Little Rivers – Henry Van Dyke [Book Review]

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I saw an old red leather bound book in the .25 section of a local Book sellers’ rack. The published date was 1907, and the title: Little Rivers by Henry Van Dyke. It was in rough shape, the edges were torn, the cover was held on with a rubber band.

It was a small book, once bound in red leather, with gold gilt lettering. I thumbed the cover open, and found this inscription: “Essays on profitable idleness” That cinched it for me, and since $0.25 is not much to gamble on a good book; I bought it (along with a Latin reader, and one of Fredrick Nietzsche’s works.)

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an American clergyman, (Presbyterian) Ambassador and Author. Though much of his writings are related to his work, this little gem is not. It tells of his fishing trips in Europe and in New-England, and Canada. With a few pieces of outdoor poetry thrown in for good measure. I made the point of reading outdoors, it reminded me of my childhood, and it inspired in me a lust of the wild.The english is a bit dated, but that is due to it’s age. But that can be a shining point. Van Dyke uses the language to bring the reader down to the stream where he is casting his rod. But this is not just a book about fishing; no, there are many tid-bits of wisdom woven though the narrative. I particularly like this one:

There is such a thing as taking ourselves too seriously, or at any rate, too anxiously. Half the secular unrest and dismal, profane sadness of modern society comes from the vain idea that every man is bound to be a critic of life, and to let no day pass without finding some fault with the general order of things, or projecting some plan for it’s improvement.

I have a thing for old books, something about the idea that this book went though 100 years of history is intriguing to me. I wonder who held it, how many people read it, what influence it had on the lives of it’s owner..

I would recomend it for the outdoors person, it is worth the read.

-Ezra Hilyer

Graffiti To The Gods

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Immortality.

That is the cause that drives all of us; we meat-puppets, bio-piles, self-motivated obsessed carbon life forms that we are. The reason we do everything that we do is because we die. The meaning of life is that it ends.

The scrawled hearts on the park bench, the scratched names under your desk are cries from the past; reaching yearning, calling from that abyss where all things must go. We build cities and businesses, and lives because they are graffiti to the gods, and we want them to be hard to scrub off the walls.

Think about laborers under the beating sun dragging blocks for the great pyramids, think about the lives that were spent to turn great blocks of stone into a massive tomb for the ruler of a sand patch at the end of a muddy river. Thousands and thousands of hours of back breaking work, of lives spent like devalued currency, and for what? So one man could have a glorious tomb and take his riches into the after-life? Yet ten thousand, thousand men and women and children were buried in shallow graves in the sand. No embalming for them, no hope for an afterlife for them.

You think we are any different today? We work and sweat and labor to build high-rises that will be used, and then neglected, and then dilapidated, and then razed. Gone. Cities rise, cities fall, ruins fill the landscape and the flesh-toned tide of humanity rises and falls, ebbs and recoils, fades and though it is always dying, always being born, it is a continuous thread that stretches back into history, one meager life at a time.

Do you really think you are going to make your mark on the world?

Time is death, death is time. Eventually I will be gone, you will be gone, and perhaps if we are fortunate, we may be remembered by our descendants, or if we have done something famous or infamous we may be remembered long into the future, though that future does not really matter much to those still trapped like a fly in amber locked in the past.

I look at those scratchings on a park bench, and wonder at our own mortality, the great mystery that is death. What deep scratches are you trying to leave behind?

-EJH

1987 Vulcan 88 Classic.

1987 Vulcan 88 Classic 1500

This is my 1987 Vulcan 88 Classic. It is big, it is old, but it is mine, and it brought me safely through a 1300 mile journey, so I feel a bit of gratitude towards the old lump of steel and weather-checked rubber.. I figure I owe it at-least a chance to live on in semi-retirement here in Florida. It spent most of its life in the cold and blustery north, so I imagine it likes it down here, as do I.

I bought this bike last year for the princely sum of $600, and have put about 7,500 miles on it so far. I love having a bike again, and florida is the best place for a motorcycle. I should spend even more time riding it than I do.

I rode this motorcycle from Northwestern PA, to the middle of Florida over 3 days, and loved every minute of the crazy adventure, I left directly after my last day of work ended, and then rode about 70 miles to stay that night at a friends house, and in the morning I left, and rode all day long, finally ending up in South-Carolina for the night. then the next morning I finished the ride.
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Ants On A Rock, Halfway Between The Atoms And The Stars.

Florida From the ISS, Where We Live

I love looking down into a valley where I can see the curve of a river, or the shape of a town, and then compare that mental image to a map of the state or country to get an idea of my size relative to the earth, or the natural formations around me.

This image was taken by an astronaut on the ISS, and shows Florida at night. I can see the shape of Cape Canaveral, and even the tiny tiny little tip of light (just below the tip of the arrow) where the bridge from Titusville to Cape Canaveral is, and where I often go to sit and watch the yachts on the Indian River. I see formations of light that I recognize as towns and areas where I have driven and walked, and ridden my bike. I can imagine how it must feel to be up in the ISS looking down and seeing familiar places, and think about the memories shared on those small specks of light. It must be an amazing feeling to be high above the earth, but close enough to recognize land-forms and visualize your place on the little blue jewel that is the earth.

I will probably never go to space, commercial space-flight is far enough out that I probably will be too old to go, but I love looking at images like this, and thinking of myself and others like little specks on a small ball of rock spinning through the cold depths of space. We are in a peculiar place, half way between the atoms and the stars, small enough to be insignificant, and yet large enough to comprehend the laws governing the heavens.

EJH

Utility > Obligation

My 1995 Jeep Wrangler YJ

When your obligation to an item outweighs its utility, it is time to cut the connection to that item.

I have fallen into the trap of saving something because I might need it someday, and so I have carried things half-way across a continent in the imagining that I will have a use for it again, and so I shouldn’t get rid of it. That almost never ends up being true for me, and I end up collecting all this junk that piles up and never seems to diminish. I go thorough periods where I will purge stuff, but that usually only leaves room to collect more.

Just this week I finally got rid of a set of flush-mount LED tail lights that I originally bought to put in my 93 Jeep Wrangler, (way back in like 2002) I ended up going with another style of light, and so I kept these lights (4 round tail lights, and 2 side-marker lights) in the thought that one day I would need them again, after all, they were BRAND-NEW!! why waste them?

Time went by, I sold my first Jeep, and moved, and moved again, then after a few more years I bought another Jeep YJ, so yay! I am going to use these lights!!

Nope…. The Frame-off restoration project I had in mind never happened, and 2 years later I sold that Jeep. I still had those lights.

I moved to Florida….And brought those lights with me.

I moved stuff around, in and out of storage… I still had those lights.

Last week I sold them on Ebay, and shipped them out to someone who hopefully will use them as I originally intended. Funny thing is that I could have done that at any time since I originally went with a different style and no longer needed them, and if I had ever wanted them again, I could have just gone on Ebay and bought more. It’s not like they are particularly rare or hard to find, in-fact I would have been better off if I had sold them right away, because they are about 1/5th the price now that they were when I bought them over 10 years ago, so I wasted that money, I wasted the opportunity cost of having to carry the things everywhere with me. I wasted the space they took up; I wasted the mental energy that I spent thinking about my obligation to do that project someday. In-fact each time I saw a jeep sitting for-sale somewhere, I would think: “I miss my jeep, I want another one, and then I can use those lights”

Now they are gone, my mind is at rest at-least as far as jeep-lights are concerned.

-EJH

Creativity Is A Resource More Than A Muscle.

Creativity Is A Resource

I have lived with the idea that creativity is a muscle that increases in strength the more you use it. I imagined that it was something that I could improve with time, as I kept making more art and refining my technique, perhaps creative ideas would flow liberally and this would be an upward spiral feeding on itself.

I was working a full time job that while I did enjoy it, it wasn’t a creative position, I was working according to a formula. I was solving problems, but they weren’t really creativity problems, and so my ‘creativity muscle’ wasn’t being used very much. I assumed that once I broke out of that routine, and was able to use my creativity more (in starting new ventures, creating new things, making new things, writing, editing, and designing) that I would flow into that routine and have creativity bursting at the seams…

Now that I am in the middle of that new paradigm shift, and creativity is required in all moments of my life, I find that I see it much more as a precious resource that can be wasted, and exhausted if spent poorly. I have been allowing my creativity to spill out of every crack and crevice in my life, I have been persuing every little idea and speculative thought that creeps into my head, and after a few months of this, I realize how draining this can be, and I am trying to reign in my wild abandon at getting into new things.

I am disappointed that I have run into this wall, but it only makes sense that creative work will become exhausting just the same as physical work exhausts bodily resources and must be conserved carefully.

I pondered that idea over the weekend, as I ran completely out of ideas last week because I was spending too much of my time making things and brainstorming, but this week is the start of a new phase, I will be more careful not to waste my creative energies on unimportant things.

Time to get cracking!

-Ezra

Inspiration To Travel

Twenty Eight Feet: life on a little wooden boat from kevinAfraser on Vimeo.

 

I read the book: ‘Dove’ by Robin Lee Graham, and somewhere stashed away, I have the original National Geographic Magazine articles about his travels, and this video makes me re-live reading those books. Here is a young man also on a small yacht sailing away for adventure.

I moved to Florida partially to someday experience this lifestyle, I ride past the yachts every morning, many of them have names of faraway places painted on their bows, I have seen Australia, Greece, England, Mexico, and the Bahamas to name a few. I imagine what it would be like to embark on an adventure like that. To set sail and not return for months or years, who knows where the wind will take me..

 

-Ezra

Molars Of Time

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The morning sun low on the horizon, riding my bike early in the spring; while the northern leaves are still un-budded, and the grip of an icy winter is still fresh in the mind.

I used to ride my bike to the local “Tim Hortons” bake shop and Coffee shop when I had the time, and was otherwise free. These are the moments; preserved only in my memories and a few photographs taken over the years, those days are gone, and will never return… I have moved on, I don’t live in the north anymore (and I am glad of it) but I will miss those crisp mornings when the snow was finally gone, and I could take my bike out again. I will miss the feeling of new beginnings in the spring and of discovery and excitement to be back on the bike after a long cold winter.
The traitorous gravel on the sides of the path, the deep gashes in the pavement from the snow-plow blades were obstacles to avoid, people finally coming out of their homes in short-sleeves again even though it was only in the 50s….
That is what a northern spring feels like.

I have moved on to new things, to new ideas and areas… My memories will fade over time, I will eventually forget completely and then I too will be forgotten.. Time creeps slowly on, devouring memories, consuming concepts, dreams, fears and hopes.. Eventually times change, people form new habits, cities evolve and grow, or shrink and return to the wild. The morass of humanity keeps on building and destroying, ants building castles in the sand, one grain at a time, yet the wind comes up, and the rains fall…

The blunt teeth of time grind on.

“If it requires a uniform, it’s a worthless endeavor.”

-George Carlin

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“There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you’re going is as good as where you’ve been.”

-Richard Proenneke -One Man’s Wilderness

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Granular

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Scratching granular across the page; ink attaching at the molecular layer to mush paper fibers, bleeding at the feathers into the next line.

Dusty sharp pen scrawls push scent smells up and into my memories. Proust has nothing on mould, pens, papers and forget his damn madeleines.

Candles flickering at the corners of the page, dim lights turning my scrawling into mere shadows, fading from the light, dimly bleeding away.

Can we catch our tears before they drip from the page, and fall as ink into dust?

-Ezra

Osprey Veer Resource Bag Review

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I have been using the Osprey Veer Resource bag since 2010 as my ‘walking bag’ whenever I go out for a walk, or a short bike ride. I keep it to pretty minimal contents; mostly my iPad, a few pens and my Moleskine. Thats pretty much it most of the time.

I bought the blue one in these pictures at REI in Portland back in 2010, I wanted something I could keep essentials in, and since I am a huge fan of Osprey Packs, I bought this without hesitation, and it really has served me well. I used it very regularly from 2010 till 2013, then I gave it away. After a few months of carrying my heavy Momentum 34 pack with me everywhere, I realized how much I missed having something small and easy to grab on my way out the door, so I went to buy another one, only to find that Osprey had discontinued them. I watched eBay like a hawk, and finally bought another one this year. (Red this time)

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Other than two small irritations (more on that later) I am really in love with this bag, it has a great strap design so that it sits right on the small of the back when you are walking, and doesn’t interfere with your hands, or get in the way at all. Unlike a backpack which is hard to get into if you want something, you can just swing the veer around easily and access the contents on the move. It has a flap on the front that is secured with Velcro, and has a place for a few pens, and a small hidden pocket where I keep my Moleskine.

The main compartment has a protective flap over the zippers to help keep moisture out, which I think is a really thoughtful design idea. I keep my iPad in there, as well as a larger journal or some other project from time to time. I will often throw in a bluetooth keyboard if I am going to do any long-form writing.

IMG_1877On top is the best pocket on the bag, it is right where your hand naturally falls when you grab for the bag, and I use it to keep things I want instant access to. I keep a flashlight there, and headphones, a cliff-bar and a multi-tool most of the time. I know that this bag has a pretty strong following in the concealed carry community because of this pocket, it almost seems engineered for CC.

There is a place to put a water-bottle, and in my case; I keep a 18oz Hydrofask there most of the time.

The only 2 things I don’t like about the bag, are the poorly designed outside flap pocket, it has a very short zipper which restricts access, and seems like it would have been better if it were a vertical zipper instead. the smart-phone pocket on the strap is also too small. It barely fits an iPhone 5s, and I don’t think it would fit a 6 at all.

At this point (2 years after Osprey discontinued production) you are probably going to have a hard time finding one outside of eBay, but I still think its the best small walking bag ever made.

 

-Ezra

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Whats In My Bag 2012

  1. Ipad & Case
  2. Glue Dot Runner
  3. Gum
  4. Sennheiser PX100s
  5. Coghlans Trek I First Aid Kit
  6. Lamy Safari Yellow
  7. Lamy Al-Star Graphite
  8. Kum Pencut Scissors
  9. CliffBar
  10. Kashi Granola Bar
  11. Osprey Veer Bag
  12. Staedtler Color Pencils
  13. Bluetooth Keyboard

Time Is Money

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Time Is Money, Time Is Life, Therefore Money = Life

Spend your money wisely.

How much is your time worth?
Each one of us sells ourselves every working day of our lives, you sell little bits of your life to your employer every day you go to work. How much is your life worth?

The most basic economy is a barter economy, this is where I can take the milk my cow produces, (costing me lots of time and energy to prepare, care for and manage) and then barter it to you for some of the corn you grew last season, (which also cost you in time and effort) I then have what I wanted, and you have what you wanted. I don’t need to grow corn since I can turn my labor into milk from my cow, and then turn that milk into corn by trading to you. This system works only when you have something I need and I have something that you need, but what happens when you don’t need or want the milk? Perhaps you want a new rake instead?

So I take my milk down the street to the blacksmith instead and trade him the milk for the rake, and then the rake for the corn I need….. you see the problem of-course. This system has major limitations because I can never be sure I can turn my product or service into the things I need efficiently, so the market comes up with one step in-between. That step is money.

Money is simply abstract time/labor, you might not realize it, but we are still very much using the same kind of transactions as a barter economy, but what we are doing is using a sort of universal labor credit (the currency we use to make transactions) to facilitate those trades.
I still work hard to care for my dairy farm, I still expend time, energy and labor, and in return my cow gives milk which is a commodity that I can use to get other things or services with. I sell the milk to the market (anyone who wants it) and get money in return. This money is an abstract representation of my labor. It is a portion of my life and energy made into something I can hold in my hand. Money is abstract time, money is your life.

Every dollar you earn is a little bit of your life that you have sold to someone else, it is your life energy made into small paper bits that you trade with other people to get what you want, and for them to get what they want. The more money you have, the more life you have. Think about this:
If I want to build a house, I can do it 2 ways: I can either expend a great deal of time and effort and do it all myself, (very difficult in modern times because of various restrictioans, but lets imagine it on a more primitive scale) or I can have that same house built with the money I have accumulated over time, (my savings) since that money is my time turned into a tradable item, I am really just using my own time to build that house. I choose to hire a crew of workers to build it, but since they are selling me their time for bits of my own time that I have saved up, it serves the same purpose. My house gets built by the expenditure of my own life and energy.

Money is life. Perhaps not your own, since you can inherit money, or perhaps come into a windfall of wealth, but fundamentally the money in your bank account is time, and the debt you have, is a debt of time.

Spend your time wisely.

-Ezra Hilyer

Winsor & Newton Bijou Box: My Review After 6 Years Of Ownership

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The Winsor And Newton Bijou box is an exquisite objet d’art, I find pleasure in simply owning this little jewel of a watercolor set. It is made by a UK art supply company and is rather hard to obtain in the USA, so i had this one shipped from London many years ago. If comes with 8, colors of artist grade watercolors. (It is important to note that the pigments in the artist grade line -as opposed to the student grade paints, are vibrant and burst with color)
This is a simple object, it is an enameled metal box will space for 12, 1/2pans of watercolor paint, and a tiny, tiny brush. Thats it. It has no buttons, no lights, and takes no batteries. It’s design hasn’t really changed much in decades, (other than the lid which seems to have only 2 mixing areas now, as opposed to the 4 areas that mine has) the design is perfect as it is, there is no ned to change it. I love this little box.
There is a thumb ring that folds out on the bottom, so you can use it as a tiny little pallet, it has a lid that you mix your paint in, and a very small brush, (which I don’t use much since I use a waterbrush) this is good design and a mature object. There is no where else to go with this design, it is perfect, perfect, perfect.

I love to use it in conjunction with a watercolor Moleskine, and a waterbrush, this is the art trifecta. A perfect set for creativity and inspiration. This is one of those items that I would replace without question if it was ever lost or broken.

-Ezra

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Self Identity

Identity

“What do you do?”
This is a question for which I have no answer. I get asked this often, and it is the prerennial american question, we are defined by what we do. We are our jobs. I don’t have an answer because I don’t get my identity from my job description, I don’t see the connection between what a person does to earn a living and their self description. If one is to answer the question truthfully it can’t just be the description of your day-job, since that is only a small fraction of your duties in life, but that is what the questioner is asking, ‘what is your day job?’

Why does it matter if I scrub floors in a hotel, or meet with investors, or drive a truck? Perhaps your janitor is also an amateur electronics engineer, or the professional negotiator is an aspring actor, or the truck driver writes mystery novels…Of what use is the question: ” What do you do?”

I do everything.

-Ezra

The Void

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There is that which can not be understood; a sharply defined realm of the unknown, our minds touch upon this secret only fleetingly. In a moment of self reflection and lucidity, there can only be silence of the soul. When the mind is free from any shadows of fear or lingering nightmare; then and only then can this be explored.

The key turns slowly in the lock.

The gate slides open to frigid darkness and vibrant color; pigments of very thought. My heart leaps in my throat choking away the consciousness. With timid, and faltering steps I cross the threshold to enter the silent chamber. Give me a way to capture this essence of life and return it to this world of horror and shame.

I shall shiver away the curtain of darkness that enshrouds our world, I will copy the keys and give them to all the gatekeepers and charge them to let all pass who desire entrance. When the last of our mindless shades have passed forever from the torrid darkness and into the color of thought; the gates will be shut fast, and the keys all melted down to nothing, and this realm returned to desolation with only myself: a lone sacrifice.

Guarding the void from habitation.

-Ezra Hilyer-

The Writer Who Does Not Write

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I am the Writer who does not write, and the poet with few poems.

I see myself as a writer; it is my self identity. When I imagine myself in my minds-eye, I am personified as a writer, I see the future in the context of writing, and I fully expect to write, yet the time goes by and I do not.

I relate to the world as a writer, I refer to myself as a writer… Yet I do not write. Oh sure, I pen a few sentences once in a while, and often I will dive whole-heartedly back into a novel or article I have been writing for a while, but in the long run, I haven’t really written all that much. A few short stories, thirty or so poems, and five or six novels in various stages of completion… Pitiful I think.

Though I know this; it seems that the pressing moments of my life take precedence over that which I really desire to do. Yes, that desire is to write.

So I come to the crux of the issue: I must simply steal the time to write from other interests. I must be a miser when it comes to my free time, and devote myself to the task as though I were a monk in meditation.

I know that to resolve to do this is no small thing, and would be easy to just forget and eventually just lose interest completely. Yet, if I do, I shall live my life in regret. I am now 33, and have intended, and longed to write for a full 15 years, what others have accomplished in less time leaves me to shame.

-Ezra

I am the shadow of a forgotten memory glistening on my windowpane,

All wet with morning rain.

The man I see, only fleetingly; is never me!

Yet his visage follows my every waking step.

 

 

A dash of wine; spattered on my ragged beard, like so much unneeded blood;

I wonder if it is mine.

The ache of forgetfulness seeps into my soul, and I am grateful,

For the reprieve.

 

-Ezra Hilyer

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Time Thief.

Darkness beneath the trees; twilight falls slowly down to the mossy leaf strewn earth, while I wait hidden between the dark void of the sky, and the sharp eyes of my pursuers, I keep my breath low and patient, my gaze even and wary. Time crawls across my rifle barrel and drips from my lips. It is the only real currency in this old world, it is the only thing we have to spend. Your time can be wasted away, or given away, bartered away, and taken away.

Movement crests the ridge below, and two men push their shoulders up against the deepening sky, moving silently into view like small black beetles crawling over a branch… They are looking for me.
They have been found.
Crosshairs divide features from darkness, silence from an echoing report. Unspent time… Unspent time.

EJH

The Mighty IBM Model M 122 Key Keyboard. [Ideas And Hacks]

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I love the IBM Model M.

The Mighty Model M 122 Key Terminal Keyboard, this is the keyboard of the gods. Zeus uses one to update his blog, and post pictures of his cat.

Just about the only piece of computing hardware from the 1980s that is still useful on a daily basis. (in-fact I am using one right now to tap this out)

The layout of this keyboard is still used today, and the same basic keyboard is still in production today; just under a different name. I have several of these lying about from old 286 PS/2 systems, and I have been doing some updates and modifications to a few of them. The terminal Keyboards are all getting updated to USB 2.0 using Soarers converter (an ATMEL MEGA32U4 based converter that can act as a USB HID device), I have converted 3 of them so far, and you can read about my conversion service here: IBM Model M Keyboard read more…