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August 31, 2004

Surmising the level of difficulty

Tuesday, August 31, 2004 PLOG Entry Two

Highlights of the day:

Driving off-road with our Jeep Wrangler.
My daughter driving off-road with our Jeep Wrangler.
My daughter learning to use the clutch on a steep hill.
Molly running through the water at the “Mud Run”
The rain stopping and the sun coming out.
Cycling to Virginia and back to Gilbert. Somehow when I got to Virginia I rode through the city streets and couldn’t find my way back to the mesabi Trail entrance. I found the trail again but it was on the other side of town heading the wrong way. A very nice Jogger stopped to help me find my way back to the correct trail leading to Gilbert.
When I was riding on the trail, there was one spot where rock walls rose above me on both sides. There was graffiti all over them. I laughed a little to find graffiti this far out of the Urban setting.
Foil dinners.
Writing by the fire
Listening to my wife and daughter talk by the fire about things we did together in the past.

Surmising the level of difficulty

In the off-road park by Gilbert there were many occasions where we had to look at the situation and surmise the level of difficulty before proceeding. I got out of the Jeep several times to look over the edge of a cliff or around the corner of a trail to see what was beyond. At one spot I was looking over a hill at the boulders and stumps littering the way. I was trying to decide whether the Jeep could handle it. Then I thought, “The Jeep can handle it, but can I?”
When my daughter was driving there were a couple of very steep hills that she didn’t think she could drive up. I drove to the top first to give her confidence that it could be done safely. Then she got behind the wheel and I gave her a few tips about acceleration and positioning of the tires to keep the Jeep on track. After knowing how difficult it would be and seeing it done, she started up the hill. Afterwards she said, “All I could see was sky! But I knew where the trail went and I just kept it pointed straight until the Jeep went over the top.”
Knowing what is ahead of us and what kind of obstacles there are helps us know how to handle them. In off-road driving, a person has to drive with purpose and intention or risk damaging the tires or underbody, rolling over or getting stuck. In life we have risks also, which are not all physical risks. It helps us to look ahead and survey the level of difficulty and prepare our minds and spirits to handle it.

The mesabi Trail

We were staying in Gilbert, Minnesota at the Sherwood Forest Campgrounds. It was a great blessing to us to be in a spot right on the mesabi Bike Trail. I took advantage of that and rode parts of the trail two days in a row. My conclusion is that this is an awesome trail! It’s paved smooth, about 6 to 10 feet wide and offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in Minnesota. Riding from Gilbert to Virginia I passed high over Crater-like lakes left over from the open-pit mining days, and through tunnel-like paths cut through the iron-rich rock hills.
Unlike most recent bike trails I’ve seen built, this one is only partially built on old railroad beds. It winds back and forth, through woods, up and down hills, past open fields, over bridges and through towns. The trail also splits off in many places to allow cyclists to divert to other nearby towns. The trail is well marked with signs and markings on the trail.
The mesabi Trail runs from Grand Rapids to Ely, Minnesota, making it one of the longest bicycle only trails in the state. But the trail is not complete yet. There are parts of the trail from McKinley to Ely that are scheduled to be completed before the year 2008.
This would be a great cycling trip for all levels of enthusiasts. A person or group could start out at Grand Rapids and ride the entire length, stopping at nights to stay at one of the many campgrounds or motels along the route. The people in the campsite across from us were doing that. They had nothing but good things to say about the 70 some miles of trail they had ridden so far and the experience. I think I’ll try to find someone to share that ride with next summer.
For more information and to see photos of this great resource, visit http://www.mesabitrail.com

Posted by carl1236 at 9:02 PM

August 30, 2004

Taking Inventory is the first step

Monday, August 30, 2004 PLOG Entry One

Highlights of the day:

Getting everything packed into the car and trailer.
Lunch with my mom and dad and brother.
Our dog Molly running around my parents Farm. She ran in and out of the tall weeds at the edge of the field. At first she was a little afraid of the tall weeds, but once my daughter ran through she had fun charging through over and over.
Arriving at the Sherwood Forest campsite in Gilbert and meeting Rusty, his wife and the little dog Ditto who they sometimes call “The old woman” because of her gray hair.
The moon was really interesting looking. It was a full moon with an orange color.
Our first campfire and making s'mores.
My bicycle ride from Gilbert to Eveleth and back. Eveleth has a wonderful trail system around the lake. I saw families rollerblading and biking together on this evening.
Taking a walk with my wife, daughter and Molly.
My daughter and wife playing cards in the tent before going to sleep.
Molly trying to sleep on our sleeping bags right between us and on us. We told her to move and she would move a few inches, then look at us like, “Is that ok?”

Taking Inventory is the first step

This morning packing was an engineering feat! Whenever we go on a trip like this, we lay everything out by the vehicle before we start loading anything. We have to be able to see what we have to work with..
It appeared that our pile was much bigger than the available space. Standing there looking over the situation I tried to think about what we would have to leave behind. Then I decided I’d better try to see what I could fit. I filled every available space! I still can’t believe I got everything in there! It’s so hard to plan for a vacation because so much depends on the weather and what we can do. We plan for possibilities.
Sometimes our lives are like taking a trip also. Often we have too much baggage to carry with us. When our baggage pile seems larger than the available space, we need to see what we can really use moving forward and what will not be necessary. It’s hard to let go and hard to think about sometimes, but taking inventory is the first step to see what we have to work with.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:49 PM

August 29, 2004

Seven Days and one suitcase

For the next Seven days I'll be taking a break from the computer. Starting Monday morning I'll be on vacation until September 6th. It's a much needed rest. haha.
I laugh because leading up to this moment, I've been trying to decide what to bring with me for seven days. All of it couldn't fit in my one suitcase! Ok, do you think 11 books is excessive? ;-)
In the morning when I load up the car, it all has to fit so between now and then I have to remind myself it's only 7 days! Which reminds me that I need to learn how to rest.

On that note, thank you for reading my blog up to this point, and don't worry, I'm going to blog every day on real paper, then back-post for all seven days! But I can't call that a blog then can I?
WEB-LOG -> PAPER-LOG
haha. PLOG!!! I'll be plogging along with my pen and paper. ;-)

Have a great week everyone!!! See you in September.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

August 28, 2004

A change of heart

Yesterday I wrote about changing our beliefs about happiness, but I did not give any examples from my own experience. This is really a two part post, so if you did not read yesterday’s post, you can go back and read that first.
A long time ago I used to smoke cigarettes. I was really addicted to them. Part of that was a physical addiction, but most of it was mental. I know that because when I finally did quit, it only took about 5 days for the physical symptoms to subside. I know now that our lungs return to near normal capacity within a very short time.
When I was smoking my views about happiness were different than they are now. There was a whole culture surrounding smokers and the need to smoke. I was unhappy when I didn’t get a chance to smoke. I was unhappy when I smoked too much. I was unhappy if a store didn’t have the right brand. I was unhappy when people asked to borrow a cigarette when they weren’t intending on buying their own. I was unhappy when the price of cigarettes increased. I was unhappy when I woke up in the morning after drinking beer and smoking half the night and felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I was unhappy when I had to pick up cigarette butts that other people threw on the ground. I was unhappy when I started smoking again after quitting. I quit smoking about five times before my final attempt. I wasn’t happy with the way smoking made me feel, except maybe at the very moment I was inhaling, at the point when my brain was being deprived of oxygen. That I didn’t seem to mind. In fact, all during that time I thought I was happier as a smoker. But wow, reading back over that list, that’s a lot of unhappiness! I don’t understand why it took me so long to quit smoking.
When I did quit, it was very liberating. It was nothing short of a miracle! What it really took was a change of heart. It took a viewpoint change. I used to view smoking as one thing necessary for the fulfillment of my happiness, but I shed the need for fulfillment from cigarettes. I then became healthier and saved a lot of money! All of the unhappiness associated with cigarette smoking vanished into thin air.

When I was 20 I got married and was really happy. But before that and even during much of my marriage I did not know the source of my happiness. I often thought of others as the source of my happiness. I mean that I thought they needed to give me something in order for me to be happy. I had expectations and demands on my partner and if she did not fulfill them I become unhappy. There was a point, well several points, when our relationship fell apart. There was a lot of unhappiness. In retrospect I realized that much of it was due to my faulty views about what a relationship should be like. I later discovered that true happiness does not come from trying to get something from others. If we are expecting that, we are going to be let down at some point. Reverse that idea: You know what it’s like to constantly live up to other’s expectations of us right? It doesn’t work too well. Especially if they have unrealistic expectations. We become exhausted and feel like a failure when can’t do it. That’s what I made my wife feel like. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn. It took a change of heart to save our marriage.
My views of relationships are much different now. I have learned that to get happiness we have to give it. In uplifting someone else, we are uplifting our self. When we are only taking we are actually taking from our self until we are bankrupt. My source of happiness is inside of me, which really makes it possible for me to have something to offer someone else in a relationship.

The August 10th edition of The Times of India had an article about an 18 year old girl who committed suicide because she could not get into the school of her choice. The government decreased the seats available and her College Entrance Test scores were too low. After seeing the news on TV about the lowered allotment of available seats, she went into her bedroom and hung herself from the ceiling fan. In her world she was facing an uncertain future in professional studies. To me it is very sad and tragic that her life ended in that way. Life for her was looking pretty bleak. Her happiness was dependent on that future and when it seemed out of reach, she could not be happy in her current life.

Our belief becomes an obstacle to our happiness. So if we are unhappy it makes sense that we can change that by changing our basic beliefs about happiness. This is really a change of heart because that is where our happiness resides.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:40 PM

August 27, 2004

Our Basic Beliefs about happiness

What is your basic belief about happiness? What are the conditions for your own happiness? Sometimes our own beliefs about happiness can be the very thing that prevents our happiness. For example, if we believe that we will not be happy until we are wealthy, then we will be miserable until we are wealthy and if that never happens we will never be happy. Our belief becomes an obstacle to our happiness. So if we are unhappy it makes sense that we can change that by changing our basic beliefs about happiness.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:55 PM

August 26, 2004

Universal Language

Today I was talking with someone in the park and we were laughing and talking about paying bills and working and being responsible. Really though we could have been talking about anything.
What was really happening was a connection that went beyond the words. Each of us was engaged with each other in a way that transended the topic of conversation. We felt good, we were happy.
Today I was reading some articles on Natural Language Processing (NLP), which is a phrase used to describe a machine language or program that interacts with human beings by following a set of rules in a way that makes it seem human itself. I wondered how I could write a program that would detect the connection I had with this person in the park, that went beyond the words. If such a program existed it couldn't just process the nouns and verbs used in conversation and extract a meaning from that. The program would have to have a way of detecting feelings and emotions.
A lot of times we can't even detect our own true feelings and emotions unless someone points them out to us. It is helpful for us though to try to be more aware of our true feelings, emotions and underlying motives. Sometimes we have to move beyond our own NLP program inside our heads to detect the human emotions involved. We need to experience the joy and the connection with other people in order to understand it.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:11 PM

August 25, 2004

More Motivation

I have updated “The Motivation List” It now has 21 items to help us elevate our enthusiasm! Perfect timing for the start of Fall classes in a couple of weeks. Most of today’s entry is about motivation, so you have to click on that link to read the numbers 14 through 21 which I added. I also made changes to numbers 10 and 11. I’m enjoying this list so far and have benefited already from the search.
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For those of you learning a foreign language, while I was searching on the internet for motivation, ;-) , I found a link to a book on language learning. Download a free copy of Success with Foreign Languages. and it looks pretty interesting. See also my post about How to learn any Language.
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Also tonight I went out to eat with my friend Sam, who’s in Korean class with me.. We had a good Korean meal at “The Mirror of Korea” on Snelling Avenue. I tried a Kimchi pancake for the first time! (kimchi-jon) It was very good! The food was good and the company was great! And it was motivating to talk with a classmate about the upcoming class. Thanks Sam! See you in class in a couple of weeks!

Posted by carl1236 at 9:45 PM

August 24, 2004

The Motivation List

Here is the ongoing compilation of things that motivate people. I plan on editing this entry and expanding the list with suggestions I find online and from everyone’s comments.

1. Success can be a motivator. Being successful at something is motivation and encouragement to continue doing it. Even little successes can be motivating. One thing that many people suggest is to break larger obstacles into smaller tasks that we are more likely to have success at. Handling all of the smaller challenges successfully helps us to believe we can actually handle the larger obstacle, one step at a time.
One key with success as a motivator is to find things we can succeed at. Another key is for us to acknowledge our own successes. Too often we discount the steps along the way to a larger goal and feel like we are not making any progress and become demoralized. We lose hope and give up. We have to acknowledge, accept and be happy about the small successes we have along the way.

2. Prominent reminders of our goals can be motivating. I put the word “Daily” in the title of my blog to remind me that I should write daily. that’s part of my goal. It’s a prominent reminder of what I’m trying to do. It’s motivating to know that I’m working on my goal daily.
When I was learning Russian, I put words all over my house on objects so I could learn them. These words were a prominent reminder of my goal to learn Russian. I could not avoid them. It motivated me to keep working on it because I was reminded of my overall goal every day, everywhere I turned. Some of these words still call to me to practice more. It’s good to frequently remember why we are doing something so we don’t forget and lapse for a long period of time and become discouraged and quit. Prominent reminders help motivate us to keep going.

3. Give yourself Time. In our society we often short change ourselves on time. It’s easy to lose our motivation when we have no time. Cut back on some things and focus on one thing at a time. The workshop on motivation at http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/ lists this as an important first step in finding your lost motivation. This other site suggests that “Taking a break” can rejuvenate our motivation when we return to the task at hand: http://www.4hb.com/blogging/20040209121212.html

4. Making it relevant. When things are relevant to our dreams and goals we are more likely to be motivated about them. I can spend hours and hours doing something I know fits into my plans sometimes it’s difficult to find relevance in things we hate doing or think is a waste of time. But finding a purpose and relevance in whatever it is we are doing is motivating for us to do it.

5. Work the whole you. Another suggestion from the workshop on motivation at http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/ This is one reason why I started exercising. I felt it was better for my mental health if I was in better shape.

6. Focus on Goals. http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/ Start small. Smaller steps can often motivate us to take larger steps. This is the idea that once we begin it, we are more likely to continue it. http://www.4hb.com/blogging/20040209121212.html

7. Make it a priority. http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/ This is one thing that has helped me with writing. Since writing daily is part of the process toward achieving my goals, and I realized how much time it was taking, I had to make it a priority in my life. This also helped me to be motivated about cycling. I made time for it and I made it a priority.

8. Feel good about yourself. http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/

9. Take care of your health. http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/ This is related to “working the whole you.”

10. Visualization http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/
Keep our mental picture in focus and visible. Rebuild your vision. Revisit the place your heart was at in the beginning when you had it. http://www.findthepower.com/dailydevotions/DevFindingHeartEphesians1_18.htm

11. Change your routine. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. http://www.4hb.com/blogging/20040209121212.html
Incorporate variety. Change things up so we are not bored. http://www.reliable-health.info/fitness/get-moving.shtml

12. Reward yourself. http://www.4hb.com/blogging/20040209121212.html

13. Reconnect the action with pleasure rather than pain. http://www.4hb.com/blogging/20040209121212.html Have fun. This is one of the ingredients to learning a foreign language too. If it’s drudgery it’s not very motivating and we are more likely to fail at it.

14. Focus on yourself. Don’t worry what others are doing. Think, “What can I do right now?” Too often we worry about others so much we lock up. http://www.irelandsdance.com/practice/motivation.htm

15. Use Inspirational Music. This is not just for dance! I use classical and other music that lifts my soul up while biking. It’s amazing how fast the time flies and how it enhances my motivation. http://www.irelandsdance.com/practice/motivation.htm

16. Practice in a group. Again this is not just for dance. Groups can help our motivation because others often share in the same troubles we have. We can learn from each other, stimulate and help each other. http://www.irelandsdance.com/practice/motivation.htm

17. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. http://www.yourdailyaffirmation.com/self_empowerment_motivation/motivation.htm

18. Make a friend. Being friends can give us and our friends a great gift in life. Connecting with others who share our interests and feel affection for us and who we feel affection for is a way to share in lifes ups and downs. It is a way of facing life together, and not being alone. Being alone in life can drag us down. I think human beings need close connections with other human beings.

19. Be serious, use determination to elevate our motivation. Half hearted attempts and excuses only drag us down more. http://www.yourdailyaffirmation.com/self_empowerment_motivation/motivation.htm

20. Pray about it. Ask for help. I like the Alcoholics Anonymous approach that we cannot do it alone. It is bigger than us. http://www.findthepower.com/dailydevotions/DevFindingHeartEphesians1_18.htm

21. Find the optimal challenges that are not too boring but not too difficult. http://members.aol.com/ChineseLLC/motiv1_2.htm

22. Incorporate it into our day and our habits. Like commuting to and from work on bicycle. I am not only exercising but I’m combining it with commuting. Walk to the store instead of driving. Maybe if we are not motivated by one, we will be by the other. http://www.reliable-health.info/fitness/get-moving.shtml

23. Similar to "Making it Relevant" this one is about making LIFE Relevant. I discovered that to truly live a fulfilled life and be happy we have to have a source of joy and strength in us. This is the source of our life. It carries us through tough times and helps us more fully experience the good times. Developing and Cultivating a spiritual process of living is motivating by default. It gives us purpose and meaning and joy in life.

Ok, more to come as I find more to add to the list. If you have a favorite way to help yourself get motivated, please post it. I’ll add it.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:20 PM

August 23, 2004

How do we find motivation when we don't have any?

How do we find motivation when we don’t have any? That’s a question that a friend asked me today. I didn’t have a good answer right away. I had to think about how I motivate myself to do things, especially when I don’t want to do them. Sometimes I just make myself do them. Then my friend asked, “how do you make yourself do something you don’t want to do?” Again I had to think about it. “I don’t know, I just do it,” was my first reaction. And my second reaction was, “Sometimes I don’t motivate myself.” But I offered the best advice I could at the time.
I’ll give one example of a way that I motivate myself, then I’ve listed the start of my internet search for motivation for you to see what others think. My example is in the name of my blog: The DAILY Spirit-Human. I put the word DAILY in the title intentionally. This motivates me to not miss a single day. Sometimes I post at 11:59pm and I’m fighting my slow computer to get it here. The title itself forces a schedule on me, which I wanted, to help me be creative every day. A lot of my blog posts take a lot of thought, so it can be a major commitment. I had to make it a high priority in my life. So for me one thing that can motivate me is a desire to succeed at whatever my goals are. I’m now at 116 days and counting...yay! Ok, I guess a second thing that motivates me is success at something.
Now here are some links. My plan is to put together a composite list of ideas to motivate ourselves. What works for some people may not work for others, but this is a good place to start:

Finding Motivation workshop:
http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/motivation/

Finding Motivation article by Chris Widener:
http://www.4hb.com/blogging/20040209121212.html

Finding motivation for dance practice:
http://www.irelandsdance.com/practice/motivation.htm

Daily Affirmations article on Motivation:
http://www.yourdailyaffirmation.com/self_empowerment_motivation/motivation.htm

A Christian article on finding your motivation by going back to what motivated you in the first place:
http://www.findthepower.com/dailydevotions/DevFindingHeartEphesians1_18.htm

Motivation for the Language Learner:
http://members.aol.com/ChineseLLC/motiv1_2.htm

Exercise motivation tips:
http://www.reliable-health.info/fitness/get-moving.shtml

Also, please feel free to post a comment on this blog entry on what motivates you. I’ll add it to the Motivation List. I’m adding a category to this blog also, MOTIVATION, to enable searches later for all entries related to motivation. I feel this is one area that adds to the quality of our lives. Without motivation our worlds can look pretty gray.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:51 PM

August 22, 2004

Saint John's Cemetery

Today was an interesting day. Today at work one of my coworkers had a lady come in to cut her hair. At the same time I thought that as long as she was there cutting hair that I’d have mine done too. It was a coincident that I needed mine cut and convenient that I could get it done right there without going to a barber or stylist.
As I was riding home on my bike today I rode by an old cemetery The last two times I’ve ridden by this cemetery I’ve noticed the name on the sign: Saint John’s Cemetery, Established 1888. Today I thought, “Wow, that’s old! There could not have been much around it in 1888 out in Apple Valley!”
When I got home I tried to do a little research on the internet about this cemetery but after a half an hour I gave up.
During my search though, I found other more recent cemeteries in the area and most of them had alphabetical listings of every person who was buried there and the birth and death years as shown on the grave markers.
1888 seems like a long time ago and a lot of things have changed around that cemetery since it’s first burial. Apple Valley developed around it, farther than the eye could see. There are no rural farms in this area of town. They’ve all been replaced by town homes. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel that the past 116 years has gone by quickly and in the grand scheme of our universe is just a flash in time.
This cemetery may no longer be accepting deposits, but the cycle of life and death continues.
Some day I’ll die also and maybe I’ll hang out by that cemetery and draw some cyclist’s attention to the sign that reads, “Saint John’s Cemetery, Established 1888.” What I will hope for is that the person will reflect on it a while and think about all of the people who have come and gone. I would hope that the person will be thankful for their life and understand with peace that this process of life and death has been going on since living things came into being on this planet.
Yesterday our neighbors across the street had one of their parents pass away. When I saw my Dad and Mom and Aunts and Uncles last night at the Saints game, I was thankful that they were still around. It’s nice to share life with those you love. But I also saw the next two generations at the same gathering. The youngest one’s were all growing so quickly! This is the process we all go through. It’s a natural process and I am thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to be part of it.
There is a certain peace that comes to us while living when we accept that we are part of that process. It releases fear. It releases us from our bondage to this life and helps us be thankful for every moment we have.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:55 PM

August 21, 2004

St. Paul Saints

Tonight my whole family went to the Saints game. My dad, my mom, brothers, sister, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, second cousins were all there. It seemed like we had about 10 carloads full. We went early to have a tailgate party and then watch the game. That was the best part! It’s really a festive atmosphere and a nice excuse to get together with family.
We were all there at or a little before 5pm to get parking spots next to each other. One of my uncles brought a gas grill and was the grill master for the evening. Each family brought food to share, so it was easy. Sitting around in our lawn chairs and folding camping chairs, we ate and talked for an hour and a half before the game started.
At 6:45 we went into the stadium to find our seats. We had pretty good seats close to first base with a good view. It was nice because my sister bought all of the tickets in advance and we were all sitting next to each other in a big rectangular section of the bleachers.
As I was growing up, these are the same Aunts and Uncles I remember playing softball with as a large extended family. I remember going to sporting events and the state fair with them. It seemed like we saw a lot of them. The greatest part of having this large extended family was spending time with them. It’s still true today. We find it difficult to pass up family gatherings and always look forward to them.
Like every family there are always difficult and dark times, like when one of my Aunts got a divorce, and when my Grandparents passed away. But those are things that happen in life and during those dark times it’s much better to have a strong supportive family than to be going through it alone. Life is about sharing and loving each other. There is a great value in having families like this.
As we go through the years we are all facing challenges of our own. Is it better to face them alone or to face them and know we are not alone? I’d chose a good support network of family over being alone any day. Because not only do we receive from them, but we also give to them.
One of the great mysteries and truths in this life is that we are all related. We are all one family. Just like some dysfunctional families though, we have our rough spots. We don’t always have the best relationships with some of our Aunts and Uncles or cousins. Why is that? We are all equal in God’s eyes and all loved equally. Out of everything we do in life, one of the most important is taking care of our family. We can use any excuse to get together with each other. We can look forward to it too! As a part of the global family, the human race, which is all part of God’s family, life could be so much better if we learned to share with each other and love each other.
The baseball game? Oh I forgot about that. That was part of the intermission entertainment I think. ;-)

Posted by carl1236 at 9:41 PM

August 20, 2004

Greg Froehle Music Review

Tonight saw Greg Froehle at the Old Man River Cafe on Smith Avenue. The place was packed with about 32 people. Most of them came just to see and hear Greg perform. Before I walked in the door, I had never heard of Greg Froehle, but after leaving I won’t be able to forget the fresh lyrics and phenomenal voice! He plays guitar and sings. He writes his own music. He produced his own CD. It was a pleasant surprise for me tonight.
According to Greg’s website, he was born in 1984 in his living room. From the sound of things, I think he must have been born with his guitar in his hands! And instead of crying like normal babies, he was probably music to his mother’s ears. Greg’s CD is music to my ears. I especially liked the guitar playing on Did you ever look so nice? I don’t quite understand all of the lyrics yet, but in the song Smoke I understand completely what it feels like to be in unfamiliar territory.
“It's so dark and cold
And the air is getting thin
As I walk the tightrope
In unfamiliar skin”

Greg, I don’t see any new dates on your website calendar yet, but I have you bookmarked now, and look forward to hearing more of your music. Thanks for the great CD and performance!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:21 PM

August 19, 2004

2000 miles and counting...

Tomorrow I am having a Celebration in honor of my reaching an important
milestone in my life. Tonight I have surpassed 2000 miles on my
bicycle!!! That is double my original goal for this whole year!!! To
celebrate I will be bringing bagels and toppings in the morning to share
with the people in my department and a few cyclists I know at work.

To give you some idea of how monumental this is for me, I'll share a
few highlights with you:

1. Setting goals and sticking with it: I started bicycle riding on
March 16th this year. Before that I was doing nothing. Last year I
rode my bike for about 13 weeks off and on, but only very short
distances. But that motivated me to set my goals higher this year. I
told myself that I would ride every day, weather permitting. I started
riding this year on March 16th and the next day it snowed. Being all
pumped to exercise, I decided to run the 2.7 miles into work. That was
a mistake, haha. I wasn't in shape yet. But I have only missed a few
days of riding since I began. Many times, especially at the beginning,
I would ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I felt like quitting
many times.

2. Going beyond my previously known limits: It's been about 5 months
of riding bike for me now. After one month of riding 5.4 miles each day
round-trip, my friend Dan subtly convinced me I should extend my miles.
Dan has a way of making it sound like fun! haha. So I found a beautiful
detour of 7 miles along the West bank of the river, through Lillydale
and back to downtown. Then my next increase in miles came a few weeks
later when I realized that since I could handle 7 miles one way, I could
ride 10 miles one way. I started riding 10 miles two days per week from
my class at the University back to my house in St. Paul. Then on May
14th, almost 2 months later Dan took me on a ride along Shepard Road to
the Mendota bridge after work. This became my new 13 mile route which I
still ride quite frequently, but now with added variations, like through
Crosby and Hidden Falls parks! From that point on, I realized that I
would not die from extending my miles. Two weeks later I began riding
to Burnsville and back at least once per week for my part-time work
there. That's 20 miles each way!
On June 27th I went with Carol and her boyfriend Jeff to the Tour of
Saints bike tour by Saint Cloud. It was a 50 mile ride and it rained
almost the whole time! But it was a great experience with a lot of
participants, and it encouraged me to keep biking (it did not kill me).
By the beginning of August I was riding about 100 miles per week.
During the first month of cycling, I calculated that I would ride about
1000 miles for the whole year! As I increased my miles I had to keep
changing the projected date when I would reach 1000 miles. Finally on
July 2nd I reached my goal. Then I had to set a new goal. At that time
I thought I would be able to reach 2000 miles by the end of the season.
Now I'm there and still have a lot of bike riding left to do this year!
I am riding about 200 miles per week now, so weather permitting, I could
reach 4000 miles this season!!! At the beginning I never would have
dreamed I could do that!

3. Attitude: Riding my bike has changed my attitude in several ways.
The first is a certain liberation that came from being able to get to
and from different places on my own power. It freed me from the
limitations of my car and parking downtown or other places. I found
that I no longer needed my car to get around, especially since I combine
bike riding with the bus and light-rail. The second attitude adjustment
was in what I considered acceptable or not. I discovered I can ride in
the cold (March), I can ride in the rain (Commuting every day in
Minnesota weather and the Tour of Saints), I can ride in the heat (July)
and I can ride in the cold (this
morning). It's all good bike riding
now. I don't melt. The third attitude adjustment came when I started
to explore beyond my initial route (Thanks Dan). I learned the fun of
cycling and that I loved to discover new trails, parks and parts of the
city I had never seen. This adventure is an element I had not foreseen
in my original goals.

4. Fitness: We all have to start somewhere. My attitude coming into
this was, "whatever we do above and beyond nothing is better than
nothing." And I still hold that as true. But I've found that with the
better shape I'm getting into, it makes it more fun, and makes me able
to take on more. I started slowly this year, but now feel more like an
athlete training every day. That's a huge fitness improvement for
someone who sat at a computer screen all day and all evening. I still
can't believe how far I've come in such a short time. I feel much
better and stronger and more alive by integrating fitness into my life.
If I did nothing else but this, I'd be happy, because I've already far
surpassed my health expectations with this exercise.

5. Competition: This really has to do with attitude, but originally
my goals did not include competition. The only competition I saw was
with myself to keep doing it every day even if I felt like quitting,
which I did many times. But Carol said a few insightful words about
this. Competition helps us push ourselves beyond our limits. It
involves an attitude of not letting something like age or even ability
to be a limit in that process. It's really a 'CAN DO!' attitude. Over
the past few weeks I've made up my mind that I will compete next Spring.
I will attempt as many bike races as I have time to do. If I train
hard enough, maybe we'll be celebrating a race victory in the future.
In any case, the competition will drive me to go beyond my known limits.
I'm starting to train now, by riding at least 200 miles per week and
I'm joining the St. Paul Bike Racing club for training and assistance
and group rides.

Fitness is a great thing. Exercise goes a long way to helping us have a balanced life.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:03 PM

August 18, 2004

Music Break

Michael Monroe will perform again this summer outdoors at St. Anthony Main this Saturday, 8/21 @ 7:30pm. Michael has been playing here since the mid 80s. I'll be at the Saints Game, so won't be able to make it, but if you haven't heard, I like his music and highly recommend seeing him live. It's free, it's fun and it's outdoors! What more can you ask for? See my previous comments on Michael Monroe.

Today a friend gave me a copy of a homemade CD that him and his buddies recorded live in their living room. It's titled Mikes Music Night, November 21, 2003. Debbie's Bon Voyage Gig. What's so special about this CD is not so much the music, which is pretty good, but more that this same group of seven people have been getting together weekly for years having fun playing folk music together.
I've come to the conclusion that making music is a good occupation of our time. It doesn't even matter how good we are, the joy is in the practice. You'll probably never hear me play, but I really enjoy the trumpet.
After driving my family crazy, I moved to the bathroom with the door closed to practice. Then they bought me a Yamaha electronic mute, which is really, really silent on the outside but sounds like I'm playing in a concert hall through the earphones.
About the time I was really into practicing hard, a friend from the Philippines, who plays electric guitar was telling me about a new device called a Zoom Effects Pedal. I thought, hey! I have this electronic mute, and my son has an amplifier, I could plug that device inbetween the two. Thus the birth of the trumpet that sounds like an electric guitar! hehe.
Music comes in all forms and people have different tastes, but in one form or another, music is a part of everyone's life. We hear it on the radio, we sing it, whistle it, play it and enjoy it. It is one of those things that makes this life a little more pleasurable. Like the folk song Mike's group sings, 'Til the well runs dry, we often take music for granted until we don't have it.
If you get a chance, take advantage of the summer's remaining nice weather and get out to see Michael Monroe on Saturday night. If any of you takes a photo of the concert and emails it to me, I'll buy you a Latte' or something at Starbucks in Dinky Town. Enjoy the music!

Posted by carl1236 at 9:42 PM

August 17, 2004

Instant replay

Tonight we were watching the swimming events in the Olympics. The announcers were talking about the Japanese swimmer who reportedly violated a rule by using a dolphin kick, with the tops of his feet, right after a turn. There were several complaints from other teams and tonight he changed his style. But they would not have seen that if they did not have underwater cameras. The judges stand at the end of the pool above the swimmers and could not see a slight bend in the knee.
With the use of multiple cameras and instant replay they could easily go the way of other sports like football. According to the announcers there has been talk about this for a while but there has been no move to make it part of the judging. The announcers however were replaying the underwater shots for this one swimmer during multiple races and commenting on the style used in each race and how it was different.
I want to know where the instant replay shots are for our daily interactions with other people. Some people’s actions are less than admirable and it would be nice to file a complaint and have an instant replay. There was an article in the paper a while ago about a man who stole some bags of ice-melting salt from outside of a gas station. The security cameras caught him in the act and police were later able to spot him and pull him over. The man profusely apologized and said he didn’t know what came over him. The salt was returned to the gas station.
The actions of that man stealing salt were replayed from video capturing his every move at a gas station. Much more insidious are the crimes of hate, mental abuse, power and control against other people that go on every day in homes and communities around the world. The instant replay for these crimes of the spirit continue over and over in the minds of the victims. But often there are no officials standing over the lane watching for illegal moves. There is no-one to watch the instant replay. Sometimes I think it would be valuable for the perpetrators of these kinds of violations against others to watch what they did over and over like the victims have to. Not only should they have to watch their actions and thoughts and words, but they should also be put on public display so everyone else would see what they did.
I read in the news recently that there was an attempted abduction of a young woman at the University. Thankfully the man was caught. See my May 26th blog entry about Rape at the University. It’s sad that it is even happening, but these things are happening too often. I hope that all of you are safe and do not ever have to view instant replays like that. Summer is almost over and class is about to begin again in a few weeks. Everyone will be trying to cram a little more summer fun into their lives before getting serious again. Please be safe and help watch out for your friends. The man who tried to abduct the young woman on campus was thwarted because other people were around.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:48 PM

August 16, 2004

Misplaced intentions

Many people have good intentions with false ideas. I’m talking mainly about false Ideas as to what God really wants us to do. Many people are confused about what pleases God and what doesn’t. Often it is because of teachings within their churches, synagogues or temples that are interpreted with a bias. Our biases come in many forms and are at the core of our beliefs and views about life.
In one Religious sect’s literature that I read today, there was an article titled, Beliefs and Customs that Displease God. The first sentence says, “Not all beliefs and customs are bad. But God does not approve of them if they come from false religion or are against bible teachings.” Then they quoted a bible verse Mathew 15:6 as proof that this is a true statement. However if they truly understood that whole chapter 15, they would realize that their own teachings are like those of the scribes and Pharisees who were called hypocrites by Jesus for trying to twist the meaning of their teachings to profit themselves.
To make this article more unpalatable, they proceeded to use the argument that because birthdays were only mentioned a couple of times in the bible, and were celebrated by non-Christians, that this is one practice that God is displeased with. They also said God is displeased with people celebrating Christmas, because it’s a birthday, and Easter, because it came from pagan beliefs. In this article they state, “The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, nor do true Christians today.”
Jesus said that people like those that wrote this article were prophesied by Isaiah, saying, “These people come close to me with their talk and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching the commandments of men as my doctrine.” The same chapter that the authors of this article use to support their claims actually condemns their teachings as being misguided. Nowhere in the bible does God say he is displeased with the celebration of Christmas, Easter or birthdays. Nowhere in the bible does it say to be a true Christian, you must not celebrate these things. To end their article, they proceed to use fear to convince the reader that they will displease God if they do not change their beliefs: “It may be very hard to abandon some of these beliefs and customs. Relatives and friends may try to convince you not to change your beliefs. But pleasing God is more important than pleasing men.” They then quote Proverbs 29:25 and Matthew 10:36 and 37. to substantiate that final statement. Those verses are also misquoted to support their claim but actually condemn their own teachings. For instance in Proverbs 29:25 it says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts their trust in the Lord will be safe.” And Matthew 10:36 and 37 says, “And a man’s foes will be from his own household. Whoever loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: And he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” These two verses are quoted out of context of the whole chapter where Jesus is talking about misplaced fear of men and the need to Love God above all. In Mark chapter 6 there is the story about the execution of John the Baptist. King Herod was seeing his brother’s wife Herodias and John the Baptist told him it wasn’t a good thing. King Herod liked John the Baptist, thought of him as holy and wondered at the things he did and said. But later at Herod’s birthday celebration Herodias’ daughter danced for him. King Herod was pleased with her performance and offered her anything she wanted. The daughter went to Herodias to get help in deciding what to ask for. Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Fearing reprisal after making a promise like that to his lover’s daughter, he ordered the execution. This story is a better example of doing something to please other people regardless of what our heart says. This is putting the pleasure of other people above what is right and good. This is what Jesus meant by setting family members against family members. When our hearts are touched by the spirit of God we are no longer influenced by the fear that other people try to hold over us. We should love God, which is all that is right and good, above all else.
I did not write any of this to condemn a particular religion, but to highlight the misplaced intentions we can all get when our hearts are not soft. The second commandment, only second to ‘Love God above all else’, is to love everyone else. This is the filter we need to view other people in this world, not fear. This is also the tool to use when we view other people, not fear. This is what pleases God. Birthday, Easter and Christmas celebrations are occupations of our time, which done in the spirit of Love, giving and remembrance, cannot displease or be wrong in the sight of God. When our hearts are in the wrong place we often condemn others and use fear to justify our claims. This is a practice that displeases God. In Matthew Chapter 7 Jesus talks about Judging others. We often look at what other people are doing and get legalistic about it, but Jesus asks us why we are nit-picking over that when we should be looking at our own hardened hearts.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:56 PM

August 15, 2004

The Poseidon Adventure and Armageddon

We just watched two movies in the last week and it struck me how similar they were. Both of them had tough leading characters who sacrificed themselves for the good of the others.
In the 1972 movie, Poseidon Adventure, Gene Hackman playing the Reverend Frank Scott led a small group of people almost to freedom from a sinking ship. He spent the entire movie riding another character, Mike Rogo, a police officer who has had a rough career up to that point. Shortly before he died, Reverend Scott told Mike Rogo that maybe they were two of a kind. He motivated Mike to lead the others on to safety, then he prayed to God for help and sacrificed himself to open a passageway they needed to go through.
In the 1998 movie, Armageddon, Bruce Willis playing the Texas well driller Harry S. Stamper, led a small group of people to an asteroid headed toward the earth in order to drill a hole in it, fill it with a nuclear bomb and split it in half so it would miss the earth. He almost made it but not quite. He spent the entire movie riding another character, A.J. Frost, who was in love with his daughter. Shortly before Harry died he told A.J. that he was like his own son. He motivated A.J. to finish the job and to take care of his daughter. He also prayed to God for a little help, and then sacrificed himself for the good of mankind.
In these stories both characters prayed to God for help. Then they proceeded with determination in their missions and came to the realization that they had to sacrifice themselves to save the rest. The solution to the problem at hand might not have seemed like a very good one to the main characters in these movies, but they did it anyway. They were resolved to do it and were at peace with their decision.
I’ve experienced something similar to the characters in these stories, although not in life or death situations like in a disaster movie. Many times in my life I have found myself in a situation where I prayed to God to ask for a solution to a problem, only to have God tell me that I was the solution. For instance, once I was walking down the sidewalk in Downtown at lunch time, and there was a drunk man who appeared to be homeless. He was throwing up on the sidewalk. I said a quick prayer to God to help him. The answer I got back was, “So what are you going to do about it?” That’s not exactly the answer I wanted to hear at that time. I ended up stopping and talking to this man for a half an hour, buying him some coffee and listening to his story. As we parted, he said he was going to go get some rest and sober up. I was late getting back to my office and had to make up the time lost at work, but to me it was worth it.
I’ve found that the answer often involves a self sacrifice. When our eyes are opened to a problem, we have a choice about what to do about it. It’s much easier to close our eyes and hope someone else takes care of it. But to me that’s kind of like coming across a car accident, seeing the injured people, knowing they need help, and then running away because it’s too much for us to bear or too far out of our comfort zone or requires too much involvement. Now when I pray to God for a solution, I approach it with a sense of peace and determination. I still pray for help, but I also pray for my willingness to be part of the solution.
Unlike the movies there are many every-day heroes in this world that go unnoticed for their sacrifices, like a single mom I know who gave up her weekend to work because she only had half of her car payment for the month. They don’t ask for recognition or compensation. They just do what they know in their hearts is the right thing to do regardless of the personal cost or level of involvement. They all share something in common: A willingness to be part of the solution.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:15 PM

August 14, 2004

Thanks for the motivation!

Here is a tribute to the cyclist who passed me on Highway 13 today! I was at about 17 miles into my 20 mile ride and had a hill just ahead of me coming up out of the town of Mendota heading North East. I was on the bike trail that runs behind the town’s buildings and just past the edge of town I turned onto 13. Directly ahead of me was the hill, and to my left and a little ways back, I saw another cyclist rounding the corner of the main road coming my way.
I knew he was moving fast but I decided that I’d push that hill so I wouldn’t get passed while climbing. I made it to the top and started to accelerate and there he was. Then he called out to pass on my left and I said hi as he rode by me. I decided to see who it was so I picked up the pace and stayed on his tail. At one point I looked at my speedometer and it read 25 mph! I don’t usually ride that fast, but today I was motivated to stick with this guy. After a mile like this he had to turn off and he slowed down to make a right turn. I saw him turn his head to see if it was clear, and the look of surprise on his face to see me. He laughed and said hi. I said, “Thanks for the motivation!” and he laughed again, and asked if I was turning there. I said, “No I have to go straight but thanks.” He nodded and turned back to his task.
As I rode the rest of the way home, I knew that I owed that burst of energy to the cyclist who passed me. I latched onto him and kept with him. Yes, it was challenging to keep up with him, but it felt great! Sometimes we need to latch onto someone who can motivate us. We still have to pedal hard, but with motivation we can do things we normally could not or would not do.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:33 PM

August 13, 2004

How do we make a difference in this life?

How do we make a difference in this life?

Each of us is faced with a limited amount of time each day, and our physical life-span is limited. We don’t even know for sure if we’ll be alive tomorrow. Some people take the attitude, “Yes, life is short so the objective is to get as much fun, pleasure and comfort as we can for ourselves.” Yet some people see the futility of that and look for a deeper purpose or meaning to their existence. “Yes, I have limited time so how best can I use it to make a difference in life?”

So here is a checklist of some ways to make a difference in life (Though not a complete list, it’s a good start. Please Add your own)

1. Listen. Everyone wants to be heard. When we take the time to listen to others, we are making a difference in their lives. Almost all of my friends that I hang out with are good listeners. I try to be also. Sometimes when we find someone who is a good listener, we find ourselves blurting out our most intimate struggles and dreams. It’s like popping the top of a bottle of soda after shaking it vigorously. Being a good listener involves trust. We trust those that listen to us to not stomp on us. That’s part of the deal. Good listeners have to be trustworthy with our hearts. We are told to love others as ourselves. This is a good way to do that.
2. Whatever you do in life, give it your best shot. By doing our best at everything we do, we are making a difference in that activity or situation. No-one can ask for anything more than we are able to give. Too often though we don’t know what our potential is because we don’t give things our best effort. I worked in a shoe store when I was younger and did not really put in a full effort all the time. It was kind of a meaningless job to me then. But I was doing it to pay bills while I went to school. I didn’t always do my best and it often showed in the quality of my work. The best we can do depends a lot on our attitude. We have to care.
3. Have values and stick to them. We all decide who we are and what we stand for. Values help us with all of our choices in life. Being unclear on our values often gets us and others into more suffering in life. Anyone can follow along with others just because it’s cool and temporarily lose our values, but it takes a special person to know who they are and what they stand for and walks the talk all the time. These people clear paths through the thick jungle of society.
4. Have hope and give hope. Be someone that adds to life not takes it away. Having hope, we tend to be unstoppable, and we find solutions to the problems in life. Giving hope to others is lifting them up. It’s something we all want to have but when the going gets rough we often sink into despair. We could use a helping hand and a positive voice. So do others who are in the same situation.
5. Live with intention. We all make choices every day whether consciously or subconsciously. To make a difference in life it’s better to be awake for it and live with purpose. This involves knowing ourselves and understanding why we do what we do. It’s not easy all the time, because we play mind games with ourselves and deceive ourselves. Often this leads to difficulties in life because we are not being honest with ourselves. Being aware of who we are, what our purpose is, what we are capable of and what our values are all help us to live with intention.

Making a difference in life is a very personal thing. Each person is essentially the same in that we are all in life together, we are all connected spirits and we are all loved equally by God, but at the same time we are all unique and have special talents, gifts and resources. What we do with them is up to us.

My hope and prayer for everyone is that they live fulfilling, meaningful lives with purpose and love. When we do live like this we are making a difference in this life. Our time is not wasted.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:07 PM

August 12, 2004

Security Update

On July 22 - "IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LIFE" I told you about the problem with our Security Guard’s vehicle. Problem resolved! And it only took 21 Days! I want to take this moment to thank the Mechanic who helped him out:

Thank you, you are a blessing to this world!!! With your good heart and creativity, you solved many problems at once. First by coming up with a good barter for your services that everyone was happy with. Then by going the extra mile to make sure the car was running in top shape! You even troubleshot the idling problem and changed the fouled sparkplugs!

Even this thank you is not enough, because you have helped to save a man’s livelihood and lifted his spirits to the stars.

And to all of you who had sympathy and compassion for this man and his troubles, thank you too. I appreciate the prayers and the thoughts. Life is so much better when we do it together!

Posted by carl1236 at 5:13 PM

August 11, 2004

More Adventures

Tonight I rode with my friend Dan again. This time we ended up at Freewheel Bike at 6th and Cedar on the West Bank: http://www.freewheelbike.com
That was fun looking through the store. It’s kind of like a candy store for adults. Well, cycling adults anyway.
But I had to laugh when I called my wife to tell her where I was and that I’d be home later than usual. It’s about a 40 minute bike ride from the U of M to my house. She laughed and said, “Next thing you know you’ll be calling me from Iowa or something.” Well, I didn’t ride that far tonight, but I did ride 26 miles.
To me this is another example of the idea that we don’t know what we are capable of until we reach a certain level of fitness.
One of my favorite quotes is still, “One is taught in accordance with one’s ability to learn.” I first heard that in a 1978 movie, Circle of Iron, with David Carradine (Kung Fu). Sometimes we have to have a certain level of ability just in order to comprehend the next level. Just like with physical fitness, I couldn’t even imagine right now that I’m capable of competing in the Olympics. I’m just not at that level. But if I was at that level I would know about what it takes and I would see that I had a shot at it.
Having adventures on my bike, or exploring, is an attitude level for me. Last year I was bound to my car, thinking I needed it to get from point A to point B. I couldn’t imagine life without it or how I would get to and from work even. Being able to explore and not having to have an in-depth plan is a whole new level of freedom! It’s an attitude adjustment.
Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the level we are currently at emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually. We think we know what life is all about without realizing that we haven’t seen anything yet. With each new discovery comes an awareness of something greater.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:03 PM

August 10, 2004

Tonight's Adventure

Tonight I was looking for an adventure. That is one thing I have learned to appreciate about my new cycling hobby; There are so many places we can ride our bikes and it can be an adventure. It’s like exploring the city.
My friend Dan and I rode from downtown St. Paul, to Fort Snelling, got on the light rail and rode to the Metrodome. From there we rode a few blocks to the West river road and went South again along the river. I had never ridden the light rail before, so this was a first for me. We also used the bike rack in the train which was really easy. We just wheeled the bike on, stood it up on it’s back wheel and hooked the front wheel onto a hook sticking out from the wall. Then we sat down and enjoyed the ride. It was smooth and quiet and spacious. Of course we were going the opposite direction as rush hour traffic.
Then Dan and I rode along the west side of the river. I had never been North of Lake street on that side of the river before, so it was nice exploring that route from the metrodome. I rode under the bridge connecting the East and West banks of the University. It’s a different perspective from under the bridge. Then at Lake Street Dan turned around and headed home, while I continued across to East River Road and back to St. Paul. In all I rode 20 miles tonight and got to experience a ride on the light rail. It felt great!
I don’t know what point in life we stop having adventures. It happens sometimes and we look back and wonder how we lost that. I think it’s because we often get so bogged down in trying to make things work that we forget to have fun. We forget to just go out and explore like when we were kids, maybe because we feel like we need to have everything planned out well in advance of doing everything. Surprises are not fun in much of our adult life. But honestly, it was really fun tonight! The temperature was cold, the wind was blowing, it was cloudy and threatening to rain, but it was fun!
This has to do with our attitude during life. We can live however we want, but it’s kind of sad when we take the adventure out of it. And it’s kind of refreshing when we put it back in. I’m not talking about recklessness or carelessness, but about a good attitude of freedom and a willingness to look beyond our small view of the world and expand it. To boldly go where we have not gone before, knowing that it will work out, but being excited about the next discovery.
Now I’m looking forward to more adventures, now that I remember it’s possible.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:03 PM

August 9, 2004

CLIF BAR, ENERGY BAR

It’s interesting to actually read the back of the package sometimes to see what it is we are eating. In the case of Clif bars, all the nutritional information is there but there is also a fun little story. It reads:
“Clif Bar is named after my father, Clifford, my childhood hero and companion throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains. In 1990, I lived in a garage with my dog, skis, climbing gear, bicycle and two trumpets. The inspiration to create an energy bar occurred during a day-long, 175 mile ride with my buddy, Jay. We’d been gnawing on some “other” energy bars. Suddenly, despite my hunger, I couldn’t take another bite. That’s the moment I now call “the epiphany.” Two years later, after countless hours in Mom’s kitchen, Clif Bar became a reality. And the mission to create a better-tasting energy bar was accomplished. thanks, Mom!
Clif bar has grown since 1990, and still the spirit of adventure that began on that ride continues to thrive each day. As the company evolves, we face many choices, yet we always do our best to take care of our people, our community and our environment.
- Gary, Owner of Clif Bar Inc.”
The package says “To learn more... visit http://www.clifbar.com

It’s an interesting story, which may or may not be entirely true or even relevant. There are several energy bars and drinks on the market. And the ingredients and Nutrition facts listed are confusing to the novice athlete like me. I have learned by experience what it feels like to run out of energy on a bike ride. I know that athletes eat energy bars and drink energy drinks to give them the energy to perform their best.
From talking to many people, I discovered that a lot of us are doing what I started doing: Throwing things at our bodies to compensate for our exercise, without really understanding our needs and the nutritional value of things. As an example, I now eat an energy bar about a half hour before I go on any ride that will be over 20 miles. Now I’m reading about sports nutrition and I’m finding out about carbohydrates and protein and how they effect our energy use, and how they help rebuild our muscles.
In life we are bombarded with a lot of choices. We know that we need to take better care of ourselves but are not technically fluent in the intricacies of how it works. We start throwing things at it that we have heard are good for us.
Spiritually we are also faced with a lot of choices. We often take the ‘prepackaged’ energy bar approach to our spiritual health without really understanding the inner workings of our soul. We start throwing things at our spirits to see what happens, in the hope that it will renew our strength and help us reach our full potential. Then somewhere along the ride after we have gnawed on some energy bars we can’t take another bite. We then become disillusioned with the product. Then we look for something more palatable. That doesn’t mean we can stop caring about our well-being, it means we really need to understand what it is we are throwing at our spirits and why. Then we have the power to create proper balance in our lives.
I’m still trying to figure out what my body really needs and when. But spiritually, I know that one ingredient we all need is love. This is like a palatable energy bar that we never get tired of. Unlike the many choices we have for nutrition, like the energy bars and drinks, fruits and vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, etc., the more love thrown at our souls, the better we perform. Then we discover that for maximum fulfillment the more we give to others , the more we get in return.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:27 PM

August 8, 2004

The Road I choose

Today seemed like a long day! I ended up working late, then I cycled home. By then it was already 8:30pm. Two hours later as I sat down to write this blog, I was really tired! I did have the fastest time I’ve ever had on this same route, and it feels like I had a great workout.
When I am cycling, I have to pick a route. There is not a right or wrong in choosing a route but some routes take longer than others. If I choose to go one way, I get a certain kind of workout, maybe with more hills or longer distance. The same is true spiritually in our lives. There are many roads we can take, and we always have choices to make. No matter which road we take life has a way of working out. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. It may not work out the way we thought it would though. Every action has a reaction and our thoughts and motives are creating something. Then as we go down that road, different choices present themselves. And then we have to make further choices.
So, one way of looking at it is that we can determine where we want to be, or who we want to be, and choose the path that will most likely get us there. One thing I’ve noticed though, is that many of us want to walk on different paths at the same time. It doesn’t work too well. Imagine what would happen if I tried to cycle down two roads at once. I’d crash in the middle. Spiritually we crash too, because we cannot easily be in two different states of being at once. So part of choosing the path we want to go down is deciding who we really are. Then the road kind of finds us.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:57 PM

August 7, 2004

Picking up dropped responsibilities

I knew eventually it would catch up to me. I was working on an editing project this Spring, but with so much going on, I had to put it on hold. When my schedule finally let up a little, I conveniently forgot about this project. I cannot say how it will go from here on out, but at least I’m working on it again.
When I first made a commitment to do this project, I had more time available, and then once I got into it I realized what a big job it was. The editing was much harder than I thought, and required major changes. To make matters worse, I didn’t think I had the skills necessary to do this kind of work, which really amounts to rewriting large portions of it. The manuscript is 283 standard novel pages and I’m almost half-way through.
Tonight I was encouraged though, because I started at it again with a fresh mind. This time though instead of promising a given number of chapters per week, I decided the best I could do was promise a set amount of time per day. In the long run this will get the work done by our new deadline of the end of September.
Sometimes in life we think we can get away from responsibilities and promises, and I probably could have let this one go altogether, but it’s an empty resolution to the problem. When I picked this back up, I had the renewed strength of knowing that I was going to fulfill a commitment I made.
I was also thankful for the commitment that this author had in me. We can’t always go back and pick up our dropped responsibilities, because most of the time people move on and situations change. It can become too late to pick up where we left off. I was fortunate, and now I have to make sure I hold up my end of the bargain.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:53 PM

August 6, 2004

Water-quality Engineering

Yesterday I received an engineering industry newsletter from Bentley that was announcing their recent acquisition of Haestad Methods, Inc. That’s interesting enough but something struck me as odd when I was reading it:

“As water quality has become a critical issue worldwide, water-quality engineering is now a significant growth area in AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction). According to infrastructure industry management consultant Alan Farkas of Farkas Berkowitz & Company, the growth rate of water-quality engineering has increased just over 10 percent per year on a compounded basis for the last six years. “Water-quality engineering has been and should continue to be the most attractive engineering market segment in the U.S.,” noted Alan Farkas.”

Why has water quality become a critical issue worldwide? Isn’t this situation created by the activities of human beings on the earth? Because of it being a critical issue worldwide, now it’s become a growth area for people to fix the problem. So that means that people will profit from fixing the problems created by themselves. Engineering is a process of creation and we are creating solutions, we are making something. I ask why we should have to recreate something we have already had?

In today’s paper there was an article about plans to spend 850,000 dollars to increase the water quality of Como Lake. One of the problems listed was fertilizer runoff, which is creating uncontrollable algae growth which in turn is choking the lake and killing the fish population. The project is a nice idea though, because it will help the lake by reducing sand, salt, fertilizer and other chemical runoff to the lake. See information about this project at the Capitol Region Watershed District Site:

The slideshow presentation given at a June 30th meeting with photos. (pdf format)
http://www.ramseyconservation.org/crwd/projects/arlingtonpascal/6%2030_Presentation.pdf

Before and after pictures of the proposed rain gardens.
http://www.ramseyconservation.org/crwd/projects/arlingtonpascal/6-30%20Rain.pdf

Before and after pictures of the proposed ponds. Cool aerial photos of the neighborhoods and Como golf course.
http://www.ramseyconservation.org/crwd/projects/arlingtonpascal/6-30%20PONDS.pdf

I know it gets complicated to fix things once they are a problem, but yet it’s simple if prevented before they are a problem. We as human beings have to learn to be more conscious of our environment, and get back to the simple idea that we have to live in balance with nature and not destroy it. It’s a mindset. For instance, instead of manufacturing disposable items because it’s convenient for the consumer, and more profitable to produce, we should think about where that waste is going first. Instead of having a green lawn at the expense of our lakes and rivers, we can change our priorities and methods. Did you know that boiling water kills weeds?

As consumers, we should become more aware of what we are buying, how we are using it, how it effects our environment and how we are treating the waste. All of the engineering after-the-fact to correct a problem seems like such a waste of time and money when pollution is something that could be avoided in the first place. We can’t stop trying to fix the problems we create, but we can stop creating problems to fix, if we care enough to do so.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”
http://members.aol.com/danlady99/ForTheChildren.html

Posted by carl1236 at 10:45 PM

August 5, 2004

Home-made Kimchi

Today I went to see a Korean friend downtown, because her mother had made some delicious home-made Kimchi for me. Yesterday I was there and I tried some and it was very good. Her mother was thrilled that I liked it and sent two containers of it for me. Then I was thrilled. I love Kimchi!
So, to me it was a wonderful day to receive a gift like this. It’s another thing that I am thankful for in life. Life is meant to be shared and we are meant to be giving, caring people. This woman who made Kimchi for me sets a good example for all of us. To give without expecting anything in return and to do it with joy in a spirit of sharing is worth taking a look at. Life is so much better with people like this in it.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:42 PM

August 4, 2004

The illusion of the inner circle

At the University of London, in 1944, C.S. Lewis delivered a speech titled, “Beware the desire to become part of the ‘Inner Ring’. The 'Inner Ring” refers to our basic desire to be accepted; to be ‘inside’ instead of ‘outside’ of a particular group, whatever that group may be. For instance a group of distinguished professors, or one of the top 10 Entrepreneurs in the City, or part of the Urban League, or a member of the Choir, or a Deacon of the church, or even just an “IN” group of friends. C.S. Lewis states that there are even Rings inside of Rings. Humorously, he says that sometimes we know when we are Inside of the ‘Inner Ring’ and sometimes we think we are but are not, and sometimes ARE but don’t’ think we are.
St. Augustine, in about the year 400, in his books, “Confessions,” talks about another kind of ‘Inner Ring’ or his belonging in and conversion to the ‘Christian Life.’ He prays to God to be part of the ‘Inner Ring’, but is afraid of giving up his Worldly ring , to ‘satisfy’ his lust, rather than ‘have it extinguished’. His desire was to be accepted by God, and yet be part of another ring, satisfying his worldly pleasures.
And at the end of a 12 year search, St. Augustine cries out in anguish to God to deliver him from his worldly lusts, and make him part of the ‘Inner Ring’ and God reveals that he has been In the ring all along and God answered his prayers, and his mothers’ prayers and his friends’ prayers. All St. Augustine had to do was stop allowing the flesh to be part of the Inner Ring. When He begged to be part of the inner ring, the answer he received from God was this:
Romans 13
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
But even perceiving the need to “get into Gods inner circle, Saint Augustine tried to cling to his own circle, confessing to God that he wanted to get in, and he wanted God to answer his prayers, “but not yet” The illusion of the “Inner Ring’ is really the illusion of our own ‘insiders circles’ that we create for ourselves. We make them up, we try to get into them, we claim they ‘ARE’ the ring to be in. And we can spend our entire lives searching for THE ‘Inner Ring’ to be in, but God says, “You ARE in, now Realize it. God says everything is United in God and the Kingdom of God is here: Luke 17:21, “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
And (Qur'an 50:16) "We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” (Qur'an 2:115) “To God belongs the East and the West: wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah; Allah is All -Embracing, All-Knowing."

C.S. Lewis wasn’t wrong that many ‘Inner Rings’ exist, and we all crave to be in them, but we create these ‘Inner Rings’ because we don’t know who we are. The illusion is that the ‘Eternal or Spiritual Ring’ is a secret society, or specific sect of a specific religion, or that you need special wisdom, or have a Scholar’s education, or a special initiation to be part of the ‘Inner Ring’ of God. The illusion is that we are not already Inside of the circle. The illusion is that we have to search for the key to unlock the door to the ‘Inner Ring’. The illusion is that we are separate from that which we are; to be totally accepted, loved, whole, happy. So the idea of an ‘Inner Ring’ is an illusion. When we look at life in it’s entirety, and the true nature of existence, we see that we are already in it and there is no ‘Inner Ring’ we need to belong to, because we are and do.

The ‘Inner ring’ was created for us, and Is us in Unity with God. We already know this. We already have the key, which is Gods holy name. One Ring, everything from the East to the West, God IS the “Inner Ring’ and we are already in it. Sometimes we know we are in it, or sometimes we think we are but are trying to run from it at the same time, But always, we ARE the Inner Ring, and God never stops talking to us, and God is NEVER separate from us.
A plant in the garden, grows up among the other plants. And slowly becomes aware of itself. Looking around, it thinks, “Is this all I am?” Is there more? Oh, look, over there, flowers. They are So blessed. Oh, and look at those majestic Trees! They reach the sun, they must know the answer.” So the plant proceeds, however miraculously, to uproot itself, in search of truth. The plant, however, failed to see the true nature of the unity of itself with the earth. And lying there on the ground looking up at the sun, realizes, “I was bound to life itself I see, and now I wither and die.”
A fish jumps out of the water and gasps for air, ”before, I was bound to life itself I see, and now I cannot breathe.”

The ‘Inner Ring’ we seek to enter is already sustaining us, is life itself, is God, is you, and I, and God as one. So the concept of an ‘Inner Ring’ that we have to find or join, is an illusion, when we become aware of our true natures. We don’t have to join it, we have to stop trying to get out.

If there is one burning message that God would like every human being to know, it is this, both simply and profoundly, God says, “I love you.”

Posted by carl1236 at 8:38 PM

August 3, 2004

The inner circle - A book review

This morning I finished the book I was reading, We’ve got blog, how weblogs are changing our culture, with introduction by Rebecca Blood. Overall I thought it was a good introduction to what weblogs are all about. The book is well written, by 28 authors. According to the blurb on the back inside flap of the jacket, “some of the best writers on the web explaining the history and importance of weblogs, the mavericks who created them, and how they are changing the way we surf the web.”
Using a term they used in the book, I’m going to “deconstruct” the book, starting with the front cover. Then I’ll provide a link to the blogs of some of the 28 authors, most of them pioneers in weblogging dating back to the birth of weblogs in 1997 to 1999, so you can get a feel for the kind of writing in this book. Some of it is thought provoking and well-spoken, and some of it is irreverent and cynical. But all of these voices together paint a picture of what a weblog is and isn’t and the culture surrounding some of the ‘communities” of bloggers.
The Title of the book is We’ve got blog, how weblogs are changing our culture. But in my view, after reading this book and checking out many of the abundant links provided, it is a lofty and ego-centric claim to say that it is changing our culture. I see change, and people being affected by weblogs, but it is within small pools, or Inner Circles of those that choose to dive in and swim among them, often not coming up for air. Their lives are online. (see page 61, “Deconstructing “You’ve Got Blog” by Joe Clark).
Traditional weblogs were constructed by people who were passionate about the internet and spent an inordinate amount of time surfing and collecting links to share with others who were equally as passionate. Their pages consisted of links to unique and interesting things usually with commentary by the blogger to add their point of view to it. Kind of like ‘Value Added’ links. The book claims that this kind of weblog is changing the way we surf the web. Is it?
The book itself points to the rising use and need for search engines like Google and yahoo and the greater impact they are having on how people are finding content on the web. Weblogs have been seen as filters on the web, but through the lenses of the blogger, who’s interests and attitudes are reflected in their links and commentary. Then end users of the internet still have to use search engines to find what is outside of the limited views and reach of each individual blogger.
Brigitte F. Eaton, the force behind Eatonweb was interviewed by John S. Rhodes in 1999 about weblogs, usability and beyond. (page 99, chapter 15) She said, “They (blogs) are nothing new, they’re not changing the world with their content, they’re not going to make anyone huge amounts of money, but they are a form of self-expression and community which others enjoy reading.” This is a more accurate depiction of how blogs are changing something. She said, “I think self-publishing is a huge trend which will certainly be growing over the next few years.”
I know this book is about weblogs, but when talking about the overall history of the internet and self-publishing, it fails to mention anything but it’s own little piece of the whole. For instance the book fails to mention the role and impact that communities like Geocities web pages, Yahoo and MSN groups, Instant Messenger services, search tools, listservs and portals have on the way we surf and find content and how they are changing our culture. While many of these hard core bloggers are exchanging links among themselves, the world is opening up through live talk and webcams. On Jorn Barger’s website, Robotwisdom, he points to one of his favorite things on the web: Ana Voog’s Anacam, which is a way for her to display her life on webcam, 24 hours a day, seven days per week. He’s since found others doing the same thing. Call it ‘Reality Web’ if you want.
After reading this book I’m left with the impression that the demise of weblogs as we know them now is near, a phase in something greater as the tools become more sophisticated and easy to use. The other impression I have is the ‘community’ that the original bloggers loved and cherished is being flooded by non-internet passionate people who are changing the format of blogs and who are not focused on the blog phenomenon. With easier and easier tools, they are focusing on displaying their lives and telling their stories. The book seems to mourn the loss of the weblog origins and the tight knit inner circle of internet junkies.
Finally, most people I know who spend a fair amount of time on the internet do not have a clue about weblogs. So the claims of the book that they are changing our culture and the way we surf the web do not match my experience or observation. However a blog is an easy way to self-publish with tools like Blogger and Movable Type, but so are personal web pages and discussion groups and listservs, which have all become very easy to use and create for novice web people.
I would still recommend this book for a great overview of the Blogging concept. I have read it and enjoyed the stories and the insights into a world I knew very little about. Now I’ve got blog too.

Some of the Contributors to the book:

Cameron Barrett, Camworld: http://www.camworld.com
Rebecca Blood, Rebecca’s Pocket: http://www.rebeccablood.net
Joe Clark, joeclark.org, fawny.org, contenu.nu, various blogs: http://www.joeclark.org/weblogs/
Geekman, the mighty geek: http://www.themightygeek.com
J.D. Lasica, Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/page_one/index.php
Marquis (Sean Michaels), Tang-Monkey.com: http://www.tangmonkey.com
Nikolai Nolan, Fairvue: http://www.fairvue.com
Derek Powazek, Powazek Productions, Fray, Kvetch, San Fancisco Stories: http://www.powazek.com , http://www.fray.com ,
Rich Robinson, a personal website (don’t call it a blog): http://www.inferiority.com
Giles Turnbull, WriteTheWeb: http://www.writetheweb.com , http://www.gilest.org


Stay tuned for tomorrows post, “The illusion of the inner circle”

Posted by carl1236 at 10:42 PM

August 2, 2004

The need to control others

Why is it that some people feel the need to control others? For some people it's the desire to be thought of as an expert, to feel more important. Often we don't realize when we are being controlling. But when we are like this, we are not truly respecting and loving that person. Then we are trying to be the boss.

When I run into people like that, I can hear those words that young children say, "You're not the boss of me!"

It sounds kind of funny, but sometimes we have to take back our own control. If we are the controlling one, well, hopefully we'll wake up some day before it blindsides us.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:48 PM

August 1, 2004

A drop of water in a still pond

I’ve heard that a truly good and selfless act is like a drop of water in a still pond. When the drop hits the still water, ripples extend outward in all directions. Today I felt a ripple.
I went for a bike ride today with a friend. I rode 10 miles to get to her house, then we rode 19 miles together ending back at her house. Then I rode another 10 miles to get home. I did it to encourage her to start riding her bike again. She kept saying she wanted to but hasn’t. She used to love riding her bike and was good at it but over the years she just stopped.
When I finished the ride today, It hit me. My friend Dan did this for me. He’s a much better rider than I am and in a lot better shape, but he took the time to ride with me. I remember thinking that Dan is such a cool guy and he’s genuine. I really appreciated what he did for me. His encouragement propelled me to a much higher level of physical fitness.
When we finished the ride my friend was talking about starting to ride back and forth to work. She was excited about it. Dan did this for me too. His enthusiasm and his kindness helped to motivate me. When I realized that I had just done what he had done for me, the ripple moved through me with a surge of joy.
What happens from here on out with that ripple, I can only guess, but I know that it’s pushing outward and there is a calmness in my heart.
When you give to someone else, sometimes you don’t know how it will effect them or others they come into contact with, but remember the drop of water in a still pond. The ripples go on. Now imagine a lot of drops with ripples intersecting, like a light rain on a still pond. It’s quite a sight. If we each do our parts we change the world.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:19 PM