On Tuesday I turned 29. Apparently this is one of those “milestone” birthdays meant to suggest that now I’m really growing old and should start worrying or feeling worse about myself in some abstract way. Apparently when you’re 30 it means that the party decade is over and you should scrape the cheeto dust out of your navel, put some pants on, and finally grow up.
So be it. Growing old has never really bothered me. (Though I wish the hair wasn’t going so fast…) I’ve felt like a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body since at least junior high. So how about this for an old-fashioned way to really put the last 362 days of the third decade of my life to use: actually writing out a plan for the year. Here’s what I’m going to try to do so that when the 30th birthday hits in 2014 I can look back and not feel too much embarrassment at another wasted year.
In December I declared my “7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal” and then began the process of integrating these general self-improvement goals into both my daily routine and the weekly schedule of my PJ Lifestyle blogging. I left them somewhat vague so over the course of the month more concrete goals could materialize. And here they are, revised from my original list but generalized so perhaps others might still find them useful to consider as potential additions to their own Lifestyle self-programming.
1. Family Life on Monday: Rediscover and Celebrate Your Family’s Origins.
On Monday this week I blogged an open letter to my wife informing her that the time had come to change directions with our Netflix diet. The number of Dexter/Battlestar Galactica-level cable shows on DVD had dried up and new releases offered little hope of consistent entertainment satisfaction. We had to start mining older regions of film and TV history — but could we agree on a path forward?
Turns out we still can. April selected the first option:
1. Watch the entire Criterion Collection. Maybe in order?
You’re always complaining (rightfully) that the past few years I’ve spent too much time on politics and don’t show you weird, artsy movies anymore. Well here’s the mother lode and now we should start exploring it.
April suggested we call it “The Criterion Challenge.” We’re going to attempt to watch as many as we can this year — and yes, as close to in the order of their release as we can. We started last night with my copy of The Seven Samurai (spine #2) and watched the first hour. I’d forgotten how entertaining a film it was — and was delighted when April got into it too.
In charting this new entertainment course for us, we’re really going back to the origins of our relationship. I never realized what a role my oddball movie tastes had for April. When we began dating seriously for a second time in the fall of 2006 (a few months after I’d graduated and she was starting her sophomore undergraduate year), I would drive up to Muncie from Indianapolis on weekends with different art movie DVDs to share with her.
But in the years since our marriage I’ve neglected this original film guide role. My movie obsession fell by the wayside to make way for political warfare and new media trouble-making. Now’s a good time to correct course as I seek to re-balance my life between the legs of culture, religion, and politics. (Instead of the ideological focus that it’s largely been for the last three years…)
And we’re both on the same page in why we’re watching this series of classic films — to further develop our own understanding of the visual arts. What makes a beautiful, powerful image? How does film tell stories and evoke feelings? April and I are going to explore these questions together and I’ll try and blog a few thoughts on each film. Also, keeping with the return to film, for our year off from Disney Land I’m going to make a point to explore the ideas that brought it into existence.
Monday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Research the life, work, and ideas of Walt Disney to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Three weeks after publicly proclaiming seven self-improvement goals for the new year, my quest for more disciplined time management still remains the most elusive. Some of the problem is that I have not yet figured out how best to utilize the four tools that will navigate me through the combination of my personal and professional lives:
*** Cell phone – currently a Motorola Droid but soon to switch to an iPhone… Finally!
Part of this I can blame on not having all the puzzle pieces yet. My new journal — a birthday present from The Wife — arrived on Friday. And our new phones won’t appear until the end of the week. But soon I’ll have only myself to blame for those all-too-familiar feelings of anxiety and frustration that still arrive some days when I fail to achieve all the goals set.
I suspect that part of the problem is my tendency to multitask. As much as I want to focus on just writing a blog post or just editing an article or just reading a book from the stack of to-review titles, it’s so easy for interruptions — a phone call from a writer, an instant message from another PJM editor — and stray thoughts to lead me astray. And then before I know it I’m juggling numerous tabs across devices, drowning in a sea of emails, tweets, and YouTube videos. And then I’ll have half a dozen tasks part of the way done. Then Maura, our Siberian Husky, comes and asks for me to take her out.
Part of the problem is the nature of the technology itself. For most of the tasks that I do throughout the day I can technically use either my laptop, phone, or iPad. And often even within the same program. Writing emails, reading news reports, and publishing PJM articles through WordPress — these all happen in a single program on one device, and thus end up intermingling together. I haven’t figured out yet which devices and programs are the best.
A few areas that I’ll investigate on in the next few weeks and then report on:
1. Is it easiest to keep track of and respond to emails the traditional way with a computer or primarily on ipad, or phone?
2. Can I really get to the point where it’s possible to publish and edit WordPress articles from the iPad? Can one blog more efficiently and effectively from iPad instead of laptop?
3. What possibilities do the cameras on the iPad and iPhone allow for increasing organization? Am I the only one who has gotten in the habit of casually taking photos of bits of information I’d rather not forget?
4. Maybe I should experiment with this as a “division of powers” of sorts: A) To encourage concise communication, email primarily on the iPhone or iPad B) Use laptop for serious writing and editing, work C) The iPad should be utilized for consuming and sharing media (keeping up with news, blogs, and Kindle books) and social networking.
But what I’m definitely going to start doing:
5. With my new Moleskine journal (volume 15) I’m going to get in the habit of early EVERY day, taking the time to write down a quick summary — perhaps a bullet list — of my goals and plans for the day. If I can visualize the ideal day first thing can I then project an image of it through the visual reminders on the iPad and cell phone? Can I program my technology to help program me into a more organized, more focused person? We shall find out…
Related at PJ LIfestyle:
One of the problems facing people with non-verbal autism is that when they use a letter board the disbelieving assume that the autistic person is a mere puppet, with the real thoughts coming from the aide or parent holding the board and reading the letters. For many years, that was the problem faced by Ido Kedar, a non-verbal autistic teenager who wrote Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison (which I reviewed here at PJ Lifestyle earlier this week).
Time and time again, I witnessed Ido tap out sentences on the letterboard his mother held, only to have someone standing at my side saying “That’s not Ido. That’s his mother.” This was especially true when Ido first mastered the letterboard. His muscle control was so limited back then that he needed someone to support his elbow, heightening the illusion that the person supporting Ido’s arm, rather than Ido himself, was the creative force.
The wonders of technology, however, can finally put to rest the suspicion that Ido and other non-verbal autistic children are not capable of producing the thoughts that flow from their letterboards. The two videos here show Ido with his iPad. The only prompting he receives is a reminder to keep his focus on the writing. Other than that, all the work and all the content is Ido’s alone.
Ido is still getting used to the iPad, so it’s a slower process than when he writes using his letterboard. Once he gets comfortable with the new technology, I think the sky’s the limit for his communication skills.
IBM once built the world’s best portable keyboard. Its official name was “TrackWrite,” but everybody called it “the butterfly” because of the way it spread its wings when you opened the computer. John Karidis designed it for the ThinkPad 701 back in 1995, and watch this baby in action.
It’s so well engineered, that there are still butterflies in perfect working condition, even though the last one was produced in 1996. That’s right: although the 701 was IBM’s best-selling laptop, the butterfly keyboard was abandoned after only one year. TrackWrite was a wonderful indulgence for a laptop with a 10-inch screen, but the very next year after it was introduced, 12-inch screens became the new norm — and bigger screens allowed for a full-sized keyboard without any fancy engineering.
Just like a real butterfly, the TrackWrite was beautiful but short-lived.
That’s the first thing I thought of when I watched Microsoft introduce its new Surface tablet computers last night: A gorgeous keyboard without a market. Microsoft has designed what is undoubtedly the best portable keyboard ever… for a touch tablet. In fact, if you go to Microsoft’s promo page, this is the very first image you’re presented with.
That’s how MS wants to introduce you to their new tablet — a tiny little screen with a great big keyboard. Scroll down the page a bit, and Microsoft reminds you that “some activities call for a keyboard.” The description continues:
Surface comes with an integrated Kickstand and a revolutionary, 3mm thin, pressure sensitive cover that doubles as a fully functioning keyboard and trackpad. Your Touch Cover connects to your Surface with a single magnetic click. Now you can chat with friends and respond to emails comfortably.
It’s really a very nifty piece of kit, and it’s included for free. Apple charges you a less-than-nifty $69 for their wireless keyboard, and it doesn’t attach to anything at all, not even with magnets. But you have to wonder if Apple doesn’t still have the right approach.