Category: Archived

Redecorating with Jesus

My desk, as with the rest of the office, is a shocking horror

If I’ve harped on this before, someone should hit me over the head with a sack of oranges. I continue to have the feeling that there should be some kind of way to organize my life so that it wouldn’t be such a horrorshow. One central focus that brings everything together. You know what I’m talking about…the notion that it takes big rocks to be effective in life.

In church today Pastor Matt talked about being willing to rearrange our lives to make room for Jesus. Right on. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I want to be able to pick up my Bible first thing in the morning and have the rest of my life flow out of that. Seamlessly. Effortlessly. Yes there would be tough decisions but they would follow Jesus,  a beacon to a better place.

Instead, life seems to be a zero sum game, a series of Sophie’s choices between paying bills, writing a novel or putting away the socks and underwear. Focus on THE ONE IMPORTANT THING first and let everything else go to hell. Problem with this approach is that everything else goes to hell.

The only Scripture passage I’ve found to date that suggests Jesus had any interest in organization is John 20.7. Everything else I’ve Google-up is Productivity Porn (go ahead and click on that, a little taste won’t kill you) with a thin icing of Jesus on top.

So, I still don’t know what to do. I can organize a project like there’s no tomorrow. But I can’t get a rein on my stuff. Sigh.

Here’s what Google coughs up:

Four Biblical Keys to Time Management – Turn your to-do list into a prayer list.

Jesus on Time Management – There is a job only you can do. Do only that. Delegate everything else.

Jesus’ Guide to Time Management – Be ready to drop everything that’s important to you.

Time Management from an Orthodox Perspective – We don’t manage time. Time manages us.

It Is Finished.

screen-shot-2009-11-29-at-83803-pm

As of 11 PM last night I became the proud owner of a 50,123 word steaming slag heap of a first draft novel. Yipee.

So ends my NaNoWriMo adventure. What am I left with? Let’s call it the Winchester Mystery House of bad literature…hundreds of passages leading nowhere.

I do have to say that this time I feel like I have a complete narrative and a character arc. So maybe I can still make something out of this…possibly a hat, a brooch or a pterodactyl.

But right now. I need. A nap.

Swoop, Bang and Grope

I’m on the road again. The road to hell, good intentions to blog my NaNoWriMo novel-writing experiment are lying like dead soldiers on the roadway.

Early on I was going to post about Banging vs. Swooping. Kurt Vonnegut once said (and I swear I heard this on a public radio interview, though I can’t find the source) that some writers are “swoopers,” they simply open the tap and let the words flow across the page. Mark Twain was like this. Said his head was like the water tower at a train depot and he would write until he was empty.

Other writers, like Vonnegut, are “bangers.” They sweat and toil over every word.

Naturally NaNoWriMo, writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, lends itself to swooping. Turn off your internal editor and spit out 1,675 words daily and you’ll be just fine.

Now I’m a banger. But for this project I’ve manager to churn out 32,000 words by sheer force. Some of it pretty crappy, like the day when I forced my main character to paraphrase the Spark Notes for Ivanhoe.

At this point I’ve lost my way. I’ve got no clue about my character’s motivation and the whole manuscript has devolved into “he did this, and then he did this, and then he did this…” like a story told by a six year old.

So that’s how it is my friends. Nine days left. 18,000 words to go and I’m like the guy in Run Fatboy Run, bruised battered and spent. Groping for a reason to go on.

All Hallow’s Eve (with Zombies)

typewriter

Here it is, the eve before National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo,) sort of an ongoing joke started by Chris Baty where tens of thousands (150,000+ this year) of people line up like entrants of the Bay to Breakers marathon, and pound out 50,000 words of prose.

This month I throw my hat in the ring, with a manuscript loosely based on the great western classic, Deadwood Dick, the Prince of the Road.

At the moment I’m up to my armpits in research. Did you know that in 1860, Sir Richard Francis Burton wrote about a trip to California on the Overland Stage? Burton has an amazing ear for Western experience, slipping into dialect and salting his narrative with tall tales along the way. The book, written one year before Samuel Clemens made the same trip, is remarkably similar to Roughing It, written by Clemens 12 years later. Burton’s book is more philosophical, while Twain’s is more humorous. Together they make good bookends for era.

What to do until midnight when I can unleash the muse and begin my own marathon dash through the English language? I suppose I’ll brave the zombies of Halloween, go out and get a Black Jack taco and a fifth of frontier whiskey and settle down to write at the stroke of midnight.

Bathtub Snake

When snaking a tub use the overflow plate

When snaking a tub use the overflow plate

Today’s frontier adventure involved snaking out the bathtub drain. First we tried using a Zip-It flexible strip. These plastic drain cleaners are a gross, yet effective way to de-gunk most drains. Problem is that a bathtub drain takes a left turn at Albuquerque, leaving you without much room to move the strip. Liquid Plumber failed us and so did the natural method to unclog a drain with vinegar and baking soda.

Fortunately Google knows all, and I learned that the key to unclogging a bathtub drain is to remove the overflow plate and stopper mechanism, and feed the snake down the overflow drain. I was able to quickly remove the offending clog this way and we’re back to normal drainage.

Gone to the Dogs

Four monstrous dogs in our tiny yard

Four monstrous dogs in our tiny yard

Daughter Em and her husband Matt and their four dogs – more like a single four-headed whirling entity from Hell – landed on our doorstep two weeks ago. And it’s killing my routine. My attempts at running, attempts at writing, attempts at riding…everything has gone to the dogs. As it were.

I’d like to post more about this, but at the moment there’s a horrendous bark-off in our tiny yard and I’ve got to go throw a shoe at one of these miserable creatures.

The Hard Way Down ’09 Tour

Riding the slippery slope in the Angeles Crest

Riding the slippery slope in the Angeles Crest

The plan was to be in Merced by now, well on my way to Yosemite, Bodie, Tonopah, Tuweep and parts beyond. The reality is that the bike is in the hospital, getting a blood transfusion. If they get the ABS system sorted out (soon let’s pray) then I’m changing plans and heading for the Range of Light Gypsy Tour out of Red Bluff. It sounds like a huge ugly mob of adventure riders in the midst of some very beautiful scenery. And hot.

Also, you might notice, that Red Bluff is UP from me…on a map…not DOWN, which makes it a particularly hard way to go. If you want to get down that is. Silly.

Anyhow, if you’re interested in some gnarly dual-sport action featuring more R1200 GS bikes than you can shake a stick at, follow me on Twitter (also on FaceBook). I’ll be posting semi-regular updates…sometimes including my GPS coordinates from my Spot Tracker.

Success! I Has It! (for a moment)

For those of you kind enough to be following along with my story arc, I set out a couple of weeks ago to lose some weight. My short term goal was to be able to fit into my Adventure Pants, so that I could…you know, have an adventure.

I’ve been following a glycemic-index diet for about a year. I lost weight consistently for a while, then stopped. So now I’m adding exercise, notably barefoot running.

For three weeks I did the following:

Monday-Wednesday-Friday alternating-day intervals (run for 60 seconds, walk for three minutes) or fartlek (jog 15 seconds, sprint 15 seconds, continue to add 15 seconds to jog and walk times until reaching 1 min 30 seconds and then go back down.)

On Saturday I jog a Long Slow Distance, actually 30 minutes at about 10 minute mile pace.

Complication: knee pain. So I started taping my arches, nothing fancy just two strips of tape around the foot at the arch. Seems to help.

Results: 230 to 227 in three weeks. Plus I can zip up my Adventure Pants.

And So It Begins…

So here is the first point in my story arc. I finished the first week of my new diet and exercise plan. My near-term goal is to get back to where I can fit into my Adventure Pants.

Started the week at 230 lbs, ended at 227.2 lbs, two week rolling average is 229 lbs. Completed three days of 1-minute runs, eight reps, 3 minute walking recovery. This morning I did a Long Slow Distance…an embarrassing 1.55 miles in 20 minutes. Barefoot. Or practically barefoot…I’m trying a pair of Vibram Five Fingers instead of running shoes.

This Week’s Struggle

Blindness. It’s early out when I run and I can’t see the sweep secondhand on my Swiss Army watch. So I switched to my dress watch (Timex is as dressy as I get) with the Indiglo backlight. Fail. The secondhand is no wider than a flea’s whisker, I still couldn’t see it. So for the time being I’m running with my GPS receiver because I can at least read the elapsed time.

Tell Me Where It Hurts, Son

I’m having some pain and swelling in my left knee. In the past it’s been my right knee. I went to an orthopedist who says that there’s no damage or indication of arthritis. If I run “through the pain” I tend to feel better. But the next time I run…ouch. This is why I’m trying barefoot running. And the reason I’m trying to get back into running at all is because there is some evidence that running actually promotes knee health.

So here is the dramatic tension…can I keep this up for another week? Will getting “unstuck” in the body weight department help me get “unstuck” in other parts of my life? Tune in for more…

I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions Are Good

I woke up this morning to a big steaming bowl of DO NOT WANT. But I can’t zip up my Adventure Pants, which means it’s time for decisive action. I must exercise this morning.

230 lbs. is kind of a metaphor for my life. It’s better than things were. Two years ago I tipped the scales at 249.6 lbs. 230 is not a horrible place for a 6 foot 4 inch fellow to be. But for me it’s a “stuck place,” and it’s weighing me down. At the climbing gym I’m about as agile as a sack of potatoes.

I follow a diet of sorts. And for a while it worked very well. The first 20 lbs. just “melted away,” as they like to say. But then I hit this stuck place. In so many ways I’m just spinning in circles, like a Roomba with a dirty cliff sensor.

So it’s time to pull on my Vibram Five Fingers and hit the ol’ dusty. My intention is to do short interval workouts three times a week (one minute intense run, three minutes walk, eight reps, two miles – it works for rodents, why shouldn’t it work for me?) followed by a longer easy run on the weekend and two or three trips to the rock gym.

This morning’s struggle? (See the new section header: “Capt Strugglebug”) It was too dark this morning to read my watch. I had to guestimate how long a minute was or stand under a streetlight and squint to see the second hand. I kept this up through four reps until it dawned on me that the GPS receiver I was holding (to measure the distance of the trail) had an elapsed time counter…and a backlight. D’oh!

What Makes the Best Blog Strategy: Arcs, Nuggets or Tens?

Photo by A is for Angie: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71719923@N00

Photo by A is for Angie: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71719923@N00

What kind of blog posts do you find the most compelling? A decade ago someone pointed out to me that the surest path to get on a best-seller list is to have “Ten Easy Ways to…” in your title. The Blog-o-sphere bears out this line of attack – list posts (ie “Merlin’s top 5 super-obvious, “no-duh” ways to immediately improve your life“) get all kinds of instant traffic. List posts, or “Tens,” are easy to write and very easy to read. I fall prey to them all the time because there’s usually one halfway useful idea in any collection of ten things. And a Tenner usually doesn’t go on and on ad nauseum. Each item is a quick wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am story.

Nugget posts are another thing. These are quick, well-contained posts on a variety of subjects. Boing Boing and kottke are the masters of this kind of posting. Bite size chunks of interesting info ranging from vintage Nintendo to steampunk chimpanzees. This type of posting satisfies the mind’s built-in need to acquire information through browsing.

Finally you have arcs. These are genuine stories with a beginning, a middle, and perhaps someday an end…spread out over the scope of a blog. These aren’t your “I found a cute new bistro” or “what I did on my summer vacation” posts. There is some real drama and real conflict attached. It’s a tough act to pull off when you live an ordinary life and have just a few minutes a day to craft a decent post. The best of the breed without a doubt is Fat Cyclist.

This blog tells the story of Elden Nelson, a cycling enthusiast who hit middle age and realized that he’d let the one passion in his life slip through his fingers. Out-of-shape and 30 pounds overweight, could he get it back? As a devoted father and husband could he carve out the time and purpose to get back on the bike and ride?

This alone is enough to carry a good story arc, at least for a blog. But then Elden has to face a real life plot complication – his wife Susan is diagnosed with breast cancer. Can Elden keep sight of his goal and at the same time care for his wife and children?

These are not rhetorical questions here. I’m genuinely interested in what YOU think makes the best blog strategy. I’m struggling to find a vision for this blog and I’m starting to think it might be a mix of arcs and nuggets. I don’t think my story is as big as Elden’s…certainly not focussed enough to sustain a readable blog. But I’m likely to get bored with posting nothing but nuggets. I feel a need to live out a larger purpose.

So you tell me, what’ll it be, arcs, nuggets or tens?

Why Can’t I Write a Freakin’ Awesome Blog Post?

I think I’ve put together some nice little blog posts here at Wild Rye. Just nothing as FREAKIN’ AWESOME as it could be (at least in my head.)

Why would that be?

It reminds me of my GI Joe. I was seven years old when Hasbro’s action figure first hit the market. The Unique Selling Proposition for GI Joe was authenticity. I had a gas playing with the gear. I persuaded my mother to cash in some Blue Chip stamps for the authentic machine gun nest and bivouac tent. I made camouflage, sand bags, the whole nine yards.

But I was stymied by the actual action figure. I named him William McKinnley and promoted him to Staff Sergeant, the highest rank in my kit. Frankly I felt like he deserved to be a Major, but those weren’t the cards that Hasbro dealt. I wanted to be authentic, so it never crossed my mind to fabricate my own clusters to pin on his collar.

The big problem with William McKinnley, however, wasn’t his rank. It was his personality–boring as a lump of oatmeal. He was bland, detached, a “do-your-duty” kind of guy absolutely without any fire in the belly. I don’t recall every imagining him in a combat situation. He seemed to be permanently assigned to a desk job. This was not what I wanted from an action figure, but that’s who he turned out to be.

After two years in active duty service William McKinnley’s rotator joint split and he lost his right arm. There was no Purple Heart in the kit either. Frustrated by his inability to advance, feeling useless on account of his arm, Sergeant McKinnley became severely depressed. He rarely left his bed inside his monstrously oversized footlocker. He might have even become an alcoholic, though I never caught him at it.

It seems a little crazy to me that at the age of seven or eight I could not imagine a decent battlefield narrative for my soldier–I spent every waking weekend hour watching Combat and B-movie war flicks. I could have named him Sergeant Slaughter and trained him into a Nazi killing machine. But that’s not the way it worked out.

So fast forward to today, I’m sitting in front of a glowing LCD screen trying to think of something really killer to write about…and I can’t. It dawns on me that it’s really not me sitting here at all. William McKinnley is here, pecking away at the keys slowly with his left hand. And that, my friends, is why I can’t post the truly amazing things that are simply swarming around inside my head.