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Crystal Palace


It’s beautiful. Looks fantastic. A great ideal to hold on to.

Thanks to technology, (relative) peace and historic levels of prosperity, we’ve turned our lives into a type of crystal palace, a gleaming edifice that needs to be perfected and polished more than it is appreciated.

We waste energy whining over slight imperfections, while we’re simultaneously losing our ability to engage with situations that might not have outcomes shiny enough or risk-free enough to belong in the palace. By insulating ourselves from perceived risk we spend our days in a prison we’ve built for ourself.

Shiny, but hardly nurturing. And still fragile.

Growth is messy and seems dangerous. Life is messy and inherently somewhat dangerous. When we insist on a guarantee, an ever-increasing standard in everything we measure, and a Hollywood ending, we get none of those.



Go | Stop

GoStopIt’s a paradox of our lives that while technology is constantly invented that saves us time, we use that time to do more and more things, and so our lives are more fast and furious than ever.

Recently as I sat on the porch reading an actual book I felt the call of the phone. What e-mail, texts, Facebook/Instagram/Twitter posts have gone by? Was the book not enough? Was I afraid I was going to miss something important?

It doesn’t have to be this way…

It’s only when you stop moving that you can begin to see what really moved you. Yes, movement is important to acquire experience and get things done, not to mention its value as a mere distraction. But don’t forsake the value of simple stillness. Leaving your mind open to think and process. Only in stillness you can deepen the experience of life, to replay it and try to make sense of it.

People are getting dizzy from movement, and we often find that our biggest luxury comes when we’re sitting still. Slowing down without simply being lazy is a conscious choice. To appreciate life & living now and here. It may sound easy, but for many of us it’s difficult to do, and it’s even risky for those of us whose wandering minds pose problems. It’s more than the commonly hyperbolic statements such as, slow down, or stop and smell the roses, or take time to enjoy the moment. Those are valid and often true, but…

You must stop. Go when you need to, but stop at prescribed times. Just stop. Let your mind take over. Let your mind wander (wonder). So much of our life takes place inside our heads — in memory or imagination or expectation or just illusion — that if we want to change our lives, we might best start by changing our minds.

But the mind is hard to control. If it’s not being productive, and the thoughts are dragging you down, then go. Try doing something to reset things. Come back to the stillness later and try again.

A Paradox of Being Human

We are the most self-aware species on the planet. We live out our lives in our minds; our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and memories driving much of what we do, with an internal monolog of what we tell ourselves, how we believe the world is working, what we like, what we want, etc.

DeckPathAnd yet our physiology is geared for us to work in groups. Dependent on them, and also vital to them in various ways. Our lives are tethered together in a complex web of support and cooperative relationships.

Without the characteristics required to evolve our social sensibilities, which resulted in our banding together in groups or tribes, our species likely would not have survived. It certainly wouldn’t have flourished as it did. We are the only species to go significantly beyond adapting ourselves to the world. We have in many ways adapted the world to us.

We walk our paths together on the surface, but at the end of the day we are each alone. Our own little cell of awareness, yet part of a whole we cannot live without. The existential element of satisfaction or feeling good is our blessing and curse. We do not control it, at least not directly, yet it controls us. As our moods change, our opportunities and even capabilities change. We need the help of others for validation. And we need the satisfaction ourselves that we get through helping others.

But at night we are still alone with our thoughts. And we don’t control much of it.

Tiny Hoops


“The fidelity of the spouses in the unity of marriage involves reciprocal respect of their right to become a father and a mother only through each other. The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development.”
—Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae – The Gift of Life, 1987


The double-standard of Catholic doctrine. Do not use birth control or things that interfere with the making of life, but then Catholics are also told that things like in vitro fertilization are also not acceptable. It is deemed to be immoral because, “The new life is not engendered through an act of love between husband and wife…” Really? If your definition of ‘act of love’ is specific enough then it’s true, but…

In fairness, there is nuance to this. Anytime we grapple with issues of morality things can get complicated. I give them credit for trying to be intelligent in interpreting morality and the value of the increasing resources and complex decisions people make with respect to children (as recently as yesterday they softened their stance on a few related issues). Catholic texts on the subject tend to rapidly transition from the morality of the fact that it doesn’t take place in the woman’s body to practical issues such as cost, dangers, unintended results such as too many fetuses, and possible screening, which raises a different, but related moral questions.

Then there is the question of the adoption of frozen embryos, which they perceive as a very slippery slope as well. Not to mention other techniques. It’s a little blurry, and over time the nuances change.

They seem to lay these decisions out as if having more medical or technical insight than perhaps they do. What about a couple who deeply wants to have children? How much authority should the church have in the details of how they go about it? And what about a couple that do not want to have (more) children. Must they anyway?

I would think the Church could comment on the various options, and raise questions about them (which is part of what happens, in fairness), but why not let Catholics choose what they believe is right for them without the guilt trip? Is it really immoral for a couple to choose in vitro? Would Jesus rather they go without having their own children? It seems to me the boundaries of authority are overstepped on a regular basis by religions.

And thus…they find themselves on the slow road to irrelevance. Take a look at Europe, who are about 200 years ahead of the U.S. in this realm. Does anyone seriously deny that’s where we’re headed (albeit with some kicking and screaming)? I acknowledge that relevance may not be a core concern of religion. But when you equate relevance to power it actually seems like they care about it a lot. It’s just that these and other factors belie the fact that many of the ideals held there are from bygone eras where the human condition really was different. That said, other religious traditions (with respect to eating, cleaning, marriage, etc.) have been de-emphasized significantly over the years. So…on the one hand, things do change. But on the other hand we hang on to many things that arguably should change.

Plenty of double standards rooted in tricky questions that often have to be interpreted subjectively. Maybe it would be better to focus on spirituality and let the individuals define appropriate actions for themselves. If we focus on the underlying spirituality more, and then have leaders who lead by example (don’t get me started there), then more people, not less, would be affected positively and would likely lead better, more fulfilled and happy lives. And, though I am in no position to say, I speculate those more happy and fulfilled and morally consistent people would probably be living more closely to the underlying ideals we try to push them into through doctrine. I may be out to lunch, but I believe a rising tide would lift all boats in this respect.

That was the way of Jesus, at least as it is told in the books and stories. But it does not seem to be the dominant part of the way of the religions that worship him.

Small, Powerful, Dumb Computer

GiantPhoneJust ordered the brand new iPhone 6 (the smaller sized one). Of course I have to have the latest and greatest thing, and in my opinion the industrial design and overall integration of Apple’s products are leaps and bounds above other systems out there, even though some of them may have one or two things they appear to do better on the surface.

The iPhone 6 is more powerful than the desktop computer I was using to create audio and video productions 10 years ago. It IS a great computer. Connect a nice keyboard and monitor and you have all you need.

But people don’t do that.

We fool ourselves into believing the marketing and technology promise. And thus people want to buy a phone that’s really a computer in tablet form. They don’t even care much about the phone. They want the power, but they don’t show signs of wanting to interface with it in a substantial way. It is very seductive: a magic device we can use to navigate our worlds with our fingers. But what can it really do in its form?

Sure…you can write a book or term paper on it…if you’re determined enough. You can code on it…if you’re willing to let the project take four times as long. Spread sheets, music projects, rocket trajectories, chemical compounds. It’s all possible, but the really great work isn’t going to be done that way. An Instagram photo is rarely going to be enough to change minds, or pave a new way. The great work requires more. We need to recognize what things are, and what their inherent utility truly is. We need to think about what we want to accomplish with the work we do, before we consider how. Be careful not to let the lack of capability and the seduction of convenience turn into a barrier to the nascent creativity within.

And it is the same with people. Better to understand who and what they really are before we bounce off the walls trying to shoehorn them into being what we need or wish they would be.

(Typed on a MacBook Pro)

Documented Kids

dossierKids are growing up in a world where their entire existence is documented and likely widely available on the net. Parents and other relatives have probably shared numerous details and photos by the time the child is old enough to talk. Later, friends will add to this database.

Technology is just beginning to mature around all of this information. Facial recognition, and systems that build and manage metadata are all conspiring to take any schred of privacy away. Imagine a cute kid photographed in front of the house with the house number visible in the background. Triangulate that against a photo of her parent at work with a logo in the background. Find a blog post written by the parent containing a negative parenting experience relating to the child.

While there are some safety concerns to be mindful of, the “needle in a haystack” principle applies. Unless there is some reason for your kid to be a target she is probably just lost in all the noise. But all of these things are starting to be tied together in such a way that the child will have a semi-public identity before he or she has had a chance to manifest her own, actual identity.

Could that innocent blog post later cost her a chance at a job? Or maybe they determine the health insurance will be too high because she “liked” fried chicken. Will that innocent photo of her at one year of age in the bathtub become a source of embarrassment when another kid posts it at school? Will the child be targeted in sophisticated ways (unbeknownst to the parents) by savvy marketers?

We’re all public figures these days so we may as well get used to it. Our generation did it to ourselves. Now we’re bringing along a generation where it has been done for them…to them.

We might want to think about that. I’m not suggesting that we take things so far as to choose names according to what Google finds (as some do), or that we preregister our children to Facebook and YouTube (as some do), but they’ll later appreciate it if we’re mindful enough in what we post that they have a chance to decide for themselves a little bit about what they want their public persona to be.

Tech Fashion

iGlassesIt’s a given that technology is all around us now. It’s gradually even starting to become part of us. The novelty of tech has long worn off. Function is the ante to be in the game. So what’s the differentiator now? Why buy Apple or Samsung, or…?

There are still nuances in performance and features that make a legitimate difference to some people. But the difference maker is shifting to form. How does a person feel being associated with one or the other. It’s fashion all over again.

Your brand of fashion may be to compare pixel spaces, while another’s may be to note how the OS feels, while another’s may be to look at the overall appearance, etc. In the end those factors are fading into the context of the message we receive and/or choose to communicate by using X versus Y. It’s fashion. It’s lifestyle. Even the geeks who try to fixate on the specs (because that’s their fashion) choose based on the message it sends, on the basis of the tribe they want to be part of (though they will never admit it).

Fashion deliberately creates or leveridges (widens) the divides that allow the different tribes to exist and be distinct. Followers then march in step, some parroting the talking points that rationalize their choices. Other’s quietly letting the statement they make speak for itself. A person who wears fine suits can spot them at a distance.

A fine watch doesn’t keep time any better than a cheap one (in many cases not as well). But it doesn’t matter. It keeps time well enough, and serves another, more abstract purpose. A fine piece of art hanging on the wall doesn’t do anything more than the cheap picture purchased at Target…or does it?

Of course it does.


The Drain of Friction

ballandchainwomanEvery system has at its outputs results that correlate to the inputs. When riding a bike your forward motion is the sum total of your pedaling energy, plus a wind vector, plus a gravity vector, minus energy lost to friction. All of these are necessary evils, but only friction is always and completely a drain. Wind and hills being what they are, your ultimate battle is against friction. Anything you can do to eliminate friction on your bike (inclusive of the friction of air passing by) will pay long term dividends in results (unless your goal is only to burn energy), and thus professional cyclists spend staggering amounts of money on technology to make bikes waste less of their energy.

Likewise life has its obstacles (wind) and hurdles (hills) that must be overcome. However hard they may be you can be assured that you’re also facing a certain amount of friction in your endeavors. Who and what is holding you back or making things that little bit harder than they should be? Is it necessary?

Like a professional cyclist you owe it to yourself to take an honest look around and assess the affect the components of your life are having on you. Anything or anyone that’s too much of a drain with too little positive input should be de-emphasized or otherwise moved out.

Easy to say in a vacuum, but sometimes we owe people, have commitments, or we just feel like we need to ‘take one for the team.’ That’s certainly part of what must be factored in, but as you do that be mindful of the truth that in many cases you’re allowing these things as part of your own baggage, to make you feel better, or to avoid something difficult, etc.

If possible, start the search in your business (that’s an easier place to be objective). Find the person, philosophy, or process that’s a drain. Get rid of it. There may some positive contributions, but if the net input is negative cut it out. Just try it. You’ll usually find two more drains hiding in the shadows behind it that you never could have seen. When you see how much better things work without the unnecessary energy drain you will be inspired to look for more opportunities.

Only then can you begin to fight off the fear of change and start to see it rationally.

How to Look


One of the contributions MTV made to society was that it told everyone nationally, at one time, what was going on and what looking hip looked like. It became easier to fit in, which was very compelling to teenagers.

Thanks to advancements in technology kids today benefit from plenty of information about how to look and how to fit in.

bad-acne-scarsAnd technology has provided more — we see stuff like this ( —-> ) a lot less than we used to, no?

It must have been crushing to one’s self esteem.

It’s relatively easy nowadays to have the hair and skin tone one wants, and there’s plenty of info about how to dress, even on a tight budget. It is so easy for kids to fit in today that it actually makes it cool to be an individual — to break free of those rules in an inventive way. Great stuff.

But there’s a darker side. It has also become more competitive. Now we all can see and gauge our popularity in plainly quantifiable ways. Whether counted in facebook likes, Twitter followers, or Instagram posts we are now the subjects of votes about what we do or say, or maybe even things others post about us. The counts are displayed in integer numbers for all to see.

And make no mistake, it IS a competition some, particularly kids, are engaged in and paying close attention to. This is the reality kids grow up with now.

There’s been a lot of pushback recently from people saying that the schools are too soft. That kids need to get a bad grade, or get red marks on a paper when the work isn’t up to par. People complain that kids don’t have to deal with failure. As usual, the older generation has no clue what’s really going on — no clue what kids are paying attention to. The reality is they are judged every day in a manner that they understand and that most of their parents are nearly oblivious to.

And you know what? They will figure it out, and they’ll be okay, just like we were.

Skill or Arrogance

I recently had the occasion to visit with a friend of mine (Steve Wilson) who has been touring as the sound engineer for the Kentucky Headhunters. When we arrived at the venue to see the performance I noticed something a bit odd. The band that preceeded them was playing, and in the sound booth was the typical large format mixing console. In this case a PM5D (for the techie readers). It’s a technological wonder. Very sophisticated, large, heavy, expensive and impressive looking. A staple in the live touring sound business. But sitting a few feet in front of it was a diminutive looking mixer that was unoccupied. Anyone knowledgable in the field of live sound would have taken one look at it and either dismissed it or thought it was some kind of joke. It looked like something a trio playing in a coffee shop might use. Nobody would actually use such a thing to mix a real concert. I said out loud, “I’ll bet Steve is going to mix the show on that.”

It’s not unusual for different mixers to be deployed for different bands at concerts. Back in the old days, before they were all computerized with memory and files that could be carried around on USB sticks, bands often toured with their own boards. Getting a good sounding mix is a complicated and time consuming endeavor. Having to start completely from scratch at every show is difficult enough that it was usually worthwhile for bands to carry their own desks, which they’d leave set from the night before as a starting point. Sometimes different mixers are used nowadays as well, but it’s often more about what the engineer is used to using, or some personal preference.

It gets better. When I got close and realized what the little mixer actually was, I had to laugh. Not just small and unimpressive looking. The brand name on it was most definitely not one that’s accepted in the world of touring live sound, or anywhere in pro audio for that matter. Its price tag a small fraction of the mixer sitting behind it. Further, it’s a brand new product that nobody really knows much about. Live sound guys are not big on being on the cutting (bleeding) edge of technology. They want things with known track records. Thousands of people in the crowd aren’t going to hang around while the sound tech gets on the phone to tech support to find out why the product isn’t working right.

This product is so new that Steve couldn’t have had it for more than a few days. Kinda’ risky, and highly unusual, to switch to a brand new, untested, unimpressive, questionable brand product in the middle of a tour. Some would say it’s totally crazy. On top of that there were so many bands playing that day (all of the others using the PM5) that nobody had a proper sound check in the morning. But Steve is really good. He has enough of a handle on things and is sharp enough to improvise when he needs to. He had the confidence he could do it.

Steve mixing on the Behringer X32.

So Steve mixed the show on this tiny, unimpressive looking little mixer. It sounded fantastic. Very hi-fi sound. Big and powerful, without being bombastic and deafeningly loud. As long as I’ve been in the business and been around I know there is always more to learn, and watching/listening to Steve mix is invariably one of those times where education happens. I learned a few cool things, and got some neat ideas (which I’ll probably never put in to practice because I don’t mix live shows anymore).

We had a good laugh about the reactions of the sound company and the sound technicians for the other bands playing that day. When he got the board out and told them what he wanted to do they all looked at him like he was crazy. I’m sure they were saying to themselves and each other, “Look at the doofus from Kentucky. What idiot covers up a PM5 to mix on a…what the heck is that thing anyway? Behringer?!! Are you kidding me?!! Oh, gawd…” Of course later, as they stood around the general proximity of the sound booth in the obligatory arms folded across the chest as if to say, “I could do that,” fashion, the sound he had coming out of that PA was undeniably beautiful.

Again it was proven that the equipment is there to serve the man. Sure, good stuff helps. But skill trumps all in the end. And arrogance… Well, you could say Steve might have been a little arrogant to attempt what he did. But he did pull it off, and quite well. Maybe it’s arrogant to laugh it off before hearing what a skilled master can do. How many sound guys truly have enough confidence in themselves to step out from behind the security of using the big, impressive looking desks that everyone else approves of? Not many. All of the posturing those guys do is really insecurity. Skill trumps that too.

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