Monday, November 29, 2010

The future will be pretty much the same as the now

If there is one thing I've learned from my favorite subject, history, it's that things are basically the same as they always were. Of course, our lives are very very different from the lives of our ancestors all around the world, and there is a lot that differentiates me from people raised in other cultures. But we're all basically the same: just getting through the day, doing the work that needs to be done to put food on the table and a roof over our heads, loving and fighting and procreating.

I don't think that's depressing, I think its comforting. I've talked before how its nice to know that there isn't anything all that special or different about me and my situation - the same stories have played themselves out all around the world over and over again.

And now I'm going to bring this huge concept down to a practical level because there is something that all of the educators I interview for a magazine I write for say that drives me a little crazy.

They say that they are training students for jobs that they can't even imagine; that they have no idea what the future will look like when their students graduate and head into the workforce.

On a simple level this is true. We didn't use to need wind farm technicians or need as many computer engineers, computer scientists, and software developers. But those jobs still require basic skills that kids need to learn.

They will need to know how to communicate effectively, and honestly, both in print and speaking outloud.

They will need know how to place nice with others and work effectively on a team. Everyone needs to know how to stand up for themselves, defend the vulnerable, and work toward the common good as well as for their own fulfillment and gain.

CW will attest to my belief that everyone needs to be able to think critically.

They will need to be flexible and constantly thirsty for knowledge if we want them to adapt to changing job markets and not be hobbled as the economy changes.

And perhaps most importantly, they will to be open to new ideas and eager to try new things - if we cant prepare them for what's ahead, we can prepare them to deal with whatever they run into.

These are what people will need to succeed in the knowledge-based, service oriented economy we will have in the future.

Blogs that inject glamour into my day

Some of you may have heard about my quest to be more grown up. This is the worst kind of goal: unclear and totally unquantifiable. For me, it has something to do with dressing up for work, wearing make up, doing my hair in something other than a messy bun, and cooking more often. Because I don’t have any specific metrics for this goal, it’s unfair to beat myself up for not reaching them, though I must say I’ve been lacking in basically all categories. Except maybe for the dressing up for work part, since AS gave me her old purse and picked out some new shoes for me to wear, both of which have generally classed up my look.

The point of all this is to say that another way I feel more grown up is by diversifying the blogs that I follow.

First is style rookie, which can make me feel like a total slouch since it the author is a highly respected voice in the fashion industry right now, is totally down to earth and funky (as well as I can tell from reading her blog) and she’s in high school. Yeah, how can you be THIS pulled together and confident in high school?? Reading her blog, seeing her styles, you can’t help but be curious and interested in the world of high fashion – especially in how she talks about her outfits creating mood and a feeling. Basically, she’s awesome.

Second is my newest addition to my google reader: Cupcakes and Cashmere. I don’t particularly like either of those things, but guys: this blog is awesome. She is so glamorous, living in California, wearing funky clothes, putting on smoky eye makeup like a pro (she has a tutorial, you guys, and it made me, who basically sticks to light brown eyeshadow and mascara, want to try it. I have no idea what liquid eyeliner even is.) The cool thing about the blog is that she talks about decorating her house, the clothes she’s wearing, the food she’s making, and the places she’s visiting. Guys, that’s what I want to write about!

Anyway, reading these two today really injected some much needed style and class into my morning, and I hope they do the same for you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Learning is more important than a neatly constructed career

It's very difficult to figure out what you want to do with your life. People, including me, say "I have so many interests that I can’t narrow them down", but that is a cop out. Probably the honest answer is that we're afraid to figure out what we want in our lives.

I picked writing early on in life. I wanted to be an author or some kind of journalist; to have my own column maybe. I’ve realized, however, that these are intensely competitive jobs that I don’t want to devote that much time and energy to. Which makes me think I’m just not a passionate person.

But then I think I’m just not passionate about that particular career. I could be passionate about something else. That means it’s something different than what I always thought.

I picked marketing next, specifically web marketing and social media – new cool stuff that is interesting and exciting and always changing. My dad is a salesman and I was always told I could do just what he does fabulously. An easy choice.

But then I realized marketers’ goals is to sell people stuff that they don’t necessarily need. I don’t want to be partially responsible for cluttering people’s minds and homes. And after a while, reading about the latest technology that will interrupt you on your phone got boring to me too. I don’t want to invade people’s privacy, I want to make the organizations in power more accountable to the people.

Which leads me to think right now that what I really want is to go into politics – which is another something that I always kind of wanted to do. I wanted to be the Secretary of State, that’s why I majored in international studies. There is a lot about politics that terrifies me, but, the further away I get from the stress of the wedding, the more I think it’s dumb that it terrifies me. That I could handle Politics just fine. Look at all the idiots who are doing it right now.

But it makes me scared to commit to politics or education or both because I don’t see a track that I could follow. It’s also scary because I’ve always thought about getting into politics or education, so what makes them any different than writing? What makes me think I could succeed or enjoy or be passionate about them?

The fact is you don't know until you try. It doesn’t matter if there’s a track laid out. I committed to writing and that didn’t work. I can always keep writing, and I can always come back to it. I should try web marketing just for kicks and see if that’s more fun than it looks.

What terrifies me the most is waking up 20 years from now and not know what happened to my life. Does that happen to everyone? Can we avoid it? I feel like telling myself to look for small ways to help is a cop out. That I can do better than that. Is that because I’m part of Gen Y, and we were told from birth we could be the president, so anything less feels unsatisfactory?

But you can only see a common thread through someone’s career in retrospect, unless they knew what they wanted to do from the very beginning. Which is a pretty boring way to go through life, in my opinion. It's more interesting and fulfilling to try new things, always do your best, and keep learning all along no matter what.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When to stop writing lists

I read something the other day about a blogger being frustrated that no one gave him/her a map of what to do when you're a grownup. The blogger said added a parenthetical: (like all Gen Yers) and that resonated with me so much.

I was complaining to myself today at lunch about why no one tells me things relevant to social situations I find myself in. Like how to behave one someone does this. Or what it means when someone says this. Or what people do in this situation.

Sometimes, I think I have Asperger's or some Autism-spectrum issue because I so often feel like I'm barely keeping up with what's going on around me. This makes me feel like a loser who can't get her life together and makes way too many mistakes to ever be successful.

I've read a fair amount on Asperger's and Autism out of general interest, but my personal diagnosis comes from two places:

- that my mom has said she thinks my dad has Asperger's and there's a hereditary element to it, and
- what I read from Penelope Trunk's blog.

Not very good sources, admittedly.

Penelope has Asperger's and talks a lot about developing, testing, and following rules for social encounters. She talks a lot about many other things she does to cope with this disease that aren't relevant to me, but that always sticks. All the time, I want to write down all the different rules that exist for me to follow in a given day so I remember it all and have it all pulled together.

But then I think about what that blogger said and wonder if plenty of Gen Yers have this same issue: a hard time navigating the world. Just about my entire life was mapped our and prescribed to me in syllabis, course catalogs, and progress reports. I was a Girl Scout, where you completed a list of specific steps and got a badge. I played tennis, where you showed up at certain times, did certain things, and had a specific rank on the team which dictated which matches you played.

Today, I write list after list after list of things I own, things I need, tasks to accomplish, food to buy, nutrients to consume every day, exercises to preform. I fantasize about creating a giant master list with all the steps I need to take and all the rules I need to follow in a day so I can have one day that's totally pulled together and I'm completely in control and getting everything done smoothly, gracefully, and efficiently.

But it's not lists that are the solution. Even if I mapped out tomorrow down to the minute, all I would do is react the same way I used to react to a semester's worth of reading assignments: do a little bit as I go, wait to the last minute and then do it all at once.

And maybe (probably) this isn't a problem unique to Gen Y. Older generations often had just as, or even more, prescribed lives than we did. Maybe Gen Y's uniqueness comes from how hyper-aware and well trained in the art of reflection we are.

So what is the solution?

Maybe it's accepting that everyone goes through their days feeling a little bit out of control, not accomplishing everything that they want and making mistakes, and that is simply the way people live and it's ok.

Maybe it's also understanding that what I interpret as people having everything pulled together is really people doing a good job behaving gracefully even when they feel that little bit lost that everyone feels.

If I can't control every minute of my life with lists, at least I can control how I act, react, and behave as I muddle through. More specific instructions and guidelines aren't the answer - letting going, to a certain degree, of intense and continuous assessment of every task I'm working on is probably closer to the answer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don't be angry and other lessons

I've learned a few things already today. Well, I suppose I've been learning them as I go, but I put them into coherent thoughts today.

1) It's much much easier to take care of myself and my house when CW is gone for 24 hours. Any more than that, and I'm lonely and miss him. But that amount of time is just enough for me to be busy doing things like cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry.

AG told me we're in the honeymoon phase, where, when we're together, it's a great big party. I feel like we've been in that phase since I moved into CW's apartment with MC the Sailor (and MC the Artist): lots of pizza and beer, staying up too late, not taking care of things on a regular basis like dishes. Party time. She said that goes away eventually and to enjoy it. But it's kind of nice to not party all the time and get shit done. I suppose its a testament to how big a fan of CW I am that I can't tear myself away?

Don't tell him that, it'll go to his head.

2) I should have spent less time in college worrying about getting laid, getting drunk, and getting along with friends/being cool and wallowed in my own wonderful nerdiness. I got to spend four years doing nothing but reading, writing and learning, but instead of enjoying that process, it stressed me out so I, ahem, partied.

Is there a theme here?

I have a rule about regrets: don't have them. I don't want to regret how I spent my college years - I made those choices and I had a pretty awesome time. MC the Artist can attest. Instead, I'll blame Society - 18 is way too fucking young to go to college, ok guys? I'm a pretty hard core nerd, and pretty self-sufficient and hardworking, but I was too young to focus on learning or know what the hell I was doing.

3) I need to apply my philosophy about regrets to being angry. Being angry, often, is a waste of time and energy and ruins my day. Sometimes its ok to be angry, like when my government tramples on my rights as an individual or other governments treat people poorly, unfairly, or kill them. Etc.

But you know what? It's really really not worth it to get as mad as I do about other things. Like people I work with, or bad drivers, or trash that needs to be taken out. No big deal man, let it go.

Meditation might be the answer here - take five minutes every day at lunch to sit still and relax.

It also helps when I wake up early and give myself time in the morning. I'm in a much better mood after drinking a cup of tea and catching up on Twitter than rolling out of bed and running out the door.

So CW, we really need to cut back on morning snuggle time. Maybe the take-out pizza too, to reduce the pug. But probably not the beer, ok? I still have some party left in me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

7 ways to do better work when your job sucks

  1. Its all about your frame of mind. Think whatever you need to think to do the bullshit tasks that you’re expected to do. If you need to get mad, convince yourself you’re the underdog and you’ll show them by doing a fantastic job, do that. If you need to force a smile and whistle while you work when, in truth, you can feel your soul dying inside, do that. The power of positive thinking my friend: fake it till you make it, or come up with whatever frame of mind you need to do the next steps.
  2. Write down exactly what you’re expected to do in your job. I, for example, have three main areas of responsibility, each with specific tasks associated with them. You don’t like writing stuff down, making lists etc? Tough cookies. Do it so you can look at it. It’ll help, I promise.
  3. Break down those areas of responsibilities and tasks even further to daily routines. What do you have to do first thing every morning? What needs to happen every week, or at the end of every month, in order for you not to get fired?
  4. Now that you know just what needs to be done, you can estimate how long each task will take. I guarantee you its less than the 8 hours you’ll be sitting at your desk today. This is good news.
  5. Look for other shit laying around that needs to be taken care of, and take care of it in your extra time. Filing stuff, cleaning stuff, replacing stuff, organizing stuff. You think it’s beneath you? Dude, you have a terrible job. What else could be beneath you? Just do it. Someone will appreciate it, and you’ll always look busy.
  6. Then you have maybe a little extra time. I use that to write shit like these blog posts, or make up stories, or read interesting news stuff about zombies and aliens. Mostly to think. It’s nice to have my brain stimulated once in a while, and it feels like I’m actually creating something that a divine human being like myself should be doing, instead of the tedious, repetitive stuff I do otherwise that a lower ape could handle.
  7. And look at that, you’re filing all your responsibilities, doing a little extra that makes your stupid supervisors happy, and you have a little time to yourself from 430 to 530 maybe to think about your big plans and goals and dreams.

And you’re not going to get anywhere if you aren’t dreaming.

What to do when you feel crappy about your job

So your boss is an idiot, you aren’t doing tasks anywhere close to your potential, and your self-esteem, and self-respect, is pretty low accordingly. Welcome to life as a graduate in 2010, when your entry-level job has no opportunities for learning and professional development.

You can numb yourself with alcohol, carbohydrates, sugar and TV and bitch about the economy, sure. But that’ll result in a big belly, big thighs, and even less progress.

So what do you do when you feel crappy about your job?
You remember it’s just a job. It’s not your life and it doesn’t define you.
Then you think about what does define you or what you want to define you. Then spend the 7 or 8 hours of the day when you’re not at work or sleeping doing that. Writing, acting, dancing, exercising, fixing things, painting things, caring for people or things.

Ok, so now you’re working out after work to get rid of all that frustration. You’ve started the next great American novel with 30 minutes of furious writing every day at lunch. You volunteer once a week at an animal shelter. But your job still sucks and you still lie in bed at 5am dreading the alarm and having to drag yourself out of bed every morning.
Then get a new job.
I’m not kidding, you can do it. You think if you want just a few more months you’ll be in a better position to do something – whatever. That’s an excuse.

You think because you’re not shining like a rockstar at your current job, no one else wants you and, in fact, you don’t deserve anything else. That’s bullshit. First of all, you can always do better at your current job, which will make you feel better; we’ll address those strategies soon. But second of all, negative environments have a negative effect on people. Look for a new job with a positive environment that will allow you to shine.

Start looking for a new job now while you have a job. You’re not desperate; you could stick it out where you are. And when you go for a job interview, remember: you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you – ask questions and try to find a place where you can grow and shine.

So all the people out there with craptastic jobs, quit the bullshit and take heart! We're all in this together and there's a way out!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Role Models

It's funny that this popped up on Salon today after I chatted with AG about how much we hate Mel Gibson. And, after reading it, I thought a few interesting thoughts.
  1. Is it ok to hate someone I don't know at all? I judge people based on their actions and overall behavior, and his is atrocious, but am I in a better position than Jodie Foster, who knows him, presumably, to judge him? Really, no one should hate anyone, we should be at peace with our fellow man and forgiving etc etc. I suppose instead of hating Mel, I should say I disagree with him and think he's an bigot and an idiot, but I can't judge him as a human being. Can you be a good human being if you have such hateful opinions and, in general, behave hatefully?
(I have to remember this next time Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccination, autism-cure talk gets me fired up. I don't HATE her, just think she's nuts.)
  1. Is it ok to not like, or not see/consume, someone's movies or other artistic products because of their views or behavior? Roman Polanski is a pedophile, so he should be in jail (or electrocuted), but that doesn't mean his movies are crap. Mel's been arrested for drunk driving, he should be in jail too but that doesn't mean his movies are crap either (though, in my personal opinion, they are pretty crappy).
  2. And then, should we neglect Jodie Foster, dismiss her as a role model, because of her personal views? I mean sure, most of her best work is behind her thus far, but she's a famous, powerful, generally good person who's a woman and a lesbian in an industry where being power and being a woman, much less gay, is rare. Plus, she has the right to be friend's with Mel. I might not want to be, but maybe that just means I shouldn't be friends with Jodie either. I can just watch Silence of the Lambs or Flightplan and enjoy them without bringing the extra stuff into it.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Sounds close to Ice-T, but so far from as awesome as him.

I saw an ad the other day asking the men in the audience if they’ve stopped feeling like themselves and suggesting that they might have Low T and that they should ask their doctor about some prescription drug.

Just more proof that men are attacked just as often as women by advertising telling them something is wrong with them and they need to spend money on X, Y, or Z to fix it. I hate it.

Check out this post from Better Health (my favorite medical blog) about Low-T.

Feeling good on a Monday

Guys, big news: I’ve brushed my teeth 10 out of the last 11 nights! Whoohoo! My mouth feels cleaner already. I even ATE BREAKFAST and then BRUSHED MY TEETH this morning too. Holy crap. I’ll be flossing like a madwoman in no time.

More good news this morning: I took a not-quite-30-minute walk with Maddie, as I so proudly tweeted (stretching the time slightly in my pride) and BQ so proudly replied. She and AS have contributed greatly to my desire to be healthier, what with all their Avon Breast Cancer walking and infectious excitement about cooking things Рlike apples and pork (fruit and meat? Whaaaat?) Рthat make we want to be all grown up and chop and saut̩ and bake rather than defrost and re-heat. So kudos to them!

In fact, I’m beginning to change my opinion of the gym. I’ve always been one of those millions who purchase a membership, go a few times over the course of the first couple weeks, then trail off and give up, paying the exorbitant cost to get rid of the membership or just forking over a ridiculous amount every month for the privilege of having a membership card on my keychain. But it’s kind of like going without TV: sure, I can exercise at home, but I don’t do that either. It takes the same amount of discipline and willpower (that I don’t have) to do that too. Maybe more, since my couch is SO CLOSE. And since Maddie thinks I’m playing with her when I’m doing squats and likes to jump up and lick my face.

So maybe it’s time to revist the gym membership. And maybe I’ll nut up and get the full fledged BAC membership instead of just the express one, so I can really be brave and work out with BQ, AS, and RV.

But let’s not get carried away. Still working on brushing my teeth here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My maturation as a sports fan

I surprised myself this weekend by caring about the Yankees-Rangers game. I was actually excited to follow the Rangers efforts against the Empire. Maybe I’m just experiencing what every Red Sox fan does at some point in their lives: hatred of the Yankees. But I’m also interested in the careers of hockey players that aren’t on the Bruins, and, guys, I’ve sat through almost two full Patriot’s games this year already. I even kind of want to watch SportsCenter on a regular basis.


I just had to make a Sports label for my blog now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What do you want to be when you grow up?

CW and I got cable back. Nope, we didn't even make it a whole year. Yup, hundreds of channels and thousands of commercials now flood into our home every day.

We were sitting on the couch one night this week, basking in the glory of the most passive of entertainment, and suddenly I snapped.

“What the fuck is up with all these commercials?!?”

“We were used to just two per break on Hulu, and short ones,” CW replied in his typical calm fashion.

“Well what the fuck?? Do you have any idea how many hours of marketing we’ve just consumed? How many millions of dollars were invested in those hours to try to manipulate our brains in the most cost effective way to get us to buy shit we don’t need or that’s going to rot our innards??”

“Shh, 1000 Ways To Die is back on.”

That’s basically how the conversation went.

There are days when I envision my future thusly: I’m a manager or mid-level type person in a marketing department or at a hip marketing firm in Boston, tracking web analytics for our various campaigns, pushing reports up to my bosses, talking to designers about what’s new, managing underlings doing data entry and teaching them about the magic of marketing.

Of course, I’d probably be making good money doing that. And, ideally, I’d find a marketing job for products that are awesome, helpful, and improving society and the world. But really, how many of those products are there? More likely, I’d wind up helping some evil corporation sell worthless shit to dumbasses.

That’s not a very happy dream.

I think I’d be pretty good at that sort of job, but over the last few months, that vision of the future has popped into my head less and less often. Instead, I want to tell people that stuff and shopping wont make them happy, and neither will TV or cruising the internet vacantly. That’s the opposite of marketing.

I’m sick of the jargony, pretentious, oh-so-happy marketing and social media stuff I have flowing into my Google reader every day. Yeah, technology is cool, but only in so much that it makes people’s lives better. Not in how much money it gets people to spend.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What to do when you’re not ok

This is not professional or clinical advice, this is just me talking about what I’ve decided to do now that I’ve admitted to myself and CW that I am not ok. And now that I've admitted it to you.

It’s a hard thing to do. Even when things are really bad, I tell myself I’m ok, or at least everything will be ok. I’m the rock, that’s what I do. I think that’s what most people do. But after a while, I couldn’t even fool myself. I’d let so much slip over the last two years that I was barely functioning on a civilized level. Not difficult stuff, people, we’re talking basic necessities: eating and sleeping and hygiene.

CW and I have accomplished the goal we set out to achieve two years ago. It was a long and difficult road that shook me up badly, but now that the mission is accomplished, I can take a step back and say
“I’m not ok. I need to make myself ok now.”
That means every morning:
  • taking Maddie for a long walk,
  • eating something healthy for breakfast,
  • brushing my teeth, and
  • looking decently professional for work.
  • It means focusing on work while I’m at work.
  • It also means eating something marginally healthy for lunch every day.
  • And it means getting some exercise in the evening, having a healthy dinner, having a conversation with my husband, and brushing my teeth again before going to bed at a decent hour.
Just writing all of that down makes me a little nervous. These are ambitious steps for me right now.

Especially brushing my teeth – for some reason, when I’m angry or sad, I can’t bring myself to go in the bathroom and take the two minutes to clean my teeth after they’ve worked so hard all day. I’ll pee right before going to bed, hop under the covers, and groan because I didn’t brush them, but feel that it is completely impossible to go back into the bathroom now. It’s too late at that point. Tomorrow morning, I promise myself. But of course I don’t brush them then either. I probably have a dozen cavities after two years of sporadic brushing.

So after admitting that I am not ok right now, I’ve decided to brush my teeth twice a day. Maybe after a few weeks of that, I’ll add flossing at night (something I’ve never been able to do regularly my entire life). Maybe by 2011 I’ll become a model of dental hygiene that my formal self won’t even recognize, bringing a toothbrush to work to brush after lunch or some such nonsense.

The good news is for a Monday morning, and a holiday on which I'm working, I'm surprisingly optimistic. Cavities, watch out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's ok to be alone

For my whole life, I'm not sure that I've ever been alone as much as I have this week.

Technically, I'm not really at all. I'm "with" CW, even though he's not here right now. I'm living in OUR apartment, and he'll be home on Saturday.

But it feels like I'm alone. I have to do everything for myself, like buy new filters for the Brita pitcher, unclog the toilet, clean the floors, plan the meals, make plans. It's weird to not have someone else I can call or text to ask "hey pick this up" or "bring this upstairs".

When I was a kid, there were 3 or 4 or 5 other kids running around my house. Plus my mom and dad. And then I was in school surrounded by people. Then I went to college and had basically no privacy. Then I lived at home again, then I lived with CW and MC (and the other MC for most of the time), and now I live with Chris.

Every once in a while, I'll have a few hours or an afternoon or even a whole night to myself, but during this past week, I've woken up, eaten most of my meals, and gone to bed alone.

I have been hyper aware and very careful to make as many plans as possible this week so I wouldn't be alone for any real length of time. I was afraid of being with just myself, at least I was for the first few days. Last Thursday night I consoled myself with disgusting pizza. I ran away for the weekend to Maine to be with my family. I cried on Sunday night after I hung up the phone with CW - that was the last I expected to talk to him until Friday or Saturday. (For almost 6 years, I've always been able to call him, no matter the time of day or where he was in the world; maybe there was a day or two at a time when we coudn't touch base, but never 10 whole days. In fact, I don't think I've been unable to reach someone I loved for that long in my whole life.) Monday I worked until 10pm, and Tuesday I went out to dinner and went shopping.

But then Wednesday, I woke up so happy. It was a beautiful day, I was so comfortable, I had a delicious breakfast. And even though I had plans with AG later in the evening, I didn't feel the need to schedule every minute to keep busy until I'd be with someone again. I puttered around the house cleaning up. I had a cocktail and read a book. It was ok.

This morning, I watched this video, which both put into perspective how very not alone I actually am, and made me happy that I was enjoying, to a certain extent, having the apartment to myself. In fact, I thought to myself, I ought to be alone more often.

Sometimes I spend too much time in my head, and I need CW, or someone else, to snap me out of it. But maybe if i let myself get lost in my own head more often, I'd be better at finding my way back out of it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confusion about Verizon and Net Neutality

Actually, I'm more confused about Google. Actually, I don't understand the whole thing. All I heard was that Verizon and Google proposed a payscale for the Internet, so people who pay more get their stuff pushed to the front and those who don't pay won't get found the same way they can be found now.

Which sounds like a terrible idea to me. So why is Google, my champion of Goodness on the Internet, signing on with this?

So what do I do? I google more information. Naturally.

This is where I found good explanation of exactly what Google and Verizon are proposing. Basically, it doesn't sound that bad. But none of the restrictions they are proposing apply to wireless? Which is, experts say, is going to become how we all access the Internet?

This source explains:
It seems that the prevailing logic is that there's simply not enough spectrum for this idyllic "play fair" scenario to truly work, so fewer restrictions would be necessary for the wireless internet space to blossom as the wireless side already has. Moreover, we get the impression that these guys feel the wireless space as a whole is simply too competitive right now to withstand any red tape.
I'm not convinced. A significant (and we're assuming growing) percentag of Verizon's business is in wireless, but they won't have to submit to any of these regulations?

And this is where I learned just how sneaky they are being.

Google...after all these years...why?

This article, on the other hand, says Google and Verizon have the right idea, saying they are only advocating "bandwidth shaping that is vendor-neutral but traffic-specific", which is important:
All of us involved in running networks pay attention to the types of traffic flying about on our lines. We wouldn’t be very good network admins if we didn’t ensure that traffic that needs to get through fast gets through fast and traffic that can tolerate some latency tolerates a bit of latency when it needs to.
But he goes on to say that his mom's Skype call should take precedence over her neighbor's porn downloading. That doesn't sound vendor neutral to me. He argues that we have to do something to prevent the giant traffic jams coming our way since the Internet is growing so fast. How about just developing more efficient ways to deliver more bandwidth, instead of rationing an arbitrarily small amount? I don't have the technical knowledge, but I'll definitely be finding out.

Facebook, of all things, is criticizing this in the interest of openness and fairness. Really, Zuck? But more importantly, really Google? Facebook is in a position to criticize you for this?

I hope this gave you guys a little bit more clarity on the issue; it helped me understand it better. I'll be following this though, so check back for updates!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Getting sleep and reaching goals

There is a pretty cool thing going on called the 30-Day Personal Revoltion Lifestyle Challenge. I was reading about it, checking out peoples' "bucket lists" for the upcoming month, following the Twitter conversation, and getting kind of excited. I could totally do this: publicize my efforts for the next month to accomplish all the goals I keep setting for myself but never complete.

For those who are new:
  • exercising every day
  • taking my dog Maddie on a long walk every day
  • eating three healthy meals each day
  • and flossing.
But then, after I made this list, I realized. The last thing I need to accomplish my goals is another list. I write lists like there's no tomorrow, people, ok? And I've tried the getting-the-public-to-hold me accountable thing. Frankly, that's not your responsibility. Who wants to do that?

Then I was reading Peneleope Trunk again, just re-reading archived posts because I like reminding myself of the little nuggets of wisdom she has that resonate so much with me, and stumbled across one about sleep. And how you don't necessarily need 8 hours, but they reccomend 6 or 7, and if you don't get enough, that grogginess you feel is the equivalent of yu after four beers.

(All of that is linked to in her post, I just can't find t now. Besides, I think you should go poke around on her site anyway.)

And I thought: what if I just stopped trying to make myself get up after 6 hours of sleep and exercise? When I get 7 hours, I don't need to drag myself out of bed.

It's important when you set goals to also set yourself up to succeed, not undermind yourself. How often have we heard or read that? But there I was basically doing that.

I keep saying 'I exercise more reliably when I do it in the morning.' And although whenever I do work out in the morning, I feel great, I DON'T ACTUALLY DO IT. EVER. So what the hell am I talking about??

Penelope also had a post about how, when you insert self-discipline into one small area of your life, it creeps into others on its own. I've already decided the real goal I need to have is to be more disciplined, and now I have the perfect way: just get 7 whole hours of sleep every night.

That means going to sleep by 1130pm and getting up when my alarm goes off at 630am. Then going on a 30-minute walk with Maddie, eating a healthy breakfast, taking a shower and going to work.

(Is there something wrong with me that I need to spell that out for myself?)

I can always exercise in the afternoon when I get home when I'm alert and have energy And 30 minute walk in the morning is both not challenging and exercise, to an extent.

Awesome: the key to reaching my goals is more sleep!

Friday, August 6, 2010

I just read a really fascinating article from The Atlantic published June 2009 about the Harvard Grant study, which “followed 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age” to try and answer the question: “is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life?”

It depends on how one defines a good life. If there is one single thing you aim and strive for in life, be it money, fame, children, whatever, then you're missing out on the MIX part, the balance that I think is necessary to be happy.

If the definition of a successfully life is a long one which, at the end of it, one feels generally happy and feels generally well, then here’s what you have to do:
  • Use mature adaptations (more on that below),
  • Get educated,
  • Maintain a stable marriage,
  • Not smoke,
  • Not abuse alcohol,
  • Get some exercise,
  • Maintain a healthy weight,
  • And maintain good relationships, especially with your siblings.
Note the importance of the verb maintain there. I didn't do that on purpose, that's just how these things have to be written if you want to make them an actionable command. These are things that you have to work at over time - your whole life in fact.

The funny thing about the article is, after so many years of tests and surveys and research, the results are very simple and straightforward. I suppose it's the putting them into practice that is the hard part. When asked what the secret to a good life is, psychiatrist George Vaillant, who has been the chief curator of this study for 42 years, essentially said two things:

“That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
“What we do, [as in our work] affects how we feel just as much as how we feel affects what we do.”
For me, that means people, to be live a long, happy, healthy life, need a purpose: work that keeps them busy and means something, contributes to the larger world in a positive way and good relationships with other people.

The article explained adaptations as defenses against emotional challenges we face, large and small, every day. There are four levels:
  • Psychotic: “like paranoia, hallucination, or megalomania, which, while they can serve to make reality tolerable for the person employing them, seem crazy to anyone else.”
  • Immature: “acting out, passive aggression, hypochondria, projection, and fantasy. These aren’t as isolating as psychotic adaptations, but they impede intimacy.”
  • Neurotic: which “are common in “normal” people. These include intellectualization (mutating the primal stuff of life into objects of formal thought); dissociation (intense, often brief, removal from one’s feelings); and repression."
  • And mature: altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship).”
It seems like all the people who drive me nuts, that I very much dislike, and can't stand generally, exhibit immature adaptations. Isn't that comforting?

I didn't understand the intellectualization adaptation, which is why I looked it and most of the others up and linked to their Wikipedia articles. I think I didn't fully understand it because I use it. I don't feel to bad though, because Bones uses it to a much greater extreme than I do.

Maybe because I'm a virgo, but I had a lot of fun looking to see where I fit into all of this.

I have pretty good relationships with my family, and I have good friends who are important to me and I think I'm important to them.

I'm well educated, I think, and plan to be more so.

I don't exercise enough and I probably drink too much. That doesn't bother me at the moment, but I'm beginning to think I ought to pay more attention now, in my young-and-healthy-20s. So that's something I know I need to work on.

I'm getting married in September and I couldn't be happier about it, so I although I know we need to work at maintaining our relationship for the long haul, I'm optimistic.

And as for adaptations, I think I use humor, anticipation, and supression effectively, but opt for projection and intellectualization than altruism or sublimination. But it was also comforting that the study showed, over time, nearly all the subjects gradually adopted "mature" adaptations and shed the lower ones.

This led me to think: what about when I KNOW I'm acting out, being passive aggressive, and projecting as a reaction to some emotional unpleasentness, and that there's a better reaction, but react that way anyway? Is that just immaturity that will go away with time; just me being 23 and taking advantage of the opportunity to sort of get away with it? Or is it truly immature behavior that I need to work on? Honestly, sometimes its more satisfying to slam a door or whine or blame the weather than take responsibility for myself, even when I know its wrong, if only for a little while. I suppose it is for everyone.

Maybe, being an "adult" in Gen Y is about striving for the always doing the right thing, but, unlike other generations, being ok when you don't make it. As long as you're honest about the process.

New Project

I aim to educate myself about education in the US to form a more accurate assessment of what, if anything, is exactly wrong with American education and how to educate Americans better. I have a lot of opinions about this, but no formal training or knowledge, so I've devised a process to gain that. Ultimately, I want to be in a position to bring about change and improvement in American education,
It needs work I know, but that's the gist. My purpose going forward. Basically: I want to be a teacher and think I'd be a good teacher, but also think that the way teachers are trained today is pretty bogus and that the education system itself is severely flawed. I understand, however, that there is much I don't know about the whole thing, so I've come up with a way to learn.

This is my process:
  • Find resources,
  • read them,
  • also read critiques or praise of those sources,
  • at the same time, keep up with current events by following a wide variety of education blogs etc.,
  • and then form opinions, brainstorm solutions, share them, and generally add to the discussion.
I haven't decided if I'll just updated this blog as I go along, start a new blog solely devoted to my progress, or a combination of both. What few, cherished, readers I have here might not be interested in this sort of thing, hence the idea of starting something new to catalog everything.

I guess we'll just see how it goes!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We Ditched the TV and Rely on the Web for Entertainment April. You might remember. It's been three months, and here's our update.

So far, so good. We barely notice that we don't have TV except for all the Red Sox games we've missed. Well, maybe I'll speak for myself and let CW speak for himself.

I haven't, unfortunately, dramatically cut back on how much time I spend staring at the big screen in our living room, but it's nice that I'm not bombarded with advertising during those three or four hours on the couch. So that's a plus. Also, we're watching more of exactly what we want (like Weeds, South Park, LOST, 24, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and less crap in between (like Family Guy). Also I'v become a huge fan of documentaries, nature (especially those featuring David Attenborough) or otherwise. So, in a way, I'm learning from my TV instead of just consuming it. Maybe.

I have also realized just how deeply in love I am with Netflix. Really - it knows no bounds. Did you know you can watch James and the Giant Peach on there? Seriously, go watch it right now. Although sometimes Netflix occasionally disappoints, it more than makes up for the movies it doesnt have with the gems that it does.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How to take on day at a time

It never fails: I post or talk about productivity and, immediately after, experience my least productive day in a long while. Why? Discipline.

I've read before, but I can't find the source now, that discipline is like any muscle in your body. That idea became one of those quick-hits that resonated with me immediately. Of course it is - there isn't necessarily something innately wrong with me or anyone else you has little self-discipline, me or that other person simply hasn't made exercising self-discipline a priority.

I'm Gen Y, guys, I get what I want when I want it, remember?

But how do you strengthen your discipline muscle? Here's what I'm trying.

I'm starting small. During one of my many attempts to Go to the Gym Every Day for Real, You Guys, I'd spend more than an hour working out and loving it. I was totally feeling and loving that burn, you know? Doing circuits after circuits, rocking out, being a gym hero. The gym I went to was totally going to hire me a spokesperson after that day.

Then I'd spend 30 mins at the gym the next day. Then I'd skip the next day. And then next. Then it was Friday and I had plans for the weekend. I'd fizzle out and spend a month ignoring the fact I wasn't going before feeling guilty enough to start all over again.

Not any more. New goal for getting in shape? Just getting up at the same time every morning and going to the gym. I don't even care if I walk on the treadmill and watch infomercials for 30 minutes while I'm half asleep. I aim to just show up and do something.

Same with my other personal goal: eat healthier. The number one thing I'd like to do better in that realm is just eat my goddamn breakfast. I don't even care if its a single piece of toast - the point is I can't say I'm going to go from eating nothing to making a traditional Irish breakfast feast every morning and expect it actually happen.

My other personal improvement goal is to read more. I used to read books like no one's business. Then a little thing called College came in and made reading about speed and counting pages. Lame! I have my list of books and I'm going to start carrying around the first one on that list everywhere I go. And I'm going to read for 10 or 20 minutes every day while I eat lunch. I'd like to get to read a book a week (all the Smart People on the Internet do that, you guys) but if it takes me two months to get through that first book, so be it. I'm establishing a habit through consistent behaviors.

When I won't want to go to the gym or read, it'll be easier to do it because the bar is low. Once it's easy to meet that bar, I raise it a little. But my self-discipline muscle will be all warmed up by then, so it won't see quite so hard.

Or so I think. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Am Productive

The bottom line is I'm not: I live and breathe by OMGTHEDEADLINEISTOMORROW. But these are the things I'm trying to keep in mind to be more productive.

1) Penelope Trunk's succinct explanation of all productivity tips: Do one thing at a time. Do the most important thing first. Start Now.

It's the starting now part that I have the most trouble with. Coffee helps. It also helps to...

2) Break tasks into small pieces and know, realistically, how long each piece will take.

And reward yourself when you finish each piece. Checking my Google Reader index, Facebook, or are some of my rewards. I'm also breaking my day into smaller pieces, divided up by 15-min walks around the campus where I work and snacks. Take a look:
  • I get to work at 8:00am ish and start working at 8:30.
  • Take a break at 10:30
  • Work from 10:45 to 12:30, then have lunch.
  • Work from 1:30 to 3:30, then take another break.
  • Work from 3:45 to 5:15 ish, then you're done!
3) Aim to complete just three tasks every day. This keeps me from writing huge, all-encompassing to-do lists that are just overwhelming. Three, small tasks are manageable.

4) Assign tasks to specific times of the day when you know you are most productive. For example, I write better in the morning than the afternoon, so I always try to finish writing an article before 11am. I schedule interviews after this time so I don't have that distraction. It's also good to have one, small task to do immediately after lunch, like an interview, so I get back into a rythym of work.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sex In Spaaaaaace!!

Check out this series of posts from MSNBC's Cosmic Log about sex in space: have you ever thought about having sex in space?

I, personally, have not though now that you mention it...

The point of this is not to speculate if astronauts have sex in space and which ones, but to think about space tourism and colonizing the moon or Mars: if humans are going to spend any significant length of time in space, they're going to think about sex at some point.

Or not:
I asked something like - are you guys thinking about that, really? Because all I could think about at the time was not vomiting or bonking my head on the roof when I flew through the air. Sex was the last thing on my mind.

I've never experience weightlessness so I have no idea, but I'd assume that, after a while, you'd get used to it, lose the nausea, and gain more control over your movements. Plus, I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment:
While the engineers call for assistance devices and choreography as though it were a spacewalk, I have full confidence in the one human drive greater than the one to explore.
If there's a will, there's a way. I also liked her suggestion to install the back seat of a car on the space station, since are has many of the same challenges (minus the no gravity thing) and people still regularly enjoy sex there.

But the point of all this is to really talk about space research. It's popular to say "spend the money d0wn here on earth to fix our problems now!", but that's not seeing the big picture. Space is amazing - we hardly know anything about it. It's the final, FINAL frontier and it probably always will be. Just as its important to study the natural world around us (and studying the dep oceans is basically the same as studying space and I definitely think we should be down there too), it's important to feed our exploration of the stars.

If we want to be a society that values invention, creativity, engineering, exploration, etc., we should invest in space research because it reflects those values. Just because we want people to solve certain problems doesn't mean they will if we keep throwing money at them. You never know where a solution will come from; you don't know whether or not studying to create earth-levels of gravity on Mars or the moon will have any positive implications for life on earth. It might, or it might not. That's what humans do: we try things and experiment.

Should we start throwing money at NASA without holding it responsible? Of course not. We shouldn't do that for ANY organization. And NASA should also do a better job engaging the public, marketing its worth, showing people just how awesome space research really is and making it about every individual human's sense of wonder, not just high level, ivory tower research and projects or whatever.

Dude, space is awesome you guys.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Do you have money laying around? Too much cash and nothing to do with it? DONT WE ALL. But never fear! There's a new way you can put that money to good use and feel good about yourself!

It's called Kickstarter. From the website: Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. We believe that a good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide and a large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

The kicker, so to speak, is the organization's all-or-nothing funding scheme: people who launch a project commit to raising a certain amount of money in a specified length of time. At first I thought that was ridiculous, but the website explains it well. So basically, anyone can come up with a creative idea and use this site as a unique, secure way to raise money and spread the word.

There are so many projects up there all ready, including a number in the Boston area, that this place has almost become as dangerous to me as Etsy or Banana Republic (when they're having a sale - which, oddly, seems to be all the time??). I swear, I'd be dropping $50s left and right if I had any.

Another cool thing, though, is that you can follow projects you're interested in without pledging financial support. For example, check out the projects I'm following. Whenever I sign in, I get to see what these awesome, creative people have been up to, and its easy to remember my favorite projects in case I ever do have some extra cash.

Just another really cool website from your friendly neighborhood web surfer!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

So much good stuff

So there were 3 1/2 really awesome articles I read today that are completely unrelated, but I'm putting them here to catalogue them and share them with you. Cause they and you are both awesome.

The latest from Catilin Kelly at True/Slant is an article explaining why "female viagra" can't work. Sorry folks, no cash-cow wonder-drug here. Keep moving.

I fell in love with Equally Shared Parenting a few months ago. No, I'm not a parent, but CW and I are firmly committed to being the type of parents described in that site. Check it out: for how straightforward the concept may seem at first, its surprising how rare this type of parenting is.

Anyway, through ESP, I found Equal Couples, which today posted about how social policies in Sweden are changing society. Awesome, right? But, I was thinking that what I'd like better in the US would be flexible work hours. Instead of being able to take 6 months for maternity leave, I'm fine with just two or three as long as I can work when and where I want to. I write and work online, I can do that from any where and at any hour of the day.

Three and a half.
This third article is actually two on the same topic, and I love it. Joseph Childers (from True/Slant again) writes about why every good movie is a miracle and why TV is having a renaissance while movies continue to stink. When you think about it like that, Childers, it makes perfect sense! Now I'm wondering what the solution is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Relationship with Barak Obama

When Obama was running for office, I thought sure, it's easy to vote for Hope and Change and the Future, but it's much harder to talk about the nitty gritty and be realistic about how this country is going to improve itself. I think I wanted to see him as just another demagogue playing off people's emotions to get himself some power.

But guys: I really like the guy. I think he genuinely cares about things. When he talks to people, I think he wants them to understand where he's coming from. I think he doesn't care if they disagree on the details, but that it's possible to bring people together around the big picture and work out a solution, even if the process is messy. I love that.

That's why, generally, I've had a high opinion of him over the last two years even though I generally disagree with his politics. We both understand what the problems are, we just need to compromise on how to fix them.

But I can't agree more with the sentiments in this piece, esp this:
At the end of the day, the boss of the MMS is Barack Obama. At the end of the day, the person charged with the safety of America’s people and land is Barack Obama. That role cannot be fulfilled with a panel of experts, nor Nobel prize winners, nor commissions. Put another way, you do not change the world by saying, “I urge the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible."
I want Barack Obama to kick some ass, but after the oil is cleaned up. I want him to put BP and Haliburton and MMS and Transocean each in the hot seat and hold them all respsonsible, but I also want him to hold his government responsible too. I don't necessarily think the government should take over the clean up—I'm not sure what I think about that—but I do think that after the thrird or fifth time BP failed to stem the flow of oil, SOMETHING should have happened. Let the other's play the blame game, Obama, you're focus should be on What To Do Now.

And I know you're just one man, and I firmly believe that it's not always The Government's Job to fix things, but you're our leader, our inspiration. Americans are sickened and they don't want more blah blah.

It's funny that today, Frank Chimero also posted this on his blog, because, in regard to the oil spill but also many other Things going on in the wide world, my generation feels like this. What do we have? Is our frontier the Internet? Technology? Can we really be that excited about something so intangible?

I believe Gen Y can be the Next Great Generation, but first we need something to be excited about and inspired by. Obama did that, but it seems like the Government Machine is grinding him up just like everyone else.

NOTE: I also found this article on Reason Magazine about the oil spill that's very, very interesting. You can bet your boots I'm going to be spending a lot of time reading about government failure.

ANOTHER NOTE: Check this out if you want to learn more; I added it to my Amazon wishlist.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gen Y Angst

It's been one of those weeks where creeping doubt and worry have turned me into a bit of a mess, now that it's Thursday.

Why am I still wasting time here? How come I can't be more productive? What do I want to do with my life? Is a career even that important? But what if I wind up stuck here for years and years and years and never AMOUNT to anything?

The lack of cashflow is making retail and/or booze therapy impossible. Luckily, I just made some bread so carb therapy is still an option. Ideally, I can replace that with exercise, but we'll see how the night goes.

Financial Responsibility is:

Not signing up for an extra credit card or six to buy awesome stuff that I want.

But I am sorely tempted.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Blog to Follow

Guys, I found an awesome blog (? I think, I haven't really figured out who writes it, why, etc) or you all to check out.

UPDATE: Ok I figured it out: a fellow called Barker who says "The only work I've done as an adult is creating the things I loved as a child". Sounds pretty awesome to me.

It's called Barking Up the Wrong Tree and, every day, it highlights a study that addresses interesting questions. The author adds his/her two cents, and recommends a book or movie or something about the topic. This is one of those sites that I constantly find myself clicking deeper and deeper into as I keep seeing fascinating topics to explore. Then, I click on the links for the recommendations and lose myself in other recommended titles on Amazon. I now have HUGE wish list on that site (in case anyone ever wants to buy me something!).

Like this doozy: a German study about how the continuous, if not systemic, limitation on the ability of the poor in America to vote is in part responsible for the country's unique competitive advantage, not, as many have suggested, a "product of a unique history or culture."

Very interesting, and I don't doubt to some extent its true. But I'm having a hard time letting go of my belief that the unique features of American culture have also contributed to its success since there really has never been any civilization like it before, but plenty of civilizations that didn't let their poor have any say in the government. Maybe that's because I'm American and biased rather than German and bitter (oh snap!). It's a stimulating thought, nonetheless, and further convinces me that Election Day should indeed be a national holiday. And it should be in the middle of the week - a Wednesday - so its not just another long weekend but a really special break in the middle of your life to take part in the great American Experiment!

Ahem. I digress. Anyway, the blog is super cool and you should check it out. And you should expect to see my "interesting" commentary on some of the topics it features in the future!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ridiculous Item of the Day

In the spirit of CW's blog, here's a ridiculous item of the day for you, this time in higher education. One of my favorite pieces, from Gary Pavela, director of academic integrity at Syracuse University and, according to the USA Today story, author of numerous articles about student conduct:
"'And sometimes a private, candid conversation with an offending student helps.'"
Oh, you mean treat the student like an ADULT? Because, you know, he or she IS ONE?

And this is another doozy about W. Scott Lewis, associate general counsel of Saint Mary's College, in Indiana, and president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration. He
"gives seminars for many colleges through the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, and he said that a consistently popular topic is how to train faculty members to manage their classrooms in ways that enable them to be respected by students. "We don't train faculty members on that," he said. "They are trained to be great physicists and political scientists, not on how to manage a classroom.""
What? College professors don't know anything about teaching? Isn't that their job? Shouldn't people who TEACH know how to manage a classroom? (This trickles down to high school and below, but let's not go there today.) The assumption here, like in so many places (the company you work for, I'd wager) is that if someone is good at their job, be it being an economist or being a salesperson, then that someone is qualified to teach/lead others when the teaching and leading actually require a completely different set of skills.

I'm not even halfway through the article at this point.

I love that these experts start talking about how to get students to respect you, as a university professor: wear business casual clothes, have students address you as professor or Dr. Newsflash: students don't respect people who cling to superficial displays of power or influence or whatever. They respect people who treat them with respect, who know what they are talking about, and who do their job. I'd had lots of professors who wore nice clothes and who didn't have us call them by their first names, but I respected them for showing me a new way to think about literature, or politics, or the psychology of economics.

And of course there's a dig in there at the entitled attitude of Gen Yers: Lewis said students "these days" have this sense because of their parents. Yah, but let me show you a few choice Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who think the world is their oyster. Someone people think the world revolves around them, buddy, that's a fact of life. Sure, Gen Y is pretty entitled. I can be a big baby, and am often. But I'm 23 years old, what's my middle-aged boss' excuse?

The kicker? This assessment is followed by the addition that "many more [students] have mental health issues, and many feel significant stress over the economy."

Are you freaking kidding me. Students are no more prone to mental health issues than any other population group. Instead, students are under pressure to acheive and are asserting independence by swearing colorfully and often, drinking themselves stupid, and doing other scary, unorthodox things like not wearing shoes, wearing unconventional outfits, playing frisbee at all hours of the night, etc. And students are stressed by the economy so they are swearing more? Yah? So? Isn't everyone? How is this something that needs to be pointed out to professors?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Work Sucks and Then You Die

This week has been one of those weeks for me, as in, I have zero motivation for my job. Not just that but mostly that. Maybe you know the feeling: you have a list of things to do, a deadline approaching, expectations to meet from several different sources….and you just don’t care. This morning, I likened it to when May hits and you’re in school. You have a lot of high-pressure work to do, but you just don’t care and spend your time thinking about other, maybe more interesting stuff.

I’m SO there. I’ve been making travel plans for the next three years. Anyone interested in an Ireland/Scotland trip in 2012? (Assuming the world doesn’t end…)

The other day, I was wasting time on Texts From Last Night (which has the interesting effect of both making me feel better about my life and making me somewhat jealous of those people) and found this doozie:
The only way I made it through work was reminding myself how many margaritas per hour I was making.
That quickly extrapolated to how many bottles of Jack Daniels I earn in a day, which should be no surprise to most of you. (It’s about one every three hours for the 750 ml, in case you were interested.)

But look, I said to myself this morning, thinking about bottles of Jack Daniels is no way to get through the day. It’s not healthy, in any sense of the word. How am I going to get out of a slump like this if all I can think about is Jack Daniels, as handsome and delicious as he is? Instead, let’s think positive.

For some reason, today I’ve also been obsessed with the Harvard Business Review. Dudes: they have SO many smart, easily digestible, and actionable posts on there. I highly recommended it: procrastination and self-improvement all in one! (Also, they are looking for a marketing coordinator, I job I could totally do, and I think I’m going to apply! Excitement!)

There are a lot of parentheses in this post.

Anyway, this obsession led me to this post, among many others, which inspired me to make a list of positive features of my current place of employment. So here it goes:

  1. VERY short commute, even with all the lights and crazy people trying to get to the Beverly High School.
  2. Casual working environment: no big deal if I have a bad hair day or need to wear my Crappy Work Pants one day because of laundry issues
  3. I have a huge amount of control over my work flow and am largely left alone, which is a way of working that works for me.

I feel better already.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Motivation 3 (sort of)

Everyone should check out, which provides valuable advice for surviving a zombie apocalypse. I’ve been doubting my own ability to contribute to a survival team in the event of the end of the world (228 days until Dec. 21st, 2010…or is it Dec. 12th? See what I mean about survival?), but I think I may have found a niche skill: zombie protection.

Today’s article on is about which fast food establishments are best suited for hiding from zombies; the article decided on McDonalds-type places, I suggested gas stations. Food will never good bad, small, not too many windows or doors, possibly firearms under the counter, and a built in, last-ditch defense in the form of tons of flammable liquid in underground tanks.

Then I took a look around and realized if there was a zombie apocalypse when I was at work, I’d be pretty screwed: cornered in the back of the building with nothing but huge plate glass windows between me and what could be a parking lot full of zombies. Yikes.

It was then I remembered Rule #1 (I think) from Zombieland: run fast. And suddenly I have the perfect motivation to start the Couch-Potato-to-5K program I’ve been thinking about for weeks. So tonight, I’m going to put a picture of a lunging zombie on the wall by my bed above my sneakers. When I wake up every day, there will be my motivation: not getting my brains sucked out my nose in the event of a zombie apocalypse because I’m able to run a 10 min. mile.

Assuming zombies can’t do that, of course. But hey, at least I’ll be able to get enough distance between us to take out a gun, load it, and kill the bastard, right?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Motivation 2

I found two other commentaries on motivation in the last few weeks. One I can't find now, but it reiterate my closing remarks in my last post: breaking things down and making incremental change. The author talked about reducing spending on entertainment by 5% each month until she reached her goal of spending 50% less in 2009 than she did in 2008. And she talked about averages: at the beginning of 2009, she spent 75% of what she'd spent, on average, each month in 2008 because it would be too hard cut her habits in half right away. By December, she was spending much less than she'd spent each month in 2008, but the reduction wasn't painful because she'd made it gradually.

The other is a post today on the Harvard Business Review (which is not stuffy or too over-your-head and has become one of my favorite blogs to read these days) about how to motivate yourself. It basically blows up the saying "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" to a thousand words, but the story the Peter Bregman uses to illustrate it is a good one.
(Image from Erupting Mind)

Plus he talks about the concept of scheduling time for second guessing yourself, which I've never thought of before. I'll have to consider how I could implement that in my daily life. Of course, just thinking about it now, I figure when its 6am and I don't want to go for a run, the thought of reevaluating my goal to exercise more at 2pm that afternoon won't be enough to motivate me; at 6am, all I want is to stay in bed and its very easy to ignore what I know my 2pm self will say when she's not even in the room.

That idea is much more applicable at work. I know that the days when I take 30 minutes to go through my Google Reader are less productive over all because I'm thinking about what I've read, what I could blog about, what I should share with people. Not my work. The days when I exercise the discipline to do one thing, even one small thing, on my to-do list right when I sit down are the days when I'm most productive because I'm in work mode from the first minute.

It's like when you're a kid and your parents say you can have desert after you eat dinner. Today, I like to think life's short, eat desert first! and assert my independence by eating cookies at 5 before we cook dinner. But, it turns out, Parents know what they are talking about - the days when I save desert for 8pm, when dinner is done, the kitchen is clean, and I'm comfy on the couch with my one true love (Netflix), are the evenings I enjoy it the most.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I've been really out of things for the last two weeks online. First there was stress at work; not out of the ordinary, just a crunch period. Then there was a wake and a funeral. And then there was Wedding Stress. Everything fell by the wayside, and it occurred to me that, if the management of my life can so easily fall by the wayside, I must not have a good handle on managing my life.

But more importantly, I'm looking for motivation, I think. Motivation to keep chugging at long term goals despite short term challenges. What do you all do when you're having trouble with that?

Recently, I've been eating ice cream and watching Bones. Which is all well and good on its own, but not a good coping mechanism.

One of the most helpful tools I've found in motivating myself to do things I don't want to do is maintaining zero emails in my inboxes, Gmail, at work, and our physical mailbox. The satisfaction of having a big empty box in front of me inspires me to deal with items as they come it: either address the issue, file the issue for future reference, or just delete it. You'd be surprised what you can get away wth just deleting; the biggest lesson I've learned in the last month or so of doing this has been just how much information DON'T need to consume or store.

Doing this for our physical mail is more challenging - it's easy to take mail out of the mailbox everyday and throw away the junk, but items that don't require an immediate action wind up in piles on the kitchen table and even on top, not inside, the filing cabinet. Ideally, I'd have our filing cabinet downstairs near the mailbox so putting things away would be less of a chore, but I digress.

The concept is explained better and in greater detail elsewhere, just Google it, but that's what I've been doing.

Another of the things I've learned to increase my productivity is to think small. One of my biggest hurdles is getting overwhelemed by too many things to do or one thing to do that's just too big.

Like finding a hotel for my wedding guests to spend the night. I had no idea how to go about getting something lined up, so I started with one thing: I need a hotel within 30 minutes of our venue. A few quick Google searches and I had a list. The next thing I needed was a hotel with room options for around $100/night. I narrowed down the list. I also needed a hotel with enough rooms for my guests, so I crossed out all the bed and breakfasts. All of a sudden, I had a manageable task: call the four hotels left on the list and ask about group rates and transportation to and from our venue.

This isn't a new concept, its just one that I've seen myself learning.

I'm trying to apply the same principal to another goal: getting up earlier to work out and eat a healthy breakfast. I'm finding that, even though I know the long term reward of having a lovely, relaxing, healthy morning always outweighs the short term reward of staying in bed longer, I hardly ever follow through. In fact, I'll be hungry, but still get back in bed, leave for work with minutes to spare, and skip breakfast.

Any advice?

The other area I've had trouble getting motivated in has been, obviously, blogging. I think this is another instance where creating the habit is hard work, but once it's in place, it's easier to maintain. But how do you create a habit that requires you read, think, and write - like homework - every day? Or one that requires you to work out every day?

Maybe I should break taht into smaller pieces. Maybe I will write a blog post every day for the month of May, even if its just 300 words musing about something I read. Maybe I'll just aim to put sneakers, instead of flats, on every morning before taking Maddie out, whether I exercise or not.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Talking about Money

From what I gather, money is the thing most couples in the US fight about, and I imagine that's true all around the world. Money makes the world go 'round, you see. They say that couples who can talk effectively about money succeed and those who can't, don't.

Here's what a typical conversation CW and I have about money:

One of the other: AHHHH WE HAVE NO MONEY.

The other: Calm down babe here's some right here.


The second: Sure we will lets do some math...feel better? Ok lets order some pizza, buy some whiskey, and get drunk so we forget about this until later.

And later, the second picks up where the first left off panicking about CREDIT CARD DEBT, or LOANS, or a CRAPPY, LOW PAYING JOB.

Hopefully, we're not alone. Not that I want anyone of you lovelies to live from paycheck-to-OMG WHEN DO I GET PAID like us. Or rather, like me. But that's what you get when you go into writing/journalism for a magazine and newspaper. Remember those things? With the pages? Exactly.

But I digress. I only mean that it would be comforting to know that other people do any of the following and that I won't be sent to personal finance hell for doing it myself:
  • carry a balance on their credit card(s)
  • spend too much
  • live almost beyond your means
  • pay half your income in housing and/or loans

And it would be nice to hear what you all do to talk about money in your life. Do you talk about it all? Just with you closest friends? What about your family?

I'm pretty sure everyone knows how poor I am. When it gets to the point that I turn down a fucking coffee at Starbucks cause I don't have any more cash to spend this week, its obvious to whoever I'm talking to that there is a problem. I like to think that the problem isn't so much how I spend money or that I spend to much, Because seriously, by the day before payday, I've got 30 bucks in the bank, one or two outstanding checks, and a strong hankering for a new bottle of whiskey. And a pizza. But usually I can find someone to split an order of Dominos with me. Thanks guys!

My big concern for myself is continuing to be honest. I've never lied to CW about anything and I haven't even stretched the truth to him about how much I've spent. But let me tell you: its HARD. The guilt over every dollar I hand across the counter when I know he's given me 50 bucks to cover an overdraft charge is intense. You can probably guess what he'd say:

"Money is there to be spent, and its all our money. I love you and I want you to enjoy yourself once in a while, so don't worry about it."

So honesty, certainly remains key. I can imagine he'd be singing a different tune if I'd been lying to him all this time.

What else? I'd say a shared opinion on values. It's hard to talk to anyone, let alone the person you have sex with, about money if you don't value the same things in life (maybe you shouldn't be having sex with that person?). Like, I value drinking whiskey and so does Chris and we both understand that. So if money is tight that week, I don't buy a bottle of tequila, but a bottle of whiskey we can share. Better example: we both value camping and want to make that a part of our lives. So we spend money on camping equipment that, to others, would be a complete waste.

That's really it, I think. And of course, the bottom line is everyone should remember that mone may make the world go 'round, but ti doesn't make it fun. Sex does that. And whiskey.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quitting TV

We got rid of cable this weekend. It's been quite an adventure so far.

First, we started by hooking up my Mac Mini to the TV playing music and music videos on the big screen. Fun, but the mouse and keyboard didn't work from the couch, so we had to get up.

I bought a wireless mouse and keyboard that worked from across the room, and we started watching Bones and SNL skits on Hulu. It was great to take a break from the commercials, but we still had the cable in place as backup. Nothing like a little Good Eats before bed, you see.

But CW and I had been complaining about Comcast and talking about getting rid of cable altogether for months. We wanted to make the leap, but were afraid of the consequences: we'd never been without a TV for more than a few days for our entire lives. But about two weeks ago, I finally made the appointment and we went through with it: cable TV currently doesn't come to our house.

It was my second try.

The first time I called, I rehearsed: "Hello Comcast, this is Meg Flynn from 517 Broughton Drive, and I'd like to cancel my cable." It took a few times before I felt confident to dial the number. But when the friendly lady asked how she could help me that day, I sheepishly asked to down grade my package. I was even more sheepish when Chris came home and told him I had not only chickened out, but had left us with a miserable cable package that not only didn't have ESPN, but also didn't have SyFy. Even worse, we didn't have any TV service at all upstairs, and I had no idea how or why, but was too ashamed to call back and ask.

The injustice of it inspired us, so I called again and asked to cancel it for real.

"Hello Comcast, this is Meg Flynn from 517 Broughton Drive, and I'd like to cancel my cable."

Success! But I cringed, waiting for a fight, thinking is this guy asks why I'm cancelling or if there was a way for him to convince me to stay, I'm going to crumble.

You see, first of all, I hate Comcast since it's a power-hungry monopoly that doesn't provide goo enough service for the exorbitant charges it requires. Secondly, TV has a limited positive impact on our lives, if at all. There have been nights when the two of us, after a long day at work, sat on the couch from 6pm to 11pm watching reruns, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and worse: the local news broadcast. Barely saying a word to each other and only getting up to get something to eat. Feeling your brain turn to mush inside your skill would be a mind-blowing experience if you're mind was working at all at the time.

And seriously guys: do you have any idea how much marketing bullshit you're exposed to in a 120 minute period of TV watching? It's insane. And I speak from experience: it DOES effect you, even though you think you're better than that. It's getting in your brain, man.

This is all very snobby and hippie-elitist of me, I understand. I'd say not as much as this guy. But you know what? Family Guy isn't that funny and LOST will never satisfy you.

But I digress. The guy came on Saturday to take away our cable box and adjust our connection so that we'll only be getting Internet from now on. Ironically, the cost of Internet nearly doubled so we'll only be saving a few bucks a month with these change. Again with the snobbiness: I argue that our quality of life with improve significantly regardless.

Immediately, however, we recognized a problem: we now had no way of telling what time it was in our living/dining area. And we'd relied so completely on the cable box to know what time is was, all three of the clocks in our kitchen had been neglected to the point they now all read a different time. CW set to solving that problem. And other than that, things were ok. We survived the first day. We spent most of Saturday night watching videos on YouTube and Vevo on the big screen (which I'm not sure was any better than TV?).

But over the course of Sunday, we both independently realized a much bigger challenge lay ahead. We didn't say anything to each other; the fear was too great. Of all the times to cancel cable, I'd scheduled it for the day before Opening Day.

Not gonna lie: I panicked internally when I realized. But I didn't say anything unless CW was regretting the change too. I had to stay strong.

Fortunately, under the guise of enjoying the weather with friends, I invited us over to the Varnesi's house for a cook out and, conveniently, was able to watch the first few innings of the game on their TV. Unfortunately, the game started at 8pm, and everyone was tired: we needed a back up plan. So I suggested we turn on the radio in our room and listen to the game the old school way - how quiant!

That actually worked pretty well, and it's really a good thing I canceled it when I did, since if we were used to watching baseball every night, we'd never be strong enough to ditch the thing. Though I think the radio has more commercials than the TV between innings. Alas.

We're looking into some kind of web-based subscription for baseball. I'll let you know what we find, and how the experiment goes as we try to get through baseball season without a TV. I suppose the bottom line is this means we'll be going to the bar more often to watch the game, so call us if you'd like to come too!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quitting the Gym

For the fifth time now, I've tried, and failed, to maintain a regular schedule at the gym. Every time, I go for a few days in the first week, sometimes even four in a row. I feel super excited. The next week, I go once. The week after that, I go twice. Then I stop altogether for weeks at a time and start all over again a month or so later.

Three of times I went through this cycle, I was paying for the membership. Twice, I had a workout buddy to go with. This most recent time, I had a wedding to get in shape for.

Every week for the last year, I've gone to bed on Sunday with every intention of going to the gym after work every day. I knew all the tricks: pack your bag the night before, keep it in the car, go to the gym closest to your work, park the car close to the gym so you have no excuse. Nothing helped.

Instead of beating myself up about this, this time, I've decided to accept defeat. I totally fail at going to the gym.

They say a failure isn't really a failure if you learn something from the experience. I don't care if I learned anything except that I don't consistently go to the gym.

There are lots of reasons people give, and I have in the past given, for not going to the gym. I used to be very self-conscious about changing in the locker rooms and everyone seeing me attempt a 20-minute mile on the treadmill, panting and clutching my side. I'm proud of how less self-conscious I've felt at the gym this most recent try, so that's not what is keeping me away.

It's not that I'm bored either. I often had a lot of fun exercising, was always happy after a work out, and several times I did lots of different exercises and had a great time.

Maybe the gym just isn't for me. Maybe that's just what people say when they give up on something. Who cares? I'm not going to renew my subscription and waste more money. Instead, I'm taking a different approach: bringing more balance to my life.

I've started doing silly little yoga poses in my living room every morning before breakfast; Maddie thinks I've gone nuts. I think about the amount of vegetables and fruits I consume compared with the amount of carbs instead of beating myself up over missing 30 minutes on the treadmill.

Since it's summer, I want to take advantage of how easy it is to be outside by taking longer walks with Maddie. I also want to go camping as often as possible - wouldn't it be awesome to go on a hiking/camping trip? Hike deep into the woods somewhere with everything you need on your back, sleep under the trees for a few nights, and then return to civilization? I think so.

That is the kind of activeness I want to pursue. I thought the gym would be a part of that, and maybe it will be in the future. Maybe all I need is great self-discipline and mindfulness and I'll become a gym junkie. But from now I, I refuse to feel guilty about not having a gym membership that I don't use and instead work on those skills for free!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Gig

Things have been quite here at Thinking for a while, but not because I was lynched for my series on conversation (this blog doesn’t get enough traffic for that). It’s because I have a SOCIAL MEDIA WRITING GIG.

Sort of. I’m working with Tyson Goodridge at Dialogue (OMG I'M ON THE BIO PAGE) a social media marketing consulting firm that looks at the big picture – how the way we have conversations are changing because of the tools we use. Awesome right? Tyson and I collaborate on blog posts for the Dialogue site; sometime this week, hopefully, I'll be meeting the rest of the team. It’s really exciting to be a part of a growing company (right in my own backyard!) in the same sector I’ve been voraciously consuming information about for the last eight months.

I can’t even tell you how exciting is ok? There is no way to convey that in a blog. Except writing in all caps, but then you wouldn’t be able to read it. Ok? But remember: I’m REALLY EXCITED about this.

Anyway, after we worked on this post, I found some more information pertaining to social media use today that is interesting.

First, we have a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life project that says nearly all Americans get their news from more than one source, which includes the Internet, but only a little more than half get it exclusively from the Web. The study reads:
In the digital era, news has become omnipresent. Americans access it in multiple formats on multiple platforms on myriad devices. The days of loyalty to a particular news organization on a particular piece of technology in a particular form are gone.
...and I'm not sure that's entirely true. I access the news online, but usually through just a few sources. CNN for one. Of course, I'm also in love with Thoora, which may mean my habits will change in time. But I think the bigger picture is people aren't loyal to a particular news organization, but to particular curators of news. For example, I like ReadWriteWeb and True/Slant, which draw information from a wide variety of sources (but I LOVE T/S).

The study also emphasized that people are getting more news through social networking. I would guess Facebook especially, though the 37% who said news is a social experience (and by that I mean they share and comment on items reguarly) for them did cite Twitter too.

Cool tidbit: the survey highlighted weather specifically as one of the most common topics of information people look for online. The study said 81% of respondants look for weather information online. Why wait for Local on the 8s when you can get instant access? Makes me curious to see what the Weather Channel is doing to beef up its online presence. I perfer NOAA personally. Blame CW for that one.

The other interesting article I found was from ReadWriteWeb, citing a report from Hitwise Intelligence that said Facebook is quickly growing to be a major driver of traffic to news items all over the Web. And I love that it talks about how great this is for encouraging freer thought and more dialogue around current events. We all know how I feel about Big News. Of course, that good news is tempered:
Perhaps more importantly, though, Facebook, Google News (1.4%). and Google Reader together account for less than 5% of news sites' total traffic [emphasis their's]. The #1, 2 and 3 drivers of traffic to news sites? Google, Yahoo and MSN - portals and search engines where the editorial judgement is made by centralized algorithms and powerful front-page editors.
And as much as I love Facebook, I love RSS readers better, and this article said those just aren't competeting. I say its a matter of people not realizing what they are missing, so I digress:

I use Google Reader, which has the trademark simplicity and clean look of all Google's applications. There are so features I'd add, but it certainly gets the job done. I highly reccomend you try it out, but there are others to choose from; here are a few to consider.

It's simple to use, but start by going to your favorite sites, like those you have bookmarked, and look around for a little orange box with three white curves in it; scroll down this page and look at the left hand column until you hit the Subsribe section - that's what you want to find. Follow the prompts, add it to your Reader, and then check back every morning or, when you get more subscriptions, every few hours to see what's new. You'll always have something interesting to read, and YOU can CONTROL what information you absorb, not Someone Else who is also interested in selling you more Stuff.

Feels good to be back here writing!