Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Now I get it

I recently discovered why it is that I'm so disinclined to disconnect.

It's my grandma's fault.

A few days ago, she got a new cell phone. Was her old one broken? Was there some problem with her service provider? Did she wager it at a bingo match and later regret her impulsiveness?

No, no and no. (By the way, never, ever challenger her to a game of bingo -- she owns that game.)

Instead, she wanted instant internet access, and using the computer room on the ground floor of her apartment building wasn't cutting it anymore.

My grandmother, it turns out, is hooked on email, online chess, blogs and news.

I went over and inputted her email's username and password, and as her unread messages started rolling out onto the tiny screen her face erupted into a marveled smile.

I know, Grandma. The internet makes me happy, too!

(Knowing I can blame it on my genes makes me even happier.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Notes from a day offline

Thursday, October 30, 2009

[These start without a timestamp -- I started keeping track of that later]

I left home this morning without my cell phone – possibly an effect of the stress this is causing, since I never forget that. Keys, maybe. Wallet – yesterday. Cell phone, never.

I didn’t realize forgetting the cell was a good move until I went back and picked it up, and suddenly the internet is everywhere I am.

I’m realizing it’s a reflex. My finger wants to click on the blue e, and it’s without thinking.  [I have internet explorer on windows mobile, hence the blue e]

I’m doing a lot of thinking. I walk, and I can't read CNN. So I think. A lot of that thinking is about all of the things I’ll be doing online tomorrow:

At 10:37 I caved and went online for about 5 minutes – truly not more than that. I had to download a few things and reply to professional email. It’s not about compromising my career at this point. One day offline wouldn’t make a difference to me. But it would hurt other people’s days.

Sister, on the phone: I really don’t think you should do this.
Me: Why?
Sister: It’s ridiculous!

So at 1137 I’m going stir crazy.

11:44 I just want to check check check.

11:46 this suck sucks sucks

11:47 fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck

12:23 I just got off the phone with AY, which I’d been looking forward to for a few days. Now I’m feeling the fizz, the pffft, of deflation. That is over. That was quick. Too quick! I barely got a chance to catch up with her. But it was also great to hear her voice, after how many months? Now what. What else do I have to look forward to today?

12:25  I've been awake for 5 and a half hours and already the day seems very long to me. Yet I realize I have another 12 hours to go.

12:26 I wonder if I should tweet these tomorrow in 24-delayed real time, or just lump them together into a blog post.

12:43 I just bumped into JoR, who asked me if I’m actually doing this. I said yes, but confessed I went online for five minutes to send a work-related email. She nodded supportively. She said she saw my tweets yesterday and was curious if I’d make it. That kicked off a nice chat about a twitter widget she recently discovered, which I might like. Not only might I like it, I’m sure I would. That was a very satisfying talk. As satisfying as it is for someone on a carrot juice purge to talk about the new Magnolia bakery opening outside her apartment or someone in AA to hear about about the sale on jose cuervo at Happy-Go-Liquor. No, that’s not an actual liquor store, but shouldn’t it be?

12:54 I want to check

12:55 Am I really about to play minesweeper?

1:04 that was oddly thrilling.

1:17 I replied to an email. I just feel that if someone emails me and I don’t reply, that’s like not waving back or not smiling back when someone greets you. It’s just rude.

1:18 I think I need to revise that stance. I’ve been online 3 times today, for a total of 7 minutes. It’s way less than 9 hours, and I’m cutting out a lot of the time wasting activities that normally make up my day, opting for the far more efficient alternative called minesweeper. But I still caved not once, but three times. If I’m going to really quit the internet for a long, long time, I’ll need to be prepared to appear rude or callous.

1:20: next time around I will set up an auto reply: "I am away from my email this year. Please call or text if it’s urgent. Otherwise, I’ll receive your message next year."

1:24 I think I need a diversion. Something to help me forget.

1:51 there’s no way I could quit cold turkey. Every single atom in my body is counting down to midnight. If actually quit for the long haul, I don’t think I’d make it for more than 18 hours. I think I should start by staying offline one day per week, then adding weekends to that.

[From that point onward, the entries stop. Because --  wait for it, wait for it, waaaaait for it -- I calm down, I start working, and I eventually get drunk. See the previous entry for the conclusion.]

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What I discovered after spending 24 hours offline

I thought I would rush back here to report what my 24 hours offline were like.
I thought being offline 24 hours would steer me away from this plan.

But I did not. And it did not

Instead, sharpened or dulled by a few days of perspective, here's what I have concluded after my test run of life offline.

1. Before anything, I guess I should start with a disclosure: I was forced to check professional email three times. If not, it would have messed up other people's days. I got a call in the morning from an editor asking if I'd gotten her email. She doesn't know about my plan-- nor do any of my work related contacts. (Not yet, at least.) And I didn't want to ruin her work flow or burn that bridge. So for a total of 10 minutes, spread across the day, I read and replied to her emails.

2. That's the only contact I had with the online world.

3. This experience was harder than I thought. I figured I could just pull the plug and succeed. Arrogant fool!

4. I've decided, based on my reactions throughout the day, that I can't quit cold turkey. I need to ease out of it. Delight at the thought of being able to log back in soon is what stopped me from giving up immediately. So I need to accustom myself to not being so delighted. And that will be a gradual process.

5. By about 6 p.m. I couldn't believe how much more time I had left to be offline and how slowly the day had gone by.

6. To make it go faster, I enlisted the help of a friend and the excellent margaritas of Ponce's. By the end of the night I forgot what time it was, what we talked about at the beginning of the night -- but not that I was supposed to be offline.

7. After that great evening I resolved that if I overcome internet addiction I should at least become an alcoholic.

8. Earlier, I called 411 twice, once to get the number of an editor I work with and then for Travelocity. I hadn't called 411 in at least three years, and I'm very happy that service still exists.

9. The hardest point in the day came when I wanted to book a plane ticket. I had decided to attend a journalism conference in New Haven and stick around the East Coast for a few days. I called Travelocity just to get an idea about the prices, and the guy told me there was a good fare with one seat left at $300. I almost almost caved and looked online to make sure that was the best deal. Instead, I ended up RESISTING and CONTROLLING THE URGE and I bought the ticket blind.

Later, when I looked up fares online, I saw the cheapest tix would have been $50 less.

I also had to pay the damn $25 telephone booking fee.

So if that's not dedication, I don't know what is.

10. Oh wait, that would be stupidity.

11. Because quitting the internet when it helps you save time and money is stupid.

12. But if what you gain offsets those losses, quitting the internet is not that stupid.

13. My day offline was oddly relaxing, come to think of it. I could see myself really relishing in the freedom, over time. After the jitters and the withdrawal, I suspect I would coast. Let my mind wander and start achieving something pretty decent things.

14. The high point was at about 4 p.m., when I stopped obsessing over being offline and I started writing, really writing, without interruptions or distractions, for a few good hours. I rarely get that sort of momentum, and it's my own fault.

15. In fact, I observed the most interesting effect the day after. All the automatic behaviors -- checking email frequently, going on NYT.com every few hours -- seemed ridiculous, superfluous. And I realized that the internet is just like the trail of ants that was running around in my kitchen all summer: mesmerizing, infuriating, persistent until the day it's gone, and then you don't have to think about it unless you want to.

Next post: my journal from that day. Complete with time stamps. And expletives.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What have I done?

Now that I have decreed I'm going offline tomorrow, I am petrified.

What have I done??

In the last five minutes I've issued five pathetic tweets:
Now my heart is beating faster, because it's sinking in. I won't be able to do this tomorrow. Or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or thisorthisorthisorthisorthisorthisorthis!!

Ok. Here's the plan. I will make a list of things I can look forward to tomorrow. And I will print it out and read it every time I'm getting antsy.

1. phone call with AY, friend from college and grad school who lives in London now, which we've planned for a few days
2. work
3. work
4. work
5. progress
6. no distractions
7. work work work
8. progress progress progress
9. i will sit in a beautiful cafe and stare at my surroundings, not the screen before me
10. i will call 3 people I haven't spoken to in more than a month
11. i will write one letter, run one errand or do one chore to make the rest of the week easier
12. i will treat myself to a movie, theme park or anything else that panders an escapist fantasy
13. i will keep notes about what it's like to be offline for no good reason, and publish them here, friday

And that's that.

First moment of reckoning

A few weeks ago I installed TimeTracker to find out how many hours I spend online. Now is the moment of reckoning. Since October 6, I have used the internet:
102 hours on my netbook
57 hours on my desktop
About 15 hours on AR's laptop. A guesstimate, since I didn't install the tracking program there.

174 hours in 22 days = 7.9 hours per day.

Now let's add in the cell phone data usage. I use about 160mb per month, according to my last three bills.  Per AT&T, these are the data loads for my online activities:

Typical Web page look-up: 150KB
Check the weather forecast on weather.com: 25-75KB (I'll go with 25, since it's just a rare glance -- I live in Southern California, remember?)
Check AOL email and read three messages: 60KB (I don't have AOL, but close enough)
Update Facebook status: 25-50KB (I'll go with 25, since I rarely do this on the phone)
Visit CNN.com and access the headlines in the "Health" section: 20-40 KB (I'll average that out to 30, since I'm on news sites a lot, but I tend to read articles the whole way rather than reloading constantly)

Trouble is, I'm not sure how much time that translates into. Does anyone know multivariable calculus? Let's just say I'm on my smart phone -- using data, that is -- a total of one hour per day. That's for quick email checks when I'm stuck in traffic, reading the news during rush hour, looking up statistics about accidents in rush hour caused by cell phone usage, and, occasionally, doing everything else I do online when I'm not stuck in traffic.

I secretly fear one hour is a conservative estimate, but no internet-quitting project would be complete without a dash of self-delusion, would it?

So, total time online as of October 28, 2009:
8.9 hours per day.
Is that bad?

Does that smell like an addict to you?

Does it make you want to wrap me up in a straitjacket and write "HOPELESS' on my forehead? Because if it does, I would like to meet you. We have a similar sense of humor and I think we'd hit it off.

But really, crude jokes aside, I think it's a perfectly reasonable amount of time. Don't you?

You know what else I think? It's time to go offline, for one day.

Just to see what happens.

Tomorrow. No internet, no cell phone data. From midnight to midnight.

If you don't hear from me Friday, send a medical examiner.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

77 Simple Living Blogs

Thanks to Phoebe, the lovely life force behind of Silk Felt Soil, for sending me this list of Top Simple Living Blogs. Organicasm put out the list a little more than a year ago -- in August 2008 -- and clicking through, I was struck by how many of these sites are now defunct. I've decided to cross out anything with a dead URL or no updates in more than six months. Then again, I guess it's a fairly normal rate. Once again, thanks to Organicasm for compiling this list. For your enjoyment:

  • My Simpler Life: Learn to get your life under control with tips and advice from professional life coach.

    Down to Earth: Here, blogger Rhonda discusses simple living topics like gardening, green cleaning, cooking simple meals, and living well on less.

    Simple Living in a Complex World: Learn to enjoy the simple pleasures in life with posts from this crafty blogger. Recent posts have given advice on baking artisan bread, knitting and gardening.

    The Smart Woman’s Guide to a Simple Life: Ladies looking to simplify their lives will appreciate the advice and posts in this blog. You’ll get tips on everything from caring for children to being more productive.

    Plastic Drifter: This blog is a great help to those living the modern life who want to simplify things and get rid of the junk that clutters their homes. Read about freecyling, buying less and finding fulfilling careers.

    Everyday Simplicity: Designed to provide information to both the newbie and the veteran simple lifers, this blog focuses on aspects of organization, daily life and providing readers with inspirational quotes.

    Simplicity in Kansas: This blog can be a great read for anyone interested in spending less and still enjoying life to the fullest.

    Redomestication: Blogger Michelle is a mom, an entrepreneur and a homesteader interested in sharing her experiences with living the simple (or sometimes not so simple) life with readers.

    Finding Simplicity: Navigating through the mess of finances, junk and consumerism that is a big part of many of our lives can be difficult. Read about blogger Sharon’s journey to simplicity to get some advice on your own.

    My Green Side: This blog is full of simple tips to help you start living simpler and be more conscious of the impact you have on the environment. Get recipes for green fabric softener as well as a host of other simple household products.

    In Search of a Simple Life: Here you will find many posts for this UK blogger about enjoying the simple pleasures in life like baking, spring showers and being with family.

    A More Green and Simple Life: Blogger Donna Ellis records her journey towards a less cluttered and hectic life in her posts. She shares her experience with making small changes in her life that help her finances, family and the environment.

    Choosing Voluntary Simplicity: Just like anything else, simplicity is a choice, and this blog is dedicated to the daily choices we can make that help make our lives less complicated. Its posts are geared towards giving readers the tools to lead more balanced and fulfilled lives.

    Less is More Balanced: Find information on beautifully designed products that can help you on your path to living more simply and balanced.

    Tiny Choices: This blog is all about the tiny choice you make every day that affect your life and the environment. You’ll get advice on everything from living in small spaces to drinking bottled water.

    Neat and Simple Living: Ariane Benefit is a professional organizing coach, author of several books and a blogger. You can read through her great tips on how to whip your home, car, garage, office and anything else into shape.

    Unclutterer: Whether you’re trying to get organized for the first time or just keep your current organizational systems functional, you’ll find help with Unclutterer’s daily tips.

    Get Organized Now!: Entrepreneur Maria Gracia shares her tips on how you can organize your business or home from tossing out old clothes to giving book recommendations.

    Psychology of Clutter: Get into the inner workings of your mind and find out what makes you clutter tendencies so hard to break with this blog by professional psychologist Dr. Amie Ragan.

    The Home Office Organizer: Who isn’t guilty of creating stacks of papers to deal with later on their desk, especially if you work from home? Learn how to whip your home office into a productivity zone with some advice gleaned from this blog.

    Clear and Simple: Check out this blog with monthly tips from professional organizing team Maria, Donna and Kelly. If you like what you read, you can also sign up for a newsletter.

    Discover Organization: Get tips, multimedia and a variety of tutorials on how you can get your home organized and make your life simpler and better on Discover Organization.

    FlyLady: Perhaps one of the best known anti-clutter bloggers, the Fly Lady will get you on the right path to clearing out your home, office and life of all the clutter that’s weighing you down.

    The Clutter Diet: Author of the book of the same name, Lorie Marrero gives readers some tips on how to save time at work, make your family life run more smoothly and most importantly, clear out all your junk.

    Creative Organizing: For many people, creativity and organization are two things that simply don’t go hand and hand. This blog shows otherwise and gives readers loads of great ways to keep your creativity tools organized so you’ll be able to find them when inspiration strikes.

    Let’s Talk Organizing: Get the motivation you need to clean out your closet from professional organizer Suzanne Babb. You’ll be able to read about the rewards of organization, find out if you’re chronically disorganized or streamline your workday.

    Online Organizing: Online organizing is home to loads of online resources for helping even the worst of clutterbugs get their stuff in order. You’ll find blog posts from people in your same situation to provide inspiration, advice and encouragement.

    Wise Bread: Wise Bread is dedicated to "living large on a small budget". You’ll find posts on a large variety of topics ranging from how to sell your hair to tips on getting out of debt.

    The Simple Dollar: Keep your finances simple with advice from this penny pinching blog. You’ll get advice on eliminating your debt and creating better spending habits.

    Frugal for Life: Here you’ll find tips and posts on helping you life a fuller, simpler life through scaling back on expenditures and staying healthy.

    Frugal Village: Learn about topics like frugal cooking and decorating, gardening, thrifting and simple living on this blog with posts by blogger Sara Noel.

    Blunt Money: Get access to frank discussions of money with this blog, and educate yourself on your net worth, how to refinance your mortgage and managing finances when you’ve got kids.

    A Year Off: Think you could go a whole year without making any indulgent shopping purchases? This family is trying to do just that, and this blog chronicles their progress, trials and setbacks as they attempt to break poor spending habits.

    Tight Fisted Miser: While simplicity doesn’t require you to be miserly, this blog can provide you with some tips that will help you cut back and create a more realistic budget.

    The Dollar Stretcher: Learn to make every penny go further with tips from the articles on this site. You’ll find everything from insurance advice to ways to cut your grocery bills.

    Savvy Frugality: Get enthusiastic about being frugal with the infectious spirit of this blog. You’ll get access to all kinds of shopping tips to help you get the lowest prices on everything from groceries to new clothes.

    A Frugal Living Blog by a Frugal Guy: The author of this blog has gone through some tight times and has learned the true meaning of making every penny count. Learn from his experiences with this blog.

    Simply Thrifty: Blogger Deb posts about a variety of thrifty issues including how to get freebies and what to do with old socks.

    Parent Hacks: Get useful tips, tricks and advice on parenting from this blog, written by other experienced parents who’ve tried it out on their own children.

    SouleMama: This super creative mom shows how to make simple and beautiful crafts while enjoying the pleasures of raising small children.

    Amy’s Humble Musings: Mother of six Amy Scott writes about her experience raising her children while still trying to keep things simple and stick to her values.

    Life is Not a Cereal: This blog emphasizes the spiritual side of living simply while raising a family. Blogger Jenny shares her thoughts on faith, the trials of child rearing and everyday life.

    This Simple Life: This mom of two shares her thoughts on simple living, parenting, and faith as well as many photos.

    The Simple Family: This blog chronicles the journey of a suburban family trying to make the switch from a typical suburban life to one that’s greener, simpler and, hopes the mother, happier.

    The Frugal Family Kitchen: If you find yourself struggling to come up with simpler recipes or ways to save money on your family’s food budget, this this blog could help you out. It gives ideas on all kinds of DIY, simple meals for every time of the day.

    MotherLoad: Every mom (and dad) needs a little help and assistance now and then to keep from getting completely overwhelmed. This blog can give you some helpful parenting tips, recipes, career advice and more to make caring for your family a little easier.

    Living on a Dime: You can learn to make the most of even meager resources with this blog. Read answers to visitor questions, get advice on making cheap meals, and more from mother and daughter team Tawra and Jill.

    The Simple Wife: Read about the adventures of mother Joanne as she raises her children, enjoys simple pastimes, and attempts to live a less stuff-filled life.

    Tree Hugging Family: Make your efforts to go green and live more simply a family affair with advice from Jennifer Chait and Peggy Rowland, authors of this informative blog.

    The Green Mommy: This mom is trying to keep her spending in check, eat organically and care for her small child. Read about her experiences here.

    Green and Simple Living: This blog deals with concerns of conserving resources, reducing waste, and living a more environmentally friendly life. Blogger Shirley gives her take on topics like organic foods, renewable energy and green living in this blog.

    Natural Living: This blog shares stories of working on a farm, being a health nut, and enjoying the simple and earth-friendly pleasures life has to offer.

    Towards Sustainability: Here you’ll find the story of this Australian family of five slowly attempting to make the change to a greener and ultimately more sustainable lifestyle. It’s written by a mom and former environmental scientist who shares her experiences gardening, cooking and being crafty.

    Treehugger: Treehugger wants green living and sustainability to become things that aren’t fringe elements of society. On this site, you’ll find loads of info about green products, ways you can make every part of your life greener, and even some tips about eating healthier.

    Eat Local Challenge: If you’ve ever stopped to think about it, you’ve realized that much of what we eat on a daily basis comes from all over the nation and even the world. This blog is all about eating foods that are grown organically and locally so they don’t have to be shipped all over, using energy and resources.

    NatureMoms: This blog serves a guide for those needing help creating a more earth-friendly life at home. Mom Tiffany shares her challenges with this through the posts on her blog.

    Green Living Tips: Need a few tips to get you started on your new, simpler lifestyle? This blog is full of tiny ways you can start living a more earth-conscious life.

    The Green Life: The Sierra Club is known for its efforts to save wildlife and work towards getting people from all over the world to conserve more and waste less. You can read about their mission on this blog.

    A Year of Living Greener: This blog tracks the progress of a mom who hopes that by the end of 2008 she’ll be living greener and more responsibly. You can read along with her journey as she declutters, gives tips and struggles with decisions on organic food.

    Low Impact Living: Learn to make your carbon footprint a little smaller with home improvement tips, organization and recycling advice and loads of other factors to consider when trying to live greener.

    Green Living Ideas: From flooring and lighting to banking and eating out, this blog explores how you can go green in every aspect of your life.

    Lifehacker: Lifehacker is a mecca for productivity tips, especially for those who love their gadgets and technology. Check it out to see if you can’t get your work or home schedules to be more efficient.

    Zen Habits: This blog can give you some advice on living more simply and purposefully but also on how to get the most out of the time you spend at work, doing housework and anything else that needs to be done.

    The Lazy Way to Success: Why work for hours on end at a job when you can get the same amount done in half the time? This blog will show you how you can work less, earn more, and still feel like you’re getting things done.

    Dumb Little Man: The little man in this blog is hardly dumb and can provide you with a wide variety of tips on boosting your productivity in everything you do.

    Web Worker Daily: Even if you don’t work solely on the Internet, chances are pretty good that you use it for at least some part of your job on a daily basis. Give this blog a quick read to see how you can more effectively use the net to get your work done, network, and find job happiness.

    Life Clever: Designers of all kinds will appreciate this blog which gives tips on how you can make your design work better and more productive. Of course, there’s something for the rest of us too, with loads of suggestions on improving other aspects of life as well.

    Success Begins Today: Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today, especially when that something is starting working towards your success? This blog is dedicated to helping you improve your personal productivity and meet your goals.

    Make Use Of: Web addicts will love this blog, which gives reviews and advice on all things Internet. Check out some of the recommended programs, as they can streamline your processes and make your life a little easier.

    Ian’s Messy Desk: The tagline of this blog is "helping you get the most out of the 24 hours in your day." Who doesn’t want a little help with that? Read up to find out ways you can be making the most of your time.

    Business Hackers: Don’t worry, despite the title, there’s nothing sinister about this blog. It’s simply full of tips and suggestions to help get a Web business up, running and making money without spending too much time and effort doing it.

    Dave Cheong: Read about this software engineer’s ups and downs in his journey to entrepreneurship, and get some helpful advice on how to improve your career and work attitude as well.

    The Lean Blog: Learn to be less wasteful and more purposeful in your business practices with inspiration from this blog, which advocates the "lean method."

    Simple Productivity: Being productive doesn’t have to be complicated, as this blog proves. Read it frequently for simple ideas to help you get more done.

    LifeDev: This blog is dedicated to creative people who want to learn to get more done and improve their lives one step at a time. Get loads of tips on boosting your creativity and working to maximize your time.

    Life Optimizer: Get some inspiration to find the best in yourself from this upbeat blog. It’s aimed at helping readers fulfill their true potential and live the fullest lives possible.

    My Empty Bucket: Here you’ll find posts that are all about learning to create your own happiness and personal fulfillment, from giving, to exploring new things, to waiting for the right time, you’ll find inspiration here.

    The Positivity Blog: Feeling a little too negative lately? Get some positive energy from the posts on this blog dedicated to helping you see the bright side of things.

    Life Reboot: Do you sometimes feel like you want a do over when you think about your career? It’s not too late to make a change and this blog can give you some inspiration and guidance on how to makeover your life.

    Ignite Living: This blog gives tips for "productive, simple and happy living." Read about how to take criticism and how you can help your business and yourself.

    Personal Development Made Simple: Making changes in your attitude, lifestyle and outlook doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think. This blog breaks it down and helps make it easier to make the leap.

    Life Coaches Blog: If you’re looking for your own little personal cheering section as you make life changes, a life coach may be just the thing for you. Get some inspiration for and by life coaches in this helpful blog.

    Daily Cup of Yoga: Learn all about yoga related issues and get some pointers on this yoga-focused blog that can help you learn to be more centered and healthy.

    Take Back Your Time: Stress is one of the leading factors that cause almost every known illness known to man. This blog is about taking back time for yourself, not overdoing it, and making sure you’re staying happy and healthy.

    Simple Nourished Living: This blog is full of ideas on how you can live a more nourished and healthy life without doing anything fancy while keeping things simple and stress free.

    Fitness Health Zone: Want some simple suggestions on how you can start getting in shape? This blog is full of short tips, exercises and advice on living a healthier lifestyle.

    Green Health Information: Learn to stay healthy while going green with the posts from this blog. You’ll learn some natural ways to deal with a variety of illnesses and how to keep yourself fit and environmentally friendly.

    Really Useful Fitness Blog: Simplify your workout routine with tips and activities suggested in this blog.

    Simple Health Ideas: Registered massage therapist Denise Mackinnon gives advice in this blog on nutrition, exercise and a variety of other wellness issues.

    Dani Spies: Looking for some simple but healthy recipes to feed your family that won’t have you in the kitchen for hours slaving over the stove? Dani Spies, a health counselor and fitness trainer, provides new recipes regularly to help keep you simply healthy.

    The Simple Pastor: Follow the travels of this UK-based pastor who embraces his spirituality and tries to live a simple, religiously focused life.

    Simple Living America: Simple Living America is one of the most widespread organizations dedicated to helping people live simpler, less consumer driven lives. You can read about their work and learn to change your life in this blog.

    Faces of Simple Living: If you’re thinking about changing your life to live more simply you’re not alone. This blog follows the travels of Gerald Iversen as he meets people all over the US who have decided to simplify their lives.

    Soulforce: This organization is dedicated to promoting simple, human values like equality and tolerance through the non-violent methods of leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Learn to incorporate these values into your daily actions and how to get involved from this site.

    Isle Dance: If you’ve ever dreamed of selling all your stuff and moving to a remote island, this blog is for you. This single blogger lives in an eco friendly cabin and sleeps in a hammock while trying to keep things simple.

    Found Clothing: Most people have seen the odd shoe, sock, or shirt abandoned on the sidewalk or at the beach. This blog chronicles the lives of these lost clothing items which readers save and recycle.

    The Laws of Simplicity: Whether you work in design or just appreciate it you’ll learn how simplicity can be a desirable factor in all kinds of products from chocolate to running shoes.

    Musings from a Stonehead: Embrace stone croft houses with this blogger from Scotland as he writes about his experience operating a traditional farm and trying to be environmentally friendly.

    Sarah’s Homestead Blog: This Oregon blogger talks about her experiences working on a farm, raising animals, making crafts and basically doing everything she can herself.

    Not So Virtual Homestead: Here you can read about how this family aims to be self-sufficient on their small farm in the middle of New Jersey while raising two small daughters. Beth Dargis. You’ll learn how to have more fun, be more organized and pare your life down to the things you really care about.

  • Monday, October 26, 2009


    This is fantastic.

    While everyone thought the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot their target airport were either sleeping, taking the mile high club to new depths, temporarily abducted by aliens or perhaps caught up in a game of Cat's Cradle, no one suggested the most plausible explanation of all. They were on their computers!!! The AP reports:
    Cole and Cheney told investigators that they both had their laptops out while the first officer, who had more experience with scheduling, instructed the captain on monthly flight crew scheduling. (Read the whole story here.)
    Well, I wouldn't want to be in any plane they're flying, but besides that, I'd call C & C kindred spirits!

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    A net quitter walks into a hacker convention

    "What else are you going to do? Cut a hole through a sheet and fuck through it? Do you have a telephone you can crank up? And how are you going to get around? Let me guess, you're gonna use a wheelbarrow."

    So answered the guy with the cherry red hair and beer stained t-shirt when I told him about what I'm contemplating.

    I was hanging out at the 11th annual Toorcon convention, a gathering of hackers and security experts held, rather conventionally, at San Diego's Convention Center. Topics this year included modeling cyber threats, exploiting an Apple firmware update and why black hat hackers always win.

    My friend's boyfriend was a speaker, and we stopped by the reception because I wanted to see the culture, she wanted to see her man, and we both wanted the free crab cakes rumored to be at the refreshment table. Those ended up being really gross, but the wild mushroom and goat cheese eggrolls were most munchable.

    This guy and his friends were at the beginning of a power hour, which makes me wish I'd waited until shot 59 to get their reactions.

    We didn't stick around that long, though, since the conference was going on all weekend and I was going to drop in on some sessions on Sunday.

    Then, things took a turn for the worse. My friend's boyfriend broke his leg and he's now in the hospital. She's been by his side the whole time. The hackers have been coming and going from the hospital, offering their airline miles and couches and anything he needs to extend his trip or make his stay more comfortable. I missed my chance to learn about their technology and subculture. And I was reminded of the old journalism adage: Never assume. That the crab cakes will be yummy, that hackers are out to mess things up for others or that things will ever go according to plan.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Guest Blogger: For those in denial, know this affliction is real

    Internet Addiction.

    Quick! What thoughts just popped into your head? For most, the mere mention of it stirs denial. Denial so tenacious that if it were mixed with any other addiction, it would prove toxic if not lethal. Perhaps your life hasn’t been tainted with this wide sweeping modern ‘affliction’ that feigns as a modern ‘affection’? Or perhaps that warm fuzzy glow has already beguiled you! Read on if you dare…

    For those of you in denial, know that this affliction is real. So real, that back in March 2008, the American Psychiatric Association finally decided to classify it as a disorder and include it in the forthcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:
    1) excessive use… loss of sense of time… neglect of basic drives

    2) withdrawal… feelings of anger, tension, … depression when the computer is inaccessible

    3) tolerance…the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use

    4) negative repercussions: arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue
    Sound like a horrible substance addiction? The article even continues to cite deaths stemming from internet use, and things like high relapse rates from recovering addicts. Still think internet addiction is a big joke?

    But what really lies at the belly of the beast here? When people subscribing to Playboy and Penthouse spend countless hours viewing explicit images of women au naturel, we don’t say, “Oh he’s (she’s?) addicted to magazines." We say they’re addicted to pornography. Just as we wouldn’t say drug users are addicted to bongs, pipes, and syringes; they’re addicted to a substance.

    That takes the concept of internet addiction to a whole new level. It is a universal delivery platform for everything the world over. It provides everything that drugs, caffeine, and cigarettes do, and then some. Pick your substance, any substance. And at the core, it provides a temporary (or permanent depending on your level of use) escape and/or release from the stresses of everyday life.

    The internet provides a similar escape/release, but also brings into play virtual realities, endless musings and rants of friends and colleagues, and instantaneous answers to any of life’s questions. It provides on-demand entertainment and interaction with people farther than your neighborhood. It provides information that even the largest libraries would revel at. Is it the internet’s fault for making this possible? Is it the internet we are really addicted to? Or is it home videos, chatting, googling, gaming, information seeking?

    The internet also promotes procrastination, without really being procrastination. Yes, the internet is a distraction from the duties of the ‘real’ world; but is it so wrong to laugh, engage in great (debatable?) conversations with friends, or become versed in new things that intrigue you the moment that you want to learn about it? And what’s so bad about playing a quick game of web Sudoku between those long hours of writing and researching for that deadline project at work (or your friend’s blog)?

    As with any addiction, it really boils down to self-control, and in the case of the internet that means being able to balance and moderate your time between your responsibilities and your time spent with your escape of choice (mine, for the last 15 minutes or so: http://www.balloonboygame.com/). That is much harder to do with the internet because of our lack of awareness of time's passing. It’s all too easy to get sucked into that comforting glow of alternate reality.

    As hopeless as the affliction/affection (afflection?) seems, there is still promise for recovery. For the bargain price of $15,500 ($200 app fee, $800 interview fee, and $14,500 program fee), you can spend 45 days at the recently opened reSTART, located in Fall City, Washington, and be cured. Its 45-day program involves outdoor activities and interaction with animals that inhabit its 5-acre grounds. I wonder if attendees find comfort in the fact that in a 15-minute drive, they can arrive at Microsoft’s headquarters in nearby Redmond, Washington?

    In the end, I am intrigued, anxious, and scared, all at the same time, for RP’s venture into the world without internet. What will be her new escape? What new hobbies will she undertake? And the big question, how much will it affect her productivity? Will it be positive or negative? Is one year too long? I’m as anxious as you to observe the side effects of her abstinence.

    Marcus Murphy has been using a computer since he was 5 and building them since he was 14. His new startup is The Chic Geek, a computer services company (site under construction). Reach him at murph dot meister dot 32 at gmail dot com.

    Aiming for day 365

    One thing I've been contemplating is how to quit, and how to stay offline. But those thoughts have never pushed far beyond the first few months, because that distant future is too nebulous -- and my commitment, I fear, too tenuous -- to draw my focus.

    Then, I saw this story in yesterday's NYT : Battling Addiction With Those Who Know It Best

    It's about how Philadelphia is helping its drug and alcohol addicts to stay clean by providing chronic care and (seems like an obvious strategy to me, but apparently it's quite an innovation) connecting them with people who have successfully battled addiction.

    “Hundreds of people are speaking out about being in recovery, and that’s having a tremendous impact on people who may not think they’re ready to change,” Arthur C. Evans, Philadelphia's chief of behavioral health, tells The New York Times. Erik Eckholm, the reporter, continues:
    Mr. Garrett [a man who has struggled with addiction for years] proudly said that he had been drug-free for eight months now, attending 12-step meetings, therapy sessions and other activities daily.
    “This time around, people with the same histories as me are talking to me, telling my story,” he said. “That never happened before.”
    He even went camping with a sober group and is making plans to attend its Halloween party. “That’s the fun part of this process,” he said.
    Still, a few weeks ago, Mr. Garrett said, he was contemplating suicide. “When that happened, I used to go straight into drugs without telling anybody,” he said. This time, he called on a recently trained peer specialist at Comhar named William Baker [another addict]. Read the whole story here.
    Which gets me thinking. I'm quitting for a year. Other people decide to quit for their entire lives. One year is not that bad. I can do this. (I hope.)

    Second, rather than just concretely planning how to quit, and merely wondering how I'll survive offline, I should also concretely plan to survive offline. Find people who don't use the internet a lot. Find people who used to be addicts and created meaning in different avenues. Connect with them. Like we used to, in person. Build a support network. And do whatever else it takes to ensure I'm prepared to get to Day 365, not Day 1.

    On that note, I introduce Marcus Murphy, my first guest blogger.

    ceci n'est pas un post

    Deadlines. Gotta file two stories today... so this will be short. I have some interesting developments.
    • This story, about battling addiction, gave me an idea. An idea I will be exploring in my next post.
    • And saving the best for last: The first guest blogger has submitted an essay meditating on what exactly "internet addiction" means, both as an affliction and a concept. That will kick off the weekend. 

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    When and how?!??!

    This is what people are saying when they hear this plan I've hatched: To quit the internet for a year and live to tell the tale.

    Given that my friends were originally skeptical, I guess these decisive questions are encouraging. A tad flattering, even. Now that I seem serious -- writing 41 blog posts on a subject naturally makes any pursuit legitimate -- people are taking me more seriously.

    Or should I be a little concerned... about the eagerness with which my friends seem to want me to get down to business. Do their eyes really need to light up as they ask

    "Wow!!! WHEN!! HOW??"

    People, I'm going offline, not giving out tickets to the 7th annual San Antonio Prayathon. So calm down.

    Anyway, the answer is... I'm not sure yet.

    This is why I started documenting Project Quitnet before actually quitting: to figure out all those details and let you, dear reader, in on the process. What I know, so far: I'll sign off as soon as I can feasibly do so. That's probably around January or February, since I have a few projects where I really need internet access. One is my dissertation, which I cannot write quickly without the internet. I keep in touch with profs and use online journals and google books, etc. Second is the question of employment. I'm a freelance writer, which means that I'd have to either convince my editors to make a few changes or find a way to do this so there's zero inconvenience for them. And don't get me started on tracking down sources and doing research... The preparation alone (getting people's numbers, letting people know, downloading or printing resources) will take a few months.

    But I will let you know as soon as I have a date fixed.

    As for the how... How to quit, how to post dispatches from offlineland, how to vouchsafe the integrity of the project, how to make sure I stick with the program but also don't pull all my hair out from desperation...

    I'm trying to figure all that out. I have have a few ideas, and the support of a few people who offered to help me communicate from my cocoon.

    Any ideas are welcomed.

    [image one via CcureIT, image two via Great Green Wedding]

    Poow widdle waptop, get better soon!!

    I've been online for 21 years. My family got its first computer in 1988, a Packard bell 286 Santa brought for Christmas.

    I've been online for 21 years and I've never gotten a virus. Until tonight.

    My computer has a virus.

    Not just any virus, but the popup advertiser from hell. In the past half an hour I've been invited to apply for jobs, meet local singles, search with a new engine, read breaking news, buy an antivirus program, search with a different new engine, and meet more singles.

    Once in a while, a voice blazes, "Would you like to make $5,000 posting links on Google?"

    Meanwhile, gmail is slow, facebook freezes, I can't download any programs to try to erase the virus, and so I've turned to my friends for solace.

    Their responses:
    NLJ:   Time to shut down....for a year
    57 minutes ago · Delete
    NW:   What you need is a year without the internet.
    52 minutes ago · Delete

    NLJ:   or you could just have [AR] fix it
    52 minutes ago · Delete

    NLJ:   I think [NW] needs to see your new blog
    48 minutes ago · Delete

    NW:   Or maybe he already has. :)
    46 minutes ago · Delete
    NLJ:   Touche
    44 minutes ago · Delete

    Roxana Popescu:   =) Well tomorrow, you will both see yourselves on the blog... because I'm definitely writing about this horrific incident.
    42 minutes ago · Delete
    Grateful for the support of the Facebook community as I deal with this personal tragedy, I turn, now, to art. i.e. writing. i.e. blogging.

    Woe is me.

    But that is this? A ray of hope peeking through the clouds of my grief? For in a few moments, the only person I know who can fix this will bound though the door and save me.

    UPDATE: I didn't post this right away, since my computer got taken over by AR, who took one look and told me there's no hope: The hard drive has to be wiped clean. Turns out that around 4:50 this afternoon, my computer snagged a Trojan and something called a backdoor bot. Don't wanna know what those are or how they got there.

    Also turns out those evil programs tried to latch onto my passwords and turn my computer into a remote control, according to the uber-informed MM.

    My relationship with the internet: 21 years old. Today: not one, but two viruses at once. My baby, all grown up! And telling me to go fuck myself, I think...

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Missable or Dismissable: YouTube video of awful interview

    Take this specimen:

    It's what I call a classic.

    I couldn't get this on TV. Hearing it on the radio would mean missing John Cusack's murderous gaze. And listening to a friend tell me about it would make me go, "Oh, ok. Sounds funny. I'm sure it was awesome."

    But actually watching that video makes my day. Because I'm that kind of person.

    Which leaves me with only one possible conclusion about this video:

    Verdict: MISSABLE

    I don't know what doctors have nightmares about. Maybe sewing tennis rackets into people's abdomens. And I don't know what police officers have nightmares about. Maybe arresting the wrong person and then getting invited to the White House for a beer summit, only to have the president serve Bud. Nyuk nyuk.

    As for reporters -- at least this reporter -- worries about corrections and, perhaps more terrifying, realizing something is wrong with your story but it's too late to change it. That's the stuff of nightmares. I bet now I'm going to dream about an interview where I confuse John Cusack with... Joan? Clinton with -- Actually, I'll bite my tongue. To do anything else would be... untoward.

    Nook vs Kindle

    As far as I'm concerned, they're interchangeable. Because as net-obsessed as I am, I still love books. Pulpy, papery, dusty, rough, writeable, stackable, lendable, bendable, heavy or flimsy but always fragrant books.

    And that is all I wanted to say on this subject.

    [image via Hans Mol @ ANU]

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    On the drive home from dinner last night

    Speaking of digital creep...

    AR: So you did better at tennis last night, great job.
    RP: Thanks, but like I said on my Facebook status, I wish that annoying net wasn't there. That would make the game so much funner.
    AR: But that wouldn't be tennis anymore.
    RP: Yeah, it would be better than tennis.
    AR: You should not be allowed within 50 yards of a court.
    RP: I'm not listening. Go home, get on Facebook, reply to my status update, and then I'll write back. La-la-la-la.

    [image via salon]

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Now who's holding the mirror?

    The NYT ran a story yesterday about a new social media platform called Foursquare. Jenna Wortham reports:
    A combination of friend-finder, city guide and competitive bar game, Foursquare lets users “check in” with a cellphone at a bar, restaurant or art gallery. That alerts their friends to their current location so they can drop by and say hello.
    Read the rest here.

    As soon as I got to the last sentence I did two things: I immediately joined.

    And then thought about joining.

    Foursquare, it occurred to me as I looked at the site, is like Meetup but less lame, like Latitude but less stalkerish, like Yelp but (hopefully -- too soon to tell) less gushy. You're somewhere fun, you "shout" your whereabouts, and people in your network, aka your friends, can show up. Plus there's a whole "game" component -- you compete with other members and gain status by going to places frequently. Sounds like silly, harmless fun.

    But there's something about the idea that's monumental.

    Let's take a step back and think about a question we lit nerds like to ponder. "What's the relationship between art and life?" Erich Auerbach wrote some essays on the subject of imitation (named, mimetically, Mimesis) that pretty much helped found the field of comparative literature. Long before him, humans have been wondering: does art hold up the mirror to nature, or vice versa? Why do we keep taking matter and shaping it into statues or smearing it onto canvases to make things that look like us? Even if we didn't want to "represent" through art, could we? And what does it take for a work of art or an aesthetic movement to inspire, influence or even alter society?

    Well, today we can reframe that "art/life" question in terms of technology, social media, user interfacing, user experience. Like art, those innovations are man made and they're mostly focused on recreating experiences or concepts from real life. We have web "pages" and virtual "friends." One heavy hitter of the virtual world named itself something that constantly reminds us what it's trying to emulate: Second Life. But the name also means that the site recognizes it's going to play second fiddle to your real, "first" life. (Or, at least, it should, is the implication. Because if your second life is your first one, then you have a problem. Which you could blog about. Endlessly. Like someone I know. Who I occasionally refer to in the third person. For reasons neither of us can really comprehend.)

    Beyond technology that imitates life, there's the more ambiguous category of sites, interfaces and apps that sort of imitate life, but sort of don't. You have Lifehacker, which is supposed to make your life better -- but which "life," the digital or the real one? And sites like Facebook, which was originally built on social networks that already existed, but has ended up rewiring relationships. Now people's divorces, job searches and childbirths are complicated, tainted or enlivened by their walls and postings, for example. Yet note the lingo -- these terms are still words we use to describe the spaces around us: walls, tags, posts. Facebook may be "poking" life, but life pokes back harder.

    Most revolutionary is when life directly imitates art, technology, artifice. This is evident when I find myself saying "delete" instead of erase and "scroll" instead of move, or when I think in terms of pixels and wish I could link from a notepad to an article online. (I'm sure someone has a word for this. Digital creep? Hmm.) If If Web 2.0 was the internet imitating life (interactivity, conversations, virtual everything), then the next evolution will be life imitating the web. But should we call that Web 3.0, or Life 2.0?

    Obviously technology is shaping the world outside the screen -- that's no revelation. But there's aggregate influence (over time, lots of things combine and swell to produces subtle or stronger changes) and then there's acute impact. Foursquare falls in that second category. Rather than trying to imitate human interactions, Foursquare is actually reshaping human interactions to operate like a social network. Because you're connecting with friends through the site, you start thinking of people in terms of networks, you express reactions and make decisions based on the site, and wherever you are, Foursquare is there. And it has the potential to become a conduit and a medium for hanging out, in the same way that Google revolutionized not just the practice internet search, but the concept of searching.

    So I'll be watching it closely. I think it could be TNBT. And I believe its success will say much about not only the tech world, but the real world. Whatever that means, these days.

    [image one via geekology, image two via MySiam]

    This is me waving back at you

    I just noticed someone from the Ministerie Van Justitie in the Hague stopped by my site twice today. And someone from Syracuse University, too. To which I reply

    Usually, traffic stats show something like "Cox Communications," i.e. the service provider. But once in a rare while, someone from an actual institution shows up. That piques my interest, naturally. In fact, any visitor who spends even a minute here piques my interest, and makes me happy. For I am, and I suspect that really we all are, a bit like this little ghost here, happiest when we are not invisible.

    In real life, if someone from the Dutch Ministry of Justice or Syracuse University stopped by my house or office, I'd smile, invite him or her to sit down, make some coffee, and at the end, if I enjoyed the conversation I'd say, "Hope to see you again soon!" Unless they pretended to set me adrift in a giant mylar balloon, in which case I would call CNN and then hide in my attic.

    But it's harder, online.

    How does one smile or wave at a friendly stranger?

    How does one glance back?

    [image via Rynke]