Sunday, January 27, 2013

Alpha Blog: All Done

Alpha Blog started with inspiration from Grannymar. Grannymar contains random blogs with an alphabetical theme in her regular quirky blog. I read one of those blogs and instantly a solution to my problem of lethargy and lack of ideas became apparent. The alphabet itself, the building blocks of words, the essence of thoughts rejuvenated my blog.

Thank you Grannymar.

During the past three and a half months I have, sometimes seriously and often whimsically, expounded on a word or group of words for my blog posts. A writer’s task is to transmit ideas in a clear way; the writer’s goal is to express the essence of a story, experience, or idea in such a way that the reader will leave with a sense of awe and understanding, and want to return for more. My goal has been to transmit ideas to my readers and for myself.

There is an axiom in writing extolling the author to write for his or her audience. I don’t have a dream that I will be come rich, famous or perhaps even published in print but writing is an activity of expression that makes me feel good. I have exceeded my goal if some of my readers have enjoyed my blog.

My original plan for this wrap-up Alpha Blog post intended to reflect on some of the specific posts and highlight key or interesting ideas. But that is redundant since the archives contain the entire list. Some of the posts came easier than others, several were unique, several were stolen ideas, and the mythical behavior and town of “malarkey” inspired one blog.

The reflection of the Alpha Blog would be followed by announcement of my plans for future blogs. Perhaps it would be a new series or just continuation of my ramblings as a certified old geezer. Since I don’t have a crystal ball, a deadline to meet or a publisher to satisfy my plans for the future are less structured and yet to be completely formulated.

As mentioned in C for Comics, Change occurs. This blog will undergo a change in appearance once again. Recently I found and read the blog Zenhabits and I want review Leo Babauta’s work before saying how my blog will look and what I will say. His blog opened my mind to other possibilities of thought and style. Zenhabits is another source of inspiration. I have mentioned Zen thought in several of my past blogs and have a personal interest in Zen thought and Buddhism in general. My unfinished novel revolves around the experiences of a Westerner in Thailand and Laos during the 1960s and my research into Buddhism for this book was more than academic, it has influenced my day-to-day thought process.

The Alpha Blog series achieved its goals; I continued to write and reflect on the world from my vantage point (65 and Alive). 65 and Alive will continue unchanged for the short term. Change happens, and yet many constants remain. I still will be Warren, I will not transform to another person (smarter, younger, skinnier or faster).

Change is work. And I love working and writing.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

B: Beginning of the End

I endeavored long and hard (not really, just 15 minutes) about the best B word to pontifcate as the end of the Alpha-blog series approaches. A novel idea appeared in a vision; just as the series started off with the letter Z, the series will end with a different slant. There are sufficient words that begin with B and this blog will not belittle any of those beautiful words but I must end the series with a word that ends with the letter B.

Or close to the end since A remains to be addressed.

Once again, Google is my knowledgeable benefactor. Enter “words ending with B” and hit the search key and behold, bountiful lists appear. Gosh Google you’re great. I now stare at a list of five to eight letter words ending with B, about 250 to be almost exact. Be careful of what you ask for. Reading the list is a confusing medley of words ending with the BUH sound.

My task is to review many strange words and find some meaning, essence or truth to reveal to the Blogosphere. I read through a page of perfectly wonderful words that end in B, and then search the dictionary for definitions of several strange ones. Aldcarb, hecatomb, sillibub, coulomb and baobab are a few that I eliminate rather quickly. Then in the group of seven-letter words a bright gemstone appears.

Proverb. Brilliant, blazing and biblical.

Proverbs, the bible’s reference source for one-liners.

“Smite me down.”
Act of being Smitten Down

The dictionary defines proverb as a short popular saying that expresses some truth or useful thought. Sometimes the proverb is quoted as spoken by some famous religious, historical or fictional person. Fictional characters don’t really exist so why do we give them credit? And often credit is given to Anonymous. My effort in this blog is to pass on some truth or insight from my not so famous or important position.

Perhaps I have passed on some truths in the many words that flowed from my keyboard to the screen. But I know I have failed miserably to actually create proverbs, or even a single one. Brevity is not my strong suit; in fact I have been excessively verbose more often than not. It seems that I have bombed out on creating proverbs because I tend to ramble. Rambling is the process of going on and on while trying to make a pronouncement of some truth or elicit a piece of knowledge that has escaped your understanding and you are too embarrassed or stubborn or narcissistic to acknowledge. (There you have a 40 word definition of proverb that defines this blogger). Rambling is a variation of spin, as practiced by politicians. Purposely twisting, reversing or hiding the truth behind verbosity, diversion and ridicule for nefarious reasons.

Kudos to verBose: The life blood of some bloggers and most politicians.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

C: Change or Comic

Midway through my Alpha-blog series I thought would write about Change when the letter C’s time arrived.  Change is one of life's constants.  Things, feelings, people, technology, politics, religion, in fact almost everything changes.

Change is the foundation for personal growth or decay.  Change is a basic tenet of the Buddhist religion.  I believe in Change.  Years ago my eggs had to be cooked over easy, to the point of being almost raw; now the eggs need to be cooked hard.  Pepper steak and shrimp with lobster sauce were my favorites; now neither is eaten.  I loved the beef and did not care for the peppers, now I dislike beef and love peppers.

I used to be concerned and interested in politics; but now I am rather ambivalent.  I don’t believe most of what politicians say or like how they act.  Years ago country life had a certain appeal; my wife would often comment that I would prefer a rural home over city life; now I day dream about living in a revitalized center city downtown.  But inertia keeps me in my home.  Comfort.

As the time for the letter C blog approached I changed my mind on Change.  I actually am fairly static, and reluctant to change.  One of my regular routines (constant) is reading the comics in the morning.

During the week I scan the headlines, drink coffee and then when I am alert and ready I turn my attention to the comic pages in the local newspaper.  I don’t care for the stories that go one for weeks and need to be followed.  The single panel comics are the best, followed by the three or four panels that end in a punch-line.  I like animals and children.  And whimsical characters posses an appeal that I cannot resist.  Simpler is better.

Those concise panels evoke a truth, a belief, a hint at the real meaning of what people do and why they act in certain ways.  It is basic life-philosophy for the average Joe.  Once or twice a week I will bring one such insight to my wife’s attention and share a universal truth with her.  If she chuckles or smiles I know I have passed on something great.  There have been times when her eyes squint and her head shakes with disbelief at my claim of enlightenment.  Perhaps I am confused over my interpretation of the meaning or clarity of that morning's comic.  Maybe she is not conscious yet.  After all I already consumed my second cup of caffeinated coffee.

A purist might tell me that Comics are the standalone books and what I read are Cartoons.  Call me crazy, but they are the Comics to me.  Confusing.

I will conclude with a few recent examples and links to comics that I find interesting without additional comments.

XKCD  A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.  

Raeside Cartoons - Editorial Cartoons and Comic Strips

Flying McCoys - Glen and Gary McCoy


Zits - Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Daily Routine and Comics

My next blog will be C for Comics but before I post it I want to reflect on the previous blogs on Daily Routine by using a comic without comment.  This blog is a segue between D and C.

Credit to:
The Other Coast - By Adrian Raeside

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Monday, January 14, 2013

D: Daily Routine Part 2

What is a Daily Routine?

It is something done daily. Duh. Is it breathing or eating? No, duh. Sorry, I don’t mean to be condescending. Let’s cut to the nitty-gritty right away.

The daily routine is a plan for the day as a means to reach your goals, rather than a mundane list of things to do. Yes, I need to eat, get gas for the car, go to the store etc. These activities are not what I am talking about. The daily routine is a grander list, especially for that group of people who are not in the workplace.

Having a regular 9 to 5 job daily takes the effort out of creating a routine. People who stay at home have the burden of setting their own goals and also the tasks needed to accomplish those goals. This group could consist of stay at home family providers, self-employed people, or those who are retired from regular work careers.

Let’s make an example of getting healthy as a goal. What daily routine would a person need to follow to reach that notable goal? Wake up, go right to the kitchen and eat a breakfast of waffles and a side of bacon. NO. Rather, the routine would consist of tasks focused in a different direction. Wake up, personal hygiene (wash, brush teeth, take medications etc). Perhaps get dressed for exercise or to the kitchen for a meal of yogurt, fresh fruit and coffee. Are you getting the picture? The tasks fit the goal.

I need to submit notice of an upcoming event to the local newspaper for an organization I am affiliated with. Maybe the first thing I do after breakfast is read the comics, check my email and then walk my dog. These are activities I normally do, but doing them wouldn’t help me get the list published. Maybe I should contact the event organizer to confirm date, time and location of the event; then follow up with an email or call to the newspaper to check on the deadline for the submission of the information to the appropriate editor who handles the calendar. The tasks are the plan to reach the goal.

Flying frog waiting to be rejuvenated
In my garage there are several unfinished woodworking projects on hold. What tools do I need, supplies, and space to accomplish my desire of refinishing the flying wooden frog? I need some planning time to make the detailed work plan and supply lists, then one or more trips to the home center, and clean my work bench. I need to estimate the time needed for each task and start at the beginning. To complete the frogs I first need to clean up the garage and dedicate a dirty and clean work area for the project. This project will probably be a modest one spread out over several weeks, depending on the weather. Time must be allocated for cleanup in between certain major steps. My point is the specific routine is geared to the goal.

Things get done when the tasks and goals are synced.

What advice do I have to give? That’s a lot to ask this blogger, after all my daily routine currently revolves around work. But I think about it frequently because in the near future I will be much less involved in the workplace. Someday I will retire. Someday I will be at home. And that thought is fraught with apprehension. I have some hobbies and interests. But having them is different than having them fill my time productively.

My home office has a folder titled “Retirement Plan.” My short term plan is too continue to review and refine this plan. The folder contains three major items: a calendar with various possible dates circled, a full page to-do list containing a variety of specific items in no particular order and a page with the specific items assigned to one of three categories (specific, general and personal). The next major task is to ponder the lists and work them into fairly specific plans.

One of the items in the general category is to “Take a Class.” Take a Class is a fairly broad concept that needs development. What do I want to learn? Spanish, Poetry, Photography, Calculus. Not Calculus. But, what? And then where do take this hypothetical class? There are several public school districts in the area that offer a variety of Continuing Education Classes, one of the Universities or Colleges in the area (I audit some very inexpensively), or someplace else. Take a Class is goal that will need a formidable routine. Homework, classes and tests sound hard. Would it be one class or a series towards some sort of certificate? License Certified Gezzer.

What to take ?

One of the specific items is to “Cook from Scratch.” I come close to that now and think it would be an easy project to do on a regular basis. I do a mean stir fry, but could I make a cake or muffin from scratch, roast a flavorful chicken or perhaps make homemade ice cream? Jam, salsa, pickles or homemade pies sound delicious. Cure a ham, age beef, or distill whiskey could be more difficult and expensive.

One of the simpler items on the list is to read to children. There is a library, an elementary school and a pre-school close to my home. I could start jump right in with no training as I already know how to read. Easier tasks, broken down into smaller chunks have a certain appeal and a better chance of success and fulfillment.

Gardening was on the list and then scratched off when I remembered how hot and dry the summer gets in San Antonio. A visit to the supermarket or farmer’s market would result in a much better product. Scratching items off a to-do list is an accomplishment in and of itself. I finished before I even started.  That said, I may grow a small herb garden on the patio to complement my cooking from scratch desire.

What I what is different from what you want. The routine needs to be customized for each person. No one size fits all. Your list doesn’t have to be on paper or very formal but the list must exist between your ears.

Speaking of ears I heard a good comment this past weekend about martial relations. Wife says she uses both of ears when listening to her husband. What he says goes in one ear and out the other. I would believe that my wife might agree with this about me on occasion, especially about my desire to cook from scratch. “Stay out of my kitchen.”

The final thought on a daily routine is to be flexible and remember to have a Plan B in case it rains during your golf game.

Plan B ?

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

D: Daily Routine

My October 15, 2011 blog, “Ten Things Seniors Need”, included Daily Routine in the list.  I wrote the ten thoughts without much explanation.  Later, I expanded on a few of them and this blog will examine the Daily Routine with a little more thought in two parts.  Part one will examine my personal reflections and the second part will be address the daily routine in a more practical manner.

My current life revolves around work, exercise and weekends.  Work is the predominant activity.  And it has been since I was around fifteen years old with my first job as a morning newspaper delivery boy.  Serious work routines didn’t start until I left college just before my nineteenth birthday (which means I have been working for fifty years – I include my time in the army and return to college as work).  Getting up five or more days a week for fifty years has incorporated an alarm clock into my DNA.  I have been rising around 6:30 am for the past fifty years and wonder what will happen when I finally retire or go into semi-retirement.

My exercise routine has developed more recently to two days during the week and at least one weekend morning.  My weekday exercise occurs after work and the days change from week to week, but usually are planned on Sunday after reviewing the week ahead for other plans.  About five years ago I utilized a professional trainer to assist me and get me started.  I started working out on a combination of exercise machines, walking on a treadmill and stretching. After a few months I dropped the trainer and later stopped temporarily.  A year or two later I restarted with the premise of “simpler is better.”  My efforts now are solely walking with a little bit of stretching.  At first it was just treadmill at the health club, later I added an outdoor component in the park or my neighborhood.  All of my walks are logged into my computer; I even have a training watch and a phone app that monitor my speed and distance during the outdoor sessions.  Walking is my exercise routine.

Weekends are devoted to some exercise and activities with my wife.  She is retired now and fills her weekdays with friends, volunteer work and home.  I want to relax on weekends and she wants to have more interaction with me.  There is some conflict from time to time, but after forty-four years we just go with the flow.  One weekend morning is breakfast out, some shopping, dinners with friends and on occasion I cook Sunday dinner.  She doesn’t leave mundane house work for the weekend so as to have more free time with me.  I appreciate that, although I don’t mind helping around the house.

Continuation of work and exercise are health and attitude related.  As long as I can, I will continue both.  Perhaps I’ll exercise more some weeks and less at other times, but exercise remains a weekly habit.  I have some control over my health.  Diet, exercise, doctors visits, attention to medications and changes in my health that occur are actions that I take seriously.  Recent changes in my allergy and asthma symptoms prompted me to schedule a visit with a pulmonologist to find out what is happening and develop a new plan of action.  I am not the stereotypical man who ignores physical symptoms or downplays them. 

Advice to men: Listen to your body and respond properly.

My attitude controls my behavior and responses to changes.  How do I feel about rising everyday at 6:30 am?  I only feel reluctant the first few minutes then that feeling leaves and I am off and running (literally) to work.  Coffee and a light breakfast, TV news, and the morning comics get me going.  Perhaps I’ll write about the comics in another blog.  Many mornings I’ll share one with Iris to get a chuckle.  Usually those that I share are either about animals (which we both love dearly) or a self-deprecating one that highlights one of my habits or faults (as perceived by my wife).

But I am mindful that in the near future I will reduce my work hours and then stop working.  I have a retirement to-do list of things I want to accomplish and fill my days.  The conundrum is converting the abstract list to a concrete plan and schedule.  Creation of my daily and weekly routine is the challenge.  Will it be rigid or flexible, filled with activities or have blank spaces, will the day have meaning and purpose outside my own life?  Will I be able to do or make time to do the activities on my list (which is quite long)?  My list is not a Bucket List (See my two-part blog 1 and 2 on Bucket Lists) but rather day-planner.  Or perhaps I should say Life Planner.

My next blog will address the Daily Routine in a practical manner.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

E is for Ego

Why do people blog? Why do I blog?

The reasons people blog are varied; some people have businesses or products to promote, books to sell, ideas to push, perhaps they feel compelled to express themselves because of their status, or they are part of a social community or group and blog to exchange ideas or promote freedom, and then maybe they just like to write.

For me, the later is the reason: I like to write. My lack of spare time makes short blog posts ideal for my current situation. A blog is my diary, my journal of ideas, my outlet for putting thoughts onto paper (really a computer). The keyboard is my pen and the screen is my paper. The blog is the bookstore for my work.

I don’t need an editor, publisher, or an agent to get my inner voice heard. But I would like to have any one or all of the above people. I have a number of short stories on my computer, several larger pieces of incomplete projects and a novel in the final editing stages ready for my “people.” I even have a started a mystery novel involving my “writing group people.”

But alas, with a sigh and note of sadness, work and life interferes with my writing. I need to eat, keep clothes on my back, a roof over my head and maintain a satisfying life with my wife and children. So I work.

I guess my ego is not big enough to wake me at 5 am or cause me stay up past midnight working on my fiction. It is hard enough to carve out time and energy to write 500 coherent words twice a week for my blog, much less to create time to work on bigger projects. For now this blog is a relief valve, I blow off a little steam at a time.

I am patient. My plan is to be the Grandma Moses of fiction. Of course you know she started her creative efforts earlier in life, but at a lower level and in a different media. She dabbled with house paints and embroidery early in her life, and then graduated to painting primitive images taken from her humble rural origins.

I have a retirement plan which includes carving out time to write daily and hopefully profusely, along with other social and creative activities. For now my ego must be satisfied with modest blog posts. More important than the actual number of days I spend writing or the quantity of work I produce is that I seek attainment of a higher level of quality and meaning.

For that to happen in the future I must continue to blog a little at time, attend my writing group meetings as often as I can and slowly improve and solidify my fiction ideas and skills. Read more fiction and non-fiction. Perhaps I might even return to school for a class or two. Incorporate my other creative activities (photography and woodworking) into my writing or use it as inspiration.

My ego must elevate itself, my ego should elicit new ideas, and my ego should experience growth. I must exceed my expectations. I must elevate my efforts.

But you never know how much time you have left so I'd better start working on my Retirement To-Do List now.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

F: Funk and Friendship

My blog has been in a funk since my return from vacation. Perhaps it was the hectic return to work, end of year doldrums or some combination of both. No matter the cause my blog suffered. Then near the very end of the year (December 26 to be exact) an old friend visited. His visit gave me a spark of inspiration for this blog and a goal to reach.

His visit was scheduled and greatly anticipated. I first met Don C in October 1964 at Fort Monmouth Signal School. We were assigned to the same class and barracks; we became inseparable for the remainder of our military service. We were nothing alike. But that didn’t matter, army life created many improbable friendships.

He was from a small town in Montana and I was from a large city in New Jersey. He enlisted in the army straight out of high school and I had some college and work experience before joining the army. He was a high achiever and I was talented but not motivated (hence my short college attendance). He was far from home and I lived relatively close. I went home on weekends and he remained on base. We started training together and for the next two years and nine months we remained together through various overseas and stateside assignments.

Warren, Joe B and Don C (L to R, 1965)

We were discharged from the military at a time of great descent in the country and went our separate ways. We almost instantly lost track of each other. Both of us pursued careers, got married and started families; our friendship went into hibernation. We both tried unsuccessfully to reconnect for many years; our efforts to find each other were hindered by the fact that we both moved away from our home towns and states. I tried several times to locate him through the Internet and had made several calls to other Don Cs without success.

Then my friend Google came to the rescue. Around 2006 I Googled his name and original home town and got a “hit.” Minutes later I made a call and got his wife on the phone. Her response to me when she heard my name was, “Don has been looking for you for years.” He had returned to his hometown a few years earlier just before his medical retirement and my efforts were rewarded with a “hit.”

Don is now retired and travels during the winter to get out of Montana. We email regularly, speak a few times during the year and he visits us in late December every year during his escape from the harsh Montana winters. Our friendship picked up instantly, now we both have partners and the fact that they enjoy each other’s company is a bonus to our friendship.

Warren and Don - (L to R Now)
The only sadness is that we missed forty years of experiences. What is important is that we searched and reconnected.

So I dedicate this blog to friendship. Make them, keep them and if you lose them reconnect, make amends because there will be a hole in your life.  Joe B expect my call soon.

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