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April and no showers

Posted by Michael on May 19, 2010 in Journal, The Trek |

Yesterday we woke up to find that we had no water.  Few things in the scheme of modern conveniences are more devastating than the lack of indoor running water.  Toilets function for one flush, and unless you have maintained a store of backup water for one purpose or another you have to take care of the essentials of personal hygiene somewhere that has running water.

I think this would be the worst part of being homeless.  No running water, no place of private discharge and cleansing renewal.  The inconvenience of a well pump giving up, pales in comparison to the inconvenience of no hope for having water that you can call your own for the foreseeable future.

This month I have learned a few things, but one thing in particular I believe will carry me further than the rest.  I’ve stumbled upon a great fact of living this life that I had known was there, but hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on.

I have been prone to self censor, and self edit.  Somewhere along my path to adulthood and career progression, I lost the motivation to evangelize.  To share the things that I knew and that I was passionate about with others.  Aside from politics and civil rights that is.  I had come to believe that most people lived in my bubble of news-aholic-ism and were as tuned into the happenings of modern culture and personal growth as I am.  Therefore it would be a waste of time to share the things I was learning or that I knew because other people were already doing it – it was just my job to consume as much as I had time for and leaving the producing to the people who do it for a living.

But just like Evangelists in religion, there is always room for another voice, another source, another leader bringing the world the good news and truth as I see it.

And so, I must become adept at communicating and sharing my gospel to the best of my ability.

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Ambitious Goals

Posted by Michael on April 8, 2010 in Journal |

Recently I heard a former sports figure, who now inspires youngsters dreams of success say that if your friends don’t laugh at your dreams, you’re not dreaming big enough.  I’m paraphrasing, but that was the point of it.

So even though March was better than the first two months of 2010, I find myself contemplating the grandiosity of my DecaTrek.  Is it audacious enough?  Perhaps I can expand my dream further.

I finished my final paper for my English Composition class and received an A grade for the class.  Then started a new class on writing and publishing a nonfiction book.  I’ve joined Toastmasters, and am taking a Digital Photography class too.

The weather is changing for the better and new life and new experiences await each and every sunrise that I’m given.

April will bring opportunities to start over on various past failures.  More steps forward, food for thoughts, and rain that cleanses and nourishes.

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February Made Me Shiver

Posted by Michael on March 8, 2010 in Journal, Rest Stops |

Not in the traditional sense of cold, though that happened too.  No, this second month of my DecaTrek left me with a continuation of the January disturbances.  Bad news on the phone, followed by good news, then bad again.

How we move out of bed in the morning when we know the end awaits each and every one us remains an amazing mystery to me.  Certainly we don’t think about the reality frequently.  Even with all the movements to “be present” and “to be mindful” in the moment, I find it difficult to believe even the greatest mindful mortal could maintain a constant awareness of the finality we all face without going completely mad.

In the movie based on the play of the same name “Our Town” one of the main characters – Emily-  dies in childbirth.  In death, she decides to go back to the day of her twelfth birthday, and after experiencing it over again, turns away and cries;

I can’t!  I can’t go on!  It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.  I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed!  Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it –every, every minute?

The stage manager in the play replies that perhaps;

Saints or Poets realize it some, maybe.

Fatalities that touch the circle of our existence remind us of our own mortality, and how uncontrollable and unpredictable life is. Our biggest challenge is to take that recognition and use it not only to appreciate those around us – exactly as they are – while we can, before it’s too late.  But also, to empower us out of bed in the morning to pursue the wonders of humanity we all can and do share.

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Crash!

Posted by Michael on January 31, 2010 in Journal |

Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.

~Henry David Thoreau

The first month of the new decade turned out to be filled with a glut of the types of experiences that define the human condition.

Starting out with hope and promise, I set myself plans to take more steps forward than backward. And now as the month closes, I must choose to look forward and see that despite January’s heartaches, February begins tomorrow and the ground beneath the steps not taken in January await my impression.

The dreams I dream are not to be constrained by the 31 days of a cold and brutal month.  While my future feels permanently affected by the revelations of January 2010, the future calls me to take further steps in directions that I have neglected and in areas that I need to grow.

Tomorrow is a new day, a new month, and another beginning.

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Unclutter your writing room

Posted by Michael on January 19, 2010 in Sights and Sounds |

In the virtual room that is our modern day writing room the clutter is enough to make any Dick Van Dyke trip and fall on his way to filling the blank page with words.

Whether we use a PC or a Mac, a laptop, desktop, netbook or tablet. The metaphorical desktop that is the standard of nearly every modern operating system has become a veritable junk drawer with distracting little helper apps commanding our attention every so often. They come in all shapes and sizes from new email notifiers, operating system security updates, severe weather bulletins, to network signal strength indicators and rotating wallpaper images.  And their unspoken goal is to keep you from doing what you came to your writing room to do… WRITE.

What is a writer to do?

Talk a walk with me, and enter a room with two doors; one labeled WriteRoom for Mac the other labeled WriteMonkey for PC.

writeroom

Both applications give back to the writer what modern advancements in technology hath stolen, focus and concentration.

Launch either application and you enter your own writing room.  Your browser and email client disappear, the clutter of folders and files on your desktop vanish, your writing room is clean, dark and silent.  A single blinking cursor awaits your every command.

Bringing you – the writer – back to the place in which the writing is the most important event of the moment.  No formatting necessary, just you and your keystrokes producing that which makes you a writer.

The applications are very similar though uniquely different.  While WriteRoom is a shareware application, WriteMonkey is free, though a donation will be rewarded with a file that personalizes the splash screen with your name next to the “Writer:” field.

Neither application would qualify as full-blown word processors, but that’s not what you need when your goal is to get the words from your brain through your fingers to the page.  And both applications make it a delight to do just that.

writemonkey

I have to give WriteMonkey a slight edge in making writing a fun filled experience because typing Alt+S toggles on/off the built-in typewriter sound effects that bring a nostalgic flair to your modern life.  I just wish the team at Hog Bay Software would add that feature to WriteRoom since I do most of my writing on my Macbook Pro.

Try one of these apps out today, and let me know your impression in the comments.

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Easy on the eyes

Posted by Michael on January 18, 2010 in Sights and Sounds |

If you’re at all like me, and I bet you are since you’re reading this… You’ll appreciate this neat little laboratory experiment from the folks over at Arc90 called Readability.

Readability

Readability strives to make that news article, technical paper, or blog posting that is splattered with advertisements throughout, and rendered in weird colors, fonts, or other forms of formatting, follow your preselected easily readable style.

Simply select your preferred settings, and then drag the “Readability” bookmarklet to your browser’s toolbar.  Then when you come across an article worth reading online, but it’s cluttered with junk or ugly and your eyes are crying for stronger glasses or eye drops – click the Readability button in your toolbar and behold the magic.

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First Grade

Posted by Michael on January 17, 2010 in Journal |

After two weeks of my first College course in roughly 21 years, I am tickled to report the comment my Professor wrote on my first graded homework assignment.

Wow!  This is without a doubt one of the best I’ve ever read! Grade: A

The positive feedback is encouraging. Not letting it go to my head though… OK, maybe a little swelling 😉

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Turning up the heat on the inside

Posted by Michael on January 5, 2010 in Journal |

This morning’s temperature was in the teens, and a film of ice had covered my car’s windshield.  After starting the car to warm it up, I dutifully grabbed my scraper and headed back out into the cold to clear off the ice.  A slight freezing drizzle of precipitation was dropping from the sky.  When I returned to the driver’s seat and turned the wipers on to clear the windshield again, it had a new frozen layer of ice on it.  The defroster wasn’t warm enough to melt it off, and a few squirts of the wiper fluid only added to the frozen mess.

By the time the heater warmed the windshield enough to combat the continuing precipitation and tire kickback from the cars ahead of me in traffic, I was half way to the office.

Sometimes when obstacles seem great and block our vision, we need to continue on our journey trusting that as we keep going we’re adding fuel to fire, and it will eventually break through the incessant cold, clearing up what once seemed blinding.

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Grade me

Posted by Michael on January 4, 2010 in Journal, On Ramps |

In all the times I attended an institution of higher learning, the price paid for those classes was either from scholarships, grants, or student loans. The cost of student loans, only became real many years later when the payments had to be made.

Now at 43, I’m going back to finish what I left undone. I have enrolled in the first of many classes to finish my degree.

English classes in high school were always somewhat difficult for me. The subjectivity of it all, clashed with my logical mathematical world view at the time. I didn’t get it, and I’m not sure I do now either.

The main reason why I prefer audio-books to traditional print books or ebooks is that I’m a slow reader. When I try to speed up my reading, comprehension suffers, and I find myself re-reading paragraphs.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

So knowing all this, I chose for my first class back in college,  English 111.

This time around, the cost of failure in this endeavor is much more immediate and real. Failure would mean that the money I already paid for the class would not be covered by my employer’s tuition reimbursement program.

I’m hopeful that this time around something clicks, that with age I have become a better learner. And so, here I go again.

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If at first I don’t succeed

Posted by Michael on January 2, 2010 in Journal |

Men fail much oftener from want of perseverance than from want of talent.
~William Cobbett

I used to smoke cigarettes, nearly a pack a day of Marlboro menthol lights. I smoked for roughly 16 years, and tried quitting probably as many times. Each new year would bring another promise to myself to kick the habit. Varying degrees of success were achieved, using all sorts of smoking cessation methods. I tried prayers, and patches, and gums. I tried switching brands and going cold turkey. Every year I’d have some success, but inevitably I’d find myself again with a cigarette and lighter in my hands.
I vaguely remember that I had almost kicked the habit in 1998, but somehow after nearly six months of being a non-smoker, I bummed a cigarette from a friend, and inhaled the drug I was craving.
Nineteeen-hundred-ninety-nine would however prove to be a turning point. The challenge to quit, a ritualized resolution now. I remember using the nicotine patch for a couple of weeks, but when my patches ran out this time, I just went cold turkey. Every day I got up, and didn’t smoke. No cigarettes with coffee, no cigarettes with beer. No smoking in the car, no smoking in a bar. No smoking in my chair, no smoking anywhere. Weeks went by, then months, and my lungs were clearing, my sense of smell and taste were returning too. This time, the quitting stuck.

Looking back I remember how hard it was to break the addiction to nicotine.

I’ve probably been promising myself nearly every year that I would achieve the level of physical fitness I so desire, and every year some steps toward losing weight, beginning a workout regimen and becoming a marathon runner are taken. But the goal of having the lean chiseled physique attainable by this now middle aged man who has aches and pains in his knees and feet, remains just out of my grasp. Each year, the promise is made that this will be the year, and each year, I have failed to achieve that goal.

The process of becoming an ex-smoker was wrought with one failed attempt after another. Until my umpteenth attempt to quit, finally succeeded.

So I begin again.

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