Archive for November, 2010

28th November
written by Randy

The recent ado surrounding Wikileaks has got me thinking about this new world we live in.

The internet has really changed everything. It’s too easy to communicate. Information spreads quickly. As soon as something happens, it’s distributed to the corners of the earth. And once it’s out there, it’s almost impossible to take it back.

This stretches into all aspects of life. In recent years, I heard a lot of stories about people losing their jobs as a result of things they said on their blogs, or on Twitter or Facebook. But that hasn’t stopped people from using social media.

Instead, we’ve all been forced to learn and accept the fact that what we do and say will be witnessed by everyone. And this isn’t some Orwellian Big Brother fantasy of the government spying on us, it’s us, willingly sharing ours lives with the world.

From the bigwigs in the governments whose secret communications are being distributed around the world as you read this, all the way down to your friends and coworkers whose comments are on your “wall”, we’re all being forced to change.

Secrecy doesn’t work any more. Lies don’t last. It’s no longer reasonable to try to manage people’s perceptions. Today, authenticity is the only ticket to success.

The ruling class — the people in power — haven’t figured this out yet. That’s why there’s such a backlash right now. The CEOs and the politicians and those ruling the world today are products of the old way, and they’re still trying to suppress media and use propaganda to manage perceptions. In fact, if you look, they’re trying harder than ever — the propaganda is thicker than it’s ever been. But this is nothing more than an extinction burst. It’s the last screaming tantrum from a group of people whose old ways aren’t working any more.

The way to success in this post-internet world is authenticity. You can’t hide who you are any longer. You can’t paint a picture of who you want people to think you are, because your words and your actions and the evidence of everything you are will find their way into the public eye.

Authenticity is important because people are going to find out the truth anyway. No matter what you tell people, they are going to find out the truth. And when they do, they’re going to compare what you said to what you did. Whether that comes by Facebook and Twitter, or by an concerted international conspiracy to leak your private memos, the bottom line is that you can’t stop it.

A propaganda campaign requires everyone’s participation to work, but thanks to the internet, the ability to spread the truth requires only one person. Under those odds, propaganda can’t win. Perceptions can’t be managed forever. Information can’t be suppressed.

Authenticity rules in this new world.

25th November
written by Randy

Over the past few months I’ve had a lot of attention on simplifying my wardrobe. I’ve already shared with you how I’ve reduced laundry complications and improved my peace of mind by getting rid of the whites, and how I’ve reduced the size of my wardrobe by only keeping what fits. The next thing I’ve focused on (and will continue to focus on) is convenience for travel.

I like to travel light. In fact, I prefer not to ever check any luggage. Even if I’m traveling for a month (or more!) I only want what fits into a backpack. But I don’t want to wear dirty clothes, and I’m not comfortable with the idea of wearing undergarments two days in a row. The key is fast-drying. If you have fast drying socks, underwear, and t-shirts, you can wash them every night or two, and live comfortably with only 2 or 3 of each item.

For many years, I’ve been the guy with 30 pairs of cotton underwear, 30 or more pairs of cotton socks, and dozens of t-shirts, all of which could only be worn once and had to be tuble-dried because cotton holds moisture, aka sweat.

Recently, however, I’ve made a point of buying undergarments with more synthetic material, rather than cotton. These synthetic materials do not hold moisture, which means they hold less odor. It also means they can be hand washed and they will easily dry overnight. This makes them perfect for travel, but it’s also pretty convenient at home, and it’s allowed me to significantly reduce the amount of undergarments I need to keep on hand.

Two t-shirts, one black and one gray, are enough to fit almost any situation. They can be worn alone, or layered for versatility or warmth. When you buy solid t-shirts with no prints or patterns, they work with everything and make your wardrobe more versatile. Two items go a really long way. And I can buy them to fit without worrying that they’ll shrink.

For all of these items, I’ve started with Under Armour products, which are easy to find at the local sporting goods store. They cost more than Hanes (or other commodity brands) but that price is easier to justify when you only need a few items. I’ve got three briefs, three pairs of socks, and those two t-shirts.

I’m aware that Thorlo is a popular brand for socks, and that Ex Officio is a popular brand for underwear, for their high quality, good fit, light weight, and fast drying. Perhaps in the future I will try them out and compare them. But for now, this is all new to me, and I’m happy so far with what I’m using from Under Armour.

It was a little hard to get used to at first, as I’ve always loved the feel of cotton. But since I’m buying slightly more expensive, higher quality items, I’m finding that I haven’t sacrificed anything in the way of comfort. The same would probably not have been true if I’d bought cheap polyester items.

17th November
written by Randy

We’ve been cheated. We were promised something and we’re never going to get it. We believed in something that isn’t true. We’ve been robbed, swindled, cheated, lied to. We’ve been had.

Most of us grew up believing that if we do well in school, pick a good career, work hard, get married, raise kids, and be “productive members of society”, we could have a good life, and one day retire and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

We’ve been taught to think of people as human resources. Most of us learned to define ourselves by our jobs. We perceive our value in the world as relative to our income, our consumption, the size of our houses, our cars, the prestige of our job titles.

We’ve been taught to believe in democracy, and capitalism, and the invisible hand of the free market, but we were never taught how to be citizens. We’ve only ever been taxpayers. Consumers. Nothing more than cogs in the corporate profit machine.

And we believed. We bought into it. We went to school. We went to college. We chose good careers that were in demand. We bought those big houses and those fancy cars and convinced ourselves that this was the good life, and that we were happy.

But in 2008, the bubble burst. Some call it the real-estate bubble, a few call it the banking bubble, but it was something bigger. In reality, it was the consumerism bubble that burst. It was the end of capitalism.
It was the end of the world as we know it.

Now, we’re left with the self-delusions of recessions and recoveries and stimulus and tax-breaks; delusions that we feed ourselves to avoid admitting the truth: we have no idea what comes next.

The world we grew up in is gone. The truths we thought were true aren’t true any more. The things we took for granted are gone. We live in a new world. The world as we knew it ended in autumn of 2008, when the world economy collapsed. This thing we’re in right now — it’s not a recession, it’s a correction. This is the new world.

A century of technological progress and innovation has raised efficiency so that much more work can be done, and better, by fewer people. And with free-trade and outsourcing and offshoring, we’ve spread the limited resource of “jobs” all over the world, to the people who would do them for the lowest wage.

And now we’re unemployed. Unemployment isn’t just a problem in the US, it’s a problem throughout the developed world. And it’s not going to go away. Why would it? Nobody’s going to hire first-world talent to do work that they could have performed for pennies in the third-world.

It’s the great normalization. The result of the “world economy” will be to make the working class equally poor, no matter where they are in the world. This change is already happening, and it won’t take long. We can’t afford to hang on to our delusions any longer. There is no such thing as “creating jobs”, no matter what the politicians tell you. Capitalism is over.

It might take 50 years for the dust to settle. But that’s just because we all need to get old and die off, so that we can get out of the way with our old world way of thinking and let the youth grow up and show us how to survive and succeed in this new world.

It’s either that, or wake up and figure it out for ourselves. Which would you prefer? Would you rather slowly rot away in poverty and die, wondering what happened to your American Dream™, or figure out how to adapt and overcome, and survive happily in this new world?

In the new world, there is no place for consumerism. In the new world, there is no place for big cars and big houses. In the new world, we don’t have the luxury of being so careless and frivolous.

Here in the new world, less is more. Rather than earning more, the key is to spend less. Here in the new world, the minimalist is king. Possessions get in the way. Experiences are the new currency. And really, that’s how it should have been all along. The end of the world as we know it is a good thing.

Instead of living like slaves and using excessive consumerism to numb the pain of that life, we are on the edge of freedom. We’re standing on the edge of an awakening. We’re close to the realization — either willingly or by force — that capitalism isn’t the life we were meant to live. It’s not the good life. It’s slavery. But we’re not free yet. First, we have to unplug ourselves from The Matrix…

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13th November
written by Randy

I have enjoyed artistic photography for most of the last decade now, and people are always telling me that I’m really good at it. I couldn’t begin to count how many times people have said to me “you’re really good at this, you need to do something with this talent”.

Aaahhh, those magic meaningless words: “do something”. It’s the easiest advice to give someone: everyone thinks I should do something, but nobody has anything specific in mind. It’s as if people believe that all you need is a talent, and suddenly you will magically become rich and famous.

Well, I enjoy photography. I enjoy it a lot. And because I enjoy it so much, there is no way I could ever do it professionally, because sacrificing my own creative expression in order to get a paycheck would be something I couldn’t get over.

At any rate, I’ve posted my photography on Flickr (NSFW!) and I’ve been amazed at the number of views and comments I’ve received! And even more exciting, one of those comments came from a publisher who wanted to add some of my photos to an upcoming compilation book.

The process took almost a year, but that book is finally available and I am officially a published photographer. And what’s even more exciting about that is that I’m in very good company. There are a lot of really talented photographers with photos included in the book.

It’s not for everyone. The book features photos of naked people, and so do my photos. (You can see why I enjoy it so much!) But if you like to see really creative and artistic photos of human beauty, you’re sure to love the book. And the price isn’t bad either.

8th November
written by Randy

In my last post, I began talking about how I’m simplifying my wardrobe and I talked about getting rid of my whites. Today I will talk about phase two of my wardrobe simplification: getting only keeping clothes that fit.

This probably sounds really obvious. It’s the same advice they give on all the tv shows and all the radio interviews and all the decluttering and minimalist blogs: “go through all your clothes and get rid of everything that doesn’t fit.” But what’s interesting is that nobody ever talks about how to do that!

The first step is the obvious one — pull everything out, and one-by-one, try on each item and see if it fits. Don’t keep it if it doesn’t fit; it’s only eating up space. At least if you donate it, someone will wear it. (You’re certainly not going to!)

Making that first pass through everything and getting rid of things that don’t fit will likely make an immediate reduction. You will most likely have a large stack or pile of clothes that used to fit before you gained or lost weight, or that have shrunk over time, etc.

But that’s just the obvious step. You’re not done.

The next step is to wear everything. Everything. In my case, I took everything out of the closet and left it stacked next to my bed. Each day, when getting dressed, I put on something from the stack. If if makes it back through the laundry, it goes back into the closet.

What I found was that a lot of clothes “seem” to fit when you try them on and look in the mirror, but when you wear them for a day, you realize there’s a reason it sits in the back of the closet or on the bottom of the shelf.

I had several shirts and sweaters that seemed to keep creeping up throughout the day, and I would keep pulling them down at the waist. That’s uncomfortable — I don’t want clothes that make me uncomfortable.

I also found that with my long-sleeved shirts, many times the sleeves were cut in such a way that they pulled up high on my wrist when I moved. *GONE*

A couple of sweaters had sleeves so long that they would hang down around my hands and keep getting in the way throughout the day. *GONE*

One sweater looked absolutely great on me when I first tried it on during step one, but when I actually wore it, I found that it bunched up and fit totally wrong when I would sit. *GONE*

When you take something out of the closet and try it on for less than a minute, you’re not really getting the experience that you get when you wear it all day. Those 30 seconds aren’t long enough for you to notice the awkward tailoring, the itchy material, or the fact that the edges keep turning outward leaving you fidgeting with your clothes all day.

I’ve recently worn almost everything I own, and I’ve gotten rid of all those items that made me uncomfortable. I noticed that the things I got rid of tended to be the things that were always on the bottom of the shelf, as if I subconsciously knew that I didn’t enjoy wearing them, but I couldn’t justify letting go of good clothes that fit.

Today, however, I have the confidence of knowing that anything I pull out of the closet is going to fit me nicely, all day long. When I meet new people, I make an impression with my personality, not with my fidgeting. And at the end of the day, I don’t feel unnecessarily stressed out.

It really gives to meaning to that old saying, “the clothes make the man.”

5th November
written by Randy

Over the past few months, I have been simplifying my wardrobe, thinning out what I own, mostly getting rid of what’s there, but occasionally adding something to make it all work better.

Completely changing a wardrobe makes for a really dramatic television show, but in everyday life it’s not so easy. Some things have to be done gradually for monetary reasons. Other things just need to be done slowly to prevent shock.

I’ve been going through the process in phases, and I think it makes sense to write about those phases separately. So I’ll have a few more posts coming on this topic soon.

Today, I’m going to start with color.

For most of my life, I’ve shopped for variety. I’ve always had black shirts, brown shirts, green shirts, white shirts, blue shirts… etc. I have black pants, brown pants, gray pants, khaki pants, white socks, blue socks, black socks, khaki socks, t-shirts, tank tops, and more.

My clothes had too much color. This may be less of a problem for other people — a family of four, may have no problem filling up a load of whites — but for a single guy, having to keep three separate loads for white, light colors, and dark colors means two things: having to own a lot of each, and always having something dirty left over.

All that variety wasn’t making my life better, it was making it worse. But I didn’t realize that until I started getting rid of it.

So the first thing I did is buy a couple packages of black socks and a couple of plain black t-shirts, and then I gathered up all of my white socks, white t-shirts, and white briefs, and tossed them out. Now, the only white things I have left are a couple of nice shirts, and those can be hand-washed or dry cleaned.

Laundry day just got much simpler! I no longer have to wait several weeks for that basket of whites to fill up. And I don’t need to own so many shirts or socks because I can wash them more frequently since the colored basket gets full faster.

I now have half as many socks and one-third as many t-shirts as I used to… and as an added bonus, everything matches! After a week or two of this, I realized I could get rid of all those other brown and blue and gray socks that I was only saving because they matched a particular pair of pants.

Just this one change has had a huge, positive effect on my happiness. It means less mess, less work to clean, less work sorting and folding and putting away… and less “stuff” that I actually own.

1st November
written by Randy

I’ve been a bit hesitant to share this with everyone, because people can be pretty judgemental sometimes, and often rather stuck in habits and beliefs that they’ve been taught and have never questioned. But after some thought, I think anyone who’s going to judge me already has plenty to judge me for, and anyone who doesn’t already think I’m crazy isn’t going to change that based on what follows.

So, here’s the thing: I’ve made a few changes recently, regarding personal hygiene, and I’ve been much better off for doing so. The first of those things was a little embarrassing when I first tried it, but has made a big improvement in my life: shaving my armpits.

I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.

So yeah. I started shaving my underarms. Not all the way down to skin, but buzzed down to about a quarter-inch. The difference it makes is dramatic: no more sweaty pit stains. No more damp underarms on my shirts, for everyone to see.

After reading about underarm shaving at Wandering Earl, I decided it was worth a try. It just made sense. Without that hair to carry sweat to your shirt, the shirt stays dry… and the sweat spreads out more evenly on the surrounding skin, where it evaporates much faster. I still use deodorant, but I’ve also noticed that I use much less now. I’m sold, it works, and I’m happier.

And speaking of things that just make sense, I later found this post about giving up soap at Sean Bonner’s blog, I really wanted to try that, too. But I’ll admit I was a little less eager.

Fortunately, someone else I know tried it and was quite happy about the difference, and after that I was sold. As soon as my last job ended, I stopped using soap and shampoo. And now, three weeks later, I couldn’t be happier.

For the first two weeks, I had to fight the urge to use soap, because I wasn’t accustomed to the way my skin felt, and I actually did give in and use it once after the first week. But now, I feel great, I don’t itch, my skin is smoother, my complexion is better, and ladies tell me they like the way I smell. Seriously!

The hardest thing to get used to was actually my hair. For the first two weeks, my hair just felt greasy and dirty, all the time. I was beginning to think it was all B.S., but I gave it a chance and I’m glad I did. Now, my hair feels softer and cleaner than ever, and that dirty feeling is gone. The difference is amazing. I feel like I’ve been lied to my whole life. Forget shampoo and conditioner… just let your body do what it was made to do!

I still wash my hands with soap — I’d be a fool not to — but that’s it. Now I only buy handsoap, and have no need of different bath soaps and body scrubs. I spend less, feel better, and live happier. And as a bonus, my bathroom is much emptier, and the shower stays cleaner without all that soap scum!

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