Icky story: Near the beginning of February, some automated system broke into my gmail account and sent spam to a small set of people in my address-book. Which it could do, because my stoopid password was only seven characters and contained a dictionary word. Not good! Fortunately, one of the recipients was my other email account, so I saw it almost immediately, and I was able to log in and immediately change my password. Unfortunately, two recipients were mailing-lists, which was fairly embarrassing. The email was your standard spam, links to some russian pill site.

Story over? I had a new password (MUCH stronger- a full sentence, with punctuation...) and more info about how gmail protects account-owners. NOT QUITE STORY OVER. This Saturday, I got more spam "From" my gmail account. As did some select members of my address book, including the same two mailing lists. A quick check of gmail proved to me that it wasn't actually coming from me; they were merely spoofing it, using an open relay (via a German ISP, sending to hotmail, which accepted the sender).

So, by this point, I set my own email to "moderated" on one mailing list, as did the manager of the other list, and I sent around apologies, and damned if the jokers didn't try to resend more spam to the mailing lists.

And (after submitting the spammer info to spamcop.net), now I wait; either they will keep trying, or try with different parts of my mailing list, or I'll decide to bite the bullet and tell everyone to block mail from 'dada.da at gmail', or I'll just sit here and be embarrassed about getting my account cracked because I wanted a convenient password instead of a nice long password. (Yes, sometimes my purpose in life is to be an object-lesson for others. That's mostly OK, even though I was pretty grumpy about this on the weekend.)

---

Tasty story: My Saturday breakfast was leftover pancakes that [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball made a friend for lunch the day before. Lunch was amazing brioche french-toast made by [livejournal.com profile] thefateyouare. Dinner was chili with ground turkey, made by my sweetie. Sunday breakfast was a bagel made by d. the day before (he's getting quite good at bagels! I will pay close attention with the next batch, because I want to learn these! (Requires being comfortable with using lye! DANGER! But MMMM that crust.)) Sunday afternoon snack was a cannoli from a batch made by [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j. Aaaand dinner was pad thai, also made by d., with a leftover cannoli for desert. All of this made me less grumpy! (thanks guys!)

---

Good things come by courier: My macbook pro has gotten progressively creakier over the last few years. There is a problem with its graphics; this particular graphics card is apparently prone to a data-corruption that somehow corrupts the graphics memory, so I get weird visual artifacts on the screen: horizontal bands of background showing through windows; occasional triangles of warped screen... Weird stuff. I've gotten accustomed to it, though lately it's been getting worse- I can barely open iPhoto without it crashing. At one point I tried resetting everything and reloading my configs, but that didn't help; apparently a complete reinitialization may fix it, but I decided last summer when Apple redid their Macbook Pro that I'd wait until this year to replace it, since the hardware is now 5 years old. And lo, they released their update last week, instead of the anticipated April or May. So, for the first time, I ordered a computer on its first day of sale, and I have a fancy new machine winging its way to me. 5 , no 10 models newer than my early-2006 laptop, according to wikipedia. Same weight, slightly wider screen, 130% pixel-density, a gazillion times faster, and hopefully equipped to last another five years.

---

And some things go by Air Canada: Last weekend (Family Day weekend, here in Canada) was amazing. I was in North Carolina, for the mid-winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. I don't feel equipped to describe it, other than being happy that I got to hang out with so many awesome people. It was one intensely packed four-day weekend.

I'm a lucky guy, ya know?

Soul

Thursday, 22 July 2010 12:00 am
da: (grey)
What's the word "soul" mean to you? What associations does it bring up? Is the word fraught with baggage... smelling partly of brimstone? Does it have deep connection for you? Is it ineffable and abstract? Is it like a Platonic ideal of a thing, not to be pinned down? Is it boring? Is it a handy fiction?

I'd love to have a conversation about that, to the extent we can in an online journal. Anonymous comments are fine. My hope is to have common referents to continue in another post.

I invite you to make your first comment here, that is to say without reading the previous comments before-hand. Of course feel free to read other comments too, and discuss with others, but after your first comment. :) Thanks!

[Edit to add:

I can say: the breadth of peoples' responses is pretty darn cool.

So, I suggested a dialogue. What now?

It would be one thing if we were in the same room, and could look at each other and be clear that we're going to treat this with the respect it deserved. In that situation, I would say we could just ask each other open, honest questions; questions that don't try to convince the other of our own understanding; but help the other person to articulate their truth for us. And take it from there.

We could try something like that. I'd participate. Why don't we try that?

It might go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: you're welcome to not reply to someone's question, or to reply telling them you won't reply (and that's final; challenges are not OK).

]

Days and weeks

Saturday, 16 May 2009 10:15 pm
It's been a while since I've made a proper update.

Last weekend's trip to Philadelphia was fairly intense. I have a lot of respect for the organizers of the workshop; they packed a lot into our 44 hours on-site at Pendle Hill, yet it didn't feel rushed or overloaded. We learned more about the nuts and bolts of leading Quaker Quest training workshops, worked in small groups on articulating our own paths with regard to Quaker outreach, and talked about how the group of 30 of us can make the overall project work more smoothly. In the balance, I feel just as strongly that this is a worthwhile project and a good place for me right now.

The only parts of the weekend which were bad-intense were entirely my doing, because sometimes I'm a space-cadet who loses things wot aren't clamped down. *sigh*

One high-point to the trip was meeting some really neat people, some even roughly my age, from all over North America; and reconnecting with other 'Quakes who I've gotten to know and respect more over the last few years.

Another high-point was being picked up at the airport by Carrie G., who introduced me to Alma, who's now 4 5 months old. We went downtown and met up with her partner, Kathleen, and we had some wonderful time together (with ice-cream, plus also really cute sleeping infant) It was great to catch up for an hour; an hour which I thought I'd lost when I missed my first flight- making the meeting even more sweet.

But that was my 48 hours in the Philly area.

And when I got back, dan made us a lobster dinner, because he has an inside scoop with our favourite fish place, and heard they had excellent cheap lobsters. Yummy surprise, that. Go, dan!

Work has been rewarding, for the most part- I'm dividing my time between three software-design projects, and right now the balance is good. One project involves integrating our department's inventory system with the campus DNS, to simplify provisioning new equipment and make less work on updates. Another involves properly synching SSH keys so (among other benefits) instructors can more easily access their course-accounts from off-campus. The third is an Engineering Computing project of doom, which may be able to massage data from across campus into one place, in the formats needed by faculty to apply for grants, prepare their annual activity reports, and a few other creeping features. It may succeed, or it may collapse into a pile of brittle sticks; given the non-standardized data provided (and required) by the different faculties. We'll see.

I've just passed the one-year mark from coming back to CS, and I still like my work, I still like my work environment. Quite a bit, actually. The end of this calendar year will be five years I'm on campus, or more than half my time since moving here. Wow. I hope I can keep being as valuable to the U as I feel like it's been to me.

What else?

I'm going to be trying acupuncture. I met with my physiotherapist last week over coffee, and she pointed me in the right direction. I'll schedule it just as finish as I finish with the next bit of travel in May. I will be sure to report back, since I know some of you are practitioners. (or practitionees?)

For my birthday (which is next Wednesday), [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I are going to Nova Scotia. We're leaving on Tuesday, back the following Wednesday. I'm very much looking forward. The plans are: two nights in Halifax, one night in Baddeck, three nights on the north side of Cape Breton in Pleasant Bay, one night in Truro. d's been patient with my impulse to arrange EVERY LITTLE BIT TO SEE IN THE ENTIRE PROVINCE in just a week. And I'm... actually quite OK with dan's desired agenda of seeing a few sights, doing some road-tripping, eating some excellent food, taking some hikes, and mostly relaxing. (Relax? How's that work?... Heh. Anybody have any tips here? Is there a class I can take on it?... Um. Joking, I think.)

I won't have my laptop, so don't expect much from me next week, even if 3G from my phone happens to work. I'll be too busy eating seafood to post, anyway. :)

The following weekend we're off to Denver to see The Three Bears, and also Other People. Long-planned trip, finally happening. I've never been to Colorado!

And a week after, with a weekend at home again, I'm taking a 3-day Project Management course, way far away at the University's extension office just a few blocks from my house. It should be useful, and there will be two colleagues in the course to trade ideas with also.

I have been keeping up with my friends-list, even if I'm not posting or commenting much. I do appreciate hearing what's up with you all; you inspire me and also give me great stuff to think about; as well as grounding me a bit. So, thanks.

Spinning Wheels...

Monday, 23 March 2009 11:39 pm
Not figuratively, literally. My bike has developed a (dangerous) tendency to lose its gear, often when I'm starting up from still, and also when I'm coasting. Not the chain, but likely the freewheel, according to [livejournal.com profile] elbie_at_trig, who was conveniently going home at the same time as me, just as I was thinking, "if only I could ask someone to jog along next to my bike..."

So, yeah. Tomorrow morning, cycle shop is my first stop on the way to work.

Otherwise, I feel like I'm not spinning wheels, quite the opposite.

Work is going, and the three active projects are interesting, if potentially long. But the structure of things allows me to interleaving the work, and I can't imagine getting bored with it. Really, this still feels like perfect job for me. And hey, I missed my boss, who was gone a week on vacation, but I can hardly fault her for that.

Life feels adequately social, these last weeks. Care and feeding of my introverted self- it sometimes feels like I need a push, but I'm getting most of what I need.

This Thursday evening is the third and final Quaker Seekers at Laurier session we have planned; we're speaking on Equality. I think there's an LJ post sitting in my brain, to help me organize what I'm saying in my two 6-minute pieces.

Last week I had a conference-call with co-organizers for the Quaker Quest Traveling Team. A month from now I'll be one of two presenters to a regional Quaker gathering, and in early May they're sending me to Pendle Hill for a weekend conference with other trainers. This work feels both like something I'm pulled to do, and a big side-order of "what the hell was I thinking when I said yes?" Where it goes nobody knows, but I am loving the finding out.

In late May [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I are taking a vacation to Nova Scotia for my birthday; it's our first time to Atlantic Canada and I am already having dreams about rocky shorelines and whale-watching.

This week has featured two meals with duck (breast; and burgers), and two meals with pesto. It is a good life, my friends.

I'm midway through installing linux on a mac mini. I'm in love with this hardware; it's so quiet, runs cool, and is barely bigger than my hand. I'm putting Xen-enabled debian onto it, so alongside the web and email services it can run virtual servers such as Asterisk, or possibly freePBX. Anyhow, my coder.com server will move over some time in April, I hope.

Also in April, my geek crew of Perl Mongers are doing a hardware hacking workshop with Arduino microcontroller boards. So far, I've tested sample programs that play a simple tune; flash LEDs; and (sort of) replicate a Clapper but send a signal over USB to computer. My goals are to control a 600x200 pixel LCD display, and to precisely control a stepper-motor to... well, it'll be cool if it works, that's all I will say for now.

So, all you folks who haven't posted about yourselves recently- what's up with you?
Don't ask yourself what the world needs.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

- Howard Thurman

Getting Older

Friday, 12 December 2008 07:43 pm
I just went to the going-away reception for a colleague of dan's, a man of many talents who is moving west to become a CTO at another University. There were hors d'oeuvre, wine, cheese. And there were many speeches; some entirely professional and largely boring, some more heartfelt messages with personal touches. But you could tell this man will be missed for his even-keeled and wise service to the University.

And so, walking Rover just now, I was trying to determine exactly what I was feeling in response. I thought, for a while, that it was sort of a proxy pride-mixed-with-loyalty; watching all of these people who'd been working together for decades, showing honour to one of their beloved colleagues.

I'd be feeling it by proxy because of course it's second-hand imagining of their pride and loyalty, recognizing their depth of connections over the decades. And while I do feel loyalty to the University (as an excellent employer, as a source of social and societal good, as somewhere I hope to work for a long time) it's not anywhere near the loyalty of someone who had given it his all, for multiple decades, in a career he'd spent his entire life in.

So, I figured this proxy feeling was best personally described as "inspiration". And that was OK.

But you know, that's not quite it. As I watched Rover run in the school-yard I realized something else was more true. What struck me, hearing these profs pay their respects, was a personal profound sense of getting older.

Not in a negative sense, at all. Or, yes, but not only. Realizing it's the way of things. You spend your time on earth in whatever you're going to do; and possibly you pay attention and get better at things (and possibly the things you're better at, manage to find you). And perhaps you are recognized for the things you do, or perhaps you just know, yourself, and that's OK. And maybe if you're very lucky, it makes a great story; or maybe it seems dull.

But it's your life, every step, and you wouldn't be here if you hadn't been there first. And the you, now, can see a lot further because of it. And it's like seeing a photo of yourself from a decade ago with that hair and clothes and realizing shit, I really thought that would look good on me? And like listening to a Quaker friend's twelve-year-old go on about how much he loves watching The Wizard of Oz over and over, and as he gesticulates wildly with his hands, keeping the Cheshire grin to yourself (and thanking God for his parents not being bigots). And it's like recognizing to yourself the dues you've paid, ultimately OK with them even if they were crazy over-priced stupid dues.

And maybe, looking honestly and lovingly at the you-of-half-your-lifespan-ago and whether, if the two of you met, younger-you would laugh out loud in surprise (and maybe awe) at the you-of-now. And you're mostly looking forward to discovering the you-of-the-same-timespan in the future. Shit, he really thought that was a good idea then, didn't he? By God, yes, I do. And you'll please be keeping that smirk to yourself, future-me?

And maybe they won't throw a party with canap├ęs and the University President, which is probably better off if they don't; and maybe actually the worst is yet to come. But maybe you get to use that as a stepping-off point to something even better than you'd ever imagine from here, the you-of-now who is getting older and paying attention and being open to the chance that the best is yet to come.

An Invitation

Sunday, 30 November 2008 02:03 pm
This Tuesday, I"m giving a talk on Getting Things Done and the GTD software I use. The talk needs a small amount of tweaking, yet.

[And here's the finished version. Thanks for all your help, folks. It was really useful.]

If you're the kind of person who would attend a (free, 45-minute talk) on GTD...

Wanna look at my slides and notes, and make suggestions about what is unclear?
There are speaker's notes; you have to click the little head icon in the lower-right corner.

Unfortunately, it needs a google login. If you don't want to do that, I stashed a powerpoint here. You can put comments on this post.

Comments before Monday noon are appreciated; especially if you find yourself tuning out after the first few slides. That's helpful to know. :)

Thanks.
I need help remembering this.

"The concern-oriented life is ordered and organized from within. And we learn to say No as well as Yes by attending to the guidance of an inner responsibility. Quaker simplicity needs to be expressed not merely in dress and architecture and the height of tombstones but also in the structure of a relatively simplified and coordinated life-program of social responsibilities."

--Thomas Kelly, A Testimony of Devotion, 1941

From Quaker blogger rikomatic.com
I'm trying to devote a bit of energy to being more intentional about how I spend my time. Partly inspired by other friends who've talked about the same- cutting back on things that gradually have taken over- partly from pointed questions from my sweetie- and partly because it is so so easy for me to lose a few hours in the blink of an eye, and not feel like I could say much about how it was spent.

Not that there's anything wrong with wasting time- but wasting too much time feels like a fairly serious mistake to me.

So, this last Saturday I made a mistake that might have positive results in the end.

...I donated a large box of stuff from this summer's closet clean-out to a benefit garage sale on campus, and Saturday morning I went to check out the beginning of the sale. I was about to leave when my eye caught sight of a box of D&D stuff. "Huh," I thought, "that's in fairly good shape." It turned out to be a complete basic D&D set, plus a D&D expert set, plus a standalone module. From selling dan's old AD&D on ebay, I figured it was probably worth about $75 to somebody. It was stickered at $10.

Yeah. So. Maybe you can guess what happened, and that was my first mistake. Second mistake: it took me about 3 hours to set up the ebay auctions, where a good chunk of the time was taking many photos and figuring out shipping, 'cause it seems it's awfully expensive to ship from Canada to the US. And it really wanted to be three auctions, not one, 'cause that seems to be the way these things are done. Grczh. Why did I think this would be fun?...

At some point I flipped a "don't care any more" bit and just listed the damn things with a 3-day auction so they'd be out of the house before dan got home. And the first one sold in 2 hours to a Quebecois guy at my asking price of $35 plus shipping, and it was out the door the next morning with another hour to box and print postage via paypal and ship.

The standalone module sold to someone in Texas for $.01 because I didn't bother setting a reserve price, and I basically broke even on shipping. (hm, actually I made $2). But I still had to drop it off, and I guess it cost me half an hour of time that I was slightly grumpy about spending.

Fortunately, the Expert Set didn't sell, which means I can freecycle it and save some time. (Hey- does it have your name on it? Let me know and it's yours!)

Total time spent for these two items, maybe 5 hours. It's loads of fun to get stuff out of the house into the hands of people who are happier for having gotten it, but while I think I'm fairly good at writing up an auction, it's really really not worth my time to do so. And apparently this weekend I thought my time was worth $7/hr (and I suppose, in the end, good feelings for getting this Quebecois guy's kid a D&D set to play with.)

To show for my time, I now know that paypal makes it quite easy to print postage (domestic and international); ebay has gotten more annoying for dealing with international shipping.

And I really need to pay closer attention to the difference between, "it would be cool if somebody did this" and "I should do this!"

I think this is, as they say, one of my growing edges.
(So much for sleepy-bye time. I guess I'll sit up for half an hour, see if I'm sleepy again then. Maybe it was the coffee ice-cream for desert? Dunno.)

I've been wondering what I want to say about my week among the 1,200 Quakers. In advance, I told some people it was like a yearly reunion with some 200 family I really did want to see. I told a few friends that this family was mostly Family, if you catch. For Quakers who had never been, I said it was a rich mix of workshops, Meetings for Worship, and social time. And the best Meetings for Worship I ever have, anywhere. For people who had been before, I said I wasn't taking a workshop, because I was serving on Ministry and Counsel for Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC), and I was a bit nervous about how difficult that would be.

How was it? It was excellent. I've rarely been so busy, but at the same time, so guided.. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

On Saturday, I set out in Harold (our Corolla) for Hamilton, where I picked up two passengers, one who'd been on the Go train from Peterborough for two hours already. ([livejournal.com profile] metalana, you might know her, she's recently retired as a data-modeler for the Ministry of Natural Resources.) We got acquainted and followed a combination of Google Maps directions and my GPS on a gorgeous route through the topography of western New York and Pennsylvania.

Some of our conversation was about the moribund state of Quakerism in Canada. I caught myself being fairly emphatic about the point, and had a moment of considering what should I be doing with this... push... to do something about it. Well, I feel like I've gotten a bit better at listening to these pushes. After this week, I feel much better about it.

We arrived just in time to register and catch the very tail end of dinner time. I met up with dear friends, started planning my week, and generally blissed out a bit.

Sunday saw me trying to plan meetings, catch up with friends, do committee work, go to meetings, contribute... a pile of things. Plus many naps and walks by myself. And really, that was the tone of the week. Not busy for busy sake, but many things that felt like they needed doing, and for many of them, that I was the right person to do them. That felt really wonderful. Some of this was continuing the story I felt started at the Midwinter Gathering- one major thread, I was on an ad-hoc committee asked to consider a request from FGC's publications arm to help write a pamphlet on welcoming LGBTQ people to Quaker Meetings. Now, Quakers work in committee; and I needed to get between 7 and 9 people together from various other committees to start this work. At Gathering, amongst 1,200 other Quakers, with all of everyone's other committments? It felt impossible, especially since 4 or so of them didn't know yet they were being called into this meeting.

We did it. And it's moving forward, for next Midwinter.

So, about feeling guided: Sunday at lunchtime I ran into the first of the people who didn't know I was drafting her for a meeting; she said she would be happy to come, and we set a time. Then she said she had been looking for me. I hadn't spoken with her since last year at Gathering, when she and I had taken a workshop on "Quaker Quest", a very cleverly designed outreach program that took off like gangbusters in the UK and had just begun being tried in North America. Well, I must have made an impression in the workshop, because (as FGC staff responsible for the North American version of the program) she wanted to invite me to become a traveling presenter. On approximately four weekends of my choice over the next year. And FGC has a large grant to pay all expenses.

Egads. I told her it sounded tough, but quite a bit like something I could do. And I would consider it. And at this point I'm mostly sure I want to; it feels like a very clear response to my emphatic frustration with Canadian Quakerism. Or, a step on a path.

On Thursday, the 9 of us in the ad-hoc committee met, and we went away with lots of information and part of a plan that's broader than I expected. Then I had to present these findings to the Queer Quaker's Business Meeting on Friday.

Friday morning, I woke up with a pounding headache, before 6am, after about 6 hours of sleep. I felt totally drained and unprepared; I really wanted to sleep another hour. Unusually for me, I actually thought words at God/Spirit/whatever. I was fairly pissed. I said something like, "This isn't fair. I can't do this, I need some help here." And I got the clear reply to get up. So I did, and showered, and went to breakfast. And outside breakfast, I ran into one of the 9, talking with the co-clerk of our Business Meeting. And I went in to breakfast with our co-clerk, who turned out to be exactly the person I needed to talk to about structuring the presentation.

And I presented it Friday afternoon on behalf of the committee, and it was approved, and that felt awesome.

What else? Hm. I managed to get some singing in; I happened across two concerts led by Annie Patterson, co-creator of the Rise Up Singing songbook.

At the Queer Quaker Cabaret on Friday night, I did manage to see [livejournal.com profile] peaceofpie sing the song he wrote that very morning, and I would've been quite annoyed with myself if I'd missed it.

In Meeting for Worship, I had a very strong image of myself at half my current life, age 17, looking at me and being totally blown away that I'd get there. And having a strong sense of gratitude for the weird path life has taken.

The M&Ms. This is utterly trivial, but: have you ever had a mono-colour M&M experience? At an evening social, I was chatting with somebody and grabbed a handful of M&Ms. I looked and said, "Huh, 1/3 of them are yellow." The other person said that never happened to her. And none of the ones in her hand were yellow. So we kept talking and munching, and I looked down, and all but two of the remaining M&Ms were yellow. That used to happen fairly often for me, but then, I ate a lot of M&Ms back in high-school, so lots of chances for it to happen.

I had the chance to make many, many mistakes. Others affected by them were extremely graceful, whether or not they or I pointed the mistakes out. And I think I learned a great amount, and I think some of it will stick until the next time I have the choice to make the same mistake again, or not. And I helped a few people learn things as well, which felt great.

Other elements to the week: way too many people in a dining hall at dinner-time. Thoughtless people who didn't realize or didn't care. Thoughtful people doing kind things just because. Missing my sweetie. Not missing my email. Running through downpours. Wonderful togetherness-time with dear friends, some who are reading this right now.

Well, probably later, since right now it's a great time to be in bed. 'night!

Radio Silence

Thursday, 10 July 2008 08:32 am
I returned from FGC Gathering on Saturday, which was an excellent experience, but I've been slightly pressed for journal writing-time since then. I really want to write about my time away, but it'll have to wait until the weekend (at least), because I have a paper due Friday in my Peace and Conflict Studies class.

The topic is (in part): "How effective are practices of negotiation, mediation, and dialogue in conflict situations that are characterized by severe inequality in social status, or in economic and political power?"

On Monday, I thought I knew what I was going to say, and I had absolutely no oomph to work on it- though that's fairly easy to explain. One of the reasons I took the class was to try and see if it would give me hints for service-work that would speak to me, and I had just spent a week where I did a pile of service that I felt surprisingly (to me, at least) quite good at. And it was an intense week with not enough sleep. Monday night I felt so uninspired that I was fairly convinced I wanted to outright quit the class, though I changed my mind again by Tuesday afternoon, and got back to it.

Well, I'm less worn out now, and I've been making progress on the paper, and I even slept fine last night. I hope to finish the content of the paper in an hour, get in to work slightly late (hi boss!) and write up the references properly for tomorrow morning.

Whether I will want to follow up this class with another one is a question for another week, though I'm tending toward a fairly strong "no" at the moment.

Things to be happy about:

* flexible work hours. I had half a day's extra time "banked" informally, which is being ever so slightly useful this week.

* understanding sweetie. I didn't see him for a week, and now I've got a paper to write in evenings. (I'm not sure how it ultimately connects that it was partly his nudging that I'm taking the class in the first place...)

* understanding family. My parents called last night and I told them I couldn't talk even though we hadn't talked in... almost a month, and it'll be another week until they can call again.

* contact lenses in the proper eyes. Yes, I swapped my contact-lens covers some time last week, which explains why I've felt like the vision in my left (stronger) eye was a bit blurry since the middle of last week. (Huh, the astigmatism really does exist...) Feel free to laugh at me now, I have been since yesterday when I tried experimentally swapping them and yes, the problem went away.

...and now after writing for 15 minutes here I feel warmed up and I can finish writing my argument for the paper.

Wow.

Monday, 9 June 2008 11:22 am
Harvard Commencement Address as delivered by JK Rowling.

...It was mentioned last week on a few friends' lists, and I put off reading it, 'cause well. JK Rowling?

I am moved. And humbled. Her two pieces of advice are precisely the things that I think Ivy League graduates need to hear. And I'd make an argument toward all Westerners as well, in particular anyone who is happy with their definitions for failure and imagination.

In MSP

Monday, 18 February 2008 05:28 pm
I'm waiting for my flight home from Minneapolis; it's boarding in about 20 minutes.

The weekend was in a few ways exactly as I expected: I saw dear friends, did committee work, and put myself out there beyond my comfort levels, and was rewarded for it.

In other ways, it blew past my expectations. So much love shared. I feel so blessed for my Friends here. The plenary, by d's and my dear friend Wendy, was on the topic of courage. She shared stories from her life and from mutual Friends' lives, and gave us queries that we might consider. These queries fed directly into what we did in small-group discussions, and I got direct feedback that the way I led my small-group was exactly what people needed.

I'm sharing this here because, precisely because, it is so difficult for me to talk about doing things well.

This is something I will do differently. I have ideas, which I hope to write about.

I have told people who asked, this morning, that I feel well used. I get a lot out of service; I knew this, but I felt this weekend like I was able to stretch and do things I hadn't done before, and do them well.

Right now, I'm looking foward to being home!

ps- And just as I was about to send this, Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten came on the XM Radio in the restaurant I'm waiting in.

I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you can not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten


Amen.

Search for Quality

Thursday, 24 January 2008 03:04 pm
A recent conversation has had me thinking about two somewhat complementary and somewhat contradictory life philosophies concerning "quality"- by which I (think I) mean, things that are best-fit for your needs and desires.

The first philosophy:

Life is change; happiness is more about accommodation and compromise than railing against things you can't change. As such, quality is not only subjective, it's meant to change according to the environment (so no point pining for a steak at a vegetarian restaurant, say). Try for the best outcome but expect average, and allow for the worst. Quality is elusive- great experiences are rare. Be grateful for high-quality things and be reasonably happy with medium-quality. Learn to avoid low-quality.

The second philosophy:

Life is change; to be happy, stay on top of the change and try to manipulate the environment to be comfortable in it. Quality is subjective, but relatively constant over time. Try for the best outcome; expect the best, allow for the worst, but don't be happy with less than high quality. Learn to avoid low and medium quality; high quality is worth the effort. Life is short enough that you don't want to waste time with less.

---

I can see the merits of each; neither seems a foolish strategy for maximizing happiness.

If the second person is adept at finding high quality, they could easily end up happier overall. But realistically, how much time do they spend being unhappy with the non-ideal environment?

And the first person would say they are happy, and it seems to me that they would be. Except they're not exactly maximizing their choices for their definition of quality, they're making do more often. And it would be a non-optimal match even if they allow it to shift over time. (Especially so- their current life might match up, but looking back might make them unhappy about where they had been!)

Hm. As happiness-seeking creatures, should we all be trying to be #1, #2, both, neither?
Our Quaker Meeting had a discussion after worship this morning, on the subject of "Where am I on my spiritual journey?" There were ten participants, and we spoke for an hour, each person only speaking once, out of the silence as in worship.

I would like to share a somewhat edited version of what I said. I have been thinking about "where am I" questions in this journal and in conversations with friends, so it was a particularly useful time to be asking myself about spiritual directions.

---

I feel that I'm a synthesist. I want to make sense of my world; and I enjoy trying to bridge between contradictory ideas. So my spiritual journey has partly been as a seeker- but I'm seeking for the purpose of finding practical answers I can use in life, instead of just intellectual edification.

The Quaker community has been an essential part of my journey over the last 14 years. I have learned so much from watching other Friends living their faith. From reading, from talking with Quakers locally, but particularly learning from people at FGC Gathering and at FLGBTQC gatherings and through online discussions. My spiritual life has been richest when I'm in community; and I think it's been weakest when I've felt like I wasn't in community.

I think over my life I've been good at coming to terms with my limitations, to figure out how to accommodate. I've had the realization that I've been paying so little attention to my strengths. So right now part of my spiritual journey is to figure out what my strengths are.

One image that resonates with me is from Karen Armstrong, the title of her memoir- "The Spiral Staircase." Before she found her place as a writer on religion for the popular press, she went through a number of careers. She says she kept trying things and failing badly. She was a nun, but she kept asking difficult questions and eventually left the order. She studied toward a PhD at Oxford, but she failed her defense. She went on to teach high school, and was fired for health reasons, undiagnosed epilepsy. She went on to be a TV writer, which brought her some notoriety with her programs investigating religious life, but she was fired from that as well. But it also led her to consider further research into Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in an attempt to explain their meaning to non-practitioners.

And in that career, as an independent researcher and writer, she discovered that her life, when she'd thought she was just going around in circles, what she'd previously seen as failures had also meant lateral steps upward, as if she were climbing a spiral staircase.

I don't feel like I've been going in circles, but the image of trying and failing and climbing and gradually growing into who one is, resonates with me strongly. At this moment, I'm at something of a turning point, or at least I hope I am. I'm reassessing. I don't know where I should be going. I have a job, but I don't feel like I have a career. In some ways, this has felt like a stagnant period for me.

A while ago, [someone in our Meeting] quoted the British Quakers' book of Faith and Practice: "Live adventurously." This advice has resonated with me. [The entire quote is: "Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God's guidance and offering counsel to one another?"

So I'm trying to open myself up to living adventurously.

August 2013

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