Awareness

•August 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Being aware.  I’ve viewed this as an important part of Life for many years.  To the point of it almost being a sport, to notice how unaware others seem (to me) to choose to live.  Some are living  in such a remarkably unaware state, I’ve wondered how they managed to survive.

This awareness, has been quite heavily leaned on the logical, cold, side of life.  It is walking into a room, and noticing things are different from the last time you were here.  Seeing how that cable being unplugged from the wall *MIGHT* be the problem (and wondering why anyone else before me did not just plug it back in themselves.  and cursing the person who unplugged it, not putting it back like they found it).  Or, pondering a problem and thinking my way towards a solution, most appropriate for the situation surrounding the problem.  Or, waking up this day, knowing I missed the Tuesday night deadline for this topic I had in mind.

Situational Awareness.  This is the phrase I would mention, think of, tout as being a great thing others should try to be better at.  I got to be rather arrogant about this, to be bluntly honest, dear reader.  I’d pat myself on the back in a congratulatory way, shake my head at the unaware, feeling sorry for them.  See how there are some hints of emotion here in those phrases?

I’ve noticed, in times past, how I was missing something.  Things would happen, and the next thing I knew, those around me were upset, emotional.  Usually at me, for what I had said or done, or not said and done, just a few moment before.  My Situational Awareness could note a problem event, but did not have much if any clue as to how it happened, or how to make it better.  At my worst, I’d brush it aside and try to move on towards more logical problems to be solved.

For a number of weeks now, my Emotional Awareness has (finally?) being growing, catching up to, supplementing the Situational Awareness.  Those who follow what I say in Twitter or Facebook have probably noted sentences from me that seemed… emotional.  I’ve wondered aloud why Life has to be so Hard.  Which, logically, I’ve known for years.  “Life is Hard, Get a Helmet” use to be a mantra of mine.  I’d say to others as a way of telling them to suck it up, get over it, move on.  I’ve tacked on the concept of putting on the “armor of G-d” to go with the Helmet part of that phrase.  Thinking that was clever.  But emotionally?  Not having a clue.

Maybe I needed all of these years since high school (and that is getting to be a large number of years) to finally wake up emotionally?  I’ve likened this to the deaf suddenly hearing, the latent telepath suddenly being overwhelmed with the thoughts of those near by.  Sensory Overload.

Recent events, changes in how Life needed to be lived, have flipped some manner of switch for me.  Emotions for me are much closer to the surface now.  They use to be buried pretty deep.  And that has brought me Emotional Awareness, such that now I can sense another person hurting, same as the way I could walk into a room and see the problem needing my attention.

So, I’ve experienced the hurt others find themselves enduring.  And it makes we wonder how we are not all completely mad, out of our minds insane.  It has made me ask, for others to read,  about why Life has to be so Hard, Mean, Rough.

I’ve realized I was keeping myself guarded, emotionally.  Thinking that was the way to stay safe, unharmed.  But True Awareness, knowing all there is about Life Situations, has to involve emotion.  I use to think safety was found in not caring, not loving.  That seems so false now.

True Safety in Life?  It involves caring, loving.

It has been a rough at times to experience this True Awareness.  There is no going back now.  I cannot get out of the real sunlight, and go back into the cave to watch the shadows on the wall (thanks for the Allegory, Plato).  So, here’s to another day, of basking in the light of reality.

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I’ve got nothing

•August 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Or, too much of something.  I had ideas for a post earlier this evening.  But now, it seems to be a mood thing.  I’m just not sure I am in the mood to write about any of these good ideas.  So, I’ll make note of them, hopefully find them between now and next week, and blog about one or more of them then.

Maybe mood would suffice as a topic?  I’ve certainly been what I would consider moody, or brooding, for much of my life.  Usually low-key, not too many highs or lows.  Just trying to maintain a nearly constant level.  Flip to today, and most recent times, and I think I go tripping through the double rainbow of moods and emotions, all the way.  Which has me wondering, what does it mean?

Yes, I just invoked one of the latest memes, that I am aware of at least.  But in all seriousness, many days of late can seem to go from moments of bliss and wonderfulness to stark screaming despair.  And then back to something “normal”, whatever that is or means anymore.   It is like being a human yo-yo.

At the heart of it, I would have to point to the ongoing hospice care of my father-in-law.  Which is rather unfair to invoke, in a way, as my direct involvement is nothing like what my brave and devoted wife is doing.  Being there, day after day, she is on the front line, in the trenches.  At best, I drive up from the supply depot at the rear to her location on the front, trying to do my part to assist.

But, this lingering experience, how it has shifted our lives and daily life, seems to have opened a Pandora’s Box of emotion.  Maybe that is good?  Even in the roughest and darkest of times in the past weeks, I’ve been able to see and tell that the ride was still in motion.  As long as I keep moving with it, I will not have to be stuck in that emotion.

There have been times of comfort too, where I had a feeling of freedom from worry or disappointment.  I was so keenly aware of how special such times were, due to the other emotions and moods.  Instead of just thinking “this is nice”, I would take careful note of how great such a moment was, and express gratitude for it.

And I’ve noticed when others are hurting too, far more than usual, I think.  I’ve not been perfect or as needed in all cases.  But compared to trying to ignore the obvious, as I have usually done in the past, instead I’ve said “hey, I know what you mean.  I understand why and how you feel that way.”

I’m not claiming to have the good or best answers for some of Life’s Big Struggles and Questions.  Who does, really?  I suspect the point is more about continuing to ask such questions, to struggle with Life and what it means.

I am reminded of how, in the arrogance of my high school days, one of my favorite sayings was “Life is Hard, Get a Helmet” when someone gripped or complained.   As if I had the hint of a clue about how Hard Life Is.  I most certainly did not.  It makes me wonder why does it, Life, have to be so hard, painful, harsh, crushing.  Yeah sure, the hard times make us appreciate the good times, blah blah blah.

It use to just be about me, how my mood was, how life was going for me.  At least now, I can care and notice when others are having a hard time, sympathize, all far better than I use to.  Earlier today, I had this thought; even the folks whom I get along the least with, who just rub me the wrong way, are human beings too.  Flawed, messed up, fearful they have nothing, wanting to have something.  Just like the rest of us.  Deserving to know comfort when needed.

Commuting

•August 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been very blessed for most of my years to not have to drive far, if at all, for work.  Most days, I can just walk the few blocks involved from my house to campus.  And I think that has left me very spoiled.

Before the reasons to commute from Bolivar to Stockton and back started this summer, I had two times of needing to do more than go across town.  Way back in the day, during the last few months of being single, between my first and second year of college, I drove the Stockton to Bolivar trip to work at McDonalds.  It is a east-west trip on 32, and I was mostly working in the mornings towards lunch rush, so I had to drive into the sunrise.  And drive home smelling like burgers and fries.  I’m not sure which was worst?

Several years later, we had been living in Bolivar for a while after my college graduation, settled into a job, and we yearned to live out in the country instead of in town.  We found a great rental, lived there for year.  Located beyond Halfway and a few miles before Buffalo on 32, it made for a decent drive time spent going back and forth.  And planning ahead for when someone would be in town to stock up on supplies was always needed.

After this experience we have spent many years owning a home near the SBU campus.  Now we only really need one vehicle, as my commute is a brief walk.  Time spent going from one important place to another is minimal.  If I tried hard enough, I could go a week without ever getting behind the wheel.

Now, I am back to the 32 route between Stockton and Bolivar, again.  Supplies need to be gathered in Bolivar, as Stockton’s resources are comparatively light.  What is just a 30 minute drive one way, far shorter than many folks have, seems to take twice or three times as long.  You gather your stuff, take care of things, drive, and once there, unpack the stuff and use the things as required.  Just like that, it is an hour and half later, and you wonder how that happened.

It make me wonder what the priorities are, should be.  Which way is best for as many as possible.  Should I stay in one place and get as much done as I can there, saving the drive for later when I am less able to write and think coherently?  Or get there as soon as possible, to enjoy the visiting time and then hope to sneak in the hours needed to get stuff done.

And I’m trying my best to not get embittered or jaded about driving.  Even during these past few months, it can feel like I am sixteen again (and that is such a long time ago!).  It is good to have the alone time to think about life, people, and everything.  While alone or with others, the rock and roll can be turned up loud and enjoyed as a time to forget about it, whatever it is. Or even celebrate it.  The visual sign of proper volume level is watching the rear-view mirror shake to the beat of the drums and thrum of the bass.  Somehow, that makes me smile every time I see it.

Yes, I’ve been spoiled by not needing to drive much.  Perhaps much of my frustration is just not dealing well with change?  Life is certainly full of change.  Living the full life before we die means changes will happen, need to be embraced and accepted.  Yet, there is comfort in repeated patterns.  On the other hand, doing things the same way, day after day can get to be boring and monotonous.  And also provide some sense of normalcy (whatever normal is or looks like, who can say?).  Somewhere in there is the balance to find, seek.

I complained about the time lost to commuting earlier this evening.  That now seems rather petty, at best.  I already had this overall concept in mind for a topic, but realizing I was being a jerk about it made it even more important to blog.  Home is where the heart is, they say.  And for good reason.  I’ve been testing that out for many weeks now, it seems.  I’d still drive any distance required to make sure that sense of home is provided, as much as possible, for those hearts which need it, that I count as precious.  In other times, we have to be content with getting that sense of home, within our own heart.  Knowing others have that same contentment.

Life is a highway / I want to ride it all night long – Tom Cochrane (a case where the original is far better than any cover).  So no more complaints about commuting.  Promise.

Out of the frying pan?

•August 1, 2010 • 3 Comments

It is a few days before the Tuesday deadline for the nerdthunderdomers, but I’ve found a nice moment where I’d better get back into the blogging habit.  I think I mentioned last time I would report my survival of teaching four online classes at once.  Well, that report was delayed, but as you can read, here I am.

The fourth class, an SBU ITL program course, turned out quite well.  The conversion from a two-week computer lab to three weeks fully online was well worth the effort.  If I had to pick, I’d teach it online again.  And the students will appreciated not having to be on campus from hours away to attend.  So I hope this great teaching opportunity will be mine again in Summer 2011.

Information Design with ESC rolls along nicely.  I’ve been offered and accepted to help with a redesign effort during the Fall, and have informally been offered to teach it again come January 2011.  Very fun and exciting stuff, I’m still constantly seeing things from an Information Design perspective.

And I am back in the swing of things with two Computer Literacy classes for Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.  We just finished the Excel week, so the roller coaster will start speeding towards the end of this session and another will start the next day after it ends.  Which leads me to the title for this post.

July 2010 was the best of times and worst of times, to borrow from Dickens.  There was the class load I’m going to try my best to avoid doing ever again.  Concerns with family members health and re-arranging our lives to assist.  Some incredibly wonderful times of pure bliss and joy.  Times of wondering how I was going to make it, just to the next day, without snapping like a twig.  Trying to figure out what I did wrong this time.  Highs and lows.  In other words, really, just another month, week, day in the life of anybody, really.  Am I right about that, folks, dear readers?

August has, for many years, been one of those best and worst times months for me.  It is my wedding anniversary month, a continual best time.  It is the Month of Madness as my university awakens from a summer slumber and prepares to start another Fall semester.  Many of the things I am involved with right now will keep right on trucking through that time of madness.  So, my initial thought was, before starting to write this, “OK, great, you are getting out of the frying pan of July, only to step into the fire of August.”

Now, such thoughts seem like a rather first world problem to have?  Life, overall, really is pretty good.  I enjoy what I do for a living, have a great wife and two fantastic daughters.  I have a great family, quality friends and solid colleagues.  I’ve got slightly selfish plans to get a reasonably game-capable laptop and a copy of StarCraft II during this month (a reward for a long stretch of efforts to do what was needed by others, for others, day in and day out).  And lately, for a lot of areas within me, I think I’m doing better.  Improving.  Finding out that I just might be a pretty cool person after all, yet humbly knowing one had best stay humble about your own self.

August may be a hot month, but I am looking forward to seeing what the fire will burn away and reveal.  No doubt mistakes will be made, hopefully new ones learned from and never repeated.  Times of delight, times of woe, and in the balance between, will be the life worth leading.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

•July 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For Empire State College, I am in the middle of teaching a great class on Information Design.  For Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division, we just started another session and I have two sections of Computer Literacy.  For Southwest Baptist, I’ve converted a class I been a student in, and taught twice before, from being two weeks for hours each day in a computer lab, to three weeks online, on the topic of Multimedia Applications (used for making interactive lessons for students).

And they are running right now,  at the same time.

It is not a surprise; I knew all of this was coming.  But I suspect I have underestimated the effort it will require to do any and all of this well.  It’s already an effect I feel too much at my instructional technologist work.  Jack of many trades, master of none.  All work and no play making Jack a dull boy.

Even so, today was a good, no, great day.  And amongst other realizations, I think I have gained an appreciation for the plight of anyone teaching in higher education.  The jumble of student names, class topics, ideas & inspirations… the juggling act of keeping all of these plates spinning.  My perspective has widened, I can appreciate the conflict of wanting to help as many as possible, yet worry about how I’ll make it from day-to-day.

If I make a post by this time next week, you’ll know I made it through the rough part.  And helped at least 60+ people along the way.

Lest I Miss Two Weeks Straight

•July 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Honestly, it is not that I am lacking for topics, ideas, thoughts to share out loud.  In fact, on the morning of June 29th, I had all manner of great ideas.  Sadly, they all came flooding out, while showering.  Which gave me the idea of keeping a grease pencil in the shower, to jot down such things on the walls, lest they be forgotten.

But I woke up Wednesday the 30th, realizing what it was I kept thinking I was forgetting to do on that Tuesday; write a blog post.  More ideas since then, but the same issues have interfered.  In addition to new distractions, such as the failing health of my father-in-law.  We’ve spent a lot of timing driving back and forth, spending each day with him.  Time visiting with friends and family.

Tonight has been about making sure I am getting new classes ready to go.  Two CPU101 class setups due Thursday, a similar deadline for a SBU class I’ll start teaching at the same time those classes begin.  All while at the just-past-middle part of the ESC Information Design class I am teaching (and have a great time doing so).  I started to get sleepy, far too much too soon, so some Pandora-supplied tunes have helped propel me to this point.

With an hour left on the deadline day, I started writing what you are now reading.  And it sure feels good to get back to this place.  None of this is great or profound stuff.  But keeping the habit refreshed is probably more the point.  A week from now is going to be an insane time for me to keep the weekly #nerdthunderdome pledge.  And who know’s what surprises are in store between now and then anyway?

All I can offer is a daily attempt to do my best, if not do better than yesterday.  So here’s to another post before the 13th of July 2010.

Board Games

•June 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have always like to play games, particularly board games.  The type of thing that requires several people to gather around a table, and socially interact.  This can anything as simple as Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble, to something as complicated as Star Fleet Battles.  The hours spent just in picking ships to fight with, were overwhelmed by arguing over the rules.

While some of the fun can involve arguing over and bending the rules of the game, it easily spoils the fun of the game itself.  Keeping track of turns, stages, what can happen when, can be distracting compared to just reacting and making the best move you can in that moment.

In the past few years, board game favorites are showing up as virtual versions.  Facebook has Scrabble, which takes care of that whole “how can that be a word?” problem of this game.  Scoring is shown before making the play final.  Settlers of Catan is a really great board game, featuring a board or map which is never the same twice.  Since playing Settler in person for years, I have also played a version of it in Second Life, and on the Xbox 360.

Magic the Gathering, a simple game to play, card based, with part of the appealing being to buy, collect, trade the cards.  Since then, a PC version, and an Xbox 360 method of play.  Carcassonne is a fun yet simple board game, another of the type where the map/board is never the same twice.  And has an Xbox 360 version.

While these games, in an electronic form, will allow for playing a favorite game with any number of computerized opponents, that is not the main appeal.  Sure, it is nice to get some practice, at a time when you can play.  But playing against other human opponents, either strangers or folks you know, makes for the best game play.  So games and technology makes for the best combination, of human interaction while taking care of the tidbits and rules.

What games do you like to play?  And when shall we play it?