Thursday, March 29, 2007

bows and arrows

Tuesday, one of my students stopped in to read to me from Khalil Gibran’s, “The Prophet.” He read to me three chapters, “clothing,” “laws,” and “freedom.” He was stunned by the wisdom, and the beauty with which it was expressed. I was too. I’ve heard people talk about The Prophet, but only in reference. I really am quite embarrassed that I don’t have this work memorized. I read most of the book Tuesday evening. Last night I read some to Allison, and told her that it was strange, like listening to music, that before I could go on to the next chapter, I would have to go back and read the current one again. Maybe again.
It is like staring at a beautiful painting.

Recently, my brother and sister-in-law, on whom we’ve been wishing parenthood, though there has never been any indication they wished it for themselves, called to announce the expected ETA of their firstborn. There may have been an article in the London Times. I didn’t actually see it my self.
The announcement that you’re expecting your first child is an outrageously big event. A couple ponders when and how to tell whom. For the life of me, I can’t remember telling my parents when we found out that Jack was on the way. This seems very odd to me, because it is typical that we remember every burp and diaper change for the first, and don’t even have any pictures of their younger siblings. Allison mentioned to Molly that she was disappointed that we had so few pics and video of her as a baby, yet had so many of Jack. Molly said, “oh that’s understandable. When you have your first baby, you don’t know if you’ll ever have any more so you take millions of pictures.” Simple wisdom from the underphotographed bald beauty. We’ve made up for it though. There are more pics of her from the past month than of both boys’ lifetimes combined.
So why would I not remember how I announced Jack’s birth? I do remember Will’s though. I sent a simple email to Mom and Dad with the statement, “children are a reward from the Lord. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.”
I’ve found out that three arrows pretty much make for a full quiver. But I wouldn’t trade any of them. I used that passage to announce the impending family enlargement because it made me think about how Dad used to tell us he was going to sell us back to the Indians. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.

I began to think more deeply about the metaphors here when I was reading Tuesday night. Gibran describes me as the bow that shoots that quiver full of arrows:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I think I could ponder and ramble all day on the thoughts that this brings to mind. I’ve always said that I operate best as a soldier. I march when I’m told where to go. I was a very teachable guitar student, a very coachable ballplayer. I don’t operate as well when I’ve got decide where to go. Being in charge is a terribly scary prospect, no matter how confident I am in my ideas and convictions. I desire to be an instrument of the dreamer of dreams, rather than the dreamer of dreams.
Of course, being a Father must be the ultimate in being in charge. The responsibility is enormous, the influence further reaching than we can imagine. What an enormous relief it is to be reminded that I’m not the archer, only the bow. I don’t have to aim, only to bend. I am used to create potential energy to thrust the arrow. I provide a place for the arrow to rest as it is aimed. But I don’t aim it. In fact, no matter how many arrows are in the quiver, I’m fairly worthless without the archer.

I also am amazed and humbled to find that the more I am willing to be bent and used as an instrument, how many arrows are found lying along the path. Arrows that have been dropped from their own quivers. Perhaps fired from an unstable bow, or a bow that tried to bend itself and missed the mark. In fact, I know bows that have no quivers of their own, but are used constantly to fire previously misguided, cast aside, or unwanted arrows.
I guess the responsibility of fatherhood is not reserved only for fathers. Yes, apparently there is a special blessing for those whose quivers are full, but it must be much more important to be a stable, bendable bow.



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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the itsy bitsy spider

So when I got into my truck to come to work, there was a tiny crab spider directly in my sight line on the windshield. He’d heard that there could be no better place on the planet to catch insects than on the windshield of a moving vehicle, so he placed himself, assumed the stance, and waited until time to go to work. When I got in, there he was, front crab legs splayed far apart in readiness for prey to fall within reach.
When I got out on the interstate, he wasn’t fazed a bit, he just sat there like nothing was wrong. 45, 50, 60, 65, no problem.
Evidently there were logistics he hadn’t considered. If a bug hits the windshield, at this speed, it would be precarious traveling to get across the glass to retrieve it. Furthermore, when a bug hits a 65mph windshield, it hits at a 65 mile per hour minimum.
The first potential logistical challenge proved not to be a problem. The first bug to happen along pegged precisely across the plate, dead center in the strike zone, between his waiting, splayed, crab legs. But the second challenge, the speed at which the bug crossed the plate was indeed a surprise to the cute little predator. As it turns out, it didn’t matter a bit that the spider’s reflexes were too slow to grab the bug. In fact, it all happened so quickly that the poor arachnid stood there completely covered in his lunch, unable to move due to the paralyzing wind pinning him in a sea of bug goo against the windshield.
Had he the fortitude to stick it out, he’d have had a pre-processed dinner. But instead, when I slowed enough for him to wiggle out of the goo, with mere scrapes and bruises, he hobbled to the side of the window to seek shelter in the crack of the door.
It’s only my speculation that he has since returned to the old fashioned way of sitting on a flower petal and awaiting some unsuspecting, slow-moving honeybee to buzz along.


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Saturday, March 24, 2007

green and purple pervade

The Wisteria bloomed today. Allison texted me from downtown this morning. “Wisteria!”, she said. When she got home, she said she’d seen a tiny bit along Irmo drive. So Molly and I donned our helmets and took a ride this afternoon in anticipation of my first sighting of ’07. She was right, there was only a little along Irmo drive, but once we turned toward and crossed the dam, it was everywhere. It was dripping from the top of tall pine trees, over fences, speckled among the dogwoods and propped up in people’s lawns.
'07's firstAllison and I planted some in the backyard early last summer. It is getting some leaves, but I guess it’s too young to perform for me this year.
The pine pollen is dusting everything green. It had just gotten started last week and the rain kept it controlled for a few days. But we’ve had no rain all week. Everything is green. My driveway is green, the front steps are green, my whiskers are green, my red truck is green. I washed it last night and this morning it was already green again. I had my bike out for an hour today and it was already covered. I cleaned the windshield before I went to Jack’s track meet, but on the way home, I had to stop and wash it again to avoid staring through a hazy green filter.
My sinuses are clogged, my lungs are tight, my throat is sore, my eyes are swollen, and my legs ache. It’s worth it though. One day on a bike riding through the colors of spring is worth a week of swollen membranes, post-nasal drip, sore throat and achy muscles. No doubt. If I had a week off, I’d follow it north.



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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

110 things

Quite honestly, though I'm usually curious enough to read them, I've never really understood the whole "meme" phenom in blogland. Perhaps because they're usually curricular and pre-packaged, fill-in-the-blanks type things. Do I really want to know what were the last 3 desserts you ate? Do I really want to know whom you'd choose between Orlando Bloom, Brad Pitt, and Cesar Chavez? Or blue, yellow, or pumpkin? How about your favorite number? 9, 3, or 19?
So I've never been tempted to participate in any such goofiness, even if I were to get "tagged" (which I haven't). I'm much too serious a blogger to waste time on such nonsense.
That is, until one of my favorite blogs set off a firestorm of such goofiness. And not only was it cool, it was terribly interesting. And amusing.
Ok, so maybe I could learn a bit about myself by doing a sort of "rod synopsis", but I certainly can't be as amusing as my inspiration. Nor as interesting.
But I can ponder things about myself that pop into my head. Learn from some mistakes perhaps. Count some blessings. Remember to avoid some things next time, and to do some things again.
I don't know. Maybe you should stop here, do an outclick, and go on about your day. But I think I'll stick around and ponder my past and present, and ponder if it tells me anything about me.
Childish and uncool? I make no apologies.
A lot of this stuff has been spilled in more depth on actual blog posts from the archives. I'll spare you the links to those.

here goes:

1. I started playing guitar because Johnny Cash played guitar. I begged for a guitar for a long time, then after I got one, begged for lessons.

2. I bought my first “good” acoustic guitar when I was 11 with money I’d earned cutting grass around the neighborhood.

3. My Dad built a new house in front of our old tiny house in which my brother, sister, and I all slept in the same bedroom. The house took him almost 3 years to complete, and was almost completely paid for when he finished. I was 12 when it was finished.
This is one of the major events of my life, and I think it shaped me as much as any other thing that I witnessed or experienced.

4. I moved into the new house before it was finished, and while the rest of the family still lived in the old house.

5. I have issues with artificial things that attempt to pass themselves off as the real thing. Often, these things have perfectly wonderful uses as something original, but they may never find them because they masquerade as something else.
(i.e.: synthesizers and silicone)

6. I was 28 when my first child was born. I’ve been 28 for the past 15 years. I will always be 28.

7. Although I’m 28, I’ve been married for 20 years. (to the same woman, thank you very much)

8. My wife’s been married to the same man for over 20 years.

9. I’ve attended ballgames at Three River Stadium, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, Olympic Stadium, Montreal.

10. I sung the National Anthem at Three River Stadium

11. I am a very shy, introverted person. I can’t make small talk, but if even a stranger hits my button, I can (and have) ramble for hours about a passionate issue.

12. Ironically, my annoying off-the-rail rambles have actually gotten me invited to dinner by guests at gigs I’ve played.

13. I absolutely hate it when people use the article a before the word myriad.

14. I was interrogated at 2:00am in a police station concerning a robbery in which the thief was already known.

15. There was a warrant for my arrest recently when Wal-mart cashed a check that had been stolen from my wife’s purse after the account had been closed and were torqued because they couldn’t collect their $14.

16. A colleague challenged me publicly with a paper that another colleague had published, but which the challenger had not read.

17. I am absolutely elated, moved, and overjoyed by Dove’s “campaign for real beauty,” and “Pro-aging” campaign. But I am very jealous of handsome guys, and I will in no way age gracefully.

18. I believe that John Rutter’s “Requiem” is the perfect piece of music.

19. If I were not a Christian, I’d probably worship fire. I may already have a problem with that.

20. If I were a fire worshipper, I’d have an idolatry problem with the moon.

21. I bought my first computer in 1988. It was a Mac. Mac is all I’ve ever owned.

22. I have a bunch of guitars.

23. I just bought a purple guitar. It is supposed to arrive today by UPS.

24. “Erace”, by the gotee bros. is one of my absolute favorite albums.

25. Neil Peart had a huge influence on the development of my observation and thought processes.
He’s probably also responsible for my steering wheel drumming habits.

26. Whenever “Tom Sawyer” gets to that part where Neil does the half-note triplet bass drum and tom roll, I always have to go back and hear it again. Usually several times.

27. I had an email address before most of my current students were born.

28. In 1998, I used online materials for all my classes, but had to stop because most of my students didn’t have computers or internet access.

29. My blood type is A+, but my grades usually weren’t.

30. I’m 6’3” tall.

31. In the Spring of ’05, I lost 47 pounds. I bought new clothes at the bottom of that loss at 180 lbs. Now I weigh 211 lbs, but I’m still wearing the same size pants.

32. It’s true

33. I bet if today’s laws and government were like 1520s Europe, reformation Christians would still be killing one another.

34. I shook hands with President Carter in 1980 during a whistle stop just before the election. Friends and I skipped school and drove to the airport. I had on my letter jacket so we told them we were with the school newspaper. They put us at the front of the press line.

35. I have a ruptured S1 disk in my back.

36. My left arm is terribly crooked from a break of both the Ulna and Radius when I was in Junior High.

37. I’ve also broken my collarbone, my right pinky, my big toe, and a rib. All sports injuries.

38. I’ve always heard testimonies of how God got peoples’ attention by allowing terrible circumstances in their lives. But God has always jerked me back through undeniable, blatant warm blessings. He’s always saved the terrible circumstances for when I was firmly and confidently rooted in him.

39. Once, when I was gigging with a famous singer/songwriter, I received an email of charts for the gig, including a chart (in my handwriting) that I’d written 10 years earlier for one of my students during a lesson.

40. In High School, 3 teammates and I set a state record in the 4X400 during the state meet.

41. I lifeguarded for 6 summers and taught swimming lessons.

42. I taught high school my first two years out of college.

43. I coached two years of track, and a year of Girls varsity Basketball.

44. I experience timbre as two-dimensional shapes with sustained tones like an extrusion. Think of extruding playdough and you’ll have a rough idea of what I hear.

45. Once, I wired up a 220v junction box in the attic, and when I went to turn the circuit on, I realized it was on already.

46. Once, I removed my alternator, but didn’t disconnect the battery. With a wrench, I grounded my wedding ring to the engine block just as I hit the live alternator wire with the other side of the ring. Sparks flew from my fingertips as I gold-plated the wrench and alternator wire connector. I have a permanent wedding ring brand now.

47. My diet consists primarily of cereal, milk, diet Mountain Dew® and cookies.

48. I had braces on my legs to correct the outward direction my feet pointed when I was elementary school.

49. I had braces on my teeth when I was in 8th grade.

50. I can fix broken things. A lot of the time. One of the reasons I’ve always driven old decrepit vehicles is that I can keep them going far past when most people would have set fire to them.

51. When I was a kid, at the first sign of malfunction, I would take the malfunctioning object apart. I don’t remember what my success rate was back then, but I did learn about what things looked like inside.

52. I am the ultimate Popeye fan.

53. I married the Homecoming Queen.

54. I also married Antigone and Guinevere.

55. I’m colorblind.

56. The colors on the driving test viewer are not the same colors as on the signal lights (which I have no problem distinguishing)

57. Until they started using LCD lights. Now the red and green can only be determined by its position on the tree.

58. This is sometimes a problem when driving in the Southwest.

59. My senior year in high school, I was voted “most musical” and “biggest flirt.”

60. I bought my first car for $200.

61. After I drove it for 7 years, my Dad sold it for $100 dollars.

62. The buyer took the engine and junked the car, which my Dad chopped for parts and set on fire with the cutting torch.

63. My children have musical tastes ranging as widely as mine do. I’m extremely proud of that.

64. When I look out at the congregation on Sunday morning and see my son worshipping, my feet lift off the ground like John Mayer’s in the “bigger than my body” video. Just about 9 inches or so.

65. I think some folks have noticed it.

66. I have no tolerance for artificial people.

67. It took me years to realize that there is a difference between artificial people and people who don’t know who they are.

68. I have no tolerance for stupid songs. I believe that stupid songs are written by people to whom songs don’t matter. If their songs don’t matter to them as songs, then I don’t feel guilty being intolerant of them.

69. I think about the Kingdom of God ALL the time.

70. I don’t believe the importance of the story justifies shoddy story telling. Rather, the story is disrespected by shoddy story telling.

71. Everything I learn has at least two or three contextual applications because I operate under the belief that everything is a metaphor for everything else.

72. I really only understand one thing, but through it process everything else.

73. When the “seen” ceases to explain the “unseen”, I believe we should re-evaluate what we know about the “seen” based on what we don’t know about the “unseen.”

74. I am NOT ADD. I just like to chase rabbits, and mental hyperlinks.

75. I grew up in a world of experience and testimony. I never heard an apologetic until I went to college. A biblical description of my childhood context would be, “…I can see and feel the effects of the wind. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

76. I am a symbol person. Symbols are inordinately meaningful and important to me. They express me, remind me, encourage me, open doors for me, facilitate, and speak volumes of words. I wear them, carry them, decorate with them…

77. I prefer poetry over bullet points and outlines.

78. I believe that without an emotional connection, no amount of facts and information that I disseminate will make a bit of difference to anyone.

79. I prefer to be shaped rather than taught.

80. I once got stranded in Budapest with a pocket full of USD, but not a Forint to my name. I walked for 5 hours in the general direction I thought would take me to the Hotel. I arrived, exchanged coin with the concierge and went to Pizza Hut, by train.

81. I’ve done 3 short-term mission trips to Chisinau, Moldova.

82. Once, when I was leaning against a tree with my feet propped against a stump, a Great Horned Owl, landed on the stump where my feet were. He stood there, 4 feet tall at arms length for at least a minute before spreading his wings and flying away. I felt like I’d been invited into the spirit world for a moment.

83. I ran over my first iPod with my truck. Allison had replaced it by the next afternoon. What a woman.

84. Our first purchase as a couple was a stereo system several months before we were married.

85. Our first CD was “nightfly” by Donald Fagen. Man I love that CD.

86. I’ve never missed a Rush concert tour since Moving Pictures in 1981. I’ve been to their concerts in Pittsburgh, Charleston WV, Greenville and Columbia SC, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Irvine.

87. I saw Charles Dutoit conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony in Pittsburgh and the Montreal Symphony in Montreal in the same year.

88. I went to two proms in the same weekend.

89. When I was first married, my baby sister came to visit us in PA. I took her down to Baltimore to see John Mellencamp. We bought scalper tickets and sat front row center. That’s the only time I ever bought scalped tickets.

90. I’ve had three too-close encounters with bears. Once, we surprised each other in such close proximity, I could feel his breath on my face.

91. My Dad bought me a shotgun for my 7th birthday.

92. I once witnessed a friend eject all the cartridges from his rifle without firing a shot, and then wonder at how he’d missed the deer.

93. I once shot an arrow into a stump between a deer’s legs. He had to step over my arrow to continue walking in the same direction he was going. That’s the only time I ever shot at a deer in my life.

94. A deer took a shot at me and did $2800 damage to the side of the truck I’d bought only 4 hours early. He never even stopped to say sorry.

95. besides my own kids, Winston and Xavier are among my faves. They make me happy the way mine do, and I remember the way my dad used to act annoyed by some kids and light up around others.

96. I am totally in love with my students. I have been for a few years now. This hasn’t always been the case.

97. Last night I was lying in the silent living room on the floor staring at the ceiling and Will asked me what I was thinking about. I answered, “nothing” because I felt strange admitting I was listening to music.

98. When I was in Junior High, I played Johnny B. Goode at a talent show in a Church basement and scandalized my Mom. I think that’s the only thing that I ever did that upset mom that beyond feeling bad for upsetting her, I felt no shame or regret.

99. In the past couple years, I’ve played and sung U2, John Mellencamp, John Mayer, and James Taylor in church on Sunday morning.

100. We don’t have TV at our house. We have a set for DVDs and Vid games, but it doesn’t pick up any stations.

101. I have every episode of “The Office” on my iPod.

102. There are some socially unacceptable/swear/vulgar words that don’t bother me at all. In fact, there are some that I’d much rather hear than the acceptable replacements that everyone uses. But there are some words that were off limits when I was young that everyone uses now as if they never meant anything. I understand that to them, they don’t mean anything, but I’d appreciate some consideration that for me, they still mean what they meant 25 years ago. I don’t just wince, I shudder at a few common, everyday expressions that I’ve actually heard in the pulpit.

103. I love being around people, but it takes a tremendous amount of alone time to fuel for it.

104. I believe that the Church properly operates as the gathering of smaller intimate communities, rather than the community and intimacy being fostered by breaking the church into smaller bits.

105. I’ve witnessed the messy miracle of childbirth three times and cut the umbilical cords to receive the three greatest gifts of my life.
106. My children are three of the most fascinating people I’ve ever known.
107. When Jack says, “I love you,” I feel like God has caused time to stand still and postponed the inevitable.
108. When Will says, “I love you,” I feel like he’s responding to my thoughts.
109. When Molly says, “I love you,” I feel like the most important person in the world.
110. When Allison says, “I love you,” I feel like all is right with the world.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

blog primavera

If you’re a winter-type person, I’ve got bad news for you. Your hours are numbered. You should spend today outside saying goodbye to old man freezy-breath, although ‘round these parts, today is not very wintry. It’s a poor effort as a last hurrah.
So tonight, shortly after dark, Spring will sneak in under the new moon and a vernacious miracle will take place. Spring and the Flower moon will be born and grow together.
Of course, ‘round these parts, most of equinoxical stealth has been rendered ineffective due to the color guard that has marched in ahead, blowing trumpet fanfares with daffodils, twirling forsythia, ringing summer snowflakes, and waving magnolia blossoms. Had Vern wanted to come in quietly he should have had the color guard bring up the rear.
At any rate, this evening it becomes official. Vern will be crowned emperor of the Northern Hemisphere, and his brother, Autumnus Sumer Leavus will be crowned in the South, each for a 3 month term.
My allegiance is with Vern for the moment.


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Monday, March 19, 2007

growing young

So Allison turned 43 today.
Rounded off to the nearest year, we’re the same age again. I really don’t enjoy those 37 days during which she is a year younger than I am. I’m always afraid she’ll think I’m too old for her and run off with a younger man. But, now I’m safe for another year, we’re the same age again.
Allison worked last night. In fact, she worked an extra 12-hour night shift this weekend. So on the morning of her birthday, she could have done what you and I would have done after a night’s work. Instead, she came home, changed shoes and ran 50 miles. Well, somewhere between 5 and 50. But still. Right? After a night shift, and at 43? Sheesh.

I’m really proud to be able to say I’m married to a 43 year-old woman because in all honesty, no one believes it. In some ways, she is like my own mom, whose age peaked at some point, and she has since been getting younger. Allison’s age peaked a couple years ago, and while I believe she has grown more in these two years than perhaps all of life before, she has grown younger at an equal rate.
Her increasing youth is manifest in growing dependence on all those around us. She is becoming less afraid to need and is regaining the ability to be vulnerable – a trait that is stolen away as we age and lose innocence and naiveté.
It seems like a paradox that the more we grow, the younger we get. A mystery. But it’s real. We’re told that unless we come as children, we won’t get it. The whole world pressures us to grow up, be rational, reason and understand. But they don’t get. Children can imagine what doesn’t seem possible and believe what can’t be explained. Once we convince ourselves to do what we desperately want to do, to believe what we desperately want to believe, we begin to grow younger. What is too good to be real becomes commonplace.
Rich Mullins wrote, “we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old, but our Father still waits and he watches down the road… growing young…”

Of course, those of you who have seen her lately know that not all her increasing youth is in the form of heart and spirit. There are physical manifestations too, if I may say so.
I’ve known her since we were 18, and in my heart of hearts, I’d choose body, soul, and spirit, March 19, 2007’s Allison over any other day’s Allison since August 1982.
I know that the normal gender expression of aging is that women fight it and men seem not to care (as long as they get a sports car in their early 50s). But we are definitely reversed, Allison and I. She beautifully and gracefully gathers the days and months and years. She joyfully grasps the wisdom those years are bringing. She smiles at the sprigs of gray sprouting in both our manes.
I’m learning from her that there may be some possibility that the results of these dog years are not all decay. I look at the beautiful laugh lines forming at the corner of her eyes and I realize that the older you get the less effective the façade at covering the spirit that lies within.
I too want to learn to carry myself in such a way that the wind and the years form a surface that is indicative of what lies beneath. I want to grow on the inside so that the patina reflects the wisdom and experience found within.
Thank you, Allison, for being pro-aging. Thank you for growing. I pray that we continue to learn to nourish and tend to one another through the rest of our growing season.


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Friday, March 16, 2007

kingdom 2.0

A year and a half or so ago, I made a mirror site for my blog because Wordpress was so much more tweakable and I really wanted “categories” to help me organize my thoughts. I realized that I’d need to post simultaneously to both locations, so I bought the blog editing software, Ecto to do so. It was $18, and I’d never have to login to either blogsite to post. Woot.
A few months ago, Blogger began moving folks to their new version. Mine, being quite large was one of the last to go, but even before I went, the tweaks in the blogger system had rendered ecto suddenly inoperable, intermittently at first, then totally. Since then, I’ve had to post to blogger manually. Gee whiz.
That is until today. I got tired of copying and pasting and writing extra code, so I began to dig around blogger looking for a more accurate API access point. Eventually, I found a tweak of Ecto itself that fixed the blogger-caused blogger problem.
The guy who wrote Ecto also has a day job. He wrote Ecto for fun. He’s busy now writing a new version, Ecto 3.0, but he still took the time to write a fix to a problem that was caused by someone else’s software and that had rendered his already-paid-for product useless to all us who had spent the $18. Wasn’t that sweet?
But all of that is just back-story.
The front story is that it seems like this kind of business - community, and development for the sake of advancement rather than commerce only happens on the interwebs. Furthermore, it usually has to do with product that you can’t see, hold in your hand, or show to the manufacturer so that they can see what’s broken. In real life, it seems that once a product is out the door, it’s your problem. Inadequacies, flaws, and blemishes are cleverly hidden or downplayed until they are taken home. Can you imagine buying a car just before a road is repaved, and then having the dealership give you new tires that will work better on the new surface? That’s what happens everyday on the internets. It’s more of a web than ever before with every aspect so closely connected and dependent on others. In interweb land, what has long been forgotten in the real world is blatantly obvious daily, we are all dependent on one another. If there’s a problem with one element, we all suffer. Development forces development so that one doesn’t become the weak link.
When my blog is visited, nearly every piece of content on the page is gathered from different servers. The text is stored at google, the photos in the text body are stored in my server space at gracemonkey.com, the hit counter is loaded from sitemeter, the flickr badge comes from Yahoo, the moon phase calculator is drawn from elsewhere, and on and on. Right now, sitemeter is working to correct a data problem that has messed up my stat updates. They are reading code and deleting corrupted lines so that my FREE stat counter will be accurate. Each time something becomes incompatible with another element, work is done to upgrade the other element to insure that they keep working in tandem.

I live in a physical society that has seen parts of it upgraded over and over, while other parts have been ignored, and rendered incompatible and inoperable. As time goes by, upgrades to the upgraded parts become more and more advanced and frequent, while the neglected parts become further outdated and forgotten. Furthermore, certain features of the upgraded parts at various times have been designated less important than others and so they too have ceased to be upgraded and thus, become incompatible with the more newly upgraded parts. All effort is put into a smaller and smaller segment while the quickly receding obsolete parts grow bigger and bigger.
Ironically though, many of the writers for the increasingly narrowed upgrades, eventually begin to notice that much of the content needed to load the index page is found on the servers they’ve neglected and abandoned as obsolete. When needed, the content is unavailable – outdated, obsolete. Of what importance is a Commodore 64 in Web 2.0?
Apparently, a lot, and if some of the upgraded power is not used to update the neglected, the entire physical interweb suffers.



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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

not a spring blog

This afternoon, there was a flurry of avian activity in the backyard. I'd finally seen Allison's Brown Headed Nuthatch earlier in the day. It had been chased away from the suet by a quite grown up Downy Woodpecker.
When Allison came home, she mentioned a woodpecker at the feeder, and I said he'd scared her Nuthatch away. Allison said they must have become friends because he was sitting on a limb waiting his turn. I came to look, and saw that the entire backyard was alive. There was the Nuthatch, the Woodpecker, a Tufted Titmouse, two Chickadees (they always come in pairs), a rogue Mocking bird, one of my Carolina Wrens all grown up, 2 Cardinals (husband and wife), 2 Bluejays (probably brothers), a bunch of Robins drilling for worms, and 3 Northern Flickers pecking for ants.

Tonight, the frogs are singing very loudly.

Just sayin'...

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ride ready

It’s a little embarrassing to admit some things that dictate other things in your life. On a particularly nice day last week, one of my students asked me if I’d ridden my bike to work that day. Ouch. Do you know how much I’d have liked to ride my bike to work? Why not then? Well, when I got ready to leave, I knew my battery was dead, and of course I didn’t have time to charge it. Of course I should have charged it on any given day for the past month, but truly, every time I had the urge to ride, I was too lazy to open the compartment, unhook the battery, hook up the charger… Are you kidding? all that stuff would take like a total of 6 minutes. And then I’d have to wait a couple hours for the battery to charge before I could start the bike. Of course, next time it’d be ready to ride. But alas… too lazy.
So I talked with my student about how strange it is that I would sacrifice the opportunity to do something that I absolutely love to do simply for the quick, easy, effortless preparation to do it. I was assured that this was not terribly abnormal. But I didn’t let the weekend get by without charging my battery and starting my bike. When I took it out of the garage to start it, I realized how nasty dirty it was and so was a bit too embarrassed to ride it until I had time to clean it up.
So yesterday, Molly and I drove to the bike shop to look for some cleaning goo to whiten my white walls (on the tires, no, I didn’t get a haircut). Alas, the metric bike shops are all closed on Monday. So we had to decide quickly whether to risk an appearance at the one remaining bike store in town. We assessed our defenses, confidence and fortitude, and drove to the Harley store. Molly was a bit worried, but I was more concerned with possibly feeling like a traitor. As it turned out, everyone at the store was quite cordial, despite the fact that they were being visited by Honda riders.

I wasn’t sure if Harley cleaner is actually meant to be used, or if it is only decoration, but I didn’t dare ask. I thought I’d go ahead and try it. To my surprise, it worked quite well, so I guess only the motorcycles are meant to be decorations. Of course, it was a third-party product.
So Molly and I cleaned the bike, and confidently took a spin. Now the minuscule prep for major pleasure and enjoyment is accomplished. My bike is clean and shiny and antsy. It calls my name in a deep stereo voice that everyone in the neighborhood can hear.
UPDATE:
photo for Cong.

Bikerod



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Sunday, March 11, 2007

bloom

Spring is walking through the door. Officially, it’s still another 8 days away, but it is at least in a holding pattern. Just when the bare trees, brown grass and chill winds of another gray morning seem to have overstayed their welcome, a miracle happens. Like baby teeth pushed away, all the oak leaves that have been dangling dead since November drop to the ground to make way for the light green baby leaves that are budding. It seems that overnight, color seeps from everywhere.
Today was beautiful, warm Springy day. Molly and I grabbed the camera just before sunset and took a color walk. We snapped 156 pictures between our house and then end of our road (about 200 yards). We returned home because the memory card was full.
You probably needn’t worry about spring taking over my blog this year as in years past, but I’m making no promises. There are scores of unfinished, half-thought blogs littering my computer desktop. It would seem that I’m incapable of finishing thoughts these days and so my blog sits unchanged for days. For the next few weeks though, the lawns and woods won’t sit unchanged for even a minute as the Dogwoods finish opening and the azaleas burst, and the wisteria begins to drip from the trees and over fences.

A sampling of Molly’s and my walk is available for your enjoyment.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

the most beautiful thing

Last night when I started home from the gym, the moon was just rising. It occurred to me at first glance that the moon is the most beautiful thing. I had to ponder for the rest of the evening whether it was actually a beauty that it contained in itself. After all, it’s just a big round rock in space. It gives off no light of its own, it has no colorful atmosphere, and its complexion is quite pockmarked and scarred. To call it “crater-face” would be no cruel exaggeration.

So how is it that a round, gray rock is the most beautiful thing?
moon of winds
The whole “most beautiful thing” thought occurred to me because at that moment of first sighting, it was the only thing I could see, save the roof of the Piggly Wiggly that was serving as a flat, tar-covered horizon out of which the moon was emerging. So it’s just the moon, no terrestrial accessories to spice up the beauty. No, come to think of it there is a diffuse mist causing a soft, out-of-focus glow around the moon that even spills onto the tar horizon of the PW.
When I drove down our own street, it had risen above the mist, and shone clear and brightly and unobstructed. Still beautiful, alone in the sky. But wait, by herself, I’d not see her at all. There’s that sunlight splashing off her face at such an angle as to shadow her top, right corner, and cast shades of designs across her scarred face.
When I reached home, she was shining through the trees in the back yard and was more beautiful than before. I realized that she truly is dependent for her beauty. Her beauty is found in her interaction with an infinite array of other beautiful things.
It’s a give and take relationship. She causes the tree limbs to shimmer light and cast streams of shadow on the ground. The tree limbs playfully obstruct her visage and create a flirty glance as she peers down. She perches atop a mountain peak, spills reflected sunlight on a lake that illuminates the undersides of trees on the bank, peers between two buildings, shines upon the soft face of beautiful girl illuminating a cheekbone, and shadowing a slender neck.
Perhaps she’s the most beautiful thing because she’s the common denominator among so many beautiful things. Back home in the mountains, by the river, a Caribbean beach, in the Grand Canyon, the Arizona desert, my backyard – she’s the common beauty. Stealing beauty, adding beauty, interacting with beauty. Reflecting the light of another, and spreading it all around.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

obstacles 2.0

During our flight from Atlanta to Phoenix, I read a few short, silly articles in one of those magazines found in the back of the seat in front of me. One article was a review/advertisement for a book by Daniel Gilbert called, Stumbling on Happiness. His thesis is that people don’t really know what makes them happy. We have dreams and ambitions and plans and desires, but so often when reached or realized, one finds that they tarnish quickly. Apparently, Gilbert believes that regardless of their plans and dreams, people are basically happy with the way things turn out. I’ve thought a lot about that for the past few days, and believe that the real purpose of books that make these claims is to encourage people to be content with the hand they are dealt. A quick scan of those around us doesn’t often reveal people who are happy with the hand they’re dealt. It seems to me that these claims are made to cause unhappy, unfulfilled people to believe that their situation is the same as everyone else’s, and everyone else is perfectly fine with it. Get with the program. Be happy like the rest of the world.
I don’t buy it. You can’t fool me. Ain’t many people any more happy than I am with the surprises, obstacles, unmet dreams, broken hearts, bad decisions, mistakes, and accidents. Why are emo workouts more common than bodypump? Why are therapists more in-demand than personal trainers? It seems closer to reality to state that few people are fulfilled though their dreams are realized, and fewer still when their dreams are dashed or things don’t go as planned
What I think I might agree with though, is that it is possible to be content with the hand we are dealt. In fact, I believe that quite often the hand we are dealt is far better than the hand we wished for. I just don’t think many of us have the ability to see that, at least not in time to enjoy the way things are – when they are.

Will and I arrived in Flagstaff just before midnight on Friday night. The temperature was 18 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sides of the road were quite snowy. When we got off the exit, my anti-lock brakes immediately began to pump, but still weren’t enough to stop me on the correct side of the stop sign. We drove through town looking for an open convenience store and slid and skidded all the way. I found one and asked the guy at the register if there was any way we could make it to the canyon alive that night. He sent us 30 extra miles through the desert saying there shouldn’t be any snow out there. He was right, no more snow until we reached the park.
Rite of Passage travel is supposed to be tough because it is a symbol of the larger journey on which we’ve already embarked, and just like the larger journey, there is a joy in overcoming and a beauty to be seen when one relaxes and realizes that his journey is not only a means to an end, but an end in itself. The journey is a major part of the destination.
We had no more than rolled our tires onto desert roads before the desert darkness surrounded. The horizon that we’re used to seeing glowing, was black. The only light was from the car, pointing directly ahead, and the moon and myriad stars above. The moon had nothing to hide behind and so hovered larger than life on what seemed like the horizon for the entirety of the trip. When we crossed over mountains, and when we were around the canyon, we could look down at what seemed like far beneath us, and see the moon and stars. It was a very surreal experience. We even encountered two Elk much more suddenly, surprisingly and closely than we might have wished for.
Once we’d entered the Park, we still had 28 miles to our spot on the rim to pack it in for the night. Immediately after passing through the gate, the roads turned white with about 2 inches of snow with no tire tracks and we drove through dense Piñon forest at 15 miles per hour creating our own path for the rest of the trip. My lunar love affair is public knowledge, so you can imagine how thrilled I was at this hours-long trek directly toward the sinking moon. I was given the gift of traveling through the high desert, in the black of night, east to west, with the constant guidance of the setting desert moon.

No matter how many times it happens to me, travel that doesn’t proceed as planned, is terribly frustrating as it is happening. But apparently just as often, the obstacles that are thrown in our path seem to cause us to be in just the right place at just the right time. I’ve written about crawling traffic for 200 miles in the pouring rain that caused me to be atop Fancy Gap in Virginia precisely at the right time to the most spectacular sunset, and a double rainbow set against the permeating orange atmosphere. I wrote about sitting still in rush hour traffic to get a good laugh at seeing a perfect, mint condition Bundt® cake sitting on the white line at the edge of I-20. There are dozens of stories in which our momentum has been governed to put us where we needed to be when we needed to be there, or even to keep us from someplace when we’re not supposed to be there.

I constantly strive to learn more clearly how important the journey is. It’s my desire to be traveler whose journey is the destination and whose final rest is simply a reward for the journey. Teach me to become attached and rooted only to people and to burn with the desire for their company on the metaphorical journey.
The 40-year journey that the Hebrews took was not reflective of the distance to the destination. My life journey is not to get me to the other side. In fact, I could be there in a matter of minutes. The journey itself is included in the destination, the goal. The kingdom is at hand - within and among us.
We journey through it to arrive in it.

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