My blog in review for 2011

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report, in case you’re interested. 🙂

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May the Blogosphere Shake in our Exuberance!

An infant

Image via Wikipedia

Greetings and exuberant blessings be upon you!

I have news to share with you all, news which should cause a Great Shout of Rejoicing to tremble the foundations of the cyberworld.

Mama Lauser is having another little Lauser!

Let us all dance in joy and happiness, and then bow in prayer for the safekeeping of this new life that God has blessed us with. Mama has had two miscarriages since the twins were born seven years ago, and we are praying hard for the safety of this one.

Feel free to ask questions and in general celebrate. 😀

And before anyone asks, this is the eighth, and she is due in May.

Mastering the Art of Singletasking

Pomodoro Timer

Image via Wikipedia

Multitasking is a common buzzword right now. And it is both decried as having a viciant and virulent effect on our capability to function with facility, and as being the prime panacea of production. Which is right?

Well, honestly, I don’t think either are right. I think multitasking has its place, and I think it has a great amount of value. But I don’t think it is always the most efficient way to do things, and do think there are many things which require something else: singletasking.

Now, I honestly haven’t really heard anyone talking about singletasking by that term… people generally use words like ‘focus’ and ‘dedication’ and whatnot. Singletasking involves those, but I prefer the term ‘singletask’ because it emphasizes the precisely unique and advantageous nature of itself: it is doing a single task, and nothing else.

And it is quite a bit harder to do, and far more productive, than most people in our multitasking generation realizes.

Being a person who routinely listens to music (sometimes multiple tracks simultaneously), while chatting with upwards of 3-4 people, while reading streams on the internet, while writing up blog posts and emails, I can testify to the possibility of effectively accomplishing much in a short amount of time via multitasking, and to the amount of effort it takes to actually do it instead of fragmenting and spewing inanity across a dozen tasks at once (not the kind of multitasking you are wanting, I’m sure).

And so to someone of my multitasking prowess, it might come as a natural axiom that the fewer things you do, the easier it is to do them. I mean, adding more makes it harder, so taking some away would make it easier, right?

Not quite.

The effort it takes to focus on one thing, and one thing only, for any period of time, is mentally exhausting if one is not used to it. And getting used to it takes a great deal of training.

But is it worth it?

Absolutely.

Just as worth it as learning to multitask. They are two skills, both of which one must be comfortable in to be a master in dealing with tasks (hmm… a taskmaster?) — into diligence. There are other skills which go into it, but these two form a large part of the foundation. I’ll talk more later about the other things I think go into it.

So how do you master this art? Here are a few things I’ve learned which have helped me learn.

1. Pray for two minutes doing absolutely nothing but praising God. Thank Him, praise Him, glorify Him. Write it out, say it out loud, or pray it in your head, but just keep going until it’s done (a timer helps, though if you’re on a roll, by all means, keep going!). Focus. Be still. If something else comes into your head, acknowledge it, and then think of another thing to glorify God about. Don’t fight thoughts… it puts focus on them and that’s not praising God. Just praise. Let go, and praise. This is one of the best exercises I know of for learning singletasking, because not only is it tremendously effective, but it also can radically transform your prayer life and deepen your relationship with God. And which is more important? Right. Best multitasking ever. 😉

2. Use a Pomodoro timer. Pomodoro timers are an idea created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, and I’ve been using them to good effect recently. You can learn more about them on Wikipedia, but the principle is simple: set a timer for a specific length of time (25 minutes is traditional) and then focus on doing one thing during that whole 25 minutes. Don’t stop until the timer dings (again, if you’re on a roll, keep going if you want to). And then set it for 5 minutes (or something else that works good for you: it’s your rhythm) and do something else, relax, multitask, check your email, whatever. Then do the whole thing again. It really helps you get down to business and get a lot accomplished.

3. Meditate on Scripture. This isn’t really a timed one like the above two challenges, but it can be if you like working that way. Basically, start working on a piece of Scripture, and using the tactics described in the praying challenge above, keep working on it. Focus, muse, think, study, meditate. Look up other passages related to it, look at the context, read the whole book around it, write notes, pray over it, learn from it, apply it to your life. But mainly, get interested in it. The Bible is absolutely fascinating… and powerful. No other book is like it. And again… this one is really a sneaky way to multitask, because while you’re learning to singletask, you are also drawing closer to God and learning more of Him. Which is just awesome.

I am still learning a lot about this subject, and integrating it into my life. And learning to singletask is certainly one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in this journey. So I’d be more than grateful for input and things you’ve learned which have helped you to singletask in your own lives.

So use the comments section liberally, and check back for replies! I reply to every comment, and I love it when dialogues get started. 😉

Eleven tips to stop your handshake miscommunications

First Handshake

First Handshake by MJ/TR on Flickr

I shake hands. I am a handshaker. It’s my favorite element of a greeting, and it’s a key element of how I communicate who I am and the nature of my relationship with someone to them.

That’s right, shaking hands is a form of communication. It’s an integral part of body language. And it falls within the purview of lexicology. So I’m writing about it. 😉

I’ve gotten quite a few compliments on my firm handshake, mostly from guys with hands like a giant’s. I speculate they’re as tired as I am of diffident and wimpy handshakes and appreciate the grip of a guy who knows how to do it.

But even if you do have a strong grip and shake people’s hands with attention, you can be doing it wrong. And you can definitely be underusing this communication medium, neglecting to take advantage of its full potential.

So here we go. 😀

The first thing I’m going to talk about is the obvious fish grip. That’s where you don’t actually grasp the other person’s hand at all – you just kind of put your hand by their’s in a completely relaxed state. There are numerous reasons why this is a bad thing to do. The first is that you can actually get hurt if they have a strong grip and aren’t skilled enough in handshaking to save your hand. Don’t put the onus on them to avoid crushing your metacarpals. The second is that it communicates weakness and a diffidence about your relationship with the other person. You aren’t really interested in them and you’re only shaking their hand as a matter of course to be polite. Which is ironic because a fish grip is anything but polite.

(I’ve always wondered what two fish grippers do when they shake hands with each other… how do they hold on? Do they hook thumbs or something?)

The next mistake is the mash grip. This is a common error for guys who work out a lot and aren’t focusing on being courteous (either that or they just haven’t got a clue because they haven’t been taught). It is also the bane of the fish grip. A mash grip is when you grab someone’s hand and proceed to mash it into a pulverized mass of quivering nerves and bruised muscles. Yeah, you’re showing strength (and possibly benificence), but you’re also showing a lack of self-control and care for the other person. Avoid the mash grip like the plague.

Another handshaking fail is what I call the super shake. You grab the other person’s hand and pump it up and down exaggeratedly. The range of motion in a super shake varies, but I’ve experienced handshakes that moved my arm over a distance of a foot and a half in both directions. Not fun. And if this is coupled with a mash grip it spells chaos for your wrist. Besides the fact that the only thing you can do is go along for the ride. This communicates enthusiasm generally, but like the mash grip, it also communicates a lack of care for the other person. It’s almost embarrassing. What’s really weird is when someone combines this with a fish grip. It’s one of the most difficult handshakes to meet and deal with. You gotta hold on without hurting them while trying to anticipate their next movement so you can follow along. Crazy.

The last problem grip I’m going to mention is the freeze grip. Like the mash grip is the opposite extreme to the fish grip, this one is at the other end of the super shake. Let’s say you walk up to someone and grasp their hand in a friendly handshake, and you start to try and… you know, shake his hand. That’s what you do in a handshake, right? Not in this guy’s world. No, he grabs on and locks your paw in one set of coordinates in twelve dimensions. Don’t do this, people. A handshake is a handshake for a reason. It’s an action, not a state. This grip can communicate anything from a threat, to control, to fear, to insecurity, to all kinds of things. It all depends on the rest of your body language.

Okay, enough about the wrong grips, what about the right one?

The right grip is a strong grip. Here’s how you can tell if you are doing it right. Hold your hand out like you are shaking someone’s hand. Now act like you are shaking their hand, just without holding onto anything. Does your forearm tighten? Good, that’s not a fish grip then. Does your fist close? Bad, that means you’re doing a mash grip. Your hand should maintain it’s general form, while being strongly tense. It’s isometric, using your own grip muscles to oppose themselves instead of the other person’s hand. This way, if you are shaking an old lady’s hand, you can give them a firm, secure, friendly, committed handshake without endangering them. This is also the best defense against a mash grip. This is because it strengthens the structure of your hand so it won’t be crushed while still engaging with the other person – without challenging them to a crush match (not fun if the guy is twice your size and can smash raw apples with his bare hands). Your grip will still dynamically engage with them, giving a good amount of squeeze so you don’t give the impression of a robot, but it also won’t be trying to fold their palm into an accordion.

But the hand grip and motion is only a part of a handshake. What about the rest of your body language?

For example, eye contact – don’t look anywhere but in the other person’s eyes when you shake their hand. It’s rude to be looking at one person while shaking another person’s hand. If someone else walks up and you want to greet them, look over at them to acknowledge them, then look back at the person you are currently shaking hands with before disengaging and moving on. Don’t look down at your handshake while you are doing it: look them in the face. When you first come up to someone you want to greet with a handshake, look at their eyes, smile, look down as you put your hand out in order to make sure you make good contact without hurting them or missing, and look back up as you shake their hand, holding eye contact until after you let go of their hand.

And always smile. Period. Full stop. Even if it’s a little one while you’re crying. A smile is an integral part of a friendly handshake. Without a smile it almost feels like a threat. 0.0

Give your handshake personality and uniqueness, not just to you, but to your relationship with the other person. Each person I shake hands with has their own unique shake that I give them. With one person I lean forward a certain amount, give a certain kind of grin, grasp his hand just so, move it up so much, move it down and slightly forward so much more, smile more, nod a bit, and then disengage with a small bow. With another lady I always take a step forward with a certain smile, bow while extending my hand, grasp hers with a slightly supine grip (instead of holding my hand vertical, it’s almost sideways, as if I was going to kiss her hand), shake it down once while saying “My lady,” and disengage with a grin and a step back. Sometimes I intensify it, especially if I haven’t seen them in a while. Sometimes I combine it with a friendly shoulder hug.

Always use their name. If it is appropriate to use their first name, do so. Make the effort to learn and remember people’s names and use them. It makes a huge difference, and gives life to an otherwise ordinary handshake and greeting.

Now, what about if you are a girl, or if you are shaking hands with a girl?

Same principles apply. Make sure you always match the enthusiasm and duration of your handshake to your relationship with the other person, though. You don’t want to convey the wrong thing by breaking off too late or too early. Be natural, and be friendly. Once you get familiar with handshakes and their nuances, and once you’ve got the hang of your personal style, you’ll be able to handle this intuitively.

And lastly… do it. Shake people’s hands! Don’t avoid it, just start doing it. That’s really the only way you’ll get used to it and get practice. Watch and listen to their feedback, either from their comments or their body language. Don’t go around asking people to test out your handshake (though that would be a fun adventure and a way to meet new people, haha), just be observant. Learn, grow, improve.

Become a communication master.

P.S. Write your tips, experiences, and questions in the comments!

A Party and a Very Special Announcement!

Hey there everyone!

* Is very excited *

A year ago, on September 20th of 2009, I started a forum on a whim. I did it mainly because I was lazy and wanted one centralized location on which to discuss my stories and world with my few fantasy friends. So I guess it was sort of ego-centric too (except I wanted to hear about their stories too, but whatever).

I invented a name more or less off the top of my head, threw together a forum, grabbed a theme off the internet, cobbled together some neat sounding names, and let my friends know. There were maybe 6 or so of us, but we liked it.

More than I expected. They loved it, and started telling everyone about it. I thought that was cool, so I told more of my friends about it too, posting on the different forums I am a part of, and etcetera.

And so people started to flood in. And they all loved it!

That was a shock to me. I mean, managing forums and communities is work, and I was kind of busy (I did, after all, start it because I was lazy and trying to save time, never mind about that…). But it was also kind of cool.

I mean, really cool.

There were these brilliant people all working together and talking and making friends and posting awesome stuff and in general being a model community. Very awesome. I loved my people (I still do, too). So I started improving the forums, adding mods and hacks and bbcodes and a logo and a website and a blog and a domain name and whatnot. All the stuff a real community ought to have. It was fun. 🙂

Well, it has been a year, and it is well over a hundred members strong, and I have a core team of dedicated Moderators and Marcher Lords and Honor Roll Members and Editors and etceteras. I also have an inner circle of lovely people who have joined together with me to take Holy Worlds to its extreme limits for the glory of God.

We have great plans.

And so that is why we are all very excited about October 21st. Why?

Because that is a year, a month, and a day since the founding. And we are going to celebrate by having a massive party on the forums. And you are invited. 😀

We want to break the record for the most number of users online at once (it is 30 right now, so this is going to be fun). We are going to invade the chat room (yep, we got one of those too in there). We are going to have contests and surprises and presents for everyone.

And…

We are going to officially open the Holy Worlds Sci-Fi Forum!

Yes, we are expanding to include a sci-fi forum just for all you space-heads out there (well, me too, ’cause I like sci-fi too).

So if you are a member of HW, make sure you come at or around noon (EST) on the 21st of this month to www.holyworlds.org. And see if you can bring a friend! We will have admins standing by to activate new accounts, so if you got a friend who loves Christian fantasy or sci-fi, tell them to come and register. We would love to have them! This is a great time to tell people about us.

See you all then!

What Do You Want Me To Write? :D

The book

Image by Dave Heuts via Flickr

Hey everyone!

I am planning to write a book (well, several books). I have a few topics for non-fiction books, and I have well over 20 concepts for novels in various stages of development, in both fantasy and sci-fi genres. I know roughly what my writing plans are for the fiction end of things will be…

But I am also planning to write a non-fiction book and publish it. It will be along the lines of what I am writing here in this blog: advocating outside-the-box, logical, Biblical lexicology and hermeneutics. I will take a set of concepts that I have expounded on here, and expand on them, examining all the different facets, and answering objections, and present them in a book form.

And, knowing me, it won’t be dry theology either. Be prepared for lots of humor, drama, and probably short stories illustrating points (you can’t keep me from writing fiction even when I am writing non-fiction). 😉

And also expect to have a hand in helping me bring it to fruition. This is a community project as much as a Jay Lauser project. I want you, my loyal friends, to help me in every stage of this creation. From picking a topic, to figuring out what to include, to helping present counter-points, to giving feedback, to editing, and of course to get all of that you will be getting insider reports on my progress and reading my stuff before anyone else in the world. Happy yet?

So First Things First. What topic would you most like me to publish a book on? Ask your friends, look at the state of the world, at what our generation most needs to hear, look back at my old posts, and think about what we have talked about, and let me know what you think I should present as my debut non-fiction work.

I can’t wait to hear what y’all say. 🙂

(Oh, if you don’t want to comment below, you can email me at jay.lauser@sir-emeth.com.)

Audio Post: Cliffs of Moher

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

Image via Wikipedia

Just in case you want a more light-hearted post… you have it. This is using the sort-of-new wordpress.com podcast feature.

Sorry about the wind making it almost incomprehensible. 😀

Oh… the word I was looking for was ‘speechless.’ 😀