#30WriteNow – October 4

O’s Fall

I waited until the bitter end to write. I wanted to watch. I wanted to write about how the O’s had overcome, gone on to face the Rangers, looking to get back to the ALCS and then the Series.

I was baffled by Buck’s reluctance to bring Britton in, but they lost because they got 4 hits all game and none after like the 7th. Ubaldo’s 5 pitch, 11th inning meltdown facilitated the ending, but as soon as the O’s bats got in the line to get back through customs, the game was done then.

I talked to my boss earlier about all the logistics possibilities in the event that the O’s won the game. ALDS Game 3 will be played Sunday. Had the O’s won, they would have played the same afternoon as the Ravens, a prospect that freaks out Baltimore City government and the MTA. At least they won’t all have to worry about it.

Still, MTA should look into how they can run weekend Camden Line trains. This week’s game is vs. Washington and I can’t think of a better time for weekend Camden Line trains.

Mets still alive

Probably the best thing about having more than one favorite team is when they’re both vying for playoff spots. I’m pretty numb about the O’s, but tomorrow night, I’ll get to see my other team take their own crack at getting to the Division Series. They’ll have to get through Madison Bumgartner, but it’s certainly not an impossible consideration.

My boss and I also talked about the logistics of getting to Citi Field. Last couple of times I’ve gone to Mets games, I’ve either gone via car or taken New Jersey Transit to New York Penn Station, then taken the Subway to Times Square to get the 7. My boss went to a Mets home game a few weeks ago and they took New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. Next time I get to a Mets game, that’s the way I want to go.

New York Penn Station

Speaking of Penn Station, renderings for the new Farley Amtrak/LIRR station are coming out. New York Times ran an article with a competing vision which would see the Garden move to the Farley annex, with the current building largely gutted and re-faced with glass, creating an open building with lots of natural light.

I’ve been a fan of the Farley idea since it was proposed years ago. I’m glad to see it moving forward. It would also be interesting to reconstruct the Garden building so that the east end of the station is as impressive as the west, especially since it doesn’t look like New Jersey Transit is moving over to the Farley building with Amtrak and the LIRR.

Luke Cage

Haven’t watched it yet. It’s at the top of my list of things to watch. Then I need to finally finish this past season of Daredevil.

Shooting

According to my job’s COO, who walked around the neighborhood and talked to folks, there was a shooting up the block from the office. Nobody was hit, but apparently, a group of guys took some shots down the street our building is on, from the adjacent street before running.

As he put it, tensions were high around the neighborhood right after it all went down. So folks around the office decided that it was a good time to go home –it was 5:30, which by itself meant it was a good time to go home– so the office pretty much cleared out. I got out of there, too. Wasn’t much point in staying much longer by then.

Google Reveal

Not much of interest. I was hoping they’d announce a successor to the Nexus 7 line of tablets, but nothing doing there. I’ve been looking to replace mine and with nVidia cancelling their X1, I was hoping Google would step up with a new 7 incher. Guess not. At least not yet. I may end up with a 7 or 7 inch Samsung or iPad at this point.

#30WriteNow – October 3

It’s wonderful to have someone in your life who knows you in and out and when it’s time, will call you on all of your excuses you put up. This is especially helpful for a writer. Even with all of the great courses available to help you get over writer’s block, fake it out, avoid it, jump over it, whatever, it’s still sometimes hard to face the blank word processor.

The problem is it can also be quite painful to have someone who knows you so well, they know all of your excuses and when you’re driving up the highway at 75 MPH and just feel the need to vent, can call you out and down to the carpet. Who will let you vent but make sure once you feel better, you’re up for some sort of action behind it.

The kind of person who will tell you you’re trying to stay in your comfort zone.

Feels good there. Nobody can criticize or hurt you there. You can be safe there. You don’t grow there, unfortunately, and you can atrophy and die there.

I’m there.

I couldn’t even tell you the year I stopped writing poems. One day I just did. When I was a teenager just beginning to write poems, there was a return of joy when I would write one. As I inched into adulthood, that joy lessened. Especially when I’d workshop a poem in the group I was involved in. Poetry was something I liked as an exercise when I was younger. As an adult, it just dragged me down.

This is not a good place to be when you’re beginning to feel like you’re missing it and want to pick it back up but have lingering doubts that overshadow any feeling of joy you might feel for the simple pleasure of writing a poem again. In the comfort zone, you don’t have to overcome that and fight for that happiness and joy again. No, you have the TV and other interests to distract and even pacify you, somewhat.

In the comfort zone, you can write plays and put them into drawers. Write essays and leave them in Google Drive or post them on your website that you don’t promote. No need to worry about people reading them there.

That’s where I am and that’s what it’s come to. Not exactly how I envisioned my writing life at this age, but that’s where it is.

The question posed to me yesterday as I balled down the highway was: will you bet on you?

Damn.

It’s one thing to ask whether you’ll try writing something and sending it out. Or will you perhaps begin again to work on a monologue and perhaps run down to a photographer and get a new headshot.

Will you bet on yourself?

Will you give yourself permission?

Permission to take those evening hours and make something and share it. Permission to say, “here I am, yep, this is me.”

It’s easy to make that weekly TV schedule, DVR your shows, and get ready to watch, when you haven’t taken a step towards the life you say you want but feel like you haven’t the foggiest how to get there. That’s being overwhelmed. It’s easy to curl up with a blanket at that point.

Betting or permitting require more courage. Require you to dip that toe out, with the possibility there not that it’ll get bitten off by an alligator, but that your toe will get swept up in a wave, flinging your whole body into a larger, yet wonderful world that you don’t know. It’s always the not knowing that’s the “but.”

Still, though, that’s where the life is. It’s not in here, it’s out there. The question is how long can you stand the pain of being stuck. Of perhaps wanting to be stuck.

What is the point of staying, though?

What do I have left to lose? More days? Is it an easier feeling to think I may one day check out of here without seeing my name on the spine of a book? I used to run into the Borders books in Downtown D.C. (I think it was at 14th and I, NW) and nurse a dream of seeing my name on the spine of a book. I think I left that dream outside of this bubble. It might not be out there waiting on me still, but I wonder if there are 10, 20, 50 more waiting there to take its place.

I’m going to ask myself these questions during devotions tomorrow morning. Do I have it in me to bet on myself to succeed at this? And can I give myself permission to? Come back in 6 months and see if I have any new publications listed. You’ll know the answer then.

#30WriteNow – October 2

My devotions time this morning was awesome again. Deciding to spend time each morning in quiet, meditation, affirmation, or whatever spiritual thing I decide to do, has yielded some great benefits. I’ve felt more balanced to start the day, happier, more able to deal with the messes and such that come my way.

I’ve also received some great insights into myself, which I’ve needed. I’ve been cruising on autopilot for a very long time, much longer than I should estimate. I’d hate to say I’ve been going along without really thinking or feeling my way through things for at least the last 15 years since I came to New Jersey. In the beginning, I didn’t pay much attention to how I was feeling, except when things would become too overwhelming.

A few years in, I became more attentive to myself, but still, the intention was more so to get myself and keep myself going well enough to get through the days. I was unemployed for a good while and had to prevent myself from falling completely into an abyss. Once I began working at my current job, the goal was to maintain my mental and emotional balance to get through the days. I’ve done that. One day a couple of weeks ago, one of my coworkers saw me becoming emotional because of changes coming in my life and she remarked that she’d never seen me off like that. My “behind the scenes” work did well.

The blinds cracked open when I was in school while working. I’ve heard many times people talking about how the experience of working and going to school being a grind, the combination of the two being a sap of energy and time, some of which could be better spent perhaps cooking or eating or reading a book or something.

My experience was far different. Probably because I was at school doing scenes from Chekhov and Lanford Wilson plays, making wacky performance art, and being as creative as I could in all of my classes. It fed me. I’m not a dancer, but doing plies and tendus and moving to Kylie Minogue and doing weird dancing routines in NYC Subway, that fed me. Going to the gym after class and work, that fed me. Acting on stage again fed me. Writing and directing my own work, that fed me.

Once that was done and I was back to just working, I was back to running on auto again. Aside from the past couple of weeks, I’ve done morning pages pretty consistently for the last 15 years. I probably wasn’t doing them right because I still didn’t get the kind of light flashed into myself that I had this morning.

I started out thinking about personal power and where I’m living that or not living that. Moreso not living that. And how I could live it more. Where I needed it more (largely everywhere). And just that little bit of chipping knocked down a huge wall that I didn’t even know was there. If I’d had the right kind of sight, I would have seen this, but I didn’t until today and that’s fine.

I’m missing passion and desire in my life.

What a lesson to get on a Sunday morning.

Passion and desire.

As we often do when confronted with a tough, terrible truth, I resisted. For a few minutes. But once I gave up and surrendered to what my mind and more importantly, my life, was showing me, everything became clear.

Take my art, for example.

I last felt passion and desire, in mostly small measure, while I was at school. When I was writing and directing and acting, I was there, in the zone. Even still, I wasn’t ever 100% in any particular moment, I can say. My mind was focused on things like whether I was doing whatever I was doing well. Whether I was developing myself enough to have “earned the right” to do the work publicly on campus or elsewhere. Whether I could make a career of it once I got out of school and escape the workaday life making the computers work.

I might have been 99% there when doing speeches or such, but never 100. I never got fully back to passion and desire, at least the way I had them and felt them when I was younger. I was too focused on what would come from what I was doing, instead of just doing them, feeling them.

And as I was taking out the trash this morning, I couldn’t escape the fact that the reason I ever started doing any of this art –writing, acting, whatever– was the passion of it. It felt wonderful and exhilarating to do. The desire of it. The wanting of more. To be better. To go deeper. To go beyond.

And forget the rest of my life. I lost much of that passion years ago, much of that desire. It’s hard to capture that feeling when you have to get focused in on some of the things I’ve had to focus in on in my daily life. When you hear about the financial issues of your job. Or when you feel like you’re not on solid footing there. If you’re not otherwise financially or otherwise free, the worry can take a toll and the toll can be that passion. It doesn’t have to be, but it can be. And it often is, for a lot of people, as I understand.

Still, I feel a call this morning. Not to preach. Not to run out in the streets and scream or create a Happening. Not even to act. Not even to write anything. At least not in the same way I’ve been doing them. It’s not even a call to go home, not in the physical sense, since I’m home in Baltimore this morning and I’ll be back in New Jersey later, which I consider to be a second home.

No, the call is to come back home, inside, to the passion and desire I’ve lost, missed over these years. It’s a call to decide on, demand on, living passionately. Living with desire. Going for more. Getting out of autopilot and away from the excuses to do so. To live on a higher flying plane, which is where I’ve decidedly not been for a long time. And to believe that whatever changes I inevitably have to make in my life (and ones that will themselves be made and resolved), that, as Gabby Bernstein says, the Universe has my back.

Quite a bit to take in before today’s Ravens game, yes.

#30WriteNow

Last night on Twitter, I saw the hashtag #30WriteNow come down my timeline. I figured, why not do it? I’d planned on coming back to writing after October 1, from a hiatus. I missed Day 1, but October has 31 days, so that’s no problem.

How it works: http://msmarymack.com/2013/10/02/octobers-still-fresh-time-for-30writenow/

The rules were simple: Every day of October, you write something for 30 minutes or one full page. It could be for your blog, an essay, your novel — doesn’t matter — just write! It’s about commitment, consistency. And for 30 days,* you strive to get it done. No editing or second-guessing what’s on the page, just write. Write now.

It’s a freewrite, so it’s the writing, with no, straight from the dome. If you don’t like reading such things, don’t. This material may also show up elsewhere later. I’ll be participating all October. It’ll be interesting as I have big changes happening in my life. Here goes.

App Review: Google Duo

Three or so years or so ago, my father asked me if I’d be interested in joining in a group video chat on Oovoo. He’d seen one of his grandchildren using it, become interested and wanted to host a multiperson video chat. I agreed, because why not?, set up my iPad 2 in the dining room and joined him and several other folks for a multi-state, multi-generational, multi-platform video chat.

For him, it was a novelty and he never agreed to do another, usually under the guise of not remembering exactly how to work the software. Too bad.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the family, we haven’t done very much video chatting; my cousin Tim and I have done a couple of Facetime calls. I’ve been wanting to get him and his soon-to-be-three-year-old together on cam mostly so I can do all the stupid voices and stuff grownups do to entertain young kids. Maybe one of these days.

My little cousin also has a habit of calling me from my aunt’s phone. She decides she wants to talk to me, then tells my aunt to dial the number and off they go.

I’ve been trying to get my aunt into doing video for a long time now. We just replaced her Windows phone with an Android, so now she has Hangouts again. Which she doesn’t like. She doesn’t like anything on the phone that’s not easy. Which, for her and quite a few folks I know, Hangouts is not.

Enter Duo.

Back when Google announced Duo, they promised a dead simple video experience and Duo is exactly that. Whereas Hangouts requires you to have a friend list inside of the app, which you might or might not have, Duo only requires a telephone number and works with your existing contacts list. No Google account required. All you do is fire up the app, tap the button to make a video call, then either search your contacts or type the number you want to call.

On the other end, the recipient will see your name, number, and just as Google demonstrated back in May, video from your camera, a.k.a Knock Knock. Once the recipient accepts and starts the call, you can do the usual actions such as muting yourself and switching the camera. By default, your caller’s video plays on the larger part of the screen and your video plays in a smaller, cornered circle. You can change this and view your own video on the larger part of your screen.

However, unlike Facetime and Hangouts, you can’t turn the camera off.

One might consider turning the camera off as defeating the purpose of using the app, but you may be interested in doing a voice-only VoIP call or perhaps a call to a computer. That’s not what this is.

To that point, I couldn’t install Duo on my Galaxy Note tablet. I’m able to send and receive SMS messages from that tablet, so I imagine Duo might have worked the same way it did on my phone had the install gone through. If you want or need video calling on your Android tablet, you’ll probably have to stick with Hangouts or your other preferred app.

The install worked on my iPad, but with the device unable to receive SMS, there was no way to set up the app without an iPhone. Which I don’t have. Oh well.

As far as Duo’s settings go, you can turn off the vibration during ringing as well as Knock Knock, which will prevent video from your camera playing before the call is answered. You can also block numbers and limit the amount of mobile data used.

Video and audio quality were good over both WiFi and 4G/LTE.

Duo’s best feature is way beneath the hood: end-to-end encryption. If you have to say something you’re concerned will be intercepted, Duo’s your app. I wasn’t going to talk about saucy chat, but yeah, it’s probably good for things like saucy chat. But I’m not saying to use it for that.

A couple of items to bring up while discussing this app: carrier-supported video calling and iOS 10 VoIP integration.

I have T-Mobile and I can call other T-Mobile users as well as those whose MVNOs piggyback on T-Mobile (I’ve video called a Family Mobile user). Other carriers have video calling as well. As it stands now, I can initiate T-Mobile video calls directly from contacts or the phone dialer, which is more convenient than jumping into an app. Duo hooks into your contacts, but you can’t go into your contacts and launch Duo from there to make a call.

iOS 10 will allow people to use the app of their choice to make a call. And like Facetime and Hangouts now, some of these other apps will allow calls to and from devices like tablets and computers.

For an app like this, I’d like tighter integration into the phone’s dialer, but I can say the same with being able to launch Hangouts or whatever other app I might want to use to make a call, a la iOS 10. And in a world where that tighter integration is the norm, aside from its ease and encryption, I’m not sure long term, where Duo fits in. If the carriers allow inter-carrier video calling, how many will be willing to sacrifice privacy for ease of use?

But that’s a question for another day.

Back in today, overall, Duo does one thing and it does it pretty well. And easily, which means it might be the app that gets my auntie into video and when my little cousin is with her, I can make my stupid grownup faces and voices and entertain her.

Google Duo for Android
Google Duo for iOS

National Book Lovers Day

National Book Lovers Day. Going to answer some questions I saw on Twitter earlier.

The Fire Next Time.

I always find myself talking about this book. Each time I’m asked what my favorite book is or if someone asks for a book I think they should read, for whatever reason, I always come back to it. Specifically the Letter from a Region of My Mind.

I think it’s one of the best essays ever written, if I may humbly say so. Baldwin not only sketches a broad picture of Black life in the early 1960’s, he places himself and his particular life and pains and joys in this world, creating a more complete and vibrant image of it was like to be Black back then. One that is still relevant today.

But the policemen were doing nothing now. Obviously, this was not because they had become more human but because they were under orders and because they were afraid. And indeed they were, and I was delighted to see it. There they stood, in twos and threes and fours, in their Cub Scout uniforms and with their Cub Scout faces, totally unprepared, as is the way with American he-men, for anything that could not be settled with a club or a fist or a gun. I might have pitied them if I had not found myself in their hands so often and discovered, through ugly experience, what they were like when they held the power and what they were like when you held the power.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1962/11/17/letter-from-a-region-in-my-mind

My favorite part, and probably my most favorite sections of any book, ever, is when he has dinner at the home of Elijah Muhammad. I was going to talk about why I love it so much, but you have to go read it, if you haven’t. Perhaps, you’ll like it to.

The last book I read cover to cover? Probably a play. I can’t think of one right now, since my books are scattered between here and home. I often read a book, jump to another book, come back, go back and read previous chapters. So I haven’t really read one in a long time. Even on my “Now” page, I’m not reading the books whose titles I post there, cover to cover.

I should read a book cover to cover.

Genre is one of those things that’s more suited for the bookstore than for the bookshelf at home, but I will say Essay. If that’s not acceptable to you, consider it to be Creative Nonfiction, even though that encompasses several genres. Otherwise, put me down for drama. Then poetry.

It’s like recommending a way to prepare chicken, but I’ll give it a try just the same — Reality Hunger by David Shields. Ask me another time of day and I’ll give another title. How about Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones? Book of Days by Lanford Wilson? (I did a scene from that in an acting class. Had a ball).

I think I’ll do some reading tonight. Perhaps Baldwin’s Letter.