Our family had a very nice vacation break last week, driving to Western Pennsylvania (New Wilmington to be exact) for our yearly New Wilmington Missionary Conference experience. My wife has been a conference attendee the conference over 20 years, my own attendance is now at 6 years.
As usual, It was refreshing and relaxing and provided some time away from the daily grind to think about things I might not normally consider. So, what follows is a collection of random thoughts which percolated to the surface last week mixed in with thoughts about the weblog redesign, etc.
Disconnection Feels Good
While I carried along a laptop, mobile phone and PDA, I found myself enjoying freedom from those devices very much. I checked emails only once per day and for several days didn't check at all, leaving the laptop idle in my bag.
The only broadband connection occurred via free WiFi, at new little local cafe in town called Mugsies, where I could grab and send email or surf the web for free, while enjoying a coffee. Even then, laptop use at Mugsies was quite limited — I found it handy, but in no way was I interested in sitting for hours on the web. I liked having the option, but had no interest in what I do every week day, back home.
Of all things, I happened to forget the charger for my mobile phone, which meant it stayed off and in our room most of the week, though I did find even at low battery level, I could make calls in an emergency.
The Tungsten E became a reading tool for some weblogs and Le Tour sites I like to grab via iSilo. Again, since the laptop was mainly parked in my bag, using the TE for reading only happened a few evenings during the week.
I was pleased with my limited use of technology — it was freeing to not feel compelled to be online all the time. I was able to maintain touch if I wanted, but in the end, chose mainly to remain disconnected. Maybe the Amish, who live around New Wilmington had some subconscious effect on me.
The Grapes of Wrath
Besides spending time with my family and conference friends, I took time to continue reading The Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck's novel is quite a good read, though I admit it took time to settle into his written version of 'Okie' slang that the Joad family speak in.
I'd started the book in the spring and lost track of it following PalmSource DevCon 2004, only to find it prior to our vacation. I was pleased to get back into the book again, finding the story interesting, shocking and challenging.
In a nutshell, the Joad family is uprooted by landowners on their Oklahoma farm, and are forced to migrate to California in hope of work and a life there. The Grapes of Wrath chronicles their story and of other migrants flowing to the West in the 1930s in search of a new life. I'm now nearly done, and can't wait to see the end of the story. One could safely say, I'm liking this book.
If you haven't read the book yet, or were forced to in school, I can highly recommend it. The story offers readers a great opportunity to experience first hand what hard times, forced travel and the migrant life might have been like, while displaying what dignity, kindness and being a human being is about.
I've discovered again that I really enjoy road trips. I dislike all of the preparation for a road trip (either direction), but once I'm on the road, I'm happy to drive, as long as good coffee, good tunes or a book on tape is there.
We listened to music and books, but most impressive was Thomas Cahill's How The Irish Saved Civilization. I was amazed to learn about the ancient world and how the Irish made copies of important documents just prior to the dark ages of Europe. Who knows where these documents might be if not for them. Not surprisingly, this little book revived interest in ancient Rome, St. Augustin and St. Patrick, because of their roles in history.
Unfortunately, it also saddened me to realize how much of the ancient world's literature was lost over the centuries, in spite of the Irish and their work.
Finally, road trips make hospitality shine like a jewel when it's encountered. I was encouraged, feeling the friendliness of strangers traveling with us. In one case, a man pointed out my accidentally dropped wallet at a rest stop, in another, I had a nice chat with a woman walking small puppy that my son wanted to pet, about kids and animals.
I think the largest example of road hospitality was that of my brother Steve and his family (Janet and Max), who offered to have us stay the night at their house after 8 hours on the road from PA. We'd only intended a short stay, but resting seemed a better option. We were treated to generous hospitality, and fun time together. It reminded me how nice a safe place for a traveler is, and challenged me to be ready to offer hospitality when the opportunity rises at our house.
My last item is the redesign of my site, which happily had no progress over vacation. I'm now excited about completing the process, building the site and learning as I go along. I plan to have a detailed update at the end of the week.
Thanks to everyone who's stopped by to visit. I will be back in the swing of regular blogging once the redesign is posted... soon. :-)
Have a great week everyone!