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LIST (permalink) 12.08.2016
in few places is timing more important than your intersection with knowledge
if you think people bristle at lists, just ask them about self-help books. i will confess to not understanding the stigma and baggage wrapped around them. especially when therapy in comparison, in some circles, seems like a status symbol. but from the first time i ran across one, i instanly became intrigued by their composition and objective. for me they served a mentorship role i was in dire need of. that said, most self-help literature is admittedly like eating chicken wings—lots of work for minescule chunks of meat. but, oh my, can that meat be a tasty and memorable morsel. and that is what keeps us reaching for that next one in the basket.

one lesson i've learned in life is the importance of timing. my first and most powerful dose of this came when i first met my wife. i knew in a single breath that she was the one for me but after five painful and awkward dates, anyone could see it was just not clicking so we threw in the towel. i called her a year later for a follow-up date, mostly because i couldn't stop thinking about her. this do-over date began as each of the prior ones did, painful and awkward but then, forty minutes in, for reasons i've never understood, the world fell away and at that precise moment the rest was irreversibly set in stone.

self-help books possess this timing quality. there are many times i've started a book and it just didn't speak to me. i pull it off the shelf years later and it owns every ounce of my attention. while this applies to all sorts of books, it is doubly applicable to self-help books. further, i have recommended some of these books to people and to my knowledge, aside from the third one listed, they have never helped anyone to the degree they have helped me so in that vein i do not recommend reading them on a whim or simply based on them being listed here. it would be akin to taking Nyquil medicine when you are not sick. Nyquil is a violently foul thing to swallow when you need it and know it will help you. it is an unfathomable thought when you are doing ok and don't need it. so please peruse this list with that understanding in mind.

(in order of their import/impact)

The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management (Hyrum Smith)
this book started it all for me. it was recommended by a friend i approached who seemed to be the most engaged and energized human i ever met. i've recommended it to dozens of people over the years. it has impacted exactly ZERO of them the way it did me. as for how it touched me, i vividly remember reading it on the subway going into work and without realizing it, i had had tears running down my face. this book is namely why i make the red-text note above that your intersection with anything, be it people, a film, a sentence you hear, a job you get has more to do with the timing of it in your life than the actual payload it carries. i found this book when i needed to and it began a life reclamation project that continues today.

Let me share an experience that suggests the potential power that the natural laws discussed in these pages can have in your life. An executive with the Merrill Lynch Corporation attended our seminar several years ago at their corporate training facility in Princeton, New Jersey, as part of the advanced training Merrill Lynch provides its brokers after their first year with the firm. A year after this gentleman had gone through the seminar he wrote me a four-page handwritten letter that, even as I think about it today, makes me emotional. In his letter he said something to this effect: "Hyrum, I went to your seminar a year ago in Princeton. It never occurred to me that what I do on a daily basis ought to be based on my governing values. I found that to be a very exciting idea. I came away from that seminar and identified my governing values, the things that really matter most to me. In the process of that introspection, I discovered that one of my governing values was a good life for my son. When I admitted that to myself, I also had to admit that I wasn't doing anything for my son. This past year, I decided I would dedicate my life to making a good life for my son.

He then described several fun things that he had done with and for his son. On the third page of this handwritten letter he said, "Hyrum, last week my son, eight years old, was killed in an automobile accident. I have experienced some real pain at the loss of my son. But I have to tell you that I have experienced no guilt. For the first time since your seminar, I realized what you were talking about when you discussed the idea and concept of inner peace." He then closed the letter by saying, "Hyrum, thank you."

Aging Well (George Valliant)
the primary lesson i took from this book deals with the devastating and irrecoverable toll poor and immature decisions can take on a life. its impact on me was near immediate. days after digesting the core message i received a combative email from a difficult colleague. moments after reading it i pushed back from my desk to begin a heated march to his office. the notions from this book played across my mind's ticker-tape machine. i stopped myself and decided to wait out this initial reaction and consider what a "mature" response to this push in the shoulder might be. by the next morning my cooler mind had found an elegant and reasoned course that spared me (and my foe) from an unprofessional and time-consuming (and pointless) dust-up. the ease of this alternate path made an immediate convert of me and i work hard to view all of my more important and consequential decisions through this measured prism.

What follows is not an excerpt from the book but from an Atlantic article about the book (and ultimatley what led me to the book)

The story gets to the heart of Vaillant's angle on the Grant Study. His central question is not how much or how little trouble these men met, but rather precisely how—and to what effect—they responded to that trouble. His main interpretive lens has been the psychoanalytic metaphor of "adaptations," or unconscious responses to pain, conflict, or uncertainty. Formalized by Anna Freud on the basis of her father's work, adaptations (also called "defense mechanisms") are unconscious thoughts and behaviors that you could say either shape or distort—depending on whether you approve or disapprove—a person's reality.

Vaillant explains defenses as the mental equivalent of a basic biological process. When we cut ourselves, for example, our blood clots—a swift and involuntary response that maintains homeostasis. Similarly, when we encounter a challenge large or small—a mother's death or a broken shoelace—our defenses float us through the emotional swamp. And just as clotting can save us from bleeding to death—or plug a coronary artery and lead to a heart attack—defenses can spell our redemption or ruin. Vaillant's taxonomy ranks defenses from worst to best, in four categories.

At the bottom of the pile are the unhealthiest, or "psychotic," adaptations—like paranoia, hallucination, or megalomania—which, while they can serve to make reality tolerable for the person employing them, seem crazy to anyone else. One level up are the "immature" adaptations, which include acting out, passive aggression, hypochondria, projection, and fantasy. These aren't as isolating as psychotic adaptations, but they impede intimacy. "Neurotic" defenses are common in "normal" people. These include intellectualization (mutating the primal stuff of life into objects of formal thought); dissociation (intense, often brief, removal from one's feelings); and repression, which, Vaillant says, can involve "seemingly inexplicable na´vetÚ, memory lapse, or failure to acknowledge input from a selected sense organ." The healthiest, or "mature," adaptations include altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship).

Getting Things Done (David Allen)
this is the one and only book i've ever read that i think could help all people (that live in a first-world society at least). every other book on this list deals in the perceptual and abstract. this is the only brass tacks book on the list. i've read others which have helped here and there, but this one offers the tools to do a complete makeover of your organizational life. allen's methods are shockingly mature and tested. it seems most of these books are penned on the quick trying to beat others to market. unlike those, allen's methods were in play for a good long while before the notion of documenting his approach gained traction. and it is his comprehensive and proven model that lets you hit the ground sprinting with confidence.

The purpose of this whole method of workflow management is not to let your brain become lax, but rather to enable it to move toward more elegant and productive activity. In order to earn that freedom, however, your brain must engage on some consistent basis with all your commitments and activities. You must be assured that you're doing what you need to be doing, and that it's OK to be not doing what you're not doing. Reviewing your system on a regular basis and keeping it current and functional are prerequisites for that kind of control.

If you have a list of calls you must make, for example, the minute that list is not totally current with all the calls you need to make, your brain will not trust the system, and it won't get relief from its lower-level mental tasks. It will have to take back the job of remembering, processing, and reminding, which , as you should know by now, it doesn't do very effectively.

Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
for someone into time and life management, this work is breathtaking. you can tell how much a book spoke to me by examining it physcally and observing the number of dog-eared pages and how marred the margins are with my excited scrawls. this book is devastated.

in short, the author, with an unfortunately unpronounable name, teaches you how to bend time like neo does in the matrix. flow is something that has happened to all of us, but it is an elusive experience. here the phenomenon that happens to our time and experience is documented and described in a way where you can not only better understand what is happening BUT have the potential of cornering it in the paddock and riding/taming it like the wild and ever-moving creature it is.

Although, as we have seen, people generally long to leave their places of work and get home, ready to put their hard-earned free time to good use, all too often they have no idea what to do there. Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges, all of which courage one to become involved in one's work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed. Hobbies that demand skill, habits that set goals and limits, personal interests, and especially inner discipline help to make leisure what it is supposed to be—a chance for re-creation. But on the whole people miss the opportunity to enjoy leisure even more thoroughly than they do with working time. Over sixty years ago, the great American sociologist Robert Park already noted: "It is in the improvident use of our leisure, I suspect, that the greatest wastes of American life occur."

The tremendous leisure industry that has arisen in the last few generations has been designed to help fill free time with enjoyable experiences. Nevertheless, instead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend many hours each week watching celebrated athletes playing in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we go to admire paintings that brought in the highest bids at the latest auction. We do not run risks acting on our beliefs, but occupy hours each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action.

This vicarious participation is able to mask, at least temporarily, the underlying emptiness of wasted time. But it is a very pale substitute for attention invested in real challenges. The flow experience that results from the use of skills leads to growth; passive entertainment leads nowhere. Collectively we are wasting each year the equivalent of millions of years of human consciousness. The energy that could be used to focus on complex goals, to provide for enjoyable growth, is squandered on patterns of stimulation that only mimic reality. Mass leisure, mass culture, and even high culture when only attended to passively and for extrinsic reasons—such as the wish to flaunt one's status—are parasites of the mind. They absorb psychic energy without providing substantive strength in return. They leave us more exhausted, more disheartened than we were before.

Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing. Most jobs and many leisure activities—especially those involving the passive consumption of mass media—are not designed to make us happy and strong. Their purpose is to make money for someone else. If we allow them to, they can suck out the marrow of our lives, leaving only feeble husks. But like everything else, work and leisure can be appropriated for our needs. People who learn to enjoy their work, who do not waster their free time, end up feeling that their lives as a whole have become much more worthwhile. "The future," wrote C. K. Brightbill, "will belong not only to the educated man, but to the man who is educated to use his leisure wisely."

The Obstacle Is The Way (Ryan Holiday)
this book kicked open doors in my mind i didn't even know existed. and thankfully so, because i can already see/tell the thinking that got me through the first half of life is probably not going to serve me equally well in my second leg of life. this book, i believe, is sharing some tools i'll need for this next bit of road. it has also led me to a extensive bank of exciting authors and writing that will surely have me occupied for decades to come.

What is Perception? It's how we see and understand what occurs around us—and what we decide those events will mean. Our perceptions can be a source of strength or of great weakness. If we are emotional, subjective and short-sighted, we only add to our troubles. To prevent becoming overwhelmed by the world around us, we must, as the ancients practiced, learn how to limit our passions and their control over our lives. It takes skill and discipline to bat away the pests of bad perceptions, to separate reliable signals from deceptive ones, to filter out prejudice, expectation, and fear. But it's worth it, for what's left is truth. While others are excited or afraid, we will remain calm and imperturbable. We will see things simply and straightforwardly, as they truly are—neither good nor bad. This will be an incredible advantage for us in the fight against obstacles.

Have a book that changed your life? you know i'd love to hear what it is and what it did for you.

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KIDS (permalink) 12.08.2015
so, how are the kids?
at a holiday gathering someone asked me how the kids were doing. the following stories spilled out and i thought i'd share them with those of you i might not bump into at a holiday event.

i was approached by a parent at anthony's elementary. she introduced herself and explained someone told her that anthony might be a good fit for an equations team her husband runs. i told her that anthony did seem to like math so, yes, he may be interested. she said that the program was for older kids and that they had already started the training but it might not be a bad idea to get him in this year so he could familiarize himself with the process. i took anthony to their next meeting. the "coach" got the other kids working and said he was going to be over here getting anthony setup. the man proceeded to unpack a game. while doing so he started asking a third grade anthony questions like:
  • do you know what the square root of 9 is? he did.
  • how about the square root of 81. he did.
then he asked if anthony knew what powers were. he did not. the man explained and then ran anthony through some problems which anthony answered without fail. he then taught anthony how to play the game. after the session i thanked the man for teaching anthony and letting him sit in this year. to this the man said, "sit in? i'm going to have anthony compete this year! he's great!". if great means that in third grade he already knows more about math than i ever have, yes he is great.

alex is in a robotics club. in this club the team gets a challenges to solve and then works as a team to solve the challenge. this year the team assigned nicknames to all the members. alex's nickname was "the guy who can fix anything". not too bad a designation on a team that exists to solve problems.

bella is at a new school district. we were a little curious how she would fare entering an entirely new population of people without a history or reputation. two months after her arrival she was chosen as one of five female school ambassadors. these ambassadors are existing students who show prospective students around to interest them in the school. this is obviously a role the school's administration does not take lightly and for bella to get tapped this soon after her arrival gives marty and i the sense that our baby girl will perhaps be ok out there in the bigger world.

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LIST (permalink) 12.07.2016
i hope you've eaten recently.
here's a list everyone has, whether they know it or not. and when i say ALL-TIME FAVORITES i do mean all-time as this list dates back to my elementary-school days. some of these pictures are not my own.

(in order of adoration)

Cafe Natasha (St. Louis, Missouri)
a friend first took me to cafe natasha in the 90's. he was a vegetarian and liked some meat-free option they had but told me that everyone raves about their kabobs. always ready to listen to a food suggestion by the masses that preceded me i ordered it up. the result: the family that owns this business has since watched my children grow up. i honestly don't know how many years now i have been eating my birthday dinner there but long enough that my children all celebrate my birthday more heartily knowing they have a cafe natasha kabob in their near future (versus celebrating another year of health with/for me—I don't fault them for this and if you tasted one of these vibrant cudgels of meat which simultaneously melts AND explodes in your mouth, you wouldn't either).

fact is, i will be eating my birthday dinner there tomorrow night which is fortunate because writing about my favorite meal has sparked the salivary flames.

Jake's Seafood (Portland, Oregon)
a work dinner first brought me to jakes. i was not much of a seafood guy at the time and a touch nervous about finding something i'd like. before i had time to figure it out my boss's boss ordered for me. i had no time to act and given the pecking order seated at the table, had no proper out. when the plate arrived i studied it more closely and asked what it was called again. i was told, "it's their stuffed salmon and it's very good." over the next two years i worked in portland for multiple weeks. every night i spent in the city i ate at jakes and the only dish i ever ordered was their stuffed salmon because, yes, as i was told at the start, it was very good.

another boon and perk of jake's seafood is it is within walking distance of powell's used book store. my all-time favorite bookstore. this evening combination made my work days in portland agonizing because all i could think about all day was that stuffed salmon, followed by hours of slow meandering through the seemingly endless stacks of used books at powells. i think i may need to find a reason for my new employer to send me to portland just so i can re-experience one of best work-travel destinations this country has to offer (to an introverted, non-drinking, ritual-loving curiousity like myself at least).

Frontier Restaurant (Albequerque, New Mexico)
it is possible my adoration for this meal was caused by a hunger-fugue state but given the crowds we competed with to order and find seating, i don't think that was entirely the case. i've always preferred mexican food from the west. the mid-western versions, right down to their grease-laden sopapillas are simply embarrassing. this meal, one of my early yelp-wins, took both my breath and hunger away.

it is worth adding that what took me to the frontier restaurant was a memorable friend boondoggle. bookguy called me and said he had to drive from north carolina to new mexico and wondered if he could pick me up in st. louis and have me join him for the rest of the drive west. once there he would fly me back. this is not the first time bookguy and i have shared in such an adventure. for as protective and militant as i am about my time, i will say each of those trips stood as some of my least-productive but most memorable and enjoyed days. life includes lots of funny and unpredictable math.

Panhandler's Pizza (Fort Collins, Colorado)
i grew up eating pan's pizzas. their slices were magical then and have somehow only gotten better in time. this privately owned place's ability to grow and compete with the times is almost as impressive as their lovingly and expertly prepared pies.

you sometimes wonder how much of a food-want like this is truly taste and how much is sentiment as i grew up eating at pan's on friday nights and for high school lunches as we had an open school-campus. i was affirmed on a recent trip back to fort collins by a friend's experience. before going there he confessed to disliking pizza, all pizza, but would eat there because others wanted to. at the end of the meal, he said that may have been the first good piece of pizza he had ever had. so good food plus boyhood sentiment. all good all the time.

Wong's Wok (St. Louis, Missouri)
when i first moved into the community i now live in, there was this hole-in-the-wall chinese place. they shared a galley-area of seating with about four other little eateries. they had a sign taped to their menu board that read, "spicy beef noodle soup - friday and saturday only". and if you ever happened through this area on the weekends, half the tables were occupied by people, mostly of asian descent, hunkered over the large bowls with piping steam escaping their hovering faces. in time you have no choice but to try it. that was more than twenty years ago and i could in no way tell you how many times my head has been one of the many hovering over one of wong's bowls.

a few years ago through some scandalous and smarmy business dealings, wong's wok and all of their neighboring merchants were ejected from the space. i was devastated to lose my favorite eatery. but in one of the most fortuitous results, wong's wok found a new storefront and not only is it closer to my home than it used to be, it is the closest food-place to my home. this is one of the rare times in my life where the universe seemed to contort, fully, to my wishes.

(in the order of their closing)

Spudworks (Fort Collins, Colorado)
this was the original loaded potato place. and the spud wasn't just an accoutrement, it was the full meal. they would put seemingly everything and anything on a potato. and their potatoes seemed to be grown under nuclear conditions because they were absolutely gigantic. my favorite was called the wisconsin and came out laden, and i DO mean laden, with melted colby-jack cheese, sour cream and spring onions.

spudworks was also the first place i worked. i got the job after our waitress checked in on us after my family had eaten asking if there was anything else she could get us. my dad said, only half-jokingly, "yes, a job for my boy". my mother and i both looked up somewhat surprised. the pert girl said "let me check" and disappeared into the kitchen area. she returned a few minutes later to say they did need a dishwasher. i started a few weeks later, the summer before my 16th birthday.

Big V's Burger (St. Louis, Missouri)
finding your favorite burger place is a complicated and individual process. it's almost as hard as finding another married couple you and your spouse/partner enjoy equally. first you have the need for the four adults to get along, in all directions (sometimes the married couple themselves possess the disconnect). then if there are children involved you just left basic algebra and entered trig2. burger joints are similar. first you have to find a burger that works for you and if you haven't yet studied the great variety of possible burger styles you might want to block some time for the conversation as it will get a little deeper than you are probably expecting (e.g. fat vs thin, single vs stacked, rare vs cooked, meat to bun ratio, few condiments vs the works, and on). then, of almost equal importance, are the fries that come with it (e.g. fat vs skinny, vegtable or peanut oil, fresh-cut vs pre-fabbed, waffle vs string, and on). i used to work with a guy who would make multiple stops for his family's burger nights. first he'd go to burger king to get the burgers and then go to mcdonalds to get the fries (even the order of the stops was calculated based on which could last longer before being eaten). talk about being committed to getting it right. part of me wants to judge him but another part of me knows he is right and if i could snap my fingers and have that meal presented to me i would, which leaves me kinda respecting the effort he is willing to give for a non-compromised experience (that said, i could never burn the extra minutes to make it happen).

when big V's came to my community i wasn't really eating burgers or fast food at the time. i went there only so i could report on what they were like as lots of people ask me about the eateries that are near my home (as we have a lot of them). so i stopped by one day and ordered a basic combo. i ate lunch there for five consecutive days. it was, for me, the best burger-fry combo i'd ever experienced.

then a sad, nearly impossible, series of events took place that forced the very popular restaurant to shut down waaaayyyy before its time. i'm still in mourning over the loss of my big v burger that was within walking distance of my home.

The Yellow Sub (Fort Collins, Colorado)
this was definitely my first culinary love. my mom and i ate here frequently starting in my elementary days. sometimes she would bring food from here home after work and sometimes she would send me up on my bike to get us a hoagie. the owner, frank, from back east, was by my recollection the first adult who spoke to me like i was his peer, and not just a little kid (this is how marty conducts herself with young people too). after i moved away from fort collins anytime i would return, the yellow sub was always one of my stops. i remember how stunned i was when i walked in after having been away for more than five years and frank came out from behind his windowed view of the space to greet me, even sitting down at my table and talking with me at length about what had been happening in my life. these social visits on frank's part were mixed blessings because while i would love nothing more than talk to him for hours and days on end, the whole production line would halt whenever he left his station (and you could see/feel the glares of the other patrons waiting for their food—although i knew part of it was envy that frank wasn't talking to them—true celebrity treatment that).

but frank was certainly the lifeblood of the place and when he finally retired after many decades of service, the community came together to try to save the establishment (one of the new partners was my former art teacher). but even though frank personally trained them how to make all of his perfected specialties, in time the new owners learned that people went to the yellow sub for two reasons: (1) frank's wonderfully simple and consistent food creations and (2) frank himself, the maker of that great food, who after you ordered might, through his windowed perch, give you a blank stare, a friendly nod, or even surprise you with a warm, insightful, or cutting comment about the look of the day or state of the world. but in the end it wasn't the tasty food or macrame-decorated walls people came for, it was the man behind the counter and without him walking the subs and burgers out to the tables, the place was just never the same. i'm thankful i had such a unique and textured boyhood haunt as part of my youth.

so if you have places you think i should try, anywhere in the country (or world), please feel free to pass them along. nothing like a bonus reason to visit a new place. as with many folks, i'm always looking for that next memorable meal.

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LIST (permalink) 12.06.2016
morning automaton
i think morning time is one area where the existence and value of regimentation (e.g. checklist) shows its global relevance as mornings for most people, based on my polling, begin virtually the same day in and day out, workdays and non-workdays each having their own cadence of course. most of my days i wake in my home begin like this ...

  1. wake. hopefully naturally and hopefully between 5:30 and 6:00.
  2. pee.
  3. weigh myself.
  4. get my drinks ready for the day (those drinks being tea and vietnamese coffee).
  5. write (for website or talk/lecture, until 7:00 a.m.).
  6. @ 7:00 a.m. do my first set of pushups for the day (daily goal is 5 sets of 25).
  7. review my goals.
  8. update my LIFE spreadsheet (recording prior day's progress & happenings).
  9. schedule the day's hours (if they haven't already been set).
  10. start day.
there do seem to be a few natural areas in life where the routines are so pedestrian and mindless, they just organically come be be set in stone. even if the first thing you do upon waking is reach over and check your email or favorite website, it is something that will in time get written into the fabric of your days. i have met a few people who actively fight these natural patterns by, say, brushing their teeth with their non-dominant hand or always going to repeat destinations using different routes. this upstream swimming always perplexed me as it seemed counter-productive and, well, kinda pointless. then one of these practitioners explained why they did this. they said they liked heightening their awareness of even the most mundane matters so they would be more engaged, or the modern-day wording is "present", in the various points of the day, ALL of the points of the day. this turned my bafflement to intrigue. i've long believed that as long as you have a thoughtful reason for doing what you do, then you are golden (of course, as long as your inclinations aren't harmful to others in which case your have some twisted thinking and should seek help). that said, i will not be brushing my teeth with my left hand anytime soon. i've got too many interesting things on other lists to spend my time foolin' with that.

if you are thinking the above list is just what sort of happened on its own and i simply wrote it down to share here today, that is very much NOT the case. that above process is the end product of years of successes and failures and constant tuning. in six months i will look at it again. touch each piece and see if it is making my mornings and days richer or is more of a styrofoam peanut simply taking up the day's space. fact is i recently turned my whole day upside down. i used to be way nocturnal and did all of the above things after 10pm, including drinking coffee. i even exercised after 10pm. in reviewing my processes one day, it occurred to me that i was doing some of my most personal and long-lasting work (e.g. working on my health, writing/sharing my memories) at the end of the day when i was completely spent and fading fast. i was giving people who weren't me my best hours and giving myself only a fraction of what i was capable of. so i began a long-term project of going from being someone who stayed up until 2am every night and cursing my morning alarm clock to someone who gets up by 6am (without an alarm clock). i definitely bristled at the start of this change. my main concern focused on the obvious advantage of night-work that you can work until you were done and just sacrifice sleep (like that matters at all) where if you moved to the morning, you could only work until you had to go to your job, else you might lose said job. after a fair bit of rumination, i concluded the quality of the product, even if there was less of it, out-weighed the quantity. now having a few years of practice in, i think it was the right choice for me and over time, i have become more productive with the hours i had, mostly due to how finite that time is, which holds a more honest fidelity with how the natural world actually functions than does thinking that time can be stolen from the day by sacrificing sleep or exercise, which is some short-sighted math and a lesson it sadly took me more than three decades to learn.

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PHOTO, LIST (permalink) 12.05.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.


SPORTS (permalink) 11.04.2016

i'm not sure how i was completely numb and dumb to this documentary for the last seven years but as the kids would say, OMG.

sometimes these gritty documentaries can move you to tears at the end when their masterful storytelling comes to a well architected culmination. but in this case, my thirteen year old alex, who drifted in and out of my office as i watched the show, put it most accurately when he told his mother, "dad cried lots through that whole movie". as nick cannon said after first hearing grace vanderwahl sing, "i wasn't expecting that". what an unassuming masterpiece.
you think football builds character.
it does not.
football reveals character.

i am not a believer in trailers but know most are (i previewed this one and it will not wreck the experience too much). that said, i very much enjoyed stumbling into this one blind for it was a most lovely surprise.

HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY (permalink) 11.03.2016
literal losers
odds are you are not going to like this.

a lot of science has come out in the last few years about the power of posture, namely on our mood. the classic example being smiling helps your mood in a number of ways, in fact it is impossible for smiling to not improve your mood (TED the hidden power of smiling). then there was this reasonably popular treatise about how you can change your complete emotional state by simply altering your posture (TED: your body language shapes who you are). i'm mildly embarrassed to admit to trying this before a few important encounters i had a few years back and can report there are definitely some merits to the claims which i will also report surprised me more than a little.

a friend recently turned me onto the newish tim ferriss podcast. he is the 4-hour workweek/body guy. his shows are long and he talks more than he maybe should (i assume his interviewing and editing skills will improve as he does it longer) but there have been a couple of affirming and revelatory bits of info pass through thus far, which for those who are familiar with ferris is surely what one would expect to happen given his dense and intense way of approaching things.

i won't bore you with the affirming parts as no one cares about that except me. but one of the revelatory snippets talked about people and their cellphones. it turns out that any person engaged with their phone screen is in a classic "losers" position. think of someone who just lost a tennis match. head down. shoulders slumped. disengaged from what is around them. and if you give any credit to the body position and framing studies above, this is doing you no kinda favors. and now when we see older folks grousing about all of these losers and their smartphones, it turns out they are a little more on point than we may have first given them credit for.

and lots of science has also verified that people's connection to social media is a fraught and losing psychological endeavor--put differently you will never win the psychological health award by playing a game that never ends and hosts an endless stream of players. now, not only are people losing emotionally, they are also losing physically.

this will give me a new game to play as i wait on people sitting through green lights, blocking sidewalks, and holding up checkout lines because i know, based on the above ted talk, smirking is better than scowling.

PHOTO (permalink) 11.02.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.


QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 11.01.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES, BOOKS, LIFE (permalink) 09.02.2016
so true. so obvious. so ignored.
Even if all the bright intellects who ever lived were to agree to ponder this one theme, they would never sufficiently express their surprise at this fog in the human mind. Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is the slightest dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives--why, they themselves even invite in those who will take over their lives. You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! people are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy. So, I would like to fasten on someone from the older generation and say to him; "I see that you have come to the last stage of human life; you are close upon your hundredth year, or even beyond: come now, hold an audit of your life. Reckon how much of your time has been taken up by a money-lender, how much by a mistress, a patron, a client, quarreling with your wife, punishing your slaves, dashing about the city on your social obligations. Consider also the diseases which we have brought on ourselves, and the time too which has been unused. You will find that you have fewer years than you reckon. Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose: how few days have passed as you planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore it's natural expression; when you mind was undisturbed; what work have you achieved in such a long life; how many have plundered your life when you were unaware of your losses; how much you have lost through groundless sorrow, foolish joy, greedy desire, the seductions of society; how little of your own was left to you. You will realize that you are dying prematurely.

So what is the reason for this? You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don't notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply--though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all the you desire. You will hear many people saying: "When I am fifty I shall retire into Leisure; when i am sixty I shall give up public duties." And what guarantee do you have of a longer life? Who will allow your course to proceed as you arrange it? Aren't you ashamed to keep for yourself just the remnants of your life and to devote to wisdom only the time which cannot be spent on any business? How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end? How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived.
from seneca's On the Shortness of Life - life is long if you know how to use it

hihglighted passages represent my notes

PHOTO (permalink) 09.01.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.


SPORTS, TELEVISION (permalink) 08.31.2016
that special time of year
are you ready for some football??? !!! if not, the folks at amazon and netflix have the elixir you require in two top-flight documentaries.

first is ALL OR NOTHING. this one was for-sure made possible by the decades of great ground work done by NFL films and the hard knocks folks because it is like a grown-up, evolved version of hard knocks AND has lots of the heart-wrenching moments offered by the classic NFL films offerings.

my favorite quote from this series was:
if it is to be, it is up to me.

- possibly the longest obscenity-free string of words ever put together by bruce arians (he was quoting a preacher which may explain that).

the second show is LAST CHANCE U, another documentary about the highest performing junior college football program in the nation. i avoided that initially thinking it was tv series but the second i heard it was a documentary i popped in to try it out. i did not regret that decision. holy smokes was it well done.

my favorite quote from that series was:
don't let someone else's misbehavior affect your peace of mind.

last chance U coach quoting ghandi maybe (don't recall who they credited).

and if you're not ready or into football, then watch netflix's STRANGER THINGS. anthony and i got watching that and were quickly joined by others in the family given how stellar it was.

as a rule i try to not watch tv. like any. but dang are these show makers making it hard. while there is an astonishing amount of dreck being churned out daily for our DVR equipped masses, the top flight stuff that finds its way to press is truly top flight. crazy impressive how good some folks are at this business. granted, it is equally curious how poor some of the other stuff is.

TECHNOLOGY (permalink) 08.30.2016
yes, please don't sweat so much on our fitness band -- it's not good for it.
l have been seeing more and more articles on how fitness trackers are not living up to their expectations. based on my conversations with people most of these trackers need a boxing about the ears. my five second evidence-light sense is, apple watch aside, the better a tracker looks, the less functional a tracker is. i exclude the apple watch mostly because i think it is far more than just a "step-counter" which is essentially where all these trackers initially took hold.

here's one sample case, i bumped into a guy wearing a fitbit. i always thought those were very sleek and sharp looking. but after a ninety second conversation with him the thing seems like little more than an expensive wrist bangle. first he said he got it wet and it stopped working. how the hell can an activity watch not handle moisture. then he went to show me one of the readouts but it was too sunny and we couldn't read the screen. he cupped his hand over the truly miniscule display and pulled it close to his face before reporting that he just couldn't see it. really? unreadable in the sun. but, to be fair i could see how handling water and being readable in daylight could get missed during the design requirements session. i mean those are pretty unusual asks for something fitness related.

while the man was blocking light and moving his hand around looking for an angle that would let him see the readout, i glanced down at my wrist and noted the large, readable print. print that you could still read even if someone aimed a bright flashlight right on the readout, in the daylight. like with the kindle paperwhite folks, the makers of my band have this screen-in-the-sun business fully figured out.

if you are one of the reported masses struggling with the form or function of your band, before giving up on the market i would suggest looking at garmin's vivofit 2. it is surely not the sharpest looking band on the market and looks downright utilitarian, but that is because it is. by my account, it is the functional and smartly designed workhorse of the activity watch lineup, but for reasons i don't understand it is not part of these tracker roundtables, the ones i'm reading at least. i think it may be yesterday's news even at garmin as i see they just released the vivofit 3.

i initially had the first generation vivofit. i got it to let me know when i was sitting too long. it was ok but i had three gripes about it:
  1. i wanted an audible chirp when the alert to move took place.
  2. i wanted a backlight so i could read it at night.
  3. i wanted a stop-watch feature.
when they announced the vivofit 2, it possessed all of these features. i upgraded mine the day it came out and have worn it every day since. so if you're finding your activity tracker wanting, i would highly recommend looking at a vivofit 2.

and for what it's worth i'm leary of garmin's vivosmart which is a "connected" version of the vivofit 2. i predict too many distractions. i know i'm in the minority here but like to keep my gear as simple as able. i'm confident i wouldn't benefit from the connected features because the reason i have it is to tell me to move (and record my vitals and activity) and twitter or messaging is not part of that equation. not only is it not necessary, i deem it counter-productive. this is part of the reason i don't like the apple watch as a fitness band. i've seen way too many exercisers standing on the side of the road/track punching out messages on their mini-computer. not helping.

as noted above, i just saw that there is now a vivofit3 but they changed the screen pretty dramatically, seeming to model it after some of the more stylish/connected trackers. my spidey-sense tells me there is trouble ahead. the amazon reviews are also middling so i'm not seeing anything to run me off from my 2, especially since the 2 is fully meeting my needs at present (i have nary a suggestion for improvement). one possible good thing to come from the release of the vivofit 3 may be the vivofit 2's are now only $60 now -- cheap enough to try it out or get a backup.

i don't know what is harder with good design: coming up with the initial idea or protecting a proven one. why are we so averse to letting something that works do what it does, work, and leave it alone or at least better protect the refinements.

that above sentiment reminds me of something i heard someone recently obvserve about self-help books. there are loads of them that teach/tell/help you become successful, but there really aren't any that teach/tell/help you STAY successful. thinking on it for a few moments, success is a different animal that carries some new and often confusing challenges. it is a most astute point and worthy of some attention.

PHOTO (permalink) 08.29.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

JULY 2016

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 07.15.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

WIFE, KIDS, TRAVEL (permalink) 07.14.2016
for the third year in a row, on her first week of summer, marty took my, well, our children to georgia to visit my dad ... and i didn't go. i stayed back because of work or lack of vacation or both. i don't get how remarkable this is until i say it out loud to someone. most guys scrunch their face and say, "wait a minute. let me get this straight. your wife takes your kids to see your dad and leaves you home alone for the week?!?". then i scrunch my face all up and pretty much say the same thing to myself in shared disbelief.

but that is marty. the girl is double special.

this year they were scheduled to get home on tuesday. on monday afternoon, around five i got a call from alex saying they were like three hours away and were just going to push through. an hour later i got another call, this time from bella, that said mom got crabby, the kids term for when marty gets tired, and they were going to stop for the night. i lamented at how sucky it was to have to stop just a few hours from home but certainly appreciated marty not jeopardizing my world by driving when she shouldn't.

i had just finished cleaning the house for their return and now that they weren't going to return tonight so i went upstairs and started doing some work in my office. a couple hours later i was sitting at my desk filing some papers when something caught my eye. i looked up. anthony was standing like two feet away from me. i sprang back in my chair and shrieked,

oh my god anthony! you scared the hell out of me! what, what, what are you doing here?

ANTHONY (exasperated)
dad, we're all sitting down on the couch waiting to watch a bob's burgers. are you coming down or not?

with that he turned and left the room. i fell back in my chair touching my chest to feel my racing heart. once i thought i was not going to go into cardiac arrest, i went downstairs and found my full family, just as anthony had described, all on the couch and looking at me expectantly. i said to them, "you're lucky i'm a pretty fit guy because if i wasn't you'd all be hoping right about now that the ambulance would get here in time."

marty tells me that the plan they hatched was just to have anthony call from the steps that they were waiting for me. i guess he was confused when they parked the van around the corner and super quietly unlocked the door and crept into the house. he mis-read that and thought that he should continue the sneaking until he was standing just ten inches off my shoulder in what i thought was a completly vacant house when he made his sharp proclamation. i'm serious when i tell you i could visibly see my heart pounding in my chest.

PHOTO (permalink) 07.13.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

JUNE 2016

PHOTO (permalink) 07.12.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

MAY 2016

WIFE (permalink) 05.27.2016
i was headed out the door to play tennis. marty came down the stairs wrapped only in, wonkily so, one of the kids winter coats. she said she wanted to tell me something. the something was sweet and loving and made me feel 17 instead of 47. she had to get the coat because she wasn't dressed and saw i had the front door open and my bike was sitting outside so she knew i wouldn't want to close the door. as she ran back up the stairs she pulled the coat aside and flashed me her nakedness, her playful laugh ringing through the foyer before snapping it closed and rounding out of site. more 17 year old tingles.

KIDS (permalink) 05.26.2016
our doorbell has been busted since we bought our house. fixing it is on the list. that said, if it was in the top 1,000 things to be addressed, i'd be surprised.

the two wires that are connected to the home's doorbell system are there, sticking out of the wall and if you rub them together you can make the doorbell go off. since day one the kids have preferred sounding the doorbell this way than if there was a proper button in place. recently that has stopped working though and the doorbell seems dead as a, well, doorbell.

on a no-screens saturday and in a bout of complete and utter boredome (lucky him), anthony took it upon himself to craft a new, working doorbell which he proudly displayed for me when i returned from a morning of tennis. i tried it out and complimented him on how well it worked. this was a genuine compliment as i was pretty impressed with how stable and functional it was.

a little bit later anthony came into the bathroom while i was showering and told me he was happy with his new doorbell.

yeah. i think it turned out pretty well.

i agree. super good for a V1.

what's a V1?

version 1. it means it is your first attempt.

what do you mean first attempt? it is done.

yes. you have a working doorbell but when you make something yourself, you will sometimes think of ways to make it better. if you think of something and then do it, then you will have V2, or version 2, which should theoretically be better than version 1.

but how would i improve it? it works.

uhhhm. what would happen if it rained? is your note protected.

oh. no. it isn't.

what do you think would happen to it if it rained?

i think the words would blur out and it wouldn't be readable.

so, since that is outside, your design should account for that. you should think about things you could do to make it so i can last through the rain.

version 2 proved to be a marked improvement both to the doorbell and anthony as an inventor.

version 1 is shown below

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 05.25.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 05.24.2016
ansel aleo
below are a few more pictures from aleo's first four rolls of film.

his first shot was discussed here yesterday.

dad's famous breakfast scrumble

anthony and dad's morning chess game


impressive, tight focus on the scope, the real story of the picture, which is throwing a curious reflection.

pretty brave to try a jump-shot on your first outing--i thought it turned out quite well for a first cut at the technique.

now that is just dang cool for a timer-shot.

old country men at the old country store

spooky anthony, and according to anthony, visual evidence that i am a black man.

if you study this one, you can spot the photog in the window.

LIFE (permalink) 04.29.2016
nothing funny!
my favorite public/motivational speaker recently passed through town. afterwards, i checked for what happened during his stay and ran across this video which immediately took a top five slot in my favorite ET talks.

and to save a few of you from having to send an email asking about the top five, here she blows:
  1. when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe - part 1
  2. when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe - part 2
  3. eric thomas day
  4. nothing funny
  5. you owe you

HUMOR (permalink) 04.28.2016
that? oh, that's not even mildly embarrassing.
in my office we have a newish center coordinator. he knocked on my door and said he needed to see me. i followed him to his desk and he pointed to his screen and said he was cleaning some directories up and came upon this file that was titled.

Embarrassing photos of Troy (nefarious purposes only).zip

he asked what we should do with it. i asked if he had looked in it yet. sheepishly he said yes. i asked him what was in it. he showed me. it was a picture from my senior prom. it was mildly embarrassing but only barely so. he looked at me. "child's play" i said. he said, really, genuinely interested. and i said, yes, with confidence.

PHOTO, TRAVEL (permalink) 04.27.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

APRIL 2016

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 04.26.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

VIDEO, HUMOR (permalink) 04.01.2016
good one.
i'm not much an april fool's guy but i can appreciate a clever and well executed prank. here is one of my recent favorites.

everything starts kinda fast but the the thing to know on this is that this college teacher has a class rule that if your phone rings in class you have to answer it on speaker. hijinks ensue.

LIFE (permalink) 03.31.2016
trouble ahead
i woke on monday to start my week. as per usual i stepped through my morning rituals. wake. pee. weigh-in. log my thankful. log my awesome. for this day i chose an awesome i've been stepping around a bit. the awesome was "Be thankful for the life my mother provided me" and in the because section i wrote, "I learned too late how much of the goodness of my life emanated from the love my mother had for me which led to her endless support, affection, and commitment. Without her love, I would not be as strong as I am today.".

i was skirting this particular daily awesome because i knew it would carry some emotional weight and i wanted to make sure i was ready for it. hence my picking it right at the start of the week. after selecting it, i grabbed my pen and wrote the word MOM on my hand (as it part of the awesome ritual).

jump forward to the lunch-hour. i've just sat down to eat my lunch and stopped by bella's website. she posts a new post every monday and, for about a dozen reasons, i look in to see her latest offering. the title of the day's post was Love Your Mother (specific post can be seen here). i sensed trouble ahead.

i made it through bella's write up of the video she was about to share, but her words definitely primed the tanks. although i don't know that i would have ever made it through the 4:38 second video even without bella's lead in.

like the fella in the video, i too had that mom that would wait up, that wouldn't accept my adolescent distancing. and even worse than running up and down the sidelines, the first time i got hurt playing football, my mother ran onto the field. this did more to make me better than anything my coaches or teammates did as when i saw my mothers face join the circle of faces looking down at me, i forgot about any discomfort i was experiencing and started asking my mother why she was on the field.

for me, i feel like if i just had a few more years i would have woken up to how much my mother gave me. but other times i wonder if it is a lesson that can't be fully absorbed until they are gone. if that's true, it is possibly the most evil design of our world.

so for those who can still punch a string of numbers into a phone and hear the hello of a parent that cared for you, loved you, believed in you (this was another thing i shared with the gentleman in the video) then, please take a moment and attempt to acknowledge all they have given you, if only for those of us who can no longer make that call.

LIFE, MUSIC (permalink) 03.30.2016
work it hard like it's your profession
the art of time and life management has been my main hobby and interest for nearly twenty years now. in this time i've read works from just about all of the acknowledged greats and notables. james allen. marcus aurelius. tal ben-shahar. les brown. david burns. dale carnegie. jim collins. stephen covey. mihaly csikszentmihalyi. wayne dyer. epictetus. victor frankl. benjamin franklin. albert gray. marie kondo. staffan linder. matthieu ricard. tony robbins. martin seligman. seneca. hyrum smith. eric thomas. george e. valliant. and the modern-day master zig ziggler. if the topic has been how to bleed, intentionally, more out of this brief experience, i've probably studied it to some degree. and having consumed most of the usual suspects i always have an eye out for new treatments on the subject.

my latest self-help discovery comes from an unlikely place: britney spears. on our recent family road-trip to utah, during one of our highway dance parties, bella played a song she and marty sometimes "rocked-out" to on their way to or from school. the song's catchy bass-line immediately caught my ear and had my fingers drumming on the steering wheel. it wasn't until later though when i gave the song another listen that the depth and structure of the lyrics struck me. deconstructed, the song can be shown to deliver some top-flight, no-nonsense advice to those with aspirations, and does so in an undeniably intelligent manner. further, the message may be applauded for its pointedness and uncut honesty--i mean things don't get much more direct than the song's title 'work bitch' now do they? there are no quick fixes. there are no short cuts. there are no sugar-coated solutions. it is a truth that has held for thousands of years--work and effort get it done. end. of. story.
excerpted lyrics form Work Bitch

you wanna
you wanna
you wanna hot body
you wanna bugati
you wanna mazarati
you better work bitch

you wanna lamborghini
sippin' martinis
look hot in a buh-kini
you better work bitch

you wanna live fancy
live in a big mansion
party in france
you better work bitch

you better work bitch [3x]

NOW get to work bitch!
so that is how the song starts, by defining some visions. this is a long-held and common approach/belief of many self-help gurus. you gotta have vision of what you want. in this case you may mentally replace her choices with your own. perhaps her bugati is your promotion. or her partying in france is you being more connected with your family or friends. granted, her buh-kini is your bikini and mine because we all share that one. the short of it is though, you have to clearly put what you want out in front of you. and you have to keep it there front and center so you remember why it is you are working. and then the important part, the honest part, the part that most separates the doers from the dreamers--the actual work. everyone has wants but not everyone is willing to put in the work to attain those wants. so nothing like a little slap on the cheek and a barked name to get your attention.

then, with an equal intelligence, the latter part of the song addresses the magnitude of things by emphasizing the effortful (and inevitable) part of the process where your willpower will subside and you feel beat down (defeated even) and no one, possibly including yourself, believes it is possible, and when that happens you just have to "work it out" and stay with it.
Hold your head high
Fingers to the sky
They gon' try to try ya
But they can't deny ya
Keep it building higher and higher

So hold your head high
Fingers to the sky
Now they don't believe ya
But they gonna need ya
Keep it building higher and higher and higher

Work work (Work!) [7x]

Work it out [14x]
the technique at the end with the twenty-one repeated "Works" followed by a litany of "work it out"s gets to the amount of work and trial you are in for. this could be likened to the literary technique used in moby dick where the text is excruciatingly long and dull at times, but then so was life on a whaling ship. striving for goals involves a merciless amount of work. it also involves working though a seemingly bottomless well of challenges, doubt, resistance, lack of willpower, bad days. these drawn out refrains at the end imply what you're in for.

coming in at under four minutes, britney spears Work Bitch may be, word for word, minute for minute, one of the most efficient and effective self-help instruments ever devised. yes, ever. i'd place it in the top ten, if not the top five for potential to influence. as jason kottke recently said of mrs. spears, "Britney has always had something but damned if I know what it is." the mystery that is her brand, portfolio, and ongoing success continues.

but enough talk. time to get to work bitch!

PHOTO (permalink) 03.29.2016
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

MARCH 2016

PHOTO (permalink) 03.11.2016
the party-what?
for my birthday bookpimp sent me a dvd of a tv series called Going Deep with David Rees. he said he thought my family might enjoy it. he was right. my family does enjoy it. but my wife enjoys it more than all of us combined. there is something about david's manner and delivery that absolutley destroys my wife so much so she has almost (1) spit out her drink (2) passed out from not being able to get her breath from laughing and (3) even coming dang close to peeing herself from laughter. so thanks bookpimp for hooking us up so. and for the record when marty gets laughing that hard we pause the show (because her laughing so is distracting) and we all just turn and watch her reeling on the couch holding her stomach (or her other parts).

in honor of marty's birthday today i'm sharing part of her all-time-favorite episode: the party hole.

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