Monday, December 31, 2012

March of Technology

I am spending the last few days of the year testing old gizmos. It was a way for me to see what was still working and try to revive these gadgets and use them in my quest to be more efficient. I wonder why I still keep them and not throw them away. I have been buying stuff admittedly with no intention to use immediately but in some future when everything is right in my life. After moving to my new home, I feel that I am now at that stage. Old equipment long shuttered because I did not have time to use suddenly can be used because there’s so much space that I can literally unpack theses old gadgets, line them on the floor and figure out their use in my strategy. I have used them in some way or another, then stowed away as obsolescence and new technology marched in to finally seal their demise. But I am a romantic and will try to find a way to revive their use.

Here is the breakdown of the old and used gizmos:

Casio Cassiopeia (one of the first Windows CE device)
Sony Clio
PALM device (one of the first PDA + phone combination)

Cell Phones
Various Nokia phones (with their own chargers)
O2 – one of the first Windows mobile phones (screen cracked last year when dropped in a motel in Flagstaff, Arizona after a visit to the Grand Canyon)
Samsung Galaxy – Android 2.4 smart phone replaces old cellphone +PDA

Canon Rebel SLR – old film camera
Sony – point and click, 3 megapixels
Panasonic – point and click, 5 megapixels

Video CAM
Creative mini – video CAM
JVC camera with DAT tape
Kodak water proof CAM

Sony e-reader – given to my son but now returned to me due to obsolescence
Archos 7 inch Android tablet

Presently, I have three old laptops in various states of working order: one Dell and two Acer laptops that I am converting to the test version of Windows 8. Additionally, two Lenovo laptops: one with the latest Windows 8 with touch screen and one provided by the office using Windows NT plus a tiny Lenovo computer connected to my 55 inch HDTV to watch shows in the Internet especially Google TV. I also have an Archos 7 inch Android 2.2 tablet used for general purpose internet surfing. To keep it all together, I use cloud computing services like Google apps and Dropbox to store my documents in the cloud. Essentially I can access any document I want from any device I have. Recently I purchased a used Canon DSLR so I can use the old camera lens and filter I bought together with my old analog camera and I also purchased a new 32 inch television with a camera so I can do video calls using Skype.

Keeping tabs with all these equipment can be confusing; I have spent several moments contemplating their use by multi-tasking with my reading and watching movies. I also surveyed all the other accessories that I have or given to my kids: wireless headphones, game consoles (Sony PS1, PS2 and PS3), phone ear sets (to wirelessly answer and make calls), camera tripods and a Panasonic voice recorder which I aim to use in my writing. I surveyed my plan to make my writing more efficient next year: Dragon Dictation software (for voice to text), microphone headsets, novel-writing software.

This is my writing strategy so far with the equipment I have:

Rough Draft:
Dragon dictation software
Panasonic voice recorder
Two or three laptops that I can use to put the rough draft in writing
Google document and Google Drive to store my drafts in the cloud
Various techniques like mind mapping and concepts in the book ‘Writing the Natural Way’
Join writer’s websites like Red Room to get feedback and criticism

Android tablet and television connected to the Internet or with internet apps
Sony Game consoles for role playing games like LA Noir and Dark Rain to get ideas on storytelling
Self-Development and Craft
Attend online writing courses like NYC Writing School
Do writing exercises from self-help books (Sol Stein, Stephen King, Ayn Rand)
Stick to a regular writing schedule

I have spent too much time procrastinating and I think the new home and surroundings will give me the environment to finally complete my work. I have gathered the hardware, software, attended writing classes and read DIY books, plus practiced writing enough to get the needed confidence. Last night I watched a documentary on Werner Erhard and est training, whose teachings is similar to Eckhart Tolle (a real German) whose main aim is self-transformation principally through the teaching of Buddhism. Aside from the craft of writing, one also needs some deeper understanding of the creative urges and how it becomes a part of one’s life. Erhard came as a surprise as I had been watching Joseph Campbell - a much superior thinker and philosopher – both influential thinkers in the 1970’s and 80s. I am also reading Logicomix a graphic novel about the life of Bertrand Russell – all providing insights in my current undertaking.  In a more immediate level I hope to read Andrew McCarthy’s articles to learn how he came to write his first book which I recently read.

It now seems that I am using technology to gain an advantage or perhaps in today’s age one cannot help but be a technologist because it’s a requirement of the times. The survey of all my gizmos also displays a materialism that one tries to avoid when following Buddhist principles; of Zen and the simple life. But nowadays new technology is like sex, providing a gratifying satisfaction in today’s stressful times. But perhaps it’s a way to get ahead, where being an adept in technology is like being an initiate in some secret teaching like a disciple of est or Tolle or Campbell. This is the link between being a gadget freak (or technologist) and being attracted to self-transformation thinkers – to find meaning in life by obtaining some sort of lead. The timeless solution then in both Christian and Eastern teaching is to live the simple life or a focused life devoted to action; free of useless thoughts. Revelation: I had prided myself in living a simple life but my possessions say otherwise.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Long Way Home

I just finished reading Andrew McCarthy's new book 'The Longest Way Home - One Man's Quest For the Courage to Settle Down'. He is surprisingly a gifted writer, sensitive to portraying the difficulties of settling down for someone who is fleet-footed like him, with a spirit of a nomad traveling the world to find himself. Apparently he is a well regarded travel writer although as an actor he is not as distinguished in his first career as in his current one. His book appeals to me because it speaks of similar longings, especially for one who has lived in different countries and still finding himself in new surroundings. McCarthy writes about his visits to Patagonia, Costa Rica, Baltimore, Vienna  and his climb up Kilimanjaro before his scheduled wedding in Ireland.

McCarthy basically writes about the fear of settling down; the old fear of establishing roots and having a family, of raising kids. So he goes on a voyage of self discovery, to different places in order to find himself and understand his fear of settling down before finally accepting the inevitability of his marriage. The fear is a standard for almost all young men as they approach adulthood, overcoming wanderlust and stopping the temptation to sow one's seeds at the ends of the earth. Basically the temptation to remain single and live an unencumbered life without familial responsibilities. McCarthy is a better writer than his fellow actor and brat packer Rob Lowe who wrote about his experience in Hollywood. Instead McCarthy uses the classic storytelling device of the hero going out in a voyage to find himself and return with a secret of inner knowledge.

This is the classic hero story as described by Joseph Campbell. McCartney uses this device effectively in his book. Recently I watched Bill Moyer's interview with Campbell before his death, especially on his work 'A Hero with 1000 Faces'. His influence cannot be understated especially to modern writers and filmmakers like George Lucas. Campbell reminds me of those great Indian sages or philosophers like Krishnamurti whereas Campbell obtained his insights via intellectual study and travels to different places in the world. This work is important especially today in understanding modern life and Campbell provides empirical evidence as against spiritual truth attained through meditation and spiritual evolution. He is the modern version of the enlightened philosopher who uses scientific inquiry to validate the ancient wisdom of the ages. His work should be considered the new religion.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another Trip Down Memory Lane

Last week I watched a documentary on Pearl Jam.  Afterwards, I logged into my laptop and started to read some of my blog entries starting from the time before I left Singapore. How time flies. I realized that my entries are dense, full of theories and analysis about the books I read, the things that happened to me and so on.  I searched the blog for my articles on William Gibson, appreciating that I wrote good stuff in a roundabout way, natural for a blog entry without much concise thought or editing. I also looked at my entries in the months before I left and found that I posted scanned pictures of my mind maps, manual drawings written down to make sense of my projects or to organize my thoughts. I realized that my past actions in the blog did indeed have some foresight, to record my thoughts in writing as well as my visual thinking, in preparation for a new life. It was in a similar vein when I looked at my video clips the night before, the photos I took, like it was to record events and people that I would no longer see, months before my move across the ocean.

Perhaps that is the writer’s mentality, to keep recording as one makes his way in life, to be an observer so that one will write their experience in novels. There is a book that I bought in Amazon about the writer’s mentality that subscribes to this characteristic. I still have to read it. I wonder why watching Pearl Jam triggered my trip down memory lane. Perhaps it was the old songs, heard in some offhand way, because I was never a fan of Pearl Jam, preferring the sublime work of U2, the best rock band in the planet. But that’s a different genre with the other being grunge – but it was the youthfulness of the band members, songs that evoke naiveté unlike the hard reality of U2’s songs, dripping of the Irish civil war, or apartheid in South Africa that touches one to the core. Grunge music seems to be self-indulgent like it was revolving around their own reality, not conscious of the problems around them. Nevertheless, I reserved some of their CDs that I hope to hear them next week when I get their CDs from the library.

Last night I bought pork shoulder from a Mexican shop. The pork still had its skin attached. This type of meat can never be bought from an American supermarket.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Last night I watched ‘A Day in a Life’, a movie sponsored by YouTube where people around the world sent video clips of themselves or of some subject on a particular July day in 2010. It was an intriguing movie, where the director strung together all those different clips sent by diverse people all over the world to create a stirring narrative; a reality show about life on Earth. Peppered with modern music, clever editing and inspiring stories, one cannot help but be moved by the spectacle of life. After watching the movie including the bonus scenes, I felt nostalgic and went to my YouTube account to look at the videos I created myself, a sort of video album, watching the clips of my life in Singapore, the lunch and picnics with friends and my recent travels in North America. I watched the clips in my tablet, flicking from one video clip to another like looking at pictures in a photo album, realizing that this is the modern way of remembering one’s memories, all electronic with one’s past stored in the cloud; somewhere in the ether of the Internet.

After watching my memories play out in the screen, I reviewed my stories from the 2 creative writing class I took in the Spring and Summer, re-reading my assignments especially the story I wrote about my grandmother. There is some talent I believe, but raw and in need of structure and editing, an assessment that one can only make after some time, when the emotion of writing these pieces have gone so that one can return and criticize with a more balanced attitude. I realize that one works with his memories, the images that play out in his mind, the creative spark that seeks expression in writing. Sometimes I fear that not writing a novel soon will let me forget all those experiences that I had in the past, the fodder of novels that one creates out of his own life happenings. But I realize that my pictures and video memories preserved in YouTube will help me together with my journal writings. I guess it’s the first draft of one’s future books where one can return to his past and creatively fashion a story.

It is strange that this feeling has come upon me now. Living in a house has given me a feeling of permanency, of roots that one can build on. I had never had this feeling before, where the mind can stop and look around; perhaps it’s playing golf every weekend that my mind relaxes. Admittedly there is no stimulation or temptation present in large cities like Singapore or Manila or Bangkok or Tokyo, that one has a routine (or boring) life: exercise at the gym after work, watch movies or television at home, surfing the Internet and reading a book plus playing golf on weekends. There is space in one’s life that one can achieve more. But one goes into a rut by filling space, like buying stuff that one does not need due to the abundance of money or credit. Similarly one buys stuff to fill up one’s home or packs senseless activity to fill one’s time. Hence, one does not work on the true goal.

For instance, I have a goal to write a book but I never get to write except in journals or in creative writing classes.  But I know it’s a start especially if one realizes the gap: the gap between having a goal against the activities that one does (or does not do) to achieve it. It becomes a design problem where one determines alternatives and how to reduce the gap.

This is the premise of a design class I am attending online in To re-frame the problem is intriguing: it’s not a problem of procrastination or focus but one that needs a design solution. Hence, why don’t I write? Because I watch movies, play golf and read too many books or magazines. My spare time is filled with activities that I don’t have time to write. How do I solve this gap? Perhaps by having a regular writing time, or use technology like recording devices and speech to text software in order to speed up the writing of a draft. Perhaps it’s a lack of skill that one needs to learn more by attending writing classes or reading ‘how to books’ (which I do already). Therefore the problem is solvable: to use new technology, set a regular work ethic and learn new skills – one needs to design a solution to the problem. The other way is to cut down on one’s task and free up more time: less golf, less reading, less watching movies and less internet surfing. Perhaps it is a mix of both options that will bring the answer.