Yearning for human connection

three plugs entering an electrical outletI love blogs.

I’ve been blog­ging since 2005. (You can visit my first month of blog­ging (http://mypartofnairobi NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2005_08_01_archive NULL.html) if you like.) I still put up a blog post almost every week. And I enjoy read­ing blogs by other peo­ple. But there are few real blogs left. By “real,” I mean where some­one shares what’s on their heart.

One friend who used to blog about life rarely blogs that way any­more. His blog has evolved into thought­ful reflec­tions in his area of work.

Sev­eral friends just stopped alto­gether. Other friends only blog occasionally.

Don’t think I’m say­ing I am a “from the heart” blog­ger — most of my posts are just reflec­tions on shiny bits of life. But I do like read­ing posts where peo­ple bare their souls — even if I don’t often write such posts.

Are there any blogs that you still enjoy vis­it­ing reg­u­larly? Share them with me and other Shiny Bits read­ers in the com­ments. Thanks.

Change is not always better

mac interface screenshot, showing new typefaceI very much love Apple prod­ucts. One of the thorns in my side is spend­ing my 8-to-5 on a Win­dows 7-based lap­top. It works fine, but I very much miss using a Mac. (And chang­ing back to a Mac at home messes with my head.)

Like every forward-facing com­pany, Apple is always chang­ing things. The lat­est com­puter oper­at­ing sys­tem, Yosemite, has some sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments. But the new system-wide type­face is harder for my non-assisted eyes to read. The Helvetica-like “6” looks too much like an “8.”

If we could pick and choose what gets changed in our lives, that would make us God. But we can’t, so I’m hop­ing the not-fun-changes will make us stronger.

Foot­notes:

  1. There are some ways Win­dows is bet­ter. One good aspect is hav­ing both a delete key and a back­space key.
  2. If you have a minute, in the com­ments, share a change you expe­ri­enced that pro­vided both good and bad results.
  3. My Mac starts up much faster with Yosemite. (Your results may vary.)

Emperor’s new clothes

Spark - © Graham, Creative Commons licensed, via LfickrMar­ket­ing these days seems to be in a rut. I am amazed at the ideas some com­pa­nies use to rep­re­sent their goods and services.

Lexus, for exam­ple, has a new crossover vehi­cle that they are try­ing to sell with the slo­gan, “Go Beyond Utility.”

Meh.

The clos­ing line of their ad says, ““Once you go beyond util­ity, there’s no going back.”

What does that even mean?

Lest you think I am say­ing that I’m a cre­ative genius, I don’t have a quick and easy sug­ges­tion for a bet­ter cam­paign to sell the new Lexus NX crossover (http://www NULL.lexus NULL.com/models/NX). And I under­stand that true cre­ativ­ity is an art more than a sci­ence. Great ideas don’t come always quickly to even the most cre­ative person.

Foot­notes:

  1. The Emperor’s New Clothes (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Clothes) is a won­der­ful story from 1837 that illus­trates how the ruler of a large land is swin­dled into believ­ing noth­ing is the best some­thing ever.
  2. The sparks photo is cour­tesy of Gra­ham on Flikr (https://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/photograham/136463038/in/photolist-7LoUdN-734fgx-7UiNr-97a9MY-8LyAGx-pUoYQj-ofCNye-oLCB3r-nQdZ6R-nLhP2E-onGfpk-9Jtf4z-6NnBTV-nN4XYh-5ULRtY-oLzBx1-d4pH1-jNAH3-7MUAGk-LJmoc-oSYVky-oRWLZ3-xXmo6-jqR6a7-miDV7-36jB1-4XC7bu-YpQr4-9RJqWS-xXmo5-q57bEv-7ST13K-6C1XyS-99WHhL-7sh8tF-2unU4J-3hdzAB-dPE5q-e8e2KY-aarQBJ-6xALnj-8HgWkZ-d4pEw-eib7VU-dPE5r-8Fmm6v-aGcoKv-gs9sNa-8LBF4L-8ojzdu), and is used through a Cre­ative Com­mons license.
  3. The new NX is a repack­aged Toy­ota RAV. Car and Dri­ver mag­a­zine gives it 3 out of 5 stars (http://www NULL.carand­driver NULL.com/lexus/nx). Maybe that’s why the cre­atives had a hard time com­ing up with a good idea to sell the car.

Love me, love my dog

Sparky dogMy dad used to say that. (He’s gone now, so I haven’t heard him say it for many years.)

Love me, love my dog,” sim­ply means we have to put up with things we may not appre­ci­ate about some of the peo­ple we know. This is such a fun­da­men­tal idea that I too often forget.

We all expect per­fec­tion from oth­ers, at some level. The closer the per­son to us, the more we expect from them. (The oppo­site holds true too — we expect a lot from our gov­ern­men­tal lead­ers, and we will prob­a­bly never meet them.)

Annoy­ing habits or choices can be huge road­blocks in any rela­tion­ship. The sooner we get over being fix­ated on those things, the sooner we can enjoy that relationship.

And yes, that’s our lit­tle dog Sparky. She’s pretty easy to love, as she is very lov­ing in return. But she loves to bark at squir­rels and ghosts we can’t see. I hope you get to meet her someday.

Making Strides

Life’s chal­lenges can push some to despair and oth­ers to greatness.

I was recently inspired by the story of Bar­bara Bren­nan. The chal­lenge of a son born with hydro­cephalus pushed her to great­ness. She began her com­pany, Stride, Inc. (http://www NULL.strideinc NULL.com/), as an avenue to employ peo­ple with devel­op­men­tal challenges.

One exam­ple of how Stride has made a dif­fer­ence is Vic­tor. When he began work­ing for Stride, he didn’t speak much, due to a com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­or­der. He proved him­self by suc­ceed­ing at sev­eral dif­fer­ent jobs and now man­ages their ship­ping and receiv­ing depart­ment. Vic­tor has been with Stride for thirty years!

Writing with a Schneider penMy con­nec­tion with this amaz­ing com­pany came through enjoy­ing the excel­lent prod­ucts they dis­trib­ute in the USA, Schnei­der pens. Kerry Bertam, Stride’s CEO, found my review of their Slider XB pens. He very kindly sent me sev­eral Schnei­der pens – and they all are beyond per­fect. As I high­lighted in the review, these are the smoothest ball­point pens on the planet and yet amaz­ingly pro­duce no blobs of ink. Know­ing that Schnei­der pens are dis­trib­uted by such a great com­pany makes writ­ing with these pens even more pleasurable!

I’d urge you to try Schnei­der pens through Office Depot. If your local store doesn’t have any, you can go to Office Depot’s web­site (http://www NULL.officede­pot NULL.com/catalog/search NULL.do?Ntt=schneider) to order them. (Many are avail­able for in-store pickup through their site.)

What would you do with a million dollars?

a million dollars in nairobiWe had a mil­lion dol­lars. We lived in an alter­nate uni­verse for five years, where we had a mil­lion dol­lars com­pared to some of our neighbors.

Nairobi, Kenya, is a huge city in East Africa. The dis­tance between the rich and the poor is huge. As a result, crime is more com­mon than in most parts of North Amer­ica and Europe. There are more razor wire fences, alarm sys­tems, secu­rity guards and carjackings.

I know it’s nice to focus on the pos­i­tive aspects of other cul­tures, but that’s not my mis­sion today. Instead, I want to tell you what it’s like to be rich.

Gen­er­ally, it’s not fun. Sim­ply eat­ing at a restau­rant caused a lot of guilt. We knew the price of one not-even-fancy meal could have fed a hun­gry fam­ily for days. Was the brief plea­sure of eat­ing out worth it? We thought so, as din­ing out was one of our ways to survive.

And we gave. We invested in peo­ple who were nat­u­rally part of our lives. We quickly learned that just giv­ing money was not the answer.

Pro­vid­ing train­ing allowed a young man to have a better-paying job that made a dif­fer­ence that lasted a life­time. But it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make that path actu­ally work, on his part and ours.

Pay­ing for den­tal work for a lady we knew allowed her to eat with no pain, for years afterward.

So how do you deal with the guilt in your life? I would encour­age you to not sit on it or sup­press it. Do some­thing.


Epi­logue: We have been back in the land of Tar­get and Prada for more than seven years. We are not directly involved in the lives of those we helped back then. And the guilt of hav­ing so much rel­a­tive wealth decreases as time washes our mem­o­ries away. But we’re still try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in sit­u­a­tions that are in front of us now. We fail a lot — and still eat at restau­rants. But we are doing something.

Pride, literally, comes before a fall

That ultra-bright new tail light
That ultra-bright new tail light

I love rid­ing my bike to work, even in the cold and dark of win­ter. Know­ing that if I can’t be seen, I can be run over, I bought a tail­light so bright that “it can cause seizures,” as a friend described it. That same friend went on to tell me of his ultra-bright head­light that allowed him to see pot­holes and road imperfections.

I pride­fully said I was good with my lit­tle flash­ing head­light that allowed me to be seen — but not to see.

The very next evening after that con­ver­sa­tion, I was rid­ing home and ran head-over-heels into a cor­ner curb. I had assumed that there was a wheel­chair ramp on that cor­ner. No.

Ouch!

Thank­fully, I did not tum­ble into oncom­ing traf­fic or dam­age myself or my bike more than just a few scrapes and a destroyed innertube.

Les­son learned. I need to lis­ten to advice, even when it’s not given as such. (My pride could have been the death of me.)

Where to give this Christmas

homeless signHome­less­ness is some­times a result of men­tal ill­ness. Often that is com­bined with sub­stance abuse.

My friend and I encoun­tered another friend we hadn’t seen in a year. Our not-seen friend is now home­less. No sub­stance abuse is involved, but there are def­i­nitely some other pow­er­ful issues at play.

I’ll be talk­ing with two friends who are experts at my church to find out some ways to help him. It’s complicated.

So this Christ­mas­time, I think it’s a great idea to give to an orga­ni­za­tion in your area that helps the home­less. You’ll be assist­ing those who have reached bot­tom and maybe pro­vid­ing hope for the future.

Great thinking

double-sided-receipt (https://www NULL.sprouts NULL.com/)Sprouts, a health-oriented super­mar­ket with stores near us, has a great idea... double-sided receipts! I’m not refer­ring to the kind with adver­tis­ing on the back. These have pur­chase infor­ma­tion car­ried onto the for­merly blank side.

This will effec­tively save about twice as much paper as reg­u­lar receipts. Yes, there is an infra­struc­ture cost — reg­is­ters that can print tape on both sides are prob­a­bly more expen­sive than those that print only on one side. But that cost will even­tu­ally be made up. Or not. Even if it costs more money in the long run, that’s a nice invest­ment in the health of our planet.

If you want to find your near­est Sprouts, click here (https://www NULL.sprouts NULL.com/).

Stop worrying

illustration of worried foreheadIt was a sur­prise. And not a good one.

The result was wak­ing up ear­lier than I wanted — and not drift­ing back into the peace­ful novo­caine of sleep.

Then I remem­bered this: “Can all your wor­ries add a sin­gle moment to your life?” (Jesus said that in Matthew (https://www NULL.bible­gate­way NULL.com/passage/?search=matthew+6%3A27&version=NLT).) Wor­ry­ing won’t fix any­thing. In fact, it will prob­a­bly take away more than a moment of my life.

So I urge you — and me — to stop worrying.