Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Gift of Simplicity

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is the 23rd Psalm. Early in my faith journey I had trouble understanding the concept espoused in the opening verse: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” For the life of me, I couldn’t grasp how anyone could say that they didn’t want anything. But of course, I eventually realized that what the psalmist was saying is that because the Lord is our source we needn’t lack any good thing.

And it is that concept that has become a hallmark of my faith ever since I comprehended its meaning. As we trust God to provide for our needs, we can rest in the gift of simplicity that comes with the faithfulness of God. I was reminded of this as I walked the streets of Nantucket during the holidays and realized that I didn’t need or even want anything that was for sale. It was a liberating feeling to say the least.

When a friend of mine heard of our radical downscaling this year she wrote to share similar news: “We continue to scale back. It’s so freeing. (Christmas is such a joy when you have absolutely no shopping to do!) We live quietly and simply, but our lives are still full—full of the things we love and not excess stuff we have to maintain.”

Along such lines, I love a quote from Socrates: “How many things are there which I do not want.” And a line from a Quaker hymn perhaps captures it best: “‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free.” Amen to that! And while the holidays are history, the present is a good time to unwrap the gift of simplicity. It is the gift that keeps on giving!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Nantucket Noel

My wife and I agree that this Christmas has been our favorite one together, which is rather ironic given that we are several hundred miles from family and friends on an island thirty miles out to sea. One contributing factor is that winter here strips away the distractions of life and helps us to focus on the reason for the season: the incarnation of Christ. Another factor is that we are living in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, particularly during the holidays.

For its part, Nantucket has several hundred colonial-era buildings, more than anywhere else in America, a fact made all the more astonishing when you consider that many more were lost in an epic fire. Add to the historic buildings the cobblestone streets, old-fashioned lampposts, and traditional decorations of evergreen trees and wreaths with white lights and candles, and you experience a holiday dreamscape capable of soothing even the most jaded of holiday shoppers.

And speaking of shopping, its absence in our lives was another major contributor to our holiday bliss this year. With our yearlong downscaling of possessions, whereby we gave most of our stuff to friends and family before moving here, shopping wasn’t a big deal. As for us, we had bought each other several gifts before the holidays as the need arose so we simply exchanged a couple of gifts on the day of Christmas. The only thing missing was the snow that was forecast but failed to fall.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


As I mentioned in an earlier post, the first thing you see as you enter Nantucket Harbor is the Brant Point lighthouse, which dates to 1746 and is the second oldest lighthouse in America. One of the neat things about living here during the winter is seeing it nautically decorated for Christmas with the Coast Guard’s crossing of oars in the center of a festooned wreath, reminding one and all of this faraway isle’s maritime heritage.

As we soon learned upon our arrival here nearly two months ago, “washashores” is the official term used to describe folks like us who move here from “America,” as off-island is referred to by locals. And while we may be washashores we have enjoyed a very warm welcome. Indeed, one of the pleasant surprises about life here is how friendly the people generally are, an attribute I think results from braving winters together on a secluded island.

In Walden, Thoreau observed, “At length the winter set in good earnest ... and the wind began to howl around the house as if it had not had permission to do so till then . . . I withdrew yet farther into my shell, and endeavored to keep a bright fire both within my house and within my breast.” While we don’t have a fireplace here like we did in Florida [go figure] today is the warmest first day of winter on record here, at a balmy 55 degrees!

In closing, I leave you with the observation of Moby Dick author Herman Melville: “Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than a lighthouse. Look at it: a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all beach, without a background.” And home to washashores.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nantucket Nomads

It is hard to believe that it has already been a month since my arrival here on the island of Nantucket with my wife and our stuff via ferry. Yet as hard as that is to believe it is even harder to fathom that in the six months or so since we sold our home we have downscaled our lifestyle from living in a 1400 square foot cottage to a 400 square foot studio.

And believe it or not, we fit virtually all our 400 or so possessions inside our Volvo convertible, [which rode with us half the way on Amtrak’s Auto Train before we drove it the other half of the way here]. Besides that, all we own is our Vespa scooter, [which we shipped to Cape Cod and brought over with us on the ferry from Hyannis], and a couple smallish storage bins with stuff at my mother’s in Florida.

And how do I know we own about 400 things? Because I counted them, of course! I compiled a detailed inventory of our stuff and even broke it into categories for simple tracking. To that end, my wife and I each own about 100 articles of clothing so that is half our stuff, with the other half coming from about 100 media evenly distributed between books and music and another 100 miscellaneous items ranging from toothbrushes to computers.

So in about seven months we have transitioned from a seven-room house to moving here with about seven bags stuffed with the favorite of our possessions left after selling our house, as well as most of its furnishings through a couple of garage sales. And the truly amazing part of it all is that my wife and I embarked upon this downscaling adventure voluntarily and in total agreement about how it was to transpire. Stay tuned for more updates from these Nantucket Nomads!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Walden Pond

As I wrote about earlier, my wife and I have embarked on what we are calling a “radical sabbatical” to the island of Nantucket, where we are planning to read, research and write this winter and I am happy to report we are blissfully ensconced in our new digs here. On the writing front, the best way I know to describe my book when asked about it is to call it “an updated Waldenesque guidebook to simpler living.”

On our journey here and as part of my research for the book we visited Henry David Thoreau’s hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, including his cabin in the woods at Walden Pond, where he wrote Walden. On a picture perfect autumn day my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting not only Thoreau’s recreated cabin, complete with period furnishings, but also the original cabin site on the other side of Walden Pond.

It is no exaggeration to say it was a spiritual experience to walk in the footsteps of the author of my favorite book and to personally experience the environs that so inspired him. In addition to touring Walden Pond we also visited Thoreau’s gravesite at Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord, located on Author’s Ridge with his fellow writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


I was preparing to log off my iMac late last night when I pulled up the New York Times and sadly read of the passing of Steve Jobs, legendary co-founder of Apple and maker of the very device on which I was reading his obituary. As President Obama noted in a statement, “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

One of the most poignant tributes to Jobs comes from Times technology columnist David Pogue, who writes: “Here’s a guy who never finished college, never went to business school, never worked for anyone else a day in his adult life. So how did he become the visionary who changed every business he touched?
The story of Steve Jobs boils down to this: Don’t go with the flow. Steve Jobs refused to go with the flow. If he saw something that could be made better, smarter or more beautiful, nothing else mattered. Not internal politics, not economic convention, not social graces.

In 2005, Steve Jobs gave the commencement address to the graduating students at Stanford. He told them the secret that defined him in every action, every decision, every creation of his tragically unfinished life: ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I must admit that the untimely death of Steve Jobs moved me to tears, not just for the loss of his genius but for how he and his work have profoundly changed the way I work and live. The tools he helped create have enabled me to live anywhere I want and to enjoy using that technology to make a living. I pray for the loved ones he left behind, and my eulogy to the man behind the magic is simply this: iThankU.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Two Pennies Overboard

After a summer visit to the island of Nantucket nearly 20 years ago my wife and I participated in the time-honored tradition of tossing two pennies overboard as our ferry rounded Nantucket’s Brant Point on our return to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The tradition suggests that doing so means you are bound to return to “the faraway island,” as it is called.

Native American for “place of peace,” Nantucket is 30 miles out to sea and suffice it to say that during the winter it becomes an even more remote place, albeit one that is kept from freezing by the gulf stream of the Atlantic Ocean. The winter population shrinks to about 10,000 from several times that during the summer and we are about to join that number.

Come the first of November, my wife and I will become winter residents of Nantucket to fulfill our quest for a radical sabbatical, with time and space to read, write and plan our next move. As Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Another very motivational quote for us is attributed to Henry David Thoreau. When queried about why he was trading his “normal” life in Concord to live at Walden Pond, he simply replied, “Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and I could not spare any more time for that one.”

Finally, on a sign located at the mouth of the harbor in Mount Dora, the town we called home for several years and recently moved from, is a profound quote from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” And so we are.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Burning House

Earlier this week it was reported that Sir Richard Branson’s luxury hideaway on his private retreat of Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands burned to the ground after being struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. What was amazing to me was the attitude of the billionaire entrepreneur toward his massive loss, especially given that his personal office containing priceless photographs was destroyed in the fire.

According to reports Branson’s reaction to the fire was one of gratitude that his family and friends, totaling 20 people in all, escaped injury: “At the end of the day, what you realize is that all that matters is the people that you love. Everything else is just stuff. And none of that stuff matters.” I couldn’t agree more. However, assuming one’s loved ones are safe, it helps to think about what one would try to rescue in the event of a catastrophe.

There is even a website called The Burning House that presents readers with the thought-provoking statement: “If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.”

It is a question that my wife and I have considered during our process of whittling our possessions down to the essential. Rather than speak for her I’ll simply list a dozen things here that I’d try to take with me in case of such an emergency, which is not a hypothetical proposition given this week’s Virginia earthquake and hurricane Irene heading toward us as I write.

In no particular order, my stuff to save would likely include my NKJV Bible, Moleskine notebook, Rolf wallet, Nokia phone, Leica camera, Powerbook laptop, iPod Touch, passport, memento box, wedding video, grandmother's picture, and copy of Thoreau's Walden. Also, I wear my wedding band at all times so I didn’t include that in the overall count of items.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Simple Lifestyle

Henry David Thoreau’s timeless tome Walden speaks to us today at least as much it did to the readers of Thoreau’s time. While some of its language could understandably use an update the book’s principles are as timely as ever. In fact, author Robert Sullivan writes in The Thoreau You Don’t Know that Thoreau’s message was written during a time very similar to our own.

“It’s important to think about the economic climate. As the country reeled from market forces, as the gap between rich and poor widened, as people strained to make a living and saw their social and family life begin to change as a result, Thoreau was about to give a very practical answer to the question that Emerson asked, the question that was not just on the mind of philosophers past and present but on the mind of the country: ‘How shall I live?’”

For readers past and present Thoreau answered the question himself in Walden. “My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Elsewhere Thoreau wrote of “sucking the marrow out of life” rather than having the life sucked out of him…or living a life that sucks! But he was quick to state he wasn’t necessarily suggesting that others copy his lifestyle by retreating to the woods as he had. Rather it was an overall philosophy of simple living that he espoused and encouraged others to emulate.

As Sullivan reminds us: “Walden takes the long way around on purpose, making it in itself representative of Thoreau’s life. With the book, he was not suggesting everyone live as he did at the pond, or as he ever did at Concord: ‘I would not have any one adopt MY mode of living on any account.’” As with so much of life, simplicity is as much caught as taught. And what Thoreau was trying to communicate was the need for all of us to consider simplifying our lives, whatever that looks like for each of us.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Day the Music Died

I am mourning. No, not the death of a loved one, thankfully. The demise of a radio station. One week ago today, my all-time favorite station, WLOQ 103.1, quit broadcasting its smooth jazz tunes over the FM airwaves after more than three decades in business. It is no exaggeration to say that it was one of my very favorite things about living here in Central Florida and I already miss it.

It was the last independently owned and operated commercial radio station in the Orlando market and won numerous accolades, including jazz station of the year by the National Association of Broadcasters. Fortunately for us long-time listeners the station isn’t disappearing completely, as it continues streaming live online at

Even as I listen to it while typing this at my favorite Starbucks I am reminded of when I was introduced to WLOQ in the autumn of 1985 upon first moving here. I’ve moved in and out of the area a couple of times through the years and each time one of the first things I did upon my return was program 103.1 into my radio station rotation.

I also have fond memories of attending various concerts sponsored by the station, including one by Kirk Whalum, pictured in the adjacent photo. Looking forward, I guess one benefit of the station’s migration to the internet is that I can listen to it whenever I am online so for that I am thankful. Thanks for the memories, WLOQ!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Simpler Is Better

I remember hearing someone suggest that people should craft a personal philosophy of life if they desired to live wisely and since it made sense to me I thought about it and came up with one of my own. My philosophy of life is: “Simpler is better.”

If that sounds too simple to be a life philosophy, then so be it. But over the course of my forty-something years of living I’ve come to experience the beauty of simplicity in too many ways to think otherwise. I am convinced that simple living beats the alternative.

Fortunately for me, my wife and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to designing how to live our lives. Whenever we are faced with competing demands on our time, much more often than not the simpler alternative is the one we opt to adopt.

Both of us have suffered the consequences of not listening to that still, small voice inside of us reminding us to simplify. In my case, it was a life-threatening illness that caused me to trade stressful practices for simpler ones that enhance the overall quality of my life.

We have learned to live our lives at a sustainable pace rather than succumb to the pressures of daily living that threaten to overwhelm us if allowed. And we purposely concentrate more on celebrating experiences than collecting possessions that clutter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Quest Continues

Why two people, namely my wife and I, ever thought a collection of several DOZEN dishes was necessary for such a small family is beyond comprehension. We never planned on having a large family so that wasn’t the reason, and while we have hosted parties for as many as 50 people at our home they were a rarity and didn’t involve dishes. Suffice it to say that the quest for a simpler lifestyle calls for the purging of such culinary clutter.

And purge we have. From that unwieldy collection, including TEN each of matching large plates, small plates, bowls, cups, saucers, etc., we’ve cut our cupboard down to size by getting rid of all but a couple plates, bowls and glasses for my wife and I. So what about dinner guests? The place we are presently leasing is furnished so there are extra dishes if needed and we can simply meet friends at a restaurant to dine together if not as guests at their homes.

The lesson we are gleaning from the continuing quest to simplify our lives is to radically rethink what is necessary to live simply yet satisfyingly, with the measuring stick of mobility as our guide. As I posted here earlier, our family motto has become “minimize to mobilize.” Every item we possess has to pass the mobility test. And we draw inspiration from the life of Christ.

It was said of Jesus, who was no less than the very Son of God, that he had “nowhere to lay his head.” Not that he was homeless, but he chose no permanent place to call his own. In other words, he adopted a mobile lifestyle in order to reach as many people as possible. As for us, we aren’t here to save the world, but our lifestyle does enable us to touch people we’d never meet otherwise. And that is good news.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our Media Diet

Over the course of the last several months my wife and I have been on a personal quest to pare down our possessions, including our relatively extensive media collections of books, music, movies and magazines. We started by getting rid of our back issues of all the magazines we had subscribed to through the years and unsubscribed from the one print magazine we still got mailed to our home.

Maybe even more radically, we quit reading print newspapers in favor of electronic ones, quit buying print books in favor of electronic ones and quit buying music albums in favor of electronic ones. Besides digital media being cheaper to own, between my Kindle and iTouch I can carry my book and music libraries with me wherever I go, and my local library is a convenient resource for much free media, including books, music and movies.

Each year I chronicle what I call my Media Menu and halfway through this year I have read 16 books, attended two concerts, listened to four new albums, watched two movies at the theatre and viewed 12 videos online or via disc, all of which only cost me about $70 given my frequent visits to the public library. And about half that total is due to the couple of matinees my wife and I saw together.

Our efforts at simplifying our media lives extend to our use of social media as well. For example, we favor emailing to chatting, instant messaging or texting, we don’t activate comments on our blogs, and while we are professional members of LinkedIn we are not on any other social media sites, preferring instead to interact with real friends in real life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A New Lease on Life

By virtue of selling our home and the resulting debt-free lifestyle it has afforded us, my wife and I feel as if we have a new lease on life itself. Now that we have gotten untethered from a long-term mortgage we are now free to “move about the country,” as one airline’s commercial says. And it is not just leasing that allows us that luxury but also the downsizing we have done in anticipation of us getting to this point in our lives.

As I reflect upon the many changes we have experienced during the last several months perhaps none is greater than the fact that we have whittled our rather large library of books from more than 1,500 volumes to just 150! And for a couple that has worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade, that is no small feat. As a professional editor, it was not uncommon for me to receive hundreds of books a year for several years.

Besides taming our book collection, we have limited ourselves to our favorite dozen or so DVD’s and are winnowing our CD collection down to a manageable size by ripping copies digitally. With our lease of a friend’s place we opted to cut the cable television completely as well as the landline telephone. Our prepaid cell phones continue to suffice and we enjoy simply watching videos on our friend’s flat screen television.

High-speed Internet connectivity is a necessity since I work from home and the service here is lightening fast so I am loving it. But once the day is done I have no trouble shutting it off to walk around the neighborhood lake with my wife or to take a spin together on our scooter. As a result of our healthier lifestyle, I am happy to report that both my wife and I have lost weight since moving here, and we don’t miss the television whatsoever!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our Unframed Journey

As I alluded to in my last post, about a month ago my wife and I cashed in one version of the American dream and traded it for another, one more closely aligned with our renewed vision for simplicity, liquidity and mobility. I am happy to report that the transition has gone very smoothly and we are blissfully ensconced in our new digs at the master planned community of Celebration, originally created by the Walt Disney Company.

While the unincorporated town was originally a tad too “Mickey Mouse” for our liking when we first visited it at its founding almost 15 years ago, it has since grown up and thus grown on us. We ended up here via the good graces of a friend who heads north for the latter half of the year and needed someone to house sit in his absence, thus resulting in a win-win all around.

Our move has allowed us to continue enjoying the Florida lifestyle with our convertible and scooter while getting us closer to such signs of civilization as the mall and the airport. On our very first night in town we ate at a local restaurant that featured a map on its menu of an “unframed journey,” which I thought perfectly captured the essence of what we’ve embarked upon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

White Picket Fences

After more than a dozen years of home ownership my wife and I decided that the white picket fence version of the American dream didn’t necessarily suit us anymore so we finally sold our beloved Lakewood Cottage in the quaint lakeside town of Mount Dora, Florida, which was itself a miracle given the relatively depressed local housing market.

Only four days before our listing was to expire our buyer made an offer and four days after the listing expired we had a signed contract for the figure my wife and I had agreed we needed to make the move worthwhile. Fortunately for us, we had substantial equity in our home so we left with a good-sized nest egg in exchange for our nest.

The bottom line for us is that we are able to retire all our debt and move whenever the mood strikes us. What has helped make such a drastic transition doable is that we started the process of downsizing our possessions more than a year ago when we first thought of selling our home after a neighbor’s tree fell on it [see “Celebrating Life” post].

One irony in all of this is that we didn’t actually have a white picket fence at our old property and yet we do at the new place we are living, which I will write more about next time. Suffice it to say we are loving our new lifestyle and looking forward to adventurous times ahead.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

RIP the Flip

It was about three years ago today that I shared a post titled “Trying the Flip” about one of my favorite tech toys, the Flip Ultra Camcorder. It was, and is, a fun, user-friendly camcorder like no other, which is why it grieves me to report that it is being discontinued by its maker, a move that is roundly being criticized by the technorati, and rightly so.

A couple of years ago, the original owners of the Flip, Pure Digital, sold out to the giant conglomerate called Cisco, better known as the makers of Linksys routers, to the tune of $590 million. While you can’t fault entrepreneurs for striking it rich, it is a shame that a huge corporation sees the need to kill a successful product with a whopping 35% of the market because it no longer fits its portfolio, laying off 550 people in the process!

The least Cisco could have done was to sell the business rather than shutter it but speculation has it that they wanted the proprietary technology behind the camcorder rather than the device itself, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever. If there is a silver lining it is that the company is at least planning to sell, service and support the Flip through 12/31/13. So I guess the 150 or so videos I’ve captured [about one per week] are salvaged for the time being, but I did get rid of my Linksys router…

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life Is Good

I am sitting here typing on my laptop at my favorite cafe counting my blessings as I realize how good I’ve got it. I came here this morning with my lovely wife on a scenic drive through fog-laden countryside and cool, crisp weather. After she gets off work this afternoon we are cruising in our convertible to get a bite to eat at our favorite restaurant before heading to an outdoor jazz concert.

Tomorrow we are planning to sleep late and eat our favorite breakfast at home before heading on our scooter to a classic car festival in our quaint lakeside community. On Sunday, we are planning to picnic at a local park with friends of ours whom we haven’t gotten together with for more than a year. All in all, a dream weekend by any account.

As I reflect about my good life, I am reminded of the “Life is Good” lifestyle brand, whose motto is, “Do what you love, love what you do.” To me that is one of the keys to living a life you love. I may not love everything about my life, but I am enjoying the overall journey and that is what counts in my book.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Poke the Box

Best-selling author Seth Godin has earned a reputation as an out-of-the-box thinker and his latest book called Poke the Box is no exception. The book is the first title from The Domino Project, his paradigm-shifting attempt to revolutionize publishing by simplifying the process of connecting books and readers.

Powered by Amazon, Godin’s electronic book venture is designed to be a game-changer, and while it may be too early to comment on that, Poke the Box is indeed a provocative “manifesto about starting,” as he calls it.

Godin’s mantra is start it and ship it, suggesting that he who hesitates is lost. In his own words, “soon is not as good as now.” He points out that not all flux is necessarily risky and insists that not flowing with flux may be the riskiest move of all.

“It’s easy to fall so in love with the idea of starting that we never actually start,” writes Godin in a line that hits all too close to home. According to him, when the cost of poking the box is less than the cost of doing nothing, then you should poke. And I could not agree more!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Pull the Plug

It's time to pull the plug. No, not on granny…on your electronics. Tomorrow is the second iteration of the National Day of Unplugging, which I first blogged about last year under my post titled “Sabbath Manifesto,” and my wife and I are planning to participate yet again this year. It isn’t extraordinarily challenging for us since we generally at least stay offline on the weekends but it’ll be good to extend the unplugging to our other electronics also.

To that point, judging by most people’s placement of televisions at the center of their homes (myself included) you’d think life literally revolved around them (mine doesn’t) but it is possible to live without them. As a matter of fact, I’ve gone without television for extended periods of time, including the month or so a few years ago when my present one had to be repaired. At any rate, whether it’s the computer, television, phone, stereo, or other electronic device, I think we’ll all be better off unplugging them for at least a day.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Creation Versus Consumption

Lately I’ve been thinking about the amount of information I’ve been processing versus what I’ve been producing. As a communications consultant information processing comes with the territory so I have to be extra vigilant to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand. To that end, I subscribe to just one print magazine, get only basic cable, scan the online version of the New York Times each morning, and don’t own a smart phone (yet).

However, there are ebbs and flows to my sea of information and adding to my typical consumption pattern is the fact that I am currently enrolled in an online course involving several pages of paperwork each week, I am editing what started out as a 400 page book for a client, I am continuing the research of material for a book of my own, and I am reading no less than four books simultaneously, three on my Kindle and one from my local library.

All of which has served to largely stifle my own creative output, save for the periodic blog post such as this one. Speaking of blogs, I came across one the other day that captured my conundrum exactly. With a post titled “The Creative Equilibrium” at blogger James Shelley aptly describes my experience: “The more content I am consuming the less margin I have for creating.”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Quality Control Issues

As I sit here typing on my laptop at the Barnes and Noble I just got word from the Apple Store that a new part they installed on our desktop to fix another issue itself needs a component replaced. The good news is that the original repair was for a known issue and so it was covered under Apple’s recall policy. And the technician confirmed that the cost of the component will also be covered to help compensate for my inconvenience.

This latest quality control issue comes on the heels of my wife and I getting our twenty-odd year-old VHS wedding video transferred to DVD at a local duplicating shop. After stressing to the tech the need to get the date on the label correct since the original videographer mislabeled the video, the duplicator proceeded to print the wrong year instead of merely the wrong day. Yes, we know our wedding date but that’s not the point.

What makes all of this particularly poignant is that I am reading a book titled The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time. The book decries the current state of language usage as the authors cross the country on a mission to fix literary faux pas. As a fellow editor, it is a mission close to my head and heart.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Amazon Kindle

Before flying to visit family for the holidays my wife and I got an Amazon Kindle e-book reader and we’ve since thought about getting another one. We own the Wi-Fi-only edition but the 3G edition’s expanded capability is tempting, especially when the other one of us is using ours. It is not exaggerating to say that the Kindle has changed our lives, or at least our reading lives.

For starters, it has motivated us to limit ourselves to e-book purchases only. Since getting the Kindle, we’ve downloaded about a dozen sample chapters from books we considered buying and have bought four of them, largely based on our ability to sample them first. And the cost savings has been amazing. For softcover books whose retail prices each average about $15, we only spent about half that.

Another big benefit of the Kindle has been the ability to order books whenever the mood strikes us [within distance of a hotspot], including at Starbucks, our office, the bedroom, and yes, even the bathroom! It is awesome to be able to download a full-length book in less than a minute and start reading it immediately, no matter where you are.

And with our move to digital reading, we are maintaining the mobile lifestyle by donating hundreds of little-used books left over from my days as a book review editor. With fewer books comes less need for bookshelves, so we sold most of them, downsizing from a total of 30 to 13. Even before getting the Kindle we cut back on traditional book buying, but if you’ll pardon the pun, it is “fuel for the fire.”

Monday, January 03, 2011

Radical Sabbatical

As we enter the New Year, my wife and I are preparing to embark on what we are calling a “radical sabbatical.” What that means for us is a move toward concentrating on what feeds our souls as we strive to make a life and not merely a living. For example, we are conscientiously trying to say “no” to the good in order to say “yes” to the best, both personally and professionally.

For my part, I mean to gradually quit doing the type of work I don’t enjoy and more actively pursue work that adds meaning to my life and not merely money. Part of my plan includes creating a “life list” of activities to do before I die, including visiting places I’ve dreamt of.

Also on the agenda is quitting things that no longer make sense for us or that we’ve done simply out of a sense of obligation. For far too long we’ve both found ourselves guilty of doing stuff just to be doing it, usually because it was a pattern of behavior proscribed “by the book.”

The older we get the more we realize that life is too short to live according to other people’s prescriptions for living. We are each given one life to live and it is a shame when we squander ours trying to squeeze into a mold that doesn’t fit. Tragically, many of us are born originals but die copies instead.

A year from now I hope to be able to report that my life has radically changed to the point that I barely recognize the person I am today. To quote the immortal words of T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”