Posts Tagged ‘life’

I have a little desk clock that I keep by my computer.  It’s a little freebie-thing from Brookstone that I got for spending $40 there one day (I had a birthday gift card for the place) but I like it because it has a nice big clock face, displays the date and day of the week on it, and if you rotate it 90, 180, or 270 degrees, it turns into a thermometer, count-up timer, or world clock, respectively.

Just Enough ClockI’ve been out of the office pretty much since last July, so it was only this morning I noticed something interesting – instead of showing the year 2010 as ’10, my trusty little clock has rolled over to ’90.  Yes, I get to live the 90s all over again!

From what I can tell, the clock (made in China) uses some sort of cheap computer circuit board that was programmed with the minimum function set required to provide the features advertised on clock.  Rather than expand the memory/processing power of the clock to handle dates outside the range of 1990-2009, the designers decided to just let the clock roll over and never show the correct date after the functionality-imposed “end-of-life” of the clock.  Probably they expected that the hardware itself would only have a lifespan of a few years, anyway, so those folks like myself who got the clock in 2003 would never have it last long enough to see this bug “feature” in the design.

But my clock survived (against all odds?) and is a great of example of what I like to call the “Just Enough” syndrome.

“Just Enough” can apply to any number of aspects of your life, whether it be you doing just enough work in your job to get the task at hand completed, paying just enough on your credit card debt to stay off the “finance charge” list, cleaning just enough of your house/car/workspace to keep it from looking like a total dump, or studying just enough to get by on your test/presentation/speech.  The results of “Just Enough” work can be described by a single word – mediocre.  Mediocre can also describe the quality of life you might have if you employ the “just enough” attitude regularly.

However, attempting to go “Above and Beyond” on everything you do creates a different peril; spending so much time and effort on a single task could mean you end up not having enough time/resources to finish everything else, and have to sacrifice something to make up for it.  This is what I personally tend to struggle against, both at work and at home.

The solution, or course, like so many other things in life, is moderation.  The “Just Enough” attitude is perfect for throwaway work that you don’t need to deal with ever again, or things that would suck up your time without providing you with enough return on your time investment.  You can still go above and beyond on things that are important to you, whether it’s playing with your children, putting together that big report for work, cooking a fantastic meal, working to get out of debt, doing something creative, or participating in a hobby.  The key is thinking about what you’re doing, and really consciously deciding up-front how important the activity is and how much you want/need to invest in it.  Waiting until you’re halfway done (or sometimes, even after you’ve been done for hours/days!) won’t work – you’ve missed your chance to repurpose your time for more important things, and all you’ve got left now is a lesson to learn from for next time.

Do More or Less?I hope my poor little clock continues to run.  I’d like to keep it here on my desk to remind me to evaluate whether what I’m working on deserves more than a “Just Enough” solution.  And because that isn’t always the right answer, I’ve paired it with my Staples Easy Button to remind me that I often take things well beyond what is needed, and need to scale back my effort and time investment accordingly.  If I can keep my behavior somewhere in the middle, I’ll have a few new single-word handles to hang on my quality of life – Happy, Contented, Fortunate, and Worthwhile.

QotD: En Route

Posted: 2007-12-10 in General
Tags: , , , ,

   What is your daily commute like?  What is the weirdest thing you've seen on that commute? 

    Submitted by E

I'm slammed here at work, and it's not much better at home right now, what with getting ready for the new baby.  So my QotD answer today is just a repost of previous entries I put up a while back.  See?  I'm prescient – I answer the odd QotDs before they're even announced!

For the original Chucky post, go here.

For the original Duct Tape post, go here
(For the record, I saw Mr. Duct Tape's car the other day, and his window is still going strong.)

For the original jackknife post, go here.

For the original NASCAR post, go here.

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   If you could get everyone in the world to change their behavior in one way, what would you have them do differently?

    Submitted by Ross.

I checked what some people have already posted for this QotD, and there are some great answers out there:

  • By far, the most popular answer seems to be people wanting everyone to be more tolerant of others, which is always a great answer – more tolerance equals less hate, less violence, less problems.  This is something I always am hoping for.
  • There are a number of variations on this theme, from people that said we shouldn't be trying to change people, and accept the way they are, to people who want others to listen better, be more courteous, practice good manners, etc.  All of these types of actions are things that grease the wheels of society, and I couldn't agree more that they would be great to have people do better or more often.
  • Some people said they want everyone to recognize/acknowledge God/religion/etc.  I'll assume this isn't a blind cry for religious conformity, but rather people who are focusing on the tolerant and accepting aspects of their religion and how the world would be a better place if people incorporated these actions into their lives…
  • Some people focused on the environmental actions, hoping people would be more green.  This would definitely help our world out, even if it isn't EVERYONE who changes their behavior in this way.
  • There were a bunch of other, more personal things out there that all had merit – definitely go check out what people have posted to see some thought-provoking answers.

As for me, I decided to consider one that I haven't seen people mention yet.  I would want people to be more appreciative of the humor and good in everything around them.  If some people had a better sense of humor, or didn't take things so seriously, or just plain appreciated the good aspects of their lives, I think the world would be a better place. 

I don't think one single action is going to change our problems with violence, war, poverty, disease, etc, but if we can change part of our outlook, we might be able to start making a dent in some of these problems in a way we didn't think we could, before. 

As a challenge to you – one time in the next week or so, when you find yourself in a situation that makes you angry or sad or upset or otherwise negative – stop for a moment and try to view the situation in another way that seems humorous, or lets you appreciate the things you do have in your life in spite of the situation.  If your change in outlook doesn't fix the issue outright (it probably wont!), did it at least help in some way?

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   Show us your favorite way to stay warm on a cold autumn day.

    Submitted by Ross.

I'll leave the non-PG answers to this question to other folks in my neighborhood – I'm sure at least one of them is up to the challenge.

My FAVORITE way to stay warm involves curling up on the couch with a good book, a blanket, and a cup of Irish Coffee, preferably while a fire crackles in a fireplace nearby.  But since my house right now only has a gas fireplace, my supply of Jameson's is dangerously low, and I'm at work, I guess I'll have to settle for this today:

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"The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life."
    –Muhammad Ali

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  • The neighborhood you lived in would have people moving constantly in/out of nearby houses.  You could kick people out if they don't interest you enough or are rude to you, but be careful how you interact with others – the ability to boot people from your neighborhood could be turned against you as well.

  • You could wake up in the middle of the night (or pretty much anytime, for that matter) and immediately see what your friends have been up to recently.  Unless they've made efforts to hide it from you, of course…
  • You could cruise the neighborhood at will, but in order to get out of your car and actually talk to someone, you would need to "identify" yourself.  This would lead to a lot less door-to-door salesmen, and the few you find would get kicked out of the community as soon as you reported them to the authorities.
  • You could spy on your neighbors whenever you wanted, without their knowledge (unless they were keeping an eye out for stalkers.)
  • Starting a conversation with someone that interests you would be as easy as instant messaging them "Hi", without any regard for geographic locations, times of day, or IM usernames.  However, for now, you better keep track yourself of what you've said privately to someone else, because nobody else is going to do it for you.
  • There would be tons of cliques around, but unlike the cliques you saw in high school, these would welcome new members who share the same interest.  Plus, you can co-exist in two cliques at once without anyone calling you out on it (usually).
  • You could spend all day sitting at home on your couch in your pajamas while you talk to countless people, and nobody would know (or care!)
  • Your photo albums would be simultaneously displayed on your mantle and in every other house in your neighborhood.
  • You could find out pretty much immediately what someone thinks about your thoughts – although you might have to go somewhere special to hear all of their opinions, if they're especially verbose.
  • Every day, you would get a visitor coming to your door to ask you a new question, or urging you to show off something you have or can find on a specific topic.
  • You could scan for people's thoughts on a specific topic, as long as they made an effort to label their thoughts with the key-words you're searching with.  Or you could just browse haphazardly and find something that captures your imagination.
  • There would be a group of concerned citizens (probably also neighbors of yours!) who are constantly working to improve your life and make it easier for you to do the things you want to do.

Any others I've missed?

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"Life is obstinate and clings closest where it is most hated."
    -Mary Shelley

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“People are so isolated, and so alone, and so suspicious, and so competitive with each other, and so sure that they are about to be conned by their neighbor, or by their mother, or by their sister, or their grandmother. What's the use of having fifty percent of the world's wealth, or whatever it is that you have, if you're going to live this pathetic, terrified life?”
    -Arundhati Roy

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Life of Pi
Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of those novels that everyone and their mother seems to have read about 5 years ago, but ended up on my bookshelf, only to be overlooked and forgotten in multiple moves.  I finally pulled it out to take with me on my trip to Houston and ended up absolutely loving it.

Piscine Molitor Patel, known to "all" as Pi (i.e. 3.14), comes from a small Indian territory called Pondicherry.  Son of a zookeeper, Pi has spent part of his youth exploring and practicing multiple religions, from his native Hinduism to Islam to Christianity.  When Pi is sixteen, his family and their zoo animals emigrate from India to Canada aboard a Japanese cargo ship, which sinks along the way.  Pi finds himself stuck in a lifeboat with a number of zoo animals, including a 450-pound Bengal tiger.

The book tells more than the story of a stranded teenager and his ark full of animals.  It is a look into religious beliefs and faith, the importance (or lack thereof) of material goods in one's life, and the indomitable will of human beings and animals to not only survive, but flourish under conditions of adversity.  Pi's story is told non-linearly, with interruptions to recount stories of his past or accounts of interviews that occur in his future.  Rather than detracting from the plot, this only serves to strengthen the story-line and give deeper emotion to every castaway scene the reader encounters.

Yann Martel's prose is beautiful and humorous.  Descriptions of the littlest thing can leave you wondering why you never looked at the item that way before, and his observations on people and religions are interesting and often profound.  "Pi" characterizes scientists early on as:

I never had problems with my fellow scientists.  Scientists are a friendly, atheistic, hard-working, beer drinking lot whose minds are preoccupied with sex, chess and baseball when they are not preoccupied with science.

But one of my favorite passages deals with his philosophical view of life and death:

When you've suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling.  My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition.  I mock this skull.  I look at it and I say, "You've got the wrong fellow.  You may not believe in life, but I don't believe in death.  Move on!"  The skull snickers and moves ever closer, but that doesn't surprise me.  The reason death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity-it's envy.  Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs what it can.  But life leaps over oblivion lightly; losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.

Life of Pi
lends an element of the fantastic to the story, while at the same time appears as if the story could have be an all-too-real occurrence.  The unique blend of zoological, philosophical, and religious insights draws you in and lets your mind chew on a heavy meal while your eyes hunger for the rest of Pi's castaway tale.  It's a brilliant story by a wonderful storyteller, and one I'd recommend for anyone who wants a deeper look into the human condition.

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