Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Forward, Looking Back

With the coming new year, I find myself joining a lot of other people looking forward by looking back. Doing so, I find the year two-thousand and nine to have been a year of mixed results. I accomplished much; achieved some of my dreams. -- like starting this blog -- but have much left that I want to accomplish. I got rid of some of my mountain of stuff, but the mountain appears to remain undiminished. The cycle of assessing, evaluating, and purging stuff will continue. I attended funerals and grieved with family and friends. I celebrated weddings and new beginnings. I celebrated survival with those I flew with in Vietnam and remembered those no longer with us. I met new friends and renewed acquaintances with some I had not seen for nearly half a century. I am extraordinarily blessed to remain surrounded by wonderful people. And I laughed, and cried, and lived and loved life as it came. Looking forward I could wish for no better. My priorities for 2010 will remain pretty much what they were in 2009 (except that I do plan to experience and explore the interior of Alaska!) and my continuing goals will not change. In 2010, I plan to meet life head on and to savour every moment given me to its absolute fullest. I can do no more.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor Remembered

7 December 2009: It amazes me that some sixty-eight years after the fact, the nation remembers Pearl Harbor and continues to view images of the attack with horror and outrage. Yet a mere nine years after the attacks of 9/11, images of airplanes striking the twin towers, of the towers burning and collapsing are deemed "too disturbing" to show on the six o'clock news.

In the years following 1941, images of the devastation wrought by the attack at Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation to act with resolve in the years to follow. During the dark days immediately following, and throughout the long slog from island to island in the Pacific, the battle cry was "Remember Pearl Harbor." And even today, on the anniversary of the event, the nation pauses to remember. In the weeks following 9/11, images of the devastation wrought by the attacks galvanized the nation to unity and action. Unlike the situation in 1941, such unity was short lived as our elected officials acted like the petty politicians that they are rather than the statesmen that the nation needed. National unity was squandered in the name of momentary political advantage. And the images that could have united us disappeared from view. The news media labelled them "too disturbing." Where is the horror? Where is the outrage? Where is the resolve to see justice for the wrong done on 9/11? Sixty-eight years after Pearl Harbor, the images of December 7, 1941 still unite us. And eight years after 9/11, in the absence of appropriate images and resolve, we find ourselves back to business as usual as if 9/11 had not happened. Where is the horror? Where is the outrage? Where is the resolve? On the brink of losing all sense of national resolve and our will to survive, we are on the brink of losing our culture and our freedom. Where is the outrage? Where is the resolve? Have we become a nation of wimps?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Plant a Garden!

In an interview, pro-blogger Merlin Mann ( asked the following question of fellow blogger Leo Bobauta ( "If you had 60% of the time and resources you needed to do anything you want, what would you do?" I don't remember the answer, but the question has gnawed at me for months. What would I do if I had 60% of the time and resources I needed to do anything I wanted? In my engineer's mind, the question quickly became "How can I achieve acceptable results at something I want to do with 60% of the time and resources that I need?" The answer is "Do something that will successfully scale back to 60%" and "Do something that is less dependent on external resources." And then I remembered growing up on the farm. My Dad never had the resources he needed. Yet every year, he plowed, planted, and cultivated, and every year we harvested. Every year, Dad did all that he could with the resources he had. And it was always enough. If I had 60% of the time and resources I needed, I'd plant a garden. (My wife would sew a quilt!) Instead of 100 square feet, I would prepare, plant, cultivate, and harvest a garden of sixty square feet. By scaling back, I would need to expend only sixty per cent of the time required to prepare the soil and cultivate the plants. I would only use 60% of the seeds, 60% of the fertiliser, and 60% of the water to make my garden grow. And I would still reap a harvest! If conditions are favourable that harvest may even produce better than 60% of what would have been produced with full resources. Perhaps, my garden would even produce the seeds for a somewhat larger plot next year! Half-way toward forming my answer to this question, I realised that we never have all of the resources we think we need. We could always use more. At the same time, I realised that people have been doing awesome things for years and years with very limited or no resources. My Dad raised four children on a subsistence level farm. We all grew up to be reasonably responsible and productive adult members of society. From the day my children entered this world, I never felt that I had the time and resources I needed. No parent ever does. Nonetheless, my children also became reasonably responsible and productive adults. Pareto's law of work says that you generally need only 20 per cent of the resources to get 80 per cent of the results. Life isn't about what you can't do with what you don't have; life is about doing great and wonderful things with what you do! Do something great and wonderful. Plant a garden. Make a quilt. Raise a family. You may not even need sixty-percent.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remember; Be Angry

I choose to remember 9/11. Eight years ago this morning, on September 11, 2001, I was in the Pentagon. I was at Staff Call in an office on C Ring between Corridors 5 and 6. Shortly after sitting down, we were jarred as American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building. My friend who was with me swears that he heard jet engines accelerating before impact. Those I was with and I evacuated safely through the smoke, dust, and debris outside of our office door. I remember that several hundred feet from where I sat, Brigadier General Maude was in his E Ring office. He was being briefed by three Booze-Allen contractors. His office was very near the point of impact. All four occupants perished. I remember that two secretaries were taking a smoke break in the area between B and C ring. One had just flicked her Bic to light up when the right engine came crashing through C ring. Her first thought was that she had caused an explosion. Both she and her companion evacuated safely with a true story to tell the grandchildren. Remember. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt proclaimed it to be a day that would forever live in infamy. We were outraged as a nation, and, for the next four years, our battle cry in the Pacific was "Remember Pearl Harbor!" Black and white images of wreckage burning, and the tower of the Battleship Arizona silhouetted against a cloud of black smoke fueled our outrage and strengthened our national resolve to achieve victory. September 11, 2001 is no less than December 7, 1941 a day that will live forever in infamy. Yet one year afterward, images of the twin towers burning were deemed "too disturbing" to be shown on the evening news. Now, eight years later, our national resolve to triumph can barely be detected. Have we forgotten the images of our fellow citizens casting themselves from the towers rather than burn up inside? Have we forgotten our obligation to those who perished? Remember. Remember that these attacks were evil and be angry. Remember that on September 11, 2001 our nation was attacked without cause. Be angry that , unlike Pearl Harbor, these attacks were mostly directed not against our military but against innocent and unsuspecting civilians. Remember that on September 11, 2001 we were peaceful and secure. Be angry at those who took our peace and security from us. Be very angry at those who forced us now to live in perpetual distrust and wariness. Remember that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were evil acts perpetrated by evil men with evil intent. Be angry at the perpetrators and those who support them. Be resolved to defeat them and everything they stand for. Remember that we owe a solemn obligation to those who perished. Be angry at those who would reduce what should be a day of solemn remembrance and renewed resolution into a day of service similar to Earth Day or Arbor Day. Be angry and resolve to oppose those who continue to plan acts of evil against our nation and our freedom. Resolve to oppose them until your last breath. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Remember 9/11. Be angry and maintain your anger. Resolve with me that evil will never be allowed to triumph.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Labor Day: It's About Work

My Dad always took a somewhat dim view of Labor Day. Falling at the peak of the tobacco harvest, Labor Day happens during the season of maximum effort in the fields and tobacco barns. Housing tobacco is not a task that can be easily accomplished by one person. Dad's view of Labor Day was made no brighter by the fact that on the day after all of his teen aged helpers would disappear into the bowels of the education system and become unavailable except for the hours between school and dark. Most of Dad's helpers, my friends, were also unavailable on Labor Day as they did things with their families who were not tobacco growers. I wanted to be like my friends. Dad's answer to my requests for Labor Day off was always the same. "Labor Day means it's a day extra hard labor." And, although we usually quit early so I could be ready for school the next morning, we spent most of the day working hard. Over the years, I have come to realize that Dad was right even if I'm still not sure that the best way to celebrate Labor day is by working. Labor Day should celebrate work. Labor -- work -- is required for human survival. And, whether we choose to admit it or not, labor -- work -- is also required for human fulfilment. If God created Man and placed him in the garden "to dress it and to keep it," then we are made to work. Scripture tells us that work did not become a burden until man sinned and, in punishment, God cursed the ground so that it would produce its fruit only as a result hard work. "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat your bread," He said. So this Labor Day, I choose to celebrate work -- the work I do and all of the honourable and productive work that other people do. Work: it's part of a full life. "This is the Gospel of labor. Peal forth, ye bells of the Kirk! For the Lord of Love Came down from above To live with men who work. And this is the seed that He planted, Here in this thorn-curs'd soil. Heaven is blessed with eternal rest; The blessing of life is toil." Have a great Labor Day. Celebrate work!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Working on the Lay-Away Plan

I have proudly achieved an age at which many of my contemporaries are either considering retirement or have already retired. Invariably, at any gathering of those in my peer group -- high school class, Army buddies -- I am asked "So, when do you plan to retire?" or "When did you retire?" People appear shocked to learn that I remain employed full time, and even more shocked to learn that I actually enjoy my work! You see, I am working on the lay-away plan -- I plan to work until they lay me away. Maybe, it's the vision of the wolf at the door. Maybe, enforced idleness for more than a day or two at a time doesn't fit me. Maybe, I'm just too old to know better. Or maybe (and I suspect this is the real reason) I have yet to decide what I really want to be when I grow up. Whatever the reason, God has given me the grace to do what I like, and to like what I am doing. During the past half century, I've been a farm hand, a machinist, a student, a soldier, a pilot, a parent and an engineer. I've grown things and made things and blown things up. I've designed new things and fitted things together to work in new ways. It's all been good, and I remain convinced that somewhere there is a really neat job that requires exactly my blend of knowledge, skill, ability, and personality. Finding that position gives life a lot of flavour. I may not always be doing what I do now, but I will always be doing something. Given my interests and past experiences, it will be a great adventure. Let the adventure continue!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Things First

Growing up on a farm, I am acquainted with the laws of the farm. The first law states that there is a proper season for every activity whether it be planting, cultivating, harvesting or bringing to market; the second states that whatever you plant is exactly what you're going to harvest. I also became acquainted with the law of priority. Securing the necessities of life -- food, clothing, shelter and the means of earning them is the top priority. Comforts are the second priority. Once the necessities are secure, we can devote resources to obtaining some comforts in the form of better food, nicer clothing, more comfortable housing and maybe some entertainment. Luxuries come dead last, only after needs are met, and basic comforts provided. First, the necessities. Then the comforts. Finally the luxuries. These priorities have served me very well in providing for my family. For me, they are as invariant as seed time and harvest. Or are they? Lately, I see growing numbers of people securing comforts and luxuries before they have the necessities. And a great many of them seem to be making it work. Need shelter? Some agency will subsidise it for you. Need clothing? You will not be allowed to go naked. Someone will provide it. Need food? Food stamps! Run out of stamps? Creative dumpster diving or an emergency delivery by the local food bank. Apparently, one can eat quite well and even thrive on the dole. Priorities are for other people. Forget about the necessities and go for the large screen high definition TV! After all, life is all about the toys and priorities only apply to those who either voluntarily or involuntarily provide the resources to subsidise the lives of those whose first priority is to play. I'm disgusted. We're sowing irresponsibility. What do we hope to reap?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Just Do It!

I'm a Newton's second law kind of guy. I tend to remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced external force. No amount of training in Getting Things Done or other time and task management techniques will get me out of my chair until I am acted on by some force or impulse. This afternoon was a case in point. I needed to mow the lawn. I intended to mow the lawn. Mowing the lawn was on my weekend projects list. My next actions -- Get out of chair; Put on shoes -- were duly identified and recorded. Yet I spent over four hours planted in front of my computer making excuses and manfully resisting all urges to get up and simply mow the lawn. It looked like it might rain and I probably wouldn't have time to finish. It was hot. I needed to wait until it was cooler. And so forth. And so forth. It's not like mowing my lawn is a really big and onerous job requiring lots of time and physical stamina. It's not. My house sits on a 1/5 acre lot along with six trees and three flower beds. Mowing the lawn is generally a 40 to 50 minute job. Neither is my lawn thick and lush enough to require great physical effort to push the mower through a dense carpet of grass. In fact, were it not for broad-leaf weeds, I'd have no lawn at all. Indeed, some portions only need mowing to chop off seed pods that the weeds insist on growing taller than the surrounding area. And some portions didn't need mowing at all. Rather, it was a matter of Newtons' second law. My resting body wanted nothing more than to remain at rest. However, there is a limit to the amount of indolence that a person can endure and late this afternoon I reached that limit. It was either get up and move or perpetually assume the shape of the chair. So, I got up and moved, and it felt good. I put my shoes on, and that felt better. I opened the front door and the air was soft and sweet, and that was the best of all. Then, since I hate exercise without a purpose, and having a neat lawn is at least a purpose of sorts, I opened up the shed, got out the lawn mower, gassed it up, and pulled the rope. I was answered by a pop that grew into a satisfying purr, and before I realized what was happening, I was happily pushing the mower up and down the front and then the side and back yards, humming as I went. In 35 minutes, the lawn was mowed. As I knew in the back of my mind while I was putting it off, I did a great job and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. Sometimes the only way to overcome Newton's second law is to just do it. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Truth at the End of a Long Handled Hoe

It's summer and school has been out for nearly a month. Our friends who have children and teens are looking hard for solutions to the seemingly constant complaint of "I'm bored." When our children were that age, I came to dread those two words as much as any others. "I'm bored." 

 I had the good fortune to grow up on a farm -- I was never allowed to be bored. When I was young, summers were for playing outdoors and, when I got bored with that, there was always the garden. 

 In the garden, there were always weeds. And weeds always needed to be pulled. It wasn't until years later that I realized that the places I was assigned to pull weeds from when I was a child were places where there was no danger that my childish enthusiasm for uprooting stuff would damage any of the plants we were trying to nurture! 

When I got older, I was given the responsibility -- today I consider it an honour -- of working with my Dad and Grand Dad to produce the crops that would sustain us through the coming winter and until next year's crop went to market. 

 However, at the age of eleven, working in the fields and tobacco barns was exactly what I didn't want to do with my summer. I recall protesting long and bitterly before grudgingly proceeding do what needed to be done. As a result, I learned a lot of truth at the end of a long handled hoe. 

I learned that being dusty won't kill you. 

Being hot won't kill you. 

Being bored won't kill you. 

 The work had to be done whether I wanted to do it or not and the work I did had to be done right. I soon learned that if I didn't do it right the first time, doing it over a second time was no easier than the first, and having to do it a over a third time was damn sure no easier than doing it the second. 

I think three times is my record for having to redo the same row, and I remember the day I set it. That day, I hoed one particular row of worm seed three times before my work would meet my father's minimum acceptable standard. It was almost sunset when I had finished my third trip down the row and Dad told me "You could have been home an hour ago if you'd done it right the first time." 

 The lesson stuck. I learned that complaints fall on deaf ears when your Daddy and your Grand Daddy are in the same field as you doing exactly the same thing you are. 

 I learned that there was a right way and a wrong way even to hoe weeds. And the right way actually requires less effort and gives better results than any other. Weeds between the rows were removed by cultivating with the tractor. Then, we hoed to remove the weeds from between the plants. When hoeing, the objective was not to chop the weeds from between the plants. Chopping took a lot of energy. Instead, the method is to either pull dirt over the weeds if they were small, or to disconnect them from their roots by sliding the blade of the hoe beneath them if they were not. 

 Doing it the right way, if conditions were right, I would get into a rhythm -- kerchunk, kerchunk, kerchunk down one row and kerchunk, kerchunk, kerchunk up the next. Hour after hour, day after day until the harvest. And I learned that when I was in rhythm, moving easily up and down the rows dispatching weeds from between the plants, only the smallest part of my mind needed to be engaged with the task at hand and the rest was free to travel as my imagination directed. 

 During those summers, moving up and down the rows, I authored short stories and novels and directed award-winning screen shows in the free part of my mind. I was present at the great events of history. I had conversations with great men. I performed incredible deeds of heroism. I envisioned my future and established in my imagination the dreams I would one day live. 

 Since that time, I have had the good fortune to live a great many of those dreams. I've even been allowed do some of the deeds of daring that I first envisioned while attached to the end of that hoe during those long past summers. 

 I was hot, bored, dusty, and not always willing but, during those summers in those fields at the end of that hoe, God gave me the grace to recognize truth.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Proclaim Liberty Througout the Land!

This year, I have the pleasure of celebrating Independence day in Philadelphia where, two hundred thirty-three years ago this weekend, fifty-six of the leading citizens of the thirteen english colonies pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the idea of political independence from the mother country. Today, my wife and I walked to Independence Hall where those men met. We saw the Liberty Bell which symbolizes our ideals as a nation. The inscription on the bell enjoins us to "Proclaim Liberty throughout the land, and to all the people thereof." Proclaim Liberty! Proclaim the ideal that each person is free to choose and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of his own actions. Proclaim Liberty! Proclaim the ideal that each person must stand or fall based upon his own industry or merit. Proclaim Liberty! Proclaim the ideal that government is the servant rather than the master of those governed. Prisoners are confined; slaves are subject to a master's wishes. Yet the same word is used to describe both the prisoner and the slave when they are both no longer confined, or in bondage; they are at liberty! As a nation, we pride ourselves on being neither prisoners nor slaves but at liberty. On this Independence day, join with me and my family and proclaim liberty throughout the land, and to all the people thereof. Proclaim Liberty!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Followers and Friends:
Whereas, the we have officially entered the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, and
whereas, the weather is delightfully warm and balmy, and
whereas, everybody is feeling a bit more laid back than normal,

I hereby proclaim TODAY, June 26 in the year of Our Lord 2009 and every Friday through Labor Day of this year to be Hawaiian Shirt Day.

In celebration thereof, every follower and friend of this blog is to wear a Hawaiian Shirt on this and every subsequent Hawaiian Shirt Day in the year 2009.

Aloha and Mahalo!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Secret to Surviving

In his classic song, "The Gambler", American troubadour Kenny Rogers asserts that "... the secret to survivin' is knowin' what to throw away and knowin' what to keep." In contrast, I am not a gambler; very little of my stuff is essential to survival. I need a strategy for making the throw away/keep decision. And I have one. If I don't use an item regularly or do not anticipate using it again, I will dispose of it. I plan to start with stuff I haven't used for the last ten or twenty years and with stuff I know I'll never use again. After having disposed of that stuff or restored it to a place of regular use, I plan to work my forward little by little to the present. My intent is to reach the point where I will have tossed, donated, sold, or otherwise disposed of everything I haven't used for the past year. Face it, if I haven't needed or used something for a year, then I probably don't need to keep it around. If I need it again, I should be able to buy, borrow, or rent one and hopefully give it back when I'm finished using it. The only problem will be stuff with historic or sentimental value -- wall maps from the Browningsville School, tobacco spears from Dad's farm, Grand Dad's plumb bob &c. With any luck, I'll be able to donate some of it to the Montgomery County, MD. historic society. Failing that, I'll probably inflict it on my kids. I've already started. I gave my machinist's tool chest and tools to my nephew who is a machinist. He will use them. It felt good.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's Only Stuff

My parents were part of the generation that survived both the Great Depression and World War II. As one of the last tobacco farmers in a rapidly urbanizing Montgomery County, Md. my Dad never really lost the depression mind set. In our family, hard work and frugality were necessary if we were to eat. Our habit of making much out of little was summed up in a little verse that my mother taught me as a child, saying: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, Or do without!" My wife also came of age in circumstances that required work and the ability to make do with what one had. The net result is that we tend to hang onto stuff long after it has ceased to be useful just in case we might some day need it. I have lugged my machinist's tools to eighteen addresses in the last thirty-nine years just in case I ever need to go back to work in a machine shop to feed my family. They are good and useful stuff. I fondly hold onto books and magazines I have read and might want to read again and to books and magazines I have never read but that sound as if I may one day want to read them. Good and enlightening or entertaining stuff. Old radio equipment has followed me home from places as far distant as North Carolina because it's "good stuff" and might be fun to play with. When my grandparents died, the farming tools and my grandfather's mill-wright tools made the trek to my parent's place. When my parents died, a lot of these same tools took residence with me, not because I needed them or that they had sentimental value, but because I knew how to use them. I feel like I have half of the farm in my basement, but it's still good and potentially useful stuff. I have acquired stuff on impulse because I thought it might be neat to have. A lot of it has stayed with me. I have also held onto stuff because it was not good enough to donate or sell, but way too good to throw away. I am up to my knees in stuff! Sure, I use and enjoy some of it it, but I look at a lot of it and wonder why it's still there. And I look at too much of it and wonder what I was thinking when I dragged it home. I have finally come to the conclusion that will never make me happy and that stuff that is neither used nor enjoyed is clutter. It's time to start the process of de-cluttering, of getting rid of stuff I neither need, nor use, nor take pleasure in -- item by item and piece by piece. After all, it's not anything of real value. It's only stuff.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I am a Soldier

I am a soldier.

Long ago, I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me.

Nothing has released me from my oath even though it's over a quarter century since I last wore a uniform. Nothing ever will. For better or for worse, I am a soldier.

Long ago, I fought the battles of this nation in a war that had even then been declared lost, and a terrible waste. I went where my country sent me. There, to the best of my ability, I strove for victory in places called Tan Canh, Firebase Charlie, Ben Het, Kontum, and Polei Kleng.

I am a soldier.

I have risked everything for my friends and for people I never knew and probably never will. They would all have done the same for me. Most would do the same again today. We are, and remain, a band of brothers.

I am a soldier.

With my brothers, I share a heritage that begins in the earliest mists of the human experience and will continue until the last trumpet sounds, a heritage of personal sacrifice and desperate deeds done by desperate men in the face of great adversity.

At the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln stated "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. But it can never forget what they did here." And, like the soldiers of the 1860s, we dared and accomplished much.

I came home on a stretcher to a country indifferent to my sacrifice and that of my brothers. By the grace of God, I recovered. Tim died at a place called Ben Het thirty days after he arrived in country. Fred died in the Kontum Pass and now sleeps in Arlington. Dusty sleeps in the land he died fighting for, the site of his resting place undiscovered until recently. Bill spent nine months in captivity. Flame took a .50 through the chest and went on to serve until retirement.

Ultimately, we all took off our uniforms and assumed our places in civilian society, but we remain different.

We are soldiers.

Remember us.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Power of One

In my quest for the best system for Getting Things Done and simplifying my life and work, I have been slammed by a Homer Simpson moment. Of just about anything I might use, I only need ONE! I only need ONE -- I only need ONE inbox; I only need ONE calendar; I only need ONE actions list; I only need ONE projects list; I only need ONE note pad; and I only need ONE system for organizing my "stuff". All else is clutter and confusion. I will make it a habit to identify and get rid of anything excess. I have been so into investigating and finding the right ONE and the best ONE, that I've been flitting between two, three, or MORE things at a time. What a pain. So, I am now establishing ONE of each of those things on paper and down selecting to ONE of each on line. I am also establishing a rule to only use ONE thing at a time. If a new ONE thing beckons, I will cease using the OLD ONE as I evaluate the NEW ONE. I will evaluate and learn to use each new ONE for at least 30 days before deciding whether to keep it (and make it THE ONE) or discard it (and go back to the OLD ONE), or to create a NEW hybrid using the best of the OLD ONE and the NEW ONE. Whatever I'm using, I will only need to remember to update ONE thing at any ONE time. I've already decided that my ONE paper calendar and daily record of events is the ONE contained in my small Day Timer. I still need to select ONE electronic calendar -- either OUTLOOK used where I work, or GCal, available from anywhere on the web. I'm not a fan of electronic to-do lists, so my ONE Actions List is a card in my Hipster, as is my ONE Projects List. This may change, but so far, it's not broken, so why fix it? So, no more Master/Slave lists. No more 8 1/2 x 11 inch lists and no more half-size yellow pad lists. Only ONE. I will make an exception to the ONE notepad rule. Although I will continue take most of my notes on index cards (Hipster), I will probably keep one or two white or yellow pads for doodling, noodling, and capturing stuff at hand on my desk. The ONE system for organizing my stuff is currently the GTD recommended single alphabetical file, although I may establish a time-based Noguchi system for current actions. Again, any exception to the rule of ONE is not to be taken lightly. So, there you have it. ONE thing to rule them all, ONE thing to find them. ONE thing to bring them all, And in the daylight bind them In the mind of the user, where wisdom lies! With sincere apologies to J. R. R. Tolkien.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Refuse!

I refuse to be average, to be part of the crowd. I choose to be uniquely myself, a one-of-a-kind creation, the only "me" this world will ever experience. I refuse to let others limit my interests. I choose to read and investigate and learn things for no other reason than that they interest me. I believe there is no such thing as useless knowledge, and if I find even one other person on this planet who shares an interest, it's beautiful. I refuse to accept everything I am told at face value. I choose to investigate for myself and discover what is true. I refuse to give up what is old and works for what is new and unproven. I choose to wait and see if the new really is better or makes things easier. I refuse keep up with the Joneses. I choose to do unique things that will make the Joneses want to keep up with me. And if they don't, that's OK too. I refuse to resent the success of others. I choose to celebrate their accomplishments and will delight in buying them a beer in celebration. I refuse to be bitter about the past. I choose rather to learn from my experiences and eagerly press on to the future. I refuse to do what is expected. I choose to do what is right. I refuse to retire because I have attained some standard age. I choose to work on the lay-away plan. I plan to work until they lay me away or as long as it remains fun. Life is too short for jumping through hoops or checking off boxes and I refuse to do so. Life is meant to be experienced. I choose to experience life with all of the gusto, enthusiasm, and enjoyment I can muster.

Monday, April 13, 2009

39 and Holding No More

During my weekend errands, I found myself behind a car with the tag "39 HLDNG" or "thirty-nine and holding."

My first reaction was to congratulate myself for decoding the message. My second, as one who recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of his 39th birthday, was to wonder, "Were it possible to hold at a particular age, which one would I choose?"

 Seventeen was a very good year. I met the love of my life that fall, but I would not want to hold at seventeen.

 Twenty-one was a very good year. I married the girl of my dreams that fall -- the same girl I met at seventeen -- and we began our life together, but I would not want to hold at twenty-one.

 Twenty-six and twenty-seven get mixed reviews. At twenty-six, I graduated from college, went into the Army, learned to fly, and went to war. At twenty-seven, I did deeds of daring during a major battle, got shot up, and began nine months of recovery. I also greeted my first son. The times were exciting. I made some life-long friends. My life would be incomplete without my son. Nevertheless, I would not like to hold at twenty-six or twenty-seven.

 I have no particular memory of being 39. I'm sure it was a good year, but I do not wish to hold onto it. Were I to hold at 39, I would miss too much. I would miss my children growing up. I would miss a great many soccer games, baseball games, school dramas and talent shows. I would miss being part of their school, church, and social activities. I would miss their graduations from High School and college. I would miss their weddings and the births of my grand children. I would miss going to Alaska. I would miss many of the greatest experiences of my life. Thirty-nine and holding? Not me! Last year I learned the joy of being 63. This year, I'm doing a good job learning to be 64. After all, I only get one chance to be every age. And, whatever age I am, my plan is to live it well.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Homer Simpson Moments

Did you ever have one of those Homer Simpson moments? You're doing something when suddenly the sun emerges from behind a cloud, the scales fall from your eyes, the synapses in your brain fire just right and you suddenly recognize the truth, beauty, and wisdom of something simple that has been hiding in plain sight, usually with a force that makes you want to slap your fore head and say "Doh!!" That's a Homer Simpson moment. I call such moments "flashes of the obvious". Such moments were rare when I was younger and knew everything. Now, as I get older, I find them happening with increasing frequency. Either I am realizing how little I know, or have learned the wisdom to appreciate more. I am also discovering that obvious or not, a lot of people have yet to discover these simple truths. This blog is dedicated to those who, like me, find life to be an incredible voyage of discovery and who delight when blessed with occasional flashes of the obvious. May you be the beneficiary of many, many Homer Simpson moments!