Grant me serenity… nope, time for your 4th reboot

RebootYourLife-CruiseandTourPlanners

Technology, the bastion of science and engineering, brain children of visionaries that see options for taking away the burden of the menial from busy modern working people… I don’t think it’s working. We have wonderful things in the world these days. Pieces of electronics that allow us to talk to people on the other side of the world face to face. We have magnificent gleaming, sleek equipment that perform complicated mathematical calculations in nano seconds. We have incredible gizmos that can see into the human body and identify problems before they become catastrophic. We have space-going vehicles that travel to other planets and even to the ends of our galaxy and beyond.

It’s amazing to me. Maybe I’m showing my age. I can remember a conversation that I had with my father over a decade ago now. We were talking about a prequel of a science fiction franchise and wondering how they would address the issue of technology since we had at that time many of the things from the original version of said series. How would they have technology that was ahead of what we already had but still having room to grow for the original (which was at that time filmed over 30 years prior).

So, with all the advances of modern technological miracles, tasks that once would have taken great effort and time are now completed in the blink of an eye… and, why in the name of all that is holy am I consistently plagued by technology that takes up way too much of my day? Things that should take an instant with the marvels of our electronics now take even longer than I could have managed manually and menially because of glitches, freezes, and generally unpleasant gremlins in the works.

What is especially perplexing to me is the sheer number of updates that seem to be pushed out through the wires and wireless signals of the internet and networks to effectively shut down all productivity while various changes are made in operating systems and other software. The timing is a bit baffling as well. It always seems to happen when the process will cause the most amount of bottleneck, slowdown, chaos possible. I can understand when security concerns or “backdoor” issues present that there must be a correction for the safety and security of our data and privacy, but seriously why can’t this be scheduled for a time when I don’t need to actually be performing a function on the machine.

windowsupdateremindercountdownOne of the most baffling situations is my work computer. We have an IT department that will push out updates to all the different systems and software on our machines through the network. So, I totally get that it depends on my machine connecting to the network. However, I’m not entirely sure why, for instance, my entire week was plagued by the update-reboot two step. I might even be less irritable if it would tell me that the reboot thing needed to happen as soon as I got logged into the system. Just a little “Hey, don’t get too deep into anything because we’re gonna be asking you to reboot about 17 times in the next hour.” But nooooo, it waits. It waits until I’ve opened multiple applications and projects and am hip deep in spreadsheets and reports that took their sweet time to open, let me tell you. Then, it says “Reboot in 57 minutes…” Really?!? 57? Not an hour? Or possibly any round number? The point is, it’s not like I’m going to get anything accomplished in that 57 minutes. Truthfully, it will probably take me that long to save and close all the crappola I have open. So, I manage to get it all buttoned up and if the timer has not run out, I click the “Reboot Now” button. Go get coffee.

And now, hopefully, the machine has finished its preparations and is now ready to be productive with me. However, I failed to take into account the passive-aggressive nature of the beast. Apparently completing all the updates and downloads and everything that is needed in one happy session and reboot is just not part of the programming. Once again, the hateful system waits and lets me get complacent enough to open projects and start into my work before… “Rebooting 57 minutes…” It won’t do it immediately, just waits for me to be in the middle of things. “Oh look! She’s opened all her @#$%. She’s really getting in the groove. Tell her to reboot now.” Yes, I know there is usually a feature to postpone the cycle, but honestly, you can only postpone it for so long and it annoyingly will continue to pop up and remind you. It’s often just better to just get it over with.

chickenclickyesApparently the gremlins that live in the computer network also like to play this game when there is a meeting, teleconference, WebEx, or presentation to be done. On these occasions, it seems that you cannot even delay the situation until the end of said meeting or presentation. “Rebooting NOW!” because we know that there are a bunch of people waiting for you to share a PowerPoint display or explain with visuals why targets are off and reports are screwy.

There are days when I take it all as a sign that perhaps I was supposed to take the day off. Wouldn’t that be nice? “Hey there. Sorry. I know that you need me to get that project completed by close of business today, but the computer has told me that I have to take the day off so it can reboot 173 times. How does tomorrow work for you?”

There are days when I question whether the convenience of our modern technology truly outweighs the frustration and delays that occur while they are babied and maintained. While a part of me knows that with extremely rare exception the technology we use do not have sentience or personality, it is difficult to resist believing that there is something in there just messing with me. It is at those moments that I find going to get a cup of coffee is a better choice than chucking the machine out a convenient window.

Technology deity…
Grant me the patience to deal with random errors,
The strength of will to wait for ridiculous boot time (and multiple reboots),
And the wisdom not to take a hammer to the piece of equipment that would take too much of my finances to replace.
Amen.

Cutting the cord…

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Along with thousands (if not more) of Americans today, I made a decision, after long deliberation to cut the cord. What does that mean? It means that I decided that it was time to lose the addiction to television, specifically of the cable variety. I suspect that if we hooked up an antenna, we could still possibly access local analog broadcasts.

Several things played a part in making this decision, but the most influential was purely mercenary. It was the cost. In the past 20 years or so, I have seen the cost of my “entertainment” treble. Literally, it went from around $90 per month to somewhere around $230, not counting electricity to power the devices through which we enjoy the entertainment provided. This did not even include any of the premium channels. Granted, the services provided have increased somewhat over that same period of time. There are more channels from which to choose. The internet is a vastly different beast through broadband and the on demand programming available. The lines and wires, recording devices and higher definition have all changed from the original boxes that took up large amounts of real estate on top of the console televisions of years ago. The truth was that I could not justify the amount of money that we were spending on what was, for us anyhow, all of five channels out of a gazillion. I actually tried speaking with the folks about a la carte options, but that was a no-go. We could drop down to just the basic, lowest cost package, but then we would have to give up what I refer to as our staple nerdom package. Most of what we watched fell on science fiction channels, travel, history, or science. We had programs we enjoyed on some of the major networks, but the other 1000+ channels were of complete indifference to us. I really could not even tell you what the programming was on many of them, and I’m sorry to all my friend who enjoy their greens fees and tee times; No one needs to watch a channel devoted to nothing but GOLF. However, in order to get BBC America or the Travel Channel, we had to go up to the larger package with the higher price and the additional channels that we couldn’t give a rip about otherwise. Seemed like a waste.

So, I started thinking that we could save a lot of money and just wait for our favorite shows to arrive on the various downloadable or streaming options (Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, etc.). I had a few friends who had already taken this plunge. I still had to have internet for work, but since it was less than a third of my monthly cost, it made sense. And thus after much discussion, the decision was made. I called the provider and cancelled our television. There was some intense conversation with the person on the other end of the phone and attempts to keep me in the fold, but I remained firm. After about 45 minutes to an hour, I had reduced my monthly cost by two thirds.

I’ll admit to a momentary panic once I disconnected the call. Oh my goodness what have I done?!? I imagined being at a loss for things to do in the evenings. I feared withdrawal from the constant background noise of random programming and marathons of programs to which I paid barely a notice while I occupied myself with social media or some app on my phone. But I reminded myself that I could always go back and sign up for another subscription at a later date (and likely with a lower cost since these companies seem to be more interested in new customers than retaining the old faithful ones).

As expected, we were able to catch most of the shows that we follow via one of the internet streaming organizations. On top of that, we could usually schedule our watching for one night a week or even every other week. Suddenly, the television was occupying a far less prominent place in our home and in our lives. Days would go by without switching on the tv. Around the same time period, I chose to move my personal laptop to the office, thereby removing another distracting electronic venue from the family room. The electronic devices remaining for my part were my electronic reader (Kindle in this case) and my phone. imageA part of me was expecting that social media and the computer/smartphone/tablet would start absorbing and assimilating me like a Borg colony, but that didn’t happen either, which was very surprising. It seemed that with the decision to disconnect myself from the addictive qualities of the television media, I also got some positive reinforcement from laying down the phone and breaking the hold of the social media as well (Yes, I know this is somewhat ironic given that any of you reading this probably linked through a form of social media and certainly the internet).

imageAfter a while, I didn’t even notice the missing sounds. Other things started occupying the time so recently vacated by the electronics: Reading, writing… not so much ‘rithmetic, but quiet activities and organization. Since I travel for work and sometimes travel for non-work, I wondered if I would revert and relapse into binge watching mindless marathons of show in which I had no true interest when I was in hotels with cable television or visiting family that was still firmly ensconced in the ways of the broadcast media. I found, to my surprise, that I did not even turn on the device in hotel or condo. I spent my time, again, reading or writing primarily. I found additional time to hit fitness center, gym, or just go for a run. I spent time with mindfulness exercises, meditation, or just pampering myself (something to which I rarely ever devoted time). Occasionally… just occasionally, I even spent time with friends or family in actual conversation without looking at a screen. What?!? Is this possible? Yea, verily my dear readers, the hold of the soul and time sucking devices and activities of this world can be broken. Like a magic spell, a well of time was released upon the dissolution of the imprisonment. Hours have been found in the day that previously seemed to have disappeared. Now, when we choose to stare at a screen, it is with an identified purpose and specific time limit (watching a movie or catching up on specific shows). Instead of mindless viewing and clicking and staring at screens while hours tick away, our decisions are conscious. We’ve taken back the controls by putting down the remotes and devices. It’s incredibly liberating. I recommend trying it, even for a protracted period.

A time may come at some point in the distant future when the media companies become more flexible with their options and their prices, and perhaps… just perhaps… I may reconsider my stance, but at this time, I cannot regret my choice to leave behind the realm of the boob-tube (and no, I do not mean the rather unfortunate 1970’s fashion faux pas). I never would have believed it upon the first inkling of the idea, but cutting the cord has freed up more than funds. It has freed me.

Why am I awake?!?

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I seem to have a certain peculiar ability to awaken well before my alarm clock. I do this most of the time, regardless of what time it is set to bring me to consciousness with rudely elevated decibels. Some of you will feel me on this. You wake up and with bleary eyes roll over to look at the timepiece that is likely somewhere in the vicinity of your bed. It registers not yet time to get up (but likely too close to said time to allow for return to blissful somnolence). My response to this mechanism that I have named my “internal torturous awakening function” is “Why the @#$% am I awake?!?” Sadly, no one seems able to give me a cogent answer to this question. The process appears to have no relationship to the actual hour. If I need to be up at 6:00AM, my body will wake me at 5:47AM. If I need to be up at 8:00AM, it seems I will awaken at somewhere between 6:30AM and 7:45AM. Trying to sleep the full planned time appears to be an impossibility.

Associated with the phenomenon of pre-alarm wakefulness is the sad fact that when this occurs on days when I do need to be awake and alert and productive by a certain hour, I feel as if I could actually return to the land of Nod and sleep for a week (I know it is patently untrue, but it does feel that way). However, on days when I have no alarm set and no need of one because I am at my leisure… I will awake with the dawn and be unable to return to slumber without the assistance of a sleep aid (like maybe a sledge hammer or iron frying pan to the cranium). It seems that I have lost the gift of being able to sleep in. What makes it baffling is that it seems to matter not one jot how much sleep I’ve actually had. I have been known to lay my head upon the pillow at 3:00AM only to come to a full roused wakefulness at 5:30AM when I needn’t be awake until 8:00AM (if at all). Unless I am actually ill, I seem to be doomed to being an early riser now. Oh the shame of it!

There are some benefits to the curse of early waking. I get things done while most of the population is still slumbering peacefully. I can take this time to get in workouts before the gym is populated, run in the dawns early light on a deserted beach, greet the day on summer mornings before humidity and temperature closely resemble the surface of the sun… It fails to make me truly more productive however. Just because I’m awake, does not mean that I am willing to deal with people or make noise. So, many of the tasks that I don’t have time to do during the day generally don’t get done in the early hours of said day (like running the vacuum or mowing the yard… neighbors get cranky about that stuff too early). I do get a jump on things like bills, filing, running reports, organizing, and planning.

I suppose there are worse things in life than having a natural clock that kicks in (especially during power outages). However, I still occasionally miss the days when I could anticipate sleeping late and being lazy. I will still continue to wonder as I wake at 5:30AM on my vacation, “Why the @#$% am I awake?!?

 

Physical Fit: Well-meaning saboteurs…

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It is so very important that you keep the right sort of approach to any positive change, but as important to your self-talk and mindset is the natural supports that you have around you every day. No matter who you are and how confident you believe yourself to be, each and every one of us upon taking those first toddling steps into healthier choices need cheerleaders and the occasional guardians. We need the positive reinforcement and the positive influence. Why? Because habits are hard to break and hard to form. It is difficult enough to decide to cut a favorite treat (or even just cut down on same) or get up earlier to make sure you get in a workout before your day gets so out of hand that you can’t even visit the restroom without your message alerts or phone exploding.

One of the most difficult parts of any change you elect to make is that you are not the only inertia faced in the process. Change is hard enough when you are working on your own resistance to long-term habits and poor choices. The additional problem is that the people in your life may also be resistant to that change. Everyone gets used to certain patterns and expectations. It’s comfortable. It is something you can count on through thick and thin… or maybe not so thin. It is not simply a situation where the people in your life want you to remain miserable and unhappy. It is just that they have gotten used to you in a certain form and function and any changes that you make in your normal appearance or behavior may upset their own fragile status quo. There is an underlying, subconscious (yes, I know it is redundant) fear that if you change, you won’t be the same person anymore. You will destroy the expected norms, and they won’t know you the same way. Consciously, the people who love you may see that this is a positive change that you are making, but beneath it all, they are unsure how they will like this “new you.”

Think about it. I’m sure you have seen television and movie stories all about this type of scenario. Enter pudgy, geeky, awkward Sally or Billy. They are the best friend or the confidant or the unlicensed therapist or confessor for their entire social group. Bless them. They are the person to whom everyone goes when they need to “run something by.” They have served as the plus one when the date fell through, but they always knew they were never the first choice. So, Sally or Billy with or without assistance of a fairy godmother/father goes through the extreme makeover. And just like that *poof*! Sally is stunning, and Billy is beautiful. They look like Venus and Adonis. Their friends who were shining in comparison before are fading as these ugly ducklings turn into swans. Now, on occasion the physical and superficial transformations also come with an attitude adjustment that may or may not be so very positive. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the change of personality may be merely perceived by their friends and not truly what has occurred. The point being that all the friends who have relied on Sally and Billy this whole time feel that they have been robbed of a rock-like figure in their social circle, and it destabilizes their tiny world… And so it goes. You know the tale. It is the Cinderella story or Emma (for my Jane Austen fans). However, that is fairy tales and Hollywood. It is a cautionary piece to keep us grounded and remembering that what matters is what is inside and to not let alteration of the superficial or circumstance change who we are. The underlying message is, of course, that everyone can be loved for who they are, it’s what’s inside that counts, and even if they stay an ugly duckling that is better than being an asshole.

And that is just marvelous… except everyone should be able to make changes in their life if they want, and of course, if it leads to better health, self-concept, and emotional well-being. However, not everyone can let go of the anxiety that changing your outside might change your inside. Additionally, there may be some people in our lives who (whether they admit it to themselves or anyone else) do not want us to become more… successful, attractive, confident… whatever, because if we do, we might not need them or have the same role in their lives. Now, this is just totally selfish, not to mention completely infantile, but it happens. Those particular people are probably not what I might call healthy additions to a support network. One might even call them toxic, but they aren’t even the most dangerous or deadly foes of any attempt at healthier living.

So, now, I will talk about the well meaning saboteurs of the world. These people have convinced us and themselves that they have our best interests at heart. They love us and are so proud that we are making good choices. Sometimes, they are even the ones who have encouraged us to step on the path to better nutrition and physical activity with subtle hints about possibly trying to lose some weight or “Have you considered going on a low-carb diet?” They are being helpful. They want us to be healthy and happy with our lives… What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well… I’ll tell ya. Immediately upon declarations or suggestions of embarking on a new diet, joining a gym, or considering any number of ways to get the lard out, these folks present an obstacle course of dietary and fitness torpedoes to sink even the most stalwart of will power. You know the type I mean. Upon informing your loved ones and supporters that you are going on a low carb inception phase (meaning that you want to keep your carbs to 50g or lower per day), you walk in to find cupcakes, fresh baked bread, and a dozen cookies. Someone will bring donuts and bagels to the breakroom, and every meal has only one type of side dish… potatoes. They say, “Good for you!” and follow it with, “Would you like to split a large pizza and an entire package of doublestuff Oreos?” Yes, my brothers and sisters, they parade the plethora of starches and sugars before you seemingly oblivious to the nutritive content of any of their choices.

These are the well-meaning saboteurs. It is my belief they really do not understand what they are doing. After all it isn’t truly their responsibility to change their lifestyles or desires just because you have elected to restrict your own dietary intake. They are not the keeper of your will. Sometimes, especially with the older versions of these, they have preconceived ideas about dieting that predates current science. I’ve actually had some express concerns that I had an eating disorder or would damage myself by choice to remove carbohydrates… or at least decrease them. It was a lack of knowledge and understanding. It was just a foreign concept. Perhaps it is also that knowing that we are giving up or reducing our intake of some of these favorite foods, we’re just more aware? Nope, that doesn’t explain all of it, because too many times when you look at the patterns, those well meaning saboteurs weren’t going on baking binges or filling the house with bulk purchases of snack cakes and processed sugar before the announcement of going back on Atkins. Perhaps it was the announcement that somehow subliminally put it into their minds to hoard all sugars and starches like they were going to be put on rationing? That’s as good an explanation as any.

The point is, I don’t think they even know that they are doing it most of the time, and when we get cranky and snap at them because they are undermining our efforts and because we are suffering from withdrawal symptoms, they often look bewildered and hurt. Sometimes, they become defensive and angry with comments like, “Surely, you don’t expect the rest of us to adhere to your dietary restrictions?” or possibly, “Just because you can’t eat carbs doesn’t mean I should have to give up my donuts.” The truth is that none of us expect everyone to change their own habits or inconvenience the rest of the group due to our own food choices or decision to change our habits. Usually a gentle conversation and avoidance is sufficient to remedy the situation. I have generally found that they are apologetic. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t even think about that.” It doesn’t really occur to them that their expressions of remorse merely highlight and emphasize the situation, “Oh my lord, I forgot you can’t eat this double-stuffed crust, full gluten, large pizza with all your favorite toppings! I’m so sorry.” They do not always change their ways, but at least they apologized. Usually they even try to be supportive by hiding or looking guilty when they eat fries in front of us or chow down on a piece of cake. They mean well. Truly they do.

Eventually, they may even learn to be legitimately helpful. I have found that in most cases, with relatively few exceptions (those exceptions typically being the known and proven supporters who can be relied upon to chain me up when the cravings get too intense), it is best to keep my dietary plans to myself. It helps stave off both the well-meaning and not so altruistic saboteurs in my life. And when I don’t tell them what I’m not eating… they don’t even seem to notice.

SERIES: EMAIL DISEASES – HOW THEY AFFECT YOUR LIFE AND HOW YOU CAN AVOID THEM (ISSUE 7: Senders Remorse and other ugly rashes)

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One of the most amazing things about technology and the advances in communication is that we can impart messages and important information across our planet or even outside the planet (remember that we do speak with the people on the space station and get regular reports from that poor little rover on Mars that sings happy birthday to itself) in an almost unimaginable brief span of time. When you think about the fact that people used to have to deliver messages by carrying them by foot travel, equine travel, or other conveyance, this is an astounding evolution. One of the scariest things about technology… is the speed with which you can decimate relationships, reputations, and revenue with that same speed.

So, why is that speed and efficiency scary? Most of the time we, in the modern world, are consistently frustrated, irritable, and just plain pissy when we have to accommodate delays in any form or fashion. We’ve become very inured to instant gratification and immediate access to information. The pace at which we live our lives is breakneck and the tempo is constant without pause or quiet most of the time. However, I’m not discussing my displeasure with the way our society has ceased living in the present in this particular instance. Instead, I wish to go back to what I was saying about the speed with which we are able to send and receive communication via technology.

It is absolutely a miracle of modern contrivance, and it is more than useful to be able to stay in contact with people at long distances. However, the lack of pause and delay has shortened a particular gap between thought and action that previously gave opportunity for choice sandwiched somewhere in the middle. In this episode of Email Diseases, we are talking about what I will call “Sender’s Remorse.” Picture, if you will, employee Joe who is possibly having a rough day. He may have been cut off in traffic or spilled his coffee. Perhaps he has had a perfectly reasonable morning, but then upon reaching the office… [cue dramatic music]… he opens his email to perceive a particularly peevish request from Susan the boss. In this email, she is asking for the umpteenth time information that Joe has spent many hours collecting and collating, parsing and construing to Susan multiple times… but she either cannot lay hands upon said information, is too busy to look (especially when she has Joe that she can just ask again), or never read it the first time. Susan may suffer from a number of previous diseases covered in this series, and she may literally just not recall that he has sent this same information multiple times. But Joe does recall… He feels dismissed and that his hard work has been unappreciated and generally ignored. He is angry and irritable and has had a horrible morning already and is wearing the coffee to prove it, thereby increasing his lack of tolerance. Joe hits the Reply button before he has a moment to think. He types a scathing message in response to the request (possibly using inappropriate italics or SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTERS). He types with the speed and alacrity of a rapid firing machine gun. There! You clueless wonder, maybe now you will get the message through your remarkably impermeable cranium!!! and hits Send before any other impulse in his own cranium might have a chance to make other choices. This rash action may potentially set off a chain of email back and forth with unpleasant outcomes. If Susan the boss is so inclined and read negative attitude or tone into Joe’s response, there may be disciplinary action in poor Joe’s future. All because of hitting that Send button instantaneously.

The other aspects of an inadvertent, rashly Send could be incomplete information and failure to address all points of a request. This can also be linked to other email diseases such as skimming or non-reading. When we move with speed but lack of diligence and forethought, we can occasionally find that points are left unaddressed and certain communications can be misinterpreted, like poor Joe and his rash rapidity. With just a pause to think how his words might be received and perceived by his recipient, he might have elected to compose a different retort.

Victor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy, said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Technology has shortened that gap to a mere fraction of what we used to have. It therefore becomes a conscious decision on the part of us in our daily lives to be more deliberate and to take the time to be conscious of our choices… even in something so simple as a phrase in an electronic message.

In a recent training conference, I heard a colleague talking about the “rule of three.” Now, I know there are several different rules of three out there, but the two most common of these with regards to electronic communication go like this:

  • Once the email chain goes back and forth three times, pick up the phone. It’s time to talk.
  • Read every email three times before hitting send: First for spellcheck and grammar; second for intent and content; and third for tone.

While it may seem to be picking nits and taking more time, it may save reputations, inbox from email jail, and good working relationships. So, the moral of the story would seem to be, in order to avoid sender’s remorse, pause before hitting Send to allow that intervening gap between the stimulus and our response for choice to be conscious, deliberate, and well thought.

Physical Fit: Dear parents…


Adult-Supervision-School-Sign-K-4120 A cautionary tale… please read to the end. I commend each and every parent that encourages a healthy lifestyle and physical activity for their children. I deplore the habit that has become more and more prevalent with kids found with alarming frequency sitting on their posterior while some form of electronic babysitter absorbs their attention and they develop the sedentary habits of their elders. I had the misfortune of observing the results of those habits in the last few months in more than one geographic area as I saw children… yes children… not teens or tweeners but actual children of no where close to puberty that I approximated as outweighing my own considerable bulk. I’ve gone back and forth on the obesity as child abuse argument, but in extreme cases, I can definitely see their point. I also observed in the same proximity that the parents probably weren’t going to find any concern with the pattern in question because they had already given up that particular battle themselves. And so it went with mom, dad, and two or more young ones who were huffing and puffing along with effort… in order to sit… yes sit upon the expanse of beach. No running up and down. No surf jumping or body surfing. No gleeful squeals as they built a creative castle or sand sculpture. Zero activity, until it was lunch or snack time when copious amounts of processed snack foods and sugary drinks were handed out. Honestly, I get it. It is vacation. Kids should be able to enjoy their life. I don’t watch these people 365 days a year, and this may be a treat… but I’m guessing not. If it were only one group of this general description, I could probably feel concern or sorrow, but this was literally every other family I observed over a recent patriotic holiday season at the seaside. I am by no means a svelte individual, willowy and ephemeral. I believe I have described my own physique more than once, but observing this sort of situation makes me twitch a bit. I’m trying to avoid being judgmental. I really don’t know any of the observed families, their genetics, their health histories, or their regular habits. I am making assumptions (like ya do) based on superficial observation. The problem is that I know that while I might question my own assumptions and try to look past to find answers and other attributes, the rest of the world does not. What are these parents setting their kids up for in the future. As I mentioned, children are more sedentary than when I was younger. There are a lot more electronic reasons to sit on one’s butt and be still. While many parents would call this some “@#$ @%$# peace and quiet!” it really isn’t the best or most natural thing for a child to do for so much of the time. Additionally, I’ve been made aware that children don’t have as much physical activity planned into their school schedules. If the child isn’t an athlete, they may not get more than an hour of physical movement in a day. Even when they return home, they are often from a young age given homework to keep them busy all evening, or if they do not, the electronic babysitters probably get hold of them until dinner. I’m making generalizations (before any of the parents out there start screaming at me that they aren’t like that). I know not everyone participates in this same pattern. I’ve got friends who literally make their kids go outside and do something active. And that sorta makes me scratch my head… Why?!? Why is this something a parent has to make them do? When I was a kid, they couldn’t get me to come inside (especially in the summer) until after dark on occasion. No one made me go run around outside or play. The only sedentary activity that might occur was reading, and sometimes even then, they couldn’t get me to do it inside, because if weather permitted, I would much rather do the reading out in the sun and air. I have to wonder what changed. When did playing outside become a chore? However, my “Dear Parents,” wasn’t only about my ponderings about what has happened to physical activity with children today. I come now to the other side of the argument. Again, I absolutely commend parents who encourage physical activity. I applaud them for setting examples and helping their children develop an interest in physical fitness and exercise. I think that it is wonderful when children express an interest in activity, exercise, and want to even “workout” (though, I still think that full body building activity doesn’t need to start before they’ve even hit puberty… seriously people). BUT… You totally heard that coming, didn’t you? Please … PLEASE do not let children around exercise equipment unattended. There. I have said it. I personally do not believe that children below a certain age belong in a gym. I happen to belong to a gym where the corporate policy is to not allow children. There is a reason, but they caught an enormous amount of flack for making that policy. There are, I know, people who would disagree with them and me. They would say that with supervision children can learn to use equipment and weights and develop healthy habits that will follow them for the rest of their lives… blah, blah, blah. And chances are, they would totally miss that part of their argument that is frequently… well… missing. Supervision. It is one thing for a parent who has a responsible, well-behaved child with them and is engaging them the whole time and supervising them at every step, but that is not what often occurs. As you might expect, incidents have come to my notice rather unpleasantly in recent history to prompt this particular post. I will share with you two of the most glaring. Both incidents occurred at a hotel fitness center. I travel quite a bit for work these days, and because I am not always where I can conveniently access a branch of my own gym, I try to book lodgings in hotels that do have fitness centers. The quality of the equipment can vary drastically, but it usually will suffice for my basic fitness requirements. The first “incident” occurred when I had gone down to the fitness center which, in this case, was more than adequate. They had relatively heavy duty cardio equipment, free weights, and some decent multifunction resistance machines. The problem was that there were three children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old in the center with no visible supervising adults. There were, as it happens, sufficient options in the center for me to have my workout with the children in there. It wasn’t my first choice, but I could do it. However, about the time I was entering the facility, the eldest of the three misused and caused a malfunction in one of the machines that took it out of commission (he broke it… yep, one of his younger siblings also managed to misplace one of the little metal bar doodads that allows you to adjust the weight on the machine, fun times). I chose not to have my workout in the fitness center at that time. Perhaps I should have immediately reported the incident, but I waited to give the miscreants time to get clear. I’m no snitch. The kids removed themselves post haste to avoid getting caught, and I was eventually able to use the fitness center without being blamed for any of the mishandling myself, though unable to use any of the resistance and weight training equipment since it was effectively disabled for the foreseeable future. In the second situation, the outcome was a bit more scary. Again, I went to the fitness center; this time a little less large, the equipment a bit more Spartan. Upon reaching the door, I see two young boys, perhaps 8 and 6 years. I groaned inwardly as again I saw no supervisory adult. I just wanted to get in my workout and go deal with some additional prep work before meetings in the morning. I decided this time to brave it. I started my own cardio on one of the elliptical machines. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. It was too fast to have done anything to prevent. The youngest was playing with the treadmill (without the little safety clip attached to him in any way). He had been just riding it back, walking up, and riding it to the end. At some point he must have touched the wrong button, and the spinning tread shot the kid back catching a small foot in the handrails where they attach to the base and I heard (or imagined I heard) a slight pop… and then the scream. My workout was done, but for the kid, there would be no activity of almost any sort for a while. I did the first aid thing and asked the older one… ok, I firmly told the older one to go get an adult. An annoyed, then frantic woman arrived, and off they went to the hospital. I had several thoughts cross my mind: 1) It was a card key access. Who gave these two not yet 10 year olds a card key and let them wander about the place (did I mention this place also had an indoor hot tub and lap pool? Think about that for a minute… also card key access)? 2) We live in a litigious society, would the “No Children without Adult Supervision” sign clearly posted on the door and walls actually protect the hotel? I think it is great to get kids interested in fitness. There are even gyms that are geared precisely for parents and children to workout together. But please… please… parents out there, supervise your children. Don’t let these kids put themselves in danger of injury or worse, or even damage equipment that the facility probably paid some decent sum to acquire and provide for guests. Dear parents, if you want your children to be healthy, happy, and active, take/make time to play or workout with them. They will likely appreciate that more in the long run anyway… and it will have the added bonus of getting you off your posterior as well. So, here endeth the lesson… it was a little harsh for the little dude and his parents, but perhaps not the worst that could have happened (remember that pool that was also card key accessible).

Of trolls, billy goats, and sheep…

factcheck

So, I’ve spoken… well, written, typed, whatever… before about etiquette involved with the interwebs and more specifically about social media. I’ve even brushed the topic of trolls (Social Media trolling or screaming obscenities from the safety of a fortress). It has become readily apparent to anyone watching even peripherally that social media is 1) not going anywhere, and 2) boiling over with ridiculous amounts of trollery. Yep, trollery. What is trollery, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Most people define the trolling activity as that which trolls, like a ship for fish or crustaceans around in the seas of the internet looking for prey and stirring up the dregs. They lurk in forums, chat rooms, and news feeds looking for heightened emotional content. Whereupon they seize the opportunity to say/type whatever they feel will provoke a larger and more emotional response from the originator of the thread or their adjacent commentators. I imagine them reaching over and grabbing their popcorn and shoveling hands of it in their face while cackling maniacally and watching the show they created with opinions they probably never even held themselves.

The other source of trollery is that despicable and rather disgusting creature that makes their abode beneath bridges and accosts poor travelers just trying to make their way across to the other side. While the “innocent” billy goats are generally molested and munched upon like the aforementioned popcorn, the source and cause for this action seems to lack sufficient foundation to justify the hostility.

The common theme for both these definitions seems to be that the trolls in question have no real motivation in their interactions and contributions other than hurting people and stirring up their negative emotions by expressing outrageous, hyperbolic, or grossly antithetical opinions and statements to which they, the trolls, rarely adhere in their own philosophy. In other words, they’re just doing it to get a rise out of people.

Personally, I have occasionally found the observation of this practice to be entertaining; especially, when one troll happens to be trolled by another troll of equal or surpassing trolliness or snarkiness (This post is going to be full of my own new vocabulary, I think). That always makes for interesting developments and has resulted on rare instances in me being the one reaching for popcorn and cackling maniacally as they rev each other up in an incredibly inane and variably immature arms race of witticisms and false reporting. I’ve often wondered if I set up a side pool when I see these things happening with some of my other observers if we could turn it into a game. Trollery Deathmatch. I sense a reality show. It could happen. Seriously, you’ve seen some of the crap they put out there these days; don’t even tell me that people wouldn’t watch.

Now, one of the issues with trolls and their own evolution is that they don’t always ambush passing innocents or wade into the quagmires of other people’s conversations anymore. They post their wildly outrageous (and I do mean in the sense of creating outrage) diatribes and jibes upon their own pages, blogs, and feeds. They fill their metaphorical sewage lines with metric tons of garbage that assaults their followers and, dare I say it, friends, with hyperbole and blatantly polarized inappropriateness. They are frequently rewarded for their behaviors by gaining more followers… or losing friends. To them, this is a game of chicken or a stare-down contest where the hollow victory is declared when they manage to disenfranchise everyone they know.

I personally recognize the behaviors. I see it for what it is. I have developed the all time greatest ability to ignore their crap and scroll on with my life. Every once in a while, the level of @#$% that builds upon the feeds that assault my gaze get to a point that I cannot stomach any of it. At that point, I generally elect to ignore social media all together, putting the lot of them into a virtual timeout until they learn to act better… they never do really, but when the dust settles and the stench becomes less offensive, I will cautiously choose to participate once again. One of my biggest pet peeves with all the trollery in the internet, however, is that there are what I might term the collateral damage sheep or the unintentional trolls… maybe I’ll call them the treeple or the sholls. These are not the innocent billy goats that traipse along blithely and end up being outright attacked. These are the individuals who observe on the sidelines and are ignorant of the motivation and source for the spewed hyperbole and generally false information proliferated in the trollfeed. They see what is out there and assume “It’s on the internet, it must be true.” And so it goes…

The information gets passed along over and over as truth from on high. The general rule of thumb about seeing information in three or more reputable sources suddenly becomes moot. Nevermind that the origination of the data was not particularly reputable or might just be pure satire. The treeple (or sholls) have witnessed this thought, statement, story, or meme in three places that they trust and thus… it must be fact. Most of the time they have not checked the source at all, the agenda or foundation of said source, or the veracity of the sentiment. It agrees with their own philosophy or agenda and so it is as valid as they are willing to test. They post and re-post continuing to perpetuate the fraud… all the while I can hear the trolls cackling and smell burnt popcorn.

I know that in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t a drop in the ocean of what is out there posted, spoken, and written by the alleged safeguards of information (I’m talking about the media-media again). It has become harder and harder to judge what is reputable and what isn’t. News is no longer facts, but more editorializing based on the agenda of which ever viewpoint is financing their current lifestyle. The truth is no longer something you can rely upon from your tv, radio, or press. In fact, I dare say that many of the news icons today are bigger trolls that our usual trolls have ever considered becoming. However, there are still some sources you can trust. Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, OpenSecrets.org, TruthOrFiction.com, and HoaxSlayer.com are some of the most reputable for checking the verity of your latest meme or repost before you hit “send”.

I personally am not going to say that people have to post the facts and only the facts, a joke is still a joke, and satire is still funny and poignant and makes you think… but before you pass something along or respond to the trolls in the world, take a moment to check your own agenda, facts, and purpose and whether it actually is worth your time and energy to contribute to the general nastiness that is the internet.

If you’re happy and you know it…

…Come tell me how you did it. Seriously. Share that stuff.

Actually, less important than the how or even the why is just the sharing part. One of the things that has become abundantly clear with the spread of media and social media is that moods, emotions, and general vibes are contagious. I’m talking bubonic plague levels. Most people reading that will scoff and take the stance of “Airy fairy hippie wants to tell us all to ‘not worry and be happy.’” Nope. That’s not what I’m saying at all, but it is incredibly short-sighted and naïve to believe that we go through life carrying around our emotional baggage all on our own and it never impacts another living being… in our incredibly social culture and ridiculously small and ever-shrinking planet. Think about it.

I just failed a happiness quiz. Like, literally, one of those stupid little click-bait pseudo-personality-test things that tells you which Disney character you are or what animal you were in your past life? Yeah, one of those. This one was telling you what percentage of you is happy. If it were a final grade for any academic class on the planet, my percentage was a failing mark. I really should not have been at all astounded by these results. Seriously, would a truly happy person even take a ridiculous quiz like that. Beyond the consideration of my willingness to test the concept, how much faith would I actually put into quiz that some kid hopped up on orange soda probably put together on those auto quiz generation sites? And… that is a pretty significant question.

In my case, I looked at the results and thought, Can that be right? Am I that miserable? I don’t really feel that unhappy? Then, of course, I took the quiz again. It wasn’t me trying to scam the results. It was more that I wanted to pay more attention to the actual questions and answers. That’s when I started to get uneasy. The problem with the quiz was that the questions looked almost valid. I recognized various entries from mindfulness training and even depression inventories. There were a few that looked like they had been derived from one of those articles about the habits of happy people, but as a whole this particular quiz didn’t feel like bunk.

So, what did I do with that information? Well, I’ll tell you. I waited, and I took it again on a different day. I actually put a note in my planner to this effect. I also took it at a different time of day. Guess what I found… the results were slightly different, but on the whole too close to be a significant difference. Does that mean that an internet social media quiz can accurately judge happiness? Nope. I don’t believe it for a second. In fact, regardless of the results of that quiz, I do not believe that I am technically an unhappy person. I believe that I have a lack of satisfaction with certain aspects of my life and I worry too much about stuff that I cannot impact through my own actions. In short, I am a control freak. (And yes, there are some of you reading this that just said, No kidding.)

What I also found is that there is an awful lot of extraneous and worthless bull-pucky rampantly displayed and forced down our collective throats by the media and by social media on a daily basis. For the most part (minus puppies and kitties), the tone of this monumental tide of information tends to have a negative flavor. That includes giving an inordinate amount of fame and attention to complete asshats What? You thought by posting, reposting and saying look at what these hateful types are doing was a disservice?!? Hate to break it to you, but all attention is good attention for terrorists and extremists. Infamy works for them just as well as adulation…. But I digress. The news reported focuses on horrible behavior of humans against each other and diatribes from various hate (or power) driven entities. People rant and rage at each other for having differing opinions and outlooks… and they blame. While the world of social media has given birth and rise to a more monstrous “me” generation than the 80’s ever thought about, people use their right to free speech to fling abuse and general negativity with excessive abundance at their fellow creatures; and while they exercise their individuality and rights to hold opinions, they also crucify right left and center entire populations of other individuals en mass for holding differing beliefs and opinions than their own. They group all people who look the same or fall into the same race, ethnicity, or culture as if they are identical and could not possibly have individuality within those groups.  People who hold similar opinions or political beliefs are suddenly not distinct from one another. Friendships are torpedoed because of the expressed opinions or behaviors of complete strangers, and everything… I mean everything is offensive.

It has been said that 2015-16 is the era of the offended, that no one has a sense of humor anymore, and that people need to learn to ignore and move along. I can agree with that to a certain extent because planned ignoring  is the best way to deal with immaturity and acting out. I personally have a strongly developed ability to just scroll on by, unfollow, or block ridiculous or inflammatory crap with which I do not agree, and guess what… I don’t have to waste my energy getting offended by it in the process. On the other hand, I also believe that we’ve somehow lost the art of just having good manners, empathy, and the ability to consider others as individuals with just as much right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we have. It seems that the whole world is caught in an enormous game of grossout/one-up/yo-mama with a side of “me first!”

And now, I’ve strayed so far from my original topic that I may never find my way back… um… oh, yeah… happiness. Too many people in the world think that happiness is a goal or a destination. William S. Bouroughs said, “Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.” That one works pretty well. Eleanor Roosevelt said it better (in my opinion), “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”

That’s the ticket, isn’t it? When we live our own lives and stop worrying about or comparing it to what others are doing, I personally feel that it puts us in a better frame of mind to actually appreciate our present. Too many in this world talk themselves out of happiness or contentment by impatience or envy. We look out at the others around us and fail to see things that may be in our own lives. We look at circumstances and aspects of the world in which we live as if every single element is somehow impacting us personally… often when it has absolutely nothing to do with us at all. In moments of true contentment and peace, rather than just enjoying and being in that moment, we question our right to happiness. We literally talk ourselves out of the moment. We look for reasons to be sad, upset, disgusted, or outraged. Why is that? Is there something programmed within each of us that says that we are not experiencing life as a real event or with purpose unless we can find something to bitch about? Seems like a waste of a good life somehow, but I do it, too. So, I probably need to consider this the next time I’m talking myself out of enjoying a moment.

Something else that I have observed both in person and on social media is the negativity and venting vindictive spleen is not terribly helpful. Sure, the occasional extemporaneous rant can be a great release on pent up rage and swallowed disappointment. Sometimes it can be highly entertaining… but I said occasional. The more frequent or constant that the negativity is spewed forth, the more it begins to feed upon itself and become not so much a catharsis, but a spinning whirlpool of rage, hatred, or depression that sucks the spew-er in to drown in their own horrible mood and soul-sucking negativity. It often result in friends and family avoiding said individual (and/or blocking and hiding newsfeed). Misery may love company, but it tends to run off friends and family and seriously dissuade potential romantic interests.

Everyone has a bad day. To tell the truth, many have a lot of bad days that string together into larger measurements of time. However, the ones that seem to do the best with it aren’t dwelling on the negatives or comparing their own experiences with that of others. They do what I will call their “legitimate suffering” and get on about the business of living their lives. They acknowledge that the bad stuff happens. They let themselves feel the bad, and then they move through it into feeling not so bad and eventually better. Those that have more difficulty moving beyond the negative and get stuck occasionally need help figuring out why they are stuck and figuring out the best way to be unstuck. Sometimes that assistance can be from natural supports like family, friends, or faith. Sometimes it needs something more in the professional line.

The modern society has become very polarized in many ways about the experience of things that are perhaps less than happy. People are expected to “get over it and get on with your life” or be diagnosed and get medicated for it. I am the last person on earth to advise against professional assistance when it is warranted, but in the same line it is also completely normal to feel down, sad, or angry under certain circumstances. People do not perpetually walk around on sunshine with bluebirds and rainbows all the time. Everyone has times when they don’t feel so very chipper. It is also completely natural to have varying timeframes for the normal denouement of such emotions. Not everyone handles events such as grief, pain, loss, or trauma in the same way or within the same time. It is generally up to the individual to determine when “enough is enough.” When the experience of legitimate suffering is impacting the function of life in a significantly negative way, it might be time to seek a little assistance. For some, the energy to seek that assistance has run completely out, and that is where those natural supports can help, too.

And I see that I have once again gotten distracted from my point which was about emotional contagion and how we impact ourselves and others by our very act of sharing. I was actually going for less negative and more about the impact of sharing positive experiences with others. I do not believe that the whole world needs to embrace an overly cheerful, Polyanna-like approach to everything they experience. I personally enjoy sarcasm and the occasional prolific rant when things generally disgust or displease me. However, after years of over-venting, I know that cathartic outlets work because they are a pressure valve of letting things go in a blast and be done. If the process is repeated too often or too long, the exercise loses its potency and the negativity loop feeds on itself just becoming more and more nasty and miserable over time. However, when I share something that makes me feel good or laugh, I feel even better than when I just keep it to myself. When friends do the same in sharing things with me, I like to think that they get the same benefit (and I get to see something else that may make me feel good or laugh). It’s a much more positive cycle. So, that is why I say, if you’re happy and you know it, come tell me about it.

The New Cheese: A foot in the door…

 

'So, you've no experience, no skills and a poor grasp of reality... Have you considered consulting?'

…is a good way to have a broken foot.

Once upon a time, in a land far away… no, that’s not how that goes. Nevermind. However, I will say that at one point in our collective job markets and career paths the first step was always just getting your “foot in the door.” Am I right?

Of course I am. Think about it. How many self help books or blockbuster movies talk up the dream of “mailroom to boardroom”? We were all told, “Yeah, that may not be the job you want entirely, but it gets your foot in the door.” I must have had that particular sentence said to me more than 20 times over the years of job hunts and resume submissions. I recall trying to find something that would give me the vaunted experience that everyone wants. I applied so many places to hear that they were looking for “license eligible” or “more experience” or possibly “more skilled,” only to have my internal voice screaming Well, how the hell do I get those things without a J-O-B?!? 

Eventually, I settled for a J-O-B that wasn’t in my chosen field, just to pay the bills. All the while, I was still trying to find that first step on my career path. I needed time in my profession. I needed experience… and I continued to hear the same things: “Well, I see here that you have held several positions, but none with any experience in healthcare/mental health.” Yep. It’s enough to discourage the most diligent of job hunters. Eventually, I was at the point of taking any job in the field, no matter the pay, just to be able to put something in my chosen path on my resume. Know what happened then? I bet you can guess. “I’m sorry, but you appear to be overqualified for a non-degree position.” Awesome.

I did gradually wear them down and got my first, barely paid, position with a local mental health agency. It worked. It was my “foot in the door.” I cannot tell you the giddiness with which I handed in my resignation to the 2-3 other jobs I was holding in completely non-related fields just to pay bills. I was finally getting to put my hard-earned degree to work. I saw before me a vista of career moves that led me to higher paths and eventual leadership and…

Five years into that position with barely an increase in salary over that time it dawned on me. I’m going nowhere. It wasn’t that I was content or unambitious. There was literally nowhere for me to go in the organization. My chosen step to place my foot in the door had landed me in a department with virtually no upward mobility and zero feed into senior leadership.

Here is the sad fact about the modern job market. A foot in the door doesn’t do what it used to do. This is where the once upon a time comes into the picture. At one time, in the not so very distant past, the idea was to get a position (any position) in a stable or up-and-coming organization. That meant that you were officially on the “ship” and could move around and up in the organization.

That is not always the case in the new, modern market. First, more and more corporations are following a “right-to-work” marketplace. It’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t carry the lifetime (or working-lifetime) guarantee it used to carry. It means that the agreement between employer and employee can be terminated on either side at any time for almost any reason… or for no reason at all. While most organizations still follow a specific set of rules and processes to avoid potential damaging lawsuits or reputation burners, it is not technically necessary.

On the other side of that coin is the part about having a foot in the door and whether that gives you opportunity to do anything else except nurse your foot and stand there like a doorstop. Gone are the days of working your way up from the mail-room into the penthouse office of the CEO. Jobs and career paths have become specified, specialized, and terribly single-minded. Diverse and varied resumes need not apply. It seems that in the workforce of today, employers are looking for expertise rather than wide experience. Learning all parts of the job rarely gives extra points.

In many organizations, it is almost easier to get into management and leadership positions from the outside than from within. That sounds pretty odd, I know, but it is true. Some places have specific caps on how far you can jump from one position to another. For instance, many companies have a cap on the number of paygrades that a person can move. While a promotion of one or two paygrades is permissible, a jump of three or more will rule out a candidate faster than you can say glass ceiling. Additionally, even acquiring a paygrade promotion can potentially be limited in the compensation that goes with it. Some companies actually have rules (some actually in writing and others unspoken) that a raise of 5% per paygrade is what you can expect. This is one of the things that can impact a candidate’s ability to attain a higher promotion. In order for them to hold a position with that high a paygrade, it may technically require a higher compensation change, thus violating that rule. Outsiders applying for the same position are not in the same quandary. Their salary and change of salary is not necessarily in question or even in play (and strangely this particular topic of conversation seems to be taboo before the 2nd or 3rd interview… see Salary & Skilz).

So, you see what I am saying? No longer is merely a foot in the door the main consideration in the search for a job. Applying or accepting just any opening in a company or organization is not necessarily the best strategy for long term success within said organization. Where once entering a company at any level provided the opportunity for upward movement, promotion, and growth; now, candidates need to think well ahead for where they want to go within the job market and choose their entry points wisely.

So, too, the resume that once showed how well-rounded with varied experience an applicant is no longer may carry the strength it once did. Employers are looking for candidates that have experience and skills for the position in question and sometimes they look for loyalty (meaning longer duration in the different entries on the resume).

All of this sounds like a very disappointing and depressing outlook on getting into the job market. However, it shouldn’t be. It is merely a caution to be selective and savvy about the steps you take entering any potentially new opportunity for career. It also means that you may need to be patient and understand that an entry level position will not shoot you to the penthouse corner office like the proverbial rocket. It may take some strategy and a lot of patience to get potentially where you want to eventually go. Just make sure that the door you step through is the foot on the path to the place you want to go.

 

 

Screaming Hairy Armadillos… and other deep conversations

screaming-hairy-dillo

I get into some of the most random conversations, on Fridays especially. I attribute it to lack of sleep and possible hangovers from Thursday evening festivities… or possibly just because all of our collective brain cells have given up after a long week of travail. Whatever the reason, some of the topics are entirely alien. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it was literally aliens one time… or possibly just Giorgio Tsoukalos’ hair.

Friday a couple of weeks ago was especially vexing to anyone that needed me to stay on a logical train of thought. I blame this on the whole Friday phenomenon and the surgery that prevented me going to the gym for my usual routines leaving my brain with way too many tabs open.

So, what could possibly be wrong with too many tabs open? Well, have you used a web browser lately? On a computer that possibly may be deficient in working memory (RAM)? or possibly processor speed? or… well, haven’t run an antivirus, spam filter, or malware clean up of the drives in a decade or so…? Now you are getting the idea. It’s the mental equivalent to searching for information on quantum computing and having every few seconds a window pop up with “NOW, CLICK TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN SAVE ON ELECTRONICS!” or “LATEST WOMEN’S FASHIONS THAT YOU WON’T BELIEVE!” or possibly “FIVE FOODS TO EAT TO LOSE BELLY FAT!” and of course “PORN!!!” After reading the same sentence for the fifth time, you remember something you forgot in a different room, decide to get some more coffee while you are at it, become distracted by the call of the restroom, and totally forget whatever it was you were originally going to the other room to get.

And that, my friends, is what I call Shiny Squirrels Dancing in my office… or as others better know it, Friday.

So, as usual I was having the Friday with all it’s accompanying attention deficits when the most amazing and fabulous idea came into my head about organization, focus, and channeling the energy of my mental channel surfing into something more applicable to success in a material or at least professional capacity. Whereupon, the squirrels began to dance, and off I spiraled into a world of free associations and flight of ideas involving a conga line of storm troopers and ultimately ending up with some creature called a screaming hairy armadillo. Yes, it is a real thing. Look it up. Really. Google it. While you are finding it, you may find something that is called a pink pixie armadillo (or maybe just pixie armadillo), which looks like nothing more than an ambulatory lobster tail… with eyes.

Anyhow, as you can see, at any given time, my train of thought might jump on a different track, miss the left turn at Albuquerque and end up on a different planet or at least a different topic than originally planned.

I suppose the upshot of this entire post was to note that my brain occasionally needs a day to clear out all the underlying clutter and general detritus of trivial information that flows in and out of my senses throughout the week. Fridays seem to be the unfortunate recipients of this mental housecleaning. And for that, we will thank the universe for random topics and screaming hairy armadillos.

A blog about a few thing I picked up along the way… Hey driver, where are we going?!?