Monday, February 24, 2014

#146 - When Life Happens

For the most part, I guess you could say I lead a relatively low-key life. I’m lucky not to have a lot of drama in my life, and I try – sometimes successfully – not to let the little things get to me. However, like most people, I imagine, there are the little crises that come up from time to time. Such was the case this weekend.

First, the was my son’s crisis of not being able to play Minecraft on his computer. Apparently, this is not all that uncommon due to various upgrades people make to their copy of the game. The problem, though, comes when you try to find solutions. They seem to be as varied as the weather, and they are nearly as widespread on the internet as the number of web addresses in existence.

These solutions also seem to have nothing in common with one another. One “solution” will suggest deleting one file; another will suggest deleting a different file. The videos describing various problems and their solutions provide enough small screen viewing pleasure to fill a couple of days. Needless to say, my son’s issues have yet to be resolved, although I personally am leaning toward just getting rid of the game entirely. I suspect, however, I will not have the final say on that.

The other of life’s little challenges this weekend involved replacing a leaking kitchen faucet. It had developed a slow leak over time, but when the water started pooling on the countertop, we concluded a change was in order.

Deciding to replace the faucet was the easy part. Deciding what to replace it with was a bit more difficult. We went to Home Depot and found a faucet we liked, bought it based on the clerk’s assurance it would work with our PUR water filter, then got home to find it would not work, at least not with the adapter we had.

So we took the faucet back, got a refund, then started the search again only to find that all of the faucets we were willing to consider required the same kind of adapter, the one we no longer had. When all was said and done, we wound up repurchasing the faucet we had just returned, hoping we could get replacement aerator adapters from PUR without having to buy an all-new filter.

After that, it should have been a matter of simply returning home, disconnecting and removing the old faucet, and installing the new one. Perhaps it works that way on Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best. Of course, in the real world or at least in our home, things are not quite so simple.

Turns out the old faucet, in addition to leaking, had rusted at one of the bolts. As a result, the plastic nut holding that side in place would not turn. (Why do they use plastic anyway? If it is to prevent rust, they may need to rethink the design process.) All of my efforts only succeeded in deforming the nut to the point where it looked nothing like what it was.

Next, we tried cutting the nut to see if we could break it apart. No luck. So I got out the drill and drilled a bunch of holes through the plastic nut, always being careful not to drill through the sink, until the plastic was weakened enough to break apart and allowed us to remove the old faucet. When I came out from under the sink, I looked like I had either been out in a snow flurry or had a serious dandruff problem from all of the plastic bits in my hair and on my clothes. But I was determined to show that faucet who was boss.

In the end, a job that should perhaps have taken an hour including travel to and from the hardware store ended up taking in excess of three hours. Fortunately, aside from the lost chunk of my weekend and a sore neck from contorting underneath the sink, the job was accomplished with no real damage or injury. Another victory for the average homeowner.

Of course, my son’s Minecraft computer game issue remains unresolved. I wonder if the drill will help with that. Hmmm . . .

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#145 - More Random Thoughts

I've been thinking a lot lately about writing, which means I haven't been doing much of it. Well, that's not quite true. I've been doing more song lyric writing of late, something that seems to come in starts and stops, much as it has for 40 years.

I think the writing has gotten better. After 40 years, it would have to improve, wouldn't you think? One thing it has done is gotten more introspective, I think. I've been writing of late about the things left undone, perhaps as a sort of purge as I begin to think about the things I hope to do as I begin to look forward to the next stage of life.

One of the things I hope to do in that next stage is travel. Deep down, I think I am a restless spirit. My wife and I both tell people we are nomads or gypsies and cite the fact that both of our fathers were truck drivers. I think I've always had an urge to roam. When I was younger, I saw moving as a way to break from my mistakes, to make a clean start, if you will.

In my previous life in television and radio, I moved seven times over a ten year period. I was not one for putting down roots. Now, after living ten years in the same city, I have an urge to move again, although perhaps not at quite the same pace.

There is one blog I read regularly that captures a good sense of the kind of life I am looking to lead. That blog, rvsue and her canine crew, captures the daily essence for me of life along the road less traveled (to borrow from the M. Scott Peck book of the same name). As Sue paints it in her word portraits, life is not always exciting, but it is always fresh and always real.

Sue's blog has, at last count, attracted in excess of one million visits. The figure is mind boggling to me, not least of all because this blog stands at roughly 0.02% of that figure. I'm not jealous of that success, but I am most certainly in awe of it.

Thinking about Sue's blog and mine got me to thinking about my rationale for numbering my blog posts. When I first decided to number my posts, I think I did so in order to see how far I had come, a means of measurement, I suppose. I've also come to see the numbering as a way of showing myself that I was writing something substantial, even if it wasn't always of great import.

Writing, although I see it as one of my talents, is not something I can easily sit down to do. The numbering became an easy way for me to measure production, I suppose, especially since I still can't make myself sit down to write that novel.

I am also coming to see the numbering of blog posts in a different light. The numbers are becoming to me something like stepping stones or mileposts along the way. Some travel blogs contain maps with numbers that illustrate where the author was at a given point of time. The numbers serve to allow the readers to visually follow along with the author on his or her journey.

I am coming to see my blog post numbers as serving a similar purpose. Subconsciously, perhaps, the numbers allow any readers to follow a map of my journey. I cannot post a visual map of my mind (it would be very messy, for one thing), so the numbers are as close as I can come.

One last number just came to mind. At my current rate of page views, I only need to write 59, 736 more posts to reach a million views. One down, 59,735 to go.

Friday, February 7, 2014

#144 - Thoughts on Success and/or the Lack Thereof

“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention” – Frank Sinatra - My Way

Frank Sinatra (and by extension Paul Anka, the song’s author) was a lucky man. I imagine most of us have, at one time or another in our lives, done something we regretted or done something we would change if we could. Others of us probably have things we didn’t do and wish we had. I probably fall into the second category.

There are any number of things I wish I had done when I was younger or wish I had possessed the internal makeup and strength of personality to at least consider. Sometimes circumstances got in the way, but for the most part, it has been a weakness of character, a problem of me getting in my own way.

I am not, as the psychologists would likely attest, a Type-A personality. I have never been a go-getter or a take the bull by the horns kind of guy. If you use water as a metaphor, Type-A personalities would be akin to a waterfall or even a hydroelectric dam. I, on the other hand, would be more like a meandering stream, rolling along in no hurry to get anywhere.

In some ways, that approach to life has served me well. While I often get bored easily, I almost never get overly stressed about anything. So I don’t suffer from hypertension or ulcers or the like. Instead, I ride along a fairly even keel emotionally.

This does have its drawbacks. While an even emotional keel does keep me from becoming overly depressed (even when thinking about how much has turned out), it also keeps me from truly experiencing emotional highs. The argument could be made that in some ways I have missed out on life. There is a part of me that might agree with that assessment.

Not that I haven’t changed a little. It took a long time, but I am better able to appreciate the beauty of sunrise (when I can get up that early) or sunset. A few years ago, I would have simply seen it as another day. I wish I had developed such an appreciation earlier in life, but I don’t dwell on it.

The one area in which I do have regret has to do with writing. (There are some other regrets, but this is the primary one.) I’ve always enjoyed writing and always believed (erroneously, perhaps) I was good at it. Where I come up short is in the areas of discipline and determination. I don’t have the internal strength to make myself sit down and start writing.

Blog posts like this one and song lyrics, which I’ve written off and on for years, are different because they usually don’t take much time to complete. Even then, they aren’t something I can make myself sit down and do on a daily basis, even though I always have ideas running through my head.

All of this has me wondering how and why it is some people have the drive to attempt and succeed while others don’t. Where does that drive come from? How do parents instill that drive in their children? Can they do so or is there some genetic component we are not yet aware of? Why is it that success in school does not always equate with or lead to success in life? Then there is the more philosophical question of what actually constitutes success? I’m not sure I have an answer for that one.

I have reached a stage in life where my chances for advancement in the workplace (at least as an employee) rest somewhere between slim and none. As I draw ever nearer to retirement age, I shall hope to be more successful in the next stage of life.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

#143 - Freedom, Escape or Something Inbetween

“I’ve got to ride, ride like the wind / To be free again”
Christopher Cross – Ride Like the Wind

Recently, a blogger I regularly read posted an entry that, among other things, touched on the idea of freedom and where each of us feels free. Many of the comments touched on much the same idea – most of them experienced such freedom when they were either in the midst of or in close proximity to nature.

It is an interesting question to ponder. In some sense, we are perhaps as free as we have ever been in humanity’s existence. At least in more developed nations, millions upon millions of people have the financial wherewithal to pursue hobbies and interests perhaps unthinkable one or two generations ago.

At the same time, we are perhaps as chained as we have ever been. We live in an increasingly urbanized and technology driven world, and those same millions are often chained electronically or financially to jobs and careers that demand much of their time, even when they are away from the office. In previous generations, most people were simply not able to take their work home with them, even if they wanted to. In the 21st century, many of us not only can take our work home with us, there is an unwritten expectation that we do so.

And so, we look for opportunities to escape for an hour, a day, a week. Many of us find that momentary escape through television, radio, video games, and the like. Others find their escape through more physical avenues, such as hiking, biking, working out in a gym, and so on. That’s escape, but is it freedom or simply the best we can hope for in our current circumstances? To me, it is escape and not freedom, but for now it will have to do.

I find my escape through my RV, a fifth-wheel trailer that I take out with my family every chance I get. Right now, it is an escape and not a feeling of freedom for me as I am unable to go whenever the urge strikes me as I – like most people – have to balance individual desire with familial and societal responsibility. I will say that I feel calmest and most relaxed (usually) when I have the trailer parked in some campground out of the city.

Part of what keeps me going, is the hope that one day soon I can take the RV out and not have to come back to a house or, as those who live full-time in an RV call it, sticks and bricks. It is, luckily, a somewhat realistic dream for me, unlike many, but it does require some things to fall into place or at least not depart too much from their current path. Among those are the continued somewhat relative stability of fuel prices, the continued availability of places to explore, and continued decent health.

It is certainly possible that unforeseen events will require an abandonment or adjustment in this dream of mobile freedom. If that happens, I’ll no doubt manage. Hopefully, I’ll also find a way to feel free.