Silent Meditation Retreat

I’ve wanted to do a meditation retreat, but between the cost and the time commitment, I’ve never gone. So I decided that I’d try to recreate the retreat experience in my home. I settled on a period of three days and, with lots of help from a friend, made up a schedule and ground rules.

Overall it was a good experience. I definitely had some trouble with distractions. Staying in my home made it easier to be tempted by the internet and books. Even cleaning was looking like a fun activity. But it was good to spend a lot of time meditating. I didn’t have any “breakthroughs” or anything, but I did have some productive journaling and introspection.

The main type of meditation that I did was a mindfulness meditation. I’ve been doing mindfulness meditation regularly but not daily for several years and typically do a 30 minute session. One of my goals was to find out what a longer mindfulness session felt like. In my original schedule, I planed to start at 60 minutes and then two 90 minute sessions, a 120, and finally a 180.

That first 60 minute session felt really long. The first 90 minute session was also on the first day and I was not able to complete it. I just couldn’t stay focused and it felt like my “attention” muscle was worn out. After that I changed the schedule to have 60 minute sessions. That worked better, but it was still difficult if I wasn’t fully awake at the beginning of the session.

On the third day, my second hour long mindfulness meditation went really well. I was able to stay focused and my mind was mostly clear. After most sessions, my mind feels a bit more clear and relaxed, both tired and energized. This session had that same feel, but to a much greater degree. I also felt a new sensation of being extremely focused and present. All my actions and even physical movements felt like I was doing them with 100% intention and I had no distracting thoughts. That effect lasted for about 10 minutes and was very cool.

Something that I didn’t like were the noises of my apartment. I’d like to try another day of meditation somewhere with no distractions and no noise.

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Wind River Range

We went to Wind River range for a hiking and camping trip right before Labor Day. The weather was great and we even had mostly smoke-free skies.

We spent the first two nights in the car at the trailhead. The first night was planned, the second night was because it took a full day to fix the two flat tires we got on the drive up. Then we spent five days and four nights hiking and camping around the Cirque of Towers area.

The plan was to hike this route: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/wyoming/cirque-of-towers-big-sandy

I’ve also posted a gallery of photos.

Utah Trip

We had made reservations to camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in early April. As COVID became more serious and stay-at-home orders started coming out, we decided to leave Denver before it’s stay-at-home took effect.

It was still a couple weeks before our reservation at the Grand Canyon, so we started by going to Grand Junction and doing some hikes in Monument Canyon and a bike ride near Gateway.

After that hiked some of the Paradox trail.

At the end of March, Colorado issued a state wide stay-at-home and so we moved on to Utah. In Utah we did some biking and hiking near Blanding and Lake Powell.

Eventually the area of Utah we were in closed to out of county visitors and we moved over to Capitol Reef National Park.

Finally, we found out that the Grand Canyon was closed and we wouldn’t be able to do our planned hike. We headed back to Colorado, did one more hike in Monument Canyon and returned back to Denver to join the quarantine.

We’d horded enough food prior to the trip that we didn’t have to stop at an grocery stores on the way and we slept in the car or a tent. Our only contact with the world during the trip was at gas stations. Even there we only had to go inside a few times to restock water.

New Photo gallery

I’ve updated the look of my photo gallery and changed how the photos are stored. My goal is to make the gallery work better on mobile devices and modernize the look and feel. I also moved the hosting of all the photos from my website to Amazon S3. I’m planning to switch my web hosting to a private server and it will cost less if I don’t store my photos on that server.

Here’s a comparison of the look of the old gallery to the new:

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Fall Fun

I’ve done some short trips this fall with friends. In September I went down to Colorado Springs for the balloon festival.

In October I went to Glenwood springs.

I’ve also been to a couple shows at the center for performing arts: Verdi’s Requiem and Barber of Seville. Both were quite good!

For Halloween I dressed up as Spock:

Divorce

My divorce was finalized last week. Bill has stayed in the house while I moved to an apartment.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that getting divorced after a 25 year relationship has been emotionally and logistically difficult. Dividing up our stuff and money, transferring accounts and titles, switching utilities, and moving have taken a lot of time and energy. I’m thankful that I wasn’t working during this period.

I’m changing the name of this blog from “Assistant to the Lounge About” to “Act III”. I’m thinking of Act I as childhood and education; Act II, my years with Bill. This all very arbitrary, but life feels different now, and the changes feel similar to how it felt when I graduated college, moved into an apartment and got a job.

I’m also changing the sub-title. This blog started as the chronicle of my retirement: “The fun begins when you quit your day job.” But that doesn’t fit anymore, so I’ll be updating the sub-title to match my current activity or goal.

The first sub-title is “letting go”.

Digital Ocean Review

I converted billandchad.com from a physical machine in my house to an online server at DigitalOcean. I’ve been wanting to try out Digital Ocean for hosting chadweisshaar.com, but haven’t made the switch because of the size of my photo galleries. billandchad.com hosts my NextCloud instance and the touch table game repository and it is less than 5GB. This means I can use the smallest Digital Ocean server which costs $5 per month. Running the server in my house was more expensive. I was paying $5 for a static IP (which probably wasn’t required, but did make it easier) and about $3 for electricity. Plus the cost of occasional hardware replacements.

Getting setup at Digital Ocean was easy. One of their preconfigured machine setups is a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, PHP) server which is what NextCloud needs. I had to setup SSH keys, had to install a couple extra PHP packages, and make some apache configuration changes for NextCloud. Doing the NextCloud migration was a bit of a hassle, but that was a NextCloud issue.

Since setting up NextCloud, I’ve also built a stand-alone web app on this server. To do that I installed GIT and the SSH plugin for Visual Studio Code so that I could develop right on the Digital Ocean server, but also have source control and a backup on my home machine.

Everything has been pretty simple and convenient. Their monitoring tools are adequate for diagnosing performance issues and their billing is automatic. I do need to log in occasionally to do software updates, but I was having to do that for my local server anyway. Overall I’m pretty happy and will probably move chadweisshaar.com over to them eventually. I “just” need to re-write my gallery webpage to use AWS instead of storing the photos locally.

Not having a home linux server does have some downsides. For one, it was just cool to have part of the internet in my house. But I also used the server to run my own DHCP and DNS. I had an ad blocking DNS server for my phone and also allowed me to create some short urls (like tt.com) for friends to use to connect to the touch table. I miss both of these capabilities.

Touch table Space Base

I’ve finished converting Space Base for the touch table. Space base is a fairly quick card drafting game where you buy cards to fill in 12 columns. Each turn two die are rolled and you can take rewards from either both die or the sum of the dice. Cards give money, income, victory points and some have more complex abilities that need to be charged before use.

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Hostgator: New webhost and review

I recently switched web hosting companies from HostMoster to HostGator. I have a fairly large website with two sub-domains, several mySQL databases, and lots of photos. This post will describe the transfer process and give a brief review of my experiences with HostGator.

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Touch table Brass: Birmingham

The original Brass has always been one of my favorite games. It’s a complex economic and network building game that rewards both multi-step planning and quick adaptation to board conditions. Brass: Birmingham is a 2018 re-design of the original that slightly changes the theme, simplifies some rules and adds a third resource but leaves the feel of the game intact.

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