Preoccupations and Observances

You Can Call it a Blog But You’re Only Hurting Yourself

2015-02-01 11:14 PST

I was writing this article and one paragraph led to another, which is to be expected, until I wrote this of two people who had set up a foundation, and did so hoping they might make some difference in the world. Of their examples for how one might go about doing such a thing I distilled this: The beauty in the logic was that it was so simple and that it was not even something new, so it was a little sad to be reminded that so few practiced changing the world as part of their everyday routines. It’s a matter of reversing your learned response of first thinking no to first thinking yes, making yes the default, and then it’s as simple as pausing, breathing, and doing what you can. This was something possible and practicable that I could incorporate into my everyday life, and I very much liked the idea of changing the world. ¶ After I wrote it, it nagged at me. We are taught to say no when we are so young. We are taught to shy away. And I understand a parent's fear, I truly do. But I think that our (re)actions are only feeding the monster we are trying to cloister ourselves from. ¶ My father is a holy thorn in my side and my hero. Two years ago, he spent an entire his year getting a homeless man off the streets and into a home that helped him back to his feet. It was a hard thing to do. Everyday Isaac, the homeless man, was part of our lives, my father fed him, he let him sleep on the porch when storeowners kicked him off public property. He did laundry for him now and then. He took him to the recycling center to turn in cans he had gathered. ¶ If you ask him about it now, he'll complain. But he didn't at the time. He didn't because it required only two small active steps, he allowed the answer to be yes and then he did something. Each day, something, anything. ¶ I haven't made a new year's resolution year, I'm picking this one up late. I will say yes and smile. I will say yes and say hello. I will say yes and frisk my pockets and even if all I can find is a penny, I will give the penny, I will value the penny as not worthless. I will say yes as many times a day as I am asked and I will do what I can, even if it is but one small seemingly infinitesimal thing.

2013-02-20 02:14 PST

I have a problem with apps. My problem is much the same as my problem with the dollar store down the street. My problem is I can’t resist something that costs only a buck. ¶ My daily routine begins with two cans of Pepsi, with which I sit down in front of my computer and reflexively type in my URL to make sure my website is still there. I’ll make a routine check of my e-mail accounts and my social networks; I’ll check for software updates, and then—and this is the pivotal moment—I will either engage in the day’s work before me or fall into the gyre of the one half million apps that now populate the Apple App Store. Icons will sprint laps in my mind. I will give in and binge while the App Store utterly defeats my higher power (I.e., the dollar). I will stare slack jawed and amazed at page upon page of American ingenuity, the mood diary for the clinically depressed, the many versions of a compass. Will I really have my iPhone handy when I am most in need of a compass? No matter, they are all priced at a penny less than a buck. I tell myself I should seriously consider attending the AA meetings at the soup kitchen down the street, or does the A not refer to app? ¶ At the App Store, an actual, or virtual, app of genuine utility procured early on and at a snip can precipitate a reversal. Otherwise I scroll and click my way through scores of productivity tools, disk utilities, and what’s “new and noteworthy.” I download free trials indiscriminately. I hunt down the satiating bargain. I am both an early adopter and a sucker. ¶ Buying apps is a crapshoot. Rather than being denominated by functionality, most can be more accurately categorized as useless, needless, pointless, or redundant. Regardless, the fun is all wrapped up in the transaction. It’s a numbers game; like playing the tables in Las Vegas, pixels are to a dollar as clay is to a sawbuck. The minimal gestures at my keyboard are like round-edged, coated card stock on felt. It’s only when I leave the table that I recognize my gains or losses. The thing is this: when you play the numbers in Vegas, there is always the chance that you might walk away from the cage with something actual in hand, but walking away from the App Store always leaves you virtually empty-handed. Still, on any given day at my computer I will amass a cartful of needless software and for 10 bucks feel like I just dropped a few thousand. What’s more, I’ve wasted hardly a thing but my entire day. ¶ Useful software of the capital investment variety comes with its own disappointments. Now even premium applications come in the form of something like air; I get a virtual enigma that brings to mind a puzzle without an image of the assembled product on the box. Sure, a $799 purchase has great potential to make my day, but if I’m spending more than $0.99 per any one item, if I’m buying software that’s going to hit my bank account like a brick, I will, as I stare at the bright blue bar that counts down the minutes until my purchase appears on my virtual desktop and asks me if it may be virtually installed, bemoan the fact that it did not come in a box. Should I suppress my wont for immediate gratification and order the physical artifact, it too is lacking. As with all new software, it helps to have a user’s manual. Without a sturdy box and a detailed user’s guide, you can write off free access to any instruction of salient value. ¶ For years now I’ve been wondering what the “de-interlace” feature in Photoshop is all about. The Adobe website’s search engine does not return a relevant response. I ask people and they shrug. Because even the big software manufacturers have given up user-friendly user’s manuals and have taken to sloughing off technical support  to the homebound “member” of an online “community,”, which, incidentally, gets you either squat or several conflicting answers or answers that are just plain wrong; moreover, people who spend their time hanging out on software forums are just plain creepy because it is one thing to browse, but to engage, well—; my reticence to dig deeper is a matter of dignity. Maybe prison inmates who use their allotted 15 minutes daily on a computer populate the Microsoft Excel Support Community Forum. If such a person isn’t in prison already, if only the kind of virtual prison that one can fall into, I’ll lay odds he will be; it’s only a matter of time. I am sympathetic; it’s hard to step away from the box.

2012-02-17 01:58 PST

A designer friend whose firm isn't called a design firm anymore—it's called eight different things that more comprehensively define the scope of their services; and so you don't think they're turning tail and running away from the word Designer, the title remains prominent alongside the seven other appellatives. Out of reasonable bias and also cynicism, I tend to distrust a studio/firm/agency/shop that claims proficiency in too many disciplines—by my measure no more than two—though not taking into account fractured disciplines that I doggedly refuse to recognize as independent of their original owners. But it happens that is this case, and putting aside all favor for my designer, etc. friend, he and his associates each bring a unique proficiency to the office. Moreover, with my applause, though one may be a talented filmmaker and another an innovative developer, or a social media whiz, or even a designer, each also makes it his business to maintain a working knowledge of what his colleagues are up to. It’s a smart way to keep up with the times. ¶ Although my designer friend is benefiting from his multi-disciplinary approach (and keep in mind that his is a studio of many and I am one—prolific, but still one), trends favor homogeneousness over diversity. As technology proliferates (and proliferates, and proliferates) and lead type is not of the vernacular of anyone younger than 30, who can blame the expansively disciplined and expensively staffed workplace for being at the ready. ¶ I've considered myself a sort of Renaissance man for the greater part of my professional career, but exponential spread makes that impossible now. Tell me just once more what AJAX is and once more again I will look at you blankly. I don't see this changing in my future. Above all disciplines that have contributed to my present professional self, there are two of which I consider to be my true proficiencies: I design and I write. Nudged to choose, I am a writer.