The Ache of Inaction

Too tired to care

The longer you’re in a state of inaction, the more difficult it is to get out of it.

Recenly, I’ve learned some lessons that can unfortunately only be learned with time. Over the last few months, I spent way too much sprawled out on my couch consuming too much Netflix.  I should’ve been exercising, reading books, or writing more on this blog.  I started noticing things in myself by the end of the summer both physically and mentally that gave me concern and an impetus to act.

Sitting or laying around for too long caused literal physical aches and soreness. Not only was I not hitting the gym or running outside to keep myself in good shape, my inactivity was discouraging me from even doing minimal stuff some days – and weeks. A similar challenge was affecting me mentally. Ideas that were trying to make their way out onto paper or blog were held back; books that were begging to be read were left on digital and physical bookshelves. Personal growth has been stunted by the amazing power of non-movement. You don’t realize what it can do you to emotionally until you’re snapped out of it and recognize that you’ve been missing out. Inertia is something that should never be underestimated.

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That Sounds Like a Mis-Spent Childhood

This post starts out with a quote from a coworker who usually knows just the “right” thing to say in the “right” situations. He makes many of us at work smile and laugh – and maybe sometimes reach for that HR department we don’t have (thankfully.)

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The Teen Years – Career Edition

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about longevity and loyalty. It was sparked by making it to 12 years at my job and a friend who I’ve known for more than 2/3rds of my life getting married last June. This year, I celebrate making it to 13 years in my post-college career life. And unlike the first time I turned 13, I feel more confident in myself and that I’m only beginning to come into my own, male pubescent voice cracking not included.

Compared to my first venture into the years ending with “-teen”, my self confidence is much more pronounced. I’m mostly less awkward about my interactions with people who are older than I am or have more experience in the industry I work in. I feel knowledgeable about the things I talk about. My tenure at the company brings with it a sense of being the “old guy” who’s been around the neighborhood and knows the history of everyone who’s come and gone.

But unlike the original teen years, I recognize there’s a lot of areas I still need to grow in. I don’t have that teenager invincibility mentality. There are consequences to actions we take and decisions we make (hey, I rhymed!). I don’t know everything there is to know, though the expectation is there sometimes at work. For me, a lot of this revelation comes from being able to grow and change in a familiar environment. While some would argue we need to change it up more often, the consistency flies in the face of a culture that on the outside craves change and “new” for the sake of new more than having a constant to center ourselves on.

So, here I am facing 13 again as an adult. Hopefully I’m wiser and funnier. And maybe I’ll finally beat pimples this time around too.

 

To Be or Not To Be All Things

Are expectations on myself too extreme?

To describe the predicament I feel I am in, let me start with a list of areas that based on my career, personal interests, stage of life, and relationships I expect myself to be versed in to some capacity (list in no particular order):

Tech support/advice for everything with electricity especially for the tech industry , programming advice, trend watcher, account manager, good listener, giver of wise counsel, man of patience, semi-amateur photographer enthusiast, teacher, homeowner, welcoming host, humorous, culture/media “intaker” and critic, decent blog writer, great “director” email writer, able to quickly absorb and interpret everything I read, son friend, “uncle” to others’ kids, all around smart guy, consistently cool, calm, and collected, and above all — awesome.

I have this perception that expectations on me are high all the time. Everything I’ve listed above and more could be “needed” from me at any given moment and I must be prepared and knowledgeable. I must be expert of all I survey and more. If I can’t keep up, disappointment begins to seep in; first from myself, sometimes from others.

As a person who ultimately wants to serve and please others, internal pressure increases to stay sharp in ever increasing ways. From knowing how to diagnose computer problems you’ve never encountered to knowing how to properly phrase a thought in a teaching moment or fully grasping the story of a book’s theme or how to console a hurting friend in a time of need, I want to be the best at it for the sake of the recipient. My own goal to always have a well thought out and appropriate response to any situation challenges and haunts me. While I am not a perfectionist, I am a “want-to-be-great-at-everything-ist”. I want to be whatever the definition of the modern Renaissance man is.

What I want at the end of the day is to be able to intelligently speak in just about any situation; to always have an eloquent word to put to paper, blog, or tweet; to analyze what I hear and read in a way that’s well rounded and isn’t simply a rehash of another person’s ideas; to take that perfect photo the first time I put that camera up to my eye. I want to be something that only exists in movies and TV shows. Culture seems to demand this of us as we gain access to more and more information. Why can’t we all read everything online and able to retain it to intelligently discuss it all? Why haven’t we kept up with every meme or funny story or big news story and have opinions on it?

The problem is I can feel my own idealism that drives me to want to be all things to all people slowly wearing me thin and pulling me into more directions than is realistic for people. With my inherent limitations, I am forced to make decisions on where I want to go deep. What’s worth reading online and offline? What subjects must I leave in the past so I can focus on other ones instead? Which people do I need to spend more time with?

Narrow and deep, not wide but shallow right?

When the Clouds Break

yay cloud Oh the almighty “Cloud”. How we love you and your convenient ways! You are there for us everywhere we go ready to serve us whatever we want, from social media updates to funny YouTube clips, filtered Instagram photos, and even useful stuff like email. You know what the best part about you is, Cloud? You offer so much of it for free. That makes us happy!

Yet you anger us so when you decide to take away things we loved so dearly, like Google Reader, perhaps the most well known and best RSS reader. What made it worse is you didn’t ask us first if we were done using it. How dare you. I deserve free stuff for as long as I deem it something worthwhile to me.

We’ve come to expect that whatever we currently use in the cloud will be there forever whenever we need it. The responsibility shift in computing and data storage is gradually moving from self to others. We don’t want to maintain or manage anything. Let someone else do the dirty work and figure out how to not lose my music, photos, documents, and email. Why should I have to keep track of all that? I’m clearly too important and busy to figure it out.

This trending mentality sheds light on a couple things. 1) We don’t like to take responsibility for much as people and prefer someone else be in charge of keeping those servers that hold bytes that define much of who we think we are. 2) We demand a lot on stuff that we don’t pay for.

In light of recent severe weather in the Chicago area, I was reminded that I need to create & maintain a better backup solution for my personal files. Thankfully I didn’t lose any data (or other valuable items) in my minor basement flooding. However, this has reignited my search for a solution including looking into external drives I store in the house along with cloud based options. And at the same time, I need to have a backup solution in place for all that important that’s only stored online.

As I figure out my plans for saving everything in triplicate, I’ll share those details here.

Cloud Roots

I’ve had something stuck in my head for a little while now that I’ve had a difficult time finding words to properly explain. Even this blog post’s title went through a number of revisions before landing where it did. All of this circles around expectations and shifts in perception.

It is no secret we are in a significant shift culturally where users demand mobility and access everywhere. We want everything to be compatible with our smartphones or tablets because we’re all on the go. I personally benefit greatly from the technology available to me and I do feel like I can do more from wherever I’m at, whether that means phone calls, text messages, accessing Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, or any other number of “cloud” based services. But all this wireless access and freedom requires things few of us think about:

Wires. Lots of fiber and T-1 lines. Cell towers. Huge data centers. 

What do they all have in common? You guessed it, these things not very mobile. Yet they exist because we demand to be. Our very ability to be free to do what we want where we want is grounded, quite literally, in hardware that is a bit more of a permanent structure. Cell towers loom over our urban landscape so our phones can send and receive our critical tweets and Facebook status updates. Data centers house (probably way too much of) our personal info, with servers running around the clock just waiting for us to make them show us pictures of our friends or cats, or perhaps even something important like work email.

Without all this, we’re unable to have that freedom we so badly desire.

Part of what I’ve always found ironic about people is that we all need stability in our lives. Whether that manifests itself in faith, a community of friends, family, following a daily routine, or a long term job, it’s nearly impossible to exist for long periods of time without it. I don’t think our psyche can’t handle that much change without a pillar to go back to. We all crave a constant in some form.

As we continue to become a more mobile society that has a difficult time settling down, perhaps more so in the realms of ideals and what we choose to define us, it’s important to recognize there is a much bigger hidden cost being our mobility and freedom. One, that from a technology perspective, we all rely on an incredibly huge backend infrastructure that, like a fence around a backyard, allows us to play to our heart’s content. And two, our own personal freedoms and exploration come out of the strength based on a strong base of support and consistency in our lives.

 

 

 

Technology & Life: The More Things Change…

Back in November 2012, I read a book by Neal Stephenson called “In the Beginning… was the Command Line.” He begins by chronicling parts of his own history with computing devices starting back in the 1970′s and his own journey through the life of being a geek/tech savvy user. What has always struck me about technology, and culture as a whole, is that everything we know and do is built upon the blocks of something that was there before us. Computing devices use analogies and ideas from telegraph technology, which was imitated by early mainframes and teletype devices to extending this concept to a “video” teletype, what we know as a monitor. Stephenson hits on this here and there throughout the book.

The same is true for many industries, innovations, products, and ideas that would never exist were it not for the work of someone before us.

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Is Talking on the Phone Really That Bad?

As I broke from some blog cleanup and preparation for an article or two, I came across a Google+ post and discussion thread about phone calls. If you read these two threads, you’ll discover a sentiment that they may in fact be the worst thing mankind has ever had to deal with. Read the threads for yourselves:

 

John's Phone - white

 

(I want this phone. Image “borrowed” of johnsphones.com)

It got me wondering: is talking on the phone really that bad? And if so, why?

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