Posts Tagged ‘chad calease’
TAG transcends cultures, ages, races, and politics. Long after childhood it remains an innate part of us as we discover our identities and pursue whatever it is we choose throughout the rest of our lives.
Enjoy this brief, stream-of-consciousness meditation on TAG, featuring stories from the voices of people of all ages and cultures around the world sharing their names and rules, just some of the infinite variants of this game that touches us all in seen and unseen ways.
(best with headphones in a quiet room)
Are not scientists, more than anyone, acutely aware that the data tells only a slice of the story? Would not anyone truly, passionately in search of an answer (an accurate one) be more likely to ask themselves something like:
Only the whole story tells the whole story?
And would it be worthwhile to ask something like:
Even though largely at odds with one another, the “hard” and “soft” sciences need each other?
Storytelling may very well be the oddball cousin of the two that bridges them more successfully than any other? If so, for good storytellers the future seems to be very bright, indeed.
While a nice spreadsheet or graph might be a quick read and enable us to draw fast conclusions, reassuring us with a false sense of control, only the whole story tells the whole story. Infographics sort of work better, at least tell us more but only if we possess the right kind of visual literacy. That is another post, though, so let us not be distracted. This post is about storytelling and the underestimated power of it. To hear a whole story? Well, it takes as long as it takes. Someone has to listen. To. The. Whole. Story.
Have we been warned enough already against such paraphrasing of knowledge? Lots of people, smart, accomplished people have tried to tell us, and we even throw those quotes around like cocktail party anecdotes. Is data alone ironic? Is it like measuring the weight of all the water coming into the boat?
It bears repeating: only the whole story tells the whole story. Storytelling is gaining real street cred, emerging as a hard science right in front of our eyes.
It is an understatement to say YouTube has changed things. It has replaced Encyclopedia Britannica (merely an artifact from another age of learning) as the de-facto go-to resource for everything everyone may want to know, including how to fix an engine, cook dinner using a recipe, even how to tie our shoes. It is a utility, now. Like turning on a faucet, we expect water to come out.
For better or worse, YouTube may be best described as a showcase of fandom, attempts at something indescribable but driven largely by simply being a fan. A kind of fandom that morphs meaning, bends perception, voices expression, and yes, sometimes dilutes meaning. Still, each misguided attempt, flat-out mistake, or gleaming triumph of these efforts teaches, distracts, entertains, annoys, and surprises us. When was the last time a young human shared their favorite YouTube video with you? Next time it happens, instead of watching the video, watch them watch it. Watch them revel in it. Watch them be a fan.
The definition of fan is tricky. Most think of it in the context of sports or entertainment. In that context, it can be both good and bad to be a fan. It can be psychologically unhealthy. It can also be positive. All things in moderation. This is not the kind of fandom I am talking about.
For me, being a fan is something very diferent. It involves unbridled curiosity and the confidence to express it whenever and wherever we experience it. I think of it as a miniature and earnest expression that says, “I bow down to you and your awesomeness.”
Finding awesomeness in such moments leads us to joy, to humour, to the fine appreciation for all that is right and good in the world – to fandom. It is this spirit that is our best defense against the tough parts of living, the grumpy moods, dealing with bullies, and even our own self-doubt. It is contagious. No one would be inspired to do or make anything if they had no sense of it and were not a fan of other people and their actions or ideas. Can following that spirit lead to other ideas, invention, and potentially innovation?
Fandom and humour are cousins, whimsical and mischievous. Even at their worst, they create bonds between us. At their best, laughter, and where there is laughter, is there not promise?
Are you a human? Do you like to swim? How about free-diving? Static free diving is interesting too, I suppose. I occasionally have dreams of free diving and wake up thinking I am deep. Guillaume, though, he does this sort of thing for real. Here, he plunges into Dean’s Blue Hole. Nuts. I’ll spare us all the metaphors.
It’s the 27th day of the month today. Turns out, the number 27 is singular. The Internet can tell us why, mathematically, the number 27 is so unique. For example, 27 is a perfect cube (3 cubed), a completely balanced equation. In math, that is truly saying something.
The number 27 pops up a lot, which is what led me to learn more about it. While I was at it, just for kicks, I made a list of 27 things my ideal 27-sided-self values. Please note, I do not take myself too seriously here, rather this is simply an exercise, a playlist, of thoughts and notions on moving the ball closer to the goal of growth, being a better communicator: a better pal, partner, father, son, and generally well-balanced cube, er, dude:
1 – Arguably, one of the greatest strengths may be helping others feel more comfortable being themselves. This does not imply enabling others to cultivate their hurtful traits, rather their best, most productive and positive ones.
2 – “Please” and “thank you” are two of the best parts of any language.
3 – Good moods are contagious. Spread them like colds.
4 – Be mindful of others’ aural, physical, and visual space. We all have different boundaries.
5 – Respect and trust require respect and trust.
6 – Words and tone of voice deliver packages to others. Stop sometimes and wonder what it may be like to receive them.
7 – Short fuses burn ourselves and others. Take a moment, get all the facts, or step away until it passes.
8 – Being open to constructive criticism is worth risking the initial discomfort of trying it on. Nothing to lose.
9 – Read, preserve, and share books and stories. Like music, they are the crux of so many good things.
10 – Good aesthetics are like good manners. Create atmospheres that foster acceptance. See #1.
11 – Any voices inside that say “You are not good enough” are illusions, shadows of fear. Break through them.
12 – Skills are not demonstrated better than by putting them to good use for a good cause.
13 – Laugh. Play. Pause objectives. Let fun in. It is not irresponsible or a waste of time.
14 – When I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, pause and read #24.
15 – Keep moving forward. Giving up is easy. Building anything good takes compromise, resources, and work.
16 – Things work out whether I like it or not. Do not underestimate the “unswerving punctuality of chance.”
17 – Do not be afraid to accept or admit we each need someone who does not give up easily.
18 – Forgive ourselves. Moments of weakness do not make us fundamentally weak, only fundamentally human.
19 – Make and share good, healthy, and tasty food with friends whenever possible.
20 – Risk being affectionate and vulnerable.
21 – Keep money and ‘need vs. want’ in perspective. Measuring against others is an empty pursuit. See #11.
22 – A brief stop to smell the roses is worth being ever-so-slightly late for on occasion.
23 – Values only mean something if stood by when inconvenient.
24 – Stress kills slowly and silently. Reduce it by taking a break, a walk, reading, writing, or something else. Don’t do too much of any one thing all the time. Try to find balance in work and play.
25 – Music in any shape or form helps everything.
26 – Stop and listen. A clear mind is open to ideas.
27 – Keep it simple. Show up and do your best.
Certainly, there are many moving parts to our success in pushing the envelope of what is possible, how fast we can go, how far we can push, how much we can take to exceed our previous attempts. Fear and anxiety, and our capacity to overcome them, are key. Physicality, mental toughness, preparation, are all important ingredients that separate good from great. In addition to these, however, is technology and some say it is disrupting the integrity of competition. Some disagree, saying it is only driving us to greater heights, faster times, higher achievement.
Over time, technology has played a deeper and deeper role in the overall performance of what athletes are capable of. From the obvious gear-driven needs, wants and wishlists of the elite, trickle down conventions that change the game, literally, for the masses.
Consider any sport, from skiing to basketball, race car driving to swimming. Each and every sport is touched in some way by technology, even if not visible on the surface. Doping affects the metabolism of athletes, allowing them greater lung capacity or overall strength and endurance. Biological, chemical, and mechanical technologies are playing key roles in competition now, whether we like it or not. Have they always?
There are many examples to think about. Just in my own lifetime, the introduction of instant replay changed everything. When Speedo introduced Shark Suit technology, the swimming world was turned upside down, while records were being broken by larger-than-ever-margins. Likewise, the ski world has been revolutionized from long, stiff skis like the Volkl P9s of the 80′s to today’s parabolic designs that accommodate all-mountain competition, which means one pair does it all: bumps, steep and deep, or GS. Whatever you want. Radical. Radical? That’s not really radical anymore. This is radical.
While all of these advancements are cool, they are each and every one moving closer and closer towards the same question, I think:
when will it open the conversation for a complete and total permissive class of competition, one that allows for any and all-out enhancement, whatever the risk or cost?
Imagine a class of competition in every sport like open classes in auto racing where anything goes. What would that look like? The most radical and extreme would compete against each other, offering a true spectacle. With Olympic and pro athletes already pushing the limits of what conventional rules allow for, such a thing may not far away. Ethics could play a role but – ticket sales often trump them.
So imagine we are there now. What would it look like? I imagine a sort of International Race of Champions (where each driver races the exact same car), for every sport emerging where each competitor is offered the same enhancements and technology. Imagine each takes the same performance-optimizing drugs, suits up with the latest state-of-the-art gear, modifications, etc. Then, these humans compete in exactly the same vein as the original IROC drivers. Let them modify to the hilt and go for it. See who comes out on top in every sport imaginable. Some would argue it’s already happening but only behind the scenes. Who knows?
It was discontinued in 2006, but in each of the IROC races, each driver had the exact same car: same chassis, same engine, same modifications, same tires, everything. So, in the end, it came down to the drivers. A great driver never blames the car.
You’re a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust. What do you have to be scared of?
Buddhists sometimes meditate on the vision of their own corpse. Imagine that for a moment. That this whole thing is temporary, accepting the inevitability of death is an act of courage that opens life up to even more capacity for joy by basking in the fleeting nature of it. No one makes it out of here alive, as Dad says.
How counter-intuitive. Perhaps that’s why I find this particular assembly of words so motivating and beautiful.
Buddhists also believe the soul never dies. Giving in to the impermanence of the idea of life, at least in the sense most of us think of it, is incredibly liberating.
With so many of our loved ones passing on in front our eyes, it helps to bend the days thinking in a more conducive way, thereby approaching, processing, and getting on with what we have left of it.
Keeping fear at bay is a life pursuit for most of us. Fear is the mind-killer. This phrase that so conveniently spread around the internets over the past year has brought me much comfort, not to mention, something to meditate on. What is left to fear when the odds of such an odd combination of forces have converged to give me even just a quick passage of life here on this strange, blue planet.
We have no idea what we are doing here, really, so there is no manual, no proper-way, no right or wrong way to do anything we do. We are pioneers falling, spinning, floating, on a sphere within a sphere, within a sphere, stuck to this particular sphere by gravity? All the while, inside, a ghost of some kind drives our meat-coated skeleton made from dust fallen from the stars? Really? What do we have to be afraid of?
Building things is an existential endeavor. It takes mettle. Mettle requires an optimism inherent in the doing. It is the spirit within which the work is done that makes something great and powers said mettle. It is a self-powering process that feeds itself forward.
My new favorite form of building is taking an idea that is not so good off the start and making it great. Spending so much time these days playing with a 2-year-old, I notice how much better I am getting at letting him lead the play, come up with the ideas, and then we build on them. This is not to say he only comes up with not-so-great ideas. Quite the contrary. His ideas are generally incomplete, mostly. He is the perfect collaborator for this. He has no ego in the way, yet. In fact, he’s a little idea machine. His ideas just need a little help being shaped is all. That’s where I get to come in.
Puppet shows are a good example. He will choose a toy. Lately his favorite is Dora, followed distantly by “Country Bear,” a stuffed bear who talks only with a Southern accent. He will start it off, chatting them up. I will wait and see if it sticks. Sometimes he’s only into it for literally a few moments. If it sticks, before we know it we have a full-blown puppet show going on behind the couch and the stories get pretty far out there. He’s two so anything goes but the atmosphere we create feels more improv than toddler’s play space.
Any process of creating an unassuming atmosphere is pretty much a perfect approach to any problem-solving scenario. I think back on some of my experiences in various fields and recall how I solved this problem or that. It is clear to me that what is really going on here, what this sweet little boy is teaching me, is showing me how to collaborate in a new and highly effective way. I have always been a pretty playful type when it comes to solving creative problems but this experience has gratefully taken it all to a new level. It has less to do with control and more to do with building trust through fun and letting the idea meander – even if it isn’t particularly interesting at first. In short order, it will turn into something playful and fun and then the real rubber begins to hit the road.
Figures Plato would say something like this:
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
As grown-ups we tend to glob onto specific ways of doing most everything. The more we age and the more we get set in those ways, the less magic we allow into the whole experience, perhaps, because we begin to start thinking we have seen it all or have run out of interesting new ideas. Who needs new ideas?
What I mean is, I remember when this little boy first showed up. I was frightened that I would run out of ideas. I honestly did. I can clearly see what I was looking at when I thought I would most definitely run out of cool things to do and say and teach this little life. What a bunch of malarky – number one – but number two is the best part. Number two is: what about taking an idea that is not so hot and slowly, intentionally making it great? That’s where it’s at. Let the not-so-awesome ideas come out. What a great framework within which to build something that is truly great. Intentionally start with an idea that isn’t awesome? Talk about taking the pressure off.
Not so sure why I was ever so afraid of sharing ideas that were less-than-stellar. Now, thanks to the influence of Little Mister New to Everything, I have a new perspective on how to approach building things, creative work specifically and problem solving in general.
That’s how it’s done.
The sound was deafening. I heard it and felt it the way winds can suddenly howl like banshees and blow open weak doors. With a shudder, the stillness of the dark broke like a bomb going off during a prayer.
The dream of falling startled me awake in the strangeness of that place, on the edge of the bed. So familiar and solid, though, for such a shaky thing, that dream.
The night, it did not change. It remained, by measure of all physical senses, intact. Cars continued to pass outside, tires whispering on streets, headlights glimmering through the window and panning across the wall. The room still smelled of clean laundry and burnt coffee. The trees continued to sway in the breeze, branches dancing shadows in the light of the Moon. My hands in my hair, flat and greasy, the coiff of sleep deprivation. The seconds hand continued its barely-audible tick-tock rotation around the clock as it hung on the wall above a table overcrowded with flower arrangements, cards, and photographs.
Our Mother was gone. Slipped away in the stillness. In between moments.
Some time has passed. On April 25th, it will have been a year since her passing. Since then, we have been busy as bees, survivors rebuilding our respective hives, far-flung here and there. ‘Home’ is no longer a centralized reference point we once kept somewhere safe in a room in our minds.
Things will disperse, given enough time. Is it true to say that it is their default? Is it only by real intervention something will hold still for any time at all? Is it the nature of most things to mingle back into the fray of time and memory?
Fortunately, given enough time, the frayed can also be arranged back into some semblance of order. It is what I seem to spend my energies doing, lately. There is comfort in it, even though deep down, beneath the hidden machinery, I am aware of its temporalness. Is that even a word? Guess so.
As for me, personally, I channel the discomfort into creative endeavors. The heavy stuff of life is also the greatest muse. Having removed myself from the company of wolves in sheeps’ clothing has been a boon, too. The energy I surround myself with is just as important as the thoughts I choose. As such, things continue to reconstruct themselves, even as I rest. I daresay there are moments I am grateful for the cleanliness with which such massive life changes have conveniently happened so collectively. Such huge shifts have all been rolled into a seemingly single season. Having pulled all my wisdom teeth at once, as it were, rather than at intervals, may make the procedure more widespread and painful but the healing will be complete in shorter order.
Irony may be worth the weight of all the water coming into the boat but when the winds get wacky and seas begin to rise, the mindful survive. The panicked perish. Cooler heads clear of mistrust and open to the world will triumph over the prevailing winds of fear and doubt, no matter how loudly they howl.
There is unbelievable strength in leveraging grief in positive ways, especially as others enter the narrative and begin to make impressions on the shape and direction this boat is taking. Meanwhile: bow pointing sternly into the waves, wind packing into freshly sewn sails, mast aligned to the sky, making steady headway into what cannot be known.
The French have a phrase for the set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes that operates as a unifying force within society. The term was initially introduced by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his Division of Labour in Society in 1893.
They say it like this: conscience collective (imagine saying it with a French accent).
It is difficult to debate.
What we do not know is so much more interesting that whatever it is we think we do. 1000 years from now, or even 100, most of what we spend our resources proselytizing will likely be laughable. We may very well be the barbarians of our age.
Still, we keep trying. The interesting thing is how discoveries seem to come in droves.
This idea of collective consciousness is interesting to meditate on because suddenly, out of the blue, things happen. Songs are written, innovations are made, similar ideas proclaimed all around the world simultaneously, that resonate a common feeling or notion or sudden awareness, need, or desire. There is no empirical formula for it or words to describe it.
When an artist hits a nerve, for example, we might pay close attention on personal, professional, emotional, and physical levels – levels even that we do not currently acknowledge or know of. We can know what we know. We can know what we don’t know. We can also not know what we don’t know. I digress.
These movements must happen for no uncertain reasons, influenced by some inertia, a motion of thought or experience or longing? The unseen has properties. Even more interesting is how these collective notions, or trends, are noticeable to only a very few, in turn inspiring innovation across contexts, industries, and cultures.
With the uprooting of business culture, the seemingly overnight arrival and continuing emergence of technology into our lives that has rendered many illiterate, including markets and cultures shifting in HUGE ways, the rising of underdogs and rallying of Dark Horses around the globe, it may be no surprise that certain songs, paintings, films, literature, spawned in a certain way, are all birthed from a collective feeling, a united yawp.
In the end, an interesting question might be: has art always foreshadowed the future in some esoteric language?
Recently, some educators I work with asked me what I thought the most important skill children can learn is. The question came to me in the context of technology, as I am responsible for technology operations and integration at a private school in the city of Chicago. I try to answer these questions as best I can and in the context they are asked. This is a huge question, one that transcends technology, and my off-the-cuff inclination, which was to say simply, “collaboration,” was not nearly going to cover it. My answer involves much more than that.
Perhaps it would be useful to provide some back story regarding why I do not default to a pro-technology answer in these situations, as is often the expected result from the folks who ask them:
From my perspective, technology just as easily gets in the way as often as it provides solutions. I realize this is not the type of outlook most “tech people” have but I can safely say I am not a bona fide “tech guy” for a couple of reasons. First, I was not formally trained in technical sciences in the traditional sense. I was instead self-taught through experience in various fields and my own tinkering. I learned most about systems and theory by trial and error in tandem with the good fortune to be mentored by some very smart and talented people who were not all technically fluent (though some very much so). Second, I am fortunate to have worked in multiple disciplines and sectors in unique technical capacities, in heavy adaptive, integrative, and creative contexts.
Being steeped in interdisciplinary use of these tools shaped and now informs my perspective in a refreshing way, specifically where and when tools are assets and/or obstacles to a culture, both in the short and long view. In other words, I have seen, and continue to see, the same patterns over and over again. These patterns do not always move as solutions where and when technology is involved, but you don’t have to take my word for it. We get in the way with our cultural choices more than we think.
Therefore, my default starting point is typically from a place of questioning revolving around existing tools. Are they working? Where? Are they failing? Where? Are they capable of more? Could they be modified in a way that would empower the culture to solve their challenges out-of-the-chute? If not, what additional level of complexity (the addition of tools, perhaps technology) can be leveraged to provide a solution that produces enough improvement to warrant a shift (displacement, really) of the working culture?
In other words, technology is the easy part. Designing, architecting, and implementing these tools is rather trivial when compared to integrating them into a culture. That is the real challenge and knowing when and where disruption of a culture is necessary in order to move it forward and where to allow it to grow without such invasive intervention is a tough call, requiring multiple perspectives in order to formulate the clearest picture of what the advantages and disadvantages will be, across contexts and disciplines.
What we are talking about is problem-solving here, in its simplest and also most complex forms. It is a process, but one that is less about technology and more about people. The most critical skill in designing and creating these solutions, and enabling the people we designed them for to be able to use them most effectively, is recognizing strengths in others. Bending the tools to the culture, rather than the other way around. Design is being present and mindful of the user.
For example, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant a change we make to a workflow is, we can always expect a certain level of push back from the culture within which it resides. Leveraging the strengths of the team is the key ingredient to success in any case. Empowering others to do their very best work, making them feel more comfortable being themselves, is non-negotiable in regards to radical changes (and, let’s face it, any change will be perceived to be radical) to any culture.
Through illustrating this, demonstrating this for our children, we can rest assured that we have done and are doing everything we can to instill in them this idea. By helping others succeed, we, too will succeed. In the end, perhaps, is this more a conversation about building community than integrating technology or teaching a specific skill set? Seems like the best teams do this without thinking about it – the goal is clear and when we are playing at it in earnest, the machine fires on all 16-cylinders and next thing we know we have accomplished more together as a whole than the sum of each our individual parts.
So, this has been a long way of answering the question. To put it simply, I suppose I could have just said:
some of the most important skills we may be able to teach our children are related to the art of alliance and how to recognize strengths in others. From a leadership standpoint, this is about finding a solutions-oriented approach to challenges that include everyone in the group. Such an approach gives the group, and each of its members, a sense of purpose. Purpose builds a sense of belonging and ownership in the work and thereby empowers everyone to do their very best work, regardless of the context.
Perhaps it is no wonder, then, why there are so many TED Talks across contexts regarding collaboration. Some great inspiration there.
Parody cancels out the Law: the currency of cool, ego, and how not to turn into just another stone-cold-hollywood pimp wannabe
Here is a prime specimen:
Bart Simpson taught us (and is arguably still teaching us and our children) that parody cancels out the law. By making light of situations, the seriousness of them is neutralized, or at least minimized. Often the extremity of them is also uncovered, depending on what law and what crime we are talking about. Add technology into the mix and things can get pretty wacky pretty quick. Besides, if we are criminals who get away with it long enough, we become revered by our very same, risk-averse, albeit schizophrenic, culture.
Kids understand this often better than most grownups. That’s why wisdom embedded in silliness gets through to them better than a serious lecture. The best teachers know this, too, especially where the linguistic, stylistic, and anthropological juxtapositions of the currency of cool are concerned. For example, letting go of the stuff we make – ideas should be open sourced – knowing and not sharing is equal to not knowing at all and in this age of consent, it is essential we prove what we know. Why are we afraid to allow something we make to become someone else’s? This guy isn’t.
Meanwhile, relinquishing our desire to own things sets us free. This may be one of the ultimate manifestations of parody canceling out the law. To emulate this requires parts popular comedian, part benevolent savior (when it’s time let’s talk to our kids about ego, though, won’t we?) and equal parts dark horse and stone-cold-Hollywood pimp. Meanwhile, are some grownups generally working at being uncool by swimming against this current rather than with it, even as they may know their risk-averse cultures alienate them further and further from their own children? Who cares? Somebody does.
So, some interesting questions might be:
How can we preserve our sense of humor without turning it into a floppy, heavy, wet blanket of faux slapstick (nowhere even as good as the real McCoy) while at the same time cultivating the better parts of it that deliver wisdom in silliness?
What ripples are made from a rock of parody thrown into a lake of the law?
What long-term implications are impressed on a culture that values order but, at the same time, values irreverence, even just to gain our attention, in the context of breaking the mold of tradition or the expected (even if just to be unexpected)?
How are marketing and advertising cultures reinforcing or working against this?
Would this approach sell more schwack for their clients while simultaneously entertaining and arguably educating a listening audience?
What hidden machinery does parody power for a culture that prides itself on innovation?
Okay, so it may be cheesy to write like this, to point out my own gratitude for access to the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, all of it, and all of the things, minutiae, we seem so gifted at overlooking. Days like today, however, find me beside myself having met someone who is without one of these and who is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, gifted with other ways to experience the world, and who reminded me that, of all the senses, there really is only one – touch.
Dash and I were at a framing shop getting a gift made, looking, touching, and talking about all the woods, canvases, and colors within, when a woman’s voice said, “Your son has a beautiful voice – you two have a most delightful bond” (complimenting this poppa’s little boy is certainly a sure way into his heart). We had the most amazing conversation. She was an artist who, after experiencing and living through a horrible car accident, had suffered brain trauma that left her without a sense of touch. Our conversation meandered in and around the senses, their value, and what comes of the absence of them. Especially touch. It is the only sense, really.
Touch is the light that graces the back of an eye, illuminates the retina, blankets cones, sends messages along the retinal nerves to the brain, all neurons firing across networks of touch, which become our perceptions. Likewise, vibrations wiggle inside ears against drums to give us our perception of life through sound. Taste is touch, too. Everything, in the end, is.
Experience is the move. The move to a new understanding, a motion towards a richer perspective. We spend our lives chasing it, striving to open up new opportunities for it, while surrounding ourselves with those who have it. A simple thing shrouded in a complicated skin, we crave it. Like water, we want to sit by it, live next to it, walk along it, sail across it, swim in it, drink it. Be it.
So many things contribute to the quality of our experience. Our choices in friends, careers, and habits are shaped by our interests and desires, which are likewise shaped by the friends, careers, and habits we allow into our lives. The cycle is fascinating and seemingly both within our control and without it at the same time. Perhaps, that’s what makes it such an elusive yet tangible thing all at once. The best things seem to work this way. A combination of choice and fate at work all at once. The simple wrapped up snugly in the complex.
Those of us with great experience generally tend to take it for granted while others seeking any at all wonder how to obtain it. A wise woman who mentored me once shared her secret to gaining experience, while ensuring its quality. She said,
Listen closely to the perspectives of someone who has not done something before. Their perspective is still fragile and open to influence. When we have experience, we tend to close our ears to amateurs, thinking we have a grasp of a skill or trade. Amateurs have an advantage in the potential of discovering things we missed along the way. Amateurs may in fact have much to teach us. Experience alone doesn’t optimize opportunities for innovation and discovery. Only openness to experience can.
Excuses. This is a meditation on excuses. Since it is, I am going to write it in the first person so there can be no mistake. I am not writing about you. I am not writing about your mistakes or your ability to justify them. That is your own business to choose to face or cover up as you like. I am only writing about excuses and my own concept of and relationship with and to them. If you hear a voice talking about you, that is all you. If that is the case, perhaps you may go write your own meditation on the excuses you make. I make no excuses for myself here. I admit nothing, other than I have an interest in and commitment to growth, which involves being honest about things like this. This is an exercise, not a fact.
I sometimes make excuses. To myself. To others. For myself. For others. Out loud. Quietly, inside. Consciously. Unconsciously. In an effort to avoid guilt or accountability, small or large? I am sure I have done this. To justify reasons for not wanting to do something? Sure. Why is making excuses so easy? Why do I have to actively and consciously shape myself against doing it? For example, I might justify my mistakes with anecdotal rhetoric that has nothing to do with accountability or resolving it. It may take me much longer to find a solution to something, directly proportionate to how much time I waste crafting an excuse that I am comfortable with. As I age, I am much more interested in solutions than excuses. Excuses rob me of learning experiences. In all fairness, though, I do not want to unfairly make excuses for writing about excuses.
What I find interesting about excuses as I age is this – I make less of them on my own behalf, as that is an active and intentional choice (why else would I be writing this?), however, I find I make excuses for friends and family as much as ever. I have only a few friends who I can speak to genuinely and tell them they really fucked up or really came through or whatever, on-the-level. Most of my casual pals are not interested in hearing it. That is okay, though, as I age I am becoming more and more tuned into each person’s comfort level. I used to do the intelligent thing. Now, I am far more interested in doing the kind thing (except in the case of challenging myself with meditations like this). Likewise, I sometimes make excuses for my family and the way they process big life events, ones we share and their own, personal ones. As a workaround, these days I have daydreams about conversations we might have about them, supporting each other, crying, screaming, laughing, evolving. Growing. I have courageous conversations with myself about them and answer their questions in the same honest and compassionate way, without resistance, without any push back against who might be “winning” or handling things better than who. I tell them how I might imagine our hangups inform each other, whether through sophisticated genetics or simple, emotional ties. In the end, we are remarkably clear about things, even as it is only an exercise in my own imagination. Why didn’t I think to discover this years ago? Certainly no surrogate for the real thing but, in lieu of that, I appreciate it if only for a chance to send them love and support in some unseen, though no less valid, way.
I have made excuses for people I once loved with all my heart who made their own mistakes of betrayal, abandonment, or isolation. I will likely not have such courageous conversations with them, either, so I have them in similar, imaginary settings. I do this for the selfish motive of uncovering more excuses I have made and, in doing so, also uncover beautiful memories. Sharing these with them is not possible but it is my reward for the exercise. Perhaps that is what makes it such a mythological ritual, this meditation, uncovering, a reverent matter intended only for myself in a certain visceral time and space. I make some silliness in the midst of it, too, as it goes, just as I might were it happening in reality. Silliness is the mechanism which works best to deliver wisdom. It is how I get through to myself. In these conversations, I uncover the excuses I made for things big and little. In the end we apologize, and wink at each other. They always end well. Funny what happens when courage is combined with accountability.
I care about what my people think and how they feel. I sometimes do not know I am helping others make excuses. It is my goal to be more aware of this. I want my people to feel good and confident and not take their insecurities out on me or abuse me as a form of affection. I realize that this is an expression for some, especially those who have endured the schisms of others for too long. It is easy to become desensitized to what is acceptable and constructive. I do not give myself permission to return that abuse as intended, no matter how they may attempt to bend, confuse, or move me into those patterns. For example, I might gently ask why someone has apologized for something out of their control. I will nudge them but only show them the door, not kick them through it. Still, I will not make excuses for making excuses helping any of them move further down a road we all may know leads back to the beginning of ugh.
I am as honest as I am able to be about this life: the roads I take are of my own design. No one makes me do anything. There are no victims in the matter of making excuses. Should I choose to not stand up for myself, that is my choice. Should I choose to make an excuse, I cannot blame anyone ex post facto for my lack of will. I can only move forward more aware of the possible outcomes of not being true to these thoughts, having experienced fully what that means in the moment and into the future. Excuses are informal fallacies of reasoning. There is simply no excuse for them. This is one of my resolutions this year, to continue being mindful of excuses and their overhead. I suppose that is why I write this. It will be interesting to revisit this in a year’s time. Meanwhile, Happy New Year.
I have aging, in part, to thank for the magnitude of gratitude I feel this season. I have enjoyed getting lost in the light of the holiday while doing an informal inventory of the things, people, experiences, and notions that have shaped me. There is something about getting older and becoming more comfortable with traditions, pushing back less and less against the angst-filled days of Gen-X-dome. Each year I age, it seems I am arguably more able to see and feel gratitude for the small things, the rituals of time that move us to slow down a bit, consider our situations, and simply be grateful. Rituals that encourage such things have great value.
Still, not to make too much light of it, getting old is a drag, no doubt. The sadness of the loss of youth does not get easier with practice. However, on the upside, can aging make us a bit more keen to be grateful and feel gratitude as the temporary nature of this life becomes more clear? Easy thing to recognize? Perhaps not for everyone. Bittersweet? Definitely. Profoundly so. It is this new “muscle” that seems to be getting plenty of exercise at this point in my life – feeling gratitude for such small notions. So, it is my hope and prayer for everyone I love that you, too, may find yourselves lost in the light of your own flavor of it this season.
For this humble narrator, there is gratitude for the new experiences and people that contribute to every insight, as I am certainly not single-handedly responsible for any of them. Spending time alone in new places, among new people, being challenged in new ways, diving deep into that experience with a minimum of fear and expectation, and generally allowing myself to enjoy the startling current of this river of living in earnest, are all ingredients that make for some mighty satisfying living. Though not easy, such intense, life-changing experiences sometimes enable us to reconnect with ourselves, again, for the first time in a very long time.
It can be easy to give up too much of ourselves, our self-identities, especially when trying to build something new, whether in our work, our love, whatever it is that gives us satisfaction in our lives. Especially when the giving or trusting are not returned in kind, it is still okay. Should it fail, we can rebuild again. And again. Isn’t this what children are so adept at? Is it why we get so much satisfaction watching them at the shore building sandcastles only to stomp them down and then to rebuilt them again, and again? Is the stomping, like the building, a sort of gift, even as it may be a counter-intuitive one? Is the stomping an equal and opposite reflection of the complimentary gifts of vulnerability and forgiveness? In this context, is it simply that sometimes we trust and it just does not work out? It does not mean we stop trusting. Or trying. Building. And rebuilding.
These ideas and questions are but small parts of the gratitude I am basking in this season.
I am grateful for the past year of challenges, for all those who have been lost, those who have been gained, and those who remain. None of these are greater, of course, than a certain little boy, who has taught me more than any single mentor so far in all my life. For new giving me so many things, like new steps towards understanding what mindfulness is, my sweet son, I owe you a lifetime of gratitude and service, something more than I can ever repay you. Thank you.
This is all just a long, drawn-out way of saying – Merry Christmas to all our friends and families. May the next year bring you all closer to your own hopes and dreams, and find us all, once again, basking in the light of gratitude.
A kiss on the cheek, for example? Is a kiss on the cheek the highest form of affection? When not used to say goodbye forever to a former friend or lover (or some other manipulative manifestation of power), does it come without agenda and without expectation? Is it a gentle gift that expects no return squeeze as a handshake? Less demanding than a more passionate kiss, does it offer affection more freely? Or as in a hug, does it transmit more to the receiver as a one-way offering of love? A one-sided hug is a sad thing. A kiss on the cheek, however, as a one-way-street-sort-of act, is solely a gift from the giver?
Regarding quotidian realms: there is always time and space for a kiss on the cheek? Aboard a crowded train? Or bus? In a tight seat on an airplane? Quickly in passing in the kitchen? In the hallway? Without contract for some greater or escalated lust or consummation? From behind the receiver in a flickering moment? It requires the receiver not even feel the transmittal of love and communication? It is, unto itself, a selfless act of giving?
Is it always flattering? In a crowd? Or an empty room? In private? Or in public? If it were a fruit, it just might be as perfect as a banana (like that one, there), comes as-is, in-and-of-itself, as a self-contained, tidy little gift of sustainability – of love, life, and grace? Is it the only form of public affection (besides hand-holding) always accepted both in the contexts of morals and ethics? Have I ever heard anyone mutter something negative about witnessing someone give another a kiss on the cheek? Is it a gift of presence? Of being in the moment, grateful, and unashamed to express it? Perhaps a singular mode of unselfishly expressing our love for someone in the moment we feel it most?
What a simple and superior thing.
Grace Murray Hopper was born on December 9, 1906. Before she passed away on January 1, 1992, “Amazing Grace” made significant contributions to the way we use computers today. The Hour of Code, a part of Computer Science Education Week, is held in her honor each year.
Grace was a pioneering American computer scientist who set milestones for many to follow. For example, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, devised by Howard H. Aiken, built at IBM and shipped to Harvard in February 1944. It began computations for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships in May and was officially presented to the university on August 7, 1944.
While engaged in this work, Grace developed the first compilers. Compilers are important to this day because they are responsible for translating human-readable code to machine languages that computers can understand. She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is also credited with creating terminology still in use today, such as popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from the computer). Debugging is a methodical process of finding and reducing the number of bugs, or defects, in a computer program or a piece of electronic hardware, thus making it behave as expected. We use this term to this day in all kinds of contexts.
Her accomplishments are far too many to list. To honor her achievement, both as an early technologist and as a Navy Rear Admiral, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as was the Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer at NERSC. There are dozens of books written about her, too, as perhaps an expression of our collective gratitude for a woman who contributed her life’s work to the collective goal of moving humankind forward.
Many months ago, I set some time aside to paint with acrylics. It had been almost a year since I had last used the medium and was interested to do so for two primary reasons. First, I was working with a group of students to help illustrate for them the value of transmediation between digital and analog art forms, specifically in the context of visual literacy. Second, I just love to paint.
Unfortunately, I had stored the acrylics in a place where they got too cold and then too warm. They were ruined. I had not been mindful of taking care of those tools. Out of character for me but I had moved and some details (such as my acrylics) were left unattended to, so I should give myself a little break. Still, here I was with the time but – no tools. To go and acquire new acrylics would have eaten up most of the time I had set aside to actually paint.
I rolled with it. I realized that I had never, up to that point, ever experimented with creating art strictly digitally, outside of filmmaking, audio recording, and coding (face it, code is art). In the context of “painting” I had only ever used physical paint. Even though not a huge fan of the vast majority of digital “art” I have experienced, I set out anyways to see what I would do limiting myself to such tools as can be found on my laptop.
Out came pixelier – something actually interesting to me if only for the exercise of it. I had intended to print and mount it right away in the post I made to remember I had done it at all, however, time and life got into the mix and it is only now that I am getting around to it. It will look quite nice, I think, printed on acrylic and hung in my office, where it will remind me that some of our best attempts, especially the ones that find us less-than-prepared with proper tools, can set us up for the happy accident of exercise rather than fact. There is not much we can know for sure. Can making art be a simple act of being comfortable in what we do not know?
I have learned most everything from my pals (or from the Internet). Every triumph and tragedy in my life I have shared with pals. I have had a grand tour of this place so far sharing it with pals. Pals have inspired me to do all kinds of things, from the ordinary, expected things, to the occasional, unexpected, extraordinary thing. I herein thank you, pals, for being there as I have been all over the place, lived and worked in the US, Alaska (it’s not really the US) and overseas, written you letters, emails, played pranks, sent gifts of time, sound, and motion picture, spent time and resources making sure you were a part of my favorite moments, lived an interesting life, owned stuff (as if it really matters): a house, condo, cars, had interesting jobs, worked for others, worked for myself, mostly to be able to share more time with pals, taken most challenges with a smile, known things that others did not and still let them discover on their own terms, raised pups into great companions, made mistakes in the raising, found lessons in the mistakes, been gifted with the powers of observation, sat on floors with children and dogs, committed time to community, played with the cats even though extremely allergic, listened to the music and conversation at the same time, believed when everyone doubted, have found comfort in present company even while stupid and wet (usually due to poor planning or capsized boats – or both), traveled extensively to the point of wanting to be planted somewhere, rocked back and forth to a mysterious rhythm only I can hear, eaten muktuk in the company of Native Elders, loved and lost, known the agony of defeat and the sweet sweet taste of victory, seen and listened to most every band play live I have ever wanted to see/hear, hiked, biked, trekked, sailed, sported, risked, sampled most everything offered graciously to me, gotten away with exquisite mischief, gifted absurd amounts of money to the less fortunate, given when I had little, accepted the grace of others, passed uplifting words to complete strangers, suffered every fool with a smile, argued with the best of them, feared the worst of them, harkened to the brightest of them, been taken in by the most well-meaning of them, spoken my feelings, hardened my heart against the most untrustworthy of them, gone against my instincts even when I knew better, tasted the fear of mobs, drawn self-portraits during times of duress, drawn self-portraits during times of prosperity, admitted I was wrong, didn’t gloat when I was right, was with Mom when she passed through this world, watched in awe as Dad survived cancer not once but twice, written secret letters to myself (some got mailed but most did not), kept a sleep journal for seven years, kept a food journal for 10 months, gained and lost mass amounts of weight, won awards of various kinds, some I cared about and some not, been respected, disrespected, shown dedication, made most decisions quickly, made a few decisions after much deliberation and negotiation, made the most of situations that did not suit me well, talked when I should have been listening, listened when I should have spoken up, added value where I saw a need, advocated for change where it added value to the collective, been listened to, ignored, loved, nurtured, misunderstood, found hope in the face of adversity, been abandoned and left for dead, redeemed, made things harder for myself, doubted my own mettle, rediscovered myself, been a friend to those who deserved it and those who did not, given second chances to those who deserved it and some who did not, said goodbye to those who only knew how to take, had empathy in the face of anger, gotten sick and fed up and said so, let go of those who cannot forgive, forgiven even when no one else understood, held onto those who would one day slip away, tried to lead when should have followed, followed when should have led, followed and led at just the right time, have escaped narrowly, cried quietly in the rain, sung loudly in the snow, slept heavily under the Moon and lightly under the Sun, have stayed awake longer than humanly possible, swam longer and farther out than most, have overcome and given in to self-doubt, have never lied just to be right, have always admitted it when I was wrong, begged to be understood, said goodbye to too many too soon, watched some falter even as I tried, screamed to try and be heard, whispered to break through, waited to make peace, hurried to try and slow down, asked for forgiveness and been both granted and denied, learned from my mistakes and even still sometimes made them again, have thrived in times of scarcity, suffered in times of abundance, been betrayed, been honest in spite of it, been courageous and calm while others panicked in fear, doubted myself when I could have been sure, been sure when it was anybody’s call, risked affection, believed enough to be vulnerable again and again, discovered kindness in the most unlikely places, felt despair beyond what is bearable, challenged out of respect and care, pushed myself while having love and wind at my back, been too firm and also wishy washy, been a hammer, been a nail, been taken for granted, taken others for granted, too, seen pals accomplish their dreams with my own two eyes, fell willingly into love, heard heavy truths without being prepared, heard untruths right from the source, kept secrets lest they dissipate in conversation, resisted with all my heart, loved with all my might, believe the unseen has properties, seen hidden messages received and missed, anticipated success, built, rebuilt, and salvaged my spirit after it was crushed again, been confused about where to go, when to hide, who to dog, and who to hold forever by my side. In truth, there would be so much less of a story without you, my pals. Thank you for being my pal. Every single one of you. I love you.
Viruses have evolved. Big time. We have many words for viruses, depending on the type. Malware refers to specific types of them. Ransomware, for example, is a type that holds a computer hostage until a fee is paid. Some ransomware just freezes our PCs and asks us to pay. These threats, typically can be unlocked without paying up using a decent anti-virus program.
However, we can avoid them altogether using some common sense. These threats all require us to click on something or do something , regardless of the type it is. To be clear, viruses do not simply “appear” on our computers without us having done something to enable them to be there.
The main thing to remember while using any device is this:
If we did not seek to do something, we should not do it.
CryptoLocker is no different, however, once activated, our PCs and software keep on working, but personal files, such as documents, spreadsheets and images, are encrypted, making them inaccessible even using Government grade tools to decrypt them. This stuff is nasty. This video explains it best:
The President, during a State of the Union, does rally the troops to begin the next industrial revolution. The launch of MakerBot Academy may indeed be an attempt to realize President Obama’s urge to: “ensure that the Next Industrial Revolution in manufacturing will happen in America.” The plan is pretty simple, and already underway, from where 3D printer maker stands. The company is launching classroom curriculum and a partnership with DonorsChoose.org and Autodesk that will bring 3D printing to the mainstream classroom. In my own learning about the available hardware, including visiting 3D Printing labs all over the city, the Rep2X is by far the most well-supported, both in terms of product and community. If I were spending my own, hard-earned money, I would spring for their stuff. An exciting initiative led by an exciting company.