Friday, May 29, 2015

On The Unsubcribing of Mail

As part of the exercise of being input deprived, I have finally organized m e-mail box

This has been a task which has been long been the bane of my existence.  My e-mail box had become a dumping ground of items that I needed to save and items that I intended to get to at some point in time - I was harboring over 800 unread e-mails there.  But with the deprivation of input and a growing need to make my life more streamlined finally compelled me after two years to address the issue.

I was gentle with myself, of course.  No immediate wholesale throwing away of e-mails:  first organization of those things I thought I needed (knowing I will probably still delete them as well), then the slow process of eliminating the rest, up to and including reaching the point of just deleting unread things I would never realistically get to.

As part of this process, I finally began to unsubscribe from e-mails in an attempt to cut down on the total input of my e-mails.

The process of unsubscribing, though, is not as straightforward as I has hoped.

There are a great deal of ways to unsubscribe.  For some, it is is simply clicking the "unsubscribe" link and being redirected to a page which essentially says "done".  For others, it is clicking the link to have to enter your e-mail or select a series of what you would you like to be excluded from.  And for some notable sites, it is actually having to re-enter your information to be excluded in the future.

The time frame was also a surprise to me.  For most, it was listed as immediate.  But for a few - a few who somehow bill themselves as being interested in privacy and independence - the listing was "48-72 hours".  Not at all impressive in a world of high speed technology.

What has this experience taught me?

1)  There is no reason for e-mails to build up.  If you are not going to deal with it today, delete it.
2)  There is no particularly good reason to sign up for any recurring e-mail unless it mets a need which you feel is important.  Really important.  Otherwise, see item 1).
3)  The policy on how to extract yourself from something should tell you a great deal of what they consider you and the value of your time to truly be.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Input Deprivation Day Four

So the Input Deprivation has been an interesting experiment so far.

The amazing thing to me is how difficult it has been.  One would not think that input would be such an annoyance to live without but it has turned out to be so.  I am acutely conscious of the fact that I am not doing activities that I would usually do, be it reading other blogs, keeping informed of events, or engaging in social media.

This "emptiness" is having two effects on me.  On the one hand, it is causing me to become more of an "output" machine, be the outputs only such things as thoughts or ideas.  They have not yet coalesced to the point of becoming something useful but that, I think, is in the future where the exercise to continue.

The second effect is how much of a justification I am trying to make to do something to fill this void.  As I mentioned, books were the one thing I left off of this list which were recommended by the author was reading.  What I have discovered is almost a desperate attempt by myself to fill the time with reading - anything.  I cannot really come up with a justification in my mind yet but it is something I almost do impulsively.  The one thing that I may yet change is limiting that reading time to specific bounds.

But on the whole, is it good so far?  I would have to answer in the affirmative.  I am far more aware of my time and how I spend it than I was previously.  And I certainly have a sense of space within myself, space that I am filling with things that simply do not contribute to my overall goals.

It is good.  I just need to listen deeper.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Not Having Control

I hate not having control.

The issue has raised its ugly head again over the last month, when I have been (somewhat patiently) waiting for responses from recruiters - the sort of thing that initially starts out as "This is a critical hire for the company and they want to move quickly" to "They are still discussing it" to radio silence.  The problem, of course, is that one has no control over the speed of the decision making.  I cannot make people decide more quickly - or even decide at all.  One is left twisting in the wind, waiting for the notification that may never come.

As I thought about a bit more, I realized that this is actually true of large parts of my life.  No matter how much I like to pretend, the actual matters I control in my life seem very small indeed:  when I get up.  When I go to bed.  Occasionally, what I do.  Other than that, little seem seems in my control.

Which makes me powerless. And the plaything or game piece of others in their own plans.  Which certainly does not help me much along my own goal of moving forward.

So how do I start to reclaim power over my own life?

It (I think obviously) cannot be quickly accomplished - we have tried this before with not so good results.  But there have to be parts or elements that are within my control which I am not conscious of immediately.  These I need to build up on, even if it is as seemingly simple as acknowledging that I control what I eat every day (which I do) or that I can exercise in some form or fashion (which I can).

Small things, to be sure.  But like with making cheese or getting quail, small things quite easily lead to big things if only we are patiently and continue to move forward.  It is a continuum and journey, not only a destination.

But control is dependence.  And this is something that I am seeking to get away from, not move towards.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pickling Quails Eggs


So today I made pickled Quail eggs.

At once the easiest and most difficult thing to do.  Easy because the recipe (go here for "Hot and Spicy Pickling Mix") is simple: vinegar and a bunch of spices, boiled.  Hard, because you have to peel the eggs first.

Peeling quail eggs is not as easy as it might seem.  For one thing, they are much smaller than chicken eggs and so harder to grasp for peeling.  Second of all, they have a fairly thick membrane on the inside which makes it difficult to peel them - so difficult, in fact, that one can peel the whole shell off the egg with removing the membrane.

In the best circumstances, I was able to get under the membrane and either spiral the shell off or or simply slip the egg out from the shell.  In the lesser best case, the shell came off with pieces of the egg whites.  In the worst case (3 examples) the egg was so destroyed that I ate it then and there.

So twenty three eggs made it into the pickling solution for a 10 minute hot pack boil (I don't have to do that, but why not as it is so easy?). The finished result is supposed to wait two weeks for before sampling - I will wait at least a week before trying.

Another small victory achieved -more possible for a larger one as I realized that outside of the vinegar, the only additional ingredients (besides quail eggs, obviously) are spices and pepper flakes.  Something that could almost completely be done at home with a little forethought and planning.

Another small step in the right direction.


Monday, May 25, 2015

A Week of Input Deprivation

By way of introduction, I direct you to this article at The Art of Manliness:  10 Overlooked Truths About Taking Action.  As with most of the articles at The Art of Manliness, it is well thought and and provides a series of action steps to be taken (if you are not a reader of The Art of Manliness, you should be).

In reading the article, one of the items listed by the author Kyle Eschenroeder as an action step really leaped out at me.  I reproduce here in its entirety:

II. Input Deprivation Week

Go an entire week with zero information consumption.
I first tried this last year and it was wildly successful. I got more done in one week than I had in the month prior. I also ate the best I had all year and solidified my meditation practice. It was so effective I offered it up to the readers of my blog, StartupBros.
Most of the people mocked me or called me naive. A few actually tried it, though. And many of them are still practicing it to this day. It’s the most effective way I’ve found to boost output.
It’s also the most painful.
You are going to, for an entire week, live without information input.
Stay with me on this.
For one week:
  • No reading books.
  • No reading blogs.
  • No reading newspapers.
  • No going on Facebook (even just to post).
  • No watching TV (shows, sports, news, anything).
  • No watching movies.
  • No listening to talk radio.
  • No going on Reddit.
  • No going on Twitter.
  • No information input – only output!
You must force yourself to spend an entire week with yourself and the people immediately surrounding you.
This will, first and foremost, force you into action by stripping away every activity you run to in order to avoid actually doing the work you know you should be doing.
Besides that, it will increase mindfulness, increase the respect you have for your own ideas, you’ll have more ideas, unsolvable life problems may begin to make sense, you’ll have an increased appreciation for the news that actually matters, you’ll become more social, you’ll gain perspective, and you’ll become more original.
It sounds too good to be true but it’s not. It’s what happens. The only way for you to appreciate this is to do it.
Pretty radical stuff, especially since I am an information fiend and glut.

Which got me to thinking about the whole thing.

I consume information in two ways.  The first way - the correct way - is when I take it in to fill a need or question - like, for example, learning about the Period of the Successor states following Alexander the Great's death last night in Dividing the Spoils by Robin Waterfield or how to raise quail or make cheese or simply do something.  The purpose of this consumption is to fill a need, the sort of analogy one might find to eating when one is hungry.

The second kind of consumption - the one I have just become consciously aware of - is the sort of thing that is the equivalent of mindless eating, the consumption of information because I am bored. This is the kind of thing that works itself out in Facebook or Twitter or scanning sites breathlessly to find out what is going on in the world.  It is not information designed to meet a need or better me; it is information designed to distract me or to fill my ennui or simple dislike of the situation I find myself in.

It is not healthy and it does not move me one step closer to anywhere I want to be.  In fact, it seems to prove on of the comments of the author directly:  "This will, first and foremost, force you into action by stripping away every activity you run to in order to avoid actually doing the work you know you should be doing."

So this week will be a modified version of the Input Deprivation Week.

Books, I cannot give up.  It is my hobby and my relaxation and frankly (with my current schedule) does not consume a lot of time.

All else, for a week, is off limits.

I have a bit of work to do to prepare for this - gather my quotes for the week so that I can immediately post them and not have to look, perhaps prepare some of the others things I must do for writing - but other than that, I am retreating to a form of Solitude (or as much as I can manage in my life).  For a week.  Just to see.

To see what, left alone with my thoughts, I can accomplish.




Friday, May 22, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Shout Out and A Free Offer

So my friend Act II is in the process of putting out an e-book and guess who got quoted? (3 guesses and the first two do not count).  Pretty cool, no?  I show up somewhere (no idea where yet - I have not read it either) in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Better part? They are free!  If you just go here and give him your e-mail he will happily provide you one as well.

Speaking on his behalf and as his friend for more than 30 years, I can assure you that as a man of the arts (music director, composer, and writer for many years) it will be well worth your while (and did I mention it was free?).

What are you waiting for?  Get yourself over and request a copy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Less Than They Should Be

I am grappling with things being less than they should be.

This seems to be a common thread running throughout large portions of my life: things seem less than they should be.  By "should be" do I mean "as promised (by something I do not know or cannot recall)" or "as expected (mostly by myself)"? The two are quite different, of course.

"As promised" indicates that some guarantee was given to me by something or someone - even if I cannot seem to recall who gave it.  "Work hard and reap the benefits" for example, or "Endure and reap success".  They sound really good and even to some extent may try to be true, but too often I find myself on the other end of what these seem to imply:  the job that never moves forward no matter how much effort is invested, the relationship that continues to slide regardless of what is supposed to be.

"As expected" indicates that this something that I set up by myself.  I chose to believe that something would result in something else, perhaps without any guarantee or facts supporting the item:  the relationship that would never work no matter what I believed, the job (The Firm) that would have succeeded as presented even though I wanted it to.  Call them perhaps dreams or fantasies rather than expectations, perhaps.

So how does one grapple with these?  This is the problem I find myself facing.  For many of these things that are less than we expect, merely getting up and leaving is not an option - it is just not something that is possible or even desirable. At the same time, living at a level of less than one expects drains one of the zest of living - day after day living at a lower level of achievement or energy eventually enervates one to the point of even wanting to try.

I wish I understood how to change this - since, after all, the only power to change things ultimately derives from myself.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pointless

The pointless too often fills our time,steals our energy,
takes our lives.

We invest in that which we cannot avoid doing
in hopes that we can eke out a future
which very well may never arrive.

The mediocre is held as the standard,
the average as exceptional,
and status quo as a glorious thing.

Fight the pointless:
take back the energy,
take control of your life.

Make that which you are doing valuable
or do not do it at all.
Design the future instead of waiting for it to come.

Ignore the standard:
Only the mediocre worship mere effort over achievement,
and glorify the pointless.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Little Country Road

When I can, I take a little country road back towards my house.

Where we live in New Home is a combination of built out areas and original native landscape.  This particular road, which moves along the side of a light industrial buildout is, one of those areas.  To the left on this little one lane road are concrete blocks and parking lots while to the right and North are overgrown pastures and fields.

I like to drive it in the dark because the local wildlife is out.  I have seen possums and a skunk and baby bunnies scarcely larger than my hand.  One time, a buck right at the road line, almost ready to hop out and into my car.

When I get to the top of the initial straightaway and make the right turn, I briefly find myself moving back through time to when there was nothing but cattle ranches and small acreages here.  One cannot see the city or the suburbs or the freeway that dominates the part of the city.  One can just see the trees overhanging the road and the grasses on the side that wend there way through the sagging rusty barbed wire fences.

Another turn North and I already find myself back in the 21st Century with the water structure looming on the horizon overlooking everything; another turn East and I face the Freeway that dominates my drive five days a week, sodium lights flickering as I see the bar at the corner peering out at me from the other side of the freeway.

I am always glad to drive this way home whenever I can, and worry that at some point it will disappear, being sucked up into yet another housing development or industrial thing that simply does not need to happen.  It saddens me because it will mean that those that come after will never get a sense of what the landscape used to look like before everyone came, and what wildlife was here on a daily basis.

It saddens me because a little more of the beauty around us will be stripped away and never return.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2001: A Posting Odyssey

So this is my 2001st post.

To be honest, I never anticipated making it this far.  That seems like a really large number, when I sit and think about it - true, it is spread out over 10 years (well, really 8 if you count the years that I have been seriously blogging) but it still seems remarkable to me.

Part of the fact of remarkableness is the fact that I have found something to write about 2000 times.  They are probably not always interesting, I will grant you.  Sometimes I go back and am shocked by the words that leap from the page - I certainly did not write those profound thoughts! Other times, I go back and simply shake my head at the fact that I posted that particular thing at all.

A large thank you goes to you all as well, the inhabitants of The FortyFive universe.  Some of you I have known for a very long time indeed; others I have met through this blog and your blogs that you have shared with me. I appreciate you spending your precious time here for a few minutes every so often:  the man that writes for no readers is nothing more than a note jotter.  My humble and sincere thanks.

What is up for the next 2000?  More of the same, I suspect.  Waves come and go and I find myself with different interests and issues.  The process of writing these entries helps ground me every day, even if it is only for a little while.  It has become a ritual, without which the day does not feel right.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your support.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Requests That Cannot Be Met

There is nothing more dispiriting than a request that cannot be met.

Usually when such things are revealed they are at precisely the wrong moment:  the job goal that will never be achieved no matter how hard you try, the relationship input that can never be fulfilled no matter what you do, the thing which you thought was happily and completely being provided but which in fact was apparently not.  It is at these moments that it feels like the bottom has fallen out of your world.

Why?  Because the sudden realization hits you that these things simply cannot be fulfilled.  It is not an issue of trying or even doing more.  It is the simple fact that it feels like no matter how much you do or try to do, they are simply forever out of reach.

How do you come to terms with such requests?  The initial reaction is to blame one's self - but I am not sure this is the best way to view it.  Comparing ourselves to that which we feel we will never achieve is always guaranteed to ensure that we will feel powerless.  Perhaps a better question is "Is this a legitimate request?"

Here is the truth that we often fail to grasp, both for ourselves and for those making the requests:  they are not all legitimate.  Sometimes they are things that are simply impossible, sometimes they are things that based on how they are phrased can not be achieved but if adjusted could be achieved.  the important fact is to grasp is a request which is not realistic or possible is like a request which constantly changes such that we can never meet it:  in either instance, we are being set up to fail.

We cannot the burden of all possibilities on our shoulders.  And we cannot achieve that which was never achievable.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Out Of My Depth

Yesterday evening I met a former coworker for dinner.  It was late and dark and I had never been to really anywhere around here, so they made a suggestion for something near the beach.

The restaurant, when we arrived, was one of the very well interiored buildings of the sort that I seldom if ever frequent:  shiny marble floors, a long art wall of white tile resembling waves, tables with white linen and full settings and two kinds of glasses.  The wait staff was quite nicely dressed with those nice towels that are folded at the belt for service.  The windows themselves looked onto the dark beach and the ocean.

The menu, when it came, was the sort which has not more than 30 items on it - some that are standing orders, some that were not specials.  Elegant food, the sort that I read about but seldom experience:  things involving beets and brussel spouts and ahi tuna and cuts of steak I have had once in my life if at all.

I was clearly out of my depth.

My former coworker clearly was in her depth.  Ordered her food, made sure everything got to us, was pleasant when the owner of the restaurant came of and said hi and graciously accepted a gift of dessert.  Elegant, well spoken, poised.

I sat and ate my crab, dressed my jeans and "Let us go throw Heavy Things" T-shirt.

It strikes me as odd because I find myself in a paradox: on the one hand this life beckons to me:  life in a city, near the beach, eating fine things in nice settings and always elegantly poised to carry on conversations and (frankly) be a beautiful person - on the other side, the reality of telling myself - convincing myself? - that such things are irrelevant and not at all what I want or where I want to be in my life.

I do not know if I can ever resolve this.  I do not know if I want to resolve this - in many ways this was a once-in-a-blue-moon event, the sort which seldom comes my way and as such not a serious consideration.  Not serious, of course, except that it is something I could achieve if I truly valued it.  And I am not sure at times which of these is truly me.


The crab, however, was excellent.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Possibilities and Actualities

So one of the nicer things about my job - probably about any job - is when you see possibilities.

This happens sometimes - oddly enough, when you are outside of your normal work environment.  It is at these times that we see what the possibilities of our career field might be.  I am not sure what triggers it - perhaps it is the fact that we are around others who in our field, perhaps it is because we are learning new things that we can apply, perhaps it is because simply are out of the grunge and daily tasks which make up most of our day.  It is at these moments that we can grasp what is possible in our field, what can be achieved, perhaps even what real accomplishment looks like.

What the possibilities are.

And then we come back to our actual work lives.  Back to the grunge and pettiness and politics and mindless daily drivel of our jobs.  The things we hate.  The behaviors that drive us batty.  The terrible ways in which we do not aim for greatness every day but instead for mediocrity - or perhaps it is better defined as sanity in an insane environment.  The possibilities of what could be slip away from us faster than we wish, leaving us with perhaps one or two sparks in an otherwise completely dark and desolate sky that once was full of stars.

What the actualities are.

How does one bridge the gap between possibilities and actualities?  Or perhaps more accurately, how does one  cling to the possibilities long enough to move them into the realm of actualities?  Is it is as simple as merely holding on?  Or is it, as I suspect, accepting that the actualities of one's current situation will simply not allow the possibilities to exist.

In which case, the situation must be changed.  Or corrected.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Cinco De Mayo Urbano

So tonight, in a paroxysm of not wanting to spend the evening trapped in a hotel, I took a walk to the local old town with a Mexican heritage.  On Cinco de Mayo, no less.

It was, as you can imagine, something of a small riot.   Lines in front of every Mexican restaurant (and I would wager there were at least 20 of them), loud music blaring, people waiting in lines - talking on their cell phones, smoking, making their way through the crowds.  Hostesses trying to check for random number groups or advising clients that there was no waiting for the beer garden. A bevy of people, trying to get into somewhere and get some food that is available 360+ other days of the year (or for many of the younger ones, more likely alcohol).

It kind of makes me sad on two counts.  One, of course, is simply being in this sea of humanity.  From the point of view of a people watcher, this might be a fine show.  From the point of view of someone who is largely an introvert (and even more so where I do not know anyone at all), perhaps not so much of a marvel.

The second sadness is simply that which I experience almost every time that I spend significant time in an urban center.  The crowds.  The noise.  The just general insanity of large groups of people living where they essentially have to bring everything in from somewhere else.

I know what you are going say - "Do you not live in an urban setting too?"  I do  - and I am not all that happy about it (that is also on the record).  The difference in my mind is that I do not embrace it as the totality of my existence.  I actively want to be somewhere else and I understand all too very well how much I am dependent on so many things that are controlled by others.

I eventually found a place to eat (Fish and chips) and crawled my way back through the crowds.  As I made my way back the sound of the celebration and urban chaos dwindled to the sounds of the freeway with cars whizzing by.

It strikes me as odd that somehow that I would consider that an actual improvement.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Koi



Dancing in the pond,
They know not how they appear:
Just that they are fish.

Monday, May 04, 2015

On The Road Again

So today I journey out again, this time set for the Pacific Coast.  Hopefully my last work related trip of the year.

I have said it before - I really do not prefer to travel as much.  Sure, I like to go to The Ranch or to travel specifically to see family or friends or even to go to see something truly remarkable (a foreign country comes to mind) but traveling for the sake of traveling or especially business I find increasingly wearying.

Why?  Certainly not because of the expense - that's all covered.  It is the time - time away from here, time away from family, time away from my animals and my garden that need my time and energy far more than wherever I am traveling to.  Every day gone is a day that is something is not being planted or cared for or loved.  Iaijutsu is not being practiced (really - I do try to do open hand but it is never quite the same), throws are not being done (hotel weight rooms are never the same).  My life goes on hold - other than the ability to catch up on my reading, which I do enjoy (and seldom get to do).

It is for a good cause, of course - training - and will hopefully result in something beneficial career-wise down the road.  Still, the potential good outcomes (at least in my mind) outweigh the fact that I simply will not be where I belong.

Home is where the heart is - or in my case, home is where my life is.

Friday, May 01, 2015

What I Learned From A Week of Input Deprivation

- Truth be told, you are no less well informed by not following electronic information than you were by not following printed media and the television back in the day..

- Most of the e-mails you receive are actually accretions of things you investigated or applied for at one time.  It is amazing how empty your inbox will become when you unsubscribe from all of them.

- As a corollary, you will find the urge to continually check your e-mail (now that you are receiving much less of it) a hard thing to stop.  It can be done, but you will surprised how much of a habit it has become.

- Most social media actually has no impact on your day to day life.

- With a decrease in social media and news, you will find that your aggravations tend to stem directly from people or things you interact with, not that  you read about.  This is a step in the right direction.

- This thing called "Free Time" may start to appear once you have cut off the constant searching of information to fill the void.  Do not be afraid.  This is normal.

- As a corollary, this time is not free.  It is ready to be re-invested in things that can really impact or change your life.

- You are probably not doing enough of the really important things in life on a daily basis.

- On the whole, a certain level of input deprivation should become a normal part of our lifestyle.  Just because something is available does not mean we should constantly avail ourselves of it.


On A Time of Choosing and Grieving

A time for choosing sides seems fast approaching.  This grieves me.

Gone - or rapidly dwindling - are the days when one could have a set of opinions or beliefs and have others that have different sets of beliefs or opinions and still get along, mostly because while you knew that each of you had the differences - and perhaps sometimes you would discuss them - there was an underlying respect of the other person and the allowance for them to have that different set of opinions or beliefs.

 But that is an another time, rapidly dwindling in the distance as a city dwindles in the desert plains until it suddenly disappears as a blot in the distance.

You know my rule - no politics, only my own religious struggles.  Yet I find myself remaining increasingly silent and increasingly uneasy as the tone of conversation changes.  Ideological purity become more valued than the value of relationship; plurality of opinions means not some much a true plurality but rather a subset of views which are deemed to be acceptable.

It grieves me.  It grieves me for the friends that will eventually disappear, for the relationships that will disappear into the wind, for the sadness and unrest that it will bring - perhaps not socially but in the souls of ourselves and others.

It grieves me but I can see it coming, like one can feel the Cold Fronts of New Home moving in, bringing the rain and wind with them - it is never a question of if, but when.

I am a man of peace, of quiet thought and civility and a retiring nature.  What looms before me - indeed, before us - makes me inexplicable sad to the promise of tears.

One hesitates to call anything the End, but the strident march of discord cries louder and louder, drowning out the subtle tones that weave a society together.

I grieve.