New time zone

I’m moving again. This time to London. As has become a tradition, I made a new blog for the occasion. This time, its all about GMT: http://inthegmt.wordpress.com/.

London may also inspire me to post here as well.

 

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I moved

I moved to Malawi March 1.  It’s harder to be cynical here.  It might be harder to imagine Utopia, too. For now, I’m just writing about what I see: Ndizedi

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Range reboot

Gretchen's regrets from her big night out began to go well beyond an ill-advised hook up.

Through laziness and trepidation, I have avoided getting my stove fixed for the past two and a half years.  Yes, you read that right.  I have not had a properly functioning stove for most of the time I’ve lived in my current home.

I have a homeowner’s natural aversion to calling repair-people, so I put it off for a long time and only called after determining that I would have to pay about a thousand dollars to replace the stove. Surely repairs couldn’t cost that much.

I should add that the stove’s malfunction is mostly annoying and only partially debilitating. It is primarily the oven that doesn’t work.   The stove top works, but beeps incessantly as long as the power is on.  All my stove top cooking has been done in agitated batches that felt like some kind of NASA astronaut training test. I also make ample use of my toaster oven and microwave.

So I made the call.  I was not surprised to find out that the problem was electronic in nature. My initial research led me to believe that one of the sensors was not working. However, the repairman was familiar with the problem and said that it was the “computer board.”

Really and truly, I have no problem with technology whatsoever.  But of all the places I don’t need a computer, a stove is among the top three. Stoves without computers do pretty much the same thing as the ones that have them: they heat to a preset temperature and maintain that temperature. As a result of the dubious advantage of having an on-board computer, I now have to pay about $260 for the privilege of being able to bake a lasagna.

If I’m forced to have a computer in my stove, I would like to request that an Amana app store be developed. I would like some games like, “Casseroles with Friends” and “Angry Baking Hens”. I would like for my food to check in with a location-based app, “For Dinner”. And I would like an app that orders pizza when I don’t feel like cooking.

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Suffering from consumption

While the co-pilot was busy flirting with the flight attendants, countless passengers were using their electronic devices during taxi, takeoff and landing.

I’m fighting my way through a bout of “gadget envy”.  I really want to get a new phone, but there is no actual reason for me to get one.  My current phone works fine and I have no professional reason to need a phone with more functions.

I even made a vow to myself two years ago that I wouldn’t get a new phone until the current one broke. This promise came on the heels of watching a beautiful and touching video explaining how young people in developing countries suffer in hazardous mining jobs to fuel our need for ever newer electronics.

Still, I find myself looking at the amazing phones that my service provider will give me for free since I’m “due” for an upgrade.  And then there’s my 15 year old niece who may actually be controlling NORAD satellites from her phone. I’ve even noticed a certain carelessness in the way I handle my current handset, as if I’m hoping for a mishap that will justify a new phone.

I feel like I’m losing the battle; I feel like a compromise to my vow is looming. I need help! There are plenty of places to find out what I should buy, but no one to tell me that I shouldn’t buy anything.

Years ago I heard someone use the phrase, “learning to manage our desires.” This is precisely what I need right now.  But I don’t have time to learn anything.  I need a hotline that I can call.  I need 24/7 access to someone who can talk me down from the consumerism ledge. But wouldn’t it be cool to have a 4G phone so you could have live video chat with the hotline?

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Time for your CAT scan

Colin's insistence prolonging the show with an encore of 'Bootilicious' was an ongoing source of tension among the Puppet Players.

There is an under-recognized, untreated blight upon the land that is eating away at the very core of our existence. Sorry to sound like an evening news report for bird flu or humanism, but I need your full attention  Are you suitably alarmed?

I am talking about Chronic Adult Tardiness.  If you are among those who are always on time, you know what I’m talking about.  If you suffer from CAT you are no doubt balking at the thought that you have a disorder and developing a list of extenuating circumstances that follow you around like Pigpen’s dust cloud.

I am  here to diagnose, not to condemn. I hope that one day there will be a cure this debilitating disorder, and I think I’ve moved that cure ahead by formulating an accurate diagnosis. I’m not a real doctor (or even a fake one), so I have a bit more experience with science fiction than with medical school, but I’m pretty confident.

CAT victims suffer from the twin disease processes of astral projection and suspended animation.

It is common for CAT victims to let the person they are scheduled to meet know, “I’m on my way!”  In this case, “on my way” means that they are starting to consider the steps required to be on their way. It means that they feel the need to begin the journey. In fact they feel the need so strongly that they experience an astral projection of themselves actually pulling up to the door of the meeting place. Really, they haven’t left yet.

Secondly, CAT sufferers are prone to time lapses.  They are never quite accurate in their estimate of how long any given task will take.  Somewhere between the time the task starts and when it ends, they enter a state of suspended animation. In this state, they have no experience of time passing. Many of them have engaged various tools to help them manage critical tasks. For example they may use a kitchen timer to know how long to bake a cake.  Without these tools, phrases like, “I’ll be there at 8:30,” have no meaning. Especially when it’s already 8:35.

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Kitchen Experiement

Lionel hoped to one day move up from spit-turner to spit-turner regional supervisor.

I’m trying something new in our office kitchen. If it works, it could revolutionize the way that shared office space is managed.

Like many work-place kitchens, we have several signs proclaiming things like, “Your mother doesn’t work here; clean your own mess.” These signs are meant to instill personal responsibility for cleaning up after oneself.  They get moved around and reprinted from time to time in an effort to keep the message fresh and relevant.  In my office, they seem to work. Eventually.  Dirty dishes tend to sit in the sink for 24 hours or so before being washed.  Then, the clean dishes will sit in the dish drainer indefinitely, which actually discourages further dish washing, creating a dish gridlock (dishlock?).

I started to look at this situation from a “broken windows” perspective. In short, broken windows theory posits that our physical environment sends signals and sets norms as to the acceptable behavior in a community. In my office, the general messiness of the kitchen sends a signal that there are no rules for whether or when you clean up after yourself. Our little signs and reminders are not enough to overcome the fact that the place was a mess.

So I embarked on an intervention that is part fixing the broken windows and part eastern philosophy. My goal was to make it karmically appealing to keep the kitchen clean at all times.  I made a new sign that says, “It’s okay to wash and put away someone else’s dishes.”

To set an example, whenever I am waiting for the microwave or the kettle or the toaster, I wash or put away dishes.  In the past week, I’ve definitely noticed that the kitchen is cleaner than before. Of course, that might have something to do with how often I’ve been using to kettle to make tea lately.

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Getting to know you

Julietta was able to free-up some time in her shedule by letting her handmaids handle reorganizing her Netflix queue.

I’ve recently had a flurry of job interviews. Despite the jobs themselves being somewhat different, the interview questions were rather similar.  And of course, the main goal is to find out what kind of person I am in the 45-60 minutes allotted for the discussion.

There is part of me that thinks that these interviews really missed the mark.  Having established that a candidate looks good on paper, the interview should be a chance to gauge the intangibles that make someone a good employee and coworker. Plus they are taking my word for it.

It seems similar to my friend’s current quest to enhance her love life. She has thrown caution to the wind and enrolled in a couple of different online matchmaking services, even the one that promises to match you on 29 dimensions of compatibility.  So far, her experiences seem pretty much the opposite of the ubiquitous television ads for the service.  Here again, we are relying on self-reports, and thus high levels of both honesty and self-awareness.

There is “someone” out there that knows me better than I know myself, though.  It’s not a real person; it’s the Netflix, “You might also like” machine. I don’t think that there is any other sentient being  that has had such direct access to all my moods– when I want to laugh, cry, or learn something new. Typical job interviews or dating profiles don’t tap into the subtleties that Netflix is able to detect.

Don’t believe me? Here are two recent categories of movies recommended just for me: Mind-bending Foreign Mother-Daughter Movies;  Understated Mid-life Crisis Dramas. I didn’t know that these were actual movie genres, much less that I would be interested in them.

From now on, I will be attaching a screen shot of my Netflix recommendations with every resume I submit and every personality profile I complete.

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