Posts Tagged ‘simplification’

I’ve talked about purges before. Be it kitchen gadgets gathering dust at the back of a drawer or the varied detritus accumulated through decades of living, going through and clearing them out has become a habit for my wife and me. Every few years we take a deep dive into areas of our house and our lives, reevaluate what’s there, determine if a thing is being used and (more importantly) if it’s useful and, if we find it lacking, we repurpose, rehome, donate, and toss.

During the recent tumultuous times, we got out of that habit, but this year our commitment to the process has been renewed and, in keeping with our family motto*, it’s a big one. This time we are looking beyond clothing, books, movies, and games, extending the scope to big things like furniture, cars, and even (gasp!) television shows.

We all have shows that we watch simply because we have watched them. But shows change; sometimes they get better, and sometimes (most times) they don’t. Conversely, sometimes it is our tastes that change, while the shows stay true to their original methods. Still, in both cases, we often continue to tune in for each season.

Long ago, my wife and I developed “drop kick” rules, rules designed to provide an exit ramp from an activity that just wasn’t giving us what we wanted. We had the 40-page Drop Kick Rule for books (up to 80 pages, for longer works), and the 20-minute Drop Kick Rule for movies. This year, we added the 2-episode Drop Kick Rule for television series, and we’ve already put it into action. (Well, I have.)

The victim: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

I got myself into a speck of trouble when I mentioned on social media that this new product from the Star Trek franchise failed to pass my 2-ep DK rule. Turns out that, in some sci-fi circles, dissing Star Trek is on par with shooting a puppy in the face, a mortal sin punishable by shunning, humiliation, and digital defenestration. Luckily, I no longer put much stock in the opinions of people I don’t know, so I didn’t suffer much, but the reason for my dissatisfaction with ST:SNW is relevant and it boils down to one thing: my tastes have changed.

My complaint—that I don’t like being preached to, even when I agree with the message—was met with general derision, as my opponent (rightly) pointed out that ST:TOS was totally preachy. Yes, it was; it was progressive, groundbreaking, and preached a message of peace and unity within diversity. And I loved it.

I was also eight. 

Since then, my tastes have changed, but that’s only part of the reason ST:SNW left me cold. The messages preached by ST:TOS were embedded in the world, a foundation that was simply there, and which informed the stories the show presented. Yes, the show had the first interracial kiss on network television, but it also didn’t shine a big old spotlight on it and surround it with neon arrows so we’d be sure to get the point. Each of the first two episodes of ST:SNW were (in my opinion) ham-fisted and distinctly unsubtle in their messaging, each one wrapping up with a little “and here’s what we learned” bow-tying epilogue.

By contrast, we also started watching Star Trek: Discovery (which somehow ran under my radar for its entire existence). This show I love, as it blends episodic storytelling with a longer “meta-plot” and character development arcs, all while incorporating the same progressive foundation as the other Star Trek offerings. This is where my tastes lie now.

My wife still loves Star Trek: Strange New Worlds; she loves seeing the younger iterations of favorite characters, enjoys the strictly episodic storytelling, and can’t get enough of Ethan Peck (my wife was once blessed by Gregory Peck, and has a soft spot for Ethan as he channels his grandfather’s voice on screen). So the show passed her 2-ep DK rule, even though it failed mine.

And that’s the crux of a purge, isn’t it? To eliminate from your rooms, your house, your schedule, and your life the things that you no longer use or that you no longer enjoy. I’m not going to look down on anyone for liking something I don’t any more than I would shame them because they didn’t like salmon or loved brie. Tastes differ, and no one is hurt because you like ST:SNW or because I do not.

Seems to me that this is the main message of Star Trek, anyway.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some boxes of books to prepare for charity.


*Numquam in Dimidium Mensurae


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It’s taken a year. Or as close as makes no difference.

Last year, I initiated a purge. As part of making the (involuntary) transition from office-jockey to a full-time work-from-home employee, I pulled my office apart, replacing the major furniture and culling the—there’s no other word for it—junk that had accreted over the years. Books, letters, electronics, avocational equipment, mementos, I put absolutely everything on the block, and a lot of it went out the door.

Out the office door, that is.

It didn’t quite make it out the front door.

Just to the garage. (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiWe just passed the six-week mark since the Amazing Free Book Giveaway Weekend, and it’s time to start evaluating the entire process for success or failure. I’ll crunch the numbers later, but right now I want to discuss one of the “softer” aspects of the AFBGW.

As part of the AFBGW, I went out to LinkedIn and joined a few writers’ groups.

I joined these groups because it’s a quick way to reach a lot of people at one time. Writers are (presumably) readers as well, and some of these groups have membership up in the five-digits. With one post, I could (presumably) reach thousands and those posts could (presumably) drive traffic to my blog, my AFBGW promotion, and my books. In addition, the groups can (presumably) provide a venue in which to discuss Things Writerly, and I looked forward to entering discussions on style, debates on the value of writing disciplines, and reading posts on marketing strategies.

What I found was very different. (more…)

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Simple LivingIt’s time to make some pasta!

Why? Because if I don’t, I have to throw out my pasta maker. Them’s the rules. Yes, that’s right. I run my kitchen by Alton Brown’s “Use it or Lose it” system.

Foodies accrete clutter–That shiny new thingumbob at Sur La Table, that “People who bought that also bought this” add-on from Amazon, those stupid whatsit prezzies from well-meaning relatives. They all build up. (Some say they even multiply in the late hours of the evening, while the dishwasher is running.)

Alton’s “Use it or Lose it” system is a great way to de-clutter your kitchen and simplify your life. I strongly recommend it, if for no other reason than it provides a guilt-free excuse to get rid of all that junk. Here’s how it works.


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I rise early; dawn is just a hint behind the eastern hills. I slipper down to the kitchen for coffee, then, hot brew in hand, slipper back to the office. I snap on the worklamp, turn on the computer, then sit and sip while I wait for the heat to come up from the furnace,

Outside, dark grey clouds hang in an oyster blue sky. The rain has eased and all is quiet until, just there, from the south, down the street, I hear the call. It’s a faint “Honh!” Iike a French adolescent clearing his throat, first one, then another. I rise and step to the window. I pull aside the curtain and peer upward. “Honh, honh” gets closer, is repeated. Different voices echo the first, and craning my neck, I see them, a vee of dark wings just above the treetops. Black necks, white cheeks, beaks pointing north, they “honh” to one another. Passing instructions? Keeping tabs? Giving encouragement? They fly over my house, and I can see their fingertip feathers against the paling sky. Now past, continuing onward, their calls fade with distance as they travel, as they head north to their nesting grounds.

Every year, I hear them–south-bound in winter, north-bound in spring–and every time I smile. I live right along their route, right along the necklace of lakes and ponds that guide them: Green Lake, Bitter Lake, Twin Ponds, Ronald Bog, Echo Lake, and beyond.

They’re a bit early this year. A mild spring, then, and an early summer ahead.


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Simple LivingTo those of you who left comments and sent me notes of condolence, my thanks. They were very much appreciated in a particularly difficult time.

Upon news of my mother’s passing, my wife and I immediately left for the Bay Area. My father did not think there was much we could do to help, but I felt a strong urge to be with him and the others of our family who could make it through the weather. To grieve alone, to mourn without the consolation (and, to be frank, the distraction) of others, is a risky thing. Contrary to the old adage, Misery actually hates Company; Misery abates with each retelling of the tale, but when we are alone, Misery multiplies.

There were hopeful moments–the day-long communal effort that went into the making of our family’s traditional Xmas Eve Cioppino is a story unto itself–and there were moments of anguished heartache about which I will never tell a soul. I watched my father vacillate between anger, despair, resignation, and gratitude. Each phone call became a chore as he heard the warm words of kindness and had his own sadness renewed, his grief relived.

My father lost his first wife, my mother, almost fifty years ago after thirteen years of marriage. Now, he has lost a second wife, after forty-seven years together. The one recalls the other, and all our mourning is compounded. (more…)

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Simple LivingThese days, with so much on my mind, my natural inclination is to retreat, pull the blanket over my head, and hide. I want to shut out the world, shut off my brain, and think of nothing nothing nothing.

And some days I do just that. Returning from my mother’s bedside, I binged on the DVR’s  stacked up episodes of “Storage Wars” (both versions) and immersed myself in the mindless violence of “Borderlands 2” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops II”. Through the judicious application of Islay whisky and long bouts on the elliptical and treadmill, I’ve kept my body tired enough to sleep through the night (as long as I have to get up at 5am, that is). I’ve read nothing but posts on Facebook and emails.

In short, nothing of substance has entered my brain. I haven’t had a decent thought in days.

Enough of that.

Simplicity doesn’t come on its own. There isn’t a back-alley entrance to serenity. Peace comes from acceptance and understanding.

I must think, to accept. I must think, to understand.


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