Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Review: The Powers That Be - refining the subject

Since some time in October 2008 I have been slogging my way through The Powers That Be by David Halberstam, 1979 [ISBN 0-394-50381-3]. I finished this tome on February 23rd.

Yes, tome is the way to describe these 736 pages. I picked up this book at a thrift store in Mississippi while passing through on vacation last year. While waiting on my wife to finish her shopping, I read about five pages of the Prelude, telling a story about a Democratic Party rally in El Paso, Texas in September 1960, with Sam Rayburn waiting the arrival of JFK and LBJ. Rayburn's thoughts on how the media was negatively impacting politics were told in an entertaining way. The subject being interesting and the writing good, I took the plunge, paid a buck, and toted it back to Arkansas.

David Halberstam explains his purpose in writing the book, not in the Prelude, but in the end of the book Acknowledgements: "This book is the product of five years of work. It began as a small idea in 1973 and it grew, constantly changing incarnations. At first it was going to be merely a book on a television network and the presidency; gradually it evolved into a book on the rise of modern media and their effect on the way we perceive events."

Halberstam had set himself an immense task. So many years between the New Deal and Watergate, so many media outlets, so many politicians, so many media personalities. How to sift through and refine? You can't cover everything in a single volume, even at 736 pages. Once again Halberstam covers this in the Acknowledgements: "In selecting the four institutions that have the major role in this book, I tried to give as fair a cross section of the national press as I could. I chose CBS because it has traditionally represented the best in broadcast journalism; Time because among national magazines it reflects something special in the American character; the Washington Post because it has become a serious national newspaper and because this is in part a book about the road to Watergate; and the Los Angeles Times for those reasons and also because it played so large a part in the career of Richard Nixon."

An eastern newspaper. A weekly news magazine. A radio and television network. A western newspaper. Obviously radio was new, television newer, weekly magazines a little older, while newspapers were, at the time of FDR's first inaugural, the mainstay of how Americans learned the news.

Technology changed everything. Radio allowed voices to be heard. Printing technology allowed pictures to be seen weekly at reasonable prices. Television brought movement and voice together. Politicians needed to embrace and adapt to these new technologies or they would find themselves voted home. Halberstam does a good job of showing how the changing technologies changed how the different types of media interacted with each other; how the jealousies and competition between owners, publishers, editors, and reporters all had their impact. He describes the rise of investigative journalism and its role, as well as how radio then television rang the death knell for evening newspapers.

In two additional posts, I'll write something about Halberstam's writing style, and draw some conclusions from the book--his and mine.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kindle and Reader

I saw them for the first time yesterday: the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader. These two devices are the latest technology for displaying and reading electronic books. Sony was first on the market with a display that gives the reader the sensation of reading ink on paper even though it is pixels on screen. Amazon came next, and all the reports I've seen are that Kindle is better than Reader. I imagine both of them have old versions and new versions and that, as everything goes in technology, they are leap-frogging each other in quality of the product and reduction in price.

I saw the Kindle first on a flight from Phoenix to DFW. I had to make an urgent trip to the bathroom (well, I guess you all didn't need to know that), but found it occupied and had to wait about a minute. The woman sitting in the aisle seat on the last row was reading a book on a Kindle, and so I had a few, impatient moments to talk to her about it. She loves it.

I saw the Reader also yesterday on the connecting flight from DFW to NW Arkansas. The man sitting across the aisle from me on the one hour flight had one, and I got to look at it for a while as he demonstrated its features and answered my questions. He loves it.

Both of these devices were a little smaller than I expected, maybe a little less than 5x7 inches, and very slim, very slim. Both have a flip-over cover to protect the screen. Both seemed to show a realistic display of black ink on white paper. The text size is changeable. Neither is back-lit (at least I'm sure the Reader isn't; didn't ask about the Kindle), so you must have light to read it. Nothing wrong with that.

I did not ask to hold either. Nor did I ask about battery capacity, or storage capacity--though I understand both of them have the capacity to download and hold more than 100 books at 500 pages per book. That's a lot less to lug through airports than the equivalent paper. Yet, I won't be rushing out to buy one of these gadgets. The feel of the book in the hand is something I'm not ready to give up, nor the smell of the paper, nor the physical bookmark that I lovingly come back to day after day. I like to slip my finger beneath the right page as soon as I begin turning the left page, even though I've got two full pages to go before I need to flip. On a non-fiction book, I often like to keep the book open at the page I'm reading, but have a thumb or finger in another place, and flip back there frequently to cross-check information. When I start a new chapter, I like to first look ahead to see how many pages are in it, maybe even stick a finger there, making a claim on those pages as I start reading that chapter.

No doubt these all have an equivalent in the Kindle and Reader. But I'm still not getting one. Possibly I'll be the last hold-out among everyone I know. I'm about the last person without a portable MP3 player, so you know I'm not an embracer of technology.

On Tuesday, while waiting for the flight from DFW to Phoenix to board, I saw a man with a paperback version of Team of Rivals, the fairly recent history of President Lincoln and the team he chose for his cabinet sitting on top of his carry-on bag. I have it in my reading stack, picked off the remainders table at Barnes & Noble. I have two or three much smaller books in front of it, one of which I started yesterday on the flight. But, seeing the book, I struck up a conversation with the man and discussed it with him. For about three minutes, standing in line in the terminal and on the jet way, we talked about Lincoln and the specific books and history books and history. We parted inside the plane and I didn't talk with him again.

But suppose he had been reading this on a Kindle or Reader? Would I have taken the audacious step of saying, "Oh, you have a Kindle. What are you reading on it?" No, I likely would not. But having seen the book on his luggage and being able to recognize the title, it was easy to say, "Oh, I've been waiting to get to my copy of that. How do you find it?" So it seems to me that the Kindle and Reader, for all of their benefits, will contribute to the growing digital isolation. And I can't see that as a good thing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Inch by Inch

That's advice you always here:
"Mile by mile it's a trial.
Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch."

I've often felt that the person giving such advice was running a two-mile race, not a marathon. Yet, I can see some truth in this in terms of my own life and the improvements I'd like to make in character and conduct, as well as the goals I have set for myself.

Take my weight, for example. Slowly over the course of about three years, I have lost 50 pounds. That was as of my scales moment Friday. Of course, that does no more than put me back to where I was on a day in June 2003. I've still got 54 pounds to lose to make it to the top end of my ideal weight range. So I have many more inches to go in this.

Take the Harmony of the Gospels I've been working on since, when was it, 2004? This is a project that for a long time I worked at between other projects. It started as a Bible study for myself, to use in teaching an adult Sunday School class and to satisfy my own curiosity about something. Yet, since then it has grown into a Bible study I am working on to be of publishable quality. Friday night I finished the second round of proof-reading. I have only one more step to go before I begin typing these edits and putting it in a format to share with my pastor. Only a couple of yards to go, inch by inch.

Take the book I'm reading, The Powers That Be by David Halberstam. I began this sometime before Christmas. A 736 page tome, I'm down to twenty-five pages to go, and likely will finish it tonight. Perhaps I was stupid for persevering through the whole thing rather than setting it aside after a hundred pages, when I realized that, while it was good, the reading was going to be tedious and I would be a couple of months getting through it. Oh well, persevere I did, and have only a few inches to go.

Take trying to be published. This is certainly an inch by inch proposition, as at this time I'm not prepared to self-publish. The problem is I don't know how long the journey still is, or even if there is a final destination. Possibly the inches are taking me along a race track with no finish line, and I will never be published. Or perhaps it is only an inch or two ahead. Either way, in the last couple of weeks I managed to move a couple of inches forward, mainly in my realization of where my writing is relative to publishing standards, and in seeing the next two or three inches along the way.

Other things in my life have also shown inched progress. And I'm thankful for that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Our Light and Momentary Troubles

Some years ago I was involved in Teen Bible Quizzing. This was an inter-denominational program (though each denomination had its own sub-program) that tried to make Bible study fun while making it competitive. Teens studied the scripture specific to that year, many memorizing it entirely. We practiced twice weekly, and went to tournaments monthly. Teens sat on "jump seats", some kind of pad or contact device that, once the contact was lost (as in when a teen stood to answer a question), an indicator indicated at the quizmaster's table. As the quizmaster read the question, a quizzer jumped--well, the best ones only needed to twitch--as soon as they could figure out the answer. Only the teen who "jumped" first, as indicated by the indicators, was allowed to answer the question. These tournaments were a great time for teens to socialize as well as demonstrate their Bible study skills.

But I prate. I bring that up to say that during those years as a Teen Bible Quizzing coach I found a special Bible verse each year. In the year we studied 1st and 2nd Corinthians, this verse stood out:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2nd Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)

I found this incredibly insightful, and took it for my life motto. Whatever troubles we have in this world, no matter how bad they are, no matter how long they last, are light and momentary when considered against where the believer will spend eternity. This, I believe, is the best way to look at that portion of our lives we spend on earth.

This blog does not record my spiritual journey. I touch on events and issues of my Christian walk from time to time. But my life is not one of preaching on street corners or shaking sinners by the shoulders and screaming at them to repent. About ten hours a day are my engineering career. Almost an hour is commuting. Seven hours (or a little less) are for sleeping. The evening hours consist of family and house matters and trying to branch out into a career in writing and in that manner nudge a lost world closer to Christ. A tiny amount of time is spent on my hobby of genealogy, which I usually do in chunks of time widely separated.

What I'm saying is, the majority of a man's time--of this man's time--does not consist of overt or bold or in-your-face Christian living. Rather, it consists of every day moral, ethical, legal behavior; of tending to the needs of his business and family in a manner that draws people to Christ and does not turn them away.

Given this, my blog is about my life journey, most heavily the journey as a wannabe writer (since I see that as my best way to influence the greatest number of people), and less about other specific areas. I have also decided not to sanitize that journey. If the good times come, I say so. If the bad times come, I say so. Last post was about some bad times; the one before that was about good.

But always, even when I fail to mention it specifically, the bad times are always light and momentary troubles in my life compared to eternity.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Obverse or Reverse

I love the wisdom of Victor Henry, the old sea dog who served his country so well in two world wars, confidant of two presidents, father of three including a fallen war hero. A man could learn much from all that was written about Victor.

Some of you are wondering who Victor Henry was, why you don't recognize the name of such a famous person, and why I should be writing about him. Well, he is a fictitious character, the hero of Herman Wouk's two epics, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. So actually Victor's wisdom is Wouk's wisdom, explained through his character.

The particular bit of V.H. wisdom I'm thinking of today comes from The Winds of War, near the end. Henry is en route from temporary duty in the Soviet Union to Pearl Harbor to take command of the battleship California. The Japanese sneak attack comes while he is on the last leg of the trip, from Quam to Wake Island to Pearl via Midway Island. He gets to Pearl Harbor and learns the California took torpedoes in the attack, and he has no ship to command. In the pile of letters waiting for him was one from his wife, asking for a divorce, and one from his daughter, saying she was being named in the media as the paramour of her boss. Henry, temporarily staying at his son's house (a naval aviator), finds a bottle of brandy and drains it in a few hours. He wakes up the next day with the pain deadened but unable to function.

At breakfast he learns that the Japanese had bombed submarine installations in the Philippines, including the navy base where his other son was an officer on a submarine. As Wouk writes concerning what Victor thinks, "When things go bad, his long experience told him, they went very bad".

That seems to be happening at present. Another computer crash, this time the computer I work at, with all my writing on it, very little of it adequately backed up. I don't know that it's lost totally, but I fear the worst. My truck, fresh from the shop for routine maintenance, the next day throws the new belt they just put on it and I am almost stranded 100 yards away from my destination. The economy goes from bad to worse and I'm pretty sure we are in a depression, though the data to confirm that is a couple of quarters away. And, it looks like a financial problem in my extended family is about to blow up and I may have to go half way across country to help deal with it--or maybe not. And, I am dead tired from the labors of clearing out my mother-in-law's house (not even close to done), the rigors of diet, exercise and weight loss (not even close to any goal), and the rigors of work, trying to help save a company from ruin for 20 percent less pay than a year ago. Yes, after my somewhat euphoric post of last Wednesday, things have gone very bad.

Every coin has two sides, obverse and reverse. You can't have one without the other. I tend to be pessimistic in my outlook of life, so when bad things come, similar as for Victor Henry, they seem normal. The hits will probably keep on coming. Such as today. I found out between beginning this post and ending it that the agent who was considering In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People is going to pass on it. Victor Henry was correct.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Successes Bring Hope (even in small amounts)

One part of my job as corporate trainer for engineering is to schedule and sometimes teach brown bag training sessions every Wednesday. After subtracting holiday weeks, we have about 45 weeks to fill. In the past project management training took up twenty of those, but we don't have that going on this year. So I have to come up with 45 presentations a year.

So far this year my batting average for having a presentation is not good. After having two good classes the first two Wednesdays, three weeks in a row saw no brown bag (though I'll blame one of those on the ice storm, even though I had nothing ready that week). I have a vendor coming in next week, and things pencilled in for the two weeks after that. But Monday morning came upon me and I had nothing planned. I knew I couldn't go another week without a brown bag, so I bit the bullet and decided to do one on short notice.

Based on recent projects I've reviewed or consulted on, I decided to quickly pull together a presentation on specifying earthwork. Monday I made an outline and had about 15 minutes to make a few notes. I always try to give these sessions a sexy title--oops, the HR babe says I can't use that word--oops, nor am I supposed to call her the HR babe--so I titled it "Down In The Dirt: Specifying Earthwork Based on Method of Payment". I promoted this session on Tuesday.

But Monday and Tuesday gave me no real time to prepare, and Wednesday morning found be grinding away reviewing a project for our Dallas office. So about 10:00 AM this morning was when I began preparing, for a 1:00 PM class. Yet, those three hours did not pass uninterrupted, as the usual phone calls and drop-bys happened. Took my pick-up to the Ford dealership this morning for critical maintenance, and had to deal that in a couple of phone calls. So I had maybe an hour, at most an hour and a half to take my outline and flesh it out into a presentation. The prospects were not good.

We had more people than normal gather in our lunch room, and more offices than normal connect by video conference equipment, with more people than normal sitting in each office. Perhaps the layoffs in January put the fear of job security in everyone, and they decided the ought to attend these training classes while they still have a job.

The class went off without a hitch. I suppose, in discussing construction specifications, I am in my element. The problem turned out not to be a dearth of material, but going faster than I should so as to fit it all in. But fit it in I did. The feedback from the class was positive, as the many questions indicated they were listening and interested. I was glad I did the class, and felt the usual emotional release when it was over. And, I get getting camera time, something I will need when I go on my televised book tour sometime in the future.

In a related success, my truck was finished and the courtesy van picked me up with a minimum of coordination. I'm $360 dollars poorer, but the maintenance is all up to date. Of course, those $1200 dollars of repairs I put off to another time, including a new clutch desperately needed, still hangs out there.

It's amazing what small successes add up to in terms of hope for the future. I leave the office today hopeful about life for the first time in a couple of weeks. Maybe I'll weather this economic depression without losing my job or having my salary cut further. Maybe I'll eventually obtain a book contract. Maybe I'll get my taxes in well before April 15th and get decent refunds for both state and federal.

Hope. It's an amazing thing.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Power Failure

This morning at work we experienced a brief power failure. This is a blustery day. As I arrived at the office about 6:45 AM the wind was fresh and from the east. By 9:00 AM it was from the south, and the front was almost upon us. Radar showed a line of storms heading our way from the west, likely to last most of the day.

Shortly after I checked the radar on the Internet, our power went out. Only for a second; then it came on for a couple of seconds; then it went off for five seconds; then on again and has stayed on. Just those few seconds, but long enough to cause every computer to have to be re-booted manually, long enough to lose any unsaved data, long enough to cause everyone to get up and walk around in frustration. Whether the power failure was due to the front being upon us, or something else, I'm not sure. We have a large road construction project going on about two miles from the office, but if they did something, we would not have come on so quickly.

I'm experiencing a power failure of sorts myself. Since all the work this weekend, which I described in yesterday's post, which followed close on the work of the previous week and weekend, recovering from the ice storm, I don't seem to have much energy. My weight is down, the lowest it's been since June 2003. Saturday I tried on some slacks that were hanging in my closet but not worn for years, and I fit in all of them. I should have more energy than I do, given that I'm at a better weight, almost 50 pounds below my peak weight of a couple of years ago. So what's wrong?

I have heard it said that toxins are stored in the body's fat, and so losing weight by losing fat will release those toxins. I did some Internet research on this, and while many people make this claim, I couldn't find any expert web site that I felt gave a definitive statement saying this was so. Could the mere act of losing weight at a good clip result in tiredness and sluggishness, regardless of whether toxins are released or not? I'm also fighting an injured right shoulder. I say injured, but I suppose it could be just a severe outbreak of rheumatoid arthritis. It doesn't feel like my rheumatoid usually does, however. It feels like an injury. The pain is almost constant, even when at rest. I've learned to avoid using my right arm when I have to move it at the shoulder, and it seems marginally better since I've gone to this routine. My regular doctor appointment is in a couple of weeks, so I'm hoping I can get by till then and see what he thinks.

Maybe this personal power failure is partially due to economic conditions. Maybe it is partly due to the growing realization of the futility of trying to publish books. Maybe it is another (or two) life circumstances I am dealing with. More likely it is a combination of all of the above.

God, help me out of these doldrums, that I might better serve You in power and boldness.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tatamagovich Trail

This has been a busy weekend. Yesterday, Saturday, we spent a good chunk of time at my mother-in-law's house in Bentonville. We cut limbs that had fallen in the recent ice storm, dragged them to the street, and cut them into 6-foot lengths. The City is supposed to pick them up this week. Then we raked the leaves in the back yard. Well, not all the leaves, but probably 70 percent of them. I took four pickup loads to the compost facility. I would have taken the limbs there too, but the City says they will pick them up.

My pick-up bed holds a lot of leaves in bulk. Raking them on to a tarp, dragging the tarp to the truck, hoisting it up to dump in the bed, then get 'em all out at the other end is work. Years ago, when we lived on NE "J" Street, I would take eight loads of leaves to the compost facility in that pick-up. Now, three loads wear me out.

We rested yesterday evening, and slept in a little this morning since we were having only one church service, at 10:30 AM, and no life groups. This was our annual Upwards Basketball service, held in the gym, and we had a good group of visitors. This is a good outreach program for the church.

After church, we again went by my mother-in-law's house, to meet the man who bought the organ for him to load it and take it away. We loaded a few things in the van to take to our house (which I guess I need to go unload), and headed home.

Except, we decided to stop by the walking train at the north end of Bentonville, close to Bella Vista. We had done that once before, and I was intending on doing about the same walk. However, Lynda wanted to do one of the forested trails. So we took off down the Tatamagovich Trail. Although listed as difficult, we did not find it so. It is narrow, normally only wide enough for one person, and it does go up hill, but the grade is easy. The entire trail is about 2 miles long. We did a mile of it, found an old farm or logging road, and cut back to near the beginning. During all this time we encountered only one person, a mountain biker, who passed us.

It's hard to believe that this trail exists in built-up Bentonville. Kudos to the city planners and officials who put this all together. Kudos to the person who arranged for the city to get this land (purchased or donated, I'm not sure). We enjoyed it, and it's a nice feature for the city and area.

Now, an afternoon nap finished, I'm ready to go tackle The Powers That Be, and see if I can get 40 pages closer to finishing it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Post or Not To Post

I should post today, but I sit here at my computer in the office, 32 minutes before I start my work day, with a mostly detached mind. It's not writer's block, for I can think of twenty things to write about, but none of those seem well enough developed in my thinking to begin writing for public consumption.

My evening writing time for the last three or four weeks has been devoted to the Harmony of the Gospels I've been working on for some years. Right now I'm entering the NIV footnotes (my base text is NIV). This has been a tedious task. Sometimes the footnote will say that it applies to the noted verse and several other numbered verses in the passage. Since I don't have numbered verses, I have to alter the footnote. I began the footnote work with Matthew, then Mark, then Luke, and am now to the 13th chapter of John. With each gospel, as I got to a parallel passage, I found fewer notes to enter, the same footnotes typically applying to the multiple versions of the passage. Also, as I typed much of the unique passages from John, I entered some of the footnotes as I went along. So, tonight I should finish John.

As I entered footnotes, I found a couple of places where I had missed something in the harmonizing. And, I left two or three places up in the air as I did the original work in manuscript, passages that were particularly difficult to blend, or to establish a most probably timeline, so I put them off to a later date. That later date arrives this weekend, it looks like.

Also, one difficult part of harmonizing is knowing how to fit the unique passages in John into the approximate timeline presented by the synoptic gospels. John Chapter 5, for example, a trip to Jerusalem. Where does that go in the synoptics? Assuming John's gospel is chronological and not topical (a dangerous assumption!), all we know is it goes between Jesus' second miracle in Galilee and the feeding of the five thousand. That puts it anywhere between Matthew 4:13 and 14:13, or Mark 1:2 and 6:30, or Luke 4:38 and 9:10--assuming each of those is chronological, again a dangerous assumption. The same can be asked for chapters 7 through 12 in John; where do they fit in?

In general, I followed the chronology suggested in the NIV Life Application Bible. After I was about a third of the way through my original harmonizing, I checked the harmonizing of events in the NIV-LIB, and found that we had exactly agreed up to that point. So from that point on I just followed the NIV-LIB order, rather than develop my own chronology. However, I now think I need to shift John chapter 7 to a later point than I have it. I also need to figure out what to do with Luke 9:51, which seems to upset much of my chronology.

All of this will not likely lead to publication. But it is fun; it stimulates my mind; and should produce something useful for Bible study, even if only for me.

I think, however, when I come to a good stopping point in the Harmony, which I see coming in about two weeks, I will shift back to In Front of Fifty-Thousand Screaming People, and try to finish that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hunkering Down

No, not because of a winter storm. That's what I had to do last week. No, this week I'm hunkering down due to an economic storm.

Last Friday the company I work for laid off about 37 people nationwide. That's small potatoes, you would think, compared to announcements of thousands of layoffs by some companies. But for us, that was 30 percent of our work force. That by itself would not be so startling except this is our forth layoff since November 2006. We peaked, sometime around May 2006, at about 265 people. We are now 105. Not all of that is specific to the economy, at least not directly. A certain good client cancelled a certain program in February 2006, not for economic reasons but for legal reasons, and 25 people were without projects. We hung on for a while without laying off, even still adding staff in key areas, but it couldn't last.

After that, we found obtaining new work increasingly difficult. One client after another decided to build fewer stores--or none at all. We experienced a lot of attrition, and did not replace any of those.

This might not be so bad except we don't know if this is the bottom. Might we go even lower? The economy, to me, looks like it will be in the doldrums until around 2016. Are we at a sustainable staff level, or is another cut in the future?

Oh, I survived and still have a job, but with a 10 percent pay cut, the second cut of that size during these times. The managers took a 15 percent pay cut after a 30 percent cut last time. I work for a good company, well-managed and compassionate. I'm still corporate trainer for engineering, but will have to be taking on more project work.

On a better note, this morning I reached an almost six year low in my weight. Yeah! Of course, with less money to spend for food I shall have to on my dad's diet: water only, and that just to wash in.

Monday, February 2, 2009

February Goals

After my blistering pace last month (just kidding), I'm going to establish fairly moderate goals this month.

1. Blog 10 to 12 times.

2. Monitor the five blogs I've been monitoring on a regular basis.

3. Complete as much of the Harmony of the gospels as I can. This will include:
- All NIV footnotes entered
- Formatting for reading completed
- Introduction written and typed
- Passage notes cleaned up and typed for a few key passages
- Appendixes identified, and one written

4. Market "Mom's Letter" to someone; includes marketing research

5. Attend one critique group session; present a Documenting America column

6. More fully capture, for future development, a couple of Bible study ideas that have recently flittered through my mind and managed to make their way on to a capture list.

7. As time allows, work on my essay on the Resurrection.

The January Report

As always, I begin the new month with a report of how I did last month relative to the goals I set. Here 't'is.

1. Blog 10 to 12 times. I far exceeded this, coming in at 16. Of course, having not met some other goals, maybe I spent too much time here.

2. Complete my review essay of T.B. Macaulay's essay on the History of the Popes. For whatever reason, I did nothing on this at all. I'm not sure why, but after working on this diligently in December, and having only a few paragraphs remaining to finish it, I forgot about it completely.

3. Return to typing the Harmony of the Gospels I wrote in manuscript over a several year period. If I finish the typing this month--and that is easily possible, I can start the editing process next month, including adding a bunch of notes. This I did in a big way. I did indeed finish typing it this month, and proof-read it once and made those corrections. I also began laying out the introductory remarks and the passage notes and appendixes, writing some of them. I also began going through and making sure I had all the NIV footnotes typed and properly referenced. I estimate I'm 60 to 70 percent done with this.

4. Come close to finishing my current reading project, The Powers That Be, by David Halberstam. Only 453 pages to go as of last night. I worked on this, but only on the weekends and not as much as I should have. As of last night I am at page 549, leaving about 180 pages to go.

5. Work on Life On A Yo Yo, which I begin teaching this coming Sunday, as a publishable Bible study. I did a little bit of this. I'm in the midst of teaching it to our adult Life Group, so obviously I'm working on it. I haven't done a whole lot to turn it into a publishable idea, but did some.

6. Monitor five websites regularly.... I did this, even posting a couple of comments and receiving some feedback. I think having narrowed my reading down to these few sites regularly, and a couple of others occasionally, I have reached a doable reading list.

7. Critique 5-10 poems at various places, both public and private. I met this goal, critiquing seven poems publicly and one privately. This feels good, and at a rate sustainable from month to month.

In addition to these, and maybe in place of some, I actually completed some other things related to writing that were not on my to-do list.

8. Attend one critique group meeting, presenting "Mom's Letter" (a short story) and receiving good feedback.

9. Captured some new ideas for Bible studies/small group studies I think I could write.

10. Began research and writing on an essay on the resurrection. This was sparked by a discussion thread at the Absolute Write Christian writing forum, and became a real activity after a little research. I'm not sure where I will go with this, but I like the start. This is engaging my mind right now more than anything.