August 13th, 2015 | Tags:

Things are officially As Real As It Gets–today I set up a life insurance policy for my wife and son. In the whirl of complexity that is our life, in the maddening press of all the things we are perceived as needing or actually need or are able to discern that we don’t need, this is one of the anchors, the failsafe in case the unthinkable happens. It very nearly did this past January in the form of a woman stopping dead in the midst of morning rush-hour traffic, and I am lucky to be alive. So I am not taking chances, not with our future already in such flux.

We are on the verge of being in open water, adrift on the ocean of our lives–to extend the metaphor, currently in dock at a safe harbor to bring our son into the world, so that he can swim with us. Mexico and South Korea are now equally viable candidates for our work, so we research them while I keep us afloat with gardening work. I just took care of the biggest major bill in our short term future, and we are paring down expenses and selling our needless possessions (rather a lot, it turns out). We don’t require much in the way of Things, mostly just the electronic tools to make sense of this modern world. So much ephemera, in the face of everything being ephemera–

“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream; 
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, 
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.”
Diamond Sutra, Ch. 32

But how we make our way through this ephemera still matters. We can shape our son to make good choices, to change the world in his way, to better the lives of those around him just as I want to.

July 15th, 2015 | Tags:

So, we went to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games this past weekend. It was a thrill to be around so many characters–of similar mind and different, at the same time. The nature of a highland games is one of old flags. Scotland, in fighting for its independence from the English, had the excellent rampant lion, and of course the seven Celtic nations all had their own. The highlanders had tartans to represent their clans, all unique. (I am among them–I officially joined Clan Hamilton, being the son of Donna Hamilton, grandson of Albert Hamilton). So, naturally, the national discourse on the stars & bars continued in the camps there.

A couple things of note. Everyone had flags of all sorts strewn around, and you could see buried amongst them sometimes a Confederate rebel battle flag. My goal isn’t to talk about its history–that’s settled fact, as a racist banner adopted in promotion of the cause of continuing the practice of slavery–but about freedom of expression. We camped in Linville Falls and shuttled in, but my wife’s sister and her husband camped with some friends on the site, sharing a space with a well-known group, located off the beaten path. Hanging amidst their flags, as we strolled into the site to cook dinner, was a rebel flag, and I simply said to myself, “Are you kidding me?” They were great hosts, and the presence of a flag doesn’t give me cause to shit where I’m trying to eat. Besides, the space was somewhat separated; I could sit where I didn’t even need to look at it. I warned my friends who I brought in to join us that it was there, and no big deal was made.

By report, however, it was still an object of drama. Apparently it had initially been hung near the tent of the folks with whom my wife’s sister was staying, and they asked if it could be moved so that it didn’t seem like they were associated with it. No big deal, still; their hosts were cool with that. But the juicy bit (ah, rumor volat) is that another friend of the group came into camp and took it down of her own volition, and when confrontation ensued, she declared that they would have to choose between her friendship and the flag.

Well, I can’t make choices for other people, but that’s not the hill I would die on.

There was also a more public camp, along the main road coming into the games, and just as many other camps, it was festooned with flags. I noticed a dingy off-white towel, glaringly different from the rest of the banners, and on it had been Sharpie’d “Confederate Flag removed by request”.  On the one hand, this wasn’t a government facility; on the other, I’m not sorry at all that the organizers chose to exercise their rights as hosts to shut down a bullshit flag. And the tears of frustration at the poor folks whose free speech was being stepped on, manifest in their little protest banner–well, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

July 5th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

Two major things on the horizon: producing a caring for a wee, infant boy, and moving to Mexico. “What?” you just said. “You’re moving to Mexico?!” Yeah, no big deal, we’re just going to go teach English abroad while raising our little bairn. :)

Lots of reading in the pipeline. First up is Dr. Karp’s The Happiest Baby On The Block, a research-based discussion of calming techniques founded on the theory that newborns need an extra trimester, and our job is to provide it by swaddling, swinging, and shushing them just like they had during the first 9 months of growth. It’s pretty fantastic so far, and I feel like I’m going to have a lot of fun being a dad. Key sentence today: “The fastest way to succeed in stopping your baby’s cycle of crying is to meet his level of intensity” (Emphasis Karp). I. Am. So. Stoked.

Next in the queue is the Moon guide, Living Abroad in Mexico. I’m still waiting for it to arrive, but it looks to be full of usefulness. I have many questions about the process, and it looks like it’s got a lot of answers! We’re looking at Merida, on the Yucatan. If you have any supportive advice, feel free to chime in!

Time, it marches on…

July 1st, 2015 | Tags:

Today marks a new practice: no imgur for 3 weeks. It’s a fantastic place for anthropological investigation and ruminating around the landscape of ideas and images with other nerds, but I want to shift my mental habits to more immediate, less abstract domains. I have very practical goals now, and I need to stop just wrestling with ideas themselves. This state of mind was why I went for, and acquired, my degree in philosophy–it’s what I do, regardless of anything else. But as amazing a tool for rational inquiry and exploration of the boundaries of human expression in 140 characters as imgur is, it’s got to make room.

I’m not quitting forever, just 21 days. So, here’s to day 1.

(I have abandoned HabitRPG. I don’t know if I’ll come back to it yet. But I got by without it before, and I’m going to do it again.)

June 30th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

I wanted to start this off as a letter. “Greetings,” I was all set to begin. Time was people read this, but then I let it languish, as I do now and again. So I guess I don’t really have an audience to greet. But I’m picking it up again, so you lucky readers buckle in. :) So much change has gone on in my life these last six months. Some of it I willed to being, but some of it I allowed to happen through inertia (or lack thereof).

As of June 19th, I am a married man. It’s the internet, so if you know me, you know my wife.  She’s amazing, beautiful, kind, generous, thoughtful, incredibly intelligent, compassionate, whole-hearted, nerdy… I have too many adjectives jammed at the space where the words come out to really do her justice. As we courted over the last summer and into the winter, I awakened to the very real changes that I had been wanting to make in my life, changes that she not only supported but encouraged. And I found myself not only supporting her goals and motivations, but supporting just the beauty of her existence, and all those underlying motivations and goals yet to emerge in her consciousness. As I told my parents practically the moment we began dating: she’s the one. And as we dance this dance through life, I am awed by the profundity of joy that is this life with her.

I have also completed my teaching in NC. I finished up the third year here, and I have learned a great deal about education; as the new teacher steps into my place, I am confident I have brought an academic rigor to the Latin program at Middle Creek that had been lacking before I arrived. We are looking elsewhere for jobs, as this state is clearly not interested in retaining its teachers.

And in the glorious narrative tradition of the three-topic discussion, I am about to become a father. We are expecting our son to arrive into the world around September 21st, and he’s got all ten fingers and toes, so I’m pleased as punch :)

As one chapter of my life closes and another opens, I am thrilled to renew my commitment to writing. I feel like my creativity had been drained from me these last few years, and it is time to touch base with the eternally-flowing font inside me. Maroon’s stories call out to be told, and life doesn’t stop for the living.

March 31st, 2015 | Tags: , ,

It has been a wild month. Much positive change, but also some waning in my habits. And I’m still putting off the monster.

I love climbing mountains, at least. And falling down them.

I’ve been so distracted; so many things are floating around me that are Stuff I Must Do Or Else. It’s to the point where Or Else has become a meaningless concept to me. (Of course, that doesn’t remove it of its teeth; I have just stopped caring.) But, at least, I have been showing up every single day, fighting the big fires, and then tending to the little ones if there’s time. The biggest thing I am seeing is the need to stop numbing out with facebook and imgur. The discourse is a pretty intense reward, but it sucks me in and becomes more habitual, and then it just is the thing I do, instead of being present in the real world. And the Or Else marches closer.

So many things I want to write about, but my time grows short. So, another post.

March 8th, 2015 | Tags: , , ,

My tumble continued unabated as February drew to a close. But I’m getting back on top in terms of staying productive.

My costume is awesome.

Still procrastinating, but I am also doing more. The no-armor rule has fueled a great deal of that; I must be productive or die more. I slipped up once, but I’m finally back to a point where I can heal myself again with magic. It doesn’t do much (15 mana for 2.2 HP), but it cuts down on healing potions a skosh. And the more things I do on my to-do list, the more magic I get back.

There are some new dimensions that are being added to my life–stay tuned for some fairly exciting news.

March 8th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

One of the most difficult-seeming tasks for a teacher is to inspire your students to study the material you’re teaching outside of class. The results of my first unit’s test–delayed because of 2 weeks worth of snow days–reinforces that, because the results are so frustratingly low. I’m not a teacher inclined to curve tests numerically, as we have the option of a retake and also a remediation activity that adds a small percentage to the grade. But it tells me a number of things, both about my test, my expectations for the students, and their level of preparation for the material. But I can only place a part of it on the students. So, back to the drawing board I go, to think of ways to reinforce their existing knowledge and help build up the concepts they’re clearly struggling with. This next unit will give me a little time, as we’re shifting from the passive voice (a big step) to looking at how adjectives form in comparative and superlative degrees (more of a lateral move). The first thing we will be learning is the perfect passive participle, which will be at least somewhat familiar territory for them, and it will allow me to re-address relative clauses and passive voice.

I am trying an experiment, too, with homework. It didn’t go as well as I had hoped, partly because of the snow days hitting right when it was ramping up into gear. It’s a homework sheet, that allows students to choose their paths rather than have me micro-manage it for them, incorporating routine practice and independent cultural exploration. One of its primary objectives is to foster a sense of self-driven inquiry. But I am groaning under the burden of it–my initial formulation was too confusing, and I didn’t deploy it in stages, so I have 3 blocks of material to grade, half of which is either incomplete or lacking in understanding how the assignment is structured. But it is not a complete bust! I have something I can now improve, and the students are still practicing. However: they did not over the snow days, by their own report, despite my attempts to communicate with them over Blackboard their assignments. That’s the most frustrating part. I have reiterated throughout the first six weeks that studying every night was critical, but that expectation was simply ignored when push came to shove.

Lesson learned: be more proactive. I did, indeed, drop the ball to some extent. This semester is eating me alive because of the various priorities I have that are completely not school-related. (More on that soon…) Now, I must dig out of my hole and get on top of the dirt pile again. I had such a great start to the spring semester, but it got away from me. Time to get it back.

February 24th, 2015 | Tags: , , ,

So I headed out to work today, thinking we’d probably be getting early release (most forecasts called for afternoon snow). About two-thirds of the way through my 45-minute commute, i.e., 6am–yes, I leave typically around 5:30am–it began snowing. I checked the county Web site when I got to the parking lot, and my suspicions were correct: lo, we were set for delayed opening. A few other early-arriving teachers were dumbfounded as I shared the news with them; they too had been snared by the vagaries of travel time and school hours. I caught up with a few beloved colleagues also making their way in, and as the big, fat flakes drifted noiselessly and unrelentingly down to the whitening tarmac, which had done its best to retain heat but eventually gave up under last night’s brutal chill and the morning’s crystalline onslaught, it was patently obvious that the delay was only to buy the county some time before the inevitable decision.

Read more…

February 17th, 2015 | Tags: , , , ,

But it’s not over yet, and I feel like I can get it back. To start, here’s my HabitRPG for February so far:

A Healer, supposedly

So, I made it to level 10 and became a Healer by the end of January. I was rocking out, learning how to use “poison” Dailies to good effect. But when the school semester began in earnest, I started to lose my grip on the really important tasks. Plus side to it, I’m actually getting consequences, rather than just feeling guilty; half my gear has been destroyed and I’ve lost so much coin. I’m at the point of losing something really valuable to me, my Gumdrop Sword. (Oh noes!) I can’t just re-buy it, and it’s just cool-looking. So I just need to suck it up, McNugget, and do the stupid poison dailies that have been plaguing me.

One useful side-effect about this is that it’s also a calibration of my self-honesty. In January I was getting a handle on how to use it, and I had only been plugging in things that were vaguely important (I mean, sure, ideals, but not a lot of practical substance). And it was good practice. But now I’ve pared down, relegating the idealistic stuff to Habits and using the Dailies for the truly consequential items. It is showing me how badly I do procrastinate on things that seem patently easy to do, and the more important it is, the more likely it seems I’ll quail at the task. Shame rears its ugly head and nibbles at my soul.

So, going forward, I’m going to stop wearing armor. I’ll buy stuff to wear for costumes, but boosting my CON is just protecting me from the harsh reality of bad habits. (I will, however, accept other stat boosts, because they increase my rewards for doing good things. It is, if you will, a double-edged sword.)

I introduced this to one of my ADD kids, and he really took to it. To his credit, he immediately saw the importance of honesty that this system requires, and that it actually nourishes. I feel like I’m actually doing some good in the world these days.

Back to the grind!