Media Blackout Redux

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It’s time for a change. I did this years ago, and wonder why I didn’t keep it up. During that period, I found more time available for things that mattered, and way fewer negative thoughts invading my mind. I worried less, slept better, felt better, and found focusing on the good things easier.

No, I haven’t escaped to the woods…yet (not a bad idea, though). What I’m talking about is going back to an intentional personal media blackout. I’ve watched my behavior, moods, and perspective over the last few months as I’ve contemplated doing this again. And I believe it will help on so many fronts that are not percolating along as I think they should. In addition to the obvious gains in limiting negativism (and let’s face it, bad news sells), I expect, as I experienced before, a huge boost in available time to focus on my three criticals: support my family and friends, write like I’m a writer, and finish my house remodeling. All that in addition to my day job (and surviving the energy drain from that) and other interests I enjoy pursuing. There’s no room on my list of being me for an addicted news junkie attached to the electronic teat of the news media in all its inglorious capitalistic and narcissistic forms.

As of today, I’ve deleted the bookmarks in my Dailies folder (a folder on Safari that I read every morning of my favorite sites) related to news: New York Times Skimmer, CNN.com, The Daily Beast. I canceled my sub to the Toledo Blade. I even canceled my sub to The Economist (a great magazine, but a huge time drainer). I don’t watch TV news (don’t even have cable or over-the-air reception), so that’s a non-issue unless Netflix’s streaming service starts carrying NewsReels. And while there is no way in today’s connected world that I can truly unplug from “news,” I can at least disconnect from my voluntary sources and thus significantly lower my exposure to the world’s ills. When I did this a few years ago, it didn’t make me an ignorant hermit. I heard more than enough (too much actually) about major news via the workplace, Internet communications, and word of mouth. Truth is one can’t escape the deluge unless you’re off in the mountains with nary a soul around and miles from the nearest ‘net connection. That would be a bit too radical (but oh the hours I could devote to writing…).

And what about social media? And my beloved NPR? Hard calls. Twitter’s a huge black hole, and thus far not seeing much value there so will likely unplug from it. Facebook, however, is even more addictive than mainstream news. And NPR’s been part of my morning routine since…well, since 2007 as noted in the link above! Not clear on Facebook and NPR exposure quite yet, but do plan on watching them closely. NPR’s fairly predictable on news coverage re: time of day, so a little self control to avoid those zones should do the trick.

So what made me do this now? Watching myself become way too interested in the details of the Arizona shootings is what pushed me over the edge. It’s not that I don’t care about what happened, or feel for those affected, but more that I can no longer afford the emotional capital required to stay on the cutting edge of all the world’s problems, considering all the other things that whine for my attention. Those events that truly important where I can make a difference will find their way to me without me bartering valuable time away.

Will this media blackout du jour stick? I certainly hope so, but realize the proof will be in the productivity, not to mention the anticipated peace of mind. Don’t wait up for the proverbial “film at 11” to find out, because I’ve pulled the plug and hopefully for the final time.

New Connections

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Born into a republican family, I am now a left-leaning liberal, a lonely weight on a scale of reasoning countering more conventional, conservative familial coins. Most times the scale is not level, but to me, that hardly matters. I do not perceive such tendencies as I’ve nurtured into being over the last 15-20 years as a new thinking connection, since they feel more like uncovered clarity than something once tightly shrink-wrapped and forbidden. Yet viewed over the longer life, these thoughts are indeed new, in the sense that non-moderate ways of thinking are clearly a departure from my blood tree. Where is the line between what I think and what I was, albeit subliminal at times, taught to think? Are these thoughts truly my own or did I merely rebel against my parents well-intended guidance, or perhaps finally warmed to college’s relentless peer pressure influence on a late-forming mind?

As the days continue to clock-spin toward the inevitable, I do not suffer fools as easily as I once did. Nor do I possess a willingness to spend time foolishly as conveniently as once I did in days now distant in the mirror. I am aware of increasingly connecting to nature and knowledge, while disconnecting ever-further from the banal and temporary nature of simply being entertained. I gladly fall prey to the siren song of well-written verses, or luxuriate in watching a well-crafted documentary around a subject I know not enough about or yielding something new where I thought I walked expertly.

I continue to choose the path of connecting to learning and expanding awareness. Such new connections, be they people of interest (both aligned and opposite), or insights that cannot be left unpondered, or moments that bare emotions and bring new colors to living, are my foods of knowing and slakers of my learning thirst.


Writing Challenge:  NEW CONNECTIONS
  1. New Connections – Patti Larsen
  2. Agents and Rushing into Publishing – Nicole Williams
  3. New Connections – Rebecca Bradley
  4. Forging Threads – and New Connections – Annetta Ribken
  5. Getting to Know You – Rebeca Shiller
  6. Sole-Mate? – India Drummond
  7. New Connections: Social Networking and Writers’ Group – Ruchira
  1. Second Tuesday. 1. New Connections – Alberta Ross
  2. New Connections – Linda
  3. New Connections – Gary Varner
  4. Facebook Connections – Eden Baylee
  5. Tuesday Review – Kira Morgana
  6. Sunny Sings the Blues – Sunny
  7. A Nod to Glass Cases – Gale Martin
This post is part of a monthly writing challenge known as “Second Tuesday,” written by members of the Fellow Writers’ Facebook group. Click on any link above to read another “Second Tuesday” post. Enjoy!

Time for the New Pig

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New year resolutions:  I don’t abide by that process, although I do believe in the annual retreat review/reset of goals and objectives. So…isn’t that a form of resolutions? Yeah, probably. Likely just dressing up a pig and calling it a Pig.

Over the last week I followed my usual annual process of invigorated reassessment followed by a few cute forms for tracking the supposed new habits and pretending like the new tasks are norms in my life. Truth is I generally function under an umbrella of an organized framework by either being invigorated in the moment and thus do something I want to do that also happens to be something I should do, or I find intellectual distractions that keep me from the assigned task. Note that I rarely procrastinate on things that have to be done (in the sense of impending arms-length deadlines), but seem to have an internal taskmaster that schedules priorities by some mystical process my conscious self isn’t allowed to understand. And that’s probably a good thing, or I’d mess with the process and likely compromise the whole time-space continuum thing.

Part of me yearns to allow more serendipity in my life, while the logical side plots to create more charts and process flow maps. And lists. Gotta love those lists. List making is the ultimate “enjoy the journey” activity, since apparently most the pleasure comes from making the list not checking off the list items.

So this year will be different? Right. Resolutions (er, the Pig) will be obeyed, and resistance is futile. Right. I’ll get back to you on that one soon, but don’t loose any sleep waiting up for my report. It’s on my list, but who knows when I’ll get to it.

The New York Times Blues

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Although I sometimes slip in and out of self-imposed media blackouts (at times it’s just healthy to unplug from negative vibes), I’ve a long love affair with The New York Times. Sunday afternoon used to find me curled up in an easy chair plodding though the Sunday New York Times, more book than newspaper.

But I live in a small Northwest Ohio town where delivery is not available, and the snailmail subscription is a bit pointless with its two-day+ delay. I’ve tried using their Web site, which has to be one of the worst designed sites for users, although everything’s there if one has the patience to wander around lost and serendipitously bump into bits of news. Yes, I can walk down to the local newstand and buy a daily copy, but at current prices that amounts to $85 a month, and even for a pleasurable habit that’s an obscene amount of money for a newspaper. I’ve even tried their $20/month TimesReader, which is pretty slick, but I *hate* paying a subscription fee for something online that delivers ads to me. Subs are supposed to be a way to avoid online ads, not pay for the privilege of their annoyance.

Enter TimesSkimmer, stage left. I discovered this alternate way of reading the Times online last week. Skimmer’s been there a while, but like everything else on the NYTimes.com site, it’s apparently a bloody secret since they hide it so well. While it’s missing the panache of TimesReader with its slick browse-news-by-photos feature and ability to look back through seven days of papers, Skimmer has smaller ads (which I can block in Safari whereas Times Reader is an AdobeAir product and unblockable) and Skimmer is organized well enough to make finding things not quite as onerous as the main site. No search, but once one clicks on a story headline/summary to read, you get the Web page and can search, etc., from there. Pretty slick, not perfect, but will do for now.

I don’t ask for much:  just let me live in a small town where I don’t have to drive all time and can walk to work, and has The New York Times home delivery. I guess one out of two is as good as I’ll get…for now!


Frugality’s Ten Commandments

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Caught this on TheStreet.com, but thought it worth sharing. I’m big on a recycle-reuse-reduce philosophy, so these make a lot of sense to me. Plus, they point to a self-reliance, self-sufficiency attitude which we all could do with a little more of in our lives. But on the keeping up with the Joneses, I confess I don’t have a neighbor named Jones, so I’ll have to find someone else to ignore.

You can read the details of each commandment here, but the 10 commandments themselves pretty well tell the whole story.

  1. Thou shalt do things yourself.
  2. Thou shalt not waste.
  3. Thou shalt not pay full retail price.
  4. Thou shalt ignore the Joneses.
  5. Thou shalt look for alternatives before buying.
  6. Thou shalt buy used.
  7. Thou shalt be patient.
  8. Thou shalt purchase by value, not price.
  9. Thou shalt only buy when you have the money.
  10. Thou shalt not buy things you don’t need.

Christmas Spirit

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I’ve ranted before about the uber-consumerism of the holidays, both from irritation about the season seeming to start earlier every year, to the stress of what overspending does to many folks who can’t afford it, yet feel the pull of the season. Yes, I know the government wants us all to spend, spend, spend to fuel the economy, but in the current climate that’s rather insane. Many Americans are in financial trouble today because of the excesses of yesterday, although clearly not all because of Christmas spending.

The reason for the season seems lost, the true justification for the gift-giving being religiously based. What happens if one is not religious? Then the reason becomes a gift-giving expectation with a touch of enjoying a time when people seem to be nicer to each other than usual. If all this is beginning to sound like I’m a Christmas Grinch, you’d be off target, but not totally. My childhood generated a lot of good Christmas memories, but truth be told, they were either gift-related or moments when our family got together in a festive way. The latter is a great reason for the season, the former a lousy one.

The Joy of Tools

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Being a natural-born quasi-geek, any task where I can use a cool tool is automatically enhanced. Well understood in the electronic gadget and software world, and even for hand and power tools. But snow shoveling? Yes, even there.

My house has more surface area to shovel than I’ve ever dealt with, and that fact combined with both a back that can’t take a lot of weight stress and a standard distribution flatish snow shovel, meant inefficient shoveling. I figured if I could find a shovel with an ergo handle and built to push, instead of dig and toss, then I’d be better equipped to survive the looming “winter of many shovelings.” Yes, logical justification to buy yet another gadget. And your point?

Photo at the right is the new bad boy. Key features:  curvy thingie between bucket and hand grip, oversized back end of the shovel bucket (for the plow effect), and a steel-strip bucket edge to cut through ice, forgotten garden hoses, and unfortunately, my yard at sidewalk’s edge. Guess come spring I’ll clearly know where my shoveling went off course.

The result? Well, I still know I had a workout using this shovel versus the flat one, but it took less time to clear the drive and walks, and I spent more of that time standing upright rather than hunched over. Now if it only had a GPS unit and a USB port…

First Snow

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While we’ve had some flurries and dustings, and even a little accumulation the other day, today’s the first “real” snow day. Here are a handful of quick snaps from my front door (taken while in my jammies, I should brag since I have the day off today). Enjoy.

I might follow up later with better shots, or just stay inside, sip my tea, enjoy the view, and think about (but not do anything about) getting out of said jammies.

The Leaf Man Cometh

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So much for plans to sleep in on Saturday. Late last night I realized that TODAY was the volunteer leaf pick up in my town. Most years the city provides leaf vacuuming, curbside, but the last two years, no-go. Budgets and all that. This year a mayoral candidate organized a volunteer effort to pick up the leaves and take ’em to the county mulch pile. Cool.

I’m not a leaf raker & bagger normally. I believe in mulching the leaves to feed the grass, rather than consigning bags of leaves to the dump. But I haven’t kept up with raking this year, so this was an opportunity to support the cause, ensure the leaves go to mulch and not landfill, and catch me up. There are still leaves around to mulch, so fall’s duties are not quite over.

Pickup starts at 8 a.m. so at 6 a.m., wishing I was still snug in my warm bed, I’m out there in the dark, raking and bagging. A street light made it reasonably possible for the first hour or so, but I still felt a bit sneaky doing it in the dark! Results? My shoulders ache, I’m still amazed my little yard could generate twelve bags of leaves, but at least the task is complete. Now I can shower and leaf (groan) to go the coffee shop for the day to work on the Nano novel.

Update

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My writing energies this month focus on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) annual challenge, so blog posting is sparse. Since the NaNo challenge is all about word count, have to be stingy with the words and keep them hoarded in the novel!

I posted a while back (or was it on Facebook?) about the mystery of my big maple tree’s potential color. Screaming Yellow is the winner, although the tree was reticent to show its true colors and remained green longer than other trees around here. And when it finally turned, the top half went yellow before the bottom, so there was never a moment of a solid yellow tree. But still, a lovely blanket of yellow maple leaves cover my yard. The grass, knowing I mulch and not bag leaves, is giggling as I write this in anticipation of the fertilizer soon to feed their hungry roots.

The photo below is my daily view from where I usually sit and surf or write, and as you can tell, my maple tree fills my view nicely. Can’t wait until snow comes and the same scene changes to soft snow nestled on bare branches. Seasons. Gotta love ’em.