Six Months Later …

On January 21, I wrote the following:

A cluster of storms now thunder in the distance:

  • We’ve had significant board departures at Caffeinated Press
  • We’ve re-branded and re-launched GLCL as Write616
  • Tony and I re-skinned Vice Lounge Online
  • I managed to lose, despite the holidays, about 10 pounds
  • Murphy d’Cat has been puking quite a bit lately, meaning a vet visit is on the horizon
  • My landlord has suggested that he’s about to sell the house where I’ve dwelt for the last seven years
  • My department at Priority Health (I’ve been with the corporation for nearly 18 years) is being reorganized, and the role I occupy of departmental manager is being eliminated, although the “what’s next for Jason” question still hasn’t been answered

As you might imagine, it’s been a wee bit complicated lately. Nearly every major aspect of my life—job, hobbies, domicile, pet health—has been put under a degree of stress that they haven’t before, and to boot, it’s all been pretty much simultaneous.

From the vantage point of early July, it’s time to revisit the weather report. In order of appearance:
Caffeinated Press. Brittany and I spent the last six months doing a complete under-the-hood renewal of the company. We’re now pivoting back to editorial ops and to network-distribution efforts. I’m more satisfied than ever that we’re on a path to long-term sustainability, but the process of getting there has been tedious.
Write616. We’ve been programmin’ up a storm. Which is good. We lost two board members (Kelly’s term ended and KT decamped to the East Coast to begin her MFA program) but gained one, as well (the other Kelly). Summer is a quiet time for us. So far, so stable.
Vice Lounge. The new site skinning went well. We just began our usual summer hiatus, when we slow down by releasing one show every other week, instead of weekly. We purchased new equipment (a mixer, some pop filters) and deployed Patreon to encourage listener support. Tony and I both went to Las Vegas for the 360Vegas Vacation, and we’ll both returning later this summer for the next 360Vegas Vacation. Next week, we meet with a group of friends (met through the wide, wooly world of podcasting) for another overnight excursion to Caesar’s Windsor in Ontario. We had already met nearly a dozen folks in Windsor in March.
Health & Happiness. Weight has been stable, tweaking down slightly. I bought an exercise bike a few weeks ago and have discovered that I actually really enjoy making fish and steamed vegetables for dinner and rotisserie-chicken Caesar salads for lunch. More by accident than by design, I’m settling into a low-carb diet and getting much more cardio time in. The new Apple Watch, with its built-in exercise monitors, has been a useful weapon in the cause.
Feline Overlords. Murph is fine. They’re both fine, and have been providing appropriate oversight these last few months.
Domicile. I’m still here, but the landlord is slowly improving the house to list it. I’m aware of his plans. He’s setting high bars (interested buyers must be qualified with the real-estate agent, one viewing only under tight restrictions, etc.) for sale, given that the house was cosmetically refreshed in the early 1980s and last substantially rehabbed — we think — in the early 1950s. If he manages to sell it, and I’m not convinced his heart is in it, then I’ll probably relocate within 60 or 90 days. To where, I haven’t yet decided, but I have a few ideas percolating ‘twixt the earholes, so I’m budgeting/planning accordingly.
Priority Health. My last day there, after nearly 18 years of service, was May 2. I’ve since launched Gillikin & Associates, a healthcare quality consulting agency, and have been funding this effort through a mix of severance payments as well as supplemental income from my contract editing work.


With all of this transition, particularly around Priority Health, I took the advantage of the last few months to eke some wins that heretofore I hadn’t been able to accomplish, because of day-job time constraints:

  • Spending orgy. I burned through a ton of cash early in the year on things that I figured I’d need to have in place given the employment transition. Stuff ranging from a PC consolidation (I bought a Surface Pro 4 with all the bells and whistles and a color laser printer), to golf clubs, to fitness equipment, to a refresh of my hiking gear, to branded promo materials for my consulting efforts. I burned cash like Johnny Depp at a wine auction.
  • Wilderness First Responder training. I scheduled it in January and successfully completed it the first week in May. This certification has been on my bucket list since 2009.
  • Isle Royale AIR application. I filed an application to become an artist-in-residence at Isle Royale National Park. Although I was not selected, it was a matter of pride to have filed the paperwork. The powers-that-be picked two artists out of more than 100 qualified applicants.
  • NAHQ Code of Ethics project. I spent a lot of time serving as project co-lead, and as lead author, for the new Code of Ethics for Healthcare Quality Professionals. The work is still unfolding as we put meat on the bones of the Code as approved in April by the board of directors. More than 100 hours over the last few months went into this work effort, including a day-long focus group in Chicago in February. More still to come.
  • CafPress stabilization planning. Brittany and I spent a ton of time behind-the-scenes cleaning up finances and contracts, re-evaluating projects, streamlining costs and infrastructure, assessing insurance policies, building a platform for distribution, etc. And we brought aboard two interns (one from GVSU, one from Aquinas) who have rocked out this summer’s efforts. One intern, in particular, requested to serve office hours, so I’m in the office roughly 15 hours per week, minimum, to both oversee intern progress as well as to dedicate time to my publishing duties. I’m aware that some folks view my time, and the publishing company’s, primarily in terms of editorial output. This mindset is both offensive and wrong-headed. Running a business takes time. Editorial ops are just one piece of a much larger puzzle, and it makes little sense to focus on editorial when we haven’t significantly cracked the retailer market. I’ve spent more time on CafPress stuff in the last six months than I have in any prior 12-month window. But it’s time on maturing the business so that future editorial projects are better positioned to succeed.
  • Measuring the Marigolds. We did manage to release one editorial project, though — Measuring the Marigolds, a poetry collection by WMU emerita professor Miriam Bat-Ami.
  • Denton. “Goin’ down to Denton, gonna have ourselves a time ….” I went to Denton, Texas in March. Had the chance to spend quality time with Roux, Ryan, Edwin, Sparkles, Duane and Regina in their own back yard (plus Winstar!), and make great new friends at The Don’s. Lookin’ forward to a return trip.
  • Get Published! conference. Did this, again, at Herrick District Library, under the bold and visionary leadership of the MiFiWriters. Great experience.
  • Publication credits. I was officially published in Christ’s Body, Christ’s Wounds and in Division by Zero: Double Take.
  • Launching G&A. Starting a company from scratch — one based on a national service platform, rather than local sales or service — is no small thing. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours since February poring over website copy, contracts, federal-contractor forms, marketing materials, etc. And I’m yet not completely done!
  • 360Vegas Vacation. Went over Memorial Day (great time, including ZorkFest) and will be returning over Labor Day.
  • Discovery flight. I went flying! And now I’m beginning the process of enrolling for flight lessons.
  • Joined FBET. I applied, and was accepted, as a guild member for the Fortune Bay Expedition Team. Took a class on waterborne medicine in early June and have been taking various online courses offered through their School of Expeditionary Sciences. It’s been a phenomenal process to see how they work, and how I’m already in some ways ahead of the curve (I have a radio license and WFR certification, for example) and in some ways, I’m behind (never occurred to me that a Chevy Cruze was a suboptimal vehicle choice for overland adventure travel). So I’m doing online courses and playing catch-up where I think I have gaps. For example, I just bought a new handheld radio, a Yaesu VX-6R. My “old” radio, a Baofeng BF-F8HP, is decent enough for things like supporting a contest or participating in a local repeater net, but the Yaesu is highly water-resistant and much more programmable. Little things. Like, I’ve had a kayak for years and even a chunky PFD (not that I’ve needed it on the Flat River). But my kayak is a “flatwater” type with open bulkheads, not ideal for more complex lake crossings or Type I-III rapids. So a touring kayak is now on the acquisition list, despite that the cheapest of them retail for more than $1,500. Why bother? Because FBET does stuff like take a two-week drive/camp trek through Newfoundland and Quebec, venturing to places most people never journey. That’s why. It’s increasingly important to me to see the wild world from the trail. Or from 60 feet below the surface. Or from 3,000 feet above it.
  • Auto repairs. On top of everything else, my car needed brakes and it had a minor GM recall, so I brought it in. Turned out — doesn’t it always “turn out” when you visit the dealership? — that there was much more amiss under the hood than I initially suspected. So $1,300 dollars later, I drove off with new front brakes, a new water pump, a reprogrammed Emission Control Module, new valve covers and a new intake manifold. But it’s done, and the Cruze purrs like a kitten now instead of squealing like a hamster running a marathon on a wheel without grease.
  • Photography. Got another photoshoot published, this one of downtown Marshall, Michigan. Was already there taking photos on behalf of my friend Matt Hall’s race for State Rep.
  • Reading. Been scheduling time to read for pleasure. Seven books down, so far this year. I keep buying them, though. Three themes surfacing. First, the whole “end-of-Western-Civ” ruin porn genre penned by mostly conservative authors. Second, the “Catholic-response-to-the-end-of-Western-Civ” genre, in the Benedict Option vein. Third, the “editing-for-fun-and-profit” genre, represented by the five books arriving from Amazon tomorrow: Scott Norton’s Developmental Editing, Jane Friedman’s The Business of Being a Writer, Don McNair’s Editor-Proof Your Writing, Peter Ginna’s What Editors Do, and finally an updated copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. Current version is 17; I’m on 15.
  • Writing. Lots of writing. I try to reserve an hour or so, before I go to bed, to write. Not always successful, but I do okay. Presently have five projects I’m tinkering with.

The New Discipline: Scheduling

One fast lesson over the last few months relates to the how part of the getting-things-done march I’ve been on.
The problem, in a nutshell: I’m super-freaky good at enrolling tasks in Todoist, the to-do platform I use. And I’m also quite adept at kicking tasks down the road each week. So in June I started blocking off two hours every Sunday to compare my to-do list with my calendar. And I’ve been scheduling my to-dos as calendar items (usually in a large, affinitized block, rather than a one-appointment-per-task approach). This strategy has proven immensely helpful at time management, as well as revealing my innate over-optimistic attitude about what tasks I can accomplish within specific time periods, absent deliberate calendaring of the time necessary to work on them.
Lots more on my private list of stuff to accomplish in 2018.
I will say this, though. In January, I thought a storm was brewing. And I was right. But the result has been more liberating than I had imagined.

A Not-So-Bad August

August hasn’t been half-bad:

  • This weekend was fairly pleasant. Today was spent in the office, preparing catch-up reports and working down my personal queue of Service Desk tickets, and now I sit at Biggby drinking mocha and writing. Yesterday, I got a haircut, got a massage from the Chinese people, bought some specialty craft beer, and hung out with Rick and Sondra for a while.
  • The truck is working well. I had to replace the alternator a week after getting it (the voltage regulator went out) but otherwise, things are good.
  • I’ve been doing a bit more on the “casual social” scene, including coffee with Charlie and Jon.
  • For reasons inexplicable, the Britney Spears song Everytime has been playing over and over and over in my head. I like it. Although the old Poison ballad Lay Your Body Down is growing on me too. But that prompts an observation: On my netbook, I have tracks on my playlists that I have no idea how they got there. Exhibit A: The Spears song. I never downloaded it, never ripped it, never even heard it (that I can recall) until it Exaile put it up in rotation. Curious.
  • I am running the BOINC client on two computers and am donating unused CPU cycles to the Rosetta, SETI and Cosmology projects (these are distributed-computing projects that search for life-saving proteins, extraterrestrial intelligence, and evidence to prove theoretical models of the universe, respectively). I feel virtuous in my symbolism — now I know what it must be like to be a liberal who gets a little pang of self-worth every time he chucks something in the recycle bin instead of the trash.
  • Work has been decent. Busy, but decent.
  • I was notified that I was accepted into “phase 2” (of two) evaluation for the job. This part of the project involves taking the work I generated a month ago, in phase one, and putting it into a happy and cohesive structure. The folks will then evaluate the structure for suitability and baseline competence. The section for which I’d be a guide is “media.” I am excited about the possibility.
  • I think I’ve figured out what my new weekday routine will flow: Work to the gym to the coffee shop to write a minimum of two articles, then home. Of course, the fly in the ointment is the timing of the gym run: From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the gym is an absolute madhouse. We shall see if I have the patience to maintain it; heaven knows my waistline could use some serious cardio.
  • OK, wait. How the hell did a Dionne Warwick song get on my playlist??? </stream-of-consciousness>
  • I’ve been watching True Blood … I like this show. A nice mix of blood, sex and political intrigue. It’s the only TV I watch nowadays.
  • I have the opportunity, at the hospital, to join the Hospital Emergency Response Team. There’s some paperwork and required DHS courses to take, but it could be interesting. Will investigate.
  • The front page of has changed. Not sure if I like it. I think I need to re-imagine the logo and focus areas and be more consistent about internal labeling.
  • Currently reading Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman M.D. It’s a fascinating study of how people cope with long-term patterns of abuse that damage or destroy personalities — but, I recommend it for anyone, because there are a number of strategies outlined for dealing with complex post-traumatic stress disorder that could fruitfully be applied in other, less charged situations. Herman’s comments about perpetrators suggests a link to the blossoming literature in the Hannah Arendt vein of “the banality of evil.” Were I ever to finish my M.A., my emphasis would absolutely entail aspects of the genesis of moral evil and its passive acceptance within established social structures.

All for now.

… Another Day in Paradise

It’s been a few weeks since the last general update.  Here’s what’s new and happenin’ in the life of your humble blogger.

  • Went to my cousin’s wedding reception last Friday.  Callista and Patrick were married several weeks ago in a small civil ceremony and they celebrated last night with friends and family at St. Cecilia’s.  It was quite lovely.  I really like Patrick — he is a nice young man.  And I’m very proud of my eldest cousin; she has come far, and has found success and happiness.  I wish them both the best as they begin their life together as husband and wife, far off in the heights of Denver.
  • I finally don’t look like an unemployed homeless man, thanks to a haircut last week.  I did, however, get poked by the scissors in the back of the head and bled for like 15 minutes.  The stylist did a nice job, though.  And he didn’t charge me.
  • Life at the hospital has taken an interesting turn. A nice development has arisen for me, but I am not at liberty to share details until a formal announcement is released. Stay tuned.
  • Been working more with Tony about his law practice. As with so many things in life, 90 percent of the struggle isn’t with the “what” but with the “why” — or with finding the motivation to engage in the drudge work necessary to bring success. I hope he continues to work hard for his.
  • Haven’t been quite as social lately, although I did manage to lose a chess match to Abby last Saturday whilst tinkering away at Bitter End. I have been a fair amount of contract writing — recent clients include Walden University’s Think+Up graduate program and supplemental evergreen articles for use by the Houston Chronicle’s Both are good exposure, and pay decently … as long as I can find the time and motivation to do the writing.
  • I decided to get an “enhanced” Michigan driver’s license. This is different from an ordinary operator’s license in that it requires additional identity verification and is issued by Homeland Security. The enhanced license is a legal substitute for a passport for land and sea travel into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. So when Tony finally takes me to Windsor for a fun day of gaming, I won’t have to worry about having my passport handy!
  • I think I have genuinely stabilized weight-wise after the horror that was Vitamin D Deficiency. I peaked in February and have been slowly coming down, at long last.
  • Ryan and Jess and the kids are doing pretty good.  The two adults are taking classes and doing well, despite their distaste for anatomy. Their whole family is doing well; Jess’s brother and his new wife just welcomed a new son into their family yesterday, which is really cool. I wish them the best.
  • The race for Michigan’s GOP gubernatorial nod is starting to heat up. I continue to strongly support U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra for the job, and look forward to attending a townhall meeting tomorrow with Hoekstra and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. Yay.
  • I need a new cell phone; my Blackberry Curve has a cracked screen and seems close to death. Strongly considering moving to the HTC Evo. The charm of the Blackberry was the seamless integration with the Exchange server at the hospital, but early next month the hospital is pushing very strong security policies (including mandatory PIN numbers) that make me uncomfortable. So I may move to an Android phone and simply not be 24×7 available to co-workers.
  • Alejandro, my dear young friend, recently left America to return to his native Columbia. I wish him well in his life’s journey

All for now.