Recover and Recharge

As a busy person, I’ve mastered the art of the “active recovery.” I discovered this term from doing spin classes. During spin class, “active recovery” meant pedaling easy with little resistance, as though we were on a straight, road somewhere. Active recovery happened after some debilitating (at least for me), intense, long journey up a steep incline with lots of tension on the bike. Though I didn’t realize it right away, I often do active recovery in my daily life. It’s a way for me to keep on top of things, while also getting some much needed R&R. That’s the idea, anyway.

However, the active recovery doesn’t always allow adequate time for the recharge. I try to find activities that accomplish both recovery and recharge. For example, playing music is an active-recovery recharge. It’s one of my lifelines. While rehearsing or performing, it allows me the opportunity to recover from stress build up and take a much needed break from the daily grind. At the same time, I feel pumped up and energized from the experience of playing music with other people. Though sometimes the recovery from a particularly emotional, or late night performance, can be a little challenging.

Coming out of the pandemic, I’ve been feeling a little more depleted than usual. I realized I need to carve out some dedicated time for recovery that’s not always so active. The pandemic disrupted many of my usual recharging activities Some of the activities have been slow to come back. It’s also taking time to re-integrate them into my schedule and routine.

Due to all these factors, I will be taking a break from my weekly posts to focus on recovery and recharge for a few months. Throughout the pandemic, the weekly post was another lifeline for me, even when it was challenging to make the deadline. Though tenuous at times, holding on to this small routine each week that I’d been doing for so long already, kept me grounded during some of the worst lockdowns. It felt like something small and normal I could cling to when everything else was changing so fast.

Stay tuned. I’ll be busy behind the scenes while I take a break from the front end. I’m aiming to resume writing in the spring when I’m recovered and recharged enough for the next 500 posts.

Happy New Year!

Ocean sunrise in the Dominican Republic, April 2015.

The 500th Posting

Reaching another milestone always feels like an accomplishment. This one, however, even made me pause. Every Monday, for 500 Mondays since June 2013, I’ve published a blog post. Rain or shine, sick or healthy, on vacation or pressed with deadlines, I wrote the post. Phew!

The milestone posting provides me an opportunity to review my thought process and interests for the past year. Some gloomy, some profound, some redundant, some refreshing… well, you get the point. But every 50, I go through and pluck out my favorites.

Around Halloween, I offered a few more slices of my Technombie world. Jasmine, scurrying out the back door of the Baby Designer Studio, crossed paths with the seedy underbelly of the operation. Meanwhile, one origin story of the how the feed developed started to unfold.

Other themes explored include the effects of the pandemic on testing failures, dealing with the incessant information fire hose, and challenges with the ever changing hybrid work environment. Covid is here to stay. As are many of the changes brought about suddenly by the pandemic. In some ways, the pandemic amplified existing problems, while resolving some and creating new ones in their place. It’s a different world now.

Many of my posts this year focused on where we’re moving with technology including new ways to shop and what that means for us. Searching the internet is heading in new directions. The ever present threat of misinformation and how to control it is still an unresolved challenge.

Technology forces us to change so fast we sometimes can’t appreciate the things we lost with our old, clunky methods. I discuss this in “Death of the Home Phone,” and highlight a new digital dilemma we now face because “There’s an App for Everything!

This year I started playing a new favorite game, Wordle, that can only exist digitally. Another favorite post featured a poster from the Drug Enforcement Agency decoding emoji. And naturally at least one fave on facing our Information Gluttony.

I’ll end my milestone highlights with a few from my Human Archive series including one on processing grief through “Unexpected Triggers” and “How I Learned to Move my Energy” through paint blobs. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of posts focused on snow, given the current stormy conditions including “Snow Days” (definitely not the same in the hybrid environment) and “The Silence of Snow.”

Too much customization?

Last weekend I ordered pizza from Uber Eats. Admittedly, I don’t often order take out (or delivery). If I do get one of these things, I’m more likely to order directly in the restaurant and wait for the order. I’m a bit of a dinosaur this way. I also rarely get take out mostly because I hate all the packaging.

However, I did end up ordering it through an app. I was amazed at the amount of options to select and screens to scroll through to order a simple pizza. Honestly, it almost felt more time consuming and complicated than it would have been to order directly from the restaurant. I intentionally selected a pre-made option, rather than creating my own, which no doubt would have resulted in even more menus to click through.

The whole experience left me wondering if there’s such a thing as too much customization. I remember a particularly poignant lesson about offering choices and decision making from my catering days. I often did corporate catering at the New York Academy of Medicine. A lot of events were buffet lunches where we offered no less than 10 soda flavors, plus water, at the drink stand. In addition to the standard offerings of Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite, some less common options were available. I recall specifically the Grape and Orange Crush. They’re not typical offerings at most venues.

Every time I stocked the drink bar I grumbled at having to stock and track so many different options. My manager, at the time, was adamant that having Orange or Grape Crush available could make somebody’s day. This was his rationale for the extra effort.

Then we had a new manager who cut the drink table down to four options. Instead of making somebody’s day with special soda flavors, we now made their day by improving the buffet line speed. Turns out people were inundated with too many decisions at our drink table. Consequently, this always created delays and bottle necks. With fewer options, people selected a drink quickly and moved on.

I couldn’t help but think of this valuable lesson scrolling through page after page of menu and topping options. Instead of being a time-saving convenience, the ordering process felt tedious and cumbersome. Too many options to pick and consider. Honestly, it was a little overwhelming. Next time, I’m eating in.

The Silence of Snow

This weekend I caught up on some overdue yardwork. The falling snow prompted a flurry of activity, starting with shoveling. With the walkway shoveled, I headed into the backyard. I swept snow off the lawn furniture, put it in the garage and bagged up some old leaves. Then I dusted the new snow off the swinging bench.

Once the swing was cleaned I pulled out the tarp to cover it. Rain falls on the swing all summer, but I suppose the tarp protects it from snow and ice in the colder months. Unfolding the tarp took several minutes. Draping it over took some fiddling due to the large size. Once in place, I used a couple of bungee cords to seal it up on the ends.

Swinging Bench covered with the tarp.

After, I crawled under the tarp to sit on, the now protected and covered, swinging bench. I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but it was actually quite nice under there. Even without seeing anything, I could still feel the silent, hushed peace that arrives with the snow. As though everything is being blanketed in a soft, layer of fluff.

I have a hard time waking up in the dark mornings, especially since the sun rises almost an hour after my alarm. I sometimes find it challenging in the winter months to slow down my pace to match rhythm of the season. My bedtime is still hours after the sun sets with an early wake up. However, taking a few moments to sit in the solitude and stillness of the swing felt restorative.

My breathing slowed. The tarp provided protection from the elements, but also added a slight bit of warmth. Although bundled up in my substantial winter gear, it felt calm and cozy nestled under the protective green tarp. I know snow is cold and wet, but it can also be a great insulator and protector. When I grumble about shoveling, marveling at how something so light and fluffy can feel so heavy on the shovel, I often forget about some of the nice parts of snow.

It’s beautiful to watch as it falls. The world looks fresh and clean with garbage and other unsightly structures blanketed in a soft, downy coating. Highlights for me include the quiet, hushed feeling after a fresh snowfall and the pinkish hue of the sky at night.

A New Kind of Stand Light

I’ve started noticing a lot more tablets at my orchestra rehearsals. I see small, and large ones, propped on stands. At rehearsal the other week I watched the violist lean forward and magnify his music to scribble some notes for himself. Then he pinched the screen reducing the music back to its normal size.

I looked at my pencil with its worn out eraser. It’s an old mechanical one and sometimes the tip retracts when I push too hard to write. Then again, on the plus side, I can write things in my music while I’m still playing. It’s quick and easy to lift my pencil, jot in a note, all before joining in again. Though fascinating to watch the violist, I did have to wonder about making notes electronically without taking a real pause.

Some musicians have foot pedals connected to their tablets so they can turn pages without using their hands. This would be a neat trick, especially for fast page turns. I had a page turn so fast once, the second player had to reach over and turn the music for me so I could keep playing. Of course we also work around this by making an extra copy of the part so we can turn the page at a better moment. Though I would also be nervous about flipping too fast with a tablet. What if I accidentally turned two pages at once? Or got distracted keeping beat with my foot, which I often do, and mistakenly tapped the foot pedal?

Though, to be honest, turning pages the analog way is not fool proof either. I recall one concert where I accidentally left one of my pages flipped over. When I turned the page, it was blank. I happened to be performing with an octet, so I was pretty exposed on the stage. Also the music was fast and I ended up missing two pages by the time I got everything sorted out.

Even so, I’m still on the fence about using a tablet to read music. I rather enjoy the analog experience of reading from the paper. Rehearsal is a time to disconnect from electronics and listen to what’s going on around me. I like seeing a two-page spread on my stand, something that wouldn’t be possible with a tablet. For now, I’ll stick with my printouts.

Censoring the Internet

I’ve always found China’s approach to the internet fascinating. Or at least based on my understanding of it to control content and messaging, mainly through censoring and propaganda. This means China restricts access to certain sites, domains, and social media options. They also employ, likely thousands of people, to monitor, delete, and scrub messages that don’t align with the government’s message.

Recently, protests started to erupt due to the strict covid limits. However, protestors, aware of the censoring that happens to posts, have started using creative workarounds to get their messages seen and heard. For example, some protestors hold up sheets of blank paper. Others may use code names and words, or certain emojis that will not flag unwanted attention, to escape detection. Or use something innocuous to send a message so that it will pass through the censors.

Now it’s a race between the censors and the content creators. It would be easy for censors to become overwhelmed and fall behind. Keeping up with the ever changing and various coded messaging is constant. Messaging moves fast in the digital world. And once something is out, it can be hard to contain.

In some ways, China’s desire to control the internet and social media content mirrors some of the challenges faced by social media companies. Meta, Twitter, etc. all have been trying to track, monitor, and deal with unwanted content. Now, their definition of unwanted, or problematic content, is different from China’s. But in the end, they all need to have some oversight and control of how people use the platforms. For the social media companies, it’s challenging because they also deal with operating in different jurisdictions, social customs, cultures, and languages. China is at least one country with the same laws, but they have over 1 billion people.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens. Will China be able to contain the protests in the digital universe? Will the government succumb to the pressure and relax the covid restrictions? Or will the limits become even more strict and enforced more strongly? Will news about any of the protests be seen outside of China?

Of course the nerdy archivist in me is thinking about who will preserve the digital trail from all this social unrest. Will there even be anything available to preserve? Or will the censors get to it first?