Be yourself, no matter where you are

It doesn't matter how small a space you live in, be true to yourself.

Take a look through these wonderful portraits by Micheal Wolf of the residents of Hong Kong's oldest public housing estate. Just click on the first picture's thumbnail and then click on the image that pops up to see the next picture.

I love these faces. Humans are so great!

Now, if they can be so diverse, so clearly collecting that which is important to them in a little home, what would what the essentials be for you?

Don’t Freak Out is always the best option

I had a couple intense days at work, very busy, much to do and not yet done, and so tonight was part restoration, part collapse.

During dinner I was watching more of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the Wallace & Gromit movie I'd somehow missed out on. Then the DVD jammed. Then the computer wouldn't eject the DVD. Then the computer didn't believe it had a DVD drive, even after restarting.

Then, when I started working myself up into a "oh god I can't afford this problem" state of worry, I stopped, shut down – because that helps sometimes with computers – and turned the laptop upside down – because the disk floats on a spindle – and went & took a nice bath. I read a relaxing book (one of the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff series!) and when I was sufficiently soaked, came out for a brief but unworried test.

Turned the computer over, started it up, held down the eject button, and out comes the disk, sweet as you please.

It doesn't always work out that way, but you know, even if it hadn't have come out, I had already reminded myself that I know lots of folks who could help me figure out how to fix it and maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to be barred from watching Buffy & Sports Night all weekend and make some progress on projects instead.

Optimize your high

"Smaller, better." is my new mantra. Have less of better quality stuff and savor it.

I am enjoying this with Japanese home cooking which is beautiful and delicious and actually involves a lot less overall intake of food, as well as mostly eating stuff that's better for you. I also must say this is how I approach my vices. Gourmet cheese. Artisan chocolates. 1920's size cocktails from the classic recipes.

In this latter category I cannot emphasize the benefits highly enough. A really well made classic cocktail is a wonderful thing, and when savored over twenty minutes or more in small sips and followed by good sparkling water or a tonic & lime creates a convivial mood without consigning one to drastic sleepiness, nausea, or idiocy.

The really key factor here is size – smaller plates for food, smaller glasses for cocktails. Those 8oz vats that you get things with godawful names like "Chocotini" in are right out.

Go for a very small rocks glass and 3oz cocktail glasses NOT filled to the rim. Room for garnish and to admire the lovely flecks of ice in a well cracked, shaken & stirred drink!

Also, there's nothing wrong with gradually mixing yourself down. Start with a drink that's 2oz alcohol (a classic Old Fashioned, say) and then on your second, change the proportions down to 1.5oz. If you have a third, make it a half, and a fourth is just the hint of a drink. Between each of course, keep having 8-12oz of water and you'll be the life of the party and not miserable the next day.

I'm not sure that I can get away with a Discardian post on the benefits of top shelf liquor, but really, truly, you'll feel better if you don't drink well booze and instead call your drinks to use a better brand. Drink less and better, and if you're off the alcohol then go ahead and get the good stuff when it comes to soft drinks, fruit juices, and sparkling water when you're out on the town or entertaining. Everyone, balance the expensive stuff with water to keep yourself hydrated and you'll enjoy yourself more that night and the next morning.

Walk Right Over That Wussy Whiney Inner Voice

Sometimes you should listen to that little voice inside you, but almost always when it's saying "oh I dunno, we don't really have to go for a walk do we?" or "okay five blocks is enough right?", it should just be ignored.

I'm not talking about the voice of your injured knee or something like that; I mean the inner grub that just wants to sit on the couch wiggling its tail at the TV and shoving nachos into its maw.

"Ewww, grubs!" I hear you say.

Damn straight. Ick.

Walk an extra 10 blocks before lunch, it won't take you long at all and it's good for you to shake a leg. While you're at it, tell the grub to shut up and choose something healthy for lunch that won't throw you into an afternoon food coma.

One Sane Room

Okay, you don't have to get the whole house in order tonight – don't feel overwhelmed, just pick the one room that's closest to sanity and get it together.

If you're going to spend extra effort over the long term on one room, I do recommend your bedroom be high on the list. Seems like I just get better rest when I lay down in a clean, reasonably tidy place and wake up without a bunch of to-do's as the first thing I see.

Let go of your greed & pitch in with good grace

Now I believe strongly that taxes should be fair and not be a burden which interfere's with an individual citizen's basic quality of life, but the key word there is BASIC.

As communities there are a lot of things that we individually cannot efficiently manage or pay for. Building sewers, for example. Funding libraries which will create unbiased collections of materials for the public good. Maintaining protective services like fire departments, which are often, alas, viewed as a luxury until they are desparately needed.

Taxes are a really reasonable way to address this problem. Everyone pitch in to the best of their ability.

I think the rich have more ability and should pitch in more, so I don't begrudge the idea that my tax bracket would go up  if I started earning more. I've done well and have the happy benefit of being able to give more to my community.

As Edward A. Filene said, "Why shouldn't the American people take half my money from me? I took all of it from them."

Taxation is not a bad thing.

Now if you don't like where your taxes are being spent, that's a different issue and a good indicator that it's time for you to give back to your community in another way: political involvement. At the very least, vote.

Why do you have so much junk?

One important thing to remember is that virtual clutter – for example old emails and bookmarked websites – doesn't interfere with your life quite the same way physical stuff does. In fact, it can often just sit there quietly waiting until you have time to dig it up again (or else it gets lost in the electronic equivalent of a house burning down and y'know you can recover from that too).

Last year, Mark Morford wrote a really great column called Why Do You Have So Much Junk? Oh yes you do. And there are TV shows to prove it. Question is, what are you gonna do about it?

You have way too much crap.

I'm just guessing. Guessing that right now, in your life, in
your closets and in your garage and in your car trunk and in your brain
and even in your desk drawer you have way, way too much stuff, far more
than any one person or single family needs and, oh my God, have you
even seen your closet lately?

Have you seen that riot of old towels and curtain rods and
board games you haven't looked at in three years? The old guitar and
five pairs of mangy boots and a pile of old T-shirts and two disposable
Epson printers and a teetering stack of empty Amazon boxes and four
dumbbells and ancient college papers and a power drill and a bunch of
old coats and classic porn VHS tapes and an underused Mesa Boogie
guitar amp and assorted wrapping paper collected since the Clinton
administration? Oh wait, maybe that's my closet.

and one more taste of a bit I particularly liked:

It is one of the healthiest things you can do. Honest psychologists
and good spiritual healers often advise patients with overactive minds
and squirrel-like attention spans and problems focusing and problems
sleeping, they will tell them not to pop some Ritalin or merely
take an herbal tincture and eat more leafy greens, but to go home right
now and, yes, clean out your closets. Clear out your clutter. Strip it
all to the beautiful essentials and then keep it that way.

Okay, gang, you know what to do! Read that fun column and then ride that inspiration into getting rid of more dumb stuff you have around for no good reason.

Cut out the “eh” music

If you're like me, you're using your CDs as a storage device and listening to you music in MP3 form, often in shuffle play or playlists.

If you're like me, you've also learned over time that there are songs on albums that just don't do it for you.

So, why would you want that stuff to come up in shuffle play? And why should it take up your hard drive space?

I use iTunes ratings to mark things that might be destined for removal with just 2 stars. Second time they come up and they just ain't it and I can't think of the last time where I was in the mood when they would be right, I set them down to 1 star. Third time, they hit the trash. Remove from iTunes and hard drive.

Make room for new good stuff!