Gone already?!

I just want to say that sometimes the things we do online have outsized consequences in the real world. It’s easy to forget that there are real people behind every screen. I forget about that almost every day but better people than me provide some good reminders.

~ Gabriel Weatherhead from, http://www.macdrifter.com/2021/09/thank-you-this-will-be-rough.html

My title refers to the fact that it’s only been four months, and this link has already rotted. In September 2021 I marked this for later reading, (note the /2021/09/ in that URL,) and I only just got around to reading it. I read it as a locally-cached copy in my read-later software, and then realized the link was dead when I tried to write this blog post… :(

I’m so sorry. It was a nice piece about how he had reread some Vonnegut over the pandemic year and… and… it’s already gone?!

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Or soon every day will have gone by

… and soon the day has gone by and we wonder what we did with the day.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/interstitial/

I marked this for “read later” back in December 2021, and am just getting around to reading it. I know that many—most? all?—of the amazing coincidences I find in my life arise from my innate, monkey-brain drive to see patterns and causation where none actually exists. I don’t care. It’s a nice coincidence that I’ve just gotten around to reading this, while in the past couple of weeks I’ve been simplifying and focusing on a small number of things that I want to be working on.

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Screens and screen time

I read and hear a lot about how excessive “screen time” is bad. But there’s a distinction that has to be made: Is the “screen time” tool-use to accomplish something meaningful? …because tool-use is not bad for you. We don’t begrudge the time a mechanic spends wielding his tools; we call that “working.”

Today I spent nearly every waking minute in front of one of four different computer screens. For reasons of sanity and physical health, sometimes I was sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes indoors and outdoors for long stretches too. I also take intentional “vision breaks” to allow my eye muscles to relax—literally relax to infinite focusing distance, which they would otherwise never do facing a screen, or anywhere indoors.

What did I do? I did an enormous number of things. Here are a few examples from today: I submitted a presenter application for an in-person event in September. I worked on my presentation notes for a different, in-person event in 2 weeks. I researched and experimented with exporting the contents of a WordPress site, and then read and interpreted the massive data which was output, to verify that I could later write a program to parse it. I then planned out the work needed to disassemble the project, of which that WordPress site is but one piece. I estimate I spent three hours reading text articles I’d previously queued up to read later. I helped a member of a community sort out a problem they were having.

I, truly, don’t know about you. I however, am an excellent mechanic, with the finest tools, and there remain far more things worth doing than I can ever get done. My problem is not, “screen time.”

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2022’s touch-phrase shall be…

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I hope these emails aren’t piling up in your inbox. I know of at least one reader who really enjoys them. They enjoy them so much, they keep saving them for a better time to read them, and they now have a pile. That’s not what I meant to do to you; I’m so sorry!

Back on 3/3/2021, I changed this blog from going out as a daily email, to be a weekly email. One of the reasons was that I didn’t want my email piling up in your inbox. I don’t mean “waaaaaaaaa, you’re not reading!” I mean that I don’t want to be making your life worse. It doesn’t actually affect me whether you read in a timely fashion, read later, or not at all. But puh-LEASE think about this:

If you enjoy these emails so much, don’t you deserve to have a specific time that you can look forward to? Your favorite reading nook, a cup of tea (or rum or whatever)… you know: Make a little ritual out of it. If that ritual turns out to make your life better, then you can always remove my silly missives and slot in something actually worth reading. I digress.

Choose wisely.

Those of you who are regular readers will be aware that I’ve been thinkering on the touch-phrase for 2022. Coming out of the fourth turn, it looked briefly as if, Urgency?! might pull ahead in the final stretch to win by a, “U”. But it wasn’t to be; Choose Wisely was hard at it the whole way down the back stretch and simply had too demanding a lead for Urgency?! to overcome. And why did this turn into a horse race metaphor? They do sound like the name of race horses though. Choose Wisely takes up the mantel from a long lineage of winners: “No.” “Simplify” “Hell Yes! or no.” and “Festina Lente” (which is not an assessment of pasta’s done-ness) to name a few.

Hopefully—lest my life have no meaning—I’ve made you laugh, or think twice, in the past year. Seriously though, please consider hitting one of those supporter links at the tippy top. Every dollar really does matter and move me towards making a living doing things I enjoy.

In other news, I’ve hit the “Drop cap” button on that paragraph back there a ways. Why? No reason. Just always wanted to use it, just to see what it looks like in the emails.

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Should I keep blogging?

This is not a passive-aggressive maneuver to get you to scroll to the bottom, read the footer and consider supporting my work. (It would mean a lot though if you did.)

This is a serious question which I ask myself at a frequency approaching every minute. All the benefits are not directly measurable.

Exposure — In order to ensure I have material to write posts, I have various processes and systems that force me to skim an insane amount of stuff pretty much every day. If you imagine skimming my weekly email in a second or two, that’s 7 items. I skim about 300 to 500 items every day. A small number each day catch my attention enough that I toss them on my read-later queue. There are 764 things on that queue at this instant. It takes me significant time to read them, but often just a few seconds to realize, “yeah this is going to be a blog post” (and then I go on reading to the end and then I write the post.) If I stopped blogging, would I still do all that work to be exposed to ideas?

Learning — Writing blog posts creates a third “imprint” in my mind. First a glance, then a read, and then thinking about it. Even if I sometimes abort the blog post mid-writing, it’s still three different repetitions. And I have software that feeds me my own blog posts (“what did I post 10 years ago, today?” etc.) so I am constantly re-reading everything on this site; that’s more repetitions as things drift into history.

Integration — If I write a blog post about it, I generally try to figure out its relationship to everything else. Adding blog tags is the most obvious bit of integration. But figuring out what to pull quote involves deciding what is salient to me. And deciding which part(s) I want to focus on, magnify, or disagree with requires further integration.

Writing — Thoughts swirl in my mind. Characters appear on my screen. There are several skills one can work on between those two sentences.

All of that goes into feeding my personal growth and priming my curiosity. Since good conversation is powered by genuine curiosity, all that stuff also enables my person mission.

Should I keep blogging? It doesn’t feel like stopping is realistically an option.

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Who’s in charge?

But then [Seneca] gives the real reason: “The body should be treated more rigorously that it may not be disobedient to the mind.” I think about that every morning just before I crank the knob. Who is in charge? The courageous side of me or the cowardly side? The side that doesn’t flinch at discomfort or the side that desires to always be comfortable? The side that does the hard thing or the side that takes the easy way?

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/do-something-that-scares-you-every-day/

This made me think. Usually, I share others’ writing because I thought highly of it. In this case, I’m hesitant to say this, however: I’ve never thought my body was in charge.

Certainly(!) I have reflexes and bodily functions or urges which my mind has no control over. Certainly flinching (under cold water for example) is something you can learn to reduce. I’ve always thought of my mind as the one who’s not always the best captain of the ship. I don’t need to train to put my mind in charge of my body.

Recently I hurt my back. The story begins with my doing some truly pathetic, free-weight exercises to strengthen my back. I over did it. Then I ate poorly and wound up bloated and a few pounds heavier. Then I went rock climbing and worked on a problem (a challenging combination of moves and skills, in an easy to access location rather than 2 hours up some mountain, so one can spend time with it) that involved maximum–strength pulling with my arms while pushing with my legs. Boink! Ow, my back. I managed to calmly pack my 20 pounds of things into my pack, walk back to the car and drive myself 3 hours home. There were a myriad of things that could have set me off in the moment, on the drive, and in the coming days: acute pain, inability to sleep well, the inability to reach my feet or wipe my butt, the fact that I did it all to myself while trying to improve my body, drivers on the highways and people who tried to talk to me, the overall setback, … so many things. But instead, I was reasonable with everyone. I did what I could do, rested and recovered. A week later—just as I knew I would be—I’m back to where I was before I picked up the free-weights. Ready to try again at improving myself (and planning an even more gradual start.)

So I’m inclined to say: My mind is clearly in charge, even under duress.

What I was thinking about, in that first sentence here, was if I have trained to put my mind in charge, that means there’s room for more training.

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The only rule

What I learned from reading about writing…

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/2021/02/07/writing-as-a-craft/

This was a fun read and is mostly not the usual titles one sees suggested to read on writing. Among many things, I am a writer. I enjoy learning what appears—in others’ view—to be the right way to do things. The more I read, write, and read on writing, the more I’m convinced it’s just like any other mastery practice: The only rule is that there really are no real rules. Understand the best, accepted practices, (often labeled “rules” to get the newbies to start in the correct direction,) and then later move on to do whatever you please.

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The second time

This one’s for Mike, who’s been waiting very patiently after reading about the first time.

At any golf course there are people known as the greenskeepers. There are different roles, and it’s a massive undertaking. There’s one superintendent who oversees everything, with different people working on specialized tasks. There’s one person—or I suppose a team at a really important course—who is responsible for the pins.

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Inconsistent yet persistent

Tuline Kinaci is an all-around mover, a dancer, rock climber, traceusse and earned her degree in athletic training. In addition to her movement practices, Tuline is a certified authentic Tantra instructor, teaching holistic healing of body, mind, spirit and sex. Tuline considers herself a sex activist and is the founder of LoveCraft, a sexual coaching and empowerment collective.

Tantra was the obvious place to begin since we were surely going to end up talking about tantric sex. My fear was that most people’s—myself included—knowledge of Tantra would be something to do with the artist, Sting. We immediately agreed that leaving the world only knowing about “men in linen pants” would be a disservice. “Tantra means, literally, to weave light and sound with form, the light being visualizations of your chakras in your body, sound being chants that you’re making, and then the form being your body, your physical body. That’s it, in a nutshell. The way that often looks is meditating. The way a lot of people do that is they’ll meditate and then have sex; they’ll meditate during sex; they’ll meditate on their own without any sex. Yeah, that’s kind of that, which means nothing, right? It’s like a, ‘Cool, and then what?’ which is what got me into having a coach.” — ~ Tuline Kinaci from, ~4’40”

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Audience

Elisa Graf is both a writer and an editor and has started a podcast called Mystic Takeaway. She loves stories about the transcendent and the everyday world colliding, and the surprise, joy, and wonder that ensues. Her podcast showcases extraordinary stories of mysterious encounters and miraculous healings.

In our conversation, we found ourselves talking about podcast show statistics. They come up often when people first dive into podcasting. Everyone quickly realizes there’s an array of numbers that can be tracked. But what do those numbers mean? What numbers should we be shooting for? What does a “download” or “listener” even mean? But rather than dive into techno-babble, I was curious about what first surprised Elisa about podcasting stats when she published her podcast.

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