Be Nice To Your Eyes

Take the time right now to confirm that your monitor is using the highest refresh rate that it can and a screen resolution that's comfortable for you.

I am perpetually amazed by walking up to a desktop somewhere – say, the catalog at the library for instance – and finding it set to 60hz and 640 x 480. Flickering and pixelated? What sadist set the defaults on this hardware?

I even offer to improve my co-workers' computers if I notice they've got a bad refresh rate. It's astonishing how many people will endure the headache and not realize all they have to do is go to their monitors setting and adjust up as high as their machine will tolerate. What a difference 90hz and up makes!

What’s your time worth?

Here's a tip from Discardian Joe:

In high school, I was good friends with the tech director in the school's theatre. He had a lot of commitments, in his job at the school, in local theater, and in the community. But he had a remarkably good method of deciding whether to take on a design job or more volunteer work. He decided how much his free time was worth to him, in dollars per hour. If the new commitment wasn't either remunerative enough or fulfilling enough to be worth that amount per hour, he said no. "They were going to pay me $500 to do the set design," he'd say, "but it was going to take 25 or 30 hours of work, and I bill my free time at $25 an hour."

Decide what your free time is worth to you. If you're an undergraduate, the number might be around $5; if you're a CEO, it might be in the hundreds. Before you take on an optional commitment, ask yourself whether the compensation or pleasure of the task is worth the amount of money it'll cost you in free time.

The Qualified Yes

Here's a great tip from Merlin Mann's 43 Folders that I somehow missed at the time. Instead of an outright No answer, you might be able to give a qualified Yes. As in "Yes, I'll post 365 Discardian tips this year, but every now and then one might come up late and I totally reserve the right to provide more than a few tips that are just links to someone else being clever."

Playing more, playing better, and what to do about chores

Only so many hours in the day so what is one to do to make the best of those hours when not in the grip of work or sleep? Like most Discardian change, it doesn't have to happen all at once. There are two habits to build up when faced with a choice or opportunity:

1. Continually opt for that which will most avoid hassles and unpleasantness in the long-term.
2. Continually enhance that which must be done with the extras or surroundings that make things more comfortable and/or enjoyable.

A simple example would be when you walk into the kitchen and are faced with a sink full of dirty dishes from the last few days, recognize that putting off washing them yet further will make your house smell nasty and they'll certainly be more unpleasant to deal with. Take care of them now, but first, perhaps you should open a window to get a nice breeze in the room, maybe put on some music you like, or pour a nice beverage to sip as the dish water heats up. Now, glance at the clock and then do the dishes without looking at it again. As you do the dishes figure out what you do like about this task; maybe the splashing in the water, or the warmth, or the transformation of foul to fine & clean. The best sinks have a window so you can see what the outside world has to report as you go about your work. When you're done, look again at the clock.

It doesn't take that long to do most chores, many of them less than 20 minutes. You can blow 20 minutes without even thinking about it watching tv, playing video games, reading, surfing the web (*cough*)…

So, there's the first part of this tip: a lot of things which you've got to do don't really take that much out of your day and needn't be put off.

The next important part is to notice that there may be optional things which do take a lot of your time and yet provide minimal reward or enjoyment (it is at this point when I turn and look pointedly at the television and the computer). Don't channel surf or link hop just because you want something but you haven't figured out what it is. Your time is finite. It matters how you spend it. Certainly you can consciously decide that what you really want to do is flip around getting mental stimulation and enjoy it whole-heartedly. I'm betting, though, that everyone has chunks of time spent on autopilot – and not autopilot in the useful "my mind is happily wandering while I vacuum" sense, but in the sense of failing to select that which will reward us somehow.

Don't live the life of having to make the time pass. Find the things that please you and do them instead of things that provide you nothing. Fans of C.S. Lewis' work The Screwtape Letters are here encouraged to go re-read letter 13 which includes this bit of admonition from a senior devil to a junior tempter:

But you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is by palming off vanity, bustle, irony, and expensive tedium as pleasures. How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn't you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value? And that the sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all? That it would peel off from his sensibility the kind of crust you have been forming on it, and make him feel that he was coming home, recovering himself?

Do what you love whenever you can. Even if the busy-ness of life only gives you a few minutes – my sympathies to you new parents out there – make good use of it and read a chapter of a book, futz around with that guitar, plant a few bulbs in the garden (or just look through the bulb catalog & think about what you'd get!), whatever feeds your soul.

When you have to do something you wouldn't otherwise choose to do for pleasure or growth – the dishes for example – find the parts of the experience which can give you some kind of payoff and supplement it if you can with something you would choose, like music you really enjoy.

That's the second part of the tip: be where you are, doing what you're doing and enjoying it as much as you can.

Discard (or at least acknowledge) your design sensibility baggage

One of the best commentators on culture, politics and creativity today is also one of the funniest. Ze Frank is a real inspiration to me and his little video show from Friday includes one of his best longer pieces yet.

Watch the show

Here it is as transcribed by the fabulosos of the The Show wiki:

For a very long time, taste and artistic training have been things
that only a small number of people have been able to develop. Only a
few people could afford to participate in the production of many types
of media. Raw materials like pigments were expensive; same with tools
like printing presses; even as late as 1963 it cost Charles Peignot
over $600,000 to create and cut a single font family.

The small number of people who had access to these tools and
resources created rules about what was good taste or bad taste. These
designers started giving each other awards and the rules they followed
became even more specific. All sorts of stuff about grids and sizes and
color combinations — lots of stuff that the consumers of this media
never consciously noticed. Over the last 20 years, however, the cost of
tools related to the authorship of media has plummeted. For very little
money, anyone can create and distribute things like newsletters, or
videos, or bad-ass tunes about "ugly."

Suddenly consumers are learning the language of these
authorship tools. The fact that tons of people know names of fonts like
Helvetica is weird! And when people start learning something new, they
perceive the world around them differently. If you start learning how
to play the guitar, suddenly the guitar stands out in all the music you
listen to. For example, throughout most of the history of movies, the
audience didn't really understand what a craft editing was. Now, as
more and more people have access to things like iMovie, they begin to
understand the manipulative power of editing. Watching reality TV
almost becomes like a game as you try to second-guess how the editor is
trying to manipulate you.

As people start learning and experimenting with these languages
authorship, they don't necessarily follow the rules of good taste. This
scares the shit out of designers.

In Myspace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made
templates that "work" in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to
pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation
of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool.

Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to
make your Myspace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as
consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it's possible that
completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic

So, Discardians, get out there and create whatever the heck you want to!

*sigh* And some days ya just gotta do that thing

More about balance has been postponed in favor or restoring the critical inbalance in my home between clean and dirty underwear/towels/sheets/everything.

What's just gotta get handled around your world?

Maybe it's a chore, maybe it's a movie you have to see before it goes away, maybe it's a phone call you've been putting off, maybe it's getting the hell out of the house and taking some time for yourself so you don't go stark raving mad I tell you mad.

To reclaim a phrase from the corporations: just do it. You'll be so relieved afterwards!


What would it be like if your day was an even balance? 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 8 hours play. Would you be well-rested, stimulated, and relaxed?

Okay, 8 hours sleep, maybe doable regularly if you don't have a baby, but the rest? Most employers want 8 hours all to themselves and expect you to take your commute and your lunch break out of your play time. Lots of jobs are calibrated such that they're generally only done in 50-60 hours of work a week and that extra comes out of some part of the rest of your day.

And not every waking non-work moment is playtime; somebody's gotta keep the mundane things in life like garbage, laundry, shopping and housework ticking along okay.

So what can you do?

– Do your job in less time. Seriously. Sometimes constraint builds efficiency and you'll also find that prioritizing your work so that you spend most of your time on the most important things – those things your boss and co-workers and customers measure your contribution by – some of that other unimportant junk that used to eat up time turns out not to really be necessary.

– Put your commute to work. By using public transit could you gain some productive time to read, write or plan? By downloading my work email before I leave the house I can open my laptop on my short bus ride and arrive at work already having reviewed it, assigned it to the appropriate category to handle later in the day, written replies to the super-easy-to-answer messages, and then pulled back to a high level to decide what I really should be focused on when I sit down at my desk. Let your slow start to the day happen before you get to your work place.

– Make your lunchtime more personally rewarding or take a shorter lunch. Personally, a lot of days I'd rather take a 20 minute lunch and leave 40 minutes earlier than I might have otherwise.

– Here's the really bold one: live on less money and find a job that only requires you to commit 20-30 hours of your week.

Next up: playing more, playing better, and what to do about chores.

Bonus Time

Stuck waiting? Try to prepare things that will allow you to consider it a treat.

– Bring that book you've been wanting to get time to read with you when you go to the DMV for a replacement license.

– Put a few podcasts or recordings of interesting lectures on your MP3 player for that time the train breaks down.

– Always have paper and a pen with you so you can think about something you've been wanting to plan out.

Ask the important question: “What time?”

When you're meeting people for whom you'd have to adjust your plans in order to connect – such as when someone is going to pick up something you're selling on Craig's List – be sure to ask when they will be there.

A half hour or even an hour window is better than sitting around for hours and then finding out they got lost or distracted or their friend who's giving them a ride had to do something else first, etc.

It's tedious to be in limbo, so do what you can to avoid it by knowing when you're out of the window of obligation.

Should you still find yourself in this state anyhow, figure out what things you might have been doing here instead and do that while you wait.