Friday, August 21, 2015

Meteor showers, vacations and new beginnings

Wrapped up our vacation at Fort Morgan near Gulf Shores - beautiful weather and beautiful views. A bit of seaweed, some jellyfish, bull sharks and dolphins - a great time! The rest of my clan got to enjoy the Perseid Meteor Shower but I was studying the inside of my eyelids...ah, vacation regrets!

So back to the real world!

Kids are starting back at Birmingham Southern College and Jackson Prep and I'm looking into CrossFit sampling a class today at Kudzu Crossfit in Gluckstadt.

In terms of products I'm using right now, as I've mentioned before, I've become a skeptical convert to MPow Swift Bluetooth Headphones. These are a fantastic bargain at JayBird BlueBirds both for the solid active fit and the water-resistance - the BlueBirds are LiquiPel protected; the MPow Swifts "flaked out" on me during a really long, sweaty run a couple of weeks ago). I've just received MPow's new sports-fit Bluetooth Cheetah headphones, and used them on a longish run this weekend. I was very pleased with the fit - best sports fit I've experienced - ease of use, and sound quality were solid. However, they developed significant skipping that became so annoying I shut them off for the last 2 miles of my run. Not sure if this was an iPhone 6 issue or a headphone issue, but I've never experienced this kind of problem with my JayBirds. Even the MPow Swifts have had only intermittent occasional skipping. I'll give these another chance or two, but this may be a deal-breaker.

I also picked up one of SanDisk's new Wifi-enabled Connect USB drives (64GB version) for use with iOS products and I am thrilled with ease of use, features and usefulness. This is really going to expand my ability to live without a laptop - getting by with just my iPad paired with a LogiTech Ultrathin BT keyboard.

After visiting the CrossFit class, we've opted to stick with Madison HealthPlex and the Fitness Boot Camp program (we've done two "tours" already!). We'll hopefully jump in next week - now that I'm back from Pittsburgh, Trish is back from Las Vegas, Molly is settling in Birmingham and we are about to enjoy the Mississippi Book Festival this weekend.

 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ask Science Mike & Gungor (@asksciencemike & @gungormusic)

I'm I've been listening to @AskScienceMike (@mikemchargue) for several months thanks to @bfantax and I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough! His grace, openness, curiosity, deep thoughtfulness and true insight have been a tremendous blessing to me. 

At a minimum, his perspective is encouraging to those of us who, as @preachermike says, are "winter Christians" wrestle with doubt and fear and uncertainty. At best, he helps us deal with the confounding, frustrating and maddeningly uncertain nature of life from a faith perspective. 

It's ironic or fortuitous that through Ask Science Mike I discovered the @liturgists podcast and delved deeper into the music of Michael Gungor (@gungormusic). I recommend The Liturgists Podcast every bit as much as Ask Science Mike. And the new @gungormusic album #OneWildLife:Soul is just amazing. The only album I currently put on rotate and "sink" into. At once deeply moving and personal while being atmospheric and ambient. Think "Radio Etiopia" meets Pink Floyd and Explosions In The Sky. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

One week's end is another's beginning...

This past week was a great one! It was my 3rd week of training ramping up to the Rock 'n Roll Savannah Half Marathon in November. Despite temperatures in the upper 90s and heat indices soaring into the 100s, I more or less stayed on track!

Mid-week brought a trip to the New Orleans area, a great visit with a friend and two new NOLA restaurants I got to try for the first time - Balise and Willa Jean - both highly recommended!

I'm nearly done with Jim Crace's "Being Dead" which so far is a masterfully written, if jarring, novel. I read his earlier work, "Quarantine", which was also a mind-bender, as a gift from a friend.

The weekend was hectic but fun - got to catch a matinee of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation with my oldest daughter, spend Sunday morning with my Meadowbrook family celebrating and recognizing our wonderful community, then head down to Gulf Shores for a few days of R&R before school and schedule pull us all back in!

 

 

 

Thursday, June 04, 2015

My top productivity steps...

1. Workout When you work out you feel better and get more energy to be more productive. Hit the gym or go for a run, see how it affects your focus. 
2. Get Plenty of Sleep When you're well-rested, you're more productive. Make it a priority to get a good night's rest, and you'll get more done every day. 
3. Create a To Do List Before you start your day, write down the most important priorities for the day, putting the most important tasks at the top. This will help you stay focused.
4. Schedule Your Tasks into a Calendar Set aside a time for each task that you have to do. That way you don't get off track and spend too much time on something not so important.
5. Set Your Overall Goal for the Day What's your bigger vision and goal for the day? Start the day knowing what you ultimately want to accomplish, and it will help guide you throughout the day. 
6. Outsource Less Sophisticated Tasks (i.e., DELEGATE!) The easy and mundane, though time-consuming tasks you do can be outsourced overseas for a low price. This will free you up to do the more important work. 
7. Do Your Most Dreaded Task First Once you get your most dreaded tasks done, all the rest of your tasks will just get easier and easier. Start hard, finish easy.
8. Focus on Doing What Creates Results Put aside everything else, except for what gets you results. Time well spent, is used on things that get you the results that you're after. 
9. Take Breaks Work for a block of time, such as one hour or 1.5 hours, and then take a short break. Doing this will allow you to keep recharging for longer bursts of productivity.
10. Stop Multitasking Allow yourself to focus on just one thing at a time, and you can finish that task much more quickly. By not multitasking, you get more done by knocking one thing out at at time.
11. Clean Up Your Work Space Getting rid of the clutter and papers in front of you will help you to focus on your most important tasks. Clean up your desk, and you'll have less stress.  
12. Review Your Performance at the end of the Day Write in your journal or rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 at the end of every day. And ask yourself every day, how can I be more productive tomorrow?
13. Uncover Why You Procrastinate What is the real reason, deep down, why you're procrastinating? Finding the true answer to this question will help you to address the real issue that's stopping you from being effective. 

#LifeHacker #Productivity

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

IPhone 5 v windows phone 7

I have used every generation of iPhone since the iPhone 3. This comes after being an "early adopter" of various PDA platforms/devices (starting with the Casio devices in the late 1990s). I've used Blackberrys, Windows CE devices, Palms, Sony and other devices that began blending phone/PDA capabilities. And with all this, the iPhone was a revelation. The UI, the intuitiveness, the versatility and the apps - oh the apps! But due to a recent short- to mid-term job assignment that has me traveling to areas where my reliable AT&T service is, truly, non-existent, I opted to pick up a second device on Verizon. Rather than duplicating my AT&T iPhone 5, I chose to use this as an opportunity to explore another smartphone platform. The Samsung Galaxy S4 was a bit too expensive and far away for my purposes - and the Samsung Galaxy S3 seems a bit too dated - so I bypassed Android. I would have liked to try the new Blackberry Z10, but, like the S4, I couldn't wait for it. And as I was an early user (and fan in many ways) of Microsoft's early ventures into mobile device ecosystems, I ended up choosing the HTC Windows Phone 8X. After a few weeks of use, below are my summary thoughts on the distinctives of the iPhone 5 and the WP 8X.

iPhone 5 wins
  • Siri and voice recognition integration is a huge feature that iOS does extremely well. While windows has voice recognition the functionality is much poorer than iOS and the integration much more limited.
  • Keyboard function on the windows phone is noticeably poorer than that of the iPhone - thus may be the biggest reason I would be reluctant to make a full conversion to a windows phone as my primary, sole device. That said, some of this may be a slight orientation difference between the iPhone and WP8X that I just haven't adjusted to yet. For example, when I type on the iPhone, I tend to "aim" my taps at the upper right corner of the keys for a more reliable selection. It seems the WP8X is almost the opposite - favoring instead an "aim" toward the lower left to middle of the key. If this mental shift works, my frustrating with WP8X typing might abate some.  But the predictive text features are another shortfall for WP8X that I don't think is operator dependent.
  • Cut-and-paste, text selection and cursor movement/placement (for in-line editing) on the WP8X is less intuitive and clumsier than the iPhone.
  • Apps - Good for corporate email and Toodledo for task management are critical absences on the windows platform. The absence of Instagram and Vine are crucial in social media. And the poor functionality of Yelp! app is unacceptable.
  • Camera - the iPhone 5 camera is better hardware, better UI and better integration with other apps. The difference really is minor and I think too much has been made of this particular distinction compared to some of the ones listed above.
 
Windows Phone wins
  • Hardware - the hardware design of the HTC Windows Phone 8X is a marvel - the screen, the size, the "heft" in the hand, the speed & smoothness of the operation - superior to the iPhone 5
  • Look and feel - this phone is a pleasure to hold - it feels slimmer in the hand than the iPhone 5, but stronger at the same time - I don't feel the need to "baby" it as I do the iPhone 5; the "feel" of it is superior as well
  • Interface and menuing - the Live Tile technology and the "pin to start" options are a great time savor and easier to navigate than the now-dated iOS iconography
 
Summary
The lack of a small number of critical apps combined with the Siri superiority makes me believe I'll stick with the iPhone 5 as my primary device. But the choice is not an easy one. As I write this, I am in the "Verizon zone" and as such have been using the WP8X for several days. I'm already a little depressed about returning to AT&T land with the iPhone UI - it feels bleak and confined and limiting. I will be glad to get Siri and Instagram and ToodleDo back - along with the ability to check in on Yelp! But while my capabilities will expand somewhat, I won't enjoy using them quite as much as if they were in the WP ecosystem.



Sunday, January 06, 2013

Reflections on Epiphany

A prayer:

Bright Morning Star,
You are both guidance and mystery,
Visit our rest with disturbing dreams,
and our journeys with strange companions.
Grace us with the hospitality
to open our hearts and homes
to visitors filled with unfamiliar wisdom
bearing profound and unusual gifts.

Your light has come,
and the birth of Jesus
has overwhelmed us with joy.
Like the magi of long ago,
may we be drawn to you
and offer you such gifts as we are able.
Amen.


On the Feast of the Epiphany. From James Joyce's "The Dead":
"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

Joyce believed that the meaning of "epiphany," is the moment when "the soul of the commonest object [...] seems to us radiant."

Radiance and light - drawing and following; finding and worshipping. The human condition is caught up in these things and the tension between them, within them, and with the forces and events that oppose them.


Yeats' "The Second Coming":

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Birthday Reflections

So yesterday was my birthday. 45 years old already. Where has the time gone? Hard to imagine I'm a middle-aged husband and father of two teenage daughters. What was the Universe thinking when that was allowed to happen? Just wait until Management finds out...
It was a wonderful birthday - a beautiful, warm (well...hot) sunshine-filled day. I woke up in the morning with the best person I've ever known; with a brilliant, witty, funny, beautiful daughter asleep upstairs and a funny, beautiful, brilliant, creative daughter sending me Happy Birthday texts/Tweest/Instagrams from the beach. I heard from all of my family wishing me a great day and confirming they still acknowledge our familial bond - at least in private. I got to have lunch with as great a group of men as you could find anywhere - all friends who each inspire and challenge me in their own ways. I spent an afternoon run out in the heat and wind and enjoyed a lovely dinner with two beautiful women!
The well-wishes on Facebook number in the dozens - along with texts, messages, emails, phone calls. Gifts included books and wine and gadgets - going to be hard to top that list, people. Some sent special notes or shared hopes or remembrances of how our lives intersected. And as I pause to reflect on the wonderful group who each paused perhaps only seconds, others minutes or hours, to let me know they'd thought of me on this day, I am amazed at how blessed I have been to know all these people. Some are friends I have had since before high school. Some are friends I've only known a few months. Some are much older than I; others are still teenagers. Some are Republican; some Democrat. Some are devout Christians; some are wanderers and searchers; some are not religious at all. Some I see everyday - others I haven't "seen" in years. But it reminds me that even when we think we are all alone, we are still connected. Our friendships and partnerships and relationships are like an invisible network - a web - woven beneath us and around us and through us, that may go unnoticed for long stretches, but that can suddenly bound into our awareness when life jostles us loose or causes us to stumble. Now I'm just thinking here, since right now things are very pleasant for me, thank you very much, but I'm hoping that this means throughout our lives we are weaving together a safety net that stands ready to catch us when we fall.
It was a fantastic day, and I'm glad I've had a moment to pause and reflect on the deep blessing of other people.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Into the Woods

Into the Woods - EP

The new EP from Of Monsters and Men. I have a thing for Icelandic bands, I guess. OMaM is like Neill Finn meeting Arcade Fire:

Cover Art

Into the Woods - EP

Of Monsters and Men

Alternative

Released: 2011

912 Ratings     

Friday, March 23, 2012

A thought occurred to me on my run...

...that we spend much of our energy trying to make life easy,
Usually by making it complicated.
When we are finally grown, if we are finally grown,
We find that instead, life is simple,
But very hard.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tools I Use: Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

I'm almost completely paperless. But when I write, I love the Lamy Safari!

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

Most fountain pens are appealing for their authoritative weight and the prestige of pushing an antique technology around the page. However, the Lamy Safari pen (designed by Wolfgang Fabian) re-thinks the fountain pen with comfort and accuracy in mind. It comes with a sturdy ergonomic grip similar too, but not as comfy as, the Dr. Grip. The pen is also made out of plastic making the weight (and cost) much less than a traditional fountain pen.
The Lamy weighs in at a meager $30 with ink costing about $2 to $5 dollars a bottle. The Safari is also frugal on ink; it runs a much smaller and tighter line than many pens meaning that the ink dries faster on the page, but do beware using ink from a different pen in the Lamy can clog it. You can see the ink cartridge at all times because a small part of the casing has been hollowed out.
Finally, the refillable cartridge snaps into place in the pen and is refillable through the pen's stylus hence you don't have to take everything apart when you want to refill (you do have to unscrew the top of the pen to get to the cart's screw, but not the bottom) and also eliminating that first air bubble you get when placing traditional carts back in the pen. The plunger is operated by a screw action on the top making it easy to hold the pen in place while you refill it. It is also available as a left handed version.
Lamy also sells other pens with a similar design and grip if you're looking for a more expensive or stylish pen, but despite the Safari's minor flaws (I had major problems the first day getting it to write consistently until I watered down my ink) it's quickly replaced my old Picasso pen for everyday scribbling. I now own two Lamys, using one for correcting tests and the other for everyday writing. The over-sized clip is also a bonus as it's less likely to get bent out of shape by clinging to pockets, belts, etc.
-- Andrew Jones



Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

$26

Available from Jet Pens


Lamy Safari Refillable Ink Converter Z24


$5.24

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Lamy

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Welcoming the day...

Breath and see and hear and feel. Pause in each moment. Feel the air moving into your nose and throat and lungs. Grip the earth with your toes.  Flex your fingers in space. Look deeply into the eyes of your friend and your child and your lover. Let the sunrise press itself into your eyes. Let the water's lapping work its way into your skull. Let the ground strike your foot and shake your bones as you run upon the earth. 


  • Whole lifetimes are wasted worrying about the opinions of people who aren't even on the right wavelength.
  • People laugh at your unwholesome talk at the moment but think less of you afterwards.
  • Living in regret of the past, or fear of the future are two ways of not living at all.
  • A phone call to say, "I'm thinking of you," yields benefits all out of proportion to the time investment.
  • Be known as faithful. If you say, "Let's do lunch," do lunch.
  • Practice one command of God earnestly rather than a hundred sloppily.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Welcome to Our World


This Chris Rice song is so powerful. The emphasized lyrics below always move me to tears:

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting

Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home
Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence

Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born
So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy

Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world



Sunday, September 04, 2011

Tony Woodlief - Dreaming God

Tony Woodlief - Dreaming God

We are god-obsessed because we have lost God or we are running from God or we are hopelessly seeking Him, and maybe all of these at once.

We are god-obsessed the way a child snatched from his mother will always have his heart and flesh tuned to her, even after he forgets her face. Cover the earth with orphans and you will find grown men fashioning images of mothers and worshipping strong women and crafting myths about mothers who have left or were taken or whose spirits dwell in the trees.

And at the edges of their tribal fires will stand the anthropologist and the philosopher, reasoning that all this mother-talk is simply proof that men are prone to invent stories about mothers, which is itself proof that no single story about a mother could be true, which is proof that the brain just evolved to work that way.

It's the only narrative that fits the facts while affirming the skeptic's presupposition that all this mother business is just leftover hokum from the dark ages.

Except that in a century, when the most famous of the skeptics is long forgotten, broken men will still be telling stories about what we have lost, and what we pray is still out there, coming even now to set all things right.

Tony Woodlief, "Dreaming God" in Image Journal.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Scionology

The afternoon drizzles by
Biting and cool breeze reminds us
Of winters dying breath
Nearly gone but not yet it insists

Like the release and abnegation
Of you over her
How hard we wrestle
How firm our grasp
For fear and compassion
To protect and perhaps
If we are honest to try
To make things right
This time
In her time
Instead of our time

Our time?
Why is it so?
Have we given over already?
I had not thought so
I will that it not be so
Years stretch before us
With that same tumescent uncertainty
And possibility
That wakes us in the night
And calls us into the day

The struggle is real and its
Weight is hard to bear
We long to make their lives
Easier
Safer
Happier
Or even just as much so
As our own
I would find that enough

Some aboriginal drive to control
Possesses us still though
They were our creation were they not?
Called forth as if from Zeus's forehead
At our bequest
We merely exercise our right
Our claim upon them is just and fair

Just and fair?
Two greater lies are not to be found
In human thought
Why would we wish such a fate
On those we carry into the world?

Keep justice; fairness
Give me joy and mercy and freedom
Whatever their manner
Whatever their kin
More so, give it to them
Could there be a better inheritance?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Thoughts from Beck: Religion as Biography

Richard Beck again with great insight captures a profound reality (in my experience, anyway) of the challenge of living an authentic life in community with others of varying experiences. Our insecure, possessive instincts to grasp, control and dominate the truths of others - of disregarding their unique conflation of personality, biology, culture, sociology and experience - so often create unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding. As opposed to this reality is the truth Jesus brought us of our rightful dominions; of the ultimate respect for the individual and her choices.

I'm a big Walden and Thoreau fan to begin with so that's a good start, but Beck's application here of the radical inseparability of our individual biographical narrative from our own epistemological make-up is crucial to my own understanding of human volition, prevenient grace, universal reconciliation, atonement and communal life.

Excerpts of the full article below.



"Immediately, Thoreau goes on to offer an apology for the first-person, autobiographical nature of the book {CJR: Walden):
'...Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.'

"I've heard it said, "There is no theology; only biography." This idea, it seems, is a variant of something Ralph Waldo Emerson, friend of Thoreau, had said: "There is properly no history; only biography"

"Some people, it seems, have no experience of God. At least no experience they trust. Thus, they feel no need to "make sense" of an experience they lack. These persons are agnostics and atheists. And to be clear, I don't fault my skeptical friends for "making sense" of their experience in this particular way. Their experience is their experience. I can't argue them out of what they feel to be true in their bones."

"In a related way, there are those of us who have (and continue to have) experiences that we can only "make sense" of by labeling them as holy, sacred, transcendent, divine, or spiritual. William James called these experiences "ontological emotions," a feeling of thereness. And in light of these experiences people often "make sense" of their lives in ways that we might label "religious.""

"I think this is why Jesus often said, "Those who have ears, let them hear." You can either hear me, or you can't. And if you can't, I'm not sure what we can say to each other. At some deep level we are ships passing in the night. I think this is the same idea behind the Parable of the Sower. You are either good soil, or not. And the same goes for how we live with each other. You are either open to me, and I to you, or we're not."


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Triathlon Training Weekly Routine Calendar

Anyone ever seriously trained for triathlons? I'm working myself up to it and trying to figure out how to make it work. The weekly schedule below is my attempt at working in 4 runs, 3 swims and 3 bikes each week - while trying to live out the rest of my life!


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Fourfold Franciscan Blessing

H/T to Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology.

The Fourfold Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palms Before My Feet

Palms Before My Feet

The Donkey
G.K. Chesterton


When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.