Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Breach

I left work today about 3:30 PM.  I was pretty much done. I didn't sleep well last night - I woke up about 2:30 AM with a brain full of stuff, stayed up for an hour, then tossed and turned for another hour before I finally gave up and got up. I headed into work early, spent a few hours preparing for a UAT kick-off meeting (once again, I am pulling an entire complex UAT out of thin air "just in time"). The meeting went well - and the rest of that day was back to back meetings until about 2:30.  By the time I got home I was fried. I laid down to try and take a nap, but I couldn't drop off.  Though I was tired, I was still too wired to drop off. I got up, spent an hour talking to my nephew Tom on the phone, then had a nice dinner of cream of mushroom soup and home made buffalo wings.  By the time I finished dinner I was feeling human again, so I answered some email off my Blackberry and watched part of "A Knights Tale" with the late and very talent Heath Ledger. In a short while I am going to crawl into bed with my new book and get a good nights sleep, then hurl back into the breach again tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another 13 Hour Day

Thirteen hours. Nine hours of meetings.  Started at 6:00 AM and ended at 8:00 PM. Quite the day.  On the plus side, made a lot of headway today. Managed to successfully rebuff the stupid requirement changes.  Finished up the last of the requirements for one major form.  Finished the requirements for an automated data processing trigger.  Two meetings with the systems engineer to get my brain wrapped about UAT. Probably a lot of other stuff I only vaguely remember.  Planning to get up at 5:00 AM tomorrow for a 6:00 AM start time, all to line up a 9:00 AM UAT meetings that is going to be Rod, improvising, to the best of my ability. Outside it was a beautiful day. My missing package showed up - UPS had delivered to the wrong street address and the people who got it walked it down the street and gave it to the manager.  The jacket is nice.  Tonight's plan, a pair of sitcoms (Whitney and The Neighbors), then a bit of reading and hopefully, a clear night of sleep.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Three Reasons I'm Cranky

Today was mostly a wasted day.  Oh, it had some good moments, but they were few and far between. First, I woke up about 2:30 AM for an hour or so, thinking about work.  Then,  I had a series of four back to back meetings at work and they were each as contentious as the one before.  Of a particularly frustrating nature was the last meeting - I was attempting to have a meeting about the UAT testing, but one of the team members invited a person who had no business on an UAT meeting, and then spent the entire meeting with us trying to get through anything, but we couldn't because they spent the whole meeting trying to explain it to the person who shouldn't have even been there.  Totally frustrating.

Then I had a UPS incident - and this has actually happened to me before with UPS.  I wish, when you ordered things, the shippers let me decide which carrier to use, because my experience with UPS has not been good.  I'd ordered a jacket that was shipped via UPS, with an original scheduled date of the 28th.  It never made it. The UPS site said it would arrive today on 29th, so I was home all afternoon, waiting for the arrival.  It never showed - no knock on the door, no package delivered, nothing.  About six PM this evening I went online to check the status of the package - and it said it was delivered at 2:35 PM and left at the door.

Uh, not a chance.  I live in a small apartment and at 2:30 PM I was sitting in the spare bedroom/office specifically waiting for the arrival while writing on a work project.  Nothing was delivered.  So, who knows where the heck it was delivered too, but it certainly wasn't me.  I even took a walk through the apartment complex to see if it was accidentally sitting at someone else's door.  Nothing that I could see.  So, I suspect that the UPS driver probably dropped it at the wrong street address.  Which means, starting tomorrow, I have to go through the hassle of contacting the original shipper and having them file the claim with UPS.  Normally, it would be an irritant (and it is), but I have had this happen with UPS before - where they claimed to deliver something, but they never did - and it's not like I could have accidentally missed it - I was sitting at home specifically waiting for it.  Frustrating.  And what is going to frustrate me even more is, if the vendor ships a replacement - they're probably going to ship it by UPS again.  Okay, that was my UPS vent.  I personally have better service with the USPS and Federal Express.

Okay, so let me sum up the three parts of my cranky - UPS (grrrrr), Work (grrrrr), Thinking About Work When I Should Be Sleeping (grrrr).  I don't know what it is, but when it rains, it sure seems to pour in life.  All right, got that out of my system.

I am going to go back online hear and do a small spot of work (a pair of configuration requirements) and then call it an early night and maybe try relaxing into the evening with a little writing or a little reading, something to break the relatively stressful routine that I've found myself in.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thirteen Hours

Thirteen hours today, two waves of frustration, both of which ebbed with sunlight, walking and zen.  It was a moderately productive day - too much time in meetings and, as usual, too many changes at the last possible minute. That seems to be par for this project, but now, as I slide into the scant hours of the evening that work is not intruding on, I am actually in a good mood.  Though it was a challenging day, I did accomplish some things and I ended the day strong.

Point one that frustrated me was, as usual, a last minute change to a set of requirements - and no real reason for the change that have been made at the last minute.  I didn't have a lot invested in it, so I will execute tomorrow.  Point two was a potential change in requirements that I did not agree too, so I protested fairly strongly.  We will see if anyone listens. I can implement, but I really think this particular set of requirements is a bad idea. Point three was a meeting about some upcoming testing and I got really frustrated because several of the people were not listening, they were simply talking over each other and not getting into the level of detail that we need to get into. All three are frustration points, but I am pretty zen today.

I will give credit to a nice sushi dinner and a meditative walk at about four in the afternoon. I worked from home all day, so that helped too.  In the office, I have no natural light (our work area is deep inside the building) and here at home I have nice big windows for the sun to shine through. It's a much nicer environment here.  When I find myself grasping at my job, I remind myself that there are many things that would be a nice change and one of them would be that our office space truly sucks. Almost any change would be a good change there.

So, tomorrow will be another day. And maybe another thirteen hours.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

All Tomorrows Questions

I did a movie double-hitter today.  I saw "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" at Cupertino Square and then "Parker" over at AMC 14 Saratoga.  It has been a long time since I have done a movie double-hitter, so it was fairly enjoyable.  It helped that they were both entertaining films - and oddly similar action adventure films.  I would recommend both of them as good popcorn fare.

After the movies I had a ham dinner over at Harry's Hofbrau, which was very filling.  So filling that I came home and felt compelled to take a nap. Following the nap, I took a long, hot, soaking bath and then a hot shower, both of which managed to help me make it into this park of the evening.  The clock seems to be slowly ticking away tonight and I am contemplating a wandering walk in the cool night. I haven't quite made that decision and its wrestling with the urge to spent the night reading.

It's pretty rare for me to censor myself here, but it happens every now and then - I just deleted an entire paragraph because I didn't like where it went.  I have mentioned before that I have strong reservations when it comes to putting other peoples business out online in my journal, even when part of that "business" does, rightfully, belong to me.  Additionally, there are things that I have specifically been asked to not write about, and I always honor those requests. In the paragraph I censored I didn't realize where it was going until I was already deep into the paragraph itself. So, censored, it remains silent.

I think there are times when I am reluctant to delve into deeper topics, in part because I do not like stirring those old still pools any more than necessary. There are other times when the words escape me.  Yet other times when the words and the will are there, but I just want to spend some time thinking about what exactly I am going to say.  This is one of the latter times. The words and the will are there, I just want to carefully craft what it is that I am going to say.

I did decide to work virtually tomorrow - I have seven hours worth of meetings, which almost always makes going into the office a rather pointless exercise, and I am expecting the arrival of a package from UPS tomorrow. I ordered a jacket online and it is supposed to come in tomorrow.  So, with the combination of the two reasons, it will be a perfect day to work from home.  That is one of the things that is nice about my job, that it affords me that opportunity.

In light of concerns about my aging parents and my step-fathers recovery from his fall, I've approached my boss about the possibility of going virtual in my work environment so that, if necessary, I can relocate to South Dakota.  It is not in the immediate plans, but I suspect it may become more and more likely as time goes on. That is also one of those very deep subjects that I need to take the time and dwell upon. The challenge is when to pull that trigger - I would certainly like to be there to support my parents, my only concern is that I could very easily go through the relocation and virtualization process, only to discover that it wasn't necessary, or that I did it too early.

It is made more complex by the fact that I am eligible to retire in just over two years.  This would be taking early retirement, it would mean a limited pension, but it would certainly be financially viable if I relocated to South Dakota.  That is one of the factors that I have to wrap into the whole mix of thoughts. It is tempting to stay in place and let the decisions be made for me, but that does run contrary to the importance I place on making our own decisions and choices as we go through life.

Well, as you can see, it is an evening of a lot of questions and no answers - so I reckon I will wrap it up here and call it a night.  I am sure the questions will remain into tomorrow.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Kept The Day Simple

I kept the day simple.  Breakfast.  A couple of errands. I drove up to meet Don to play pool at Edgies, but there was some sort of corporate event going on there, so we opted for lunch at Dave & Busters over at the Great Mall.  We considered playing there, but there was also some sort of very large kids birthday party there. After lunch, I swept home and in the quiet hours of the afternoon I watched "The Following", then had a simple dinner of mushroom soup, then went out for a rambling neighborhood two and a half mile walk.  All of that brings me into this moment, where I am settling in for the night with the intention of watching a move, perhaps "All The Pretty Horses".

Friday, January 25, 2013

I Dream of Stillness

There are days when I dream of stillness.  Then I wake up and realize that I am the dream of stillness. In the quiet heart of each moment is a stillness as vast and powerful as the universe itself, containing all things, being all things.

It is a pretty amazing realization. Today, it came to me as a result of the general swirl of stress around me - so much of it is based on my expectations and desires for this or that outcome.  When I set down those expectations and desires I find that core of peace inside of me.  It is a good place to reside, in the simplicity of the moment.

I have a lot of things moving around me. The work project. The general work environment. Thoughts and concerns around career movement.  My nephews illness.  My step-dad's fall. My parents aging in general. My siblings lives. My Muse's journey.  All of these things and yet, at the core of the them, they are pretty much beyond my ability to influence. They are going to unfold as they unfold.  When these things start weighing too heavy on me, I return to the center - and breathe.

I had an intermittent day mostly - I lingered in bed this morning, reading.  Breakfast was Goodies II with Tony.  After that, I made a run through Target and picked up a handful of odds and ends that I needed.  Home for a two hour planning teleconference.  An easy afternoon watching a couple of musical programs off the DVR (Sade and Civil Wars Unplugged), then a rambling neighborhood walk, a simple dinner and episodes of Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed.  An intermittent day, but a good day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Rare Work Day

It was a rare day at work today.  I have one meeting scheduled.  That's it.  One single meeting for the entire day.  That is so rare I can't remember the last time it happened on a regular work day.  I made good use of the time, mostly consulting with the vendor doing the configuration work on part of the project and working O&M items that have been stacking up in my in-box and pulled some data for HR in regards to an internal investigation.

In short, it was a productive day - even if I worked 12 hours, they were productive hours and that made them very enjoyable.  One more day to go this week and I am sliding into a three day weekend.  Most likely I'll be working over the weekend, because we are in that phase of the project. We are at the phase where grinding out the details is pretty much all that remains - and I am sure there are going to be some rocky days ahead as we make that final run.

Tonight though, I am going to curl up and make some project toward finishing The King of Thorns.I probably have an hour or so of reading left and then I will be finished with the book and ready to move on to the next.  I have several collections of short stories that I want to read through (and that I have been peeking at in the pauses in my novel), including several that T.R. recommended.  I just logged off work about twenty minutes ago and I am rapidly spinning in the direction of sleep.  So, whoever you are and wherever you are, I hope you're having a good day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Monday Was A Bear That Mauled Me

Yesterday was one challenging day at work.  Let me start at the beginning.  I woke up at four A.M. and my brain was thinking about work - specifically, I had two elements of system requirements that I needed to document.  So, I woke up, started the coffee pot, booted up the work laptop and went to work.  I paused long enough to eat some breakfast and then run through the shower.  At about 7:00 AM I made the commune into the office and continued working.  From 8:30 to 2:30 I was in a continuous series of meetings. I tackled email from 2:30 to 3:30, then headed out to meet Tony for a slice of pizza at Patxi’s (as always, truly excellent pizza). I worked email from my Blackberry through dinner, then headed home, came back online and worked until 6:30 PM, by which time I was completely and totally fried. I stared blankly at the TV until about 8:00 PM, then trundled myself off to bed and collapsed.  I sleep through the night, pretty solidly, woke briefly at 4:00 AM, rolled over and went back to sleep until 6:00 AM, then got up and started the next day. 
The challenging part of the day was the content - the hours were challenging, but they are always challenging.  Once again we ran into the problem of the vendor software not quite working like the vendor set it did. The result of this is the specific answer you get depends entirely on who you talk too and since this influences the subsequent design decisions we end up with a lot of back and forth.  Since this project has slipped three release dates (October, December, January) and the tail end of it isn’t going to go live until May, it is pretty safe to say that there were some major problems. 
I can, and have, ranted and raved a bit about everything that was done wrong so I am not going to rehash most of that here.  But, I did think I would share a specific set of problems that we’ve encountered.  Recently, my immediate manager (who is very competent) opened up the doorway for an internal review of “what can we do better”.  After the routine jokes where we wondered if we could fire our director, which would cure most of our problems, we did agree to settle down and put some thought into.  I think there are a couple of areas where we can definitely approve. 
Here are the things I am feeding back. 
First, we need to start the project with the appropriate attention to detail. Very early on in the project life cycle you have to have your analysts sit down and go through the entire project individual item/object by object and ask a simple set of branching questions.  Are we doing anything to this object?  What are doing?  What are the implications of that (what does this object touch)?  If the project includes a thousand objects, you need to go through each one, one at a time, in detail.  It is grinding work.  It is detailed and devilish and time consuming - but it has to be done and it has to be done by the right people (the people who have specific knowledge of each object, it’s purpose, it’s function).  If you fail to do this ground work, if you fail to lay the very foundation of the work to come - you will fail.  You will fail because some of those objects are little landmines, waiting for you to make a mistake - to miss something or to change something that has unintended consequences, does not work as intended, does not work as designed, or simply does not work. This was the root cause of every single delay we’ve had on this project.  There is no substitute for this activity and the earlier it takes place the better. 
Second, planning did not adequately account for dependencies.  In any system of systems, there are objects that are dependent on the object before it.  As you adjust the system, you have to adjust the objects in the correct order.  Yes, you can run development in parallel to make better usage of time - if you did the first foundational exercise completely and correctly.  If you didn’t, you run the very real risk that your parallel development is going to fail because when the time comes for the pieces to match up, they don’t. 
Third, we wasted a very significant amount of time and resources going back and forth, trying to do the foundational work when we were already deep into the configuration.  We spent thousands of person hours configuring systems only to discover that the first issue here had not been done, so we then had to turn around and redesign and reconfigure. By my estimates the cost factor was about three times what an ordinary, efficient, project should have been. 
Fourth, we spend a very large amount of time in meetings, and these meetings are not an efficient use of time.  We need to run our meetings with more discipline, with an agenda, a carefully thought out list, tight control, and a focus on the agenda.
So, my advice for my immediate team, in terms of what we can improve is 1.) build the foundation carefully and deliberately, 2.) plan carefully with an eye to dependencies, 3.) focus on the first two items so there is no wasted time due to churn and burn, and 4.) make efficient use of meeting time.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Thoughts on Working Life

As much as I dislike working on my time off, I ended spending about five hours today working on requirements for work.  Last week, due to technical difficulties, we ended up undergoing yet another design change.  I am working with the vendors this week to, basically, alter our design approach yet again, and I've got five days to get it finished and locked down, so I spend the weekend working design and requirements and just emailed them off to the vendor.  Fun and games in flying monkey land.

Other than that, it was a pretty good day.  I had a strange morning.  I woke up thinking about the variety of things I needed to do and I wanted to do and I wondered why, sometimes, I have such a challenge getting started, getting motivated, getting engaged.  It brings me back to the whole circle of discipline and focus and execution, which is all enter related. I also spent a lot of time today thinking about T.R., my family, and all the people in my life.  I think tonight I am full of a million and one questions and no answers, so, for the rest of the night, I am going to let the questions go.

I went out with Tony today and we saw "Broken City" with Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It was a pretty good movie.  A lot of the reviews I read said it was a miss, so I went to it with some low expectations and was pleasantly surprised.  It is a pretty faithful film noir, faithful to the genre that is.  I suspect that, for some people, without the black and white and the mood music, they expected an action or a cop show and it really isn't either.  I'd recommend it.

With that, I am going to curl up with "The King of Thorns" and read myself to sleep.  It is my short week, so it means I will work long days - and then mercifully have Friday off.  I try not to think to much about all of the work that I have ahead of me because it puts me in a bad mood and makes me twist and turn at night.  One thing at a time.  One day at time.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Ordinary Day with A Last Stand

A mostly easy day I reckon. An early morning family phone call (no bad news).  Breakfast at the Hickory Pit.  A trip to Fry's. Then, off to see a movie - Tony and I decided to catch "The Last Stand" with Arnold.  It was exactly what it appears to be - an action movie with some snappy (and corny) dialogue. Definitely a popcorn movie and definitely recommended as such.

After the movie we grabbed lunch at Red Robin, then I went for a long walk, initially around the shopping center, then down through San Tomas Aquino park. An afternoon nap, a dinner of left-over pizza, an episode of America Unearthed and an episode of Ancient Aliens, then another walk through the neighborhood in the cool darkness of the winter evening. Somewhere in there I also answered several work email did some prep work for a working session tomorrow, and sorted junk mail.

The Last of Fringe

I considered writing something more detailed last night as the evening began, but ultimately decided that it would not put me in the right mood to start the weekend, so I spent the evening reading and then watching the "Fringe" finale. It was excellent.  I truly enjoyed the entire run of Fringe and I'm going to miss it.

My plan this morning is simple, breakfast at the Hickory Pit, then probably a bit of a walk-about, followed by a movie.  I'm not sure which movie I am going to see, but finally we're running into a weekend where there are several options and I am sure at least one of them will be sufficiently amusing to keep me entertained.

I am planning on sitting down and writing a bit later in the day, so we will see how that goes, or if it becomes a day where I end up deliberately seeking nothing but simplicity.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Tangled Stream of Thoughts

Well, it has been a week.  I thought I would pop online tonight and write a bit before I curled back up with "The King of Thorns".  Most of the week has been eaten by work.  We ran into a series of technical issues on Monday and spent Tuesday and Wednesday fighting our way around them.  Combine that with a little of the ongoing family drama and suddenly it is Thursday. T.R. is off to Charleston, which is exciting, since she has dreamed of relocating there for quite a while - actually, as long as I have known her. When someone actually chases their dream, its a pretty amazing thing. I've got a thousand thoughts swirling around in my head, about a thousand different things, but I am not yet in the space where I want to write about them.  I could, but given the pace of the week, I think most anything I wrote would end up slipping back into a discussion about work.  Work is kind of all consuming right now and probably will be until we get through February and into March.  Then it will just be consumed in a different direction.  So, consider this entry as an IOU to write about - some of the work stuff that went awry, some the ongoing family drama, my excitement about T.R.'s trip, some zen thoughts I've had lately - and then whatever else pops into my poor little brain. I hope you're having a good day, whoever you are and wherever you are.

Monday, January 14, 2013

More Things To Contemplate

Okay - it took me a while to make some adjustments to Firefox, in regards to the size of the font it was displaying.  I don't know it well enough yet to easily make adjustments. I have to carefully and slowly weave my way in and out of the various controls - and even then I am not entirely sure what I am doing.

I would categorize it as a typical working Monday - not without it's successes, not without it's challenges and at the end of the day - done.  We get to do it all again tomorrow.  Except not quite the same. In our lives, that sense of repeating the same day over and over is an illusion - each day is different, each day has its own set of nuances.  I made a bit of headway today, so it felt like it was kind of productive.

I got home in the evening, had a burrito for dinner, watched the most recent episode of "Once Upon A Time", then did another hour or two of incidental work virtually, mostly scheduling meetings and running reports.  These are the sort of maintenance related tasks that I would like to do during the day, but that always get pushed aside by the more important stuff, or by the stuff that other people designate as being more important.  Whatever the importance was, at six p.m. I updated my time and called it a night, at least as far as work is concerned.

I then lit a pair of candles and spent ten minutes sitting in my comfortable chair in the living room and just breathing.  It is a wonderful form of meditation and it was very relaxing and it is allowing me to move into this part of the evening with a clearer head.

I've been working on my New Year's resolutions these first two weeks and so far they've been going pretty good.  I think I am doing better in regards to Body and Spirit and now so focused on Mind.  I think it is because what I need to do to work on Mind is find something that I can focus on learning.  Exercise, a better diet, meditation and prayer, those seem, to me, to be easier to attain then thought, then disciplined learning, then a focused approach to developing the mind.  So, tonight, after I finish up with this entry, I am going to try and focus on learning something.

Of course, at this point, I have no idea what I am going to focus on learning, what I am going to focus on doing to expand my mind. It did just dawn on me that I could spend an hour or so reading the most recent issue of the New Yorker.  There ought to be something in there that will catch and hold my attention. For reasons not entirely known to myself, but probably worth exploring, I don't seem to think of reading fiction as being mind expanding, even though it most definitely is. I think that's because I look at reading fiction as a very pleasurable activity and part of me seems to think that expanding the mind doesn't count if its fun.

I could also play a computer game.  They are also one of those things that I don't think of as being particularly mind expanding, but, depending on the game, they certainly have that ability. I seem to think that studying should be a serious thing.  That is probably a through back from other points in my life.

Ah well, more things to contemplate in my meditative times.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Salt Wife - A Poem

She lays upon the warm stone table
Her luxurious curves and sensual lines
Covered in ancient salt, a statue
Where the rise and fall of her breath
Marks her among the living, dreaming
She trembles as the first bucket of warm water
Is poured over her body, sluicing
The salt away, stripping her with each pass
Revealing more and more until
At the end, she lays, naked and eternal
Her flesh, pale pink, glistening from the water
He watches her breathe, he trembles

A Zero Dark Thirty Day

If you happened to watch the national news, then you know how cold we had it in California today. I could tell it was cold outside when I woke up, but I really didn't think too much about it.  I had a shower, a cup of coffee, a container of Greek God's yogurt, and I settled in to watch the Sunday morning news shows and spent a nice hour online with T.R., during which I ordered a pair of books for my Kindle - Tenth of December (a collection of short stories) and Sky Above, Great Wind (a collection of zen poetry).

From there, I headed out to meet Tony for breakfast, a few errands, some box shuffling, and then we went to see Kate Bigelow's new movie, the controversial Zero Dark Thirty, starring the immensely talented Jessica Chastain. Now, I will tell you, I think there is a great movie in the hunt for UBL, but, unfortunately, this wasn't it.  There were two problems - first, there was a lack of narrative structure - the movie felt like a series of vignettes strung together.  Then, second, it would have benefited from a far more aggressive hand on the editing machine - it simply ran on too long in many scenes.

I think that is a risk that happens with directors and authors when they become very successful.  They get the ability to successfully resist or disregard the advise of their editors - and we, as the reading or watching public, suffer.  All of that said, I did enjoy the movie, it was good - it just wasn't great.  (I was a huge fan of The Hurt Locker.)

From there, I came home, took a hot soaking bath, and then a short nap and now I've settled in to watch the Golden Globes.  Which I can do while multitasking.

I did watch a surprisingly good little piece of film last night - the SyFy Channel's mini-series "Riverworld".  I'd watched it when it originally aired, but I was not terribly impressed at the time.  Last night I watched it on DVD and I basically watched all three hours continuously.  It was pretty good in that format and I would recommend it as a nice, user friendly, bit of Science Fiction - though of course, the classic novel is a source of constant amazement,

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Televised Day

It was an easy day today.  I slept late for me, until about 7:30 a.m.. I suspect it is because it is winter, though I may have been running a bit short on sleep during the week before.  Winter is a time for sleeping late.  Breakfast with Tony at Goodies II on Bascom Avenue, then a pleasant morning doing laundry.  After laundry I came home, ironed and folded clothes, and then watched a couple of programs off the DVR.  I watched, in order, Justified, Elementary and Merlin, three enjoyable shows. 

Then, a short nap, a bit of reading, pizza for dinner, a wonderful little call with T.R. and then an episode of Ancient Aliens. It was a TV watching day I guess and it must have been what I needed, because I sure enjoyed it.  My plan this evening is an episode of America Unearthed, then back to bed with The King of Thorns.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Quiet and Mostly Productive Day

A quiet and mostly productive day at work. I am trying to focus on getting every lined up and sorted properly, thinking that, perhaps, better organization will make the coming year easier. A pizza for dinner, a night of DVR, some texting with T.R. (who is close in my heart tonight), and I think I am going to wrap the night up by reading some more of "The King of Thorns".  I've been meaning to read it during the evenings, but I've fallen asleep quickly and I've been lucky if I have turned a page or two.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sometimes We Forget To Look At The Map

All of the events of our lives have a certain weight to them.  As we go through our lives, we carry that weight.  Sometimes those burdens are light - all the things we carry that we love, all of the things we carry for the people we love, all of those have very little weight.  They have a joyous weight, even if they are difficult and challenging things. The burden of our lives comes from carrying all of those things that we do not love, or that we do not carry out of love.

I think it is very important in this world, as we make our way through it, to carefully consider what we decide to carry and what we decide to set down. We can be selective about the weight we carry.  We can choose to carry the joyous things.  We can choose to set down the burdens.

We don’t get to set down all burdens of course - some of them belong to us, for a short while, for a long while, and those we have to carry.  I think that is part of the price that comes with this wild and beautiful thing called being human.  But there are plenty of burdens that we pick up and carry and we simply do not need to - our anger, our hate, our fear, our resentment, our disappointment, all of this are unneccesary burdens. We should examine them carefully and set them down.

It may seem like a strange thing, but when we go through the process of setting down the burdens we don’t need to carry, we make room for the burdens we do need to carry and they become both purer and lighter.  They are transformed into sort of a defining weight and they slip out of the burden category.

I think one of the biggest voluntary burdens that we carry is our attempts to live other peoples lives for them. Whether we attempt to persuade them or attempt to command them, we are attempting to alter the course of their lives. We don’t have that right, even for the people we love.  Everyone has the right to make their own choices, to carry their own burdens, according to their will or fate or destiny or simple random choice.

We should always give our best advice.  We should always provide our best counsel. We should provide both in a manner that is consistent with what we value, with what we hold valuable.  Then we should let it go.  Advice and counsel is a gift - whether they pick up the gift or ignore the gift is a choice and that choice is their to make.

This is not an easy path.  But then, it is the difficult paths that take you to the most stunning vistas.*


*A brief but true story:  Some years ago, while I was driving through the midwest, I stopped at Yellowstone for two days of sightseeing and hiking.  As I wandered through the park in the fall, I stopped in a parking lot. There was a sign/trail marker there that pointed up the mountainside to an attraction and said it was a short hike away, maybe a mile or less.  I slipped into my knapsack, tightened my boots and for about 20 minutes I walked up the side of the mountain.  The hike was worth it - the sight was beautiful, and I turned around and hiked back down.  I got into my car, drove further down the road, which twisted and turned up the mountain, and suddenly there I was.  At a parking lot.  About a hundred feet from the sight I had seen minutes before. Sometimes life makes you do things the hard way before showing you the easy way. Sometimes we just forget to look at the map.


Monday, January 7, 2013

My day was influenced by the twin pillars of stress in my immediate world - family and work.  So, all in all, it was a stressful day that was only minimally productive.  However, I realized that and tonight I spent fifteen or so minutes simply breathing, simply meditating and it has helped to reset me for the evening at least.

My work pillar of stress was invoked when we discovered a problem in the design of one of the components of the project. Basically, we had designed around the vendor software doing X, we had confirmed with the vendor that the software did X, and then were we actually got into test - we discovered that it was doing Y and that it couldn't do X.  It was quite irritating.  The vendor is working at finding a way around the problem with a redesign and we're meeting regarding it again tomorrow.

My family pillar was touched by family being family.  We are nothing if not a stubborn lot and I think that part of the way for all members of my family to lower their stress levels - and mine - is for them to simply take a deep breath, find the moment, and life their lives.  I am profoundly influenced by the quote from John-Roger that I am fond of, where he basically says:  "We must allow people the dignity of their journey".  It is a simple saying, but it is a difficult thing to do.

Free will means that we all have the freedom to make choices.  I think it is important that we allow people the freedom of their own choices, even when we disagree with them, even when we would make different choices, even when we are convinced they are making the wrong choices, or, that more common item - where we think we would make better choices then they would.  Or when we think that we are making a better choice then they are.

Free will is an interesting thing. It allows us to shape the universe itself with our choices.  But, at the same time, it allows us to shape the universe itself with our choices. I think if we want our free will to be treated with dignity and respect, even by people who disagree with the choices we make - then we need to make sure we extend that same courtesy to other people - and I think that is the core of what John-Roger is getting at. 

I will have to contemplate that some more as I wander off to sleep tonight. My plan tonight is a call with T.R. and then to curl up with "The King of Thorns".  It has been any enjoyable set of books - the second one is a little too non-linear in my book, but not enough that it is going to stop me from reading it and looking forward to the third book in the series that comes out this summer.

And oh, I have some credits racked up in my Audible account, so I think I may drift over there tomorrow and see if I can get a book or two.  I sure have an ongoing and passionate love affair with reading, one that has been with me all my life and will doubtless stay with me for the rest of it.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Tranquil Feast

Today was a tranquil feast for mind, body and spirit.  And that is all I need to say about it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Good Day, With Circles

I coasted through the day today.  I started by sleeping a bit late for me, almost seven p.m., and then moving leisurely into the morning with a long hot shower.  Breakfast at the Hickory Pit with Tyrone, then I swung back home briefly, not long enough to do anything, but long enough to put my feet up for a while.

From there I drove up to the Great Mall and met Don to see "Promised Land", the new Matt Damon movie.  It was...beautiful fluff. I think there was potential there - good actors, good director (Gus Van Sant) and a potentially interesting subject, fracking.  But, it wasn't really a coherent story with characters that you could invest in.  It was more a collection of scenes acted by good actors, but with cookie cutter motives.  After we came out of the movie we stopped at Outback to have lunch (mmm, Alice Springs Chicken) and I realized I had seen the movie before - only done much better.  It you want to make the comparison then I recommend you catch one of my favorite movies - "Local Hero".  Corporate outsider comes to quaint village to secure leases/easement for the evil corporation to build a facility that will destroy the village and it's quaint way of life.  Except "Local Hero" has far more interesting characters and a better story.

After lunch, I took two laps of the Great Mall (it's a mile around on the inside), weaving in and out of the crowd and people watching and talking with Don.  From there, I drifted homeward and stopped at Office Depot on Stevens Creek to get a new desk for the kitchen and to check out what they had on sale for monitors.  I lucked out and got both a desk and a monitor on sale.  The monitor was the display monitor, but it is pretty nice and in good shape and the price made it irresistible. The desk is exactly what I was looking for - a small to mid-sized desk for use in the kitchen. When I first moved into this apartment years ago, this is where I had the computer desk sitting, in the kitchen and over the years it has migrated to a variety of other places.  Right now, the spare bedroom is set up as a home office and I wanted the extra desk out here for incidental use, or for when I wanted to move about the house and get a different light.

The desk assembly went pretty smoothly - there was one corner anchor on the actual desktop itself where the plastic insert was damaged, so ultimately I finished the desk without anchoring that corner down.  There are enough other anchor points that the desk is very stable anyway. But, tomorrow, I may stop at OSH and see what they have that would allow me to jury-rig something to fasten that computer down.

It was definitely an interesting day - I got my Mind, Body, and Spirit thing in and I feel pretty centered and balanced.  I woke this morning with a phrase from a dream running around inside of me, and I'll share it with you here.  "Forgiveness is paramount for Happiness".  Seems to be a pretty straightforward bit of dream insight and I can think of more than a few circumstances in my life where it might be relevant.  In light of the hour, I think it is time to curl  up with my book - "The King of Thorns" and read myself to sleep.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday's End Game

It is nice to have reached the end of the week.  Maybe I need to find a job where I only work three days a week.  That would certainly be nice.  Actually, one of the things I have contemplated is similar to that concept.  If I would make my present pay rate - only reduce the hours to a level where I was still living comfortably, it would be nice to do.  Make two-thirds of my current income, but only work two-thirds of the time as well.  A lucrative part-time job.  Of course, I realize that is probably the dream of many people.
It’s been fairly quiet here at work, in part because it is off Friday for most of the employees and in part because a lot of people are still out on vacation from the holiday.  There was enough work today to keep me steadily engaged through the day and allow time for lunch and “thinking time” in regards to the various work items that arose.
I’ve changed the background screen on my work computers to a classic Zen Enso (an brush style painting of an open ended circle) to help me maintain my zen through the coming year. I’ve also implemented what I call a “balance point”, that is a point or two during the day where I stop working and focus on something else, even if it is only for a few minutes.  This is being written in one of those balance points.
I am looking forward to the weekend, though I don’t have anything planned.  I am hoping to get down to the Tech Museum to see the last two days of a Mythbusters exhibit that I keep meaning to go to but never quite make.  However, I think it is supposed to be a rainy weekend, so that would make it perfect for that little trip - if I feel up to it. 
I’d also like to get out and do some playing with my camera, to begin the process of skill building there.  It is the first time I’ve owned a Nikon and the design/configuration switches, buttons and menus all Greek to me.  The first set of photographs I took with it had no keepers. I took a second set the day before yesterday and some of them turned out very nice, so it is just a matter of time before I gain some level of mastery over the new tool.
Since this is nearing the end of the work week, I am going to count this as a good week, all in all.  Work was brisk but not overwhelming and I managed to keep a good focus and my Zen cool, so I will consider that a win.  I am still in the process of thinking about the year that just passed, so I imagine I am going to do some dedicated meditation and contemplation in that direction during the weekend.  I will also focus some of that discipline toward the coming year and tease out some variations on my resolutions. I am trying to harness that incremental power, where you do just a little bit at a time, take a few steps at a time, and then as time passes come to realize that you’ve made significant strides toward your new goals, whatever they are. I am in the specific goal generating phase right now, since I’ve already set the main goals.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tonight, I Read

I've been moving through the evening here at a stately pace.  I got home from work about 4:00 PM, cooked myself a nice and simple dinner of baked cod and green beans, and then settled in and took my Christmas decorations down.  I'm pretty compact when it comes to Christmas - a simple tree, a simple decoration, a wreath on the door, some lights outside on the balcony, a creche and a few other odds and ends.  Packing it all away is as easy as setting it up.

I enjoyed Christmas this year.  I did feel some residual guilt for not going back to the ranch in South Dakota, but when I made the decision not to go back this year I knew it was the right decision as soon as it was made.  There was just too  much going on to make it a relaxing trip.  It would have been hurried and stressful. Staying here in California was the right thing to do.

It was fairly quiet at work today, for the first day back after the holiday, largely because I suspect a lot of people are still out and won't be back until the seventh. The parking lots at the plant were about half full. Normally what happens at work is there is a hard ramp up into the second full week, then we hit our stride. I spent most of the day simply playing catch up from all the incidental things that happened while I was out on vacation. I'd say that, by the end of the day, I was fairly caught up.

Tomorrow I want to dedicate some time to getting organized for the coming year.  I have to figure out methods and processes to keep from getting overwhelmed and stumbling into that particular form of paralysis that comes about when you have so many things going in so many directions at once you don't know where to start.

Normally, when I get into December, things slow down enough to allow me to reflect on the year that has just passed, but I didn't have that option this year.  We sprinted right up to the Christmas holiday - and then we didn't so much stop sprinting as we simply collapsed from exhaustion.  So, that self-review process, which takes place in both the work environment and the personal environment, is going to have to take place here, in the beginning of January. 

I will certainly share the process and outcome of that analysis here - for your amusement and bemusement.  Tonight though, I think I am going to spend the rest of the evening reading. I bought a magazine, on writing, a few months ago and I've been carrying it around with me ever since.  I want to sit down and leisurely read it, to see what information I can glean from it, to see what tips and tricks I can learn - but it seems that I have never had the opportunity to truly focus on the magazine for the last couple of months.  I've looked at, I've set it by the chair, I've set it by the bed, I've carried it back and forth from work, but I've simply never had the window to read it.  Well, tonight, I read.

Hickory Pit - Christmas Pig

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Gingerbread House - Cache Creek Casino

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Resolutions - Mind, Body, Spirit - Always Try

New Years Resolutions:

I have the general framework for my 2013 resolutions.  I am going to make 2013 a year of balance, where I focus on the three major aspects of life - mind, body, and spirit. I am going to make it a point, each day, for the next 365 days, to do something each day to enrich my mind, my body, and my soul.

There are a variety of ways I plan on doing this:

Mind - in terms of the mind, I want to alter the diet of information that flows into my mind. That is going to mean reading and writing more purposefully and more deeply. That is going to mean being more deliberate about the media I consume, how I consume it, when I consume it.  That is going to mean trying to engage my mind more by playing challenging games, doing challenging puzzles, and staying focused on them.

Body - in terms of the body, I want to be more conscious of my diet and more purposeful in exercising, but at the same time, be gentler with myself as well - make sure I am getting enough sleep, make sure I am getting enough quiet time, make sure I am getting enough relaxation.  It is going to mean eating more purposefully as well - both in content and quantity.

Spirit - it terms of the spirit, I am going to spend a little bit of time each day in meditation, and dedicate a little portion of each day to prayer.  I am going to incorporate spirit in more of my daily considerations and activities, and simply try to move through the world with a more spiritual focus.

All of these can and will be intermingled - some of them go very naturally together.  For example, I may focus more on Tai Chi practices, since that is an excellent mingled of all three.  I can learn more (mind) about spiritual subjects (spirit).  There is a lot of opportunity for cross pollination in these three areas.

I think what it comes down to in the new year is the more deliberate pursuit of balance in my life, all across the board.  It will be challenging of course, because there are always outside pressures that are trying to push us off balance and sometimes they can be almost overwhelming - but the art of life lies in the trying.  We accept that we will not always succeed.  We simply focus on always trying.  I kind of like that as the mantra for the coming year.  "Always Try".


Also, since one of the things I truly love doing is watching movies, I am going to keep a yearly count of all the movies I watch from beginning to end, to look back at the end of the year at what I watched and when.  I've already started the year by watching two movies that I enjoyed - one new and one slightly older.  I went out today with Tony and Tyrone and we saw "Les Miserables".  It was an enjoyable depiction of the play and within it the performance by Samantha Barks stood out.  Then, I came home and as I moved through the afternoon I watched the very excellent Prometheus. A good start to the year, movie wise.

Movie #1: Les Miserables & Movie #2 Prometheus