Sunday, September 29, 2013

Teching Down

In March I took a plunge with a Chromebook after reading and researching them for some time. I had converted a useless netbook into a Chromebook and found it useful. The move in March was an all-or-nothing stunt for me as I purchased it the day before going out of town to a conference - and it was the only piece of technology I took with me on the trip.

My initial trepidation evaporated. The more I used it, the more I realized I only needed a traditional computer from time to time when I reached the point that some documents were ready for their final layouts in a program with more features than Google Docs. In the months that followed, I began using the Chromebook almost exclusively for all the work I did.

I even made my staff activate their Google Drive so they could access documents I sent them and my calendar. Every document they receive from me goes through the drive. They were thrilled that I did not pass out stacks of paper, but they were nervous about everything being placed online.

I admit that I sometimes worry about everything being stored in the magical “cloud.” Then again, I put nothing online that would violate any privacy laws if it was lost or hacked or NSAed.

Six months after purchasing my first Chromebook, I upgraded from one with an 11” screen to one with a 14” screen. As fast, functional, and useful as the first one was, my aging eyes struggled to read the screen for long periods of time. Minutes into using the new Chromebook I am thrilled with the larger screen. My eyes are working much less hard than they did on the other one.

I do not mean to sound like a fawning Google fan. My skepticism kicks in every time something becomes centered around a single source ( Google, Microsoft, Apple). I purchased my first computer, a TRS 80 in 1984. I am a gadget geek and spend hours each day with my technology. But after the dozens of devices, I have never worked with a more efficient set of tools than the Google Drive paired with a Chromebook. It simply works and that sells me.

For generations of computers, the next generation surpassed the previous with bells and whistles. On a Chromebook, there is nothing you do not use on a regular basis. Instead of something new, the computer comes with everything necessary. Cleanliness replaces clutter and proves remarkably refreshing. I have everything I need at my fingertips without volumes of extraneous programs to sort through. Even as one who is fairly savvy with technology, I find the minimalism a time saver. For the first time in my many gadget purchased, I have chosen to “tech-down” and I could not be happier about it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Getting Ahead

Every day I have a goal of reading some and writing some just for me. Reading and writing for work do not count since I have to do it every single day. The vast majority of what I write goes no farther that the notepad or draft file in my documents folder. Writing going no farther is fine with me - it is for me and serves to help me clarify my thoughts.

However, each year during November, I make it a goal to publish one piece of writing to my blog every single day as a part of National Blog Posting Month (there will be an icon each day). The event began in November and upon becoming corporate, spread to every month with a given theme. I continue to do November because of the origins and because it has become habit for me. Because 95% (some would argue 100%) of my writing is so unrefined, I feel the need to get an advance start on composing 30 posts. I began this week to come up with a list of topics to which I feel I can dedicate a couple hundred words. It is just a blog after all, not the New Yorker.

If I were writing New Yorker articles, I would be paid and you could pay to read my rambling there.

I managed to get a solid list of subjects on which I feel passionately enough about that I can compose four or five posts for each one. After coming up with my working list, I reviewed the scheduled posts for the last three years - some topics returned for the third year (spirituality, food, sports) and some new ones emerged. I even came up with some working titles based on documents I have in my draft file or recipes I have been experimenting with. (It pays to keep even the most inane former thoughts in reach - they may mature into something not-so-inane).

When it comes to rules, I tend to be a literalist and want to follow them as intended. By preparing over five weeks before the 30 days of posting begins, I sometimes wonder if I am cheating. I have gone over the rules (well, what I can find that constitutes rules) and all they call for is a post each day. Nothing says the post has to be composed that day. As much as I feel guilty about preparing ahead, I do not feel so guilty I am putting any of my preparation aside.

I continue to have my goal of reading and writing some each day regardless of whether it leads to a product I am willing to share. November is the condensed time when I take all those loose ideas and edit them into daily content. That is what I celebrate over those 30 days - even if it takes my 70 days to accomplish it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Not the Season I Wanted

Today marked the third week of the NFL season. Since the clock ticked to 0:00 the Superbowl, I have anticipated the return of professional college and professional professional football. Four weeks into the college season and three weeks into NFL play and all I can say about any of it is “meh.”

Granted the first week of the NFL season was a wash due to a raging case of food poisoning that kept me from watching any games, so I have only had two weeks to judge, still none of the games I have watched have sustained my interest or found a way to get me engaged in rooting for (or against) any team.

The teams I normally follow and know best have not played remotely close to the level of potential they have. No performance of any of the other teams  have caught my attention. Frankly, I have been bored with the games at both levels. I have not been able to identify what it is different about the game - or what is different about me.

Most of the season remains and I maintain hope that it will become more captivating for me. It better. What is there to replace it? Hockey?

Looks like I will be stuck with even mediocre football.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Passion of the Kitchen

Recently I watched Julie and Julia, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name describing one woman’s goal of cooking all of Julia Childs’ recipes from her original cookbook in the span of a year. As much as I can empathize with Julie’s desire, if the scenes detailing Julia’s rise to kitchen stardom had not been included I would have turned the movie off in the first thirty minutes. Despite the unlikability of the focal character, her desire to do something daring in the kitchen struck a chord in me.

Each week,  I spend one quarter of my weekend making my food for the coming week as I rarely have time each evening to cook food from scratch. After gaining nearly 20 pounds from eating out multiple times a week during my last round of graduate school, I determined to never do that again, and cooking and pre-packing my meals for the coming week not only helped me lose those twenty pounds, but keep them off. Nevertheless, the idea of cooking, sometimes multiple, new recipes each evening seemed especially fascinating to me as someone who goes to the grocery store once (only by necessity twice) a month. I do not do a weekly menu; I do a monthly one.

Still, as a person who LOVES to cook and to teach others to cook in the way I learned from my grandmother and mother (smell is EVERYTHING), the idea of doing something challenging such as cooking a new recipe (the steps and ingredients of which I normally take as suggestions rather than directions) each night absolutely fascinated me. I have a wide variety of cookbooks ranging from the 75th Anniversary Edition Joy of Cooking to collections of recipes from various churches and high school classes. My favorites are those collections of recipes real people use on a regular basis. I know they are good because people shared them when they had the opportunity to give the one recipe they knew was good.

Discussing the value of taking on such a challenge, my roommate and I brought up a number of ways such a challenge could be taken and what ways we would do it differently. While the idea caused me to reflect on what kind of cooking challenge I would undertake. Living in Austin, Texas is vastly different than a borough of New York. I drive past a dozen grocery stores each day, but none of them are an easy access off and on the interstate routes I travel. That is why I only go to the store once or twice a month. If I lived in NYC, based on what I have seen in the apartments of the friends I have visited there, I would have to shop and cook each day; that is not my reality.

In the week that followed, the more I reflected on the idea of some kind of cooking challenge the more I realized I do not need a challenge to demonstrate my passion in the kitchen. My weekly meals and the other meals I prepare for friends from time to time all come from the passionate cook within. It exists in every dish I make and that is what I want to sustain.