Curse of the Unread

It begins so innocently, even admirably:  A love of reading, a thirst for knowledge, a desire to share information.

It hooks you young:  First a couple of storybooks read by a relative, then a library card of your own.  Soon you’re not satisfied with just borrowing books; you want to keep them and read them whenever you want.

Grave of the Unread

Grave of the Unread

And the hunger, the driven feeling to acquire reading begins.  Soon, without suspecting it, you’re suffering from the new malady:  Page Plague Paralysis; American Hoarder Story.

It used to be so much easier to spot in someone:  They’d have books and periodicals all over the house.  My own library covered an entire wall.  But—-and here’s the key to information hoarding—-many are unread!

Now, however, with the creation of the computer and personal devices such as tablets and e-readers, the effect is much more insidious.  You pile up file after file of PDFs, e-newsletters, RSS feeds, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, all with greatest intention:  Someday you’ll want to read them.

You poor misguided creature.

I too was once a sufferer and still harbor remnants of my recovery as it progresses.  If my Kindle suddenly acquired the weight of the volumes I’ve downloaded, it would weigh more than the combined contestants of The Biggest Loser.  (Hey, Jeff Bezos!  How about letting us create more than one library of our Kindle books?  I’ve got more Jack Reacher novels in your cloud than emails in my inbox!)

Here are some tips for recovering from Page Plague Syndrome:

1.  Assemble all of the novels you’ve read and all of the non-fiction books you haven’t opened in a year or more.

  • (a)Place them in containers
  • (b)Donate them to the library or other nonprofit organization
  • (c)Take a tax deduction for donated goods

2.  With magazines, recycle everything older than 6 months.  Then try for 3 months

3.  Put all your PDF files into one huge, byte-consuming file on your computer

  • (a)Organize by date entered
  • (b)Everything you haven’t read that’s older than 6 months and which you absolutely  don’t need for research—-be bold, be masochistic—-and hit the (gasp) delete button
  • (c)OK, if you have’t the got the spine for that, transfer them to an auxiliary drive.

4.  Finally, ask yourself:  Do I really need all of the files I’ve saved in Evernote? How many have I “clipped” and forgotten?

Yes, my friends, you can recover from information hoarding.

  • Think of the space on your bookshelves that can now be adorned with pictures of your family!
  • Luxuriate in the free disk space you now have on your computer and/or tablet!
  • Realize that you can now can buy or download all sorts of….



Challenge, Change, and Charles (Darwin)

Our lives are constantly buffeted by the winds of change.  Charted on a graph, that rate of change has accelerated to the point that the upward axis never seems to level off.  But every person can embrace the embrace the challenge of change by observing and learning from change in nature, at its most basic level, and the implications and inspirations those changes can have for us.

600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, straddling the equator, is the island archipelago of the Galapagos.  This island chain is famous because of one of its visitors, British scientist Charles Darwin who developed his theory of evolution and adaptability after visiting the Galapagos and reflecting on what he observed there.

Several years ago, my wife and I had a chance to visit the Galapagos Islands with some college students.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that everyone should consider making because of the fascinating creatures you can observe there, many of them just inches away.

I saw at least 3 examples of how these animals evolved, adapted over the years to deal with an environment that is frequently harsh.

Darwin's Finches

Darwin’s Finches

First is the bird that was one of Charles Darwin’s main inspirations for his theory of how creatures can evolve:  The Galapagos finch.  The finches on different islands have different beaks, some pointed, some parrot-shaped, some coned, some shorter depending on their source of foods.

What We Can Learn:  Find a new approach.


Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana

Next is the marine iguana.  Prior to observation in the Galapagos, iguanas were thought to be exclusively land-based but some iguanas in the archipelago learned to use marine algae as a source of food, finding it on rocks or swimming into the ocean to find it there.  And the marine iguana’s feet have evolved to the point where they hold fast to rocks so when a wave recedes, the lizard is still there munching contentedly.

What We Can Learn:  Sometime you go with the flow and sometimes you just hang on.

Saddleback Tortoise

Saddleback Tortoise

Finally, there is the giant tortoise.  On some of the islands, the tortoise’s traditional food was unavailable either due to its disappearance or lower branches having been eaten by other animals.  The saddleback adapted by its shell growing a peak and being able to extend its neck to reach higher branches and leaves.

What We Can Learn:  Stick your neck out.

Charles Darwin is frequently misquoted as positing that “only the strong survive” when his theory proved that adaptability is paramount.  If we observe he constantly-changing  landscape of life and then assess what changes we need to make in our lives and skills, we can effectively deal with change and challenge.


The House Is Quiet Again…

Today is our last day of having our beloved children here.  I use “beloved” in both a real and a slightly sarcastic sense.

We love them beyond measure and their visits, especially en masse, enliven our day-to-day routine with their youth, late-night stamina, ideas, opinions, and of course decibel level.

They also destroy our day-to-day routine and make the predictable completely unpredictable.  Meal times, arrival times, departure times, event participation times are all blown away subject of the vagaries of several adult individuals and 2 small children.
Our brood ranges in age from 28 to 36 and most are forming holiday traditions of their own, as they acquire significant others, spouses, and children.

It’s madness.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Well, perhaps the “decibel” part.

Right now, we’re in an “all-in, all-out” phase:  Everyone is here for either Thanksgiving or Christmas and no one is here for the other holiday.

We treasure these alternate-year mass gatherings because we know that, just as they’ve dwindled from being all together for both late-year family events, someday or some year it could change again to their being here for neither.

Or we might be together but not here, not at our home.

Happy as all of us are to be together, it’s disrupting them for them, too.  They’re away from home in another place they also call home, more restricted in their movements, splitting time with us for time with old friends and blended families as well as having less privacy and time for themselves.  They’re also having to live in someone else’s space, using borrowed transportation.

So, it’s stressful for all of us in different ways but stress that we welcome (as much as we can welcome stress) because that stress is the price of admission to family reunions and the the joy of being together.

We put up with the hassles because they are part of the package of family holidays.  Some must also undergo the additional stress of travel with its unpredictability and probable inconveniences.

We all deal with it in our own ways.  Some read or watch TV, others bury their attention in technology, escaping temporarily while being the in the same room.  Some retreat to a nap and others bustle around cleaning up or preparing for the next meal.

I’m the least social of anyone in the family so my habit is to physically remove myself to another part of the house for awhile.
And later today, when the last children depart for their homes, Laura and I will breathe a sigh of relief, revel in the peace and silence for a day or so before missing this noisy pack and looking forward to our next gathering.

We are so very blessed.

A Modest Proposal: TV Political Ad Blocker

        At the risk of pigeonholing this blog as political ranting (it’s not), I’ve got one more before the election and then I’ll stop.  I promise.

After my wife and I were leaving the polling place on Wednesday, participating in North Dakota’s early voting opportunity, we received stickers saying “I voted.  That gave Laura what I thought was a great idea.  Ready?  Here it is.

Instead of a little sticker, they should give us a bar code or QR code that we can then upload to a web site that’s connected to our TV or signal provider.  Doing so would then block ALL political advertising on our TVs at home until the election was over!  What a concept!

After all, we’ve already voted.  We can’t vote again so the advertising is useless to us, even if we wanted to change our minds.  And it would result in far more peaceful viewing of our favorite programs and avoid the cacophony (or caca-phony) of politicians and PACs who are determined to torture us with their blather.

Yeah, I know, it’ll never happen.  But a guy can dream.

Now That’s REALLY Scary….

Last night was Halloween when children (and sometimes adults) dress up as other people or fictional characters, sort of like ComicCon with candy corn.  But this year, the make-believe spooks and goblins have been vastly and loudly overshadowed by other people whose intentions aren’t so benign:  Politicians.  And while Halloween only last hours, these other creatures haunt us far longer.

I started thinking about the similarities between Halloween and elections.  Talk about spooky:

  1. Another word for politicianBoth children and politicians are pretending to be someone they’re not.
  2. they both show up with their hands out and their bags open.
  3. They’re both just using you to get what they want except that all the kids want is a little candy.
  4. It’s against the rules to buy your own treats; you have to take them from someone else.
  5. They’re both capable of playing tricks on you.
  6. Gearing up for the occasion starts earlier every time.

Of course, the big difference between Halloween and this election is that the kids in costumes are cute and the next day they’ll go back to being kids.  The day after the election, the politicians will still be irritating.  And that goes on forever.

I think I’d rather have my house egged.

Lie To Me

“Lie to me.  Go ahead and lie to me.”
—Jonny Lang

Every two years, it’s the same thing:  Problems with the PLO.  No, I’m not talking about the Middle East.  I’m speaking of Political Lie Overload.  Hammer your opponent with half-truths, portray him/her as a lying loser who is awash in selfish aims of glory.  Portray yourself as a humble, hardworking, defender of the downtrodden who is above all, a fighter.

Tell me another one, Pinocchio.

Some of us are old enough to remember the days when party politics wasn’t a barrier to accomplishment.  Republicans like Everett Dirksen of Illinois and Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Democrats like Mike Mansfield of Montana and Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts would spout the old party rhetoric but then they’d actually get together (get together, he emphasized) and do things.

They created the interstate highway system.
They created the civil rights laws.
They created the manned space program that was the gateway to enormous breakthroughs in science, medicine, and industry as well as getting an astronaut to the moon and returning safely.

Can anyone think of one thing that the federal government has accomplished in the past 20 years that comes close to any of those things?

‘Cause I sure can’t.  And I’ve got a good memory.

Lie to Me – Jonny Lang