What About Twitter

Social media is a time sink. Time is precious, so social media requires spending something precious. People are precious, too; and connecting with them can be one of the best ways to spend a life. And then, Twitter hit the news and many of us are asking fundamental questions about it and social media. Great! I decided that Twitter’s chaos is a great opportunity to take a look at the cost and the benefit of the choices. Alas, this will be largely subjective because an objective analysis would probably be enough for a Masters project. Let’s see where this goes

If Twitter goes away, something that seemed unlikely last year, which sites can fill that need for my business, or what I want to have in my personal life? I’ve been teaching about social media for over a decade, so some of these sites have history for me. Remember Google+ and Klout? There must be hundreds of social media sites, but here are the ones I re-tested for the last week or so: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, reddit, Instagram. I also have accounts on places like Pinterest, but either they don’t do what I want, or I haven’t figured out how to use them well enough. Newer sites like Mastodon are new enough that I will play with them later. They might be good places to jump to, but for now I’m on Twitter until the end, and can probably get by on sites I am already using. Or can I?

What are these sites?

Facebook – You’ve invited a bunch of friends to a party in your living room. They might be uninvited guests, but you’ve got some control over that. Politeness suggests keeping the topics light and conversational, but don’t be surprised if someone brings up religion or politics. Someone might forget their manners for a while, but we can all have those days. Cute baby and pet pictures are popular.

Twitter – You’ve got something to say and you decide to walk outside and shout it to whoever wants to hear it. You might follow people and people may follow you, but there may be strangers out on the same sidewalk. Fortunately, you can filter what you hear by building Lists and using Hashtags. One advantage, it is easiest to use when you know how to be concise.

LinkedIn – Welcome to office casual. Topics include sales, hiring, firing, milestones, positively positive progress notes; but the site was designed to connect people in business, so electronic shmoozing may be the most important activity. Sure, some people are good at using it to spread news (connect with Stephan Schwartz), but most posts are like Successories posters. Rah. Rah.

Tumblr – Can I play, too? Someone told me Tumblr was supposed to be a mini-blogging platform, but there are so many blogging possibilities that mini-blogging isn’t much of a distinction. The site does have the ability to post as much as any, has a clean look, and pays more attention to hashtags, but where are the people? It feels to me like an empty warehouse waiting to be filled.

Reddit – Gird your loins. Buckle your helmet. Diving into Reddit is for the brave, but with the risks come the rewards. Do you read something? Have you read it? Then you can post a link or a comment on Reddit. (Get it? You ReadIt.) Reddit is known for passionate opinions. Instead of a living room, or the sidewalk, or the office Reddit is more like a mosh pit where ideas are tossed around and voted up or down. The votes matter because they drive the links higher and lower. The idea was that folks read stuff, others voted on it, and the good stuff will rise to the top. Here is where things can go viral. Here is also where chaos can reign. But like at any chaotic event, there are side rooms, pockets of sanity, places where it is possible to have quieter conversations. There’s the gold; but do you have the emotional armor to find it?

Instagram – Welcome to the new kid on the block. Insta- this and insta- that. Remember the Instamatic camera? Quick and easy but like a photo from an Instamatic camera there will be compromises. Despite being insta- the site drives you through various image enhancement screens and crops the photo which takes enough time to be slower than other sites. And the product is photos. Words? Who needs them? This may be an art gallery or a graffiti wall, but having something to show is more important than having something to say. And yet, photos are so available that Instagram is popular for communicating or at least advertising.

Feeding the sites

Facebook started with photos, then heavily went to text, now will take either. Facebook, however, drools over videos. Facebook also seems to drool over displaying ads, and can be spooky about guessing what you are interested in. Post a link and it will probably try to pull a graphic if you haven’t already done so.

Twitter started with ~140 characters per tweet, added the ability to include photos and links, and then doubled the number of characters. Post a link and Twitter might add a graphic, but only maybe. By the way, one way to get around the character limit is to take a picture of what you wrote – unless the print is too tiny.

LinkedIn started with resumes and job ads, but they’ve added the rest, including adding graphics from links. Unfortunately, I think they were bought by Microsoft, so sometimes they get a bit Clippie. Remember Microsoft’s overly eager, disruptive, and annoying assistant? Yeah, I get that feeling from the site.

Tumblr seems to be trying to be everything to everyone to the point that text is uploaded separately from graphics, and hashtags can be loaded separately. Pretty, but pretty annoying when I am trying to use social media efficiently.

Reddit wants links and maybe text comments. It will take graphics and such, that’s how so many cat videos are found; but it has the slang version of read, e.g. redd, in the name. 

Instagram goes the other way, feed it photos. Text is optional.

There are more ways to slice and compare the sites, but I have to decide how I will use my time.

Facebook has the largest world-wide audience, but I don’t need to maximize that. I already have at least 800 ‘friends’. They should suffice, especially considering who they are. But Facebook has stumbled so many times that the way it manages connections and businesses and groups and privacy concerns mean it can work, or not, in surprising ways.

Twitter gives me access to about the same number of followers, and also makes it easy to reach beyond them. Last month 764 people checked out my profile and my tweets received over 14,000 impressions. Impressive. I’ve also made the most powerful connections there. But, Elon happens.

LinkedIn has that nice professional feel, but it also seems like a facade, one-dimensional, officious, and filled with congrats and cliches.

Tumblr, well, Tumblr isn’t too inefficient, so I’ll keep feeding it, just in case the others fade or fail.

Reddit gets to stay. My most popular posts gained hundred-fold increases because of Reddit, but it really is like trying to have a conversation in a bumping and loud crowd.

Instagram. Sigh. Some love it, and I’ll use it for pretty pictures, but much of what I post is text; and Instagram is built for the -grams.

So, what will I do?

I’ll keep using the sites I’ve been using. I usually post posts to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr (as a test).  They work similarly enough that posting to all four only takes a few tweaks.

Social media sites are fragile. I never used MySpace or Friendster, and I already mentioned Google+ and Klout (not a direct comparison). Facebook isn’t too big to fail. Other corporations like GE and GM managed to lose prominence. Microsoft could get bored with LinkedIn. Twitter, oh Twitter. Tumblr? I’m not sure what’s keeping it alive.

And as a real-life, practical example, I’ll post post to my blog because I can control that; and then from there I’ll share it out to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr and let you decide which one works for you – and that will work for me. A web site, a blog, something outside social media means I have more control. I can share from there.

Hmm. But what graphic goes with all this text?

How about this one from my previous study? Spending Time On Social Media

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ElectraMeccanica – One Company One story

Welcome to another story and another video in my One Company One Story series.

Here comes the amateur legalese.

I began investing in companies and their stocks in the late 70s, but am not a certified investment professional.

My style and history of investing is described in Dream. Invest. Live., a book I wrote by request – which came out as the Great Recession (the Second Great Depression) began. Bad timing, eh?

My personal finance blog (a blog about my finances) is: https://trimbathcreative.net/

I am not investment professional. This is not financial advice. 

This time is it about ElectraMeccanica, a company that has the innovative idea of believing that people will buy cars rationally, and if it catches on, fashionably. They’re making and selling a three-wheeled, one-passenger, electric vehicle that fits enough lifestyles and business models that they could be profitable and a trendsetter. 

Consider most personal car trips. They’re one person driving less than fifty miles with stop-and-go traffic. People commute. Errands get run. It doesn’t take much. If it doesn’t take much, then don’t use much. Why lug around two tons of car to get yourself to work or to buy some groceries? A bicycle may suffice, but this company is familiar with Vancouver, British Columbia weather. An enclosed car makes life sweeter.

Consider may deliveries. It doesn’t take much to deliver pizzas. Ideally the pizza shop is already close to their customers. Lots of quick roundtrips and easier parking may be a business advantage. Install quicker chargers and skip the gasoline. And then there are other businesses making other quick, short trips. They don’t need tons of vehicles, either.

But, people are not always rational. They may drive alone and may never reach highway speeds, but they’ll buy sedans or SUVs or pickup trucks, all with speedometers that must reach into the triple digits – because that’s the way things have ‘always’ been done. 

Check history. ‘Always’ is usually measured in a generation or two. Grandparents may recall times where pragmatism may have suggested a vehicle that carries one and gets the job done.

Check today’s trends. Electric vehicles are now becoming common. Gas prices are encouraging commuters to explore options. The Great Resignation and Work From Home are encouraging breaks from convention. Is this the time?

Check the recent earnings report. OK. Maybe not. ElectraMeccanica is in that uncertain phase between startup mode where everything is projections and hopes, and the mature phase when production lines and orders and customers are established and providing guidance and data on reality. They’re in production, but have few reported sales. Supply chains are in place, but are being interrupted by the pandemic, at least. Their increase is sales is large, but only relative to nearly zero. 

Company Reported $1.44 Million in Q3 ‘22 Revenue, Up Over 12x From the Year Ago Quarter
Contract Manufactured SOLOs for Q3 ‘22 Total 103, Reflecting Temporary “Zero Covid” Slowdown in China, While EMV Maintains Delivery Pace at 64 Vehicles for the Quarter

This may all explain their stock price.

Google Finance

Looking into their plans includes a new manufacturing plant and some concept cars that may be more for fun than function. Looking into trends includes governments mandating electric vehicles. If the economy continues to have difficulties a $18,000 three-wheeled, one-passenger, electric vehicle might be just the right thing at the right time – or not.

So goes life in the land of startups.

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Eighty Hour Outage

For about 80 hours my house didn’t have electricity, at least the organized kind from the electric company. One short, intense windstorm did it. As it passed through it blew open my kitchen door. I got out of bed to close it. A chilly experience. I also checked the front door. The wind was so strong that the pressure held it shut, even as I leaned my roughly two hundred pounds into the effort. No one mentioned a tornado, but considering the damage I saw days later, and the fact that the island was without power I wouldn’t be surprised that a series of micro-bursts hit us. 

The event was an exercise in coping, but this one was long, and gave me enough time to think about how I adjusted and didn’t adjust to a forced retreat to a low-tech life. I’ll probably write about it later, but decided to share the notes I started keeping when I realized we’d probably be out for at least a day. Eighty hours is longer than a day, and I learned a lot. I’m sure many islanders did.

Now, to prepare for the next weather system which is cold and clear. Some even got snow. Life dull? Ha!

  • Turning up the heat has nothing to do with sex. (under some conditions for some I am sure)
  • Tea rules! (easier than having to power up a coffeemaker)
  • Interested in new slipper socks (because every shoeless step can be a reminder to shop)
  • Where is that book? (the search for non-electronic entertainment, as long as electrons will move enough to power a reading light)
  • A day to reach the point that life is marginally re-arranged and can move on to relaxing (because motivations and incentives aren’t about long-term plans but are instead of maintaining a house, a food supply, water, warmth, etc.)
  • The quietest time – no generator – fireplace sounds, wind sounds, rain sounds (but open a door and be surrounded by generators rumbling, including the automatic ones in vacant houses)
  • So…this is the vacation I sought. (My apologies. The world made this happen because I needed a Big Hint to relax.)
  • Taking notes on paper (radical, and appreciating good paper, a good pen, and a good writing surface which in this case was a clipboard because I could carry it around as I did chores)
  • Looking forward to warmth (anticipation stretched out to days loses its romance)
  • Old PCs have their benefits (no internet required, and hopefully the battery lasts)
  • How many all-island outages required replacing equipment? It could all be new by now. (but it doesn’t work that way, but the thought comes to mind – alternative architectures?)
  • You know things are back to normal when the toilet seat is warm again. (at least in single-person houses)
  • Revising Christmas list: portable solar panels, mini-battery for electronics, big hurking battery for bigger things like a car, slipper socks (or win the lottery and go 100% solar, except for the slipper socks)
  • Replenish: cooking fuel, batteries, soup, candles (but candles are being eclipsed by LED lanterns)
  • Stereotype: fireplace, blanket, book, hip flask or hot toddy or both (‘hot’ emphasizes the wonder of a small butane burner)
  • The simplicity/complexity – same number of tasks but shifted motivations and incentives are clearer and more immediate
  • Hip flask (never used before during an outage but handier because there’s fewer glasses to wash, wear it in a pocket and warm the beverage)
  • Fancy ramen (miso ramen with mushrooms, then I added canned salmon, and nice!)
  • Days until my diary (was so busy that writing anything long was interrupted by the fireplace or phone alerts or battery management or investigating sounds outside)
  • Hours before a shower (became days, and very welcome when it happened)
  • Ukraine, Hurricane Ian (in comparison, this is an inconvenience, an important one, but there’s no shelling or massive storm surge)
  • Burner + solar + battery + freezer (important and simple things: burner was butane, solar was a magazine-size pair of panels to charge a battery, and the battery could charge a phone and a bit more, and the freezer was a styrofoam shipping container used to ship me a gift last year but handy to hang onto and chill and fill before the storm)
  • Friends (finally had a reason to drop by in case they needed anything, which was also an excuse to sit and chat largely uninterrupted)
  • Electronic beep makes me jump (After hours of low-tech luddite living I was startled when my phone went ‘beep’, so un-natural.)
  • Tick-tock clock and an old-style thermostat (because clocks existed before electricity, and bi-metal analog thermostats don’t need to be reset or adjusted for the time or need batteries, handy when the power comes back on, especially if you weren’t home to notice)
  • Old solar radio (part of the emergency kit, but maybe the solar panel is too old because it only lasted about five minutes)
  • Paper and pen (ah, the basics for writing)
  • Forced busy ‘vacation’ (sure, taking a hint and it is relaxing but that’s partly because I was so busy surviving to worry as much)
  • Confuses e-alarm (electronics and software, so easy to confuse)
  • Power! 80 hours without meant 59F by the fireplace, 48F in the back bedroom, which is better than 33F outside (my fireplace is inefficient, but it evidently works that well)
  • Septic Alarms (because as the power comes on alarms can get re-energized, and for a while it is paired with generator noise – both could be from unattended vacant homes)
  • Freezer inventory: only ‘lost’ a bunch of figs from my garden; checking sausage, fish, leftovers (almost everything in the freezer was still frozen, modern insulation and not opening the door and storing lots of ice blocks)
  • Room for Thanksgiving (Well, at least I’ve cleared out enough of the freezer to stock up for Thanksgiving dinner!)
  • Surprised by a beep + tea (reacclimating to technology coming to life, but it made it easier to make tea)
  • Revise meal planning (so much for plans, replan to use everything soon)
  • Didn’t miss much TV (but by the third night I was TV curious)
  • Takes off the hat (I wore almost the same clothes, including a hat I wore day and night. It took me hours to remember it was still there.)
  • Two hours after power returned the house was up 4F (but the computers and phones were already recharged, and I wasn’t surprised because radiant floor systems like mine have to heat the floor and hope the heat reaches the wall thermostat)
  • Normal diet/chores (reset life to normal by retreating from comfort foods, excuses to skip those chores because of other chores, shower up, be ready to re-engage with humanity)
  • Heat the house, the water, take a shower, do the dishes, do laundry (the order of my priorities based on hot water – and then chuckled at myself because the laundry load was for Cold and could happen as long as there was power. The dryer, however, created a cozy chore. Snuggle with clothes.)
  • What to write about? (The week has been interrupted. What am I going to write about for my blogs? I have an idea…)
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Stepping Towards Re-Retirement

Post-publishing note:

As of November 1, 2022 I am no longer a real estate broker. My real estate sites temporarily lead here. At least temporarily, those sites will be for sale: WhidbeyRealtor.com WhidbeyRealtor.net MyWhidbeyRealtor.com MyWhidbeyRealtor.net . This post describes why and how I made the change.

Well this is certainly going to open up my availability. I decided to relinquish my real estate license. Not an easy decision, but my body has been giving me increasingly stronger hints that I need to take better care of my health. The good news is that I get to rest and recuperate while continuing to work on my creative side with writing and photography. 

A thought that came to mind on a walk:
Life is too short to work at a job that makes life shorter.

A movie quote that came to mind shortly after that; (from You’ve Got Mailhttps://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128853/quotes/qt0549899)

Birdie Conrad: You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. Oh, I know it doesn’t feel like that. You feel like a big fat failure now. But you’re not. You are marching into the unknown armed with…
Birdie Conrad: Nothing. Have a sandwich.

I want to thank the people who supported my effort. That took a lot of patience. I suspect some of you bit your tongue as you watched me struggle with the world of sales. Your forbearance is appreciated.

An obvious irony: A person who is a fan of frugality might not be the best fit for selling vacation houses. 

Ah, but the future. The previous post reflected some of what was on my mind, recently. (Almost A Week Off) I listed enough writing and photography prospects to keep me busy. Here’s a summary.

  • Helping the work I’ve done fund the life I want to lead. – As of October 2022 I have 17 books and at least a dozen photo essays to devote time and energy to selling. 
  • Completing the back story book for Firewatcher and the Exodus/Genesis series. – Firewatcher is my #apocaloptimic #SciFi novel about a bunch of Luddites escaping one set of problems on Earth to find a different set of problems. I purposely wrote it to allow sequels, and to invite other writers to write some of them. As with any coherent sci-fi universe, there are rules to follow. So, I guess I should finish writing them.
  • Write the first sequel to Firewatcher. – I have a starting point and scenes in mind. I wonder what happens.
  • Photography – Finish my ten year photo essay of Whidbey Island by finishing Twelve Months at Fort Ebey, and then produce an exhibit of all ten years’ work.
  • Screenplay – Several friends who’ve written screenplays have actively encouraged me to turn one of my ancestor’s notes into a screenplay. It is a good story. Step one, learn how to write a screenplay. Step two, do the rest.

Besides, I’ve heard of jobs that I am being considered for. OK. I’m willing to have those conversations.

Regardless of the rest, I am prioritizing rest, rest and relaxation, rest and recuperation. 

Working too hard is too unhealthy. Working too hard and not getting paid makes that worse. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make much as an artist, but it could happen. I also buy lottery tickets.

My relaxation will include hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, dancing, bicycling – but first I must recuperate. I won’t list every aspect of me that needs to recuperate. The list is long, dull to most, and too personal in parts. But I will mention a knee that wasn’t getting exercised enough. Head and neck muscles that are taut enough to frustrate various health care providers who try to move my head. And weight that was creeping up even before the pandemic. Health builds on health. I’ve sacrificed health on the altar of a work ethic that didn’t provide the purported compensation. Compliments are nice, but they don’t pay bills.

I could not have made this decision a few years ago. Social Security enables it. Before those payments began to arrive any gap in workload meant a shortfall in income. Now, even with those payments I can only start to reclaim me. I can take myself off that sacrificial altar. 

The prospect of not working that hard launches anxieties. The prospect of prioritizing myself, my self, should be the norm, not something foreign and potentially frightening. That’s the world I live in, though. That realization alone is an unsettling realization.

But, I’m taking that step. The folks who encouraged me, taught me, supported me to become a real estate broker are appreciated. I could not have done it without them. Without that job I would’ve had to sell my house, be barely solvent, and not know where or how I was going to live. They provided a great gift, especially because none of my attempts at getting a job were successful. At least being ‘over qualified’ is not an issue in real estate. But, now it is time to take a step away from being a real estate broker and step more fully into things that can compensate me at a much lower cost.

I’m taking steps but I am also keeping in mind that plans are known for changing. The world is weird, so none of us know what else may change. Stay tuned. 

PS And I look forward to not having to continually add the Required Disclosure:
Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/. (or the versions for Coldwell Banker, too.)
Looking forward to removing that distraction from our conversations.

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Almost A Week Off

Shh. I slept in. And then I did it again. It almost felt like the first time I retired. This year I’ve finished three books. I’ve also given presentations, helped people with their ideas and businesses, and basically been an active entrepreneur. Whew. What would I do with the extra time now that those projects were done? #NotRhetorical. Finding answers is not optional.

Are you getting ready to retire (or at least quit or take a sabbatical)? If you don’t have a plan for what to do next, give yourself the friendly task of talking to friends who have already done that. It is more complicated than ‘work hard then play hard’. That’s an momentary option, but not a sustainable lifestyle. 

I retired at 38 in 1998. Want the details? Friends encouraged me to write a book about it, and I did. Dream Invest Live (the basis of this blog). The short version was that I (and my now ex-wife) lived a simple life: “Spend less than you make. Invest the rest.” It worked. My path to being un-retired is possibly the subject of a sequel, and we’ll see if I remember to describe that later in this post.

There’s a saying, “Chop wood. Carry water. Reach enlightenment. Chop wood. Carry water.” Even something as phenomenal as enlightenment does not negate the need to do the basic chores.

Swap out enlightenment and replace it with retirement, modernize it and get my updated version, “Pay bills. Do laundry. Retire. Pay bills. Do laundry.” Some things never change.

For those who think that they’ll get someone else to pay the bills and do the laundry, keep in mind that you’ll then be managing the people doing your work, and having to step in to fix mistakes because it is still your life and you are ultimately responsible for it.

But retirement (or quitting or taking a sabbatical) can mean sleeping in a bit more often.

A guideline I heard when I retired was that it takes about a year to get past those long-neglected chores that you’ve just run out of excuses to ignore. Tend the garden. Clear out the pantry. Fix the fence. Finally learn your neighbors’ names.

Today’s world is hectic enough that you may find that you’re out of practice when it comes to fun. ‘Waste’ time watching a movie? ‘Impose’ yourself by calling friends you haven’t called in too long? Enjoy the view if you’ve got one, or take yourself to a good one and watch the world go by for a while. 

This is advice that I am giving myself.

Within the last ten years I’ve gone through periods when I usually worked 10 hours a day. For a while I only took off four days per year. I was exhausted, but desperate times happen.

Within the last few years my net worth has finally improved. That wasn’t because I worked so hard. The American Dream of work hard and find success is not a guarantee. I usually only made the equivalent of $15/hr annualized. Last year my work efforts resulted in less than $10,000. 

My net worth improved because my house’s value went up. Even if its market value falls, I now have an asset that is worth much more than my debt.

That net worth growth was enabled by friends who helped me keep my house. Thanks. Social Security and my pension eventually helped; but I no longer can spend less than I make. 

Personal finances are important, but being poor and working too hard have their costs. During the last two years (and possibly earlier) my exhaustion became undeniable. I don’t just need rest. I need, not just want but need, recuperation. I’ll spare you the details, but they have been significant enough that even I can take the hint.

So, I slept in; and slept in, again. And I’m not done.

The effect of decades of hard work are not dispelled with sleeping in on a weekend. I know that now. I lived it.

Except for dancing, of which there is too little of lately, I’ve gotten out of practice having fun. You, too, perhaps? 

So, while taking a short break now that those books are done, what came to mind? More work. Silly boy.

Except for a few smaller items I’ve at least decided to relax my schedule and slide work into 2023.

Twelve Months at Fort Ebey – This will be the tenth book in the ten book series of photo essays of Whidbey Island’s nature. (I finished book nine earlier this year, Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay.) It will be the last of the books, and the reason to produce an exhibit of all ten sets of photos. 

Dead Leaves Hot Water – If Kettle Pot Cup (the second book I finished this year) sells well enough then I may begin writing the sequel, Dead Leaves Hot Water, another series of casual essays about enjoying tea without stressing out over rituals.

Firewatcher‘s sequel – Firewatcher was the largest single project. My #apocaloptimic #SciFi novel about a bunch of Luddites escaping one set of problems on Earth to find a different set of problems. Those who’ve read it know that there can be much more. I’ve already identified two obvious sequels, which can lead to other sequels. I wrote it specifically so other authors can write sequels, too; which leads to one of this year’s tasks of writing the backstory and the beginning of that universe’s canon.

Sailing screenplay – Friends continue to encourage my writing. Those who’ve written screenplays got comically agitated with enthusiasm when I described a bit of my family’s history. I told them the story about an epic and true sailing adventure. They got agitated when I described it and said I’d work on the screenplay in a few years. If they had Nerf bats they probably would’ve used them to bop me on my head as they chanted, “Now! Now! Now! Not later!”

Whidbey Game – During the beginning of the pandemic I developed a game for the island’s tourists. A possible collaboration with a non-profit organization didn’t develop, so that’s something else for me to develop – and possibly extend to other tourist islands.

And more, of course.

Steve Smolinsky introduced me to the term “Clarity Break“. (My apologies for losing that link to his blog.) It is a good idea to take an break every day to consider yesterdays, today, and tomorrows. I have a backlog of postponed clarity breaks. 

The holiday season is here. I can’t completely take a break from everything because I must continue to fuel the feed that reminds people of my books and photos. But, I for a few weeks at least I am not writing books (except for that backstory book). And there is that request for the ebook version of Firewatcher. I must continue taking photos because Twelve Month studies require work every month. And of course, there is social media to feed, bookstores to stock, and plans to make for 2023.

Does that sound busy? Sure. And yet to me, that looks almost relaxing in comparison. Maybe between Christmas and New Years I’ll actually take a week off. Sorry. I just laughed at myself. Let’s hope you can do better.

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The Nervous Time

The nervous time. I was going to start this post with an anecdote about various nervous times when a simple one showed up. The nervous time between launching a program, seeing it halt, and nervously wondering if it will ever load. These are nervous times from impatiently waiting for opaque software to load or not, for sales to lead to precious positive word-of-mouth, for decades of advocacy to go beyond slogans and become results, to maybe even common sense based on facts and logic instead of whims and wishes. We live in nervous times.

One of my nervous phases I am going through is that of an author. Get and idea. Write it up. Polish it a bit. Publish it, and wait for people to read it. And then wait to find out whether they think it is good enough to tell other people, or maybe even post a positive review online. Compliments are great, especially in the nervous time between declaring the book published and the first person finishing the book. Then there’s the next nervous time waiting to learn whether they tell their friends, or buy copies as gifts, or find gracious ways to point out typos. (Both Kettle Pot Cup and Firewatcher have far fewer than I expected. Whew.)

Book sales make for an odd industry. Even an official at Random House admitted that the publishing industry is random. Years ago I learned that 95% of book sales are based on the front cover. 3.5% are from the back cover. 1% is from the first page. Only 0.5% are from the main body of the book. Sort of.

J.K. Rowling did not sell millions of copies of Harry Potter by hand-delivering every book to readers or book stores. At some point word spread about her words and her sales tsunami began. It was no longer about the cover. Her words, her story, convinced others to tell others to do something like buy the book.

I’m glad that I’m getting compliments on my books’ covers and from the first folks to read them. Thanks.

We in one of our nervous phases. Most of us know we have to do something about pollution and resource depletion. More know it every day. Decades ago folks with insights saw what was happening and had to fight to get Earth Day recognized. That was like wrapping the various worries under one cover. Decades went by as progress was made, but it has been that nervous time while we wait to learn if others are learning about the worry, the threat. It seems that the word is spreading, but did it take too long? It may be that the climate had to break before enough people understood who else to tell and what to do.

Today I wrote a typically short post (yes, I can write concisely on occasion) on one of my other blogs; PretendingNotToPanic.com (news for people who are eager and anxious about the future). Carbon emissions (aka pollution when Earth Day began) are not down, but they’re finally up by less than 1%. (Global CO2 Emissions Shrink). It has taken decades but new ways of living and the advancement and adoption of renewable energies have begun to turn the curve. That is particularly impressive considering the population increase since Earth Day. (1970)

Much of the news is whether we can hit specific reduction targets and dates – as if that means we’ll be done. Sadly, at least to me, my basic understanding of systems suggests that it can take as long to turn something around as it did to get it into the situation. That assumes everything stays the same and very little is staying the same, but that’s not always a good thing. The Industrial Revolution has been going on for about 260 years. It took a large and long time to create this mess. We have better technologies, now, but we also have ten times the population.

I’m nervous because the climate is changing, that change is accelerating in places like the Arctic, and we have a lot to learn.

I am also encouraged because we have a lot more people working on solutions, too.

That’s why I consider myself an apocaloptimist, a term that confuses spell check and that I am getting better at typing right the first time. We’re heading for something that could be apocalyptic and there will be suffering, but eventually our civilization will succeed and find a better and sustainable way to live.

But about that suffering and this blog’s primary purpose: personal finance. My software eventually loaded. I am reasonably confident that my books will sell well. (Firewatcher is about a bunch of apocaloptimists finding a new way and place to live.) I am sure that eventually our species will figure things out. But in the meantime, technology runs faster than me; word-of-mouth advertising takes months or years while folks read the books, and my bills continue to arrive; and climate change is already affecting personal finances as the economy tries to respond to refugee crises, food and supply chain interruptions, and politicians responding on timelines based on election cycles, not human generations.

These are nervous times. Times for patience while being ready to move and act. Time to review history and consider the future while feeding and being fed by this economy.

In a more immediate situation, these are nervous times where I live. Our air is unhealthy because fifty miles away are forest fires in temperate rain forests, an occurrence that represents a changing climate. As one Ranger told me years ago while I was researching Twelve Months at Barclay Lake; “Rain forests like this one rarely catch fire, but when they do we have to wait for nature to put them out.” Old growth trees are too big, there’s too much fuel, and that terrain is aggressive. They’re managing the perimeter to lessen the impact on people; but for now we nervously wait for better weather. Rain is due.

Relief is due; but for now we wait, adjust, and look forward to rebuilding after the crises.

(Or taking off in a spaceship, but that option was only available to the characters in my sci-fi novel. The rest of us get to stay here, and perhaps have a cup of tea.)

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SolarWindow – One Company One story

Welcome to another video in my One Company One Story series.

Pardon me as I paste in yet another disclosure disclaimer.

I am not a certified finance professional. But I can comment on my finances, and I can comment on stories. The SEC and maybe some other organization(s) require it.

This time is it about SolarWindow, a company that has the innovative idea of creating coatings that can turn a window into a transparent solar panel. That breaks a paradigm or two.

Within the previous few hundred years our civilization became aware of the utility of fossil fuels. (Hmm, did we realize the power of fossil fuels before we knew what fossils were?) I can recall the motto of Pittsburgh while growing up in the tail end of the dirty era; we were told to not complain because that was the “Smell of Progress.” (Side note: I hear similar mottos today for things like the “Price of Freedom.”)

Within the last few decades solar and wind power have gone from jokes to becoming a new paradigm, electricity without major installations, decentralized, and becoming ubiquitous. 

SolarWindow and their competitors are breaking that paradigm as they create solar panels either through solid panels or in the case of SolarWindow, window coatings. Now, instead of opaque, rigid, and acre-eating panels it is possible to integrate solar power units into our windows.

The paradigm shift to coating windows is more than simply replacing solid opaque panels. Look at modern architecture. Even houses are built with an increasing percentage of wall space devoted to windows instead of wood, stone, or steel. Greenhouses take that to an extreme. Farmers can make money from crops as well as from power.

That’s the general idea, but I am keeping in mind that, on a business level they have competitors and I suspect each competitor can tell you why they are better. 

Google Finance

The stock price suggests that SolarWindow’s stock, WNDW, is not in much demand. They had a phenomenal spike within the last few years. I look forward to finding out what that’s about.

It looks like a fascinating story. I hope it and I have a happy ending.

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Getting Ready For Our October 15 Self-Publishing Workshop

The short version:

The longer version:

Busy? Busy. But I see a break coming. (Whew.) But next is something I look forward to, conducting a workshop, this time one on self-publishing. October 15 Don Scoby (the co-host of the Writing On Whidbey Island, WOWI, podcast) and myself are conducting a one-day intensive workshop covering From Inspiration To Publication, which effectively means from taking ideas, turning them into words in a manuscript, cover design, book formatting, publication, and through to things like book events and sales (hopefully.) Ten hours between 9AM and 9PM. Somewhat intense? Yes, but far more comprehensive than previous attempts to cover all of that in an hour or two. (We tried for a more sedate two-day event but could only book the Coupeville Rec Hall for one day. Maybe next time. Maybe even another location if enough people request it.

Part of my busy life this year has been directed to finishing three projects, three books, in time for the event.

Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay

Part nine of a five part, er, ten part series of photos of Whidbey Island’s nature. Part ten is in work, with two months to go. As for publishing experience, these are small hardback books that are relatively easy to mail. The size was also a recommendation from local bookstore owners who wanted photo books that could fit on a shelf. The world has more shelves than coffee tables. Published on Blurb.com.

Kettle Pot Cup

A fundraiser I had fun with. Pardon the pun, but I enjoy tea but don’t take it as seriously as some – but then many in America don’t. Hot water, a tea bag, wait for the water to turn color, and call it done. That’s the American way. At the same time, we actually do have our rituals and I do honor the experts. The fundraiser part comes in because I also wanted to do more than honor the people who pick the leaves. Their working conditions are like migrant farm workers but without the ability to leave the farm much. Book proceeds do to charities that help the people on the farm. Because this is another book that’s good as a gift I made sure it is hardback, too. Published on Lulu.com.


Welcome to my first sci-fi novel, which has already inspired thoughts of sequels. That’s part of next year’s busyness, but in the meantime I’ll be busy telling folks about the book, spreading the word, and listening to their feedback. One of my favorite bits of feedback has been;

It’s great to read a sci fi with the humor in it.

There’s even dancing, and some tears, and some – well, there’s a whole book of words. 

This one is paperback, because that just feels right for scifi.

Published on Amazon/Kindle in paperback. (Ebook to follow as time allows in this world of busyness.)

When I self-published my first book, Just Keep Pedaling in 2002 there were probably fewer than 100,000 books printed by the print-on-demand technique. Preliminary research suggests there may be more than 2,000,000 published this year. The idea caught on.

There are an overwhelming range of choices and decisions. I have used several publishers for myself and helped other authors, too. Don has published cookbooks, histories, music, and has mixed them up. We cover a lot of options. The more valuable information may be the descriptions of the ones we didn’t choose.

Is there more to say? Of course! But today’s busyness must progress. Another work item for the night, possibly coordinating with Don over the preparations, and – gasp – maybe reading a book. You see, when I write I don’t read as much. Three books in one year means a lot of other authors’ books have stacked up. So many stories. So much to read. So much to learn. So many new perspectives. Contact me if you want to attend. I’m looking forward to it.

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Tea Charity Donations

It finally happened. The end of a quarter of the year. The first report of sales for Kettle Pot Cup are in. Nice to see. That also means the first donation is on its way. Donating money in an interconnected world is welcome, and necessary. Here’s a bit of what I learned, and here’s a bit of serendipity.

My post Kettle Pot Cup Launched introduced how this book happened, but the subsequent post Authors Always Have More Work To Do can be better because it includes the video of the talk I was able to give at Langley Library. And thank you to Friends Of Langley Library for the opportunity. 

For the short, but hopefully not too short description; thanks to the internet and social media, and to my time as a stockholder of Starbucks (SBUX) I became aware of the working conditions of the people who actually grow such simple luxuries as tea and coffee. Starbucks impressed me with what they initiated for coffee growers almost two decades ago. I lost track when I was no longer a stockholder (separate story). Tea pickers have a similar life, and yet not.

Tea production can be automated, but you can also get cheap coffee from a machine yet people pay a lot of money to get a barista to do their work. In short, tea is picked by hand. Imagine that. Imagine walking out into rows of bushes stretching across acres and daily picking fresh leaves from the plants. The highest end teas are even more restricted because, as I understand it, the leaves are only picked when the fluids in the plants have risen far enough after dawn and before they retreat (from the heat?). In some places the tea pickers are migrant farm workers without the ability to migrate, which also means that are somewhat trapped in their situation. From one report they are paid about a third of a living wage. 

What could I do?

Contrary to the stereotype, being a realtor is not a guaranteed path to impressive income. If my clients are out-bid they don’t get the house and I don’t get paid. It has been lean. (Required Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/). I could buy tea because tea can be a frugal person’s friend, but little of that money could get to the growers. 

What could I do?

I can write. It is up to you to decide if I write well enough or not, but I know I can produce a book that some will find enjoyable; and I can do so rather expediently. So, I decided to write a book, have fun with it, and seriously donate the book proceeds to charities that support tea growers and pickers.

Kettle Pot Cup was born.

In early 2022 Kettle Pot Cup was also published, printed, put online for sale, and made available across much of the glove. Really rather cool when you think about it. (BTW I’ll be co-hosting a self-publishing workshop with Don Scoby on October 15, 2022.)

The end of September was a convenient time to write the first check. Great. Sounds easy, right? Well…

Tea may be more popular than coffee (really, it is, globally) but there are fewer charities than I expected. The majority request payment in Pounds, not Dollars. A vestige of the British Empire. Many of them are directed at government and corporate donations, possibly because that’s where the money is. As a result, the web sites are more likely to be informative than to provide information about how to donate. It gets tricky. 

But, after opening dozens of browser tabs, steering around ads, cookie windows, and intriguing web navigations, I finally found an appropriate site.

Thanks to everyone who purchased a book and therefore made a donation. Let’s give more.

And then the serendipity kicks in. 

After giving my computer time enough to open those tabs I returned to open my email. There was a long-anticipated and finally-received email inviting me to hold a talk in an energetic bookstore. Stay tuned. I’m looking forward to it and will pass along details when available. (Check @tetrimbath on Twitter.)

And then, while in my living room I noticed the mail truck backing up my driveway. Today’s delivery? The next batch of copies of Kettle Pot Cup, just in time as if timed.

Just a few days ago I was thanking a friend who helps me get through some of the toughest days. No obligation. No thank-you gifts means No Thank You Gifts, because frugal folks don’t like waste and clutter; and heart-felt thanks are rarer and more valuable. Anyway, we talked about how sometimes we help others with obvious acts (thanks for the ride to the doctor’s office, et al), and we sometimes help without knowing it because we smiled or encouraged someone or gave away some excess harvest that wasn’t even zucchini.

I try to help, but it is hard to know, especially in today’s frantic work world. I hope I help, and I do what I can. So, here’s yet another link to Kettle Pot Cup. Note that, if you buy it through Lulu.com it results in a roughly $15 donation, but bought through Amazon results in a $1 donation. Where those $14 go I do not know.

The book is hardback, purposely so it make a nicer gift, and also makes it easier to ship.

Now to see what serendipity it provides to any of us who become associated with it. Maybe just a gift. Maybe some awareness. Maybe someone can nominate an appropriate charity and decide to skip the book and donate much more than $15. Who knows? I certainly don’t. All I know is that I wrote a book – and enjoy tea.

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Ah. Finally, a proper cup of tea, well, an infusion of herbs plus a few spices plus some honey. (The honey is the decadent part.) Decadence? Why, of course! I took a vacation – which would be hard to notice for anyone who wasn’t watching my house and picking up my mail. (Thanks, Susan.) Such is the nature of work, and also why pure vacations are harder to take, now. Even without a wi-fi signal it is possible to check voice mail and email. And if there is an internet connection, disconnecting takes personal resolve. But then there is synchronicity and balancing acts and listening to hints from the universe.

While my tea is hot I want to remind myself to write another chapter of the sequel to Kettle Pot Cup, my first book about tea. I just spent most of a week (hey, it was only five days, but that’s the longest vacation I’ve had since walking across Scotland in 2010 – Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland) – starting over. I spent five days in a neighboring tourist town, La Conner. Seeing $50 menu items I was reminded of how many high-end meals are accompanied by a tea bag in a tiny metal tea pot. Come on, fancy restaurants, up your game and provide loose leaf tea, a french press or even just a strainer as if flavor mattered throughout the meal. Whew. Rant over. Hello, loose leaf tea I can enjoy because I am home, again.

I wasn’t planning on playing tourist. Sitting in my tiny breakfast nook is a pile of gear for a long-anticipated overnight backpacking trip. Exertion for an afternoon, then days of relaxing out of range of cell-phones. But, that part of the world caught fire (#BoltCreekFire) on the day before I was ready to go. The Bolt Creek Fire wrapped around the site of my destination and the site of one of my books, Twelve Months at Barclay Lake. That closed the highway. As it burned I recalled a ranger’s comment from when I was researching the book. Evidently, the area is almost temperate rain forest (119 inches of rain per year), which means it rarely burns. But, when it burns the trees are so large, the undergrowth too thick, and the terrain is so extreme that they decided the best way to put out the fire is to wait for rain. And so they have. They’ve been busy containing the fire, and protecting the residents and their houses. And we’re in a record dry spell. So now, enormous trees are burning then falling hundreds of feet to land in the highway. Yep. That closed the highway. Detour!

Detour? No. My backup plan was to hike at another lake along that road, Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla

OK. How about the next and only highway north of there that crosses the mountains? Nope. Landslide.

Hint. Hint. Hint. Maybe my sore knee Really Did Not Want To Go Hiking!

Capitulate. Surrender. Start checking lodgings in natural settings, like Kalaloch in Olympic National Park. Beach walks from a small cabin with a kitchen and a pile of books, ah. Ah, no. No rooms available. No rooms available throughout the park. Nor any rooms that I’d like to relax in outside the park. Ah, the San Juan islands, a fave. Nope. East of the mountains? Road closures, silly boy. At least get off my island and stay just across the water in La Conner, a sweet tourist town that I’ve visited frequently but never stayed in. A room!? Yes! Waterfront, even.

So that’s what the hints were leading me to.

Remember, I was trying to rest and recuperate. My recent doctor’s note was TAKE A VACATION. (All caps in original message) OK. OK. Hint. HINT. La Conner’s tourist area is basically one long street with shops, galleries, restaurants, and such. I envisioned unwinding in some brewpub, maybe reading, maybe some introspection; but not much writing. This year I’ve self-published three books (Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay, Kettle Pot Cup, and Firewatcher.) Oh yeah, and work in real estate. (Required disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/). Rest without writing (much.) I’d even get some easy exercise by walking around town and its marina.

Mistake #1) Have a beer. This would not become apparent until…

Mistake #2) Walk across the Rainbow Bridge. 

While walking across the very high Rainbow Bridge (which is not painted in rainbow colors, and it is really only 75 feet of clearance), the gluten in the beer kicked in as I was mid-span. Anxiety attack. Over a long drop. Beside a railing that looked like it was below my center of gravity. Eep.

Grumble. Gripe. 

Some anxiety attacks and some gluten reactions pass within half a day. Nope. More like three days. The beer was good, but that price was too high. Hence the comment about tea, hence the sudden shrinking of culinary options, hence the incentive to lounge while looking contemplative.

But then, serendipity. My knee hurt, so I strolled slower. I strolled more slowly so I was more likely to chat with store owners. By the end of a day or two of hobbling around, three of my books were for sale in a local book store (three of my Twelve Months books are in SeaportBooks.com), I met with an entrepreneurial couple, found a venue for our self-publishing workshop (but first comes Coupeville), and found a lead on a realtor to coordinate with.

Evidently it is relatively easy for me to drop into business mode.

I also noticed that the business cards I’ve been giving out for over a year had the wrong web address (.com instead of .net). Aargh! It is a good thing that I usually carry more than one kind (see the opening scene for Dolly in Hello Dolly).

So, maybe I didn’t end up where I wanted to go but ended up where I needed to be. (paraphrasing Dirk Gently)

The biochemicals left my system the evening before I had to check out. I’m now back home with my familiar mix of shelter, entertainment, dining and drinking, working (naturally), and generally living. 

While in La Conner I read their newspaper (La Conner Weekly News) which had two articles out Langley, the closest tourist town to my house. Similarities and differences to contemplate. The kelp is always greener in the neighbor’s waterways. That was a bonus.

The highway is still closed. The ferry that was part of the transit plan was running at half-schedule. Little encouragement, there.

One of the reasons for the timing of the vacation was the successful conclusion to one real estate transaction and having to wait for the bulk book buy order to arrive. Ta da! A big box of books stamped HEAVY arrived as I was unpacking.

A medical test came back looking good, and the report came in soon after I got home. Nice timing.

La Conner bears no fault for my sad days. My episode was a reminder of my preference for lodging that has at least a small kitchen. The room may be more expensive, but the food is cheaper, the food is more likely to be healthier for me, and there’s a lot less guessing about the menu or interrogating the restaurant staff. Frugal doesn’t always mean cheapest.

The bed was soft. The view was of the channel off my private deck. The shower had more hot water than mine at home. I didn’t have to set up a tent, pump water, eat cold meals, or dig a latrine. 

And despite those hints, I also look forward to finding the right campsite, in good weather, with good water, and a view, and maybe even a backcountry outhouse. There won’t be a wi-fi signal, so maybe I’d do an even better job of resting and recuperating. That’s one way to TAKE A VACATION.

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