Come Sit A Spell

by Ian W. Parker on April 22, 2009

Use your time wisely. Say beautiful things, inspire, forgive, act physically to protect and help.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Earlier this week, we arrived home from a vacation in the Caribbean. The beaches were relaxing and warming. The mountains and rain forest were invigorating and refreshing. The company was entertaining and enjoyable.

Vacation always give me a fresh perspective on life and manages to rejuvenate my abilities of perception. The sights and sounds of a foreign place jog the senses from the slumber of mundane rituals.

This awakening of the senses need not be triggered by a long vacation, or even a weekend getaway. The realization that perception is stagnating should be enough to prompt you to immediately do something different. Sorta like the scene from Dead Poets Society where the professor, John Keating, has the students stand on top of a desk to see the world from a different viewpoint.

Snapping out of the habitual haze can be accomplished by something as simple as glancing around the room when you’re up on the ladder changing the light bulb, or sitting on the floor over in the corner where the cat frequently hangs out — what is she always looking at over there on the wall?

Of course, if you want to wake up a little more than usual, take it a step further and try a physical activity you’ve never done before, or go to a new place for a few hours. You could even try picking up a new hobby for a week to see if it sticks. It may not, but it may also open the creative doors to something else.

What’s my point in all of this? I love that feeling of wonderment that accompanies an awakening of the senses, and I am always looking for ways to accomplish it.

In what ways do you snap out of the workaday doldrums?

I am still making minor changes to the site and porting everything over to the new content management system, which as I mentioned in a comment and on Twitter, is going to be Textpattern. I decided to switch for several reasons, but the most important two were performance and personal challenge.

I tend to go in cycles with my WordPress installation. For a long period, I will keep everything clean and neat. Then, I begin to add scads of plug-ins for no good reason other than they are new, shiny, and fun. Fun, that is, until they go awry and cause database errors or drastically slow down the site.

Some of the biggest offenders usually use external JavaScript calls. This means that if the author/host’s site is slow, so is mine. That is unacceptable. I do not want my regular readers, nor potentially new readers clicking away because the page would not load within a second. Picky? Perhaps, but I design things based on how I expect web sites to behave, and chronically slow sites rarely get me to visit again.

As for the personal challenge, I abandoned Textpattern in previous attempts to use it for various reasons, but most often due to my inability to make it look good with my mediocre CSS skills. Since my design is not the CMS’s fault, I thought I would give it another chance, this time building my CSS skills as an exercise, and armed with a not-so-secret weapon — Textpattern Solutions.

It turns out that Textpattern Solutions is a useful tome. Since reading it and using it as an ongoing reference manual, I have even managed to convince myself to being working on developing my own plug-ins for Textpattern. With these plug-ins, I hope to implement all of the functionality I desire on my site in a way that is educational for me.

It will take longer than I planned to port and implement the site. In the mean time, I have begun trimming down plug-ins and the back end database of the current WordPress installation. It seems to be running a bit quicker now. I’m not sure if that’s because the CMS suspects its imminent replacement, or if my removal of a lot of cruft actually does make a difference. Either way, the change will be worthwhile for both you and me.

What do you think about Textpattern? Do you have another favorite CMS that you noodle with in your spare time?

During the flights to and from our vacation destinations, my fiancee and I had some time to read. I took advantage of it by reading The Beak of the Finch. I had planned on reading several other books, but it was worth the switch of topic material. No matter what your belief system or faith, the book is excellent and entertaining in its addressing of the topic of evolution. The author does a good job of avoiding bias and still tells a fascinating story to illustrate the science being presented.

Prior to The Beak of the Finch, I read I Will Teach You To Be Rich, which I mentioned before in my short review of the book. It was that book that sparked my interest in a site that I came across while I was reading it. I really need to start documenting how I find these sites, but its usually via some site I read in my daily e-mail feeds.

Anyhow, the site is called The Personal MBA. The PMBA is a project started by Josh Kaufman. The manifesto of the PMBA site goes into excellent detail about the goal of the program. Here’s a snippet to summarize.

The Personal MBA (PMBA) is a project designed to help you educate yourself about advanced business concepts. This manifesto will show you how to substantially increase your knowledge of business on your own time and with little cost, all without setting foot inside a classroom.

The PMBA is more flexible than a traditional MBA program, doesn’t involve going into massive debt, and won’t interrupt your income stream for two years. Just pick up one of these business books, learn as much as you can, discuss what you learn with others, then go out into the real world and make great things happen.

If you’re interested in educating yourself about business, the Personal MBA is the best place to start.

What is notable about the site to me is that Josh has spent some time compiling a list of books that are excellent in their respective subject fields. I Will Teach You To Be Rich happens to be on the list, as do several other books that I have read since the beginning of this year. I figured since I had already knocked several titles off the list, I would give it a go and select some other books in my areas of interest.

There is now a PMBA shelf on one of my bookcases where I have gathered together all of the read and to-be-read copies. I may review a book from the list now and again, but Josh and others have done a respectable job of covering them already.

I also want to talk about Pace and Kyeli’s book, The Usual Error, but I want to devote more space and time to it, so look for that to be coming soon.

In the meantime, be well and awaken those senses.