Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Is your video streaming tap leaking money? Here's a 4-step strategy for taking control.



It's money down the drain!


A leaky faucet can be insidious thing. A barely noticeable drip, drip, drip easily falls below our awareness. Yet running hour after hour, day after day, it can siphon away a huge amount of water and lead to a massive surprise water bill. And worse, the water is pointlessly gone without ever being used!

Monthly payments can be like that dripping faucet. Seemingly insignificant expenses can easily fall below the radar as we automatically pay them and go about our busy lives. And when these expenses are for stuff we don't really use, well... that's just a stupid waste!

In this article I'm going to challenge you to think about one category of monthly expenses that can easily get out of control if you don't consciously manage it. I'm talking about streaming services. And like the water from that dripping faucet, the dollars spent on that unused (or underused) streaming service is gone forever, leaving you with nothing to show for having spent them! Consider this from Lifewire.com:
"The average person who uses streaming services subscribes to between five and seven services. You know the ones: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+, Discovery+, Paramount+, Peacock, HBO Max, and others."
So let's say you are limiting yourself to five of these. The basic, ad-free versions of five of the services above could get you a monthly bill of around $65. Subscribe to all nine of the services listed and you'll be paying well over $100/month with fees. Add this to your cable bill (Why are you still buying cable!?! Can't you use an antenna?? That's a topic for another day...) and your internet bill and WOW -- that can add up to some very big bucks spent on content!  

Seriously: Step back and ask yourself: Do you actually use every one of your streaming services every day? ... every week? Do your payments stop when you're not using a service? Have you really "dug deep" into the catalogs of any of your services to see what shows you're paying for, but not watching?  If any of these questions make you uncomfortable, then you're ready for a more disciplined, strategic approach to your streaming. 

A Four-Step Strategy for Taking Control of Your Media Streaming

At our house we have a rule: Subscribe to no more than three paid streaming services at one time. This rule isn't all that hard to live with if you're willing to be a bit strategic about your choices. We add and drop services frequently. And we also supplement the paid ones with a couple of excellent free services from our local library (Kanopy & Hoopla). The bottom line: Our current total streaming bill is under $25/month! And we still have WAY MORE stuff to watch on these services than we have time available!  

(At the moment, our subscriptions are with Hulu, Acorn TV and PBS Passport. But these are all subject to swapping out for Netflix, etc. at any time.) 

Here's how you can implement this money-saving streaming strategy.

Monday, October 25, 2021

10 Specific Actions That Can Help You Become Happier (an audio podcast)

Focus:  Whether you're part of a project team or a family group, when individuals are happy, the entire group will likely be happy! But how can you become happier? In this archived podcast from 2009 I share 10 specific actions that I’ve taken to create more happiness in my life.

------------------ October 2021 Update ------------------

This podcast was originally produced in December of 2009. In the 12 years since its release, social media companies and their fine-tuned algorithms have mastered the art of manipulating our consciousness. They pull us in and lock us down into contentious tribes. The sites cherry-pick news, opinion, sensationalistic rants, memes & images that exactly match our unique biases and push our buttons. Then they serve them up in a customized stream to keep us angry, warring and, most importantly to their bottom line, glued to their sites. 

If I were creating this podcast today, my highest-priority Action for producing happiness would be:

  • Ration your time (or remove yourself entirely!) from social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. 
These sites are powerfully toxic to our happiness. At the very least, they generate a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out) as we see our "friends'" self-servingly-edited timelines and perfect lives unfold via their curated posts. And, at their worst, the algorithms keep us angry and outraged and posting our own venom. And all this is antithetical to happiness!

So as you listen to this podcast (or read the transcript) consider the powerful negative roles these social media sites have come to play in our lives as omnipresent aggregators of everything that irritates and enrages us. Then ask yourself: "If I am pursuing peace of mind and happiness, why am I engaging these toxic social media dumps?" 

--------------[End of October 2021 Update]--------------

(Use the control bar below to download or play the podcast. Or scroll down and simply read the rest of the transcript. Enjoy!)

[Transcript of this audio was originally published on December 7, 2009. Some links referred to below may no longer be valid]

Transcript

In this post, we focus on the individual instead of the team. After all, teams are made up of individuals. And when individual team members are happy, there’s a good chance the entire team will be happy! But how can anyone become happier? To begin to answer this question, I share 10 specific actions that I’ve taken to create more happiness in my life. (And I hope you will share your suggestions in the Comments section at the end of this post.)

1. Turn off the local news; it’s not real.

Think about it. News production is a business. News producers must create powerful headlines that generate a sense of urgency on the part of viewers or listeners. They want big, bold, sensational announcements that scream nervously about fires, murders, local indiscretions by public figures… all to attract a large audience. If it’s nasty and ugly and sensational, we’re going to hear about it. To make matters worse, these kinds of stories are comparatively easy to get.  Journalists can simply listen in on the local police scanners, follow the police or fire department to the scene of the latest crime or accident, and pick up that sensational story.  So it’s easy for broadcasters to bury us in this drek! Yet, at the same time, there are countless little acts of kindness in neighborhoods everywhere that go unreported.  What’s more, there are employees who labor quietly to create a great new product, or go that extra mile to serve their customers, or otherwise make their anonymous positive contributions to make the world a better place. But most of this positive energy goes unnoticed by local news producers.

The result: You come home from a long, hard day at work, turn on local news, and a glut of negative energy pours over you. You wallow in bad events that simply aren’t real for you, your family, or the people in your neighborhood! Ultimately you begin to feel a little uneasy, sad or angry.  If you aren’t careful, this stuff begins to cast a dark shadow over your whole life. But you don’t have to let this happen! You can do what I do: I turn off my local news and go out and enjoy a walk in my neighborhood or call a friend or relative and say Hi or whatever! I do anything other than sit through all that bad news.  (What about the local weather, you ask? No worries. I get my local weather, updated every few minutes, from the internet!)

2. Turn off the national & world news; it’s not real either.

The same business dynamics related to local news apply to the national and world news.  And worse yet, with national and world journalism, the scale of the bad news is typically much grander.  The bad behaviors of public figures are said to have world-wide implications. The wars (there are always wars, right?) and acts of inhumanity are captured in gory detail. And it is implied that the local disaster on the other side of the world could soon apply to you, in your neighborhood.  Meanwhile, in nations all over the world, public officials, citizens, and workers labor quietly to do their jobs as best they can and generate countless acts of kindness that go uncelebrated. So again, I suggest this: Turn off the national and world news, go outside and look around. There’s a good chance that all that bad news that was so compelling as it poured into your home is simply not a reality in your back yard, in your neighborhood, in you family, or among your friends. And if it’s not in these places, then it’s not real to you. So why let it shape your thoughts and your mood?

Here’s a challenge: Stop watching local, national, and world news for one solid week. At the end of the week, tune in to a news broadcasts and see how you feel. If you’re like me, you’ll be shocked at the amount of negative energy these things spew at you. And you’ll probably quickly turn them off again!

Remember these words from Marcus Aurelius:  “Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind, for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.” So the question is:  Do you want your soul to be dyed the color of bad news or the color of the countless good deeds that are happening all around you?

Monday, September 20, 2021

Authority, Responsibility, Freedom & Ordered Liberty: How a Basic Management Practice Clarifies Our Civic Duties


In the past year or two the Covid pandemic has prompted serious questions about our civic responsibilities and individual freedoms. Vaccination and mask mandates, business and school closures, travel restrictions and other attempts by public health officials to control the spread and reduce casualties from the disease have been met by fierce opposition from some folks while being welcomed by others. Many of those opposed to the mitigation measures feel that their individual freedoms are being trampled. 

In this essay I'd like to explore how a widely accepted business practice, that of balancing authority and responsibility, has clarified and inspired me to think differently about these issues. In particular, I'd like to suggest that these are not so much legal or constitutional questions as they are questions of morality. 

Authority versus Responsibility: Why the Balance Matters


Let's start by defining some terms. The following video distinguishes authority from responsibility and shows how balancing these is simply a matter of fairness. 
   
To summarize the video:

  • Authority is the full empowerment to take action. It is the authorization to use money, tools and people to get a job done.
  • Responsibility is the state of being held accountable for the completion of certain actions. For the responsible party "the buck stops here" in terms of a specified task completed or a given result attained; he or she bears the consequences of having exercised authority.
Clear lines of authority and responsibility help project team members, middle managers and senior managers sort out who should be doing what, when. But at its essence, balancing authority and responsibility is about achieving a fundamental fairness. A lack of that balance can lead to confusion, victimization, resentment and generally bad relationships within the organization.

Civic Freedom as Authority

In a sense, our civic freedom is a kind of authority. By granting this freedom to each other through our Constitution and Bill of Rights we are all empowered (i.e., authorized) to act on the world. But unless you are absolutely alone, far from any other humans, your actions can have have consequences that affect others. In a civilized society, where we necessarily share public spaces and resources, we have a duty (i.e, a responsibility) to be aware of the consequences of our actions and adjust them in order to respect the boundaries of our fellow citizens and their freedom to act.

The Lion and the Gazelle: A Case Study in Absolute Freedom

Consider this example. Imagine a primordial African savannah. There are no shared resources, no shared spaces, no protections. Each creature is absolutely free to act on any impulse without regard to the impact on any other creature. The gazelle has no right to safely enter a particular space. Nor does the lion have any obligation to defer to any of its fellow creatures.

The lion and the gazelle have no agreement to share their world. There are no roads, no schools, no shared firefighters or police protection, no shared public spaces, etc. In short, the lion exercises its absolute freedom, devouring the gazelle and dominating whatever territory it chooses.

My Fist versus Your Nose: The Concept of "Ordered Liberty"

There's an old saying, “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.”  What this means is, in contrast to that primordial savannah, a civilized society recognizes some mutually agreed-upon limitations to individual freedom, originating in our shared public spaces and resources.

In fact, our framers codified this perspective in the concept of "ordered liberty" when they were debating what provisions of the Bill of Rights were to be upheld by the states. (See Webster's "Ordered Liberty" legal definition.) 

Encyclopedia.com explains (my bold added):

"A loosely used term, diversely applied in scholarly literature and judicial opinions, 'ordered liberty' suggests that fundamental constitutional rights are not absolute but are determined by a balancing of the public (societal) welfare against individual (personal) rights." 

In short, in moral and civic terms, our freedom extends only as far as it threatens or causes harm or loss to others. It's through this lens that we must view statements like, "It's a free country!"  Yes, we are generally free to act on our impulses. No, we can't act on impulses that endanger or constrain others. So my freedom to drive wherever I want does not extend to my ignoring stop signs or driving the wrong way on a one-way street.

And it's worth noting that these framers worked together in a cooperative fashion (though they were sometimes fiercely adversarial) to create a set of common boundaries for behavior. They were not individual rogues interested purely in self empowerment. They were crafting the rules of the road for an entire democratic society.


Of Masks and Vaccines and Civic Duty

Viewed in light of the balance of our freedom and civic duties, our current debate about mandatory Covid vaccination and masking is not so much a legal question as it is a moral one. We have a civic duty to NOT serve as breeding ground for a disease and potentially be an unsymptomatic, stealth carrier. And we have a duty to NOT breathe invisible aerosolized virus particles on our fellow citizens. And since we can't know, minute to minute, whether we actually are unsymptomatic carriers, we have a responsibility to protect each other by masking when we enter publicly shared spaces and by getting vaccinated.

Forget legalities and contentious, self-serving personal interpretations of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. These can be devisive abstractions. What we need to propagate are some key moral values related to the pandemic. Such values would embody appropriate civic duties that balance our freedom and manifest our "ordered liberties" related to the pandemic. Here are the most important:

  • It's not okay to threaten others' health and safety, consciously or unconsciously, by showing up unmasked, possibly as an asymptomatic carrier in public spaces.
  • It's not okay to thwart business owners' efforts to create a pandemic-free space for their customers by refusing to mask.
  • It's not okay to thwart the efforts of school administrators, museum directors, concert venue managers and all the others who are trying to serve as good stewards of safe public spaces by fighting masking policies.
  • It's not okay to remain unvaccinated when the widespread adoption of the vaccine represents a clear path to return to our normal freedom of movement and a robust economy.
  • It's not okay, either by refusing to mask in public spaces or refusing to get the vaccine, to contribute to overflowing healthcare facilities, penalizing the very people who have dedicated their lives to saving ours.

To place a Covid twist on that old saying above: "Your freedom to exhale aerosolized viral particles ends where my nose and mouth begin." 

So just get the shot. Just wear the mask. These are the fair and decent things to do. 

======================

Other Articles You Might Find Interesting:

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Learn to Be Optimistic, Learn to Succeed. (an audio podcast)

Focus:  “One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think…. On a mechanical level, cognitive therapy works because it changes explanatory style from pessimistic to optimistic, and the change is permanent. It gives you a set of cognitive skills for talking to yourself when you fail.” – Martin Seligman in Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind & Your Life.

(Use the control bar below to download or play the podcast. Or scroll down and simply read the rest of the transcript. Enjoy!)


Transcript of this audio was originally published on February 24, 2009 [some links referred to below may no longer be valid]

Martin Seligman, former APA president and one of the founders of the research-based Science of Happiness tells us that individuals and teams can learn to be optimistic (and ultimately achieve greater success) by adopting an optimistic explanatory style. In his book Seligman provides examples from sports and business in which teams that have developed optimistic explanatory styles have shown a greater ability to "bounce back" from defeat and return to their winning ways more quickly than their pessimistic competitors. This is great news! But how, exactly, can you change (or control) your explanatory style? Well for starters, you need to understand its key dimensions and how these influence your self talk.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Accept What Is (an audio podcast)


Focus:  This audio podcast includes inspirational quotations, war stories, examples, a little philosophy and some practical challenges to help individuals and teams discover the power of accepting the reality of a difficult situation in order to handle it effectively. Only when you accept it, see it clearly without denial and hand-wringing, can you take appropriate action to remedy it.

(Use the control bar below to download or play the podcast. Or scroll down and simply read the transcript. Enjoy!)

Transcript of this audio originally published on April 19, 2009 [some links referred to below may no longer be valid]:

Imagine this situation: You are in your beautiful, newly remodeled kitchen wiping the counters clean after dinner.  Out in the hallway you hear your big labrador retriever galloping toward you. In a flash, he bounds across the tile to the table, plunks his meaty front paws up on a chair and begins sniffing the dinner plates for leftovers. Stopping your clean-up chores, you whirl to see what he's getting into and bam!... his big nose knocks over a nearly full glass of dark, purple grape juice left untouched by one of the kids. The tough plastic tumbler bounces all over the place, spritzing the walls with purple droplets, while a big puddle of juice begins expanding across the tile. It's flowing straight toward your new beige living room carpet.  Do you:

  • A. Deny that this is actually happening, telling yourself that you are a good, hard-working person who doesn't deserve this kind of misery?
  • B.  Find your spouse and begin an angst-filled review of your family's history of owning this dog, bemoaning the fact that while the dog is lovable, he has always caused too many minor disasters?
  • C.  Sit down with your wife and kids and imagine a future that has in it no potentially staining leftovers and no dog anywhere near the kitchen?
  • D.  Run across the room, placing yourself and your counter-cleaning sponge squarely between the expanding puddle of purple and the new carpet, thus preventing the major stain?

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Practice Mindfulness (an audio podcast)

Focus:  This audio podcast includes inspirational quotations, war stories, examples, a little philosophy and some practical challenges to help individuals and teams expand upon their inherent power of mindfulness — the practice of bringing your full awareness into the present moment.

(Use the control bar below to download or play the podcast. Or scroll down and simply read the transcript. Enjoy!)

Transcript of this audio originally published on April 26, 2009 [some links referred to below may no longer be valid]:

Acknowledgement:  The main inspiration for this post comes from various interviews and articles featuring Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Kabat-Zinn started his career as a scientist at MIT and it is with this scientific perspective (along with his clinical research to support many of his positions) that he shares his thoughts on the power of mindfulness. He teaches mindfulness meditation as a technique to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness. You can check out the links below for more about Jon and his work.]

In this post I hope to convince you of the power of mindfulness -- the practice of bringing your full awareness into the present moment. This is very different from that "kinda sorta" awareness that you have while you are attending a meeting, firing off a text message, and eating lunch all at the same time. And it is different from the awareness you experience within a conversation while you are trying to stifle clever or fearful or angry or resentful thoughts that are clamoring for your attention. And it is different from the awareness you experience when sitting alone at your desk, working to solve a problem while thoughts of past difficulties and future fears challenge your concentration. Instead, it is a cleaner, simpler kind of awareness. It is simply being fully present, with all your attention. It is, in the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, "paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, without judgment." This is mindfulness.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Do What You Fear and Grow Stronger (an audio podcast)


Focus:  This audio podcast includes inspirational quotations, war stories, examples, a little philosophy and some practical challenges to help individuals and teams push through fear and grow stronger.

(Use the control bar below to download or play the podcast. Or scroll down and simply read the transcript. Enjoy!)



Transcript of this audio, originally published on March 22, 2009:  

Do one thing every day that scares you.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

“Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do... Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain... Do the thing and you will have the power.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was 15 years old, I loved to sing. I sang mostly in the shower, really belting out the lyrics to rock and roll songs. The bigger the shower, the better the echo, and the louder I sang. One night after basketball practice, I was alone in the school's shower and really wailing. As I finished my shower and my song, I grabbed my towel and turned to leave and saw one of the seniors standing there smiling at me. I knew this guy. Everybody knew this guy. He was the lead guitar player in a popular local band. And he informed me that he really liked my voice and wanted to know if I'd consider singing with his band. Consider?! Well I jumped at the chance. Nervous, but enthusiastic, I attended a few rehearsals at his house and discovered that I really loved singing amplified and surrounded by all that rock & roll thunder. Eventually, during one of those rehearsals, it dawned on me. This was the real deal! Someday soon I'd have to do this in front of a crowd! If I stopped to think about this for long, my heart would start racing and I'd feel like running away and hiding. But I loved the music and I kept on rehearsing and pushed those thoughts out of my mind.

Inevitably, a couple of weeks passed and I found myself walking on stage in front of my first big crowd. I had sweaty, cold palms and I was terrified. My heart was in my throat and I could feel all the lyrics just leaving my brain entirely. And again, I felt like running and hiding! But, ready or not, the band started playing, people started dancing, and I somehow started singing on cue and the energy of it all just began to flow. For the next several years my singing skills grew, I learned to play bass guitar, the band played a wide variety of venues where we met all sorts of people, and I became completely comfortable in front of crowds. Whole new worlds were opened up to me... and I wasn't even out of high school!

As the years pass and I face even more frightening challenges, I realize that I've come to regard fear as a doorway. You can't really see everything that's on the other side, but if you ignore your sweaty palms, gather your courage and step through, you almost always enter another dimension in your life. A dimension in which you are stronger than you were in the one you left behind.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Some New Graffitti on the Wall of the Universe: All My Stuff at Internet Archive


In my preceding article, Internet Archive: To Capture & Store & Share All Human Knowledge (Seriously!!), I introduced the Internet Archive as that incredibly ambious effort to make certain that humanity's digital heritage is captured and preserved. In the intervening weeks I have acquired my own free Internet Archive account and have uploaded bunches of my own publications that I want to make sure are preserved. So now, should Google (this website's current host) or YouTube or Vimeo decide that they no longer want to host these materials on the web, they will still be available for anyone to find and download, absolutely free, from Internet Archive. 

A Complete List of My Internet Archive Publications


Specifically, I have uploaded 5 complete books in PDF form, as well as many individual essays, worksheets and other tools. In addition, you'll find complete videos and audios available to play or download. And it's all absolutely free! Click on the image of the Internet Archive document below to find a complete, categorized list of all this stuff. NOTE: Scroll down/left to the "Description" of this document in its Archive listing to find active links to individual items.



To browse through the entire collection of my (so far..) 86 Internet Archive items, a bit jumbled and not categorized, go to:  https://archive.org/details/@michael_greer  

Note that when you are at this collection you can scroll down to find a set of Filters and other menu items that will allow you to focus only on videos, only on text documents, etc. (See below.)


As you can see from this filtered list, I have thus far uploaded 48 text items (books, PDF articles, tools), 25 movies (videos), and a dozen audios. In addition, you can locate specific types of items based on tags, such as project management, team building, etc. by using these filters.

Looking for All The PM Minimalist Stuff?



For your convenience, I have assembled everything you need to teach yourself about (or create a two-day workshop on) Project Management Minimalism here in my "Favorites" collection. So if you are just interested in the PM Minimalist stuff, check this out!

Conclusion


So that's it! If I should depart the planet tomorrow and Google or Vimeo or YouTube decides to ditch my labored-over publications, I am comforted to know that future scholars of project management, instructional design, team building, personal growth, etc. will be able to follow my digital audit trail at the Internet Archive and use some of my stuff as a springboard for their own creations. And if my grandkids (or my grandkids' grandkids!) are able to get something useful out of any of this material then that would be a real plus as well.  Thank you, Internet Archive!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Internet Archive: To Capture & Store & Share All Human Knowledge (Seriously!!)

Just three of many powerful tools from the Internet Archive

The process of archiving real things is something we all understand. Whether it's great-grandma's collection of porcelain figurines, an ancient Greek statue or a first edition of a rare book, our archives are typically composed of things we can see and touch and smell and feel. And seeing each object, we also see shadows of the past. 

But what of our digital history? How should we archive that which has existed in the form of invisible electronic patterns? Old jpeg images, audio files, HTML web pages, videos and all manner of stuff from our digital past may seem to be pervasive and durable, but they are actually fragile and subject to instant deletion at the whim of their keepers. These ephemeral traces of the passing of their creators could all eventually disappear, along with those who labored to build them. 

Enter the Internet Archive

It is this digital disappearance that the folks at the Internet Archive are laboring mightily to prevent. Since May of 1996 they have been on a mission to capture and store all knowledge. 

Wikipedia summarizes (my bold added): "The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of 'universal access to all knowledge.' It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and millions of books. " - Wikepedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Archive

As you can imagine, it is a daunting task to store and categorize the HEAPS of digital stuff we humans create, whether profoundly significant or just plain goofy. And, to be honest, it can be difficult to access particular items within those heaps even after they have been carefully categorized and assembled. 

To make your journey through the Archive a little less confusing, spokesperson Alexis Rossi has created a nicely organized video overview that will get you started. It's embedded below. (NOTE: You should try to view this video on a tablet or computer screen, since the information-rich screens she demonstrates are difficult to see on a small phone screen.)

YouTube Video: How to use the Internet Archive

The Big Picture

This quote from the Internet Archive's About page captures the sheer scope of their work:

"... Today we have 20+ years of web history accessible through the Wayback Machine and we work with 625+ library and other partners through our Archive-It program to identify important web pages.  As our web archive grew, so did our commitment to providing digital versions of other published works. Today our archive contains:

  • 475 billion web pages
  • 28 million books and texts
  • 14 million audio recordings (including 220,000 live concerts)
  • 6 million videos (including 2 million Television News programs)
  • 3.5 million images
  • 580,000 software programs
  • Anyone with a free account can upload media to the Internet Archive. We work with thousands of partners globally to save copies of their work into special collections. "

Such a massive collection inspires all sorts of projects aimed at focusing on particular domains of knowledge. Internet Archive Projects page lists these current projects:

  • Political TV Ad Archive
  • Building Libraries Together
  • Open Library
  • Scanning Services
  • Software Archive
  • Wayback Machine
  • Offline Archive
  • BookServer
  • Open Content Alliance
  • Open Education Resources library
  • Bookmobile
  • (Coming soon) Over 100,000 historic vinyl records are being digitised and made available to stream online for free)

The Internet Archive Wayback Machine 



Have you ever searched for an old favorite website or a highly recommended web reference, only to discover that it had simply vanished? The Wayback Machine is designed to help you recover that lost resource! The Wayback Machine creators explain:  
"The Internet Archive Wayback Machine is a service that allows people to visit archived versions of Web sites. Visitors to the Wayback Machine can type in a URL, select a date range, and then begin surfing on an archived version of the Web. Imagine surfing circa 1999 and looking at all the Y2K hype, or revisiting an older version of your favorite Web site. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine can make all of this possible."
To be fair, The Wayback Machine is both an incredibly powerful tool and (as you might expect) complex to use. But again, our Internet Archive spokesperson Alexis Rossi provides a nice, focused video overview. It's embedded below. (NOTE: As with the previous video, you should try to view this video on a tablet or computer screen, since the information-rich screens are difficult to see on a small phone screen.)

YouTube Video: How to use the Wayback Machine



A Wayback Machine Case Study & Fun Fact: My 22-year-old website is NOT gone!

Since I launched it in 1999, I've made a lot of changes to my Project Management Resources website. In recent years I finally decided to archive it and move on to writing about whatever suits my fancy here at my WORTH SHARING site. As far as I knew, when I ditched my old website and stopped paying to have it hosted, it was gone! So imagine my complete surprise when, just for the fun of it, I did a search using The Wayback Machine and found that my original website had been archived with the sub-menus and many of the linked pages still intact! You can see for yourself here: 

Honestly!! I thought my old abandoned website was gone forever.
But the Wayback Machine found it at the Internet Archive! 
(Well, at least I know the beard's really gone.)

As you can see from my search experiment above, The Wayback Machine can be full of surprises. What surprises might it have in store for you? Go ahead, travel back in web-time and find out. 


Internet Archive Scholar



Here's an overview of Internet Archive Scholar from a recent Internet Archive blog post, titled Search Scholarly Materials Preserved in the Internet Archive

"Looking for a research paper but can’t find a copy in your library’s catalog or popular search engines? Give Internet Archive Scholar a try! We might have a PDF from a 'vanished' Open Access publisher in our web archive, an author’s pre-publication manuscript from their archived faculty webpage, or a digitized microfilm version of an older publication.... We hope Internet Archive Scholar will aid researchers and librarians looking for specific open access papers that may not be otherwise available to them."

If you're an academic scholar or researcher, you probably want to dig deeper to discover the marvels of this incredible academic treasure hunting tool. Below are a couple of link-filled pages to help you. (Warning: These can get a bit geeky! But if you're a serious scholar, you're already there, right?)

For the rest of us who are just looking for a quick overview of this amazing tool, check out Richard Byrne's YouTube video.  (NOTE: As with the previous videos, you should view this video on a tablet or computer screen, since the information-rich screens are difficult to see on a small phone screen.)

YouTube Video: An Overview of Internet Archive Scholar by Richard Byrne



Now get an account and go explore!

I hope this quick overview of The Internet Archive and tools have inspired you to explore on your own. But before you get lost in a digital archeological expedition, you should probably set up a free account. If nothing else, you'll be glad to have somewhere to capture some of the nuggets you find on your journey of discovery. What's more, according to the Archive:  

"Having an account allows you to:

  • Upload files to the site
  • Have collections for your uploads (50 items minimum required)
  • Borrow books from the lending library
  • Leave reviews
  • Participate in forums
  • View and use some items that are restricted
  • Receive monthly newsletters and event notices"

Find out how to set up your account here:  Accounts - A Basic Guide.

Enjoy your explorations!

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

From Political Hobbiest to Political Activist: Why and How to Make the Shift



My Shift from Political Hobbyism to Activism


January 21, 2017 was transformative for me. It was on that day that I went from political hobbiest to political activist. On that day (the day after Donald Trump's inauguration) I joined an overwhelmingly female multitude of my fellow citizens who simply couldn't believe that Trump had become president. Representing my wife and daughter and granddaughters I attended the first Women's March in downtown Los Angeles, resolved to do everything I could to resist Trump's presidency. I went alone, not as part of any group. I had no idea what I was going to do to actualize my desire for resistance. I just knew I had to do something. 

Luckily, I bumped into (literally!) a smart young couple who invited me to join their local Indivisible group. Within a few weeks I had a meaningful assignment on the team, began attending regular organizing meetings and was taking my first baby steps as a political activist. In the years to come I would attend advocacy meetings with politicians and elected officials, participate in more marches and demonstrations, help with get-out-the-vote campaigns, etc. 

That's me, at the Women's March in Downtown LA, Jan. 21, 2017

As we would soon see in the 2018 midterm elections, many of those born-again-as-activist women who attended that first Women's March would run for office and win political positions. And a vast army of us would continue pushing an anti-Trump, pro-democracy progressive agenda at all levels of government -- local, state and national. 

Soon, to my surprise, my noisy political rants on Facebook and Twitter dwindled down to almost nothing. They just weren't that much fun anymore. As my energy shifted to real, meaningful political action, my need to bluster and debate had all but disappeared. And better yet, I began to see a direct connection between my tangible work as a budding activist and actual, real-world political progress.  

 The Problem with Political Hobbyism


From "College-Educated Voters Are Ruining American Politics" in The Atlantic

I know from personal experience as a political hobbiest that it can be addictive to follow the cable talking heads, dig into opinion pieces, quote the pundits and wax profound via memes and social media link-posting. I get it! I've been there and I know it can feel good to raise hell online -- especially if you are raising hell alongside a core group of like-minded ranters (a.k.a. an "echo chamber") who have targeted and do regular combat with opposing ranters from "the other side." But eventually you have to ask yourself: What is this accomplishing? Am I making a difference or just letting off steam? Or worse... Is this just about getting attention and proving how profound I am? And, finally, if I have the energy to do this stuff, then why not channel it into concrete action that has a chance of getting meaningful results?  

In the short video below Hanz Harkir reviews Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change by American political scientist Eitan Hersh. In the process, Hanz summarizes the distinction between political hobbyism and political activism.

 

Want to dig a little deeper? In his podcast interview with Eitan Hersch, Chris Hayes (of MSNBC fame) asks Hersch to explain "what he diagnoses as 'political hobbyism,' what real political engagement looks like, and .. how this self-gratifying online hobbyism can be detrimental to the real political activism needed to create change." Check it out.


Okay.  So if political hobbyism is the problem, what's the solution?  

The solution: Channel that rant energy into political activism!


You might be surprised how easy it is to become politically active! In fact, most of us who helped get nation-wide results in the 2020 election were able to work from home, on our own schedules (mostly part-time) with not much more coordination than occasional phone calls and Zoom meetings. The work itself usually consisted of simple stuff like phone banking, text banking, calls to voters to help them figure out how to get registered, etc. And yes, from time to time, we made calls to our local or national elected officials as part of one initiative or another. The bottom line: All of this was much more fun and rewarding than merely ranting on social media. 

Action, in a democracy, means making phone calls to the office of your elected officials, hitting the streets (masked, these days, of course!) to take part in a political action or demonstration, joining a group of volunteers (in person or virtually) who are working for change or (Do you dare?) running for local office.

In her article "How to get involved in an activist organization and become a valuable volunteer — starting today," Laura Casado elaborates on these action items for the newbie activist:
  • Go to local meetings [safely, of course!]
  • When you find the right fit, introduce yourself to leadership and other volunteers
  • Be humble about how you can help
  • Know that every volunteer is valuable
  • If you can, make the long-term commitment
  • Commit to life-long learning
And, though it may be a bit dated (2017), you might want to check out CNN's link-filled "25 ways to be politically active (whether you lean left or right).

And then, there's Indivisible, the umbrella organization of grass roots teams that got me started on my road to political activism.  According to this quick WikiPedia summary: 
"Indivisible is a progressive movement in the United States initiated in 2016 as a reaction to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. The movement began with the online publication of a handbook written by Congressional staffers with suggestions for peacefully but effectively resisting the move to the right..."

Not ready to join an activist group? Okay, then. If you prefer individual activism, a good way to start is to simply pay attention to what your elected representatives are preparing to vote on. You gotta track the bills that are scheduled to be voted on, then make some noise and let them know how you want them to vote! On the national level, GovTrack.us is a great tool for this. 


Specifically, 
GovTrack.us tracks the United States Congress and helps Americans participate in their national legislature. From their website: 
"We publish the status of federal legislation, information about your representative and senators in Congress including voting records, and original research on legislation. We’re one of the oldest government transparency websites in the world."
GovTrack databases and search tools can help you find out who your representatives are, how to contact them, their current and historical congressional activity as well as provide automatic updates on Congress. Then it's up to you to let them know what you want!
And if you already have an issue that is urgent for you and you’re burning to call your senator or congressperson immediately, use the links below to get their contact numbers and go get ’em!
Finally, you can always take the leap and Run for Something yourself!  

Check out these encouraging words from the Run for Something website:  
"Throw everything you know about politics out the window. You’re qualified to run for local office – we’re here to help... Since launching in January 2017, Run for Something has recruited 70,000+ young people across all 50 states who want to run for local office... We provide a safety net for new and exciting progressive candidates — at all stages of their journey — to help them run efficient, grassroots & voter-contact driven campaigns and not feel alone in the process."

So just do it!

As you can see from the resources above, there are plenty of ways you can channel all that political energy of yours away from pointless political hobbyism and move it into meaningful, change-the-world political activism.  As anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."

So... if you think the world sucks, why not stop complaining and do something to fix it? 


Bonuses: Need a little pep talk to nudge you to action? Check out these articles & podcasts:

Friday, January 29, 2021

From the archives: How to stay positive, stay engaged & expand your comfort zone.

If you're finding it hard to maintain a positive attitude following month after month of pandemic isolation, an exhausting election year and now the cold and darkness of winter, you're not alone! But when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I like to remind myself of this colorful wake up call from that legendary pep-talk king, Dale Carnegie:

"Spit on your hands and get busy. Your blood will start circulating; your mind will start ticking – and pretty soon this whole positive upsurge of life in your body will drive worry from your mind. Get busy. Keep busy.”  

And he's right! It's hard to feel gloomy while you're busy doing something.  (For more on this, see "Overwhelmed by Angst? 'Spit on Your Hands & Get Busy!' (Including a Quick Start Guide to Banishing Angst)."

In this article, I've pulled together some "get busy, stay busy" stuff from my WORTH SHARING archives. It's a collection of odds and ends that can help you banish angst by nudging you to learn something new and maybe get you out of your comfort zone. Enjoy!

Challenge Yourself with Some New Skills 


Everybody knows the web is loaded with "how to" guides of all sorts. Over the years I've reviewed many of them at this website. Here are a few of my favorites. 

How to Be a Gardener or Urban Farmer: Three Excellent (and Free) Resources 


Food for the body, enrichment for the soul... even a potential income source! Gardening can give you all of these, depending on how much time and energy you decide to invest.  In this article I share three great resources to help you get started with planning and managing your window box, your home garden, your urban farm or your "all-in" urban agriculture business. (Go to article.)

Exercise Your Right Brain & Improve Your Life with Art Lessons from Artyfactory.com [Video Tour Included]  

Behavioral psychologists have long identified these benefits of painting and drawing: Improved creativity, memory, communication skills, problem solving skills, stress relief, more positive emotions, release of hidden emotions, increase of emotional intelligence, better mobility, better observational skills. (Go to article.)

Searching for a Picture: How a Camera in Your Hands Can Improve Your Vision  



There’s something about that device in my pocket, with all its lens settings and editing tools and pixel-power, that keeps nagging at me. It keeps asking, “Now what do you see? What’s out there that’s amazing? … that’s beautiful?” (Go to article.)

A Dozen Free Google Apps to Keep Your Family or Team Organized [Part 1 of 2]



Does your family or team have documents, photos, plans & maps scattered all over the place? Google’s free apps help you consolidate, share & get organized! And they're especially valuable while we're all staying separated "safer at home." (Go to article.)

6 Podcasts to Help You Become an Amateur Tech Geek  


One of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in tech stuff is to subscribe to a few tech podcasts and replace some of your time spent scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter with time spent listening to (and learning from!) tech experts. (Go to article.)


Got downtime? Teach yourself project management with these free videos and tools! 


Are you isolating due to the raging pandemic? If you have downtime, why not teach yourself something valuable so that when you emerge from your cave... and you will eventually emerge!... you will have some "added value" in the workplace?  And project management (PM) is one skill set that provides lots of value in almost any industry! (Go to article.)


Re-Introducing My YouTube Channel (A 10-Video Sampler)



Over the years I've collected quite a lovely pile of videos in my YouTube Channel.  In fact, as of this writing, there are well over 100 videos organized into five different playlists(And there are absolutely no annoying ads! ☺👍) You're sure to find something here that will inspire you to stay positive and engaged!  (Go to article.)


Bored passively consuming content? Feeling anxious? Maybe it's time to create something!  


Here are some specific creative challenges, along with a couple of pep talks, that could get you started. (Go to article.)


Explore Some Unusual Content Sources

If none of the suggestions above appeals to you, and you'd rather just kick back and consume content, how about nudging yourself gently outside your viewing/listening comfort zone? After all, not everything is on Netflix and YouTube!  Check out these content roads less traveled:

Acorn TV: Netflix for Grownups!  



"... some of the best British, Australian, Canadian and Irish TV series and stand-alone films!" (Go to article.)


Get award-winning movies & TV shows, audio books, graphic novels, & ebooks FREE (no ads!) from your local library. 



Here's how it works: Libby, Kanopy and Hoopla are services that have set up relationships with most libraries to stream content to their library card holders. Since we are already supporting our local public libraries with our taxes or our college and university libraries with our fees, we can get all this content for free and with no ads or commercials! (Go to article.) 

My Inspired Project Teams Podcast (downloadable audio) Collection



Some sample topics: 

  • 10 Specific Actions That Can Help You Become Happier
  • Consciously Choose Your Attitude
  • Accept What Is
  • Train Yourself to be Happier
  • Get High on Kindness
  • Take Charge, Stop Playing the Victim ... and 25 more!
(Go to collection.)

Travel Back in Time, Through the Mountains of France & Around the World with Robert Louis Stevenson 



From the article: "What do you get when one of the best writers of all time sets out on a personal odyssey with a donkey and documents his travels?  You get delicious prose like the paragraph below, describing a night under the stars in the CĂ©vennes mountains in France, circa 1859..."  (Go to article.)

Bonus: Check out Project Gutenberg



I got all those rare Robert Louis Stevenson travel books named in the article above absolutely free from Project Gutenberg. You can explore (and download, listen or read for free) the works of Stevenson and most other great authors from around the world at Project Gutenberg.  They currently claim to have over 60,000 free ebooks just waiting for you to download! I haven't yet published a review of this incredible website, but it's definitely worth checking out! 

How to Get Comfortable Doing Nothing: 3 Simple Strategies



If none of the preceding inspires you to stay positive and engaged, maybe you should consider simply getting comfortable doing nothing! Yep. I've got some strategies to help you do that.  (Go to article.)