Morning rituals

I have long envied people who stick to their morning rituals. Or maybe they rely on them. I find the world highly ephemeral. I try not to rely on anything I don’t feel compelled to rely upon.

So I’ve watched over the years, now that people share, in the Instagram perfection of it all, their rituals, if not daily, then at least over time what appears to be a daily thing.

The first action of the day might be making coffee. They grind, froth, stir, and ease into their day. Some get kitted up and cycle to their favorite spot where they meet others of similar ilk and collectively drink and eat a bite of something before whisking off on their daily ride.

Lots of folks I know head quietly to their workshop of choice. Wood, pottery, metal–it matters not. They spend some time making things that they or others may cherish for years to come, a tribute before heading off to work. Sometimes it’s a wish, a hope, or prayer that they can spend more time doing the creative activity they love.

My mornings have been defined by external factors for a long time. Garbage and recycling 3 times a week. Getting DaKid™ on the school bus. Sometimes commuting. But not much in the way of taking a few moments to greet the day.

I have a pile of gifts that I’ve been making in my little wood shop for a while. Some of the folks have been waiting years for their gifts to be completed. Sad. So terribly sad. Last year and now this year have been banner years for completing projects. Bookcases, a dining room table, and now the gifts are all being finished. And while it’s a tiny fraction of what it used to be, I’m even working on some new music.

I find new rituals establishing themselves. After taking care of the other stuff (garbage, School bus, etc.) I make my way to the shop and spend a few minutes adding another coat of shellac to a board. Or some other not very risky task. Risk takes time. I need to be able to back away, think, come at it again. There’s little time for that in my morning.

Shellac is a beautiful finish. A bit high maintenance for some, but beautiful. I use very thin coats and many of them. Each day another thin layer is applied. It’s probably dry in ten of fifteen minutes, but work beckons, and so I don’t make it back there until the end of the day. It is ritualistic. I go down there, flick on the lights, put one glove on like a drunken surgeon, uncap the canning jars, one with shellac, one with the cloth pad. A few swipes later, and I’m done for now. The jars are lidded, and the glove, turned inside out as I remove it, goes in the trash.

More recently, as I began composing some new music, I started practicing again. I sit down, grab an instrument, turn on the metronome and lose myself in exercises for 15 or 20 minutes. Amazingly peaceful for me. A touchstone from an older aspect of my life and a meditation. And probably something I should every day for the rest of my life. It’s not “playing” or “performing”. It’s a simple discipline where I work toward increasing facility. Playing things that are hard for me now until they become smooth and easy. A new picking technique. A hard to play phrase. A difficult intervalic leap. A few concentrated minutes that stops time outside of my focus before the day is in full swing. A morning ritual.

First coat on the bottom… Just before, I knocked back the top's two coats with a #3000 grit automotive pad. I know it has its limitations...but shellac is such a beautiful finish. #whisperworkshop #handwork #handtools #woodworking #woodwork #everythingmatters

And the news became important…

Dave Winer: RSS on the desktop, 15 years later

Distilled, in a tweet, this is what it’s about to me. “One of the most patriotic things you can do is to upgrade the quality and breadth of the news you read. Invest in your personal news flow.”

Even just a few months ago, that statement would have seemed arrogant, even unhinged. But today we know that control of information flow is essential to basically everything. It will be even more so in the future.

That’s the anthem of my new product, Electric River. It’s now available for the Mac, hopefully soon on other desktop platforms. It boots up reading the feeds I set it up to read. But you can and should make it your own. I want to work on making feed discovery better next, but for right now, you can build your own news network and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make it work.

[Dave’s vision for this has been clear for very long time, but is as fresh as ever. So, if you’re reading this, and you’ve been actively seeking and sharing stories in places like Facebook, do yourself a favor and try this out. Seek the news feeds that you find important and add them in. Most of all, continue to seek the truth that lies beneath the reporting, editing, and biases.]

The Schrödinger’s cat of imperfection is perfection

The Universe’s Most Enigmatic Frame Builder | Bicycling:

BS: As far as I’ve been able to tell, the rider is not going to experience the imperfection—everyone I’ve talked to who rides your bikes says they’re exquisite. And the imperfections are not even something other highly skilled builders notice easily or at all. There’s no practical reason to try to exceed that.

RS: Yeah, the thing about it is… it doesn’t matter at all.

BS: Right—and you also cannot succeed at what you’re trying to do. You go into it knowing you’re going to fail, so—

RS: Well, when you start, every time you start, you have a chance. You also know you won’t do it. Both things exist for you at that moment. And for some time as the heat and the metal and the human element interface, both possibilities stay alive, and that is… Look, ultimately, yes, you get to some point where you concede, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t… you know… you…

[and then]

BS: So the point isn’t to make a perfect bike but to be a human and to make a perfect bike? Or is the inevitable imperfection itself the perfect part, because it represents that struggle, the human part?

RS: This is the point where we are beyond reason. And probably beyond answers.

BS: Why should a buyer care about your struggle? Why not just go out and buy the perfect bike?

RS: I can only make one file cut and once that cut is made, I can’t put the material back. That’s what people are paying for. I think that makes a bicycle more beautiful.

[This conversation so nails how I feel but fail to express about everything I’ve ever worked on, built, made, and achieved. Richard Sachs pushes everyone who makes anything forward, and while some have their shortsighted view of his stance and explanation, I see the way forward.

While I’m certain, having seen his bikes first hand, that owning one would be a joy, and riding one regularly a double joy, I don’t need to. That is, that the process toward mastery doesn’t require ownership by me. That he continues to chase mastery and perfection is what I need, although I admit, it’s not as visceral.]

What it’s about — moderation, preservation, and gradualism.

I wanted to write about what this election is about to me… and I assure you it’s not about parties, candidates, media news cycles, or predictions.

Here’s what I think this is about… it’s about getting small. It’s about realizing that growth is not the only answer to how you improve your life. It’s about doing and creating things that other need, without allowing that to become more important than family, friends, and making the most of the unknown amount of time you have.

Think about the following…in 2008 when you were spending $4 a gallon for gas. It took me back to 1973 when waiting on a gas line (and no cell phones!!) was a thing. Even the folks driving us to school waited on line with us kids in the car, because you needed every advantage. Even if we put up with things like fracking (oh heavens, no), and giant oil lines running across our wilderness (please, have a little respect) we’re running out of oil, no matter which way you want to look at it.

Global warming? It’s not a future problem, it’s a now problem. Please take a few minutes to read through this, and you’ll understand why I say that. The drawing makes it abundantly clear. I know it impinges on the way people want to live their lives, and I feel bad about that. But not so bad that I lose sight of where we are headed to the best of our knowledge. It’s not even a “we’re good, let our kids worry about it” problem—which is venal enough… it’s a now, like we really need to change our behavior problem. When you mix that with the rapidly diminishing oil reserves, and it represents a clarion call to action. Even if all the scientists are wrong (How could that be? All of them?), are you willing to the bet the only inhabitable planet we all live on that they’re all wrong, and that with no particular proof you are correct? C’mon. That’s nuts.

So one last item, the collapse of the banks. Displaying a singular lack of integrity they based their choices on a crazed belief (as is the anti-global warming crowd) that things will not change. That they way things have been recently is all there is. That at the very bottom, in the ooze and muck of “me first”, the personal interest ($$$) of the individuals in the banks is far more important than the needs of anyone or everyone else. They cannot be trusted any more because their interest is uncoupled from yours by an abyss so vast that you cannot expect them to act in even a vague notion of alignment to your interests, which they claim to represent.

We need to stop thinking that the answer to everything is growth. Bigger is not better, and we should stop painting ourselves into a corner that leaves no room for any other answer. Why don’t we ever consider shrinking? Why can’t small be not only good but great? And better or best! Why can’t less really be more? The answer, of course, is it can, because it relies on community, and alignment of values and concerns.

So the election… I’m thinking about the above. I’m thinking about folks who are remarkably not represented in any way shape or form. I’m thinking about folks who just want to live their lives with the dignity and respect accorded others. I don’t see a clear party or candidate that represents “less”, “smaller”, “more simple”. I do not hear anyone talking about moderation, preservation, and talking about a gradual approach to anything. Well, maybe they all talk about gradually increasing taxes in one form or another. But that’s it. So go vote, and do the best you can. That’s as close to a plan as I have for this election.

Planned Obsolescence

Planned Obsolescence:

I’ve long felt that everyone who eats meat should slaughter and butcher and animal in order to get in touch with where meat comes from. I now add to the list that everyone who creates trash needs to go to the dump and take a good long look at where trash goes. So many materials. So much waste. So many things that failed to be worthwhile. So much mass. There were mountains, truly mountains of trash.

[I continue to rebel against consumerism. As much as I possibly can I do without things that are not preferably, made by individual, to last, and avoid things that are “trendy” and designed to be replaced within my lifetime. I may never get all the way there, but I (and my family) are getting closer all the time. Someone mocked me using the words of another “Ingredient driven, farm to table, dishwasher safe, gluten free, kosher for Passover, craft brewed, bean to bar, hand roasted, Fiber speeds but made with dial-up sensibility living according to my opinion.” That’s a lot to ask for, but I’ll take it where I can find it.]

Image from: https://recycleraccoon.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/landfill.jpg

Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired

Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired – The New York Times:

Treating workers as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded is a central part of the revised relationship between employers and employees that techies proclaim is an innovation as important as chips and software. The model originated in Silicon Valley, but it’s spreading. Old-guard companies are hiring “growth hackers” and building “incubators,” too. They see Silicon Valley as a model of enlightenment and forward thinking, even though this “new” way of working is actually the oldest game in the world: the exploitation of labor by capital.

HubSpot was founded in 2006 in Cambridge, Mass., and went public in 2014. It’s one of those slick, fast-growing start-ups that are so much in the news these days, with the beanbag chairs and unlimited vacation — a corporate utopia where there is no need for work-life balance because work is life and life is work. Imagine a frat house mixed with a kindergarten mixed with Scientology, and you have an idea of what it’s like.

[One of the differences between sports and almost any other job, is that while you can try and reduce people to numbers, it’s often horribly shaded by the perception of others. I’ve often said that sports that requires “judges” is not a sport. It’s performed by athletes, but a sport can be measured. You hit the ball fairly or not. You ran faster than the next gal or not. And because of that ability to measure, you can apply other arithmetic solutions to the problem of “value”. That simplicity of goal and skill is why sports is so much fun for all of this. Instead of myriad shades of gray and decisions you have the clarity of simple goals and yes or no. Applying that thinking to most workplace jobs simply reduces people to… well read the article. I know folks are replaceable at a skills level, but you’re failing if you miss the human behind those skills and bringing out the best in them.

Here’s my prescription since I’ve been from one end of the US hiring economy and back.

  1. Stay out of or get out of debt
  2. Build, author, design, create things that other people want with quality and integrity.
  3. Enjoy what time you have, none of us know our allotment.

Since so many young people start off with lots of debt relative their income, I say this to the parents now (it applies to them to, but some bandwagons are hard to abandon) don’t saddle your kids with debt by allowing them to run up huge debt to start out. (and try and teach them that it’s not the Way.) Consider eliminating your own. (cars, house, business loans, venture capital, etc. the stuff that really ties you down.)]