Sunday, May 31, 2009

The May Report

May was a strange month. The first four days of May I was on a road trip. After that I was faithful to the blog and active in writing. Some time went to genealogy work, consolidating research during the vacation. Writing wise, whatever goals I set at the beginning of May did not come to mind as I worked on various writing tasks. I wrote as the spirit moved me and as the need seemed, perhaps also following the path of least resistance. Now I'll paste in the goals from the earlier post and see how I did.

1. Complete and submit the article to Internet Genealogy. I'm well along with it right now, and I don't see this as a problem. I did this, turning it in a week early.

2. Find 3 to 5 more places to submit "Mom's Letter". The research is done; I just have to make copies and stuff envelopes. I did this, settling on three more places to send it to and doing so.

3. Blog 12 to 14 times. Did this with no problem.

4. Work on one appendix and one chapter note of the Harmony of the gospels. I did half of this. I have one appendix about 80 percent done. I did not, however, work on any passage notes.

5. Write one chapter in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I worked on this--today, actually. I didn't come close to finishing a chapter, but it felt good to get back to this.

6. Complete preparation for my two lesson Bible study, Good King, Bad King. It looks now that I won't be teaching it in May, or any time soon. But I've done the research and development, and would like to have it ready on the shelf for some time in the future when I do teach it. Hmmm, did I do this? I got lots of stuff done, and I could probably teach it tomorrow if I had to, but I did not really "complete" it. Complete for teaching it myself, yes. But not complete for a publishable Bible study.

7. Write some closing notes to the Life on a Yo Yo Bible study, perhaps even some promotional items to make it a potentially publishable work, and decide what to do with it. Well, I failed at this one. I don't think I even looked at LOAYY this month. I finished teaching it last month, leaving the final lesson to my co-teacher while I was gone. I guess I'll put this down as a goal for next month.

See you tomorrow for some goal setting.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Everyone's gone. The kids left with Ephraim about 3:00 PM on Monday. My mother-in-law left about 6:00 PM Monday. It's back to me and Lynda again. Last night was quiet. After a supper of Sonic burgers on half-price night, I tried to balance the checkbook (off by $0.36, which I'll find tonight) then went walking, about a mile and a quarter. Lynda didn't join me, as she is still recovering from the effects of the stomach virus that hit her over the weekend. Then I entered about a month of finances in my budget spreadsheet. I was a good boy, and didn't allow myself to check e-mail, work on writing stuff, or play any computer games until I had finances up to date. The checkbook is only part of it. Then read in Team of Rivals from about 10:30 to midnight, getting my ten pages read to the backdrop of a Clint Eastwood movie. Not the best way to read history, or get your needed sleep.

But I'm kind of wondering what normalcy is any more. As I've said before, I'm now working for about 68 percent of what I was making a little over a year ago, with no hope of any raises anytime soon unless I change jobs, something I don't want to do; now is not the time. But I see some deflationary signs. Our weekly half gallon of milk costs 82 percent of what it did a year ago. The grocery bill has dropped some, maybe 10 percent. Our prescriptions continue to trend down just a little bit. Gas is going back up, but is still well below where it was when the salary cuts began. And we got rid of one car (that Charles had but wasn't using), so insurance will go down.

Inflation is not gone, however, and I've had two recent negative hits to the budget, one small, one big. The small one is the cable TV/Internet access bill, which just went up 3.22 percent. How can they justify this increase when times are so hard? The other is our mortgage, which went up a whopping $120 dollars due to an escrow deficiency. This is due to the imposition of city taxes. We voted to incorporate as a city (sorry all you Rhode Islanders who have no idea what I'm talking about, but we have territory out here that is in the county but not in a city; so were we until) November 2006, and the resulting City property taxes are now kicking in. So we have to pay. And I'm good with that; I voted in favor of incorporation. It's still a big budget hit, however.

So I'm kind of looking at my new move into freelance writing from a different perspective: not just to build a writer's platform and demonstrate literary competence, but also generate a little income. Emphasis on little, because in two hours a night and more time on the weekend, I'm not going to earn much. Still, if I could get an average of $100 a month, which is probably within reach, I would make up for that budget-busting mortgage.

Is this the new normal? Rather than pursue writing withing the abundance of my day job, to now pursue it via the freelance route as a near economic necessity? Perhaps that's a good thing. I can quit playing and become more serious. Time will tell.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We Remember

Everyone is gone now. Richard, Sara and Ephraim packed up and headed west a couple of hours ago. My mother-in-law is about to head back to her place in Bentonville. Lynda is in bed with a stomach flue. The kids brought it from Oklahoma City and we have all had it in succession (except me; my time may yet be coming). That put the damper on weekend activities, as did the rain. But we weren't planning on cooking outside, so all it did was keep us from taking walks.

Yesterday I was called on to teach life group since my co-teacher was called in to work. I also had to start of the class with announcements, prayer requests and praises, etc. One of the things we normally try to do is have something humorous prepared to read. When Marion did this I called it "Marion's words of wisdom." Now that I generally do it I call it "Totally useless information."

Yesterday, however, I gave them some statistics that were not useless, and in fact were quite important. Here they are.

American Revolution...25,324

War of 1812....................2,260

Mexican War................13,283

Civil War.....................498,332

Spanish American War..3,289

World War 1................116,708

World War 2...............407,316

Korean War..................54,246

Vietnam War................58,159

Persian Gulf War...............200

Afghanistan War..............610 and counting

Iraq War.......................3,915 and counting

All statistics are approximate, based on the best sources I could find.

We remember the sacrifice.

And to those families who are represented by these statistics, we thank you for your gift to the nation.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My home has been invaded... family!

Wednesday night our daughter and son-in-law came in from Oklahoma City, bringing their son Ephraim with them, of course. My mother-in-law came out from Bentonville to stay with us, so we have much more than our normal quiet household of two aging baby boomers.

We baby-sat Ephraim last night while the kids went off to Eureka Springs for a belated anniversary celebration and time away. They'll just be gone a night, coming back late today. Sara has high school class reunion over the weekend. So they will stay till Sunday or Monday.

Ephraim was a delight last night. Now a year and two weeks old, he's not quite walking yet but does an amazingly fast crawl. We had baby-proofed the house somewhat, and got a bunch of toys out to keep him busy. It worked, and he didn't spend too much time trying to get where he shouldn't. He is a little too interested in the lap-top computer, but understands "no" and stops when you tell him to. He was kind of fussy when we put him to bed, and Lynda got him up for a late night snack. After that he was fine and we didn't hear a peep out of him. Well, at 4:00 AM he let out a single cry, but we left him alone and he went back to sleep.

I got some great pictures of him last night. I'll try to get them downloaded tonight and added to this post, and make another out of them.

I'm afraid I didn't get much writing done over the last two days.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Lot To Chew

I'm currently reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I picked this up in hardback very cheap from somewhere. It is a loooooonnnngggg book, over 900 pages. Last August I put this at this point in my reading pile, after Burnt Sienna by David Morrell, wanting to alternate between non-fiction and fiction. As I built my pile from books purchased in the first half of 2008, I didn't worry about every other book being fiction, non-fiction, fiction, etc., just so long as I was getting a mixture between them. I also wanted to spread out books on history, or biography, by Christian writers and secular writers, on writing helps and other things.

So Team of Rivals came up next. I love history. I love Lincoln. I love things that appear as if they will be scholarly. This is a perfect book for me, and following the easy read I just finished, and the easy one before that, it is time to read something a little harder. But over 900 pages? Of fairly small text, with few illustrations and not a whole lot of white space?

I flipped through the book on Saturday and Sunday, and read the Introduction. It turns out much of the end of the book is index and notes. In fact, the epilogue of the book ends at page 754. So I figured twelve pages a day average will make this a two-month read. And, if I can find a bit more time on the weekends, perhaps a mere seven weeks.

This is complicated by my coming up on a busy time at work, some additional travel to see the kids or for them to come and see us, and the need to spend some more time on things around the house. So I may be optimistic on averaging twelve pages a day.

In fact, after three days of reading I know I'm optimistic. I'm at page 34, but the actual text started on page 5. The subject matter is such that I'll have to have complete quiet; I won't be able to read it while Lynda has the television on, at least not read it for true comprehension. And I don't see any point in reading for half comprehension.

So I eat this elephant one bite at a time. I may find I have to put it aside for a while, read something simpler, then come back to it. Next in the pile is a harmony of the gospels, which might aid in my current writing. After that is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Both of those promise to be easier reading, so I may read them in parallel with Team of Rivals and see how that goes. Perhaps all three by the end of the summer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Once again, in my morning read of John Wesley's letters, I came across something that struck me. This is the closing paragraph to a letter.

And now, the advice I would give upon the whole is this: First, pray earnestly to God for clear light; for a full, piercing, and steady conviction that this is the more excellent way. Pray for a spirit of universal self-denial, of cheerful temperance, of wise frugality; for bowels of mercies; for a kind, compassionate spirit, tenderly sensible of the various wants of your brethren; and for firmness of mind, for a mild, even courage, without fear, anger, or shame. Then you will once more, with all readiness of heart, make this little (or great) sacrifice to God; and withal present your soul and body a living sacrifice, acceptable unto God through Jesus Christ.

Well, very inspiring words! What, you ask, was the little (or great) sacrifice being asked of someone that inspired Wesley to write as he did? What great spiritual adventure was one of his correspondents about to embark on? In fact, it was nothing more than weather or not to drink strong green tea.

Yes, that's it. Wesley, through twenty or more years of practice, had learned that tea disagreed with his body. When he drank tea, he was a nervous wreck; his hands shook. When he quit drinking tea, his nervous system was fine. His correspondent (who is not named) in this December 10, 1748 letter, had apparently questioned Wesley's motive for not only quitting tea but encouraging others to do so as well. Wesley laid out in 4,500-word detail his reasons for himself and anyone else to do this: health and frugality. He anticipated and answered objections that could be raised.

Such a discussion today would involve different substances, but might be just as relevant. Wesley said cutting out tea and drinking cheaper liquids--water and milk--allowed for greater administration of Christian charity. Even when dining at another's house, requesting water instead of tea allowed the host to have more money to support the poor. Whether that host did or not was not the concern of the person who had to make the choice to drink the tea as offered. Much of the discussion concerned giving offense. Would the Christian, laying off tea for reasons of health and frugality possibly offend his host? Wesley described how to follow conscious and not give offense.

So what today is affecting my health and my ability to give more to charity? I could name a number of items. But I prefer to just dwell on Wesley's words, and realize that this sacred message was really about the most secular of activities. Wesley sure tied the two together, reminding me that those who say we can compartmentalize our lives (the sacred now, the secular later, etc.) are probably wrong. The secular things we do affect our spiritual life, and the the sacred things carry through to the secular.

That's not an earth-shattering revelation. Such is part of the baby's milk for the Christian. Yet, being reminded of it is a good thing, and Wesley said it so well. "Pray for a spirit of universal self-denial, of cheerful temperance, of wise frugality; for bowels of mercies; for a kind, compassionate spirit, tenderly sensible of the various wants of your brethren; and for firmness of mind, for a mild, even courage, without fear, anger, or shame."

Going to do so.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review: Burnt Sienna, by David Morrell

On Friday I finished Burnt Sienna, 2000, Warner Books, ISBN 0-446-51964-2, a novel by David Morrell. This is the second of Morrell's novels I've read. The first was The Totem. That was a medical thriller. This was...I'm not sure what genre to put it in. A thriller, I guess.

Chase Malone had been a soldier, having piloted helicopters in the Panama invasion of 1989 and come away from that scarred. Yes, he was wounded, but more importantly he wound up with a dislike for authority of any type. Thus he left the military and took up painting--not houses, as a landscape artist. In ten years he won some renown, and some collectors would pay as much as $200,000 for one of his works. He lived in Cozumel, right on the ocean.

Derek Bellasar, who lived in France, tried to hire him to paint two painting of his wife, one a facial shot and one a nude. Malone turned down the commission, because of his problems with authority. Malone didn't know Bellasar was a powerful dealer in illegal munitions. Bellasar quickly began interfering in Malone's life, closing his favorite restaurant and buying his property out from under him. One of Malone's ex-army buddies showed up. Now working for the CIA, this man talked Malone into accepting the commission, going to Bellasar's estate near Nice, France, and finding out more about his operation.

The other part of Malone's assignment was to get Bellasar's wife out of the compound. It seemed that Bellasar had had three prior wives, all as beautiful as the current one, named Sienna, but they all died in mysterious circumstances about the age of 30, when the bloom of youthful beauty first began to fade. Right before each of them died Bellasar had hired famous artists to paint them, facial and nude.

The story began somewhat predictably. I found myself trying to anticipate the plot (the curse of a wannabe novelist) and being successful at it. I predicted Malone would fall for Sienna, that he would get her out, and how he would get her out. However, all this happened by about the middle of the book; obviously I had miscalculated. Morrell continued to weave his story, giving additional predicaments for Malone to work his way out of. I won't say much more so as to not give away more of the plot.

The book is an amazingly easy read. Chapters are short, typically two or three pages. Sometimes a chapter break is not even a scene break. Morrell's writing is spare of excess verbiage, except perhaps in some of the weapons scene. He keeps the story moving. He keeps the plot twists coming. He avoids gratuitous sex and violence. I read it in a little over a week, despite the limited time I had to give to reading. The twenty-five pages a day I had set as a goal was too easy, and I did more than that most days.

I recommend this book to any who like thrillers. It has a few swear words, but it they are sprinkled in very naturally, not gratuitously at all.

Friday, May 15, 2009

4:20 PM, Friday Afternoon

This has been a full and busy day.

Work wise, I completed the base work on the Little Osage Creek Flood Study. That is, I:

- entered new rainfall data into the hydrology model for the 10-, 50-, 100-, and 500-year rainfall events, and re-ran the run-off calculations. Since I hadn't run the 500-year before, I had to make adjustments in the overflow structures of eleven detention ponds. By noon, I had a successful run-off model.
- entered the new run-off values into the hydraulics model and re-ran the flood calculations. This was successful at about 3:50 PM. That doesn't mean I'm quite done with this. I still need to run two phases of ditch improvements and one major future condition, but the hard work is done. Oh, and I still need to write the report, fill out the FEMA forms, and submit it. But with the work today, I consider the hard part done.

I also helped a man in the office with construction site problems.

Personal work wise, I:

- Proofread my article for Internet Genealogy; found a few changes to make; typed the changes; printed the article; proof-read it (in one uninterrupted sitting); found a few more changes to make; typed them; proof-read it and saw it was where I wanted it to be; and e-mailed it to the editor. The article still is not quite finished, because...
- I once again called the professor I wanted to interview for the article, and once again had to leave a message. I've found a work-around in case I can't get a hold of him.
- Mailed my mother-in-law's income taxes. "So late?" you ask. Yes. She doesn't owe anything, they don't owe her anything, she probably doesn't even need to file at her income level, so yes, quite late, but it's done for this year.
- Walked a mile on the noon hour.

I approach the end of a day of great accomplishment that made the whole week worthwhile, and somewhat made up for my inefficiencies of the last two weeks, and the two weeks before vacation. I have only 22 pages to go on my reading book, which I will finish tonight and write my review over the weekend. Next in the reading pile is Team Of Rivals, which I am looking forward to. I'm fairly close to finishing the edits on the John Cheney file that I've been plodding through a little each night for the last week and a half. I'll surely have them done by Sunday afternoon, after which I'll print and file it, file accumulated genealogy papers and clean up my mess in the Dungeon. Hopefully I'll put genealogy behind me for a while and figure out what to write next. Probably it will be one or two appendixes on the Harmony of the Gospels. Possibly it will be a chapter or two of In Front of 50000 Screaming People. I'll also consider working on queries for other articles, or fleshing out proposals for the Bible studies I've been working on recently.

Too many choices; too little time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Joys of the Day

This morning, before work, after reading for a few enjoyable minutes in John Wesley's letters, I had some additional time to do some genealogy work. So I went to the digital library of Brigham Young University (which I discovered only yesterday) and did some more experimentation on how to use the site. I searched for John Cheney, Lynda's immigrant ancestor on her paternal line, going back to Newbury Massachusetts in 1636 and in Lawford and Mistley, Essexshire, England before that. The search in the "family history collection" returned 33 hits, which I began going through. Some I recognized. Oh, and I admit to taking some work time on this, not starting my business day right at straight up 8 AM. I shall have to make up some time.

One of the hits was a 100 page (approx.) typed manuscript dealing with Cheney families in England. It turned out it was mainly concerned with John Cheney's English origins. While it did not have the full source citations it needs to have to be fully credible, it's about the best document on the subject I've seen, and worthy of further study. So genealogy was a joy today.

Work was pretty good too. I spent two hours (in two different sessions) with a department head in our office who has a very difficult construction project. I've spent much time with him already on this project, but he had two new issues come up that he wanted to get my input on. Such a discussion is good, and enjoyable. I think we worked out the best possible response for him to make. Then it was off to Centerton to deal with the flood study that has plagued me for so long, and resolving one nagging question on the site topography. I've dreaded getting back on it, but cannot wait any longer. I finished writing a difficult specification today (another joy), and so I have non-distracted time I can put into this project and get it done. That would be a joy. Oh, wait, I have another one for the City I'll have to do when I finish this one. At least it is a much simpler flood study. I did the complicated one first.

I left work more or less on time (I'll make up my time another day) and went to the Bentonville library. Time in a library is always a joy. To be around thousands of books and a hundred different magazines, people studying, librarians working--that's where I love to be. The hour passed all too quickly, but I found a magazine I might be able to pitch an article to.

Church was enjoyable, a Bible study in Daniel chapter 8.

Now here at home, I read twenty pages in the book I'm working on. Less than 60 pages to go, and it has been an enjoyable read. Now I'm in the Dungeon, on the computer. I worked 30 minutes on the current genealogy project, then this.

How much much joy can a day contain? If it weren't for having robbed my employer of some time. That was the only blot on the day. Well, buying some chips too. But all in all, I wish all my days were like this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spiritual Guidance From John Wesley

As I continue to spend a few minutes most workday mornings in the letters of John Wesley, I find them a curious mixture. Some of them are for business, about houses rented for chapels and where preachers should be assigned. Some of them are for doctrine and church practices. These tend to be very long and difficult to unravel. Often they take the form of: "You wrote 'this', to which I replied 'this'; then you wrote 'this', and I now say this. You would have to have the letters of the other correspondent to truly understand.

But letters of spiritual guidance have, thus far in my reading, been mostly lacking. Until yesterday, when I read a letter Wesley wrote to John Haime, who was either in the army or recently discharged and was a Methodist lay preacher. Here's what Wesley wrote on June 21, 1748.

Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which God hath seen good to try you with. Indeed, the chastisement for the present is not joyous, but grievous; nevertheless it will by-and-by bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness. It is good for you to be in the fiery furnace; though the flesh be weary to bear it, you shall be purified therein, but not consumed; for there is one with you whose form is as the Son of God. O look up! Take knowledge of Him who spreads underneath you His everlasting arms! Lean upon Him with the whole weight of your soul. He is yours; lay hold upon Him.

No one likes to undergo trials, certainly not trials of enough severity they can be called "fiery". But fire purifies, so if one approaches the trial with the right attitude and fortitude, the result will be beneficial.

I suppose this also applies to the trials that cannot be described as fiery, the everyday trials that seem bad for a moment but which really aren't. Such as the driver of the black Kia in front of me, like me poised to turn right at the red light, but who was so timid he/she didn't take advantage of three or four good gaps to pull out onto Walton Boulevard. Thus my commute was 20 or 30 seconds longer this morning. I called that driver a couple of names (fairly mild; nothing I couldn't say in front of the wife). It made me feel good for a moment, but bad afterward.

I missed a refining moment this morning. Perhaps it will return today. O look up! Take knowledge of Him who spreads underneath me His everlasting arms! Lean upon Him with the whole weight of my soul. He is mine; lay hold upon Him.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A re-look at salt

Our pastor is preaching a series of sermons on the Beatitudes. Since our Life Group just finished a lesson series and had not yet decided on our next series, we (my co-teacher and I) decided to do a series on the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. I get to sit back and listen to my co-teacher on this one.

We began yesterday, looking at Matthew 5:13-16, the salt and light passage. This got me thinking about salt, and what its uses are:

- as a flavoring ingredient. Salt is the king of spices, the one we use too much of, but oh how good it tastes! I have a habit of shaking just a little too hard and a little too long. Supposedly salt brings out the natural flavor of the food, but I wouldn't swear to that. Obviously, too much salt makes for bad taste; too little salt makes for bland taste.

- as a preservative. Before refrigeration, salt was used often to preserve meats and other foods. In North Carolina, a friend of ours cured hams in his shed. The meat hung there in all seasons. He went out on a regular schedule and did his salt thing with the hams. We ate some at his house, and it was good, salty but still tasty. I'm sure there was a technique he knew about the right amount of salt to use. Too much would have made it unpalatable; too little would have allowed the meat to spoil.

- as a healing agent. Yes, despite the talk of "salt in the wound", salt actually has healing properties. On board navy vessels, when someone was flogged, the washed the wounds with salt water. That 3 percent salt solution helped the wounds heal. Many other uses of salt are documented. Now, if you put pure salt in the wounds, I imagine that would have a negative effect.

So in all of these, salt is most effective in a certain dose. Too little is ineffective; too much is either bad to taste or unhealthy.

Perhaps this should speak to us about our Christian walk and witness. Our walk has to be pure, but our witness does not have to be the entire salt shaker poured out on every person we come in contact with. The right amount of witness will be attractive, and will build the kingdom.

Or so it seems from my perspective.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Going Back Again

Last week I was in Rhode Island for the first time in almost five years. Visits there are less frequent now that Dad is gone. Then we went every couple of years to see him (and when we were overseas we made Boston our port of entry and Cranston, Rhode Island our home base for visits to the States), but now it takes a wedding, a funeral, or a business trip to get us east of Chicago. Not many of those come up.

This was the longest time between RI visits for me. Perhaps it was this length of absence, but Rhode Island almost seemed a foreign place. Of course there is the language barrier--accents that are strange after years in the midwest, overseas, south, and for the last eighteen years the border between the south and the midwest, but it's more than that. Place names are mostly familiar, but not roads. Does RI 37 have an interchange at Pontiac Avenue? I wasn't sure, but took a chance and it turned out it did. Does this city street extend from Pontiac to Reservoir? I didn't think so, so I accessed it via Pontiac. Turned out I was right again. But the memories were weak, more instinct based on years of learning how cities and streets develop than memory.

I could write much more about this, but have little time to do so. The visit to the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried brought familiar scenes to the fore, a mixture of pleasantness and loss. The trees surrounding Birch Garden in Highland Memorial Park were larger, but it seemed many must have died, for it was not as grown up as I remember it from 1997.

The URI campus was much changed, a mix of familiar and new. Trees bigger. Traffic patterns changed. Frats and Sororities in places I didn't remember, but with buildings obviously old enough to have been there when I was. The lay of the land and topography seemingly new. New athletic facilities that seemed so large they must have been a waste of taxpayer money. I found I only remembered an axis from Butterfield dormitory to the Student Union and the quad and on to Bliss Hall (the civil engineering building), but little else. Even the streets I used to ride my bicycle on to get to work in Wakefield seemed different. The second dorm I stayed in (only for one semester) I couldn't have picked out. Maybe if I was on foot, but not from a car.

The years have flowed by, like water in a pipe. Life has taken me down paths I never would have guessed, though the work of my career has turned out quite similar to what I decided on my junior year of high school. Last night Lynda and I were discussing the mini-reunion I had with friends in Cranston last week. That led me to take my senior yearbook from the shelf and spend almost an hour in it, something I haven't done for probably three decades. So many of the faces were foreign to me, even some of those who signed at their picture. I knew that person? How? It says we were in band together (or English or Chemistry or football or track), but I just don't remember them. For a lot of years I have limited my ready recall to just those few I was closest to. Maybe that's how most people do it.

Hopefully I'll be back in RI new year for my 40th high school reunion. About 680 graduated from Cranston East in 1970. Per actuarial tables, most of us should still be alive, though not all will actually attend. Will seeing people in the flesh bring back the memories? I kind of hope so.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Trying to Re-focus

The problem with a vacation is it throws you off your rhythm. When you get back, you have to re-establish your habits, patterns, and practices in all areas of life. At work this week, I've been so un-focused on what I need to get done that, instead of CEI paying me, they should charge me for taking up space. Before vacation, I was having a difficult time concentrating at work. I think my desire to complete my work is higher, so from the aspect of rest and relaxation the vacation was a success. Now I just need to work on focusing on what I need to do.

As far as writing and things I need to do around the house, same thing. I have worked very little on my article, very little on such mundane things as paying the bills, working on my budget planning and recording, or household chores. Hopefully I'll be back to normal on those soon.

The last two nights I managed to get my reading re-focused. The next book in my reading pile was Burnt Sienna, a novel by David Morrell. I had trouble starting it, however, allowing myself to be distracted by the two books of letters I recently purchased (Tolkien and C.S. Lewis). But Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I spend time in Burt Sienna. I'm not 52 pages into this 379 page book. It's an easy read, and is holding my interest well.

However, I have found it easy to focus on genealogy--sort of. I'm working on my Events in the Life of John Cheney, who is my wife's immigrant ancestor to Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s. I have that document quite well along, up to nine pages. My library research in Milford and Fort Wayne turned up some new information about him, however, so I'm adding those events. At the same time, I'm gong through each of over 100 citations and footnotes to correct errors in the way I first entered them. It is quite tedious, with much re-typing needed. My focus hasn't been perfect, however, and I still get much distracted from the task at hand.

All of which leads me to question the effectiveness of vacations for all people. For me, while the rest and relaxation are good, the loss of routine is bad. All in all, I'd rather be in my routines than off resting.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Biggest Loser

Well, our contest at work is over. We began it January 5th with about 20 people. Some of those quit the program; some were laid off. We limped to the finish line yesterday with 10 remaining participants. I had been in the lead since week seven, and had slowly widened that lead--well, I really widened it the week I had food poisoning, but that didn't last. However, the eleven day road trip didn't do much for me, even doing isometric exercises while driving. I came back from vacation up about five pounds. So I was worried.

Then, the man who is coordinating the contest sent out an e-mail saying that, due to inconsistencies in how everyone had been weighing, we were to make our final weigh-in with shoes off and pockets empty. I had been emptying my pockets, but not taking off my shoes. That clinched it for me. I came in first, with 7.01% weight loss in the seventeen weeks. I could have done better, but I'll take it. The prise is a day off with pay, something I don't really need but will figure out how to use.

Now comes phase two, losing the next 52 pounds to get to the upper end of my ideal weight range. I'd like to be down 25 pounds more by the end of the year, and hopefully cross the next milestone weight by the end of this month.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May Goals

The 5th is a little late to be setting goals for the month, but this is the first chance I've had.

1. Complete and submit the article to Internet Genealogy. I'm well along with it right now, and I don't see this as a problem.

2. Find 3 to 5 more places to submit "Mom's Letter". The research is done; I just have to make copies and stuff envelopes.

3. Blog 12 to 14 times.

4. Work on one appendix and one chapter note of the Harmony of the gospels.

5. Write one chapter in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People.

6. Complete preparation for my two lesson Bible study, Good King, Bad King. It looks now that I won't be teaching it in May, or any time soon. But I've done the research and development, and would like to have it ready on the shelf for some time in the future when I do teach it.

7. Write some closing notes to the Life on a Yo Yo Bible study, perhaps even some promotional items to make it a potentially publishable work, and decide what to do with it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The April Report

The month began well, but as can be expected when vacation comes in that month, it did not end all that well.

1. Market "Mom's Letter" to at least five markets. Some of the markets I've selected close to submissions in May, so I have to get that done this month. I accomplished this goal, sending "Mom's Letter" to exactly five markets. Haven't heard anything yet, of course.

2. Begin work on "It's Over Over Here", my article on Dad's work with The Stars and Stripes during World War 2. Even if I don't get the assignment from the magazine, I'd like to write the article. Did not do this. Too many other writing activities took precedence.

3. Complete the beta reading project I've committed to. I was doing good on this before my illness, and before tax diversion. I'm 2/3 of the way through this short, young adult novel. I can do this this month. Yes, I completed this. The project was interesting, reading and critiquing a novel whose target audience is teen age girls. Hopefully I did some good.

4. Write at least one chapter of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I outlined seven chapters last month; surely I can get one of those written. Nope, did not do this; it didn't even come up on the radar.

5. Blog 12 to 14 times. This seems to be the thing that is easiest for me, so I'll bump up my goal a little this month. Yes, I blogged 14 times.

6. Monitor five writing blogs/web sites. This is also easy, and I'm learning much from these sites. I also did this monitoring, something that's easy to do a day at a time. I have some catching up to do from vacation.

7. Complete the political essay I started on the Baby Boomer generation, and post it to The Senescent Man blog. I'm almost halfway done with this. I completed this, and posted it in four segments at "The Senescent Man" blog. BTW, we three main contributors to "The Senescent Man" got together in real live last Tuesday in Cranston, RI, along with another man, all friends from college, some from high school, some from junior high, and some even from grade school.

8. Get back to writing, at least a little, on the notes and appendixes of the Harmony of the Gospels. I'd like to spend about an hour a week on this, which will give me continued progress by inches. I looked at this a little bit, but did not come even close to spending an hour a week on it. Last month I gave a copy of the work as it stands to my pastor, who told me he is enjoying it, and is anxious to see those appendixes.

Random Road Trip Thoughts

That's random thoughts from a road trip, not thoughts on a random road trip, by the way. We returned yesterday after 3,700 plus miles, going to Oklahoma City (for grandson Ephraim's first birthday party) by way of Rhode Island (for nephew Chris' wedding). Here are some thoughts as I think of them.

- Arkansas has the most road kill per mile, by far. I say this even though only about 50 miles of the trip were in Arkansas.

- Gas prices are fairly equal from Oklahoma to New England. The lowest I saw was $1.779 per gallon around the Tulsa area. The most $2.099 in Rhode Island. That's only an 18 percent difference. In 1990-91, when we made a couple of similar road trips between North Carolina and Arkansas, the price varied by more than 50 percent.

- Many New England towns are quaint and pleasant to drive through. The area between Worcester MA and Woonsocket RI is filled with towns such as Grafton, Upton, Uxbridge, Milford, and Sutton that have some type of central core (not so much a village green as a downtown, but different than the downtowns in the midwest) that is full of old buildings--churches, government offices, retail, residential--that are pleasant to drive by and observe. At several places I would have loved to have had the time to stop and wander around on foot.

- Rhode Island has the worst roads of any state we drove in. The Interstate highways were fine, but the roads a notch below that, the state highways, left much to be desires, and the city streets were generally awful.

- Pennsylvania may just be the most beautiful state in the nation. I know other states have higher mountains, more magnificent rivers, and mixtures of landscape and climate. But I love to drive I-80 across Pennsylvania. This is the Allegheny mountains much of the way, and pretty good sized hills for the rest. You don't go through any towns or cities until the far eastern end, which we bypassed this time. Many times the road is on high bridges that tower above a river or stream below. Frequently the east-bound and west-bound lanes are on different grades, and you seem to be on a one way road. We took this in daylight both directions, and I enjoyed the 10 hours thoroughly.

- Judging by the truck traffic, the economic depression is not too deep. Except, the traffic is down on weekends and at nights compared to previous road trips I've taken. So while many trucks still transport their cargo on our Interstate highways, they are not pushing as hard as the did previously. Perhaps I'll be proved wrong about being in a depression that will last approximately eight years. But I'm not throwing in the towel on that yet.

- It's good to get off the Interstates some. We did so at Toledo, where we spent a night, and went on state highways to Fort Wayne. Aside from being confused by the place names (in rapid succession we passed through or saw signs for Waterville--also a Vermont town we know--Grand Rapids--Ohio, not Michigan--Texas, Florida, Antwerp, and three or four similar well-known places not expected in northwest Ohio), and besides fighting rain, we enjoyed the brief chance to drive at slower speeds and see a new part of the country up close. Even being slowed down to pass through the towns was not all that bad.

- The genealogy section in the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is all it is cracked up to be. What a fantastic collection! I planned to spend an hour there, doing the small bit of research needed for my article, and wound up spending nearly six hours, as Lynda had some work to do there for renewing her nursing license. Since I hadn't planned for that much time I was not well prepared for it, but hopefully used it well to search for one elusive line of ancestors and find more information on one of my well-studied ones.

This post is long enough already. I'll have more to day in another post or two.