Monday, April 30, 2012

What Would You Do?

In your grocer's freezer is an ice cream treat known as a Klondike bar. The national advertising campaign for this product features the tag line, "What would you do for a Klondike bar?" Their ads feature people doing the most ridiculous and embarrassing things just for the promise of a free treat.

Unseen announcer: Would you cluck like a chicken for a Klondike bar?
Person on the street: Probably.
Unseen announcer: Would you sing a medley of Manilow tunes on a crowded inner city subway car at 2:00 a.m. for a Klondike bar?
Person on the street: ♪ I write the songs that make the whole world sing ...! ♪
Unseen announcer: Would you chop off your arm above the elbow for a Klondike bar?
Person on the street: Dah, who wouldn't?
Unseen announcer: Would you run for public office for a Klondike bar?
Person on the street: Dude, I have my limits.

Anyway, I had a run-in with a Klondike bar the other evening and was able to answer the question, "What would I do for a Klondike bar?". It was kind of late at night and I was feeling a bit peckish. I searched the cupboard for a snackerel and didn't see anything that excited me. Cabinet? Ugh. Fridge? Bah. I opened the freezer and there sat a box of Klondike bars. It had already been opened earlier, but apparently in haste as the box was still mostly covered in its original plastic wrapping. Looking at the hungry polar bear on the wrappers I thought to myself, hmmmm. I guess I will have one of those. I reached into the freezer and made a swipe at one of the bars but was thwarted by the plastic wrap. I made a second attempt to reach my fingers into the packaging to grab my treat, but again came up empty. I then closed the freezer and walked away.

So, what would I do for a Klondike bar? Well, apparently not very much.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Iron Lance

In the year 1095 Pope Urban of Rome declared a holy war on the Muslim and Turkish infidels that have taken occupancy of the holy land of Christianity. His call for crusade has gone out across all of Europe for kings and leaders to rally their people to build a great army for God. The Scottish lord Ranulf and his two eldest sons have chosen to join the pilgrimage to liberate Jerusalem and Antioch from the infidel scourge. Ranulf's youngest son, Murdo, is left to assist his mother in looking after the long-held family estate. However, soon after the menfolk depart, the regional Bishop takes to brutally seizing the local estates and filling his coffers from their rich holdings. This begins the first book in the Celtic Crusades trilogy of author Stephen Lawhead, entitled The Iron Lance.

Young Murdo, a boy of only 14 years, in his rage at the church and their strong-armed abuse of power and rampant treachery and greed, sets out on a pilrimage of his own. His quest is to find his father and bring him back home to reclaim their lands and their honor. The trek to Jerusalem takes nearly a year by sea. Murdo's traveling companions include a trio of monks, including the wise and mentoring Brother Emlyn, and the ship's loyal captain and crew. Murdo's remarkable journey is measured by his growth from a sheltered and naive boy to a principled and directed man. He learns not only of himself but experiences much to shape his faith, including two unusual encounters with Saint Andrew and recovering the spear that pierced Jesus while he hung on the cross.

The Iron Lance is a masterful work in its character development and the lands and times in which it takes place. From Murdo, to Lord and Lady Ranulf, to Murdo's brothers Torf and Skuli, to Emlyn the monk, to emperor Alexius, to the English and Frankish kings, to Murdo's wife Ragna. Each of these people I saw as fully fleshed out and alive. From the Orkney Islands in Scotland, to Constantinople in the Byzantine empire, to Jerusalem, and to Jaffa on the Mediterranean Sea. I could picture the lands and see with clarity the settings before me. Now, onto the second book in the series, The Black Rood.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grind My Gears 28

Slot B not fitting into tab A? Are you freakin' kidding me? Some cretin at the factory probably just wazzed things up when he was collecting his high union wages at taxpayer's expense whilst working only 3 hours a day twice a week. There is no way things could be screwed up because I put them together incorrectly ... And NO, I do not need to read the instructions! That notion, my friend, is totally unacceptable. It is fully against that warm and squishy American can-do spirit. In fact, people who read the enclosed instructions before putting something together really grind my gears. I mean it is really value added when you have lots of extra parts left over after assembling that shelving system for your rare vase collection. Plus the screaming and ranting scene that typically ensues provides me with a vigorous work-out that both tones and shapes. In fact, the way the thing tilts ever so gently to the side just makes the piece look "rustic" and home-crafted (like it was made by artisans). I mean those Dilberts that actually take the time to read the instructions may have shelves that don't collapse the moment that someone walks by, but they also don't have a soul either!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thick Skin/Tender Heart II

Pastor Charles Swindoll always talks about the importance for us to develop a thick skin while cultivating a tender heart. Yet this type of personal make-up seems to require our living in an uneasy tension between two very different natures.

A hard heart implies that through the circumstances of our lives, we have developed an attitude of indifference. Cold, insensitive, unfeeling, and unyielding. It is likely a condition brought on by past hurt or pain. We have set ourselves in a position to purposefully and intentionally shut out unwanted influences. It is a protection mechanism that has been developed to filter out specific circumstances, emotions, or situations.

A tender heart gives us the ability to feel deeply and remain connected at an important emotional level. It means that we have developed a mindset that approaches the world with an attitude of warmth, compassion, charity, and sensitivity. We tend to be very easily moved by the plight or circumstances of those around us.

Yet, the combination of a thick skin with a tender heart seems to imply something of a delicate balance between opposing characteristics. The coupling of these two qualities, when appropriately developed and instituted in our programming, really amounts to a rational approach to making an informed decision on what we let affect our hearts and minds. It allows for the separation of the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the slag. It keeps us from reacting or over-reacting to people, situations, and input that unnecessarily and needlessly takes us to unhealthy places and mindsets. In fact, while seemingly a delicate tension, cultivating a thick skin with a tender heart is really the most healthy position of equilibrium for each of us.

(Part 2 of 2)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thick Skin/Tender Heart I

Pastor Charles Swindoll always talks about the importance for us to develop a thick skin while cultivating a tender heart. Yet this type of personal make-up seems to require our living in an uneasy tension between two very different natures.

A thick skin provides the ability for unimportant and potentially damaging emotional input to our systems to be quickly dissipated from our minds and hearts. We process the information and consciously decide that it is not worth any level of investment, action, or ownership on our part. That is the end of it. The input and the people it came from are not allowed to affect us or infect us. It is not simply burying the information so that it sits below the surface eating away at us until it erupts and spews its poison at some future time. It is just summarily deposited into the waste bin and is really and truly gone from our consciousness.

A thin skin implies that we are sensitive or, in some cases, hypersensitive to criticism (whether real or imagined) from others. We are easily upset, affected, and afflicted. Feelings of anxiety or despair can overwhelm us, leaving us in a state of depression and negativity that can last for days. The way our body and mind react to such input, even when we acknowledge that there is no reason or basis for us to feel anything or to let ourselves get entangled in any feelings of negativity, implies that our reactions are subconscious and run deep into our very being.

(Part 1 of 2)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yukon Tales

I walked into a colleague's office the other day to go over some logistics details of a project that I am working on. As I was sitting in the chair across from his desk, my eyes wandered to a nearby bookshelf along one of his walls. Instead of being filled with technical manuals or textbooks, it contained an eclectic mix of books from his own personal collection. Trying to be witty, I asked him if he kept these book in his office just to impress his visitors. His response to me was almost as if he had expected the question. He jumped from his chair and hastened to his shelf. Running his fingers along the spines of the books, searching for a specific title, he pulled out a thin book and handed it to me with a big smile. "You have got to read this book, it is just wonderful!" The passion in his response intrigued me. It is not like he even knew that I liked to read or had the slightest inkling of what my tastes might be. But even beyond his enthusiasm, the title of the book struck me as completely unexpected. Best Tales of the Yukon. How someone could be so impassioned over a book on the Yukon was beyond me. However, given the nature of the offer, as well as the thinnest of the book, I decided to give it a shot.

The book was written by Robert Service, a banker teller stationed in the Yukon territory. It represents a collection of poetry and verse that details the Klondike gold rush of the early 1900s, as well as the savage beauty of the land and the melange of characters that inhabited it. The individual pieces were based on a time and place that was filled with vivid imagery and a wild mix of frontier personalities. The author's language and style really did transport me to the world that he lived in and experienced. From the highest highs of striking it rich to the lowest lows of striking out. A fun and interesting read.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rabbit Hole

All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.

I struggle around most people, not knowing where to look or what to say. Where do I put my hands? What am I supposed to do when my body twitches as if burned by flame under the pressure of their gaze? My mind screams, "Get out of there!" I am overwhelmed with anxiety and it feels that the walls of the room are closing in upon me. I do not have the strength to bear up under these feelings of anxiety and pressure to do what I am not equipped to do.

My issues are made all the more constricting and cloying when conflict is present. It often feels that my best recourse is to run and hide, escape down that rabbit hole. Run to my own world where I feel safe and can breathe. Only there does my heart slow down and find its quiet pace. Only there does my mind begin to sensibly process information. Of course, running and hiding whenever things get tough or uncomfortable, is not necessarily a healthy way to live. You cannot be part of the big wide world when you are locked away in your own fantasy land, where reality is technicolor. Everything warped and stretched, bottled and baked.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Long Road Out of Eden

Behold the bitten apple,
      the power of the tools;
But all the knowledge in the world
      is of no use to fools.
And it's a long road out of Eden

Most folks today set off on the path to adulthood and independence after journeying along a rather well-traveled path. We grow from infancy, to adolescence, to young adulthood marked by passage across the stepping-stones of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school. Eventually we all undergo a moment or a period where we transition from dependence on our parents to taking full responsibility for leading our own kingdoms. For some this transition is abrupt. For some it happens more slowly with time. Sometimes this change is painful and awkward, and sometimes it flows fairly smoothly and naturally. However things go, they still go, and we all must eventually strike out on our own.

For me, although the transition point was clearly marked on the calendar well in advance of the moment, it still snuck up on me. It started when my parents dropped me off at college. They had planned to spend most of the day with me and go through some of the day-long orientation. However, my father decided to get back on the road a bit earlier than we had originally planned. The abruptness of the decision caught me by surprise and before I had a chance to firmly settle my mind, I was watching from the window in my new dorm room as they drove away. Maybe because the transition didn't happen exactly as I had planned it or because I wasn't quite ready, I was left unsettled and scared. As I sat in that silent, empty room, surrounded by a few boxes that contained my worldly possessions, it was then that I finally understood that my life had changed completely and permanently. The life that I had come to know was over. To me it seemed a long road out of Eden, but my how the miles flew by once I was out there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The final entry in the Pendragon Cycle series by Stephen Lawhead is entitled Grail. This tale picks up where Pendragon left off. Arthur, high king of Britain, had defeated the invading barbarian horde that had plagued his land. However, in the battle he was gravely wounded. Merlin, his wise bard and counselor, took the dying Arthur to his grandfather, King Avallach, who was believed to possess the legendary and blessed grail cup used by Jesus at the last supper. Indeed Avallach had been entrusted to guard and protect the sacred grail, and used its power to heal Arthur. Yet that miraculous act marked an opportunity for evil to take root.

In his zeal to share the power of the grail with everyone in his kingdom, Arthur decrees that a grand shrine be raised. Seizing on this opportunity, Avallach's daughter Morgian, known throughout the land as the queen of air and darkness for her unholy union with evil, used her wicked spawn to enchant one of the kingdom's trusted guardians to steal the cup and kidnap Arthur's queen. As Arthur and his champions pursue Morgian to reclaim what has been taken, they encounter a wicked land placed under a deep spell. It looks like the glorious kingdom of summer is doomed before it can even begin.

When man relies on his own strength, he is doomed to failure. Only when he gives up his power to the living God can he truly know strength. Such is the case in this story, and it represents the key to the defeat of Morgian. Simple acts of faith and worship can overcome the darkest night and the deepest pit. In this case, it lead to victory and the establishment of Arthur's great realm in Britain. A truly wonderful story and a great series that I really embraced.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect denotes a relationship between actions. Thing "A" occurs and then thing "B" ensues. Sometimes this sort of connection can be a learned response, such as when someone holds a door open for you (cause), a reasonable thing to do is to offer a heart-felt "thank you" in return (effect). What is interesting to me is how our own personal baggage and ways of looking at the world can really make a mess out of the old cause/effect relationship. The issue, of course, is that we view the world through lenses coated by whatever crap has happened to us along the way. Sometimes this leads us to react with "effects" that are not sensibly or appropriately connected to the "cause" that we perceive. Let me be specific with a recent example from my own life.

My Version - A friend of mine who had been a frequent visitor to my blog, had not left a comment in several months, even though I was a daily visitor to his blog. I perceived that the cause was that this guy had some issue with me or felt that I wasn't worth his time or decided that my writing was worthless. My effect was then to entertain retaliation in the form of looking at his blog negatively and to think seriously about cutting him out of my life altogether.

Reality - My friend had just started his own church plant from absolutely nothing and was working his tail off to get things off the ground. A million details to consider and attend to in just a few short weeks. On top of that, he was selling his house and moving in with his parents to help support his new church.

I knew what my friend was going through and understood a bit of how hectic everything was. Yet my mind still ran amok down some completely inane path for reasons that I don't fully grasp. This example is simply one in a long line of examples from my own life that I could tell you about. But one thing that I am slowly learning is that when I do have the opportunity to confront someone with something that is bothering me, I need to try to be patient, holding back accusatory language and anger until I understand things better and I can quiet my thoughts. Of course, I am far from perfect in this area and still mess things up regularly.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast ...

Moment, stretch, or prolonged funk. It may be all in how you look at things. The visitor known as mid-life crisis may be dismissed after a fleeting moment or may linger for quite some time. Likely where you are and who you are with will dictate the terms. Some folks have a way of passing through mid-life without a second thought. Life is what it is and there isn't too much you can do about it. Perhaps, instead, they may look upon the visitor and surmise that their life has turned out pretty well, all things considered. Well, I say more power to those who can face it all with grace and aplomb, not dwelling on the past but focusing on the present and planning for the future.

Then there are folks like me, those who reach the mid-term mark and look back with more than a tinge of regret, intoning an incessant mantra of shoulda, woulda, coulda. What do you do when you feel that you have wound up at a place far removed from what you dreamed about? Some might say, "Oh, no worries, just go and set things to right." That may be advice for a younger man whose spirit doesn't bear the ragged scars of many a past wound. At a certain point, it just feels that your port of opportunity is empty and all ships have sailed. However, given how brief and how finite our life's span truly is, we need to find a way to embrace a new perspective. Mid-life means "middle of life". That means that you still have quite some ways to go. That means that you still have time to find some comfort and some joy, and to make a difference to those around you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Sweet Life

There's a guy where I work who is definitely a manly man who does manly things in a manly way. Over all the years that I have known him, he has never shied away from hard work or getting dirty. His leathery, calloused hands are proof enough. He is the very ideal of a rough and tumble laborer. His demeanor and ethics were shaped through his father who set his blue-collar example through more than 40 years of back-breaking manual labor. Like father, like son. Yet there is more to this man than his scuffed steel-toed boots, his dinged up hard hat, his deep and gravelly voice, and the cigarette hanging casually from the corner of his mouth. A whipped icing and batter-filled side that forms an interesting persona in comparison with the burly tough guy that I know.

My friend is just a few years away from his long-planned retirement at his current job. After that, he is shaping his dreams and future to partner with his wife to open a local bakery selling all sorts of treats and goodies. I can't help but smile when he brings a tray of his decadent treasures in to share and to watch his face light up as he describes his recipes, his baking techniques, and his passion for his cupcakes. That is sweetness itself.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Corrida de Toros

I have been struggling a lot lately. My world seems to be falling apart around me and I'm not equipped with the fortitude or stamina to hold it together. A few leaks in the levee I can handle. One or two things I can effectively compartmentalize, surround, and overcome. However, when multiple breaches develop, the flood waters quickly suffocate me and suck away my life. The burden feels too great and I quickly fall into depression and darkness overwhelms my spirit and my outlook.

At the same time, I also realize that the burdens that I face are nothing more than trifles compared to what others must deal with. The fact that I am blessed with so much, yet cannot deal with the admittedly minor issues and hassles in my life, frustrates me all the more. In fact, I would state that one of my greatest shortcomings is that I do not handle conflict with confidence or grace. A skilled matador flashes his cape at the onrushing bull and in a flash it has passed him by. The moment is over and done with. Yet with me, that tense moment of increased anxiety and heightened emotion clings to me long after the tercio de muerte.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sound of Silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know.
Silence like a cancer grows ..."

Silence is defined as the absence of sound, yet that in no way describes the full timbre of its mien when humanity is at its core. It captures not the breadth nor depth of the present emotions that speak volumes to the mindful observer. Volumes that betray the listening ear and in truth span a broad spectrum.

Silence can be:

Lonely, Awkward, Empty,
                     Tension-filled, Uneasy, Fuming,
     Cold-shouldered, Melancholy, Chilly,
                                   Ominous, Uneasy, Hurtful.

Yet these feelings of dread and darkness can be wholly balanced by a different type of silence altogether:

                    Comforting, Bonding, Confident,
Trusting, Loving, Welcoming,
             Intimate, Patient, Relaxing,
                              Forgiving, Yielding, Restoring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sound and Fury

What! Will these hands ne'er be clean? No more o' that, my lord, no more o' that; you mar all with this starting.

The above lines from Lady Macbeth are haltingly uttered with deep tinges of developing madness and overwhelming guilt. For that dear lady is stained by the blood of her king. A stain that no amount of scrubbing will take away.

A recent chance encounter with a book of plays by William Shakespeare brought this scene from Macbeth to my mind. This in turn led me back to some old memories of an odd fellow that I knew when I was a student. He would spend hours each day in the bathroom washing and rewashing his hands. This was such a strange ritual, that most folks moved to get in and out of the area as quickly as possible, avoiding eye contact at all costs. The thing that elevated this to even a weirder level, was that he would then leave the bathroom, touching the door handle that everyone else touched, and then walk into the public computer room to use the keyboards that were covered with all manner of filth and nastiness deposited by the rest of humanity.

Yet even apart from the details of this story, if you think about it, we all have things that we heavily invest in with our time, our energy, our mind, and our money, that are a complete waste of our resources. Oh if we weren't so blind as to recognize these areas in our life. All sound and fury signifying nothing.

Monday, April 9, 2012


The fourth book in the Pendragon Cycle series by Stephen Lawhead is entitled Pendragon. This is an interesting addition to the series, originally intended to be a trilogy consisting of the books Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur. One might think that after the abrupt, and I would say, somewhat unsatisfying way that Arthur concluded, a natural place to continue the series would be to tell the story of what became of Arthur and Merlin. However, Pendragon, which was written 5 years after Arthur was published, goes back to fill in more of the details of Arthur's story and how his kingdom was established in Britain.

Certainly, Pendragon was written with a style and pacing that was a perfect match to the existing trilogy. However, I would say that it did not really add anything to what had already been presented. Certainly it was not a stand-alone work, for I think it would be quite a confusing jumble without having already read the trilogy. Yet, while all of this sounds a bit negative, I would make clear that I very much enjoyed this tale. I love the development of the characters, watching Arthur grow into his greatness battle by battle and day by day; following Merlin as he remembers his true strength and calling, not as a mighty warrior, but as the chief bard of the land; drinking in the loyalty and love of Arthur's queen Gwenhwyvar.

The main plotline of the story is the invasion of Ireland and Britain by the mighty war host of Vandal barbarians led by Amilcar. It is also a time of severe drought in the land and a time in which the yellow fever is running unchecked throughout the population. These three plagues of unquenchable destruction are only heightened by the fact that the British warhost has just finished a major campaign that has left severely weakened, and the fact that the support of Arthur's new realm is tenuous and strained. Yet Arthur and his loyal inner circle handle the realities they face with strength, courage, and honor. Now, onto the last book in the series, Grail.

Friday, April 6, 2012


In the legends of Greek mythology, Sisyphus, king of Corinth, was both wise and cunning. His deceitful and glory-seeking ways ultimately led him into ill favor with the gods, who sentenced him for his treachery to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. However, before reaching the top, the stone would always slip and roll back down to the bottom, forcing poor Sisyphus to commence his eternal labor anew.

I reflected on this old story recently when I read a quote from author Stephen Lawhead that stated, "For men seldom heed the humble things that surround them; and what they do not heed they do not try to hinder." It reminded me of a truth that when we live our life for public consumption, fully of sound and fury, expecting and demanding attention and acclaim, we have doomed ourselves to the harsh, choking, cloying scrutiny of men. Yet when we move on humble paths, quiet and about our business, we escape the notice of others and accomplish so much more.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Man I Used to Be

I've been through a lot in my life and have seen a thing or two. Perhaps not as much as some others, but enough to have some perspective rooted deeply in the reality of this world. Middle age is a time when most take some stock of where their journey has brought them. The juxtaposition of the dusty and difficult path that we have followed versus that golden boulevard that we dreamed about as we were just starting out, can elicit more than a few sighs.

A common expression that folks will utter as they think back upon their salad days is, "I'm not the man I used to be." I too have said very much the same, especially as I have weathered some bad breaks and dark times in recent years. I have often wished that I could go back to certain points when I felt myself atop a pinnacle, and have another go. I realize that today I'm not the man I used to be. More than that, I realize that I never was the man I used to be.

Of course, that is an odd thing to say. Yet, I suspect that this is a truth for many. What I am getting at is that, at least for me, the version of my younger self that I hold in my own mind, is some idealized make-over that is far removed from the reality of who I was. Stronger, more secure, adaptable, flexible. Yet, I never was that person that I remember myself to be. Likely, even armed with a bit of knowledge of some of the mistakes that I made along the way, if I were given a chance to try it again, I would screw things up in very nearly the same way.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Loose Thread

I had an eccentric professor back in college who had a number of kooky mannerisms in the way that he talked and the way that he moved about the classroom. He was an amicable chap and clearly smart as a whip, but when he elicited laughter from his students, it was more often the case that we were laughing at him and not with him. Another defining aspect of this professor was the red sweater that he wore to class every day. Rain, snow, or bright sun. Spring, summer, autumn, or winter. Same red sweater. However, what struck me peculiar was a coiled up loose thread that stubbornly adhered to the front of the sweater. It was always there. Always in the same spot. How could this man be so clueless and not see the debris? I began to surmise that he either was the sort who just didn't give a rip about how he looked or he was some kind of alien robot.

The really irksome thing about this loose thread is that after a time, I kind of became fixated on it. He would be lecturing and telling us about the secrets of the universe and I was so locked into the loose thread that the rest of the world completely just vanished. Finally after three semesters of having this professor, I asked a buddy of mine what the deal was with the loose thread. He looked at me incredulously, like I had the intelligence of a turnip. He then said, "Dude, that loose thread cost him about 200 bucks. It spells out the name D-i-o-r!" Oh. At least there was now one less mystery in the universe.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Error Bars

In making a graph of experimental data, our ability to interpret the information is greatly improved by including an indication of the data uncertainty. This measure is referred to as an "error bar". So, in the figure shown here, for a given value along the x-axis, the plot shows the measured value of the data on the y-axis along with its assigned uncertainty or fuzziness. Errors bars allow you to gain a better understanding of how seriously to take the data that has been put forth, which then assists in determining how much weight should be given to any interpretations of the data.

The notion of error bars kind of got me to thinking of how different our world would be if the words that people uttered came with some measure of their uncertainty. Imagine if an error bar showed up over our heads as we spoke. It seems like this would significantly reduce the level of panic within the general population due to national sabre rattling of power-hungry political leaders and heads-of-state. It would smooth out the completely artificial fluctuations in the world's trade markets induced by rumors and suggestions. It would reduce the stock people put into the gossip that they hear. Perhaps, more importantly, it would help individuals to better understand the people that they interact with and to respond to them with more compassion and love.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Wasted Days

I have just gone through a week at work that just weared me down. It was not because I was doing anything that pushed my mental capacities to the red line or demanded any notable physical exertion. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It was a period where nothing happened and I was reduced to marking time. The week initially promised to be one of some activity where our team was to be performing an important experiment, manning our stations around the clock. Yet just a day before I was set to begin my shifts, a critical piece of equipment in the experiment failed. However, I was still asked to be present to monitor the remaining systems for alarms.

So, I sat alone in that isolated room all day for four straight days with most of the equipment either in sleep mode or turned off altogether. I brought some work from my office to keep myself busy, but without access to all of my stuff, it was not a particularly efficient environment for progress. As I went home at the end of each shift, I felt like I had just wasted the day. Nothing meaningful or productive accomplished by any measure but one. There have been several utterly dark periods in my life where I couldn't bear to face the day ahead. In those times I longed to go into a state of hibernation or suspended animation. A day that went by that I missed would have been just fine with me. So that fact that I was frustrated to be missing out on living and embracing meaningful activity was a wonderful bit of perspective.