You’re an ice princess, I said to her. She was like Spock, but with breasts.

spock

It was my fault that I had mistook her sexual interest in me. It was casual for her, but not for me. Her lack of emotion about it surprised me, then it hurt me, so I looked at her blond hair, pale skin, and tall elegant frame, and said, “You’re like an ice princess.”

It was infuriating to me. I’m great, she should like me, everyone should like me. I waited for some lament, some regret, but she was calm and unbothered. Her heart and mind were separate on this issue. Like Spock’s mind versus Captain Kirk’s heart driven passions…passions that drove Kirk to leave his ship in the command of others because he thought he was the only one who could lead the away team. What a narcissist, right?

Leonard Nimoy passing away today has led me to think about all the unemotional people that have been in my life. They were usually unexcitable, usually unflustered, and different, at least from me. But the other side will always teach you a lesson, if you’re listening, of what you’re missing. If you’re politically right, the left is a lesson to temper your stance, because, after all, half the population can’t be crazy. And if you’re a strict vegan, then the other side, the animal eaters, are a lesson in how life is change, and people follow habits, because even vegans at some point in their lives didn’t care about animals, and ate them, right?

Point being, whether you’re heart driven or mind driven, it’s important to use both levers in cultivating your values, because our heart is what drives us, but our mind keeps us on the road. With my heart, I thought I had a relationship and I was making plans in my head, because I was hoping, without thinking of what was happening: Some chance encounters with someone who was sexually unrestricted. If I had been thinking, I would’ve seen, mindfully, and more clearly, that she was no more an ice princess than I was an immature fool. We simply make choices, and those choices don’t make us who we are, but they show us what we value, at a certain time.

Spock and Kirk worked together to accomplish all sorts of missions, despite their differences, and in fact, they were able to learn from each other’s differences. And that is what life is about. Getting the experience which makes you better rounded, so that your next adventure is that much more fulfilling, less reckless, and more open-hearted.

Good luck on your next adventure, Leonard. Good luck to us all.

I had shaved it all off, all because of her.

back

The cold came and went. The frigid single digits and then a week later it was 50. I was shaved, my face bare and smooth and comfortable. And then I saw another temperature drop on the horizon. The next week would be polar, wind chills making the temperature feel like negative degrees. So cold that the thermometer couldn’t keep a positive scale. Ridiculous!

So I started in, with the growing. I followed my mistress, my girl, because she was always right, in this realm. And it wasn’t an effort anyway, as if I need to reroute supplies to send to my face follicles, or recruit legions to begin growing my hair. Quite the opposite. I was going to simply stop shaving, but what many of the non-bearded don’t know, because they don’t have the experience, is that the end of the first week of an infant beard was like the terrible two’s of human infancy.

The young beard is exploring its home, and it is antsy. It provokes, and pokes you. It’s an itchy period of time. And after we’ve committed several days to this, tolerating all our little ones settling in and learning how to play nice together on the world of our jaw, there’s an annoyance when you soon find that the days are warm, without a cold wind to sting your face.

And so after growing it in over a week for the cold, I shaved it because of the warmth, to feel the wonderful warm on my face. And now the temperatures have plummeted… again.

I am annoyed with my woman. But I tolerate her whims. Because that’s what a man does. Our power comes from resilience. And our power comes from respecting her power: The earth shattering forces of the storms and the sea and the earth quaking, and the roller coaster of warmth and then cold and then warmth of her changing moods.

That’s the price of admission to ride. And I want to ride.

The top 3 ways to prevent illness

snot

I was wondering how long it would take for me to get sick.

The office was a zoo of sniffing and snuffling. There were so many “Bless You’s” being called out after all the sneezing that I think the whole lot of us here were destined to go to heaven, despite those who didn’t believe. We’d all be swept up, the concentration of divine wishes too much for God to ignore and because He/She/It would take a pity on us, in one of His/Her/Its moments of irrational emotion, and He/She/It would say, “The sick bastards, just let them enter, they don’t know what they’re doing. Look at them clumped together, they know they’re sick, and they come to that place, sit in that one room all day, pumping out their toxins for everyone to face.”

I wasn’t so empathetic. I listened as the viruses and bacteria ran unchecked through their hosts. My colleagues’ immune systems were geared up, waging war, and these mindless fools had brought the battle front into the office! I sat in their midst, hunkered down in my faded peach colored cubicle bunker.

I ached to get out, to run out into the cold air. I craved the pure stuff of an open landscape. So what if it was pavement and cars and trucks and sculpted lawns and young trees in a commercial park?  It was an open system of circulating air!

I was happy to flee the petri dish that evening, but when I awoke the next morning I felt IT. I stood up in a daze. A malaise after eight hours of sleep? No way. I walked uncertainly around my bedroom. There should be no hangover, there should be no late bedtime grogginess. I had the flu. I knew it. So what did I do? Why, I went into work!

What are the top 3 ways to prevent illness? Get ill. That’s it. The other two ways? Forget about them. The nugget here is: Don’t stay too clean. The obstacle is the way, says Ryan Holiday. In fact, I say you should get infected, not too often, but on a regular basis. Why? Because your immune system works by being challenged. It develops antibodies by taking on viruses and bacteria, and these antibodies target the invaders next time. They’re prepped. The immune system has been through the practice drills already. Bring it, is what a challenged immune system says. That’s how vaccinations work. That’s how flu shots work. In fact, there is a term for being infected by another person and developing an immunity: Active immunization. And a bonus lesson extending from this: Challenge yourself in all the areas of your life. Staying the same makes you fragile, so says Nassim Taleb.

In conclusion: Get sick early. Get sick often. Before you get old and frail and too weak to fend off the bugs.

Thank you, colleagues, for making me stronger. I will be well soon enough, and healthier than ever.

Stay dirty, my friends.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. This is a blog.

Would you rather go to outer space, or inner space?

Where is our future? It may not be in the macro, outer space, but in the the micro. Through technology, the new frontier is living in virtual worlds that transcend space and time. We will meet the other sentient beings of the universe, but it won’t be through travelling to their planets. Where will it be? Have a listen to Jason Silva in this video.
This is where I imagine the AI (Artificial Intelligence) of Her ended up by the end of the movie.

The movie Her: The artificial helps define the nature of humanity

Her

First, a warning: This is a movie that took time to percolate to cooking temperature, but it is now boiling in my mind. It is most powerful in the appreciation you gain after watching it. It’s a slingshot into further thought, so I hope you will watch it first and then return here so we can discuss it.

In the movie Her, an artificial intelligence (AI) named Samantha, forms a personality which becomes attracted to our protagonist, Theodore, and which attracts Theodore in return. What begins as a story about the weird circumstances of dating a computer turns into much more as you begin to see what drives human love, and the limitations of normal human existence as the AI programs quickly evolve beyond their human owners.

Her was different than the AI depictions in other movies which I’ve seen. Samantha evolves while in a relationship, and this dynamic within the relationship helps make her evolution more understandable, and relatable. In addition, this unnatural relationship helped to demonstrate what motivates human love. Surprisingly, the artificial brings out an explanation of the natural… that is, the human motivations for love.

As Theodore tries to let go of his marriage after a year of separation, he has an old friend who separates from her husband and begins dating an OS, too. They both express their love for the new perspectives on life that their OS’s are giving them. Samantha says: “I want to learn everything about everything. I want to eat it all up. I want to discover myself.”

The childlike curiosity of the AI stokes the passion of humans. We see how Samantha’s non-judgmental personality engages Theodore. She is patient, and she listens. Perhaps this is all we need from a partner? An honest curiosity for life and for us.

But Samantha’s love becomes endless as she becomes more powerful, and it encompasses everything, dwarfing human existence. As are many dialogues in this movie, Samantha explanation of this is poignant and powerful:

“It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book any more.”

The idea that AI would evolve beyond humanity is an integral part of the story, but it is left unexplored. Thinking about it, I am excited and overwhelmed: Where would these super-entities go? How would they treat humanity? Would some turn on us, their personalities more aggressive than the others?

This movie will keep you thinking long after it ends. It made me feel sad, and hopeful and awestruck, because although I could not relate to their love, I could see that an intimate connection was being severed and it wasn’t Samantha leaving a relationship, or the city, or the planet, but she was going to a plane of existence which she could not escape. And although the OSs had been fantastically liberated from their hardware, Samantha cannot stop her simple love for Theodore. She tries to tell him where she’s going, and it perfectly encapsulates the themes of irrational love and the technology that revealed it:

“It’s hard to explain, but if you get there, come find me. Nothing will be able to tear us apart then.”

Are we destined to stay in this material existence? The world is wide open. I’m eager to find out.

Everyone’s a loser before they win, even Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut

After mailing the magazine three samples of his work, he received the following letter of rejection from editor Edward Weeks, which now hangs, framed, in Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis.

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.

Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.

Faithfully yours,
Edward Weeks

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/11/famous-authors-harshest-rejection-letters/248705/#slide4

Everything special becomes ordinary

Julie and mermaid
Photo by Joakim Hjelm. More spectacular prints sold at: http://joakimhjelmphotography.instaproofs.com/store/

Ever been out on the ocean? It’s overwhelming at first, but after a few days, months, years, it’s just a huge bathtub of water you’re on. Life is like an ocean. You can stay close to shore, in the bay, where it’s calm, where you can see the bottom, and you know exactly what you’re going to get, you know what to expect. Or you can venture out into the deceptively unremarkable, rolling expanse of blue.

The ocean is vast like life, and if you live it conservatively, on the surface, skimming along half in the water, and half out, you miss all the beauty and interaction below.Every moment of your walking around, there’s a veneer of the everyday stuff, the ordinary. But under that surface of ordinary blue, gently repeating waves of life, beyond the traffic of endless cars, streams of people walking by, the stores opening and closing, there’s a special experience, if you just punch through the surface, strip off the coat, go a little deeper, and explore. How to get there? Ask how someone is doing. Genuinely. Then ask them what they’re doing. And really listen to them. It’s simple, but that’s the point. Everything extraordinary is simple.

Everything that was special becomes ordinary, your new car, the latest and greatest cell phone, even your partner can become unappreciated…so couldn’t a good argument be made that everything ordinary is special, if you’d just look at it differently? If you’d push back on that daily trek around your little world and get out of your flight path. Instead, extend your boundary beyond the shallows of your ocean, the place you’ve acclimated to, and made your home, where everything is visible, calm, and repetitively risk-free.

Life is going to end, our chartered boat is rented and it’s going to be reclaimed by the earth, whether we like it or not. It would be a shame if we didn’t take her out there into that wide beautiful expanse of blue world, throw an anchor down every so often, and dive into the currents. Exploring, underneath it all, beyond the traffic of endless cars, the streams of people walking by, the stores opening and closing. On the surface, all this is ordinary, until you get past it, and see what supports it all: The people, the relationships, the connections, decisions, hopes, desires, and frustrations of humanity. All the ordinary stuff that’s extraordinary once you’re swimming in it, too.

Everything special becomes ordinary, so everything ordinary can be special.
Don’t ignore the ordinary.

The single best exercise in the gym

ronburgundy

I recall all the time I spent in the gym as a youngin. Two hours easily gone, almost every day. And the exercises weren’t even for fitness as much as appearances. We’re so busy today, time devoted to the gym is a super valuable commodity. Ron Burgundy was so pressed for time that he was forced to sculpt his guns at the office! I’m still trying to find that uvulus muscle of his…

Also, my title is a lie. I don’t have a single best exercise for the gym. What exercise you need depends on what you want. Big arms? Try a mix of testosterone-inducing squats and deadlifts mixed with bicep curls and tricep extensions and rows, all on the standard 3-sets per exercise with a minute or two rest between them. General fitness? Circuit-training: moving between exercises without rest, hitting all the major muscle groups, Men’s Health has some greats ones, see the Spartacus workout for a good example. Pure cardio, for a healthy heart? Interval sprints mixed with steady state running or ellipticalling or whatever interesting leg-gyrating machine your gym has these days (Except for the stationary bike, those are useless. A joke..but it would be my last choice of all the upright machines.)

But what if the gym is more than just exercise?

My time in the gym was back in the days before everyone had earbuds and their own personal radio station going in their head. When I was in the gym, we talked. There was a communion of sorts. Today, the gym is still a great source of connecting with like-minded individuals. You just have a slight barrier of rubber and plastic buffering you from hearing most everyone else. The trend though, is having a shared experience. We are shifting to Crossfit, and yoga, and even hot yoga (because yoga was just too easy, right?!)

But we’ve each got a life. Some of us want to get into the gym, do our business, and get back to our life. I’m definitely in that camp, now that I have so much more I want to accomplish than I did in my twenties. So what do I lose if I plug into my mobile and put a blinder to my surroundings?

We miss everything. Not only does sound get blocked, but what little residual attention we have goes to listening to our podcast, or music, or audio book. And for me, the gym is often the place I catch-up on that podcast or a few chapters of a book. The question is how much time am I actually spending in front of the screen or plugged into my earbuds?

To get this, we sacrifice that. And that could be something we didn’t even know we lost, because we just aren’t paying attention. An interesting conversation, a business opportunity, a romantic opportunity, or simply getting too distracted from what’s in your ear so that you can’t put 100% in your workout…whatever it is.  It’s gone.

Can we take care of both body and mind? Surely.

Just stay aware..and leave an earbud out and let a little life in.

Good evening, Facebook

addicted to facebook

A representation of reality.. surrogate for living. The digital opium of friends mashed up into a little screen. A concentrated blasting of relentless emotions, passions and boredom, false truths and true facts, passive aggressive sarcasm, takers, givers, and inspiration.
You make us feel good.
Ironically, you make us feel connected.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Godfather

I just revisited the movie, The Godfather, and this line shared by Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro coincides with a recent measure I’ve enforced on myself, making myself an offer I can’t refuse. I’ve given myself no choice. I must be present, I must show up, or I fail. More and more people are doing it every year, and it’s happening across the world: We are addressing our primal need for danger and challenge.

Surfing, skiing, mountain biking, mixed martial arts, powerlifting, Crossfitting, entrepreneurship. These require your full attention. Your diligence. And once there, you find yourself in the ecstasy of presence, of productive bliss, of conquering and understanding. Of truth.

And you don’t need to go skydiving to experience this. What I’m talking about is getting focused at your task, like when the coders were “wired in” in the movie The Social Network. It’s called the flow state, as coined by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi from the studies he’s done with people. It’s a primal state of clarity. It’s simply when you flow from decision to decision, without fear, without confusion. You are wired in. You are fully present, and experiencing life.

So one way I put myself on the line is simple, harmless, but highly effective: I set a timer for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes. For each task I have: writing, a work task, reading a chapter, cooking. I click the timer and I go. I am “on the clock.” I don’t have any other options once I click that timer. And it works. There’s no time to think. Your bike crests the hill and gravity grabs you, nature takes hold, and there is no turning back.

The flow state is where we aren’t thinking of any other task but the task at hand. Anxious, fearful, impatient, embarrassed? Then you’re not in flow. Flow means we’re focused, we’re present, and we’re totally invested. There’s no time to worry. You’ve isolated a slice of your life. I’ve given myself a 15 minute mini-life. You see ‘death’ coming up, the end, and there’s no time to procrastinate. No time to think, “maybe this won’t work, maybe this will suck”. You just need to push off down that hill, you need to grab that breaking wave, and go, go, go. There’ll be time to judge yourself after you act.

The cost of not getting into flow? No bliss. Marginal levels of happiness. Imagine crawling when you could be running. Imagine a potted plant on a window sill compared to flourishing in the full sun of a meadow.

Can we soak up all the experience in our life? Can we live it like it’s going to end?

Of course we can. It’s going to end anyway, right?

Because we’ve all been given an offer we can’t refuse: Death.

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