I’m headed to Boston for the weekend, and I’m taking this trip as an opportunity to unplug for a couple days. There aren’t many warm summer days left, so make the most of them.
Here are my favorite articles of the week…
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding-”What if Jack Kerouac had GPS and Yelp?”
Rolf introduces an article in The New Atlantis on how technology is changing how we travel.
Ev Bogue, Untether to Evolve-”Backup Plans are Bullshit”
Are your backup plans actually holding you back from creating incredible new work?
“Whenever I’ve had a backup plan in my life, it’s led to some level of personal mediocrity. Why? Maintaining a backup plan takes almost as much effort (if not more), than what I’m truly passionate about.”
Chase Night, Unbridled Existence-”Writing on the Edge of Glory”
Chase comes to terms with his excuses for not writing more often, and inspires others to re-think their creative schedules.
“But if we keep digging beneath even that much honesty, we come to a deeper fear: If I’m not good at this, I don’t have anything else to be good at.”
Tammy Strobel, Rowdy Kittens-”The Postcard Project”
A chance encounter at a travel mart inspired Tammy to send one postcard a day for a month.
“So, this little project will cost just over $20 for the whole month! Talk about an inexpensive way to brighten someone’s day! In a world where email is ubiquitous, sending small notes to your friends and family is one way to add a little magic and depth to your relationships.“
Anyone who has ever traveled to a foreign country has probably encountered a language barrier. These days, English is becoming more and more common, so this probably happens less often than even 10 or 20 years ago. But there will come a time when you need to be a little creative to get your message across.
I’m naturally pretty good at languages. I tend to pick them up easily. I think language is fun, it’s like a game for me. Sure, I studied Italian for 3 years at university, and I got pretty good at it, but I probably learned more German, faster, just by living in a German speaking country for a couple weeks a year. Get an apartment in Vienna or Berlin for a couple weeks and tell me you don’t know any German at the end of it. You’d have to try really hard to ignore it.
Context clues are king. You can pick up a lot if you know only a handful of words. And the best part is, as you learn more words in more languages, you start to see overlaps. This leads to being better still at context clues, and comprehension. And a lot of words have the same roots and are roughly the same in English.
Think of how many words we actually use on a day-to-day basis. When you break it down to the nitty gritty, you can get by with about 100. If you can teach yourself the top 100 common words in a language before your flight, you’ll be in excellent shape. Google it, these lists exist all over the web.
Most of the time, our problems with language barriers occurs when we try to get information from another source; pamphlets, signage, and people. Of course, there often comes a time when the language barrier works the other way round, and other people are trying to get information from us! If you look savvy enough, you could be mistaken for a local. It’s kind of fun when this happens.
Often times, it’ll be someone asking for directions. Unless you feel confident, the universal shrug, smile, and the local “I’m sorry” always work. Sometimes it’s fun to act the part. Once, I was sitting in a piazza in Florence, and two girls asked me, in broken Italian, to take their photo. I played along with a “Certo!” and got a kick out of it.
You can’t be scared of making a mistake. Just go with your gut, and use words you know. Either way, it’ll be a learning experience.
Especially when the washing machine turns all of your clothes blue.
I helped a friend move out of his apartment this weekend. Like everyone who has ever moved, he realized just how much stuff he owned, and what a pain it was to move it all. He knew I was interested in the minimalist lifestyle and he started asking questions about minimalism. The only thing I could tell him was that it was something he had to decide for himself. Minimalism is about finding what’s necessary for you, and eliminating all the rest.
“Do you think I should get rid of my blender?”
“Blenders a great, but how often do you use it?”
“I’ve never used it, actually…”
“Then toss it!”
If you have possessions in your life that aren’t useful or bringing you joy, why keep them around?
The best way to go about decluttering is to start with a blank slate. Clear everything out of the area (room, closet, desk, shelf, etc), then clean and dust the area. Now, one by one, go through each item before putting it back. Ask yourself questions like “Why do I own this in the first place?”, “What purpose is this serving?”, “Could I easily replace this?”, “When was the last time I used this?”, “Does anyone I know need this more than I do?”.
When I’m judging whether or not to get rid of something, I ask myself when was the last time I used/thought about the item. If it’s been more than a 6 months to a year, you probably don’t need it and won’t even miss it. Keep the deliberation quick; don’t give any item more than 30 seconds of your time or you’ll end up waffling and changing your mind. The goal is less. As Thoreau said, “Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!”
And if that means holding onto a blender for your weekly margaritas and guacamole movie nights, it’s totally cool to keep the blender.
I’ve been grilling a lot lately. My girlfriend’s mother bought a new grill, and somehow I’ve become their personal grill chef. It’s actually pretty great. I get to make delicious food and share it with three generations of my girlfriend’s family. We’ve covered the basics like brats, steaks, and corn, and I’ve begun experimenting. I’m always being presented with a new challenge; rack of ribs, salmon, filet, melons. My most recent success was grilled pizza. That recipe is super easy and super fast. Highly recommended. The weather is taking a break from the 95+ scorchers and is leveling out at a brisk average in the low 80s. Perfect for grilling. Please go out and enjoy the summer! Maybe take these articles with you to read in the park?
Nina Yau, Sources of Insight (guest post)-”You and a One-Way Ticket to the World”
Wow. This post really resonated with me. Nina has a real knack for inspiring others. This is a must-read. (It was also Nina’s birthday this week! Read her reflections on life.)
“I piss people off on a daily basis, not because I’m intentionally wanting to anger others, but simply by living my life with such extreme audacity and fervent tenacity. Because I love life — and maybe they don’t or are miserable — will be enough reason for people to find fault, poke, prod, criticize, call you all sorts of names, tie you up and burn you at the stake of unconventionality. My life is my own empty page. So is yours. Do what you will with it and care not for others who only want to tear you down.”
Jessica Dang, Minimal Student-”Minimalize, Focus, Do Part I-Mastering Minimalism”
Jessica has returned to blogging after a brief hiatus with 25 simple mantras for minimalist motivation.
“Everyone has something that holds them back. It can be something precious, common or unique, something tangible or untouchable, it can be a secret or something everyone knows about. These are the things that keep us human, grounded, and it’s only natural that we would want security and reassurance in a world that changes every moment of every day.”
Mykel Dixon, the b. movement
I just happened upon Mykel’s site today, and it instantly captured my attention. I feel that we are like-minded people. I’ve only just begun to explore the b. movement, so I can’t recommend anything in particular, but maybe subscribe to his RSS feed and see if it gels with you.
“The b movement is the name I’ve given to the growing number of artists, entrepreneurs and visionaries who dare to move beyond the artificial culture we have inherited and dance. The trail blazers, early adopters and evolutionaries who are courageously seeking, embracing and contributing to a rapidly changing planet. Yes. That means you. In a world rife with systems that demand we strive for material possessions and artificial relationships something has been lost and we’re taking it back.”
The Redding Brothers, Eminent Human
This site is another new discovery for me this week. Eminent Human is an online magazine about, well, being human. That sounds bland, until you read titles like “How I use Twitter (plus Hinduism and Judaism explained)“, “Interview with a Sociopath“, or “The Downfall of Katy Perry” and you realize it is anything but.
“Eminent Human is a publication dedicated to exploring the glory of being human, laying a foundation for a life and a world of openness, freedom, and amazing creation.”
How many times a day do you hit “Next”? Google Reader, Flickr, Facebook, TV channels and more. We’re always saying “I’ve given this 15 seconds of my time and I’m done with it. I’ll have another please.”
It’s great escapism. Our brains get a little shot of endorphin that encourage us to continue hitting “Next”. We’re all guilty.
This isn’t an activity for humans. Sure it’s great to see the latest, but why not be the latest? Hitting “Next” is for drones.
What was the last thing you created? How did it make you feel? Probably pretty good, huh? I love flipping through my RSS feeds as much as anyone, but I get a much greater feeling from creating a post that people find worthwhile. It takes work, but the payoff is so much greater. And when someone comments or passes my work along, the feeling is increased 1000 percent. I’ve sold paintings and designs before and enjoyed an even greater level of accomplishment; I just got paid for creativity and doing something I love!
Instead of just mindlessly consuming information, try contributing instead. See if it doesn’t improve your life.
My goal last year was to break my car driving habit and rely solely on my bike, public transport, or my own two feet. Minus a couple of exceptions when I had to haul a large amount of supplies or big models to the studio, I’ve done it.
As of this week, I’ve successfully gone a whole year without driving to work/university. And this past year I lived further away from my office and campus than I ever have before.
Here’s how I did it.
#1: Bike it
My bicycle became my default mode of transportation. It was hard at first; some days you just want to hit the snooze and drive to work in 5 mins rather than biking there in 20. In the beginning, I had to trick myself into thinking that my morning bike ride was something to look forward to. I was getting exercise, I told myself, and fresh air and sunlight. After awhile, I really did start to enjoy it! In fact, I was kinda bummed on the bad-weather days when I had to take public transportation.
#2: Bus it
When the weather was bad, or when I had to lug a lot of stuff with me, I would take public transportation. In Columbus, Ohio, that means the bus. I envy ‘real’ cities with their trams and metros! But the bus wasn’t soo bad. Once I got used to the schedule and timing, I started to enjoy it as well. It was like someone gave me an extra 40 minutes everyday to read, study, play my DS, or just think. Plus, once you get the hang of it, you seem like a real hip urbanite with the skillz navigate the bus system. Not to mention the weird/crazy/awesome people you can encounter.
#3: Hoof it
Sometimes, I would just miss the bus home. Or some nights I might stay in the studio a little too late and miss the last bus. Sometimes the way the bus schedule synced up meant that I could actually walk there faster, rather than waiting for another bus and riding it. It was a nice time for reflection and catching up with my podcasts, or having a chat on the phone while I walked. Some mornings it was so pleasant outside that I would opt to walk anyway-even though I could have biked. It’s great to slow down and get to know your neighborhood, take different paths. I took to collecting photos of interesting building as I explored.
The benefits of this year-long experiment were great!
- I got daily cardio exercise
- Lower carbon footprint
- Had extra time to read (when I took the bus)
- Saved a bundle of money (gas, parking passes, etc)
- Explored my neighborhood and discovered new restaurants
- Enjoyed the fresh air and sunlight (things architecture students don’t get enough of!)
If you can swing it, I highly recommend going car-free or car-lite. Try combining modes of transportation too. You could take your bike on public transport, take it close to your destination and bike once there, or bike to a destination hub, park it, and walk everywhere else.
Have you tried going car-free or car-lite? Tell me about your experiences!
Now it’s time for me to come up with my next big experiment :)
Please share this article with your friends!
Daffodil yellow. No, wait. More like street-marking-yellow. That’s the color of my bedroom in my new apartment. Yeah, it’s not gonna last. That baby’s primed and ready for some nice, simple, white walls. So that’s my weekend; cleaning, painting, and moving in. What are your weekend plans? If you’re looking for some great articles to read, well, you’ve come to the right place! Grab an iced tea and get cozy-here are some of my favorite articles this week.
Nina Yau, Castles in the Air-”Tell Your Insecurities to Shut Up and 241 Other Truisms (A Manifesto)
In a burst of sudden clarity, Nina took pen to moleskine and penned a profound list of inspiration.
“Our bodies won’t last forever but our actions in this world can continue on for generations”
Colin Wright, Exile Lifestyle-”Social Games Gamers Play”
After attending a LAN party, Colin reflects on the social state of the gaming milieu, and how gaming has become mainstream. (As a gamer nerd myself, I especially enjoyed this!)
“People of all ages are heeding the call of the digital world, and both guys and girls are finding solace in a quick game before dinner or a grudge-match rumble during their lunch break. The games of today are themselves different, certainly, but it’s the social aspect of how they’re built and played that’s so fascinating to me.”
Robin Raindropcatcher, World Hacking Guide
This past week, Robin completely redesigned his World Hacking Guide. Sign up fast; the first fifty people get a copy of his eBook for free! I’ve read through parts of it and I’m really enjoying it so far. After you sign up, you’ll enjoy PDFs of his unique design in your inbox. Robin’s free-spirited nature and personality come through in his work, and it’s infectious.
Have you read anything inspiring this week? Pass it along!
Have a good weekend everyone!
Folding a group of one thousand paper cranes, or Senbazuru, is a Japanese tradition said to grant the wish of the folder. In Japanese culture, the crane is a mystical creature that can live for one thousand years. One thousand cranes are often folded to cure illness, wish for a swift recovery, or for long life and happiness.
Last year, I started making my own Senbazuru. I wasn’t in a big hurry, it was just something to keep my hands busy during idle time. If I came across an interesting scrap of paper, I would cut it into a small square and save it to make a crane. I don’t even know how many I’ve completed. I didn’t keep track. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll know when I’m getting close.
I took to hanging them from my ceiling from small pieces of thread. The grand dance of my flock each night as the wind blows through my open window is comforting, it helps relax me and fall asleep.
Folding paper cranes became a form of active meditation. The number 1000 wasn’t important; it was the act of folding.
It was the deliberate act of slowly cutting the paper, carefully folding the paper, and contemplating the finished crane as I ran thread through it and added it to my steadily growing flock.
I began to realize how the magic worked; there wasn’t any magic at all.
The ‘magic’ of 1000 origami cranes lies not in the finished product, but in the journey. It is the thought of your wish that gets poured into each crease, each fold, that counts. It is the positive energy you put forward and outward into the world with the completion of each crane that matters. If it is as a gift, the huge amount of love you attach to each crane is your real gift.
You won’t instantly achieve your goal by finishing. But by the time you’re done, you will have changed your entire mindset, and actively begun pursuing your goal.
Like most things in life, you don’t need much to get started. If you want to make your own 1000 origami cranes, you only need some scraps of paper (it’s recycling!), scissors, and a bit of thread.
The energy we give to the world will find a way to repay us.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future of ownership. There have been shifts in societal thinking about the idea of owning something. If you use a hammer only once or twice a year, do you really need to own one? Why not rent, or better yet, borrow one? The idea of hoarding things for ’someday’ is losing ground.
This isn’t a new concept.
Books used to be incredibly labor-intensive and costly to produce. If you had a personal collection, you were probably wealthy. In order to build a more educated public, libraries were used to bring material to people who would otherwise be unable to access such information. This was huge for academics; scholars could consume books at an even greater rate. Hundreds of years later, everyone is familiar with libraries. And while they might be struggling against e-books, we can all agree that the idea of the library is hugely successful.
Why stop at books?
- Film: Video rental services from Blockbuster to Netflix have proven that people would rather have access to a greater number of films.
- Music: Pandora and Spotify are proving that you no longer need to own music.
- Bicycles: In major metropolitan areas, bike sharing businesses are starting up. In Europe, they’ve been around for awhile now.
- Cars: Zipcar is growing as more people realize the huge expense of a car doesn’t give the “freedoms” promised by automobile ownership. When you can get around by metro, bike, or walking, a car is superfluous for all but special occasions.
- Hard drive space: You no longer even need to own personal hard drive space. Enough free and premium services exist that your entire digital life can be stored in the cloud.
“Do more, own less, rent the rest.”
Derek Thompson wrote an article for The Atlantic on “America’s Post-Ownership Future”. He talks about the rise of sharing and rental websites that allow people to share resources. This is exciting as we move from a consumer-economy to a producer-consumer economy of “a network of users constantly producing valuable information as they consume products.” This is already happening. Have you reviewed something you bought on Amazon? Do you use online banking or Mint.com? Have you ever used a search engine? You are creating valuable data.
Toward a future ownership.
This all has interesting consequences for society at large. It could lead toward a more community-based lifestyle, which ultimately would be better for humans and the planet. When less products have to be made to satisfy larger groups, less resources are consumed.
Thompson says it is a bit too early to get overly excited about this movement. I say, why not? If that is a desirable future, why shouldn’t that be our goal rather than sitting back to see what happens?
If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to read these other articles on post-ownership.