Dear Reader: A Career Change Lands

Frankly, it was about time I took this step.

I’ve been “told” by a certain person I happen to live with, that I’m now retired. And this wasn’t phrased as a suggestion. (Every guy knows that tone of voice.)

To be honest, I never thought I would retire and I’ve spent much of the last year trying to understand exactly what it means to be a writer and be retired at the same time.

Complicating this decision is the fact I have a bucket list of places to go and things to do that would choke that poor proverbial horse.

You’d think a large bucket list that would make it easier to switch wouldn’t you but I seem to have been well indoctrinated in the good old work-ethic of my Scottish mother and grandparents. (Note my dad was no slouch on that front either.)

Covid certainly brought these questions to the forefront. There’s nothing like a world wide pandemic and the thought these 70+ year old bones might not make it to the vaccinations and the new normal (whatever that may be.)

Didn’t This Website Used To Be Fiction?

Well, yes it was for a brief time as I built out a fiction career. This one was to be the fantasy story site. Even fiction writing is on the chopping block at this point as I look to other creative activities.

Author note: two weeks after this was originally posted, I made the decision to walk away from fiction. This may not be a permanent walk-away as I’ve left the ebooks on Amazon but have no intent to write more or update the website.

But before this site was fiction, it was my personal blog and to this it returns.

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I’ll be reposting many of the previous posts and I invite you to subscribe to get them.

A Reader Called Me A Fart In A Windstorm

I had a reader email the other day to describe me as a “fart in a windstorm” or of no consequence.

I thought about that for a second or three. Went through a range of emotions and then decided what she thought wasn’t my problem.

My problems are my own — which is a very stoic approach to life. Check out this wonderful website on Stoicism.

And remembering that led me down another few thought trails. One of those trails was a system described by Roger James Hamilton in a free ebook (Amazon link — not affiliate) Read the first section and I believe there’s a link in there to take the quiz to discover your own approach to the world.

I Have A Creative Approach To Life

My approach to life is a syncretic mix of discovery and new. If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand I have what he calls a “creative” approach to life. It’s not that I am a creative/writer, it’s that I look at the world as a playground and want to explore it.

If you’ve watched the movie UP, you’ll understand the concept of “Squirrel!” If not, see below. All somebody has to do with me is point me to something new, something bright and shiny, say “Squirrel!” and I’m off to play. In Hamilton’s terms, that’s a creative.

This happens to be a perfect attitude for a freelance writer.There’s very little I’m not interested in (at least for a short period of time.)

What Readers Think Isn’t My Problem

But to sum up, what any reader thinks of me isn’t my problem. In this case, she owns the delete and unsubscribe button and I trust she used both.

That’s all by way of saying you get to live your own life. You get to take on your own challenges or avoid them. But at the end of the day, your life is a sum of your decisions and attitudes.

My life is full of challenges, lessons and insights.

At the moment, I’m doing one of Joel Runyon’s Impossible Challenges. And I must tell you that water is cold!

I’ve started writing in a new genre and am reading, researching and having way too much fun with it.

I’m continuing researching Alzheimer’s and Fitness topics

And that doesn’t include my normal reading objectives — there’s somewhere around 45 non-fiction books (mostly history) waiting my attention after two months of being on a restricted reading level due to some eye issues. (I’ve just ordered two new non-fiction books — one on current American politics and one on a history of the Ottoman empire.) 
Or the ebooks and websites…
Or…

My attitude to life is that it’s to be learned. And there’s so much to learn — it’s like being a kid in a candy store.

It’s not to stick in one groove.

It’s not to live in a way to gain any reader’s approval.

In short, I’d do this stuff and write about it even if nobody read it. 
That’s my attitude. And that’s my life.

So it doesn’t matter what that reader thought. It doesn’t matter whether she thinks what I do is inconsequential.

What matters is what I think.

What matters is what my attitude is and how I answer the important questions.

And that my friends is all any of us have in the end.

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The End Of A Great Power: Two Book Reviews

If you’re interested in entering the discussion about why the American empire is in danger of collapsing, these two books will serve as a beginning primer.

The End Is Always Near

Apocalyptic Moments, From the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses
Dan Carlin (Pub 2019)
Carlin is the host of the immensely popular podcast, Hardcore History,  and this book is an extension of some of his podcasts.

His central thesis in all of this is:

  • The more states increase their power, the more of their resources they devote to maintaining it
  • The capacity to engage in war/conflict with another power depends on the level of resources needed to win and/or maintain the existing empire.
  • States/empires begin to fail when they have to borrow money to maintain their empire and the conflicts.
  • When they run out of borrowing power, they fail.
    He writes in an engaging manner and the fact he’s using his podcast transcripts may account for some of this professionally relaxed voice in his writing.

He illustrates his thesis with specific moments both from ancient history and the near nuclear misses of the modern era.

The book is well worth the quick read of 246 pages (Amazon).

He also gives a reasonable number of “further resources” to read in the index for every chapter.

If you’re looking for a fast read and an enjoyable one to understand this subject, I’d highly recommend this book.

But Having Said That

This book was preceded by:

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

Paul Kennedy (Pub 1986)

This book is far more complete in explaining the same thesis but it shifts time frame away from the (mostly) ancient world of Carlin’s book to the years 1500 to 2000.

The New York Times reviewer had this to say:

“He expands his thesis in the introduction and epilogue. It can be easily summarized: The more states increase their power, the larger the proportion of their resources they devote to maintaining it. If too large a proportion of national resources is diverted to military purposes, this in the long run leads to a weakening of power. The capacity to sustain a conflict with a comparable state or coalition of states ultimately depends on economic strength; but states apparently at the zenith of their political power are usually already in a condition of comparative economic decline, and the United States is no exception to this rule.

Power can be maintained only by a prudent balance between the creation of wealth and military expenditure, and great powers in decline almost always hasten their demise by shifting expenditure from the former to the latter. Spain, the Netherlands, France and Britain did exactly that. Now it is the turn of the Soviet Union and the United States.”
Archives of the New York Times

In other words, pretty much what Carlin says. This book is far more dense — as befits a book written by an academic — 540 pages with an extensive index of further reading. Check it out here at Amazon

The Significant Difference Between The Two Books

Kennedy took quite a bit of flack for the last 30 pages or so where his publisher asked him to comment on the decline of the American empire (remember written in 1986 only 10 years after Vietnam) and he did so with the same set of criteria of military engagement and financial management. This drew significant argument from some economists and politicians.

Carlin does not deal with the American situation.

The Bottom Line

If you want to read an engaging book on the subject, read Carlin’s book. I’d recommend this if you’re at all interested in history and understanding how and why some of these amazing civilizations fell.

Kennedy’s book is far more complete — focussed on a more modern era — and is a bit of a slog to get through it unless you’re a serious student of history.

A Personal Note:

A quick review of online comments shows many commentators (particularly those in the U.S.) do not agree with either Carlin or Kennedy when the books would suggest the the American empire is in danger of failing. There are those who suggest the characteristics of ancient empire failures do not apply to a modern world and its economic models.

I have no deep background to comment on the intricacies of modern economics.

What I do have is my Scottish grandmother’s saying, “The piper must be paid.” 

(Every Scot knows the piper is always paid for playing — in coin or drink.)

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