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Posts Tagged ‘Serenity’

The weather has turned cold here in Seattle. Nothing like what most of the nation is experiencing, to be sure, but cold nonetheless. The leaves that haven’t fallen are withered and frostbitten on their stems, and the remnants of Autumn’s glory now lie in patches of brown detritus scattered across the gardens.

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WAOn clear, cold afternoons, when the sky is a robin’s egg blue and the sun has just melted the frost off the shaggy lawns, I hear the machinery of modern yard maintenance fire up. Mowers, blowers, strimmers, and edgers set up a whirring, sputtering rumble that blankets the neighborhood as homeowners take advantage of a rainless November day.

For myself, I prefer to use manual tools when possible. The lawnmower, the strimmer, these I keep and use, but on bright autumn days I reach instead for the rake, the broom, and the shovel to tend my garden. I spend so much of my day working nothing but my mind–analyzing systems, cross-checking code, diagramming solutions, navigating interoffice politics–that the thought of surrounding myself with machinery and noise is abhorrent.

Before I step outside, I bundle up with scarf and gloves and quilted overshirt, but soon, as I warm to my task, these layers drop away. It takes me longer to tidy my garden than it does my more mechanized neighbors–yesterday, after a couple hours’ work, I only cleared out the patio and lower section of the back garden–but it’s a quieter time, and that’s what I want.

Peace. Serenity. Take in a clean, cold lungful of air and let it out in a frosty breath.

Repeat.

k

Typewriter

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Simple Living

One evening, when I was courting my wife-to-be, we were at my place when the phone rang. Since we were talking, I ignored the phone. “Aren’t you going to answer that?” Nope. If it was important, they’d call back (I didn’t have an answering machine). This was my relationship with technology in those days. Technology was my servant, not the reverse.

Well, sometime during the last three decades, that has changed, so I’m just now coming off a full week of an “internet fast.”

Overall, I am surprised at how easy it was. I stuck to my “going dark” guidelines so successfully that when I tried to go back online, I found that all my little electronic connectimoids needed to be charged up. The computer, the tablet, even the smartphone had gone almost entirely unused for a whole week.

What did I miss? What didn’t I miss?

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TFL Problem

I will not be employing a shabbos goy this week.

When I lived in Jerusalem, I learned about the shabbos goy. The shabbos goy is a non-Jew who will do tasks of work which are forbidden to Jews on the Sabbath. To keep everything on the up-and-up, the shabbos goy should be someone who would be on the premises anyway, such as a maintenance worker or babysitter. Thus, on the Sabbath, a shabbos goy can turn on the house’s lights or rekindle the fire (both of which are forbidden to Jews), and everyone benefits from the work that the shabbos goy did. No commandments were broken. Nothing to see here. Move along.

So, as I said, I will not be using a shabbos goy this week.

In a prevoius post, I mentioned that I was considering an “internet diet.”

Well, today it begins. Today I’ll be going dark.

I’ll be taking it One Day at a Time, but my goal is to go a full week without major technological contact.

What does that mean, specifically? Good idea. Let’s define terms…

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TFL ProblemYesterday, I started and then deleted no fewer than six posts. My mind was fragmented by circumstances and events, leaving me unable to concentrate on anything.

I started posts on the usefulness of writing conventions, on the reasons for using a pseudonym, on office “open” floorplans, on my reputation as an arrogant bastard, etc., etc. I tried repeatedly, but could not cohere my thoughts to a single subject long enough to form a reasonable discourse.

What was going on? (more…)

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There is nothing so infuriating to my liberal mind than FWPs–First World Problems–and this week I have been beset with them.

Why do I find them so infuriating? Because with each FWP, with each annoyance, with each disruption to my life and my regular routine, as I climb the mountain of frustration, as I reach the pinnacle, the apex of exasperation, I am also acutely aware of how lucky I am.

I know that, should I step away from the desk in my home office, take my iPad and a fresh cup of coffee out onto the deck and wirelessly tippy-tap my woes out into the social medium, my friends (who are also online) will rally to my side, nod sagaciously (albeit virtually), and say “There, there” in their myriad, understanding ways. I also know that my rant, were it to come before the eyes of someone outside my tiny, privileged world, someone who had real problems, it would be met with gaping incredulity.

  • I have a connection to the internet.
  • I have a handful of devices with which I can connect to the internet.
  • I can connect to the internet wirelessly.
  • I can connect from my home.
  • I have a deck on which I can take a break from my job.
  • I have a job I can do from my home.
  • I have a job.
  • I have a home. 
  • I have fresh coffee.
  • I have water. In my home.
  • I have food. In my home.
  • I have a loving spouse.
  • I am healthy.

So, as the top of my brain is screaming because the latest upgrade to Widget-Master 19 has completely destroyed my DirectAccess Connectivity Assistance Service, thus forcing me to lose two whole days’ worth of work as I re-install and re-configure everything on my workstation, as my inner Time Management Center goes ballistic because the weeds in the back garden are growing faster than I can find time to pull them, and as my personal I-Want-It-All-Now nodes are confounded by rain (no drives in the convertible), the rest of me, my deep-brain reality receptors, they know that it’s all hogwash; it’s all just silliness and maundering.

In short, I’ve got it good, and I’m going to shut up, now.

k

Simple Living

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Simple LivingThe holiday season always brings out my Inner Curmudgeon.

I won’t bore you with a crabby, cliché-riddled tirade against materialism and the mania that infects our nation during the calendar’s final months. You’ve heard that many times by now, and you’re either down with it or you’re down at the mall.

But there are other things we do, sabotaging our own best interests in the name of Holiday Spirit. We do them unconsciously. We never question them. To do so would be heresy. So that’s what I aim to do.

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I’ve just seen what is possibly the most ridiculous premise for a television show, ever.

It has long been a fact of life in my house that, if we like a show, it gets canceled. If a show is sharp and well-written, it will probably get the mid-season axe (Yes, shows like “Firefly,” and yes, I am a Browncoat, but let’s not even go there.)

Well-written shows are thin on the ground these days. Ironically, broadcast television and the major networks—once the movers and shakers of primetime—are sinking to new and totally unimpressive lows, scything back scripted shows like Death himself, while pumping the pabulum of competition and so-called “reality” shows into our living rooms like cut-rate meth. Basic cable is the new frontier, and it’s doing some great work, but examples are few and far between.

As a consumer of television fare, I’m a tough market, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief—a lot—if you give me a good plot, some good writing, and some good acting to carry me along. Shows like “Awake” and “Journeyman” (both defunct) came with the sort of setup that required a healthy suspension of disbelief, but they both paid great dividends in the writing and the intricate plots. The writers for these shows put some serious effort into building a basis for the shows, and as incredible and hard-to-believe as the premises were, they had a logic that was integral to the worlds they inhabited. They made sense, and you didn’t have to dump a trainload of fundamental truths in order to go along with them.

Every story, every novel, no matter how bizarre the setting, must have an internal logic. If it doesn’t make sense, we won’t buy it. You can have wizards and dragons and disc-shaped planets and time travel, you can break every rule of physics and change the course of history, but if you don’t explain it or worse, if you can’t explain it, your reader/viewer will be lost to you. If you don’t respect the reader enough to craft a believable plot, you just don’t respect the reader.

This weekend, while watching the Olympics, it was impossible to avoid the ad blitz for the new NBC show, “Revolution.” The JJ Abrams nametag was intriguing, as was Jon Favreau’s direction for the pilot, and post-apocalyptic setting (thankfully sans zombies) looked okay. But what was the premise? That suddenly all the electricity stopped working? No, seriously, what’s the premise?

I did a search to find out exactly what I was missing. I found that the show was set fifteen years after

…an unknown phenomenon permanently disabled all advanced technology on the planet, ranging from computers and electronics to car engines and jet turbines and batteries.

Oh my.

So, NBC has postulated a phenomenon that was somehow smart enough to know what it was going to disable (Batteries? Really?) I don’t know about you, but an old car engine isn’t “advanced technology.” The internal combustion engine is, essentially, just like, fire, you know? And not only is it smart enough to know what it’s going to disable, it’s completely undetectable, and the entire world is unable to figure out what it is or where it came from or how it did it. This big thing happens, and that’s it. Nothing else happens afterward; no alien invasion, no nano-technological Brownian machines ravage the world, no super-criminal demands a ransom. Nothing. So, this “lights out” moment is totally natural, totally unknown, and totally arbitrary.

But, it’ll probably be a hit because it’s got pretty people swinging swords.

k

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