We track our sleep now

In this podcast interview with Moira Weigel surveying the landscape of dating apps, and looking back at the history of “dating” – how women joining the workforce changed the nature of courtship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one idea in particular stood out to me. 

Measurement. 

We are trying to make everything into a kind of work. We measure exercise and movement, calorie intake, all in an attempt to make our lives better. 

The notion of the “side hustle”, where your hobby is converted into another way to make money; what is left that is just for enjoyment?

But it was this quote (which I listened to at 2.5x speed after checking my Fitbit) – “…we track our sleep now to optimize it.”

Maybe because I was aware of more specifics than “I’d had a restless night”, and that “I slept 3:47 last night” instead. 

Sleep becomes fuel for health and wellness, not something that is a part of life to be enjoyed. 

I’m fairly confident that the things I’m doing are worthwhile, and so optimising them is a good idea. 

But I don’t want to lose the joy of the activities in the quest to make the most of time. 

turning 40

Ten years ago, I carved out a Saturday and invited whoever wanted to turn up to an all-day cafe crawl. For the transition from 39 to 40, life is a little differently structured. We had a couple of family events the weekend before my birthday, lunch with my coworkers on the day, an ice cream cake with Kel and the kids on the birthday evening, then a shorter (5 cafes – Haven, Devon, Artificer, Edition and Gumption, 8 coffees – filter, espresso, espresso, filter, espresso and filter, piccolo, iced pour-over) cafe crawl on the Saturday following my birthday.

espresso

Then we had a larger party at inflatable world for my friends with bouncing-castle-aged friends, in order of how long since I’d seen them. When I was first thinking about it, it seemed like a very odd thing to do for a 40th birthday party – aren’t we supposed to be grown-ups by now? Does everyone in my life feel comfortable coming to a place whose core business is school-aged birthday parties?

But talking to a friend, and thinking about what it would look like to celebrate with friends with younger kids, it sounded like a good idea. We filled the remaining spaces with a few people I see more regularly, but for the most part it was about seeing people with whom I have a long shared history. Looking back at a keepsake I had from my 21st, it was amazing to see how many people from my 21st are still in my life in some way.

inflatable world

Then last night we had a small dinner gathering in a cafe for a bunch of friends I’ve known for a very long time. Despite all that celebrating, there was still not enough space to invite everyone I wanted to catch up with, but for the most part people have been understanding of the constraints.

In this current season of life, where family is more time consuming and I am, again, adjusting to a relatively new job, even though I’m not currently studying, the luxury of spending hours talking to people with no specific agenda is not lost on me.

Looking at the various notes and cards from people, it’s great to have so many well-wishes. I’ve been challenged to spend more time engaging with people beyond the superficial, to try and make a lasting difference in their lives – it seems like this was happening more when I was in my early 20’s than more recently.

It’s only taken a little while to come to terms with forty as an age. I thought I’d made my peace with it not being “old” (whatever that means), but then a typo saw me have to contemplate turning 49, and suddenly I realise there’s more work to be done on that front.

Thanks to all my friends, whether you even knew any of this was happening or not: I appreciate your friendship and encouragement, and look forward to many more years together, if God grants me such years.

why you should buy this photocopier

Recently I watched this TED talk about charity, and how to measure effectiveness of what’s being done in the not-for-profit space.

There are some great ideas contained there. There’s a commonly held notion that the percentage of donation income that covers overhead the single number that you need to read, to know which charity is good or bad. The lower the number, the better the charity. 

But there’s more to a charity than just the overhead number. Only when the size of the charity reaches a certain point can a full-scale national advertising campaign become viable. If you just put fliers up at the local laundromat, you can raise a small amount of money, but if you want to grow beyond a small size, there’s a lot of extra money that needs to be invested in overhead.

Donors always want to put their money towards the most tangible efforts of a charity. No-one wants to spend the money on the salary of the person who looks after the head office, or the equipment they need to keep the charity ticking over.

photcopier

I found it a convincing argument. Enough to chip in to buy this photocopier. Convinced? You should chip in too.

Underestimating the power of a fresh start

Today was a fairly poorly-considered start to the year. Instead of having a ready-to-use check list of all the things I want to do differently, I treated it as any other day.

Failed attempt to sleep in – kids had other ideas. Attempts a Christmas present jigsaw puzzle that proved too hard for the kids. Lots of time to myself, mostly spent working on sermon prep: a necessary thing to complete but not something that will have a long life after I preach (it’s not destined to be a book, for example). Grazing in the fridge instead of eating more deliberately.
As a result of the sermon prep, I didn’t do much exercise today, so I’m not starting the new year with any fitness momentum as such.

But I cooked dinner for the kids. And the jigsaw puzzle was a map of the world, so I improved my underdeveloped knowledge of geography. I did some bible reading (some for the sermon, some to keep my Greek up to scratch).

Onward and upward.

All you can eat content

When trying out an all-you can eat content site, it’s tempting to try and make the most of it. But what does it mean to get the most out of a subscription like that? How much value do you put on the discretionary use of your time? What price will your relationships pay when you recede from them for that first trial month, or three trial months?

My experience with Netflix has been mixed in that way. I’ve absorbed a lot of content, but paid less attention to it overall, ever multi-tasking with the laptop: the second and even third screen. People who have had Netflix for a few months ask if I’ve watched everything on there yet, as if its depths can be so easily plumbed. 

But a media subscription is not like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Your media intake needs to be carefully considered, as anyone who has suffered some kind of TV or video-game related dream will attest. 

back on the horse

Having reached an inflection point in my current workload, it’s time to try and recreate the habit of regular writing. I’m continuing to read, though it’s mostly a mix of

  • online news sources related to tech and social media
  • online news sources related to Christian thinking
  • social media updates
  • half-completed books on the Kindle 
  • my friend Matt’s tour of the Mahler symphonies
  • Greek NT and LXX (that’s the Septuagint, or the Old Testament in Greek)
  • email. endless email

I’d like to spend more time reading perhaps even finishing some books, but I need to have a project in mind to justify it at the moment. The first half of the year has been fairly flat out with work, and though I’ve managed my fair share of TV watching via Netflix, I seem to have lost the knack of documenting everything here on the blog.

The bigger question for the blog is: what’s the next thing to write about? I’ve been doing some thinking on where I can create some things that aren’t – like reviews of TV shows and movies – already appearing in more professional voice elsewhere. 

Chatting to someone at work this week about the past and future of music distribution, I found myself with a fairly nuanced opinion, one I felt was worth tweaking until it was something that another person might want to read. 


So that’s the next writing project: some deep-dives into the things I’m reading and consuming in other channels.


Picture: Horse by John LeMasney (CC 3.0 Unported)

transitions

I read the Bible this morning, as I do pretty-much every morning. I’ve been crawling my way through Acts a few verses at a time. This morning I finished chapter 25. Paul is slowly, slowly, making his way towards Rome. When Acts is read quickly, it’s dominated by the big narrative arc: a bunch of people taking Jesus’ message to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. When you read it slowly, Paul’s frustration emerges. After heading back to Jerusalem, and being the centre of a riot, he’s been in custody for two years, waiting for charges to be brought against him. Two years. For the last few days (of my reading), we’ve been building up to something. Someone who can make a decision about the charges has been on the scene, and Paul is about to have his chance to speak. 

Paul’s transition from Jerusalem to Rome is agonisingly slow.

I went for a walk this morning, as I do most mornings. The path was familiar: I didn’t even walk down any unfamiliar streets. But things are a little different today. I’m trying to work out a new morning routine. When I opened the front door on my way back inside, something was different: there was no four-legged creature waiting for me to come home. I miss being annoyed about the way he would jump. It’s too late now to teach him not to.

Some transitions are sad and unexpected.

Today is the first day of a new job. If life was a movie, then it would just be a jump cut: life has completely changed. But life doesn’t have jump cuts. Much of life is exactly the same, though a big piece will be new. I know broadly what this new job will look like. This transition involves figuring out the specifics.

I remember starting my first job out of uni, where I had no idea what it was like to have a job. The commute, the arrival, where to have lunch. I was so used to working alone in a home office up to that point, that it didn’t occur to me to try and have lunch with anyone! This is less of a problem these days.

To transition well in this case is to check the habits I’m bringing to this new job, and make sure I’m only bringing the best ones across. It’s easier to do this with a blank canvas, but without the experiences, there’s no way of telling what is worth keeping, and what is not.

Some transitions are routine.

Notes from parenting course

Kel and I went to a parenting course this weekend: there were lots of notes handed out, but there were also a few additional recommendations made: both books and articles.

If you want a better understanding of parenting, these resources might be helpful:

 

 

on the eve of big school

 

I don’t often blog here about parenting things, but this seemed an appropriate milestone. Tomorrow, my eldest goes to school. Over the weekend we visited my parents, and looked through the old family photos of my own first day at school. In these photos, my parents – now around retirement age – are my age, and I’m tiny. It’s hard to believe that when the call goes around for “an old shirt to use as a paint smock”, that the giant garment he uses will be one of my regular work shirts!

I have no clear memory of my first day at school – there is a vague sense of entering a particular classroom, and getting started on some activity or other, but apart from regular games of “dead soldiers” after lunch – where all the kids had to lie perfectly still until spotted as moving by the teacher, or deputised students who had been caught moving – and getting a question about the relative weights of a couple of objects wrong, kindergarten is a bit of a blur.

So I’m not sure how much my son is going to remember of the day itself. I’m hoping he has an overall memory of the continued effort at sustaining a relationship I’ve invested. I’m taking the day off tomorrow to make sure I’m around to drop him off, pick him up, and be around for the family during the day should anyone need me.

In the lead up to becoming a Dad, and for most of the time of being a parent, I’ve been studying theology, hoping to understand how best to impart some wisdom to my son. Sometimes it works – it’s nice to know Greek and fumble my way through some Hebrew, and to have a better understanding of the Christian worldview. Mostly, it’s a balancing act – avoiding simple moralising, not going deeper than he’s ready for in terms of assumed knowledge.

The main problem is saying anything about it at all. far easier to engage him on his own chosen topics of TV shows an video games. Of things he sees around him and wants to comment on. 

We caught up with friends, even today, and there were plenty of opportunities to talk about Christian things – how many times did I just drift back to amusing anecdotes about the kids, when I could have taken some more “risks” and asked some questions whose answers will last long after everything else has faded away? 

But I pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going.  It was good to pray with my eldest the night before he’s about to embark on his biggest adventure yet.

Big changes ahead for the whole family; as ever, it’s impossible to tell what the future will hold, but we presume that God will continue to be faithful to us. 

Bring on the next step.

clearing all the inboxes

First day back at work, trying to handle all the messages that have come my way since Christmas. I spent the day working my way through two email inboxes, a series of Feedly feeds, tweets, Facebook messages and wall posts, and a series of other sites to check.

Working in social media is becoming more and more noisy. One conference presentation I heard last year highlighted the way that everyone is jumping on the same bandwagon – the same calendar events are being flooded by brand pages. “Happy Christmas”, they say. “Happy New Year”, they say.

Where once facebook was an occasion to see photos of family members and updates from friends, it has become increasingly crowded with different kinds of noise. Advertising, targeted in increasingly creepy ways, shared news stories (now with additional, tailored recommendations), meme images (think cat pictures with captions), inspirational quotes on unrelated photo backgrounds, viral videos and other content from sites that are deliberately writing their headlines to maximise clicks.

It’s not possible for a massive, multinational, publicly listed company to retain a lounge room feeling. People accept that. The challenge with running a brand or company page, or one for an organisation, is to keep the content engaging with your audience, distinct from the rest of the content that they’re seeing, and adding value for them in some way.

People are spending time on facebook partly to feel connected with the people in their lives, partly to hear from brands or causes they’re interested in, partly out of a fear of missing out on the latest information, and partly out of a compulsion that facebook itself works hard to make irresistible.

For myself, I fight with a desire to keep all my inboxes clear. The constant facebook updates are the toughest inbox to keep clear – every connection adds more updates to try and process, and the signal to noise ratio gets lower and lower. Occasionally I see a post where I have the urge to correct something I know is incorrect – this is rarely a worthwhile exercise. Sometimes I’ll have a conversation with someone that would not have happened without facebook facilitating the connection: this is why I put up with the rest of the intrusions in my facebook “inbox”.

I suspect a time is coming where that value equation will tip, and it will be easier to go elsewhere than facebook for these kinds of interactions. I already use instagram for photo updates and photo sharing in a way I never used facebook.

In a simplified view, if all my online interactions can be thought of as a giant inbox, it’s my goal to work through everything in that inbox and get back to zero. If there’s a source of content that is too much noise and not enough value, then I have to unsubscribe.