Friday, November 8, 2013

From the iPod - Jars of Clay

I haven't done a "from the iPod" post for awhile, so please forgive me if this one is a bit excessive in content.  Jars of Clay have been around for years now, first hitting mainstream and christian radio with "Flood" back in 1995.  Since then they have put out a fair share of albums, have songs on 4 soundtracks to-date, and are still going strong.  Yes, they are a religious bunch of boys, but the majority of their songs are simply good music that don't leave you thumping your Bible and shouting your praises to the heavens after listening.  Frankly, I am not a fan of the christian music scene, but these guys just charmed their way in and never really walked back out.....  here's hoping that you enjoy them too.

"Fall Asleep" (from their latest album, "Inland" c. 2013)

"Two Hands" (from the album, "The Long Fall Back to Earth" c. 2009)

"Portrait Of An Apology" (from the album "Much Afraid" c. 1997)

"Worlds Apart" (from the self titled debut album, c. 1995)

"Sunny Days" (from "Who We Are Instead" c. 2003)

"Lonely People" (from "Who We Are Instead" c. 2003 - this is a great cover of the song by America)

"Disappear" (from the album "The Eleventh Hour" c. 2002)

"Frail" (from the album "Much Afraid" c. 1997)

"Show You Love" (from the album "Who We Are Instead" c. 2003)

"Amazing Grace" (from the album "Who We Are Instead" c. 2003)

"River Constantine" (from the album "If I Left The Zoo" c. 1999)

"God Will Lift Up Your Head" (from the album "Redemption Songs" c. 2005)

"Work" (from the album "Good Monsters" c. 2006

"Road to Nowhere" (not officially released. This was performed during the "Noisetrade Eastside Manor Sessions" c. 2013 - great cover of the song by Talking Heads, but it is only available online in video form unfortunately)

"Out Of My Hands" (from the album "The Shelter" c. 2010)

"Sing" (from the album "Who We Are Instead" c. 2003)

"Fly" (from the album "The Eleventh Hour" c. 2002)


Are you sitting there bored sometimes and looking for something meaningful to do that won't put you into a sweat or even have you leaving your computer? Something that encourages you to not only do some good, but allows you to be online in order to do it?  Something with no long-term commitments?

Search no more.....

The Smithsonian Institute needs people to help transcribe thousands of papers, journals and studies that have been housed in its attics for eons.  Not only are you helping to preserve the history and discoveries of the past, but imagine how good that will look on your resume....

You can click on the link above to read a little more about the project, or you can simply go to Smithsonian's site directly and start browsing the projects currently in need of transcription and see what strikes your fancy.  And its not as if you are taking on a complete project on your own... you work on this at your own pace and, wherever you leave off someone else will be allowed to continue.

How easy can this get?  No training, in fact the only qualifications needed are that you can read and type (both of which I am certain are talents you possess if you managed to make your way here!)  So make time in your lazy afternoon to be an armchair explorer and help shed some light into the forgotten past.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuning in....

There is an appalling epidemic sweeping through society and, surprisingly, many do not seem to want to treat it with the concern that it deserves: those who seem to be very interested in documenting what is happening, yet completely missing what is happening around them at the same time.  You see it all over the place, people in a group, and yet not connecting with the group, as they are too busy checking into their various social medias.

Heaven forbid we should spend time looking at a sunset when we can check out the tweet of someone we have never met in person who is sharing an obscure link to someone we have never even heard of who is retweeting it from some celebrity (don't even get me started on the worth of celebrity tweets and posts as it will turn into a rant of the further stupidity of society to place some sort of royal status on these people because their occupation broadcasts them onto our tv and movie screens).

I have been in these situations shown in the video above.... you are enjoying a moment when someone has to interrupt it because they are trying to capture just the right photo on their i-camera to put on their FB status.  I'm sorry, are the rest of us supposed to put our evening on hold so you can post about all the fun that you are having with us right now?

So not fun.

I have no idea when we became this loud, posturing society of people who have to proclaim to all around us that HEY, WE ARE COOL AND HAVING FUN RIGHT NOW.... funny, but the louder you yell the dumber you look to me, and I have no desire to spend a single moment wishing I was a part of your little group right now.... or ever.

Not that I think moments shouldn't be captured.... heck, I am usually the one behind the camera taking shots so that others don't have to think about it, but I also set the camera aside and join in the fun. I take time to actually talk with the people about me and not excuse myself every few minutes because my phone chimes to let me know that someone in my online social circle has just posted something.  Nothing says "you're just not that important to me" than another person constantly excusing themselves in order to see what was just posted instead of staying in the moment that they are in physically.

I take the time to be quiet... to disconnect... to experience what is around me.  Not, oops, I have a free moment, better sign into Facebook, or Twitter or whatever social media is hopping these days.

I don't even go online every day... and certainly can't find the time to spend hours on it.  On average if I sign in its to take a few moments to check my emails, hop over to Facebook to see if anyone has messaged me there (though its often just requests to join games) and to take a quick scroll down my news feed.... maybe I will read a news story or two and then I am done (unless, like this morning, I am blogging or if I need to research something).  I've stopped playing my online games (though I do allow myself an occasional jigsaw puzzle because if its online then the cats can't knock the pieces off the table) as they are just a way to suck away hours of my time... time that could be better spent doing other things.

Not that I don't have my distractions... I used to be an avid movie watcher, but now I really only do that when someone is over and they want to watch something.  I can easily get sucked into my crafts, but hey, at least that is productive.  I super easily get sucked into books, but that's exercising my mind.... so I can forgive myself that one, especially since said book does not come along when I am hanging out with others.  How rude would that be to say, "excuse me, but I need to take a moment to check in on what this character is doing" and tune out for a quick paragraph or two?

My brother used to have this thing he'd do yearly where he'd turn off everything that had an on switch (with the exception of music playing in the background of course... all adventures should come with a soundtrack don't you think?)... this would go for one week.  One week of turning off the distractions and tuning into life around you. He called it an exercise in getting your life back.

Internet.... off, unless you had to look up something for homework purposes (or since this post is geared towards adults and not elementary students, turn off the internet unless you need it for a work project or to help your kids with their homework).  TV... off.  Social media on your phone or your Angry Birds app.... off.  Regarding the music, it was for playing in the background on speakers when you are home... not piped through earbuds and blocking you off from the world around you.

Hmmmm... what to do with all of this time?

Really invest yourself in the moments around you... finding yourself bored?  Well, maybe its time to find a hobby that exists somewhere other than online.  Build models, for example.  If you have kids, break out the Legos and Lincoln Logs and build something with them... you'll be amazed at the fun you can still have playing with Matchbox cars and zooming them around on the carpet, and your kids might just think you're that much cooler (or not... sorry, but there are no promises on that one).

Play a board game (hey, this involves other people and you just might have fun at the same time!)  Try baking something and then share them with friends (cookies are fairly easy and always a big hit).  Try reading a book... go to your library if you don't have a physical one on hand.  With the prevalence of Nooks and Kindles these days, people should still take the time to remember the experience of an actual book in hand... one that doesn't come with a limited battery time!

Go outside.... breathe the air.  If the air around you is full of smog and exhaust fumes, go outside of the city and see what nature has in store for you.  Don't feel quite that adventurous then explore your local park.

Have pets?  Take the dog for a walk instead of letting him get exercise running around in the back yard.  Toss catnip mice for the cats to chase, or use one of those laser pointers to get them scurrying.  The pets will enjoy the interaction and you just might as well.

On a drive?  If its not too cold (or hot) where you are... turn down the music, roll down the window and experience your surroundings.  Can you feel a breeze (if you are moving fast enough for one) or can you hear the birds singing?  How about the sounds of the city around you... people talking on the streets, the sound of someone's radio as they drive by... the rat-tat-tat of construction... try to discover the rhythm of the world that you are in.

I used to spend more time online... I used to follow so many blogs that it would take, on average, an hour or two to read them all.  Miss a day or two and I would find myself stuck to the computer for hours... all because I had convinced myself that somehow I owed it to these people to read each and every word they posted.

I don't feel that way anymore... if I check in on a blog its usually because its someone I know.  I will occasionally check out other blogs, but my average blog check is about once a month.  Yup, you heard me... and I have no problem deleting posts from my reader without glancing at it twice.  In fact, my reader has been seriously winnowed down from what I used to follow and the last time I checked it I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to remember which reader I even used because I hadn't been on there in so long.

Life moves on whether I read blog posts or not... and I typically find my day to be filled enough without adding an hour of self-imposed "required reading" of adventures other people are having, when I should be busy having a life of my own.

Am I going to spend a week offline?  Probably not, because I don't find myself online that much as it is.  I have no problem disconnecting from the online world and having a life... but I wouldn't curl up in a ball and die if I did turn it off.  I didn't write this post in order to demand that people take up a challenge or anything...

So why have I written this?  Well, I suggest that we take a moment and look at our lives.

Really look.

How much time do we spend plugged in and tuned out from what is around us?

Yes, technology is a wonderful thing if used wisely... it enabled me to read a bedtime story to a nephew who lives across the country from me... but its the "used wisely" bit that I am speaking about.  So much emphasis is placed on stupid things... the latest video clip that has gone global for being nothing other than a momentary laugh (and at someone else's expense usually).  I do not watch them, I do not care for them... and I am fairly certain that the fate of the world will not rest upon my having seen these and correctly answering a pop quiz that will prevent us from facing total annihilation.

Are these these necessary to our lives?  No, not really.  Is having one more sunset in our lives going to make or break us if we choose to watch the Grammys instead?  No... but I am fairly certain that the sunset will give you a greater satisfaction in the long run... after all, I remember some truly glorious sunsets, but I still appreciate every new one that comes my way as well.  Not that I watch the Grammys, but I can hardly remember the last episode of a TV show I watched a week ago, let alone a single MOMENT from the Grammys, and I am pretty sure I caught quite a bit of it here and there over the course of my life.

There are so many moments in life that we miss when we spend them plugged in.  Moments that may not be earth-shattering, but that are definitely worth taking the time for.

Birds soaring overhead... listening to the laughter of children (I love that one)... truly spending time with a person that you love... taking the time to sit down and write or draw or create something with your own two hands (or one hand, or foot... use what you have people).

Reclaim a moment of your childhood and become an explorer again... even if its just taking a different street on your way to work and see what you find.

Connect with someone... really connect.  Invite them over for dinner, or go out if you can't cook.  Better yet, find someone who knows how to cook and ask them if they would mind coming over and teaching you how to fix something.

Make more real-life friends... ones whose shoulders you can physically cry on when needed, but be prepared as they may need your shoulders as well.

Trust me, as nice as online friendships can be, they will never replace someone who cares patting you on the back and telling you that things will work out.

If nothing else believe me when I tell you this: real life always wins... even when its sad and messy and not going the way you want, but it is something that you have to work at.  The rewards, however, make it all worth the while.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away. - Hilary Cooper