Lyanda Lynn Haupt / Crow Planet / household spiders

“Claire knows our household spiders freakishly well. She names them all: currently we have Abigail behind the front door, Puddles in the bathroom, and a wandering Fiona. Claire monitors their webs, diagrams their whereabouts, and worries over their diets. She wonders whether it is ethical to toss an insect Abigail’s way if it seems none are finding their way to her web themselves. She puts up notes to reroute guests if their ramblings might disturb one of our arachnid roommates. She knows our household spiders every bit as well as I know the neighborhood crows, and I’m impressed with her studies.”


Lyanda Lynn Haupt / Crow Planet / household spiders

Carve Out Time for What’s Important

This is one of the rules that has served me well, as a Program Manager at Microsoft:  Carve out time for what’s important.

You don’t have time, you make time. If you don’t make time for what’s important, it doesn’t happen. This is where The Rule of Three helps. Are you spending the right amount of time today on those three results you want to accomplish? The default pattern is to try and fit them in with all your existing routines. A more powerful approach is to make time for your three results today and optimize around that. This might mean disrupting other habits and routines you have, but this is a good thing. The more you get in the habit of making time for what’s important, the more you’ll get great results. If you’re not getting the results you want, you can start asking better questions. For example, are you investing enough time? Are you investing the right energy? Are you using the right approach? Or, maybe a different thing happens. Maybe you start accomplishing your results but don’t like what you get. You can step back and ask whether you’re choosing the right outcomes for The Rule of Three.

Here are some things to think about when you’re carving out your time:

  • How much time minimum should you spend today for each of your three outcomes?
  • How much time maximum should you spend today for each of your three outcomes?
  • Are you spending too much energy in below the line activities? (This is where you’re just treading water and making it through each day, but not actually getting ahead.)
  • Are you spending enough time in above the line activities? (This is where you feel you’re on top of your day and investing your time where you get the most impact.)
  • Are you investing time in the most important Hot Spots in your life: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, fun?

This is a tip from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way (now on a Kindle), a time management system for achievers.  You can test drive the system by taking the 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results, a free time management training course.


Carve Out Time for What’s Important

If you acknowledge all this resistance and act on your plan anyway, you will make one of the most liberating discoveries possible for a human being—that you can take constructive action in any moment no matter what you feel, and no matter what excuses occur to you.

In short, you are free. Thoughts come and go. Feelings arise and fade. But none of them need to stop you from living a meaningful life based on your values.

Sometimes we do find the words to express an idea, and only then realize what a stupid idea it is. This experience would suggest that our thoughts are not as clean and beautiful as we would like to believe. Instead of blaming language for failing to capture our thoughts, maybe we should thank it for giving some shape to the muddle in our heads.

Using Keyboard Maestro to fix Safari 5.1 keyboard dumbnesses

Part of a keyboard containing Insert, Home, Pa...

The MikeBook has been receiving tons of app upgrades due to Lion (haven't upgraded yet; waiting a few months for the bugs to shake out).

In general, the app upgrades have caused no problem except for Safari, which disabled the Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys. I mean...what?? Sorry, Apple, but I don't have a Magic Trackpad, and I still use my quaint little keyboard to navigate through my web pages.

Fortunately, a poster to this thread on the Apple support forum provided the secret handshake:

  • COMMAND UP ARROW takes you to top of page
  • COMMAND DOWNARROW takes you to bottom of page
  • OPTION UPARROW takes you up a page
  • OPTION DOWNARROW takes you down a page

So, using the wonderfulness that is Keyboard Maestro, I remapped my Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys to the above keystrokes. Now, I can use my keyboard the way God (and not Apple) intended.

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Vivian Maier

In 2007, John Maloof ran across a storage locker at a thrift auction house that contained over 100,000 negatives of pictures. The photos spanned the years from the 1950s–1990s and were primarily urban scenes of Chicago and New York. Maloof began posting the pictures on a blog and dug into the life of the woman who had taken these pictures: Vivian Maier. It took a lot of detective work, but it turned into a labor of love for Maloof, who has parlayed his interest in Maier and her photos into a handsome site, exhibitions, a film, and a book.

I particularly love her urban photos, seemingly taken on the fly, the sort of thing you might see yourself as you briskly walk past a street person or sightseers or a woman talking on a telephone. They’re wonderfully evocative of a different place and time.

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Everything You Want, You Already Have « Books for Behavior Change

Hoffman explains the nature of his work by offering an extended analogy. In the process, he deftly summarizes a lot of Eastern spiritual teachings.

Unfortunately, the clip omits Hoffman’s concluding line—one that throws the premise of many self-help books into question. Here’s that line:

“When you get the blanket thing, you can relax, because everything you could ever want or be, you already have and are.”

That statement might be a profound paradox—or pure nonsense. What do you think?


Everything You Want, You Already Have « Books for Behavior Change

The Church of Rationality

Years back, when I was an angry young man, I read an interview with Phil Collins. Phil Collins might seem like an inappropriate music interest for an angry young man, and that’s right, but I was also a bored young man; it seems the two often go together.

Anyway, Collins said something remarkable, along the lines of, “Most people I only meet once in my life. I start on the assumption that they’re not arseholes.” That swept me off my feet. What a completely counterintuitive approach to human relations! It got me thinking, and should I ever write an autobiography, I’m afraid there’ll have to be a chapter entitled, “My adult life began when I read an interview with Phil Collins,” which is not the kind of thing blockbusters are made of.

Anyway, here’s a variant of the Collins Maxim: If someone criticizes you based on what appears to be a misunderstanding of what you meant, consider the possibility that theirs is a reasonable interpretation of what you actually said. Otherwise, it could be you who comes across like an arsehole.


The Church of Rationality

A Flapper's Dictionary

Ran across this delightful post from a used bookseller in Pennsylvania. He acquired the July 1922 edition of Flapper magazine and reproduced an uncredited article that listed phrases and jargon that, while probably quite cheeky at the time, seem quaint and amusing now. It’s fun working out the chain of associations that lead from the slang to the definition.

I wonder really how old the writer of the article was; I smell a fuddy-duddy who wants to appeal to the “with-it” generation. I could imagine a Beatnik or Hippie dictionary article of the same stripe.

Some of my favorites:

  • Cancelled Stamp—A wallflower.
  • Embalmer—A bootlegger.
  • Eye Opener—A marriage.
  • Father Time—Any man over 30 years of age.
  • Strike Breaker—A young woman who goes with her friend’s “Steady” while there is a coolness.
  • Rock of Ages—Any woman over 30 years of age.
  • Meringue—Personality.
  • Lallygagger—A young man addicted to attempts at hallway spooning.
  • Houdini—To be on time for a date.
  • Smith Brothers—Guys who never cough up.

 


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Why goal setting doesn't work | Psychology Today

L.A. King and C.M. Burton in an article entitled, The Hazards of Goal Pursuit, for the American Psychological Association, argue that goals should be used only in the narrowest of circumstances: “The optimally striving individual ought to endeavor to achieve and approach goals that only slightly implicate the self; that are only moderately important, fairly easy, and moderately abstract; that do not conflict with each other, and that concern the accomplishment of something other than financial gain.”


Why goal setting doesn’t work | Psychology Today

Sitcom Geek: Script Competitions

If you can write - and you also write a superb script (not the same thing) - producers will want to meet you and stuff will happen. It’s all about the script. Don’t sell it short. Don’t let it go off half-cock. Plan it. Mull it. Research it. Filter it. Replan it. Write it. Rewrite it. Edit it. Put it to one side. Forget it. Then get it out. Read it. Re-read it. Edit it. Then put in some more jokes. Then cut some of them out. And check it over again. It might then be ready to send.

It takes ages. Even if you’re talented. Perhaps the proliferation of competitions gives people the idea that anyone can have a go because writing is easy. It is true that anyone can have a go. But it isn’t easy. I’ve been doing it for over ten years professionally and only now am I starting to think I might have the beginnings of a clue as to what I’m doing. But I do know this. Talent is fine. But there is no substitute for hard work.


Sitcom Geek: Script Competitions

Fibonacci sonnets

I have lately been enjoying a blog by Austin, TX artist/writer Austin Kleon, and have been happily plundering his archives for posts on sketching, storytelling, art, and the like.

I was charmed by this post: Writing The Fibonacci Sonnet. It's a neat little writing trick that uses the Fibonacci numbers (1,1,2,3,5,8, 13, 21) to create short short stories with sentences that have one word, one word, two words, three words, and so on. Kind of like haiku, except counting the words in the sentences instead of the syllables.

It also reminds me of the poet Jonathan Williams' dotty "meta-four" poems, where each line only had four words. An example of one of his meta-four poems in this Guardian UK obit. Here's a meta-four from another appreciation of Williams:

estimated acres of forest

henry david thoreau burned

down in 1844 trying

to cook fish he'd

caught for dinner 300


Compulsively, we compare ourselves with those around us and find our lives wanting: other people seem to have found meaning, while we’re still searching. Partly, that’s because we have no direct access to their inner torment. But it also may be because they’re not looking for meaning in the first place. Perhaps that’s a blessing of sorts, but it’s hardly the enviable state of fulfilment we imagine must suffuse their lives. Being the kind of person who seeks answers in life is troublesome enough. There’s no point feeling inferior to those who aren’t even asking the questions.

A student or a scholar

One of the things I discovered about myself during the past year is that I'm a student, not a scholar. I've always thought of myself as a "lifelong student," but I'm not sure I really understood what that meant till recently.

In my view, a master's candidate is a student, a PhD candidate is a scholar. The differences are many: the difference between being an amateur (student) and a professional (scholar), between minor league and major league, between levels of commitment in terms of time, energy, passion, and dedication.

For me, a lifelong student retains the joy of learning new things and loves sampling the buffet. That's been me, that will always, probably, be me. The scholar, I think, takes a deeper interest and is best served (at least in their early years) by not flitting from flower to flower. Also, the way academe is structured, scholars are professionally groomed for a tough job market; the decisions they make today on the research they publish will have repercussions years down the line. The student, I think, lives more in the moment, or at least has a shorter time horizon for the satisfying of their desires.

As I'm sure I've said in other posts, I like taking classes. This seemed to separate the student from the scholar, in my brief experience. I think I'm one of the "Scanners' that Barbara Sher describes in her book Refuse to Choose: someone who loves the novelty and variety of learning and resists constraining themselves to a single specialty.

Reminds me of these quotes by Bill Moyers on the fun of being a journalist:

A journalist is a professional beachcomber on the shores of other people's wisdom ... A journalist is basically a chronicler, not an interpreter of events. Where else in society do you have the license to eavesdrop on so many different conversations as you have in journalism? Where else can you delve into the life of our times? I consider myself a fortunate man to have a forum for my curiosity.

Had I stuck it out in the PhD realm, my chosen research style would have been that of a journalist. The challenge for my life now, I think, is to elevate that curiosity and focus from a hobby done in my spare time to a respected place of prominence at the center of my life and how I choose to spend the rest of my years on the planet.