Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More on Journals

My wife has been going through old emails etc in an effort to construct her journal for the past few years. As she has been doing that, I have been going through old blog posts and seeing a little bit of my history for the last two years. The process has given me new perspective on the question of the intersection of blogs and journals.

Because of her efforts I recognize that journals have as much variety about them as I have long known that blogs have. My current position is that I will be blogging without regard to how it might serve as a journal. I can always go through later and decide about including any of my posts in a separate journal.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

7 Minute Lull

Most people have heard of the 7 minute lull. It is the idea that conversations tend to have a lull in them at regular intervals (theoretically 7 minutes). I have come to the conclusion that blogging has a similar phenomenon. This is based not only on my own blogging, but the blogging of many other bloggers I have read over the years. Everybody takes breaks from posting occasionally.

After 12 days of posting every day I discovered that I had not posted for two days in a row. That doesn't worry me, but it got me thinking about the phenomenon. I have ready many times about the large number of blogs that get started and then die in their infancy. This is why. Many people, once they hit that first lull, never get back to blogging. The experiment ends and their voice goes silent.

I will not argue that everyone should get past that first lull, I know that blogging does not suit all people, but it is interesting to see the pattern. I suspect that most blogs that die do so on the first lull. Put another way, most blogs that survive the first lull will survive long term.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Do you ever come to the end of a day and find that, although you intellectually know the structure of what you have done for the last few hours, you have no impression in your mind of what took place over the course of the day?

Today is one of those rather blank days. I know that I watched the kids today for a while and read some Terry Pratchett (Small Gods). We went grocery shopping and then went to a party for my best friend and enjoyed the company of a number of friends from back in high school - along with their families. In some ways it felt like a trip back to the past. Past or not, it was a welcome, if brief, respite from the feeling of being ctiphl'd.

Despite that intellectual recitation of the goings on of the day, I have no feeling for the hours since I woke up this morning. Does that ever happen to other people?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Stifled, Stiphled, Ctiphl'd

I have been struggling for some time now feeling that life did not allow for me to do the things that I would like to do.

All I ask out of life is the opportunity to be a good father and to do something useful with the remainder of my life. I have the opportunity to be a good father, but the remainder of my life seems to be stuck in the daily grind of doing something without purpose which will pay the bills. It's not that the work is bad, but it makes no use of any talent of mine and accomplishes nothing which would be considered an improvement in society.

If my goals were different - perhaps if all I wanted to do was to be a good father and to not worry about how to pay my bills - then this job would be fine. When my goals include doing work that would be of benefit to other people then this does not cut it. The thing that really galls me about being stuck in this merry-go-round of purposeless mediocrity is that I am convinced that no matter what line of productive work I chose there should be some opportunity to do it for some beneficial purpose. If I were in some line of work as generic as accounting, I could do it for a non-profit or charitable organization which focused a cause I believed in. If my talent were to be a business owner, I could use my business to help others. I could perhaps employ young people who needed work or experience.

The point is that I believe that I could work in my current profession and feel that I was doing some good - unfortunately my current job is not such a position.

That is why I feel stifled enough to need to make up new spellings of the word.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Plan Something for Me Day

I must have missed the memo, but all signs point to today being some sort of national holiday where everyone planned things for me all on the same day. I had planned to go to the conference that I mentioned yesterday, which made it necessary to reschedule the play that my wife and I were going to see tonight (so we were even in on this whole conspiracy). After that my scout troop planned a court of honor tonight and I, as the scout committee chair, had to do the paperwork and acquire the awards for the ceremony. On top of that, it is the beginning of school and there was a class I would like to take that starts today. Then with things piling up, I learned that my cousin was getting married today - I'd sure like to go to the wedding.

Well, I got through the day although I have been running like crazy all day. I don't mind it - just so long as it is not an annual event.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Discerning or Disagreeable

I have been going to conference sessions all day today and it has made me begin to question how I approach learning. I find that there are no classes where I simply absorb what is being said without finding parts where I disagree.

I think it is the responsibility of every student to consider what they are being taught so and coming to know and believe it for themselves, or where they cannot believe it they must discard it in favor of something which they can believe. If that is what I am doing, then I am sure that I am playing the part of the prudent student.

I began to wonder today if the fact that there was no class where I could accept everything was a sign that I was being either proud or picky.

For example, I was in a class on gardening and learning a lot about a specific way of gardening that is supposed to produce high yields and reduce weeding and space requirements. I liked a lot of what I had heard and I learned a lot about composting which I intend to implement, but despite all the benefits which were listed, I do not intend to implement the gardening plan as presented in the class. I found that it did not agree with my own gardening goals. I will use some principles and see if it improves my results, or cuts my costs, but I don't want to put the work or the cash in to follow the method to the letter.

As I think about it, I believe that it is a matter of discernment and not just me being disagreeable. I am not judging the information to be bad, or faulty, but I am adapting it to my own situation and my own purposes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Spy Movie Gadget

I can't help myself here. I was looking at an article in BusinessWeek Online about cell phones of the future. They had a slide show of a bunch of cell phone prototypes and when I got to the fourth one, I instantly saw it on a new Johnny English movie, or possibly Austin Powers. I can just see the super-spy carrying one of those phones around as they travel the world thwarting evil.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Blog, Journal, or Both

I am not new to blogging, but in some ways I am blogging from a new angle. On previous blogs I was posting enough to maintain three blogs and often posted multiple times each day. Since I have started this blog, I have managed to post every day so far. Last night I began to ask myself, "What do I want for this blog? Do I want to commit to posting every day?"

I like posting every day, and I hope to continue that, but I'm not sure how strong the commitment is at this point.

For me, there are a variety of purposes that a blog can serve. I have seen them used as a means of keeping in touch with distant friends and relatives. I have seen them used as journals as much as any locked diary. I have seen them used as a creative outlet to practice writing. I have seen them used as an outlet to push an ideological agenda. I have seen them used as a forum for publishing ideas and getting feedback from professional colleagues. The question I am asking myself is, what purpose do I want this blog to fill?

I know I want it as a way of communicating my thoughts and perspectives so that other people can see what I think and what I think about. I have a desire to keep a consistent journal, but do I want it in this blog, a private blog, or something entirely unlike a blog? I don't know quite yet. It is easy to forget at first (before anyone discovers your blog) that information in blogs is generally available to the public. That is not really suitable for some types of journals. I guess my answer would be easier if I was sure about what type of journal I want to keep.

Why air this pointless monologue on the front page? Because, what little I am sure of in my blogging intentions, this fits. It is what I am thinking and I have no reason to keep it private, even if my public here can be counted on my thumbs - and even if my public were to grow in the future.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Gardening Hobby

During this last year, as I have been settling into my house and working on my yard, I have begun to really enjoy gardening. I did plenty of it in my childhood, but it is different now.

Back then I remember the gardening mostly for planting, roto-tilling, pulling weeds, and picking the produce. There's nothing wrong with all those things and they are certainly a part of gardening. The difference now is that I see the gardening much differently. I have worked hard on making flower gardens and a vegetable garden in my yard and I have enjoyed taking the time to watch the life in the various plants. I love to observe how they grow. In the flower gardens I always try to make sure that things are appealing visually, but in the garden I let things grow a little more wild. That does not make for the highest yield, but I enjoy watching it more.

The bane of gardening when I was young was that the weeds seemed to grow easier than any of the plants that we planted. As I have watched my garden grow I have been entertained as I have seen some of my squash and pumpkin plants overrun the most tenacious species of my weeds.

I have also seen some other things that make me marvel at the tenacity of life. When I was getting flowers for my flower gardens I found that I really like delphiniums. We bought three varieties and planted them in our main flower garden. It was not too long before we came out one morning to find that the one we liked the best was broken off at the ground as if it had been kicked over. That was very disapponting. A few days later I was surprised to discover that there were two little shoots of a new dephinium growing out of the roots from the old one. I was just amazed at how tenaciously a plant can cling to life when I would have expected it to die. The plant has now survived two such occurances.

To top my observances off, yesterday I discovered a flower among my carrots. It was a type of flower that I can't name right now, but I have seen it for sale in nursaries. I have no idea how it got into the carrots - we didn't buy any and I have not seen any elsewhere, but I got a new flower for free which I have now transplanted into one of the flower gardens.

It is those kinds of random occurances that ensure that I can never tire of working in the garden and observing the growth of the plants. As a nice bonus, I get to eat the fruits of my labors (many times fresh off the vine - before it has ever come inside the house).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lunch with the President

No, that is not just a catchy header to get your attention. I really was invited to have lunch with the President this month. And yes, I mean the President of the United States.

It came as a surprise at first. I read the email subject from one of my senators and thought, "Wow, it's amazing that I was among those chosen out of all his constituents." I am at a slight disadvantage when someone sends me an email which is an image because my email client does not display images without my consent. This was one of those emails, so I did not know anything about what was in the message except the subject at first. While clicking the button to display the message, I thought that it must be because I had recently corresponded with this senator to express my views on some current bills in the senate. How else would he have picked my name out of a hat.

Display the image and . . . it's from the committee to re-elect. Although I disagree with this senator and do not wish to have him re-elected I would still like to go - for a chance to say "hi" to the President.

Scan to the bottom of the image and it's only going to cost me $500 a seat to accept this invitation. I'm so flattered. They even offer me a great group rate of $4000 for a table of eight. Okay, I'm not going to spend $500 that will help elect a man I don't want elected - not even to meet the President. I'm not sure I could find $500 to meet the President and help elect someone I want elected (although I did recently find $503 to pay for new tires on my car - I still don't know how the checkbook balanced this month after the tires).

So why write about this - I'm not going to the lunch and I was "chosen" because they hoped I'd cough up $500 like I did for my tires. I've been thinking about this since I got the email and considering my reaction to the possibility of meeting the President.

Some may assume that I am a fan of the President. The reason I'm writing is because I realized that my reaction to the possibility of meeting the President, or even a former President, would be the same whether I liked him or not. There is something about getting to meet people in positions of importance. I would love to meet the Pope even though I have already clearly stated that I am not Catholic. What it really comes down to is that I respect the office. I love this country and what it is supposed to stand for. Certainly there are times and places where it becomes a symbol of things which it should not stand for, but that is the exception and not the rule.

I just hope, and will always do what I can to ensure, that our country and the man who leads it at any given time, are worthy of our respect and deserving of our support, even if there is need for some dissent over some issues. I'd hate to see the day when I could no longer be comfortable being identified as a citizen of the United States, or meeting the President.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Linking to Newpapers

For today's edition I thought I would share a tool I found back with my previous blogs. It is most useful for those who like to blog their reactions to news items. I used to link to New York Times articles and that would become a problem once those articles left the one week timeframe and were no longer accessible for free. I was not the first to see this problem because someone else made a tool which generates special links to articles in the New York Times which are freely accessible in perpetuity. (They do this with the permission of the people at the New York Times so there is not question regarding the legality of the tool or the practice.)

I don't know how many other major newspapers pose this challenge for news bloggers nor if any of them also have such tools, but this is a great tool for anyone who does that kind of blogging and likes as a news source.

I was reminded of this tool when I linked to an NPR story yesterday. I don't know how much I will need it since before I was often commenting on Op/Ed pieces which are mostly only Times Select (paid service) now. Since I don't pay for that access I may not use the tool much, but hopefully it can be useful for other people.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What Kind of God Do You Worship?

I heard this story on NPR this morning about a dozen Catholic women in the US who claim to have been ordained as priests. I am not Catholic, and so it would seem that I have no vested interest in this story. However, this story brings up a question that I have had with a number of movements within a variety of religions in recent history (for example - the schism among the Anglicans over whether to bless gay marriages or ordain openly gay priests). When I hear about these debates among the clergy and the actions of those who proceed to do something that has not been sanctioned - in this case, ordaining women to be priests - I begin to wonder what kind of a God they worship.

In many churches, where decisions of policy are made by a vote, I can understand (to some degree) why people would approach these changes the same way we approach social changes in a democratic society. Ordain a few women priests (or whatever your cause is) to show that the change is not going to make the organization fall apart as a result. In more authoritarian organizations, like the Catholic church, it seems ludicrous to do so. These organizations preach that the doctrines are not made by man and thus cannot be changed by the will of men. Following that doctrinal reasoning, a change must not take place without the direction and sanction of God (however that is perceived to happen within any particular organization). There may be some value in debating an idea, but to take action without sanction in an organization with those beliefs makes no sense. This is what leads me to my question.

If you believe what the Catholic church teaches about being directed by God and about Papal Infallibility then you could not, in good conscience, defy the laws of the Catholic church. If you do not believe those things then you should ask yourself - why do I remain a Catholic?

As far as I can figure, the people who do these things must believe one (or both) of two things.

First, they may believe that the church is a social institution. This would imply that it is organized and run by people who are fallible and that those people make their policies according to their best understanding of what God desires. If this is the case, it would make sense to call to their attention those cases where they have interpreted the will of God erroneously. The question becomes, who is the final judge of which interpretation is correct (yours or the church leaders').

Second, they may believe in a God who is fallible. This reduces their deity to an extremely powerful man, or possibly some other extra-terrestrial being. In saying this I do not wish to mock anybodies beliefs on the subject. I am merely outlining where my logic takes me as I try to explain their actions.

If someone believes in an all-powerful, all-knowing God and also believes that their church is directed by that God, then it makes no sense to knowingly disregard the edicts of that church. To do so suggests the desire to say "I have a better understanding/interpretation of what is good than an all-knowing, all-powerful Deity." Does anyone really want to say that?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Well Stated

I stumbled onto Peonicus' View of Politics the same day I started my new blog and I thought it would be a good excuse to post a reaction and test out my blog a little more.

I was amazed to hear criticism for both the left and the right so early in the post. Right off I was saying to myself "my thoughts exactly."

When I read:

What we need is for the existing society to behave with the primary goal of the
good of the whole. This means that we focus less on our personal fortunes, and
more on using our influence to do good. We must start at the most fundamental
unit of society: our families. First, we need to respect and honor our spouses
even more than ourselves. Then we must be loving parents, and teach our children
to love and respect others despite inevitable differences.

I recognized some positively primitive thinking - like my own. The answer does not lie in making new laws to govern campaign finance - although those might be helpful. The answer lies in returning to who we are - people who want better lives for ourselves and our children. If that is our primary focus, and if we can remember to "forgive and ask for forgiveness," we may be able to get past our mudslinging and divisiveness and start to find actual solutions. That makes me begin to wonder, is Peonicus right in suggesting:

What would happen in the Middle East if everybody there, Jews and Muslims alike
taught their children that there is no us and them, there is simply us. I think
the fighting would end tomorrow, and the poverty of the region could be ended by
It would be nice if he was, but we'll never know unless more people think like this.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back on the Scene

It's good to be back in the blogging scene. That may sound strange for a first post, but this is my fifth blog. The first two were little more than experiements. I then began publishing three more - representing different aspects of my life. That was back when I was an unabashed technophile.

Things have changed since I was last blogging. I no longer thrill when I am surfing the web and trying new gadgets. I have settled down to a point where I am finding much more of my joy in more pedestrian pursuits such as gardening, dutch oven cooking, and camping with my family.

None of that is reason enough to dump my previous blogs. They were good. I had more readers than I would have expected. Occationally there were some very stimulating conversations about the topics of interest to me. All of that I would have liked to keep, but my hosting provider changed policies and I was no longer able to get hosting to satisfy me for my domain. My domain is now parked, and I have not yet decided if I will keep it, or give it up.

I have gone for months wishing that I could share some of my new thoughts on a blog, but I did not want to return to blogger after seeing how nice some of the other blogging platforms are. I had moved on to Wordpress, b2Evolution, and even Drupal. All of them offered options more advanced than blogger - and I am something of a control freak when it comes to my online persona. Then today I learned about the new Blogger beta and discovered that the folks at Google had helped Blogger to narrow the gap between themselves and other blogging software. Having given up on getting my own site up and running anytime soon, it sounded like just what I was looking for. Free, better than before, and in line with my less demanding requirements for a blog.

So here I am, back on the scene. While my outlook on technology has morphed somewhat, I hope to explore how technology can be really useful in our lives (especially mine) and also to highlight where the technologies of yesterday may actually be superior to their modern counterparts. Honestly I don't think that the less advanced technology will prove superior very often, but I do think that some less modern perspectives could prove enlightening in the world of the Information Age.