Friday, April 29, 2011

The Speed of Thought

The human mind is an incredible thing. The speed with which our thoughts arise, move, change, transform, and fall away can often astound me. Because of the journey I’ve been on over the last period of time, I have been focusing on simplification, both externally, by purging myself of many of my possession, and internally, by trying to do a better job of focusing on the “here and now” and not letting my thoughts (the monkey mind) run away from.

I won’t kid you, it has been a struggle. If I had to characterize it, I would say that I went from being in the here and now 1 out of 10 moments to, maybe, 2 out of 10 moments. The main difference is that now I am often more aware of when the monkey mind has taken hold and is in the processing of running away with thoughts that are not real.

I got back from lunch a short while ago, and because it has been a quiet and very productive day, I decided to simply take a walk around the building. I was probably a quarter of the way into the walk when I realized that my monkey mind was in a complete runaway state. It was merrily dashing through all sorts of imaginative thoughts, good, bad, confused, and indifferent. I was deep down a tangent when the realization of it came to me.

It was so dazzling I was amazed as the speed and ferocity of that little monkey mind dashing all around. I took a series of deep breaths and concentrated, as best I could, and simply walking down the hallway without the monkey mind getting away from me. In itself that can be a difficult things because, what my mind did, instead of concentrating on being in the hallway, it started to write this article, right there, as I walked down the hallway and tried to focus the monkey mind on being in that moment, my mind was more than willing to skip ahead to this moment.

Like I said, it was pretty dang awesome. I managed to reel it in and get it focused so that I was able to simply walk down the hall, but it took an effort of will and it keep threatening to get away from me again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dharma Storms

At the end of a long day here at the office. I have several things that are telling me that. First, I have a pain in the neck – literally, not figuratively. I am sure it comes from either working with my head tilted or sitting on a teleconference with my head tilted for too long. I am hoping that a nice hot shower when I get home tonight will ease it a bit. I have the habit, when I get busy or involved in what I’m working on to let time slip by without noticing it – resulting in sitting in place for too long. I had a couple of those absorbing tasks today and I suspect I am suffering from the consequences of it. Always get up, always move – except when you forget too.

I’ve been following the news regarding the storms that rolled through the south, both from a curiosity level and from a personal level. That was a pretty impressive set of storms. Weather, the hand of nature, is always an impressive thing. On a pleasant day we can easily forget how powerful and destructive it can be on an unpleasant day. The scope of a vast storm-front like that is amazing.

I’ve often said that, having moved to California in my twenties, that one of the things that I consistently miss from the Midwest is the summer storms, their raw power and beauty, sweeping completely across that endless horizon on the great plains, a wall of wind and rain and hail. I don’t miss them in the sense of being battered by them, but I miss them in the sense of their awe-inducing majesty. You cannot help but feel very small when you behold them. South Dakota is the land of impressive thunderstorms and wind storms and the not infrequent tornadoes and they were a frequent occurrence in my youth. I still remember, at around ten or so, laying in bed late at night and feeling the wind buffet the entire house. In order to lull myself to sleep I would always pretend that wind was the little men of the mountains, playing nine pin ala Rip Van Winkle. (The other thing that I also miss is the endless sweep of the stars on a clear night, unobstructed by terrain, unpolluted by light.)

I thought for a while about Zen and storms today – probably because the two of them were on my mind. My thought was basically this – “It is easy to practice Dharma in beautiful weather. It is quite another thing to practice Dharma in a storm.”. Of course, there is no storm and no not storm as far as the Dharma is concerned. For the rest of us though, storms are real, and impressive. To pass through such storms is very much in the nature of our journey on this world.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Suddenness of Change

Often, change seems to happen very quickly. Even when it is a long time building. I was thinking about that today - my friend T. was fired from his job this morning. It was what I would call half a surprise to him, since he has been going through the process and in and out of meetings and his hearings. (All in all I think it's your basic unlawful termination on several levels, but ultimately that decision with rest with lawyers, a judge and juries.)

It did get me thinking about the suddenness of change though. Even when it is slow approaching, the threshold appears very quickly, often just the blink of an eye as we slip across it. Often, there isn't anything we can do about - things develop their own momentum, they have their weight, they move under their own volition.

Things change. We change. Time changes. Ovid said "tempus edax rerum". (Time, the devourer of all things.) I think that is a pretty apt description of it. The changes that flow along with time are so inexorable they are amazing. Wise men, men far wiser than I at least, say that we should learn to accept, even embrace change. I'd have to agree with that. As difficult as it can be at times, change is inevitable. The sooner we learn to embrace it, to accept it, the sooner we gain the ability to do the best we can and then let it lie, go to sleep, knowing we did the best we could and that the rest of lies in the inevitable flow of the universe.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I was thinking about something as I drove into work this morning. I was thinking about the confessional aspect of writing. As a Catholic, Confession is one of our central rituals – it is necessary for the salvation of our soul and our spiritual progress. Writing, as a confessional, holds a similar position in the soul of a writer. It is as necessary for the spirit of a writer to write as it necessary for a Catholic to confess. The main difference is a writer confesses all the gory details in public and may or may not be forgiven when it’s all said and done.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Well, I am sitting in the living room, the sun has just dropped below the horizon on a beautiful California spring night, and I am watching Friday's episode of Sanctuary on DVR, having just returned from a steak and parmesan shrimp dinner, with fresh broccoli and a baked potato.

It's been a supremely lazy day, during which I did - virtually nothing. I met B. and T. for breakfast at the Hickory Pit, then came home and read the Sunday paper. From there, I watched "The Men Who Stare and Goats" and then curled up reading "Cleopatra: A Life" and napped through the afternoon before meeting Tony for dinner.

If I had to describe the entire weekend I would definitely use the word "lazy". I had a lazy Friday. I had a lazy Saturday. I had a lazy Sunday. Oh, I did things - but they were lazy things and it made the weekend almost perfect. There are times, as we go through life, where we simply need to do nothing. To give ourselves time to just relax, to

T.R. often refers to such days as "slender days" and I think that is a great description. I definitely had a nice and slender weekend. So, here is to slender days and wishes for a happy Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Isolation's Worth

The other day my thoughts had turned to theme in writing and I've continued down that vein for the last couple of days. As I was processing those thoughts I thought "if I were to have a theme for 2010, what would that theme be". For reasons I am not entirely sure of the thought that immediately popped into my mind - and has stayed there in the subsequent days - was isolation.

Absent the meditations on theme, I am not sure if I would have gone there if asked to describe 2010 in a word - I would have been more likely to consciously choose healing. It was definitely a time of healing. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was an accurate enough description of 2010.

There are a couple of reasons for that. First, I think the process of being ill or injured is always a solitary process, as is an subsequent healing. Yes, other people can certainly make that journey next to us, but essentially, we are there alone - especially when we close our eyes, especially in the solitude of our minds, especially in the dark of the night. There are a thousand small things that we must move through alone, in isolation, when we are healing. The love and support of the people around us may very well mean we are not alone - but it is quite possible to be isolated in a crowd. The steps on the journey of healing are steps that we have to take - no one can take them for us. Healing is result of isolation's worth.

Second, 2010 was "The Year of the Great Purge" where nearly three quarters of my "stuff" was donated or trashed or moved on to it's next home. Ultimately, that was work that was done in isolation (though with the constant encouragement of T.R.), even though other people physically helped (my friend B. was invaluable in the simple task of hauling things up and down stairs, especially since a lot of it was done while I was on crutches). The process of going through the things, of reviewing them, sorting them, and psychologically purging them is largely a process that must, of necessity, be solitary.

Those two threads lead me to the term "Isolation's Worth". You see, when the term popped into my mind, it was absent any of the connotations our modern, over stimulated society, absent anything negative. It is isolation in the sense of being alone, in the sense of being still, in the sense of being unfiltered. If I look at the events of late 2009 and 2010, when I consider all the things that happened, on the small and intimate scale, on the large and grand scale, I think of it as a time of necessary, healing, healthy isolation. I have come through that time with a clearer, stronger sense of self and direction than I have had in a long time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: Shadows At Dawn

My brother recommended this to me a while ago and it seemed interesting enough that I downloaded it to my Kindle. I spent the last week or so reading it. It is a history book (non-fiction) and, from the standpoint of story-telling, I personally found it jumbled for no apparent reason other than to make it longer.

The author tells the story of the Camp Grant Massacre in Arizona from four different points of view – the American’s, the Mexican’s, and two tribal groups – the Tohono O’odham Indians on the side of the attackers and the Apache victims of the massacre. It would have been interesting except for what I considered to be technical problems – the author first establishes that he is going to write it from the four POV’s and then promptly proceeds to routinely disregard the framework he established.

The result, though interesting, in thematically jumbled.

That said, it is an interesting book and it does reveal the “intimate violence” of the frontier and has a moment or two of brilliance. I think it would have been a better book if the author had kept to his self-imposed narrative framework more rigorously because he kept representing things he had already presented (which it was lead me to the conclusion that he was padding the book). If you are unfamiliar with the Camp Grant Massacre however, it is worth a read.

On the tail of this book I have started another one that have been looking forward to – “Cleopatra, A Life” by Stacy Shiff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Waking Into A Memory

I had an interesting experience last night.

I did not dream, but rather I woke in a specific set of memories. There wasn’t a dream associated with them, since often, I will dream of something and then wake thinking about the subject of the dream. Rather, I woke right inside the memories of 1981, when I was a student at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.

I went to school there for about two years, worked a variety of part time jobs, lived in a couple of different places, and just generally have fond memories of the experience. The memory set was both the place (Vermillion is a nice little town, typical of small college towns in the Midwest) and the people (I went to school with a cluster of people that I had grown up with, as well as making new friends and acquaintances while I was there).

I lay awake in the darkness and just let my mind wander through those memories, most of which were very good (and nearly thirty years away). I grinned a lot, there in the darkness, as I remembered people and places and events.

I’m not sure why I woke in that memory set – it may be related to the twelve boxes, since there were definitely items form that time frame in the boxes, including a copy of my college transcripts. It’s possible that seeing those documents stirred up those deep memories. It is also possible that something else touched them and caused my subconscious to recall them. The thing that was the most interesting to me though was waking directly into the memory set, that was an unusual, but cool, experience.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Meditation on Theme In Writing

I love to write. Writing is an essential part of me. I’ve done it for a very long time. (I still have a copy of an early attempt at a short story, type-written, on the back of a form from my father’s construction business – it is one of the things that I keep as I went through my purging.) I was weaving my way in and out of work today and thought of the challenge of theme in writing. offers up that theme is “what a novel’s story means”. I like that definition – it is more finely nuanced them the subject (Oxford dictionary says theme is “the subject of the piece of writing”).

Anyway, I was walking down the hall, weaving my way through the afternoon, and starting to slow my brain down a bit form the hurly-burly of the working world and my wandering mind turned to questions of theme in writing. Specifically, what I was contemplating was whether or not I was missing an overall theme in my creative writing. I have plenty of subjects, but what I seem to be lacking is a central theme (or even more than one). It is an interesting though to me and I might mull it around for a while. Looking backwards, at times when I have been highly prolific in creative writing, I’m pretty sure that I can see overarching themes.

It feels to me, as I sit here at my desk this afternoon, taking a brief break, right. It feels right. It feels like a lot of what I’ve been writing lately has been words without a theme. I get a feeling that there are some answers nestled inside meditation on theme, so I am going to focus on that this week and see what comes out of it. Often, when we write, we feel the need to tell a story – whether we are telling it as prose or poetry. But, it is not so much the story (the subject, the characters, the details) that we need to address, but rather the theme that underlying the story, that gives it life.

Relative to that, theme is also what makes a character leap to life on the page. The characters theme is what the character means – not who they are, not what they are, not how they are or the hundred small details that vividly draw fictional characters, but rather the theme of the character – what that character means in the context of the story. Good characters (or perhaps easy characters) come rushing at you fully equipped with their own themes. Characters like that seem to grab you and say “tell my story, tell the meaning of my story”. They are inspired, and they are inspired precisely by that theme.

Or, at least, that is what I think about theme on a Monday afternoon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday's Song of Simplicity

It was a very pleasant Sunday. I slept well, with a dream about an office building, where I was going to some sort of meeting. It was a futuristic dream. I was driving some sort of electrical car, which I pulled into the big glass and stone lobby and then the car itself drive into a hidden niche in the wall where it automatically coupled with the charging device. I rode a big stainless steel elevator to an upper floor (I got the sense that the building was five or six stories tall) and then, when there, I met with someone in a very nice glass and steel conference room where we sat on low couches surrounding a holographic display. I don't remember what the conversation was about, but I do recall that I was meeting with one person who was presenting something to me. I am not sure I would classify it as work dream, given the science fiction elements of it.

On Saturday afternoon, I went out and saw "The Conspirator" at a matinee over at the AMC 14 in Saratoga. I liked the movie. It was stately and well done, definitely worth the price of admission. It managed to tell the story of Mary Surrat in a straight-forward fashion, with solid performances across the board. The casting was excellent, especially in the principle roles - Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson, and Evan Rachel Wood. It definitely has my recommendation if you are in the mood for a solid drama.

I had a quiet Saturday evening and home and then once again slept well and deeply last night. I took today as low and slow as I could. I met Tyrone for breakfast over at the Hickory Pit, then circled over and took my car through the car wash, then stopped at Barnes and Noble on Steven's Creek for an hour or so of browsing. I came home for lunch, then circled back out to go for a three mile walk the length of San Tomas Aquino Park, up and down, in the beautiful sunlight under the blue sky. From there, I circled back home and took an hour and a half nap during the afternoon. Dinner was a cream of mushroom soup and grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches followed by episode's of "Bones" and "Sanctuary" on the DVR.

There are times when the simplicity of an easy day is exactly what we need. Just the ability to take a deep breath and move easy through the day, accomplishing a few things, doing a few things, but none of them under pressure, none of them because we are compelled to do them. Today was one of those days. The evening is falling now, the sun has just set, there is a cool breeze rising and falling. My plan tonight is simple - some time with T.R., a little television, a little reading, and then snugged into bed for another good night sleep.

I continue on my path of simplicity - I spent part of the weekend just doing a sort of survey and considering what items are available for my next purge. It always seems to amaze me that as I have less, I need less, and as I need less, I have less. I often joke that my path to simplicity is going to end with me sitting in the middle of the living room, wearing a bathrobe, eating from a bowl, while watching my 46" Sony. (Because that TV is going to be the last thing to go.) That is an exaggeration of course, but I continue to shed things and as I shed things, I find it easier to shed other things. By freeing myself of the clutter of stuff, I am freeing my mind - to think, to contemplate, to study, to read, to watch, to meditate and yes, to write. Like I said, it is a great feeling.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Foggy Saturday Morning

Friday was a very pleasant day, so I fell asleep last night with the window open. Other than the incidental street sounds, including the inevitable drunks walking home at closing time, it was a very pleasant evening. The weather was almost perfect sleeping weather - cool, crisp, and clean. I slept very deeply, very well, and had a richly detailed dream of a woman bathing.

I am entering the weekend with nothing on the "to do" list. There are several things I may do because I can, because I want to, but there is nothing I need to do because I have too. It is kind of a great feeling. I am going to head out this morning to meet some friends for breakfast at the Hickory Pit in Campbell, and then we'll probably do a walk-through over at Frye's. I am probably going to pick up "Tron" on Blu-Ray. I've also been on the lookout for the first season of Archer. In addition, I have quite a few shows currently stacked up on the DVR and I may spend a bit of time this weekend watching them.

I may go out and get a hair cut this weekend (I am about due, but I am tempted to let it grow just a little bit longer and than have it trimmed back to about the current length). I may also go out and get my car washed. Because of our intermittent storms, I have been putting that off, but I really don't want to put it off any more. I also need to make an appointment to have the car detailed, which I've also been putting off. Then, there are incidental items stacked up for purging here at the apartment.

It is strange, but cleaning out the twelve boxes sort of opened the flood gate and looking through the apartment I identified a couple of more things that can go. A bookcase, two black wire racks for DVD's or CD's, a black display case, possibly one of my two clothing drawers. (There, I noticed that each is a four drawer case, but I only routinely use two drawers in each case, so I could consolidate the stuff down to one.) Additionally, there is build in four shelf rack in one of the closets, which currently has incidental stuff in it. With a little straightening out I can move most of the long term storage (the winter/summer clothing during the season) onto that. I certainly have options.

Unfortunately, we seem to be in the dead zone for spring movies, with the next crop of new movies that interest me coming up in a few weeks. I was looking at the movie schedule this morning to see if there was anything - and I was really struggling. There is an independent film coming out, with Michelle Williams, called Meeks Crossing, that looks interesting, but it is either not out yet, or its not playing anywhere near here. I did notice that at the Blue Light in Cupertino the latest version of Red Riding Hood, with Amanda Seyfriend, is playing. I am not really interested in it, but if the mood strikes me and I feel a need - I may go check it out.

In short, I am entering the weekend with a lot of options and no requirements, and it all may just depend on how I am feeling for the option that I decide to exercise. And, just because I think it is a truly vivid image (and Amanda Seyfried a beautiful young woman), I've included the publicity still from Red Riding Hood in this entry.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Favorite Ghost Story

This is my favorite, true, ghost story. The events narrated here took place in 1984, in St. Francis South Dakota, at the old Girls Building. St. Francis Indian School originally began it's life as St. Francis Mission and in the eighties most of the old mission buildings were still standing.

I was working as a cop at the time and my cousin R. was working as the night watchmen for the mission. Around one or two in the morning I pulled in front of the Girls building, between the rectory and the church, and met my cousin for a cup of coffee. It was a pleasant South Dakota summer night, clear and cool, a relief from the heat of the day.

I was sitting on the hood of the patrol car, facing the building, while my cousin sat on the hood of his car and faced me. Looking over my cousins shoulder I could see the front door and the windows on both sides of the door. To the left of the door (from my vantage point) was a tall window that let into the administrators office of the school. The single door led down a fairly long hallway and then let out into a common area between the old girls playroom and the cafeteria at an L turn.

As I sat there, talking with my cousin, I saw the curtains on that window move and a dark figure peer out. It was a human shaped form, as if someone was pushing aside the curtain and then leaning over to look out the window. I didn't think anything of it. It was not terribly unusual for people to be in the buildings as odd hours. I simply asked my cousin if there was anyone in the office there.

He said no, that he had gone through there a short while ago and it was empty. I told him what I was seeing and he shifted slightly in his seat so he could watch the window as well. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the figure pushed aside the curtain again, leaned over and looked out. This spooked my cousin a bit. My cousin was a spooky guy (and having worked many a night at the mission it was certainly understandable).

We saw the figure appear twice more. It was as if there was someone inside the office and at irregular intervals they would look out to see if we were still there. My cousin handed me the key to the far door, at the L end of the hallway, and he took the key to the main door. We waited until the figure peered out one more time and then let the curtain fall back into place and we TOOK OFF RUNNING!

My cousin dashed to the front door and I dashed down the side of the building to the L door, sprinting as fast as I could - I was never a track star, but I was fast enough to be very confident that no one could have made it to the L door and gotten out before I got there - additionally, if they had come out, there was still the common area to cross through and three other, locked, doors to get out of there.

We then proceeded to search the first floor there, from the L door to the lobby and back again, because, until we had completed the search, we were both convinced there was a person in the room there. It wasn't until our search came up empty that we considered the possibility of a ghost or a supernatural being. Formerly, though I did not know it at the time, that room had been routinely used for wakes - the body would lie in state there until the funeral.

I often tell people that this is my favorite ghost story for one simple reason - it is the least "spooky" of the ghost stories I know, or the strange things I have encountered over the course of my life. It was a calm, rational, thorough search for a person - until it was realized there was no person there!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Strange and Vivid Dream

I had a strange and vivid dream last night. I can't remember when the last time was that I dreamed as vividly.

In the dream I was at work, it was very late at night, near midnight. (I used to routinely work late into the night when I was an analyst, prior to moving into management, in part because a lot of analysis work is best done undisturbed and in part because I have a tendency toward being a workaholic).

I had left the office and walked across the street to the parking lot at the company next door. At the far end of that parking lot was a small gas scooter. I was starting the scooter up when I saw a woman walking toward the only other car in the parking lot. This car was an older model car, a nineteen sixties Plymouth, with the fins, blue in color.

As the woman approached the parking lot she stumbled and fell. I went over to check on her and she had badly sprained her ankle and was in a significant amount of pain. I helped her into her car, getting her into the front seat (stitched vinyl).

Given the amount of pain she was in I decided to call an ambulance. I dialed 911 on my cell phone and had to give them directions to my location (in the dream I was on 12th street, but in reality, it has another name) and the nearest cross street. I stood next to the car, talking to the lady while we waited for the arrival of the ambulance.

While I was awaiting the arrival, a city bus pulled up at the bus stop nearby (in reality, that bus stop has been removed and there is no longer bus service on that particular street). There were about twenty passengers in the bus. They all got out of the bus and stood around the car, as if everyone was now waiting for the arrival of the ambulance.

At that point, I woke up. I have no idea what the dream means, or how to interpret it, or what sparked it, though it had many familiar elements. I simply chalk it up as a strange and vivid dream.

As I told T.R. about the dream in the morning, we talked about alternate lives (in the quantum or reincarnation sense), which I have also often thought was a good explanation for the vividness of some dreams. I definitely lean toward the multiple universes interpretation of quantum mechanics.

I think that we are aware, on some level, of our simultaneous progression through our alternate lives and that sometimes the memories and experiences of those alternate lives bleed over in this one, the primary life that this version of our selves is experiencing. These experiences are close enough that they seem real and they seem "us", but distant enough that we are aware of that distance.

I've got no magic answers of course, simply some thoughts sparked by a very vivid dream.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Twelve Boxes

The great 11 box purge turned into a 12 box purge, because there was a box hidden down behind the others. In the previous entry I detailed the contents of the boxes and their disposition. To make a long story short – five boxes gone, five boxes of books kept, and two boxes of personal mementos. All in all it was a very successful purge night!

I got home from work yesterday, had a quick dinner of sushi (golden California rolls and Philadelphia rolls from Totoro Sushi Boat on Saratoga Avenue.

Then, I fired up the last two episodes of Mildred Pierce on HBO and dove into the purging of boxes. (If you didn’t watch it, Mildred Pierce on HBO was excellent.) I’ve often noticed that when I am purging “stuff” I often need to make a run at it, sort of a series of false starts before suddenly I dive in and start purging.

The vast majority of stuff that ended up destined for the shredder or the trash can last night was notes, notebooks, and personal papers – old records, old letters, etc. A lot of it was old work product or old school product that I probably hung onto at some time, for some reason, and that reason has long since escaped. I ended up with about half a box full of personal papers that I am keeping. These tended to be things that were either interesting to me, or related to my personal history.

Since they’ve been winnowed down to about half a box, they are a very minimal set of documented mementos and I am tempted to scan a good number of them in, and then purge them as well. I would like to organize the ones relating to my personal history into an album, so I can flip through it and reminisce, sort of like a photo album.

There is one remaining task, which is to shred the documents that contain person information, which I will probably do tonight – it won’t take too long.

I wound down the evening with T.R., who has been such a great inspiration for simplification, and then attempted to go to sleep.

I say attempted because my brain was in a complete whirl for about an hour or two after I laid down. I really didn’t fall asleep until about midnight, after several fits and starts. There wasn’t anything specific whirling about, I think it was just a general purpose whirl because in reviewing the records and documents there were a lot of old ones, ones that touched some very old places in my memory – it didn’t particularly call up any specific memory, but it swirling the whole pond around.

I had been blocked up against those boxes for quite a while and it is a very good feeling to have made it past them! On with further simplification.

The Twelve Boxes

This is a brief litany of the 12 boxes purged last night.

Box 1 – assorted mementos and personal items. None purged, but all repacked into a smaller box. This box is my “go to” box of small assorted items for display around the house and around the office. I rotate through it when I want a change.

Box 2 – Personal papers and notebooks. Purged 95% of them as they were just incidental notes or school/work product.

Box 3 – Sixty (five years) of Heavy Metal magazine. Holding as part of my collection. (Note)

Box 4 – Unsorted comic books. Holding as part of my collection.

Box 5 – Comic books and graphic novels. Holding as part of my collection.

Box 6 – Comic books and graphic novels. Holding as part of my collection.

Box 7 – Comic books and graphic novels. Holding as part of my collection.

Box 8 – A bag of personal photos (26 envelopes) and parts of old board games and cards. Kept the photos and purged the games and cards. I will purge the photos as well, since I am fairly certain all of the good photos are already in my album, I am sure these are the flotsam and jetsam of the old film days, however, I did want to quickly flip through them and make sure.

Box 9 – Personal photos, framed photos, diplomas, awards, certificates, etc. Like the mementos above, these tend to be the rotational display items. I am going to hold these and do a detailed sort.

Box 10 – Old personal documents, letters, records, etc. Purged probably 99% of them, held onto a couple that interested me as mementos. Contained sensitive data so they will be headed for an industrial shredder.

Box 11 – Same as Box 10.

Box 12 – Same as Box 10.

Note – I have four “collections” – books, music, movies, and art (generally comic books and graphic novels). I’ve already done a massive purge on the books, reducing four five shelf bookcases to a single bookcase. I moved all of the CD’s from their jewel cases into binders, so instead of 500+ jewel cases, I now simply have 2 binders of music CD’s. Ahead of me I have two more space-creating purges. First, I want to do the same thing with my movie collection that I did with the CD’s – remove them from the jewel cases and reduce their footprint to a pair of binders - I have probably 400+ movies, so they should land comfortably in two binders. Then, I want to go through my comic book collection, and winnow through some of the titles, and re-organize it or refocus it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Spark

All good characters should have a spark of life. This spark is crucial to the inner life of the character. Find the spark, find the character.

Sunday's Tale

I woke in that hour just before dawn, when the eastern sky is layered with shades of deepest blue, waiting to lighten. I lay there in the darkness and listened to the simple sounds of a quiet city morning, to the birds, calling out and planning their day.

I went to Hickory Pit and had breakfast, an omelet with pepper jack cheese and mushrooms, hash browns, wheat toast and Italian roast coffee. My conversation with my friend Tyrone was about the spark that brings a character to life, that mysterious something that makes the written character take on a life of its own and transport you to unexpected places.

From there, I drove to the Laundromat on San Tomas Aquino, in Campbell, next to D&J Hobby. A load of shirts, a load of underclothes, a load of towels, a load of linens. Incidental errands to Ace Hardware (glue and small mounting screws) and Walgreens (cinnamon supplements, band-aids and assorted odds and ends).

Home, to fold and hang and put away those great smelling clothes fresh from the laundry.

Packing a box with my old Playstation 2 and 30 or so old games, all functional, but that I hadn’t played either often or recently. Unhooking and moving my extra computer monitor near the door. A call to Bob.

Picked Bob up and then with his help, hauled the old white recliner down the steps and loaded it into the car with the other donation items. Dropped them at Goodwill.

A stop at the grocery store so Bob could buy big bags of salt for his water softener and a big bag of dog-food, as well as gallons of milk and juice and incidental other liquids – in short, all of things either too bulky or too heavy to carry comfortably on his bike. Bought some incidental items for myself – Greek Gods Yogurt, fresh muffins, and a loaf of wheat bread.

Dropped Bob off and borrowing a finishing saw. Drove home.

Took everything on the desk off. Sawed one inch off the legs of my computer desk, a strange little thing that I have been meaning to do for quite a while. The desk was 29.5 inches tall, just an inch too talk to be comfortable, so I shortened it to 28.5 inches, which is the exact height of my work desk, which is very comfortable. Put everything on the desk back on.

Took a long hot bath, followed by a quick, hot shower.

Tumbled into bed to take a nap and noticed that the big tree outside my bedroom window had opened up and was covered in beautiful, tender, new green foliage. For the first time in 2011 felt as if spring was actually here and not just approaching.

Woke from my nap with my hair three times as tall as normal and sticking out in every direction. Showered again quickly so I didn’t look like a mad scientist.

Met Tony at El Burro off Bascom for a dinner of enchilada suizas, rice, refried beans, iced tea and a green salad.

Drove home, watched Camelot on HBO, then wrapped the evening with TR.

Sunday night’s sleep was deep and restful and dreamless.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Movie Recommendation: Hanna

A nice weekend is unfolding here and I thought I would pop online tonight for a quick entry in the form of a movie recommendation - Hanna (with Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. I saw this Friday afternoon over at the Cinearts theater at Santana Row and give it in enthusiastic two thumbs up. Excellent performances across the board (and try not to think to hard about the story, just enjoy it, as it is a visibly rich film).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Contemplating A Sweeping Purge

My brain ended up selecting a direction for the day about lunch time. I was sitting at lunch, reading the Mercury News, and glanced over the apartment/townhouse/loft advertisements, since I am contemplating moving. One of the things I am contemplating is moving into a smaller and less expensive place – not because I need to save the money, but because I’ve been on this journey toward a minimal lifestyle for a while and, truth be told, I have more space than I really need or use.

That brought me around to the 11 boxes. I’ve mentioned before that, of my great minimalist sweep, all that really remained is 11 boxes in the closet in the spare bedroom. I have some sort of psychological barrier that is preventing me from purging those boxes. I took a look inside four of them nearly a month ago, shuffled things around, managed to toss a few things in the trash, and then put the boxes back.

Well, since then, I haven’t been in those boxes at all. Here is a simple truth I think – whatever is in those boxes is essentially valueless in practical terms. I neither utilize the contents nor contemplate the contents. They are simply objects in boxes. I am holding onto them because they MIGHT have some practical value (but, if they did, I think I would have used them by now) or they MIGHT have some sentimental value (but, if they did, I think I would have pulled stuff out and contemplated it by now). But they don’t. Sheer practicality tells me they don’t. I need to find the reserves of strength, get in there, and ruthlessly purge.

I have a few other areas in the apartment where I need to apply the same ruthlessness and purge, purge, purge. I keep joking that I am going to end up sitting on the living room floor, eating from my blue bowl, watching my big screen TV, in an almost empty apartment. That isn’t far from the truth. Once I have stripped things down, once I’ve made another purse sweep – and realistically I am going to be able to purge close to 50% of what remains without really blinking an eye, then I might more seriously contemplate moving. It would be a big change, but I am due a big change. Funny how becoming smaller means, ultimately, becoming bigger.

One Week Later - Time Flies

It was a sudden week. When I glanced at my blog I realized that it had been seven days since I wrote. There were a couple of reasons for that – I went up to Wondercon in San Francisco with friends for a three day weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and then worked pretty intensively over the last three days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday).

My manager is currently out of the office, so I caught about a 30% workload increase. Most of it has manifested as doing my “normal” work during the day, then spending a couple of hours each evening plowing through email. My managers principle job is communication and program direction, so I’ve been lucky there – it is sufficiently different from what I do (analysis, design and support) that there really isn’t an overlap.

Last night was the first real night where I had sufficient time to do incidental things around the apartment – which turned out to mainly be scrubbing the stove top and over. I happen to like the Zen simplicity of cleaning.

Today is effectively my Friday (tomorrow is my regularly scheduled day off). I am planning on easing through the day, maybe with some additional house work, laundry, and then a matinee movie. I have to admit, I want to see “Your Highness”, the fantasy spoof. It looks like it will be amusing. I could be wrong though. That is the challenge of movies – you just never quite know what you’re getting into.

I am currently listening to a generic teleconference at work and I have it on mute. It is one of those “listen only” teleconferences that permeate the working world. The first presenter blazed through her presentation, almost as if she was speaking as fast as she possible could. It was very amusing, in an unintentional sort of way.

I guess I really don’t have anything focused to say in this particular entry, other than to mention a phrase that has been bouncing around in my brain for the last couple of days – the phrase is “provisional brilliance”. I am not really sure what it means, so I am going to keep mulling it around for a while and see what pops out.