Monday, February 28, 2011
I've also found Dan has done a talk on TED, asking if we're really as in control of our decisions as we think we are.
As if that wasn't enough, he's also created an app: Procrastinator, which may just change my life.
You nominate a decision, and a specified length of time, after which Procrastinator chooses for you. You can also choose to simply let the Procrastinator make the choice for you.The price tag of $1.99 is paid to the graduate students who actually did the coding, according to Mr Ariely's website. Seems cheap to me.
I've been known to flip a coin, and then choose the opposite. That's because the sense of disappointment I felt when heads (or tails) came down showed me I might have more of a preference than I recognised.
Now that I'm reading about irrationality, it may just be that I feel better about my decision after the coin toss, whichever decision it was. As I use this technique for life-changing decisions like which of two favourite restaurants to eat at tonight, this degree of affirmation may be all that I need.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
It would have been easy to miss seeing them, if I'd been too intent on getting where I was going. Or if I'd been busy thinking of something else.
Profligate beauty is all around us, if we have the eyes to see it.
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Saturday, February 26, 2011
I began to consider how I've benefitted from making shade-seeking a habit. It's hard to quantify exactly, but how much frustration have I avoided by my car being up to 10'c cooker than those parked in the sun's glare? How much spoiled food have I avoided? How many ruined CDs and tapes? (Yes, I am that old,) how many dehydration headaches?
This small adjustment has probably caused a small but definite improvement in my overall quality of life. Small adjustment, but a big payoff.
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Friday, February 25, 2011
What's the best possible thing I could be doing at any given minute? And best for whom?
Obvious good or bad choices are easy: an apple or a chocolate bar? Perjury or the truth? Katy Perry or Katie Noonan? Choosing between two desirable and 'good' options is a lot harder.
I'm lucky or blessed or situationally advantaged or ornery (depending on your point of view) to have these choices. Knowing that doesn't make the choosing easier.
Sleep or exercise? All bran or chia? Socializing with friend A or B? Bach or Joplin? Gardening or house maintenance? Or chuck the lot and enjoy some dreaming and thinking time?
No matter what I choose, I'm always vaguely missing out and disappointing my own expectations. Which keeps me stuck on the doing treadmill, turning it faster and ever faster...
Or is that just me on a bad day?
Anyway, I've decided that meditation is probably the best thing I can do next.
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Thursday, February 24, 2011
Most of us think we're more internally motivated than is actually the case. Humans are social animals, susceptible to shaming or embarrasment. We eat, sleep, evacuate, and mate (whenever possible) to fulfill our biological imperatives. For most of us, that means some degree of intellectual or manual labour. We get up, go to work, and do what's required to ensure our pay packet. Our time is not wholly our own.
What's left over we can dedicate to leisure and art. Leisure usually involves some form of social life, both for our own satisfaction, and because humans are social animals and that's just how we do it.
There are very few things we do solely for and by ourself. Our collective guilt about spending money frivolously is demonstrated by tag-lines such as 'because I'm worth it'. The only commodity in shorter supply than money, is time. Writing takes time.
The satisfaction and the momentum of writing has to come almost entirely from within, and yet it takes up precious and scarce resources. I don't know for sure if I'll keep it up, and I'm not going to promise because I don't want it to become a penitential activity. I don't respond well to mortification of the flesh or spirit. So we really are in terra incognita. We'll just have to see what happens next.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
You'd think I'd be at least a little excited. I'm not. I'm already wondering what I do for an encore. The reward of a job well done and all that.
Join me tomorrow to find out.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I mentally wanted to quote Dr Phil: "So, how's that workin' for ya?"
Seriously, caregivers of the world, I assure you that 99.9% of pre-schoolers will touch. Not on purpose, not necessarily on purpose. At that age, it's still instinct to touch everything in order to explore it.
I also assure you that no matter how nice the staff of the upmarket gift store are about you and your child browsing, 98% would really rather you didn't bring your child shopping.
They'd rather your child not touch.
They'd rather your child did not impede the access of adults who might actually buy their wares.
They'd rather not have the luxurious ambience so necessary to impulse buys shattered by your hissed reminders of, "Don't touch!".
Or by the subsequent hysteria when you want to leave but your child is entranced, or your child wants to go but you are enthralled.
They'd rather you not be mortified by all of the above and leave without buying anything, vowing never to return.
Children and recreational shopping doesn't mix. Unless you're shopping entirely on their terms, neither of you are likely to enjoy it. Some situations are just set up for failure, an exercise in futility all round.
Post 42 of 43 posts.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Sometime early last century, a fine upstanding gentleman of the family left a modest amount of money to his beloved wife and child, his share of the family business to his siblings... and the rather more sizeable bulk of his estate to a Miss X. Not unnaturally, his sorrowing widow contested the will, unsuccessfully. Miss X even had what the temerity (as the widow might have phrased it) to insert a memorial notice in the relevant paper. Thus the memorial notices are from his widow and child, his siblings, and his.... dear friend.
It only needs for me to find out she was his secretary as well as his dear friend. Ah...real life melodrama: if I put it in a novel, you'd say it was far-fetched.
This is post 41 of 43 posts.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Which got me wondering about self-identity more broadly. What kind of a girl or boy are you? How subject to change is that?
If you are an honest kind of person, do you suddenly cease to exist if you tell a lie? If you are a slob, do you cease to exist if you tidy up? Do you become someone totally different, or just choose to exercise a less well-expressed facet of your multidimensional personality?
Usually the past is a good indicator of future behavior, but we don't want it to be when we're ready for a change. We - sometimes - allow past behavior to become a cage, or at least a very deep rut.
That's when we need to remind ourself that, starting now, we can choose what kind of girl (or boy) we want to be. And we can still be ourself while we do it.
This is post 40 of 43 posts.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011
I'm doing some research into the early history of Melbourne. I've found several members of the family I'm interested in, thanks to Trove, which has digitized versions of The Argus, the paper of record in early Melbourne (although it closed down in the 1950s).
This family are not prominent enough to appear in the official history, although why I am not sure. They seem to be related to or in business with most of the names who do appear in the official history. Which leads me to wonder about the nature of history itself...
Even though they're not in the books, with enough patience, and a quirky approach to word association, you can find out more than you'd expect without leaving the comfort of your adsl-enabled home.
This is post 39 of 43 posts.
Friday, February 18, 2011
My current blogging self-challenge is drawing to a close. I haven't missed a post this round - yet. With only 5 more posts after this, it's looking good for a 100% result. Better still, it feels like a habit, now. Not exactly easy but going to work everyday isn't necessarily easy and yet somehow we manage it. In the end, going to work on a workday feels more normal than not. That's the very definition of a habit: it feels normal.
Another habit I'm forming is meditation. I'm being helped by an iphone app (also a website): getsomeheadspace, which was recommended to me by a wise acquaintance. It offers a free program called Take10 (also Take15 and Take20 for when I get that far).
I've been using the program for 10 days now. Unlike other guided meditations I've tried, I don't feel silly doing it. The instructions are clear and simple, it's secular and sensible.
I can't point to anything specific which has changed, but I feel better when I do it. If only because I've kept faith with my own good intention. Which is a good habit to get into.
This is post 38 of 43 posts.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Life offers many opportunities for grace notes. Too often, we don't take advantage of those opportunities. Too often, we don't even realise there are such opportunities.
Lotus Health, a Chinese massage centre in Camberwell, have a particular grace note that I like. There is a small vase of flowers on the shelf below the head hole, in their massage tables. So you can look at three cheerful little gerberas while you're flat on your stomach with your head poked into a hole. You may (or may not) be surprised that it was the masseur's wife who came up with this lovely idea.
A grace note is a gift. A small moment of generosity - of spirit, of thought, not necessarily of money. I suspect such gestures nourish the spirit of both the giver and the recipient.
This is post 37 of 43 posts.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The real value of the exercise was meeting the valuers, Stephen and Ian from the Australian Gem Testing Laboratory, and watching the process of the valuation. It was a fascinating glimpse of a world that I know nothing about.
Stephen and Ian chatted to me while they went about the business of determining that my gemstones weren't up to much. I suspect they it knew at a glance, but they approached the task with the same seriousness as if I'd decanted several carats worth of diamonds onto the counter. Expertise, as I noted yesterday, is always a beautiful thing. These chaps are good at people, not just at jewellery. It wasn't phoney 'salesmanship', rather it was a genuine human exchange.
A window onto another world - and other people's lives are always another world - is a precious thing. Too often our own rut seems like the only rut there is. A glimpse outside it makes our possibilities expand. Their normal is not my normal. I'm sure that after a while, to anyone in the trade, valuing jewellery is about as exciting as keeping the racks tidy at a clothing retailer, but to an outsider it's definitely exotic.
Perhaps the most exotic thing about it is realising that it no longer seems exotic to them. Neither wore jewellery of any sort, not even a watch.
This is post 36 of 43 posts.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Mike Hernandez's Database design for mere mortals is the best book I've come across to explain relational databases, how to build them, and, in the process, why you might want to. The link takes you to Safari books online where you can have a look at some sample pages. I don't need someone to tell me which buttons to push - the user guide with FileMaker Pro handles that just fine, thanks - I needed someone to explain the big picture so I actually know what I'm doing.
Mr Hernandez talks you right through the process of designing your database - which he recommends you do on paper before you even think of opening the particular software application you'll use. Once you have your data sorted, and if - it's a big if - you understand the business need, the relationships practically take care of themselves.
On a completely different subject, clothing and appearance, is another expert, Imogen Lamport. As much as I love Trinny & Susannah, Imogen is as good (maybe even better) at explaining what to wear and what not to wear, because she explains why so well. Her blog Insideoutstyleblog.com has excellent articles on how proportions, fit, colour and accessories work. The link takes you to a discussion of how to figure out your face shape. Knowing your face shape saves a lot of anguish when you go to the hairdresser or choose earrings, in case you were wondering.
Expertise is always a beautiful thing.
Post 35 of 43 posts.
Monday, February 14, 2011
In spooky synchronicity, his property development company, HAB (Happiness, Architecture and Beauty) is building a 43 house eco-development in Wiltshire. [Or a 42 house eco-development - the exact number depends on which article you read... clearly I vote for the extra house for symmetry's sake.]
I've also come across a website: 43 things. Visit if you want to list your New Year's Resolution (a bit late). They featured in the New York Times earlier this year.
It takes 43 facial muscles to frown.
This is post 34 of 43 posts.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Often, though, the spaces don't work in a practical sense. Oliver Sach's, in An Anthropologist on Mars, describes Temple Grandin's house as 'a machine for living' which exactly conveys what's missing. Some of these grand designs are not efficient machines for living.
If you have five living spaces, you'll spend a lot of time swabbing the decks. If the dining room is on a different floor from the kitchen, the food will arrive cold unless you have a dumb waiter and some really good quality chafing dishes. If you have no storage, you will have get rid of everything you (used to) own to move in. Things like that are important to our everyday experience of our homes.
When we're all striving to make our houses look beautiful like our favourite homewares stores, we may be neglecting this other important aspect of "liveability".
This is post 33 of 43 posts.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
We seldom consider a new vegetable. This is a pity.
Tonight I tried my hand at roasted beetroot. Boiled beetroot is great. I grew up with it in salads and sandwiches, but it is very hard on clothes if you are slightly clumsy, as I am. For this reason I haven't eaten it in years. I recently read about roasting beetroot, and so I gave it a go.
What a revelation! Delicious & easy to prpeare. Sweet but somehow earthy. It went well with the roast parsnips and carrots. It's a beautiful colour. It's inexpensive. It's probably even good for me too.
For many of us, cooking something new is more likely to challenge our personal status quo than a holiday in the kind of exotic location where we can speak English all day long by the pool and get a familiar meal in the restaurant that night.
Whereas my beetroot was life changing. Food for thought.
This is post 32 of 43 posts.
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Friday, February 11, 2011
This temporal versatility is a - the? - hallmark of a delight. It is the opposite of momentary: it gives pleasure in the present, in the future and in retrospect.
'Retail therapy' seldom provides this deeper, broader experience of satisfaction. Once the thrill of acquisition fades, we wake up to the reality of credit card interest rates, which taints our enjoyment with remorse.
One seldom experiences remorse about clean laundry.
This is post 31 of 43 posts.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011
The hardest part is not coding - the software mostly takes care of that these days - it's understanding the business needs, and how discrete bits of information will work together.
Once you see how the bits of information relate, you're off. Or you start with a task you want to automate and work out the simplest way to do it, using which information.
It's like sorting out a huge tangle of wool, a job I used to enjoy more than the actual knitting when I was a child.
Sorting out a knotty problem, making tasks easier, learning a new skill and getting paid for it. Happiness is not always located where the mass marketers would have us believe.
This is post 30 of 43 posts.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Putting things away. Fetching things out. Cleaning things. Finding places for things to be stored. Having things repaired or serviced so they don't break down. Paying bills. Buying food. Preparing food. Entertaining ourselves.
Break these activities down into single tasks and you have dozens of tasks we must identify, prioritize, and do. Every single day. Unless we are outstandingly disciplined, not to say anal retentive, this requires us to make decisions and plans, then adjust them continually in the light of new information (ie interruptions and competing requests from others) much of which is irrelevant from our point if view.
At the end of 'one of those days' we may not have achieved much but our brains have been making hundreds of time calculations, risk/benefit assessments, and process evaluations. It's no wonder we feel tired even even when we despair: 'But I hardly got anything done.' We're suffering from decision fatigue in spite of those decisions only being minor ones.
No wonder most of us crave some simplicity.
This is post 29 of 43 posts.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
We do, I hope, have the opportunity to become most fully ourself, and to make most fully our unique contribution to the world.
To achieve this we have to want to be ourself. We have to ignore the insidious voice of doubt, the disloyal whisper that we would be more acceptable if we were more like someone else. This someone else is usually someone we perceive as more successful, in our eyes or the world's eyes.
To fail without trying, to miss an opportunity should be our greatest regret. Should, coulda, woulda: didn't. In regretful moments we assume these missed opportunities would have led to greatness. Maybe, maybe not. I'm certain they would have led to integrity, to the honest expression of who we are.
This is post 27 of 43 posts.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011
The bar at interval was insane. I sane as in 'insanely busy' but also just insane. For the rest of this post I am channeling my inner old trout, so please avert your eyes if you are easily distressed.
At a large concert You have hundreds of people needing a drink in just 20 minutes. The bars are stuck down the end of a corridor and not big enough - when the venue was built the gentleman of the party took refreshments out to his ladies. It was Bedlam.
The menu is limited but there are four varieties of wine plus beer and soft drink, ice-cream and chocolates. There are three (maybe four) staff in a very cramped space only one of whom is capable - or perhaps allowed? - to run the till. One chap required more than five minutes to fail to pour some bubbles. All drinks are poured on request rather than being pre-poured. Perhaps it theoretically saves on waste but not when offset against lost customer revenue. The coffee, at least has been brewed and is in those catering thermoset thingies. Few souls were so hardy or desperate.
The icecreams are in a fridge the servers cannot reach, and many patrons are confused to be told to go fetch their over-priced icecreams themselves. As this is the Sunday matinee, several patrons have limited mobility with which to do so (and they've yet to visit the facilities in the few minutes that remain of interval, so its a bit of a worry and this turns them Bolshie).
Surely the profits are greater the more items you sell? Especially at $9 for a very small plastic flute of vin ordinaire bubbly from chateau iffy. I would like to say the staff rose to the challenge with some show of resourcefulness or even forethought or willingness, but I'm afraid there was no evidence of this. Only the senior on the till attempted to get things moving, the others looked to be enduring the twenty minutes until it was over. With a total absence of work pride and an excess of helplessness, I image the time went even slower for them than it did for those of us stuck in the queue. I imagine they are all casuals and have no training. The venue is only used for concerts on occasion. But still... It didn't have to be like that. Talk about Moments of Truth!
This is post 26 of 43 posts.
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Saturday, February 5, 2011
My angels have beautiful lines and character. They remind me of medieval angels. This reminds me of happy times on holiday abroad, poking around old castles. It all reminds me of the dignity of craft, which has no pretensions and does not require the support of mechanized perfection.
I value them far more than the measly price I paid for them (each angel is cheaper than a cup of coffee). Of all my possessions, the ones I value are not always the most expensive. Some are, some aren't.
In a business sense, I think we measure cost more than we measure value. Perhaps because its easier to quantify cost. We know the cost of a particular project or initiative, but we don't consider its value. During moments of fiscal unease, many businesses call a halt to spending, without counting the negative costs of what doesn't get done. Or we spend money carelessly, doing tasks that are 'easy wins' because they're 'cheap' and we don't consider how little value they offer, or what we could achieve with the savings.
What value does your labour (physical or intellectual) contribute to your employer or business? Do you know?
This is post 25 of 43 posts.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Have you ever felt uncertain whether A) the recipient has seen the text yet, B) they are considering their options, or C) they're ignoring you?
This may mean I am hopelessly middle-aged and not 2.0 native, but I offer one solution. Back in the days of radio - which, incidentally, was very nearly before my time - there was a system for just these occasions.
End any text where you expect a response with 'over'.
End any text which you consider finished with 'out'.
NB: In spite of B-grade movies, 'over and out' is a nonsense.
I wonder what text-speak contractions we'll use once the tech-natives get hold of this?
Of course, the under 30 never seem to consider a text exchange finished... Or is it just me who thinks so?
This is post 24 of 43 posts.
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Thursday, February 3, 2011
While a clean sweep has it's appeal at times, it's too easy to start and too hard to finish. Most of us aren't ready for that much change or that much hassle for a mirage.
I can guarantee that, most of the time, if you were to replace the broken people in your life you would still have problems with the (new) people in your life. They'll just be different problems.
Tired of managing your stick-in-mud, cynical seat warmers? Great! How about you swap them for some high achieving, ruthlessly competitive, individualists?
Focus instead on the process. This holds true whether the process is a business process, or a family relationship. Why is the situation not working? Is it lack of understanding of what's needed (and if so, why)? Is it lack of cooperation (and if so, why)? Is it ingrained risk aversion (and if so, why)? Is it just a habit of mediocrity that now feels comfortable?
The two near eternal needs are more money and better personnel. Genuine success rests on first improving what you can do with what's available of both.
This is post 23 of 43 posts.
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011
This is why it's so hard to write your own resume. Its hard not to be invested. It's hard to remove all traces of either your ego or your insecurities. It is hard to separate your needs from the readers' needs.
Come to think of it, that can be a flaw with love letters too. The writer's need can overwhelm. The object of desire is not necessarily served by the protestations and agonistes being directed to him or her. The love letter 'works' best if the object of desire wants the heart the writer offers, wants the writer. The most perfectly written love letter in the world cannot overcome true indifference, it can at best fan a spark into a pilot light.
So perhaps persuasion has nothing to do with it. Whether in love letters or in resumes. at best they are a phantasm of the mind that crafts them, as a suit of clothes roughly delineates the body within.
This is post 22 of 43 posts.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
At which point I realized I quite like being able to Google a person or work referred to in what I'm reading. A hyperlink is a nice to have, not w necessity (for me at least).
Some recent research into comprehension, retention and eReaders suggests that a bit of effort with our reading pays off. A study I read in the paper (so it must be true) says we retain information that we have to work for.
Something to ponder while you start a google search for the article.
This is post 21 of 43 posts.
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