Ownership versus Right to Use

I remember what it was like when everyone was used to owning things. Increasingly, the trend is to pay for the use of something, but it’s not really yours. We rent houses and apartments, lease cars, and buy computers that lock us out from changing anything.

I remember a time when you could do what you wanted with what you bought. You controlled what you paid your hard earned money for. You could modify it, upgrade it, get rid of it, or fix it over and over. No warranty stickers to dissuade you, no secret wiring diagrams not available to the general public, and it was all put together so it could be taken apart again.

If you bought a computer, for example, you could get into the BIOS and change basic settings. You could upgrade or downgrade the operating system as you chose. And when you bought a piece of software, you bought it. You could use it for as long as you wanted. Ownership IS control.

Now, increasingly there are Windows chipsets that try to lock you in to one operating system. They stop working if you change it. Certain operating systems won’t even let you revert to earlier versions unless you want to completely wipe your hard drive. If you own something that doesn’t let you change it or alter it, can you really say you own it? Control is taken away from you, the buyer.

Software is also becoming a pay for use type service. You pay a yearly fee to use your software, even after buying it in the first place!  Then, companies reserve the right to mine your information if you’re connected to the internet, just like certain modern OS’s like Windows 10. Once again, you don’t truly own it, you just pay to use it, and the people who own the software get most of the benefit.

If you lease a car, you don’t really own it either.  Even if you own one, many modern cars aren’t serviceable by the owner, so if something goes wrong you have to bring it to a dealership or an expensive certified mechanic. You are forced to pay for services. Your vehicle becomes just another way for manufacturers to siphon money from you, and keep on siphoning it from you in the future.

That’s why I won’t buy a brand new car. That’s also why I won’t use Windows 10. I’ll use Windows 7, or Linux, but I demand the ability to adjust or fix what I own. I am interested in creating and producing, not being a cash cow for someone else. That’s also why I use ad blockers – so I won’t be data-mined so easily. I’m tired of giving up control. I won’t use subscription software, except for one program which is the best spyware and virus blocker I’ve yet found, and only costs $15 a year. I use open source software like LibreOffice and GIMP. I don’t use Mac products.

I vote with my dollars.

I hope others will too.




via Daily Prompt: Control

Living Blindly

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to  live blindly.   My father is completely without sight, so I know what it means literally.  I do it all the time in a more figurative sense.

You might wonder how I live blindly even though I can see.  It happens when I don’t think about what I’m doing.  Too often, I react on instinct when I should be thinking first.  I speak without thinking and it causes problems for myself and other people around me.  I don’t see what’s really around me because I’m too busy reacting to what I think I’m seeing.  I live on expectation.

The cure for this is self awareness, which is encouraged by mindful living.  It can be tough at first, but it’s a habit that can be built.  Just think about what you are doing – gently, quietly.  Watch how you react to things.  Observe the world and how it works.  When you forget, fine.  When you remember, start again.  Eventually you’ll build a habit.

My dad will show anyone the meaning of perception versus reality.  Because he is blind, so many people perceive him as helpless.  He’s not!  He’s built sheds and half a cabin, raised and butchered chickens and rabbits, hauled dirt, sawn logs, cut down trees with a two man cross cut saw, split wood, programmed his own word processor, designed robots, put together a 3-d printer from a kit, earned an aerospace degree and a masters in adult education, written several books, fixed a washing machine, and a whole lot more.  His blog is here, if anyone wants to check it out.


Even though he moves confidently and independently, people still see what their preconceived notions tell them to see, rather than their perceptions.  For instance, one time someone looked at him going up a set of stairs and gushed “that’s AMAZING!”  Not one to overlook an opportunity for fun, he had something to say when he went down the stairs again.  He paused, then said “Amazing Dave is poised on the pad, the gantry is retracted, and we are go for liftoff.”

My dad has helped teach me that living blindly can happen quite a bit in people with sight.  My wife has taught me more, about how not to live blindly.  The key is mindfulness.


via Daily Prompt: Blindly


The instinct for nonviolence

Nonviolence doesn’t settle anything.

I used to be a pacifist. That’s what I called myself, anyway. I thought all war and conflict were bad. I avoided disagreements like the plague and prided myself on the refusal to fight. At the same time, I didn’t really have a cause I believed in. In my case my beliefs were based on cowardice. I allowed my instincts, my fear of conflict to override anything I valued. It weakened me terribly.

I wasn’t really a pacifist. After all, true pacifists have to be very brave and strong. Think of Gandhi and everything he faced! I didn’t truly believe in peace. Instead, I feared conflict, and I feared it because I hadn’t learned how to properly deal with it. I believed that walking away from a fight was the best option, because that allowed me to avoid facing my fear.

Running away from my fears led me to run away from everything else – any lesson that wasn’t easy, any challenge that was hard. My mental muscles atrophied in certain ways. Fear really had me in its grip – I hadn’t learned to face it, so in effect my fear was more important than all my goals, my dreams, my aspirations. That eroded my self confidence and even my self esteem as surely as water washes away sand. Because I was too afraid to stand up for myself, I proved to myself that I didn’t have value. It also led to a lot of feelings of frustration and powerlessness, which in turn led to angry outbursts. I also felt completely worthless.

Have you ever seen a small dog that snaps at everything? Sometimes they are called a “fear-biter.” Their own perception of powerlessness can lead them to attack everything indiscriminately. It was the same with me. When I grew angry enough, I didn’t have control over it. My fear would lead first to pacifism but then to thoughts of violence.

As I slowly learn to face my fears and deal with my worries, I find it easier to have goals and aspirations. As I stand up for myself by being assertive rather than aggressive, I show respect for myself as well as those around me.

If I can imagine defending myself or a loved one, I prove to myself that I have value and so does that loved one. If I value my own life enough to save it, my feelings of worthlessness are dispelled. We protect what we value, and we value what we protect. Letting fear take over and cause a pacifism without true conviction says “I value nothing.” That is why nonviolence settles nothing.



via Daily Prompt: Instinct

Nervous About Asking

Sometimes, I become very nervous when I think about asking questions.  Whether it’s “Can you make dinner tonight?”  Or “Would you like to have your art featured on my blog?” asking a question can be nerve-wracking.

Is it because I don’t think I have permission to ask?  Is it because the great, looming “no” is too hard to contemplate?  Whatever the reason, asking questions leaves me in a cold sweat.

Yet, asking questions is really helpful and a skill that’s important to know.  We gather information through questions, we get things done, we improve our lives and the lives of others through questions.  For me, the way to get through the question is to make sure I’m asking politely, and also think about what “no” means and resolve that I can handle it.

It still takes practice.  This week and weekend, I’ll be doing three author interviews.  That’s a lot of questions!  It’s good practice for asking them.  I do it because it helps fellow authors.  Every day in my job I have to ask questions.  That’s good practice too.

If you’re like me and hate asking questions, it helps to plan out what the question will be, before you ask it.  Make sure it makes sense and is reasonable.  If you do get a “no,” try to see the other person’s side of it.  They may have a good reason for that “no.”  Be understanding.  If you get a “yes,” be appreciative but relaxed about it.  They may not think it’s as big a deal as you do.

Even knowing these things, some questions still give me the collywobbles.  The hardest is “would you do something for me?”  That’s hard because some little part of me thinks I don’t deserve anything.  That’s the part that is truly poisonous, and needs to be starved away by robbing it of energy.  So, I’ll keep asking questions.  Even if I have to tense my gut like I’m about to take a punch, take a breath and push through fear, I’ll keep asking questions.

So, how are you?

via Daily Prompt: Nervous


How Gaming Translated Into Personal Success

I’ll be perfectly honest here. I didn’t learn much about perseverance while in school. I also didn’t learn much about successfully finishing projects. I learned those things later, when I got into online gaming, particularly breeding sims like Aywas, LioDen, Horse Isle, and yes, that granddaddy of all games, the one that started it all for me, Howrse.  It sounds silly to me, but it’s really true.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that consistent effort is more important than  a large amount of effort that is sporadic. I have achieved great things in online games by just doing something a little every day and setting good goals. Whether that’s earning game currency, building experience, or collecting items, it doesn’t take long before that effort adds up.  That has translated into novels, complex pieces of art, a better job, a paid off car and a much nicer apartment that I had to save up for.

I’ve learned patience as well. Usually, in online games, there are tedious tasks that you must do over and over in order to get some kind of reward. In games, as in life, patience usually yields good results.

I’ve learned to be a bit more comfortable with measuring myself against other people. I’ve also learned about leadership as I’ve come up with ideas other members of my gaming sites have enjoyed, and set up small events such as forum threads.  That has taught me much about taking the initiative.  I’ve also learned about communication and negotiation.

I’ve also learned a surprising amount about economics from games. I’ve learned about finding what people want, offering it at an attractive price, researching the competition, and keeping up with the trends. I’ve learned that the way to make money is to stay abreast of trends, recognize opportunities, and jump on them when they come. Then know how much things usually are going to cost, price just under that but not far below. This is especially important for freelancers. You want to be attractive to your clients, but not ruin the market by pricing so low that you devalue the service you provide. We see this in art – I could have a book cover created for $5, a task that used to cost hundreds.

Finally, I’ve learned about ways to make my offerings more attractive to other people.  I’ve learned about wording, ad copy, creating interesting and eye-catching graphics.

These lessons have caused me to put effort into my various projects, such as writing books or blogging, a little every day. I’m far better able to work at it without expecting immediate success or payoff. Consequently, my work is higher quality than before and I produce a lot more of it.  I credit much of that to learning patience and persistence from online games.

(Sometime I’ll write another article about how useful tabletop role playing has been!)

Horse Herd.PNG
Screenshot from Horse Isle II

via Daily Prompt: Translate


A Star Wars Allegory – The Padawan’s Tale

A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away, there lived a young Padawan named Jo-kwan. He was Human, and though he enjoyed learning all the skills needed to be a Jedi, at times he tired of learning. He was particularly sick of something his Master told him every day.

“Jo-kwan,” his master would smile and say, “as a Padawan you must learn one thing every day.”

Jo-kwan was rather tired of that, to be sure. “Perhaps, when I’m a Knight, I’ll be able to learn a little less,” he said. “So I’ll try hard, and become a Knight, and then I’ll relax a bit.”

Jo-kwan was true to his word. He worked hard, learned something every day, practiced with his saber, and readied himself for his Trials. Finally as he stood before the Masters, newly knighted, he heard their words of wisdom.

“Knight Jo-kwan, you have done well,” said his Master, smiling. “Today you are a Knight. Now remember, as a Knight, you must learn two things every day.”

Jo-kwan bowed calmly to them, but he couldn’t smile back. Inwardly he thought “No! I’m tired of this! Two things every day? It’s not fair!”

Still, Jo-kwan was loyal and diligent, so despite his inner misgivings he workd hard as a Knight. He learned two things every day, he trained his own Padawan, he brought honor to the Jedi Order. While doing these things, be began to see the wisdom of his own Master. One day, as he was watching his own Padawan’s knighting ceremony, he was pulled aside by the Grand Master of the Council, a noble and kind Togruta.

“Knight Jo-kwan,” said the Grand Master, “The Council has observed your deeds and we have decided to elevate you to the rank of Master. You have trained a good Knight and your other accomplishments are worthy of merit.”

“I thank you, Grand Master,” said Jo-kwan, filled with the wisdom of all the things he’d learned.

“Furthermore,” said the Grand Master, his eyes twinkling, “I want you to remember a very important thing. As a Master, you must always learn at least THREE things per day.”

This time, Jo-kwan simply nodded and smiled back.



After long years of serving loyally as a Master of the Order, Jo-kwan was finally elevated to a seat on the Council.  Then, he found that to keep up he needed to learn TEN things per day.  By that time, learning was such a joy that he minded even less.


via Daily Prompt: Ten


“Success” might be nearer than you think

Some want private jets, some want huge houses, some want a six figure income, some want a spouse and kids and enough money to live on.  Some want to run everything in the world.  Some want political office.  Some want a private island.  Some want vacations in exotic lands.  Some just want a steadily paying job.

My definition of “Success” has changed a lot over the years.

Once, I would have thought that I had to be rich.  “Rich” meant a few million in the bank, a fancy car, trips to exotic places.  I thought I’d probably never see “real” success.

Now, I can see that I have met many of my own definitions of success.  I work a steady job and feed my little family on one income.  We  have a bit to put by each month.  I have a paid off car, a little old, it’s true, but paid off.  We eat good food and live in a place that suits us, and that we like.  We don’t take any kind of government assistance.  We have a few published books to our credit.  We have time for art and living.

How did we get there?

By not giving up.  By not becoming enmeshed in credit. By jumping on opportunities when they arose. By living frugally.  By saying “no” to cable bills and smart phones.  By saying “no” to the huge TV and the false need of a new car every few years.  By standing by our friends and building loyalty with them.  By not living beyond our means.

Some would still consider us poor, but it’s all in how you look at it.

What would greater success mean for us?  Our dreams are still fairly simple.  We want more exposure for our books, more books of ours on the shelf, more art of ours on the wall, one more nice computer.  Someday we want a home that costs maybe two to three hundred thousand dollars.  We want a bigger nest egg.

Those dreams are not so grandiose.  They can be achieved with hard work and ingenuity.

Why not take a few minutes to measure the places where you are successful?  Think about what real success means to you.  Think about the paths to get there.  Maybe the path is shorter than you think.


via Daily Prompt: Successful