RSS Dependency

Hi, my name is LtL and I’m an RSS feedaholic.

Partly it’s due to the nature of my job and the fact that I sit at a computer, fairly bored and use various feeds as a distraction. Partly it’s because I use Newsgator’s feed-reader, NetNewsWire which allows me to keep my feeds synced between computer, iPhone, and web.

The problem is three-fold:

My attention span is decreasing and I find myself skimming headlines or synopsis instead of taking the time to read full articles.

Instead of reading any number of books that I keep on my iPhone (including works by Saki, whose short stories are perfect for reading when you only have a few minutes of time), I read (or skim) dozens of articles about the fabled Mac Tablet, or any number of articles from ScienceDaily that I don’t bother to really understand.

I file away hundreds of articles for future use in the “My Clippings” folder . . . and then rarely use or reference them in a productive manner.

To deal with these issues, I’m going to cull my feeds, keeping no more than 10 news feeds (the feeds I get from friends’ websites are exempt), and make a conscious effort to read the full articles instead of just skimming the headlines and pretending like I’ve learned something. I’m also going to remove NetNewsWire from my iPhone for at least 1 week to see if I really need to have continual access tech, news, and political feeds (I’m guessing I don’t). If my commute was a lengthy one, or I was going on a trip, I might want to have those updates on my phone, but let’s face it, if I’m not at home I’m at work and in both places I have a computer. If I’m out for several hours I certainly don’t need to see what TUAW has posted and I certainly don’t need to compulsively check my feeds on my iPhone when I’m in bed, or watching tv, etc.

Finally, I’m going to get rid of the 414 stories I’ve kept in the “My Clippings” folder by either saving them in a research folder on my computer, deleting them outright, or sharing them with you in a series of link posts that will be hitting the site over the next few days – so get ready for some major links lovin’ heading your way.

All of this is in service of identifying and changing habits that are not particularly useful in helping me focus and achieve my daily and weekly goals.

Future Transcendental or Future Fabulous?

I watched this while eating breakfast this morning:

Go watch it, it’s short.

You’re back? Ok. Two main thoughts.

  1. While Philip Zimbardo claims that a Future Transcendentalist is focused on life after death, I think there is a sub-category of this type that doesn’t think about life after death, but about achieving some kind of stardom, some level of fame. This is the frame of reference that makes you fantasize about all the trappings of success without actually making real goals or attempting actual work. This is thinking about what it will be like at your book signing when you don’t put in the work as a writer, or your movie opening when you don’t put in the work as an actor. There is a kind of death involved, but it is not a physical death, rather a death of the normal, a slaying of the mundane that then sets a person free to be loved and adored by millions and able to live a life free of encumbrances and worry.1 Instead of Future Transcendentalist, this might be called “Future Fabulous.”

  2. This year, I’ve been trying to shift my time perspective (without framing it this way until this morning) to a better balance between Present Hedonism (getting away from my tendency toward Present Fatalism) and Future Life-Goal Oriented (getting away from my tendency toward Future Fabulous). My successes have been varied. However, I think the writing goals that I am setting, my dedication to a regular and sustained workout of push-ups and sit-ups, putting more effort into controlling my food portions and eating a more balance, healthy diet, and my reflections on long term goals and the decision to return to school and get my Ph.D. indicate a growing ability to shift my perspective toward Future Life-Goal setting.

    I’ve had less success, I think, in getting away from my mental habit of seeing things through a Present Fatalism perspective. But I am conscious of this and will continue to try to think differently about how much agency I have over my life at any given moment.

What do you think? Does Zimbardo’s talk strike a chord with you? Are you able to shift perspectives with alacrity or are you normally stuck in one way of seeing time?

  1. Granted, this is not in any way an actual representation of celebrity life, but I think most of us can’t quite rid ourselves of the idea that to be a Johnny Depp or an Angelina Jolie bestows a higher level of existence. []

Screenshot

screenshot07-27-09

My current screenshot. The desktop image is called “Aurora 2” and I’m sorry to say I can’t remember where I got it from. I’m running three Geektool scripts: an iTune’s script, a PandoroBoy script, (both of which occupy the same spot on the screen and simply don’t show up when they are not playing) and a script that I sorta-kinda created for Things that shows my to-do list. The “sorta-kinda” is because it is largely based on one of the other scripts on the Things Wiki and I did a lot of editing and tweaking but didn’t create the script from the ground up. The only other script I’d like to put together is one that will show iCal events, but since most of my days are pretty much the same, it isn’t a priority. Once I get back into a Ph.D. program and have a busier schedule, I’ll probably add that on.

As you can tell, I’m not a fan of a cluttered computer desktop, but I do find that having my tasks list embedded on the desktop to be helpful in forcing me to keep in in mind. If my task list is relegated to a program, even if that program is easily called up, I have a tendency to put those out of sight items out of mind.

The other thing I’ve discovered is that the more abstract my desktop image, the less apt I am to want to change it. Used to be that I’d be changing backgrounds weekly, going on DeviantArt regularly to hunt for new and interesting backgrounds. I even when through a period of creating collage backgrounds based on Gillian Anderson photos — though that was a long, long, time ago, so I don’t want to hear any snide comments about how nerdy that is. Recently, however, I’ve been sticking with more and more abstract images that play with color or shapes but don’t represent anything specific and find that I don’t have the urge to spend way too much time looking for those new and interesting images. I will still occasionally check out DeviantArt, but usually one every several months instead of every week or two.

I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make, or even if I have a point to this entry, but I spend a lot of time on my computer and thinking about how to eliminate distractions from my workspace. Keeping my computer desktop simple, colorful, and useful seems to help eliminate at least a few distractions from my digital world.

Posted in Mac |

Writing Challenge and Writing Tricks

InkQuill

One more week of writing every day. Except for one night when I couldn’t focus and ended up writing the beginnings of a random scene set in a diner—a scene that didn’t really go anywhere and that served as more of a writing exercise than anything else—I’ve been making slow but continual progress on The Devious Astrolabe. I’ve created three new characters and a larger story is beginning to coalesce in my mind. I hesitate to say that this might turn into a novel (partly because to do so would suddenly put all sorts of pressure on myself that won’t, at this particular time, help me as a writer), but the scope of the story is much larger than I had originally planned.

This weeks stats: 2705 words written, with an average of 386 per day. Which brings my totals to 14 days of writing, 5268 words, and an average of 376 words written each day.

One of the tricks that seems to be working, and it’s a trick I’ve read about in a number of different places, is to stop writing before you finish a scene that you’ve worked out in your mind. That way, when you start the next day, you already have a jumping off point. Instead of staring at a blank screen, you start writing with a clear sense of where you are and what needs to happen in the scene. Having this kind of head start at the beginning of each writing session seems to help keep me moving forward (even if I’ve had a few false starts and had to go back the next day and put some of the previous day’s writing in my “cut” file where I keep those sections that I feel simply don’t work but that I don’t delete because something in them might prove useful down the line).

Only 11 days left in this 25 day challenge and I’m feeling extremely confidant that I will succeed.

Project 365 Highlight

I won’t be posting the majority of my Project 365 photos as posts to the blog, but whenever I happen to be really proud of an image, I’ll share it here. So even if you don’t check my Flickr set on a regular basis, you can rest assured that all the really good stuff will end up here.

The interesting thing about this project is that I’m starting to not only look for good pictures in my life, but I’m also starting to compose and plan images in my mind that I then attempt to execute. This image came to me yesterday afternoon when I was thinking about what I wanted to do for a picture. I’m not 100% happy with the result, but am still quite pleased with how it came out.

“Holding the Past” 365-016_Holding the Past

Spaced on Hulu

If you are a fan of Shaun of the Dead or Simon Pegg’s work in general, if you like British comedies that are fun and full of pop culture references from comics, movies, and tv . . . you really should watch this series.

Yay Hulu!!!

Writing Update for July 19

InkQuill

Last Monday I started my “250 Words for 25 Days” challenge and have made it through my first week of writing fiction each and every day. I’ve been working on my humorous science fiction story “The Devious Astrolabe,” the title of which was suggested by Joya and you can actually read the unedited first section [here][2]. Bear in mind that what you are reading is a very, very rough version with most of it being written at work. I originally thought this story would be more of a writing exercise than a full-fledge story, but the more I worked on it, the more I liked the universe and the characters and the more I wanted to give this story its due. This week, I’ve been doing some background sections that flesh out the universe a bit and while I’m not sure exactly they will fit into the main narrative flow of the story, I’ve had fun writing them. At this point, I’m not even exactly sure where I’m going with the story. I do have a clear understanding of what a devious astrolabe actually is and how it fits in with the story and main character, but for now I’m spinning a yarn as I go and enjoying myself. I know there will be lots and lots of rewrites to make but for some reason I am finding myself letting go of the desire to have written a great story and letting myself enjoy the process of exploring words and ideas and images and characters.

I have continually written more than 250 words, averaging 366 with my highest word count coming in at 514 and my lowest at 307. My total words written for the week is 2563.

Overall, a decent week for me as a writer and I feel good about it.

Get Thee To a Dentistry!

happyunhappytooth

Photo by mucus*plug

Here’s the thing folks, if you don’t have dental insurance, save up for a yearly cleaning and checkup. Seriously. Because if you don’t, like I didn’t, you will go to the dentist (in the case DentPlus Dental Center because they are open on Saturday’s and I wouldn’t have to take time out of work) one day and discover that you need a super-duper cleaning that costs 3 times the regular cleaning ($300), that you need a filling ($190) and that you probably need a root canal ($2000).

Considering that the root canal could have been avoided if I’d caught the cavity in time, that alone is reason for you to find the money and go to the dentist on a yearly basis.

And if anyone knows a dentist in the RI area who could help a non-insured person out with some less costly cleaning and procedures, drop me a line.

Now, get thee to a Dentistry!

5 Year Goals – Revisited

Over two years ago, I wrote out a list of 20 accomplishments I wanted to achieve within the next five years. Let’s revisit them, shall we . . .

Attend Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop
Start my own business & make at least 1/2 my necessary income from that business
Write 2 novels
Finish my play Massive Gravitational Objects
Write the Tales of the Frumush play cycle
Publish my Living Theatre article
Sell 1 short story
Become more politically active by actively working for at least 1 political campaign and on behalf of at least 1 specific bill
Record a cd and release it on CD Baby
Design sound for at least 10 plays
(While I can’t cross this off, I am pretty damn close, having done sound design for 8 shows already)
Write 1 screenplay
Read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time
Learn how to play the piano
Visit Truth or Consequences, NM
Visit Jen in Arizona
Visit Jeff in Texas
Go deep-sea fishing
Learn CSS and design at least 2 websites for other people
Read Das Kapital by Marx & Engels
Figure out where I might want to settle down

On first glance, I haven’t done very well, and certainly the 2 novels goal is looking ambitious-on-the-borderline-of-impossible. However, I am writing more and have been actively submitting stories and plan on getting at least one novel done this year by participating in NaNoWriMo so I still think I can achieve these writing goals in the next 2.75 years. I may delete the Tales of the Frumush play cycle because I’m not currently interested in that project and I realize, looking back on this list, that things such as finishing a specific play don’t make good long term, over-arching goals because of their specificity. Also, none of these goals have anything to do with my physical health and well-being.

So over the next week or so, I’m going to revise this list somewhat and repost it (still keeping to March, 2012 as the 5 year marker).

How about you, how are your long term goals coming along?