Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's That Time!

Ah, the holidays. Although Christmas decorations started appearing in stores immediately after Halloween, for me the season doesn't really begin until Thanksgiving. That's when the shopping begins in earnest--well, okay, I just fibbed. Now that I think of it, I have bought a few gifts on sale, for who can resist a sale? But you know what I mean. Thanksgiving commences the season of overeating, running up my credit cards, avoiding shopping malls at all costs, and avoiding parties at all costs. If it weren't for online shopping, I'd be a total wreck. I absorb desperation and negative energy no matter how many psychic protective boundaries I build around myself. And let me tell you, "Black Friday" is aptly named. I know the original reason was because that's when companies finally went into the black instead of the red, but lately it seems every year brings some horrid new video of fistfights at Wal-Mart.


This was all so easy when I was drinking. Somebody is rude to me at the store and injures my tender psyche? I'd just come home and toss back a vodka martini. Or two. Or three.

I have to go to a holiday party, and my friend Pat's husband asks me to dance? And it's some old-fashioned waltzy sort of music that I'm clueless how to dance to, so he leads and I try my best to not stomp his toes? Eh, who cares? I can go back to the table and down myself a big ole spiked eggnog. Or two. Or three.

There are twelve people gathered around the table eating, relatives of my wife who all seem to have the name Bruce, and I'm expected to talk about fishing or Texas Hold 'Em poker? Pass the cranberry sauce. Oh, and that bottle of champagne.

This is the time of year I find not drinking to be most difficult. But it's merely stress; I know that. So, I remind myself that for every good time I once had drinking, there was a worse time. And that once I started, I really couldn't stop. Always, always, there was hell to pay the next morning. Let me tell you, it is decidedly not fun to open Christmas presents and smile and say "thank you" when you are trying to not vomit all over the pile of gifts and your head feels like a hundred elves with jingle bells and tiny hammers are inside your skull tapping away at your brains.

So I deal. I remind myself that half the horrors I imagine are inside my own head. I don't have to be "on" every second. No one expects that. And when I get tired, I can retreat, and they will understand. For this weekend, I've already downloaded a couple of movies on iTunes that I've been wanting to see; I'll bring my earbuds. On my Kindle I've got The Red Tent, which I've been meaning to read since forever. And I have some papers I need to grade as well--something I can't get out of, even if I wanted to. No introvert can make herself an extravert.

And no alcoholic can solve any problem by giving in and taking a drink.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Leave Your Footprints Everywhere

You've heard the expression, "Leave no trace."

This applies to hiking in the woods, swimming in pristine waters, climbing a mountain, exploring a cave ... leave it the way you found it.

With social media, the opposite applies: "Leave your footprints everywhere!" Seriously, being online is one big "Kilroy Was Here" written virtually everywhere. But I admit I'm discovering, with pre-marketing a book, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. You're expected to, well, sell yourself. Be OUT THERE. Seriously, my publisher wants to know my Twitter handle, my blog url, my Facebook page, all of it. A part of me understands this. It's good to be easy to find, for interviews, reviews, "your two cents" in an article or a byline elsewhere, for they all help sell books.

On the other hand, another part of me just wants to go jump in bed, pull the covers over my head, and hide. That's the introvert in me, coupled with the person with social anxiety disorder who says, "No! They'll hate me! Make them leave me alone! Wah!" If I were only writing great literature, I could probably get away with being a recluse and lying in bed all day, eating, say, a stick of butter a day like Shirley Jackson or cackling at the top of the stairway and then scampering to my room, slamming the door behind me like Emily Dickinson, and no one would care--but, alas, I'm hardly in their league.

So I guess social media is, in a way, a blessing because I can put myself OUT THERE without having to really go out there.

Consequently, I'm making a big chain of footprints all over the damn place. You can find my Youtube channel under my name--"Joyce Luck"--and I've started organizing videos into playlists such as "Feed Your Inner Geek." This blog feeds directly to Twitter, which then feeds the posts to Facebook. I'm on Instagram, too. And LinkedIn. If you can't find me by using my real name, then try "Hapless Tigger." That's right. I'm now pretty darn easy, beeyotch.

Of course, it also means I'll be easier to heckle or harass, but I'll cross that bridge if I even reach it.

See, that's the other good thing about social media. If it gets to be too much, I can delete, unplug, and vanish and lick my wounds where no one can see me. Or, I can be joyful and spread the love.

I'm wishing for the love. For, really, who isn't?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Educate Yourself on the Keystone XL Pipeline

Ah, the Keystone XL Pipeline. The political spin is that it will help America in two major ways: (1) it will create jobs here and (2) it will decrease our dependence on foreign oil (I guess people are conflating America and Canada, since the company constructing and primarily using it is Canadian, which makes it foreign, but perhaps since the oil would go from the tar sands to the Gulf in a pipeline that traverses our country, folks are thinking that's preferable to relying on oil from the Middle East. Or, TransCanada, the company in question, keeps stressing that some bit of the oil going through the pipeline(s)--it's more than one, people, all linked together--would actually be oil produced in America. The CEO mentions a city in Montana. Oh, and I've also heard a third reason tossed out: that the increased oil supply would lower gas and heating prices here. So, let's take each benefit in turn.

True, to construct the pipeline, there would be temporary contracting jobs given to American workers (about 42,000 people for two years). That's nothing to sneeze at in this economy, because these tend to be good jobs. However, once the pipeline is finished (parts of it are already constructed), even the CEO of TransCanada admits the number of employees needed to maintain the pipeline would be about 50. Fifty is about the number your local McDonald's hires. See here:

Second, there is absolutely no guarantee TransCanada would sell all the oil to the United States. Why should they? Companies exist to turn a profit. So if the company can sell oil to, say, China, for more dollars a barrel, why would they give a cut-rate to the United States? That makes no business sense. Estimates are that US companies might buy about half of the oil, truck it to their refineries, and then resell the oil to other countries in the form of gasoline. Hence all the oil wouldn't necessarily go to Americans even if American-based companies bought it. See this:

So that kills reason three right off the bat: the energy companies have no particular devotion to the United States. These companies are multinational. We shouldn't see prices come down much, if at all, because of increased supply caused by the XL Pipeline. Fact is, we already have excess supply and are are already shipping it to other countries in South America. (See article above.) I'd bet we'd continue to do so to keep demand here somewhat high.

So the question is now: why are we even considering expanding a pipeline right through the middle of the United States if it won't benefit us in any major way? Aside from the politicians who own stock in TransCanada and stand to profit when the price of shares go up--I don't really count that; they shouldn't pass legislation on the basis of whether or not it benefits them personally, although you know and I know they certainly do; nothing new there--I really can't find a compelling reason to say "okay" to running a series of pipelines across our heartland. Pipelines fail, things go wrong, humans make mistakes--how many times have we seen oil spills that kill wildlife, fish, and hurt smaller businesses? I'm trying to picture a big ol' pipeline bursting and spewing out tar sands oil (the less clean of them all) all over, say, rich farmland, or bursting near a river and poisoning some city's water supply. Such might--MIGHT--be a risk worth taking if Americans really stood to benefit in any great way from the XL Pipeline, but I'm just not convinced the benefits outweigh the huge negative.

Now, as you can see from the graphic, much of the pipeline already exists in the US. The logical thing to do is to investigate if the existing pipeline has caused any environmental damage, or what the likelihood of environmental damage might be. The environmental impact study requested by President Obama doesn't appear to have addressed that. It appears to have addressed how the pipeline might impact climate change in Canada. Conclusion? Probably not a lot. You can read a summary of the findings here, but it's also available online if you search for it. 

That's nice to know, but what Americans are concerned about is our land, our countryside, our rivers, our crops, our backyards, the Gulf. Seriously, I can't find much of anything but speculation. Those who support the pipeline say the risks are minimal. Those who don't say the risks are underestimated.  But, I'm inclined to think other TransCanada pipelines are a decent indication of how this pipeline will behave, and voila! Twelve oil spills in the first year of operation here. Another similar company's tar sands pipeline spilled a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, and despite clean up efforts there, about forty miles of that river are reported to still be contaminated. Why would the Keystone XL Pipeline be especially benign over any other? You decide:

Finally, here is another summary of the supposed benefits of the pipeline with additional reasons those benefits are either outright falsehoods or grossly misstated:

So... will our Congress and Senate continue pandering to Big Oil, or will our senators and representatives take care of Americans and this land we inhabit? I'm skeptical. Lately they just do what the money tells them to do.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Winter Blues Already?

The sun will always rise on a new day. It's up to each of us to make it glorious.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My New Book!

Well, I was silly when I wrote I'd be able to start blogging again once my book draft was done. Is any book ever "done?" After it sat for a month, I picked it up again and started quarreling with the words on the page. Then school started, so this semester I've been teaching, grading papers, and revising my book.

The good news? The book is finally out to a publisher, so now the only changes can be basic copy edits ... so it's time to put this project down.

So saying, here's the book trailer for the new book, slated for publication (tentatively) in spring 2015. Share this trailer widely and freely if you know of anyone who is interested in the subject matter. The video will be updated as soon as a publication date is set.