Look, Ma, No Supervolcano!

The last couple of days have been beer-focused — delivering and selling, not drinking, you judgmental meanie! Well, not just drinking…

So, in the interests of not putting up a stream-of-consciousness post that I have to come up with on the spur of the moment, I figured I would trot out one of my shortcuts from the summer: the photo post!

I’ve posted quite a few pictures of Yellowstone. A lot of pictures, actually.* Living in the middle of a place that impressive will do that for you…but my regular home ain’t no slouch, either. Life in the Rockies, at least where I live, is a bit different from Yellowstone, however: drier, more open, smaller trees…and a lot less in the way of supervolcanoes.

*Yes, I am in fact too lazy to link to all of them. Just grab the posts tagged Photos and you’ll find ’em.

Keep in mind, these are just random snapshots I took on a few different hikes. I was not actually intending to do a photo post, so I didn’t really plan ahead. Anyway…ahem…a bit of lazy posting at its finest:


Dammit, Jim, I’m A Writer, Not A Thinker!

When did we forget how to think?

No, seriously — I just read a story about Google. The CEO was lamenting the fact that it was very, very difficult (read: impossible) to “teach” an algorithm to recognize “fake news” when both sides vehemently believed what they were saying.

No shit.

That’s what human brains are for, goddammit!

Why on Earth would you ever expect — why on Earth would you ever want — a computer program to determine “truth” for you?! That is utterly and completely asinine.

One of the hallmarks of being ostensibly intelligent, self-aware beings (besides opposable thumbs, and shit like the Kardashians) is the ability to…you know…judge for yourself.

That ability, that judgment, is both privilege and burden…which is as it should be. Anyone who expects someone else to lay it all out for them, to tell them what and who to believe, deserves the empty shell that their life has become.

Now, look: I know I’m an old, cranky bastard — shit, the fact that I actually remember the Ewok Christmas special is enough to tell you that! — but I simply can’t be alone in this. Do people no longer learn to assimilate information, weigh the evidence, and make their own judgment? C’mon, it ain’t that hard, folks!

The real problem, unfortunately, seems to be the same for people as it is for Google: when people disagree, it is hard to decide. Unfortunately, far too often “we” (as a people, not us in specific) tend to shortcut the judgment-thing and just go with what our “team” says.

“A conservative Republican/liberal Democrat said it, so it must be true.”

And of course, the converse: “those (other) evil bastards believe it, so it must be a nefarious plot…”

It goes back to something I harped on over the summer (while avoiding most of this crap by living in the wilderness): we, as a country and a society, are so polarized, so split and torn-apart, that we can’t agree even on a common set of facts. Black and white no longer have the same meanings to people on different “teams”, and 1+1 only equals 2 when it benefits one side over the other.


This is, by the way, how societies die: not in great, thunderous wars but in the pathetic whimpers of blind, narcissistic parochialism.

Those voices howling alone in the wilderness? Those voices trying to stand against the tide and scream “No More”?

Yeah, those are the voices of those trying to hold it all together. The voices of common sense and the good of all above the good of self.

The voices of those losing the fight.

Now a philosopher, or a profound thinker, would have a list of prescriptions and advice to try and address this problem. Me? I just want to slap the shit out of most of these folks.

“Wake up!” I want to scream. “Wake up and use your fucking brain!”

Hrm, didn’t seem to work…

Back to the wilderness, and to my solitary howling, I guess.

If You Love Me, Don’t Let Go


Yes, the title of this post is a line from a song…because, well, of course it is.  The song in question is “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors. Below is a post that has been sitting in my Drafts for…well, for a long time. Talking about this stuff ain’t easy. Not for me, and not for anyone.  But, sometimes you just have to…and in honor of Thanksgiving and the coming family-oriented holidays, it is time again…

There’s really nowhere else to start: I suffer from depression.  I’ve mentioned that before, but if there is any disease that gets pushed aside and forgotten, it is depression.  It especially is pushed aside and forgotten by family and friends.

“What’s wrong with you today?”

“What mood are you in today?”

“Why can’t you just fix yourself?”

For those who’ve never felt the stifling, suffocating, paralyzingly grip of depression…thoughts like that do nothing but make it worse.  A lot worse.  That feeling of being alone?  Of having nowhere to go, and no one to turn to?

Yeah, “checking on my mood” ain’t helping.

Why am I writing about this? I hear you ask.  Why, more importantly, am I writing about this again?

Because it needs to be talked about.

I’ve fought this demon since I was teenager.  I’ve fought this demon in the only way I’ve ever really had: alone.  I’ve lost more battles than I’ve won…but I’m still alive, and a number of my friends are not, so I guess the war itself is going okay…

“C’mon…just change yourself.”

“Turn to Christ” or “think happy thoughts” or “look on the bright side”…

It doesn’t work that way.

The reason I am writing this post is because…well…hearing other folks talk about their own struggles helped.  It helped tell me that I wasn’t alone {and remember the central theme to Wrath & Tears: alone is worse}.  It helped to tell me that, as broken as I am, there are others out there just as broken.

It told me, in the end, that I wasn’t a freak who had to suffer in silent solitude.

How can I not try to pass along that support?  How can I not, to throw out an over-used and tired phrase, pay it forward?

Carrie Fisher became very open about her battles.  Ashley Judd has become equally so.  Even so huge a figure as Winston Churchill had his struggles with depression.  NFLer Joel Klatt…NHLer Marek Svatos…actor Owen Wilson…Heath Ledger…Buzz Aldrin…Art Buchwald…Terry Bradshaw…Johnny Carson…Ray Charles…Dwayne Johnson…it ain’t a short list, folks, and these are just a semi-randomly selected handful.

I’m not alone, and that helps.  That is important to know…and it does help.

How can I not share my own experience in the face of that?  How can I not try to help — to support, and hopefully to save — just one fucking person, if that is all I can reach?

As many things as have gone right in my life, this is a demon that still hovers over my shoulder. He always has, and he always will.  Even as things got better in my life, he never left.  When things were bad, he was there…but when things were good, he was equally there.

Honestly, even today his voice still has power…and I still pay attention.

Depression, for those of you who just don’t know or understand, is very very real. Even those you think should never suffer problems of any sort — those with money and loved ones and lives to be envied — can suffer from depression. Trust me on this one: I’ve lost friends who had every single fucking thing in the universe to live for.

Hell…I have everything to live for, and still I hear that little voice: why bother? Who the fuck are you? Nothing will ever get better…

Believe me, I hear that voice. Far, far too often.

There ain’t much to hold on to in the universe for people like us…but what there is, is important.

And what folks like us have to hold to is simple: people.

Look, we know we’re annoying…we know we’re hard to deal with…but, holy shit, we have, in general, pushed away almost everything and everyone we know, and we need something. Trust me on this — it is far, far too easy to lose yourself in the isolating currents of your own thoughts and emotions. It is far too easy to drown.

When I’m at my worst, when I’m a drowning man at sea, I’ll clutch at anything. Unfortunately, far too often, that something is exactly the wrong thing. Whether it’s booze, or drugs, or isolation, or despondency…they all seek to fill the space that only friends and loved ones can truly fill.

Just one friend — just one loved one — can make all the difference.  Does make all the difference.

To those who fight similar demons, I’ll say this: I have my own tiny little list of those who have helped save me — some figuratively, but some very, very literally — and you need to find a way to create your own little list.  One name…one name, one person, is all it takes.  That being said, there also are ways to work yourself out: after so many years, I have learned to write my way out…or to hike my way out…or, in a very few instances, to love my way out.  So, please: find…something.  Some meaning, some tool.

And always remember the first rule: alone is worse.

To those who can’t even begin to conceive of the numbing pain, nor the suffocating isolation: I know we can be annoying, and challenging, and hard to understand…but we need you. Trust me on this one: we’ll push you away, we’ll isolate ourselves and say we don’t care, say that we don’t need anyone…and we’ll be lying.

We need some form of stability — some semblance of life — to hold to, or that little demon in the back of our minds will win…

…and when that bastard wins, you end up with a rope around your neck and a bottle in your hand.

Trust me on this one, I know.

Further reading here and here.

You Morality Is None Of My Business…

…and mine is none of yours.

Look, to reword and rework a tired, old phrase: morality begins at home. Morals and belief systems, as well as the personal behaviors to which they lead, are…well…personal. They are — and should be! — the intimate, immediate decisions only of the individual involved.

No one else need have input. Hell, no one else should have input. My morality — or the occasional lack thereof — is none of your business, thank you very much.

And that “no one else” goes double — goes ten freaking times — for the government! It is no business of the government’s what, or who, I do. Or how…or why…etc… Fill in your own damned blanks on that one.

Okay, let me back away from the confrontational and shoot for the rational…

I am a pretty moral guy. Yes, I drink too much. Yes, I cuss too much. Yes, I’m a cynical asshole. But…I don’t do drugs (anymore), I don’t steal, I don’t lie (much…and no, those pants DON’T make your butt look big!), nor do I rape, pillage or otherwise live a pirate’s life.

My stories aside, I’m actually pretty fucking normal.*

*My definition of “normal” may differ pretty significantly from yours, but…no harm, no foul.

But I live that “normal” life from choice, not because someone told me to. Hell, just about every time someone TOLD me to do something, I did pretty much the exact opposite. I’m not, it should be said, a terribly good follower.

I choose to be good, to be — in most senses of the word — moral. I make a choice to which I am neither commanded nor compelled. I CHOOSE TO.

And that makes a difference.

Every time a government — any government, take your pick from history — has tried to legislate morality, it has failed spectacularly. And it always will fail because normal, everyday people know and understand just what the limits should be, and those limits do not include telling us what we should and should not do.

Now, what got me to thinking about this?

Yep, you guessed it: more Roy Fucking Moore (again).

Beyond his need to grope teen-age girls, that asshole — judge or not — threw aside any semblance of legality and liberty with his statement that homosexuality should be illegal. He went so far as to imply that gays and lesbians should, beyond just jail, potentially face the death penalty.

What are we, Saudi Arabia?

Look, I’m a straight white guy: I have nothing to fear from people like Moore. But, many, many friends (and relatives) DO have things to fear from people that want to deny them their rights and their liberties. Hell, people that want to deny them their lives.

From a religious point-of-view I get it, I really do. Religious folks, especially Evangelicals, have very real problems and reservations in this area.* Fine, no problem. Your beliefs, like my morals, are your business. BUT, when you decide to start inflicting those beliefs on other people, THEN we have a problem…a very real, and very serious, problem.

*I understand these — I don’t agree with them in even the smallest way, but I do understand.

Then again, those folks seem to have all kinds of problems that they want to “help” with, things like: drinking, dancing, listening to music, watching movies/TV, science, history, education, the list goes on and on.

Honestly, I am NOT attacking these folks. I have far too many friends and family members to whom the label “Evangelical” applies to condemn them, just like I have far too many LGBT friends and relatives to condemn THEM. All I ask is that both sides let the other live in peace.

That, in the end, is the bottom line of my libertarianism: you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone. Call it the Revised Golden Rule for the Truly Cynical.

Now, that does cut both ways: when the LGBT folks attack those Christians who do not toe the line, it can be just as bad as what the Evangelicals want to do to them. Neve forget that tolerance is NOT the same thing as approval, and it never should be.

To put another spin on it: I’m a slut. I’ll sleep with any girl that will give me the time of day. My relationships have all ended as major disasters anyway, so why bother with the whole “get to know you” thing? Now, I don’t ask anyone to approve of my lifestyle — hell, I’m not sure I approve of it! — but I damn well do expect you to tolerate it.

See the difference?

Evangelicals: you don’t have to approve of anyone else’s lifestyle, of the “sinners”, but you damn well DO have to tolerate other individuals’ right to live the way they choose.

“Sinners”: YOU don’t have to approve of the Evangelicals, but you DO damn well have to respect TREIR right to live and believe what and how they choose.

It’s called Freedom of Conscience, folks…and it means a great deal.

Folks who have been reading this blog for a while know I have a real problem with how regular folks lack voices and input into society today. To be blunt, about the only control we do have is in our own lives, and how we choose to live is far too important to let someone else — anyone else — dictate and control.  That applies to other individuals just as much as to governments.

Focus on your own choices, and your own life, and let everyone else live theirs.* That is the foundation of a free and just society.

*And, no, I am not an absolutist in any sense of the word — there IS right and wrong in the world. Rape, violence, and the corruption of power (power of all stripes) ARE immoral and wrong from ANY perspective.