The ‘gap’ offers answers

Over the past several months as I pondered the future of the Field of Steve podcast, I decided I wanted the main “Field of Steve” page to be the podcast page. That meant I would need to take this blog and give it a new address. I knew that would be FieldofSteve.com/blog. Not a real stretch.

The stretch for a guy like me, though, is in handling the IT work necessary to make the change. One day I might have someone handle the web presence. But a successful $300 Kickstarter campaign doesn’t quite get me there. So I do this work myself.

Some of the first steps came easy. I created a subdirectory, a task not at all within my comfort zone. Then I struggled, but figured out how to load WordPress onto that directory and export all the content from one site to another. I messed up, though, when I tried to delete the content from the old site and ended up deleting all of it. And I probably wasted an hour trying in vain, struggling to think of a solution, to fix the problem.

Eventually I stepped away from the task, calling on something I remembered reading from Deepak Chopra in Creating Affluence. Here it is from the audio version:

“Perhaps you recall an instance when you were trying to remember a name, and you struggled and struggled but with no success. Finally you let go of your attachment to the outcome and then a little while later the name flashed across the screen of your consciousness.

“This is the mechanics for the fulfillment of any desire. When you were struggling to recall the name the mind was very active and turbulent. But ultimately, out of fatigue and frustration ,you let go and the mind became quiet, and slowly quieter. And perhaps so quiet that it was almost still and you slipped into the gap, where you released your desire and soon it was handed to you.”

This is called “stepping into the gap” between thoughts. You stop fixating on the task and solutions appear. You might not know how this works, but you know it does.

I went downstairs, got a snack and parked myself in front of the TV for the final three episodes of The West Wing. Sometime during all of that, and I can’t recall how, the term “uninstall” came to me. When the shows were over I went upstairs and found out how to uninstall the WordPress blogs from both places, then reinstalled it and put all the content back.

It took just a few minutes.

The second issue came with moving the podcast from TheNarrativeArts.com to FieldofSteve.com. At one point I thought I would have to essentially recreate every page, including loading the podcasts from my computer to the site. Knowing that would take way more time then I already wanted to on a night I was already up way too late, I threw up and “under construction” notice on the page and linked to the blog and the place where the old podcasts were.

Yesterday at the day job, while working on something else I began wondering if it could be as simple as dragging folders from one place to another. I went home and tried it.

It was.

By stepping away from the task I had stepped into the gap between thoughts and twice found solutions I couldn’t get through struggle.

You need instructions? Chopra provided them:

Step 1: You slip into the gap between thoughts. The gap is the window, the corridor, the transformational vortex through which the personal psyche communicates with the cosmic psyche.

Step 2: You have a clear intention of a clear goal in the gap.

Step 3: You relinquish you attachment to the outcome, because chasing the outcome or getting attached to it entails coming out of the gap.

Step 4: You let the universe handle the details.

The Book Ahead — Spill Your Guts’ Guts

This is not the final cover version, but it’s probably not far from it.

During 2011 I set about creating a podcast, an experiment of sorts in storytelling for me. It was fun to do, but it was a lot of work and after several months I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it. I needed time to come up with a solid plan that I could eventually discard when inevitably the universe would serve up a much better idea I had never imagined.

Over the past several months I put the podcast on hold, very nearly re-released a novel I wrote years ago, then got serious about how I want to proceed with what for now is a side career.

The mock book cover here will be the first iteration of that solid plan I have in mind. Tentatively titled Spill Your Guts’ Guts, the book will take those podcast episodes and simply put them in a new format. It might read like a transcript sometimes, but it will mostly be a retelling of stories I thought compelling. You’ll get pearls like this:

“Redheaded Mike and I were old enough to know that the finger was an insult and that for some reason it was considered naughty. I yet had no clue about sex. I knew that being naked was not for public events, but I don’t even think I knew that the finger represented something people did most often when they were shy of their clothes. The boldness of the gesture and to be playing a massive trick on an unsuspecting audience of passersby appealed to redheaded Mike and me and so we decided that we would wave it at each car that managed to get within eyesight of our path.”

The audio from last year’s podcasts will also be worked over to some degree.

More importantly, a podcast will return. This time around there will be an overarching theme to the content, a focus that will be pretty much the same each week. I’ll give you more details later.

For now you can go to TheNarrativeArts.com and find three of the podcasts, or go to iTunes and search for “Field of Steve” or “The Narrative Arts” and find more of them. For some reason they are not all there. When they are reformatted the old versions will be removed and replaced.

And now it’s time for me to get back to the task at hand, getting this book ready.

Volver a Lota, Chile

For years I’ve been dreaming of a way to return to Chile, where I was serving as a missionary 30 years ago.

At this time in the experience I was in Lota, a coal mining town along the coast. It was the place I started in Chile, where I experienced a major case of culture shock. It took me about a month to be completely OK with where I was.

Thirty years ago today I was four months into my stay in Lota and had another two months to go before getting transferred. The bigger news, though, came in April 1982, when I would find out that my mission had been shortened from two years to 18 months, news I didn’t exactly dislike. I loved being in Chile, but the idea that I could come home sooner through no fault of my own appealed to me as well.

I am making plans to return. The details of how I will get there I will reveal within a few months. I have a project in the works, one that will take me not only to Lota, but to Talca, Talcahuano and Arauco, other cities I called home for a few months.

The following video is from Lota. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s somewhat sad to me that it doesn’t look that much different. That is pretty much why I’m going back.

The gratitude begins

Everyone else is expressing gratitude this month. Why should I be any different?

Actually, this podcast episode on The Narrative Arts podcast is the tale of a single moment in which I found myself feeling especially blessed, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

I left a message on the Oregon Coast, one that I remind myself of often, because I’ve become even more so since that day in 1994.

Join me on the podcast. Please forgive the warbled sounding music. It’s another challenge in my bid to learn how to do all this.

Conspiracy Part 2, or is it?

If for no other reason you might want to come see the latest podcast page just to see what I will be wearing for Halloween this year. Or do you?

This is conspiracy theory month on The Narrative Arts Podcast. This week we bring you Part 2 of four episodes devoted to issues like what really happened when JFK was shot. Or was he?

You could have listened to the podcast early. I accidentally posted the episode on Wednesday and didn’t know how to unpost it without erasing the entire page. Or was it an accident?

In this episode I interview University of Washington Professor Ingrid Walker, who for some time studied conspiracy theories. Or did she?

October is conspiracy month. Alert the media.

I’m not lying about this. Today a man called our office and said John Kennedy has been held at the Pentagon since 1963. The caller also said he was the legal prime minister of Canada. That’s two major conspiracies in one short phone call. I didn’t take the call. I wish I had.

Because I like to keep the podcasts to between 10 and 20 minutes, I’ve decided to just throw up my hands and concede that the whole month is going to be about conspiracy theories.

Last week I told you about those dots on mailboxes. This week and next I’ll mostly be playing an interview I did with a University of Washington professor who once specialized in studying conspiracy theories. Then, in the final week of October I’ll tell you about a conspiracy theory I might be inclined to believe.

There is nothing like Halloween to put you in the right spirit for conspiracies, and nothing like conspiracy theories to give juice to your imagination as the holiday we will all be banished to Hell for celebrating approaches.

Just ask First Baptist Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress. Halloween celebrators, Muslims, Buddhists and Mormons will all be in Hell together. I hope there’s good Italian food.

Part two in the conspiracy airs Friday. Aloha.

Touchy subjects get people talking

This week’s podcast is short at nine minutes, but goes behind the scenes at how journalists get people in difficult circumstances to talk. It’s not comprehensive. It’s just one issue, the death of a loved one. And it’s limited by my own experiences. The reality is, though, most times people want to talk.

This podcast was inspired by something that happened this week. A coworker of mine was blistered on Facebook for approaching friends of someone who died. One was especially profane in his attacks. His Facebook friends mostly agreed.

Football is back and so is the podcast

The sun glowed brightly even as it was near setting on a September evening in Covina in September of 1979. I was in the clear and the ball was on my way, a moment when so much was on the line.

So much more has been on the line since, and that moment in the sunshine at the Covina District Field has lifted me time and again.

Anytime I watch a football game and see a receiver in the clear, I remember that day. It meant so much then. It means even more today.

The Narrative Arts Podcast returns with a story to lay down some context as we prepare to watch high school and college football this weekend and the NFL next week. And it gives me an excuse to tell another story.

The last Bank of America post for now

Oh I will continue to dig into what happened with Diana’s credit card account, but I will be taking a new tack. To catch up on what this is about, go here and then here. Or just click on the “Home” button and go to the bottom entry on Bank of America and work your way up.

I have plans for how I will address this. Before I explain that, here is the bank’s latest response, followed by mine:

Thank you for your inquiry dated 09/01/2011 regarding your America Gold Visa – 7031 and fees on your account. We are happy to assist you.

Please note that the late fee on your account was adjusted on 08/09/2011 by one of our agents. Please be assure that your automatic payments are correctly scheduled and any late fee on your account will be adjusted automatically once the payment posts our on the following closing date.

Our records shows that our system is not charging you any extra money so please reply this e-mail including more details about your last question.

We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. Thank you for choosing Bank of America.

Sincerely,
David Moya, Bank of America.

I realized I was asking questions the bank was not going to answer, so I decided to ask one more set of questions. This is it for me. When the bank responds I’ll post that here and then be done with it publicly, until what comes later, which I will explain.

OK, I need to acknowledge that my last question did not really get to the heart of what I want to know. Let me lay out what happened and then ask you questions.

My wife discovered on her billing statement that we were going to be charged a late fee in August. We were puzzled. We have automatic payment. We set it up specifically so we would never, ever be late.

We called you. Your customer service representative explained that because the payment was scheduled for a Saturday, the due date, it did not post until Monday. She explained that we would be credited. Your records indicate that this happened on Aug. 9. That was probably the day or shortly after we called. On Aug. 16 you did take $21 more from our account than normal, reflecting the late fee. The statement we received showed that you did credit our account. In the end we got our money back, because it was applied to our principle.

By crediting our account the next month you made good on your customer service agent’s promise. I still find so much about this weird. And to be frank, so many people I shared this story with tell me that your bank, and other banks, do this knowing that some people will sleep right through it and not notice. In other words, if we had not called, you would have kept the late fee and refunded nothing.

Also, I checked the statements going back 18 months, and the four other times the 16th fell on a weekend we did not have the same problem. There was no late fee.

So here are my questions;

1. Why was the late fee charged at all for the July payment, when four times in the last 18 months under similar circumstances (the 16th falling on a weekend) the late fee was not charged?
2. When we called you well before the late fee was actually taken, why couldn’t you adjust the account to not take the extra $21?
3. If we had never called you, would the same adjustments have been made, or would we have been assessed the late fee with no credit the next month?

Thank you.

Other than posting the information here, I have been pretty much responding to Bank of America as a customer and nothing more.

In my day job, though, I’m a member of the mainstream media, a local version to be sure, but mainstream nonetheless. On the blog and on the podcast, I’m part of the pajamas media group. It’s from there that I will continue this.

I contacted a lawyer. There doesn’t seem to be much to do in our case, because the bank did refund the money. I don’t like that it took the extra $21 for the one month, but in the long run that’s to my benefit.

From this point on I’m treating this as a story, even though I am involved. I believe this is podcast fodder. The lawyer has agreed to be interviewed. I will be contacting Bank of America media officials to get comment. I will also contact other experts. My overall question will be whether this is what some of you have suggested this is, a designed scheme to get extra money from people who are not paying attention. Is Bank of America a pickpocket? If so, I think that deserves whatever sunlight I can deliver.