Stuff is Paralyzing

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Many people have the impression that digital storage is cheap, abundant, and limitless, especially when it’s readily available.  Coupled with this impression is the idea that it’s not hurting anything to retain so much digital content so why bother to get rid of it.  However, what stands the biggest risk of “being hurt” is the person saving the stuff. Some potential damages include the following:

  1. Contending with unintended destruction – sometimes disasters happen and equipment gets damaged, thereby destroying content.  If this happens, do you want to spend time, money, and energy restoring and/or migrating everything?  Or would you rather invest time saving the things that matter most?
  2. Upgrading or changing devices – see above
  3. Dealing with hacks or viruses – every time I see a headline about Yahoo, I’m reminded of an old Yahoo email account I used for 10+ years.  I did a basic clean out of the Yahoo account when I moved to gmail, or at least I thought I did. After the latest headline, I logged into my Yahoo account and saw many emails containing highly personal and sensitive information in both the body and attachments.
  4. Losing time looking for things – I often help clients come up with strategic ways to manage information more effectively to improve search and retrieval.  The success partially results from routinely purging low-value content to ensure search queries retrieve high quality matches.

We’re bombarded daily with volumes of stuff, making it difficult to assess what has enduring value from all the other useless junk.  Maybe saving everything is so easy that it becomes the new “norm” causing us to develop new attachments to our stuff and how we think about it emotionally.  Read more here:

Do you find it impossible to delete old photos and texts? You may be a digital hoarder

At a certain point, too much saved “stuff” becomes crippling.  For example, sometimes people rent physical storage units because of a life circumstance (e.g. move) and with the intention that it’s a short term solution.  Often the unit is neither visited nor used and becomes a financial and emotional burden on the owner, similar to what happens with an over accumulation of digital content on our devices.  You can’t bear to let any of it go, while at the same time hoping for a disaster to take care of it for you and eliminate the burden.

Be elite and delete.  Save strategically!

Reality News

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I remember how people really seemed to grieve in 2009 when Walter Cronkite died.  He was often referred to as “the most trusted man in America.”  From 1962-1981 he was the anchor for CBS Evening News.  During those years, his news report became the first 30-minute program on TV and was one of the most popularly viewed.  In addition to grieving for Cronkite himself, perhaps what people were really grieving was a simpler time when a news source was trustworthy and reliable.  It was a popular segment, so it also meant many people were also receiving the same reliable news, at the same time.  Even if someone didn’t agree with what was happening, at least everybody could agree on the facts as presented in the news.

Having so many news sources available anytime of the day has now made it difficult to evaluate and assess the authenticity and reliability of the sources.  On the flip side, sometimes it’s beneficial to have access to so many different news sources, as stories are covered differently in other parts of the world or by opposing viewpoints.  However, over the last few months I’ve seen several articles in the news about fake stories circulating on Facebook and chatbots automatically generating and proliferating tweets of dubious quality on Twitter.  We hear about “alternative facts” from the Counselor to POTUS and contend with stories racing around the internet, newspapers, TV, and radio shows from all over the world.  With all of these difference sources bombarding us constantly from every direction, how are we supposed to know which ones are reliable and trustworthy?

In today’s environment, it would be difficult to answer this question about any available news source consistently.  And this is not a reflection on the profession of journalism, but rather to point out how could any news stories be validated amongst all the competing headlines and various news channels, including those generated automatically.  By using social media and other available online tools, it’s very easy to spread around fake stories.  This means journalists must spend their time investigating and evaluating false leads with conflicting information.  And because facts are very difficult to correct once they’ve been disseminated, even when a story is reported accurately after a false start, many people are still willing to believe the first version.

Where is our “most trusted news source” on the internet?

Speaking in Emoji

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I can’t help but notice how common it is to use emoji (maybe even instead of punctuation, gasp) to express emotions, along with a whole host of other things.  The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines emoji as:

“any of various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc.”

I remember first using emoji in the early 2000’s at a temp job.  My co-worker and I had downloaded something called a “hotbar” which allowed us to put fun little faces into our emails.  The IT department shut it down when they discovered it interfered with a key reporting program.  However, I was hooked on the funny little faces expressing angst, humor, or my favorite, the one repeatedly spewing a green glob of vomit.  Perfect for the office.

Over the years, options have grown becoming more nuanced and detailed.  I often find it’s not so easy to tell the difference between similar, but yet totally different expressions. It’s a new language.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who is sometimes confused, check out this article “16 Emojis You’ve Been Using All Wrong.”

It never fails to impress me how accurately some people are able to convey emotions and expressions through one tiny emoji.  I’m fairly useless at this.  When I try to reply with emoji, I find myself scrolling through pages of options totally baffled at what emotion each face is trying to convey. Eventually I give up and put in something random thinking surely the person at the receiving end will know exactly what I meant by each non sequitir emoji.Here is the first page of many from my phone’s messaging app:

 

Emoji options

 

Some are obvious, but others elude me.  I underlined the 11 different faces smiling and laughing.  They can’t all be expressing humor.

Recently I took a Body Language Quiz that aimed to assess how well I read other people.  Based on my inadequacies with interpreting emoji, I figured my score would be in the lower range.  Much to my surprise I scored a 15/20.  Take the quiz here.

Body Language Quiz Results

 

I’ve now added an emojidictionary and emojipedia to my collection of links to help me with translations.

Rejuvenate

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Last year about this time I was moving into my new place.  [Read about it here.]  By the end of the weekend, my arm throbbing with pain, I was ready for a break.  My mother and I headed down to Allan Gardens, an amazing plant conservatory about 5 minutes away.

We entered and were quickly nestled into the warmth and humidity of the domed room at the entrance.  It was the last day of the poinsettia display and the red of the flowers flamed out at us from under the greenery.  The air smelled fresh and alive.  While the world outside was gray and dreary, we strolled through lush, green patches.

Poinsettia display at Allan Gardens (2017).

Poinsettia display at Allan Gardens (2017).

I felt my arm start to relax.  By the time we reached the turtle pond at one end of the garden, I started smiling. My pace slowed and then stopped to watch the turtles swimming around.  Or piling up on the stones to sun themselves.

Turtles, piled up and sunning.

Turtles, piled up and sunning.

My breathing slowed, influenced by the quiet tranquility of the plants surrounding me on all sides.  A glance all the way to the right or left revealed the outside world, beautiful in its own way, but colored with a monochrome palette of whites and grays.  Next to me I heard my mother’s breathing deepen.  Then she remarked how rejuvenating it felt to walk through a garden, at any time of the year, but especially in the winter.

At that moment, I felt lucky.  It was winter in a cold northern climate, but I had the good fortune to be surrounded by living, green plants and flowers with one of my favorite people.  We left sometime later, feeling refreshed, the stress and chaos of the move already forgotten.  They had been replaced by the clean, fresh air provided by the plants in the conservatory.

This year, during a visit, I took my family to Allan Gardens.  We were greeted by a plant-based Penguin trio in the domed entrance and again, the poinsettia display (see above).  Once again, the plants worked their magic on me.  I was instantly rejuvenated.

Penguin jazz band in the domed entrance room. The pianist was across the walkway.

Penguin jazz band in the domed entrance room. The pianist was across the walkway.

Implied Consent

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I’ve become leery of attending events because it’s becoming normalized to give my “implied consent” for the host to use pictures/video of me as an attendee.  For example, in December 2016 I attended an event at the Royal Ontario Museum [ROM] called ROM Friday Night Live. As I entered the building, a sign explained that the event retained the rights to use any photos or video with me however they wanted.

I remember encountering this as a student at the University of British Columbia, which was often used by studios to film movies and television shows.  When filming was going on there were always large signs around the area essentially saying that if we were caught on film the company had the right to use it without getting our explicit consent.  I often tried to go around these areas, but sometimes it just wasn’t possible.

Last year at my Canadian citizenship ceremony something similar happened. Prior to attending the ceremony I was sent a consent form basically giving the Canadian government the right to use any images/video taken of me during the ceremony in perpetuity for whatever they wanted. I should also mention that the consent form I received was incomplete due to a routine printing error and it wasn’t entirely clear what I was signing consent for since some of the text was missing.

I inquired about other options and was told that I could attend a separate ceremony, with no photos/video, which didn’t yet have an assigned date.  Eventually I signed the form because I had already been waiting over a year, but I felt annoyed about the whole thing.

It’s bad enough I feel self-conscious going out with friends because I never know when, where, or how I will end up being posted on somebody’s social media.  Now I feel super self-conscious about attending events, even private ones.  I’m not comfortable with my image being used without my permission, or without even knowing where the image will appear!

One solution is to avoid events, but that is neither a practical nor fun solution.  Even knowing that ROM Friday Night Live may use my image isn’t enough to deter me from going.  However, it does make me think twice before attending other events which may have a similar sign at the entrance.

Planning: Old School Style

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In 2013, I reluctantly switched over from using a paper planner to relying solely on an electronic calendar for managing my schedule.  My rational mind fully understands, and appreciates, all the many perks and conveniences I get by using an electronic calendar.  But another part of me, over 3+ years later, still misses many things about the paper planner.  I even know several people who use paper planners and refuse to go digital.  Or maybe they have a hybrid system.

In terms of ease, both types of planners rank highly.  In terms of convenience and benefits, the electronic planner scores more points than its paper counterpart, so many more points that I had to really sit and think about why I still miss the paper one so much.

People who are serious about keeping paper planners will tell you that the style and brand you select is a highly personal matter.  I always preferred one that offered me a weekly two-page view with Monday as the first day.

The Quo Vadis Sapa was a favorite of mine.  The size was perfect and had ample space for my appointments and notes.  I loved the details offered at a glance telling me which day/week it was with respect to the month and year (e.g. week 37/52 or day 256/365).  Holidays appeared as tiny, unobtrusive notes, whereas in an electronic calendar, they’re the same size as any other appointment. I also enjoyed ripping off the perforated corners to easily access the current week.

Quo Vadis Sapa planner

Quo Vadis Sapa planner

Equally valuable was the ability to toggle between the one-year and weekly views.  I used to track some things on an annual basis, which is no longer possible with the electronic calendar.

Even with all of the options, features, bells and whistles offered by electronic planners, I still can’t get some of the most basic, simple things that I loved so much with a paper planner, such as the yearly view.  It’s strange because with the electronic planner I can easily change my view from daily to weekly to monthly.  But then if the day contains too much information, or too many holidays, I’m limited by the screen space to see everything at a glance.

The ironic thing is that in almost every aspect, the electronic planner is more flexible, offering more and better options for managing my schedule.  And yet, I sometimes still yearn for pen and paper.