Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lost in the Details

It's easy to get lost in the details, especially when there's a whole lot of details and just one of you.

It's easy to follow that calendar from meeting to meeting, hack away at that inbox from urgent email to urgent email. Every day feels like it ought to be Friday already, except for Friday, when it feels like it's only Tuesday and where did the week go? Somehow, the wisps of leaves that I photographed in March are now grown into full loincloth-sized fig leaves -- where did the month go?

In the middle of it all, we look at someone else and, from our vantage point, see them mired in their own forest of details. It makes us wonder, how in the world can someone get that lost in details? And, at the same time, our vision is working furiously to not point out the fact that we, too, are buried in details, and our memory is doing overtime making sure we don't remember that we were lost in very similar details to those we now see someone else swamped in.

So here's a reminder to myself to get up and breathe, and to look at the present in the context of everything that I've done and everything that I aspire to accomplish.

Here's a reminder to myself to look beyond what's yelling for my attention and notice the important stuff that's perhaps quieter.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tesla: High Speed Four-wheeled Batteries

I love commuting by bike, it's hard to beat that for saving on fuel and getting exercise at the same time (other benefits may include reduced seasonal allergies, great parking spots, and a stylin' farmer's tan).

I'm also not a big fan of driving fast. (Actually, I'm more of a stickler for rules. I had no problems going fast when driving in a German autobahn when conditions allowed.)

However, as far as combining fuel efficiency with incredible speed and beautiful design, Tesla Motors really seems to have delivered. (And it's convertible, so you may also get that farmer's tan to boot.) With so many car companies decrying the impossibility of improving gas fuel efficiency by even a few percent, it's great to see a few companies coming up with uncompromising designs that ditch the aged internal combustion engine for something new. (Of course, with an electric car what really matters is the energy source, and with a lot of the US energy coming from coal-powered plants, even with electric cars we still have a lot of work ahead of us if we're hoping to avoid having to start colonies in Mars.)

I got to check out a Tesla roadster live this past weekend at Yuri's Night at Moffett Field. Sadly, no test-driving allowed, but we did get to check out the view from the driver's seat. It certainly looks and feels like a sleek and very, very fast car. If it keeps to its promise of 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, it will certainly be leaving a whole lot of sporty-looking cars in the proverbial dust (now pollution free).

Monday, April 7, 2008

Beginners' Luck

Best Shot MondayWhenever I go out with my camera, I tend to come back with a story. It's not that something happens in the "you'll never guess what happened to me" way (I seldom seem to have my camera around for those times), but rather that I've noticed that the camera tends to record more than just what's in front of it.

Each photo has a story to it -- the place, the time, the weather, what I was thinking at the time, who was around, what happened to catch my eye, how much time I put into creating the shot. Together, a series of photos tells a story in a way that no journaling (or perhaps even video, though I seldom have someone follow me around with a video camera) has been able to capture.

This weekend I went with a friend on a photo hike to the beautiful Filoli Gardens. (A "photo hike" is usually much more about the "photo" than the "hike", and can only really be done with others who, like me, when in possession of a camera tend to walk in no particular direction, stop randomly and spend minutes getting into yoga-like positions to catch a particular angle on a scene.) I hadn't been there in a long time, though years ago I used to go there nearly every week to study and relax.

This week's photo happens to be the very first photo I took out of about a hundred that afternoon. Call it "beginners' luck", but out of the whole set my eye keeps getting drawn back to this one. There are some other shots that I'm very happy with in terms of detail and color and composition. They often also took a lot more consicous effort to produce. This one was pretty much the first shot that caught my eye as I walked into the garden and pulled my camera out of its bag.

It's possible that "beginners' luck" is less "luck" (we just tend to give that term to any positive, not fully explained event) and more "intuition-driving-before-my-slower-more-analytical-self-kicked-in". It always amazes me what people can accomplish when they aren't trying to do something consciously.

It's a bit like walking into a garden and, next thing I know, I have a photo on my camera, almost like it took itself. It also tells me a thing or two about what my eye is instictively drawn to.

What are your photos that just "happened"? What is your eye drawn to?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Art of Making Time

We've been devising ways to measure time, that most ephemeral of humanly perceivable dimensions, pretty much since our time began. We've used cycles of the sun, the moon, the ebb and flow of a river, the seasons (yes, even California has seasons), mechanical clocks, digital clocks and, of course, the cellphone (for which "clock" is now listed at least 20-30 features higher than "makes phone calls").

What I am curious about, however, is how long ago humans first realized that, beyond merely measuring, we also have the ability to make time.

It might have gone something like this:

Human A: Grunt. ["Hi! Mind if I share this nice, protected spot with you for a bit."]
Human B: Grunt. Grunt? ["Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Can't you see I'm busy?"]
Human A: Grunt... ["Pity, because I just hunted more food than I can eat before it goes bad..."]
Human B: Grunt! Grunt! ["Oh, I didn't even recognize you! I can always make time to see you, take a seat!"]

As technology and human knowledge march onward (if not always forward), we seem devise more ways to fill in every last moment of our conscious lives. Everything only takes a fraction of a second, so we jam multiple things into every second, aiming towards that ever-elusive instant gratification. So it's only to be expected that we are more and more often busy, and too often too busy to do something that, really, we'd love to do.

This can be a problem (we can get so caught up on being busy that we forget to do things that we like) as well as a crutch (being busy, while technically often true, is often used in place of "I'd already planned on doing other things during that time, and what I've planned is more interesting to me than whatever is being proposed").

The catch is, all the things that are keeping us busy are, for the most part, things we have chosen to do. That means we could also chose not to do those things, which implies that we can make time to do other things. Sadly, that's easily forgotten.

Whenever I realize that I'm telling someone that I'm busy, I'll try re-phrasing it (usually in my own head) as "I'm not willing to make the time to [whatever it is that the person is proposing]". If the gut reaction is that this just sounds wrong, then it's likely that I'm busy with the wrong things.

I make time for my family; for my friends; for photography; for drinking tea. And thinking about it, I want to make more time for getting in touch with friends I don't hear from as often; for meditating; for social dancing.

So, what do you make time for? And what would you like to make more time for?