Unplugging

FOTOFRIDAY: Staycationeering

Posted on: Friday, June 19th, 2020
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment
  • My daughter quietly making art in a moment of staycation calm

It’s funny. Most people spend most of their lives answering “How are you?” with the impressive reply, “I’m so busy!” In normal times, we therefore likely long for a long BreakAway, a relaxing vacation, or even a therapeutic staycation. That word’s gotten super-hot lately, yet now many folks are screaming, “I’m so stir-crazy!”

Well, here’s your staycation opportunity, friends—a topic that deserves a closer look in a forthcoming posts—and certainly in my own muddled world. Have you made your wish-list? Clean closets? Plant shrubs? Read The Gifts of Imperfection? Zoom your faraway rellies?

My daughter often surprises me with her staycation instincts and gift of spontaneously launching projects that make something out of nothing. Like this watercolor of a recent picture. Who know she could even paint so well? Drawing (and sailing!) the Hjørdis isn’t easy! (I know; I took sailing classes on her!)

Oh sure, this photo is a mere memory snapshot; I didn’t want to interrupt a moment of peace, of inspiration. But it reminds us to use some spare moments during this gift of (messy) time to seek some calm, creativity, and beauty.

We need it, right? Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: The Silence of the Loons

Posted on: Friday, June 12th, 2020
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Recently, friends took me out on a pontoon ride to share the secret location of the oh-so hidden loon nest. Lake Owasso, like most Minnesota lakes, gets one beloved loon pair per year. Loons are fiercely territorial, remarkably fearless, and absolutely mesmerizing to watch.

In the Real World, problems keep becoming more explosive. Sad. And Surreal. So seriously: I recommend loons. Or whatever miracle of nature may be in your path that takes your anxieties away, fills you with reverence, and inspires a moment of peace.

Loons can be loud. But my response is silence. And for a fleeting moment—when the loon allows—that quietude and awe is the best therapy I could ask for.

I shot this photo alone at dusk, via kayak and a long zoom lens. The loon was aware of my intrusion, but somehow trusted my intentions. And my desire to coexist with respect and silence.

Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Escape COVID: Go OUTSIDE!

Posted on: Friday, April 10th, 2020
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Let’s face it, most of America endures bothersome winters of some sort, literally and metaphorically. So when spring arrives—which happens sporadically at best—everyone should drop everything (including their stupid dumb phones) and head to the great outdoors!

That Nasty Virus makes fresh air, open space, and nature even more alluring and vital. After all, we’re mostly locked-down inside inventing new hyper-definitions to for “stir crazy” and “testy.” In normal times, folks head out in swarms here in Minnesota when a heat wave of, say, 42F finally arrives. But lately, the traffic jams have abandoned the highways and hit the sidewalks! (Never mind that they all turn their heads and sprint 6’ away when they see me coming.)

Walk the dog. Walk the rake. Rake the yard. Rake the dog. Play catch with your kids. Invent new sports with your kids. Try social-distance bonfires, driveway happy hours, and pontoon rides (on vessels large enough to keep your space)—like when I took this “Super Moon Pink Moon” shot with the iPhone 11 this week.

A bit blurry, sure. But better than my (very few) crew-mates took with their devices. And why not…since reality is becoming one big blur? Better take pictures to remember these epic days, even while they run together like weird chalk art in the rain. Oh, and did I mention: Go OUTSIDE?

We’ll get through this.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Ice Fishing BreakAways?

Posted on: Friday, January 3rd, 2020
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Throughout the past week, a friend has been sending me pics of his Florida beach vacation. He knows my love of all things warm, watery and beachy. He also knows I am mostly stuck in Minnesota during this holiday season, despite years of winter escapes for as long as 355 days. Or 4 months. Or 69 days. The longer, the better!

Things change. While I cherish those memories and pine for long winter getaways, I could do no better than to reply to my friend with this view from my desk—no need for 1,000 words.

Ice fishing BreakAways? Well, why not? For that guy, sitting on a frozen lake and hoping to land something fishy feels like a fun escape. A break from the grind. Some moments of peace and meditation, perhaps. Who needs surf, sun, sand?

I do. Yet I also know some are happy just to ice-fish. And that savvy, sane people pursue BreakAways wherever, whenever, and however.

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FOTOFRIDAY: ‘Tis the Season to be Musical

Posted on: Friday, December 20th, 2019
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See those angels on my piano? I hardly ever see them—because they are hidden inside the upright and only show up when the piano tuner opens up the instrument. It’s always a pleasure. But this time, I learned they’re not. Not angels. They’re flowers! Hand-painted inside this artisanal beauty. Imagine my disappointment—and during the holiday season, even!

Christmas takes a lot of knocks, deservedly so, since commercialism has taken over and drowned out the more celestial messages. So I listen instead to the music, since great Christmas music is abundant and timeless—whether from long-gone composers, Americana crooners, or contemporary creations.

I also enjoy playing Christmas music (especially when no one is listening). Few diversions offer such a complete, if temporary, BreakAway vibe.

One of my musical toys is this here Schimmel piano, hand-made in Faribault, MN. A German maker dating back to 1885, mine was crafted circa 1893, when the Schimmel family expanded to America for a short while and made only about 3,000 instruments. I am lucky to own one. And my Schimmel is lucky to have me—since old pianos often can’t find compassionate caretakers these days.

Got music? Play it. You’ll feel better, and fill your surroundings with angelic sounds.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and may the peace be with you.

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FOTOFRIDAY: La Dolce Far Nikon

Posted on: Friday, October 25th, 2019
Posted in: Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | One comment

This shot just popped up on my desktop. That’s me, in a reflective mood, absorbed by the familiar Italian phrase that means (approximately) the sweetness of doing nothing. What’s more interesting: I don’t recall where I was. Which brings up the topic of photography, as nowadays most everyone is a photographer, yet hardly anyone uses a camera.

Instead, they use phones which, of course, can do anything—including take pictures. The benefits are obvious, from convenience to concealment to insta-SM-ing if you wish. Phone photos also tell you when and where you took the image, if not what you had for lunch.

This shot came from a real, hefty, cumbersome Nikon. Hence, the incomplete info. My SLR camera tells the DATE, but not the PLACE, which now strikes me as strange. Which can only mean one thing: I need to take more real pictures. Drag my Nikon around more often. The quality is decidedly superior, even if the metadata is, shall we say, unplugged.

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Stop SM and Smell the Roses

Posted on: Sunday, October 13th, 2019
Posted in: Unplugging, Work/Life Hacking, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment
Kirk Horsted

A shocking amount of both sabbatical and SM news arrives from India, Europe, and places that have forever taken free time seriously. FBOW, we often overlook it like arrogant Americans. But sometimes, one realizes that, rather like the lessons of travel itself, there’s much to learn beyond the pond.

Recently, Mumbai’s mid-day.com published a warm and provocative article about a successful pop musician, Vasundhara, who one day realized that SM had taken over her life, damaged her career and real-world interactions, and brought on a case of anxiety that was causing bodily harm. “Likes” had replaced hugs—and the results were toxic.

Her solution? A 6-month SM Detox. The cravings hurt at first. But she pushed herself toward impressive projects including a teaching position in the arts, singing lessons that improved her ability to sing with the whole body and increased her range, a new single, and a how-to book for musicians trying to break into the industry.

In other words, all those hours of SM posting may have seemed like savvy, modern-day marketing. But when compared to face-to-face connecting? Waste of time!

She’s returned to SM, but selectively. Her new discipline allows 40 minutes every other day. And she aims to never turn back. As she says, she’s realized the “superficial information” from SM floods you with false impressions of people, and that, “We have forgotten that we are wired to wired to look at a person, get non-verbal cues, and hear their voices.”

A psychologist who helped with this story + the BreakAway Board of AdvisorZ recommends you can read all about it and study their excellent SM Detox tips here.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Thursday Night Lights

Posted on: Friday, September 20th, 2019
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Here you see some high school girls enjoying a varsity soccer match on a Thursday night. America’s new pastime, of course, is football—so the pig-skinners get the Friday night lights. And usually, the youngsters and crowds follow in a grand American tradition.

Kids’ sports get plenty of bad raps these days. People fret about the costs, injuries, stress, commitment, and beyond. I get it. But this sports dad (and eternal coach and booster member) will kindly play defense. As everyday BreakAways go, athletics win. What better way to sidestep the routine, get exercise, make friends, experience competition, represent community, and get off-screen?

With any luck, those life lessons last a lifetime. And the kids will stay forever young and robust.

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Resist SM “Monetizing” by Doing Nothing

Posted on: Tuesday, June 18th, 2019
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Today we proudly launch a new category, Wily Mktg, to merge the professional pursuits of the Wily Wordsmith and Marketing Consultant with the free-your-time promise of BreakAway. They overlap swimmingly. And my career advisors tell me I should write more about my craft. A new book promoting “doing nothing” provides the perfect starting point.

That book is Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, and it prescribes the medicine we all need right about now.

  • Monetizing the masses

One of my favorite hobby-treats is attending live music. LIVE music. As in, real artists on stage + real people in the audience + all the exciting sideshows that make for the consummate concert experience. Lately, the ultimate sign of audience approval is when people stand up and hold their phones to the show. Recording? Maybe But it feels like something bigger. And sorta surreal.

This ritual happens everywhere, actually—from pro sports events to elementary music concerts. Participating in the present is becoming less important than engagement through your gadgets.

This is one of the themes of a Ms. Odell’s book. She takes a rather deep dive into the political, spiritual, and moral implications of our relatively new fixation—but moreso emphasizes the oft-ignored reality that these beasts have masterfully monetized our attention for the profit of (what are suddenly) the largest corporations in the world. And, by association and with boundless budgets, their advertisers.

  • Where did all the tribes go?

I vividly remember the early days of this technological revolution. While overwhelming, the magnetism of suddenly connecting with people who are also into, say, Kate Bush or rising minor-leaguers made communities and minds and explode. We created and joined “tribes.” “Movements” aiming to change the world sprang up like wild ferns in spring. That’s still around, but buried.

Meanwhile, we have gradually become living, breathing algorithms that allow corporations to do target-marketing with scary precision. We may not like the idea—or we may buy right into it—but Odell asserts that we’re losing our attention span and ability to understand context. We know only, and live only for, the present. The meaning of that “message” on the phone is vague, yet becomes how we perceive and experience the present. Over time, we become addicted to the stimuli and lose touch with the real world around us.

Meanwhile, we become evermore under the control of Big Brothers like Google, Facebook, and Amazon who know more about us than we’ll ever know, keep us increasingly linked, and transform this circle of attention-connection into billions.

  • The solution: Nothing

Ms. Odell suggests an intentional effort to disconnect, or at least walk way from, your devices: “To stand apart is to take the view of the outsider without leaving…It means not fleeing your enemy, but knowing your enemy, which turns out not to be the world…but the channels through which you encounter it day to day.”

The BreakAway premise holds that fleeing is not only fantastic fun, but spiritually transformative. And whether you use your break time to see the world or do nothing are both brilliant ideas.

With any luck, there will be time for both. And freedom means not only taking your time, but also keeping Big Brother at a distance.

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Even NBA Stars Suffer from Screen Abuse

Posted on: Wednesday, March 20th, 2019
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My memories of playing and coaching sports, though fading, feature animated pregame rituals all about team and game. Sure, each player had their own routine. But few experiences compare to the upbeat team banter and camaraderie—which remains one reason why I am emphatically pro-sports for youth. That pre-game power was more than palpable; it was virtually electric.

It’s less like that these days. Now “virtual” and “electric” take on more literal connotations, as phones, headphones, and SM take over the minds and attentions of athletes.

An article by Timberwolves/NBA writer Chris Hine last week peeked into the locker room—and saw millionaire hooper studs with their heads down, staring at phones. Rather than shouts and slaps, there was silence (except for headphone noise). Rather than high 5s and clapping, hands were scrolling and tapping.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has noticed, describing some athletes as “unhappy” and “isolated.” Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving has stated of his fellow round-ballers, “People are dealing with anxiety, depression and other disorders that affect their well-being,” … “Some people can’t handle all of this, and we need to be mindful of that.” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns talks of having to deal with the “keyboard warriors”—rabid and rude fans that lurk and stalk from the cloud.

  • Beyond the NBA

While the NBA leads pro sports in SM attention—they have more Instagram followers than the other 3 big pro sports combined—the malady has, shall we say, gone viral. Strib writer Hine describes it as a “millennial condition.”

That’s certainly been my experience as a college instructor. Back in the day, the gathering of the students before class was a meaningful time of connection, chat, and even cornering students who had fallen behind or otherwise needed attention.

Over the years, that time has become evermore reserved and self-centered—to the point that teachers are often trained not to pressure students about their screen focus; you may feed into anxiety, sometimes called nomophobia, and make the problem worse.

  • Some sports offer hope?

All young athletes love their tech toys. Yet some sports remain more old-school, at least at times. After all, baseball games take hours and teams play and practice almost daily, but do you ever see players sneaking their screen into the dugout? Unlikely. A football player, meanwhile, would get thwacked by a coach. And an iPhone on a hockey rink would get smashed to smithereens, splashed with blood, and then eaten by the enforcer.

Of course, sports represent just one microcosm of the digitalia addiction conundrum. And the problem no longer just applies to millennials; I routinely see grizzled grandmas and grandpas stuck on their screens whether walking, dining, or driving (of course).

Thank goodness athletes must at least unplug to play the actual game. So far, anyway.

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