Then Again…

Journal Entry (Wednesday February 1, 2023)



Then again, rather than try to explain what my daily practice of writing has done for me (yesterday’s post) I could have just quoted Marcus Aurelius, these words are more eloquent, and also more succinct.

“Know that in time those things toward which we move come to be.”

“Bear in mind that the measure of a man is the worth of the things he cares about.”

“Leave the wrong with the person who did it.”

The message here, put very simply, is that actions follow thought.



Self-Awareness

Journal Entry (Tuesday January 31, 2023)



I am frequently amazed at the things that don’t bother me… It seems just a few short years ago this was not the case. I won’t list the things that used to bother me here, they are not important except as the inspiration for this reflection. The reason fewer things seem to bother me could be connected to the process of aging (which I prefer to think of instead as the process of maturing) but that is only part of the story. I think there is another reason, a more important reason. The more important reason I’m referring to is the change brought about by the practice of writing.

I’ve been writing almost daily now for over three years. I think the primary benefit has been in becoming more self-aware. I believe the practice of writing can change us. If you don’t write, you may not agree with that, I get it, but let me try to explain. When I started writing my first journal back in the fall of 2019, I realized it was fun and satisfying. That was a travel journal. It took about two months to complete. Once it was complete I just kept on writing. It wasn’t long before I was reaching down and starting to write about myself, that’s when the change began to occur, when self-awareness started to grow. But what does it mean to become more self-aware?

If you make yourself the topic of your own writing long enough, you begin to gain a conscious understanding of your character, your values, your beliefs, and your emotions. Keep writing, and at some point you start to become comfortable with these things. That’s when the magic occurs. As you begin to understand these things and become comfortable with them you begin to make better choices. So to return to my original point about fewer things bothering me, being self-aware has allowed me to make better choices. As the Stoic Marcus Aurelius said “choose not to be harmed - and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed - and you haven’t been.” Self-awareness is is an excellent path to making better choices possible. If writing isn’t your thing, I’m sure there are other paths to that goal…

…perhaps long-distance cycling?



What A Treat

Journal Entry (Monday January 30, 2023)



My Sweetheart skiing with Lindsey Vonn.



Do I Make Myself Clear?

Journal Entry (Sunday January 29, 2023)



I’ve been reading ”Do I Make Myself Clear” by Harold Evans. The following is from his book, explaining the difference between four words that we frequently confuse.

”Inchoate/Incoherent: Inchoate describes something not ready to be judged incoherent, or “lacking clarity.” The inchoate idea or thing is embryonic, in the early stages of being formed.”

In other words, you can’t judge an inchoate idea as incoherent. Simply put, there isn’t enough thought behind an inchoate idea it to even say it is incoherent.

Keep in mind, it takes a logophile to truly appreciate the English language, but those who don’t frequently suffer logorrhea…



Looking Ahead

Journal Entry (Saturday January 28, 2023)



When things are going well, I look to the future and think about what is next. I’m doing just that right now. I suppose before I share what’s next, I should say a bit about why things are going well…

Recently I’ve made some positive dietary changes and I’ve created an exercise routine that uses yoga and rowing to get into shape. I’m feeling better than I have in a quite awhile. This will also prepare me for another cross-country cycling adventure. That is exciting in itself, but even better than all of this is the fact that I have someone in my life that is supportive and cares about me. I get that feeling from her every day. I’m very lucky.

Here’s what the future holds: Cycling across the U.S. again. (Not just one more time, hopefully more than one more time.) Learning watercolor painting. Improving my writing skill, not just here but in my personal journal, and by way of documenting my cross-country adventures. Perhaps eventually learning to play a few notes on the guitar. That’s a lot to look forward to, and I do.



Rai​son d’etre

Journal Entry (Friday January 27, 2023)



My goal is to write here every day. To what end I’m not always sure. The important thing for me is the idea that I am leaving behind something tangible, something that is a part of me that can be shared with the world. (If not the world, then at least the people in my life that I care about.) When I say leaving something that is a part of me, I mean something personal. I’m not talking about political thoughts. I have no desire to persuade, it wouldn’t be hard for you to discern what my political thoughts are anyway. What I write here, I write for me. It’s difficult to explain. I can probably best describe it as a need rather than a want. Doing this fulfills me in a real way. That is not the only reason, but it is reason enough.



Getting Organized

Journal Entry (Thursday January 26, 2023)



I have literally been trying to get organized my entire life. I have found it a frustrating endeavor because I have never been satisfied with any method I have come up with. Perhaps I am slightly OCD, there is little doubt in my mind actually, but I will let you be the judge of that after you have read what follows — if you can force yourself to wade through this. Please keep one thing in mind, I have been working on trying to get to this place my entire life, I’m actually very happy with where I am.

The approach I have come up with consists of three daily carry notebooks. You’re probably thinking that I must be crazed, hang in there, they are not large. Each notebook is 5” x 8” and only 64 pages total, so quite thin. I carry them together in a waxed canvas field journal (Lochby). Besides holding the three notebooks, the field journal also carries my debit card, credit card, library cards and identification. Everything in one place, very convenient, and it goes everywhere.

Now that we are over that hurdle, we can talk specifically about the three notebooks. Each one has a purpose. The first notebook is the “Daily Log/Plan”. When I sit down first thing in the morning and think about my day, I can make notes in this book about what needs to be accomplished. Pretty straightforward. The nice thing though is if I don’t complete everything that day, I can look back the next day, or even the next week, and pick up missed items (assuming they are still important). The second notebook is the “System Tracking and Goals” notebook. This is the heart of my tracking and recording. This notebook is organized by week. Each week has a double-page spread for daily routine tasks, allowing these to be checked off at the end of the day, There is also a double-page spread for projects that I want to work on during that week. I also have pages in this notebook to record payments, spending, and upcoming events. The third notebook is simply for capturing thoughts and ideas while on the go, these often become prompts for my long-form writing.

The nice thing about making these notebooks carry items is that it allows me to write more freely in my long-form journal, A Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. I don’t clutter the long-form journal with tasks or lists, this notebook is strictly for free-form writing on whatever topic happens to be of interest to me at the moment. When I pick up the long form journal and begin writing, I can clear my mind of the daily detail because I have all of that handled in the three field journal notebooks. As a result of this organization, my long-form writing is a much more satisfying endeavor.

There you have it. I know this is very personal stuff and probably of use to no one but myself. It feels good to write about this because doing so makes me even more satisfied and confident. These techniques help give me a sense of purpose, which I might not otherwise have if I were just living moment to moment with no thought about what I should be doing. That’s just me. If you find this interesting or even useful, so much the better. It has been satisfying and reinforcing for me to share these on this page.

Just to clarify, “slightly OCD” is probably an understatement…



TransAm

Journal Entry (Wednesday January 25, 2023)



I have started preliminary preparation for a second crossing of the U.S. by bicycle. I did this once before in 2019. That time I took the southern route. There are three established cycling routes across the U.S., the Southern Tier, the TransAm and the Northern Tier. In just a couple of months from now I plan to take on the TransAm route. How does one prepare for such as this, especially in the winter? I’ll be doing some yoga and some rowing, as the weather improves I will of course also be on the bike. I plan about 2-½ months of preparation. If all goes according to plan, I should be starting from Florence Oregon in mid-April and reach Williamsburg Virginia about 90 days later.

When I crossed the U.S. on the Southern Tier I started with a group but about half-way through the journey (in Austin Texas) I dropped them. It’s not that I’m anti-social, there were some difficulties with the make-up of the group, none of whom I had met before we started the trip in San Diego. I did not mind doing the second half of that trip solo at all. In fact, it turned out to be a great experience. In many ways I now prefer traveling alone when traveling by bicycle. It’s a rewarding experience to know you have only yourself to depend on. It would have to be a very small group of close friends to make me want to do this trip any way other than solo. There is one clear exception to my “solo” rule, I would love to have my sweetheart join me, perhaps someday the two of us will make the journey together. There will be other opportunities, after all, there are four bicycle routes across the U.S. in total, the three previously mentioned and the TransAm Rail Trail still under construction, about 50% complete as of this writing.

I will be recording the journey here on the blog, just as I did my Southern Tier crossing. I hope you come back when the journey begins to enjoy the ride along with me!



Editing

Journal Entry (Monday January 23, 2023)



Writing. One of my favorite things. I wish I did it well. I’m trying.

The key to good writing is clarity. I have a tendency to use too many words. The first paragraph above is an attempt to convey a message in as few words as possible. I think it succeeds, but the point here is that it is not easy to do. Without editing what you have written, all is lost. The chief ingredient in good editing is removing as many unnecessary words as possible. That is harder than it seems. You can easily spend more time editing than you do putting down your initial thoughts.

I never used to edit. I’m learning to spend time doing that, and I’m beginning to see the value. So there is no confusion, I have no intention of ever becoming published — other than this blog. Anyone can have a blog, so having one certainly does not count as published.

If I keep writing (which I plan to do) it will be fun to look back and see if my skill improves over time. I hope it does. In the mean time, I will keep an eye open for examples of good writing (and speaking) one of my favorites being this little piece that played no small part in history…

”We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job!”

- Winston Churchill



Political Language

Journal Entry (Sunday January 22, 2023)



In George Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language, he warns us:

“Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservative to anarchist — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

This is as true today as it was in 1946. All people need to be aware of this propensity of politics, but there is even more to be aware of. With the increasing use of AI in all forms of human communication, this problem is only going to get worse. The species needs to be careful when it comes to speech in all forms, else we become little more than slaves to communication, rather than masters of it.



What’s Going On?

Journal Entry (Saturday January 21, 2023)



I’m happy. Not just today, I mean in general. Like yesterday too… At certain times, something will hit you. I know someone I love that would chide me for what I’m about to say. (It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose.) I’m going to say it anyway, there have really been few times I can think of when I have been happier, and maybe, just maybe, this is the happiest I’ve ever been.

I’m not just talking about happiness for a day or two, here or there, I’m talking about over time, a really good bit of time. Will this be sustainable? Of course over time nothing is easy to sustain. It’s called entropy. Everything has a tendency to devolve. Even so, I don’t really look at this feeling that way. The feeling I have now is both comfortable and eager at the same time. Comfortable in the sense that I have confidence (more than in the past) that the life I’m living now is sustainable. Eager in the sense that I want to not only continue sustaining it, but more importantly, make it better.

There is no doubt in my mind, the person closest to me is a big part of the reason for this happiness. This is my thanks to her.



Graciousness

Journal Entry (Friday January 20, 2023)



“Receive without conceit; release without struggle.”

—Marcus Aurelius



That Time Again

Journal Entry (Thursday January 19, 2023)



Yes, it’s that time again. I am officially a year older. Time I suppose to look back on the previous year and reflect. Here goes. It was the best year of my life. A ridiculous thing to say, but ok, it hasn’t been that bad, really, maybe the best, you never know! I’ve learned a few things, especially about myself. What can be better than that? I’m looking forward to the next year of life. What can be better than that? If I can say all of this a year from now, I will win the prize again!



Philosophy

Journal Entry (Wednesday January 18, 2023)



What is the role of philosophy in life, if not to change your life. I suppose it is a bit like fly fishing. You can do it and enjoy it of course, but if you do it with skill and attention, you are rewarded with dinner. Of course, what do I know, I’ve never fly fished, and I’m allergic to fish anyway. I hope this means I’ll have better luck with philosophy. Philosophy may not reward you with dinner, but there is a chance you will catch something more valuable — knowledge about yourself — and the ability to change yourself…



Giving

Journal Entry (Tuesday January 17, 2023)



How do we find worth in ourselves, are we born with it? Is it given to us? Perhaps, though probably it is inside of us. We have to reach in and pull it out. There is no other way to gain it. Unless we do that, we have nothing to give to anyone else. Life and giving is not a quid pro quo. You do it. When it comes back to you, it comes from a place freely given if it is of any value.



TransAm

Journal Entry (Monday January 16, 2023)



It has been a good day. All I need to do to close out this day is clean the kitty crapper and sweep the floor. I have determined my calling for the next few months. Prepare to take on the TransAm Trail. I’m excited. I’m also hopeful the doctor will give me the green light. At my age, you never know. Arthritis is starting to set in, gotta keep moving. Isn’t that the truth no matter the age? I do worry about a few things, like why haven’t I spent a bigger portion of my life reading great works of poems, essays, and novels? Instead I read computer books. They were enjoyable, no question. They put bread on the table, no question. But what purpose do they server me now? Now I’m more interested in skiing and learning how bind books by hand than I am in learning how to stand up a Hugo website written using the Go programming language…

To evolve can be a bitch.



Grateful

Journal Entry (Saturday January 14, 2023)



It is agonizing
sending a poem into the world
wondering how it will be received
like watching a child grow up
wondering about the result.

The sun rises every morning
in glorious light
when the child loves you.

The sun sets at night
into perpetual darkness
when you realize the child
has no use for you.

I have been fortunate
I see the sun rising every morning.



Apology

Journal Entry (Friday January 13, 2023)



Friday the 13th seems somewhat appropriate for this…

I wrote you a poem yesterday
(a prose poem)
I hope it didn’t scare you
it would have overwhelmed
a man on the street
walking his dog
had it been about him
I would have said something
very different
in that case
but it wasn’t about him
or his dog
the poem was about you
had I seen you on the street
walking a dog
(unlikely I know)
I would not have changed a word



My Gift

Journal Entry (Thursday January 12, 2023)



This is a post long overdue. Although it is personal in nature, it reflects where I am at this stage in my life, which is simply, less afraid to share my feelings. I realize words like these can sound cliche, but this is truly my best attempt to share a realization and a feeling that has been a long time in coming, one I hope will define the rest of my life. This is the most important thing I have ever written, and probably will be the most important thing I ever write. If you stop reading here, I will have no regrets and I will be perfectly content. if you read on, do me a favor and come back to these words once in awhile, I will be doing that as well…

I’ve been asking myself lately, what is my gift. At first I was looking at this from the perspective of what is my gift to the world. That is much too broad in scope. After a few days of letting the whole idea rest, it came to me (just now in fact) that you have to look at your daily life and extrapolate from that to the world at large. Suddenly, it become clear quite quickly that there is nothing more important than you. To have found you is truly remarkable. A gift greater than I had hoped for. Not exactly true. I knew in a way too deep to depend on, that you were out there. I’m a pragmatist and a romantic. The pragmatist in me wasn’t sure I would find you, the romantic hoped that I would. Both of us got lucky. I found you. Now I realize clearly what I have wanted, what has been missing, and what I want to give going forward, that is my love to you. I suspect you know this, you are a lot smarter than I am, but it makes me feel good to be able to express this to you. Never mind that it has taken me as long as it has to find you and for me to realize what my gift is, that’s how things work I suppose. Now that I realize what my gift is — to love you, I also realize the gift that has come to me, the gift that I treasure above all others, your love for me. These two things have brought me to a place never before experienced, where I want to reside, a place from which I can share myself. So the gift I give to you, and the one you share with me, is now also the gift I give to the world…



ALTA

Journal Entry (Wednesday January 11, 2023)



ALTA

Another Long Tirade (on being a writer) Again

I can’t even begin to imagine what it would take to be an author, to write something that is remotely good enough to be recognized as literature. I have said in the past I would love to be a writer. But (1) you should not confuse “writer” with “author.” I am a writer (of sorts) not an author. The difference of course is like the difference between night and day. What I do, what I call writing, takes no real skill, all it takes is the willingness to embarrass yourself. To be an author takes real work, not to mention skill, probably beyond my current abilities for sure, and likely beyond my capacity. Perhaps if I had realized at a young age how much I enjoy doing this — stringing words together — I might have been able to make the commitment to become a writer with a story worth sharing (of course there is no guarantee of that). The reality is that given my current age, that goal is more than likely out of my reach. I don’t have twenty or thirty years to reach that lofty height. (It has taken 50 years just to learn how to get my weight forward on my skis, and I’m only successful in doing that a small percentage of my time.) Becoming an author would be something that would likely take even longer…

(1) Can you start a sentence with the word “but?” Part of becoming a (good) writer is learning a bit about grammar. I’m definitely behind on that score. After all, I’ve spent my life as a computer programmer. Programming languages are not known for complex grammar, the English language is a marvelous exception. Apparently it is okay to start a sentence with the word “but.” If Herman Melville can do it, then I suppose I can. To justify that, I give you the following quote:

“Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep; and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me. But previous to turning in, I took my heavy bear-skin jacket…”

The bottom line here is, yes, you can do it as long as the sentence can stand on its own two legs without the use of the “but,” and as long as you don’t over use it. However, it should probably be avoided in Grand Jury reports, Supreme Court Opinions and other documents more formal than blog posts… unless you are Herman Melville…



I need to…

Journal Entry (Tuesday January 10, 2023)



I need to… realize am evolving.

I need to… send myself gratitude for where I am and where I am going.

I need to… take time to examine the path I am on.

I need to… give the past its due then let it go.

I need to… trust the future has great things in store for me.

I need to… rest in the current moment.

I need to… contemplate these things nightly.



Skiing

Journal Entry (Monday January 9, 2023)



Skiing is like life.
There’s a right way and a wrong way.
You can do it either way you want.
How you choose to do it
is largely a matter desire and effort.



What the Butler Taught Me

Journal Entry (Sunday January 8, 2023)



The “Remains of the Day” is now just “the remains,” period. I did not enjoy this book but something drove me to finish it. I think it was my desire to find out how a book so boring could be brought to an end. I was hoping for something dramatic and satisfying but was disappointed, for that I should not be terribly surprised.

The author is talented, there is no question. The story was an excellent portrayal of a self-deluded, not so bright man, who dedicated his life to the service of people not truly worthy of his efforts while denying himself the only chance of love that came his way. The author had the speech and vernacular of a 20th century British man-servant down perfectly. I felt sorry for the protagonist throughout the entire excruciating journey. I think the author simply wanted me to ask myself a few questions of my own. 1) What am I dedicating my life to? 2) In what ways am I deluding myself? 3) What is it I should be doing to correct any insights I gained by examining questions 1 and 2. The author did a masterful job of keeping his intent for me largely unexposed until the very last page of the book.

Sometimes you have to work hard to get to the answers, I think that is what this book was all about.



Hiatus

Journal Entry (Saturday January 7, 2023)



I’m going to take a few days off. I’m taking my laptop with me, but I don’t know if I will get a chance to do any writing. I’m taking the time to visit friends and family, ski, and do some warm weather mountain biking a bit south of here. As far as reading goes, I hope to finish “The Remains of the Day,” and give you my final review of that work (don’t hold your breath, it may turn out I’ve already said all that I think needs to be said about that.) Along the lines of self-improvement, I hope I will finish reading “Do I Make Myself Clear.” It’s my hope that there will be something in that book that will make me a better writer. I’m sure there is, will I be able to apply that something is the question. Finally, I would also like to finish “Snow Falling on Cedars,” it’s on my 2023 list of books to read. If I finish reading it on this trip I’ll be off to a great start on completing this year’s reading list.

Wish me luck. I’m looking forward to these next few days and I’m also looking forward to 2023 in general. I think it’s going to be a great year.

Cheers!



The Butler Is Still Doing It

Journal Entry (Friday January 6, 2023)



I continue to wade my way through “The Remains of the Day.” I’m well aware that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on a book that doesn’t speak to me, and this one certainly doesn’t. I suppose the biggest problem I have is I can’t believe a person can be as self-deluded as the protagonist appears to be in this work. He is humble to a fault, generous beyond expectation, and gracious enough to make even the nicest people I know vomit. I’m waiting to see if the protagonist realizes his “faults,” but I don’t anticipate that is where the author is taking me. I keep reading because I want to find out why this book won the Nobel Prize in Literature and why the Boston Globe called it “one of the 10 best books of the decade.” I’m not going to wait until I get to the end to answer that, I’ve decided to ask the internet…

What a marvelous thing the internet. I have now been schooled along the following lines. According to a CNBC article (my first hit) the author is touching on the theme of “self-delusion.” (Well, I feel a little better, that is exactly what I was saying in the opening paragraph, before I hit up the internet for a second opinion.) The article claims Ishiguro is a mix of Jane Austin and Franz Kafka. I have no desire to read Jane Austin. Kafka I get. My exposure to Kafka in the past has left me confused and just a little depressed. I don’t expect “The Remains of the Day” to be a whole lot different. (There is a movie version of the book starring Anthony Hopkins. I may have to watch it just to torture myself a bit more, and because I like Anthony Hopkins.)

The Nobel Prize in Literature is considered the most prestigious literary award. It would be fascinating to ask the judges why this deserves to be ranked with Hemingway and Solzhenitsyn. The prize in literature is one of five prizes awarded annually. The literary award goes to “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” Okay. Whatever. There is some chatter that the Nobel committee may not be the best judge of what constitutes literature deserving of such an important distinction as the Nobel Prize. I’m in no position to comment on that but you can probably hazard a guess what my opinion on that is. Apparently today’s academy places a priority on what it calls “the pioneers.” It seems to me “The Remains of the Day” is more about perfection of a form (a study in manners) rather than a pioneering form, unless by pioneering they mean raising a form to new levels of perfection (not to be confused with boredom). The committee also gives attention to “unknown masters” which may be a factor in the Academy’s choice here. I can’t argue on that score because this is my first exposure to Ishiguro, I haven’t read any of his other work. When I look at the list of recipients of the award, I’m left with the conclusion that I’m hardly a judge of fine literature and certainly not one to raise a serious objection to the academy’s decision making process. I just hope that Ishiguro uses the substantial monetary award received for this work to write a truly great novel about baseball, bicycling, or skiing.