Part 2: When Daniel Started Meditating


So if you’ve been with me so far, you know I’m a bit scattered. I’m sort of an adventurous type, especially when it comes to getting into things, commitments, the like. So recently, I made a big new commitment to myself: I’m meditating twice a day for 20 minutes.

This decision came a few months back in February when I took Bob Eklund’s meditation class at The Oasis Instutute in Homberg Place in Knoxville. I didn’t think there was anyone in Knoxville doing something as cool as “spiritual meditation,” but I was wrong. The thing about the UU church is, while encouraging ecumenical and cross religious interaction, I felt I was still missing something deeper and more fulfilling in my life: a communion with God. Let’s just say I found it.

Spiritual meditation, Bob explained, is different from non-spiritual meditation. Non-spiritual meditation is more concerned with the mundane: the breath, my body, nothingness, things we could realize as true and deal with now. Spiritual meditation is an attempt to raise the consciousness of the meditater. I was hooked.

I was taught three “rules” of the mind:

  1. The mind always needs an object
  2. The mind can only focus on one thing at a time
  3. Whatever the mind focuses on it becomes

Those three realizations led to only the natural conclusion that I should focus on a good idea, they called it a mantra, and that could raise my consciousness! I was skeptical to say the least, but I was in the class with my wife Cyndi, so we were along for the ride on this thing one way or the other. We were charged with meditating once a day for 10 minutes. No problem, I could do that.

The first week was not that hard, 10 minutes isn’t a long time. However I started to have some pretty amazing things happen to me, from the get go! Early on, I started to feel a strong sense of love and compassion for the world. I’ve always been tuned into loving others, but I was told

Love Is All There Is

I believed Bob, love could very well be the ground of existence in this world, at least for our spiritual bodies. Its hard to argue with such a positive affirmation. I dwelt on the sanskrit translation of the phrase above and started to notice how much I felt comfortable around new people, how much I wanted people around me to be happy and peaceful, and how much they weren’t.

So I bought a huge VR gaming laptop

Picture of Alienware laptop with a bottle of sriracha

For about 4 years, I’ve been a hypocrite. I’ve been running a company called GetMorePC in Knoxville, TN, helping small businesses get their technology up and running, quick and efficient. I work on a Dell PC at home and a built PC at work. But when I go out to meet with clients, I bring my 15″ MacBook Pro. You heard that right: GetMorePC uses a Mac mobile.

Now let me be straight with you, this isn’t my main machine. Every time I turn it on, I’m stuck in update Hell for at least 30 minutes and yes, it happens on Macs too when you don’t use them often. My most frequented PCs at home and the office are used and abused on a daily basis, but they always take a lick and keep on ticking. Being PCs, they are upgradable. So I have upgraded the video card in my home PC to an NVidia GTX 980 to run my Oculus Rift and my HTC Vive. Runs like a champ. My only complaint is that Office 365 forces me to login like 20 times per activity I’m trying to accomplish on my account with Onedrive or Sharepoint. But I digress.

Picture of Alienware laptop with a bottle of sriracha

Sriracha for size

My Macbook Pro still runs great, I’ve even got a virtual PC running in VirtualBox on the Mac, for when I’ve just gotta run Visual Studios or something else not cloud-based. It will not run VR hardware, past my Oculus Rift Developers Kit 2. So I need an upgrade. I started searching for a suitable laptop that would run VR hardware and what that equates to in essence is a gaming laptop. In my mind, there is only one great brand of gaming laptops: Alienware.

Imagine to my surprise when I journeyed to Best Buy last night with the intention of only perusing their wares and I saw it: a 17″ Alienware laptop with the 7th generation Core i7 processor, 16GB memory, and a GTX 1070 graphics card. It was exactly what I’ve been looking for. I wanted to buy it locally in case I had problems that required a trip to the retail outlet. I was on the fence as to whether or not I should get it, but the sales guy told me I’d have 14 days to return it if I didn’t like it. I was sold.

I got this monster home and started setting it up, essentially plugging it in. Its very neon. The touchpad and sides of the display light up with neon colors that I can specify with their builtin app. Showy, but I liked it. One of the reasons I went with Alienware is that it didn’t look like a gaming laptop. There is no pretentious “Republic of Gaming” badge on the back or even a smirking gamer face, only a metallic low-key alien head.

It runs Windows 10, so of course I had problems setting it up out of the box. It had multiple updates for Windows and Alienware (Dell) that had to be installed before I could do anything with the laptop. Much to my surprise, the wireless was flaky from the get go. I noticed their Killer Wireless app was popping up and asking me to set a bandwidth limit. Okay, that gets turned off. I noticed it kept going offline while I was downloading updates. Off to download more drivers. All in all, I spent about 3-4 hours performing updates on the new laptop just to get it working like it should out of the box. Not what one expects with a $1800 laptop, but it is a PC.

Killer Wireless throttled my wireless out of the box and did not work. This killed me for a new laptop, so name checks out.

Now that I have it setup, I’m trying to download a few games, Assassins Creed Unity, Mass Effect Andromeda, and Grand Theft Auto V. I’m not getting dropped wireless anymore since I manually downloaded the latest Killer Wireless (because it dies often?) drive, directly from the Killer Wireless site. The official Dell drive failed to work properly and still dropped internet connection. This could be a how-to article on its own, since there is no documentation on the Dell site on how to get the wireless working out of the box.

So I bought a huge VR laptop. I haven’t tried the VR out on it yet, but the GTX 1070 should have no problems running the Oculus rift. I am short a few USB ports, but I’ll be able to use a USB hub (powered) to get the amount I need. I’ll give you a follow up in a week or so and let you know if I still own it. I want to love it, I really do, but I’ve been spoiled on this Macbook Pro.

Mansplaining in 2016: An Apology

Mansplaining is talking down to someone about something obvious.

I learned a new word today: Mansplaining. Before today, I thought the word meant explaining male things, things only a guy would know. I was wrong. Mansplaining is the act of explaining something obvious in a condescending way. Imagine a guy telling you about his sports team. His ideas rock. He’s got the best arguments for his way of thinking. You’re wrong.

So mansplaining is explaining something obvious; what can we do with that knowledge? Well for starters, I am knowingly not going to explain things to people anymore without their consent. Just the question, “Do you want to know more?” might be enough to ward off potential Mansplaining. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it and I’m sorry.

Mansplaining is talking down to someone about something obvious.

Now this is tough for me because I’m an IT guy. We already have the reputation as being condescending. A client told me early on that I seemed different when I delivered IT services, fixed a printer, installed Quickbooks, backed up a server. I explained things to them in ways they could understand and they like that. Who would have though that understanding the concept of metaphor and being a storyteller could help in Information Technology?

So I’m coining a new word: Proascension! Proascension is talking up in a positive way to a person. It’s the opposite of con-descend, its pro-ascend. So if I started talking up to you and asking you questions, I really want to know the answers. I’ll try not to interject my two cents worth and find nice parallels in my life. I’ll let this just be about you.

Big Town, Small Town


This weekend I had the unfortunate pleasure of visiting my grandmother’s family in Griggsville, Illinois. A pleasure because I genuinely had a good time meeting and getting to know my out-of-state family and the people of the small 1200-person township in South Western Illinois, about 50 miles west of Springfield. Unfortunate because I had to make this homecoming under the purpose of a family death; my Grandmother’s brother had passed away and she had to go up there to take care of family business

I’m not going to lie, it’s a long trip. I went up through Lexington, KY, up past the confusing jumbled mess that is Louisville, KY, the bottleneck of the nation. I drove three times around the city before finally getting pointed in the right direction and progressing up towards Indianapolis, IN and then West towards Springfield. Get a map if you need to. I’ll wait.

My Google Navigation on my wife’s traded Incredible 2 got me to the front door of the bed and breakfast where we stayed, unbelievable to my Grandma. I made the trip in 10 ½ hours. The first things I noticed when I got to the farm were the stars. In Knoxville, we must have many more lights and clouds and trees covering up the stars in the sky. Up in Griggsville, it was as if the sky were opened up and we were standing directly underneath it unimpeded. I swear I could see the Milky Way galaxy, a darker, almost cloud-like swath of white, on a clear night. The picture I tried to take looks like a fully black canvas, or unexposed photo paper.

Griggsville, Illinois was founded in 1833 by my 6-great grandfather, Daniel Dean. He founded the town and he was the first mayor. A fiery bearded man, he was a farmer and made a community of farmers to share resources and help split expenses up among the township, or something like that. I really don’t know what he did, but I know what he didn’t do: shave. The man had a beard on him like an 1849 gold digger: rough and unkempt. His picture was paraded down the streets of Griggsville accompanied by the words, “Remember our Heritage.”

Arriving for the first time in downtown Griggsville, the town of my family, the town of my ancestry, felt like a homecoming without the singing, which really isn’t much of a homecoming at all. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m someone, like I’ve got a place here, like I can make a difference. The small population doesn’t concern itself with modern luxuries like computers and wireless Internet, much to my disheartening. I had to settle for Verizon’s extended network, which still did allow me to make and receive calls, and use data. We’ll see if they hit me with a roaming charge.

Making my way around downtown Griggsville was lonely. I walked off on my own, away from the family, to get a feel for the small town. There weren’t many people walking around, but those who were seemed to know each other. I noticed a girl walk a long way to briefly visit a bar, then go off on her way again, which I thought was odd. What happened in those brief minutes? Why come such a long way if only to stay for such a brief time? Somethings not right here.

When I saw my great-uncle Norman’s house, it was much more modern than I expected. I envisioned a white farmhouse, surrounded by rows of cornfield. There were plenty of those in Griggsville, but not this house. This was a basement rancher like any other suburban house in a semi-dense downtown neighborhood. The sidewalk sat up closer to the house than I thought it should. People shouldn’t get that close to their neighbors. And it’s not like there is a lot of traffic to warrant a health fear of walking near the road. I glanced over once and saw two young teenagers enjoying each others company, then kissing. Young love is so sweet, I thought, and here of all places must be heaven.

My great uncle Norman was a collector of antiques. The antiques he had were old machines and inventions used to make a man’s job easier in times before computers and electric implements, things like a popcorn shucker, made smaller to handle the tiny kernels of popcorn shaved off into eager bowls for popping. The littlest things make for the most beauty, relatively speaking.

The receiving of friends is a blur. I met so many people I can only tell you about the one’s that stick out distinctly. First and foremost is my Grandma’s cousin Robert Sleight, who has visited me in Knoxville recently, which I found to be most agreeable. Hanging out at Bob’s house felt like Griggsville could even be home, like this could happen for me, and for the family. We found a front quarter of deer meat on his golf cart turned hunting cart, painted black to hide better.

It was open season and hunters were migrating to Griggsville to pick off the deer that roamed the corn fields and surrounding forests. There was a whole economy in serving the hunters, hotels and lodges. My own bed and breakfast had been often home to a weary hunter, sure to leave his muddy boots outside the door. The owners of the house and adjoining apartment were a late middle aged couple who were part time farmers and hospitality hosts, bringing in out-of-towners to stay in their home for the night. They had original breakfast items, always good and always plentiful. I ate well of pancakes and hard boiled eggs, washed down with orange juice and coffee.

Griggsville was the Purple Martin capital of the nation, claiming purple street names as a nod to the mosquito-eating bird. The Purple Martin could devour up to 2,000 mosquitoes in a day, making me thing that a health population of these birds would be nice for Knoxville on a hot summer day. Their tall birdhouses decorated the city square and surrounding houses, offering nesting places for the birds, absent the weekend I was there. I was told that there was a place in South America that all of the Purple Martins retired to every fall and winter, which was the capital of the world in population of these birds. Maybe this distant retreat encompassed the world’s Griggsvilles, the world’s homeland of ancestry and heritage. Maybe this bird devoured the record of any historical authenticity and created a haven of second place small towns, one for every nation, so no one felt left out.

Small towns can be big business if you’re in the business of making money. Griggsville, I was told by my grandfather, had several millionaires, made with good seasons and and high corn and soybean prices. But no one seemed wealthy. The most obvious tell of well-to-do farming families were nice sunglasses, used to hide the faces of wives wanting to avoid the hot, arid sun, beating down on hot October days.

The gift and the curse of the curious is the need to ask questions. Wherever I go in life, I bring my curiosity desire to learn, and farmland is no exception. I had several misconceptions corrected during this trip, most of which had to do with important things like nutrition and a farmer’s responsibilities. I had heard corn had no nutritional value. I don’t believe that any more.

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