Setting Sail

Welcome.  If you are visiting my site for the first time, perhaps you linked here from a search engine, but more than likely you know me, and you got here through Twitter or Facebook.

For some of you, this may be a return to the good old days.  Many moons ago (in college) I had a blog which I posted half-formed thoughts to, and perhaps you visited it.  I haven’t had a blog in several years.  I’m not really sure whether that was intentional or not.  Nevertheless, these days I find myself having thoughts that might be worth jotting down –surprisingly enough!– and thought now might be as good a time as any to create a blog again.

As for my reasons:

There seems to be a certain something missing from Facebook.  This may be more obvious to some than others. Maybe it’s the constant political flame wars, or the 5 second status blurbs that are always meant to be witty, but intentionally not thought out.  Then there’s Twitter which is newer and trendier, but in general feeds my ADD, and kind of reminds me of sifting through a garbage dump every time I dive in.  I need some clarity in my life.  I need some sort of refuge from this sea of micro-blogging and political extremism.  I need to set sail, and get out of the Facebook/Twitter city.  And that’s what this blog is about: giving me a space that I can expound upon my thoughts without encountering a character limit or some arbitrary profile limitations which change upon Mark Zuckerberg’s fascist whims.  Let’s raise the sails and wave good-bye.  Bye!  See you later!  Auf Wiedersehen!

Now, turn and look out to sea, and see the empty page.  It’s beautiful, is it not?

Large uninhabited spaces, usually known as “Nature”, always seems to bring clarity to things.  I thank God that the planet we live on is a big one.  Human beings were meant to be outdoors and have some freaking space.  I love my new position at work, and my new ultra-condensed, ultra-trendy, low-walled cube work environment because I’m around fun people, (or at least funny people) a lot who speak their minds freely.  But I won’t lie, it can also be a bummer sometimes because I don’t have 30 minutes of time to space out, and let my mind wander.  It’s these types of situations which are necessary for creative professions (such as mine, as a Software Engineer) to create things that make sense and people actually want and can use.  This is apparently one of the pillars of the book Peopleware which was heavily referenced in creating such places as the Microsoft Headquarters, where every Engineer has their own office with a window.

Sometimes it’s too easy for my wife to think that I’m some sort of urban hipster who loves the city streets and wouldn’t be caught dead in a tent.  Although I take few excursions out into Nature of my own volition, yes this is true, I really do have a profound love of the outdoors.  I think I, like many people, am afraid at the prospect of entering Nature –as if I’m not always in it.

All these thoughts come on cusp of my wife’s presenting a paper at a conference on Media Ecology, “Cultivating Digital Natives in Natural Soil: Language, Perception, and the Physical Word.” We had a conversation a week or so ago about the paper and I found myself defending technology’s role in society, an unusal position for me, as I find computers many times burdensome and usually more trouble than they’re worth.  Nevertheless,–and here’s the position I found myself taking in this conversation– they are the necessary burden for structuring large, spread out communities like ours now is.

There is, however, a dark side of “technology” and by that I mean derivations of the Personal Computer.  There’s been a slew of articles as of late relating to how devices such as the iPhone are altering our sociological patterns, how we relate to each other, our families, our children.  Generally, these devices are destructive to the community which they purport to preserve.  They do create community, but unnatural ones.  People sit with their Blackberrys on the breakfast table and as they read their food is growing cold.  And yet somehow they wonder how every relationship around them is decaying.  Clearly, the digital relationships in these situations have priority and are being preserved over the physical ones immediately near them.

But then I start to think about my own iPhone.  Yes, this is where it gets personal.  I used it this morning to find phone numbers I needed, to get directions, to listen to music.  It’s not all bad is it?  I find myself circling back to the other issues.  America is so incredibly spread out, and people are so mobile, it’s hard to have community without these devices.  Cities are so complex, they’re hard to understand without some sort of device that can sift through the junk.  They were created because of some other problems inherent in our society, and as every other invention, they undoubtedly will create new problems, and are.

But back to Nature.  I think we all agree that it’s something we need, something we crave to have in our life.  We were built for wide open skies and vast wavy oceans, not 326 pixel per inch “Retina” displays, to use the term Steve Jobs and Apple coined this week with iPhone 4.  The iPhone cannot solve all our problems, or soothe the inner longings of our soul the way a walk through the woods can.  All the more reason we should be active in protecting these sanctuaries (I will steal the term from Muir, and my wife, thank you very much) around the world, that still exist and through prior generation’s wisdom were miraculously preserved –the Gulf Coast being no small exception.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill - May 24, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill from space on May 24, 2010. This is probably one of the most shocking pictures I have seen in the past several years. To quote Neil Young, now "I have seen the needle and the damage done."