Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bible Reading: Annual, Recirculating

Not A Simple Task
Annual cover-to-cover reading of the Bible is a challenge for anyone. For me, it was either that I didn't have a Bible available at the moment, or I grabbed a Bible whose page numbering was different than the one I used the day before. In the past the schedules I made for myself were based on reading five pages per day and based on the numbering of the Bible I started with.

Using Online BiblesAdding further complexity to a daily Bible reading schedule, currently, it is possible to read the Bible online in any of vastly different translations and in them page numbers are no longer relevant. I needed a new system. It dawned on me, instead of using page numbers, use the Bible Books and chapters in those books to set a beginning and end for each day's reading. This is not a new idea. Currently Jehovah's Witnesses employ the idea for their weekly congregation assigned readings.

Designing A Daily Reading Schedule
I, however, wanted to build a daily reading schedule that would complete the whole Bible in one year and then automatically restart each subsequent year. At the pace I designed, the reading would be completed yearly by the middle of November. That seemed a bit aggressive so I incorporated rest periods, about 1 day per month, into the schedule. This would end the yearly reading by the end of November/beginning of December. 

Rest/Research Days: These rest days can be used either as a rest day or a day to research questions that came up in your mind during the reading for the past month. (Obviously this means you are actively making notes when you come across passages that you want to understand better. An excellent research tool can be found at Watchtower Online Library.)

EOY Auxiliary Material: Although not considered in this design, most Bibles, even those online, have front and back matter, introductory and reference material, that you may want to make a personal goal to read one or two of each year. So at the end of the year, if you desire, set a personal goal to read some of that material. (Note to Catholics: Having been raised a Catholic, I am aware that Catholic Bibles contain books collectively known by some as the Apocrypha. The reading schedule I propose here does not include them. You can use the schedule at the end of the year to get through those books if you so desire.)

Using The Schedule
Here is the link to the schedule: Bible Reading Schedule
After opening the link, bookmark it in your browser so you can open it each day. Note the highlighted start and end references for "Today" and then, using whichever Bible you want, turn to the section in your Bible and read the cited passages. 

Other References
For people who have problems reading due to impacted health, I provide a link in the schedule to the online audio recordings of the scriptures from the 1984 edition of the New World Translation. Merely click the provided link to access the Bible. There are other websites that provide audio Bibles, but I don't like them because they add very moody, somber music in the background of the reader's voice. It is too distracting.

Dateline Hemotropolis - The Continuing Saga

Dateline 2014, April 15/16. 4AM. City of Hemotropolis, State of Bart’s Body. Bart’s Brain reporting. Well, it appears the renewed U.N. peace keeping forces (2nd chemo treatment) decided to go on special maneuvers and marching drills all night long on the streets of Hemotropolis (my blood stream). Like tanks rolling down main street, all the inhabitants of fare Hemotropolis and indeed the whole state of Bart’s Body are being kept awake by the roaring chemo streaming through town.

Yup, I started this post at 4:00am and I have insomnia. I actually put myself to bed at 8:30pm last night but have been up and down all night. The only explanation seems to be the treatment. I created a video shortly after the treatment where I was very disoriented and exhausted and then another one at nearly midnight where I was very alert & coherent. Yet I had not actually slept between those two videos. I had dozed off for 5 minutes or less at least a dozen times, but no appreciable sound sleep. I mention in the 2nd video that I'm hot and yet cold to the touch. Especially my hands and feet are extremely hot but now, even as I end up this post at 5AM on Wednesday, only my torso, arms and legs feel cool enough to cover up. I need to leave today in just 3 hours to go for my second session in the 2nd month of treatment and I don't feel the least bit tired.

Finally laid down at 5:15AM and woke at 7:30AM.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Comments Welcome

To those that may have tried to post comments and were not allowed: Please note that I have changed the permissions so that anyone can post comments however, the comments will need my approval before they become publicly visible.

Regarding comments: I welcome anyone, even those with opposing viewpoints. However, I will use the admin right to remove any comments that are merely personal attacks or laced with profanity. In short, fashion your comments to the address the subject, be respectful, and I will be happy to permit the post.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bones Visits the 20th Century

Nearly three decades ago there was a Star Trek movie whose theme was “Save the Whales.” In one scene, Chekov had taken a bad fall and ended up in 20th-century surgery to relieve pressure on the brain. Somehow, I mistakenly remember Bones, after beaming down, coming into the operating room and exclaiming that drilling a hole in a man’s head "was barbaric." Here is what he really said.

In the elevator scene, before finding Chekov, there were two young doctors discussing “radical chemotherapy.” Back when this movie was made, I had no clue what that was. Now that I am undergoing chemo treatment for leukemia (CLL), and discovering that one of the infused treatments I am receiving had an element in it that appeared it was derived from the words “mustard gas,” I got curious. I looked up Mustard Gas in Wikipedia and was shocked to discover I was right. If you read under the “History” section, there is a sub-section on how mustard gas is being used to treat my form of leukemia. Why? Because back in World War I and subsequent to it, medical science discovered that one main side effect of exposure to mustard gas (on a cellular level) is a significant drop in white blood cells. (I confirmed my suspicions with the nurses at the Infusion Center that told me the reason they dawn protective gear when starting my I.V. is because the mustard gas is extremely dangerous.)

In my case, that is the exact results the oncologist wanted because my white cells had turned into a spontaneous mob riot, replicating to more than four times the norm for an adult. They were bashing in the windows of my platelet counts, overturning the cars of my oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and killing and maiming the innocent bystanders of my immune system. Medical science's answer? Declare martial law, call in the national guard of chemotherapy and systematically kill all looters and curfew breakers. More accurately, the best answer is to commit genocide on my white blood cells—how’s that for barbarism!? LOL

To date, I've only had one chemo treatment. I must be hyper-sensitive to stimulus of any sort because my white cell count crashed to the bottom end of the normal range. To illustrate—most people live in a small range of elevation—from sea-level to the lower mountains. That corresponds with the white cell count for most humans (3.5-12.5 K/uL). In contrast, my white cell count was living on top of Mount Everest (49 K/uL). Within two weeks, it was brought to just above sea-level (5.8 K.uL). (Did anybody hear that “splat!”?)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not finding fault with medical science. It just seems so “dark ages.” Instead of having found a treatment method that would be akin to using the finesse of precision microscopic surgery tools, for all of medical science's advances, cancer treatment methods seem akin to using a harpoon. (I'm sure medical science would balk at such a comparison, but chemo is undeniably harsh on the body--more like the proverbial "bull in a china shop.")

My oncologist has been the absolute best doctor. Very thoughtful, compassionate, patient and understanding. His treatment of my leukemia has been tailored for my needs. In fact, even though the original chemo infusion was, as he stated, the weakest dosage he would ever start with, after he saw the fantastic results, he is now thinking of reducing the dosage even further.

Although the post-riot scene is quiet, it is still a disaster. The National Guard (chemo) is still patrolling the streets of Hemotropolis (my bloodstream). Although some of the good citizens (my immune-system Neutrophils and blood-clotting platelets) have started roaming the streets in greater numbers, transportation (oxygen-carrying red cells) is still greatly impaired. Although it appears that leukemia has been arrested and the riot has been squelched, my oncologist is still planning on completing the 6-month-long chemo treatment. I think the UN calls these forces "peace keepers." (LOL) 

I am still dealing with the fallout symptoms from chemo, which cause extreme vertigo and fatigue (not to mention numerous other symptoms). For the time being, I have decided to stop driving—for my own safety as well as others on the road--at least until the dizziness goes away. That decision has been the toughest. I've basically become housebound and dependent on others to transport me. I am glad to see the excellent results with just one treatment. I’m still apprehensive about my future "quality of my life." But “one foot in front of the other,” “one day at a time,” and so goes my life right now.

Index of Blog Articles

Below, the left chart is pre-chemo. The right is after just one treatment of chemo.

Addendum 4/4/2014: Just came from meeting with my oncologist. As I understand him, although the riot has been squelched, there are trouble-makers lurking in the dark alleys of Hemotropolis. They are opportunists that are waiting to rebuild and reorganize. The refreshed forces of the National Guard (The remaining 5 rounds of chemo) "can" (no guarantees) completely crush the rebellion and restore real peace in the city. The downside is that this is not without impact on the good citizens. Right now, his main concern is on transportation (oxygen-carrying red cells) -- they are already low. Crippled transportation can starve a city.

Another insight (that I had already suspected) is that the results achieved in this first treatment were more drastic than the doctor had anticipated. He indicated that normally these results are not seen until after the second or third chemo treatment. This confirms that I do indeed seem to be hyper-sensitive to these drugs. Part of the balancing act of dosage is the body weight verses bone density. In my case, I am about 100 pounds over-weight, which adds to the complexity of dosage calculation. Guess I need to lose weight (Duh!)

Story continued here: Dateline Hemotropolis-The Continuing Saga

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interesting Light

Make what you write interesting:

Headlights, flashlights, light bulbs, they all have one thing in common—they all give out light. Nothing particularly interesting to look at. Just light.  Rainbows, prisms, water mist also have something in common—they take white light and make it interesting to look at.

Just giving the facts without making it interesting is just like the bulbs of light.  But add intrigue, add humor, add suspense and you've captivated your audience with a rainbow of ideas.  Do you have trouble determining how to do that? Consider the current TV programs on both the Discovery channel and History channel. Especially if you've ever watched the history channel didn't you find yourself thinking, “Man, I wish history were told to me in such an interesting way when I was in school.”  Try watching some of those episodes. Note also how true-life murder mystery shows like Cold Case Files, Cops and Dominic Dunn’s Privilege and Power tell compelling stories that would have probably been passed up in the newspaper. They work because they appeal to the “human experience,” emotions and motivations that, even if our personal values differ, we can understand.

Try this exercise. Pick up a stone or rock. Describe it but do not say merely “it is a rock.” Look at it all the way around. Describe its weight, the feel of its surface, how fragile is it? What color is it? Next, examine the rock in a different light. Hold it above you, in front of you, and below the horizon of your sight. Finally, find one or two specific characteristics of the rock and describe them. Now, fabricate a story about the rock--how did it get to where you found it? What was its journey? Was it a "pet rock" that got lost? How many civilizations has it seen? 

With the above exercise, you will begin to see the value of character development. In a figurative sense, stand next to person you are writing about. Talk to them. Imagine how they would respond to you, their surroundingsand events in their live.

In all the animations listed below, what impressed me besides the graphics was the character development, plot/story-line and the simple, basic "truths" common to humans. As a human I could relate to the characters.

Over the Hedge
A group of brush animals comes out of hibernation only to discover that their foraging area has been all but decimated by a large new housing tract. There is insufficient area to find enough precious nuts, roots and bark to prepare for their needs in the next hibernation cycle. Along comes a raccoon with a hidden, personal agenda. (He had tried to steal a slumbering bear's stash and the bear caught him. The bear "promised" him if he (the raccoon) didn't replace all the stolen goods by a certain date, the bear would kill the raccoon.) Now, the raccoon is under pressure and, under the guise of showing the foraging animals how good human food can be, proceeds to endanger and alienate all of them. The raccoon soon learns what it means to belong to a "family" and becomes a real help.

Open Season
A pet bear is quite content to be "kept" by its owner, a female Forest Ranger. That is, until he meets a free-spirited buck who entices him to leave home for some wild romping in a candy store. Both the bear and the dear end up being sedated and lifted by helicopter to a remote forest area. The bear wants to go home but the buck wants freedom. The bear keeps rejecting the bucks ideas about how grand forest living is and just keeps going home. However, just when he seems closest to finding his goal, he realizes that where he belongs is indeed in the forest.

Toy Story
Jealous rivalry rages between an old toy and a new one. They finally become partners willing to share the affections of their owner, but only after the newer toy comes to his own personal revelation that he is not the real Buz Lightyear, but a mere toy.

Monsters, Inc.
Although a monster takes pride in his work and is top performer, he sees his job as just something he does, without realizing the dire consequences it has on children. However a toddler adopts him because she thinks he is a cuddly pet. Since being touched by a child or any article of clothing means needing to be decontaminated and quarantined, he is horror-struck when he discovers this small girl clinging to his back. Eventually he takes a liking to her and nicknames her "Boo." Now he has to protect her from the #2 goal-driven coworker who wants to torture the child in order to extract screams, which is how they power their city. After much pathos, he gets Boo safely back home.

A final thought: In the game of charades, participants attempt to describe something without words. They use exaggerated gestures and other clues. Play this game with yourself or even someone else when developing a part of your story that seems to lack depth, breadth or other tangible characteristics that your audience can relate to.


Story Sketching

This is probably an adjunct to storyboards. In much the same way as an artist creates a pencil sketch of a scene to capture some general layout and then, using his paints to capture details, add fullness and unique character, in the same way writers can capture story sketches and came back later to fill in the details.

Here are the sketches: 

Write down as many as you can immediately think of:

  • Facial characteristics (cut on face, smile, beaming eyes, uni-brow, hair color)
  • Body characteristics (walk with limp, hunch-backed, )
  • Personality traits (speech accent or lisp/stutter, fluid speaker, bubbly, sullen/gloomy)
  • Good things that happen
  • Sad, discouraging things that happen
  • Tramatic things that happen
  • Enlightenments, Personal Growths

Make a list of the characters in the story. (You will come back later and write in some of their physical and personality traits. This may even develop during the writing of the story.)

How will you tell you the story? How will you reveal the characters? Besides acting as the narrator and saying that John was this, that or the other, you could also allow the audience (reader) to come to that conclusion by allowing the reader to observe how John reacts given a certain circumstance and setting. How do the characters interact with one another? How do they react to stimulae, both good and bad?

What are the consequences, outcomes, etc.? What are the events in character(s)' life (lives)? What is their "journey" through the storyline?

On a piece of paper, draw a line across the page. This is your timeline. Mark the events across the timeline. The timeline may only be an hour, a day, or may be longer like a week, month, year or decades.  Will your timeline span more than one book?

You have several vehicles open to you to reveal each characters traits. You can do it in the first person, wherein the character themself says "I like that" or, "this is my opinion." You can do it the 2nd person by having the narrator explain traits, "Her eyes always glazed over when..." Or you could have flashbacks, daydreams and such reveal things about a person. You can even do it in the 3rd person, so to speak, by having another character in the story speak about the first character, "Jane leaned over to Jim and whispered in a strained voice, 'I think our son is in love with Christine.'"

Deeper Look at the “Seven Questions”

Many have seen this list before. I expanded it to help me in my writing endeavors.

·         Creature
·         Person
·         Organization

·         Object
·         Reactive Action (What did you do next?)
·         Situation (What state was your mind in?) (What situation contributed to this?)
·         Preference, opinion (How would you like to see the data formatted?)
·         Relationships (What is the relationship of the columns of data?*)
·         Results expected

·         Location, Place
·         Perspective (Where are you coming from?) (more encompassing than Opinion)

·         Timing
·         Circumstance, Occasion
·         Opportunity
·         Appropriateness

·         Purpose
·         Importance (Impact)
·         Functionality
·         Desirability & Beneficial (Why would you want such a thing?)

·         Action:
o   Future: How will we do this? 
o   Present: How are you coming on that project?
o   Past: How was this done?
·         Affects / is useful to me

How Much
·         Quantitative

·         Qualitative

When a famous director was asked what was important to him, he said: “Three things: Location, Location, Location.”
  • Location 1: The “Set”
  • Location 2: Position of actors, props on the set.
  • Location 3:Position of camera relative to focal point.
Likewise, we can consider relative perspectives.