting prior to that. Both of these actions are direct violations of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. It is the job of the Township Supervisor, Tony Barnes, to see to it that the township acts in compliance with applicable laws, which he failed to do.

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Here is part of the email that I received.

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You are hereby notified, that a Clarity/Factual Hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at 11:00 am in the Board of Commissioners room in the Michael E. Kobza Hall of Justice, 990 Terrace Street, 4th Floor, Muskegon MI.

The purpose of this hearing will be to determine whether each reason for each recall is factual and of sufficient clarity in …

On the Path to Story Analysis, Scene Analysis, and Sentence Analysis

Science is a test of facts. Art is an exploration of values. They are different realms of experience, knowledge, and insight. Writing fiction is an art. Creating stories is the most important art. It's infinitely complex. We need a framework to understand both the meaning that we can pull from existent stories and how to create new stories. I've studied many, and like all conceptual frameworks, I've found that I need to build my own.

I think there are three important levels to focus on if you're writing stories: sentence, scene, and story. I am going to briefly introduce three sources for each of these that I'm trying to integrate and adapt into my own system.

Do we want to start at the top or bottom? Let's start at the top, with story, and we'll work our way down. Remember, this is a general overview so all of these books will contain a lot of good info that I'm not going to cover.

There is a great little ebook by Martin Turner called "The One Bas…

Nothing is more important than...

I came across that sentence when I was reading a book about a week ago. It's stuck in my head. "Nothing is more important than..." It's an odd way to phrase a superlative, something that is at the extreme.

I've gone through a number of iterations. I'm still uncertain about these answers, and I think that's a major life problem. If you aren't certain about your superlative values then your action will be erratic because your intentions are, which is what you see in my life. But, I have been working on some answers that make sense.

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Nothing is more important than...

...confronting loss by adjusting expectations to match reality.
- ...helping people to confront loss by adjusting expectations to match reality.
(These are of four kinds: 1) False expectations of the future. Which is a feeling of loss. 2) False expectations of the past. Which is a feeling of guilt and/or regret. 3) False expectations of the past-future. Which is a feeling of los…

Writing is a Life Skill

I was recently contacted about being in a history book about Toastmasters District 62. I was the first person to complete an entire path in the Pathways educational program. I was asked for a quote. If asked, could you produce a good and original quote on request?

I asked how long the quote should be and was told a paragraph would be perfect. So, what did I do? Here it is.

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When I was 19 I climbed Mt. Rainier. At that particular moment in my life I had made no plans beyond getting to the summit. When I accomplished that I had this weird feeling. A slight disorientation. That disorientation was because I lacked a next step, I lacked a future. The purpose of a path is to provide you with that next step. I was the first person to complete a Pathway in Toastmasters District 62. I completed that path the same way I climbed the mountain, one step at a time. Follow the path and it will lead you to your destination. And when you're near completion, begin planning for your nex…

Skimming Across the Top of the Soul in Search of Things Hidden There

Yesterday was the Fourth of July and I did a number of normal things, like walking in a parade and going to the playground with some of the family. It was also a good day for some important insights.

One, I can't do a non-strict diet. Even though my digestive, immune, and nervous systems have healed quite a bit over the last few years, I can tell when I'm doing things my system can't handle and it definitely effects me. Over the last few weeks I went with the idea of, "Just a little bit will be fine." And, to a large extent, I can handle some "normal" foods. But, I do better on a strict diet of meat and kefir. And, I can't seem to handle cheating on that. I thought something like Ice Cream Sundays would work, where I would have one serving of ice cream on Sunday. As soon as I started thinking about doing that I started slipping on a regular basis, for both physiological and psychological reasons I believe. It's strict or nothing, and I have a lo…

Explorations in Business - Part 7 of ?

Sales ads, letters, and calls, oh my.

Today is an extension of my quest to find my messaging.

A common sales strategy is the before-after-bridge. This is easy to see in diet and exercise sales. "Here's the person when they were fat. Here's the person skinny. Here's how they did it. Buy this product."

In the last article when I was working out the negative and positive revelation I did almost the same thing. It could be changed a little bit. "Here's the day I had to quit a job because I couldn't handle the pain of talking on a phone. Here's the day I gave four speeches at a Harry Potter festival. Rewiring my brain to change how I perceive pain was a key. Here's how to do it. Schedule a consultation now."

Something that sounds similar is Lisa Manyan's challenge-solution-invitation. The words do change what I think of though. "When you're in pain you have a serious problem to solve, but it's hard to solve a problem because …

Explorations in Business - Part 6 of ?

Get customers. Satisfy them. Those are the two key steps in business. I have to figure out how to do both of those. Today I'm going to try to bring a lot of information together and find out which way I'm presenting this and getting customers.

I've found as I've been trying to design this as a system that I don't like it. I want it to be personal, not systematized. Even though this is going to be complex in a number of ways, eventually I need to end up with some simple strategies and tactics. This is from "Systemantics" by John Gall.

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A Complex System That Works Is Invariably Found To Have Evolved From A Simple System That Worked.

A Complex System Designed From Scratch Never Works And Cannot Be Made To Work. You Have To Start Over, Beginning With A Working Simple System.

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The first principle of systems design is "Do It Without A System If You Can." I don't think I can do that because I want to be able to somewhat co…

Making Speeches for the Harry Potter Festival - Part 6 of 6

The Harry Potter festival went great.

It's amazing that so many volunteers were able to come together to make such a great event happen. A bunch of my family and friends showed up, and that was awesome. It was a hot day, and long; my first presentation was at 12:15 and my last one was at 6:30.

There are a bunch of interesting stories that I could tell, like meeting an almost real Umbridge from Toronto, or the long conversation I had with police officer Kayla. But, instead, I'm just going to show you the videos of the presentations.

Here's "The Great Gnome Conspiracy of the 18th and 19th Centuries". I wanted to make sure I didn't go over time and throw everyone off, so I ended up being a little short on this one.
David was a great emcee. The kids really liked it when he did trivia. At one point there were some difficult questions near the end of the festival, when the hardcore fans were left. No one knew the answers and David had to…

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