Observing the tech sabbath and running manhattan: my 2010 resolutions

After reading Kortina’s great list of his resolutions, I was challenged to do my own. I’ve never really been serious about resolutions before, they were always spouted half-heartedly and swiftly discarded. This year I wanted to start to really set out some major goals for myself. The intent in this is as much to exclude as to include: becoming proficient at archery and horse-riding are both goals of mine that I have shelved for this year, I want to focus on a few goals and execute them well. So here’s a selection of my resolutions:

Personal

Observe a tech sabbath: At social foo last year, Michael Galpert of Aviary spoke about reconciling his always-on tech role with his life as an observant jew and the process of switching everything off for 24 hours once a week. Ever since, the idea has resonated with me more and more. I’m utterly addicted to the dopamine fix of every tweet, email and foursquare check-in and I think that it’s taking me down a short-attention span path I don’t wish to follow. As a result, I’m going to try and turn off my internet access, close my laptop and leave my phone in a drawer every Sunday. I want to see what it’s like to go for a walk without music, go to a restaurant with only the people who are with me and have serious time for reflection.

Learn the ancient skill of focus: I kicked off this year with Neil Postman’s 1985 book ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death‘, which looks at how the changes from a typographical culture through the telegraph and photograph to television have shaped how we interact and behave. While we’ve certainly gained much from technological advances, we’ve also lost something. During the Lincoln-Douglas debates, crowds would sit and listen to two speakers discuss dense and nuanced positions for seven hours. Seven hours. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t think I could do that, but I want to. I want to reduce my often constant flitting from document to email to twitter and back and learn how to focus again. I’m doing this with a simple timer, setting a period of concentration on one item and not letting up until the buzzer goes. Over time I want to extend that concentration so that I could one day sit through the kind of discussion that previous generations thought commonplace.

Improve my memory: The missus has oftentimes pointed to my hazy memory for things she has perfect recollection of, such as meeting, proposing etc. I’m keen to try to improve this and delve into the loci system to see if that can help.

Get married, go on a honeymoon, learn how to dance: and importantly don’t screw any of these things up for the other person with whom I have planned these things.

Physical

The marriage/honeymoon bundle is going to take up a fair amount of time this year and preclude doing too many farflung events. However, I’m keen to:

Run the circumference of Manhattan: This to me seems like something more fun and illuminating than a straight mileage distance. I am often accused of rarely straying from the West Village and I hope this gives me a sense of the parts of Manhattan I rarely see.

Swim two miles/do a century ride/run a marathon: I might not be able to fit in an ironman this year but I want to get back up to the level where I could. Would also love to run the New York marathon as a good pal has assured me it’s the best in the world.

Get back into cross-country skiing: I was lucky enough to get a pair of bomb-proof back-country skis for xmas and I’m keen to get back into it again. New York and Pennsylvania have numerous places where I can really get going and I loved it too much to let it slip.

There’s a few more resolutions related to my professional life and other new projects, but I’ll keep those closer to my chest for now.

tony

6 thoughts on “Observing the tech sabbath and running manhattan: my 2010 resolutions

  1. Read everything by Neil Postman, especially Technopology if you’re trying to figure out why our culture bows down at the altar of technology and that we have no defenses against information glut. Others books like Teaching as a Subversive Activity and Linguistics are great insights into the human condition, education, language. The man was very insightful. I wish he would have written 100 books, we’d all be better off.

  2. Thanks for the tip David, I will check it out. I wish I could have seen a subsequent edition to AOTD that dealt with the web too.

  3. Hey Tony

    Go to amazon.com and type in ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ and click the link that says ’100 books cite this book’. You can bet if they cited Postman’s book they have something interesting to say, too. We can extend Postman’s argument with the web by saying the Internet not only turns everything into entertainment, but all these social websites and blogs turn us into narcissists. Postman said that technology is always a Faustian bargain, something is gained but something is lost. I always say technology is great so long as we use it as a tool. If you can’t take three months (or any time) off the Net than the Net is using you and you are the tool.

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