Inspiration (5 min Friday)

I’m climbing back on the Five Minute Friday train again. This is where we are given a single word prompt and write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write. 


The word for this week is: Inspire

For me inspiration seems to work best when it is an accidental thing, like cleaning up the back yard because I happened to start by picking up a few things that need to be put away before it rains and hours later I’m still going.

Creativity can happen in a similar way, I do some housekeeping on my blog or am jotting notes or random to-do items in my notebook and begin to let my thoughts wander, with the thoughts flow some words and if I can let the words keep coming without too much editing (I can be an obsessed editor!) soon pages begin to fill and something of value may emerge from the mess of notes. Equally likely it remains just a mess of notes but if that mess was never written down no useful creation would ever happen.

I guess in this way I’m a classic ‘ideas in the shower’ sort of person, once I relax, let my mind wander (and feet too, a walk is always a good writing prompt!) the ideas are able to come. As long as I cling to worries, anxiety, problems to resolve, creativity is hindered. If my body can relax (shower, snooze, walking, gardening are all good mechanisms) my mind may well follow and a relaxed mind is able to find inspiration in the most mundane of places.


If feeling inspired, or curious, hit the five minute friday tag to see more of these sort of posts (much older ones!)

24 to 30 July 2017

leith
Photos of the Leith as a raging brown torrent in flood at the top and at its normal ankle-deep flow in the bottom photo

Something I’m wanting to do is to keep an online journal as part of the function of this website. Obviously it is public so some things would not be appropriate to publish here, but considering how much of what is posted to social media networks can easily become public this is probably not too different.

Downpour

A significant event for our region was the recent deluge of rain and associated flooding last Friday and Saturday. Fortunately our house was not affected in any major way beyond some leaky spouting and a very muddy back yard. We did bring one of the rabbits (Cloud) inside overnight on Friday as his hutch was leaking and he had become a bit wet. He got a dry cardboard box of hay in the pet playpen for the night and once the rain eased on Saturday I moved all three of the rabbit hutches onto the concrete driveway to get them out of the mud.

(The image shows the Leith Stream on Saturday 22 July above, then at it normal flow two weeks later below)

Blog housekeeping

Despite the lack of new writing on the blog, I have been busy cleaning up all the old posts that I imported a few weeks ago. This involves fixing broken links, editing for obvious errors, adding images back, fixing fussy things that annoy me such as correct hyphens and ellipses. I’ve also tried to clean up the categories and tags to enable some of the older stuff to be found by association, though there may not be many people who actually navigate website by following tags and categories like I do myself.

Other website work has included tightening up security of the site and trying to speed up the loading time of the site. Slow site loading is one of the prices to be paid for the convenience of using WordPress and bringing that time down to something acceptable takes a surprising amount of work. So far I’ve managed to get it to something I’m satisfied with, and while there is still room for improvement what remains to fix would take a lot of time and expertise that I don’t currently have.

Trampoline

Last summer our 5+ year-old trampoline got a small hole in it, which steadily became bigger and bigger until it could no longer be used. We promised the kids that we would get another trampoline for next summer. Heather recently won an auction on TradeMe for one at a good price so we picked it up a couple of weekends ago and despite the cold weather it was an instant hit. For our kids the trampoline is a great way to get them moving and active after crouching over computers watching Youtube for hours.

Work

The second semester teaching has been underway for several weeks now, though I would not say we are run off our feet setting up labs as yet. That will come in a few more weeks.

Micropub test

I’m trying out the Micropub plugin for WordPress as a way to add short updates to my site.

However, The thought does occur to me that if I’m solely using Micropub to post to my own blog it would be simpler to use the WordPress app that I already have installed on my phone to write a short update that serves the same purpose. As yet I don’t automatically publish my posts to other social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter, but this is easy to turn on. So the question is why bother with yet another way to send stuff to my blog when I already have several available?

I acknowledge that the IndieWeb folks are much smarter than me, but are they trying to fix a problem here that already has an existing solution? I guess that is not the case if you are not using something like WordPress.

The click of a sundial


Billy Collins is one of my favourite poets, his poems are easy to read yet often contain surprising views of everyday experiences. I have recently started reading his book Picnic, lightning which was published in 1998. Yesterday morning I read the poem Picnic, lightning and loved the final stanza:

and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone,
the small plants singing
with lifted faces, and the click
of the sundial
as one hour sweeps into the next.

2017 Reading

What I’m Currently Reading

This page is what I think of as my ‘reading pipeline’. Here you will find the books I’m currently in the process of reading (I tend to have a few on the go at once as different books suit different moods and levels of concentration), a few of the books in the queue to be read next (unless something else catches my interest before I get to them), and then the books I have finished reading this year.

When I read a book, I read the whole thing. I know many folks recommend abandoning books that are not particularly interesting and to skim books to get the gist of them. I don’t do that. If I decide to read a book I keep going until I get right through it, sometimes this can take over a year as I read other stuff in between visits to a less interesting book but I do like to complete the books I start. Perhaps this is a waste of time but it’s my time and I’d rather waste it reading a boring book than dicking around on Facebook.

Currently Reading

These are the books I am reading right now ()

  • The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit by Reuben Archer Torrey
  • Hearing God’s Voice by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
  • Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. (Kindle edition) Not anticipating quick progress through this book, I’m not really the target audience.
  • A Victorian Naturalist, Beatrix Potter’s Drawings from the Armitt Collection by Eileen Jay, Mary Noble & Anne Stevenson Hobbs. A magnificant book featuring impressive scientific illustrations of fungi by Beatrix Potter. Her cute animal stories are only the tip of her amazing talents as an artist.
  • Big Blue Sky, a memoir by Peter Garrett. Really enjoying this book, well written and about someone I’ve long admired.

Slow Reads

There are some books that I intentionally read slowly in order to let their message sink in or to enjoy the experience of digesting smaller morsels that are rich in meaning.

The books I have read so far in 2017

This list is in the order that I read these books.

  1. Anticipation: An Advent Reader by Jon Swanson. 6/10 Finished 9 January 2017. (Kindle edition)
  2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. 1/10 Finished 7 January 2017. (Kindle edition) (An awful book, by a snake oil salesman.)
  3. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin. 8/10 Finished 12 January 2017. (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4) (Kindle edition)
  4. Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson. 8/10 Finished 10 January 2017. (Kindle edition)
  5. Ten Interesting Things About Human Behavior by Suzanne Davis. 6/10 Finished 17 Jan 2017. (Kindle edition)
  6. How To Set Goals by Craig Ballantyne. 3/10 Finished 18 January 2017. (Kindle edition)
  7. The Flinch by Julien Smith. 3/10 Finished 19 January 2017. (Kindle edition)
  8. The Grace of Repentance by Sinclair B. Ferguson. 8/10 Finished 19 January 2017. (Kindle edition)
  9. Pray, Write, Grow by Ed Cyzewski. 7/10 Finished 22 January 2017. (Kindle edition)
  10. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin. 8/10 Finished 19 February 2017. (Kindle edition) (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
  11. Let Us Pray by Watchman Nee. 6/10 Finished 25 February 2017. (Kindle edition)
  12. The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture by Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove. 4/10 Finished 7 March 2017. (Kindle edition)
  13. Buy Buttons: The Fast-Track Strategy to Make Extra Money and Start a Business in Your Spare Time by Nick Loper. 5/10 Finished 12 March 2017. (Kindle edition)
  14. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. 6/10 Finished 27 March 2017. (Kindle edition)
  15. Why Am I Still Depressed? Recognizing and Managing the Ups and Downs of Bipolar II and Soft Bipolar Disorder by Jim Phelps. 8/10 Finished 9 April 2017. (Kindle edition)
  16. Will It Fly? by Pat Flynn. 6/10 Finished 16 April 2017. (Kindle edition)
  17. How to Breed a Rabbit by Sarah Martin. 4/10 Finished 17 April 2017. (Kindle edition)
  18. The Little Book of Thinking Errors: A Self Help Guide to Changing Unhelpful Thoughts by Kevin M. O’Doherty. 5/10 Finished 22 April 2017. (Kindle edition)
  19. Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing by L.L. Barkat. 7/10 Finished 30 April 2017. (Kindle edition)
  20. Do Open: How a simple email newsletter can transform your business by David Hieatt. 6/10 Finished 25 May 2017. (Kindle edition)
  21. Battles Christians Face by Vaughan Roberts. 5/10 Finished 4 June 2017. (Kindle edition)
  22. 10 Things Girls Need Most by Steve Biddulph. 8/10 Finished 5 June 2017. (Kindle edition)
  23. How to Write a Poem by Sean O,Neill. 7/10 Finished 1 July 2017. (Kindle edition)
  24. My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide by Harry E. Chambers. 7/10 Finished 2 July 2017. (Kindle Edition).
  25. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. 2/10 Finished 7 July 2017. (Kindle edition) (Similar ideas to ‘Think and Grow Rich’ but better written and not as absurd).
  26. The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell by Yashua Levine. 4/10 Finished 15 July 2017. (Kindle edition) An obviously biased perspective but does give some insight into what may lie behind some of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing.
  27. The Demise of Guys by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan. 3/10 Finished 1 August 2017. (Kindle edition) A somewhat longwinded and repetitive opining that porn and video games are ruining a generation of man-boys.
  28. Can I Have Joy in My Life by R.C. Sproul. 7/10 Finished 9 August 2017. (Kindle edition) A short book about the source and cultivation of Christian joy. I’d love to have a longer, more in-depth version by this same author
  29. Pray Like It Matters by Steve Gaines. 4/10 Finished 13 September 2017. (Kindle edition).
  30. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz. 7/10 Finished 30 September 2017. (Kindle edition).
  31. The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success by Wayne Breitbarth. 4/10 Finished 5 October 2017. (Kindle edition). Could have learned all that is in this book through blogs and LinkedIn help.
  32. Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett 7/10 Finished 8 October 2017. (ISBN 0 552 14235 2)
  33. Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson 5/10 Finished 13 October 2017. (Kindle edition).
  34. Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick 7/10 Finished 29 October 2017.
  35. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Kindle edition). 8/10 Finished 29 November 2017. I read this book when in my twenties and was impressed with it then, but reading it now makes me amazed at how young and stupid I must have been not to see more in it. I guess also our society has progressed rapidly along the path of elevating the pursuit of happiness to being the ultimate good to which all strive. This particular edition has an interesting essay by the author written about 30 years after he wrote the story.
  36. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell. 8/10 Finished 10 December 2017. (Kindle edition).

Other People’s ‘Reading’ Pages

What make the internet great is the ability to see what others do and learn from it, so here is where I have learned from others:

Inspiration for this page: Kevin Simler

2016 Reading

As you can see from this list, I read a lot of fiction this year, particularly fantasy novels (the entire ‘Wheel of Time’ series and started ‘Game of Thrones’). The Luminaries was an excellent book that had been sitting on my shelf for over a year before I was game to dive into such a thick tome.

For non-fiction, the self-help books ranged from complete garbage (‘Choose Yourself’ by James Altucher and ‘The Desire Map’ by Danielle LaPorte) through to outstanding (‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain). The Case For Working With Your Hands by Matthew Crawford was an interesting book, I didn’t completely agree with his viewpoint some of the time but it was good food for thought. The book about Amy Carmichael by Sam Wellman was a really good biography of her life, Amy Carmichael is someone I’ve admired for a long time, her faith is true inspiration.

  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 1)
  2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 2)
  3. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 3)
  4. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 4) Finished 4 April 2016
  5. The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 5) Finished 11 April 2016
  6. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 6) Finished 19 April 2016
  7. A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 7) Finished 1 May 2016
  8. The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 8) Finished 7 May 2016
  9. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 9) Finished 14 May 2016
  10. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 10) Finished 19 May 2016
  11. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 11) Finished 29 May 2016
  12. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 12) Finished 7 June 2016
  13. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 13) Finished 13 June 2016
  14. A Memory of Light By Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 14) Finished 19 June 2016
  15. Fatal if Swallowed: Reclaiming Creativity & Hope by Joan Leof. Finished 21 April ★ ★
  16. Improve Your Handwriting by Rosemary Sassoon. Finished 22 April 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★
  17. Condition Black by Gerald Seymour. Finished 7 January 2016  ★ ★ ★
  18. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Finished 13 January 2015  ★ ★ ★ ★
  19. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst. Finished 12 July 2016  ★ ★ ★
  20. Amy Carmichael: Selfless Servant of India by Sam Wellman. Finished 20 April 2016  ★ ★ ★ ★
  21. The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. Finished 27 January 2016
  22. Wrestling with Our Inner Angels by Nancy Kehoe. Finished 17 February 2016 ★ ★ ★
  23. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Finished 30 June 2016  ★ ★ ★
  24. Jesus and Money by Ben Witherington. Finished 26 January 2016  ★ ★ ★
  25. Mastery by Robert Greene. Finished 4 February 2016  ★ ★ ★ ★
  26. How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees. Finished 11 July 2016. First part was mildly interesting but degenerated into rubbish in the second half of the book.  ★ ★
  27. Quiet by Susan Cain. Finished 3 February 2016  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  28. How to Live on 24 hours a Day by Arnold Bennett. 1/10 Finished 21 April 2016. A very condescending book with little to no relevance to real life in the 21st century.
  29. Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind (Editor).  ★ ★ ★ ★
  30. Choose Yourself by James Altucher Finished 8 August 2016. A crap book, junk advice.
  31. The Case for Working with Your Hands by Matthew Crawford (Kindle version)
  32. Stand By Me by John Kirwin Finished 15 August 2016, ISBN 978-0-143-57063-9.
  33. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M.Weiland. finished 30 August 2016
  34. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. (Kindle edition) Finished 4 September 2016  ★ ★ ★
  35. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington.
    ISBN 9780702233555, Finished 10 September 2016  ★ ★ ★
  36. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Finished 8 October 2016  ★ ★ ★ ★
  37. Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. (Kindle edition) Finished 31 October 2016  ★ ★ ★
  38. Mind Games by Carolyn Crane. (Kindle edition) Finished 4 November 2016  ★ ★
  39. Isle of Destiny by Kenneth C. Flint. (ISBN 0 553 27544 5), Finished 18 November 2016  ★ ★
  40. The Elder Gods by David & Leigh Eddings. (ISBN 978 0 00 715760 0) Finished 21 November 2016  ★ ★
  41. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. (Kindle edition) Finished 2 December 2016  ★ ★ ★ ★
  42. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. (Kindle edition) Finished 14 December 2016  ★ ★ ★ ★
  43. Why Holiness Matters by Tyler Braun. (Kindle edition) Finished 18 December 2016  ★ ★
  44. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. (Kindle edition) Finished 14 December 2016  ★ ★ ★ ★

Moving house

I’ve changed this site to use WordPress rather than being static HTML and CSS. This enables easier distribution via RSS and a mailing list, along with participation in the principles of the IndieWeb. It also frees my efforts to focus on writing rather that problem solving.

I have decided to move this website to WordPress. This may seem like no big deal, but it actually means a significant change to how I am approaching and using this site/blog.

My intention for the 2017 incarnation of my website was to use it as a tool for learning html and CSS by coding the site by hand. In some ways I did partly achieve this goal – I have learned a lot. However, I also found that I wanted to use the site as an ongoing repository and record of my writing, plus to find a way to syndicate it with social media feeds as I move away from using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter as the place I post thoughts and instead write first on my own site. I have an inherent distrust of companies that make their money off the data gleaned from the users of their services, and I hate all the advertising that I’m barraged with on the big social media channels.

Recently I stumbled across the ‘IndieWeb‘ folks who embrace a similar ideal of pushing for an open web as opposed to the ‘walled gardens’ of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies. Many of the people behind this movement are programmers who code their own solutions to enable interaction with other on the open web and I’m certainly not in that sort of league. But they have also created tools to make life easier for average bloggers like myself, tools such as WordPress themes and plugins – stuff that I am able to implement (if I use WordPress to drive my site).

Discovering these plugins and themes added additional weight to a problem I was facing in having a completely static website; how to notify people of new articles posted on my site. The typical mechanisms to do this are via RSS feeds or email lists, both of which are tricky (as in not possible for me) to implement using html and CSS, the only development tools I have mastered enough to do anything useful with. I did try using a flat-file CMS called Grav last week, but after a lot of fiddling to move my files across to it found that it is still not straightforward to use as a non-programmer.

Another factor in favour of WordPress is that having used it for many years now it takes hardly any thought for me to maintain a blog with it and I really want to put more focus into actual writing and creating content, not spending most of my efforts in trying to get my site simply functional. The articles I had on my static version of the site were mostly ones I had written in the past and I found that there was some good stuff in amongst the trivia I have written over the years. This is the big advantage of cultivating a discipline of regular writing – if I write a lot there will end up being something good produced occasionally. I want to get back to this.