Some Thoughts to close 2012


I haven’t had the chance to write up a post since election day; but, I wanted to say something before the end of the year.  So, I have two things.

First, if you are a regular reader, you know how much I dig the writings/speeches given by Brene Brown.  There is part of me who really cringes at anything that reeks of self help ramblings without some science behind it and Ms. Brown brings the science.  And she cuts through the mixed messages and gets right to the core of how we operate.  I love that.  I ran across an article by her that sums up bullying way better than I ever could.  I’m a believer that we live in a bully culture and encourage bully behavior and then are surprised when kids and adults “take it too far.”   We like to think we are a country of people that love the underdogs; but, in reality, we love our bullies even more.  Here’s a small excerpt:

Whether we are a sweaty-palmed 7th grader navigating a hostile cafeteria, or a laid-off worker trying to make a mortgage payment, or a young mother waiting for mammogram results, feeling vulnerable, imperfect and afraid is human. It is when we lose our capacity to hold space for these struggles that we become dangerous. We can legislate behavior all day long, but true compassion comes from a tender and vulnerable place where we understand how inextricably connected we are.

From :  The Cruelty Crisis: Bullying Isn’t a School Problem, It’s a National Pastime by Brene Brown.  Published on Psychology Today ( on October 31, 2010.

Read that article and pay special attention to the last paragraph.

Secondly, recently a few friends have been doing 30 or even 40 days of gratitude on Facebook.  I’m going to admit something.   As a (somewhat) reformed  eye roller,  I resist the urge to chalk all of this gratitude up to some touchy feelie, new agey bunk.  But, I also know that I feel better when I focus on the things I can be grateful for.  I feel better when I focus on seeing the good.

The amazing thing about gratitude is it can be cultivated, practiced and even developed as a reaction and the results are rather amazing.  I recently presented a program on leading with compassion.  I gave the audience a short exercise to try that several people talked to me about afterwards. So, I altered it and decided to share it with you here.

You will need a piece of paper, a pen, a quiet moment and the willingness to keep your mind open.

Think of the person at your job who most drives you crazy.  Close your eyes.  Think of their face.  Take note of the feelings that arise and sit with them for a moment.  Okay.  You are most likely sitting with negative feelings.  Imagine all those feelings are written up on chalkboard.  If you really dislike this person, your chalkboard is probably full, every inch of space being used.  In your mind, see your chalkboard filled with all of those feelings, now take an eraser and erase them.  Get that eraser into every corner until there is just chalk dust up on your imaginary board.  Great.  Now lets get started.

  1. Think of your person.
  2. Write down 3 things they are good at.  This can be anything.  Maybe they keep their desk neat.  Perhaps they are prompt.  Even if you have to dig deep, write down 3 things.
  3. Write down one thing you would miss if the person didn’t come to work anymore.  You have to write down one thing.  You can do it.  Even the most annoying, crazy person offers something that is worthy of missing.
  4. Write down one thing YOU can do to help this person succeed.

Now I want you to set down your pen, close your eyes and take a couple of calming breaths.  Relax your shoulders.  Think of your person.  Did your heart soften towards them a wee bit?  Maybe it softened a lot.  Take note of the new feelings.

I firmly believe, as a supervisor, my job is not to get people to do what I want; but, it is to help them succeed.  As a colleague, it is to help my coworkers succeed.  I understand that at times, this is impossible and that with really, really toxic people, the best course of action is to figure out ways to just reduce their toxicity.

Don’t mistake a softening heart for losing ground or giving in.  It is just about understanding that your person is just another person in the world navigating through the ups and downs of life and struggling with things as you sometimes struggle.  Try not to get bogged down with what other people are doing and focus on the things that are in your control.

2012 is winding down and I’ve heard so many people say that it was a bad year for them.  If this is you, I want you to immediately sit down and write a list of 10 things that were good about 2012.  Go!  Do it!  Enter 2013 thinking, wow, I found 10 good things about 2012, 2013 is going to be even better!

I’ve struggled to find the balances I need in my life so that I can thrive in NYC.  I think maybe I’ve spent a good portion of the year feeling a bit tired and foggy headed; but, 2012 is year that goes down in my personal history as a watershed year.  I got married.  I had this amazing, sweet wedding at an apple orchard in Vermont that is owned by Anya’s cousin and her family.  We were surrounded by people that love and support us.  There was a dude with a guitar and ten gallon hat singing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.  Later, with his band, they did covers of Johnny Cash and other twangy greats.   After the ceremony and the toasts, with the party just getting into gear,  I looked over the lawn and saw my friend Ann, carrying a croquet mallet in one hand and a wine glass in the other, her pretty green dress popping against the blue sky and I thought, This is perfect.  Did everything go as planned?  Ha!  Of course not.  Did we panic and find someone to blame?  Hell no!  There was pie and happy people and this amazing hard cider from the orchard and the most perfect weather of the whole summer and there was this incredible, extraordinary woman who makes me laugh, reminds me not to worry so much, accepts me just the way I am and pretty much takes my breath away every day.  That is perfect and by perfect, I mean perfectly imperfect.  It truly is a beautiful life.

Surviving the Rat Race

In the Library with the Lead Pipe recently posted an article that compared running a marathon with working in the library because both are endeavors where we need to pace ourselves to avoid fatigue and burnout.  Go read this article. It provides a brief overview of current brain science that might surprise you.

Fatigue and burnout are poison in the well.  They affect our abilities to be productive at work and home.  They affect our ability to communicate and negotiate with coworkers and friends and family. They affect our ability to make decisions and think things through effectively.

Here’s an exercise:

Write down 5 things you know you need to do in order to think more clearly, be more patient and find joy in your work.  Here’s what mine might look like.

1. 8-9 hours of sleep

2. Caffeine

3. Moderate exercise

4. Meditation

5. Healthy eating.

These should be things you have control of; so, not things like: get my kid to pick up his laundry.  You already know what you need to be calmer and happier at work.  You probably won’t be able to do all 5 all the time; but, make sure you are trying for 2-3 of them all the time.  Now commit yourself to doing them.

This might seem simplistic and it is really.  But, then why is it so hard to do the things we know we should be doing?  For me, sleep is my number one factor in having a good quality of life.  I have a friend who needs more than moderate exercise, pretty much everyday, in order to burn off the stress of working in a hospital.  She knows that she feels better and is happier when she gets home to her family.  She also told me that she noticed around 3pm everyday she was feeling sad and a bit down and wondered if it had to do with something in her eating habits.  She started eating a small handful of almonds at about 2:30 and she avoided the down turn in mood.  Eating almonds in the afternoon should be on her list.

I also need caffeine.  I’m weening myself down to one cup in the morning; but, in the big picture, caffeine (in moderation) is a basically harmless method of boosting focus, although temporary.  I have found it speeds up my brain’s transition from sleep to having the executive function perform at a level I need it to.  I suspect there are natural ways to help with this; but, at this point the caffeine works.

I also know that although meditation is the thing that helps me the most behind sleep, I do it the least which is something I would like to change.  I hit 3-4 things on my list everyday and would like to get that even higher.

Make the list.  Really think about it.  Put it somewhere where you can see it everyday.  You already know what you should be doing.  You don’t need a class or a book or a guru, although sometimes those things help with motivation.
One last piece of advice:  This is not another opportunity to assess your failure to reach a goal.  At the end of the day, if you only hit one congratulate yourself on hitting one.  That’s it.  This is something to shoot for and the reward is you feel better or you have more patience in frustrating situations or more energy to listen to your family’s stories when you get home.  If saying NO is on your list, the reward might be that you get to give your work projects the attention they deserve without feeling like you have spread yourself too thin.  This is your list; only you know what needs to go on it.

Sit. Ann, Sit.

My dog Henry lunged at the dog food as it left the scoop and fell towards his bowl.  I hate when he does this and immediately corrected him.  “Sit, Henry, Sit.”  He sat and I continued putting the food in his bowl.  He  waited for me to release him with an okay and then started eating.

Later I was thinking about this in context of my own meditation practice.  I really just wanted to tell myself:  Sit, Ann, Sit!  I have not maintained any sort of continuity in my practice and even though I know it will benefit me, I still have not done anything when really all I need to do is just sit.  Of course if it was that simple, we’d all be doing it.

A few weeks ago, I ran across Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project, which she started last year to help people learn meditation.  Starting in June, in addition to the free, ongoing instruction she offers through the project, there will be a more in depth training for what I think is a very reasonable annual fee.

I have been following along since I signed up for the newsletter and have found her style both appealing and accessible.  I’ve already turned a few friends on to it.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, since starting Civil Civil Servant I have had people ask me about meditation and while I have taught a couple of people some very basic techniques, I mostly encourage them to try a meditation class.  You don’t have to go to a Buddhist organization to learn meditation.  Some folks learn at a yoga class, or take a course through community education or learn in a stress reduction class.  I think it’s nice to have an ongoing instructor because sometimes things come up in your practice and you have questions.

The instruction offered through the Open Heart Project is quite good and because it is something you learn online, you don’t even have to feel uncomfortable in front of other people.  I have felt uncomfortable going to a  new place to meditate; so, I know that feeling.  This let’s you try it out in a safe, easy way.

So.  Check it out.  It might be the introduction to meditation you’ve been hoping to find.

And if you need a good reason.  Maintaining a meditation practice in study after study has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve symptoms of depression, help control chronic pain, improve immune system function, lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.  Studies have connected meditation with improved ability to concentrate, improved sleep and reduction of memory loss as one ages.  It can help you with substance abuse problems, depression and hyperactivity.  And really, the research in this area is young.  We are just starting to learn all the startling and significant benefits.

Good luck!

Unplug. Live a little.

It’s that time again:  The National Day of Unplugging is almost upon us.   Reboot, a Jewish creative community of “thought-leaders created The Sabbath Manifesto which includes 10 core principles and is modeled after the Slow Movement.  In 2010 they started the National Day asked people to take the pledge:  to unplug from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  This year it takes place March 23-24.

I love this project.  It is a great reminder to slow down, stop texting and checking e-mail a million times.  I’ve talked  before about unplugging and how when I gave up my television my house was miraculously cleaner.  Now, television has seeped back into my life through my laptop and between Hulu and streaming Netflix I spend way too much time engaged with a thing instead of another person or my own thoughts.

A lot has changed for me since last year’s post on this topic.  I moved into the city and don’t live alone anymore.  I actually think this has altered my engagement with technology a bit.  I spend way less time on Facebook and actually hardly ever check it.  I also spend less time texting in the evening because the person I texted the most is now a few feet away.

One thing I worry about is that we’ll become one of those couples that sits next to each other on the couch, each engaged in our own laptop.  This rarely happens; but, I really want to make sure it never starts.

One of the things I noticed right away about Anya, on our first date, was that I never saw her phone.  I had gone on several dates where my date would check texts or lie their phone on the table, just in case.  I love the graphic at the top of this post.  If you click on it, it will take you to Uncommon Goods, where you can purchase the “phonekerchief” a handkerchief that actually blocks cell signals.  I think the charming thing about that sentiment is that while to some it may seem old fashioned, it comes down to just being focused and present when you are with others and there is nothing old fashioned about that.

I’m getting married this Summer (thanks Governor Cuomo!) and I had actually already decided that I would not be engaged with a phone on that day.  I’m also trying to find a little lake house near the orchard where we are getting married that we can rent for a week and just relax.  I’m a little bit amazed by the places that boast of high speed internet and satellite television.  I want peace and quiet and fun with Anya and our family and friends.  There will be no tweeting from the reception or the altar!

Give the National Day of Unplugging a shot.  It’s 24 hours.  Here’s my plan based on the ten principles.

  1. Avoid my laptop.  Only answer my phone if its my parents calling.  No email. No surfing. No TV or movie watching. Old school radio is fine.
  2. Hangout with Anya and a friend.  Snuggle and walk with Henry.
  3. Walk with Henry and finally get to the Y for some swimming.  Cook great meals.
  4. Besides Henry’s walks, hanging on the coffee shop patio and reading sounds great.
  5. I have no plans for commerce other than perhaps that coffee on the patio!
  6. Candles are a fine idea.  I’m not a candle person; but, Anya was definitely gotten me on track with candles.
  7. Not much of a drinker.  Perhaps some tea on the front stoop.
  8. I have pretty much refused to get into any habit that involves me eating while watching movies/tv; so, a nice home cooked meal with Anya happens pretty frequently and will happen again this Friday.
  9. Finding silence can sometimes be hard in Bed-Stuy.  We tossed around the idea of getting up early on Saturday and heading to the beach.  I’m sure to find some silence there.
  10. I’ll think on this one:  give back.  I’m sure I can figure out a creative way to meet this challenge.

You Don’t Need a Cape to Be a Superhero.

What is the recipe for success in any job?  I stumbled upon this great article by Chris Guillebeau, How to Stand Out in Any Job.   While I think his ideas have some obstacle in some situations, the spirit of these ideas and the practical applications are fantastic.  I encourage you to read his article and wander around his site.  There are some real gems there.

I want to bounce off his 8 principles for becoming a superhero in any job over the course of the next couple of weeks here on CCS.

“Never Turn Down a Project by saying, ‘that’s not in my job description’.”

This is huge.  I like that he put it first.  There are three ways to be at work:  open, closed and somewhere in between when it comes to being flexible in the workplace.  Guess which group gets the raises and promotions?  Guess which group has a better chance of getting positive responses to their requests?

In my varied work experiences in retail and the library world, I have hands down been happier when I have been open to being flexible about my job duties, etc.  This does not mean I take on jobs and responsibilities without asking for compensation for added work.  It does mean that when asked to handle something or do another task or take on some responsibility, I have almost always said yes, even if there is not added compensation.  I’m also not saying to take on TOO much responsibility so you lack balance in your life.  There is nothing wrong with answering a request to do something with an honest reply about workload and inquiry into your institution’s priorities.  Something along the lines of:

“I would love to help you.  I’m in the middle of projects X, Y, and Z; but, if you don’t mind Y and Z getting put on hold a bit; I think I can handle this new task with no problems.”

I have almost always been rewarded for pitching in when needed.  Sometimes the reward is monetary (raises and/or promotion), sometimes it’s a pat on the back and sometimes it has been support from others for my own pet projects.  Almost every time, I have been rewarded with the satisfaction of helping a coworker.

Happiness researchers (yes, there really are researchers who research happiness) have found a higher rate of happiness in people who are altruistic.  I think the same sort of satisfaction that you would get doing volunteer work or shoveling an elderly neighbor’s snow is available to you at work by being keeping an open mind about what your role is and how you should be spending your time.

I have encountered people who’s knee jerk reaction to being asked to do work outside of their job description is “no.”  You’ll win no friends and allies with this attitude.  That attitude benefits no one.  Most of you have experienced workplaces where there are some people who barely hold up their end and there are others who are continuously asked to work on new projects.  Some people see this as unfair, especially in a union environment when you might be making the same amount of money as the person who does less and is unwilling to help out.  But, even in these situations you win by stepping up because come promotion time or when an interesting position opens up you will be in a better spot to succeed in getting it.  You will also just have more opportunities at work:  more opportunities to learn, more opportunities to build your resume with varying experiences, more opportunities to network with colleagues and more opportunities to be challenged with interesting and fulfilling projects.

“That’s not my job.”  Don’t be that guy.  The guy who says that dreads getting out of bed and going to work every day.  The guy who says that only dreams of retirement.  The guy who says that is just putting in his time.  Our lives are way too precious for that kind of thinking.

Take this moment to ponder a line from Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?

Mass Transit Meditation

photo: AZY_NYC via Flickr CC

I’ve been living and working in NYC for 3 months now and I’m still not quite used to it.  It’s a place of amazing chaos and stimulation.  Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t work well with noise and frenzy andthe visual assaults of such a large, vibrant city.  I’ve been thinking about different things I can do to lower stress and find some calm in the urban storm.

The other day, tired and slightly grouchy, I stood on the subway car, swaying with the motion and closed my eyes.  I said Metta for myself.

May I be happy.
May I be Healthy.
May I be free from physical pain.
May I be free from mental pain.
May I live my life with ease.

And I began to realize that even when I have not said this prayer for weeks or months, as soon as I begin, I can feel my body relax into it.  I challenged myself to say it on each subway ride and to choose to include the most annoying of my fellow riders.  Last night, I was on the train coming home after a fun evening of The Moth.  I happened to catch the train in the Village with handfuls of Halloween revelers including a woman riding solo.  She was right next to me in a very crowded train.  She was drunk.  She began talking loudly in a confrontational way about the various people surrounding her.  Commenting on people’s perfumes, clothing and perceived promiscuity.  She was looking for a fight.  Everyone ignored her.  I began reciting Metta, silently.  I wished her peace and happiness.  I wished her a safe passage home.  I wished her ease and freedom from her irritations.  I wished her freedom from the fear of suffering.  Over and over for the 20 minute ride, I wished things for her.  It was very calming to me and  I have to believe that all that love I sent her did some good.


New Beginnings

A lot of change is coming my way.  I have resigned my position at Middletown Township Public Library and accepted a position at Pace University in NYC.  I will be leaving my sanctuary in Asbury Park to move to Brooklyn and live with my partner.  I will no longer be an official civil servant; but, I will still be deeply committed to providing the best possible service and finding ways to improve my ability to lead in ways that inspire and encourage.

I have many mixed feelings about leaving Middletown which provided such a welcoming and soft place for me to land after being out of work for a couple of years while i recovered from my accident (detailed in other posts).  Moving into the city feels like such a new chapter in my life and one I’m very excited to begin.

I look forward to continuing this blog in the same manner I’ve been doing since the beginning and bringing new stories and thoughts on customer service.  On that note, I’ll share one quick story.  I stopped in a coffee shop about 3 or 4 blocks from my new apartment.  The barista asked me if I was having a lazy Sunday and I told her, “yes, though I am going to sign a lease right now.”  She asked if it was in the neighborhood and I said, “Yes, just a few blocks from here.”  She got a huge smile, welcomed me to the neighborhood and a young man stepped out from the back room to also welcome me to the neighborhood and assure me that I would “love it” here.  It was such a sweet moment and one I will not forget.  Clearly, these folks will be my coffee shop of choice and it doesn’t hurt that they make an extraordinary Americano.

Have You Read?

I’m about to go on vacation and I thought, “geez, I haven’t posted to CCS in awhile.  I better write a post before I go.”

Well, I’m not going to write a full post! I’m going to share something!   I frequently get asked what I read on a regular basis to be inspired or to learn more about the topics I talk about on Civil Civil Servant.

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Chief Happiness Officer.

This is the blog of a company that is all about having a happy workforce.

Some of my favorite posts:

How to Handle Chronic Complainers

Get Lucky At Work:  Be Positive

Top 5 Reasons to Celebrate Mistakes at Work

How to Deal with Anger at Work

I think it’s important to read about these issues on a weekly basis.  Otherwise, weeks, sometimes months can go by and slowly your attitude can erode.  By keeping these ideas fresh in your mind and experimenting at work and home, you can find the strategies that work for you to reduce anger, stress and  miscommunication and increase satisfaction and happiness.

It requires practice.  I tend to read about 3-5 articles a week about customer service, workplace relationships, or conduct of life type articles.  They help me keep on track and thinking about the issues that are important to me.

Are you interested in establishing a regular reading habit?  Start with Chief Happiness Officer, check out the blogs he reads and go from there.  I try to keep it diverse:  I read a couple of blogs on work issues, a couple on customer service and a couple of Buddhist blogs and a general kind of spirituality blog.  I frequently find new reading sources through my main stable of blogs.  They are great at finding articles and pointing me toward them.

By using a feed reader like Google’s Reader (the one I use), you can subscribe to your favorite blogs and they come to you instead of you trying to remember to go to them.

Well, I’m off on vacation: a road trip to Memphis!

Sleep Your Way to Good Performance

Are you wondering how you can improve your performance at work or at some other practice or task in you life?

Harvard Business Review has an article, Sleep is More Important than Food (which I found via Lifehacker), that is an excellent summary of research and scientific opinion on the impact sleep has on performance.

Whether it’s professional violinists or CEOs, study after study find that sleep deprivation, even the shaving of an hour here and an hour there, results in reduced reaction time, harder time concentrating, poor memory and processing speed.

I go through periods where I am very diligent about sleep and other periods where I shave an hour here and there which I really don’t have the luxury of doing without impacting my ability to function with ease.

I know I need more sleep when I feel myself having less patience with customers.  There is a direct correlation between my sleep habits and my usually unending patience developing limits.  I am currently in a phase where I’m trying to get 9 hours of sleep every night except Thursdays which are impossible because I work the late shift at the library and then turn around and work the day shift on Fridays.  I feel better:  more patient, more energetic, more cheerful, happier.

In the HBR article, the author asks why we think it’s okay to shave sleep, to essentially deprive our bodies of an essential need, when we wouldn’t deny it food and water.  I think this is an interesting question.  Why are we willing to sacrifice health and happiness?  For sure, there is a perceived notion that the time spent not sleeping is “getting things done;” but, I bet that is not true.  It is especially not true if it’s the third night of not getting enough sleep…because then you are spending your awake hours not performing your best anyway.  And it’s probably weighing in on your relationships too.

Depriving yourself of good sleep is affecting your ability to function in all parts of your life.  It affects your personal relationships.  It effects your business relationships.  It effects your ability to remember important things and work efficiently.  It effects your mood and your ability to appreciate your life.

If you do one thing differently today, go to bed early.  It will benefit you, your family and your workplace.  If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, seek out help from your doctor.

In fact, I challenge you to get at least 8.5 hours of sleep for the next 7 nights.  Keep track.  I’ve been writing down the number of hours I sleep on a calendar.  It keeps me motivated and honest.  Plus, I can look back and feel that I’m accomplishing something and doing the things I need to do to remain healthy.  Last night I went to bed at 9:15 and got up at 8am.  I was in Brooklyn Saturday night and the noise disrupted my sleep and I suspect my body was catching up.

Do it.  For the next 7 days, sleep 8.5 hours a night, document it.  See how you feel on the 8th day.  I predict you’ll feel rejuvenated.

Unplugged: Thoughts

I enjoyed this experiment.  It was suggested that we unplug from sundown on Friday to Sundown on Saturday.  I refrained from texting, checking email and internet surfing.  I did check my email Saturday night; but, continued the “non surfing” into Sunday afternoon.

I discovered a few things.

  1. On Saturday night when I checked my email there were about 40 emails waiting for me.  2 were of a personal nature, 1 was an online bill notification and the rest were newsletters, store coupons and other marketing notices.  It took me about 5 minutes to delete everything I was not interested in, read my personal mail and star the bill to be dealt with later.  On Sunday night, I spent about 10 minutes responding to the two emails and setting a date for the bill to be paid automatically.  This 10 minutes also included deleting new marketing emails.
  2. Not texting forced my girlfriend to call me!
  3. The most interesting discovery came from the lack of internet surfing.  Anya’s 40th birthday is next weekend and I’ve been told not to purchase a gift because we are going on a trip in April.  I decided to make her a painting and put it off until this past weekend because I knew I’d have the whole weekend to work on it since she had to go out of town.  When I realized how much I actually got done and how I managed to persevere through the spots when I ordinarily would take a break and surf the net or watch tv, I pushed back the no surfing to late Sunday afternoon.  It told me volumes about my creative process and how I actually could power through the slow or blocked spots where I felt like I didn’t know what to do next.  (color, composition, content, etc)

What is the overall things learned?  Email is not my problem.  I have done a good job of keeping what comes in to my inbox at least somewhat relevant to me.  I maintain, not an inbox zero, but about an inbox 10, meaning there are rarely more than 10 items lingering in my inbox.  So, email is not a problem.  Texting is not my problem.  I only have about 4 people who I text with, Anya being the most prolific but even then it’s not much and if my noise alert is enabled, I don’t keep checking my phone.

Internet surfing is the area where I’d like to steal back some of my time.  I’m going to try and go surfing free from Friday eves to Sunday eves and see how that impacts the quality of my life.  I did notice that I was pretty damn happy last night as I snapped a picture of the finished painting!

We can’t unplug at work; but, unplugging more at home could improve the quality of our lives and in turn boost our productivity and happiness at work.  I’m usually a lot happier heading to work on Mondays if I feel like I didn’t waste my weekend watching TV or on the internet or playing video games.   On my last post, I mentioned that I didn’t have any friends in Asbury Park.  Sunday, early evening I called my neighbor to chat about a summer garden project we are contemplating and she invited me down to her place to see her kitchen renovation.  Ordinarily, I would have said no, thinking that I’d rather relax on my last evening before starting up work; but, I said, yes and had a pleasant couple of hours chatting with my neighbor.  I enjoyed her company and was glad I had agreed to go.

One more thought:  I had the need to look up a phone number; but, I really didn’t want to turn my laptop on for fear I’d get sucked in; so, I actually used the good old yellow pages.  We are shifting more ordinary things, like looking up a phone number, checking the weather, listening to music to our computers.  I even use my computer for phone calling.  What are the ramifications of this?  A few weeks ago, Anya and I were waiting for a subway and she whipped out her cell phone and started playing Tetris.  I was slightly annoyed; but, mostly fascinated by this.  She is not a techie.  She doesn’t own a TV.  I don’t think she has ever owned a gaming system.  She has an iphone; but, mostly uses it as a phone with the occasional weather lookup, directions, looking for a business using GPS.  She texts.  She doesn’t Tweet or check in at locations.  I don’t even think she checks Facebook on it.  Yet, here she was playing a game on it while she was waiting.  My parents own smartphones now, Droid X.  Are they going to play games while they wait at the Doctor’s office?  Is there even a significance to this cultural shift?  My mother asked me if I was going to get a Kindle and the reaction in my head was immediate and forceful.  I thought:  NO MORE GADGETS.  All these gadgets require energy and work.  You can’t just pick up the book and read it.  It has to be downloaded and transferred to your device.  You have to make sure your device is charged.  There is a management involved.  Management that usually involves you connecting to a computer.

I had a friend who received an ipod as a gift and asked me to help her get her music on it.  I’m not a fan of iTunes; but, I spent time wrangling with her iTunes and burning CDs and showing her how it worked.  She set up to playlists: one for the gym and one for bus riding.  She has never changed or added anything and this was about 5 years ago.  When I asked her about it, she said:  I can’t be bothered.  Her iPod battery finally died and she never replaced it, though she admits that she sometimes misses having it at the gym.

Are we going to reach a saturation point?  A point where we won’t be able to stand being engaged with an electronic thing for one more task?

I consider myself a techie person; but, I know that I’m happier the less time, outside of work,  I spend engaged with technology.