Archive for the ‘modern life’ Category

My drug of choice …

August 4th, 2012 1 comment

pu-erh… is Pu-Erh tea. I drink a cup, and I become productive. I’m not antsy or nervous, just calmly productive. I just do what needs to be done.

Sure, it’s gotta be the caffeine, but it must be modulated well-enough to clear the mental fuzz without driving me nuts, and there seems to be no crash or anxiety associated with it. In the evening, I have a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime (Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna!) or Chamomile tea, and I’m good. The ups and downs are mild enough to be unnoticed. I don’t do this every day, just when I’m out of whack either way: too up or too down.

I suppose that the more natural the source of the stimulant or relaxant, the less disruptive it may be to the system; and the more human intervention in the substance, such as the addition of chemical additives, the more disruptive the substance. This leads us to something worth pondering: if we ingest a natural substance that is safe to ingest (not a poisonous mushroom, for example), and it has an effect, is the desired effect the restoration of homeostasis?

In other words, if we’re all hyped-up, or if we’re logy, is it healthy to ingest a natural substance that (respectively) calms us down or wakes us up? I believe so, based on the assumption that we are beings of nature and natrual substances can help maintain and restore our natural functioning. But I think that this is necessary: we need to know our bodies well enough to know when we’re out of whack; to know when we’re too wired or too fuzzy. This comes with experience, paying attention, and a knowledge of where our baseline is when we’re healthy. Only then can we make an accurate assessment of when we’re not quite right. If we’re generally in a state of poor health, our knowledge of our baseline is skewed. So we need to get healthy first, then maintain and improve. Refine and Repeat.

(Of course, your mileage may vary, and I’m just Some Guy on the Internet.)

Time for another cuppa.

Categories: East meets West, modern life, nutrition Tags:

The Instability of Inequality

October 14th, 2011 No comments

Returning to University has given me access to new ideas, new thinkers, and of course, new links, on subjects beyond health and philosophy. To wit: here’s an interesting article on our current economic situation, in which the author points out how in today’s interrelated economy, balance must be restored to prevent the instability that arises from inequality.

The Instability of Inequality

Patagonia says “don’t buy our stuff”?

September 14th, 2011 No comments

This is neat. Patagonia is asking its customers to not buy its stuff new unless they really need it. We need more of this kind of initiative.

Here’s the post.

Categories: interdisciplinary, modern life Tags:

No thanks, I’ll stand.

September 6th, 2011 No comments

Standing at a deskIt seems that standing at your desk has become fashionable, according to The Wall Street Journal. RnR is mildly chuffed. Not that we had anything to do with this.

Standing Desks Are on the Rise

Here’s my original post on the matter.

Categories: fitness, modern life Tags:

Weather. Ain’t it grand?

August 15th, 2011 1 comment

I like weather. Wind, clouds, rain, that sort of thing. There’s nothing quite like appreciating it when you can. Most of the time, we choose to exist in weather-free indoor environments, only choosing to really experience the elements when they’re benign, or pleasant, such as on a sunny day.

Having spent most of today indoors, a bout an hour ago I chose to head outside and get some fresh air. I was about to open the front door, when I heard the sound of a sudden cloudburst … that sound of steady, heavy rain, that isn’t a rumble, isn’t a hum, but something else — white noise, I suppose. I could see the water rushing down the gutters, pouring out of the downspout, rolling in waves down the street. So I opened the door anyway.

Not being keen on getting a soaker (eh) as we used to say, I stayed at the front door, under a small shelter. But in that space, I remembered a little bit of childhood. Remember when you had nothing better to do but watch and listen rain? And smell it? Those sensations had a wonderful, calming effect on me standing at the door, idly listening to the rumble in the distance and the volume of the white noise, telling me that the rain was abating as the sound grew more gentle.

Most of the time we listen to that sound hoping that the rain will stop so we can get somewhere, do something. Come on, come on. Not this time. As the rain calmed down, said its piece, I watched the clouds part and felt pretty good.

Categories: modern life, secrets of youth Tags:

Breathe heavy like Dave Bowman from 2001!

June 7th, 2011 No comments

Yesterday I needed to get an essay done for my English course. This required ferocious concentration, so I grabbed my extra-keen Shure SCL-3 Bowman Breather earphones. These are great. They’re designed for pro audio guys, and because they go right into the ear canal, they do a terrific job of shutting out the outside world so you can groove to your tunes distraction-free. But if “grooving” to you means cranking it up to 11, you might want to avoid these — they’ll make you deaf if you crank up the volume. (This is why most earbuds fit loosely — to save the ears of the crankers, but it means they now share their grooving with you on the transit. Whippersnappers.)

The price point of these babies should discourage the casual iPod jockey, but for me they’re just right — with the music off.  All is (mostly) silent, except for my own breathing, which dominates the soundscape. That might justifiably creep out a lot of you, but for me it’s not only a soothing balm, but also an aid to meditation, giving me something to listen to as I zone in (not out, by the way). It also helps me learn to breathe more slowly and deeply, because it gives me feedback I can’t ignore. And the tunes sound great, in case you were wondering.

However … flight attendants don’t recommend wearing them on landing — it’s an air pressure thing. Consider yourself warned. And don’t crank your music, eh?

(If you’re shopping, the SCL-3 is discontinued, but other “sound isolating” earphones should do.)
(Oh yeah, one more thing: the jack is too thick to fit into the tiny holes in gear like this.)

Life by proxy?

May 23rd, 2011 No comments

Did any of us stop to consider that when we watch television, we’re actually watching other people live their lives?

Not only are average folks airing their dirty laundry on reality TV, but athletes are playing their games, actors are playing their parts (and working!), cinematographers are shooting, directors are directing, editors are editing and marketing people are trying to keep their jobs by selling us stuff. Even if we’re not watching someone living their life directly, we are watching the result of their living, as seen in the aforementioned editing, directing and so on.

Sure, some programs can change the way we see the world, but most leave us none the wiser, but a little bit older. I don’t know about you, but that thought keeps me off the couch most of the time.

Wait — here’s an opposing view. If you liked Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of Flow, you might see why I think the opposing view is mostly ridiculous. Here is my take on the respective assertions of the article: 1) The writer is advocating useless downtime that isn’t actually refreshing. 2) Sure. Have the TV on while doing needlepoint. I guess we really don’t like doing either, then? 3) Okay, TV isn’t all trash. 4) I’d rather laugh in good company, not at a TV set. Now if it bonds the family, it has a value, but there are better ways to bond, and if a family can’t laugh away from the tube, something’s not right. 5) Sure, as long as part of that inspiration includes getting off the couch and doing whatever it was we were inspired to do.

Meh. Time to go for a walk.

What do Walter Murch and Winston Churchill have in common?

May 16th, 2011 3 comments

So who’s Walter Murch? Well, he’s an author, award-winning film (and sound) editor and Very Clever Fellow. When you get a chance, check out his books In the Blink of an Eye and The Conversations (with Michael Ondaatje, another Very Clever Fellow). And Winston Churchill was a Very Productive Guy, and of course, Very Clever Fellow. He did some stuff, if you’ll recall.

But to answer the question, they both worked standing up.

According to this article in the Globe and Mail, sitting down all day just isn’t very healthy. We have to move, not just through exercise, but as a normal part of the day’s activities, and these two gents worked standing up. Murch edited from a high table, and Churchill wrote from a podium, to which the Globe attributes his longevity despite his well-known smoking and drinking.

For my small part, I’ve raised my working table to a standing height, and that may have contributed to my maintaining my weight loss in the face of an admittedly-reduced exercise regime. The change wasn’t expensive — based on an article on the web, I bought some 3-inch plastic (ABS) pipes and used them to extend the legs of my Ikea desk. The top and bottom half of the Ikea legs don’t connect directly, but the pipes act as splints, keeping everything together. With an extra leg to support a long span of desk, it seems to work nicely. I don’t work standing up all the time since I find it easier to write sitting down, but I’ve been able to do my motion graphics work standing up at least.

(Here’s another option if you’re not into the pipe thing.)

Not everyone can change their work environment, but if you can do it, I recommend it. Not only does it help while working, but it encourages more movement and standing in general, which is better than sitting around. Oh — when you stand, don’t lock your knees. (Thought I’d get that in.)

How to be a Hero

March 25th, 2011 No comments

In 1995, Psychology Today came up with a list of the characteristics of a hero. At the time, I found the article interesting, but I was in search of some inspiration. As usual. To that end, I thought I’d rephrase the characteristics in the imperative, to make them more of a set of affirmations. I printed up little cards with these imperatives, but only gave them to people who asked. Don’t want to be pushy, you know.

They’re rather lofty, but hey, aim for the stars and hit the moon.

  • Be courageous and strong
  • Be honest
  • Be kind, loving and generous
  • Use skill, expertise and intelligence
  • Take (reasonable) risks
  • Be charismatic

The risky part should be qualified, don’t you think? I wouldn’t advise anyone to risk harm to themselves or anyone else, but often we avoid risking damage to our self-image through embarrassment, for example. Naturally, there’s no need to be complete here, as a fine and honorable life can be lived through observance of only the first three of these. If the meaning of the list isn’t clear, do read the article.

By the way, this post came about because something popped into my head recently — another pearl of wisdom from Dr. Dave, who said “there can be no refinement without repetition”. Dave defined integrity as saying and doing the same thing. In other words, what you say and what you do match, they integrate, therefore you are integrated. You have integrity.

Hm. How about adding “thinking” to make it a trinity of enlightenment?


March 17th, 2011 No comments

I finally broke down and bought one of them newfangled iPad gadgets. Yes, make no mistake, it is a gadget, but I’ll have to admit, a rather useful one.

I had avoided one up until now because it wasn’t a computer. Sure, it probably has more processing power than anything that sent us to the moon, but it won’t run the apps i use to make a living, so to me, that diminishes its computer status. Also, I thought of it as just a big iPod, and a delivery mechanism for the stuff that really generates income for Apple: apps and tunes.

But … I finally broke down and bought one to show videos to clients in pitch situations where a laptop was too much and an iPod was too little. And it did that quite nicely, as long as we were all gathered around it.

So it’s a useful gadget. But then there are those app things. Basically, I’m finding that the iPad is a gadget, but it’s also a non-gadget. What does it really do on its own? Not much. It’s really a blank slate for the apps, which make up the useful part of the iPad. Sure, most of them look like incredible time-wasters (and we complain about having no time?), but there are two that are proving useful in my Psych class. The first one is called 3D brain (“braaaaiinnns!”) which shows a 3D model of the brain along with annotations and callouts for the weird little subcortical bits. It grossed out my Mom, but it’s useful in contrast to the textbook illustrations, which only show a sagittal (lengthwise cross-section) view of the brain. These views don’t show that there are two of a number of structures, on the left and right sides of the brain. Who knew?

The second app has proven most useful: a test of Psychological knowledge. It’s used to prep students in Britain for a PSY100-like test using questions, tips and flash cards. I ran through the tests before studying, then again after studying and was able to improve my score. They’re not 100% related to my course content, but they’re pretty close. I’d like to see more of these test apps, but once I get into higher-level courses, I don’t expect to see apps because of the more limited market compared to PSY 100.

Oh, yes … the headline. Well, I’ve recently gotten back on the Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation practice) wagon, so this thing helps me keep track of my practice through a “zen timer” app. The motivational part comes from a little statistic in the app that shows the number of consecutive days spent meditating. Not wanting to see it drop to zero, I keep going. So far so good, and my Zhan Zhuang is getting better as a result.

If you’re considering one of these iPad things, I recommend you see what kinds of apps are available that suit your needs — you may find a must-have app for you. But aside from that, it’s just a big iPod.

… for now, anyway.

Edit: Just to be clear, I own an iPod because I’m in graphics, and Apple’s Quicktime is important to my work. If it weren’t, I might consider another make of tablet — maybe one that supports Flash?

Categories: modern life, psychology Tags: