The Vision Board

May 1, 2008

My wife has a lot of good ideas.

She’s been coaxing me for a long time to join her in creating Vision Boards for ourselves.  The idea is that you take a piece of bristol board or heavy cardboard or something, and then slap images all over it that symbolize the things you want in life. 

She first heard about it on Oprah, which was one of the reasons I resisted for so long — historically, I’ve not been a big fan of Oprah.  Partly because a lot of the people on the show, and the theories they present, seem to have only the most tenuous of connections to reality (Dr. Phil, anyone?).  But mostly because I don’t like seeing the big “O” stamped all over books that have been selected for her book club.  I have to confess, though, that as my wife keeps watching the show and I keep seeing bits of it, my opinion is changing.  I still wouldn’t call myself a fan, but I can grudgingly appreciate that Oprah does a lot of good and gives a great deal back to the planet.

The Vision Board, though, is a pretty good idea.  Granted, if you read about it at the link above, you’ll be left with a very new-age-ish taste in your mouth.  To me, the value of the board is that it makes you stop and think about what’s important to you, and then gives you a visual, persistent reminder of it daily.  It gets you in a mindset where you’re thinking “Is what I’m doing helping me achieve my goal?”

The nice thing about a Vision Board is that it’s not about material acquisitions or escalation of status, necessarily.  You may want to have some material things on there — a house, perhaps, or a car — but it’s also for capturing goals like a happy marriage or good health.  Basically, anything that’s important that you want in your life.  Which means that you don’t always have to be moving to be working towards your goals; you can take a rest and know that you’re contributing to your goal of being happy with your life, or taking time for yourself.

And now, before I risk turning into a complete Vision Board evangelist, I’ll sign off and go stare at my board for a bit and muse on the important things in life.  Like a Home Server.

I kid, I kid.


On trying to do the right thing

April 10, 2008

Trying to do the right thing, it seems, has a habit of coming back to bite you on the ass. 

I mentioned before how I had tried to do my bit for the environment by turning down the furnace during the day and only heating my office.

Yeah.  That didn’t end up working out so well.  Not financially, not environmentally, and certainly not for my poor nads which nearly froze off on a daily basis.

The latest foray into doing the right thing?  Healthier eating.

691215368_ebe0e0d685_mNow, I grant you that what we did was really take baby steps.  We eat a relatively healthy diet, though there’s certainly room for improvement.  Part of our routine every day is to make fruit smoothies for breakfast.  I mix OJ and cranberry-blueberry juice, then dump in a bucketload of frozen fruit and a bit of frozen yogurt, and blend it all into a slurry.

It tastes better than it sounds.  And it’s healthy, to boot.

To kick it up a notch, though, my wife suggested that we should put some flaxseed oil in the smoothies, to give us our much-needed omega-3s and 6s and supremes.  We also decided to add some protein powder to the shakes, just to give us a little more substance to start the day.

Yesterday marked the first day of this new endeavor.

Yesterday also marked what was, quite possibly, the worst breakfast I have ever had in my life.

Those of you who are toying with notion of adding flaxseed oil or protein powder to your smoothies or shakes, I implore you: do so in very, very small increments.

I made the mistake of following the directions on the packaging. “For adults, use blah blah blah”… so that’s what I did.  I dumped two full scoops of protein powder and a good couple teaspoons of flaxseed oil into the blender with the fruit and juice and then blended the crap out of it.

Doing so produced a thick sludge.  The kind of sludge you might find on your floor if you’d just spent the day sanding drywall and then spilled beer all over the place.  And it tasted just about like drywall dust, too.  Vanilla-flavored drywall dust.

We have since cut back our helpings of both protein powder and flaxseed oil to about one-tenth the recommended dose, so far without major ill effects — though I am keeping an eye over my shoulder to see what karma says about that.

Image by Poldavo.


Is humanity the first cloud computer?

March 22, 2008

532216058_de1702b345_mWe know an awful lot, we humans.  We’ve learned a great deal about our universe at the macroscopic scale, and about our planet at the microscopic scale.

Yet, as an individual human, I know very little.  I could not successfully repair a major issue with the car I drive, much less build a new one.  I could not set my leg if I broke it.  Unlike Captain Kirk, I couldn’t even create gunpowder without doing some serious research first.  And don’t get me started on the technology required to gather the raw materials necessary for most everything I use.

Personally, I grew up on a farm, so I like to think that if push came to shove I could hold my own at growing a garden and raising the odd chicken or edible rodent.  But I daresay there’s many a person out there who would not be as optimistic if they were left to their own devices to provide food.

The thing is, I don’t need to know any of this stuff.  So long as humanity continues to function the way it has, I can be safe in my ignorance, provided I am surrounded by people who are specialists in their given fields.  I take my car to a mechanic; I go see a doctor when I am sick; I purchase food from a grocery store, which in turn purchases it from a host of middlemen, who purchase it from farmers.

Humanity has developed a staggering wealth of knowledge.  It’s far too much for a person to absorb or remember, and so we’ve parceled this knowledge out to different people.  As the knowledge grows deeper, the parcels become narrower.  First, we had doctors, who developed specialized knowledge about the human body, medicines, and healing.  As knowledge increased, we began to have doctors who focused on surgery or dentistry or psychiatry.  Now, we have medical specialists who are devoted to healing our skin, our hearts, our ears-nose-and-throats, our eyes, our teeth, our minds.

The same pattern can be seen in virtually every profession.  Drop a cash-crop farmer into a dairy operation and watch the confusion.  Tell a programmer who’s used to using SQL and PHP that they need to start writing code with AJAX.  Go to your optometrist and begin describing your stomach pain.

We manage to keep this knowledge afloat, and growing, by keeping it in the cloud.  Specific elements of it are held by different people, who grow that knowledge (and ignore virtually all other knowledge) and pass it on to their successors, who in turn dive deeper into specific areas and grow the knowledge there.

In effect, the growth of knowledge demands a growth in population to maintain it.

Which raises two very serious questions.

What happens if we suddenly lose a group of experts?  What if a new generation of farmers, tired of hard work and poor pay, just decide to pack it in and pursue other careers?

And what happens when we reach a point, either through choice or through necessity, where we are no longer increasing the global population?  Where will our expertise reside?

Photo by puroticorico.


The uncomfortable necessity of progress

March 17, 2008

Progress is never easy.  As a new technology emerges, it almost inevitably means the demise of the technologies preceding it.  Blu-Ray replaces DVD, which replaced VHS.  Digital photography is replacing standard photography, and Polaroid.

These developments are relatively straightforward.  A superior technology benefits consumers, and in many cases the companies that offer it are replacing their own technology, trading sales of the old product for sales of the new.

Sometimes, though, it gets complicated, like when the march of progress uproots entire industries.  The combustion engine replaced the horse, and in so doing ended the gainful employment of many a blacksmith and buggy manufacturer, to use the cliched example.  Sometimes progress means that a particular country or region becomes extremely efficient at a particular type of production, and so becomes the primary source of that production.  Electronics, by and large, are manufactured in Asia.  Banking is largely based in the major centers of London, New York, and Tokyo.

In retrospect, this advancement seems reasonable and inevitable.  I like to think of the analogy of an emerging village as Europeans settled the US and Canada.   Initially, most people grew their own food, built their own homes, and repaired their own tools.  Then experts began emering: a baker; a tailor; a builder.  These people became skilled at a particular trade, and would barter their services for goods and services provided by other experts.  Fewer and fewer people grew their own food, instead relying on the emerging expertise of specialist farmers, who in turn relied on other experts for their equipment and clothing.

There are two instances when this starts getting particularly complicated: when the development crosses borders; and when it threatens an entire industry.  When one nation focuses its energies on electronics, or cars, or entertainment, it often does so at the expense of labourers in other countries who were previously in the same industry.

But what’s the difference, really, between an individual deciding to focus on leather making, and a nation deciding to focus on electronics?  In the short term, it causes grief for those in the industry who are unable to effectively compete.  In the long run, though, it allows production to be localized to where it’s most efficient.  Certainly, the town becomes dependent on the baker for his bread or the blacksmith for her horseshoes — but the baker and blacksmith are likewise dependent on the town.

That’s why it frustrates me to see industries lobbying for legal or political backing to prop up their failing businesses, like the recording industry, or the auto indistry in North America.  Losing jobs in these industries hurts us in the very short run, but allowing these people to focus on areas where we are able to more effectively compete is much better in the long run.


Beginning Blogging, revisited

February 24, 2008

Following on the heels of yesterday’s post, the editors of The Lamppost sent me a link to another blog posting about getting started, which draws its inspiration from the fable of the tortoise and the hare.

I like what Kaila Colbin has to say.  In some ways, I’m loathe to exercise the patience Kaila talks about, but the points in that post are very well taken.  After all, virtually everything that’s worth having in life comes as the result of considerable effort.  So if patience, time, commitment, and steady blogging are the hallmarks of a successful blog, I’m willing to puruse that.

I can certainly relate to the obsession over blog stats.  I, too, check my stats several times a day, and am delighted with each new (non-spam) comment.  After all, most of us write in order to be read.

There are still three things, in particular, that I struggle with as I work to build this blog.  One is finding my place in the blogosphere.  I’m writing this blog from the perspective of my experiences as a teleworker, though my thoughts and comments can wander far afield.  The question I keep asking myself is: am I adding any value?  Is this loosely focussed perspective on life something that people will enjoy returning to time and again?  The hare in me wants to know — now — what people will want to read.  The tortoise in me is trying to just focus on the pleasure of writing, and let things fall into place over time.

The second aspect of blogging that is a challenge for me is the linking aspect.  I like being able to link to other’s posts, to reflect on what people have said, to encourage my readers to explore the web and the blogging universe.  The challenge, for me, is finding blogs that I like to read.  Simply jumping to random blogs doesn’t seem the best approach, but how then do we discover new bloggers, with whom we can engage in discussion?  Certainly, there are a few that I visit regularly: Techdirt, engadget, Penny Arcade (warning – not suitable for young viewers), News.com, Tom’s Hardware, The Lamppost.  But you may have sensed a theme in most of those; they’re very tech-focussed, and while I’m deeply interested in tech, that’s not what this blog is all about, nor do I want all my comments to be in that paraticular area.  I’m curious to know, then, how other bloggers do it.

That, by the way, was a very thinly veiled request for comments.

The third challenge is time.  Blogging is a hobby for me.  It’s something I need to fit in at the end of my workday, in the midst of my responsibilities at work and my responsibilities at home.  Inspiration is sometimes at a minimum, but the real challenge to posting reguarly is time, I find.  The Gratitude Postings are a lifesaver, in one sense; they’re quick, they’re on a theme, and while they require some reflection, they save me from casting about for some topic on which to write.

I just try to keep in mind that I really started this blog to give myself a chance to write, and I need to make sure I don’t lose focus on that.  After all, if we’re doing what we enjoy, sooner or later that delight is going to show through, in one form or another.


Beginning Blogging

February 23, 2008

Being new to the blogosphere, and the subculture therein, I’m certainly interested in learning more about the expectations and unspoken rules of the phenomenon.  Brad W’s post on setting up a blog has got me thinking — perhaps a little too much. 

On the one hand, blogging is more fun when there are people reading my content and interacting with me, so there’s a clear motivation to “play by the rules”, as it were, and ensure I’m sprinkling my posts with keywords and working to become an expert in a given area.  Lorelle has a ton of great information on getting your blog noticed.

But on the other hand, blogging — for me — is really an outlet.  It’s a chance to write, which is something I enjoy doing but have not found many avenues to pursue it.  After all, my role in Corporate America doesn’t really lend itself to a great deal of creative writing.  In that case, then, I don’t really want to narrow my focus to try and become an expert in an area.  I’d rather just write about what interests me, and what’s happening in my world at that point.

So it’s a bit of a conundrum: to enjoy what I’m writing, and be largely irrelevant, or to try and become relevant, and not enjoy writing.  Perhaps there’s a medium in there that I can find.  For now, though, I think I’ll focus on writing what I enjoy, and let the rest of it sort itself out with time.


Colds

February 19, 2008

How is it that, at this stage in human history, we still get colds?  Given that pretty much every person on the planet has been exposed to the common cold in one form or another, you would think that we would have developed something approaching an immunity to the virus, or some form of vaccination or effective treatment.

What’s prompting this post is, of course, the fact that I feel myself coming down with a cold.  I’m not sure where exactly I would have picked it up, seeing as how I work from home and basically only venture forth to forage for groceries or get the mail.  Still, somehow it would appear that I am in the process of being treated the runny-nosed, congested-chested, aching-headed, fatigued-bodied delight that is the common cold.  Time to bust out the home remedies: orange juice, echinacea, sun-dried worm’s liver, and chilled bleach.

I’m sure getting pretty much zero sleep this weekend didn’t help my chances terribly.