Being Thankful on Memorial Day

Too often lately I see and hear the things associated with this holiday that offend my patriotic sensibilities:  Memorial Day sales, three-day weekends, drinking binges, and Americans who don’t even realize it’s a federal holiday.  Rather than complain, however, I’m just going to share my own thoughts on the holiday.

We celebrate Memorial Day to honor those who have died in military service.  These folks died protecting the freedom that we enjoy and often take for granted.  I’m thankful for the freedom that these men & women have given me.

Today, I am thankful for the freedom to speak my mind without fear of imprisonment.  I am grateful for the freedom that allows me to obtain an education and work my way to a more prosperous life.  I am thankful for the creativity and innovation that is only possible in a free country.  And I am grateful for the men & women who are still willing to protect that freedom.

It has been said with regard to those who serve and have served in the military, “All gave some; some gave all.”  Today, I say Thank You to those who gave all.

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Disliking Spring

Last week I tried writing something positive about spring.  I really tried to see the good in it the way other people do.  But I couldn’t.  I feel the same way about spring that most people do about winter; that is, I like one or two things and strongly dislike many other things.

I like the instances of spring weather that are cool and calm.  I also like the way the spring air smells on those calm cool days.  That’s about where it ends.

Spring in NM brings wind.  Wind that whips up sand and fresh pollen.  I’m not a morning person, and having to take an antihistamine at night only makes it worse.  Suffering an allergy attack while the wind sandblasts your already dry skin is just plain unpleasant.

The weather can’t make up its mind, either.  While our bodies try to adjust from winter, spring taunts us by giving us cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon.  Go ahead, dress in layers – you’ll still get it wrong.

It’s cliché to complain about Daylight Savings Time, so I’ll just say I was glad it happened over spring break.  That particular adjustment can be brutal while one is drugged up on antihistamines.

So while I’ve failed to be positive about spring, I did manage to think of one more thing I like about it.  Once the wind dies down and I have the hay fever under control, it will be time to go hiking.

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Reading & Focus

As an MBA student, I do a lot of required reading both on- and off-line.  I also read a lot that no one requires me to read.  I love to read – books, magazines, newspaper articles, online articles & blogs.  I’m also a very focused person (in other words, I’m very bad at multitasking).  I work best when I can focus on one thing for a long period of time, and interruptions cause complex patterns of thought to vaporize.

All my life I have been annoyed when a newspaper article is interrupted by the phrase, “Continued on page A19.”  When I read I get into a very focused, tunnel-vision groove.  It seems very rude to me that someone saw fit to place the article on two different pages, one of which has the continuations of several other articles and a bunch of ads.  First, there’s the interruption of my focused groove.  Then, I have to search for the rest of the article.  And most wrong, once I do find it, it turns out to be just a few sentences long.

It happens in some of the readings I have to do for school, too.  When reading a peer-reviewed article, a reader often can’t get through a whole sentence without having the thought process pulverized by multiple citations of other peer-reviewed articles.  This is what it looks like:

The process of making a peanut butter & jelly sandwich consists of several steps (Doe & Jones, 2007), most of which require extensive cleanup afterward (Doe & Jones, 2008).  This extensive cleanup can involve more steps (Jones & Jones, 2009) that require the use of expensive cleaning solvents (Doe & Doe, 2010).

Pretty annoying, right?  It’s a good thing that not every scholar writes this way; a lot of them prefer to use footnotes and endnotes.

But thanks to the ad-supported internet, it does get worse.  I love being able to get news via the web – it’s faster and doesn’t involve the newspaper delivery personnel not being able to find my house despite being given explicit directions and my phone number.  And yet, I find myself drawn back to physical newspapers every time I read a news article online.  The reason is that ads are not just in both margins of the page, but also are inserted into the text of the article itself.

Whatever happened to the days of just turning a word in the article into a hyperlink?  That was the least obtrusive, and still provided the reader a way to do some background reading if necessary.  Now, instead of this…

Making a PB&J contains several steps.  Some of these steps can make a mess.

…we get this…

Making a PB&J contains several steps.

BONUS: How to make a PB&J in 27 easy steps!  Click here! Do it! Now!

Some of these steps can make a mess.

BONUS: How to use common floor wax to clean peanut butter off your counter!  Click here!  Do it!  Now!

To combat this, I used to just click the “Print Friendly” button.  But the ad gurus have copped wise to that ploy, and one can no longer get away from the annoying interruptions by reading from the print-friendly screen.

What do you think of these interruptions?  Are they annoying or necessary?  If necessary, why?  If annoying, how do you deal with it?

[Comments will not appear right away; please be patient.  As always, please be civil to me and the other readers & commenters.]

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Snow Day!

Today, my world looks a lot like the picture above.  In its characteristic way, the NM weather is cold enough for snow to accumulate on the ground, but has warmed up just enough for it to melt from the sidewalks but not the roads.

Our seldom-seen snow days are, for most, enjoyable.  Snow, even in very small amounts, can shut Albuquerque down very quickly.  We’re not used to it, so we tend to react in ways that positively puzzle our neighbors to the north.  Kids and lucky adults get a delay or even a whole day off.  Snow days give us an excuse to slow down, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or an extra cup of coffee, build a snowman, go sledding, start a snowball fight.

Perhaps my favorite facet of a snow day is the radically different perspective it gives me.  As I write, my visibility is about a mile, perhaps less, in all directions.  The truncated views give me a sense of living in a very small town.  Today, the cloud cover imposes a perimeter that shrinks my world, and I can only see the residential areas surrounding mine, dotted with a few shops and a church steeple.  To the east, I would normally see the city against a backdrop of the Sandia Mountains.  Where the mountain range usually dominates my vision, I see only a backdrop of blinding white.  To the north, west, and south, this backdrop lends a very concrete border to the hills, whose crests appear to be the very edges of the earth to me.

Contributing to this small-town feeling is the absence of sound. There is less noise, and what noise there is seems to be absorbed by the same moisture in the air that reflects and amplifies the available light.

So far today, I have not ventured out farther than my driveway.  My neighbor just notified me that the roads are in bad enough condition to be dangerous, so I doubt that I will.  Instead, I’ll take full advantage of my snow day by getting another cup of coffee and staying inside my abbreviated world.

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