Old Home Week

I am currently on a quick tour through Colorado and northwestern Kansas. This weekend I’l be attending my 25th high school reunion. This really seems like the one to go to. We ain’t getting any younger, we’re all at the point in our lives where we’re starting to get sentimental about the past. I haven’t been to any previous ones but I was really motivated for this reunion. Realistically, this is probably the last chance I have in this life to see a number of these folks. I need to take it.

I’m not even sure if the Kansas hotel we’re going to has internet, so my appearance on the intarwebs might be spotty. The way I’ve been blogging/podcasting lately, that’s getting harder to notice.

Keeping the Plates Spinning

I don’t want this blog to fall into cobwebby disarray, but for a variety of reasons I haven’t been around here much. Part of that is normal summer stuff with some fun travel and work travel, part of that is other projects, and part is the ever diminishing urge to blog. I do like the thought some days of just shutting down Twitter for good and going back to this blog as my primary interface with the internet. I don’t trust Twitter as either a business entity or as a competent deliverer of service so it never feels sensible to allow them to be my stewards between me and the rest of the world. The same goes 10X for Facebook as an untrustworthy steward, even if they are better on a technical level.

I’ll post here when I have something to show for it, but  just for pure giggles I’m pursing an old school paper zine. So much of what I have done for creativity in the last decade is electronic, intangible and ephemeral. I like the idea of putting out something that is an artifact, that you can hold and keep and get in the mail. That’s my new slogan: Putting the ‘somatic’ back in ‘psychosomatic’!

Keep Blogs Alive

The Riverfront in Conway

My struggles with the online world continue. I am blogging ever less, podcasting ever less. However I remember the introduction to Ted Sturgeon’s short story collection Sturgeon Is Alive and Well . . .. In it he posited that there is no such thing as “writer’s block” only changes in writing styles that require entering a chrysalis-like state for a while before emerging as a different thing. He thought that what seemed like an inability to write was the conscious writer requiring a quiet time to catch up with the subconscious one.

I hope that is what is happening to me and social media. The positive side about my online life doldrums is that is being matched with a ramping up of activity in my offline life. Just this morning, I rode my bike down to the Conway riverfront and around downtown for the first time in a long time. I plan after next weekend’s CREATE South to take one month off from social media – for sure Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and other presence type services and possibly the blog and everything. I know Larry Lessig does one month a year entirely away from the internet and that might turn out to be a long term healthy way to live.

For now, I remain trying to adjust the needle to the sweet spot of the online/offline balance mix. Time to shut down the computer and go play some beach volleyball with friends. It seems like a better thing to do on a beautiful April day in Myrtle Beach than blogging. I’m just saying …

Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, my child bride and I were married. We made the decision two weeks before we did it and got married the Saturday of our spring break from Georgia Tech. The ceremony was performed by a judge at the Cobb County courthouse with about 40 of our friends in attendance. The reception was at my in-law’s house in Mableton GA. All told, including rings and everything, the wedding cost about $300. We financed part of that by selling back used textbooks a former house mate left behind when he moved away. The whole affair was low rent and high emotion. I thought the ceremony was beautiful, my wife was and is beautiful and marrying her made me incredibly happy.

The road from that point to now was difficult and a few decisions were made incredibly badly. We managed to power through the hard times and recover from the missteps and we are still together. We decided last night that the only thing we envy about the kids in these pictures is how skinny they are. They are smug and oblivious and shortly to get smacked in the head by life in a big way. Let them have their moment here, things will get tough for them soon enough.

Happy anniversary to us!

New Media Vacation

This holiday season my last day at work was December 22, and I’m going back on Monday January 4th, which is tomorrow. This is my 12th day off in a row and it doesn’t seem like I’ve hardly started.  I’d love to say the batteries are recharged and I’m raring to go but truthfully, I could easily do another 12 days if I had the opportunity. Thinking it through, I realized this is the longest stretch of vacation I’ve had since grad school where I had a job to go back to. I was out of work from layoffs for three months or so in 2001 at the bottom of the dot-bomb period but that wasn’t a vacation. It was more stressful than having a job, really.

While I’ve been on vacation, I’ve also kind of been on vacation from the computer somewhat. There were multiple days in that stretch where I didn’t touch a computer, and I’ve been mostly off of Twitter, Facebook, et al. I did read a lot of comic books, do a good bit of reading on my Kindle and we’ve been working our way through The Wire: The Complete Series, which we’ve been loving. We watched movies, leaning towards the stupid comedies but also including Slumdog Millionaire. I’ll be contrarian and say that while Slumdog isn’t a bad movie, it was completely nothing special to me. I’m not sure why it got the hype and buzz that it did. It was competent enough but I didn’t find it anything more than an average quality diversion of a film. I was much more enthused about The Hangover, which was like Memento with a raunchy sense of humor. After I watched it, I realized that it has basically the same plot as Dude, Where’s My Car? and that’s OK.

During the vacation I had vague plans of productivity in new media that never happened. In retrospect, that is probably for the best. I don’t feel bad about not blogging or podcasting and I only wish I had made that as a deliberate choice up front so I didn’t have free-floating guilt about my lack of productivity. I feel recharged and happy and ready to prosecute 2010 to my fullest. I’ve already recorded a podcast this morning, have another blog post lined up behind this one.

Hello new year, let’s light this candle.

Low Media Month

I know some people like Lawrence Lessig explicitly take time out periods from being online. It seems like a growing thing to do as all of us struggle to find ongoing sustainable ways to live our digital lifestyles for periods that get longer and longer and may well be the rest of our lives. I am no exception to that, I might be one of the worse ones. I wasn’t trying to take time away but it is working out like that. For the rest of the month of December I may or may not be away from my blog, Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter et al for days or weeks, with or without warning.

It’s reached the point where I shock myself sometimes when I look at this blog and see that it’s been 2 or 4 or 6 days since the last time I posted. It never feels like it has been that long. This is further evidence that the hamster cage we are all running in might be wearing us out. I’d love to be posting longer, insightful pieces like I tried to do in the past but when it comes down to time to do it, I’m tired and make other decisions.

Added to all this is the ongoing sorting out process as people shift energies amongst their blogs, Twitter, Facebook and all the other ways you can do something online. This will never be settled, the best we can do is to find semi-stable equilibria now and then as the landscape shifts under us again. Off I go, trying to balance my way across the shaking ground.

Possibly the Last Sushi Beach Lunch of the Year

Possibly the last of the grocery store sushi beach lunches to... on Twitpic

Today might well be the last day that weather permits my standard “sit on the beach and eat mediocre grocery store sushi” type lunch. So I did it. I love fall in Myrtle Beach so much, it’s really the absolute best time of the year here. Instead of being 93 degrees on the beach, it is 78. Instead of being packed with tourists, it’s pretty wide open. Plus now you can park on the street on Ocean Boulevard. It’s clearly a win all the way around. Here’s hoping there are a few more wins this year but if not, I did it today. Carpe diem, y’all!

Hoarders and Procrastination

I watched the TV show “Hoarders” at the recommendation of people who thought I, ahem, shared some characteristics with these people and their pathological accumulation of useless crap. Ahem. I guess it all comes down to degrees.

Some time back I have identified the root cause of practically every problem I have as procrastination. This is why I found GTD such a compelling philosophy because it addressed the real problem I have. I have a huge buildup of emails in my inbox. This is mostly because of the ones that will take some time to address – not a huge amount of time , but some. I don’t do them now, and procrastinate. I have clutter because I am failing to make a choice in what to do with this thing. There is some future point at which value will be realized, but I’m not making the choices that will realized the value and instead just hold onto the crap by default.

There was a point in “Hoarders” where a clutter addict was confronted about a broken vacuum cleaner. “It only needs this one thing to be fixed up and sold at a yard sale.” The organizer pushed back with “What is your history in actually doing that?” The response, a reluctant “… well, I’ve never actually held a yard sale.” Check and mate. I have the same problem. I really want to address it and make the choice now. This might be a fall of purging. I hope so. I don’t want the city condemning my office.

The Melancholy of Fall

I enjoy fall and after the sometime oppressive heat of a coastal South Carolina summer, it can be quite refreshing. However I always find it a melancholy point in the year when we hit the last day where one can reasonably wear shorts and sandals. I believe today might be that day. It’s downright chilly here and even though I’m wearing closed shoes, long pants and a long sleeved shirt, I’m wishing I had also brought a jacket.

Let’s raise a toast to one more lovely summer and wish it well. I’ll deal with my melancholia by drinking lots of coffee on this cold and dreary October day. I wish I could take a nap, but that’s generally frowned on in the workplace.

Moving On In This Post-Peake Life

For the last ten days, this blog has been quiet and mostly been about the late great Thomas Peake. On Tuesday I went to the memorial service in Atlanta, where I saw a lot of old friends I haven’t seen in years (or in some cases, decades) and met many other friends of Thomas for the first time. I was expecting a big turnout filled with lots of people I didn’t know but it was beyond my craziest estimate. This little space had 400 people in it in a Tuesday evening in Inman Park. His friends reached so far that he had entire subgroups of friends that all knew each other that I had no conception he knew. He was a guy who lived his life as if people were the most important thing in it, and people responded in kind.

Chris Campbell passed out fliers for our Peakecast project in an effort to round up audio people might have, and after the ceremony and reception I had a little bit of pizza with Chris and Sharon at the Fellini’s in Candler Park. I had heard from them that some of Thomas’ friends were getting together at The Local, which was approximately on the way back to my hotel anyway. I figured “what the hell, why not stop by?”

I walked around in The Local and I saw people I recognized from the service but no one that I knew personally. My initial inclination was to get back in the rental car and leave but that didn’t seem the right thing to do for the occasion so I approached a table with an empty chair and said “I don’t know any of you, but can I sit with you?” I did, and we talked about Thomas and told crazy anecdotes and it was good. I’m glad I did it. As time went on, a few people from other groups around the bar came over and talked to me and said they had read my blog posts and found them helpful.

This floored me because I didn’t quite follow the chain of events that would make that possible. I guess they recognized me from the Facebook profile photo and connected that with my links from the memorial page. I personally probably couldn’t have done that to anyone else so it shocked me that others could to me. I had a hard enough time connecting people I spent 5 minutes talking to with their Facebook photo. I’m glad people that I don’t even know were able to find some value and some comfort in my writings about Thomas and even more glad they were willing to approach me and discuss it. I’m trying to do more of that, because its the way Mr. Peake lived and the world could use a little more of that.

I thank everyone for being patient with me. Most of my blogging, Twittering et al for the last week and a half has been about this guy and his loss even though I know most of the people in my sphere didn’t know him. I’m going to turn down that proportion but it will never go to zero. I just won’t invoke his name so much because it will be part of my new baseline. I’m not going to say “I do this because Thomas Peake would” about things but it will be true and a part of the new me, the kinder more generous me. I think it will take all 400 people who were at the Trolley Barn and all of the thousands more affected by this loss, each of us to be more kind, more respectful, more generous and more goofy to replace what the world lost in Thomas Peake. We don’t want to have to but we do, and because we are strong and want to honor the man we will. The torch has fallen, and we pick it up and light more and from this tragedy we build better communities and a better world because that’s the only thing that makes sense. Do it for Thomas. I love you, Thomas. Goodbye.

How To Fix My Life

Uggh, when your internet connection dies in the middle of a publish, ecto erases your post and replaces it with a blank one. Time to rewrite this mother lover.

Second try at this. In my last podcast, I said that I’m making an effort to try to allocate my time in ways that are consistent with the things I value. If that were really true, for the last two weeks you’d think that the Facebook version of Bejeweled is the most important thing in my life. It isn’t, obviously, but it’s damn addictive and compelling on a minute to minute basis. Still I need to get myself straight and make sure the way I spend those precious non-sleeping, non-day-job hours is on things that create long term, lasting value for me. I fritter away a lot of time on things I can’t remember what I did the next day.

Step 1: Stop playing Bejeweled, cold turkey, immediately. Playing it anymore, even a few farewell games is like deciding to have one last fix of heroin for the road.

Step 2: Make a serious effort to collect and organize all of my various projects and tasks. I have a ridiculous number of irons in the fire and I even forget that I have some of them at times. It’s not uncommon that I have a project stalled out for weeks or months when 45 minutes of concerted effort would get it moving again. This is where GTD would be highly beneficial but I just keep bouncing off of it every time I try. I’m not sure the best mechanism for this but I need something that works for me and I need it now.

Step 3: Be mindful at all times. Whether doing something or eating something or just watching or listening to entertainment, be mindful. There is a reason that when I just upgraded phones I avoided iPhones like the plague. They are the anti-mindfulness devices. I need to do less default viewing and default munching and default activities. Do the things I mean like I mean them until I stop. Even if the thing isn’t important or urgent like reading comic books, when I’m doing that I should do it until I stop.

Step 4: More people, less machines.

Step 5: More dogs, less machines.

Step 6: ???

Step 7: Profit!

Cover me, I’m going in.

Packratism, Online and Off

I’m the first to admit that I’m a packrat. I’m not anal retentive because that would imply I’m organized about it. I’m more of the “throw it all in that room and sort it out later” type guy, where “later” is always a day that never comes. I’m also like this with not only physical goods but the digital. I know intellectually that all of these atoms and bits of squirreled away stuff is in fact a manifestation of my procrastination. I don’t want to make the decision about what to do with it now, so I push it off to the horizon on a timescale that will always be safely distant as to be assumed to be not happening. At this point I’m fighting a rear guard action to avoid becoming one of those crazy old guys that gets buried in their own house under 30 years of unread mail.

Just today I noticed that the same external drive that holds my Time Machine Backups also has a folder called “Videos to Watch.” This thing is full of 56 GB of vlogs downloaded between November 2006 and July 2007. The funny thing is the vast majority are of shows that I probably unsubscribed from right around that time. Channel Frederator, Command N, the Scoble Show on Podtech, Rocketboom in the Joanne Colan era, etc. I unsubscribed because they built up and I didn’t watch them. When I posted about this the other week, this is not a new phenomenon. I was interested in all of these shows in the abstract enough to subscribe but not enough to make the time to watch them with any regularity. It’s an ongoing problem.

Now I have all these episodes of these shows that are a slice in time. One part of me wants to hang on to them for their value to the historical record of new media. The other part of me, the one that is winning right now, wants to delete the whole fricking directory and never think about it again. If I had forgotten I had it, it couldn’t have been that valuable to me. Sure, watching Robert Scoble get demos of products that probably didn’t interest me at the time and may even already be defunct or out of business by now has some mild morbid curiosity factor but frankly I’d rather have those gigabytes back.

Today and through the rest of next week, I’d like to throw away as much stuff as I can stand to from my office. It has become a disgrace that makes my loved ones unhappy and me unproductive. Although I have bounced off of GTD several times, I appreciate the value of its central tenet. Don’t procrastinate, deal with things immediately and decisively and don’t put them off for later or chuck them in the pile of things you will never look at again. This is truly the aspect of myself I like least, and I need to work on it to make myself happier in life. Maybe I’ll find bliss in a pile of trash bags. It could happen.

Let’s Do the Rock, the Chimney Rock!

On Top of Chimney Rock

On our vacation in the North Carolina woods, yesterday we went to Chimney Rock Park. There is an elevator to the top but because we brought our dog, the only possible way we could get to the actual Chimney Rock portion was to climb the stairs. I don’t have a good count but it was a pretty solid climb up, I’m guessing the equivalent of 25 flights or so. Our dog did very well on the whole trip, not being wild on the leash or spastic on the stairs. There were a few points where it was tricky to manage him and the traffic in the opposite direction but overall it wasn’t too bad. He got a lot of admirers along the way, and up at the peak he was a big hit.

The view from the very top of Chimney Rock is quite beautiful. You can see a whole lot of the Lake Lure area from it. It made a lot of sense to tackle that very first because after we went up and down that thing, we didn’t have a lot of desire left to do much more stair climbing.

On the way down, we almost didn’t go through “The Subway” tunnel because there was a sign saying something was closed and we assumed the whole pass was. However, a park dude who was right there assured us that we could go through. We were glad we did because not only did we get into a nice area in “The Grotto” but we also were able to climb down to the main trail from there, but with far fewer other people on the stairs. In fact, no one.

Looking out from the Grotto

After that, we met up with the main trail and took the side trail to Hickory Nut Falls. After the stretch up the stairs to the top and back down, it was nice to spend some time walking down fairly flat trails. There was a little rise and fall to it but nothing like the rest of it.

It was a little odd how people kept greeting us with encouragement. “Only 10 more minutes, don’t worry! It is worth it.” It dismayed me a little bit. Did I look like I was in that bad of a state that other tourists needed to give me pep talks? As it turned out, this whole stretch felt like a breather. We were able to stop and give the dog water several times and to go at whatever pace we felt like.

The other huge advantage is how cool it was comparatively. This whole stretch was under the canopy of trees anyway and as we approached the falls the mist and water must have cooled things off at least 5 degrees if not more. The falls themselves are pretty. It is possible to climb around down to where the pool underneath is, but we opted not to. There was a pretty thick layer of slime on all the rocks and sticks underwater, and it didn’t seem like the best wading experience ever. Plus, there is always the downer of getting your feet wet and putting on socks just to hike some more. If I was going to get my feet wet, I would want a little more bang for my moisture buck.

Hickory Nut Falls

After a little time at the falls, we packed everything up for the hike out. As is usually the case, the return trip seemed to go much faster than the trip out. By virtue of doing the Hickory Nut Trail last, we didn’t need to climb the stairs to meet back with the other trail but could just keep going straight out to the parking lot with no stairs involved at all.

After we left the park, we got ice cream in the little town at the base of the park. It seemed like a nice little place. On our way back to the cabin we stopped at a swimming hole and played with the dog out in the water, just to give him some swimming for the complete tired-out experience. After all, a tired dog is a well behaved dog.

Follow that up with a little grilling on the deck of the cabin and we had us one great vacation day. This is the kind of stuff I signed on for.

Offline Times

The combination of my illness, some computer problems and a fair amount of things around the house to do (many of which I still have to do) led to a three day stretch with as little online time as I can remember when I actually was home and had working internet. You know what? I didn’t miss it that much. Friday was mostly sleeping on the couch recuperating. Saturday had a chunk of that as well as trying to fix some issues with my MacBook (short version: I made them worse) and Sunday was errands and the like.

There have been times where I find myself jonesing to get back to my computer. This wasn’t one of them. I realized this evening that after some restarts this morning, I never even turned my email client back on. I hadn’t checked FriendFeed or Facebook, hadn’t turned on my IM client or looked at any email. I’m enough of an internet spazmo that this can probably be considered a positive development.

The Precise Cold

This is a weird one. Yesterday at lunchtime I felt fine. By mid afternoon I was sneezing a little. By the time I left work, I was starting to feel bad. All evening I felt worse and worse, and by the time I went to bed I felt miserable. When I got up this morning I felt the worst yet, and I just decided to not go into work today and made the call of shame to my boss.

The weird part is that I know that between 2 PM and 3:30 PM yesterday, I began having cold symptoms. In my entire life, I don’t know that I could ever determine the onset of a cold to +- 45 minute resolution. Maybe it is possible with the flu where you tend to have a a more violent and extreme set of symptoms, but colds are usually just a smear of feeling bad and runny noses.

It’s slightly interesting as a phenomenon but not interesting enough to keep me awake. I’m taking the strongest cold medicine we have in this house and going back to bed.

Holiday Weekend

My age has really started showing. We did our late night system upgrade Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and come Friday, I’m still tired. Our plan today is to paint our bedroom. We thought about doing some of the taping and furniture moving and prep work last night, but I opted not to. My thought was that today is going to suck no matter what but yesterday didn’t have to. I don’t like doing this stuff and I accept that it needs to be done but it’s a horrible thing to be endured. Once we begin, my interest is in finishing. This hit must be taken, but with any luck it can be confined to today.

A few years ago, we made the mistake of going to Myrtle Beach State Park on the day of July 4th. We go to this park fairly often but there were easily 20X the maximum number of people we had ever seen there. Just the act of getting into the park and into a parking space was about 30 minutes. We’re going to avoid that sort of thing this year. I actually feel like doing something like that but don’t feel like fighting crowds. Maybe we’ll hang out at the Conway riverfront.

Once the painting is done, I really need to record some podcasts. When that is in the can, my agenda is reading comic books and lying around. I don’t have to get too much battery recharging done because in a few weeks we’re going to the mountains near Asheville. If I can keep my batteries from dying until then I can get some recharging done then.

How To Tell You Are Exhausted

Yesterday was my third anniversary with my job. As a celebration, I and my coworkers worked all evening and well into the night upgrading systems. All day today I have been completely off. I ended up getting up to walk the dog at 6 AM after just a few hours of sleep. After that, I slept for a few hours until the yard guy showed up with his small engine joys. I dragged into work shortly around noon and dealt with typical day after issues but never felt like anything was clicking. I actually amazed myself by remaining awake all evening.

I sat down to write a blog post and got into the second paragraph before I realized I was posting the same thing I did a few days ago. I believe I know how to fix this and it involves a pillow.

My Lunch Hour – 6/18/2009


My Lunch Hour – 6/18/2009
Originally uploaded by evilgenius

There is something truly truly wonderful about living and working in a place where going to the beach is such a simple operation that I can do it for 20 minutes at lunch time and that’s reasonable. This is a view of today’s lunch. I grew up in Nebraska and Kansas where the best we had for aquatic recreation was a reservoir dug out of the dirt by the Army Corp of Engineers, the same body of water that fed the irrigation system for the surrounding crop land.

Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas have a lot of problems, the city government’s current “war on tourism” not the least of them, but it sure does make me happy to have this available to me. Nothing like returning to your desk with salt water and traces of sand on your feet.

Elected Officials in my Family

My brother and his family are vacationing in town for a few days. We went out to dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise and had a big old time. While we were there, my 6 year old niece had a silly spell. She was referring to Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants as “the mayor of Doofusville.” After a little pause, she said “You know what I am?” I asked the question and she answered proudly “I’m the mayor of Funkytown!” After we all managed to stop laughing, the discussion turned to the question of whether Emily would, in fact, take us to Funkytown on request. Results are still inconclusive.