Reflections On The Terror Attacks In England

I’m not normally one to jump on the news, and comment on it openly. Anyone who follows my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media accounts will see that they remain clear of such things, for the most part. However, this last week has seen the second terror attack on London, in recent months, and I can’t help reflecting on how it affects people.

My heart and prayers go out to the friends, families, and victims of those who have been affected by these blatant acts of terrorism. Even though many of those affected by the attacks grew up with IRA activities as a fact of life, these recent attacks will leave physical and emotional scars that are hard to hide.

For my part, I’m here in Alaska watching the news very closely, and checking in with friends and family back in England whenever I can. Having been born British, and leaving everyone behind when I came to Alaska to marry an American, I can’t help but be concerned by the things I see in the news. And, so far this year, we’ve seen three major attacks…

Attack #1 – March 22nd 2017

  • Location: Westminster, London
  • Casualties: 50 people were injured, and 6 killed
  • A lone driver mounts the curb on Westminster Bridge, and drove through the crowd, then continued on toward Parliament before abandoning the vehicle and attacking people with a knife. He was shot dead by police less than 90 seconds after the attack started.

Attack #2 – May 22nd 2017

  • Location: Manchester Arena, Manchester
  • Casualties: 116 people were injured, and 22 killed
  • Suicide bomber detonated a home-made bomb in the foyer as fans were leaving a concert.

Attack #3 – 3rd June 2017

  • Location: London Bridge & Borough Market, London
  • Casualties: 48 people were injured, and 7 killed
  • A white van drove into pedestrians on London Bridge before three attackers got out of the vehicle and ran into Borough Market, where they stabbed several people, before escaping back into the street where all three were shot dead by police.

Investigations Are Ongoing…

That’s three major attacks in four months, and police are still investigating each of the incidents thoroughly. To date several arrests have been made in connection with the attacks, and time will tell how things move forward from here.

But there’s one thing I know for a fact…

Despite these attacks, it’s just going to bring people closer together…

How Do I Know This?

  • London, and other parts of the UK are no strangers to terrorist attacks, and bombings
  • During World War 2, German bombs fell on London, and other parts of the country on a regular basis.
    • Bombers flew over the cities and dropped tons of bombs in lightning raids
    • the dreaded V-1 flying bombs (aka the buzz bomb or doodlebug) which dropped out of the sky when their noisy motors ran out of fuel
    • the V-2 missile was the first true long range guided ballistic missile
  • When I was growing up, attacks by the IRA (and assorted splinter groups) were a fact of. Bombs went off, people were attacked, and attempts were made to bring down Canary Wharf.

What Happened As A Result?

During the war, and the terror attacks that came later, people refused to let those responsible change their lives more than necessary. During the war, they banded together in bomb shelters, and told stories to keep each other company and pass the time.

When I was growing up, I didn’t let the possibility of an IRA attack deter me from going into the city of London. Even in my mid-teens I’d go into the city on my own to visit museums, stores or the libraries. Sure, I was aware of the possibility of an attack happening, but even then I believed that if we let terrorists dictate our choices, then they had achieved their goals. And I wasn’t going to let that happen, but I did watch out of suspicious packages and activities just in case.

And It’s Happening Again!

In all of the cases above, including the attacks that took place this year, it brought people together.

Now this is the important take-away from all of this, and does nothing to detract from the horrors that people went through. But, people came together to help each other.

  • They came together to help the police and emergency services deal with the situations.
  • Photos and video have been given up for evidence willingly.
  • Witnesses and victims alike have given statements
  • Investigations have been started, and further arrests made in connection with the events.
  • Common people have proved to be heroes

But most importantly, they have stepped up, and proved that no matter who claims responsibility for the attacks, Brits are nothing if not stubborn, resilient, and will not bow down to terrorists.

For my part, I’m proud to have been born British!

Help Stop Bullying By Educating People On The Effects

“Teacher reveals odd tactic to prevent bullying – and it leaves all her students in tears.”

That’s how this video was posted to me over on Facebook, and I’m not normally one to jump on my soap-box. But, there are some videos that I feel really need to be shared, and this is one of them. This video shows just how damaging bullying can be, in a way that those of us who have experienced it can appreciate.

Unfortunately, while this video shows the effects of bullying, it doesn’t educate people on how to deal with the being bullied, or how to handle the bullies themselves. There are so many types of bullying that educating people on how to deal with it will take a lot more than a two minute video.

My Personal Experience Of Bullying

I personally experienced several years of bullying during my schooling, and the schools seemed to consider me to be the problem. I was shy, quiet, and a bit of a book-worm (go figure). Because I ‘allowed’ the bullying to happen by not ‘fighting back’, I was sent to the school counselor for therapy.

Now I’ve never been a violent person, so I wasn’t happy with the idea that I should hit back, and they decided to try and help with my ‘anger management issues’. Apparently throwing a rag around the room was going to help me de-stress, and reduce my levels of anger. They made one mistake… Sure, I was stressed, but I wasn’t angry. Okay, they made TWO mistakes. They left the windows open, and the rag went out on almost as soon as I had it in my hand.

It took several years for me to really break out of the shell I built around myself, and I still have days when I find myself thinking about those years. But, love, care, friendships, and a lot of understanding have helped make things a lot easier to deal with.

Some Thoughts On Bullying

The whole bullying issue has really struck a nerve with me. It affects so many different types of people at a vital time in their lives.
– Kenny Wormwald

We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.
– Ellen DeGeneres

Children should always be brave and do something about bullying. It’s not okay to stand by and let it happen. Bullies thrive off secrecy. Children should tell someone if they see someone being bullied.
– Imelda Staunton

Here’s My Biggest Hope In Sharing This…

I hope that sharing this video and my personal experiences keeps the conversations about bullying going, and helps at least one person.

Let’s help reduce the instances of bullying, wherever they occur. It’s a problem that extends outside the schools and has a huge affect on so many people. The scars from being bullied may fade, but they are never truly gone. And that’s for those of us who survive the experience. Every time I see reports of bullying, or suicides that have resulted from bullying it brings back those memories of what I experienced.

It saddens me that we have been unable to stamp out bullying yet… So please, LIKE, SHARE, COMMENT!

Don’t let bullying continue by remaining silent!

Look Up | Gary Turk – Official Video

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that I very rarely post anything that could be considered social commentary. This is partly, because this is not that kind of blog, and secondly, because sometimes that kind of content is inflammatory, and often already overshared.

But this video struck home in so many ways, that I wanted to share it. As a writer, I value the experiences I’ve had in life, and am grateful for those I’ve been able to share with others.

I’m hoping that in this ultra-connected world of ever-present social media, this video can show a side of life that some people might be missing out on.

A full transcript of the video can be found here.

To quote Gary Turk, the video’s creator:

I don’t want you to stop using social media or smartphones.
It’s about finding a balance. It’s about making sure you are awake, alive and living life in the moment; instead of living your life through a screen.

Read my interview by Ilana Maletz – “Discovering the Wolf Within”

Ilana Maletz was gracious enough to give me and my wife Sandi, well over an hour of her time the other day. We spent that time on a video call, where she took an amazing number of notes for her planned interview post about me and my writing.

What resulted from that conversation is nothing short of amazing. Even reading the draft interview it was clear that Ilana saw how much my life had been changed by my introduction and marriage to Sandi, and the move from England to Alaska. I also love the fact that she took the time to talk with both Sandi and I, even though the original plan was to do a feature piece on me, my writing and my work with the Brain to Books Cyber Conventions.

This interview really wouldn’t have been complete without Ilana’s attention to details, and the time she took to understand how big a part Sandi is in my writing and personal life. So a huge thank you to Ilana for her time, patience, and for caring enough to get even the smallest details down. I look forward to working with her again during the Cyber Convention this April.

Read more about the interviewer

Find out about Ilana’s own writing

Where to find Ilana Maletz

Blog & Author Site, Facebook

 

Bullet Journal – The Solution To Your Planning Nightmares?

Okay, it’s confession time: This is going to be a very long post… But one worth reading to the very end, if you have trouble staying organized.

Way back in June 2014, and again in July 2014, I posted about an organizational system called Bullet Journal, created by Ryder Carroll And I gave it a very glowing review, after having used it for only a few weeks.

And then, just like with all organizational systems, I let it slide, and stopped using it.

There were a number of reasons for this, but mostly it came down to the fact that my adaptation of the master and travel journals was just taking up too much time to be efficient. The system was in it’s infancy, and I just wasn’t diligent enough to be using it daily. Things slipped my attention, because I hadn’t written them down. Or I hadn’t properly indexed and important piece of information, and missed out on doing some important stuff.

calendarThen 2016 was coming to an end, and I had huge plans for 2017

I am a regular reader of Popular Science, and get a lot of posts through their RSS feed. But just before the start of 2017 a particular post came to my attention: “HOW ONE NOTEBOOK COULD REPLACE ALL THE PRODUCTIVITY APPS THAT HAVE FAILED YOU : A Nerd’s Guide To Bullet Journaling” [by Amy Schullenbaum]

This article showed me just how much the Bullet Journal system had evolved from 2014, and why 2016 had been a year it’s number of users exploded.

I was intrigued, and I went hunting for more information, and found a wealth of resources, layouts for various sections, and video tutorials, FAQs, walk through and images galore. I’m not going to try to explain the system, because there are people out there who have done it much better, and more creatively, than I ever could.

Instead I’m going to let you read the resources I’ve already linked to, and explain what I did to personalize the system.

search-documentWhat did I do differently to most?

  • Instead of using a regular notebook or journal, I decided to stick with something I had a lot of sitting around my apartment – 3-ring binders.
    • A mixture of lined and grid-lined paper gives me a huge amount of flexibility in how my pages are formatted.
    • Lined pages are really just for note taking, lists, and things that don’t require a special page layout.
    • The grid pages make up the bulk of my organizational structure, the calendex, future log, weekly log, and my trackers.
    • Using three-hole-punched pages makes it easy to assemble my bullet journal on the fly. As I find I need a new page, I add it to the binder under the relevant section, write a header at the top and a page number at the bottom. (Each page number has a letter preceding it to indicate which section it’s in). Then that page number and header (where needed) are added to the indexes/calendars, and cross-referenced from an existing page (where needed).
  • I have multiple dividers in place to separate particular sections:
    • Index & Future Log – The index is still my primary source for finding things quickly, and my future log really isn’t used very much, because of the next section.
    • Calendex & Weekly Logs – The index has no concept of date/time. So I added a Calendex to list upcoming events, and then a weekly calendar to organize each week in more detail. The Calendex lists page references for events, reminders, etc but my weekly calendar doesn’t, since it’s basically a way to setup the tasks on my daily log.
    • Daily Logs – This is the core of my journal. Each day is setup  the night before, unless  have to add a task at short notice. This section is complicated, and simple at the same time. The front pages are a list of ongoing tasks for the year, and then the month. This is followed by pages dedicated to just the daily log of tasks, work hours appointments , etc. I’m finding I often reschedule things until later dates, because I booked too much on a given day, something unexpected happened, or I find myself waiting on important information. However, it allows me to copy relevant tasks from other areas of the journal to the daily list with ease, and my weekly planner and calendex allow me to track the tasks I rescheduled.
    • Events & Appointments – This is where I keep my list of upcoming guest blog slots, important dates, and planning for  vacations and big events . This has become an important section for me, because it’s allowing me to track multiple related projects through cross-referencing page numbers.
    • Habit Trackers – this section is where I’ll hold myself accountable for the various things I know I should be doing every day/week/month, without fail. Right now, it’s just a mini-calendar where I can write in how many words I wrote/edited, cross off days I didn’t do either, and then tally up the total at the end of the week.

awardMy thoughts so far…

  • This system has been extremely fast to pickup and use.
  • In it’s basic form, it’s great for day-to-day stuff, but I needed a lot more than that.
  • There are some great people out there, creating some very innovative page layouts, and additions to the basic system.
  • I would be lost without the various indexes, and my tracker.
  • I’m thinking I need a section dedicated to lists of things I’m gathering, like quotes for my “Someone Else’s Words” posts, and the various posts I’m working on for other authors.

So, that’s my experience of the system at the end of the first month, and I have to say it’s been working much better than my first outing with it. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this system, and trying to find the best resources to get you started.

Keep one thing in mind – once you leave the Bullet Journal website, all bets are off as to what you’ll discover. You might end up like I did, watching hours of YouTube videos trying to learn more, and then only adopting what I really needed. However, if I hadn’t I might never have adopted the calendex, weekly planner, or tracker that I find so integral to my use of the system.

writingdrinking

So, where can I find out more?

Even a quick search online will show you that there are quite a few people not only using Bullet Journal, but making it work for them in very unique ways.

  • There’s the official Bullet Journal Website @ BulletJournal.Com, and even a glance there will show you just how flexible the system can be. This site will teach you the bare bones of the system, and give you some ideas of what others have done to adapt it to their needs.
  • Eddy Hope, over at Discover Analog, has created something he calls the Calendex, which is a very interesting way to merge a calendar with an index. The Calendex is broken down into months and days, just like a regular calendar. But instead of logging actual actions, appointments, etc you log the page reference of items that are relevant to that date.
  • Kim Alvarez, at Tiny Ray of Sunshine, regularly posts experimental page formats, and updates to how she uses the Bullet Journal system. Kim is also a regular contributor to the official Bullet Journal Blog.
  • Kim (not the same one), at BulletJournalJoy provides some free printable pages for who, like me, assemble their journals as they go.
  • Then there’s Kara Benz, over at BohoBerry, who has a very prolific YouTube channel, which often features her thoughts, experiments and experiences with various page layouts. Kara produces what I consider some of the most beautiful page layouts for her Bullet Journal, and is always trying something new. Check out her “Bullet Journal 101” videos for a great introduction to her process.

Rest In Peace Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) – My Personal Memories

carriefisherEarly Tuesday morning, we lost Carrie Fisher, after a heart attack earlier in the week. There are very few actresses who have become such massively iconic figures that their passing leaves gaping holes behind them. But, in my opinion Carrie Fisher is one of them.

Actress, writer, mental health advocate, and a star that almost everyone respected, Fisher sprang into the spotlight with Star Wars, and remained there. Her role as Leia might be what most people remember her for, but she had a hand in writing, or improving the screenplays for a number of very popular films.

However, my deepest respect has to go out to Fisher for her role in raising mental health awareness, and the way that she treated being bi-polar. When talking about her own mental health, Fisher was blunt, outspoken and for the most part disarming:

I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.

I get lots of awards for being mentally ill. Apparently, I am better at being mentally ill than almost anything else I’ve ever done. Seriously – I have a shelf of awards for being bipolar.

When it came to interacting with the fans, Fisher was well known for having embraced her role as Leia. She handled the attention the role brought her with grace, humor and an acceptance that few could have managed. For me though, her humor was best shown in her tweets, and social appearances. In September this year, she tweeted:

The only exercise I get lately is running off at the mouth & jumping to conclusions…..

And it is for these kinds of quotes that I am going to remember her best (excluding quotes from films). But, while we’re remembering this amazing woman, I felt that I should share some of my favorite on-screen memories…

carrie-fisher-star-wars-1977Princess Leia – Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977)

For the vast majority of people growing up when I did, the first of the Star Wars films wasn’t the first time we saw Carrie Fisher playing the role that made her famous. However, it remains her most pivotal role, in my opinion.

Once reported as saying that she would

…go hang out with a bunch of robots for a few months and then return to my life and try to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. – source Business Insider

On the character of Leia, she has said:

Leia is not a real character. She is more of a caricature, and is somewhat one-dimensional. It’s not really possible to write out a list of Princess Leia’s likes and dislikes. I do know her favorite color, though, it’s white. She wears white all the time. But that doesn’t help me much. – source IMDB

carriefisher-bluesbrothers-601px-bb-sp1-1

The Mystery Woman – Blues Brothers (1980)

The Blues Brothers duo of Jake and Elwood Blues originated from minds of Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, and first appeared on “Saturday Night Live”. Bringing great music to a TV audience, it was far from inevitable that they could translate that popularity into film. And, indeed, despite it’s all-star cast from music, film, and television, the film was far from a cinematic success.

Yet, it remains one of the biggest cult classics of all time, filled with amazing music, and some great guest appearances. None of these is more memorable than Carrie Fisher’s role as the ‘Mystery Woman’, who spends most of her on-screen time either preparing to, or actually trying to kill Jake.  For me this is one of the strangest roles in the film, because it takes a very long time to find out why she wants Jake dead. (And honestly, with the way he treats her, I can almost sympathize with her).

carrie-fisher-star-wars_lncima20161223_0140_3

Princess Leia – Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens(2015)

When Disney announced they were planning to do a new Star Wars film, that would follow on from the original trilogy, I was thrilled. But that was nothing compared to the joy of hearing that many of the original cast would be returning to reprise their roles.

Most importantly, we were going to get to see what happened to two of the characters we loved most from the series, Han and Leia. It was a shock to see how much time had passed for the two of them, and how the events between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens” had changed them. But, when Han and Leia are reunited, it’s very clear that the love between them is still very much there.

I personally think this is one of the best performances Carrie Fisher ever put together, and gave us a story that was well overdue.

National Novel Writing Month & My Posting Schedule

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org)National Novel Writing Month is now half-way through it’s first week, and I thought I give everyone an update on some of my statistics… (Follow my NaNoWriMo journey as it happens)

Lifetime Achievement: Total NaNo Word Count: 227,623
THIS is the number I am most proud of. Since my first NaNoWriMo in 2011, I have written a more than 225,000 words. That means by the end of the event, I will have more than one quarter of a million words committed to text. And this year, I will celebrate by finishing the first draft of “Of Wolves and Men”

Average number of words per day: 1,418
This might seem a little shy of the 1,667 words per day total, but you have to remember that I’m writing until 3am i the morning, and not starting my writing day until after I’ve finished work at 11:30pm the night before. So this is definitely messing with my stats.

Target Word Count:50,000
Yep, I’m keeping to this target, since this is what everyone is aiming for. Even better still, since I was already 43,149 words into writing “Of Wolves and Men” it should put me in a very good place to have the entire novel finished, or at least close to.

Total Words Written: 7,092
Words Remaining: 42,908
So that’s my total of new words written at the end of the fourth day of writing. I’m aiming to at least write double my target word counts during my days off next week.

At This Rate You Will Finish On: December 6, 2016
Actually, this is a little skewed because of my changing timescales. BUT the deadline for completing the 50,000 word target is just before midnight on November 30th, so I WILL have to try and gain  couple of days worth of writing before the end.

So What Does All This Mean To My Blog Readers?

It means that until the end of the month, my blog will be coming second to my efforts to complete “Of Wolves and Men”. I will probably still post the occasional update, but they will be less regular than my usual two-to-three posts per week.