Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Now I just have the church parking lot rehab project to fill my time. I've made at least one trip a day to view the work (2.7 miles each way from my office), even with a full time, volunteer inspector to assist me. Still lots of things I need to make decisions on. And the work has really just begun. The next two days they will be putting a temporary gravel finish to the part they have repaired so that on Easter Sunday the lot will be reasonably serviceable.
Then there's the parking situation. I decided to arrive at church an half hour early last Sunday, to make sure parking attendants were present and knowing what to do. Only one was there (we need five to do it right) and he really wasn't able to figure it out. So I stayed out there all the first service and a short time into Life Group hour, working the lot mostly by myself. Tonight it turned out we had the same thing. Two guys had responded to the call for volunteers, but they just stood together at the drive we didn't want people to come in and chatted, occasionally waving people down to the alley entrance, while I worked the whole parking lot alone.
And I don't mind helping in this way. But couldn't those guys understand that their ministry was to help people park their cars, given that the construction has caused us to use unfamiliar entrances and traffic patterns? We didn't need two guys standing together. We needed them spread out, helping people. It seems no one knows how to serve, no one knows how to use their common sense.
Oh, well, I shouldn't write when I'm frustrated, nor when I'm emotionally and physically tired. I think I'll go upstairs and read. If I can concentrate. I guess I'll get to Easter Sunday services an hour early, cause the two things I can be sure of is a) the volunteer attendants won't get there early enough, and b) once they do show up they won't have the common sense to spread out, work together, and minister to those who only want to park and enjoy Easter services.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
"A year." That in itself speaks volumes.
Oh, well. But to what do I ascribe this failure? I'm wondering if the uber-objective viewpoint required by Suite101.com has caused be to think only in that mode and have trouble with the personal point of view and with creative writing. That's a possibility. Or maybe I really want to write college essays rather than creative pieces. That's a possibility. Or maybe I just don't have it. Whether or not I turn out to be the hero of my writing career...blah, blah, blah.
Oh, well. Tonight, being in a bachelor mode with Lynda in OKC, I went to Barnes & Noble after work. I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and last time I was there didn't find anything I really had to have. Tonight I picked up a remainders copy of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters. Six hundred and eight-six glorious pages of his letters, plus index; a fair number of footnotes, and I love footnotes. This will be enjoyable reading for me, even given ACD's spirituality issues. Into the reading pile with it; should get to it in late 2011.
I also looked in three writing magazines and culled some ideas. I'm wondering now how to approach my freelancing, or if I should just go back to novel and Bible study writing and see what I can do there. The good news is I made a whole $0.30 at Suite101 on Tuesday. Two tanks of gas per year for 72,000 words. Either I'm crazy or obsessed.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I'm not done with my taxes. Made little progress over a snowy weekend, but made excellent progress last night. So I now feel comfortable taking an evening to write things I enjoy, such as a book review of How Now Shall We Live? by Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcy [Tyndale House Publishers, 1999, ISBN 0-8423-1808-9]. I finished reading this on March 9, after having begun it Feb 11. I took a couple of more days to go through some of the notes that I skipped while reading, then brought it to the Dungeon to write my review. It sat docilely on my work table awaiting this day.
I picked this book up used, for $1.99, at some used book store. I bought it more because of Coulson's name and having liked the two or three of his books I've read before. I didn't really know what it was about, even from a little bit of reading on the dust jacket. It's about world view, specifically Christian worldview. So it agrees with a buzz-word topic of the 00 decade.
The book was somewhat heavy to get through, despite Coulson's and Pearcy's attempts at lightness and levity. Points of what a Christian world view consists of are illustrated with personal stories, both true and made-up, of people who lived out certain points: the New York cop who walked a beat and made a difference as he modeled Christ to those he encountered (true); a Hollywood producer who had to make choices about his films (fictional); and others.
Those were good. Actually, there's nothing wrong with the rest of the book. Coulson explains that everyone has a worldview, and that worldview must answer three primary questions:
Where did we come from and who are we?
What has gone wrong with the world?
What can we do to fix it?
This leads into the section titled per the book: How now shall we live (i.e., in response to answers to the first three questions)? Coulson and Pearcy do an excellent job presenting the Christian answers to the three primary questions, and backing those answers up with a variety of references, both scriptural and extra-scriptural.
The book has extensive notes, which serve as a sort of reference to the Christian worldview. In fact, the entire book is almost a reference book, rather than a reading book. Oh, you can't just jump into the middle, find a subject, and expect to use the book in refuting arguments against non-Christian worldviews--that is, unless you've already read the book. If you have, then you can use it as a pure reference book, with the excellent notes, index, and bibliography.
I will come back another day and write some more about this, as I don't think I've done it justice. It's 491 pages of text (plus notes, bibliography, and index) are, as I've said before, a bit difficult to sit with and read it cover to cover. But I'll give my standard wrap-up in this post, and save a more detailed analysis for another day. This book was definitely worth the price, and would have been at full price. It's a keeper, and shall be permanently in my library among its Christian counterparts. If you have not read much on worldview, this would be an excellent book to start with. Read it with concentration, and unhurriedly.
I would write more, but I'm anxious to write several other things tonight, including a political piece on friend Chuck's blog. The wife went to OKC today to help with daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. I went straight from work to critique group tonight, but was the only one to show up. Must have had my signals crossed. Now I must use the solitude wisely.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
But I find this all consuming. Monday-Tuesday it took up the whole evening. I skipped church tonight (well, truck trouble had something to do with that) to do the taxes. I had one more thing to do to finish figuring the stock trading income, something that should have taken me all evening. However, I started it and five minutes into it realized the answer I was working towards was right there on the Fidelity brokerage statement. To be sure I contacted Fidelity, and the rep confirmed it. What I thought would take four hours took fifteen minutes.
With my evening thus relieved, I should have knuckled down and gotten to the expense side of the business taxes. However, my wind wafted into reading land. I went upstairs, cooked a simple vegetable supper, read some pages in an academic article about the canon of the scriptures, then went to work on editing my article for Biblio Buffet. A way to possible do what the editors wanted had come to mind today, and the found time seemed a good time to get that done. Fired it off a few minutes ago. We'll see how it works.
So, tomorrow I get the pick-up back, and will get back on the taxes. I think one, possibly two, evenings to get the expenses done, then one more evening to actually fill out and print the business forms. Then the personal Federal forms will consume the weekend. I'll take a week or a little more off and then hit the Arkansas taxes. No, wait, I need to get my mother-in-law's done too, and this year she will likely owe taxes so I can't turn them in late. Rats. Then there will be calls from someone who always needs my guidance for his taxes.
So, I may not be posting here at the frequency I like.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
When I wrote the harmony originally I decided on one dinner per John's timing, and I still agree with this. This, however, I had always planned to discuss in an appendix, which will have significantly more discussion than would the passage notes. So, going with the flow, I wrote the portion of that appendix that goes with dinner. The appendix will be a fair amount larger, and I'll work on that later. However, writing this appendix required more work than the passage notes, and I've spent the last two days reading other commentators for agreeing and disagreeing opinions on this. It's amazing what I found on Google Books.
Between this writing and Ephraim's arrival on Thursday I've neglected this blog. Yes, Sara and Ephraim drove here from Oklahoma City on Thursday to spend a few days with us. Sara is busy conducting Mary Kay parties, so grandma and grandpa have been baby-sitting. Yes, this blog will wait while Ephraim's here. He's down for a nap right now, which has allowed me to finish the writing in the appendix for the present, and write this blog.
Better go proofread what I wrote in the Harmony, then head upstairs to await Ephraim's wakening.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Tonight I decided to continue with the passage notes in the Harmony of the Gospels. I'm at the place where Jesus warned his disciples, and the crowd, to beware of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees (Mark 12:38-40, Matthew 23:1-12, and Luke 20:45-47). I originally worked on this 2 October 2001, and appear to have completed it in one evening. Now, however, as I was writing the passage notes "with the flow," I saw a number of places where my original harmony missed some key information. So I took time to break the passage down into smaller chunks, something I didn't do before, and reworked the harmony. I'm more pleased with it now, as it is more complete.
Maybe this writing with the flow is better. My mind is still engaged on these passages and on the passage notes. The way I'm writing them is to go back to my hand-written notebooks--three of them--where I wrote out the passages, discussed the similarities and differences, then wrote the harmony. Sometimes I began with chunks too big, and had to go back to the beginning with smaller bites. I should have done that with the passage in question. What I'm doing now is typing those notes I made as I harmonized the four gospels. However, I'm expanding my personal shorthand, and adding a few extra comments I didn't before--the laziness of writing by hand when you're used to typing seventy words a minute.
But I find I'm adding quite a bit more to the passage notes. After I reread my old notes, and the harmony, and the gospels again, and think some more, more words flow, giving a more complete picture of the process I went through and the nature of the finished product.
So maybe this writing with the flow does work. I'm writing these passage notes kind of fast, yet at the same time adding to them and improving the Harmony. I don't know how long this inspiration will continue, but I'll go with it for a while. Maybe I'll actually finish the project in a couple of years. Since it's probably non-publishable, no hurry.
I still need to work on the discipline part of writing with the flow, which will involve writing where the flow stops so as to finish a project. I'll figure it out someday. Otherwise I'll never get a book published.
Meanwhile, the flow to do my taxes has not yet come.
Monday, March 8, 2010
In early 1838 Thomas Carlyle wrote these words as the introductory paragraph of a letter to John Stuart Mills. It seems that Carlyle had committed to writing an article about the working classes for Mill's London and Westminster Review magazine. Carlyle, however, with this letter put off Mill, claiming he didn't have the notion to write on it at that time, being fully engaged in preparing to give a lecture series that would start April 30, 1838.
I can sympathize with Carlyle. As I wrote yesterday on this blog,"inspiration" suddenly hit me yesterday, and I went back to working on the Harmony of the Gospels, going after the passage notes with great interest. When I worked on some of the passage notes previously (meaning over a year ago) I had some difficulty deciding on a format for them. Should I type the parallel passages in a table or columns? Or should I just refer to the passages and let a reader (including me sometime in the future) pull out a Bible and flip between gospels? I elected to go with typing the parallel passages in a Word table? More work, more paper, more trees killed (or pixels consumed), but more usable passage notes.
As I said yesterday, working on this wasn't on the radar screen for this month, probably not for the year, but my reading drew me to it. This seems to be the way of my writing life. Reading or teaching or some other of life's activities gives me a burst of interest, and I (research if necessary and) write. It doesn't matter if it's a new project or old project, an outlined project or seat-of-the-pants piece. It doesn't matter if I have been hot and heavy in the middle of something else. I go with the flow. Wherever the creative waters gush, there I go.
So that puts me at odds with Carlyle. It seems that, while he recognized that he should follow his creative juices, he also knew he had to complete a project to make some money. His lecture series would be quite profitable, and Carlyle at that point in his career still did not have financial success. So somehow he found the inspiration he needed to prepare his lectures. The working classes did not inspire him at that moment, and would not really futher his goals, though they would a year or two later.
When I feel the creative juices flowing in a certain direction, I go there, regardless of what I'm working on at the moment. That's why I have a dozen writing projects opened, and none finished. In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People was where I was supposed to be spending my time yesterday. That and two articles for Suite 101. Despite the busyness of a Sunday, I had enough time carved out to write a thousand words in FTSP or complete at least one if not two articles for Suite. Yet I went with the flow instead of practicing creative discipline.
On Rachelle Gardner's blog on Friday I made a comment about that (comments 207 and 208 to Rachelle's post), claiming I had genre identity disorder (G.I.D.). That may have been a misnomer. Perhaps I should call it Writer Discipline Deficiency. Or maybe Uncontrolled Creative Flow.
Somehow I need to learn to do what Carlyle did: go with the creative flow, yet complete projects started before going on to the next. Get the next idea documented in a notebook or journal, locked down, and carry on where I was before the inspiration hit.
Oh well, tonight, as the time allows, I will be mostly working on passage notes again, trying to get the notes written for at least one passage. If time allows and inspiration calls, I'll see about a Suite article too. However, what I really should do tonight is get my household budget and financial records up to date (1.5 months behind) and get something done on my income taxes. Unfortunately, inspiration for those two items is lacking.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
But my weekend plans went awry. Friday night I got some good reading done, essentially on-pace to finish the book by tonight. Saturday, though, was fully consumed with chores and comings and goings, until the evening left little opportunity to read. Well, I did read. I re-read a chapter in The Shack, the book we are studying in our adult Sunday school class, and prepared to teach it in case the teacher was out today (he was, so I did). And I read a Nazarene missions book that we've had for too long (just 94 pages; easy read). Then it was bed time.
This afternoon I had to meet with the trustees at church to talk again about our parking lot rehab project. We had some money unexpectedly come our way, and have the opportunity to redo the lot according to my master plan. Looks like that will happen. But that meeting, and waiting for it to start, took a good chunk of the afternoon. No time for reading.
But the thing that really changed my plans was reading yesterday morning and today in the gospels. As I usually do this time of year, I began reading again the stories of Jesus' passion, beginning with the triumphal entry. But I decided to read it in my Harmony of the Gospels. The part I read this morning, Jesus' ministry and encounters early in the week, led me to realize I may have been off in a couple of things. Plus, my mind seemed really engaged in the subject, and I thought this might be a good time to get some passage notes written.
So this afternoon and this evening I took time to work on some passage notes. I did this for the passages that are titled, in my study Bible, Question About Paying Taxes, About the Resurrection, and The Greatest Commandment. My mind was sharp, and focused. The words of the Harmony seemed to jump out of the page as I read. This is usually a sign that I'm reading the right thing for my current state of mind. So I got to work on the passage notes.
Perhaps I should briefly describe these. They are the notes that I wrote in my notebook as I harmonized the four gospels. I would first write out the text for each gospel covering that passage, in very short pieces (usually a sentence, sometimes two). I would then write a few notes about the differences and similarities in the text; what appeared to be conflicts and what appeared to be simple differences in wording. Then I would state some basis for harmonizing the text, say "Use Mark for the basic text, work in the extra information in Matthew and the word difference in Luke", or something like that. Then I wrote the harmonized text in the notebook.
So I went to the notebook, found the part about paying taxes to Caesar, and began. I should also say that I've tried working on several of the passage notes before. I had little success, for whatever reason. But today I had good success. I took my handwritten notes and began typing. I expanded my private shorthand to full words and grammar. I added a few things that came to mind now. Most importantly, I found a few places where I could make my harmony better, and more faithful to the original text. I also found a few places where I did not adequately state the basis for my decision. I added that to the passage note.
This was not even on the radar screen when I set March goals. Consequently, I'm not sure what this will do to my goals. I may need to lay something else aside, or spend more time on writing than I anticipate having. Well, it seems that I need to write where my mind is going, not force it to write something that it is not interested in at that moment. So I'll see what tomorrow brings, be it a Suite article, a little more on my novel, editing my article for BiblioBuffet, or even another passage note.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I know tonight is a night I should write in the blog, but I'm a little without topic write now. Today was a good day, very busy with my silt fence studies. I finally pulled up a blank specification template and actually began writing the specification for silt fence. I found it to be a little more difficult than I expected. When I got to the part of entering what types of silt fence fabric we will accept, I went to the highway department list of accepted products. I found fifteen different fabrics accepted. On our standard drawings we have four listed. So I had a lot of work to do.
I found the highway department's list terribly out of date. Or maybe full of errors. They were using some products that aren't really silt fence type fabric. They had one company down as a manufacturer when they are actually a re-seller, not even a value-added re-seller. The products they listed varied as to apparent opening size by 2.8:1, and by permittivity (a measure of flow rate) by 145:1!!!! Clearly, someone wasn't thinking when they put all these products on the list. Hmmm, one naturally suspects kickbacks in a situation like this.
But as I was trying to view manufacturer's literature, I found I would have to take a step backwards and actually do some design work before I could specify the darn thing. This is how I should have done it in the first place.
I must digress to say that on March 31st I will be presenting a paper at an erosion control conference in Bentonville (almost walking distance from the new office), the subject being "A Thousand Little Treatment Plants: Process-based Design of Erosion and Sediment Control Practices." The premise of the paper is that the industry has been treating these things as "best management practices." As management practices they are art, not science. Hence they don't get designed. Hence they don't get detailed and specified correctly. Hence they don't get selected, installed, or maintained properly.
Well, here I am writing a paper saying the industry isn't doing the right design work, and I'm trying to write a spec without first doing some design work! Ridiculous. I had done enough study to know that my spec should not allow vastly different types of fabrics in it, and to know what the key properties were that affected the design. But do I chose the small group of fabrics that have a flow rate of 5 to 10 gallons per minute per square foot, or the small group of fabrics that discharge at 100 to 150 gpm/sf? Which is the better basis for silt fence design? I don't know, but I need to in order to write the spec properly.
Or, should we be specifying two types of silt fence: low flow capacity to maximize sedimentation, and high flow capacity to minimize upstream side ponding area? Perhaps there's room for both in our specs. And maybe that would give us one more tool in our sediment control toolbox. Of course, our engineers would then have to make intelligent decisions rather than mindlessly put symbols on drawings and ignoring specifications. Wouldn't that be terrible.
So, that means we have at least four types of silt fence:
- Low flow capacity i.e. maximum sedimentation silt fence
- High flow capacity i.e. filtration only silt fence
- Wire backed silt fence, which I suppose could be either of the two
- Belted silt retention fence, which has a different type of fabric and which I've never used; it's on the list to research tomorrow.
Or maybe not. Maybe I'm breaking some new ground here. I can see reasons to apply both types of silt fence. Of course, until I sit down tomorrow and do those calculations and figure how these flow rates apply to the situation on the ground, I may be worrying about nothing. Somehow, though, I don't think I am. I think I've stumbled upon something important, and will do something that will improve the industry. Or at least CEI's part of this.
Well, for having nothing to write about when I started, I wrote quite a bit. Not of much interest for those readers who tune in ever day to see what I've written about my writing career, but it's something of interest to me at the moment, and that's what this blog's all about. Carlyle and Emerson can wait for other posts.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Tonight I had an e-mail from the editor at BiblioBuffet, and on-line magazine featuring reading and books. One of my February freelance submittals was an article titled, "When the Vehicle Will Be Worthy of the Spirit," about the beginning of Carlyle and Emerson's correspondence. They are going to publish it in their guest column section, probably a month or so from now. The pay is small, but there is pay. I don't know what the exposure will be, but it can't hurt. It's possible that, after a few guest columns, I could become a regular columnist at an increased pay. Once the article goes up I'll post a link on Arrow. I worked hard on that article, and to have it accepted is gratifying.
Every small writing success puts me on the upward track of the roller coaster. Or is it the downward track (the metaphor being reversed of the real life experience)? The one that is more pleasurable. There are enough rejections in writing to cause misery and despair that you need to latch on to the few successes and ride the wind with them. Hmmm, was that enough metaphors to mix?
So I'm happy tonight. I'll probably read twenty pages in the Coulson book, four pages in an alumni mag, and who knows what else. A couple of articles for Suite 101 are turning over in the gray cells.
Oh, today was also good because I finished my paper for my March 31st presentation, only one day behind the deadline. Also I finished a work related article on erosion and sediment control at construction sites that I'll probably submit tomorrow. It's not a bad article, somewhat of a rebuttal of an article a year ago in that mag. I suspect there's no pay involved, but it's another credit. Oh, and I had a lunch meeting with a woman I met at the Dallas conference. She is with a business right here in the area, and it looks as if she'll have some work for CEI. Not right away, but it would be nice to get enough business to justify the cost of the trip.
So, all in all a good day. I'll take 'em any chance I can.
Monday, March 1, 2010
1. Blog 12 or more times. This seems a comfortable pace. I'd like to bump this up to about 16 posts a month, but will wait to make that a goal.
2. Write and post 10 articles at Suite101.com. I think I can do this.
3. Write 1,000 words on In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. Almost made it in February; might as well try it in March.
4. Work on a new Bible study, about the sacraments. I may have an outline somewhere. I'll be teaching it in about two months. Time to get to work.
5. Make three freelance submissions. This is pretty minimal, but I'm working a lot on work stuff still, and will be making a presentation on the 31st and two or three brown bags during the week. I find the time needed to research freelance markets and actually make the submittals tedious, and for some reason if I'm heavy into work stuff, including taking stuff home, I can't concentrate on freelance. Of course, a couple of the work things I'm working on could make good freelance articles about engineering. Hmmm.
6. Read 40 pages in writer helps, not including blogs. That's forty solid pages, books or magazines (not including ads).
That's it for now. As I said this is on the fly and off the cuff, little thought.
Here's my report on February 2010, how I did relative to the goals I set.
1. Blog 12 times or more. >> Blogged 13 times, so met this goal.
2. Write and publish at least 8 articles at Suite101.com. >> Wrote and published 10 articles at Suite 101, so exceeded this goal
3. Consider applying for a feature writer position at Suite101; more on that in a post later today. >> That was kind of a measly goal. "Consider"? Well, I have a kind of measly result. I applied, was one of three candidates, then withdrew my application in a fit of pique at life in general. So I'm going to consider this goal met.
4. Complete an article I'm writing for BiblioBuffet.com and submit it. Ran it through critique group last night, so it's down to final editing. >> I completed it and submitted it. I heard back from the editor yesterday: She'll make a decision by Tuesday night. She took some time off in February was the reason for the delay.
5. Make at least three freelance submittals (including BiblioBuffet). >> Made three submittal, exactly on goal
6. Write at least 1000 words in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. >> Almost; wrote 860 words. Although I didn't make it, it felt good to be writing on it again.
7. Read at least 50 pages in a book about writing better. I have four or five at my disposal right now. >> I did this, but in writing magazines, not in books.
Okay, not a bad month relative to goals. Now I need to work us some March goals. Stay tuned.