Monday, October 22, 2007

Computers: Tools, or tyrants?

Hmm. This post by my twitter friend Maria Langer has got me thinking about the lure of the computer, the internet, and their ability to infiltrate every waking moment in a geek's life--not always for the better.

I don't watch TV, to speak of. Yes, I'll turn it on once or twice a week during football season, partially because I'm a rabid UCLA fan, but also because I just like watching the game. Occasionally, I'll watch a movie, but this is on the order of about once a month or two. But mostly, the TV stays off, and I'm glad my life isn't ruled by what's on during primetime. Unfortunately--and I'm being completely honest here--I don't have the same self-control when it comes to my computer, smartphone, and iPod. I'm a gadget geek to logarithmic proportions, and I know full well that those can have the same frustrating effects on life and productivity.

For those of us who fight ADD and its related impulses, the computer is both friend and foe. It's obviously a useful tool, and since I'm big on integrating technology into my classes, I am forced to spend a lot of time in front of the keyboard. The geek in me doesn't begrudge that one bit, since I enjoy tinkering, learning, and keeping up on networking trends (lately, the uses and misuses of social media) is informative and fun. The problem, I think, is that in my business, the lines between work and the kind of play that intrigues me are so blurry as to be indistinguishable. When I surf around to people's blogs on barcamp and Startup Weekend, am I working or goofing off? Both, it seems, and because of that, it's damned difficult to set limits on either one. What do I miss as a result? Well, time to exercise, housework, practice, walk with the dogs, etc. I do all those things (well, most of them... housework has a tendency to drop off the priority list a lot), but I'm sure I don't get to them as soon as I should.

What's the solution? Well, I don't know... I think Maria's computer-less days might be one way to de-tox. Putting myself on a strict schedule is probably going to be a must, since one reality of my work is that I have to be reachable for at least a while each day. Since I tend to abhor structure (but secretly need it), scheduling is likely to be an interesting exercise. Anyone have suggestions for making it work?

Meanwhile, I'll try shutting the computer down when I leave my office in the next hour and leaving it in my bag until, say, 10pm. After that I make no promises, but I'll see what I can do. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 8, 2007


So much is happening that I don't really know where to begin a blog post, so I'll throw up a recipe.

First, some background: Everyone should have an Aunt Lynda. Mine lives a couple of states away, and she and my uncle have this incredible home that calls out to visitors, "come hang out with us for a while... it's therapeutic!" Weekends with them are generally spent watching for bunnies in the garden, hiking, staring out at the prairie, staying up late, playing cards... stuff like that. Things I never get around to at home, but ones that, in the right company, seem to drain the accumulated angst of life away. Yeah, there was that time my cousin and I got completely smashed on gin cosmopolitans while we were there, but that's a rare (though probably necessary at the time) occurrence.

Anyhow... on my last visit, we were playing pitch in the middle of the afternoon, and for some reason everyone was hungry. Dinner wasn't planned for some time, so my aunt threw together a great salsa that staved off starvation, and it (or a variation thereof) has since become a football-season staple here at home. I call it, simply,

Aunt Lynda's Black Bean Salsa

(All measurements here are approximate; use as much as you like)
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1/4 cup cut yellow corn
About 1/2 tomato, chopped fine
About 1 tbsp diced jalapeno pepper, seeds removed (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
About 3-4 chopped green onions, or a couple tbsp red or brown onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp bell pepper, finely chopped
olive oil
salt to taste

Throw everything together in a bowl with enough olive oil to mix well and refrigerate until someone attacks it (this stuff doesn't last long at my house, but it's actually better after it's been around a day or so).

Serve as a dip with chips or veggies, or fill a pita with the dip and a slice of cheese, and toss it in the toaster oven for about 5-10 minutes. This recipe also scales easily; simply add more of everything and adjust as necessary until it looks right.