Personal

Make 2012 a year of less and a year of more

I want 2012 to be a year of less, but also a year of more. This isn’t as contradictory as it might sound.

Less complaining

We as a people complain a lot. Admit it. Even during Christmas, heavily marketed as the season of giving and good cheer, there was no shortage of complaining about what people got versus what they wanted.

2012 needs to be a year of less time spent bemoaning our own first world problems and more time spent enjoying what we are fortunate enough to have:

The 99% in America are still the 1% to much of the rest of the world; it would do us well to keep that in mind.

Less spending

We’re currently in the midst of one of the worst recessions ever, and no one seems to be able to agree on whether it’s getting better or worse. Unemployment is at its highest in decades. Many people and families are struggling to get by on wages too low for the endlessly rising cost of living.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in that I’ve never really been poor. My family was certainly never wealthy, but we always had enough. My parents taught me to be responsible with money, to stay within my means and to realize that there’s no need to always have the latest shiny thing. I’ve also been fortunate to have and keep a steady job for the last several years that pays well enough for my needs. There won’t be any private islands being purchased in my near future, but I have the bottom couple levels of Maslow’s pyramid taken care of so I won’t complain.

Even so, I still spent too much in 20111, and so 2012 must be the year of less spending and more saving. Fewer trips to restaurants and more usage of what’s in the pantry. Fewer purchases of stuff that isn’t really needed and more donation of stuff that doesn’t get used. Less reliance on consumerism in the middle of the worst recession this country’s had since the Depression, and more enjoyment of the simpler pleasures that life offers… for free.

Less unhealthy activity

America is fat. Over a third of our adult population is obese. We eat too much, we eat too poorly, and on average we don’t spend enough time balancing that out. So 2012 needs to be the year of less unhealthy activity – less junk food, less soda, and less lounging on the couch. More water, more trips to the gym and more walking or biking (when possible).

But 2012 also needs to be the year of less unhealthy mental activity. I spent too much of 2011 wallowing in my own head, bemoaning the sad state of me. That needs to stop.

More challenges

Lest all that seem too negative, here’s some positivity. The new year is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself, to set goals to achieve. Not goals like “tomorrow I will (try to) get out of bed.” Challenges like “I will learn a new language” or “I will start that new business” or “I will finally take up fiery sword-swallowing”. Something we know will be difficult for you but that we can accomplish with enough effort. But it has to be difficult. It has to be outside our comfort zones, otherwise what’s the point?

Personally, I want to learn at least two new web coding languages – one front-end and one back-end. Maybe that doesn’t appeal to you. Fine. Find something that does, and go do it.

More exploring

I’m an introvert. My shell is thick and well-weathered, and I stay inside it as much as possible. Being around people is physically exhausting2. This is obviously not conducive to leading a life of adventure.

Most of my life has been spent in Milwaukee, but most of it is still foreign to me. I’d like to change this and really see the world around me. More travel, more exploring outside of the city, outside the state, and most importantly out of the comfort zone. We could probably all do with some exploring of the terrain outside our cozy little shells, no matter how cozy those shells might be.

tl;dr

2012 needs to be the year we collectively get our dren together. Less time spent doing ourselves harm and more time spent doing ourselves and others good. We’re better than we think we are, we just need to convince ourselves of that.


  1. To be fair, my trip to SXSW in March accounted for a pretty big chunk of change that won’t be repeated anytime soon.
  2. I totally want a squirt gun of justice. But it would have to be one of the big, highly-pressurized cannon-style guns. A puny little kids’ toy isn’t sufficient for my needs.
Personal

Your House is Burning – What Do You Grab?

A thought experiment, if you would. Your house is burning. What do you take with you? Let’s assume for the sake of discussion:

  • You wake up in your bed and realize there’s a fire you can’t put out; you need to get out.
  • You have a safe exit, but not for long.
  • You have some kind of small bag handy, like a backpack or a pillowcase, that you can throw stuff into.
  • You can only make one trip. Once you’re out, you’re out; no going back in for more.

What do you grab? Continue reading “Your House is Burning – What Do You Grab?”

Personal

Five Things I Wish People Knew About Me

Amber Naslund had a great post a little while back, “What I Wish More People Knew About Me” in which she lists a handful of things about herself that maybe weren’t that well known to others, but should be.

Social media can create really superficial vantage points. We can see a few tweets or a blog post or a Facebook status from someone and think we’ve got them all figured out. So much nuance can be lost in the midst of snippets of electronic and fleeting communication.

Absolutely true. We live with a stream of constant tweets, check-ins and status updates, and yet how much about these “friends” do we really truly know? And how much about ourselves do they know? My guess? Not much. And so Amber lists a handful of things about herself that help us get a better sense of who she is, then in true internet fashion issues a call for the rest of us to share alike.

So, doing my best to avoid sounding narcissistic, here are a handful of things I wish people knew about me. Warning: candid revelations below.

Continue reading “Five Things I Wish People Knew About Me”

Personal, Tech

Losing the Signal to the Noise

Bruce of Milwaukee’s own Roll Mobile posted an article on the tendency of social media users to produce content the way porn stars produce movies: quantity over quality.

Social media is no longer a fad; it’s a trend. Which means it’s here to stay, even if its form morphs and evolves over time.

But like any trend, there are those elements that hinder its growth and opportunities.

For social media, I see that hindrance being the widespread acceptance of quantity over quality. Twitter, Facebook, and blogging platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr make it easy for us to publish our every thought. Couple the ease of use with the fact that mobile devices allow us to do this from anywhere and at anytime, and suddenly people are communicating their thoughts louder and more often than ever.

This is both good and bad.

Because the chatter is so loud, and being expunged so fast and furiously, many of us feel the need to match that in order to have our own messages not get lost in the masses. It becomes sensory overload after a while.

Social Media: The Porn Stars of the Communication Medium from Roll Mobile

Amen, Bruce, amen. I know the feeling well. Late last year I posted on my own sense of oversharing – not in the sense of sharing too much detail about myself, but sharing too often; creating too much noise and not enough signal. Since then, my frenzied output on Twitter has decreased steadily, though I still feel occasionally like it’s still too much.

It’s so very true that in the world of social media, especially on Twitter, you feel a need to be posting that often. Depending on who you’re following and when you check in, your tweet stream can move very quickly. You toss something of your own in, and it’s already been washed downstream in the blink of an eye. But you’re so damn clever/inspiring/knowledgeable/informed! People want to read your every joke/quote/link! However can I make sure they don’t miss out? Obviously the solution is to just post more often. Fight the flood with a flood of your own, right?

But that’s exhausting. No one can really keep up with that kind of deluge regularly. So my renewed goal is to unplug more often. Tweet less. Check Twitter less. If there’s something important, it’ll find me eventually. William Powers, aka @hamletsbb, wrote a book titled Hamlet’s Blackberry on “staying human in a digital world” in which he explains how it’s a human necessity to get away from the flood once in a while (I had the pleasure of sitting in on his SXSW presentation).

So that’s what I intend to do.

Less noise, more signal.

Personal

#nerdhumor

So, um, this happened yesterday:

'Today is 4/04, TODAY NOT FOUND.' Over 1200 favorites so far.

It was posted totally on a whim; I expected maybe a handful of people to star or retweet it. Instead it took off and got massive visibility. As of the time of this writing it had been retweeted 1231 times using Twitter’s native retweet function and – according to a quick search via the Twitter API – over 600 times by people copying and pasting it, retweeting others who had commented, etc.

I’ve never had anywhere near this kind of widespread attention to any of my tweets in almost a year of Twitter activity. I’d love to spend some time analyzing the various non-native retweets to figure out the progression – who commented on it, whose comments got retweeted the most, and how the tweet evolved as it went. Surprisingly, the vast majority of these stayed in the original form. A few people posted it as a “via @tomhenrich” tweet, etc, but most of the retweets I saw kept it as a proper “RT @tomhenrich” format.

Nerdy highlights: I got retweeted by both @charliejane and @bonniegrrl! Mostly I’m just happy to see there are that many people on Twitter that appreciate a good nerdy HTTP status code joke.

What’s really weird is how many people kept retweeting it today, when it’s no longer 4/04. Date-based humor knows no bounds, apparently.