My seven-month-old son James has the distinction of being a Happy baby. He wakes up happy. You have to turn up the monitor louder than usual, it's so easy to miss his waking up. While my first two sons generally woke up crabby or groggy, James just lies there blowing raspberries while he admires the stitching on his knit blanket. Sometimes he bangs on the bed repeatedly with an open palm, full of enthusiasm, as if to say: "Man, I cannot wait to get going. This is gonna be great." I like to sneak up on him when he's just woken up, just so I can see that serene clarity on his face – unafraid, and full of interest. Then he notices me standing by the bed, and he smiles like I am the best thing that could possibly happen to him today. If I died today, my final thoughts would be of that wake-up moment.
I have a theory on why people like dogs so much. Dogs are consummate optimists. To a dog, everything in the world is interesting: "Man, check out this bush! I mean, just smell it! Did you catch the whiff of . . . and what's that? Wow!" Every day is a good day to a dog. No matter how many times they fail to catch the squirrel, every time the squirrel comes into the yard, they chase it, with full-tilt commitment. As far as they are concerned, today is the day they are gonna catch that sucker. And when you come home at the end of the day, they are always very glad to see you, and make a point of saying so. In short, we keep dogs because we want to be reminded that happiness is possible.
My son James has near dog-like powers of happiness.
He is also remarkably good-looking. There is so little one can say about a human being before their first birthday, other than routine observations of their appearance or their disposition. "He's so cute/adorable/beautiful" usually top the list of comments, but people sense that even those rubrics are insufficient for this particular child. "No, I mean, really, he's really good-looking." Once my wife walked down the street with him, and a stranger abruptly interrupted her cell phone conversation to step forward and say, "Now that . . . is a beautiful baby." Talk about super-powers . . . Superman might be able to leap over tall buildings, but my son can shatter cell-phone bubbles.
This isn't just a proud parent qvelling over his kid. I have a philosophic point. The last year or so I have been lost in the wilderness, philosophically speaking. I have struggled with doubts and fears and reservations. As Rumi put it, I wake up "empty and scared." I have tried to use Reason to nail down the purpose of my life . . . and yet James reminds me every day that Life is not a rational proposition. What we believe, what we know is only a small fraction of how we live, how we hold ourselves as we move into life. Love and joy, the things that give meaning to existence, while always transcend reason.
It might help if I tested technologies before I wrote about them. I've read a whole bunch of critiques of Outlook's handling of RSS feeds, and even following my own instructions I ran into some trouble with them. It looks like Outlook will not remember the RSS settings if you create the feed as I described.
Isn't technology fun?
So, after a few more test posts to make sure things are running smoothly, I'll correct my instructions. Normally, I wouldn't bore my readers with such things, but Blogland has a ready-fire-aim pacing. And I need more posts to see how quickly things will distribute. <evil scientist hiss>Patience, my little guinea pigs.</evil scientist hiss>
I'm just testing the RSS feed to make sure it comes through in a timely manner. If you see this post, it's probably because you already know more about RSS than I do. This post will self-destruct in about ten minutes.
Friends and family have frequently (all too frequently, sadly) carped about the fact that I'm not posting as regularly as I used to, and after years of daily posts it's a drag to check the site day after day and see nothing new. Wouldn't it be nice if new stuff I wrote just showed up in your email inbox?
Well, such hypermodern technology exists. It's been around for longer than this blog, in fact. It's called RSS, which stands for "Really Simple Syndication." It must not be that simple, because the majority of people I know (including me) don't use it. But, for what it's worth, here's how you can get Abandon Text delivered to your Outlook 2007 inbox:
On the right sidebar of the Abandon Text website, click on the link that says "RSS 2.0 feed" under "Syndicate this blog."
If you're using Internet Explorer, you should see the last fifteen or so posts gathered together on a single page. (I have no idea what you see with Firefox. No, I'm not interested in finding out. Yes, I'm sure it's a very nice browser. Now stop talking about it.)
Select the full text of that URL, and push Control-C (the Control key on your keyboard, and the C key at the same time) to Copy the text to your clipboard.
Now, open up Outlook. Look in the Mail Folders tree and find the folder named "RSS Feeds".
Right-click on the RSS Feeds folder and select "Add a new RSS feed."
In the "New RSS Feed" dialog that comes up, click in the text box and push Control-V (the Control key on your keyboard, and the V key at the same time) to Paste the URL into the dialog:
Click the Add button. You'll get another extra-paranoid dialog like this:
Assuming you know and trust me, click the Advanced… button
You'll see the RSS Feed Options dialog:
Click on the Change Folder button, under Delivery Location.
Select your Inbox from the list of folders.
(Sure, you could let it go to its own RSS folder, but you wanted it shoved in your face helpfully presented when I post something, right?)
Click Ok, then click Yes.
Et voila! You now have Abandon Text showing up in your Inbox. Someday, I'll figure out how to have comments automatically post when you hit Reply. Don't rush me – it only took me three years to get this far with syndication.
Last step: now that you've gone to all this trouble to set up the subscription, keep nagging me to write. It really, really helps. Friendly, persistent nagging is a part of my creative process.