Insomnia Jam

Thank you Barenaked Ladies for creating a tune that speaks to my current condition.


An apology to myself

I’m taking a moment, while suffering from my second bout of insomnia in four nights, to apologize to myself. I’m doing so because I haven’t written on this blog in some time. Writing, exploring ideas, diving into policy, music, film, history, politics, is what I enjoy most in my down time. Getting away from that left me with a gap in my existence that I didn’t recognize.

So following up on some of the other realizations I’ve made in the last ten days, I’m resolving to spend more time doing what I love, rather than worrying about the things I can’t control.

I’m sorry me, I hope you can forgive.

Engines that break down, flies, and coackroaches. Oh the fun we will have.

Boarding a cruise ship with thousands of other people has never sounded like a vacation to me. If I wanted to be stuck in a building with a bunch of people I didn’t know, with no control of where I was headed, I would go back to work for a member of Congress.

That is why I found this USA Today article this morning so interesting:

Citing live flies, dried food waste and even a “roach nymph,” inspectors for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fascination a failing health grade.

In a report made public this week, inspectors from the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program scored the Fascination at 84. Ships docking at U.S. ports receive surprise inspections twice a year and are graded on a 100-point scale. Anything below 86 is considered failing.

Despite my hatred and recent cruise ship disasters, it appears travelers will get on board nonetheless. According to InvestorPlace, cruise ship stocks rebound after each disaster as vacation seekers buy up discounted tickets:

Consider this: After slipping in the wake of the Costa Concordia shipwreck — a disaster where lives were lost, no less — CCL stock went on to move steadily upward until February of this year. In that time period, Carnival gained nearly 22%, handily beating the S&P 500. RCL performed even better, posting an eye-popping 37% in returns.

Already, Carnival’s rebound looks to be underway for this cycle. While it is indeed offering deals, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank had said on a March 15 conference call that “fares were running slightly ahead of last year,” according to Bloomberg. Once again, only the Carnival-branded ships have dropped off … and the article reported such volume has already recovered.

To all those folks buying up those tickets, best of luck to you.

*Update: I can’t believe I’m spending so much time on this but things just pop up during the course of the day

As if on cue, there was this story on Yahoo about cruise line ticket prices, working off stories in Bloomberg and Good Morning America (great PR job):

And if there’s a silver lining in all of the bad cruise news, Christian said, it’s that “what’s bad news for the cruise industry is good news for the consumer.”

Travelocity just kicked off the Colossal Cruise Sale. There’s a last-minute, three-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on sale on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas from Colon, Panama, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for $23 per person per night.

Share ideas, not your life

Had to repost James Shakespeare in his entirety:

Recently the Barbican museum in London held an exhibition called the Rain Room. It was an installation in which water poured from the ceiling, but sensors detected where people were standing and would turn off the taps above their heads so they didn’t get wet. It was a clever and engaging piece of interactive art and was immensely popular. During the time this installation was open, my Twitter stream was filled with photos of people standing in the Rain Room, accompanied by the caption ‘Rain Room @ The Barbican!’ and a location attachment to prove that they were indeed in the Rain Room.

This stream of homogenous photos got me thinking. What were people actually saying by Tweeting about their visit? They certainly weren’t sharing some hidden gem with their followers, nor were they bringing a unique interpretation of the artwork to the table. Ultimately, all they were doing was fulfilling the obligation that we have to Share. Not sharing in the sense of treasuring a moment with people close to us, but Sharing in the sense of ‘notify the world that I am doing a thing’.

I’ve just spent a month in Singapore. Throughout the first couple of weeks I felt a constant nagging that everyone back home had to know what was going on. I felt like I should be photographing everything I did as proof; that all the exotic food I was eating and the sights I was seeing wouldn’t really matter if they weren’t digitally logged in a data centre somewhere in Utah. I found myself taking pictures purely to convey what an amazing time I was having, so that my friends would see it on their smartphones whilst riding the bus back in London and be impressed.

It’s natural to want to share experiences with the people you care about. After all, the classic postcard greeting is ‘Wish you were here’. But I think our reasons for sharing experiences on social media are more cynical than that. It’s not sharing, it’s bragging. When we log in to Facebook or Twitter we see an infinitely updating stream of people enjoying themselves. It’s not real life, of course, because people overwhelmingly post about the good things whereas all the crappy, dull or deep stuff doesn’t get mentioned. But despite this obvious superficiality, it subconsciously makes us feel like everyone is having a better time than us. We try to compete by curating our own life experiences to make it look like we’re also having non-stop fun and doing important things. It breeds in us a Pavlovian response that means every time something good is happening to us we must broadcast it to as many people as possible.

There are plenty of ‘Facebook is bad for you because X’ posts, but I’m talking about a mindset that goes beyond any single web service. This is the curse of our age. We walk around with the tools to capture extensive data about our surroundings and transmit them in real-time to the bedrooms and pockets of friends, family and every acquaintance we’ve made in the past eight years. We end up with a diminished perception of reality because we’re more concerned about choosing a good Instagram filter for our meal than we are about how it tastes. We become Martian rovers, trundling around our environment, uploading data without the ability or desire to make any sense of it. Ultimately, we end up externalising our entire lives.

I don’t think that it’s inherently wrong to want to keep the world updated about what you’re doing. But when you go through life robotically posting about everything you do, you’re not a human being. You’re just a prism that takes bits of light and sound and channels them into The Cloud, to be stored with all the other bits of light and sound from everyone else. You become nothing more than the thumb operating your smartphone.

The key thing to remember is that you are not enriching your experiences by sharing them online; you’re detracting from them because all your efforts are focussed on making them look attractive to other people. Your experience of something, even if similar to the experience of many others, is unique and cannot be reproduced within the constraints of social media. So internalise that experience instead. Think about it. Go home and think about it some more. Write about it in more than 140 characters; on paper even. Paint a picture of it. Talk about it face to face with your friends. Talk about how it made you feel.

Once you stop seeing things through the eyes of the people following you on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram you become able to make experiences your own. You can relieve yourself of the burden of having to make everyone aware of what you’re doing at all times. You can make your experiences significant because you were there and you saw the sights and smelled the smells and heard the sounds, not because you snapped a photo of it through a half-inch camera lens built into your phone.

Being honest I’m guilty of this. That stops now. It is important to share ideas, discuss and debate policy, but when it comes to life, experience it. Thank you James for the reminder.

Life hack, what scrubbing your shower and dentures have in common

Growing up there was always a toothbrush in our cleaning bucket. My mom didn’t explain its purpose, but once I started having to scrub the tub, shower and bathroom, I learned how useful it was.

For those who haven’t been properly educated, an old toothbrush makes a great tool for cleaning in between shower tiles or the small spots a larger brush just can’t reach.

Unfortunately toothbrushes, with their tiny, soft bristles and flexible heads, have limitations.

Our shower for example, the battlefield of a never ending war with mildew. Our building was constructed in the 1940’s (JFK lived here for a few months before entering the Navy) and doesn’t have proper ventilation, unless you count the small window which can’t be opened in the winter without making your morning shower pretty uncomfortable.

So the vertical spaces and where the tile meets the tub are really hard to clean and a toothbrush just wasn’t cutting it. But my friends I have stumbled upon the answer; a dentures brush!

With its sturdier bristles and inflexible head, the brush is perfect, as you can see below. It even has a smaller set of bristles at the head to help you clean around knobs and such. I came across them while cruising the aisles at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and instantly knew how I could use it.

You’re welcome.


Serenity of the mundane

What chore is a pain but once started gives you a real sense of serenity?

For me, its folding laundry and doing dishes. Both activities are devoid of intellect, require repetitive movements, and need almost no skill. But for me, both provide a relaxation I can’t find in other activities.

I just finished folding a load of clothes. Christina was upstairs and I had the entire laundry room to myself. The hum of the dyers was the solitary interruption of the silence and all I could think about were the two piles of shirts, socks and underwear in front of me. I found myself taking my time, reveling in the fact that my brain was on vacation. There was comfort in the repeated motions. Snapping the shirt, tucking back the sleeves, and folding the shirt in half.

Doing dishes offers a similar reprieve. Staring at a kitchen full of dishes is daunting (we don’t have a dishwashing machine) and just getting started takes an effort. But once engaged, there is something about creating order out of the chaos. Slowly, but surely, plate by plate and glass by glass, making the space cleaner, knowing that when finished, the kitchen will feel new and organized. I often mix things up by using my iPod nano and rocking out, however this significantly disrupts the quiet of my mind. More often than not I leave the music behind.