Self-Imposed Sabbatical

Eighteen months ago we moved back to Mahone Bay to live in a small house in town. For the first time in our eleven year relationship, Pamela was busy outside the house, teaching dance and organizing a theatre company and a new documentary festival in Lunenburg. For most of our relationship we have lived, worked, played, and traveled together every day. With Pamela out most of each week I spent my time in solitude and silence, and grew to enjoy this time of retreat. An occasional walk to the Biscuit Eater for society was enough. I began jogging earlier in the year while living in Blue Rocks and this solitary pursuit gave me much time for reflection. As the metronome played through my headset to guide my pace while running, my mind was free to wander around the chambers of my memory palace. Soon the routine divided the days into separate activities like a monk’s Hours or the sailor’s bells: run, bath, eat, sit in meditation, write, work, lunch, read, write, walk, dinner, eat, movie, read, sleep, and repeat.

In 2013 I ran almost 900km (5k, 10k, and half marathon) and it stopped almost as quickly as it started. Like many things im my life, the interest faded after having been an obsession for a period. The first six months in Mahone Bay changed me and I drew away from others and activities, closed down my website to a landing page and contact form, cancelled all social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and stepped out of all orgainzations and activites to focus on an essential few and my self-imposed sabbatical.

Reading, once again became a joyful expectation, as I re-read many treasured volumes from Márquez, McEwan, McCarthy, Maclean, Banville, Irving. O’Brian, Cather, Fraizer, Erdich, Robinson, and Booth, in addition to new discoveries like Richardson, Morgenstern, Sjon, and DeWitt. Poetry was an easy carry on a walk, so Basho, Thurston, Cooper, Oliver, Gluck, and Leslie accompanied me in my wanderings. A class at the Senior College of Nova Scotia (SCANS) reinvigored my interest in Shakespeare. The dance of words, well placed upon the page, captured my imagination and was only surpassed by images simply expressed in line and color. From Rembrant’s drawing to Peter Scully’s urban sketches, they capture a moment that, unlike a photograph, suspends the image into still life. A drawing embraces a decisive moment but also draws you in from a recent past and carries you forward a step into the future. Like a tarot card that looks back to the image on the left and forward to the other on the right, art allows the imagination to steer its own course rather then a specific path set down by the narrative pen.

Meditation calmed the raging torrent within me, as a mind on fire began to cool in the calmer waters of a tidal pool. Without distraction or excuse, I had to take responsibily for the consequences of my life. As Byron Katie says, what is, is. Gratitude was easier than contentment, for the latter seemed like giving into resolution and giving up on desire. And I was all about desire. Want it, get it, that was my credo. What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve. But should it? I can conceive and believe in a lot of things that I really do not need or want in hindsight. So a reexamination was required. How simply one can live lead to a purge of books, clothes, and things. Not everything, there is still way too much stuff in my life. Some is sentimental, some involved too great an investment to just pass on casually. Is the question really, how simply can one live? Some may say yes, but there is a gnawing (that may be the problem, what is is) at the back of my head that wonders whether there is another question that needs answering. Then I sit and realize there is no question that needs to be answered. Only to live and experience life in kindness and gratitude. Now I am back to taking responsibilty for my life. Kindness eliminated the problem with contentment and I have much to make me grateful.

iOS 7 update

My initial impression at the keynote announcement was negative. The design looked like a step backward. Maybe a backward step was part of the design, because the more I use it the better I like it's clean simplicity. The installs on iPad and iPhone were both flawless.

Transient

Motorola S10-HD Bluetooth Headset

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My older MotoRokr S9-HD stopped connecting over Bluetooth with my iPhone and Motorola replaced it with the newer S10 model. I love these headsets because they have great audio, fit well, and the ear buds are comfortable. Whether walking or riding on the trainer, the lack of a cord and the ability to still have all controls easily accessible for the phone is great feature.

Grocery List Hack

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Ever find yourself out and near the grocery store but without your grocery list? I have and I do not want another app on my phone to maintain. They are useless because Pamela and I both need a copy of the list. 

Simple solution: we share our iCal calendars on our computers and phone, so we know each others schedule and can plan events together. We create a event for the 1st day of the next month titled "grocery list" and add grocery items into the notes area. Now whoever is in town and near the grocery store always has an updated grocery list on their phone. Simple and easy to maintain. We just move it to the first of the next month at the end of each month.

Wild China

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Synopsis: An in-depth look at some of China's most impressive natural sites such as the ancient Han kingdom, the Mongol steppes, the Silk Road and the Tibetan Plateau. 

IMDB record 

Visually stunning presentation of th wild life and wild place of China. 

Crow Planet by Lynda Haupt

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Picked this book up as something to read on a recent trip and  enjoyed the natural history and personal naturalist memoir.

At times it reads like Thoreau musing about the view out the window, yet in an urban setting. 

A surprising amount of information is packed in this small volume. 

We can learn much about human relations by observing crows and ravens. 

 

In The Company of Crows and Ravens is  comprehensive and illustrated with beautiful pen and ink drawings. I read this when it was first published in 2007 and was captivated by crows and ravens ever since. The Corvus  genus are highly intelligent and one of most closely connected species to humans.

Sketchnote Handbook

This quickly became one of my favorite birthday gifts this year. Pamela knew that I love to sketch as we travel and I have doodled for years in meetings.

This handbook takes notes to a new creative level and the examples are outstanding. 

What surprised me was how much it helped me to focus my thoughts and to better listen to and understand others. 

Highly recommended. 

A Curious Herbal

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Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal is notable both for its beautiful illustrations of medicinal plants and for the unusual circumstances of its creation. Blackwell undertook this ambitious project to raise money to pay her husband’s debts and release him from debtor’s prison. She drew, engraved, and colored the illustrations herself, mostly using plant specimens from the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. It was an artistic, scientific and commercial enterprise unprecedented for a woman of her time.

http://archive.nlm.nih.gov/proj/ttp/v2/books/#!/elizabeth-blackwells-a-curious-herbal/

Happy Birthday W. H. Auden

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Collected Poems
By W. H. Auden

I love his possession of the English language and ability to make me see and feel things differently. This is his definitive collection after decades of edits and revisions.

iPad as travel computer replacemet

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This is the first time I have traveled without taking my laptop (MacBookPro) with me for writing, email, surfing, and photo storage. I decided to take only my iPad “3” and left my iPhone in airplane mode. I used Pamela iPhone 4gs for all my photos and she used the Leica D-Lux4. I am waiting for my Telus contract to shorted and am holding out for a new iPhone 5.

Therefore my technology for this trip was:

  • 1. iPad for READING, writing, email (wifi only), and photo storage,
  • 2. thumb drive for backup
  • 3.  Pamela’s iPhone for photography. No calls.

I was originally afraid I would had problems since the iPad limits what you can import or save to it through the browser. I was editing the play that will be performed October 11-13th with the new It’s Alive Theatre company in Lunenburg. Because Scrivener for iPad is still in development I used Storyist (an alternative to Scrivener) to edit in RTF format and converted it to Final Draft on return. Since I do all my writing in Scrivener this was the only really handicap and should be removed with the upcoming release. 

I loved the smaller size and portability. In my opinion, “this is the BEST reading platform I have ever experienced”. Kindle on the iPad is much better than my Kindle 3 reader. The resolution is extraordinary and its light weight allowed me to read for hours in bed with comfort. The on screen keyboard is easier to use than I expected. All in all it was a great experience and I will travel with it more often going forward.

NOTE: If Apple is listening, the best solution would be a MacBook Air with a removable display. When the display is attached it acts as a MacBook and when detached it becomes an iPad. This would be the best of all worlds. Just a suggestion.

MotoRokr S9-HD Bluetooth Headset

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I love my iPhone and have since the first version. Few technoligy tools leverage your time better. My only complaint over the years, was the ear plugs. I hated the the wire. Motorola has solved the problem with a comfortable, over the ear wireless headset that controls the iPhone. Whether I am listening to music, talking on the phone, or tracking a bicycle ride, I have total contol, even if I am doing all at the same time. See video review below.

UPDATE: Link the MotoRokr to your iPad wirelessly and use Line2 app to make calls from your iPad over wifi. Line2 also works on iPhone.

Favorite iPad App in the Morning

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Ever stand at the newsstand hoping to find a magazine with no ads that has all the articles on topics you are interested in reading. Zite is an iPad app that delivers 24/7 all the sections on the news you are interested in following. Each morning  I can slowly rise while enjoying the latest book or theatre review, follow the latest bicycle race, see the new movie trailers, find out what is happening in the world and around the corner in Nova Scotia, or read a provocative essay. Unlike the NYTimes app which I enjoyed, this pulls from all the best newspapers, magazines, blogs , and other online sources for articles.

The reader selects the sections and topics that interest you. Zite follows what you read and intelligently learns to give you more of the same. You can like or dislike as you read along an help Zite improve your choices. You can add and remove sections as your interest change.

Best of all it is a Free App on iTunes.