Monday, July 27, 2009

What I miss while studying

On August 8, I'm taking the CISSP exam. Since the beginning of June I have banished a number of activities from my life so that I can focus on studying. Here are some of the things that I miss:

  1. Going to the movies

  2. Watching movies at home

  3. Listening to audio books in the car

  4. Reading magazines on the exercise bike in the morning

  5. Watching mindless television via TiVo for more than meal times

Have I mastered all the materials I need to for the exam? Not yet. With two weeks left to go, I still have a rigorous study schedule laid out. On the day before the exam I'll check into the hotel where the exam is being given. I plan to spend the endire afternoon and evening studying my brains out.

On the day after the exam, I have a facial scheduled. I will probably go to a movie (or two) as well that weekend.

Then, my Summer really begins (yes, on August 8th in the afternoon). Then again, considering the weather we've been having in New England this 'Summer', August 8th might actually work out (weather wise) to be the beginning of Summer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Need verses want

As most of you know, Goblin lost his job at the end of January. He's about to start working as an LNA for about the same pathetic income he's been drawing from NH unemployment. However, unemployment benefits will run out in September/October time frame. So, a job with the same income is a good thing.

That being said, we're trying to keep our expenditures down to the sane. We are still trying to finish our basement, but at a pretty slow rate. We just had an electrician give us an estimate for the remaining electrical work. We were thrilled to learn that we could get what we desired for $650. Still, that's a buttload of money right now. We can deal with it, but we won't shake it off as easily as we would have in December of 2008.

Also, while I was on Star Island all of the pictures I took had a pink line across the top, and some of the shots had pink tinges to them overall. I doctored the photos as best I could. Then, I tinkered with the camera (SD card, battery, lense) to see if I could alleviate the problem. No go. So, I decided that I should replace the camera. That's a huge need verses want issue.

I do not NEED a digital camera. I could get by with the odd functioning of my current (5 year old) camera. However, taking pictures is one of my stress-alleviating activities. I had planned on replacing my Canon S400 Elph with a DSLR at some point. However, low-end DSLRs are nearly twice as expensive as a reasonable mid-range digital point and shoot camera. So, I did a fair amount of research on DPnS Canons (since I really did love my Canon).

The current equivalent to my S400 is the SD1200 IS. It can be had for $199-ish. I read all the reviews and it seemed to fair fine to good. However, several reviewers said that they preferred the earlier model, the SD1100 IS. Since the SD1100 IS is the older model, its harder to find. When you can find it, the price can vary from $159 to $279 (mostly towards the higher end). I also decided that I preferred it in brown. This narrowed my options even more. (Why do I have to make these things hard on myself?)

After checking with a few brick-and-mortar stores, and nearly a dozen online purveyors, I placed an order for the camera (in brown) with a vendor that offered a 3 year extended warranty for $29.95. Including the extended warranty, I spent just under $190. Again, more than we can easily shake off, but hopefully worth the money for the satisfaction it will give me to have a reasonable and fully functional digital camera again. [I also ordered an extra battery and a 2Gb media card from Amazon, where the prices were better.]

I am still somewhat ashamed of myself on this purchase considering how many families out there are being forced to choose between paying their mortgage and feeding their children while one or both bread winners endures unemployment. I am so grateful that we are merely being forced to be more circumspect in our purchases and are not having to make such heart-rending choices.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Star Island 2009: I will go back!

I do not have the words to truly express how wonderful my week on Star Island was.

More pictures

The week started off with a very rough boat ride from Rye Harbor last Saturday (7/11). That was the only down part of the whole trip. I was ostensibly there for a week-long meditation conference. I also had a few friends on the island who were there for a religious education conference.

Star Island is a beautiful place. Great views. Lovely walks. Friendly and helpful staff. Great food. And, thanks to the RE conference, there was nearly always something going on to entertain, if you felt the desire to be entertained.

The meditation conference participants agreed to keep silent during the morning. We were up and ready to begin our first sit session at 6:45 each day, preceded by a lovely tea sharing ritual. Each sit lasted for 25 minutes. Before our 8:00 breakfast we would sit (25 minutes), do a synchronized walking meditation (10 minutes), and then another sit (25 minutes). We would then wander up to breakfast (meals are called by a giant bell on the front porch of the main hotel). Then we would reconvene for meditation at 9:30. The rest of the morning consisted of three sits (25 minutes each) separated by two independent outdoor walking meditations (25 minutes each). After the final sit of the morning, we would have announcements for the day and then break for lunch (served at 12:30). At 20:15 the mediators would solemnly gather on the front porch of the hotel and wait for the chapel bell to ring; we would then take up candle lanterns and wind our way up the rocky hill to the chapel for our evening chapel service. It was a nice way to close out the day.

The afternoon was ours to explore the island, join in some of the RE activities (they were gracious enough to invite us into their fun), relax, swim in the chilly harbor (55 degree waters), or take a shower on one of the days set aside for guest showers (M/W/F only).

The big challenge for meditating was that our building was next to the harbor and a new playground. At 7:00 each morning, a group of RE Polar Bears would jump into the harbor and shriek. Also, they had a group of traveling "wake up" singers that would go from cottage to cottage singing/chanting/yelling their conferees awake so that they would all be ready for breakfast and their morning programming. Since none of the buildings on the island are insulated, the sound permeated our meditation building. As the morning progressed, there would be boats coming into and out of the harbor, often disgorging chatty tourists. And finally, we shared our building with a marine science center that tourists and RE children's groups visited each morning.

Our meditation group became quite friendly. A few of us hit it off so well that we're talking about going back to Star Island next June for the annual Arts Conference. Goblin has said that he wants to join me this time, since I came back so refreshed and relaxed.

The trick for me now is to carve out time to meditate in my already over-committed life. Also, we all made new year's resolutions as part of our take away from the conference. My resolution was to be more accepting and less judgmental of others, while trying to practice more patience in general. This will be very tough for me, I'm sure. I think I need to get myself a lot of little stickers to dot my home/office/car that say: "What would Buddha do?" If nothing else, maybe they'll remind me to laugh instead of froth.

When you leave Star Island, people on the dock yell the following at you:

Oceanic Oceanic
Rah! Rah! Rah!
then, point their fingers at you:
You will come back!
You will come back!

People on the departing boat then reply:

Oceanic Oceanic
Rah! Rah! Rah!
then, point their fingers at the dock people:
We will come back!
We will come back!

I totally meant it when I said "We will come back!"

Friday, July 03, 2009

Preparing for my retreat

I am an obsessive list maker and planner. There is probably a twelve step program for this. However, my family is so disorganized that it would be disastrous if ratcheted down to normalcy in this area.

As many of you know, I'm taking a much anticipated and salivated for vacation, cum meditation retreat, on Star Island. The only way to get there is by taking a 30 minute boat ride (Dramamine is my friend). Because of the limitations of the boat, each passenger is allowed one checked bag weighing no more than 40 pounds or two checked bags weighing no more than 25 pounds each. Passengers also get one carry on.

I have been obsessing about this for several weeks now. I don't want to get to the boat check in and be told that I have to leave some stuff behind. I also don't want to be out on the remote island without everything that I'll need/want over the course of a week.

I plan to use my carry own for my meditation bench, due to its weight and the fact that I don't want it tossed around by porters. There's room in my day pack for it along with a number of other precious and special bits (camera, iPod charger, etc.)

So, I decided that today was the day that I was going to pack my new duffel bag with all the items on the current version of my packing list to see how much it weighs.

I am stoked! My packed duffel weighed in at less than twenty pounds, and I still had some room in it! Hopefully, I'll have room for my prop pillow so I can comfortably sleep on my side.

Happy dance!