It's only appropriate that the last post I made here worried that RIM was on the rim. This post--and probably quite a few to follow--will be singing the praises of my new iPhone 4s.
"An Apple a Day" is really a title that looks to the future. A more apt title for this post might be "Never Say 'Never.'" I did. Say "never" that is. When Apple did their deal with the devil (AT&T) when the iPhone first came out, I swore I would never own one. It might be the coolest phone on the face of the earth, but my disdain for AT&T was so great that I couldn't conceive ever really minding cutting off my nose to spite my face on that one. I wasn't about to switch from Verizon. (Say what you will, they've been good to me over the years. If that ever changes, so will my cell carrier. Just ask RIM. I'm all about loyalty, but loyalty is a two-way street. Go to sleep at the wheel, start moving backwards, cease to innovate, and you're no longer deserving of loyalty; rather, you're just hoping that your consumer base will confuse that laudable quality with mere inertia. Dream on. Take a lesson from Palm. Heck, it's too late for that. Take a lesson from yourself.)
All of which is to say: I made the switch last week, and in the time since, buyer's remorse hasn't even been in my vocabulary.
Any of you longtime Apple devotees out there should just stop reading now, unless your smug-low-level light is on, in which case, what follows should extinguish it for good.
Often I've asked friends who gave up their PC for a Mac long ago what it is that they like most about Apple products, and frequently the answer has come back as, "It just works." At which point, I would always think, well so does my PC, my Blackberry, etc. Duh. Only in the last few days have I come to understand what that phrase has meant. My Blackberry for instance, would usually do what I asked of it, s l o w l y, and often only after I had submitted my request in triplicate, for a second time, or third, earlier efforts having been returned stamped "Disapproved! Resubmit in 30 days."
The iPhone, on the other hand, well, it just works. Freakin' instantly. And I don't even have to learn how to hold my mouth right when I press the "buttons." Sure, there are some things I can't do on the iPhone that I could on the Blackberry. I'm going to miss those things. But I'm not going to miss those things enough to miss the platform they came with. Categories for my tasks, notes, and contacts. I'll miss that. I'll get over it. I'll fill that ten seconds of longing by accomplishing five tasks in the time it used to take to do one. And I'll do all five at the same time, switching seamlessly between them, and never see a message that says my application memory is low and don't I want to remove something?
I don't mean to become Apple's greatest fan, but I do mean, if I can find the time, to post now and then about some of the cooler apps I've found. I'm not much about games. I'm about getting things done and getting them done faster and with less frustration. In that respect, the iPhone 4s is making more strides than any gadget I've ever owned.
Yeah, I know. You told me so.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
It's only appropriate that the last post I made here worried that RIM was on the rim. This post--and probably quite a few to follow--will be singing the praises of my new iPhone 4s.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Hmmm. As I sit in the Richmond airport at 8:00 a.m., kicking myself, the veteran standby-flight traveler, for not knowing better than to show up for the comfortable 7:00 a.m. flight when the first flight of the day left just before 6:00 a.m.--with seats empty that should have been occupied by some of those ticketed passengers who filled the seat I'm not in on the 7:00 a.m. flight either, I find I'm having the same kind of luck with getting any work done on the Blackberry. Apparently, the RIM network I'm not connected to at the moment is as full to overflowing as was that aircraft I'm not on. After two and a half years now on a Crackberry, this is only the second time I can remember when this has happened with a duration long enough to be noticeable to me. The disconcerting part is that those two times have happened within the last two weeks. In the lingo of an old aircrew evaluator, that makes this a trend. And that is cause for concern.
I switched to Blackberry from Palm because Palm went to sleep at the wheel. Having made their fortunes, they let service slide, software "upgrades" moved backwards, coming with fewer features and more glitches than each previous version. So, I did what any committed capitalist does: I voted with my feet and my $, and took my business elsewhere.
I'm not all that fond of change, really. I love adventure, and when forced to it, I can embrace the new cheese with Sniff and Scurry all day, but I'm also a great believer in the value of loyalty. The thing is, loyalty has to be a two-way street, especially in business. Companies that stay in business a long time have one of two things going for them: either they have no viable competition doing a better job, or they give consistently excellent and reliable service. Only the fickle go looking elsewhere without good reason. That's what it means to be fickle.
I'm not fickle, but nothing I'm reading about RIM, its latest outage and its management principles is giving me a good feeling about what I should expect of Blackberry in the days to come. Most of what I'm finding online suggests that people aren't really happy working for RIM these days. Big companies are like the human body, the health of the whole is a reflection of an infinite number of smaller parts. The bottom line is just a face. Managers forget that too often. Some never learn it.
Get it right RIM. Quickly. It may be too late already. The bronze head may have already spoken. Time is. Time was. Time is passed.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Update: Okay, the original post is still below, but I find I need to apologize to those who know me and know my dog. I am so sorry for scaring everyone. Especially both my oldest daughters, my sister, and my former spouse. Sydni is still with us and doing great for a 13+ year old dog. But she's slowing down, can't climb the stairs by herself, is deaf as a post, and can't make it further than around the block before she's ready to be done with the walk. Not that she isn't as excited as ever to get out the door--she's just done by the time you turn the second corner. Still, she's as beautiful as ever (really, she looks better than she has in five years), and fuzzy and loving and she smiles. Especially when she's sleeping, which is most of the time. (I find I'm back to that stage I was in right after my girls were born, when I checked on them during naps and in the middle of the night to be sure they were still breathing.) And all of that is why I said I'm going to miss her. Both of Laura's old dogs passed this past year, and so I'm just hyper-conscious of Sydni's age and more grateful than ever for every day that begins and ends with nuzzles and husky-hugs from her. That's all. My bad. So sorry. Truly I am. I expect better of myself when it comes to proofing my own work from a reader's perspective, but clearly I skipped that step entirely with this quick little post whipped off during the workday to capture a nostalgic moment. Clearly. When my ex called tonight she'd been crying, as I expect I would to think I was hearing similar news of her dog. By the time she was laughing, after my profuse apologies, she summed up the gaff pretty well. "That's the last thing I would expect from you, the Wizard of Words." More like the Scrivener's Apprentice today. Again, sorry.
For some reason, the smell of the ocean is strong to me today--possibly not a good thing, it being about 100 miles away. But what has been nice is the flashback to all those morning and evening walks with Sydni in Charleston that usually ended on the pier jutting into the tidal marsh of Shem Creek, back in those days when the tide charts were part of my daily crosscheck. I am going to miss my dog.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
As a youth, I actually had little to say, but it didn't keep me from talking a lot. When I consider the difference between me now and me then, I often wonder that the friends who've known me the longest don't sometimes think I've been replaced by an alien double. Not that I'm shy or rude or taciturn. But when it really matters, I try to measure my words more carefully every year.
There are tons of adages that urge us to such behavior:
I've often seen signs that read, "Better to keep one's mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."
My stepmother, not long after she came into my life, hung a plaque in my childhood kitchen that read, "A wise old owl, the less he spoke, the more he heard."
Early in my military career someone shared the sage advice that, "When in the presence of a superior officer, you should never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut."
But all the adages and anecdotes in the world pale next to experience. And that's what's really made me quieter as I've aged--the simple truth that through the years I've far more often regretted what I did say than what I didn't.
Silence is a blank canvas that can be filled with beauty if we're careful enough when we choose our words, but the barbs that escape us before their time can never be called back, and sometimes, the damage they do can't be repaired.
After nearly 52 years, I think the best adage I've seen to express it is the epigraph with which Brian Turner opens his poem "Sadiq," and which I will use to close this post. Peace y'all.
"It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more. -Sa'di
Sunday, August 14, 2011
These are worth watching. All three. Either via the embeds below, or directly through their Vimeo post.
3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage... all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food ....into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films.....
= a trip of a lifetime.
move, learn, eat
Rick Mereki : Director, producer, additional camera and editing
Tim White : DOP, producer, primary editing, sound
Andrew Lees : Actor, mover, groover
MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.
LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.
EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Good reading is something I only wish I had time for these days. Thanks to my wife, there's no shortage of it. Thanks to my current position, there's no time for it.
I think I can only survive this particular job for so long. I think being a Dean is not supposed to be like this. I think you're supposed to have time for reflection, to pursue ideas to improve the school for everyone, maybe even to do a little research on a project or two of your own. Always Hemingway comes to mind: "Isn't it pretty to think so."
But some of you who read me have time on your hands, so let me offer a few discoveries from an evening of catching up on my lovely wife's blog, and pulling on a few of the strings dangling from its edges. I've added these to my own list of "Daily Reads," which once upon a time lived up to its name. These days it's merely an ambition; not even that really--more like a fond wish.
So for those of you with time on your hands to surf and to read . . .
Try A Passing Glimpse. A worthwhile mix of words and photography, and either worth the visit for its own sake.
After that, mosey on over to 80 West, where it's more about the words, or more accurately, about the mind behind them.
Finally, around dinner time, drop into E.A.T. for some ideas on what to do with nature's bounty on a very local scale. I know more than one of you to be a fellow foodie. You won't be disappointed.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
An observation seeded by and elided from an e-mail I had to send today.
Improvement has three steps: 1) recognizing where it’s possible, 2) suggesting a better way, and 3) implementing that solution.
Those who often and publicly take the first step without ever making it to the second drag everyone down.
Those who consistently take the first two, but regularly witness good ideas die on the vine, seldom witnessing that third crucial step, eventually lose hope in the project or institution and abandon it, if they have options.
My job as a supervisor is to always be participatory and encouraging in that process along every step of the way. I should be looking for imperfection in our processes and open to hearing it from my subordinates and those above me. I should be innovative in finding better ways and encouraging to suggestions for them from below and above. And finally, I should be the impetus behind implementation of improvements, not the source of inertia or fear that roots every process in the status quo.
Now if I can just live up to what I know.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The summer of 1971, I was 11 years old. Sixth grade was behind me. "Middle school" loomed ahead. Both parents worked. I and my two sisters were tended to by a nanny. Her name was Mary. Her son's, John and Jerry had been my playmates on and off for years. I lived To Kill a Mockingbird and I'll Fly Away.
I woke every day that summer by 7:30. I cooked my own breakfast--cereal, or cinnamon toast, or toasted cheese--and by 9:00 every morning I was in the garden. I hoed and harvested tomatoes, squash, okra, radish. With cousins who lived two houses up the road, I built "forts" in the field beside our home--areas where the near-head-high (to an 11-year-old) rabbit tobacco plants were bent down at the end of a maze of an entry path. I played spin-the-bottle and got into all manner of other trouble with female cousins and neighbors. (When I consider the freedom we had to wander back then, I consider it a wonder we survived. Clearly none of us think our own children capable of the same responsibility at such early ages.)
But my favorite memory of that summer consists of the reading I did lying in bed each morning, enjoying that last fleeting hour of coolness before the sweltering southern summer sun turned house and world both into a place where any clothing more than cutoff jeans and a wholly optional tee shirt were too much to bear. I remember Dandelion Wine and The Martian Chronicles. And by remember, what I mean is, I remember that I read them, and that I enjoyed the former in particular, tremendously. As for the action of either, I've not a clue.
Fast forward forty years.
Tonight, out walking with the family after dinner, the air was laden with the smells of summer in the country. I live in the city mind you, or what native Richmonders refer to as "the near west end." I laugh at that. Four blocks "nearer" and it would be in The Fan, and no one disputes that as being essentially in the city. But the alleys here are alive with the smell of flowers, of cut grass, of treated wooden fences, of the dirt beneath your feet, of gardenia, magnolia, and honeysuckle's last gasp. Rabbits run down the alley before you and squirrels scold from fence top.
And if you close your eyes and take a deep breath, you can travel through time to a summer of lazy mornings, food fresh from the garden, Royal Blue spray paint and fresh bearing grease applied to a boy's bicycle, crawdads snatched from beneath flat rocks in streams about to be dammed to create perfect ponds for skinny-dipping deep in the hollows of grandparent's old homesteads. You can smell the leather of new wallets perfect for tucking away money earned pricing groceries in a family store--money saved with the object of a new RCA clock radio in mind.
And you can wake again the next day to that clock radio, pull the paperback book from the nightstand, and embrace again a dawning day and the beginnings of a lifelong love of the wonder of the written word.
All in a breath, if the right four-year-old is tugging at your finger to show you the treasure of newly discovered unidentifiable metal plucked from the otherwise inconspicuous dirt of the roadway.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
catharsis [(kuh- thahr -suhs)]Reading The World According to Garp, back in 1981, I reached the point where one of the children loses an eye in an accident. I put the book aside, and it was weeks before I picked it up again. I thought for years, decades actually, that it was simply that I couldn't stand for bad things to happen to children, even in fiction. Time has refined the things I understand about myself. I've realized that what I'm really bothered by is the sacrifice of innocence or beauty to something that is neither innocent nor beautiful.
An experience of emotional release and purification, often inspired by or through art. In psychoanalysis, catharsis is the release of tension and anxiety that results from bringing repressed feelings and memories into consciousness.
--The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
For about the last 24 hours, I've felt physically ill. I can't say for certain whether it's something I ate that affected me so, or, more likely, something I read.
My longtime mentor in the world of books gave me one over the holidays. A book, as he said today, not casually chosen. Nor am I sorry to have read it. The book was Laughing Boy, the 1930 Pulitzer Prize winner by Oliver La Farge.* The climax of the book and the accompanying cathartic moment came barely 30 pages from the end. The climax: sudden revelation of the truth by an accident of fate, action taken on that truth. The cathartic moment: the necessity of a choice. Cathartic because I recognize that having faced the same choice, I lacked the self-awareness of La Farge's protagonist. I lacked the strength of character.
Now I must choose between her and myself. If I stay with her, I lose myself, really. I am a man. I am a warrior. If I do not give her up, I become something else from what I have always been. . . .What we appreciate about great literature is its ability to put into words what we know but can't express, what we experienced but couldn't recognize for our immersion in the experience itself. I'm grateful to La Farge and to my friend for both.
I must go away. I cannot stay with her. She is worth everything in the world, but there is something in me that I have no right to trade for her. That is what I must do.
*Whatever you do, don't read the grossly inaccurate plot summary of the novel on Wikipedia. Grossly inaccurate.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I played golf last week. First round I've played in Richmond, after living here almost two years. Rotary Club tournament. Captain's choice format. We finished four under par. Had a great time.
Why blog about it? I'm not. I'm blogging about a revelation that occurred on the course. I had a decision to make about something. I can't even remember what that something was. I just remember suddenly being aware of the decision process. Again, the decision is unimportant. The process is everything. The revelation came in suddenly recognizing the process. In recognizing that it governs an awful lot of the decisions I make. Too many perhaps.
The beauty is that from this point forward, having recognized the process, I can harness it. The most interesting thing is that I didn't recognize it earlier.
The revelation came like this. Facing a decision, two options seemed eligible. I leaned toward one. I wondered why. In realizing why, I foregrounded an aspect of such choices that has long been there, but fairly automatic. Awareness makes it conscious. The aspect? Which of the two choices would most people not make?
Not that I seek to shock. I don't really. I simply seek to be anything but normal, average, run-of-the-mill, boring. The difference on the course the other day? Awareness. I've been anything but boring for a long time. It just happened. I've been aware of it for a long time. What I've not been aware of is how strong a role that need plays in most of my decision making.
All my life, I was the youngest this, the first that, the something some other thing. On the backside of fifty now, whole new vistas of firsts open up in the opposite direction. I expect I'll be the oldest this, the last that, and still something some other thing. My point is that all of that just happened. I didn't set out to be exceptional in those ways. I just set out to do this or that thing that I wanted to do. Then when barriers came in the form of, "Well you need to be this age to do this," or "You need this rank to fill this position," or "You need this experience for this post," I always managed to find the waiver authority for whatever rule was being invoked and to get the rule bent in my favor and then do a better job at whatever it was than anyone who fit the profile I was the exception to.
But choosing a path that makes you an exception and choosing a path because it will make you an exception are two different things. It was the occasional entry of the latter into my decision making that I recognized on the golf course this week. And recognizing it, I then wondered when it had become so strong a force. When did the drive to be the exception become a motivating force in its own right?
For instance, I've been jumping out of planes for so long now, and love it so much, that I can no longer remember the exact motivation for taking that path. But I'm sure now that part of that decision was that skydiving was something most people wouldn't do. A HALO badge is something few soldiers and fewer airmen wear. A liaison tour with the Marines or the Army is something most people are drafted into, reluctantly--I volunteered twice. In 2007, I actively sought an assignment to Kabul as the Air Attache to Afghanistan, and would have won the assignment except that the embassy wouldn't re-open in time for me to complete the tour before my mandatory retirement. (Don't think I didn't look for a way to bend that rule too.)
In the end, I recognize that this decision process may not be the surest route to longevity. But I can tell you this: my life is not, nor will it be, boring, or normal, or average. For the most part, I detest those latter two words (unless they're being spoken by my doctor or, more specifically, my gastroenterologist, and occasionally, even then).
When I lived in Colorado, I used to gather with my classmates once a month for wine tasting. Ostensibly. Really, it was a monthly ritual in which we engaged simply to remind ourselves that, while aging was inevitable, maturity was largely optional. Monday's revelation may mean that even the latter can't be escaped forever.
I'm not saying my decisions will necessarily change. I may have a new awareness of the decision process that I lacked before, but faced with pancakes or crab cakes, I'd still choose crab cakes.
Blue Skies. Doc
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Funny how I get my news these days. I was skydiving all day Saturday and Sunday (eleven jumps, all with people new to the sport), so my first inkling of the biggest news of the last few days came in the form of a text from one of my daughters: "Good morning! Happy bin Laden is dead day! Every patriotic Toby Keith song has played on my radio." And that was how I got the news.
Later in the day, my own spouse made it clear that she thinks any rejoicing in OBL's demise is misguided. And I've heard the same from others. Many on Facebook have now begun posting the words of MLK: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
While I appreciate the sentiment, I believe the mistake these people make is conflating rejoicing with hatred. While that may have been the case on the bridge in Fallujah--and for some it may be the case here--it doesn't have to be. The argument can be made that the Munchkins, as a species, are incapable of hatred; yet they rejoice when nothing of their nemesis but the ruby slippers is left unflattened by Dorothy's house.
I grieve at the death of one innocent. Even more so when that death is the result of intent. But I believe I could put a bullet between the eyes of any of OBL's ilk in perfect cold calm, without the need of hatred to drive me or to spare me regret later. I don't pray to be released from that capability; rather, I thank God for it, and that it exists in others who protect us.
Evil exists. To rejoice in the death of innocents is its own form of evil. To rejoice in the death of such a one as OBL is to be rightly thankful for deliverance from a threat, a cloud, a menace, a catalyst to other dark and darker souls.
So ding dong, I say, without apology. At least one wicked witch is dead. Bring out the lollipops.
Friday, April 29, 2011
For the past two years, busy opening a new campus of a Level V, SACS-accredited school, I've had little time to write here.
But my lovely and much better half has taken up the slack.
Her latest submission for publication made the front page for the One Kind Word Project today. And her own blog is humming along nicely as well.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."My stepson, bless his heart, has had a hard time of it of late. He is, as we used to say in the Air Force, "all thrust and no vector" (used in its single-dimensional if non-lexicographic sense of direction only without magnitude). He cannot control himself. He is not angry or malicious, mind you. That phase passed long ago, the inevitable result of a world turned upside down by divorce. No, this version of non-existent self-control is more driven by curiosity, over-abundant energy, above-average intelligence, and a disposition to disregard all boundaries of space and property. I awoke Saturday morning to find his bed empty and the tiny man downstairs, in the study, where he knows he's not to be, playing on not one, but two computers, both verboten. His repeated random keystrokes and who knows what else had vexed mine right into the blue screen of death. Not an auspicious beginning to the day, and it went downhill, in the Tiny Man's case, from there right through Sunday evening when, after dealing out consequence as dispassionately as I was capable of for nearly 36 straight hours without much detectable effect on behavior, I was granted parole to go see a movie in the interest of my sanity.
The movie is not important. Important is that, as I was putting on my coat to go, having had mostly only attention in the form of one consequence after another for the better part of two days, around the corner came a tiny man with a surprisingly flattering request: "Can I come with you?" "No son. Good night."
A brief exchange, it's true, but weighty. I needed a break. He needed . . . me. Never mind that other than a brief six-hour respite at work I had been on his case like white on rice for two days. I had thought he'd be as glad for the break in constant surveillance as I, but no. Nor did it change this morning. Out of bed nearly an hour before he should be, he was sent back to it, but chose instead, to avail himself of the pre-dawn darkness to rummage his sister's room while she slumbered. Busted yet again, his last sight of me this morning was exasperatedly tucking him in, kissing his brow, and closing the door to his room.
Fast forward through a long day at work where sometimes even the grown ups, when they don't get their way, are a trial more akin to rearing a four-year-old. Fast forward to bed time, and a calm conversation about consequence, about why again tonight there will be no Wii for the young hacker. And once there, freeze frame. Freeze on a bundle of four-year-old boy sitting in a half-century of lap, cradled, protected, nurtured, and loved, and listening calmly, and answering correctly when asked, "Why is there no Wii for you tonight son?"
"Because I went in the study and I played on the pooters."
"And why did you lose blanky this morning?"
"Cause I was in sissy's room playing wif her stuff."
"And who has control of how these things go son?"
"I got blanky back."
"So I see. For putting away all your clean clothes in their right drawers I hear. Very good, son. I'm proud of you."
"Will you carwy me downstairs?"
"Okay. Let's go."
Zoom in to angelic face of featherweight boy bundle snuggled into broad, man shoulders with blanky for pillow, arms around neck, tiny head tucked against bearded chin. I thought I might melt. The import, really, of "Will you carwy me?" is simply this: "I'd prefer my feet never hit the floor again tonight. I like here." Velcro. Even the squirms mostly worn out of him by a rambunctious day.
So down we go to rocking chair in living room. Man, boy, blanket, BlackBerry. Why BlackBerry? Simple: music. For the next thirty minutes, we snuggled and surfed. We worked our way through a series of music videos on YouTube, tiny hands holding the boy-sized screen as we worked our way through songs, me singing with most of them, each ending in the same refrain: "Can we do anover one?" Half an hour like this until, eyelids droopy, we headed up to brush teeth, don jammies, and be tucked in for the night.
Who needs whom most at the end of such a day is never really clear, not really even relevant, perhaps not even answerable. We empty our boy and man pockets on a common table: security, vulnerability, strength, fragility, age, youth, wisdom, innocence, calculation, impetuousness, anticipation, trust, and love. It works, this sharing. He's tall already, but in these moments he fits still in the crook of an arm. Safe. Calm. At home.
What I offer below is a list of those videos, that music. Soundtrack of a life. Witness to the wisdom of a license plate: love wins.