Friday, December 30, 2011


I genuinely appreciate Twitter for bringing me daily news digested into 140 characters or fewer, but I swear, if the “top” lists continue I am going to blow a few characters myself. I think the news people come up with the lists just because it is an otherwise slow news week. Do I really need them to tell me what are the 10 cutest animal pictures of the last year? Or the 10 best tweets? Or the 10 biggest celebrity scandals? Or 10 worst fashion disasters? And the lists go on.

I do not read those new stories when they are singular, much less pluralized into tens. I have sufficient grasp of the trivial without the assistance of such year-end lists.

Some sites are begging for my resolutions for the new year.

They do not really care that I, like every other American, want to be fitter, healthier, etc.

What I really want is to make fewer typos on my iPhone. Big fingers, old eyes, and a tiny screen were never meant to go together. Editing is not glamorous, but its importance on twitter and IM exceeds that even of longer compositions. One unfortunate autocorrect (easier to blame the machine than personal carelessness) stands out even more in the brevity of such communication. If everyone proofread before sending, websites would go out of business. Somehow I doubt that everyone will start proofreading tweets and texts, so we will continue to have the entertainment (real or fake).

So I have decided to be anti-list as the year comes to an end. I have my list of unaccomplished tasks on my winter break; I do not need any more lists in my life right now. I move into 2012 unencumbered with the weight of expectation.  No years have passed without personal accomplishments regardless of my resolutions. I will go forward and make the most out of the year and opportunities as they arise.

Unlisted, unresolved, but motivated. Come on 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Clever New Uses

The barrage of emails with holiday tips did not stop with the arrival of the holidays. They have continued offering sage bits of advice, or things I could buy at a discount with sage bits of advice. One in particular caught my attention with the subject line: Clever New Uses for The Holidays.

While I, for the most part, shrewdly resisted the appeal of the various pitches, I could not turn down investigating what new uses someone had found for the holidays. Considering it came from a popular magazine that regularly presents new uses for common items, I figured that if anyone could do it, they would.

Opening the email proved disappointing because the headline had nothing to do with the content. There were numerous ways of using holiday packing and wrapping. There were recipes for combining common leftovers into more appealing dishes. There were tips for what to do with those partially used holiday-scented candles.

But not one new use for any holiday.

Despite the disappointment, I realized that Boxing Day has me pretty much holidayed out. I do not know how many more clever uses for holidays I could handle at this point; I am satisfied with the uses they already have. I just have to recover in time for New Year’s Eve.

And I have an entire year to come up with clever new uses for the holidays and give that magazine an article that lives up to its headline.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

I did not believe the Christmas forecasts when they started coming in. No, the forecast did not call for snow in south Texas. That only happens once every few lifetimes and we had that once a few years ago. The weather forecast actually called for what equals winter weather in south Texas – chilly with chances of rain. The chilly part is most certainly correct, but the end of the day will tell us whether the rain held true.

Work, in several forms, got in the way of the holiday cards the way I normally do them. Instead of 96, this year there were exactly zero that went through the mail. I did not even create a fancy electronic card. If the motto for my Christmas this year was on a t-shirt, it wouldn’t even make the t-shirt. I would be, “I attended Christmas 2011 and all I got was this lousy blog post.”

Behind the appearance of griping, the “lousy blog post” means I am busy enough and loving what I  am doing that I did not take the time to send out the many Christmas cards I normally do.  The blog posts also came in the way of Advent devotionals – one written for each day of the season – that is continuing into Christmas and in some form through the church year calendar on my other blog.

Doing the daily Bible study and actually meditating on the passages and then writing a reflection has done more to prepare me for Christmas this year than in a long time.

I am not at all giddy about Christmas; I am ready for the holiday to kick of a new season of work and opportunity.

Beyond preparing for the holiday in a different way, I made some major changes in my life this year that fundamentally shifted how I spend my time. The changes led to positive, measurable output in writing and reading and health, so I do not look back on any of the changes with regret. I write from time to time about technology – especially when it fails.

Some of my changes have involved changing the technology I have in my life – namely getting rid of cable television and actually spending more time working on my iPad than on one of my computers because, while possible, it is harder to multi-task on the tablet than on a computer or laptop. All that is for naught when I have the MacBook Pro, Dell Laptop, and iPad all going at the same time – which I sometimes still do - though I am working at only using one device at a time.

2011 truly has been a transformational year for me and it culminated in the preparations for Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


While running last minute errands yesterday, and doing the requisite Foursquare check-in at every location, I found myself getting a spam tweet after almost every check in as I have Foursquare set to share the check-ins on Twitter (which shares them with Facebook – so my technology programs are interconnected). After one check in, my phone did its typical ding to let me know I had a text message.

There was yet another text message from Twitter notifying me that someone had mentioned me in a tweet or has sent me a direct message via Twitter. By this point in the day, annoyance ran pretty high and I almost deleted the text without reading it, but as I had been in conversation with a friend in direct messages that day, I decided I better check it.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this tweet:

@rwlarson Sorry about your back pain. Hope all goes well. Please let us know if you hav a ny [sic] Happy Holidays!

It was from the clinic where my doctor practices!

How did they get my Twitter identity?

And why are they tweeting out something that identifies a health condition in a way that anyone who follows my Twitter account can see? I had gone to the doctor two days earlier because of lingering back pain. I think there is a HIPAA violation somewhere in that tweet.

I am glad it was not an STD. I can only imagine that tweet:

@rwlarson Sorry about your gonorrhea. Hope the shot didn’t hurt too much. Please let us know if you need another. Happy Hoiidays!

What are they going to do next? Send my prescriptions through Facebook?

I joke about the circumstances of the tweet, but below it lays a serious concern about who has our information – not only our confidential information, but our socially accessible information as well. I work to connect all parts of my social media experience so that together they paint a more complete picture than any one alone would. I diligently monitor everything I post for appropriateness while ceding that I cannot control every line printed about me by others.

It is one thing for a friend or acquaintance to say something inappropriate, but quite another for a medical facility to post something about your health. Is the bank soon going to start tweeting my account balance to my timeline?

Our ability to now connect disparate bits of data through technology contributes to the exponential growth in our knowledge base and makes great strides in scientific and social progress, but where are the lines to be drawn? I know I do not want my personal details available on social media and will be extra careful about what and how various agencies learn of my social connections.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Simple Fixes

While I generally think myself pretty handy, sometimes it costs me more than if I had just hired a handyman in the first place. Such was the instance with my attempt at installing the iPod connection to the stereo in my truck. I not only did not install the connection, I injured my back which kept me from enjoy Christmas with my cousins in Kansas as I had originally planned. I finally went by an audio shop and for just $35, they made the connection in just ten minutes and now my truck stereo sounds better than ever.

After leaving the shop, I went to a home improvement store because my food disposal had stopped working and despite my best efforts, I could not get it to operate again. I resolved that I would have to pay for a new food disposal. While there, I saw a wrench designed to manually break disposal jams. I doubted that I was stronger than a ¾ horsepower motor, but decided a $7 fix was better than a $130 replacement.

As soon as I got home, I pulled out the wrench and decided to see if my disposal even had the appropriate slot for the wrench. It did and with just a little back and forth motion, my disposal worked better than it had in a very long time.

Sometimes the simple fix works best in the situation. This was one time that I actually saved money by doing-it-myself.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Old Men and Small Spaces

Sometimes the simplest task brings unexpected complications. My truck came with an auxiliary input, but it is not easily accessible. Still all one has to do is access the wire behind the dashboard. Previously a satellite radio receiver was connected to the input, but after it stopped working, I had nothing working through that access point.

With a lengthy road trip coming up, 12.1 days of music, and 4 days of pod casts in my iTunes library, I have no need to spend my trip scrolling through unpredictable broadcast radio stations when I can make a custom playlist to play each way on the trip. Having all of this in mind, I decided to connect my iPod to the auxiliary input. All I needed was to plug it in, right?

The access panel came of easily and the access to the system was clear. I just had to work my way up under the dash to reach all the wires and move them to a point where I can connect everything. On my first reach I discovered that old men and small spaces do not go well together. To get my arm where it needed to go I had to twist around, grasp the wire, and pull it down.

Twist. Grasp. Pull. Forty-five-year-olds cannot do that without proper warm-ups.

I felt and heard the muscle pull and wondered for a bit whether I would be able to even get out from under my dash. I began to consider how long it would be before a neighbor came by to pull me out. After taking a few deep breaths, I managed to slide out and make it inside to my recliner.

Almost a day later finds me still in my recliner. Fortunately with cloud technology, I am able to work from home and not get too far behind. I am still not convinced that is a good thing, but on days like today when I feel fine but simply cannot move, I think it is a good thing. Especially since I hope to take a day off later in the week to make my road trip.

But to finish the installation of the iPod kit, I think will require a trip to an audio shop with younger people crawling into the tight spaces.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

God Said What?

A student made my day today. He said he should have dropped out last year before he met me. He came to that conclusion after sparring with me two different times over his stated decision to drop out of high school. He was certain it did not matter to anyone else and that he was the only person affected by his decision. He continually insisted that it was his decision, but he would not stop arguing with me about the idea of dropping out. He could not accept my disapproval anymore than i could accept his decision. He wanted someone to talk him out it, someone to not give up. He made the mistake of saying that maybe God put me there to tell him to drop out of school. It did not take long before he realized that making that comment was even worse than saying he decided to drop out. I think he does have a better understanding of social justice now. I pointed out that since he had brought up God, all was fair game and he was in for a sermon. And I began to preach. I connected everything I had already said to him about staying in school to social justice. Lifetime health. Family stability. Living wages. Doing what is right. Every one of them come with social justice implications. And every one of them linked to education. He never saw the sermon coming. God was his trump card. He was not expecting a pair of Gods to match and raise. Our first conversation ended with him walking out of my office. The second conversation ended with us laughing together and agreeing to meet again in the next week. He still insists he is going to drop out. I still insist he is going to graduate - from somewhere. I look forward to more sparring with him when he returns to my office. One thing I am certain of is that he will not be using "God" and "dropout" in the same sentence.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Deer People

During the day today we received an email with information for directing the homeless to the emergency sheltering system that was going to be in place tonight since the forecast called for temperatures below freezing. Since we do not often get temperatures so low, they can be especially deadly for people unaccustomed to them since they likely have few clothes suitable for the cold. In the education system, homelessness has a broader definition than just people sleeping on the streets. While I work with a number of people experiencing homelessness, none of them live on the streets.

Driving home tonight, while stopped at the longest stoplight through which I pass, I glanced over and saw a group of people gathered at the edge of the scrub-brush that had overtaken an unused lot on one corner. They looked like a herd of wild deer, waiting for the sun to go down just a bit more before they ventured out into the clearing to forage. The reality was that they were huddled together, taking what shelter the brush provided. Farther back from the street is the camp where they live in cardboard and tarpaulin structures that provide protection from the sun, wind, and rain, but do little to protect from heat and cold.

The residences there are not new. The well-worn paths out to the street provide ample evidence of regular traffic. The presence of the people in the triangle clearing at the corner of the lot behind the bus stop remind all who pass that way that, while undeveloped, the lot is used. Throughout the day, the residents take turns on the concrete barrier separating the turn lanes from the oncoming traffic panhandling for change. They are hard to miss.

I could not separate the people clustered back at the edge of the grove from the daily Bible passages for this season’s Advent. Here are the poor, the needy, the oppressed, quite possibly the ill. One side of the social war says give me more and I will do more. The other side says take away more from the other side and we will do more. Nothing is being done. Where is the church? Where are the social services providers? Where is anyone who actually does more than use these people as a rallying cry?

Growing up in the country, I used to see just how close I could creep to the wild white-tail deer in our pasture. While they can be quite dangerous, I was not afraid because I knew at the first whiff of me, they would flash those famous white tails and high tail it to the other side of the meadow and beyond. The “deer people” at the corner are not those wild animals in the pasture of my childhood.  We cannot wave our hands or walk by with our cologned selves and have them flee deeper into the urban forest, out of sight.

As I caught up on the news of the day, with politicians on both sides blasting the other side of the culture war, I could not help but inject my mental picture of those people from the corner lot into the story and ask who is looking at them when they speak? No one is. Neither side is ready to get their hands dirty and actually get into the trenches with the neediest among us or consider the hypocrisy that we as a society proclaim to value all persons while we daily drive by deteriorating lives and wish they were on some other corner.

The government cannot do it all. The Church cannot do it all. So both sides quickly give up and shift their focus to something with quick results that bring a nice warm feeling to replace the emptiness of that which continues to go undone. Together, though, more can be done than either side could ever do by itself. Governmental entities at the local, state, and Federal levels all have a role in changing the circumstances of the neediest residents under their jurisdiction. I use Church but really mean bodies of faith (churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.) - all have commandments from God to serve the widows, orphans, and needy in their area.

There is room for the 100% to become involved. This is not a 99% problem or a 1% problem. It is not a problem for people of faith or the atheist. It is a people problem. The “deer people” are doing their part: they survive from day to day with remarkable resourcefulness. It is time for the rest of us to emerge from our own forest and do our part.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Without paying much attention to it, I reached my 400th post. During November I noticed I was into the upper 300’s and thought I should do some special post for number 400, then as I was looking at some visitor statistics, I saw the nice round 400 for total posts. Fortunately, those posts have been spread over 6+ years, so it has not been something I have been addicted to – as I can be with new technology.

After over six years, this is old technology, though I do update the template from time to time and expand it as I become more proficient with the layout. Eventually, I am going to be comfortable enough with some format that I will be managing it with my own website.

As I look over the numbers, the posting has been somewhat consistent over the years, though a couple of the years got a boost with NaBloPoMo as I attempted to write something every day for a month.

2005 – 2 posts (created and forgot it in a month’s time)
2006 – 41 posts (rediscovered it and started exploring)
2007 – 109 posts (really embraced the blog)
2008 – 64 posts (grad school took a toll)
2009 – 57 posts (more grad school)
2010 – 64 posts (finished grad school)
2011 – 62 posts and counting (including this one)

I have met over 20 people in person because of the blog – most of whom I met on a 24 hour trip to New York and back for a blogger picnic. I am still in contact with three of those people. Additionally, I have formed friendships with the two west-coaster bloggers I met while in Los Angeles a few years ago.

This continues to be a fun little aside for me. I have never sought to give it much purpose like the other blogs I write or to which I contribute, or make it into anything profitable as have some of the blogs I follow. I just like to write whatever comes to mind and toss it out there for the amusement of others. And so it goes.

Here’s to 401 and counting.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Just in Time

Some days demand that everything work right lest they turn into disaster. Yesterday was one of those days for me. By quirk of calendar, I ended up coordinating two events at the same time. Fortunately, they were both at the same location, so I could run back and forth between them. Despite their proximity, for them to work, both had to run exactly on time so I could do my necessary duties for each one.

Like clockwork each event went off on cue.

Part was due to simple good luck. Part was due to my ability to plan and schedule.

In the last few years, I have recognized that I have a photographic calendar in my mine. I remember details, dates, and days of the week almost perfectly. I am not one of those super-humans who can instantly recall the information, but with a little thought, I am able to get it. Such organization comes in handy with the many projects I have going on simultaneously.

One thing I discovered and have really been thinking about following an innocent comment of one of the participants yesterday was that I do not do a good job of communicating my organization.

As long as I am in charge and able to directly command the situation everything works great. The moment I step aside and assume others know what is going on, confusion and chaos take over. I need to learn to communicate the details of my organization much more effectively, so others have a better understanding of what is going on. People look at me as a leader, but I can see that this is one area of development I need to manage.

By luck, both events worked out yesterday, but I cannot count on luck happening every time I manage events. There are many around me who can have a bigger part in the event and themselves become stronger leaders. I made notes throughout the day yesterday and now am working out formats for communicating the organization I have in my head so I do not have to count on events playing out just in time.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011

World AIDS Day each year has for years been one of the most moving days of the year for me. In the years before I came out, and in the early days of HIV/AIDS the day symbolized a time of fear an uncertainty. From the time HIV/AIDS was a topic for debate while I was in high school, I stayed update with news regarding the spread of the infection as well as the treatment for persons infect with the virus.

Sadly, for years there was not much good news with the disease, but over the years medications and prevention have made a difference and we begin now the fourth decade of recognition of the disease and progress continues to be made, but we cannot forget the toll of the disease on the community and populations around the world.

Robert Klitzman, M.D.: World AIDS Day 2011: Entering The Fourth Decade Of HIV:

'via Blog this'

Klitzman, a long time physician gives some insight into the progress. While there is much to celebrate on this World AIDS Day, we must also continue to remember the millions lost and redouble our efforts to create an HIV free generation by 2015.