Monday, July 30, 2012

On Competition

Recently, I was on a blog looking at a recipe, and in the post the author had mentioned that she has a distaste for competition. She went as far as to say that competitiveness is a symptom of a mental illness. But what I found really odd was this comment on the post: "A little competition is good for the soul. I think today's young woman (and I'm 52) is fearful of those things and they teach their kids (liberals do) that everyone should win and that's just not the truth in real life."

Where to start?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

8 Reasons to Get Out More

I chose the theme of community once again for my summer classes. We read Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place during the second part of the term. Oldenburg explores what he calls "third places." Basically, home is first, work is second, and any informal gathering place outside of those is third. Oldenburg argues that these places are disappearing and the ones that do exist aren't being used very well. The problem is that these places serve important functions in our lives and we're missing a lot by not having them.

Examples of third places might be coffee shops, barber shops, bars, "Main St.," and anywhere else where people socialize and catch up on the happenings of the community. It's easy to see that these places are still around, but they're not what they used to be. People live in isolation even when they're in public. The idea is to bring back the spirit of what they used to be.

If you're skeptical, here are 8 reasons that the spirit of getting out and enjoying the third place spirit will improve your life:

1. Spontaneity and variety. Chances are, at home and work, you know who you're going to see and even what you're going to. There is a lot of routine, and events that seem different or new (like, say, watching a new TV show or making something different for dinner) still happen within a pretty predictable boundary. At a place like a bar or cafe, the mixture of personalities, of strangers and regulars, means you're more likely to run into the unexpected. Spontaneity and variety keep us feeling like our lives are interesting.

2. Conversation. One of the key elements of a third place, what makes a third place a third place, is conversation. We tend to think that people go to bars to get drunk, but that hasn't always been the case. What if you went to a bar to have a couple drinks but spend most of your time catching up with the other patrons? You could have the opportunity to share something, to help someone, to learn something, and maybe even to make a friend. Conversation seems to be a dying art. This could help revive it.

3. Exhibition. Oldenburg says that in a third place, a person can become a singer, a dancer, a therapist, or a hero. It's not truly an escape from your life; it's another side to who you are and a way to handle the stresses of life.

4. Caring and safety. If you live alone but you have a place you visit regularly, people will know something's up if you don't show up. People will be concerned.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

8 TED Talks You Should Watch

1. Erin McKean redefines the dictionary. A lecture on dictionaries? How fascinating does that sound? Really, it's fun and thought-provoking.

2. Steven Johnson - where good ideas come from. Apparently, they come from coffeehouses. 

3. Charlie Todd on shared experience of absurdity. Funny how talking about funny things is funny. 

4. Any of the videos by Ken Robinson, but this one is probably my favorite. They're all about education and the need for personalized education with an emphasis on creativity and passion in learning. 

5. Patrick Awuah on educating leaders. It's essentially a defense of a liberal arts education. He gets a little rambly, but it's worth it.

6. Kathryn Schulz on being wrong. It turns out that being wrong makes for much better stories than being right.

7. The antidote to apathy. Why don't people get involved? Why don't we change the world?

8. The power of vulnerability. I know it sounds a little hippy-dippy, but Brene Brown is quite eloquent as she talks about connection, shame, compassion, and of course vulnerability. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Confession: I'm not that tidy

My tidiness has come up in multiple conversations lately, and I feel I must come clean (pun intended). Some people visit my apartment and think that I am a very neat person. One of my friends asked how I do it--do I have some magical Ikea storage unit that hides everything away? Do I clean up every day? Absolutely not. 

The truth is that I really don't keep much stuff, so there isn't much to leave lying around. I love to take my shoes off as soon as I get home, and I hate putting them away. You know, because the closet is so far away.  I leave odds and ends on my dining room table. I leave half-finished projects wherever I was last working on them. I leave dirty dishes in the sink for a day. Maybe two. Sound familiar? I promise, I'm terrible at picking up after myself. It's just that I don't have that many pairs of shoes or dishes, so even if I left all of them lying around, it wouldn't create a huge mess. Get the idea? 

This is also why it doesn't bother me too much when I visit a place that's cluttered. My lack of clutter is not a cleanliness compulsion like it is for others. Clutter doesn't make me anxious, but I prefer a neat space and I prefer not to have to work very hard to keep it that way. 

So, that's it. If you want your space to feel uncluttered but don't want to spend your valuable time tidying up all the time, then make sure you don't have much to tidy up. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June recap and what's up for July

I said that June would be my month to make better eating choices, and I think I have. I'd like to be a bit more committed, but it's hard to make the time to prepare fresh, healthy meals, and going out to eat pretty much spells disaster.

This summer for 6 weeks (just 2 more to go), I am teaching what equates to a full-time course load. I am also still working a few hours a week at the marketing job, and of course I still teach Zumba. In my spare time (!), I'm trying to hit the gym a little more, plus I have a knitting group to organize and a boyfriend to adore. Oh, hey, there's this whole blogging thing too.