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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Photography: Finding the Light in the Darkness

I recently acquired a new DSLR, the Nikon D7000. It’s a beautiful piece of camera hardware that has features I only hope to fully grasp in the coming months – and likely years. Since it’s higher up in the ladder of NIkon’s DSLR range, it has better compatibility to do more with less light. Things like a bigger ISO range, less image noise, a better image processor, and so on.

So this winter I took it out to try my hand at some night photography and capture Christmas decorations and the quiet stillness of a winter evening. One thing that cannot be properly captured here is the cold air that bites at my fingers while I setup a shot. Below are just a few examples of what I’ve been able to capture so far with the D7000 and a 35mm/1.8 prime lens, except where noted below.

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Remembering the Good Times: Top 5 WUGO Blog Posts of 2012

2012 is almost behind us, and if the Mayans are right, pretty soon there won’t be anything ahead of us. Today’s post brings back the most viewed blog posts from this past year with short reflections on each. So here they are in order of total page views (thanks Google Analytics for secretly tracking everyone!):

1) Bathroom Renovation Part Deux

Who doesn’t love a good transformation story, especially when there are pictures? I had linked to this blog post on an Apartment Therapy page about bathroom renovations and it got a number of views from there.

2) Longevity and Loyalty

It’s so rare to hear stories of anyone sticking anything out for long periods of time these days, perhaps this post about my 12+ years at my job resonated with readers.

3) Interactive and Thoughtful Discourse Part 1

A 2011 post makes a 2012 comeback appearance. Some traffic to this came through search results and a little bit through link backs in other blog posts throughout this year. The topic is still incredibly relevant and important to me to this day. Also check out the follow up post to it.

4) Negative Space

This post focused on trying to leave space in life to allow moments and experiences to stand out. Life shouldn’t be running at full speed all the time.

5) My Missing Childhood Stories

Another 2011 post makes its way into the top 5. Apparently, it was a good year for my writing and Google searchers have found me. I guess readers resonated with this post as well.

There you have it. A year in review that isn’t quite over yet. I may have a post or two left, but we’ll see where the holidays take me. Thanks for reading my meanderings. I’ll continue to write and share at my own pace whether or not anyone reads. And that’s.. OK with me.

 

So Many Ideas, So Much Vacation Time

This past weekend, the company I work for had their annual holiday party. Those of you who I’m Facebook friends with have seen some of the photos from the night. One of the things that happens every year is that our President and CEO each give a speech before dinner starts.  Each person focuses on different aspects of the year and the company as a whole. This year, our CEO surprised many of us (again) with some extra blessings. One highlight for many was that everyone is getting an EXTRA week of vacation in 2013. Provided the Mayans were wrong, we’ll all have 5 extra days out of the office next year.

For an old timer at the company like me, this means a couple things. One, my what I consider an already ridiculous amount of time at 4 weeks is now bumped to 5. (Actually, it’s 6 weeks if you include 5 days I’m rolling over from this year into the first 3 months of next year. First world problems, right?) Two, what am I going to do with all this time? I’m starting a list:

  1. Travel and visit some friends in far away lands like Mississippi or Evanston.
  2. Travel to new places I’ve been meaning to go like: Iceland (northern lights, natural hot springs, awesomeness)
  3. Learn how to do stuff around my house from my super-handy neighbor.
  4. Take a day off every other week all year.
  5. Sleep. A lot.
  6. Other stuff

I absolutely realize the “problems” I have are great ones to have and it makes me reaffirm my choice to still be with the same job I started at right after college. This immense amount of time does get me thinking I should consider some bigger adventures, even if they are local but simply require more time to do. Others, like my dream trip to Iceland, may require saving a few dollars first.

Keep your ears open soon as I may be hitting some of you up for ideas on what to do or a time to visit. This guy has many days he’s free to be away from work. Watch out world! Or don’t.