Slugs in Real Life

When real life starts to resemble the books you write, well…

leopard print slug pale highway nicholas conley

… Pale Highway fans will understand my amusement.

No, this little guy didn’t start talking to me, and definitely didn’t mention anything about a “Sky Amoeba,” but when I happened upon him in the backyard, I couldn’t help but take notice.

Hope you’re all doing well!

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Cluttered Bookcase? The Benefits of Horizontal Stacking

Ah, the conundrum of book storage. While many have jumped onto the “all e-reader, all the time” bandwagon, casting aside the dead tree paperbacks of the past for those newfangled digital tablets, there is still a sizable number of people who prefer the look, feel, and experience of actual books (disclaimer: I’m one of them). If you like reading books, the chances are that you also like displaying those books in a place where, presumably, others can look through and admire your truly exceptional reading taste.

But what if the shelf is too small for the number of books you have on it? Or what if you just keep reading more and more books, resulting in your entire living room turning into the world’s most disorganized library?

Well, here’s my proposed solution: stack your books horizontally, instead of vertically.

bookshelf books horizontal stack organization king gaiman house of leaves johnny gun

Ever since I discovered this crafty little trick a few years ago, it has saved me countless hours of struggling to fit too many books on too few shelves. It sounds simple, but it really works. While the standard vertical stacks of books make a shelf disappear faster than a Star Trek transporter,  horizontal stacking makes it so that no space is wasted. Every inch of shelf space carries multiple books on top of it.

Seriously, it works.

Of course, no system is without flaws, and horizontal stacking has one big downside: if you want to get one of the books from the bottom of the stack out, it can be annoying. Horizontal stacking also makes organization a bit trickier, if you’re going for that whole alphabetical thing. But honestly, these minor irritations are nothing compared to the longterm challenge of having no shelf space, or frustrating every person you live with by taking up all available living space with dozens of books that you’ve already read.

Find out for yourself, fellow book lovers! Maybe we’ll conquer the demon of proper space organization, once and for all! Or maybe not, but hey, it’s worth a try.

True Tales Live: “Day One” (Video)

This past month, I was honored with the opportunity to appear on the second season premiere of the local NH television program, True Tales Live.  As with the True Tales radio program that preceded it, True Tales Live seeks to give storytellers the opportunity to share actual stories from their life.

For this episode of True Tales Live, I shared my story, “Day One,” where I delve back into my early days working in a nursing home, as a nursing aide on a longterm care unit, and how that experience changed my views, my perception, and my way of trying to be there for other people.

Though the series can be watched on local TV in the NH area, everyone else can check it out here on the official True Tales YouTube! My section begins around 46:50, in the video below:

 

Other storytellers in this episode include Arnie Alpert, Emilie Spaulding, Gail Licciardello, Joanne Piazzi, and Annette Slattery. Definitely worth watching, and to everyone behind the scenes, thank you for putting this program together.

Happy Holidays, 2017!

So the time of the holidays is upon us! Whatever traditions you follow, and/or holidays you happen to celebrate, I hope you all are enjoying the season in whatever way you, your family, and your friends enjoy!

phoenix tree nicholas conley christmas holidays dead tree brought back

As you can see, here in New Hampshire we’ve followed our usual ritual of creating a “Phoenix Tree,” by finding a dead tree in the woods, and “bringing it back to life.” Here is the end result:

Christmas Phoenix tree 2017 nicholas conley holiday dead tree lights white.jpg

So enjoy the season, share good times with everyone you love, and let’s march onward to the next year. Cheers, everyone!

dreidle hanukkah

The Value of a Spooky October

We’re now knee deep into the spookiest time of the year, which is to say October — a month that is, from start to finish, dominated by Halloween. Throughout the month of October, you’ll see jack o’lanterns on porches, scarecrows on downtown street corners, horror movies in the cinema, and ghosts hanging from street lamps. Then at the end of the month, kids fill the sidewalks in all kinds of creepy costumes.

However, outside of pure entertainment—and putting all the consumerism aside—I think there’s a real psychological value to Halloween.

See, as we all know, the human psyche is always yearning for catharsis. That’s why in regular life, avoidance of a problem just makes a problem worse: you have to face your fears, not run away from them. It’s also why we do crazy things like skydiving. We crave resolution. We thrive on the thrill of facing our fears.

bangor_1

Halloween, as it is today, is basically the one time a year where our entire culture faces our fears at the same time. We like scary things. By dressing up as ghosts, ghouls, and monsters, decorating our houses with skeletons, and watching the newest scary films, we’re taking on our fears, instead of running away from them. It’s like the Self-Cannibalistic Creative Monster, but on a wider level. Halloween is more than just a fun way to spend the month: it’s a necessary cultural catharsis, particularly in scary times like the present day, where every morning’s news headlines are so anxiety-inducing.

Facing our fears, turning them into a source of entertainment rather than terror, is a vacation that everyone needs once in a while. So Happy Halloween, everyone, and enjoy the scares!

kin2_texaschainsaw

 

The Concept of Privilege

The concept of privilege can be a challenging one to get across, but it’s one of the key factors that has shaped the inequalities, imbalances, and prejudices of society today.  In order to fix the problem, the first step is acknowledging it.

Too often, when a person is informed of their privilege, they are likely to respond “Hey, I worked hard for what I have.” However, what this person isn’t realizing is that acknowledging the fact that they are privileged doesn’t invalidate any hard work they might have put into their career, social life, and so on: it simply contextualizes it.  To be privileged doesn’t mean that a person had everything handed to them on a silver platter—though it can, if they did!—but rather, in many cases, privilege means that a person was born with the right set of circumstances that allowed them to achieve success through hard work. Not everyone is so lucky.

This really isn’t a complicated concept to understand: whereas a person born in a luckier set of circumstances (for example, a family that can afford to send them to a private school) can achieve success through hard work, another person born in more difficult circumstances could work just as hard, yet not achieve the same results, due to the unfairness of their birth conditions in relation to society. The widespread deception that “everyone starts on the same level playing field” is a dangerous falsehood that has festered in the American psyche for generations, and it accounts for a huge amount of the anger, racism, xenophobia, class warfare, and so on today.

Imagine an Olympic race where one person gets to begin running at the starting line, whereas another person—against their will—is forced to start ten feet back and wait twenty seconds, for no good reason. Sure, both runners might have given it their all. But one of those runners had a huge advantage at the starting point, and that’s fundamentally unjust.

Many factors play into privilege. Class is the most obvious one: it’s much harder for a person born in the working class to move upward than it is for someone born in the upper class. That’s pretty basic. However, race is arguably an even bigger factor: people with more melanin in their skin face irrational prejudices against them at every corner, combined with the horrors of systemic racism, and surveys have shown that far too many companies still are less likely to call back resumes with less-white sounding names. Sex is also an enormous factor, as women today still face the constant realities of sexual harassment in the workplace, and surveys show that, on average, women still earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. Disability, neurodiversity, nationality, gender, religious background, and so on are also factors.

Privilege is the invisible benefit one receives when one doesn’t have to worry about their race, sex, class, religious background, or so on: privilege is when a person gets to go into a job interview, and to know that they’ll be seen for their decided traits/experience/individuality, rather than the labels that others have applied to them.

Again, the first step toward fixing the privilege problem is acknowledging that it exists, and spreading that awareness to others. One of the best explanations I’ve ever read of the subject was actually featured in a web comic titled On a Plate, by Toby Morris. Give it a read on this link to TheWireless.co.nz, and next time you’re looking to explain privilege to someone, consider sending it along to them.

Link: On a Plate

 

Skydiving in Phoenix

You know what’s insane? Skydiving.

You know what’s more insane than that?

…well, not much. At least, I’ve never experienced anything that feels more insane while it’s happening. My mind never stops flashing back to that moment where the door flipped open, air rushed inside, and every instinct in my suddenly very-mortal body was screaming to me that this whole “Hey, I’m going to jump out of a plane!” idea was not conducive to survival. You’re going to die! People can’t fall this distance! Then, the surrealness of actually doing it. Putting my legs out of the plane.

It’s like crashing through the gates of reality. Doing what you think is impossible.

Somewhere around the point where my feet were over the edge, and the desert landscape was spread out below, all sense of reality that I’ve perceived up until that point in my life totally shattered. The next 40 seconds — less than a minute spent flying through the air like a superhero, with adrenaline pumping harder than it probably ever has before — felt like it lasted for months, or even a year, in all the right ways.

And it was absolutely amazing. For anyone who has this one on their to-do list, all I can say is: don’t miss out.

What about you guys?

Have you ever gone skydiving, or thought about doing it? Let’s hear it!