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(wherein Tara makes her father, her fiance and all the boys from her Comp Sci classes overflow with pride)

We are in the process of setting up our future married abode and a major part of that process is setting up the internet.

The installation guy came Monday morning to activate our line and set up the modem. He was a friendly, chatty man and had things done in short order. The line was activated, the modem set up, and away he went.

It was then that my adventures began. He had the wired internet set up, but we still needed to set up the wireless internet. And as M was at work, by “we”, I mean “me”.

M sent me a quick text telling me the location of his Airport Express (a wireless router, for you non-Apple people). He also told me it would be a fiddly process, but I was welcome to begin if I so wanted.

Seeing as the cable from the modem was a) short and b) in a corner, I most certainly did want. And so I began.

Step 1: Connect the Airport to power and the modem.
Step 2: Connect the laptop wirelessly to the Airport.
Step 3: Type the Gmail URL into the web browser.
Step 4: Watch as nothing happens.

This, it seems, was the beginning of the fiddly part, which continued throughout the whole rest of the process.

I began with a tip from M to use the Airport Utility (a program for configuring the wireless router). After much fiddling, I finally found the program and opened it up. It claimed two errors: a lack of internet connection (despite being connected to the modem) and a lack of proper settings. Switching the modem cable back and forth between the router and my computer, I was able to look up some forum advice. I tried doing a hard reset of the router. Then a Factory Default reset. Neither seemed to be working. After some more research (and re-reading the articles M sent me about the process), I realized that it was in fact working just fine.

The only indication the Airport Express gives you as to its status is a light. Solid green if it’s working just as it should; flashing amber if it isn’t. I was expecting the resets to produce a green light, but it would only do so if the other errors were resolved. The amber light flashed faster when I performed the reset steps, and this indicated that it had been reset.

So I went back into the Airport Utility and saw that it was still listing two errors. I clicked “Configure…” and it took me through the steps for setting up the router. I named the device, gave it a password, created a wireless network and named and passworded it, and then connected my computer to the network.

And nothing happened.

By this time, it had been at least an hour (which, however, included a break as I chatted with my mom on the phone).

The error was still Internet Connection, or rather, a lack thereof. I couldn’t understand it. The router was clearly plugged into the modem and the modem was clearly connected to the internet.

I went back into the Airport Utility and it gave me two options for configuring the IP address: either through DHCP or manually. It was on DHCP and showing the amber light, so I switched it to manually (why not?). The light changed to green.

Woohoo! It worked!

I was relatively certain that there had to be more set up for Manual than just what I had done. But the light was green, so I happily typed Gmail into my browser. And, unsurprisingly, nothing happened.

But then I had a thought.

I unplugged the modem (forcing it off) and plugged it back in (forcing it on again).

I still had the Airport Utility open to the error page and when the modem was plugged back in, I watched as several errors popped up in the Utility and then were resolved as the Airport linked back up with the modem. And then the Internet Connection error popped up. It lingered longest of them all, until suddenly, it disappeared.

And the light turned green.

And here I am. Online.

“God loves them, too.”

I’ve started reading (and loving) the blog Seraphic Singles. Interesting choice, seeing as I started reading it just as I am about to stop being one. But I can’t resist the writing. It is snappy, clever, loving, and unapologetic. She has beliefs that she does not back down from. It’s very refreshing.

She writes about all kinds of things, and occasionally responds to letters from her readers as “Auntie Seraphic”. She often coaches her female readership that, when annoyed with the male species, to spend a day or two or three, looking at every man you encounter and saying to yourself about each one, “Bless his little heart.” The principle being that repeated well-wishings of good to your neighbour makes you actually start feeling that way. Lead with your head and the heart will follow.

That phrase hasn’t worked for me for a couple of reasons.

First, when she says it, it sounds like a loving, motherly phrase, but whenever I hear myself saying it, it sounds like I’m being condescending. As the effort is in order to respect and love your fellows, feeling condescending is not a step in the right direction.

Also, I’m feeling the need to bless more than just the male half of the population.

I have become very critical recently. (I would define “recently” as the past several months– perhaps longer.)

It started off innocently enough. The driving quirks of the town I’m currently living in are very different than the quirks of the town I used to live in. It would baffle, confuse and frustrate me, and to let off steam, I would playfully snarl against the other drivers, primarily to amuse myself and the other passengers in my car.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I’ve come to realize that the little snarls and snippy comments made about other people (no matter how anonymous) were slowly stripping away at myself and my ability to love other people. I found myself, not too long ago, snarling at other drivers with actual menace and frustration. Thankfully, other drivers cannot hear me, but I would be ashamed to know that any of them have seen the expression on my face.

On the one hand, I have a right to it. There are some people on the road who are jerks, plain and simple. But on the other hand… God loves them, too.

There’s a Jars of Clay song that I love, called There is a River. One part of it goes,

So, give up the right
To control the waves that empty out your life.
Above wild skies
Are the rays that break the shadows we design.
Give it up, let go
These are things you were never meant to shoulder.

The River in the title is referring to Jesus Christ.

It is the first line of that excerpt that gets me. “Give up the right.”

It is my right to be angry at the people who cut me off and bully me on the highway. But when I think that God loves them, too, my anger melts.

When I say, “God loves them, too”, I don’t mean it condescendingly or judgementally. When I say, “God loves them, too”, I mean, God loves them in the way He loves me. I am precious to Him. I am so precious to Him that He would, and has!, died for me. And He loves me even when I do things that are not worthy of His love (like snarl at and criticize other people). And if God loves me the same way that He loves everyone else on the planet… then everyone I encounter is precious to Him. And everyone I encounter is so precious to Him that He would (and has!) died for them. And He loves them, even when they do things that are not worthy of His love.

When you love someone, you tend to want to please them. And when you love someone, you tend to want to love the things and people they love. So if I love God and He loves everyone, shouldn’t I try to love them, too? For me, the antidote to my critical attitude is stopping myself by saying, “God loves them, too.” And, by the power of His Spirit, I start wondering what the person’s story is, and what their motivations are. And then I begin to empathize with them, and, strangely, miraculously enough, I begin to love them.

“Slow down,” Mom’s voice urged me.

I was sitting by the front door, leaning against the wall, waiting for a bandage and some Polysporin. In my haste to get to a friend’s birthday celebration, for which I was already shamefully late, I had closed the front door on my heel. It was surprising to me how immediately debilitating this minor injury was. I was moving too quickly, had pulled the door hard and almost instantly crumbled to the floor. It startled both of my parents who were each near the door as I left, but Mom immediately examined the wound (scraped, but not cut) and prescribed a bandage and disinfectant. As she disappeared to retrieve those things, she called behind her, “Slow down!”

And I have slowed down. In part due to her advice and in large part because a bruise has formed, giving me a little bit of a limp when I walk with shoes on. If I go too fast, the shoes press against the bruise, so I am forced to go at a much slower pace than I am used to.

I had a conversation with a friend several days ago, and through it, I’ve realized just how little society values rest. I’m not talking about laziness or slacking off, but about genuine, restorative rest.

The Bible prescribed rest for the Israelites in the Old Testament. On the seventh day of the week, you were to rest. On the seventh year, you were to rest your fields (and thereby rest your household). On the seventh sabbath year, it is to be a year of Jubilee, where debts are canceled, etc.

I’m not saying we should go back to this system, but this shows just how important rest is. That God laid these things out in the laws of the Israelites demonstrates how important it is for us to rest.

But our society–Christian and not–struggles to rest. There is so much to be done; it is difficult to justify taking a day and not doing any of it. Eventually, though, our bodies thrust it upon us, either through illness or exhaustion or stress/anxiety/depression that forces us to take a step back and reevaluate where we are at.

My mom’s words echoed with me as I drove into town.

“Slow down.”

This minor injury was not my body revolting against me. But I think there are times where God allows things to happen, small inconveniences or injuries, to force us to slow down. This injury was my own fault. I was allowing myself to feel pressured and stressed and flew out of the house. My body was ahead and my feet were behind and my heel received the brunt of the error. And it’s made me realize that I need to slow down.

I need to do things in a timely manner, but I need to reevaluate where I hurry. In this particular circumstance, I realized that, at most, I could arrive 5 minutes earlier, but I was already late and had already alerted the host to my lateness. In the grand scheme of things, 5 minutes either way would not make much of a difference.

I’ve realized, too, that with the wedding coming up, I need to slow down for the sake of myself (my own stress and anxiety levels) and for the sake of those around me. If I am stressed and flurried, my fiance, family and friends will probably likewise feel stressed and flurried. If I am calm, they are more likely to feel calm.

Everything will get done and everything will be done well. Hurrying will not get anything done faster or better; it will only make me feel hurried.

So this is my motto for the next little while: “Slow down.”

I was startled out of bed:

BEEP

“Low battery, pile faible.”

Living with electronics is interesting. You get used to all sorts of buzzes and beeps coming from many different sources, with just enough variation to allow us, hapless users, to determine which device has called for our attention. I wonder if anyone’s vision of the future included this? ;)

Regardless, you come to know your devices and to recognize what is yours and what isn’t.

This device, declaring its need for fuel, was not mine.

I dug through all of my electronics (phone, mp3 player, laptop, back-up drive), but of course, it was none of those things. The beep sounded familiar, but none of my devices talk. At least, not in such an unbidden manner.

The next morning, before work, I asked the household’s über geek if he knew the source of the cry for help. He did not, but we found that we had all been awoken by the same sound.

Over the next day or two, the alert became increasingly frequent.

BEEP

“Low battery, pile faible.”

The theory that it was our smoke/CO detector was initially met with disfavour, as we knew that the devices in our house were powered by AC direct wires.

After being startled several times while walking by the hallway downstairs, it became my personal mission to locate the source of the beeping and to make it stop. I finally pulled out a bench and placed it under the detector so that I could better read what was written on it. I think my initial goal was to read the model number so that I could look it up online to determine if it was the source. However, when I got up there and saw the big button in the middle of the alarm, the one that read “Test/Reset”, like a five-year-old, I couldn’t resist.

*poke*

It was a decision that I instantly regretted, but the measured female voice that went along with the piercing ringing did confirm my suspicions as to the source of the beeping.

I was also, before I was driven off of the bench, able to read the model name and number off of the device.

A quick bout of research enabled me to discover a handful of things: first of all, I am my father’s daughter. Second, the units we have are powered by AC direct wire, but also have battery back-ups. Third, the three alarms we have in our house are connected wirelessly, which is pretty cool (when one goes off, the rest shortly follow). And fourth, I would have to climb back into close proximity with the alarm in order to replace the battery.

Another thing I learned was that batteries have model numbers. Who knew? And I don’t mean AA or AAA or 9V. I mean, MN1604 or 522. I purchased one of these MN1604 (9V) batteries and then it sat on our kitchen counter for the majority of the evening.

Anyone who has an IBM laptop will know the sound of the alert when the battery level has become critical. It was this same sound, emitted by the smoke/CO alarm that drove me from the couch and onto a step ladder. As if the BEEP “Low battery” wasn’t enough, it now sounded like a police car was coming through.

I managed to untwist the alarm from the ceiling and disconnect it from the AC power, but now it started chirping pathetically at me. I took it upstairs, installed the new battery and then brought it back down.

You know that feeling you get when you just know you’re about to be blasted by something, but you don’t know exactly when? That twitchy, dodgy feeling, where you know you can’t avoid it, but your body is taut with readiness to do so?

Yea…

With much shaking and twitching, I finally managed to plug the alarm in… and instantly regretted it. The alarm came unplugged immediately, but the test cycle continued. I tossed the alarm onto a nearby chair and glared at it resentfully.

Debating for a moment, I finally went into Dad’s storage closet and pulled out a big, bulky pair of headphones. I tucked the wire into my belt loop and cautiously went over to the alarm. This time, I sounded it on purpose, and finding that the headphones were enough to soften the sound, I mounted the step ladder with confidence, plugged it in, ignored its self-test and twisted it back onto the ceiling. And then, for good measure, I pressed the Test button one last time.

It is now working and secure and has stopped whining.

What a trial. ;)

Some interesting thoughts on video games — especially if you don’t play them.

video by Shamus Young

Sometimes I catch myself staring at my blog, willing myself to write. In those situations, I usually don’t have anything to put to paper, and so I stare, and switch between blogs, and stare again. Sometimes I’ll open up a Word document or an email, but after a few half-hearted sentences, I will close them again.

The desire to put pen to paper (metaphorically and otherwise) has always been with me, even from before I could write, when I could barely hold a pen. Even now, I sometimes face a similar dilemma. I have the desire to write, but haven’t the words.

I think this happens for every person with every passion. There are some days where things just don’t click. No matter how hard you try, you can’t produce anything. No matter how hard you stare, words don’t come to the screen.

Passion, though, is as much a matter of discipline as it is of emotion. It is a fallacy to wait for inspiration. If, as humans, we waited to do things until we felt like it, our homes would be a lot messier, our finances in greater disarray, our health even lower on the priority scale and our spiritual lives in shambles.

What about those things that are in order, that we are disciplined about? Those are habits that we’ve formed, through discipline, that we’ve committed to maintain. We do them without thinking, whether we feel like it or not.

That isn’t to say that great works happen from hard work alone. I think the best works unite passion and discipline. But while inspiration comes and goes, we can always practice our crafts.

Even though it is only posts like this that come from feeling uninspired, it is still important to practice, so that when inspiration comes, you have developed habits and honed your skills to take advantage of it.

(a/n: Yes, I am saying do your chores/homework/devotions/taxes, even when you don’t feel like it.)

My brother made a mistake.

It’s interesting, because he made a mistake the way most of us make mistakes: early and oft-repeated. He was working on a math sheet, and in the very first question, he made a multiplication mistake due to an error in carrying the decimal place. All of the questions that followed were similar, and so, because he was so confident he had completed the first question correctly, he carried that same mistake through the rest of the worksheet.

At first, he didn’t understand the error I was pointing out to him. I took a separate sheet of paper and did the question while he watched, and I saw the realization slowly dawn on him.

“Does that make sense?” I asked him.

“Okay, but I’m still confused,” he said.

“What are you confused about?” I asked.

“Well, that means I have to do the whole thing again.”

“Ah,” I said, understanding dawning in my own mind. “So you aren’t confused, but rather frustrated.”

Yes, he was sincerely frustrated.

I told him to take a break — to take ten minutes of not doing homework before he came and tackled it again — and in these ten minutes, I’ve been sitting here trying to determine how to make this a positive learning experience. I am so unbelievably struck by the strong analogy that this situation is for how God deals with our mistakes, but it is an analogy that I don’t think he will be able to see at this point.

As much as he was frustrated that he had to re-do the worksheet, I think sometimes the hardest part about correcting a mistake is taking apart the work that’s already been done. His worksheet was entirely covered in pencil. Granted, pencil can be erased, and often, quite cleanly. But a pencil-covered sheet of paper represents work. And erasing it represents destruction, even if it is of work that is poorly or incorrectly done. He had begun erasing it, but it was in anger and frustration. The paper has a crinkle or two that is evidence of this. So I suggested that he take a break and remove himself from the situation.

From my perspective, mistakes in a math sheet are not earth-shattering. I do remember what it was like to be in his shoes. Having to do a math worksheet in the first place was an arduous and lengthy process, not to mention re-doing it. But years have passed and I have grown a little wiser. My state of mind was significantly calmer and so, while he was gone, I erased the page.

And it was during this erasing that I was struck with the analogy. Our sins of scarlet will be made white as snow, I thought, as I watched clean, white paper emerge from underneath the pencil markings. For this is what God does.

“Everything in your life that you learn,” I told the young one, “you will learn in one of two ways: either because someone tells you how to do it and you listen or because you make mistakes and then learn how to fix them. This is that second way. You’ve made a mistake and now you’re learning how to fix it.”

I didn’t do his homework for him. In fact, I didn’t even help him correct it. In fact, aside from the above, I haven’t said much more than encouragement since he’s come back out to try again. All that I did was I gave him a clean slate from which to start.

The interesting thing about that slate is that he did do two of the questions correctly. I looked at his work and debated for a moment before I erased the sheet completely.

And that is the part that frustrates us about God.

“This part was fine,” we say. “We did it correctly. The answer was right. This was fine. Why did you erase it?”

Because the truth is, even though his method and answers were correct for those few questions, his knowledge and understanding of why they were correct was incomplete. I wanted his new understanding to affect every part of the worksheet.

The situation this evening does not make for a perfect analogy, because I am not perfect and the young one is not perfect. But for just a moment, imagine that I was simply an observer, and that the stakes were higher than merely a math sheet, and instead of me helping my little brother correct his homework, we have God Incarnate cleansing the world of all the mistaken pencil lines, smudges, and blackened sheets.

I’ve written before (though maybe not here) about this world being an echo of the eternal. Our longings are for things that last, for that is how we have been designed. And tonight, the shadows of our interaction painted for me images of incredible colour and vibrancy. While I cleaned penciled errors from a sheet of paper, Jesus Christ cleans the indelible mark of sin from our lives.

One of the most inspiring courses I ever took was Victorian Poetry with Professor John North. I transcribed more sound bytes in the margins of my notes for that class than I did for any other. This is a man who loves God and who loves poetry, two of the loves of my own life, and so to listen to him speak several times a week was an incredible gift.

I remember attempting to describe this course to my friends. Professor North is an older gentleman who has had many experiences and who has seen much in his life. His students are privileged to hear of his experiences in his classes, and we are even more privileged to be able to listen to the wisdom that he has gleaned from his years on earth. Attending his class was like entering his living room. He invited us in and began speaking, and though he spoke of poetry, he could not help but give us knowledge greater than simply what the poet was trying to say.

Poetry, he says, is a way for us to “read experiences that are like our own, that we can identify with, that affirm ourselves.”

We discussed some of my favourite poets in this class – Tennyson, Hopkins, Arnold, Browning – and through each step of the course, we could see the above-quoted theme carrying through. While discussing Tennyson’s In Memorium and explaining to us why this poem was so popular when first published, North said,

Tennyson explores grief and put into words for people for the first time their internal worlds and emotions.

In Memorium was a poem that Tennyson wrote over the course of twenty years as he mourned the loss of his best friend. We all have these experiences and these “internal worlds and emotions”, but most of us cannot put words to them. With this poem, Tennyson took something that was incredibly well-experienced, but very rarely expressed (that is, grief), and finally put it to words. Poetry touches the ineffable.

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

~Aldous Huxley

I would class poetry with music.

I found Professor North’s class to be an incredibly healing one. Through his class, he carried us into the very depths of the poem, often to the core of our souls, inviting us to examine what we found there, and to actually feel the emotions that we carried within us. It wasn’t that he was not content with a surface-level analysis of a poem; it was that remaining on the surface never even occurred to him. He is a man deeply in love with his wife, passionate about his God, and incredibly moved by the pieces he reads, and all of this came through in his lectures.

Poetry gives shape and a voice to our internal world; it affirms us, we are less alone.

The excitement in Hopkins is that his world makes sense. The problem is that oftentimes our world just doesn’t make sense. When the dark sonnets come, we can see that he has made sense in the non-sense. Despite the darkness, there is joy.

Poetry gives us an insight into other people’s hearts and minds, and into our own. It gives all of that shape, brings form out of chaos. We can understand what we never understood before, and through another’s writing, we realize it is true. It is satisfying both to have words for it, and to realize that someone else feels the way that we do. It takes the loneliness out of life.

It’s hard to fight with evil, but consider the consequence of not fighting with evil.

Evil cannot exist on its own; by definition, it is a perversion of good.

Even evil is under God’s authority.

[Poetry helps us to] accept the potential of the future, without rejecting the beauty of the past.

Poetry says far more than the poet knows he or she is saying.

Poetry is so powerful that it affects us to the core, even if we don’t know why.

We often only need to see something or hear something and we are transformed.

Be aware that you can’t study literature without being changed inside, in spite of yourself.

(the above all taken during Professor North’s Fall ’07 Victorian Poetry class)

Bravo. It is exactly as Cameron Schaefer writes here: Life’s about choices. A refreshing reminder.

I’ve been asked a few times by friends what Twitter actually is. It is only fair, since I harp so often about no one reading my twitter page, to actually explain a little bit of what Twitter is. There is a video here, which does a fairly good job of it, but I will also do my best to articulate what it is (Mike, Matty, Dad, feel free to weigh in with your own explanations of it).

Twitter is what is known as a microblog. I tried to find a nice definition online, but I couldn’t find one I liked (granted, I didn’t look very hard). But a microblog is essentially like this blog, except it consists of shorter and more frequent posts. So rather than posting several paragraphs once a day or every few days, an author might post a couple of sentences several times a day. To read it in order, you would read it the same way as a blog: the most recent posts are at the top, so the further down you go, the further back in time you go.

One thing that is incredibly cool about Twitter and makes it completely unique from a blog is the “home” page. When you sign up for Twitter, you have the option to begin “following” other Twitter users, and they have the option to follow you (naturally, you can control your privacy settings). So when you log onto Twitter, it goes to your home page, which updates every time one of the people you are following makes a new post.

This is a capture of my Twitter home page. At the top, you can see the space for me to write “What I am doing” or whatever else I feel like posting about. Also notice the number “140″ above that box. Twitter limits you to only 140 characters per post. It becomes an interesting challenge getting your point across in a limited space. And you can see below the box posts of some of the people I follow: Felicia Day of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and The Guild, Dr. Horrible himself, Brett McKay of The Art of Manliness, The Pioneer Woman, and Mike Purvis. Every time they “tweet” something, it is added to this page for me to read, and every time I write something, it is added on my page and on the home pages of the people who follow me.

It is a fun way to keep in touch with people that you know, and to read about what they are up to (which is often what we most want to hear anyway), and it is also fun to follow people you don’t necessarily know who tend to be writing for a wide audience of people they don’t know either ;) (ie, evskeys, Wil Wheaton).

If Twitter is something that interests you, you should check it out! Play with it a little, start following people and you’ll quickly figure out how it works. And if you start an account, make sure you go to my page and click the little “follow” link beneath my picture, so I’ll know you’ve signed up and so I can follow you back. ;)

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