Sad to see them go

dead-signAnother local busi­ness died. After 31 years, Ara­pa­hoe Cyclery closed their doors. Mike and Greg were amaz­ing mechan­ics, nice guys, and a plea­sure to do busi­ness with.

What’s sad is that I didn’t get the oppor­tu­nity to say good­bye. Since we’re in the depths of snowy weather, I hadn’t been through their doors in a few months. I’m hop­ing I’ll run into one of them at some point, so I can share my pain at the loss.

Rather than go into a long rant about why it’s good to give busi­ness to your local inde­pen­dent shops, I’ll just ask you to try to do that when you can.

By the way, the sign is from the same plaza the bike shop was in. It was for an auto parts store that closed down within the last year. My hopes aren’t too high for the new fit­ness cen­ter that recently opened.

Slow Down

Writing with a fountain pen on a postcard, copyright Paul MerrillI’ve dis­cov­ered the joys of using a foun­tain pen. It gives me a unique sense of plea­sure to feel the pen tip mov­ing across the paper. The paper’s tex­ture enters my brain in a way it never could if I was using my super-smooth ball-point pen.

My sis­ter and her fam­ily raise chick­ens. Sure, it takes a lot more work to keep those birds happy com­pared to sim­ply buy­ing eggs at their local super­mar­ket. I am sure that the eggs taste bet­ter — and that their kids are learn­ing respon­si­bil­ity in a way that school­work alone could never do.

The book Words Onscreen (http://www NULL.ama­zon NULL.com/Words-Onscreen-Reading-Digital-World/dp/0199315760/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424522741&sr=8–1&keywords=Words+Onscreen) (by Naomi Baron) advo­cates mov­ing away from elec­tronic books — and back to the old paper vari­ety. At least one of the rea­sons is that printed typog­ra­phy can be bet­ter. I’m not sure I am will­ing to ditch my old Kin­dle, but it’s worth considering.

Walk­ing or rid­ing a bike to get some­where takes a lot more time. Time is money, so it can be expen­sive too. But you’ll smell the roses along the way.

Brew­ing cof­fee with a French press (http://mypartofnairobi NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2006/11/tale-of-two-coffees NULL.html) takes longer than an elec­tric drip machine. But I like the taste better.

I’ve started send­ing old post­cards, by snail­mail, to friends. I like using my foun­tain pen and mak­ing that small ana­log con­nec­tion with humans. (Who doesn’t like to get some­thing in the mail?) If you’d like to get one, send me a note via the con­tact form at the bot­tom of this page. Remem­ber to include your snail­mail address. Apolo­gies, but if you live out­side the USA, I can’t afford the postage — about four times more!

Pho­to­graph taken by my daugh­ter Rachel.

Tension

pulling a guitar stringTen­sion can make or break us. Too much ten­sion can ruin a rela­tion­ship. Too lit­tle ten­sion can bring on depression.

We are nat­u­rally drawn to seek ten­sion, because it’s healthy. But we are also repelled by sit­u­a­tions that  cause too much tension.

We all fall in a spec­trum of desire too much or too lit­tle tension.

Benoît Lecomte (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Beno%C3%AEt_Lecomte) plans to swim across the Pacific Ocean.  (He has already crossed the Atlantic.) Mr. Lecomte is seek­ing a huge amount of per­sonal ten­sion. I am not sure why he is seek­ing such lev­els of pain. He will either receive the fame that comes with being the first to com­plete such a feat — or he may lose his life. I appre­ci­ate how peo­ple like Benoît push the bound­aries of humans accomplishment.

At the other end of the ten­sion spec­trum is some­one I knew who died for lack of ten­sion. They refused to exer­cise to the point of los­ing most phys­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties. They insisted on their own way by refus­ing healthy choices, some of which resulted in their even­tual death. Their dri­ving moti­va­tion was to avoid pain.

You most likely fall some­where in the mid­dle. My strug­gle is not judg­ing peo­ple at either extreme.

Another strug­gle I face is push­ing myself from the com­pla­cent end of the spec­trum toward the mid­dle. I know that I need more ten­sion, like in the area of exer­cise. In some areas of life, I need less tension.

Bal­ance is elusive.

Dreams

dreams - z's over a night skyDreams” often mean “desires” or “hopes” — or if we are seri­ous with our inten­tions, “plans.”

Today I’ll refer to “dreams” in terms of what hap­pens when we’re asleep.

I love dreams — at least most of the time. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see how our brains mash up ran­dom bits of our past expe­ri­ences with what’s going on in our lives.

My wife, daugh­ter and I often ask each other first thing in the morn­ing, “Did you dream any­thing?” It’s a fun way to start the day.

Lately I’ve been hav­ing a lot of dreams related to my job — the projects I’m spend­ing my days work­ing on. Some­times those dreams are just vari­a­tions on what is really hap­pen­ing and other times they go in ran­dom weird direc­tions. A few weeks back I dreamed that I needed to bake sev­eral egg dishes and write down the recipes. (I’ve never been much of a cook.)

My favorite dream of the last sev­eral months was one that fea­tured my mom. She passed away more than five years ago. In this dream, she talked with me, and it was very sooth­ing. The part of my brain that was still rooted in real­ity knew that she was gone, but she came back for just a lit­tle while. It was really nice.

Have you had any good dreams lately?

How the other half lives

price upon request description in Wall Street Journal articleI love the looney tunes 1% of the upper 1% lifestyle stuff in The Wall Street Jour­nal. You know — arti­cles com­par­ing camel hair coats — the cheap­est being $1,195 and the most expen­sive being $3,550.

I was quite amused recently to see “price upon request.” I know that phrase. It means, “If you don’t know the price range in which this object is priced, you shouldn’t ask.” Or bet­ter, “Unless you drove to the store in a new Bent­ley, don’t ask.”

I know, I know, there are some good peo­ple in the top 1% of the upper 1%. And some of them keep the wheels of soci­ety mov­ing forward.

But oth­ers are mak­ing their zil­lions off the backs of peo­ple who can’t afford to stay in a one-bedroom apart­ment in the worst sec­tion of town on what their wages will cover.

My own sister-in-law has been work­ing for a large com­pany that has given her only about 10c more an hour reward for the sev­eral years she has faith­fully served.


What amused me most about, “price upon request,” was that for some rea­son, The Wall Street Jour­nal didn’t take the time to request the price.


So why do I write this kind of post about some­thing I can’t change? I may be “full of sound and fury — sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing,” as Shake­speare said in Mac­beth. I under­stand that the top 1% of the upper 1% will never read this. I know that there is very lit­tle you or I can do to change the injus­tice of major cor­po­ra­tion CEO salaries.

But I am amused at some aspects of that lifestyle. And you may be amused at some aspects of my lifestyle too.

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.)