Life is all about balance. Between pleasure and duty; between desires and reality.
I can’t seem to find a good mix between my Maker side, and my Minimalist side.
On the one side is my obsession with creating things, fixing broken stuff, and modifying and generally tinkering constantly with electronics, bikes, cars, you name it. This makes a huge pile of parts, pieces, bits, odds and ends.
On the other side is the rest of my personality which is driven to simplify, refine, purge and clarify. I don’t like stuff lying about unorganized, and I also resent the time I have to spend thinking about the detritus of my life. I see those pictures of the minimalist rooms with everything perfectly aligned and nothing out of place and I am frustrated at my own lack of zen.
A few times a year I set out to just drop anything unnecessary, and get rid of all this clutter in my mind and also in my house, but each time I go through the boxes of parts that I keep organized, I feel torn.
Why can’t I be single faceted?
Why is it that nearly everyone expects, and wants a career that is dependent on others? A larger entity than ourselves seems to offer stability and control, we don't feel like we are all alone on the seas of change, we are anchored to something larger and greater, and that gives strength to our small petty lives. A career is something like that, it is a system of climbing up through the ranks of others who are doing just the same, and who are fighting you for a chance to be where you want to be.
I have always looked at the idea of a career with apprehension and suspicion. It seems to be only a gilded coffin to climb into and then pull down the lid, and nail it closed with your own hands. The idea of staying inside the same system year after year, and moment after moment is so limiting and degrading. I want my horizons open and the skies clear of clouds. I like to keep my bags packed and always be ready for the next challenge. After about 5 years of doing the same thing, and being the same place, I start to get itchy feet and want to head out and start new.
Several years ago, I worked in maintenance at a manufacturing plant, and there were several people who worked on the production lines who had been there for 20 years doing the same job. That would be torture for me. The complete end to everything I am. I would shrivel up and die if i didn't have variety in my life. I can simply not imagine a life that is unchanging like that. How can one possibly cope?
I remember that they were nice guys, but their whole life revolved around going home and cracking open a beer in-front of the TV. How is it possible to live like that?
I want to send my daughter to a good school. What parent doesn’t want that for their kid? I want her to learn the skills she needs to survive in this damn mess we call a society. What I don’t want is to send her away to be indoctrinated into a narrow-minded view of the world. I don’t want to send her to the Warren PA public school system because I have seen what comes out of that school system and I don’t want that for my daughter. I don’t want the influences of the kids she will be around, and I don’t want the constant undermining of our parenting. I don’t want her to be indoctrinated into secular humanism or any of the other narrow mindsets of modern public schools. I don’t want her to come to see the state as the solution to all the problems in the world, I don’t want her to lose sight of who she is, or to be bullied into submission. I want her to learn critical thinking.
So the obvious choice from there is to send her to a private school, but the options around here are very limited. I want a school to focus on academics, critical thinking, and history. Once she learns to read well, the rest will naturally flow from there. I learned nearly everything I know simply from reading books and observing life, I have no reason to believe that she won’t be the same. So I want a school who will allow her to come to conclusions based on facts, who won’t be a harmful influence to the upbringing of her parents. This seems impossible here.
I most want her to attend a Montessori school, I believe that she would do well in that setting since she is a naturally very bright kid, and she takes to things with excitement. She does have trouble following tasks through to completion, but the environment that would foster her creativity is what would do her the most good. Trouble is, that there are no Montessori schools near this horrible little town of Warren PA.
There are only a few choices around here for private education, and most are nearly as dismal as the public schools. We will probably end up putting her in Lighthouse Baptist Academy in Jamestown NY. I am not thrilled at that prospect since it is just another form of indoctrination that we will have to overcome, but my wife attended there, and we do have some friends and contacts who send their kids there, so it won’t be all bad, I do think that they will give a strong early start to her education, and since we won’t be living here long-term I can allow it for the time being, but I want so much more for her. She is such a bright little kid that it would be a cruel shame for us to continue to live in this cesspool of a town and settle for a redneck education. I will not stand by and let it happen.
Moleskines are now cliche objects of perceived creativity. They have a cult following and are everywhere. You can’t go into a coffee shop without finding someone sitting with macbook on one side, and a Moleskine open beside it.
My first Moleskine was back in 2004 or 2005, I found it by stumbling on a conversation thread on a Daytimer forum. I used to use Daytimer planners religiously, but they were more for job scheduling and not for creativity. I didn’t really journal or keep any sort of permanent notes, I wrote on legal pads and in spiral bound notebooks. The concept of using a permanent notebook for archival journaling was not in my mindset.
I did write a lot at the time, but it was exclusively on the computer and was fiction writing only.
Now I use Moleskines everyday. They have become constant companions to me and I reply on having them near to capture my day and whatever scraps of poetry I come up with.
During the 8 or 9 years I have been using Moleksines they have become very popular, and now you see them everywhere. I remember when they were mostly unknown, and actually bound in Italy, seems like they have lost out for becoming popular.
I miss the days before they were iconic and everywhere.
Gulls want more, they scream at me to run in; to try and drown myself upon the soaked and scratched coral sea-bed. They are furious at me; angry that I do not care to worship Neptune in his salty temple.
They are his minions and scraggly temple slaves hooded in white; half demon -half dove. They have been cast from the frigid crushing sea to scream and cry for bread and for blood on the lonely shore.
Circling in great clouds of white they push, they call, they plead. Into the salty tear soaked spray: the teeth of the storm. I slosh, I tremble, I fall. Sinking slowly down to a shell strewn path that leads farther down into the blackness.
I have two computers on my lab bench: the Franken-Computer that I wrote about a few weeks ago, and another regular computer running ‘Slacko Puppy 5.5’ (which is a lightweight Slackware build) I have had these two systems going for a few months, and have had two sets of keyboards and mice, but knew I didn’t want to waste all that good useful desk-space with an extra keyboard and mouse.
I had initially thought that I would put in a KVM switch and just switch the inputs whenever I needed to, but instead I installed Synergy on both systems and now I am able to use both computers just as if it were only one! Really awesome.
I simply move my mouse off the edge of the screen, and voila!!! it appears on the other system!
I didn’t have any trouble setting up the Synergy client on the Fedora system, but I did run into a bit of trouble on Slackware. I had to track down a pesky dependency that Synergy needed, but a few minutes googling led me to it with little trouble.
I am converting an old Compaq Laptop and A Dell Flat-Screen Desktop Monitor into an All-In-One computer with one power supply and dual Displays.
I took the display panel off the rear mount, and behind it there is just enough space to mount the power supply for the laptop motherboard.
And here I tied the power input to the same input the monitor shares.
Here is the first bench-test connected to the lower display.
The final project. Complete.
Working, mounted to the wall, and ready for action!!!
Moleskines can be gadgets.
This one is.
I bought these StickNotes on a whim, I love Moleskine stuff, and this is no exception, but I really don’t need these, I just bought them because I like the design…
Saturday: Day 1
8:00am: Now begins my fast. I am abstaining from all forms of solid food for 7 days. I will only drink water and tea, perhaps a little coffee. I am not doing this to lose weight, I have been exercising, and eating well for about a year now and have made great progress on that front. This is for my mind, my focus and also to satisfy my curiosity of what a week without food would really be like. Will I attain zen-like focus? Or just a really bad case of the munches? We shall see.
3:00pm: Not really feeling any hunger, it isn’t uncommon for me to go most, or all day without eating much, so I don’t really expect to feel and hunger until late tonight.
7:30pm: I am feeling hungry, not bad, just a general want of food. I have seen this stage many times before, -like when I am waiting for dinner and don’t want to spoil it with a snack. I am sure much more will come after this. I am having my first cup ( of many I am sure) of tea. It is Twinning’s Premium Black Tea With Lemon, with one packet of Sugar In The Raw.
It is good, hot and slightly sweet.
11:20pm: Ready for bed, no real trouble so far, day one has been easy. I have been keeping my mind and body active with projects all day, I have lots to do and that seems to be helping my body to forget that I am even hungry. The real test will be the next two days. If I can get through them ok, I think it will be smooth sailing.
Sunday: Day 2
11:30am: Going strong. Bottle of water and regular sips. Staying away from any temptation, going to get over the hump. I am not really feeling much hunger, just a slight ’empty sensation’ is all.
1:00pm: Drinking Coffee, little bit of sugar, and a little cream. Keeps the hunger at bay. I don’t want to drink a whole lot of coffee since that is pretty harsh on my digestive system. Tea without cream is better.
10:30pm: This day really blew past. Really not much hunger, my biggest temptation is just the habit of eating, several times I have ended up in the kitchen without even thinking about it, I am only there out of habit, not hunger.
I have resisted, and this makes the end of day 2.
Monday: Day 3
11:00am: Great rest last night, went to bed late, and woke up early feeling rested and alert. I never wake up like that!
10:30pm: One more day done! I have been having pretty strong hunger off and on. Sipping water all day helps keep the hunger at bay.
Tuesday: Day 4
9:00am: Today is the first day back to work since Saturday, still feeling strong and pretty much ‘normal’, I find myself thinking about food a lot, even though I am still not feeling especially hungry, the thought of food keeps coming up. Mostly about foods I don’t normally eat. Dried Dates, Grapes, Pomegranates ect. I find this a little odd, perhaps my body is trying to tell me something. When I resume eating I am going to go get some of these.
4:30pm: I am feeling some nausea, quite hungry, but manageable.
11:00pm: I didn’t expect this to be quite so boring. I am amazed that I feel so ‘normal’ I am no hungrier than I often feel in-between meals. If I didn’t know I hadn’t eaten anything for 4 days I would not suspect it. I listened to an older episode of: This American Life where David Rakoff goes through a 14 day fast, his experiment was a bit like mine is. He didn’t find anything special in the experience other than the experience itself.
Wednesday: Day 5
3:00pm: Again, just plodding along. Bored.
10:30pm: I am glad this day is over. Hungrier today than before.
Thursday: Day 6
6:30pm: Only one more day left. Feeling very good today, I feel like I have more energy than before. My feet feel light and my head feels very clear. I like this feeling. Not sure if it is worth forgoing food for an entire week, but it is a good sensation. Not quite ‘enlightenment’ but more like lucidity. I am hungry from time to time, I keep thinking about food, but it goes away after a few sips of water or tea.
Friday: Day 7
4:00pm: Today is my last day. Looking forward to eating again. I am surprised by how clear minded I have been feeling, this must be that feeling people talk about; it is like I am standing on a chair In a room full of people. I feel like I can see things just a little clearer.
Food! Glorious Food! Nothing has ever tasted so good! I have started with a very small chef salad and it was wonderful. I have been warned about eating very much right off the bat, so I am trying to be cautious, but oh how wonderful to be eating again. I have a whole new appreciation and thankfulness for food now.
My first computer was an ATARI 1200XL
I was in seventh heaven! I can still remember the smell of the plastic when I opened the box,
(it was used, but still in the box) and I remember the sound that 5-1/4″ floppy would make when it was seeking.
I had an INDUS GT drive (which was pretty fancy for its day) and I had an ATARI tape drive as well. The tapes were fun, you were supposed to use ‘real data tapes’ because they were of higher quality, and would retain the data better, but I never could afford them: so I just used erased music tapes. (which never lasted very long)
I would spend many hours up at night laboriously typing BASIC commands, and learning how to write programs myself. I had a few books, and some old Atari magazines to go on, but a lot of what I learned was by experiment.j
I would craft this work of art, and then when the last line was done, I would pause a second, and then type: RUN, and press the return key……………..
That moment of expectation, and the (often unpredictable) results is an aspect of computing that I miss. Now I am grounded in expectation of what a computer ‘should’ do. I don’t modify my experience; I don’t create new programs.
I do use the computer to create, and to code, but on another level; in a more sanitized operating world. Sometimes I miss that wonder and amazement from executing my program just to see what it would do.
My job requires me to make house-calls.
During my work day, I meet people. Old, young, and everywhere in-between, I know all kinds. Most people fit firmly into the center of the bell-curve of society, but there are those that stand at the outer edges of ‘normal’. These people can range from the mildly out of place, to my favorite: the ‘Eccentric Idea People’. These are the wild-eyed ones that tell you that they know that there is an alien-brain-reading-cosmic-ray trained on their houses. They believe that they have a deep insight into things that no one else can fathom. I like these people very much.
I take care to listen to their ideas, and even try and ask deeper, more pointed questions, to get at the root of the idea. I don’t want them to think I doubt the sincerity of their thoughts; and truthfully; I don’t. I know that they really believe what they tell me, and I am fascinated in their stories. If for no other reason, than to comprehend how the brain works at the edges of reality.
Today (2010) I met such a person; for the sake of the story, we will call her ‘Barbara’.
I arrived at her apartment to install an Internet connection, and after asking where she wanted her connection, I began my work. Generally; I make light conversation with the customers, And I began by telling her she had a nice view, and asking her if she liked the sun streaming through the windows in the morning.
She said she did, and then abruptly turned the conversation: “I am an author”
“What kind of books do you write?”
“Advanced Quantum Physics Books” she said.
Now this was a first, I have met some authors in my life, but never one that wrote Physics books. I am very interested in Physics, and not doubting the truth of her statement, asked:
“Do you think that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will find the Higgs Boson?”
She hesitated, and then said:
“I study Quantum Brains”
I noted that she skipped the question, but chalked that up to a lack of knowledge in particle physics, perhaps not uncommon to be so specialized in a single field of Physics as to lack knowledge of the LHC. I assumed that by ‘Quantum Brains’ she meant the theorized Quantum nature of Consciousness, and the idea that the brain does not work in ‘Newtonian Physics’ but requires the Uncertainty inherent in Quantum Mechanics to function.
“So you write about how the brain works, on a sub-atomic level?” This sounded interesting!
“No, I know how the brain moves up into the Quantum, and this is called seeing God. There is a helmet on the brain, and it blocks the Quantum, but when the brain moves up,” -here she made a fist, to stand for the brain, and cupped it with the other hand, to symbolize the skull, and moved the brain-fist up to show it nearly touching the top of the skull. “The quantum can get in, and it is seeing God. I have it copyrighted.”
WOW! I walked right into that one!
She continued to tell me how she has done work for the government, and they owe her billions, and that she is the only one who knows these things. She told me how she has insights into the inner workings of the mind, and how she writes papers all the time for the local university. (I checked, and can’t find her name anywhere.)
Once I finally got out of there, and had the chance to really think about what happened, I came to the conclusion that we need people like this in society. For if it were not for the audacity of a patent clerk named Einstein, we might perhaps still be fighting to understand the universe with Newtonian Physics. If not for an eccentric Telegraph operator ‘Thomas Edison’, you might be reading by candlelight.
We need the people that live at the edges of reality, and insist that they have an insight into the murky waters of our world, or perhaps out brains.
99% of the time they are just what they appear; but once in a while someone steps out of the darkness, and gives us all a bit of light.
Sitting on a rock in the cold sun.
The wind comes up from the sparkling river and whispers of a future spring.
There is yet a core of warmth in the twisting wind, a hope of dog starred August days.
Winter has for a moment lost the thread,
Lady frost is searching for clear moonlight, for razor pinpoints of light on hoarfrost frozen fields.
This is a screenshot from an iPad app called: Planetary. It is a graphical representation of a music library. (In this example you can see a selection of artists in my library)
I use it when I want a beautiful interactive view of my music, or just to browse through and enjoy.
Poetry is not something that simply spills from the mind unbidden.
No, Poetry is an essence that travels from one being to the next; it is shared by ingestion of life.
A life absent from the poetic expressions found in the trees, the fall colors, the simple poetry of life will never give birth to anything more than a crusty paper of a lie.
One who lives on a steady diet of hard truth, dipped deep in the stone well of natural poetry will become suffused with the stuff until it weeps from the very pores, and spills dark ink upon the page already stained with tears.
My Moleskine is a vital part of my life, it serves as a permanent record of the daily thoughts and ideas of my life. I hope to one day pass on all of my accumulated journals to the fire of forgetfulness.
In the pocket, I keep a $20 bill for emergencies, and a couple of Moo cards for interactions with new people. I never go anywhere without my Mole!
When I suddenly get the urge to make art; I dig into the dark depths of my messenger bag, and pull out my trusty Moleskine Watercolor Notebook and my Winsor & Newton Bijou Box.
Then, I search for the soft brown wrapped Ple Ple Pen Case, and unwrap my tools: Pilot Parallel Pen, Sakura Waterbrush, Cross Triple Pen, Lamy Safari with EF Nib, Tasche Fine Black Pen, and the prize: a fine Sable Brush Pen.
All of these objects, I arrange neatly on the bench beside me, and then Open my Bijou box filled with richly pigmented watercolors, I then snap the elastic from the Moleskine, and seizing my water-brush, I dive into a different world: one that I create upon the virginal page.
What colors will flow from the bristles today? What pigment of very thought, will I bleed upon the page?
I never know.
‘Lucidity’ is an absolute clarity and understanding. As if all the shadows have been cleared away, and all that remains are hard truths. In average existence, our minds are busy with the details and routines of everyday life; we often exist almost as machines. As if the conscious mind stays just behind the present, and reacts on delay.
I used to work cutting tires for a disposal service; the job was repetitive in the extreme. Pick up a tire, throw it on the table, pull the lever for the ram, reverse the ram, rotate the tire 1/3rd turn, and repeat, throw the cut piece and then rotate again, cut and throw. Then repeat the same process once again. In the mornings I would see my huge pile of tires to cut and it would seem an impossible task because my mind was too aware of time and of my own existence. But after the first 10 minutes I would begin to lose the present and become more detached from what I was doing. Time would then begin to move much more quickly and aside from interludes of clarity (or lucidity) I was just as unthinking as the machine I worked with.
Much as sleep is an existence where the conscious mind loses it’s grip and in effect dies to time for a while, only to be re-joined again upon waking, so it was for me in working that repetitive job. All those hours were lost never to come again. And what did I gain for them? Nothing but a few dollars spent on bills and items long lost to memory.
So I ask you, how many of your waking hours do you spend in lucidity? How much of your life have you really lived, not just existed?
Think back on your life, what are the moments that stand out? The seconds or hours that have defined your life?
Live in Lucidity