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Navel-Gazing

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Catching Up: Random.

Those are the main things, of late. but let’s see: what else can I tell you? Well, after many years back in the workforce, and freelancing when I can — gradual school: kids, don’t do it — I’ve been able to extricate myself at last from the usual post-grad pit of penury and get back in black. Of course, retirement is only 25-30 years away now, so…

I’ve been getting into stocks. And quite frankly, 18 months in, I’ve been pretty lousy at it. Basically, my rules are thus: (1) I figure indexing and ETFs are the smart plays, and where the bulk of my savings should go. (2) I’m a buy-and-hold and a long — I want to invest, not trade. (3) I’d rather not profit from evil, so no oil/gas companies or investment banks or the like. And (4) I should try to invest at least some in individual companies for a greater return while I’m still decades out from retirement.

Sounds like a plan. But, so far, buying SunEdison (nee SUNE, now SUNEQ) was an out-and-out disaster — thankfully, I got out a few months before the final collapse. That hasn’t helped the solar ETF (TAN) either. And of the twenty or so stocks I’m currently holding, a good handful of them are just dogs: I’m looking at you, Twitter (TWTR), Fireeye (FEYE), and Teladoc (TDOC). (On the flip-side, my best picks so far are ATVI (Activision), Adidas (ADDYY), and Intuitive Surgical (ISRG).)

Anyway, I’m probably boring you with all this. (I also presume getting more into the markets is a general aging thing — just wait until this turns into a golf, tennis, and back-pain blog.) But, I thought I’d mention it, since, while this isn’t going to be Seeking Alpha anytime soon, I may be inclined to post more Wall street-type stuff here in the future.

But, just in case you’re thinking GitM has put away childish things…



I’ve started collecting Funkos. Or “Pop Vinyls,” as the case may be, since Funko puts out a number of different products. In any event, long-time readers may recall I was a toy collector of sorts before taking the graduate school vow of poverty. Now that I’ve emerged out the other side, I’m free to indulge anew. (Within reason, of course: I may be on the lookout for an in-the-wild Lando, Bossk, Rorschach, or Dark Phoenix, but you’re not going to see me buying the Jupiter Ascending, Tomorrowland, Napoleon Dynamite or Family Guy sets anytime soon. That would be crazy.)

One additional boon of Funko-buying, besides it scratching that old Star Wars figure itch: It really adds structure to your mall-crawls. For decades, I’ve been like, eh, these stores are all boring. Now, I’m all “hey, this mall has a Hot Topic, a Gamestop, and an FYE. To arms!

I’m upping my travel game. Conspicuous consumption can’t all be about plastic figurines — We don’t have enough shelves for that! And especially since Amy’s work has her on-the-road quite often, and she’s become a miles-and-hotel-points ninja along the way, we’ve been working to hit the road more often. (That’s me in Dublin and Dijon above, last November and June respectively.)

Next big trip: our honeymoon, which will include a week+ in Vietnam (probably doing Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang/Hue/Hoi An, while leaving Hanoi and Halong Bay for a future trip) and a week+ in Japan (Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Osaka/Kyoto, and possibly Hiroshima). If you have any travel suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments.

Otherwise, life continues much as it has this past age, for which I’m very thankful.

I saw Weiner, The Lobster, and The Witch over the long weekend, all worth seeing for different reasons. I’ve been picking up new shows in Mr. Robot and Preacher, while keeping up with Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, The Flash, and the like.

Since Arkham Knight and Fallout 4 are done, and my rogue is all kitted out and waiting for Legion, most of my gaming time these days involves Hearthstone (great for the walk home) and the recently-released Overwatch, a.k.a. Blizzard’s stab at Team Fortress 2. (I mostly play Reaper, even if my name — Jacklowry — isn’t all that Reaper-ish.)

Nope, life is good. Very good. The only real issues these days are the general dismal state of politics, rampant inequality and poverty, encroaching climate change, etc., but those are issues for the rest of the blog.

Catching Up: Books.

As the clown said, if you’re halfway decent at something, don’t do it for free. So, while it’s been quiet around here, and with the ginormous dissertation finally behind me, I’ve been focused on a few other published writing projects in recent years, either coming to or already on an Amazon website near you.

Prime Minister for Peace tells the story of Milan Panic, a California businessman who’s lived a Zelig-like life of sorts. As a child, he fought with the partisans against the Nazis in his native Yugoslavia. As a young man, he became an Olympic cyclist, and used that opportunity to escape Tito’s Communism and defect to the West. He then started a pharmaceutical business that made him a millionaire several times over.

This book focuses on his experiences in the 1990s, when he went back to the then-fragmenting Yugoslavia to serve as Prime Minister, and, in trying to bring peace to the Balkans, went toe-to-toe with Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, not to mention cynical Western diplomats and sundry other ethnic nationalists.

Buyer’s Remorse, my sixth collaboration with Bill Press since 2001 — he writes; I research, outline, edit, and fine-tune — covers, in a nutshell, all the many ways Barack Obama’s presidency let progressives down. If you’ve swung by here at any point in the past, you’ve already heard me go on about this at some length, so no need to belabor it here. (This book came pre-researched, in that regard.)

Interesting sidenote: This has been the biggest-selling book I’ve been involved with since the Carville/Ken Starr one in ’99, in part because the Clinton campaign tried to bash Bernie Sanders with it in the early primaries. (Clinton is apparently Obama’s biggest fan, except when she isn’t.)

And The Past and Future City, coming out this October, is what I’ve been working on this past spring, with NTHP president and CEO Stephanie Meeks. It makes the case for historic preservation in the 21st century and argues, in effect, this isn’t your grandparents’ preservation movement anymore.

All over America, historic buildings are helping make cities more desirable, and urban residents happier and healthier. They are spurring economic growth, nurturing start-up businesses, and creating jobs. They are reducing energy costs and environmental impact, and encouraging healthy living practices like walking and cycling. They are helping to provide solutions to challenges like affordability, displacement, and climate change. And they are turning diverse neighborhoods into communities, and helping us come to terms with the difficult chapters in our history. And the best part is, they’re already there — they just need smart, forward-looking policies to unlock their power and potential. On sale soon!

Catching Up: Lady and the Murf.

Alright, June 1st. So, before posts start up here with any regularity again, I should probably catch y’all up on recent events. (Consider the next few posts the recap in front of the comic and/or the “Previously On” for the seasons you missed.)

First, up above is me and Amy — whom I’ve mentioned a few times over the years — at my sister‘s wedding last October. And below is us at the Trianon in Versailles (Wilson’s base during the Conference) last summer, a day or two after I proposed.

Amy is a criminologist at George Mason, and while I won’t sing her praises too much here, suffice to say we get along swimmingly (perhaps in part because, yes, we do have the same last name. Good enough for Franklin and Eleanor, good enough for Jaime and Cersei.) We moved in together on Capitol Hill a year and a half ago, around the same time I left Congress and started at the Trust. Our wedding is this September in Maui.

And this is Murf. Formerly Amy’s, now our seven-and-a-half-year-old bichon frise, Murf is completely blind after several bouts with canine glaucoma — in fact, both of his eyes have now been eviscerated. But he gets around surprisingly well by smell, hearing, and memory, almost as easily as Berk did after he went deaf. (Maybe one day, we’ll get a basenji and complete the triptych.)

Speaking of the old man, and as I said here, he and Murf shared this realm for a year or so, during which they went from antipathy to generally ignoring each other before Berk’s end. They had different interests anyway. Berk was into watching, circling, and barking, while Murf is more of a sit-in-your-lap, incessant licking man. To each his own.

And Softly Whispered Someday Soon…

Hey y’all. Just to make it official, GitM’s obviously been on extended hiatus for much of its sixteenth year. Life is busy and there’s no immediate plans for that to change…just yet. But hopefully sometime before the year runs down or 2016 starts in earnest, more frequent — dare I say regular? — updates will return around here.

(TL;DR: Return I will, to old Brazil…eventually.)

Until then, there’s 15 years of archives and hundreds of movie reviews and a big ole 1200-page dissertation over here, so hopefully something already in and around the site will be of interest.

Stay safe y’all, and until next time.

P.S: Text-less Brazil poster via here. Lots of other cool ones too!

I’m Bona Fide.

As most of y’all have probably already seen via the Facebook, my recent job transition got written up in CQ Weekly‘s “People On the Move” column. (The link is paywalled, so you’ll probably do better to read it here.)

This wasn’t my idea, and I’m not a big fan of the pic, but this came out ok, all in all (even if that one sentence/thought wasn’t meant to end at “cognizant.”) Thanks to Alex Gangitano and the good folks at CQ/Roll Call for taking the time.

Forty.

Just so GitM is keeping up with all the various social media platforms on the sidebar, as of two days ago I’m now in my forties. (That’s champagne gummies atop an Irish car bomb cake and a bottle of twelve-year-old Jamesons, courtesy of Amy.)

Feels much the same on this end (so far), but then again I rolled the clock over in my head somewhere around 37, and dissertation-writing happens in dog years anyway. Onward and upward.

At Fifteen, A Re-Shuffle.

Yes, very quiet around here as of late, but for once I have very good reasons. Before I get into those, let’s get the anniversary out of the way. As of this past weekend, Ghost in the Machine is now 15 years old. [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 11, 12, 13, 14.]

I’ll forego the usual retrospective about the date, partly because that’s already been done a few times (say, at the ten-year mark), and partly because one should probably post more than once every 2-3 weeks, as I’ve been doing the past few months, to qualify for that sort of navel-gazing. In any event, my focus at the moment is on the future. To wit, if you haven’t seen it via other social media, some big life changes of late:

As of three weeks ago, and after five+ years in the House — specifically with Rep. Rosa DeLauro — I’ve transferred over from Rayburn to the Watergate and am now speechwriting for the National Trust For Historic Preservation. In fact, I just spent last week down in beautiful Savannah, Georgia for PastForward 2014 (their/our annual conference).

It’s been a hitting-the-ground-running affair ’round these parts, but so far, so great. It’s been refreshing to get involved with an organization that is history-, present-, and future-minded, and to get some respite from the often-Sisyphean environment of the House.

And as of two weeks ago — tho’ there are boxes everywhere and much work to be done — I left my 1BR bungalow of five-plus years in Dupont and moved to a snazzy deluxe 2-BR apartment in the sky on Capitol Hill, along with my girlfriend Amy and her 6-year-old bichon, Murf. (Berk and he overlapped for a little over a year — They went from some minor tensions between them to, before the old man’s passing, a cultivated and studious disinterest.)

So lots of change, all of it for the better, but, yes, the Ghost has suffered even more than usual. Still, while there’s always a lot of work these days, I think I’ve now made it through the major gauntlet, and GitM should be able to get a little more attention in the year ahead.

Either way, if you’ve been stopping by since 1999 or here for the first time, thanks, as always, for stopping by.

It is Happening Again.

“To quote Agent Cooper, ‘I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.'” It is happening again: In far and away the biggest culture news this past month I’ve been away, after 25 years (as promised), Twin Peaks is returning to TV(!!) “According to a press release from Showtime, “Twin Peaks” will be a limited series of nine episodes. Lynch and Frost will write and produce each one and Lynch will direct all nine.” (More details here.)

Now this here is big doings, and no mistake. (And, whatever else may be depressing about life in the so-called space age, how great is it that we live in a world that provides MOAR Twin Peaks, MOAR Arrested Development, MOAR Doctor Who, MOAR Farscape, MOAR Han-Luke-Leia Star Wars outings? Let’s get cracking on Deadwood‘s return already!)

Since this announcement, I’ve been rewatching Twin Peaks again while packing up boxes and — while I’m only into early Season 2 — been delighted to find that it totally holds up. Like many folks around my age, the show was a staple of my early high school years, and watching it is as much of an instant time capsule to the early 1990’s as the 120 Minutes archive. Finally actually finding out what happened to Dale after the Black Lodge? Now that is something I did not expect. Can’t wait.

August Recess.

Hello all. No, GitM’s not dead. As per several Augusts past, I’ve spent the past few weeks on August recess, confining my thoughts on the various nightmares unfolding in Ferguson, Gaza, Iraq, etc. to 140 characters on Twitter and Facebook.

In the meantime, my girlfriend Amy and I have been getting in lots of travel this month — first a long weekend in New Orleans where, among other things, I for the first time took in the French quarter, Frenchman St., and the future final resting place of thespian and scholar Nicolas Cage.

A fortnight later, we were off to Iberia for a stretch, with four and a half days in Barcelona and Lisbon each (with a brief, three-hour layover tour through Brussels — alas, we didn’t have time to visit my old stomping grounds of Waterloo.)

August is probably not the best time to visit Barcelona — it was as crowded as Times Square at times, on much narrower streets. Still, it’s an amazing World City, and Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else in this system. Very highly recommended (although, again, perhaps not in August.)

By comparison, Lisbon and its dozens of ancient churches was more of a sleepy European capital. But it too had its charms, not the least Sintra and its ninth century Moorish castle, only an hour or so away by train.

In any event, if you want to peruse some photos from the trip (and aren’t already a Facebook friend), I’ve put three dozen or so up in the long-neglected Flickr feed. Suffice to say, a grand time was had!

Tagged and Archived.

Yes, it’s been quiet around here again, but for once, I actually haven’t been neglecting GitM during the downtime. Instead, I’ve been plugging away in my off-hours on the archive project I started 16 months ago, fixing the categories that broke while fleeing Movable Type and adding descriptive tags to all of the old posts (or at least those going back to 2002 — the hand-coded/Geocities era remains untouched.)

In any event, after a long slog, that project is finally finished. From PhDont to Hippie-Punching, whether you’re looking for Colin Firth, Colin Farrell or Colin Powell; Bill Simmons or J.K. Simmons, the Gitmo Gulag, Zombies, Other Worlds, Corporate Welfare, RepubliDems, or The New Deal, the first fifteen years of posts are much easier to sort through now. Now, I can focus on the next fifteen.

Also, while I didn’t post any more retrospectives after 2004, I was generally glad to discover that 99.44% of the old posts were less embarrassing than I feared/remembered.

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