11 May 2013

Gone Astray

Title page to Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning...
Title page to Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, the idea of awakening at 5:00 each morning to write 500 words was a noble experiment. One that, like many of my "wake up early and (insert verb here)" experiments, which work well for the first few days - then something stops the momentum.

As often happens, life got in the way. However, I will not allow life to impact my desire to write. I'll just have to figure out another way to get words on ... paper. Today is Saturday so that gives me more time.Today my only responsibilities are setting up the nets for my sons' soccer league, going to two games (normally it's three but one team forfeited), then taking down the nets. 

In between all that I need to make sure the house gets cleaned and everyone gets fed.

My Saturdays are pretty much screwed from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM - and that's just the things I'm committed to doing. I also want to get in time hiking, work in my shop, read, and continue my self-education.

Oh, yeah, and writing.

Shifting gears, I also realized individual blog posts are great for covering individual topics or top-of-mind ideas. However, many of the topics I want to touch are for story development. Pieces for a novel. Short stories. That kind of thing.

While I could do flash-fiction pieces for individual blog posts, it's hard to piecemeal a longer story in a daily blog post.

I guess I could serialize.

That's something to consider.

Further, I could write about the things I love doing. That's what RML constantly suggests I do.

The challenge is, every time I sit down to write about my passions, I feel inadequate to the task. Either that, or I feel the subject matter would just be boring as hell. I mean, really? I'm looking to learn the things I missed having been educated in the educraptastic system that is/was Utah public education. IMO, up until recently the battle cry for Utah public education has been:

Supra omnia, mediocritatem!

The fact that I had to go to Google Translate to get that should speak volumes.

So I've started educating myself in areas where I feel I lack. Math past algebra, the sciences - both physical and social, history, languages -

Oh, yeah, and writing.

Studying those topics interests me. Writing about those topics strikes me as, well, uninspiring.

We'll see. Regardless, I'm committed to writing and, eventually, writing well. Well enough to have something people actually look forward to reading.

I feel like to maintain the continuity, I should end with some sort of concatenated list and ... what?

Oh, yeah, and writing!
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24 April 2013

It's that time of the month

Budget
Budget (Photo credit: Tax Credits)
A couple years ago my wife and I went through Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University."  In that time we've been through some serious financial ups and downs. So much so that we eventually gave up on the core of the FPU process - budgeting. We found it hard to budget when the only money coming in was "happenstance money." We never gave up on the vision, though – the vision of being debt free, of controlling our financial destiny, of prospering financially.

We've both been employed now for about two years – in relatively decent jobs I might add. A few months ago we looked at our finances and wondered why we didn't seem to be getting ahead.  With the difference in cost of living between where we lived in California and where we now live in Utah, we’re earning more than we've earned throughout our marriage. Then we realized . . . we hadn't been budgeting. 

Thus began the new budgeting odyssey.

For those not familiar with the Ramsey budgeting plan, it requires work from both spouses. One spouse is usually more inclined to putting together numbers (Dave calls this role the nerd) and the other is more inclined to ignore those numbers (the free spirit). Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of both positions, the Ramsey method has the nerd build the budget and requires both parties to sit down and discuss the budget. Then the free spirit must change the budget. Crazy, huh? It sounded like a recipe for disaster, if you would have asked me at the time.

The power of this method is, if the free spirit isn't required to monkey with the budget they’ll do what free spirits do – say something like “that looks great, honey” then totally ignore it. By having the free spirit change the budget, they get to see the glaring flaws in the nerd’s “perfect” budget.

I remember our first budget years ago. I spent days putting it together. I’m sure there was direct communication between me and God about where the money should be spent. I felt like Moses coming down from the mountain with the budget carved into tablets of stone. My wife (RML) looked at the budget and said – strangely enough – “that looks nice, honey” (almost verbatim). When I pointed out she needed to make changes, we saw the power of the program. I totally neglected minor requirements like toiletries – you know – toilet paper? Things like that. She also realized our food budget was about a quarter of what we needed. Rather than the biblical Moses, I ended up feeling more like Mel Brooks’ Moses with my fifteen (one tablet drops and shatters) . . . ten – Ten Commandments.

Dave’s plan really is a good plan. One might even say inspired.

So, in February I sat down to start the budgeting process again. It was much easier than the first go around. It still isn't perfect. Last night I sat down to put together May’s budget. I hope I remembered everything.

I probably didn't.

We’ll find out at our family budget meeting tonight.


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23 April 2013

So . . . what about the word count?


173 words are not 500 words. I recognize that. When I wrote my last post, I was done at 173 words. I tried to push on – to meet the word count. Then I realized, the story was done. Just because I’d written only 173 words didn't mean I should force the story to be longer than it was. The beauty of this blogging thing is – I can write another story. I don’t even need to publish this second story at the same time. I can give it some space. I can save this little gem and post it later.

Calling this piece a gem is stretching it, I fear. However, it’s a good lesson gleaned from years of writing to meet a word count. In college I became a master of filling space. I did try to make the filler pertinent to the topic and interesting enough that my professors would want read my papers and wouldn't lower the grade just because of fluff.

And that’s what this is – a fluff piece. I’m trying to decide while I write if I’m even going to post this. The exercise is to write 500 words a day, not publish 500 words a day. I’ll have to think about it through the day and decide if this is something worth reading. On one hand, it allows readers to see my thought processes. On the other, the old adage comes to mind “no one wants to see how sausage is made.” But this is writing, not sausage. 

Truth be told (gotta love clich├ęs) I really need to pick topics that interest me enough that the word count isn't the most important thing. I could reel off a list of topics here – that would be in the grand tradition of filler and fluff, wouldn't it? I could reach out to those who are following me – all two of you J - and ask for topic ideas. 

Yep, this is a fluff piece.

I’ll probably post it. 

10 Minutes Good; 3 Minutes Bad


As my alarm went off this morning, I realized that I had another 10 minutes until it would inform me that it was “really” time to awaken. It’s amazing what can happen in ten minutes. Ten minutes is enough time for my body to feel like it’s had additional rest. It’s enough time for my brain to start processing what I’m going to do that day. Ten minutes is enough.

In comparison, three minutes is NOT enough. For some reason, my wife has her snooze set for 3 minutes, and then continues to sleep through several three minute snooze segments. In three minutes, the body doesn't have a chance to really get back to sleep. Just as the body gets comfortable again – there it is: “WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP!” When I asked her, in an era where we can set the length of our snooze intervals, why did she choose three minutes? Her response: “because that’s the way it was set when I got it.” Three minutes is definitely not enough.

22 April 2013

500 Words a Day


So, embarking on my new writing journey, I've committed to getting up early and writing before heading to work. So far, so good. I've read several times a writer needs to sit down and write at least 500 words a day. I’m not sure what’s so magical about 500 words, but there you have it. 500 (plus) words it will be.

But what topic should I use? I have so many rolling around in my brain. I have the starts for bazillions of speculative fiction stories up there. I have musings about what’s going on in my life. Things I've done. Things I want to do.

Probably the biggest thing going on right now is the decision to postpone hiking Mt. Whitney until 2014. That probably needs more background story for readers to understand.

Several years ago, one of my best friends planted the idea of taking the Lowest to Highest trek – the lesser known sibling of the Badwater Marathon.  The better known event is an ultra-marathon running (no pun intended, but appreciated) from Badwater, California to Mt. Whitney – also in California. The course is about 135 miles long and takes the participants from the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere (Badwater) to the highest elevation in the lower 48 United States.

The Lowest to Highest (L2H) variant is a backpacking trip. The distance is about the same. The route is significantly different. Rather than following a paved road the entire distance, it follows a network of trails and GPS points. The scenery, from the photos I've seen, is also much prettier. The time investment is also greater. A marathon run time for the average runner (at least according to askville) is roughly 7 hours. The best time for Badwater is 22:51:29 (thank you Doug Ratliff). That’s a full day of running. In comparison, hiking the L2H will take at least 7 days.

In 2012 I attempted the final stage of the hike – the Mt Whitney portion. One of my sisters-in-law has always wanted to hike Whitney. She put together the trip and it was awesome. We were able to do about half the trip before weather stopped us. Pretty much the most awesome thing I've done in years.

The preparation for the hike and the hike itself pretty much kicked the crap out of me physically. It took a full six months before I was willing to consider doing it again. Then Ron called. Ron is one of my two best friends. (There’s another topic, neh? Best friends?) He’s also the guy who put the crazy idea of the L2H in my head. He pitched hiking Whitney again this year and I agreed. The challenge – getting the permit. We didn't  So we’ll try again next year.  

However, it may be for the best. My body – specifically my feet and legs – hasn't fully healed from last year’s hike. It’s definitely much better but hiking season is about to begin here in the lovely Wasatch mountains and my body is barely able to handle the local trails, let alone fighting the altitude monster that is Mt Whitney.

21 April 2013

< ramble >


Allerdale Ramble

So, what is it about this blog and two year intervals between posts? As I've opined previously, it would be easy to make excuses. My mother used to tell me “either you've got results or a good story. The story may be true, but it’s still just a story.” The goal is to write so a good story might be fitting – but it’s still not results.

So, why am I writing now, you may ask? Ah, the impetus. It’s a wonderful thing. As is often the case in my life, the impetus this time is a book: Quitter by Jon Acuff. Those of you who know me, know I love reading books designed to motivate and drive one to change their life. Like many of the books I've read over the years, Quitter talks about following a dream. Unlike most of those books, it gives a decent roadmap for following a dream – most importantly, to keep the day job until it’s time to move on.

That advice is golden. I don’t know how many jobs I've left, chasing a dream – or just because I couldn't stand working somewhere soul crushing when I didn't have a dream towards which I was working.  In fact, I’m back working at a place I left chasing “something better” that wasn't my dream – it was just supposed to pay better.

I suppose my frustration is I know I’m supposed to be doing something; I just don’t know what that something is. I've had glimpses. To me, those glimpses are more maddening than anything.

So what now? I have skills. I’m even proficient at many of them.

I can work with my hands and my brain is wired so that figuring out solutions to complex building problems is fun for me.

I can sell.  I don’t love selling, but I’m good at it – as long as I believe in the product. I've even conquered the phone monster – that demon that shares all the things that will go wrong on the next call. I’m even proficient at getting past the gatekeeper to speak with C-Level executives. But I don’t love it. It’s definitely not my passion.

I love learning. If anything is my passion, it’s learning. I love the process of “I have to know about X” then finding the resources to learn everything I can about the topic. And, for me, part of learning is doing. I am definitely a kinesthetic learner.

I can code. I’m definitely not a coder, but I can write code. It’s part of the learning process I mentioned. I worked for a company that needed a website. I taught myself HTML, SQL, and classic ASP (he said, dating himself) and built a database driven eCommerce website. Quite an accomplishment at the time.

I enjoy public speaking. I've heard that most people would rather die than speak in public. Not me. As long as I have something to say, I have no problem sharing it.

And I can write. I enjoy writing. I can’t say I have the same passion for writing that I have for learning, but I enjoy the process of figuring out what I want to say then putting it down (even if metaphorically) on paper. I even write well at times.

So, now I write. I write to get what’s in my mind out so I can consider what’s going on in that three pound chunk of mush.

And you get to read it.

Lucky you.

Lucky me.

Lucky us.