Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ah, Winter!

Perhaps it's perverse of me, but I always look forward to the Winter Solstice. I like the dead of winter, though many people around here do not.
My daughter asks if I really like the weather here in the NorthWest. I do.
I admit that my "office" rarely hits 50°F during the winter, but it is something I can prepare for with extra layers.
I like the long nights, the very short days. Up here at 48° North, we'll get less than 8 hours of daylight.
I'm OK with that. I spend most of my free time either at the keyboard or reading and I don't need sunlight for either of those.
But why do I like Winter? I look forward to the new year, and like my pen-pal Katie, I delight in the returning sun. Yes, I know I just wrote that I don't need sunlight for my main passtimes, but I still relish the _idea_ of the warming earth, the Spring. And hope.
That's what Winter is for me: hope. Starting with the Solstice, the return of the sun. Then weathering the "holiday season", getting through the duties and the parties and the forced cheerfulness. I look forward to New Year's Day.
I try to spend NYD as a mini-model of what I'd like the coming year to be. For me, that's cooking, writing, reading, doing something artistic. Not getting frustrated, not watching TV, not doing chores. It's a superstition, of sorts, and I don't know where I read about it, but it feels very good to me.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Please explain this to me

I just overheard a man being interviewed on the radio. He was asked how he was going to vote in the Presidential election.
"I had been thinking of voting for A, but he's not doing too well in the polls. I'm thinking now of voting for B."
Excuse me? This sounds as though it is more important to have voted for a guy who can win than it is to have voted for someone who represents what you believe.
Maybe that would work if we were a democracy, where we get to vote on each and every item of importance, but we don't live in a democracy. The United States of America is a republic, and there's no excuse for not knowing that. It's the first line of the pledge of allegiance: I pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the republic for which it stands.
I understand wanting to be on the winning side. I can even understand feeling you'd rather vote for any one of "your guys" than let one of mine win.
But do you really know how the poll was conducted that put B ahead of A? Afterall, that is the sole reason you're changing your vote. Not because you abhor what A stands for, not because B has revealed he secretly has your best interests  in mind, but because someone said more people like B than A.
For that you're shifting your support? It borders on a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hint that B is ahead of A, and people start saying that they support B now. Soon, the poll turns out to be correct. Now lots of people _do_ support B instead of A.
Has either candidate convinced you with his sincerity? his logic? his record?
You changed the direction the future government will take because someone somewhere said they'd changed their mind.
Please explain to me how you will get better representation in government this way? 

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Finally bought it

Hitchen's acidic intro aside, "The Portable Atheist" is worth reading. Lots of familiar things (Einstein, Sagan, Russel, et al) but some new ones, too.
Not a light read, but good for leaving out on the desk at work. You know, to inspire intellectual conversation?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

You may be right.

Like a lot of people who tend to speak their minds, I often say more than I should. It is especially difficult for me to bite down on smart remarks when I see the same stupidity day after day.
I mentioned earlier the failed fast? I'm trying to be sparing with words, too. It's not working too well, but anything I refrain from saying is another step away from an anger spiral.
I like the response zen students are asked to practice: "You may be right."
No commitment, no argument. No anger. Just an acknowledgement that the other person has at least a remote chance of being right.

The trade I see is that, in exchange for pretending the other person isn't an idiot, I get to see them stopped cold, gulping for what to say.
I love it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fasting Failure

Last Monday, I decided to do a 1-day fast. I haven't done that in a VERY long time; decades certainly.
I got through the day on water, made a nice dinner for my wife, and felt very proud on Tuesday morning.
I met a guy that day, who coincidentally mentioned he'd been fasting on Monday for many years!
Does it get easier?
Yes. Hang in there.
So yesterday was my second attempt. I say attempt because my about 3pm, my head felt like it was going to come off.
I figured "no one knows about this but me, so only I will know I failed." I got home and ate dinner. Head still ached. Had some wine. No help. Took a pill, went to bed.
About 3am, I felt better.
What conclusion can I draw from this? Maybe that I'm not as tough as I'd like to think. Maybe I'm just weak. Or hypoglycemic.
Maybe I'll try again next Monday.
Searching for a Widget to post with; DashBlog seems to hang, so this is from one from Google Dashboard Widgets for Mac.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I keep from you what I want from you

A co-worker asked if my wife had left for her trip yet.
I told him I didn't know.
You don't know? Didn't she call you?
No. I assume all's well, or I'd have heard.
Well, call her. She has her cell phone, right?
Yes, but it's only turned on if there's a problem. Besides, I don't know the number.
You don't know your own wife's cell number?
Oh, I'm sure it's at home in the address book.
You don't have it stored in your cell phone?
I don't have a cell phone.

What does this mini-dialog illustrate? No, not that I'm a Luddite. If anything, I'm a technophiliac, reformed. I think what it shows is that my world does not extend itself via a telephone, of any kind.
I tried talking on a cell phone while driving. Once. I nearly ran off the road.
I don't much like phones. I dislike them so much, I once turned off the radio in the car because the DJ was calling a random bank in London to ask whoever answered if they were celebrating the Queen's Birthday.
Alone in my car, I could not listen to one stranger call another. That was the low spot for me, a wake-up (I'm sorry to say) call.

I now make 8 or 10 calls a week to strangers, as part of my job. I still don't like it, but I don't much like my job anyway. I just queue them up until I'm feeling strong, then I take a deep breath and pick up the phone.

What passes for the necessary social contact in my world? Almost nothing, praise my luck.
Maybe that's why I have trouble writing blogs. It's kind of like a random call to a speaker phone. I don't know who's listening, I might not say anything at all.
But put me face-to-face with someone, I can talk for an hour.

When a friend and I tried to meet at lunch to write, I always talked through the session. She said my problem was that I was a story teller, not a writer. Maybe I need the feedback from a face in front of me...
But notice I haven't put my face on this blog?
I wonder why...

Buckminster, my internal face

Friday, November 30, 2007

Playing the game

I'm counting down the remaining days before my boss retires. Fifteen. But that's the number we work together, not the calendar days. What difference does it make? He counts the calendar days and doesn't know how much I'm looking forward to his leaving.
I found that the only way to keep my cool working for him was to tell myself he's bugging me on purpose. I can resist that.
Isn't that strange?
This is an introspection trick, IMO. Not that it's any less valid for that, I'm just saying I know I'm playing a game in my head. As my dad used to say: "Why not? Isn't your head that's causing the problem in the first place?"
When I just thought he was irritating, I would spiral-up and get furious, stamp my feet, and generally steam my own brain. But once I decided it was on purpose, I heard the little voice tell me that I could frustrate him by not playing the game.

And that's what it's about: playing the game, but playing your own version of it.
It took me years to get around to finding it, but "Finite and Infinite Games" by James P. Carse helped me understand a lot of things.
The subtext was that to play any game, all parties must tacitly agree to play. And that brings me to an old line from my early metaphysics days:
Life is a game with one main rule - that you not acknowledge that it is a game. If you break that rule, you're not allowed to play anymore.

Here's to rule breaking!

Welcome, if you insist

I can't imagine why people read these things, frankly. You don't know me and I don't know you. So isn't this all really an exercise in egotism? Don't we all pretend that someone out there gives a hoot what we have to say?
I've known people in the radio business. One told me that the only way to go on the air without choking is to pretend that there's really no one listening.
That's probably tough to do on the radio, but this is a web log, a blog. Odds are there really ISN'T anyone listening.
Last time I started one of these, I couldn't write anything. Not enough ego, I suppose. Why am I doing it again? A friend of mine has a blog that I read sometimes. Seems only fair that I post things once in a while, too.

Don't tell anyone.