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December 31, 2004

time to dream

As the New Year approaches and the old year is ending itís a good opportunity for me to take a little time to talk about time. Iíve been thinking about this topic for a week now and havenít been able to put it into words. It seems like every time Iíve tried to write about this, I was stuck. But now that Iíve taken care of those things and the year is almost over, my mind is back to the issue of time.

This is very interesting for me because I have been living life with hardly any free time in the last year. Oh there were occasions, like when I went on vacation, but even then my time was well taken up from morning to night. Even after the Semester ended, I started filling up my available time with other things, like finishing 3 books since classes ended. All of it is by choice of course, and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I have been doing.

I work seven days per week at two different jobs, take classes, exercise, read, study, write, meet with friends, spend time with my family and our pets, etc. Iím not saying this to say that Iím super man or anything, just to illustrate the level of involvment I have in life. Iím very active. I have also given up many things. I rarely watch TV for instance and movies only occasionally.

But after thinking about this for a while it came to me why I found this so difficult to put into words. It is because along with everything I am doing, which I donít regret at all, is something important that I have also given up. One of the important ingredients that I missed by being too active is time to dream. Over the last year I have not had time to dream. That was the missing piece of the puzzle.

This is the time we allow ourselves to dream of the future, to have hope, to think about things deeply, to make plans that may never come to fruition, to dream up new things and to create. I have realized that we need time to dream.

Since classes ended, Iíve read, Iíve written a few things, spent time with my family, started playing with my camera and drew up some architectural remodelling ideas. I started planning for my bike racing in the spring and I started setting up a Ďrealí winter bicycle. This is the time to dream.

Today as I was out riding my bike, I brought my 35mm camera with me to take some photos. I was inspired by my studies over the past few months of Leonardo da Vinci and Frank Lloyd Wright and an inspiration came to me. Combined with Jimís taking pictures of interesting things along his bicycle commuting route, I was inspired to ride my bike with my camera and take pictures of architectural details that really move me. I decided I would assemble a collage of these things that I find appealing so I could see a larger picture. What would that picture look like? This is the time to dream.

When I got home from the bike ride, I was looking at my camera and the book, then taking a few more pictures and realized that even though I was snapping pictures, the film was not advancing. I opened the back and rethreaded the film and this time watched the left-side spindle turning. ouch. Then I realized that my architectural pictures were never really taken. But thatís ok. I learned an important lesson I will not forget. Now my dream is more solidified in my brain. I can start over with purpose and determination and a log. I also found a community education class on beginning photography. I asked my wife to take it with me and she said yes. This is the time to dream.

Now itís midnight, Happy New Year and pleasant dreams. May you all have time to dream.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

The self-trained cyclist

I mentioned before that I was going to do cycle racing for the first time in my life. Even though Iím way past the prime for this sport according to most experts, at the age of 42 Iíll be just starting. The first question that might come to mind is ďWhy?Ē

I certainly have no burning need to compete or to win races. That might appear to be a bad sign for me when just getting into racing. But my motivation is different. My motivation for bike racing comes from two areas. One, that I just want to experience something I have not tried before. It will help me understand other people better. Two, that I want to improve my physical health and exercising on my own is ok, but cycle racing will help to motivate me to go higher than I would push myself normally.

I am already encountering a lot of Nay-Sayers, that say Iím so old to be starting this, or that I canít really expect to win, or even Ďwhy are you doing that for godís sake?Ē But with my motives being what they are, I donít fear trying this and I donít fear failure. How can I fail except if I donít try it at all?

Do I want to win races? Yes, if Iím able. But a more important question for me is do I want to make myself able to win races? Yes. My fitness has nothing to do with winning races. I will try to win races and train like I want to win races. Who knows what level of success Iíll have. But I will show up to put my heart into it.

That leads me to the training part. This is where it gets tough. Because, talk is easy, but doing is much harder. No one goes into a bike race with no preparation. I know I have to make a commitment to this. I have to make some tough choices about my eating habits and my lifestyle. I am even questioning myself whether itís worth the commitment necessary to race bikes. It will be worth it. I know it will.

My first step is to find out how to prepare myself. So, I hired a coach. His name is John. Iím going to make a plan and follow the plan. Actually I know there will be many coaches along the way, since many people will be offering me advice and help. Iíll take it. And for my education and support, I bought a book that looks like it will be good for what Iím trying to do. Itís called the Cyclistís Training Bible, Third Edition, by Joe Friel. You can read about it at http://www.TrainingBible.com

It will be a good experience. Iím looking forward to trying something new and to the improvement of my physical health. I am also looking foreword to the new friends I will meet along the way. I am looking forward to the insight and other benefits I will not see until Iím directly involved in it.

Here are two quotes from the book, The Cyclistís Training Bible:

ďIím a 42-year old in a 20-year old body.Ē Ė Kent Bostick, Olympian at age 42 and again at age 46.

ďThe essence of a good training program is managing time.Ē Ė Connie Carpenter, 1984 Olympic gold medallist, road racing.

Posted by carl1236 at 3:44 AM

December 30, 2004

My dear Friend,

I am writing to tell you how much I appreciate you. I'm thankful that you are in my life. In what ways? You are always willing to chat with me, and we both seem to enjoy each other's company. When I'm lacking for words you find a way to inspire me.
I trust you with my secrets because I am an open book to you. I know that you will not judge and condemn me but always accept me for who I am. I know you are going to read this as I post it here, because I told all my friends about my blog and am not ashamed of anything I write here. This is another way that I show you that you can trust me, and that I am truly your friend. What I say about you in other circles is what I would say to your face. If it were not that way, then you wouldn't truly be my friend. I would be a fake friend. insincere. This is the same reason I can trust you, because I know you are not talking about me behind my back and we have earned each other's trust. I believe that is a key ingredient to our friendship.
Another thing I appreciate about you is that you don't judge and condemn me for my faults. But you are sure there to pick me up when I fall. Although we probably would not be friends for very long if I treated you badly, because in all friendships I realize we have to have respect for each other. I respect you and what you do and think you are doing a great job. Sometimes life gets tough and the world is a much better place with friends like you to share it with.
So, thanks again, and let's keep in touch, May you have the best new year of your life.
with love,
John

Posted by carl1236 at 11:15 PM

December 29, 2004

WINTER BIKE RIDING

ATTITUDE

With this weather I can hardly call this ĎWinterí bike riding. Today I rode my bike and it was fun. But tonight I met with my Korean Language partner and picked him up from the UofM. There were still a lot of bikes in the bike racks and I saw dozens of people riding around on their bikes. I feel like Iíve made a big deal out of something that many of you are already doing, namely riding your bikes for transportation. I am assuming that itís because itís easier than walking and cheaper than a car to own. I have learned that as long as the streets are clear there is no reason not to continue riding our bikes. The cold? Wear warmer clothes. The wet? Wear waterproof footwear and have fenders that block most of the spray. The snow? Well, weíll face that soon enough. In the mean time, we can keep riding. We are only limited by our own attitude.
In the book, The bicycle commuting book, Using the bicycle for utility and transportation, by Rob Van der Plas, the author shares with us his ideas on Cycling in Bad Weather. Most of what he talks about is attitude. He said, ďI shall never forget my first group ride in the US. After having lived and cycled most of my life in such rainy regions as Britain and Holland, I had made arrangements with some colleagues in California for a Sunday cycle tour. At seven in the morning the phone rang: ďThereís a 20% chance of rain, so weíll have to call off the ride,Ē I was informed. That seemed a curious attitude and I went on the attitude anyway, together with two other Ďhardyí cyclists. We had a wonderful day. It didnít rain Ė after all there was an 80% chance of that. But even if it had rained, we would have had a pretty good ride: Though rain may detract from the pleasure of cycling, it is not usually so serious that cycling becomes punishment. And the same can be said for all kinds of other weather problems, ranging from snow to wind and from excessive heat to frost. Consider that in many parts of the world, cyclists accept what seems normal there. In Scotland or the Lake District it rains. Everybody knows it and so you donít stop cycling if it does. You dress for it or you ignore it, but you wouldnít lose a nightís sleep worrying about it. The same can be said for the cold in other parts of the world: If it often freezes or snows, you just learn to ride when it does. At the other extreme, I donít go for heat too much, but folk in much of Australia seem to think nothing of riding their bikes when itís 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The message is simple: Keep in mind what can be done Ė and enjoyed Ė in other parts of the world, and start doing it yourself...Ē He goes on to describe how to do that for the various conditions. He talks about using the right equipment, wearing the right clothing and proper fuel.

EQUIPMENT

Today I rode my Schwinn road bike because I didnít need the big fat knobby tires. I had some mechanical problems today, like a flat tire, broken toe straps and a scraping fender. None of these equipment failures were serious enough to stop. I had to fix them though, which was a pain. For winter biking I feel itís even more important to have a well-maintained bike. Breaking down in the cold is not as much fun as riding in the cold. Iíve pushed my bike in the cold three times now. Iím learning that I need to avoid this by fixing and maintaining my bikes better.

LINKS TO SITES

Here are three good sites with information on winter biking: I especially liked the Fairbanks, Alaska cycle club site. They are winter cyclists! I am a fair-weather rider compared to these people. If they can ride in the snow and love it, so can I.

Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Association
http://edmontonbicyclecommuters.ca/cgi-bin/content/content.cgi?action=winter

Totalbike.com information on winter cycling
http://www.totalbike.com/February2000/winter.html

ĒNaturally, we have a lot of winter here in central Alaska. This is a Good Thing, as it treats us to almost six months of excellent winter bicycling. For the uninitiated, it sounds mad and ridiculous, but for folks that have tried it and gotten "the buzz" from winter trail rides, it is sublime, and some of the best riding of the year.Ē
http://www.fairbankscycleclub.org/Winter/


SUMMARY

Attitude makes a huge difference in everything we do. Today, December 29, 2004, I went for a bike ride, can you believe it? Should it be this warm at this time of year? At 30 degrees Fahrenheit it was a comfortable ride. I can see how out of shape Iíve become already though. I feel it in my legs now as I sit here.
Just one and a half blocks from home I had a flat tire. There is only one thing more discouraging to me than a mechanical failure and thatís to not get right back out there after fixing whatever problem it is. I walked the bike back to my house, fixed the flat in my basement where itís warm, then went right back out. At first I wanted to just say forget it, because it was a lot of work fixing that flat. Then it was a half hour later and I was running out of daylight. But I went out anyway and rode. I had some other irritating mechanical problems but nothing that kept me from enjoying the ride. I rode hard for about a half an hour and Iím happy that I did it. Iím sure my body will be better off for exercising again. It felt really good! So did a positive attitude. Looking back on the day, I feel much better because I just did it and did not let anything stop me from enjoying it.
I have this feeling that like the people in Fairbanks said, this will be ďsome of the best riding of the year.Ē

Posted by carl1236 at 11:26 PM

December 28, 2004

Ponce

As we were sitting around the table playing Ponce, a wicked game of solitaire run amuck, Lois commented that I was sitting at the table with four aunts and that it was remarkable. I would have to agree that it was amazing. Especially since I havenít spent this much time with any of them in many years. So, Iím really thankful for the chance to be able to relax, have fun and enjoy their company.
My wife has said this many times, that she absolutely loves my family. They all have always been open and welcoming and made her feel like part of the family. Part of the reason I believe is they all have good hearts. An example is when my Aunt was moving and selling her house, they needed help moving something. So, she was going to call her brother and just as she was headed for the phone, he showed up. He was there because he thought they might need some help. Then another time, my other aunt was moving and someone broke a light switch right before the final walk-through. It was late at night and no stores were open. Just as they were about to call my uncle again, he showed up wondering if they needed help.
A desire to help each other in spite of what life throws at us is a sign of a good heart. This is the kind of attitude I grew up with. It's kind of fitting that a family like this plays a game like Ponce, where everyone is playing solitaire, but playing off everyone else's cards. In life we each do our own thing, but we are never alone and always can count on each other. One of my aunts said they play this game because they can play it no matter how many people happen to be there. It's an all-inclusive game. Anyone can play.
This is the kind of attitude that Jesus asked us to have toward the greater family of humanity. We are all in this life together. What makes it better is a family with a desire to help each other in spite of what life throws at us. Anyone up for a game of Ponce?


Posted by carl1236 at 11:56 PM

December 27, 2004

10 Things to be thankful for

1. My friends in Chennai, India are ok.

2. I rode my bike to work today.

3. I took a nap after work

4. My friend came back from Laos and Thailand and I'm having lunch with him tomorrow.

5. I'm going to my Aunts house tomorrow night to play cards and socialize with my relatives some more.

6. I'm going to bed early tonight.

7. I'm getting off work early tomorrow

8. I wasn't the only person who biked to work today.

9. I learned something new about my old 35mm camera tonight

10. I read some good blog entries on here tonight that made me think. One interesting question: What does unity really mean?

I can always find something to be thankful for. Sometimes we can use this exercise as a mental and emotional boost. Try listing at least 10 things you are thankful for, and don't stop until you have all ten. Sometimes we really have to look for the positive side of things but looking at the list after we are done is very nice.
As an example, when I said that I rode my bike to work today, I was really thankful for that, but on the way home tonight my pedal fell off again. I had a wrench but this time I couldn't fix it. I didn't let that ruin my whole day. I pushed the bike the rest of the way home. It didn't kill me to walk and was actually quite peaceful. It gave me time to think. But it could have easily destroyed my whole day if I wasn't thankful for a good ride in the morning and wasn't able to see the positive side of pushing my bike home. I'll rebuild that bike even better and it'll be like new at a fraction of the cost of a new bike of the same quality. I enjoyed the walk and the time to think about all the things I'm thankful for today.
Now tomorrow will be a great day.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:59 PM

December 26, 2004

whew!

Today was a long, but fun day. I got up, took my daughter to work, went to work myself, went to the store to buy a new battery for my old camera, went to my Auntís house for the family gathering, then came home. Now itís already 11:25pm and Iím writing my blog entry. Haha, time flies when we are having fun.
Now I have to think about work this week. Tuesday I have to go in early, at 6:00am because Iím teaching a class for the night shift at work. Thatís the end of the shift for them but way before I normally start work. But thatís good because I will get to leave work early Tuesday. Iíve been invited back to my Auntís house on Tuesday night for cards, so thatíll work out great! If I have a headlight by then Iím going to try to ride my bike there.
One fun thing that happened at this party tonight was the live web cam conversation with my brother in Albuquerque, NM and the rest of the family here. My Aunt has a wireless Internet connection and she had the web cam hooked up to her laptop, which they carried around the house, giving my brother a tour of my Auntís new house, and allowing him to say hi to everyone at the party. It was an interesting use of the technology and something that wasnít possible even a few years ago. This technology is so much more mainstream than it was then. I thought I was ahead of the technology curve by having a home network, but while weíve been computing by cable, newcomers to the game, like my Aunt, jump in with the newer technology and Iím stuck on the old. I may be stuck here for a while too. But it was nice for my brother and the rest of us because he could not be here this year. Travel to family gatherings is a much bigger deal when you are on the other side of the country. Now my brother stated that he almost felt like he was here.
As I was reconnecting with my relatives, many of whom I havenít seen in a few years, I thought about how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family. I love them all dearly. I know there are many families that are not so lucky and have bad memories and experiences. I canít recall any problems dealing with my relatives and have only good memories. Iím really thankful for this kind of a family. But one thing Iíve noted about my family is that almost all of them have an attitude like theyíd do anything for any of us. Itís an attitude of total acceptance and an unspoken rule that they donít think about, they just expect to be helping each other and really get into it. I think this attitude is what makes this family so great.
Now itís time for bed and another Christmas holiday is over. Iíve had a great weekend and itís back to work in the morning. Iím ready for my bike ride into work tomorrow morning and Iím looking forward to it. Tomorrow I have to figure out how to use this camera so I can take some photos of my family Tuesday night. This camera is much more complicated than I remember it from my previous lifetime so many years ago, haha. I think I might need a class or something!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:47 PM

December 25, 2004

Christmas Festivities

I can see why so many people get stressed out at this time of year. There are a lot of demands and expectations of people around the holidays. Families and friends plan get-togethers and expect us to be there. We go. But Iím tired. Last night I intended on writing a blog entry but I fell asleep in my chair. I read a little online and made a few comments then began to write. I think I woke up somewhere around 1:00am, started to write again, then woke up again at 5:00am, then went to bed, only to get up again at 7:00am. I did sleep, but it wasnít a very good sleep.
This morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast with my family at my sisterís house and a few friends of the family. It was very nice. At around noon we came home, got ready and went to my wifeís fatherís house for the day. We ate a lot of food and played some card games. It was fun, but I opted out of the last half hour of games and took a catnap on the couch. That felt good!
Then after dinner we came home and itís time to relax. I posted my blog entry, helped my wife make some ice cream in her new ice-cream maker. :-) So far so good. I plan on having some tomorrow night.
Tomorrow will be a busy day for all of us also. Iím going to work in the morning, for four hours, and then going right to my auntís house for a huge family gathering. Iím excited about it, because we only get together like this once per year. Iím sure it will be a late evening, so Monday Iíll be tired and have to recuperate.
I think in our case, we do this because Christmas is an excuse to get together at least once per year and catch up on whatís been happening in each otherís lives. And of course there is a lot of food involved. Everyone is expected to bring something to these gatherings. Itís all good, but many of the foods, like Christmas cookies and other sweets, are not things Iíd normally consume in large quantities.

Now itís 10:15pm and Iím going to work on my winter bike for a diversion from all of the festivities and so itís ready to go on Monday morning when I ride it to work.

Oh, I finally got a replacement lense for my 23 year old Cannon AE-1 35mm camera, so I will take some pictures this week and scan a few in for posting here. I canít wait to see how they turn out. I put that camera to a lot of use back when I first bought it. Now I have to re-learn what an aperture is and f-stop, etc. Haha. Itíll be fun.

Have a great night!

Posted by carl1236 at 10:21 PM

'Twas the night before Christmas and my pedal fell off...

Yesterday I decided to take my mountain bike for a ride. It was a cold day yesterday, but again I was over dressed for the occasion. Even so, it was a great ride. I rode down to the bluff overlooking Harriet Island, then turned westward and followed the bluff all the way around the bend. It was great! I rode through some woods on trails covered in snow and I had some great views of the frozen river way down below. My intention was to make a large loop around the neighborhood and return home. I was about a mile away from home when my right pedal completely fell off!
I didnít have a wrench with me and the hole on my pedal shaft was stripped most of the way through so the pedal wouldnít stay in when I turned it by hand. That was a problem. At least I didnít have too far to walk back home. I walked the bike the rest of the way across the park, and then once back on the road, pedaled with one foot the rest of the way.
There was a basic reminder in this for me. And that is to listen to my intuition. You know, that inner voice that warns us or gives us a hint. Mine told me to attach the tool bag under my seat. But I didnít want to go out to the garage to get it off my old bike. It would have made my ride home easier if I had a wrench to reattach my pedal. But it all worked out ok and exercise is exercise. A little walking didnít hurt me and my left leg got a little extra workout.
Sometimes itís difficult to listen to this inner voice. We often override it for more convenient options, like disregarding it. Then in retrospect we say something like, ďI knew I should have brought my tool kit!Ē Because we override this inner voice so frequently we have the impression that itís not reliable. However itís something we all seem to have. And with practice listening to it we are often amazed at how right it is. Amazing things can also happen. Like the time I ran into the friend who needed help with the computer because my inner-voice told me to turn around and walk a different route. Being more aware and in tune with our surroundings, with each other and with ourselves is a good life skill to work on.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:01 PM

December 23, 2004

Mongoose on the loose!

Today I rode about five and a half miles on my new Mongoose Surge Mountain Bike in the cold. As I mentioned in my previous post it was -8F / -27F with wind-chill, the coldest day so far this winter I believe.
I wore my blue long underwear, Dockers style work pants, black windbreaker pants over that, my blue dress shirt, blue sweater, heavy winter jacket, black winter gloves, military ski mask, polar fleece hat and helmet. My upper body was too hot. I was sweating. The wind was really cold when cruising down the
Ohio Street hill, but I had hardly any exposed skin, so I was protected. I'll need a lighter windbreaker
jacket for my upper body at this temperature or take my sweater off. I wore leather work boots with thin wool socks first, then thick nylon winter socks. My feet were plenty warm but my hands started
getting cold but were still comfortable. Also my forehead became too hot in that hat. I think it will take me a while to figure out what to wear at which temperature, but I know itís totally possible. I thought it would be ok, because Iíve done cross-country skiing in colder weather.
Even so, I was not the only one out there today on bicycle, so I donít think this is that incredible of an accomplishment. But it is liberating to know I can ride my bike any time. If you are still riding your bike and are planning on riding it through the winter, I would like to hear from you. I am now planning on riding all the way through. I hear the days are getting longer now too.
Oh yes, one note: The only uncomfortable part of the ride was when I hit a stretch of road that had half-frozen slush piled up on the side of the road in the bike lane. I started sliding a little in that part, which made me panick a little. I am still planning on looking into studded tires and snow chains. to make it through the worst weather. In the mean time I can enjoy the semi-clear roads. The mountain bike tires are sufficient for that.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:23 PM

Living in a mosquito net

I know itís hard to think of mosquitoes at a time like this! At (minus) -8 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about -22.2 degrees Celsius, this is the coldest day of the year so far. With the wind-chill it drops to Ė27 degrees Fahrenheit! But I was reminded of something today, when my wife said, ďIn weather like this a person aught to just stay at home.Ē And a little later she said, ďYou canít ride your bike in this cold!Ē

In a mosquito net
A man may for a little time
The cares of life forget.

- Riukio

From the book, Haiku, Seasons of Japanese Poetry

I know many people are against Religion. For many people this has become a nasty word. They get some kind of angry revulsion going on in their minds whenever they hear it mentioned. Because many people have tried Religion and have not found the relief they are seeking from their suffering. We think, shouldnít Religion make life easier or better? We go to church or the temple, hear about Godís grace or meditate on Love, peace and compassion, and we might feel that for a little time. Itís a retreat from life but does little to help us live like that outside of the Religionís building. In church we often sing the song, Amazing Grace but then we walk out the door and feel everything assailing us and donít feel saved or transformed. The mosquitoes are biting constantly and sometimes ferociously. In the Religions we dislike we often have not found the answers or the relief in our daily lives that we look for.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that one of the most important parts of Buddhism is the training of the mind. When Buddhists meditate, they are training their minds. They are clearing their minds of negative emotions and learning to fill them with positive ones. In the Christian Religions, we are allowing Jesus Christ to transform our hearts so when we walk out of the doors of the church, we practice what we have learned and put it into action. To live in a better way, we have to take the peace and grace of God with us in our daily lives.
I used to read religious materials by priests, monks and religious teachers and think, ďThis is a bunch of crap.Ē Itís because I was not able to experience relief from my daily life-struggles from what they were teaching. In the past when I read a book by a Buddhist Monk talking about meditating and training the mind to achieve enlightenment, I used to think, ďYeah right, anyone can have peace of mind if they remove themselves from life and sit around meditating all day.Ē I wanted to be a monk in a temple because I thought that being in the mosquito net was better than being outside of it. Monks in any Religion seem to have the peace and the joy, but could they come out of their monasteries and do my two jobs and go to school and raise my family and still feel the same? Could we go to church and gain the peace and joy inside and just stay in the mosquito net forever?
It certainly makes sense that the simpler our lifestyles, the more at peace we are. In my experience the busier I get, the more complicated my life is. There is more turbulence and more things to take care of. Sometimes we need retreat and rest from our struggles, but we canít live forever in it. So in our Spiritual practice, in order to carry our peace and joy out of the Churches and Temples and into our daily lives, it has to be a way of life.
I no longer have a dislike or fear for any Religion because I realized a long time ago that if our practice is not done on a personal level, continuously, then itís not real. Itís not a solution. If it doesnít change me and doesnít dispel my miseries, then it is not real. Or a better way to put it, is itís not Ďrealized.í The teachings then are just meaningless ink on paper. Also I realized that Religious Organizations cannot live my life for me, nor can they experience life for me, nor can they relieve me of my free will and the consequences of my choices. So it's not practical or necessary to separate myself from my family or my circumstances to find and keep happiness. We need something that is not separated from our daily life to achieve happiness and peace.
Living in a mosquito net does bring us respite for a little while. So does staying inside when itís freezing cold outside. But having the tools and skills to go out and live life outside without suffering is even better. When we look at religions and their teachings in this light, we can take what is useful to apply in our lives and carry out the practices that work. If itís not working, we can look deeper into why it works for others, and what it is thatís causing it to work.
A lot of our spiritual happiness is tied to our underlying motives and attitudes. This is a good place to start. Faith, hope, love, truth, peace, joy and compassion are all spiritual things that our religious teachings talk about, but they are also practical things in real life to practice. How we live our lives and how we deal with our problems are affected by these. A person does not have to be Religious to experience the effects of these. A positive attitude goes a long way toward dispelling our miseries.
Today I experienced a liberating attitude. I rode my bike to and from work. The temperature was -8F / -27F with wind-chill. When I left work someone asked me, ďYouíre riding your bike in this weather?Ē I said, ďyeah, sure, it all depends on how well prepared we are.Ē And I was prepared. I was actually over dressed for the occasion. I did not suffer because I carried advice from friends, my peviously gained knowledge, wisdom, positive attitude and past experience outside the mosquito net.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:52 PM

December 22, 2004

I got an A!

The results are in. I got an A in my Korean Language Class. I had 93.6 percent, where 93 percent was required for an A. I am really happy about the grade, but Iím not really happy with what I learned this semester. I didnít do as well on the final as I hoped, but my other work made up for it. Honestly I donít really know how I can improve on what I did, except by putting more time into it.
Iím going to try blogging in Korean next semester, that will help.
Other than that, Iím glad the Semester is over and glad I did well. It makes up for the agony I had staying up all night to finish homework and study. Thatís rough on me at this age.
I completed it and did better than I thought I would. Now I can take a deep breath, sigh and take a rest.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

Sibley Bike Depot Closed, NOT

Tonight I went to the Sibley Bike Depot in Downtown St. Paul to look at the Mountain Bikes on sale. I found it tucked away behind some new apartment buildings on Sibley, between 9th and 10th Streets. Thatís between 7th Street and Highway 94.
When I arrived at about 6:30pm there was a dim light on inside. At first I thought they were closed, but then I saw someone walking around in there. I went up to the door and there was a big sign that said CLOSED, with a note that said, ďClosed for the season.Ē I thought, ďThatís weird," because I just checked their website and it said they were open. The guy inside saw me and motioned me to go to the other door. So I walked around and he let me in. That was Bill, one of the board members of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, which runs the Sibley Bike Depot. He told me the whole story. Evidently the construction next door damaged their foundation and they developed a huge crack in their floor, then their wall started falling, so they have to wait until January for it to be repaired. They decided that they would just close up shop until those repairs were done.
Bill happened to be at the shop tonight because he thought some volunteers might show up to work tonight, and while he was there he was just straightening up. He was getting ready to leave until I showed up. I was curious about the bike shop, so he invited me in. When I told him what I was doing, he enthusiastically showed me all of their mountain bikes and helped to fit me with one that would work for winter biking. He then told me about another place in town that MAKES their own studded tires. Iím going there next week to check them out. I left with a nice mountain bike in possession that I bought at a reasonable price. Itís a Mongoose Surge. Can you feel the power? I've never heard of that brand before but I don't really know brand names too well, except for a few that I see a lot, like Trek and Specialized.
This shop seems like a really good place to find used bikes that are totally repaired and in working order. And if you need to fix your bike, this is a good place to do that also. Anyway, now I have a bike to ride, so Iím going to ride to work tomorrow morning. The roads should be clear enough by then, so Iím going for it with just the standard mountain bike tires. It should be ok. I will look for studded tires next week and start building my snow chains.
Now for clothing, lights, reflectors, fenders...

I have to thank Bill for being in the right place at the right time tonight. Even though they are closed until the repairs are done, Bill let me in and sold me a bike. And I have to say thanks again to Jim for the inspiration and motivation to get out there and ride my bike again. This is truly an adventure and much more fun than my stationary bike, which I have not been very motivated to ride! It just doesn't move me. ;-)

Posted by carl1236 at 10:24 PM

December 21, 2004

Haiku Reality Check

As Iíve been so busily studying, going to class, working, writing blog entries, working more, cycling, reading, helping other people, spending time with my friends and family, and so on, I have irresponsibly ignored a few basic things in my life. Before it was my health being ignored, but now itís some of my bills. It should not surprise me that I have a problem, but it did take me by surprise. Circumstances came up, like buying new batteries for the cars, helping my son pay 500 dollars for his college that he was short and insuring my daughters car, among other things. Bills are a challenge even when I am paying attention to them!
More specifically, somehow I did not pay my trash bill. Now I have no trash service. I suspect Iíll clear it up after Christmas, since I donít have enough money now. But itís still disturbing. I find myself caught with my pants down. Haha, it would be nice to say I have perfected the function of existing, but this proves Iím just like everyone else, trying to make it the best way I know how. I will learn from this no doubt and it will be painful. Something like a trash bill is easy to pay if itís paid right away, but when added up over several months, itís a lot of money. I donít know how I let this slide by. But I did. The trash company is not happy with me either.
So here I am like this person in the Haiku, getting a reality check. I realize that itís late, I've been wandering around, the moonlight that Iíve been following went quickly and now Iím standing far away from home in the dark. And it stinks. They stopped picking up my trash! To make matters worse, I donít have the money now to pay for it until next week. Iíve been too busy to notice some of the details in my life or think it significant enough to worry about. Now I have to walk in the dark back home, to a place where there is light and warmth. Thank God I paid my mortgage payment.

From Haiku, Seasons of Japanese Poetry,

Iíve wandered on to-night,
Till now I see the summer moon
Sink sideways out of sight.

- Bukaku

Posted by carl1236 at 8:38 PM

More Haiku

"Now the New Year draws on,
But soon, alas! The coming year
Will be the year that's gone.

- Rosen

From the book, Haiku - Seasons of Japanese Poetry.

I specifically waited until after midnight to post this one. This could have just as easily said,
Now the new day draws on,
But soon, alas! The coming day
Will be the day that's gone.

no matter how quickly time flies, or how slowly it goes, it still goes by. It's significant enough to observe it's passing. But once something is observed, what do we do with it?

Posted by carl1236 at 12:18 AM

December 20, 2004

Are Gayís Godís Children too?

Are Gayís Godís Children too?

There are some very relevant articles in the Lavender magazine this month on Spirituality. I found these articles very well written and worth reading. You can read the articles at
http://www.lavendermagazine.com/

My answer is emphatically ďYES.Ē We are all loved unconditionally and constantly. Human beings though, still are not free from fear. We still want to use any excuse to kill our fellow human beings instead of love them. God tells us plainly that there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1John 4:18)

The definition in many religious organizations of what acceptance means is interesting. The article in the Lavender says this falls into two categories: Reconciling and Transforming. In the reconciling organizations Gays are accepted for who they are, and in the Transforming type, Gays are accepted only as a means of helping them to transform and renounce their sins. Iíve said before that we are all spiritual beings on a human journey. Each of us has to have some meaning, purpose and connection to the divine and we look for it. Gay people are no different. Our spirituality is a part of our design. We will all continue to seek happiness. Our religious organizations and doctrines can either help us or be used against us. How we are transformed by them is really the ultimate goal. Otherwise our love is not yet perfected.

How we reconcile homosexuality with our faith and doctrines will be debated hotly for a couple generations according to one person quoted in this article. Regardless of what is accepted by any organization, we are not relieved of our underlying responsibility to love each other as we love ourselves.

There is no fear in love.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:28 PM

But still we have the butterflies

From a book of Haiku:

The world is cold and grey,
But still we have the butterflies
To chase our cares away.

by Soin

One of the greatest transformations we can make is from catepillar to butterfly. To the caterpillar, life is bound to the earth as the butterfly flies above it. Butterflies are also seen as beautiful. Caterpillars are often thought of as ugly. Going from an ugly spirit to a beautiful one is like becoming a butterfly. Then life will not be cold and gray. The observation of life will be different. Living life willl be different.

Posted by carl1236 at 1:27 AM

Marshall

At the family gathering I just attended, the most interesting observation I had was something that should have been videotaped, if someone would have had the foresight bring a camera. But many of us got to enjoy the sight. One of my wifeís cousins has a little boy about 6 or 7 years old whose name is Marshall. Marshall is a handsome little guy with huge eyes and a quick smile.
Another one of her Cousins has a 10-week-old baby girl. Marshall wanted to try to hold her. So mom put hum up on the big lazy boy chair and showed him how to hold on and support the neck with his arm and then set the baby in his arms. He sat there gently holding the baby and looking at her. The baby obviously felt content and safe there, because she was happy. Marshall raised his eyebrows a couple of times and said out loud, ďSheís so quiet.Ē Marshall was in no hurry to give up his experience of holding that baby. He was intently studying this baby and observing itís every action and sound.
I think Marshall is a special little guy. None of the other children at the party showed any interest at all in the baby. Marshall is a contradiction between Tough and Tender. Marshall plays hockey and has also been known to rattle the house down with his brotherís help. There was something about this night and that baby that captivated Marshall. Who knows what it means now or will mean for Marshall in the future, but I know I was lucky enough to be in the right place and the right time to witness this interaction between Marshall and the baby.
We can all learn from Marshall. Where is our child-like wonder and amazement in life? Somewhere in the process of growing up we tend to put it aside in favor of what we perceive as adult-like behavior. Life is much more fulfilling and amazing when we can remember to marvel at what should be an amazing miracle. Letís not become too calloused or afraid to hold the baby. Life is really amazing and we can see that if we take the time to really observe it.

Posted by carl1236 at 1:06 AM

December 19, 2004

Let the Adventure begin

Well, I canít wait until next year. Iíve been inspired by Jim and my friend Dan who are still biking to work. I wasnít prepared for the darkness or the cold, but that can be fixed. So can my attitude of adventure.

If Iím really serious about reducing toxins and pollutants in our environment, reduce my dependence on the consumption of gasoline and make myself more physically fit, I need to be more than a fair-weather advocate of alternative modes of transportation. I need to put my ideals into action. Granted, our Minnesota climate provides obstacles other warmer states donít have (ice, snow and sub-zero weather), but I believe cycling in the winter could be as safe and fun as any other winter sport, providing we are prepared for it properly. When I was a Boy Scout Leader, I built snow shelters and slept out in sub-zero weather, snowshoed and did cross-country skiing through some deep snow and treacherous terrain. Iíve done ski-joring with my dog and built a dog sled to haul camping gear into remote cabins that our vehicles could not access. It seems to me that cycling in the Twin-Cities all through the winter is no different than those winter sports, except maybe a little more tame.
I admit there are a lot of differences, but that just means I have to learn this sport and the inside tricks to making it work.
I plan on sharing my process of year-round cycling in Minnesota, like Jim who has been more than inspiring with his photos and commentary about cycling.. And in the Spring, Iím starting Bike Racing but thatís a different sport than winter bicycle commuting. Also, I think this will complete my liberation from the car. I started commuting last year by bus, and then in March started cycling to and from work. If I can bike, ride public transportation and walk everywhere I need to go, then I will have no need for my car. Iím not there yet, but I can tell it will be a great ride!

My first step is getting the right gear for this sport. Like every sport, the proper gear is necessary. It doesnít have to be name brand gear, just functional and appropriate for the given task. I wouldnít go rappelling without the properly rated carabiners and ropes, and I canít ride my racing bike through 3 feet of snow. I canít wear shorts in a blizzard. I shouldnít expect the same gear to work for all situations. Since I donít have a lot of available funds (College classes are expensive!), Iíll be trying to put together this new gear creatively and for as little as possible.

Here is my research and thoughts so far. If you have any suggestions or corrections to my reasoning, please let me know. I see three main areas I need to work on to be able to commute to work all winter here:

Bike: It has to be able to handle all weather conditions, such as sleet, snow, ice, rain, etc. For several important reasons, Iíve decided to start with a basic mountain bike, which I donít have yet. The mountain bike is better designed for rough terrain and the forks can accommodate bigger, wider knobbier tires. The mountain bike handlebars are straight across, which will provide better handling in icy conditions. Specific things Iím considering for modifications are the pedals, fenders, brakes and tires.

Visibility: Since riding a bicycle during a Minnesota winter is essentially riding in the dark, better lights and reflectors will be necessary to be visible. This is really a safety issue. I fought with this problem commuting to and from work as soon as daylight savings time hit this Fall. I donít get done with work until 5pm and it was dark then. I will be looking at several things to make myself really visible: Iíll be using a bright paint, lots of reflector tape, lots of blinky lights and a really bright headlight to show the obstacles in my path.

Clothing: Since freezing my hands, feet and face is a very real prospect, Iíll be looking at ways to stay dry and warm and properly dressed for the sport.

Given more time I could most likely find a free mountain bike somewhere. Just a few weeks ago I saw one sitting out by someoneís curb being thrown away. If anyone wants to donate one for this project, please let me know. But I have to start somewhere so my first stop will be to check out the bikes on sale right now at The Sibly Bike Depot in St. Paul. They are not open on Monday and Tuesday so Iíll be going there on Wednesday.
There is a reason Iím going there, besides that they have bicycles for a reasonable cost. Even though they donít have mountain bikes for free they say they have mountain bikes starting at 50 dollars. Other standard bikes start at 17 dollars. They fix and repair bikes and even have a shop with tools and tons of recycled parts for individuals to build and maintain their own bikes. The bikes they sell have already been serviced and in working condition. Besides the good deal on a bike, I would be helping to support something I feel is a good cause.
The Sibly Bike Depot http://www.bikeped.org/ is part of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (MNBPA). It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working to promote non-motorized transportation in our state. They work with a small budget made up entirely of donations from supporters and over 90% of their labor is from volunteers. Their work includes activities in Community Education, School Education, Advocacy, Recycling and Community Building. From teaching basic bicycle repair skills to inner-city youth to stripping and recycling thousands of junk bicycles and keeping them out of the landfills, MNBPA has been steadily working since 2001 toward itís mission of facilitating an increase of bicycle and pedestrian transportation. In addition to advocacy they operate the Sibley Bike Depot- http://www.bikeped.org/Depot.html - a community education, repair and retail facility.

Wednesday night Iíll post an update on my experience. Life becomes an adventure when our attitudes are adventurous.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:12 PM

December 18, 2004

Itís out of my hands now

Today I finished reading the book, The Red Suit Diaries. (See yesterdayís post) I really enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting and a fast read. So, now Iíve read one book during the winter break so far. After reading it though, I realized that it was too good not to share with someone else, so I gave it to my coworker. Itís now out of my hands. Iím excited to see what she thinks of it. Right now sheís experiencing kind of a downer Christmas season after having just separated from her husband. My wish for her is to find a little joy somewhere in this mess of broken dreams. She has three young boys also who will be happy just to be with their mom on Christmas morning.

Tonight I went out to buy a battery for my daughterís car. Haha, that was 70 dollars! But her car died and all evidence pointed to an old, weak battery that was in need of replacement. The cold weather just made its demise sooner. I took care of that, and then went shopping to buy some gifts.
I bought a battery charger and some rechargeable batteries for one of the guys at the group home. He just loves to play with his piano keyboard in his room. Heíll play the demo songs over and over and sometimes hit keys randomly or hold them down. He especially likes the hum of the lower sounding keys. But he often brings the keyboard to me hoping Iíll make it work again when his batteries die. This happens frequently. Then sometimes he has to wait a week to go out and buy more batteries with the money he has to spend. This will save him a lot of money also with the price of batteries so high.

Going back to the Red Suit Diaries. One thing that he said that was really good was that no one really chooses to become Santa. It starts with a desire to make others happy and to give them hope. His transformation of the heart started one day when he changed a light bulb for a man in a wheelchair. It felt very good to him to do something that was so easy for himself to do, yet nearly impossible for this man in the wheelchair to do. It was a simple task that made a huge difference in another personís life. He discovered that the real gift was not a present or something we buy in a store, but the gift of our self.

Giving ourselves is a very Christ-like attitude and at this time of year itís good to be reminded of the purpose of this particular holiday. Giving ourselves to others is also showing love. This can give us purpose and direction and hope. In the case of the Red Suit Diaries' auther, purpose found him as he gave his life to helping others.

Tomorrow night is a family party with Aunts, Uncles, Nephews, Nieces, and Cousins etc. Iím looking forward to seeing them. Tomorrow night my blog will be about the most interesting observation I have at the party.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. If you have finals next week, try to get enough sleep so your brain is fresh.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:45 PM

December 17, 2004

The Red Suit Diaries

As promised, here is my blog entry about the book, The Red Suit Diaries Ė A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith, by Ed Butchart. Iíd write a normal book review about this book, telling you how great it was or how great the author was, but I think even better than a bunch of flattering words would be telling you a few key things I got out of the book.
First I learned that being Santa is a year-round gig. The real Santaís believe, as I do, that we should be doing nice things for people and making dreams come true for others all year Ďround.
Another thing I learned is that being Santa has a lot more to do with your heart than it does the costume or the nice beard.
I learned that being Santa is a big responsibility. First of all, a lot of kids have expectations of Santa. Who wants to be the Santa that blows that image? Being Santa is the embodiment of a great spirit of generosity and love. Children pin their complete faith, trust, hopes and dreams on this spirit.
I learned that in the life of a real-life Santa, there are many truly sad children out there. Like the boy who whispered in Santaís ear that the only thing he wanted was for his dad to stop hitting him.

Itís a good book. Several parts were really moving and brought tears to my eyes. Iíll let you know what else I discover as I finish reading it.

Now itís just after 10pm, and Iím going to bed, haha. Just because I donít have homework to keep me up past midnight. ;-) For those of you that still have some finals, good luck to you! They usually are not as bad as they seem.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:11 PM

December 16, 2004

Itís over!

For me this has been a horrendous semester! I finished the final exam about an hour and a half ago. All I could think when I finished was, wow. Itís over. All that stress and worry and lack of sleep (doing homework late at night) has taken its toll. Now Iím relieved but also so exhausted I donít know what to think. I do know that now that itís over, I have to plan for next semester.
I already know Iím planning on taking the fourth semester of Korean, so I had better keep practicing and reviewing during the break. Thatís my strategy. Review, review, review.
Besides that there is a certain amount of freedom now to do other things. (More time!!! yay) What else will I do? Hereís my list:

Tomorrow night I plan on going out to listen to live music.
I also plan on working on that BIG project I put on hold to try to complete it before class starts again.
Build a winter snow-bicycle I can ride to and from work. The racing bike wonít cut it.
Get another exercise routine going so itís regular.
Make a few more gifts before next week.
Talk to my friends online.
Spend more time with my family.
Write more on my blog.
Set up Korean and Russian fonts to display on my blog. I know there is a simple solution to this. Iíll figure it out.
Start another blog leading up to my bike racing adventures in the Spring dedicated to cycling and the old guy, or just add a category. Not sure.
Read some books Iíve been meaning to read.
Practice my trumpet more.
Haha, add to this list and not get it all done.

And the beat goes on.

So, going back to my class and final exam. I overheard many of my classmates express their worry about how hard the exam was and how poorly they thought they would do. I really felt their agony. I was worried also until the minute I turned it in. Now itís wait and see. Iíll know the results by next week on Wednesday. If I got an A in the class Iíll be shocked but really happy. Weíll see. The main question I have for myself though is, ďWhat did I learn this Semester?Ē I learned a lot I think. But not all of it was related to Korean.

I hope all of you do well on your finals! No matter what the results, donít kill yourself. Life is too short to beat yourself up. Learn from it and move on. If it was good, then pat yourself on the back. You deserve it. I know what a struggle and balancing act it can be. Good job!!!

Have a great night. Tomorrow Iím planning on writing about a real-life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith Ė The Red suit diaries, by Ed Butchart.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:08 PM

December 15, 2004

Skipping a Day

Well, it did happen finally. I skipped a day of blogging. I apologize to anyone who came here expecting a daily entry. Well, I intended on blogging and was sitting at my computer working, but 11:00 rolled into 12:00 which turned into 2:00am and my day was gone. I had to sleep so I could function today. That doesn't mean I had no spirit to share. It means that Finals are catching up to me and I had to work. Tomorrow is my final exam in Korean, which will be challenging I think. But it's all good, and I'll be done with the semester!
I skipped a day, but it was necessary. Sometimes I have to let go of some things in order to do something else. Isn't everything we do in life tied to some priority? Higher priority things get done first. It seems that if we are not doing it (like studying for finals), then it's not a high enough priority to us.
I was asked last night how we MAKE something a higher priority. "Just do it," is not a good enough answer. Many people cannot just make them selves do something they are not motivated to do. The question I think boils down to, "how do I generate the willpower and motivation when there is none?"
That's a complicated question that each of us has to answer ourselves. It can be a complex answer or an easy answer. One of the first steps in this process of finding motivation is to accept ourselves. That also helps us see what our priorities are.
I work hard and am motivated but I don't go around beating myself up over anything. If I fail at something I try to correct the problem, make ammends, change from the experience, but I don't drag myself into the mud.
I skipped a day of blogging, but I was working on something important to me. To me it's crunch time for this class, and I was helping a friend edit her paper that has to be turned in on Thursday. That was worth the time I spent on the computer last night! So my priority was on schoolwork and then on helping my friend. Then it was sleep.
Tomorrow's my final so I'll blog after that. If you have final exams this week, good luck! My thoughts are definately with you while try to remember that vocab word that got away!

Posted by carl1236 at 1:50 PM

December 14, 2004

Everything since then has been a bonus

I was reading an interview with Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist and Science Fiction Author in a New York Times Magazine supplement today.* Stephen Hawking has an incurable motor-neuron disease
The question that interested me the most was this:

Q: ďSeriously, how do you keep your spirits up?Ē
A: ďMy expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.Ē

Many people who have life threatening experiences and live through them seem to have a renewed sense of life in them. They take less for granted and are more thankful for every second they have. To them life is a gift. Lance Armstrong, six-time Tour de France winner fought cancer and lived to tell about it. His struggle and victory over cancer propelled him into victory on the bike and in life. He changed.
When we have faced the prospect of losing it all, we tend to value it more while we still can. I donít have to go through a near death experience to know how preciously short our time here really is. I can see it in my family members who have already moved on. I can feel the loss and the joy and understand that I have to make the most of the limited time I have. It goes by quickly.

Another reason to be thankful today.

*. New York Times, December 12, 2004, Section 6, The 4th Annual Year in Ideas, Email Interview by Deborah Solomon, The Science of Second Guessing, Questions for Stephen Hawking.

Posted by carl1236 at 4:04 AM

December 13, 2004

Learning obstacle

One thing I noticed tonight while practicing speaking Korean with my language partner is that when he uses a word that I don't know, I tend to focus on that word and it stops me in my tracks like a road block. I lose all comprehension of the rest of the sentence. Tonight the example was the word, "about, concerning (something)" I learned a different word for that and now he uses something I don't know and I'm lost. Another one was the word for "having interest in (something)" These are kind of critical parts of the sentence as far as meaning is concerned and not knowing them I sit there speachless, not knowing how to respond.

Posted by carl1236 at 12:13 AM

December 12, 2004

Real Love Is...

My Korean Language partner meeting with me from 7:00pm until 11:00pm tonight to help me with a speaking project that is due on Tuesday.

My Korean Language Partner meeting with me this coming Tuesday before class to help me finish my project so I can turn it in, and on Wednesday night to help me study for the final Exam.

he's helped me a lot during this Semester and I'm very thankful. My help to him with the English Language has been minimal, since his English languages skills are much better than my Korean Language skills. In many of our meetings he has not been getting much english practice, and has worked hard to help me overcome my difficulties in learning Korean. He has told me it's because he feels an obligation to help me and that he want's to see me succeed at this. He certainly didn't even have to participate in this Language partnership.

But this is an example of what real love is all about. It's people helping other people just to see them succeed. There is often mutual benefit to helping others but not necessary. Real love is lifting someone else up to help them achieve their best.

As the end of the Semester gets closer, I'm even more thankful for people like this. And it encourages me.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

December 11, 2004

It's Real Love

Real Love
John Lennon

Around 1997 shortly before his death, John Lennon recorded a basic demo of this song in his apartment in New York. In 1995 Paul, George and Ringo completed the song and it was included in the Beatles Anthology:

All my little plans and schemes
Lost like some forgotten dream
Seems like all I really was doing
Was waiting for you

Just like little girls and boys
Playing with their little toys
Seems like all they really were doing
Was waiting for you

Don't need to be alone
No need to be alone

It's real love
It's real, yes it's real love
It's real

From this moment on I know
Exactly where my life will go
Seems that all I really was doing
Was waiting for love

Don't need to be afraid
No need to be afraid

It's real love
It's real, yes it's real love
It's real

Thought I'd been in love before,
But in my heart I wanted more
Seems like all I really was doing
Was waiting for you

Don't need to be alone
No need to be alone

It's real love
Yes it's real, yes it's real love
It's real, yes it's real love...

( Lyrics from http://www.oldielyrics.com/j/john_lennon.html )


Donít we all at our deepest level want to find real love? Tonight I was talking with a friend that hosts a chat room in Yahoo chat rooms. Heís been doing it every day since 2000. Heís seen hundreds of people come into his chat room. Some stick around for a few months and get to know everyone and some only visit once. But one thing that my friend discovered is that everyone is looking for something. By his comments about these chatters, it seems that they all have this in common, that they all want real love. They are looking for love. To be loved and accepted is what weíve been waiting for. And in this chat room, at least for a while, they find someone to talk to.
John Lennon sang, ďDonít have to be alone. No need to be alone.Ē This is true. With so many billions of people in this world, how could anyone feel alone? Everywhere we turn we are surrounded by people. Yet many people feel alone, like something is missing. I think this is something we can all change. There really is no need to be alone if itís real love.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:43 PM

December 10, 2004

A Question for you

Iím just going to ask a question that I hope you can help me with. This is part of my experience today. I would like to hear from those more experienced at writing scholarly papers. Last night I read a thesis that used some arguments to support ideas that I feel are not legitimate arguments, since they are not based on facts, but rather based on the absence of fact. An example of this is this:
ďSince Mr. James did not hire any women in his company in leadership roles (a company of about 15 employees) it is apparent that he was against women holding these positions. Mr. James is a respected businessman in the community and his success has presented us with the model of how a successful business should be run. If women were meant for these roles then Mr. James would have known that and would have taken advantage of it.
Women were not meant for leadership roles. They are not capable of performing to the same level as men in this capacity. To be successful in business and minimize the risk of failure we should stick to models that have been proven to work. And Mr. James has set the standard for us.Ē

Can we really guess a personís attitudes and motives because of something he did not do? In some cases we might be right by guessing, but lacking evidence is not evidence in itself. In the example I gave Mr. James might not have had any female applicants. Also, just because Mr. James was successful in business using men, does not mean that women would not also be successful in the same positions. There is no evidence supporting that, since we donít know what a woman would do in those positions unless they actually do it.
My question is about this kind of supporting evidence. In this case because there is no evidence available to us we only have thiis lack of evidence from which to draw a conclusion. In my opinion missing evidence is not evidence at all. Isn't that kind of like the argument that "If man were intended to fly, he would have been born with wings?" Lack of wings doesn't necessarily mean human beings should not fly. I think arms that cannot support flight would be good evidence to support the idea that humans cannot fly using only their bodies like birds can.

What do you think?

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

December 9, 2004

Pennies in my Pocket

Every once in a while the change builds up in my pocket and it gets bulky, so I thin it out by removing the pennies. I usually save all of my pennies for about a year then go to the bank and exchange them all for paper cash. Thatís kind of a fun treat and feels like Iím getting some free spending money. Although I have these pennies available to spend at any time, usual they are not enough to buy anything useful while we are carrying them around in our pockets. Even a soda or candy bar in a vending machine is more than 65 pennies worth, which Iíd never carry in my pocket at once. So I save them and they add up over time.
When I pull the pennies out of my pocket I always scan for wheat pennies and save those so I donít spend them. They are worth about 3-5 cents apiece I think for collectors. But I just save them because they are kind of unique and itís fun to see them. I still see a few of them in circulation even though they are so old, but now days there are a lot less.
Today when I pulled out my change I decided to take a closer look at these pennies. Here are the facts related to my pennies, from my observation:
1. I had nine pennies in my pocket, which Iíve accumulated since last Friday. Thatís seven days worth of spending money and receiving change.
2. None of the pennies had the same date. The dates were 1964, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1985 and 1993.
3. Three of the pennies did not have the letter ďDĒ stamped on them. This I believe is for the Denver Mint, where they were created. The three without the letter ďDĒ are the 1973, 1976 and 1981.
4. The three middle dates are even numbers, 1974, 1976, and 1978.
5. All nine pennies were made after I was born (barely)
6. The largest gaps between dates are between the first and second and the eighth and ninth.
7. All of the pennies appear to be made of copper however every penny after the first two, 1973 and later, appear to have a slightly more reddish tint to them. The first two, 1964 and 1970 are worn the most. All of the other ones appear to have very similar wear.
8. The shiniest and the darkest penny are the last two. For some reason, the 1985 is the darkest of all of them, and the 1993 is the shiniest.
9. All of the coins, even though minted at different times, appear to use the same font and text size, even for the numbers which change.
10. One side of the Penny has a right-side profile view of President Abraham Lincoln from the chest up. Also on this side of the coin are the date and the Mint location if there is one. The letter ďD.Ē
11. On the other side of the coin is an image of the Lincoln Memorial, which is located in Washington D.C., and the denomination of ONE CENT.
12. There are 15 or 16 words on the penny, including the Date and the Mint Mark, ďDĒ for Denver.
13. The words on the coins are: IN, GOD, WE, TRUST, LIBERTY, UNITED, STATES, oF, AMERICA, E, PLURIBUS, UNUM, ONE and CENTS. Then also there is a date and if it has the Mint Letter, the letter ďDĒ
14. All of the letters are capitalized except for the letter ďoĒ in ďUNITED STATES oF AMERICAĒ
15. There are two languages on the pennies, English and Latin.
16. No word is used more than once.
17. There are nine words on the side of the penny with the Lincoln Memorial.
18. Abraham Lincoln has short wavy hair and a beard with no moustache.
19. Abraham Lincoln is wearing a suit jacket with a shirt that has a collar on it and a bow tie.
20. Abraham Lincoln is not wearing glasses or a hat.
21. The edge of the penny is smooth with no ridges.
22. The edge of the penny is raised slightly from each face of the coin. (the images are inset slightly)
23. The picture of the Lincoln Memorial is more horizontal, going from the left edge to the right edge, while the picture of Abraham Lincoln is more vertical going from the top the bottom.
24. Abraham Lincoln was not smiling or frowning in this image. It appears to be a straight face.
25. The 1978 penny had grease caked in the letters, ďONE CENTĒ. The other eight pennies were clean of debris.

Wow, I never knew I could make that many statements about a penny, and that doesnít even include what I could say about them if I compared them to other change in my pocket or to events that happened to me during the years these coins were put into circulation. Also, I do not know where these pennies have been or for what they have been used. I do not know how long they had been saved by someone else or when they were cashed in and put back into circulation. I do not know why these facts are the way they are or how they came about. I probably could learn a lot more about the penny if I did some research. For instance, who designed it and why Abraham Lincoln was chosen for the penny? I do know that each penny has a value that I can use to purchase something.

Often we make observations about people, and there is a lot we can know about them just by looking closely. Look at what I did just looking at nine pennies in my pocket! And people are much more complex and unique from each other than pennies. There are probably millions of observations we could make about people. But there is also a lot we do not know from just observation. We should get to know each other better. However, we donít have to know each other in depth to understand that we all have a value, like these pennies. Like the penny, our value together is greater than an individual penny. If we are more valuable together than individually, isnít it a good idea to stop separating ourselves and find ways to bring people together for the greater good? Unlike pennies, which are the smallest denomination of currency in this system, People are the largest denomination, with the most value. Just think what we could do by all working together!

Posted by carl1236 at 4:30 PM

December 8, 2004

Final Exam Cram II

Last May I wrote about studying for final exams. For me these general tips still work:
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/carl1236/dailyspirit/2004_05.html#000884
If anyone wants to add to the list, feel free to post a comment.

I started exercising again today after taking 3 weeks off from all exercise! I have been feeling it, with less energy and a general feeling of crud. Exercise is a good way to relieve stress also, so that might be why I was having a panic attack over finals this past week. My blood has not been flowing properly to the brain! Iím not going to over do it, but some exercise in my daily routine is really important so I had to get back at it.

Also, here is another Russian saying that is appropriate for final exams:
Tyazshyelo v oochyeneeye, legko v voyoo. Hard in the study, easy in the battle.
So study hard and the battle will be easier. (I still havenít figured out how to type Russian or Korean fonts in this blog. That will be a project for winter break I think. Then Iíll go for a multi-lingual blog.)

Final Exams and Languages are so much fun arenít they? Here is something to think about:
If our 'Language Final' kills us, I guess we could call it our ĎFinal Language.í

Posted by carl1236 at 4:48 PM

December 7, 2004

The TAO of Loving others

When I first saw you in my class I saw a student, with clothes and hair and eyes. But when I looked into your eyes I saw the surprising depth and wisdom that looked like me before I was born. And now I see it will take me a lifetime just to remember who I am.

Posted by carl1236 at 3:33 AM

December 6, 2004

The Magic Mirror

Once upon a time in a remote feeling but not so far away kingdom there lived a troubled married woman. She was overworked, oversexed and verbally abused at any opportunity. Sometimes at night she cried silently until falling asleep while lying next to a man she no longer knew. Her existence seemed to fall somewhere between death and life, not quite dead but not quite alive.
One day she was at the market and she saw a nice looking mirror. Oh it was way too expensive to purchase and bring home, but when she looked into this mirror she somehow looked beautiful. Gone were the bags under the eyes and the worry wrinkles. Gone were the perpetual frown and the tear-streaked face that seemed to greet her every morning when she looked in the mirror at home. So, as days and months passed, she kept going back to this market to see herself in this beautiful mirror. Every time she looked, she half expected to find it was all a dream and that she was deluding herself. But there she was, more beautiful than ever before.
After a while she started feeling guilty about her trips to the market and even went at times she did not need to buy anything. She had to hide it from her cruel husband who she was sure would pop a bolt and tell her she was wasting her time. But she kept going, because in this mirror she saw the woman she thought she could have been. In this mirror her dreams and hopes were alive and seemed to be something still attainable. She felt really good. Once she was half-muttering to herself in amazement, while gazing into this magic mirror and it spoke back to her! Now this mirror could have said anything, and probably had a lot to say to her, but it simply mirrored the simple questions that she had been thinking for a while. ďIs there a future for me and my husband? Is there hope of being the woman I see in THIS mirror?Ē She stood there for a while stunned, then looked around sheepishly to see if anyone else had heard this mirror speak her thoughts. No one seemed to notice. Then as if in answer, the magic mirror spoke again.
ďYou ask if there is a future for you and your husband. I ask is there a present?Ē There was a long silence as she pondered this question. Her marriage certainly didnít feel like she thought it should, and at home she certainly did not see this bright, successful, hopeful woman in her mirror. It spoke again softly, ďThis might be obvious, but the present creates the future. Unless something changes in the present, the future will proceed as it has in the past.Ē
Yeah, she knew it was true. She could not remember the last time she was really happy. Her life seemed to be a perpetual nightmare, slogging through a slow-motion grayish, anguishing dream. ďI guess I did not need a magic mirror to tell me that something has to change,Ē she replied, ďBut now what?Ē The mirror was silent, but in it she kept seeing herself from different angles and views that all believed in her. She saw herself having a life, and having ideas that mattered. She saw herself succeeding at what she wanted to do in life. She saw a woman she could respect and love and she liked what she saw.
So she stole the mirror and took it home with her. Now, Iím sure there are laws against that here, but in that kingdom, the owner looked the other way with a sly grin. She wanted to put the mirror in a prominent place in her house so she could see herself in it often. She found herself moving it from room to room, wherever she spent the most time.
Her husband began to notice something different. She did not tell him what it was. He did get on her case about wasting his money on an ugly old mirror that ought to have been thrown in the dump. But he didnít take it away soon enough. She started to believe in the woman she saw in the mirror.

This fairy tale is based on a true story. The names have been omitted to protect the identities of the husband and wife that now live in a fairytale better than the truth she experienced. Did they get a divorce? No, because eventually he looked into the mirror himself and saw something uglier than he ever imagined. He began to wonder if thatís what everyone saw.

Posted by carl1236 at 5:39 PM

December 5, 2004

What do I have to fear?

Record numbers of criminals are filling our prisons, our teenage girls and boys are being abducted in public places, scandals erupt as athletes are building their bodies through illegal steroids, Internet scams are on the rise, our elected officials are lying and stealing and extorting, violence is erupting in our schools, on our roads and in our neighborhoods, drug trafficking is at an all time high, AIDS is killing millions, terror has spread to all ends of the globe. There are thousands of problems that could be listed here. It seems overwhelming at times. Our newspapers and T.V. stations are filled with these negative images. It makes us wonder if there is any hope for humanity.
I was talking with a good friend about this and she had some dire predictions about our country as well as other countries, namely Iraq. I had to agree with everything she said because her predictions are right. Some things will get much worse before they get better. But even so, there is something even more terrifying that we should be afraid of. It is much more insidious and dangerous than all the terrorists in the world: It is our lack of compassion and love for others. It is our apathy toward problems in this world. It is the de-sensitizing ourselves against violence, greed and suffering. It is our own abuse of power over others. These are the hidden snipers of our mind.
All of these have devastating effects. Repeated over and over by millions of people it destroys our humanity and creates the very situations that we fear.
What do I fear? I fear my uncaring, unsympathetic, uncompassionate, unloving, apathetic self that I know can rear its ugly head.
As long as we can love there is hope. The darkness of fear fades as the sun rises in each of us.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:17 PM

December 4, 2004

Boxes within boxes

Today in the paper there was an article about cross-country moving scams. The picture showed a moving truck with boxes labeled for each room stacked here and there. One box said ďLiving Room,Ē another ďKitchenĒ and another ďBedroom.Ē It was a very interesting article about extortion and theft on the Internet. The headline said, ďMover Beware.Ē Itís a good article to read if you are planning on moving.

Seeing the pictures of boxes stacked and ordered in categories by room, ready to move into the house led me to think about what we construct around us. Then as I was driving to work I passes over this high hill and looked out over a new development that was going up. It was rows upon rows of identical looking houses that have not yet set themselves apart. Then a little while later I saw another development that was older. From a higher elevation looking down on it, it was still rows upon rows of boxes within the box of the neighborhood. Looking deeper into the homes we would see some differences, but maybe those differences are not so different, considering most neighborhoods contain ethnically, economically and philosophically similar residents.
But no matter which neighborhood we move to, there are similar parameters to life there. There are expectations of the residents to fit in with everyone else in that neighborhood. Besides our neighborhoods, cities and countries, there are also mental boxes we create, within boxes, within more boxes. Containers we label for proper handling and moving into their proper spaces. Class, status, race, sex, language, marital status, etc. are labels and order we create. Itís of our own doing. We can move from one to another and in and out of boxes, yet we find ourselves still contained by our notions about things. Before we are too harsh with others or too critical, itís helpful to remember to avoid generalizing about people, labeling and stacking them for neat placement in our house. We can learn to look at each other as individuals with unique needs. We can also learn to love each other. We can be aware that even our own lives are self-made and ordered by our own design, and we can change it. Before we are too critical of others it is helpful to understand our own lives.

These walls close in around me
containing, enshrouding Rose,
Soft petals enfold my name,
turning inward in a dream.
Iím lying between the sheets
tossing and turning about,
a box smaller and smaller,
one enclosing another.
Within sheets, within walls, in house,
within locks and doors and halls,
this box contains, holds, enshrouds;
this dream entombs and confines.
Placed neatly, this box in box
by my design, house in house,
neighborhood, city, enclosed,
row upon row, line on line.
Once defined a dreamy flow
becomes waves upon the rocks
holding in its walls the shore,
building blocks enslave, enshrine.
This age, this race, class and sex,
Whereís the new when itís all old?
Box upon box amassing
this living concealed in days.
Within roses and houses
Iím lying between the sheets
of defining norms, poses,
rank, labels, status and dreams.
Is there escape and repose?
when outside of box is box,
and itís all by my design?

Posted by carl1236 at 11:58 PM

December 3, 2004

What do I do? Why am I here? What is my purpose?

The short answer is, ďWhatever you choose to do!Ē Life really is about making choices. This is what we call our ďFree Will.Ē We all have free will to choose and do whatever we want in life. Thatís the way life was designed. We can go where we want, we can eat what we want, we can do what we want, etc. Itís all up to us. Of course some people try to control and restrict what we do, and some try to tell us what we can and canít do. And there has to be some rules for order, like even though we could kill people, itís not a choice we should make.
If we simplify our purpose in life to simply Ďbeing,í then we can move on to what we do with our time while Ďbeing.í In other words, we all exist and we are who we are and there is no real explanation for this other than itís natural just like the plants and animals and insects and all living things. In the bible God did not really give a reason for creating everything. It does say though that once it was done, God looked at it and said something like, ďI like it. Itís good.Ē We are also told we are created in Godís image. This means we are also creative beings like God. We donít have to be religious to recognize that! There are examples in everyoneís life. We exist, itís good, and we are creative.
So if thatís the case, then just being alive is enough of a purpose. Since we are alive and itís good to be alive, then everything we do becomes something to occupy our time while Ďbeing.í Everything we do is our choice. You want to find your purpose in life? Decide what it is you want to do, and do it. Free will in action. But our time in this form is limited, so we can ask ourselves, what is the best use of the time that I have? What is the best use of the resources I have? What do I have to offer this life and this planet? What can I contribute? What can I create? You choose.
Each of us defines what kind of a person we are. Some of us have different skills and talents and special abilities. What we do with those is also up to us. No one is standing over us telling us, ďDo this! Do that!Ē We might have a talent for math, which I personally do not. haha. I can use a calculator fairly well for most of the basic survival math, but I have to look up formulas and get help on more complex things requiring math skills. I canít think math problems out quickly in my head. Some people can and are well suited to things related to math. Thatís their special gift. I am an artist though and love to draw and paint and write. I cannot sing, but others have beautiful voices. We are all unique and have different interests even. I say if you have an interest in something, then go for it! We cannot have a whole world full of doctors or plumbers or Photographers. This is how we make our purpose in life. Many people do it accidentally by going with their hearts and reacting to the situations in their lives. One thing leads to another and they look back on life and say, ďwow, I had no idea that was my Ďthingí in life!Ē
I know one woman who did foster care for troubled teenagers. It was a rough life filled with constant challenges, but she had no regrets and helped hundreds of teenagers throughout her life. Only in retrospect did she see that her contribution to the world was a grand one. During the process of living, she was just doing what she thought was right, and doing something she could do to make a difference. This is kind of like ďMr. Hollandís Opus.Ē Did you see that movie? Thatís one of my favorite movies of all time.
Except instead of discovering our Opus at the end of our lives, we can all know it as we are living by consciously choosing what we are doing to occupy our time. Everything we do is an occupation of our time of our own choosing. What we do is totally up to us.
This can be scary for people though. Because with free will comes ownership of our choices and the consequences of them. Also there are too many options in life. How could we ever choose? For many people this is way too overwhelming and they want to be told what to do. Also many people do not think they are good at anything, or have any special gifts and talents. To those people I say that we all have something to contribute to life. We all can find ways to make a difference in life. Itís really a matter of how best to live our lives. We get to choose that. Then we can say honestly, ďI made good use of my time here and survived life from birth to death. I was a creative being.Ē
This is not an endorsement for no choices. Because even that is a choice. We reap the consequences of every choice we make. Itís better to do it consciously than unwittingly. Wandering back and forth, drifting through life is also a choice or series of choices. We all eventually get from Point A to Point B. Birth to Death. So does it really matter in the end what we did during that time? It does matter if we think it should matter. We are the creators of it. Do we like what weíve created? For some things we dream of doing there are many requirements to get there. If we think being a Doctor would be a good use of our time here on earth, then we do have to make choices that will get us there. Often we have to set goals and choose to stick with it in order to do what we wanted to do. Some things are just too complex for random choices. But if we really want to do it, and think itís worthwhile, then we can do it by setting goals and reaching those goals.
And during the process of getting to be qualified to be a doctor, we make choices about how to live our lives and what kind of a person we are. Thatís an ongoing process no matter what choices we make about things to fill our time with. There is also purpose in this. We can choose to be good, compassionate, loving people and that effects everything else we choose to do and everyone we come into contact with. I believe how we are Ďbeing,í more so than the actual activities we choose to do makes life more fulfilling and joyful.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:48 PM

December 2, 2004

rest

Sometimes we just need to give it a rest. Tonight I worked on my computer for about 3 hours after losing our internet connection. One hour of that was talking to tech support on the phone trying to see why my modem wasn't connecting. Then the technician finally gave up and said he'd have to send a service person out to my house. The next available date would be Sunday. I was a little disappointed by the long wait, but I accepted it. Then just as I was hanging up the phone, my modem decided all on it's own to start working again.
Now here I am online, but I'm out of time. It's midnight and I have to get up for work in the morning. So we all get a break from my blog tonight. Maybe tomorrow if my modem decides not to cooperate. That's my experience for today. It taught me patience. Without this computer problem I would not have had the opportunity to test my patience.
Have a great day!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

December 1, 2004

A mind in search of a soul

There are a lot of ways of looking at life. Some people believe there are two levels of the mind. An outer-mind that is dependent on the physical body for it's survival and an inner-mind that remains constant. Those that believe in reincarnation think that this inner-mind is the energy that carries our Karma forward. Some people say that this is our Soul. Some people say that this is the God within us. For sure there are many people who are in search of their identity and purpose.
With our minds we are able to comprehend a lot. We are able to create reality for ourselves. Some people say that this world is not real, and others say itís the only thing that is real. We devise theories and explanations for everything around us. With our minds we are able to sense our surroundings and perceive things in the present. We are able to remember the past and imagine the future.
Our minds seem to be a key to our success in finding identity and purpose then. Wouldnít it be nice to simplify our search a little bit? But itís kind of obvious that we cannot just develop our outer-mind alone. It will die with our bodies. As we age, we lose our physical abilities. Also, our outer-mind is limited to the physical world and is concerned with the survival of the flesh, not with what happens inside.
But with our outer mind we can relinquish control of our lives over to our spirits. We can let our hearts rule.
We can realize that tomorrow has not happened so it does not exist. Secondly, yesterday has already happened so itís over and no longer exists. So today, right now, is all we have to work with. Then we consider our outer-mind, inner mind, soul and God and think about how that effects our present moment. If our outer-mind handles our physical senses and actions and our inner-mind handles our emotions and attitudes then it makes sense that our inner-mind should rule. If we bring our outer mind in line with the wishes of our inner-mind, our inner mind directs our actions and thoughts and attitudes. Weíve found our soul. Life becomes beautiful right now. We are happy.
The mind in search of a soul is an interesting occupation of our time. We all seek happiness and donít always know how to get it or where to find it. True happiness though does not come from external, physical things that donít last. The source is in our souls. When our souls control our minds, then the mind carries out the wishes of the soul. And our external life becomes like our internal life. The soul is the unchanging source of life or energy that carries our Karma forward. It is the source of happiness. An ancient proverb states that a flower does not have to try to bloom, doesnít have to Ďbecomeí anything or do any special ritual. It blooms because itís a flower. This is true of our inner-minds, our souls, our spirits. It is like the flower that we really are. It blooms because it is a flower. We are people living right now. We bloom by being who we are, living right now. We can simplify our search right now for identity and purpose, if we accept who we are and listen to our hearts. Love, compassion, charity, joy, truth are all part of who we are. We let that rule and life becomes beautiful right now. We are happy.
Much of our purpose in life then, is to simply exist, and to make Ďrealí or create our inner-self in the external world; to bloom.

This article was inspired by my current study of Frank Lloyd Wright who died April 9, 1959, two years before I was born. In his own home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois, above his fireplace he had engraved in wood, ďTruth is Life. Good friend, around these hearth stones speak no evil word of any creature...Ē
Standing beneath a butterfly transom at the entrance to the Susan Lawrence Dana (Dana-Thomas) House in Springfield Illinois, constructed in 1902, is a beautiful statue of a woman nourishing a skyscraper that Frank Lloyd Wright designed and had sculpted by Richard Bock. On the back of it is inscribed a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which is said to have inspired him to create these beautiful things:
ďFlower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower Ė but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.Ē

Posted by carl1236 at 9:25 PM