Monday, May 23, 2016

Connecting with Yourself

fire, outdoors, camping

Often times they way one used to do things was likely the most intimate.

I have noticed as I have become older I have become more risk adverse, have an increased desire to feel comfortable, and of course safe. In some respects this is a good thing. Most obviously I now have something to lose, I have skin in the game. I have also worked very hard and feel just a bit entitled to a certain level of comfort.

Its that entitlement that can cut both ways. As much as I should enjoy the fruits of my labor I instead find ways to squander them shopping on Amazon or watching TV.

If you have read this blog before you know this is an active struggle that I often sway from one extreme to the other on. That is what I like the most about this blog, its messy. I am not some polished blogger trying to trick you with an overly rosy picture of a minimalist life so you fall into my advertising trap. I am just a flawed guy doing the best he can.

Balance is an all consuming goal for me. Even though I should be able to enjoy some time doing things I love and I know I will enjoy, I just don't. Do you ever feel like this?

Intimacy is important in everyday life. Intimacy for me are those quiet moments of introspection that allow you to shape yourself. I realize I don't have enough of those. As a step back in the right direction I have decided to spend this summer recommitting to an old hobby that used to provide bountiful opportunities for introspection and was innately minimalist.

15 years ago one of my favorite hobbies was Bushcraft. For those of you who don't know what this is Bushcraft is a form of minimalist wilderness activity. Basically it is packing as light as possible and being in nature with as little barrier between you and the outdoors as possible.

Bushcraft is not camping you are not paying for a campsite, bringing an RV, or even loading up on hundreds of dollars worth of REI gear. People who are really into bushcraft pride themselves on spending as little as possible for their gear and have very little gear to begin with.

I have decided to throw together a ultra low cost pack using what I have and purchasing as little as possible to head out into the woods a few times this summer. There is a state forest near by that allows "primitive camping" with no facilities for free.

As part of this I am going to spend a few posts going over bushcraft and sharing my process as I try my hand at it once again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tech Talk

Toward the end of last year my netbook that I had distilled my tech life onto when I started this blog started showing its age. I looked around and ultimately bought a modest, entry level, 15 inch pc laptop to replace it. Certainly, it was a significant upgrade to my old laptop with vastly better performance. Immediately though it brought about negative change to my digital life.

laptop, notebook, grass
Overnight I became a consumer instead of a creator. Watching videos, posting memes, and the lot. It was fun, but rather hollow. The number of bookmarks I had tripled between November and the first of the year.

I would like to say that I put that larger screen and faster innards to good use, but I didn't.

About three weeks ago I bought an 11 inch Chromebook, a true replacement for my old netbook. The experience is less enjoyable and I find I naturally want to both spend less time on it, but also use that time creating. For me the performance constraint helps me to focus. It clearly sends the message to my brain that my laptop is a tool.

In this experiences is just another example that sometimes what seems like it will provide the most value may not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Getting In The Habit

Habits are really hard. They require a level of honesty with one's self that is both hard to achieve and sustain. This is the general trope repeated over and over again across uncountable numbers of articles.

I believe that "habit" is a code word used for: I need to do these things I hate and always avoid more regularly.

If you are just starting on your journey don't use code words, they just become another thing to overcome later. This is a lesson I know all too well.

Instead set good habits, ones that bring joy.

For example a new habit I hope to set this year is to try a new piece of chocolate each week. I love dark chocolate and often forget to enjoy it. Instead I buy a bar when I am stressed and pound it down in seconds.

From now on Thursday is chocolate day.

What is your new habit?

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Point

Like so many things that started out reasonably enough the notion of minimalism has become awash with people looking to make a buck while completely missing the point.

The point is freedom and joy.

Minimalism is a mode to achieve more freedom and joy. It is not a lifestyle in and of itself.

I don't wear basically the same thing to work everyday except for small color changes to make some kind of statement, I do it so I don't have to think about what to wear for the day. That time then becomes mine to do things that matter to me. This is one of many examples.

In today's over stimulated environment do not forget that even well meaning ideas can morph into monsters.

  • Pare back mundane decisions so you have more time to smile and appreciate why you are making all those decisions in the first place
  • Have less stuff so you spend less of your valuable time cleaning and sorting it in order to have that dinner party start sooner
  • Remove the noise from you digital life so that you can focus on the things that inspire you
  • Organize enough to lower stress, but not so much that every moment of your day is planned in advance
But most of all once you begin to succeed always remember that you are allowed to smile, to love, to reap that joy you sought in the first place. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Minimalist Zombie

Its 4am and I am wide awake, yet again.

I was giving some unsolicited advise the other day that in retrospect I should probably take myself: "Embrace who you are, even the stuff you don't like. The sooner you do, the better off you are."

So this is who I am and what I must embrace:

  • I am excessively sarcastic
  • Sleep is not something I find nor keep easily
  • At my best I am unencumbered by the material world
  • Working out gives me a rush I enjoy, at the same time I struggle with any kind of training routine, and rarely succeed at them.
  • I tend to think systemically and as a result struggle in following through with daily tasks at work I see as indicative of a broken culture
  • I am very bad at running in a pack or conforming to group ideals
  • I am funny, but rarely appropriate
  • What you see on the outside, is rarely a match to what is happening on the inside
  • Having been on my own since high school I am stubbornly independent 
  • I would rather assume the worst leaving me constantly surprised than assume the best and be constantly disappointed
  • My family is a near non-factor in my life, at the same time my life has been richly touched by many non-family members that have shown me that "family" is more of a construct than a blood match
  • I enjoy spontaneously showing people I care for them
  • I loath socially constructed expectations for showing people I care for them; like holidays
  • Technology is something I think is amazing and has allowed me to explore the world in ways that have enriched my life. At the same time I do no blindly trust it and am terrified of the day that it will be turned against the common man.
  • There are many topics in which my understanding of them far outstrips my interest; I am not really sure how that happened. 
But really I am just a zombie right now, reviving a blog that charts so many things that still carry on in my everyday life. Always the minimalist, always questioning everything; that is me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rural America: RIP

In my last post I derided autos for being largely resource hogs not worth the lifestyle they enable. A comment brought up something that always comes up when I speak about the future of transport: What about rural areas?

I come from a rural area actually and this is a comment that my grandparents always make. They report that having to commute to different jobs over distances by two parents requires multiple cars. Further due to the lack of a robust tax base in rural areas starting public transport programs is often out of reach. Heck even grocery shopping can be a commute in and of itself, the same goes for simple things like going to a movie.

They are right...and that's why Rural America must, is, and will die for the most part.

The national trend has been that younger people are moving toward cities while rural areas drop in population and the median age increases. Whats more they are not coming back, even after having children. Try as I may my grandparents don't get that their way of life is becoming a victim to statistics. The problem they point out won't be an issue in a generation because their won't be enough people living their to make their voices herd.

Today the town I grew up in has less than half as many people in it than when I was a child. Further the median age is now over forty when in the 1980's is was in the lower thirties. Those young families my grandparents talk about are an ever increasingly rarer breed. This is so true that many school have shut down or been regionalized because enrollment has plummeted. Kids that grow up where I grew up now have a 40 minute bus ride to get to school now that the school my friends and I walked to has been closed for over 10 years.

Towns all across my home region have had to get creative to keep property values from dropping. Several towns in the region I am from have undertaken "take down projects" where they demolish houses that have been vacant too long , plant trees on the lots, and let the forest take the land back. My grandparents town has had such a process since 2000; long before the housing bubble. In fact many towns are converting roads back to dirt because there are not enough houses on them anymore to justify the cost of paving.

The post-boomer generations are reshaping what it means to be American. This has been a slow process, but it is coming to a head now. Every year they vote to kill rural america by where they go to school, where they move to go to work so they can minimize commutes, and where they settle to raise children. More importantly they vote with their wallet by not owning or owning less cars, and driving them sparingly. The financial reality for younger Americans may seem bleak with high college loan debt, but they are using it as an opportunity to fundamentally shift this country to a more sustainable footing.

Cheap, affordable auto's created the rural American Dream; their decline will kill it. It's already underway.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More Cars Solve Nothing

I am a big fan of non-car transport and firmly believe it is the only way forward. Especially here in the U.S. we need to use our feet, peddles, and public transport for a multitude of reasons. I believe so strongly in this that I have gone without a car since 2006. Yet, I have been noticing the buzz lately is around electric cars. The big push is that two car families should forgo having two gas guzzlers in favor of having one electric and one hybrid for truly longer distance trips.

Will this save a lot of gas? Sure. Does it do much else? Probably not. Less cars would have all the advantages and none of the drawbacks. Sure you could by the new Prius, go broke buying a Telsa, or get a shiny new I-MIEV but you are still buying a car and a more expensive one at that. It makes more sense to go down to one car if you are a two car family and work out strategies to be successful if you want to save money, cut down on CO2, or have gas left in the ground for your children. But make no mistake buying an electric car is no better than a gas one that meets high efficiency standards. I would love to see cars like the Smart or Mini become more common place before an electric car.

Why am I not a fan of electric cars? In my mind they are just a shell game shifting the pollution and fueling costs into the production process and national infrastructure and away from the consumers field of vision. If the average person knew what a Lithium or Nickle mining operation looked like and the kind of damage it does it would be obvious that it is no better. Further it seems so clean and futuristic to neatly plug your car in like a hair drier instead of going to a station and smelling the fumes. What the average person doesn't think about is where that electricity comes from: Coal. If you living near a coal fired plant you know its no better.

If you want to spend less on transport drop down to one car; if you are single you can probably have no car. It is better for your wallet, the environment, and future generations. Use your feet, grab a bike, hop a train or a bus and join the legions of people that know more does not mean better.