Sunday, September 30, 2007

Deny thyself

That seems to have been my motto, my modus operandi, for awhile. I always seem to sacrifice and give up something now, either because I don't feel like I deserve it, or there's an impeding sense of worse to come, or I'm not in a position to reap the rewards. It's a tough cycle, and whenever I think I can get out of the hole, a hairy arm reaches up to pull me back. When, I wonder, can I hack that arm, and be free, physically and psychically?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

In the end

All I can do is all I can do. And all I can be is me. With all the warts, idiosyncrasies, joys, smiles that make me, me. It's never going to be smooth, or storm-tossed. Somewhere in between.

Or maybe I simply need to appreciate the moment. And stop having battles with myself.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, that's it!

Whoops, I screwed up. This is the answer to life. Sorry about that. Carry on. As you were....

An indomitable spirit

Marcel Marceau died a few days ago. This Economist obituary captures the spirit of his alter ego perfectly. Bip seemed to be like all of us: we try, strive, fall short, want to give up and walk away. But he stayed, and stumbled through. Like the rest of us do.

“Bip”, said Mr Marceau, “is a hero of our time. His gaze is turned not only towards heaven, but into the hearts of men.”

More lessons

I heard this song, sung by this woman, on this radio station last night. Life really isn't a secret, is it?

New ways of thinking

This is an, um, interesting way of seeing things. Ten life lessons from coffins. But if the lessons are worthwhile, you run with them. I like lessons two, three and seven. Charting your own course is simply being who you are.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Power to the people

I've never been over the moon about cameras on cellphones. The quality whiffs, mainly. If you really need a picture, there are better, real cameras that will fix you up nicely. The things, I thought, were mostly a tool for vanity. Until today.

The pictures coming from Burma/Myanmar are heartbreaking. People standing up to a brutal regime are being violently broken up. And with foreign media mostly banned from the country, getting news about the protests would normally be difficult. But those cellphones, with those cameras, are getting the word out. And so are the blogs. Despots want control. Control of movement, thought and information. Depriving the people of those currencies would slow movements for democracies like the "Saffron Revolution." But not for long. They never did.


Sometimes, and as hard as it can be, you have to allow yourself to float along. Not fight the feeling. Stretch out, close your eyes, and drift through. With a smile on your face.

Polishing the cannonball

Some more items up on the tumblelog, including....

not using yourself as a punching bag
pieces to the puzzle of a great life
the power of persistence

Check them out...

Fear what?

My mind is strange. Sometimes I fear things, and want no part of them. Other times, and other things, I want to dive in. Why?

Today is a day

To stay inside. To mull. To ruminate. To contemplate. It's gray outside. A little foggy, a little cool. I want to stay inside and write. Or walk outside, and let my mind drift to faraway places and adventures. I hope it rains today. We really need it.

Hard things are hard...

...Until you do them. You build up all these anxieties, worries about a task, a chore. It's drudgery, your shoulders slump, you trudge in. With a deep, mournful sigh, you get to work. And working away, you notice that, yeah, it's not a parade, but it's easier to slog through than you thought. There's some elbow grease involved. But were the worries worth it? Didn't think so...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Unexhausted has been my virtue

Through the trials and tribulations, the highs and smiles of life, one has to keep going. Maintaining that even keel in storms and calm seas. A paradox, a puzzle. And throughout, you have to have energy to keep the journey going. Your stores have be deep, and they have to be replenished over a period of time. Life is a marathon, and unexhausted has to be your virtue.

...And we're back...

...After a few days of R&R, and embarking on a new adventure. There will be twists and turns on this new highway, but the journey is worth it.

One should never be afraid of abundance, or success. And I'm not talking about the material kind, but the spiritual kind. You have the right to be happy, joyous. No one can take that always, only you can. Sometimes the worst enemy you have is yourself. Robbing yourself of what you deserve can't get you anywhere. Take what is naturally yours. Be bold. The people who care about you will stand with, and catch you. Just keep moving ahead. As jazz drummer Philly Joe Jones once said...

"You never achieve what you want. You're always forging ahead."

Forge on.

More good web articles to read right over yonder.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Maiden voyage

In the Bible, Luke 5:4 says:

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."

Deep water is not easy to wade into. You don't know the currents, the tides, where the sandbars are. But you study charts, ask knowledgeable watermen where danger lurks. You study more, ask more questions. And then, the day, the hour comes when whatever fears, worries, trepidations you have are cast aside. The quest for adventure overcomes the comfort of staying on the shore. You say, "I want to put my boat in the water, cast my nets, and see what I can catch." You don't know if you'll reel in guppies or whales. Or if the whale will reel you in. But you cast anyway...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Workaday world

I've worked manual jobs in my life. My first job was picking up trash near and at the paper mill in my hometown. I've made heating and air conditioning ducts in a factory. I've worked for a certain fast-food company, from slinging sliders to shift manager. I've had reason to be tired in those jobs, having worked and moved and been on my feet all day. The gig I have now leaves me sitting at a desk, in front of a PC all day. So why am I as tired at the end of the day now as I was standing over a hot grill? Is it the mental aspects of my job wear on me? How can I recover well for the next test?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Odds and sods

Catching up after some time away...

Saturday, I wasn't feeling so hot. I had a special deed I had to undertake yesterday and today. I was fretting it--it's very intense work, and it's all you can do to keep your head above the wave. A buddy of mine and his wife invited me to a function involving ice cream. I was game for it. The drive was just so-so, despite a nice day. Getting there, we watched as my friend valiantly tried to win an ice-cream eating contest. Later, we went to dinner and chatted and shot the breeze. Afterward, I felt better about the task ahead of me. Nothing like friends and motion to keep you in balance.

Tiger did it again. He won the Tour Championship, and the first FedEx Cup. Give him credit--when there is something of value on the line, he brings it. Every time. No fuss, no muss. Just the will to get what he wants. It's no longer about the money for him (though the $10 million for winning the Cup is nice). It's about the competition. As he says, "You play, and when you play, you play to win, period. That’s how my dad raised me is you go out there and win.” The essence of simplicity.

There are some new and not-so-new posts on the tumblelog, including one on examples of not giving up. Well worth a read, and well worth remembering....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ignorance is bliss

Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, got busted this week for spying on his first week's opponent. One of his assistants was seen videotaping the other team, the New York Jets. All sorts of drama here. The coach of the Jets was once Belichick's assistant, and Belichick was not happy about him leaving. He's been warned once before about spying on teams. There's been talk of the team jamming radio frequencies coaches use to talk to other coaches in the booth.

The rulebook states clearly that videotaping of coaches during the game is not allowed. Yet, Belichick willfully ignored the rule, saying he had misinterpreted something that is pretty unambiguous. The icing on the cake was the press conferences. His are dry as toast anyway, but his refusal to address it at all is eye-popping. What does it take to ignore slings and arrows coming for you? Do you need such a huge ego that the arrows, and the transgressions, just bounce off you and mean nothing?

Some think the punishment--$500,000 personal fine, team fine of $250,000, loss of draft picks--is too lenient, and he should be suspended. If you really want to make a statement, make the Pats forfeit the game. That will get people's attention.

In the end, this sort of espionage is small-bore compared to the real thing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The blink of an eye

What can you do, or what have you done, in 35 minutes that will leave a lasting mark on society, the arts, pop culture? Anything? Impossible?

You're a songwriter, and it's the middle of summer. Blazing hot. You're thinking of a way to keep cool, doodling around. Your singer/songwriter comes up and wonders what you're doing. You tell him about your predicament, and he looks at your charts, likes what he sees, and proceeds to extend and play with it. Thirty-five minutes later...

Pure bliss. And a classic.

Mel Torme and Robert Wells wrote a song that's never gone out of style. NPR profiles Torme in a recent edition of their Jazz Profiles program. The way he used his voice as an instrument is astounding. And so was his songwriting.

Silent running

Another day, another deed. I woke before dawn to make my run into the city and dive into the river of humanity. I take the train up, and for the past two days, I've been able to get a seat. It beats standing for half an hour. But the only sound I hear is of the train racing along the tracks. I know it's 6.15 in the morning, but you expect some form, some semblance of life. But most are catching up on the news, tapping away on their BlackBerrys, on trying for more sleep before another full day at the office. Or, like me, earphones strapped in, listening to music, staring out the window at the crystal-clear morning sky.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The sky is crying

For the first time in days, it's raining here. The corn has certainly been begging for it. Maybe the sky is crying because today is That Day. Who knows...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Well said, but...

I like the sentiments in this editorial, but you have to be careful. Smugness in being the first on the block with the coolest gadget and smugness in watching those who were first get burned is the same thing: smugness. Coolness, detachment, while never easy to achieve, never go out of style. They're always worth the price.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Two parachutes

The social life in Brussels is such that, if the party you attend is lame, or your friend doesn't show, you have options. There are plenty of places to bend an elbow, catch a game, or contemplate good jazz over a gin & tonic. In other words, have a plan B. Know what your options are, and how and when to execute them.

This came to mind this morning while listening to a sports radio show. The host basically said if kids are playing sports, parents should encourage them to have two parachutes, because most kids drop sports at a young age. They need a fallback. We all do when that first chute doesn't work. We try to pack it the best way we can, but ropes get tangled. That reserve has to be ready to do its job. At all times, and at any time. Is your reserve ready?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A dollop of stubbornness

Like anything, stubbornness is a double-edge sword. In the proper amount, it can be a formidable weapon, and a rock to cling to in trying times. You gotta know how much you need and when you need it. Here's a hint from Bruce Lee (yes, that one):

Dedication, absolute dedication, is what keeps one ahead-a sort of indomitable obsessive dedication and the realization that there is no end or limit to this because life is simply an ever-growing process, an ever-renewing process.

The ball always keeps rolling...

Survive and advance

In tournament play, it's all you can do. When you're in the middle of a huge field, like in NASCAR, golf or college basketball, you have to negotiate and navigate cautiously and carefully. See the holes, pick through them, shoot through them. When coming up on a pack, you wait, so some patience, move with them. You can use the pack to get to where you want. And you'll get bumped, too. You know it's coming, might as well brace for it. Then, there it is--daylight. You power through, and cruise along to the finish line. Until the next race.

Knowing too much

This article is me. That little voice in my head knows too much, is too aware of what's going on. There are times when I wish I was oblivious to things, to events. Sometimes I wish I could get out of my way. When that little voice kicks in, I don't move forward. I sit still, trying not to wallow, trying not to spin my wheels. After awhile, I can move on. I just wish I could move along faster, let it just roll away and not care.

More great pointers from this article. Especially number five. Problems really are transitory. They can be solved. Yes, it's hard to fathom when they appear to be 100 feet tall. You only need to realize you are more than the situation you face.

Nothing to say

Sometimes it's perfectly fine to say nothing. I've been wracking my brain for an hour trying to think of something to write, and you know what? I can't think of a damn thing. I don't want to write merely for the sake of writing. If I have something to say, or something to riff on, I'll note it. Otherwise, I'll stay silent...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Master class

Steve Jobs does it again. He proves why he is a master at marketing and understanding his customers, even when he (seemingly) makes a mistake. On Wednesday, Apple introduced a slew of iPods, including an iPhone-less model. Then he dropped a bombshell: he slashed the price of the top-model iPhone by one-third. While making most happy to have the gadget now within monetary reach, the early adopters--the ones who stood in line for hours or days to be the first on their block with one--were ready to go postal. Some were irate, many were just hysterical. Reading the tea leaves, Jobs reversed course, a little, and in a letter, offered $100 in store credit to those who bought it early. In short, Jobs was caught off-guard by the vitriol, recovered, offered and olive branch, and probably gained customers in the bargain. All in 24 hours. He moved fast, and keep a spark from becoming a tire fire. A chapter from the book of the Art of Recovery.

I'm trying to have some sympathy for those on the bleeding edge who shelled out an extra $200 for the iPhone. But they had to have known Apple would do this (though maybe not so fast). But being an early adopter, you run the risk of price and technology changes. And you know these things are coming. The price always falls after a spell, and the technology on the phone will improve. Being the old, slow tortoise is ok, sometimes...

Workaday world

I'm sitting at my usual perch, sipping coffee and watching harried commuters in tiny metal boxes hustle to the office. Being off-rhythm from everyone else is good. You get one day to watch the world go by. You can ponder reality, fantasy, last night's game. Carving out a notch of peace and tranquility ought to be a given, a natural, but it's not. Our lives intrude and intervene a little too much. Making the time to give yourself some slack is allowed. Really, it is. You'll have plenty of time to pull the line taut again soon enough.

Hostage negotiations

Politicians are adept at playing on peoples' fears. Of the unknown, of the other. And the sad thing is that it's effective. They prick the conscience and tap into the things that shouldn't motivate us, but they do. And we allow them to get away with it.

It's a horrible position to be held hostage by fear. You're constantly looking over your shoulder, always wondering where or when the next incident will occur. And most of the time, nothing ever happens. You become afraid of your own shadow. I'm not saying you should blithely go through life not being aware--far from it. There are monsters and dragons out there. Just not in every corner. Life is to be lived, not feared.

Space race

Shelter is one of the essentials to exist as a human. A roof over our head, a wall to hang a photo, a place to call home. But how much home do you need? It depends on your needs. The average American home is 2,500 square feet. Enough for the average nuclear family, with some room to spare. But where do you put the game room? And the bowling alley? And the 103-seat movie theater? Seriously? There's a guy in Connecticut with this exact dilemma. But he's not going for average. He's going for 50,000 square feet. 20 times the average house in this country. That game room? 4,900 square feet. And the kicker? two-thirds of the house is below ground. Only 17,000 square feet is visible. Where else are you going to put that bowling alley and theater?

Obviously, the guy building this castle has the scratch to do it. Maybe it's his reward after living a good and prosperous live. But 50,000 square feet? With sustainability being a watchword these days, maybe that's a bit much. The bills to heat, cool, water and power that place are sure to be astronomical. And the property taxes! Hey, if you have to ask how much...

A wee bit of a gaffe

We're human, right? We all make mistakes. Hopefully, none of us have made a gaffe this big.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The valley of the shadow

Sometimes people drift into dark places, thinking there is no way out. Drugs, failed relationships, money woes, politics even, can drag people into mulling fateful decisions. Here is a stunning list of people who've attempted suicide. The reasons are usually the same--they see no way out of the box they are in. Their attempts failed, and they had to make a slow climb back to some semblance of normalcy. As bad as things get sometimes, they never last. It's like a storm. And the sun always comes back out. You just need the right amount of persistence.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

New Year's Day

Today is New Year's Day. Seriously. I know the calendar says Sept. 4, but trust me. Summer represents the slowest time of the time, a point where people head off on holiday to rest, recharge and contemplate. And, come September, life begins anew, with folks ready (maybe) to take on challenges old and new. School years begin now, and life tends to revolve around the kids' schoolwork and activities. The weather changes, from sweltering heat to just warm. We're ready to face a new year, aren't we?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Star light, star bright

After my post-work walk, I went for a little drive. The night breeze, though a tad cool, felt nice. The sunroof open, I couldn't help looking up at the sky and seeing all the stars in the heavens. And it made me a little wistful for a summer that never quite came. Usually, summer nights are steamy, where all you want to do is sit and listen to the crickets chirping and drink your favorite libation. Those nights this summer were scarce, but no matter. It was still good. And still, plenty of stars to stare at.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Leveling the field

A summer's worth of discontent was washed in a few stadiums yesterday:

Appalachian State (say it right!) knocked off Michigan, 34-32. What's the big deal? Only that Ap State, a Division I-AA school, beat a ranked Division I school with dreams of playing for the national championship. Oops, not anymore. Chalk one up for the underdogs who stand in the face of conventional wisdom, and know what they have in their hearts.

Virginia Tech beat East Carolina, 17-7, the first big Tech gathering after the April 16 massacre. Some may doubt the power of sports to heal after tragedy. But sports represents a certain normality, a place where people can scream their heads off, and achieve some catharsis, and leave behind, for awhile, the troubles of the world.

Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter for Boston last night against Baltimore. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. Not bad for a guy making his second start in the majors. Youthful exuberance and perseverance count for a lot. And those qualities never go out of style.

And while we're on the subject of sports...

USA Basketball clinched a spot in the Olympics. But the job is just starting.

For the last time, David Beckham is not the savior of American soccer. The largest participatory sport in the country will be fine. The pro soccer league will survive, chastened by putting so many eggs in a fragile basket. Yesterday highlights why soccer will always have a hard time gaining more than toehold here. There's so much competition for my sports attention, and that competition is so good, that the splash you make has to last for awhile. And have strong knees and ankles.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Dropping off the face of the earth

Americans aren't good at taking vacations. Not at all. While most of Western Europe shut down in August, the U.S. of A. kept rolling, like Old Man River. Stories and studies have been done time and time again on the differences between the two cultures and their approach to work and vacation. We all need time to recharge our batteries, so we can keep working well and living well. This seems like a good way to achieve that. The world wouldn't cave in if we're not there. It'll keep rolling along.

The perfection paradox

There's a great article at Cultivate Greatness about how the drive for perfection can hold us back from achieving what we want. We want to be good at what we do, but we believe if things aren't just so, we can't do the job. At some point we have to accept we aren't perfect, but we can still move toward our goal. It's a fine line.