Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Mega-review # 27

English: Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor) in the 1880s.
English: Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor) in the 1880s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So I don't want you to think that every time I disappear, it's due to a vacation -- there will be other reasons -- but that's why I took a break this time.

But I'll get to that.

Friday the 10th, we spent the night in.  Thanks to our oven being broken most of the week, we really needed to cook and stay in.

Saturday the 11th was fun. We did the Sixpoint beer crawl in Long Island City and Greenpoint.  We tried some neat beers, ate some good food, and talked to some interesting people.

Sunday the 12th we went to a cookout on Long Island.

The rest of the week was largely spent getting ready for our trip. Our new phones arrived Wednesday, which was great!

Friday night we flew out, arriving in time for breakfast Saturday morning. Over the course of the week we did a lot of great stuff: snorkeling, touring the volcano, hiking and stargazing, touring the royal palace, making a pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor, and enjoying a luau.  And the food was almost consistently amazing.

I just realized I never explicitly said we went to Hawaii. You probably had that figured out around the time I said "volcano," though, right?

We left Sunday afternoon, and got home early Monday morning, using Monday as our recovery day. Tuesday was back to normal life, including book club over Mexican food.  Thursday, I went to a meeting of Shut Up and Write.  And finally, today, we fielded a bunch of invitations for the weekend, and then I started listening to Welcome to Night Vale I'm enjoying so far.

My vacation reading? I, Claudius.

So, what have you been up to?

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Harvard Business Review: Want to Know What Really Makes You Happy? Try Tracking It

Moodscope: with a little help from your friends
Moodscope: with a little help from your friends (Photo credit: otir_im)
First of all, I want to thank Dawn for linking me to this article. (Dawn, if there's a better link I should use for you, let me know!)

In July of this year, H. James Wilson wrote an article about mood tracking for the Harvard Business Review.

So, I'm not sure I completely understand all the science behind this article, but I am familiar with the concept of mood tracking: I've been using Moodscope, a very basic program, on and off for a while now, but since I don't do it at the same time each day, and I don't typically make notes (and I haven't yet bought a paid membership), I don't know if it's doing as much good as I'd like.

Since I don't trust myself to explain the science as presented, I'm going to browse the recommended programs instead.

Quantifying reflection: 

No links to tools for this one, just the story of how one man simply rated each day on a scale of 1-10, and made some basic notes. I think this would take energy I don't have at the end of each day -- I want to either read or sleep, not think about whether or not I was sufficiently happy and why or why not.  Also, the example's baseline was 7... which I somehow think most people's would be, though I can't quite put my finger on why.

Theory testing:

This example used the app rTracker to not only rate happiness three times a day, but also to rate satisfaction on six different scales: self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose, mastery, autonomy, and positive relations with others. These were based on some broad criteria, and the test suggested that not every factor is important for every person.  I kind of like this one.

Experience sampling:

This one prompts users at random intervals to note how they're feeling, what they're doing, and what they're thinking about. That way, it doesn't just track moods, but what activities and mindsets affect moods. The example app used in this case is Track Your Happiness, which looks really promising.  I might check it out. It's officially for iPhones, but the FAQ say you can use any internet device.

So, do you track your mood?  What do you use?  How's it working for you? If not, check out this article and let me know what you think!
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013


An attractive dinner setting
An attractive dinner setting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm not always the best at taking criticism.

It's not that I don't like being able to improve. I'll jump in with both feet when it comes to reviewing notes on a draft, or tweaking a design of some kind, or messing with a pattern until it comes out the way I want it.

But, well, let's take cooking. That's something that supposedly takes practice.  But you don't get rough drafts of dinner.  It's good, it's OK, it's bad, it's garbage.  Anything short of garbage, you have to eat whether you like it or not; garbage, you have to pay to replace, having wasted good food.

So telling me my chicken was overdone, or too spicy, might help me for next time. Maybe; these things are inexact, after all, and I might overcompensate. But in any case, it's too late for this time. I failed; you're eating chicken you don't like.

So I'm not hearing, "This is what you need to do to make it perfect," like I hear at a writing workshop, for example.  I hear, "This is how you ruined my dinner." Well, if dinner isn't good enough for you, cook it yourself.

One of the reasons I like creative things -- and maybe one of the reasons I'm so bad at finishing them -- is the sense that someone criticizing it doesn't mean it's bad; it just means it's not finished.  And that's OK.

When it comes to one-and-done things, criticism, no matter how useful it might be for next time, comes too late for this time. I've failed.  I disappointed you.  I get it, now please stop shoving it in my face.

And as much as people claim they don't like "perfect" people, I'm pretty sure they don't like constant disappointments, either.

Telling me what I should have done is telling me how I let you down. Because I know I should have done better. I know I failed.

OK, here's what might be a better parallel. You swing-and-miss an easy pitch in practice, yes, you want to know how you screwed that up.  That's what practice is for -- so you learn how not to do that when it counts.  But you swing-and-mniss that same pitch in a game -- a game where the fans will boo you, a game where the scouts might be watching, a game where the championship is on the line... well, knowing what you did wrong just reminds you how you let everyone down. It doesn't fix a thing.

Most of life is practice? No.  Most of life is game day.

...I'm reasonably sure there's some unhealthy perspective in today's essay. I'm open to other ways of framing it, if you have any -- though please keep them in the spirit of workshop-and-practice, not ruined-dinner-and-lost-championship.
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What makes you happy? #23

7.9.2008 Feist @ Prospect Park
7.9.2008 Feist @ Prospect Park (Photo credit: islandlife)
It starts when you -- or your co-attendee -- finds the ad for the concert. Multiple bands, all of which you enjoy, some of which you love. You agree to buy tickets.

The day comes. The weather could not be better. You get in line early, so when the gates open, you find an excellent spot on the hill to spread out your blanket. You settle in with some amazing food from the concessions stand and a round of shockingly-reasonably-priced beer.

The first band plays as the sun begins to set.  By some small miracle, the bugs are not biting tonight. The second band starts as the sun is almost down, and the crowd begins to get wound up. There is singing.  There is dancing.

You look around and realize almost everyone in the crowd is your age.  This never happens.  It's sort of surreal. And for once, you're even dressed appropriately.

The different bands make guest appearances in each others' acts. They do songs with audience participation.

The third act comes on, and they're the headliners. You have almost every song they play memorized -- another thing that never happens -- and the one you don't know, you love, and make a note to look up when you get home.

You lean back on your blanket, take it all in, and just smile.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Meta: About this blog

Guess I should actually talk about what this blog is about, shouldn't I?

By this point, you might already have a sense of who I am. But why am I here?

Every now and then, I'm forced to contemplate that, so here is where I'm going to compile the results of that contemplation.

This blog is written for grown-ass adults trying to figure out this whole "adult identity" thing.

In it, I explore the concept of adult identity by reading books, examining preferences, writing personal essays, engaging online content, and reflecting on the events of everyday life.
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Monday, August 19, 2013

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 4, Part 3

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen

Chapter 4: Personality Preferences, Interests, and Skills

Last time, we examined the things we enjoy doing and how those things make us feel.  Today, we continue to talk about:
The next exercise is a list of 60 activities, which we are supposed to read and check off the ones that interest us. All of these activities have a code letter attached, standing for People, Ideas, Data, and Objects. Which category was I most interested in? Ideas! Data, and Objects, respectively, come not too far behind, with People bringing up the rear with quite a bit of a lag. Hmm.

What about you? Are you more interested in People, Ideas, Data, or Objects?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Introvert and Extrovert: A play in two scenes

This is a conversation that happened, with some details changed for anonymity.

Introvert: Oh! Hello!
Extrovert: Hello! Oh, how was your birthday?
Introvert: It was lovely, thanks.  We went to this great restaurant, and the waiters were so funny!
Extrovert: Oh... That's nice. Well, there's someone else I have to speak to. You take care!
Introvert: Um... thanks. You too.
[Both roll their eyes at one another as they walk away]
So the more I learn about what it means to be an introvert, the more I'm starting to get extroverts, too.  Which is nice. So here is my translation of the above conversation (Extroverts, if I'm misinterpreting, let me know):
Introvert: I recognize you and acknowledge your existence! I won't feel bad if you keep walking!
Extrovert: I acknowledge you in kind, and since small talk is energizing, I am asking you a pointless-but-kind question.
Introvert: I interpret your question as you genuinely caring about my life. I am touched, and conclude that you will enjoy this amusing anecdote.
Extrovert: I am dismayed that you did not follow the usual script, and am bored by your story. I will politely extract myself and try again with someone else.
Introvert: I am hurt that you claimed to care when you did not, and annoyed that you wasted my social energy and both our time.
[Both roll their eyes at one another as they walk away]
Have you had this conversation -- from either side? Does this make any sense of the other person?

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Meta: Silence Falls...

The Silence from Dr Who, from @bostoncomiccon
The Silence from Dr Who, from @bostoncomiccon (Photo credit: Ben Templesmith)
OK, hopefully not.  I've been pretty good lately about having a buffer.  But once again, due to circumstances I'll tell you about afterward, I'm going to be away from Blogger for a couple weeks. During that time (or shortly thereafter, if I eat up my buffer and then have an Unforeseen Circumstance), it might be quiet around here.  Or maybe not; I'm writing this with a lot of notice, too.

The point is, if I disappear, don't worry.  At least, not right away.  If I'm silent into September, feel free to give me a poke.
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Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Review #26

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So last Friday was Chris's firm's summer outing to Fire Island, which was very pleasant.  Then, we met up with friends for dinner and prep work for a party the next night.

Saturday, I went to the second baby shower I'd been knitting for. It was more low-key than the last one I'd been to, which was a pleasant surprise. That night, we went to the aforementioned party, which was a wonderful time.

Monday, our stove decided to stop working, so we ate way more takeout this week than I'd like, but our landlord got it working on Thursday.

I finished reading The Handmaid's Tale for book club, and just for kicks, decided to follow up with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, edited by Harold Bloom, which is a collection of literary criticism about it.  Not usually my thing, but I'm seeing some interesting things in it.

I took my knitting easy this week, but I did pick at my temperature scarf and coaster set.

So, pretty boring this week.  How was yours?
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Time: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part V)

The Mansion of Happiness, a board game of the ...
The Mansion of Happiness, a board game of the 19th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And finally, we come to the end of Time's feature on happiness.

Part V: The Game of Happiness

It's another infographic! This tine it's set up like a board game -- but there's no rules or any real way to play. Instead, each spot on the board contains a fact, statistic, or tip concerning happiness at different stages in life: childhood, education, career, family, aging. It's a lot of what you'd expect: unplug, learn, volunteer, exercise, read, sleep, etc.

Because it's so simplistic and predictable, I don't have much else to say about it, but you should check it out and let me know what you think. Maybe you'll even come up with some rules for gameplay!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Balance and Moderation

So, there's a problem with the whole hunt for one's passion.

See, we're supposed to have this one thing that brings us joy, and spurs us to excel, and, perfect world, makes us some good money, right?

Except, there's something else we're supposed to have:

Work-life balance.

I mean, how can you spend every waking hour on whatever your passion is supposed to be, and then still have any time left for anything -- or anyone -- else?

Is happiness found in following your passion and living it? Or in giving up on that and enjoying a balanced life? Is it both?

I drew this little doodle because, for all I'm a terrible artist, I think it'll explain what's on my mind better than I can.  So, this thing here: it is possible? Sensible? Sane?
I mean, they say "All things in moderation"... but does that include moderation?

What are your thoughts on balance?

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What makes you happy? #22

English: Lag BaOmer bonfire
English: Lag BaOmer bonfire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've mentioned before that I do not like camping.

But I love bonfires.

It's sundown, after a long, tiring day. Maybe you're hungry with a big batch of sausages or corn on the cob waiting to be cooked over the fire. Maybe you've grilled burgers already and you're feeling nicely satisfied.

Either way, there's a big bag of marshmallows ready to be scorched. Frankly, it's the only way I like marshmallows. I won't say no to whittling long, green sticks, either, but kebab skewers will work.

It's just starting to get chilly, so you throw a lightweight jacket or sweater over your t-shirt, but if the fire really gets going, you'll discard it at some point.

Of course, you make sure you have a proper fire circle and a big bucket of water ready to go.

You stack your fuel logs in a nice log cabin, then prop the kindling up around it. Fill the middle with tinder.  You'll have extras of all three handy -- but outside the fire ring, of course, ideally right with the water just in case -- so you can feed the fire as needed.

You light the tinder, and --  fingers crosses -- it goes up. By this point, it's dark out.

Get the right group together, there's music, and ghost stories. You cook things, whether it's meat or just sugar. You wind down, and just stare into the flames.

You don't want to douse the fire.  And not only because you're too tired to soak, stir, and soak again.

Update 1/31/14 to correct typos.
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Monday, August 5, 2013

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 4, Part 2

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen

Chapter 4: Personality Preferences, Interests, and Skills

Last time, we talked about personality preferences. Today, we talk about...
According to Jansen:
An interest is something that you are willing to give special attention to because you either feel strongly about the subject matter or you like the way it makes you feel when you are engaged with it. The degree to which you feel passionate about your interests can vary dramatically, depending on your preferences with regard to the various topics or activities involved.
This quiz requires us to list ten activities that interest us. Then, we add two or three phrases to describe how each of those activities make us feel. I'll go:

1. Reading -- peaceful, engaged, learning new things
2. Writing -- creative, immersed, productive
3. Knitting -- calm, productive, lovely things from my own hands
4. Watching TV -- keeping up with the culture, entertained, inspired (fandom)
5. Going to museums -- awed, reflective, learning new things
6. Trying new restaurants -- appreciative, new pleasant experiences, social engagement
7. Messing around on Pinterest (and other social media) -- amused, interactive, inspired
8. Playing games with friends -- social, laughter, friendly competition.
9. Shopping -- accomplishing something, observing options, speculative of future home
10. Singing -- belonging (harmonies), spiritual, release of tension

So! How to I relate any of this to work? Well, any job that has a lot of focus on reading and writing would be perfect, especially if I get to learn more about social media. In a perfect world, travel writing might be good, but the more I read about that, I'm not sure it would be a great fit. What else?  Does anything from that list bring jobs to mind for you?  What does your list look like?

There's another exercise about interests. We'll discuss that one next time.