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I wrote this short piece over nineteen years ago. Time for another look,

I save things just in case. I save things because I haven’t decided. I haven’t decided if the things saved are worth saving or simply made no decision. After all, I may need something later.

Know what I need (require) and toss the rest. This act is a new beginning. I am, therefore I think. I am, therefore I act. I am, therefore I am. I am me. I serve no other.

I want to neither rule nor be ruled. I have never wanted power. I have always been uncomfortable with the thought of power. Now I know why. Neither I, nor any other man has the right to rule another, just as no man has the right to rule me.

I have allowed myself to be swayed by the opinions of others. I have actively sought their approval. ‘What do you think?’ I knew I was right, that I had done something well that I wanted to do. Yet, I asked for their opinions? Does that make me a second rater? I offer no excuses. I believed them when they told me that god made me in his image and likeness. I believed when they told me I was a seven year old sinner. I believed when they told me I would go to hell if I committed a mortal sin.

I allowed them to write the script for my life. Tell me what to do, I said. I’ll try to live up to your expectations.

I’ve never known a true friend. I’ve always been alone. I’ve never known what to do at parties (except when I rendered myself unconscious). I’m uncomfortable with small talk. I never learned how to do it correctly. I don’t want to learn now.

I’ve always felt a sense of unease. I’ve always felt that something wasn’t quite right. I thought something was wrong with me. I was wrong. Nothing is wrong with me except my relationship with them. Nothing is wrong with me except my non acceptance of my own judgement and happiness. They have lost their power over me. I can see them for what they are. I can see without guilt. I can feel free to look to myself for all of my needs. I am my own responsibility. I choose!

 I know all this. Now I choose to act on this knowledge. I know I must learn many things. I must learn to think entirely for myself. If I read something, I must use my mind. I must use my reason to examine and to judge. Yes! I will judge.

The most important questions I must ask are: Who am I and what are my goals. Think long and deep. What have I always wanted to make of my life? What have I always wanted to create? Don’t ask how or why. Simply ask what. Then find the answers. No matter how painful. Find the answers. Act on the answers that I find. I am, therefore I think. I am, therefore, I am.

The Knowledge Vampire

The following is a piece I wrote to myself nine years ago on May 19, 2006

The knowledge vampire. Yep, that’s me. I’m a knowledge vampire. I don’t suck the juice out of anything, I absorb. I have this hunger for knowing. I just gotta know. I remember when I was a kid. Sitting on the front porch in summer or on the living room sofa waiting for breakfast. Reading. I love to read. I love to discover stuff. Find out why things are. I got up early every Saturday morning to watch Mr. Wizard. Made my own breakfast too. Why would a kid, or at least any normal kid want to get out of bed early on Saturday. Saturday was the day you’re supposed to be lazy. No school, nothing to do or at least nobody telling you what to do all day. Except when dad would give me the hose and expect me to wash all the dirt down the alley. Why didn’t we sweep the alley with a broom?

Waste of water. But what did we know then. Water was free and there was always more where that came from. The water squirted out of the hose as long as you wanted it to. Besides, sweeping was work and crouching with the hose was easy – the hose was doing all the work. Me? I’m just holding the hose and moving it back and forth.

What chore did I hate the most? Weeding the garden. I had to get down on my knees and get dirt under my fingernails. Nasty bugs and stuff on my hands. Ech! I wanted to be sitting in the back yard with my soldiers. Now that was real playing in the dirt. Same dirt, but it was my dirt instead of the garden dirt. I was playing instead of working.

So, why did I get up on Saturday morning? Because Mr. Wizard was cool. He did all kinds of neat stuff and I learned things. Same reason I got so many books out of the library. I found out about all kinds of stuff. Stuff I never knew. Was it useful? Did it matter? No. I was having fun.

I was left to my own devices? Crazy way to talk. Who ever talked that way? As I was saying, they would usually leave me alone so I could read or whatever. I liked reading better than baseball. I was never much of an athlete. Nobody made me and nobody took the time to show me. So, I learned things on my own.

I had a magnifying glass. I had a few of those over the years. I liked to shine the sun on leaves and burn holes in them with my magnifying glass. Burned up a few ants too. Looked a bit closer that I could with my regular eyes.

So, I’m a knowledge vampire? Maybe better to call myself a knowledge sponge. Absorb all I can then wring me out and start over.

I was a good little boy too. Never deviating from the rules they gave me. Memorize the catechism. Every day with the rules. Break one and go to confession and all would be right again (after I said the hail Marys and our fathers.)

Remember walking over to DeSales on Saturday afternoons in the summer to confess my sins. Wearing a nylon shirt outside my pants. Long pants and combed hair. Wouldn’t do to show up in church looking like a regular kid, even though I was a sinner.

Knowledge. Asking questions? Yeah, but I didn’t ask too many questions when I was a kid. I just did what I was told to do (most of the time.) Never a rebel, but I always had my secret world. If I didn’t share by telling people, then they never knew what I was thinking.

Confessing sins sucks. Having to kneel there and share intimate things with this priest guy. Share my secrets with a guy in a black dress. Never went to Fr. Gallagher because I was afraid he’d recognize my voice. Poof, there go the secrets. Bad enough you had to kneel there, but imagine how bad, even scared I’d be if the guy in black knew who I was.

Am I different now? Hope so. I’m 61 now. Bit older than the scared kid who sat and read books all the time, but I still want to suck all of the knowledge I can. I want to know more stuff!

Afterword (written today) I’m 69, soon to be 70 and I’m still a knowledge vampire.

 

Johnny is Back Again

The new chemo regime, second session beat the crap out of me and I landed in the hospital for nine days in the regular unit followed by nine more days in the rehab unit for a total of 18 days in the hospital. Got home Thursday evening. Boy did it ever feel good to be home sleeping in my own bed.

Now I come downstairs in the morning and stay there until bedtime. The first trip up the stairs Thursday night was a real bitch. I found a better way Friday night. I used my walking/stick to help my stronger left leg and held onto the handrail mounted on the right. Made it to the top slower but easier and a major triumph for me.

Have my computer set up downstairs and am slowly catching up and adjusting to my new ‘normal.’ I grow stronger each day and will be back with new posts shortly.

I wrote this vignette [Wonder and the Fragility of Ideas] after clustering (from Writing the Natural Way, in October, 2012)

My head bobs up and down anxious, no, eager (because we don’t like worry words and anxious is a worry word). We like words like eager, a puppy aiming to please, a child wondering about his world, living in the moment, the wonder of Now.

Wonder sneaks up on me when I sit quietly. No thunder — who needs thunder? Thunder is suspect, drawing attention to itself with noise rather than substance. When I don’t know what to wonder about, wonder tells me. All I need to do is pay attention.

PAY ATTENTION! ATTENTION means ATTENTION!

underwoodOur H.S. biology teacher (Brother Joseph) had a funny sense of humor. He referred to hospitals as horsepistols. So maybe I’m kind of warped myself. I was back to the hospital again last week. I swore I was never going back but circumstances said otherwise.

A routine CT scan ordered my my oncologist showed suspicion of a clot in my leg. We have a family friend who is a top radiologist. I always get a CD of any scans, x-rays, etc. for him to read. He saw the clot and let us know how serious it was. Advice to get to the hospital.

Sue called my oncologist. Sue is my advocate, does all kinds of research and is on good terms with all my caregivers. After Sue told my oncologist about the reading. The question was who would call. Sue said “Rock, paper, scissors, you better call.”

And she (oncologist did) at 10:00 PM on Thursday night. Got to the ER around 11:00 PM, triaged right away then had to wait awhile for an ER bed. They sucked my blood, x-rayed my chest (I had a touch of pneumonia too), and did an ultrasound on my legs which, when they finally get the report to the docs confirmed a DVT in my right leg. Great, just what I needed to hear.

The good part of this hospital stay is that I was there because of the risk, not because I felt sick. Boring!! They gave me shots of Luvenox in my belly twice a day. The plan was to send me home with a script for the stuff. We even had a class on how to stick me. No Luvenox for me. That stuff is ridiculously expensive, almost $500 for generic with my insurance for 11 days!

The next choice was Xarelto, still too expensive but not even close to the other. So once that was settled, they put me on the stuff, wrote the Scripts and sent me home on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday was a real adventure in the hospital. Underwood had merged with Inspira (what a stupid name) and the Underwood computers shut down at midnight Saturday for the transfer. All the work on Sunday was paper. Insanity. We finally got home around 4:30 PM.

So now it’s almost back to normal whatever that is. I have no clues about normal after two years of chemo, etc. Visit my primary tomorrow, get a follow up chest x-ray tomorrow afternoon and finish the course of antibiotics (leviquin is some potent stuff — gives me chemo brain). Then if all is well with the x-ray, back to chemo on Monday.

harps

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post. Why? I’ve been busy making music (or trying to). Once upon a time many years ago I learned to play the Chromatic harmonica and I was good. I got my first serious harmonica as a gift when I was in high school. At first, I learned and played by ear but learned to read enough music so I could expand my repertoire.

I carried one of my harmonicas just about everywhere. Once, while in Vietnam, my buddies and I went to the Vietnamese enlisted men’s club. I had my big 16 hole (64 reed) Hohner in my pocket and somehow ended up on the stage with a local band. My solo was Summertime and got me a round of applause and free beer for the rest of the evening. That was the one and only time I played for a large audience.

The picture at the top of this post is one I took a few weeks ago for the cover of a book of scores for Harmonica that I had been working on. The harmonica in the foreground is a Chromatic and the other harp standing on end behind is a diatonic in the key of A. I have a couple of good fake books that I use. I take songs I like and enter notes and lyrics with a neat program called MuseScore.

“Create beautiful sheet music for free using MuseScore, the free and open source notation program!” from the MuseScore website. Great program that runs on Linux, Windows and Mac computers.

The program includes a series of plug-ins, one of which is for Harmonica tabs (holes numbered, blow or draw and accidentals using the slide). I like this arrangement because I can learn a piece quickly using tabs but all the notes are there as well so I’m learning to read music as I go along. I made the book using duplex/booklet printing and ended up with a staple bound 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 booklet that’s easy to carry around. (Like I get out of the house a lot these days?)

One of the best features of MuseScore is that I can transpose into a different key, move up or down an octave and lot’s more.

I am having fun with all this. The harmonica (or harp) comes in two basic flavors, the small, 10 hole diatonic or blues harp and the chromatic harmonica. The blues harp comes in at least 12 different keys. The chromatic harmonica commonly comes in the key of C although there are other keys available. The chromatic is really two harmonicas in one, a C and C# (pressing the slide gives you the C#). Playing with the slide out is like the white keys on the piano. Pressing the slide in gives you the black keys. You can play in any key within reason with a C Chromatic.

Oh, before I forget, I stopped playing sometime around my late twenties. Why? I can’t remember. Probably because I got busy with marriage, family, college and then my career. I have the time and desire so I’m back with my music.

This time, I’m also learning to play blues harp, something I always wanted to do but never figured it out. Now, with the Internet at my disposal, I’m taking a course from Lee Sankey on Vimeo, “Country Blues Harmonica.” I’m loving it.

I’ll post about my progress from time to time. Did I mention that I have a nice acoustic guitar (classical) that belonged to my late father. Time I learned to play the darn thing. I put new strings on it a few weeks ago and ordered a DVD with lots of lessons for beginners from Amazon this afternoon.

So you’ve heard all my excuses for not posting. I’ll be posting more as the weather changes and I’m able to get out more to take pictures. Stay tuned.

MaxThink and OrgMode make good partners when set up properly. The hardest part of the setup is getting the information from MaxThink to OrgMode. The first time I tried I wrote a perl script that accepted the MaxThink file and spit out an OrgMode compatible file. The script was rough around the edges and I never finished it because I discovered a much simpler solution.

MaxThink has an Options choice from the main menu that takes you to a series of screens where you can customize Max to your liking. Today’s tutorial will show you how I set up Max to suit the way I work and most important, to output files in OrgMode format.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Access Options using the Options choice from the main menu. The screenshot above shows Screen 1 of 6. Navigate between the different screens using PageUP or PageDN and use the arrow keys within each screen. IMPORTANT! The first thing you must do when creating a new set of options is  give the Description (first item on screen 1) a new name. This ensures that you don’t accidentally change an existing setup.

The rest of the entries on this screen allow you to set preferences. I recommend you read the manual for an explanation of each screen. You can safely ignore the Date Stamp option, Max doesn’t do dates after the year 2000. I never use dates with Max. No reason when you are brainstorming.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Screen 2 controls the screen settings. I’ve never changed the defaults. Again, look through the manual for explantions of the settings.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I’ve probably played with this screen more than any of the others. Here’s where you can change the colors. The screenshot above shows how I set up mine. It’s easy to experiment because you can always change what you don’t like. Hint: make a quick note of the number sequence you like so you can return to it.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Here’s the screen where you set up Max for printing. I don’t use print but you could if you are running Max inside dosemu. I changed the Page Formats to the maximums and the minimums because when you WRITE a file (the way I move the info from Max to Org) you don’t want the output formatted for a printer. Be sure to set print headers and footers to ‘n’ for each.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This screen, specifically the Numbering Scheme on the first line is how you tell Max to WRITE the file with asterisks instead of numbers, etc. This is because OrgMode uses asterisks to identify outline headings with one asterisk as the top level, two one level down, three two levels down and so on. My setup gives me six levels if needed.

I also changed the next two items to y to align left and n to attach prefix.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Screen 6 finishes the setup for Writing to an OrgMode compatible file. Use my settings. Change the indent between levels to 0, make sure spacing formats are set to their respective minimums and enter the control codes that will work with OrgMode. I deleted the topic end sequence and changed the Line End Sequence to 10\ to be Linux compatible, i.e. single line feed.

I haven’t run into any situations yet where my orgmode setup didn’t work (so far). When you want to transfer an outline from MaxThink to OrgMode all you need to do is choose WRITE from the main menu, enter a file name and hit the enter key. Bingo, switch to OrgMode and use the file insert command to insert the contents of the file you just created. I’ll explain more about this phase next time.

As always, if you have any questions please leave a comment or feel free to send me an email.

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