Resetting the Schedule

This past Monday, a mandatory shelter order was put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

So for the prior 7 days, there’s been no school, no extracurricular activities for the kids, no driving to work. That will continue for a couple more weeks at least.

We still have certain scheduled obligations –work-related meetings mostly for my wife and I– but most of the existing family time constraints were erased. Weekends are now wide open with nothing specific planned.

It’s been wonderful not having to be somewhere at a certain time, day after day.

I’m enjoying the option of doing what appeals to me in the moment, including doing nothing at all.

There’s now space between events. Which means I’ve felt less rushed, stressed, and overwhelmed.

When the coronavirus pandemic is finally over, we may well go back to a packed calendar. For many of those activities, such as school drop-offs and pick-ups, we have no choice. But in the short week of having our schedule reset, I’ve already developed an appreciation for less hecticness in our lives. For now, I’ll relish the slower cadence.

Two Kinds of Hope

There’s the hope of wishful thinking, a prayer to a higher power that circumstances will somehow turn in your favor.

There’s also the hope that comes from encouraging developments, such as people acting more generous during a time of need.

Hope is being able to envision the future we want. It’s easier to believe when you’re actively part of the movement.

The TOS Issue

Practically no one reads the binding agreement presented during the sign-up of online services. Known as the TOS, they’re too long and too complicated, filled with legal speak. There are studies that show most people accept the terms without knowing what they are.

What I don’t understand is why companies don’t make it easier for users to consume this information.

Sure, the service owner has the legal leverage if someone signs up without fully understanding the TOS. But in practice, wouldn’t everyone be better off if users simply understood what the agreement actually entailed?

I’ve seen a few companies summarize the TOS into a digestible format, and that’s smart. One form is a short, bulleted list, briefly describing each major part of the contract, with links back to the corresponding section of the TOS. For example, a summary bullet could say “don’t steal content from the membership site,” while the specific scenarios could be detailed in the TOS.

Unless companies are intending to bury “gotchas” in a TOS, then they should be motivated to earn trust with their users and avoid expensive legal battles. And as consumers, we should be motivated to applaud and acknowledge companies willing to be more transparent of what we’re agreeing to.

The Rise of Political Hobbyists

I learned about this term a couple weeks ago.

Political hobbyists keep up with the news, and are willing to form opinions, debate, and (perhaps) complain about what’s going on. And vote, of course.

But that’s the extent of their political involvement.

Their interest is not about activism. It’s about cheering for a side, and experiencing the highs and lows of winning or losing. Much like sports fans, they are spectators and not participants.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being a political hobbyist. I would consider myself one, in fact. I’m just wondering if we’re like this because we don’t believe we can move the needle much.

It just seems like for anyone that cares about a political outcome, you can’t complain if you’re not willing to act.

Pursuit of Happiness

I think of happiness as consistent contentment. Day after day, feeling generally good.

A healthy perspective helps with happiness. Smiling does too.

I’m not fond of the idea of chasing happiness. As if it’s achievable once the right circumstances align.

Happiness is always in reach. One of those things I try not to forget.

Holding It Against Someone

We all say and do things we regret. For much of human history, these missteps were forgotten with the passage of time.

That’s becoming less true every day.

Smart phones now allow us to capture behavior on video with ease and ubiquity. The internet preserves digital files while enabling broader access. The result? Bad moments can be plucked from just about anyone’s past.

My takeaways:

1) Understand there’s the potential to be scrutinized for anything you’ve done that’s recorded digitally. You will be held accountable for your actions.

2) At the same time, character assassination is a popular sport these days because it’s easier than ever to dig for dirt. I just don’t think it’s healthy to seek glee in other people’s transgressions.

A Tech Solution for a Tech Problem

I still continue to struggle with excessive browsing on the web, whether it’s on my laptop or phone.

Part of the reason, I think, is that while I don’t like the idea of wasting time, I don’t really know how much is lost. If I knew I spent 20 hours random web browsing this past week, I’d be pretty motivated to change. Basically, I’d be interested in what urls I visited and for how long.

I’m assuming tracking software like this exists already. Ideally, the tool will gather the data from all my devices, and aggregate the information into a single number: unproductive time web browsing. And if I wanted to gather metrics for different time periods, or a breakdown of the specific sites, I could do that.

Even if such a product were available already, seems like it’d be a pretty cool programming project. Would be even cooler if I could do it myself.

R.I.P. Kobe

I think the year was 2001 when my future wife and I was at Les Misérables in New York. Before the performance started, she had noticed someone around 10 rows behind us.

“Hey, isn’t that Kobe Bryant?”

It was. Kobe at age 23, had already established himself as a basketball superstar and was one of the most recognizable athletes in the NBA.

“Why don’t you talk to him?” Was she daring me?

I walked up briskly, a little surprised that no one else decided to approach him. I decided to keep my interaction brief, asking for his autograph and commenting how I liked his game. He gave a brief smile, signed my ticket, and said “Thanks.”

When the news broke that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, I felt sad like so many others. He wasn’t perfect. But he certainly seemed to live his life to the fullest, in the way that he wanted. I hope that was true.

Justified vs. Effective Behavior

Once I understood that these are often two different paths, I began to notice the divergent consequences of each.

“Justified” action is an euphemism for egocentric behavior. “Effective” action delivers the desired outcome without anointing winners and losers.

Criticizing, retaliating, and raging may seem like deserved reactions, but they ultimately create conflicts that detract from the problem at hand.

Forgiving, compromising, and empathizing strengthens relationships instead of weakening them. Harder to do, because it involves acting rational while feeling emotional. But most of the time, I think, everyone ends up happier in the end.