Two Gallons

If it was two gallons of gas, it would cost about $7.00 today in Denver, CO.

In my case, the two gallons is the total amount of blood I’ve donated so far. The value of my two gallons is likely quite a bit north of $7.00 to those in need.

If you aren’t a blood donor, you can be. If you really have a phobia about needles (like I had), giving blood will help you get over that phobia. I don’t get weak in the knees anymore at the sight of a needle, (but I don’t watch them put it in either).  🙂






Musing #6 The “Quantified” Life

Recently, there have been news reports about Google’s new privacy policies, Google’s street view project intercepting Wi-Fi content, Facebook’s general “thank you, that’s mine” approach to what you do and where you go on the internet and then today, I saw this article on “The Quantified Life“. This is also known as “lifeblogging”.

I don’t get it. 

Why would anyone want to record everything they do, said, to whom they said it, or where they went? What need does this satisfy?

Some of the comments to this article are … at best, naive. One commenter said this would really help us to “know ourselves” better. Really?? No. I don’t think so.

You come to know yourself by taking the time to focus the reflective part of the mind on the self as you evaluate experiences you have had and the associated emotions they are wrapped in. Introspection does not need a realtime recording of all events in the day you experienced. If it did, you would never complete a reflection as it would take just as long to reflect as it did to experience in the first place. [We do need some time to sleep 😉 ]

Another comment from a “future economist” stated he was “blown away” by what we can learn “from the data”. Really? I don’t think economics suffers from a lack of data, it suffers from a lack of understanding about how humans make decisions. [IMHO, this is due to separating our emotional motivations out of the economic algorithms]. Since lifeblogging of all events in your day does not convey the emotional state of you or other people involved (and thank goodness for that), it adds little useful learning to economics as best I can tell.

And finally, this article is more interesting due to what it does not say. It does not talk about the destructive power of this information. If it’s digitally recorded assume it can be used by anyone for any reason. If it’s centrally stored, it is very easy for any government entity to get access. Finally, why would you ever provide this much personal information about your going and coming to any commercial enterprise? Do you think their motivations are more noble than the government?  Really? Truly?

I’m left with several questions:
– Is the interest in lifeblogging a symptom of an inability to be comfortable in your annonimity?
– Does it reflect a deep longing to have your existence acknowledged despite your ability to text and tweet at will?
– Are people uncomfortable with quietly engaging in deep introspection to make sense of their emotions, decisions and interactions with other people?

To quote Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”:
“Curiouser and curiouser”. 

And even more to the point:
I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”

Indeed, that is the great puzzle, but I doubt a quantified life will help you put the pieces together.


Musing #5 Being Balanced

I found a TED talk on what’s commonly called “Work/Life Balance” by Nigel Marsh. I think the use of work/life inplies a conflict and separation where none should exist. Work is part of the experience of living so work’s woven into the process of becoming who we are, not entered into as a separate state.

Nigel’s advice can be summarized as “Monitor the process becoming who you are and aim to be engaged with and connected to multiple experiences”.  If living is about the process of becoming, it makes sense to avoid “lock-in” so becoming who you are is as rich an experience as it can be.

He makes four points about how to achieve balance.

  1. Some job choices leave no time for proper attention to marriage and children. Confusion of wants with needs leads to working for money, not joyful experience.
  2. The problem is within us, so we can’t look for a solution outside ourselves. We are responsible for the experiences we choose, work being one of our choices. Your company will not/does not concern itself with how work is experienced by you.
  3. Measuring balance requires a time frame for the accounting as does balancing the books in finance. We don’t balance them every minute nor every five years. Choosing the time frame avoids anxiety (too short) and regret (too long).
  4. Approach the goal of achieving balance in a balanced way. Intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual activities require proper attention, time and contemplation. They are not well served by multi-tasking. Full attention to each in the proper place and time creates the balance of experience that results in a fulfilling process of becoming who you are.

Nigel’s final point is about a deep subject, measurement. He says what we choose to measure changes what we become.

The powerful effect of measurement on what is known is elegantly stated at the quantum level by the Hiesenberg Uncertainty Priniciple. The reality of a particle is unknown until you measure it at which time it “becomes” what you measure. If you measure position, you miss out on knowing the momentum and vice versa. When you change what you measure you directly change the reality of the particle you experience.

This principle seems to apply to people and the process of becoming as much as it does to electrons. Make your measurements balanced and the life you live will balance itself.

Musing #4 Doing Things Well, One at a Time

I happened upon a little article at the Harvard Business Review on the topic of multitasking and disruptions, The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time, by Tony Schwartz.  This has been a problem for many people I know, particularly those who live and work in the technology sector in the Bay Area. I don’t live in the Bay Area, but when I visit, it’s telling to see the number of people walking down a hall, or on the street, looking at their smart phone instead of where they are going and participating in what’s happening around them.

My most memorable incident was with a VP who would come out to Denver and invite me to breakfast. We would chat, and then his phone would beep with a text message and in mid-sentence he would start tapping a note on it, often stopping the conversation. The next time we had breakfast and he started to do this, I asked him what was more important, our conversation or a text that could be responded to at any time? He said he could multi-task, so it wasn’t a problem. I said being in the here and now in a conversation required attention and engagement with the person you are talking to.  Would he kindly refrain from texting.  We continued to debate the value of multitasking when another text came in. Again he began to tap out a message looking at his phone.  I excused myself and left. After that, whenever we met, he purposely took his phone out of his pocket, turned it off and put it on the table. We can control our impulses, but sometimes you need a pointed reminder.

One of the comments to Tony’s article mentions a simple exercise to show that you are not more efficient when multi-taking. The task is to write the alphabet, a-z and underneath each letter, write the number 1-24 at the same time and as fast as you can.  The next time, just write all the letters and then all the numbers underneath. them as fast as you can. How do you feel when you do it each way? Did you make mistakes? The claim is you can complete this task in less time, with fewer mistakes and minimal effort if you do it as two separate tasks, one at a time.

I have become a strong believer that multi-tasking is not a virtue but a bad habit and a vice. It can be turned around, like any habit, by learning to recognize when you are about to start doing it, and then not do it. As happened with the VP, maybe it just takes each of us reminding our friends to stay in the “here and now” when talking with each other.

Musing #3 “With Great Power There Must Also Come Great Responsibility”

Spider-Man said this.

Yesterday, there was an example of the great power of celebrity and social media (the greatest power?) exercising small responsibility.

The story about Trayvon Martin being shot to death by a member of a  neighborhood watch patrol is well know. I noticed this morning an article about Spike Lee. He retweeted the address of a family “reported” to be the parents of Mr. Zimmerman, the man who shot Mr. Martin.

Mr. Lee is an internationally known personality. He has great power. He should take great responsibility for his statements. IMHO, retweeting what someone else said on this subject is being an electronic gossip. If he was not in possession of “the facts” he should stay silent.  To his credit, Mr. Lee has apologized and paid for the inconvenience to the Zimmermans demonstrating he understands the principle of responsibility. I’m optimisitic he will learn what great responsibility is.  

On a similar note, I think President Obama should have considered his great power when asked to comment on this tragedy. No comment would be reasonable from the President of the United States in a local case still under review and investigation by the Justice Department. Instead, bowing to pressure to express his opinion on such matters, he made some comments. He has weighed in on local issues before and it has not worked well for him, lest we forget the “beer in the rose garden” apology and comments about Occupy Wall Street.

Finally, social media is “Great Power” and it transfers to all who use it. The most powerful celebrities and public figures should be examples of how “Great Responsibility” is exercised so the least of us can benefit from their lessons.