To Keep Writing . . . 

I’ve been writing every day for about a week now, so far. Much of what I’ve posted up until now have been things that I wrote months or years ago and am just now publishing.  
I’ve seen a few people trickle in, leave some comments, “like” some posts. It’s good to see that there are, at least, a few people who are intersted in what I write. But unlike other blogs that I’ve tried to do in the past, my main goal with this blog is not to drive a huge amount of traffic to my blog. That would be cool if it happened, but that’s not my goal.  

In order to get traffic to my site I would need to focus very much on the content of what I write. What kinds of keywords, how my posts affect SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I would need to plan out posts, have a general strategy, maybe even advertise a little bit to drive traffic.  

The problem is, the only reasons why anyone would care about driving traffic to their blog is because they want to make some ad money, or they are convinced that what they have to say is absolutely essential for people to read, or they might be promoting a brand or image of some kind.  

I don’t have ads on my site, I don’t think that what I’m writing is essential for anyone other than me, and I am not promoting anything at this time. And that’s the truth. So I can’t really blame anyone for not reading my blog. I don’t really read theirs, so there’s no hard feelings here if this isn’t a popular blog.  

I’ve read many times that if you want to be taken seriously in the “blogosphere” that you need to be part of the blog community. You need to read posts, follow people who are like-minded, comment on the work of others, be involved in the cyber world of blogging.  

Meh. I’ll pass.  

That sounds like a lot of work to me. I didn’t take up blogging so that it could be a second (or in my case third) job. I don’t want to spend time surfing the web for blogs to follow.  

I am, perhaps selfishly, writing for myself. And I could easily, and historically have, written all of my writings in my journal. But writing to publish exacts a different kind of creative process than journal writing or writing knowing that no one will ever look at it. And writing to publish also forces me to question and analyze my writing more.  

I have noticed over the last week that a question about my writing has . . . intruded on my mind, and it’s a rather revealing and probing question about what I write.  

Is what I write important? Is it important to those who read it? Is it important to me? 

The act of publishing every day has forced me to ask myself: is what I write making a difference? Or is it just something that I do just to get into the habit of writing more? Is this blog something that I believe that people should want to read, or is it more of a public place where I share private thoughts?  

I think that at this juncture I don’t know the answer to that. And there is a very real possibility that I never will.  

I suppose that question may not even be very helpful to answer. If my work is important to people it will find its way to them, or I’ll find a way to reach them over the course of time. It’s not something to worry about. My writing is obviously somewhat important to me, otherwise I wouldn’t be subjecting myself to the potential humiliation of publishing my work. But is it truly, deeply important, or is this just an exercise in writing more? 

But that first, fundamental question raises other, more pertinent questions around what I feel is important to write about. If my writing is important to me, and I suppose that this blog proves that it is, then what things are important to write about? What kinds of topics, themes? Should I post more of my creative writing, stories, songs, and poems; or should I focus on creating new content around life, business, tech, religion? . . . I don’t know. I’m kind of making this up as I go along. 

 . . . As I think about it, I realize that this post is not likely going to be a popular one. It’s got a lot of questions and very few answers. And asking nebulous, rhetorical questions in a blog post seems . . . counterintuitive and pointless. It’s not like anyone is actually going to answer any of these personal questions for me. So what is the point of this article?  

I don’t know. And at this point, I suppose that I don’t care. I’m writing, I’m posting, and that is what I set out to do. The rest I’ll figure out later. 

Bayonets to Bassinets

I wrote this little poem/song back in 2013. I guess I should just call it a poem because I never really turned it into a song, although that was the original idea.  
I often intentionally say “bayonet” instead of “bassinet” when talking with my wife about babies and what crib-style we should use with newborns. It’s supposed to be a funny play on words, but when I started writing out the poem it didn’t turn out very humorous as I was trying to rhyme. But as I finishing it up editing it, I found that I like it the way it is.  

It wasn’t doing me any good sitting in my Evernote folder for the last 2+ years, so I thought I would share it out and see what people thought. 

This, I think, will be the first time that I’m publishing one of my own poems.  Poetry is kind of uncharted territory for me, I don’t really do poetry much.  Let me know what you think in the comments, or let me know if you have any suggestions. 

 

Bayonets to Bassinets



Bassinets to bayonets,  

In a world of deep regrets 

We often stop to recollect 

Friends and foes in retrospect.
We run, we fight and then forget 

The price we paid for innocence. 

This place where love and hate arrest 

Is what drives our mad conquest.
To fight, to love, to make amends, 

To ease the pain our words portend. 

To flex, to lie, to war again, 

We fight, we love, our words are dead.
From Bayonets to bassinets 

In a world of deep regrets, 

We often stop to recollect 

Friends and foes in retrospect.
 

On Learning

I need to learn things. No really, I need to learn things, and every day. If I don’t learn things I get bored and go crazy. If I’m not learning than my mind automatically assumes that my job is insufficient for me, that I need a new one, that I need a new hobby, or a new bass, or a new computer/iPad/phone/pick-your-tech-gadget.  
I can’t go very long without learning new things. I get restless, I get disatisfied with life. I have nothing that I can think about. If all I do is work and do normal things around the house than I’ll go nutso. Abso-freakin’-lutely nutso. I can already feel the crazy coming on.  

Every-so-often I consider getting a new job, but I like my job. And I don’t know what I would do instead. I consider picking up a new hobby, but I don’t really know what I like to do. I think I should take a vacation, but I don’t really have money for that sort of thing right now. I should write a book, or go hiking, or quit everything and go live on a mountain in the Himalayas, or be a monk in some Buddhist monastary, or something truly crazy. . . . pretty much, when I get bored, anything is an acceptable alternative to what I am currently doing.  

So what’s the problem? Why don’t I just learn something new every day? Why don’t I just read more every day?  Or stop whining about and make a change?

Well, that’s a fantastic question! And I’m not sure that my answer to that is going to be very good. Mostly it’s likely to be self-indicting. 

We all live and die by patterns. Habits. Those habits rule our lives. What is easier: clocking in and clocking out without putting much thought or effort into your work; or showing up, putting forth the effort, thinking through things, innovating and making a difference? Well, if the majority of the workforce is any indicator, I would say the former of the two options is easier.  

What is easier: scrolling endlessly through the innumerable (and occasionally pointless) posts on Facebook; or purchasing book after book to feed an instatiable desire to be learning new things every day?

Skimming through Facebook and blogs kind of gives the feeling that you’re learning new things. There are little tidbits of knowledge spread throughout the web, and it almost fulfills that desire to learn, but the knowledge is buried under the clickbait, the trite phrases, memes, and sometimes you can’ the lap but get distracted by the silly videos of cats having light-saber fights with dogs. . . . Ok, I’ll admit that was a pretty good video, but that’s desides the point. 

The point is that it’s easier to just browse and drown ourselves in tedium than it is to learn. It’s easier to cruise through our day and complain about our dissatisfying lives than it is to contemplate a plan and act on it. And it’s a whole heckuva lot easier to read self-help books than it is to actually apply any of that knowledge to real life.   These are the patterns that really rule our lives, the patterns of complacency and pretending to learn when we are really just passively browsing through life. 

Knowledge can be power, but it rarely is, simply because we don’t apply it. Knowing things doesn’t mean much unless we do something with what we know.  

It’s time for a change. I need to learn some stuff that I can use before I go more crazy than I already am. 

Why I use the iPad as my Creativity Station

Work vs Personal Use
I have a MacBook Pro for my job. It’s great for multitasking. It’s fantastic for switching in between multiple browsers, and filling in complex spreadsheets, and plugging in 2 extra monitors so that I can have my browsers, email, chat, PowerPoint, Word and any number of other applications up and running at the same time.  

But that’s work. For my work in the software industry I’m constantly taxing the RAM and processing power of my computer as I record video of presentations, edit training videos, write giant word documents and work with several different programs running at once. But when I’m at home I rarely need that much power. I occasionally need to do some quick, precision work on a spreadsheet or two. Sometimes I need to have two or more browser windows open at once, with Spotify running in the background, but that’s small stuff. When I’m at home I find I don’t want to multitask. 

In fact, I have found that when I’m at home, if I’m using a computer I tend to multitask unnecessarily, almost as if using a computer necessitated more applications running than I really need. I end up pulling up Facebook, and Spotify, and Twitter, on top of whatever else I was originally going to be working on (which somehow always gets buried under some distraction going on in one of my other many applications).  

This is why I’ve switched to using an iPad as my primary computing device for all of my personal tasks. And I must admit, I’ve been using my iPad Air as my primary device for nearly a year now and I have no intention of going back to using a laptop for personal use.  

This fact has made me question many of the reviews on the new iPad Pro’s that the tech site have been writing. Everyone seems to continue to ask one question, and one question only “can this replace your work laptop?” . . . well, no, of course it can’t. The iPad isn’t near ready to replace my work laptop, but I don’t want it to. I think that the laptop will be my primary work machine for a long time yet. But I can say that my iPad is perfect for everything else that I do, and I think that it’s fantastic for a number of different reasons that I’ll describe.  

Simplicity

One of the primary reasons that I prefer my iPad to a laptop in personal use is that it limits the multitasking I can do. Yes, that’s right, I said it. It limits my multitasking. And that, in my humble opinion, is a good thing.  

Multitasking is for work. Work is the place where I need a multitude of apps open, and I need to be able to switch back and forth quickly. It’s the place where I need to have a multitude of tools available and ready in case I need them for any given task that I’m handed.  

When I’m at home, not only is multitasking unnecessary, it’s actually detrimental to my creative flow. Switching back and forth between apps all of the time doesn’t help anyone focus, and that is a fact.  

Having one app open at a time, focusing on using that app for creative purposes is what I need. The iPad forces me to choose which app I want to be working on right now. Maybe with split screen you can work on two apps at once, but seriously, this is mostly to make it easier to copy and paste between two apps, or to reference one thing while writing or drawing on the other side of the screen. You’re typically still doing only one task, just using two apps to do it. 

The whole point of the iPad, for me, is to focus, to tune out all of the other distractions that make work . . . well, work.  

This is why I’ve switched to the iPad, and also why I have started looking at apps that force me to focus on one thing, to remove all distractions. Life is full of too many distractions, my personal computing device shouldn’t be one of them. It should enable me to work creatively and focus on that creativity. 

So Portable 

The second reason is that it’s so portable. A laptop is portable, yes. But an iPad takes portability to another level. There is no need for a keyboard, although I carry one with me when I’m out and about because I write a lot. The apps are designed to be used without a keyboard or a trackpad, something that can’t really be said for any apps designed for laptops, even those laptops that have touchscreens are not really optimized for a touch experience. They are still very much traditional laptops, with an added “cool factor” of having a screen that you can touch.  

The iPad (and other tablets) are designed to be used without any other peripherals. If you don’t want to grab a stylus (or pencil, or whatever), and if you aren’t feeling like adding bulk to your iPad with a keyboard, it will still have what you need, albeit your typing will be slower. But there are tradeoffs with anything. The tradeoff with a laptop is that you are sacrificing some portability for the power and convenience of a built-in keyboard and improved computing power.  

Creativity

I like technology, but I don’t get all drooly when someone starts talking about the latest processors and graphics cards, or even when people start talking about the highest resolution screens.  

What I’m all about is getting tools that help me be more creative, that are designed well. I want tools (whether that be apps or tablets, phones or computers) that get out of my way. Instead of trying to dictate how my creative flow should go, they allow me to create without distractions and create in my own way.  

I’m a musician, I’m a writer, and I need tools that allow me to work on a blank canvas without the clutter. I don’t need desktop grade apps with all of the bells and whistles (reviewers seem bent on calling this a fault in the iPads). I don’t need or want a trackpad, or OS X-type features. I need apps that are simple, well designed, and designed for creative people. I don’t need a ton of features in these apps, I just need the right features. 

Conclusion

For me, simplicity and funcitonality of deisgn will always be more important than the sheer number of features that ship with a piece of hardware or software. This is why computers are not my go-to devices for my personal endeavors anymore. I need my devices to be simple, eliminate distractions, be very portable, and allow me to be creative in my own way.  

So for me, the iPad will be my device of choice until Apple loses their minds and starts turning the iPad into the MacBook, then I’ll rethink. But for now, the iPad has nearly everything that I want, and I’m hopeful that the iPad Pro will eventually give me everything else that’s on my wish list. 

On Sharing, Art, and Personal Battles 

 It’s pitch black outside. I can see next to nothing. Just the lights from a few of my neighbors houses and the glow of the temple spire in the distance.  Mornings are so relaxed. Wake up before the hustle and bustle of kids running around, the only noises are the sounds of the house. The fridge running, the furnace turning on every-so-often, and the hum of the kitchen lights above my head.  

I keep one of the kitchen lights off in the morning so that it stays dim and relaxed in the morning. Too much light just makes it feel like the day is starting too early, that it’s time to get to work or do some chores. I like the quiet, soft, and dark feel of the morning time. I feel like I’m the only one awake and that my thoughts can just be my own. It’s almost as if being around other people makes it so my thoughts aren’t necessarily just for me, that being around someone makes my private life somehow public.  

I need time alone. It’s part of who I am, and I’m becoming more like that, introverted. I just need time to think things through, to get creative, to not have anyone around to ask what I’m doing or have to explain my actions to anyone. I need time to write without anyone around to ask what I’m writing about or why. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing about, all that matters is that I’m writing.  

Somehow even the presence of other people in the room who know me makes me self-conscious about my writing, as if somehow them being in the room gives them the ability to perceive what I’m working on, or that they’ll ask me what I’m working on and I’ll feel obligated to tell them. I like to keep my creative pursuits to myself until I feel ready to share them. It’s like crafting something special that just won’t make any sense until it’s complete. It’s my special project that I don’t want anyone to criticize until I have completed it and I know that it has passed my own scrutiny. I am harsh enough on my own work to not need anyone else’s criticism until I feel ready to take the criticism.  

I suppose part of me wants to make sure that the criticism that I get isn’t just poking holes in things that I knew already, things I was planning on fixing anyway. That’s the problem with handing out unfinished work is that people notice the things that I already knew about and was in the process of fixing instead of noticing the smaller things that I hadn’t noticed yet. They’ll notice the plot holes that I was still filling, or the section that felt a little rushed or too drawn out, when I was going to edit it and just hadn’t had time. I don’t believe an artist should need help to make his art good, but I think that almost all creatives need help to make his works great.  

I can make good stuff, I write well enough on my own to be able to write good stuff, but I know that my skills aren’t sufficient to make something spectacular on my own. I need help with a lot of different things to be able to make something turn from good to great, and that’s ok, I can accept that. I would be foolish not to accept the fact that I need help to improve my writing.  

But I guess what I’m realizing about myself is that I struggle to share my art with others. It feels like I’m giving away part of myself, and that’s a scary prospect, no matter how good you are at your craft. 

It’s something I’m working on. Hopefully it’s not always such an embarrassing prospect, to share less than perfect art in the hopes that some feedback will help me improve.

Having a Bi-Lingual Home Isn’t as Simple as I Thought

(This is an older blog post that I’m migrating from my old blog)

I lived in Brazil for two years.  I was serving as a missionary for my church.  While I was there I learned a lot of different things.  One of those things was the Portuguese language.  I was very determined to learn to speak like a native.

I worked at it, practiced constantly, listened intently, and learned quickly.  Towards the end of my mission some people were unsure if I was a native or not.  Between my tan skin and accent they weren’t sure if I was Brazilian or not.  I took that as a compliment.  I had worked hard to speak well and had found over the course of my time there that I had an affinity for picking up and mimicking dialects.

brlarge
Brazilian Flag.  “Order and Progress”

When I was working with my companion from Minas Gerais I started speaking like a Mineiro.  When I was with my Pernambucano companion I started speaking like one too.

All in all, I came home to the United States with a great sense of pride in my accomplishments and a slight Brazilian accent when I spoke English.  There were a few months after getting home that I had to translate from Portuguese to English in my head because the Portuguese phrase came to mind instead of English.  By the way, it’s a really strange experience to struggle to transition back to your native language, just sayin’.

I continue to try to keep up with my Brazilian friends, and I try to keep up with the language.  I try anyway, even if my success rate is really low.

My wife and I had talked here and there about raising our kids as bi-lingual.  She would speak English, I would speak Portuguese.  It was a fun thing to think about, but I don’t think that either of us had seriously thought it through, we had just passively thought “ooh, that would be cool”.

My oldest brother and his wife decided that they would teach their kids to be tri-lingual.  My brother speaks Portuguese, his wife speaks German, and everyone else speaks English.  They’ve done a great job of teaching their daughter all three languages as she’s grown up.  And we decided it would be a great idea for us to do the same with our son. . . . Turns out it’s a lot harder than I thought.

I was hoping that I would just speak in Portuguese to him and he would pick it up and everything would be great. It has proven to be a much larger task than I had imagined.

One of the reasons for the difficulty is that I haven’t spoken Portuguese as much as I have wanted to in the 6+ years since I’ve been back from Brazil.  I’m a little bit rusty, to say the least.  There are things that I don’t remember how to say, and there are some things that I struggle to translate into Portuguese.

Sometimes you just want to say “Hey there buddy!”, but the equivalent translation just doesn’t seem to convey what you’re trying to say.  I think that most people in my situation are ok with having second-rate Portuguese, after all it is a second language.  But for some reason bad Portuguese makes me feel ashamed.

Me in a small town near Rio Grande da Serra

I left my mission feeling that I had mastered conversational Portuguese.  I understood most everything that people said, or that was written.  I was learning words quickly, had a great grasp of the grammar, and could express myself clearly.  I felt that I had accomplished something great.  And now it’s fading.

Every time I speak in Portuguese I’m reminded of how much of the skill I’ve lost.  I’m reminded at how much I’ve forgotten, and how infantile my Portuguese is now as compared to when I was in Brazil.  When I try to speak Portuguese to my son I’m actually a little embarrassed with myself.  I’m ashamed that I haven’t kept up on such an important skill.  I worked two years on that skill for goodness sakes!  Now I’ve gone and let it get all rusty.

I still would like to speak Portuguese to my son, but I’m starting to realize that it’s going to take more than just deciding to do so.  I’m going to need to actually practice again, speak with natives again and reset my brain.

I’m also going to need to accept that my Portuguese isn’t what it used to be and either accept my poor language skills and potentially teach my son a lot of incorrect colloquialisms, or I can get back into the game start re-learning some Portuguese!

I think that I shall be doing the latter, and I hope that my Brazilian friends are bothered with me calling them for language study time.

Car Hunting and Cars in General

Hunting for Cars is not for the faint of Heart

My hat is off to all those out there who excel at all things cars. Total respect is deserved to those who understand car things, and engines, and who like that sort of thing.  

I am not one of those people.  

For me, cars are a necessary evil. They cost money to buy. Then they break and they cost money to fix. They cost money to maintain, and to feed with their expensive fuels.  

They are stressful to me. Maybe I’ll be able to get over that if cars and I spend some more time together. But I get the feeling that even if I spend some significant time beneath the hood of a car getting familiar with its innards that I will still find them stressful.  

Why can’t someone just design a car that just . . . You know, works? A car that is designed to last with no serious malfunctions for a determined period of time or mileage and is reasonably priced. And while you’re at it, could you fix this whole global warming thing, and maybe throw in a dash of world peace? If you have some time, you know, at your leisure. 

“Oh, you mean you want a new car” You might be saying to yourself. Well, no I don’t want a new car. Those things are ridiculously overpriced, and depending on a lot of different factors they may not be any more reliable than buying something made 20 years ago (believe me, I’ve known people who bought new cars and ended up taking them right back to the dealer 3 days later).  

So I buy used cars. It brings its own set of challenges and trade offs. It brings its own set of stresses as well.  

It’s stressful to go out looking for cars knowing that you need to make a decision soon, but you also don’t want to buy something that’s crap. So you may spend hours looking at cars and come home after with nothing to show for it.  

That happened tonight. We went looking at cars all night but ended up not buying any of them. And this whole time my wife’s stress levels are rising because she is without a car at home, and we both are getting stressed because I want to be done with car shopping as well, but at the same time we don’t want to overpay for a car when we could just wait a little longer and get a better deal later.  

I don’t know if there is a lesson or moral to this story. Mostly I’m writing just to write, and I’m posting just to post, so take what you will from this. I’m not even sure that there is anything that you can “take” from this other than knowing that I’m frustrated and tired of car hunting.  

I guess the silver lining here is that I have awesome brothers who take hours out of their day to help me car hunt so that I don’t buy some piece of junk that seemed “good enough” to me, but is really a wolf in a Suburban’s clothes.  

Well, I won’t let this drag on any longer. I bid you adieu, and may your cars treat you all well, and may your car searches be more fruitful and wonderous than mine.  

Farewell, until we meet again car search! . . . 
. . . To be continued . . . Likely on Saturday.   

New Goals and Ambitions

So this week I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts and talents, and mostly wondering if I have any that were worth thinking about.

hidden-talent
Check out this kid playing the piano.  Kid’s got talent.

The jury is still out as to whether I have any notable talents. If I have any (apart from being able to play a mean jazz bass solo, and being excellent at tickling my kids, and being annoying) I’m not really sure what to do with them or how to recognize them.

So, being the religious guy that I am, I decided to take the matter to the Lord and ask Him if I had any talents worth developing, and if I did which one I should focus on.

I got an answer. And thus, here I am writing again. I felt very distinctly that I should focus on my writing. It’s not the first time that I’ve felt that I need to work on my writing, but this time was different. I got a very distinct feeling that I should not only write every day, and write much more than I already am, but that I should publish my writings in my blog. For what purpose I have no idea. But I’m willing to try.

So my goal is to now write every day, and publish . . . Something . . . every day.

I’m hoping that I’ll see some result from this experiment, something that will encourage me to keep on publishing and working on my writing. I suppose only time will tell what the result of this all will be.

And so, result or not, success or not, I am starting tonight on what looks to be a very long campaign of publishing something every day, and hopefully publishing something not boring every day.

Morning People

Becoming a morning person is not a lot of fun. If you haven’t convinced yourself that you don’t want to be a morning person by the end of that first morning, then you just wait until the second morning. You’ll give up pretty soon.

To become a morning person you need to change two habits just to be able to establish one. You need to get out of the habit of going to be bed late or watching TV until late at night, and replace it with an early-to-bed habit. And you need to change the habit of getting up late with the early-to-rise habit. But going to be bed early doesn’t gain you much utility in life without getting up early, so it’s kind of a pointless habit unless you actually do get up early. So, you get rid of two habits, but only get utility out of one of the habits that you replaced them with.

The hope is that you’ll be able to achieve more in those early hours of the morning.

My problem currently is not the waking up part of the equation. I can wake up, or I can wake my body up. I go a on a little walk, the cold air chills my body awake. But my mind is a stubborn beast. My mind, even after walking for 10 minutes in the ice-cold January air, is still sluggishly sloshing through the motions. I’m writing, but not particularly creatively. This is starting to feel like one of those anti-self-help blog articles that I see every-so-often on the internets.

I’ve been awake for long enough that my mind should be catching up to my body. But as I sit here in my warm house, just having eaten my cold cereal, I find myself wanting to drift off to sleep again. I got up this early in the first place so that I could write for a longer period of time and get more done, but now that I’m awake all I really want to do is to go back to sleep.

Being a morning person is just not that fun. It sucks. But it’s the only way that I can fulfill my goals. My lunch time is too inconsistent of a time to write. Depending on what I have going on at work, it just doesn’t work out that well. And after work is dicey. Depending on how needy my kids are, and how late they go to sleep, I may never feel like writing. Just getting the kids ready for bed is a Herculean effort at times, and by the time they’re in bed I either want to shut my mind off for a while or go to bed myself. And if I keep on getting up so confoundedly early, I will almost certainly just want to go to bed when they do.

Surprisingly my walk didn’t take as long as I was expecting. And my scripture study and writing session didn’t take that long either. I’m sitting here at 6:45 AM wondering how I managed to take a walk, eat breakfast, and write 500 words, all in 45 minutes. Maybe being a morning person isn’t so bad after all. I mean I still just want to fall over and sleep on the next soft thing I see, but I managed to accomplish a lot in a relatlively short amount of time.

Maybe this whole morning person routine won’t be so bad after all. I don’t think I’m going to get anything done on my other writing projects this morning (you know, the ones that I actually woke up to work on), my mind is just not waking up. In fact, I’m feeling it shut down right now. But I think with some practice I can get this whole morning person thing down. . . . Or at least to the point where I can do more than just complain about waking up. I mean, honestly, who wakes up at 6:00 just to complain to a word processor about waking up? Who does that to themselves? Me, apparently. But not tomorrow . . . maybe.