Good Reads

Good Reads, Countryside Edition

90% Crap, 10% Good. Taken from http://ask.metafilter.com/158740/You-were-doing-it-wrongSo my wife and I have been spending almost two weeks now in a largish village right outside the industrial zone of Cartagena. A village with hummingbirds visiting our room from time to time, a village with stunning sunsets, really loud music, and rather bad infrastructure. (Way better than 10 years ago and way better than many other places in the countryside, yet a lot worse than conditions in the middle-class barrios of Cartagena. Think dirt streets without canalization in many areas, lots of blackouts, and, as far as I can tell after trying three different companies, neither 3G networks nor wi-fi availability. Yup, that’s no soup internet for me!)

We’re still looking for a central and preferably furnished, yet affordable apartment in the city, with space enough for us and our dogs (we’ve got two of them here, at the moment). This seems to be a difficult task. The best offer so far came from an alleged drug trafficker who built a four-story appartment complex in the middle of a fishing village-turned-slum right at a beach in the North of the city. After some meditation, we decided that it would be better to turn it down.

I will thus leave you with some good things to read for now, and be back with longer writings someday in the next week! There’s still a fourth cellphone company to check out for 3G availability, and we’ve also got a couple of other possible apartments on our list.

One final appeal from me: If you enjoyed my article The Voyage Never Ends, it would be great if you could vote for me in the contest over at the Flightster Blog. It’s just one click, no registration required, and it would help me a lot. Also, feel free to spread the word on this in your networks, I would really appreciate it!

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“And speaking of words, we’re sick of passionate. Passionate has become the perfect corporate anodyne term. Mid-level office workers are required to be passionate about the company’s mission. Passionate has nothing to do with passion any more.” (The Online Photographer – this is probably the single best photography-related blog out there.)

[¶]

How to draw a comic each day:
“Mantra one: You’re not that good at comics, but keep going anyway. Mantra two: 15 minutes of work is better than zero minutes of work. Mantra three: Do the next thing.”
(LifeDev – Apply this to all of your creative tasks and you’re on a good way, I think!)

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“Good things happen when we start before we’re ready. Not only do we open ourselves to the blessings of happy serendipity, but we steal a march on the forces of procrastination, perfectionism, overpreparation, fear and self-doubt.” (Steven Pressfield on starting before you’re ready. You’ve probably already read this. If that’s the case, just start with doing your thing right now.)

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There was another great discussion on Metafilter: What in life did it take you a surprisingly long time to realize you’ve been doing wrong all along? Just two responses I liked:

“Sturgeon’s Law has a non-obvious implication: if 90% of everything is crap… 10% is good. Even country music. Even hip-hop. You just haven’t looked. My taste in everything has greatly expanded since that dawned on me.”

[…]

“1) Everything is just people. E.g., even as I write this, somewhere in Langely, Virginia, deep within the bowels of the CIA, there is a man, standing in front of a Coke machine, trying to unwrinkle a dollar bill. The most faceless, imposing and mysterious institutions can be broken down to a level where it’s Just Some Dude.

2) Related: Do not attribute to malice what can be easily explained by incompetence, fear, ignorance or stupidity, because there are millions more garden variety idiots walking around in the world than there are blackhearted Machiavellis.”

My personal additions would be a loooong list of English vocabulary, plus the realization that we don’t have to live life like our high school teachers told us to. What would you add?

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There’s always interesting stuff to find on Everett Bogue’s site Far Beyond the Stars:

“People need to know exactly what you’re about immediately — because most people are only going to see your work for a 1.52 seconds. 80% of the people I come across on the Internet haven’t made it clear what they’re about, and that’s why they don’t get traction. […] In order to break through the noise you need a simple message that can spread. Make it fit into a tweet. Make it memorable, so if you meet someone on the street they’ll be able to remember you later.”

I think what Everett writes is true. It’s a correct observation, and a good recommendation if you want to “make it” online. Unfortunately, I also think it’s one of the reasons why the internet is so shallow and over-marketed. Everybody wants to spread a message in the length of 140 characters. This tends to make things so flat that we’re creating a two-dimensional world of repetitiveness. People are so much more than that, but if they hide too much behind their elevator messages, they might be perceived as just another commodity. I think, for some reason, it’s good to keep that in mind and be alert to it.

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“On two occasions during my many visits to India over the years, I decided to stop traveling and actually stay put in one location for an extended period of time. First, it was the Tibetan village of McLeod Ganj, where I rented a wonderfully warm and cheerful rooftop room, with a view of the snow-capped Himalayas from my bed, for $120 USD per month. In all honestly, I could have eaten 10 meals per day, taken taxis everywhere I went (although I much preferred walking in the fresh mountain air) and signed up for as many yoga and meditation classes as I wished and I still would’ve had difficulty spending $500 per month.” (Brilliant post by Wandering Earl. If you’re on the verge of hitting the road, money can’t really be the unsuperable issue, can it?)

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Talking about frugality (opposed to miserliness), check out what Robert Wringham has to say about the topic. Robert will also be my next interview partner here on TFA:

“If money is scarce, there are other things with which you can be generous: time, action, company and thought. Time is abundant when you don’t work, so it’s easier to be generous with it as a successful escapee. Action can be given to assist friends on their projects now that your actions aren’t owned by an employer. Company in the pub should be as inclusive as possible: you might learn something from people from other circles. Thoughts can be shared freely when you don’t need to compete with colleagues for managerial affection: commit your unconventional Escapologist’s mind to mulling over other people’s problems, offering your Jeeves-like miracle solution. Cultivate a generosity of mind: give people the benefit of the doubt.”

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“What’s interesting to me is that these questions are being raised because some peoples’ default states are to “fake it.” Maybe that’s a natural response to being constantly presented with things that are not real. Maybe it’s from working with tools whose reach is so wide, it’s sometimes difficult to grasp where their edges truly lie. The issue is that faking it is turning an awful lot of creative processes that have the potential to be deep oceans into shallow puddles.” (Frank Chimero is addressing himself to graphic designers who fake looks with digital tools that could easily be created using the original analog techniques. But I think that the aspect of “faking it” becomes a problem for much of our creative work. As does the consequence of turning “deep oceans into shallow puddles”.)

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“The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce. […]

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.” (Rapitude)

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Earl August 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Thanks for the mention Fabian! And I would have to agree that turning down the drug-trafficker’s apartment was a wise decision. Good luck with the rest of your apartment hunting…

Fabian August 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Thanks Earl, we´ll surely find something nice soon! :)

Shoichi August 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm

You make a thought-provoking comment about those trying to “make it” on the Internet by packaging their messages into 140 characters. A lot of people are pulled by different forces, such as marketing and optimization, as they are trying to convey and contribute something through the Internet. There are so many recommendations offered that it is easy to forget what our original intentions were. I find myself chasing details that I lose sight of what I really want to accomplish. Your post helped me to refocus and reflect on my efforts.

Fabian August 18, 2010 at 6:42 am

Thank you Shoichi, I’m glad to hear that. I think that remembering our “original intentions” from time to time can really help us to avoid this feeling of overwhelming demands and information we get when being too much on the net. Ignoring all marketing tips sometimes can be good advice, in my opinion.