Friday, September 28, 2012

Choose your words wisely

Sometime ago I came across a website ( that lists verbs to use in place of common verbs. Sadly, that link no longer works; but when I find something interesting on the internet I print it for my files, which is really just a stack of interesting stuff. The list below contains 166 words that could be used instead of the word said. This is a must list of words for new and experienced writers. As I reviewed the list a curious thought came to me. Many of them were opposites of other replacement words.

Muttered is balanced by enunciated. Whispered is contrasted with yelled. Questioned is countered by pontificated. Asked is answered with cited. Reading the list is enlightening without trying to create a single point vs. counterpoint arrangement. Read the list for meaning and insights. Use the list and a dictionary to jump start a writing effort.

Most of the verbs I knew and used many times, many I knew but didn’t often use. A few were unfamiliar that made me open a dictionary to get a precise meaning.

Avouched: to make frank acknowledgement or affirmation, to admit; confess. Maundered: to talk in a rambling, foolish or meaningless way. Prated: to talk excessively. Prattle: to talk in a simple minded way; chatter; babble.

I must declare that I have at times talked idiotically to overload without even trying. Not knowing a word doesn’t exclude the fact that they could embody a segment of your psyche. Perhaps I should read the list for meaning of other replacement verbs to gain more insights into human nature; replacements verbs abound for walked, jumped, took, touched, walked, pushed, had, reacted, hit, sat, stood, smelled and turned to name to few. Powerful writing is the use of the most powerful word needed to express meaning and emotion without sounding artificial.

Choose your words wisely.

Go to the list at see more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another Day in the Park

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 A picture is worthy a thousand words, or so they say.  Here are a few from Sunday morning in the park.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

“Are you just existing and calling it a life?” Book Review

Dave Bernard’s “Are you just existing and calling it a life?” ends with the following passage:

You will only live this day once. When you look back did you live it well? If you can say yes you should sleep well knowing that tomorrow is another day wherein you will again have chance to life it well. Enjoy the journey…”
Bernard’s latest book contains fourteen short chapters on how to live this day well and this life well. His book is an exhortation for the reader (or participant in life as I prefer to call the reader) to find his or her passion, which then will be the guide for the actions that fill your days and lives.

The search for passion is a lifetime adventure; subject to detours and modifications, as we know that “Man makes plans and God laughs.” But without direction, goals and hopes we will drift hopelessly and be miserable. If you are searching for a purpose in life then reach for this book, if you are happy with your state of mind then reach for the TV remote instead.

Bernard opens the book with a challenge for us to identify our passions, those things that will drive us for a lifetime. Just find them, easy to say, but hard to do. He writes that he has “some questions” for us to answer to help in this process. I laughed when I read the list on the next page and looked back at his reference to “some questions.” There are seventeen initially, and many more throughout his book. Thankfully, he doesn’t expect us to answer them all at one review; he gives the leisure of setting our own pace for the answers. The questions are short but the drive to the heart of the quest: what are you passionate about? No multiple-choice answers, Bernard wants your answers.

The subsequent chapters focus on various topics to use as a guide to find your passions. He utilizes pertinent quotes and brief thoughts as a starting point for the questions in each chapter. And the book is full of questions designed to flesh out your passion. Each chapter ends with “takeaways.” These takeaways are concrete statements and suggestions to actually find and implement the particular passion discussed in the chapter.

Some of the chapter topics could be changed to fit your style or interests. For example Bernard extols the benefits of fishing in some detail and with fervor in Chapter 12. You could substitute hiking, hunting, bird watching or camping just as effectively. Other chapter topics are more universal and ring true: work, family, good health and retirement.

Bernard’s presentation of his concept of passion search requires the reader to disregard the format of the book. Quotes intermixed with text, questions galore and chapter ending “takeaways” slow the reader down. Rereading and thinking are required, but this is not necessarily bad just different. In fact, reading slow and thoughtfully is an advantage when considering this short book deals with our entire working career and retirement activities.

I read the chapter on work three times and thought about my own career twists. Our goal is to find a career that we are passionate about is task that may take a lifetime. But Bernard encourages us to keep striving to find that career that gives us purpose. More importantly, he gives us suggestions that will help the reader with that search. He knows that it is unrealistic to expect a person entering the workforce to know what he or she wants to do for the next 20, 30 or more years.

I found myself wandering through several careers after I graduated college. Each career choice was a step in a journey. For me I found not a single field but a type of work that fulfilled me. In my case, it was not a single industry but the position that allowed me to interact with people and help them was most satisfying. I was a schoolteacher for several years, a manager of a wholesale plumbing company, a salesman, and an administrator of a religious institution. Each of these jobs was completely different on the surface but at the core I was doing the same thing. I helped people grow, solve problems and experience a meaningful life through my efforts.

Bernard’s “takeaways” in the chapter on work recognizes that people will change careers and gives the reader tools and suggestions for making the changes. Tools to allow the participant in life to move forward with each change and follow that passion into retirement.

This book requires thinking and assigns us the task of answering thoughtful questions about our life. He doesn’t ask you to score your answers, to rate yourself or compare your answers to others but rather to help each of us find our own path to passion. I encourage to read this book, scribble in the margins, read each chapter once, twice or more for meaning and it is not required to read the chapters in order. Leave this book in your night table, carry it in your backpack or brief case and refer to it whenever you doubt your current work circumstance.

“Are you just existing and calling it a life?” has given me the impetus to define my passions a little more accurately as I approach Chapter 13, Retirement. I have a to-do list for my retirement that I now realize needs reworking.

Now the work is up to you to find your passion.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Dave Bernard’s book to review.  I mentioned this book in my September 11, 2012 blog.  "Are you just existing and calling it a life," is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Walk in the Park

I packed my gym bag with my usual gear Tuesday morning needed for my afternoon exercise session at the Jewish Community Center, as I usually do two or three times a week.  By mid-morning I realized that the Center was closed for observance of the Jewish New Year.  I had already missed two successive exercise days and did not relish the thought of skipping a third day in a row.

Later in the morning an idea formed that I needed to act upon.  I would take a slight detour on the way home and walk outdoors in my favorite local park.  I knew the trails from my weekend forays with my son and solo.  Perhaps a change in routine would be good.  Previous blog entries of mine have mentioned the need to break out of the rut of the humdrum of the normal.  Here was a chance to practice what I preached.
Main Water Loop Trail

This wouldn’t be a drastic game changer, just a slight shift in the time, speed and duration for my afternoon exercise session.  I decided not to change clothes at work; I’d just walk in my jeans and sneakers.  Perhaps slow down my pace, enjoy the outdoors and take a few pictures.  A chance to absorb the beauty of the park at a pace slower than my normal weekend speed shuffles.  And that is what I did. 

I even varied the combination and direction of the trails I would take.  Park paths look different when viewed from a new direction and at different time of day.  A bright sun filtered almost vertically through the trees rather than the early morning low sun light that I normally found.  Although the summer south Texas heat has diminished it was still fairly warm.  I regretted not changing out my jeans and shirt.  Even though my pace was a little slower I still worked up a good sweat.  
One of three bridges.  This one has a rest stop

The MapMyRun IPhone app didn’t properly upload the data about my walk so I really don’t know how far or fast I walked.  In retrospect that influenced my later reflections about my afternoon walk, a small disconnect from technology.  It wasn’t about speed or distance; it was just a walk in the park.  That technology disconnect was only partial because I used my IPhone to photograph the park.  A few of those pictures are shown in this blog post. 
Geology trail
I remember bicycle rides in the park as teenager, no radios, no phones, and no technology.  Peaceful, happy days that I wish I could remember in better detail.  The next time I walk in the park after work I’ll turn the phone off and just enjoy the feel of the path beneath my feet and enjoy the earthy aroma of the park.

My walk in the park proved to be a pleasant experience that I definitely will do again.  Considering the south Texas climate I’ll maximize my effort in the mornings and save the afternoons for slow and easy walks in the park.  

Then it will be just a walk in the park.
Small native grassland area

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Walk the Walk

Update on Wednesday, September 19.  Walk combined with another Alzheimer's Event at at different location for September 22.  I have to think about going.

On Saturday, September 15th, I will be participating in the Alzheimer's Race to Remember at Olmos Park. This is the first timed event I have run in several months. True to my normal routine I have not trained particularly hard for this event, other than my normal weekday walks on the treadmill and weekends in the park. My park walks have included at least three 5K shuffles in the past several weeks. My solo times are good and I am confident that with a group I’ll be able to finish in 42 minutes. Perhaps even faster.

That time goal is not my criteria for a successful walk. My criterion is to maintain a decent pace and finish without undue difficulty and pain so that I will feel good about continuing to sign up for future events. I want to repeat my efforts. I want to expand my weekly walks to include more group events in the future. It is easy to write a check; it takes a bit more effort to write the check and walk-the-walk. Effort is a small sign of dedication to an idea. Be a doer, not merely a check writer.

On December 1st there is a local charity run sponsored by the BISH Foundation (an organization whose efforts are towards fighting cancer); the first 1500 registrants will receive a Santa Claus suit to don for the walk. That is better than running in your birthday suit or one of the underwear runs (no one wants to see me in either condition). Getting a Santa suit is an incentive that is hard to resist. Since I’ll be on vacation I’ll try to see if I can register and get someone to pickup my suit. At least I’ll have the suit.

Back to Saturday, I am hoping to participate to help raise awareness about Alzheimer's Disease, find adequate treatments and eventually a cure. Each step I and others take will move medical science in that direction. For Saturday I have a purpose other than myself.

1:00 PM update Friday.  Iris picked run package.  My number is 1090.  Shirt size L, looks good she says.

4:45 PM update Friday.  5K cancelled due to flooding from recent rains.  Rescheduled for September 22.  More later.

10:30 AM update Saturday.  2.5 miles in local park, muddy in spots.  Cool weather for a change.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Retirement - Only the Beginning

I came across Dave Bernard’s blog, Retirement – Only the Beginning, and was drawn to his posts and offer of a free book. You say, “Free.” And my ears perk up. The subject matter of the book deals with the topic of retirement, which is the one of the thrusts of my blog. A free book was just a click away, and I clicked.

Dave emailed me a PDF copy of “Navigating the retirement jungle” along with a note about his other book, “Are you just existing and calling it a life?” A quick on-line search resulted in downloading a free copy of “Navigating the retirement jungle” in Nook format, and locating “Are you just existing and calling it a life?” for sale on (print and Kindle), and at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

I finished the free book in one day. Sometimes you get what you pay for, but I was pleasantly surprised with the overall content of the free book. I got much more value from the book than I expected despite its brevity. It is mix of practical tips and links to useful websites for preparing for retirement and inspirational thoughts on retirement and life. It is not for the twenty or thirty year old worker, but for those who are a little older and can see retirement looming in the not so distant future. While I am of retirement age, and have missed some the lofty goals of a well financed retirement I found that “Navigating the Retirement Jungle” reinforced my beliefs about finding out what really matters. Finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning, pursuing life with passion, and staying mentally healthy is the Holy Grail that makes life in retirement meaningful.

I plan to go back and reread the assortment of memorable quotes intermixed with Bernard’s advice for retirement. I’ll probably use some of his ideas as inspiration in my blog and of course in my retirement. Included in the free book is the opening chapter of “Are you just existing and calling it a life?”

I found a quote a line to quote in the opening chapter that is reminiscent of advice from my father when I was a teenager, and it still resonates with meaning:

Bernard writes about passion, “If you don’t know where you are going how will you reach your destination?”

In my father’s version he would end by asking, “How will you know when you get there?”

My father gave his advice to a restless teenager and Bernard’s advice is for those of us who want an active, productive and meaningful retirement.

I am looking forward to reading “Are you just existing and calling it a life?” and plan to write a full review in a later blog.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Time to Spare

Many science fiction stories involve time travel. Often the tale involves a traveler from the future trying to alter a past event to prevent a future calamity or the end of mankind. Criminals from the future travel back in time to gain control of the world and the protagonist endeavors to stop them. Recently, Stephen King wrote about an accidental traveler to the past who tries to stop the Kennedy assassination in a wonderful, way too long book titled 11/22/63. In fact, he was merely searching for a good hamburger and love.

I must admit that the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a love story and the affects of absences on relationships. You must read this book; the story will cause you to view life and time differently, with appreciation.

Do you remember Star Trek’s “tricorder” (first flip phone) and speeding the Starship back into time? H.G. Wells wrote in 1895 about traveling to the distant future to a vastly different society. Another twist in that story is that the traveler arrives during a 1940’s war, a very accurate prophecy. Science fiction is often best at predicting future events or technology advances.

These are just a few examples of the grand stories exploring ideas of vast scales of space and time. But time machines have a more useful and mundane purpose. Over the years I and many others could have utilized the device I am referring to. Apple should figure this one out, they could make billions (oh, they do already). The MAC computer has a time machine function, but sadly it is limited to backing up the computer’s data not actual time travel. They need to get Steve Jobs to work on this; but of course that project would have to be in the past and then we would need a time machine to bring it to market today. “Time Machine” coming soon to an Apple Store near you would be a great marketing event. I’d go, if I had time.

The Internet is home to many out of date websites, blogs and news postings reaching back years. Surfing the Internet is a form of stationary time travel. Old movies and old TV shows dating back to the 1950’s populate many current websites.

But the device I am referring to is the “OOPs Eliminator.” This is not the odor eater of foot fame but a much needed device for mankind, but primarily for men who are prone to slips of the tongue and behavioral missteps. I’ve left the house with two mismatches socks several times, not so bad. How about leaving the house with two different shoes? That is a more noticeable slip. Ever leave home with your fly open?

I’ve even seen women who leave a public bathroom with the back of their skirt stuck inside their underwear, or a man with his shirttail sticking out his front fly. Both are very weird looking, but not uncommon sites.

Many children will respond to parental punishment with, “I hate you.” Not much harm done. How about a parent who has told a child, “I wish you never were born.”? That statement is a real disastrous comment could result in long term consequences and years of costly psychotherapy.

“Does this dress make me look fat?” Most men can’t answer this question with the correct words or facial expressions, especially if the question was asked near a TV.

Hit the reset button and the offending words would garble in reverse to be repeated in some more palatable form. Maybe a pause function would slow the reaction and allow for another possible answer to be uttered.

“Do I look fat?” That question might be answered, “No, everything looks smaller.”

“I wish you never were born.” The answer would be, “I should have been more careful with my birth control method.”

You could have gotten a cold and stayed home, rather than gone to work and argued with your boss. I’d like to skip the junior high school dance when I attempted a dance move to impress a girl who wasn’t even looking at me and doomed my social life for three years.

There needs to be more beta-testing of the time machine’s features. Of course the examples I used are the self-serving functions of the OOPs Eliminator.

A more practical function would be the removal of the bushes blocking the stop sign that you just passed. Would it prevent an accident, save you from an expensive traffic fine or prevent another driver from slamming on the brakes and the creation of twenty-five new gray hairs?

A design engineer could have reviewed his calculations one more time to reveal a serious defect in the construction of a bridge.

A customer at an auto repair shop could have saved thousands of dollars in auto repairs if the mechanic’s OPPS Eliminator been functional and he had remembered to tighten that one last bolt on the transmission seal.

Or I could have decided not to write this blog and used my talents to create a literary work of fiction and made millions. I’ve really got to work on the time machine, but that will have to wait until I have some free time.

Right now I’m too busy with my honey-do list.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Walking, Rambling and Yes Dear

Even though I took a blog vacation for most of the summer I continued to walk regularly, both indoors and outdoors. My recent routine Saturday morning walks with Mark, my youngest son, continued without interruption but will move to Sundays during the current football season because of his work as a football statistician. I’ll walk Saturdays without him and Sundays with him. Saturdays will be for endurance and training (as I have a charity 5K scheduled on September 15th) and Sundays will be for family. After our walk we join Iris for breakfast at one of several Mexican restaurants in the area. Mark’s wife, Nina, says she’ll join our walks when the weather turns a little cooler. In San Antonio that is would to be two weeks in February during the rodeo (and it usually rains then also).

Mark’s Thursday and Friday night avocation (see his blog) will most likely be expanded from soley high school games to include five Saturday afternoon college football games. On our walks we sometimes talk about his serious interest in sports and my lack of interest. In fact, his mother and older brother share my lack of sports interest. We think the sports gene skipped a generation since both of his grandfathers were sports fans. He never knew my father who I remember keeping score at home for TV baseball games when he watched baseball on our black and white Admiral TV on Sundays. His score-keeping activity is the reason I know why a strikeout is noted as a "K."  My father-in-law, who would cry when the Yankees lost, knew Mark well and they enjoyed watching a few games together.

Mark shares my interest in writing and so while we don’t blog about the same ideas we both like reading each other’s blogs. Nina is proof reading a novel I wrote, that neither of them would select off the bookrack. She cares about his sports blog because it involves her husband. But she also has a love for the written word. And she perhaps is more knowledgeable about technique and style than Mark or I. Sharing an interest creates an interlocking life force. On the surface they seem to have different interests and to a degree this is true. But their interests overlap and that blending helps their partnership flourish.

Now I am sounding like a love advice writer. But the simple truth is that every marriage, union or relationship relies on finding areas of life that overlap to link the companions together.

My wife is a superb cook and I like eating. While that is true, that is not what I mean. Our marriage has been tested most when we kept things separate and compartmentalized from each other. Mostly it was me not being open at times. Sharing good news is nice, but sharing bad news can be more significant. When a trusted doctor told me I had cancer (when I was 1500 miles from home) I couldn’t tell Iris over the phone, it was suited for an in person conversation and those few days apart were very uncomfortable for me.

I remember twice in our marriage that I either came home from work or woke up in the middle of the night and told her I quit my job or would turn in my resignation later that day. To my surprise or relief Iris responded positively and with agreement.

“Good,” no long winded question or discussion, just affirmation that she knew that these decisions were good for me and good for the family.

I still argue a point or two lately, but realize that she has the intuition, the gut feeling and a mostly accurate assessment of many situations that I now tend to agree easier and faster with her with each passing day.

When I accepted my current position immediately upon its offer, without hesitation, I knew Iris would be pleased when I came home.

Her response was, “Great.” Eleven years later that decision proved to be a wonderful choice. No need for discussion or explanation.

“Yes dear. You’re right,” is a phrase I utter more frequently these days. Not because I was wrong, but because Iris knew first. Most of her recent questions come from her concern about my physical well-being. They are questions dealing with my walks and exercise.

“Are you sure you doing okay? How do you know when you’re doing too much?” On rare occasions I skip a walk when I feel sore, tired or just not right.

I hope I know when enough is enough and not have to check with Iris.

“Iris, isn’t that right?”

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Live Late Night Show

One of several walls filled with posters from various previous shows
Last Friday evening my wife and I went to Luna Live, the only smoke-free music venue in San Antonio, to enjoy a late night out after dinner with our friends.  As usual, our dinner group passed on our after dinner plans and so we went alone.  For the past five or six years we’ve been enjoying occasional late night outings at Luna Live.  Often we go alone but at times we have cajoled several friends (not our dinner crowd) to join us.
About two months ago we got an email notice from the club (yes, we are on the Luna’s mailing list) Soul Track Mind would be performing the last Friday in August.  We seen this group twice before and really enjoy them.  Soul Track Mind is an Austin-based group that seems to be a cross between Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Hendrix, a number of artists that neither Iris nor I know, and a jack rabbit.  They put on a hard-driving show combing rock, R and B, and funk that kept the crowd singing along and dancing all night.  I usually enjoy more classic rock and modern jazz while Iris favors swing type music of the 40’s through easy rock of the 60’s.  Soul Track Mind offers none of these genres, rather plays its own music, which is blend from a variety of inspirational origins. 
On our other visits to Luna Live we feel comfortable knowing the music, fitting in with crowd (although we might be on the older side) and leave generally pleased.  Soul Track Mind attracts a different crowd, mostly 20s and 30s, singles, couples, small groups of friends, black, white, brown, one table seemed to have a “meet up” type group because as new people arrived introductions were made to almost the entire group, and there was even a birthday party in one corner.  I noticed someone bring a piece of cake to couple at a table near us.  I didn’t walk around and take a visual census because the club was packed with more than half the crowd was standing, shoulder to shoulder; but I think I was the oldest person in the room.
We sat through almost two entire sets; we left with our ears ringing and with a lift in our step.  Combining a driving rhythm, piercing horns, melodic guitars with an almost falsetto vocalist it was a night that stirred the body, stirred the soul.  I don’t think I could listen to Soul Track Mind for fifteen minutes on the radio.  The impact emanates from the live show aspect.  LIVE.  Then I realized that the club’s name is Luna LIVE.   
Live is the heart of the experience.  Live music and lively people.  Luna is a live event, my thrust for 65 and Alive is the need to experience.  Sometimes it is hard to step out of the routine, daily mundane events and participate of life directly.  But we need to experience, to do and to participate.  We must interact with life or it will pass us by and run us over while we stand still like a deer staring at headlights.
Of course I am sitting at my computer desk pecking away at the keyboard alone.  I hear the TV in the other room and told my wife I’ll join her soon.  But I feel the urge to finish these brief thoughts before I turn in.
See you next time at Luna Live.

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