December 24, 2007

(Christmas) Bread to feed our hunger…

Posted in Christianity, Religion at 3:21 pm by a11en

This will be one of the few religious based posts that I have here. But, it is Christmas eve, and I feel a need to post a bit about it. I am both a scientist and Christian. These two may seem diametrically opposed, unless you have tried this as well personally. They are not opposites, unless you believe in the religion which is also called Science. I will choose not to attempt to convince you, as likely no one can do so. What I will say, is that this opinion also is a rebellion against the majority of my peers (I often find I am in this position)… as Dyson suggests, a scientist as Rebel.

As a scientist, and part-time philosophy student (mostly self-taught, being that life itself necessitates man to find his philosophy, and doubly so for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) student…), the works of C. S. “Jack” Lewis are dear to my heart. Lewis paves a path forward through logical deduction and discussion that upgirds the logical in a religion that often asks us to believe the illogical. In Miracles, Lewis records a philosophical treatise about the existence of Miracles. Miracles by nature of their definition are “not of nature”… and are not to be “natural”… except they play out their role in nature (that is our known existence), and so the after-effects are natural. As a scientist do you find you have a problem with the concept of Miracles because they are “not natural”? Well, my friend, that makes complete sense because a priori they are not natural. If that is your only problem with them, you had better do some more thinking, because that’s their definition…

One of C.S. Lewis’ most well known works, Mere Christianity (Simple Christianity), is a wonderful place to start. The simple notion (which I believe Lewis shares also with G.K. Chesterton, although Lewis explained this simple thought much more clearly than Chesterton), is the concept that no craving in Man exists without a way to quench that craving. For lust, there is sex. For ants in your pants, there is running. For need to love, there is woman. For thirst, water. For hunger, there is bread. Yet, we find that Man has another craving. A craving for God. There is a desire in Man that reaches out beyond our earthly existence. Why then should we believe there is no food for this hunger? Isn’t all other hunger in existence capable of being quenched in some manner?

I of course cannot do justice to the amazing discussions of Lewis. Surely Lewis is this century’s greatest apologetic, if not one of our greatest philosophers. If you are a Christian, or are wondering about Christianity from a logical discussion, I strongly suggest you read Lewis’ work(s). I warn you, however, that some of Lewis’ discussions are meant for the older Christians, and he often pushes our thought to the edge with his discussions. The most infuriating thing about Lewis is he’s often right, even when we don’t want him to be. 🙂 This I find grows my faith and my understanding. (I found the first half of Mere Christianity to be the best for me at the time, and the last half did some pushing… I have to revisit the work now that I have read much more of his life’s works.)

I’m certainly not the best Christian in the world. In fact, I often ask my Christian friends to forgive me- I tell them honestly: “I may be the worst Christian you’ll ever meet.” And this is the truth.

I have a post here somewhere that I may revise over this break entitled: “On the importance of vices…” In which I discuss why vices are important. 🙂 So, you see, I am quite bad. I somewhat revel in this badness, to some degree, but at the same time, it often brings heartache. As Lewis discusses in Mere Christianity, we find that when we look inside ourselves, we find that man has a consciousness, and that Man is in the unique position of recognizing his faults and realizing that he falls far from his own mark. Every time I miss a meeting, or a task, or don’t do this or that… or slack off, or procrastinate, or fall short of my mark, I am reminded of Man’s state. Man’s striving for perfection, and Man’s failure to attain it. No other religion in the world describes this state of Man. Thankfully, there is Mercy and Grace to be had.

And, so, I bring this post to a close. I am thankful this season for this Grace, this Mercy, this Love. For, I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living*.

I leave with you a few words of Jack’s which describe my position (from “Is Theology Poetry” published in the collected lectures entitled “The Weight of Glory“):

The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

I wish you a Very Merry Christmas!! Hosanna!

ps- I will talk here and there of other religions or philosophical thought on this blog.  However, I felt this season a need to share Lewis’ works, and Christmas with you in some way.

December 9, 2007

Polder Timer- Time Crutch for the Timeless…

Posted in GTD, Lifehacks, Procrastination, Productivity, Work at 9:14 pm by a11en

I’ve been meaning to blog about something that sits on my belt these days… in fact, I’ve become somewhat lost if I don’t feel it by my side. I don’t use it all the time… um, excuse me… time, in fact, is the subject matter of today’s blog post.

I’m slowly coming to a realization and sadness that time just doesn’t wait for anyone. Not even me. You see, I used to think that time would do my bidding. But, in fact, each day I grow older, there is a new grey-hair, and my time for a future family dwindles. Each week spent not focused on my work towards my Thesis and my PhD degree becomes one more week of stagnation and lack of progress towards a happier future. Unfortunately, as everyone who knows me will tell you, time and I just don’t get along. There was one thing I was early for in my life, and that was my birth. After that, I guess, I’ve been trying to make up for it.

I have another small confession to make. Often the reason I’m late is because of my love of what I’m doing at the time. You see, I spend so much of my effort and focus in “The Now” that I literally forget about the “little after now”… which ultimately will become “the now” but apparently I’m not ready for it when it does. That could be because I’m having a deep and interesting discussion about research work with one of my co-workers, and I realize I’m 5 minutes late for my time on a microscope, or it could be because I need my morning coffee “just right”, and I know it takes about 5 minutes to steep. But, what I do know, is I’m passionate and empathic about my current time. I see this as an advantage, but realize that on the other side of “now” it’s a disadvantage.

So, what can I do? What in the world is someone who lives a life bucking Father Time for all eternity to do? Aside from some serious advances in physics and anti-matter, I have to say, I’ve turned to a crutch.

Enter the Polder Timer stage left…

This is the little fellow who’s constantly at my side these days. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t beautiful, and it’s been busted at least once already. What are the things I love about it? How do I use it? Does it work for me?

What I love about it:

The multi-function timer is excellent. The feature which is killer for me is the vibrating feature. The reason for this, is that it’s relatively quiet, but when the timer is on your belt (in your pocket you’ll likely hit one of the buttons) it quietly alarms at your side. One can’t really use a normal timer when dealing with coworkers or technicians etc., and have it sitting there ticking away during your conversation and finally the saxon sounds blaringly loud! Insanity.

(How I use it: )

A little bzzzzzzt on your belt is easily managed. Going to visit an old friend for work, but you can easily get into a 1 hour conversation about life and you have a ton to achieve that afternoon? Before entering his office, set the timer to half-hour.. 15-20 minutes of work talk, 10 minutes of fun-talk. Let him know you have to go at xxx time, and then talk away. It will suck when it buzzes, but honestly, if you’re polite about it, and let him know you’ll return soon, I’m sure it will go well. It can be done relatively incognito also, so the conversation need not end immediately after the buzz. Not to mention you always have the ability to make conscious decisions about your time (Covey) when it’s required. Did he tell you a doozey? His dog just died last night? You can reschedule your next meeting if it’s important to your friendship.

What this timer allows me to do, is manage time and allow my brain to roam free (until the buzz) as it usually does. Instead, it is brought back to earth when I want it to be (my setting on the timer). This is a wonderful wonderful thing. An example… the EDS on the Scanning Electron Microscope needs like 2 minutes to get it’s job done, and the darned machine that runs it has no sound (ugh windows)… set your timer for 2 minutes, read your journal article, bzztt… EDS is done, get back to the SEM. 🙂 Works like a freakin’ charm. I use it like that all day. Need to check on the growth-chamber and check it’s vacuum before growth? 5 minutes degass, 5 minutes off, measure, etc. I can go back to my desk sure that I’ll be reminded of when to check the gauge.

I also use it to do dashes of work when I’m not in front of my computer… 15 minutes of focused work, 5 min. break etc., (or 2 min. but I always eek out more break).

Of course the timer also has a visual cue (blinking red-light on the top you can set if you want), as well as a nice loud buzzer as needed. In the dark, the visual cue is nice, can set the timer down and not disturb SWMBO’d.

What I don’t like:

The belt clip that came with it was busted within the first week. I liked that it had a clip, stand, and magnet on it… but it was too weak. What did I do to solve the problem? For about a week I tried to use it in my pocket, but I always touched the buttons, etc., and it was a pain… so I scoured around various stores to find a cheap stick-on cell-phone clip replacement. Found one, gorilla-glued it on the back, and now I have an excellent clip to hold it to my belt. I’ve got plans to add the old magnet to the clip, but haven’t yet. It’s much easier to clip and unclip now that I’ve replaced the belt-clip. 🙂

Also, unfortunately, there is little to no memory. That means I set the darned thing all the time. This isn’t so bad, but a few memories would really make work-dashes much easier.

Counting stops at the alarm. I’d much rather it continue on. So, if I set it for 5 minutes, for some reason I miss it, how long did I miss it for? When was that buzzer going? I’d love to know if I missed it by half a minute, or by 20 minutes! No such luck. You can count up from zero, you can count down from X, but you can’t count up from zero after counting down from X. Kinda sucks.
But… the price is right. Nice and cheap, and the killer apps (vibrating and light alarm) are very worth the price. (Even with added new belt-clip.)

The stigma:

I took it on my chin for about a month with SWMBO’d… I got crap like: “Oh, whatcha going to do, time how long dinner takes?” … (while heading to the bathroom one night)… “Oh, whatcha going to do, time how long it takes you to SH… (ave)”? 😉 [I added the ave]… Oh, she’s a cad alright. Real cad. Real funny gal. But, my timer is still on my belt, and it’s still helping me work. So, if you can live past the joshing you’ll take, you might just fine that a crutch like a timer will really help your timelessness.

Coming from a serious space-case and procrastinator extraordinaire, it’s certainly helped me.

(Oh, BTW, just for the record, Grace Kelly was so damned hot. I just had to let that out. Hell, if I was a King, I’d have married her. Holy crap. (TCM on tonight.))