Monday, December 31, 2007

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By Benevolent Powers
Faithfully and quietly surrounded by benevolent powers,
wonderfully guarded and consoled,
- thus will I live this day with you
and go forth with you into another year.

Still will the past torment our hearts
Still, heavy burdens of bad times depress us,
Ah, Lord give our startled souls
the grace for which we were created.

And if you pass to us the heavy, the bitter
cup of pain, filled to the brim,
we will accept it, without trembling
from your good and beloved hand.

But if you wish us to rejoice once more
in this world and the brilliance of its sun
then the past too we will remember
and so our entire life will belong to you.

With warmth and light let flame today the candles
that you have brought into our darkness.
If it can be, bring us together once again!
We know your light is shining in the night.

When the silence spreads around us deeply,
let us hear that full sound of the world
stretching out invisibly around us;
let us hear the children's praising song.

Warmly protected by benevolent powers,
with confidence we wait for what may come.
God is with us at evening and at morning
and most certainly at each new day.


(When words like this are written from a Nazi prison camp at Christmas 1944, we should all pause and pay attention. Blessings on your reflections upon the passing of another year, and on your hopes for the year to come. //Halfwise)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

More than just Mucus (TM)


Wow. And also Eeewww.

It takes a bold company to trademark a slogan like "More than just Mucus".* But Robitussin has taken this bold step, and I for one feel better knowing that there are creative departments out there who are willing to do this.

I wonder what they left back in the focus group? I am betting that the also-rans included
  • Far more than Phlegm
  • Going beyond Greenies
  • Helping with Hocksnot
  • Lots more than Loogies
  • Beyond basic Boogers
*The slogan was in the sidebar but I could not capture the graphic containing said slogan to post it here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas traditions

Merry Christmas to all
(or perhaps more accurately to "both" because I suspect that is the readership count of this little blog)

Yesterday was the Christmas celebration at the Halfwise house, as the complications and obligations of extended families had my daughters scheduled to be elsewhere today, the 25th.

I have two Christmas traditions that are becoming more and more valuable to me each year. I write a card to each daughter, and lately to my soon to be son-in-law, with a few words of what I have appreciated most about them this past year. These make each of us puddle up, and I am hoping that the cards find themselves put away as keepsakes. I draft each message on my computer, so I have a record of what I have said.

My second tradition is just before the meal. Rather than say grace, I read the King James Version of Luke's account of the birth of Christ, the one that starts "And it came to pass in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed." I can not get through it to the "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" without puddling up, which apparently is widely understood and even anticipated by the assembled throngs.

These are traditions I can grow old with.

Blessings of wisdom, grace and strength to all. (or to both, as the case may be)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Isaiah Knew

Merry Christmas to all

Here is something I wrote in 1990. It goes to the tune of "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Isaiah Knew

“God with us, Emanuel” the prophecy proclaimed.
“The Prince of Peace, the Mighty One,” before His birth was named.
Sent by God but born of flesh, man’s sins to bear away,
Jesus Christ of Nazareth was born on Christmas Day.

Our Christmas is so different now, our world so darkly changed:
We buy our gifts and mail our cards and act like folks deranged
By greed and guilt, false charity, ability to pay…
Though Christ the King erased all that by being born today.

In spite of God’s fantastic gift of everlasting life
We complicate our time on Earth with self-inflicted strife.
As fallen man has always done we balk like mules, and bray
“God has no relevance for me on this, or any, day.”

A steadfast group of faithful souls sees a different, hope-filled truth:
A loving, caring, serving life; a God who’s not aloof;
Salvation born of faith, not deeds, yet deeds which clearly say
“Our Christ, Our King, Our Pow’rful Lord was born this Christmas Day!”

Ignore for now your catalogues, your turkeys and your plans.
Set aside that festive trim, make way for the Son of Man!
The Holy Spirit works through you; let neighbors hear you say
“For me, the greatest gift of all was born on Christmas Day.”

So stand up now, stand up and claim new life in Jesus Christ!
Then take your faith and give it feet! Go out into the night
Of other people’s worldly cares, and share with them, and pray
That Jesus Christ of Nazareth might fill their hearts this day.

“God with us, Emanuel,” the prophecy proclaimed,
“The Prince of Peace, the Mighty One,” before His birth was named.
Sent by God but born of flesh, our sins he bears away; Jesus Christ of Nazareth was born on Christmas Day.

Investment wisdom

It is better to lose an opportunity than to lose money.
Wow, this is far from intuitive for me.

I was raised on "Opportunity knocks but once" and phrases of that ilk. Lately I have been studying new approaches to investment management, based mostly on being honest about the results I have achieved with the results I manage myself.

I have bought thousands of dollars worth of stock based on a couple of comments and some cheerleading by people I do not know, and then I have not had the sense to sell when the price drained painfully downwards.

There is much I do not know about investment management, but I am dedicated to learning. The first thing I have learned is that there are always, always more opportunities. The fact that I have heard about some gold stock or tech development is just a fluke; for every opportunity that I hear about, there are thousands of others, whether in the stock market or real estate or eBay or wherever, that I have not heard about.

Performance problems usually have their roots in one of two areas: Willingness or Ability.

The challenge for me is to learn to evaluate the opportunities, not just bite like a hungry fish at some bait that happens to float past. And beneath the ability to learn, is the foundation of willingness to wait.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The poetry of fluvial geomorphology

Rivers have a life cycle, from small freshet to vigorous stream to powerful torrent to meandering river. There is a metaphor in there somewhere. A riffle in a mature river hints at past energy while signifying the relentless levelling of the landscape.

Herewith, some thoughts on said riffle:

Riffle
murmurs,
a hint of turbulence.
A river's whole life,
condensed.

I have a past,
leaping
falling,
eroding to today.

Let me not turn placid,
smooth
worn,
weedy.

I do not mourn the waterfall years,
times of deadly rapids
but Lord save me
from becoming a fly-buzzing
stagnant
backwater.

Between past and maybe,
a riffle
not yet silenced.


[Halfwise] 2006

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spiritual Garage Sale

As I approach a much needed break at Christmas, and the calendar turns to the New Year, it's always a time to reflect, to consider my purpose, my goals, my joys and regrets, the nonsense and chaos of my daily life, and the stories that I tell myself and others about what it all means.

This year it is time to do this, with more freedom and possibilities on the table than ever before. And why not? In Mary Oliver's incomparable words,
"Doesn't everything die at last and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
In the realm of my being that is loosely referred to as the spiritual, it is time for a garage sale.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Some of the encumbrances include previous versions of my mission statement, focusing on priorities that are ultimately unrewarding, ignoring sources of energy that in the past have fed my soul (hello again CS Lewis! Long time no see!) and succumbing to blinding greed and acquisitiveness.

Any of you done this? A comment from a fellow runner would be a delight.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Travelling light


I have long been a fan of Japanese technology. There is a small matter of a language barrier, which I worked on pretty hard for several years, and there is a long plane ride between here and there, so it is hard to go over and check things out. They sure have neat stuff.

But www.dynamism.com has the coolest Japanese stuff available right here in North America. This posting is being put together on a Panasonic W5 subnotebook, weighing 2 1/2 pounds, with a battery life of 8 real life hours, and a built in DVD recorder and player. I have had this little gem for about a year, it is first class. It has been replaced with the W7 series, as far as I can tell. But what a treat to be able to go anywhere with a real computer. Way cool.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Living the dream

My wife and I just took a week's vacation to clear our heads and do some thinking about what we might do with the next step in our lives. Rather than sit around and stare at the ceiling, we took a course together (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) that gave us structure, time and space to think through questions about our purpose and about what we do to support that purpose (or not).

It was time and money very well spent. And instead of spending that time and money up here in the Land of the Frozen Chosen, we hopped a flight to San Jose and took the 3 days of training there, then jumped into a rented Sebring convertible and headed south to San Diego, then back up the coast through Santa Barbara and the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur and Monterey. A dream drive come true, for me. And the sunset dinner in Santa Barbara while the locals held a boat parade and fireworks show was lovely.

Living a life of integrity requires actions that are consistent with principles and purposes. For the recent past I have been living in a world of good intentions and rational excuses. But if I want to achieve something new and different, it seems I actually have to DO something about it. Bummer...

In the next few weeks I will post a few of the quotations that were posted during the course. Here is a starter:
Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he inhabits.
Fulton Sheen

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Banish the darkness


I live in a place that gets plenty of winter darkness. The effect on many people is predictable: less energy, craving for carbohydrates and increased depression.

Litebook is an Alberta firm (www.litebook.com) that makes a product that I think is terrific: a portable and efficient light source that gives our brains the impression that we are outside in the sun.

This is a product that has been well thought through. I find mine to be very helpful. It has applications in lower latitudes as well, for shift workers, jet lag, and -- wouldn't THIS be a miracle -- teenagers whose sleep patterns are out of sync with the real world.

Check it out. At $200, this is not cheap. But overcoming the effects of darkness is worth spending money on.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

It's not whether you win or lose...

...it's how you lay the blame.


Fran Liebowitz

(Who among us hasn't worked with someone who lives by this sorry creed?)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The opposite of a great idea

...is another great idea.

(attributed to Niels Bohr, but unlikely to be something he actually said).

He DID say

How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.
  • As quoted in Niels Bohr : The Man, His Science, & the World They Changed 1966) by Ruth Moore, p. 196