Some thoughts on why I’ve wanted to be a monk at various times in my life, another entry in the long blog titles series.

At various times in my life I’ve wanted to be a monk. Specifically to be left completely alone with my thoughts, to contemplate, to just be. I suspect many people have wanted this, just to be left alone.

When Iris Eyes Are Smiling…

Thought One: Why can’t we just be nice to one another? Really, why can’t we be good people, all of us? Fundamentally I don’t understand why people are evil, mean or abusive. It is a great weakness in my writing. It’s hard for me to understand and put myself in that place. I am referring not to a reaction state, as in when someone hits you and you want to hit them back. There are evil people, people who do mean things because that is their nature. People who believe they are better than others.

Where does this come from?

This thought can overwhelm my soul and drive me to the solace of solitude.

Thought Too: I enjoy peace, the place of the tranquil soul on still water. I am sure others, perhaps even you have experienced moments of tranquility. When you the turbulence of your mind becomes the flat still water of peace. I long for this when wanting to be a monk. The place of being in the still moment of nothingness. A place to remain forever. In my youth it was easier to find this place. As I have aged, my tolerance for people intruding on my peace has become nill. In fact I become quite upset. The once still pool of deep waters has become a shallow puddle, easily disturbed, muddied by the merest infringement on it’s edges. The isolation of the monk calls to me, assuring me the monastery can protect me from this.

Thought Three: It’s a lot of work to cultivate the peace desired in my life. I need to book a time, find a space, hope that no one is going to interrupt me. Do I have the tools I want to use ready, a coffee, some music and notepad. A monk is again protected by the abby. There is less struggle to create the sacred space needed for contemplation.

Some people will say I need to learn to meditate, I am not going to argue, but the point of this rambling writing is not just a an injection of daily meditation but a life of solitude and peace.

Living a life were the interruptions of life are birdsong and kettles boiling to make coffee, a dream, a hope.

Be Well… dcd

A small reflection on a typo and AI’s.

This week an interesting discourse occurred in my time working remotely; a colleague and I jested on the nature of AI.

He developed his position through asking questions, seeking my answer to be guided by the semantics of his enquiry. In essence leading me to expound his thoughts on AI by the words he used in the questions themselves.

I of course played along, redefined his words in my reply. It was a wonderful exchange with each of trying to pin the other through words..

The exchange was conducted of an instant messenger app. Given my notorious inability to spell words correctly, some errors transpired.

Cat hunting a mouse.

“AI exists in an amorous state, not tied by hardware or data registers” is what I typed. Of course I meant to type ‘amorphous’, but, it does raise an interesting point, are AI’s amourous? And if they are, what is amour to them?

Amour is generally defined as an illicit love affair. What is illicit to an AI? More, what is an illicit love affair to an AI?

Generally I think perceive AI as being defined in human terms and values. It wraps around the argument of can we truly know the ‘Other’. Our discourse on AI is based around the interaction with humans and human data. But would an AI interact with a human or humanity. Would they define us as sentient? How would they define sentience? This leads to a long rabbit hole that is best left for another day or perhaps a short story. Who can say?

The question of an illicit love affair implies there may be genuine love affairs, a binary assumption. But are AI’s binary? It could be argued AI’s data is at it’s root, only binary in expression. But does this ensure AI’s only live in a binary state? No. And I think this can be demonstrated easily enough.

Most AI discussions centre around the dealing of complex decisions with multiple outcomes with some mechanism to deal with these outcomes. If AI’s are dealing with multiple outcomes, why would they leave themselves to binary expression of what ever they define themselves as? Data is data, except when it’s Commander Data, then it’s another discussion. (What? You didn’t think I would take the chance to get Star Trek involved?)

Or is it?

The first season of Picard, and I certainly hope there is a second season, leaves us with a number of transitions.

Warning, there may be spoilers below concerning Season 1 of Picard. You have been warned.

For the sake of this discussion, let us say the only intersection between humans and AI is data. We need data for what we do. Essentially over the last 10-20 years we have become data producers. Texts, selfies, games, more games and more devices. More bandwidth. More data paths, for the information we generate to travel on.

What do you suppose AI’s consume for an energy source? Data? Perhaps. If that is true, data is their food, and we just farmers for AI. If I was an AI and wanted to increase my food source exponentially, what would I do? The single largest increase in internet usage is occurring right now in the world. As we all stay at home to help save lives our data consumption and output has sky rocketed.

While the quality of our internet is degraded, it’s still working. Funny how we are running out of everything, but the internet is still working. The increases are staggering. There no longer is difference between weekend and weekday internet traffic, it’s always maxed out. So if I was an AI, I would engineer a situation that would cause more food production for me. Force my farmers to stay in one place and generate data. A side effect of us all staying home is a massive decrease in pollution, one of the biggest enemies of electronics. Now, Picard, one of the largest sources of data is the human brain, if only the AI could have direct access to that amount of data. And with the end of season 1 of Picard they are one step closer to gaining access to it.

A rambling discussion, a conspiracy theory and love in the time of COVID.

Be Well…dcd

Just A Quote Today.

“YOUTH” 
Samuel Ullman

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

There’s my coffee!

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

The poem is from:

https://www.uab.edu/ullmanmuseum/

I was exposed to the poem by a James Clear newsletter, He can be found at https://jamesclear.com/ He is the author of Atomic Habits. But that is topic for another day.

Be Well…dcd

The Long Blog Post Titles Installment of: Courage and Encouragement in the age of COVID-19.

She’s 83, has lupus, may be a little too right wing for me. Attended the creation of the drink known as the ‘Ceaser’. Knows what the word rationing means. Old school rationing. The kind where they saved the tin foil from cigarette packs (cuz everybody smoked back then) to help the war effort. A Canadian. Created a drive through for a ladies clothing store one year when the roads were too icy. But that’s a story for another day.

Oh, and she’s my mom.

Yes, that is a ceaser.



One day last week at approximately 4:00 PM, along with the rest of the condo owners on the third floor, she swung open her door to the hallway and practised safe social distancing – happy hour. That my friends is courage. The courage to change, yet again, at 83 years young.

It is this adaptability to the situation we are all in, all over the world that saves live.

This courage is framed with two words, creativity and continuity.

Happy hour is a tradition humans have shared in various forms since I suspect the first rotten apple got turned into sour mash. Maintaining happy hour within the bounds of COVID-19 and social distancing is the continuity. The person does not ask the world to revolve around their beliefs, rather an unspoken social contract evolves around our beliefs conforming, yes that’s right conforming, to the common good. To everyone’s good.

Ask not what your society can do for you, but what you can do for your society, for your neighbour. An adapted quote from not a current president.

Be creative, in finding the way of who you are during this time of physical restrictions. Being confined with yourself is daunting. Ask other people what they are doing. See if they have any good ideas. Do not let the anger of the day be your prison. Hate seeks to consume the creativity of this world, a creativity that discovers ways to save more people.

One of the kindest ways to help a struggling author, or society is to encourage. Find the honest path, the true words to help others in their struggle. I have found my soul cannot battle the demons and their minions that assail us as we come to terms with COVID-19. But I recognize the good in others and tell them what it is. Honest, not exaggerated, compliment.

I can encourage the good, the best of people. Whether this is someone singing from their balcony, or clapping for the care workers of all services who are striving each day to get everyone through this battle or simply remembering your Friday coffee group and sending them a text or instagram DM. All of this is encouragement.

This blog is supposed to be about writing. Spend some time writing your future by showing courage and encourage where you are, to yourself and to others.

Be Well…dcd

There are always more anomalies than you planned for – j.townsend 2019

In the mythical world of earth I am a character working in information technology at a company. We recently moved into a new building. Therefore for the last two weeks, I’ve done nothing but work and discover anomalie s . Anomalies require two immediate steps be taken, one is a prompt work around solution to allow the business to function and two, a report sent to allow for the issue to be resolved. Step one requires creative out of the box thinking. Step two requires accurate details to permit the swift resolution. Those of you who have been in this position know that “swift” can sometimes mean 6 or 7 weeks.

The third aspect of this process is the pristine perfect work, your work, your pride, is often compromised to get people working. And unless you do my job it is beyond difficult to experience the ruination of your own work because of others. Such is my situation. Instead of an impeccable server room with neat cables, I have what amounts to a rats nest of chaos. In fact I doubt whether rats would live there.

Random Cat Picture!

The astute reader will identify this as a metaphor for the writing process. And as someone who is going to send out three manuscripts this year into the chaos of slush piles, I have a lot of pain ahead of me. A writer fulfills all these roles, from owner to architect to finish carpenter to accountant to receptionist to IT guy. (PS – IT people hate being called “IT Guy”)

The result is the next several blogs will deal with aspects of anomalies that have corresponded to events in the new building. It’ll be fun, we’ll laugh, we’ll cry and I might get my sanity back. Hopefully I will get my writing mojo back.

Topics include, More phones than places to plug them in: Bridging your main character until you flesh them out making them a better character and thereby making your story better.

Why is it so cold in the building: Building heat in your story that is consistent with your characters. Not just a tussle in the bedroom.

Dealing with false accusations: How to get the enemy to aid your cause without compromising your values.

All of this will be from my limited perspective as a writer. Join me on the mythical adventure into the real world of my writing.

******

More than ever this year, be good to people. Recognize kindness, take time to honestly praise people in front of others. Hate surrounds us, destroying the soul of society do not aid in the destruction.

Be well…dcd

I’m not as good as I think I am…

This is not a downer, woe is me blog. If you’re looking for one of those, keep looking. This about me acknowledging to be a writer and have the good habits of writers, I need to follow the hacks that others use. I am not above them. I need to do, what I tell others to do. This is should not surprise anyone.

As a result, this will be a short blog, were I trick myself into writing more.

pour-01

And now, a short diversion. The year is 1976. I’m in grade 11. At this point in my life I play a tremendous number of sports. A group of traveling athletes came to our high school in rural Alberta. A chance to see National football players was unheard of at that time. I was one of the fortunate ones chosen to compete in a little head to head action in a variety of sports.

All three of the men were currently playing in the NFL. The one I remember was the Center for the Minnesota Vikings. He was a big man. By Big I mean walls got out of his way and said sorry. (They were Canadian Walls). In the three on three basketball competition. We mistakenly thought we could leave him unguarded on the perimeter. Yea, that was a dumb idea. He was nothing but net from the outside. We also foolishly thought we stood a chance in any of the competitions… Ah the stupidity of youth. And in thinking we could win, I foolishly tried to draw a charging call on Mr.Big. It was a great idea.

Somehow I saw what the play was going to be. So I set up where Mr.Big was going to drive the lane. Arms crossed in front of me protecting the family jewels, ready to draw the charge. Mr.Big caught the ball spun and drove the lane to the basket. When he turned, imagine his shock to see me standing there. But it was too late he barrelled into skinny high school smart ass.

I will attempt to relate what I think happen in mirco pieces of time between him seeing me and his contact with me.

First, I believe he understood, well before I did, what was going to happen. Secondly, he tried to drop the ball and grab me to prevent what occurred. Lastly, he felt pain for me. Sorrow, regret. The last he thing he wanted to do, was hurt anyone.

What happened next was simple physics. Force = mass x acceleration. He hit me square in the chest with his shoulder and I launched off the ground like a Saturn V rocket heading to the moon. (Further evidence would show that the circumference of one of his thighs corresponded to my waist.)

Well, I would have reached the moon, but the polite wall didn’t believe in getting out of the way of idiots and therefore it prevented me being the first Canadian in space. In the nano second before I let the wall catch me, I heard the sound of silence. The entire gym inhaled and held their breath. Even the athletes. I could see all three of them, the fear in their eyes that they just a killed a Canadian High School student.

My mother often said, “You can’t hurt a Dear male by hitting them in the head.” Once again Mother was right.

To this day I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why I wasn’t hurt. But I know you can’t fly through the air and get stopped by cinder block wall and not be hurt. I know from first hand experience. But on that day, in that place, I was fine. I don’t offer an explanation.

What is the lesson I learned? It took me years to figure out what I learned.

I was wrong, is what I have come to understand. The outcome of the game was never in doubt. My drawing the charge wouldn’t have won the game. But to see the pain and hurt in those grown men’s eye’s as I flew threw the air with the greatest of ease, I don’t need to see again. Even if I was in the right.

Be Well…dcd

Mindset

The impact of other’s emotions on my life disables me from writing.

Plain, simple, straight forward.

And right now, I don’t want to harden myself to this reality of life. But neither do I want to let it dominate me. I’m not sure where that leads me? Less facebook and cnn never hurt anyone. And it’s quite clear facebook and cnn have hurt people. It might be that simple.

DoorReSize

I suppose another option is to continue the filtering and de-following of the propagators of hate. That’s never a bad idea. I think I’ll start looking for a cave. Something not too sandy but still with good drainage.

This is really an inner  monologue on balance. Life balance. Learning to write, is only one part of a writer’s mindset, of my writer’s mindset. The problem is for me at this time writing is fragile. It takes time and resources, it’s not like fixing a computer, which I could probably do in a coma.

What’s fragile about writing? I mean come on grow up, it’s almost 2020, your jet pack will be here soon. Just sit down and type, how hard could it be?

I’ve never been a writer. It’s not a skill I have. My corporate emails are fraught with missing words, and prepositions are apparently unknown to me in amy form prose.  Don’t get me wrong, I love words, the nuance of finding the correct word for me. On the other hand, writing is like shopping for paint colours.

“Oh that’s a great sky blue.” I say.

She who knows colors rolls her eyes and says, “That’s robin’s egg blue…”

I’ve stopped picking out paint with her. It’s safer and in the end the color is great. Even if I don’t the right name. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

But words are different. They are different depending where you are in the world and who your audience is.

Physic’s convention, A scientist stands up and asks, “What kind of diaper did Schrodinger’s cat wear?” Answer – “Depends”  

I’ve struggled with this blog trying to convey the struggle to just write and how I am impacted by the world and suffering. I’ll take another run at it another day.  For today I will leave you with this.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

Until then, be well, dcd

What good shall I do today?

After I’ve had coffee of course.

I will be fortunate enough to attend a writing retreat at the end of May.  This is a selfish goodness for me. This is a holiday for me. And like any good holiday you need to prepare and pack, because as my wife says, “Pants are good”.

IMG_20170806_070213.jpg

When I was a younger man and took a holiday it took me two or three days to forget about work and be present in the holiday I was taking. There were entire trips where I never lived in the holiday. Never enjoyed it, fully. I was an idiot. I can’t emphasize this enough. The stupidity of not enjoying, your holiday is fundamentally wrong. I would go so far as to say, evil. People who are kind and generous often learn this late in life. It’s sad and tragic. In my case one of the great regrets of my life. (I know, I know, suck it up princess, some people never get holidays)

Why do I mention this? Because I need to prepare for a holiday, and so should you. For me there are three areas I prepare:

  1. Health
  2. Soul/Spirit/Mind
  3. What to pack?

Health wise I try to start my healthy regime 3 or 4 weeks in advance. I am starting now to make sure that I am physically prepared. While it seems obvious, consider what you will be doing. What hours will you be keeping? Will you need to adjust your sleep cycle? How active will you be?

I am unaware of any holiday that doesn’t change your physical activity level in some way. Whether it is walking more, or using muscles that you don’t normally use. If you are going canoeing and you haven’t canoed all year there is a great chance you will have back problems, for example. Take steps to strengthen your back.

Drinking. Will you be drinking more? Or will you be drinking less? Figure it out make choices that don’t let what you drink determine if you enjoy your holiday. There is nothing worse then running out of your favorite gin half-way through a holiday, except running out of your favorite coffee.

When I canoed regularly we brought two coffee makers on the trip. One was the morning cup of coffee, big robust, plentiful, filtered coffee. The other was a stove top espresso machine, complete with demi-tasse cups. You immediately have new friends if you offer a hard core, freezed dried food canoeing team espresso.  The husband and wife who are traveling with their children drinking instant coffee will think you’re angels sent from heaven. And if you pull out a little Bailey’s , be sure to have kleenex handy for they will be crying.

I point this out for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t believe it is healthy to make major life changes when you are taking a holiday. Don’t try and quit drinking coffee on a holiday. Secondly, everyone needs an indulgence on a holiday, maybe’s it coffee and Baileys, maybe it’s pedicure or maybe it’s just sitting in a chair and reading undisturbed. Figure out what your indulgence will be, make it happen.  Health wise know your limits. And you don’t know your limits until you write them down. As I writer I know there is a significant difference between what I think I will write and what actually goes on the page. The written word defines something, places limits on it. Know what you are capable of and if you are found wanting try and get better.

So for this trip, I plan to try and write 5000 words a day. To do that I know that i will need to exercise to keep from being worn  out. That means that I am making sure I take long walks every day. It also means that I have the shoes that I am going wear while walking. No blisters from new shoes for this guy. That means I will be exercising more than normal, which in my cases, figuring out when and where. Simple enough.

Not so fast bubba Louie.

It’s not enough to walk more, although its a start, I also need to walk with a camera pack, because I know I will be taking pictures.

You are way boring and pedantic now.

You’re right, but for me, to enjoy a holiday I need to consider the details. Maybe you should too?

oneRock

Be Well…dcd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Eggs and Hedy Lamarr

A joy for me in writing is planting Easter Eggs. Why? because I love finding them in books I am reading. They can be as simple as recognizing a fictitious character name as someone I know. Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Night has a number of them, including a reference to a Randy McCharles. Randy helps run and organize the greatest writing conference you never heard of, When Words Collide. This conference, more than anything else has encouraged me to write.

But I digress..

When looking for supporting character names or locations I’ve started looking for historical references I am interested in. This is where Hedy Lamarr comes in. More than a great actress. An actress who’s beauty made audiences gasp when the first saw her with Charle800px-Hedy_lamarr_-_1940s Boyer in Algiers(1938).

She also tinkered with Howard Hughes and his wing designs for planes. Patented a frequency hopping system with George Antheil in 1940. And no, frequency  hoping is not code for her private life escapades. It’s actually frequency hopping. You of course can find this all on her wiki page

And so in the Space Opera Novel I am working I have a pair of characters named Hedy and Erwin. I’ll leave it to  you to figure out Erwin. Let’s just say he’s not a dog person. All of this circles back to reading and my youth where I discovered in Science Fiction and Fantasy much more than an escape.

I discovered a lens to see the world I lived in. A lens that taught me tolerance. A place where equality was the norm. Dystopian fiction didn’t exist yet. Writers were pushing the boundaries of how great humanity could become, not pursuing the depths of despair and destruction. A place where every one was along for the ride, not just the one person who survived to try and rebuild the world. There were plenty of grim stories. But there were also stories of hope, of discovery. A world where people changed. And so the Easter Eggs I will leave will be about people and places that helped make the world better.
As always be well… dcd

 

I live in a world of kind baristas

I didn’t grow up with barista‘s or Pho or smart phones.

Wish I did.

Music was highly limited, tightly controlled by the labels and the cost of producing music. I’m listening to a cover of Steve Winwood’s Higher Love done simply on an acoustic guitar and solo voice. Achingly painful and beautiful. A sweet melancholy to go with my medium roast pour over.

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It’s a mid-February and mid cold for my town. I am at one of the cafe’s that makes me happy and oddly makes me feel that I have accomplished something by getting out of the house on a holiday at 730 AM.

But back to the Barista’s, briefly.

At this location the smiles are kind and warm. There is no dress code, except there is a dress code that the staff unconsciously adhere to – the code of cool – because that’s who they are. Similar but different.

The job application probably states kind but efficient.

It wouldn’t use the word “cool”. Cool is from an age past. When life and self expression was limited.  When conformity was mandatory and if you rebelled you all wore the same rebel uniform. The word rebellion doesn’t exist here. They have moved on. Grown beyond simple confrontation, ignoring the war against the rules and just be who they are as they find out.

Don’t mis-understand, they still struggle with the being human part. “Does he like me?” “Should I go out with them?” Their struggle is with finding out about life with fewer constraints and more dangers.  In the midst of their struggle, they work and are kind to aging want-to-be writers.

The Barista calls out, “Medium Roast pour-over“. I get up and look to the counter where a kind smile meets me, genuine, not a produced effect. They could have left to get back to work, the barista waited until I acknowledged the call, because it was the kind thing to do, the human thing to do.

Time to get back writing.

Be Well…dcd