The Ayes Have It

Writing without the use of the personal pronoun is challenging. It requires a confidence that is hard to muster. The perspective is implied and yet the resulting prose is stronger when it is written in that fashion. Points are asserted and it is left to the reader to evaluate their veracity.

It requires the author to think about the arguments they will make and the facts they will to assert. When a statement is made in this way, there are no apologies to soften them. The reader knows who is making the assertions and will hold the author responsible for them.

This style results in simpler, clearer prose. There are no words wasted on personal appeals. The prose has been trimmed to the bone. It may not suit all purposes but it is the best way to present factual narratives.

Our educational system has become lax in teaching its students concise thinking and clear writing. It is left for other avenues of tuition to hone the skills of modern writers. One such mechanism is the blog. It provides a platform upon which the aspiring writer can practice their craft. It is then a matter of Darwinian selection to see which blogs attract a readership and which languish in obscurity.

Another platform that champions the spoken word is the podcast. It offers a similar low barrier to entry while potentially providing greater exposure for the author that captures the interest of their audience. There is a wide range of styles of podcasts ranging from very informal to carefully scripted. It is left to the consumers to determine which styles flourish and which do not.

The ubiquity of the smart phone has made it possible for many people to produce short videos. You Tube was one of the first to provide a platform for video distribution and remains a major source of engaging amateur video content to this day. This provides yet another way the aspiring writer can distribute their work.

It is clear that there are plenty of avenues for authors and artists to deliver their creations to an audience in the modern world. Although this discussion has focused on the online platforms for expression there are also other venues that aspiring authors can employ to publish their work. These include local paper publications, commercial broadcast media, and even open mike nights at local restaurants and other entertainment establishments.

But Does This Mean I Have To Grow Up?

I have started thinking seriously about my goals. I have been living life on autopilot for so long that I have lost a clear sense of exactly what I want out of life. I started trying to enumerate my goals and discovered exactly how hard it is.

When I say I’ve been living on autopilot I mostly mean that I  have a good job that is interesting, pays well, and has good benefits. Consequently, things like shelter, food, health care, and a modicum of entertainment is pretty much taken care of. I occasionally have to pinch my pennies until the next pay check but I don’t worry much about necessities.

What I do worry about is the fact that I have lost sight of the things that I wanted to accomplish in life when I was younger. I have pushed them aside in favor of fighting the various fires that routinely arise when you are attempting to go about your life and raise a family. Now that my children are on their own and I have learned the basics of coping with day-to-day challenges, I am left pondering, what are my personal priorities?

After several false starts I came up with a small list of things that I want to do more. I want to play music. I don’t really have any great ambition to be famous or make money from it. Making money from it would be nice to the extent that it would help finance further projects but it would just be lagniappe.

Another thing I’d like to do is write. I am just starting to get to the point where I occasionally write something that I’m not completely embarrassed by. I would like to have time to devote to writing, both non-fiction and fiction, for more than a stolen hour here or half hour there. I realize that it takes discipline to actually sit down and take these opportunities when they present themselves.

I’d like to have the time and funds to occasionally travel. I haven’t done much traveling in the last several years and I miss seeing new horizons every now and then. I have had the yearning to revisit some of the places that I’ve lived in my youth. Places like Kentucky, Illinois, and Germany. I’d also like to see Great Britain in all her glory.

And finally, although it would be somewhat of a bus-man’s holiday, I’d like the opportunity to work on a programming project of my choosing without having to worry about schedule or budget or adhering to corporate standards or policies. I’ve always felt that programming was more an art than a science and after a career as a commercial artist, as it were, I’d like to address the more aesthetic side of the art.

This is by no means a comprehensive or even fairly detailed list of my goals. I’m still working on refining them. I have learned from experience that the more clearly you can envision something, the easier it is to manifest it. I’ve also left out the more intimate goals like spending time with friends and family. Consider this a first, skeletal pass at putting my goals into writing.

As always, pleasant dreams, tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important, be kind.

Oh Boy! New Toy

I’ve got a new BiPAP machine. That is a slightly different therapy for apnea than I was on before. This machine has one pressure for when I breath in another pressure for when I breath out. Also, this one is a lot more high tech than my last one.

This one has a color display screen where you set the options and read the settings. It also has a built in cellular modem so it automatically uploads my data every morning after I get up. They can also do remote diagnostics and adjust the pressure without my having to take it in to the office.

They also have a web site where I can review the data that the machine uploaded about my sleep quality. In case I haven’t mentioned it, I am a self quantification hobbyist. That is to say, I record my blood pressure, my blood sugar, my temperature, my weight, my body weight, my body fat, my bone mass, and my BMI every morning. I also record my steps and my heart rate using my Fitbit. My Fitbit also keeps track of how many flights of stairs I climb and estimates when I’m sleeping and when I’m awake from my movement and heart rate. This machine is going to add a bunch of new parameters to my daily collection routine.

Why do I do the self quantification thing? I have ambitions to one day do some analysis to see if I can figure out anything about my health. In the mean time, it’s just another of my weird OCD behaviors. I’m a typical nerd. I get a few weird quirks with the nerd package.

I Think I Passed The Test

I wrote a post yesterday. I apparently didn’t press publish. I think I actually did press post but somehow it didn’t get posted. It doesn’t matter. I know I wrote a post yesterday, as I am writing a post today. It just turns out that yesterdays post will have today’s date on it. But that’s beside the point. On to today’s topic.

As a follow up to yesterday’s post about my sleep study, I think the protocol for sleep studies needs some serious revision. They spent two hours at the beginning of my study last night “establishing a baseline”. That’s doctor speak for having me try to sleep without my mask.

At this point they know I have serious apnea. When I was originally tested I stopped breathing sixty times in an hour. That’s a rate of once a minute. For those that don’t have apnea it is difficult to explain the sensation of waking up gasping for air. Surely it doesn’t take two hours for them to establish that I am still in desperate need of the device.

Why did I have to submit to this barbaric study. (Please note: the protocol was barbaric. The sleep technician was a great guy who was just doing his job.) That’s easy, the insurance company wanted to be sure that I still needed this device. In other words we are once again allowing a corporation to practice medicine without a license. This is one of my pet peeves.

The rest of the night went fairly well. At first the pressure was lower than ideal but that was still preferable to no air pressure at all without the mask. Then, there was a little bit of discomfort at the end of the calibration procedure when they had increased the pressure past the optimal stage and air was leaking out the side of the mask and coming out of my mouth and waking me up. I did sleep fairly well throughout the calibration though.

I do get a new, improved CPAP machine for my troubles. I just can’t imagine why they can’t figure out that I need the damn thing without torturing me like that. I’m going to talk to the doctor about it when we have the follow up appointment.

Enough of my first world problems. I wish you all sweet dreams. Remember to tell the people you love that you love them and most important of all, be kind.

Is There Going To Be A Test?

I’m heading to the sleep clinic for a sleep study. I haven’t had one for many years. I am told that things have changed significantly since my last study. I am not worried about it. I have sleep apnea and I have worn a mask connected to a CPAP machine every night for twenty five years or so. I can’t believe that some people don’t use their machines. It is the reason that I’m able to get any sleep at all.

I am a little annoyed by the fact that my routine is going to be interrupted. I know they try not to let it happen but it is unavoidable. I may have to postpone writing my words until later in the day. I won’t have access to my scales to get all the daily statistics off of them. I am one of the people they call a “self-quant”. That stands for self quantification and it means that you routinely collect all kinds of statistic on yourself like weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc.

I started doing it to keep track of my blood sugar when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I kept adding on measurements until know I collect nine different parameters every morning. I have grand plans to apply some of my data analytical skills to the mass of data that I’ve collected but I doubt that I ever will.

I also write my journal entry every morning. I guess I’ll have to fit it in somewhere else in the day. If I recall, they get done with the study fairly early in the morning and you finish up in plenty of time to get to work earlier than I usually do. I am hoping to get a newer, lighter, CPAP that has automated instrumentation. We’ll see how that works out.

Sleep well, have good dreams, tell the people you love that you love them, and most important, be kind.

Generational Acceleration

We have changed a lot as a culture in recent years. It seems that these changes keep happening at an ever faster pace. In my grandfather’s day, things were pretty much the same as they were in his father’s day. There were a few new inventions, I few social norms that were being challenged by rebellious youth but that was as it had been from time immemorial. The automobile was invented in my grandfather’s lifetime. He could remember a time before they existed.

In my father’s day, things were beginning to change faster. We had been through one major world war and the threat of the Nazis were looming large. There were automobiles everywhere and my father embraced them. He and his pals bought an old model A Ford an fixed it up.

Dad used to go to automobile auctions and get jobs driving cars for the dealers. He was twelve years old at the time. They would give him money for a bus ticket home. He said he would keep the money and hitch hike home. This was a very different society than we have today.

Television was invented when my dad was a teenager but it didn’t really become a major force in American culture until he was grown. I on the other hand never knew a time when there wasn’t television.

For me, computers were the exciting new technology. There were big computers before I was born but when I was in high school, Intel invented the microprocessor. That was the chip that made personal computers a reality. I wanted to own a computer so bad I could taste it.

When I couldn’t find a job during the recession of 1975, I joined the army for computer training. I learned to fix and program small computers in the army. When I got out of the army, I immediately got a job working with computers.

My daughters never knew a time when there weren’t computers. We always had computers around the house when they were growing up. Computers were a part of their daily life. They didn’t learn to program them but they did use them to write papers, to balance their bank account, and especially to play games.

My grandchildren never knew a time without cell phones. I wonder what the next technology is going to be. Is it going to be virtual reality? Is it going to be 3D printers? Is it going to be self driving cars? I know. It will be all of these and things we can barely imagine now.

Veterinarian Day

We took Belle, our Maltipoo, and Cory, our cat, to the vet today. I took the day off to help. No one needs to try to wrangle two pets at the same time by themselves. Belle got her shots and a clean bill of health. Cory, on the other hand, had us worried for a while. He has been having problems with coughing for quite a while. Pam had looked up his symptoms on the internet and was prepared for the worst.

The vet said he had a heart murmur but he also looked very pale. She said that it could be Feline Lukemia, Congestive Heart Failure, or something else. We decided to go ahead with some X-rays and other diagnostics. Since it would take a while to do the diagnostics, Pam, Belle, and I went to Pam’s parents’ house for lunch.

When we got back to the vet’s office, we were relieved to hear that Cory only had asthma. His heart problems may get worse later in life but for now, medication should help him breath easier.

On the way home, Belle got her McDonald’s hamburger for being a good girl at the vet. Cory was so relieved to be done with the vet visit that he actually nodded off in his pet taxi.

We spent most of the day on the road and waiting in waiting rooms but in the end, our fur children’s health was worth the effort. We’re home at last and ready to get back to our normal routine. As much as it can be said that anything we do around here can vaguely be called normal.

Another Sip from the Firehose, Please

There is so much to learn. Every time you start to do something, no matter how simple it sounds, there are always so many things you don’t know about how to do. You get to the point where you aren’t overwhelmed by this fact. At least not most of the time. I managed to diagnose my computer problem. I was about to lose my hard drive. I was able to replace the hard drive with another that I had. It is a little bit smaller than the one I replaced but it is big enough to hold me for a while. I am going to have to buy an external drive so that I can do regular backups. It has taken me the better part of eight hours to figure out what needed to be done and get it done.

Back to the topic at hand, it isn’t just with technical subjects that this happens, although they do seem to offer a lot of fodder for befuddlement. I run into the same problem when it comes to cooking or playing the guitar. Just listening to music on Pandora sends me to Wikipedia to look up the new bands that I’ve discovered to see how it could have possibly taken me this long to hear of them.

I remember my dad used to say that getting a Ph.D. was all about learning how little you knew about anything. Maybe the same thing applies to life in general only it seems like it takes longer to realize it if you don’t go through the pressure cooker of academia. It seems to me that I have been going through a process lately that parallels that which I watched my dad go through when he got his doctorate. I’m not saying it’s the exact same thing but I have noticed some similarities.

Now that I’ve got a working computer again, I’ll set up the writing software and get back to writing my book. Maybe it will be less frustrating now that I have a machine that I can count on.

Wring every bit of enjoyment from life. Tell the people you love that you love them. And most important, be kind.

According to Descartes I Am

I like self referential things. For instance, this morning I was thinking about thinking. I started out by describing how I think about something I want to write about. It turns out that writing about something is one of the best ways to think about it. It provides transparency. If you can get your thoughts on paper as you think them then you can review them after the fact. You can rearrange them so that they make more sense. You can catch errors and edit them out. And the best part is that you can do it without trying to keep everything in your head all at once.

But as I was thinking about these things it occurred to me to ask what the different types of thoughts are. That was a bigger question than I had anticipated. As I started making a catalog i discovered that there was a correspondence between items on my list and the senses. We use our senses to collect data about the world. We see, hear, touch, taste, and smell things and that is how we know what is going on around us.

My original thoughts were focused on language and writing. As I expanded my thinking to incorporate these other kinds of thoughts it became obvious that there was a lot of work to be done to make it as easy to manipulate thoughts about touch, taste, and smell as easily as we have made it to manipulate the written word and sound. Computers can be used to help provide that transparency but we will have to imagine how they can help and experiment with them to invent new tools.

It seems that we have used writing and drawing pictures to record our thoughts about most things for centuries. Only recently have we become able to record sound and play it back any time we want to hear it. Our ability to make video and film records of our world are also very recent. I suppose it might be argued that sculptors work in the realm of touch. But is that adequate to capture the range of ideas that can be expressed that way? How might we record smells and tastes?

There are many dimensions to these questions about thinking. Questions are the most important aspect of thinking. You have to ask lots of questions and keep asking until you stumble across the good ones. Don’t get sidetracked by trying to answer your questions too early. You might not get around to asking the really profound ones if you do.

Why Do I Blog?

I blog for a number of reasons. I’ll explain some of them here. First of all, I blog to force myself to think about writing something that someone else would want to read. I have been writing a journal for five years now and I seldom write an entry that I would expect anyone but myself to want to read. My journal is for me, to explore my ideas, make notes to myself, and practice composing sentences on the fly. My blog, on the other hand, is different.

I blog to practice writing. If you want to become good at something you have to practice. You have to concentrate on doing it right. If you practice doing something wrong, you’ll just get good at doing it wrong. I want to hold myself to higher standards. I want to use good grammar, form logical arguments, and achieve a particular effect, depending on what kind of writing I am doing. The effect may be to inform my reader. It may be to amuse her. It may be to provoke thought. It may be to inspire sadness, or laughter, or any of a host of other emotions.

I blog to capture thoughts that I want to share and learn how to shape them into a form that is more than just a casual conversation. I do tend to write my blogs with a casual style though. That is the style with which I am most comfortable. It remains to be seen if that is a style that appeals to my readers.

And finally, I blog to exercise self discipline. I have made a public commitment to blog daily and I intend to live up to that commitment. I hope that there are people that read my blog and would notice if I missed a day but beyond that I am a stubborn person and if I say I’m going to do something, I intend that I’m going to do it.

There are other reasons that I blog, but these are the ones that I am able to articulate right now. I hope that this is enough to satisfy any curiosity that you had about why I’m writing these blogs.