For the Technology Obsessed, Less is More

Although my slight addiction to technology might suggest otherwise, there were only ever two gadgets I really wanted in my life: my own typewriter and unlimited access to a card catalog. Not too much to ask for, right?

Why can’t I have my own?!

Pre-computers, I always envied my brother and his typewriter. He didn’t have to use the family typewriter for any of his typing needs (and boy do seven-year olds have a lot of typing needs) and could type in the comfort of his own room. I, on the other hand, had to go into the downstairs closet in my parents’ office, lug out the giant typewriter, and manage to carry it to a part of the house where I could type to my heart’s content without annoying the entire family, which was inevitable when typing on a typewriter.

I secretly wish libraries still used these.

Post-computers, I never thought I’d be able to raise the millions of dollars I believed it cost to acquire my own personal computer. When it became clear the Internet was here to stay, it also became clear that I could, in effect, have unlimited access to the card catalogs because libraries were putting all their systems online. Even better. Then, the advent of Google and Wikipedia made endless information available immediately if not sooner. Life goals achieved.

Ahead of its time. Moo.

However, I often ask myself, as I incessantly check Facebook, if technology really has made my life better. I might have a slight addiction to checking Facebook, similar to my

Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know how to win this game.

past obsession with playing Minesweeper on my Gateway computer instead of doing my homework. I don’t even know why I’m do it, I just feel like clicking on things. Instead of accomplishing anything of worth, I just become irritated by all of the mines I’ve accidentally clicked on.

Of course technology has made life easier in many ways, but I’d argue it’s cheapened the quality of life in countless other ways. Nothing beats writing with a pen and paper and meeting someone face-to-face instead of texting with them.

What’s a ’90s playlist without some early Smashing Pumpkins?

I’ve always been infatuated with how the way things were (even as I write this I’m listening to a ‘90s playlist) so of course I’m a bit biased. I love being nostalgic and often take trips down memory lane. During my most recent trip down memory lane (today), I stumbled across a couple of old habits I had that made me think I should take a tip or two from my past self.

I challenge you to find me a diary without an inspirational quote.
I challenge you to find me a diary without an inspirational quote.

While paging through my old diaries to see what I was doing on this day in history (a pastime of mine), I stumbled upon an entry from October 17th, 2000. I had just achieved a lifetime best time in the 100-yard butterfly at a swim meet and wrote, “It’s such a great feeling to touch the wall and see a best time. It’s such a great feeling of accomplishment. I get to cross it off my goal sheet. Reaching a goal is one of the best feelings.”

I kept a goal sheet? And I actually crossed off goals when they were attained? I wrote about it like it was no big deal, but apparently it was because I certainly don’t keep a goal sheet anymore. I should probably start that up again.

Hand held notebooks are useful for scribbling down directions to parties.
Hand held notebooks are useful for scribbling down directions to parties.

The second thing I came across was a hand held notebook I kept in my early 20s when I lived in Boston. In this notebook, I’d write down random information like job postings, directions to parties, daily noticings, and series of questions based on observations I’d made. For example, while riding the T, and seeing a man sitting next to a pizza, I scrawled, “Who delivers a pizza via the T? Why does a pizza get a whole seat? Seriously?” The questions I often posed to my notebook were always very specific and based on whatever was happening in front of me at the time.

I'm not texting, I'm taking notes!
I’m not texting, I’m taking notes!

I still keep regular notes on my iPhone, but it’s not the same as my hand held notebook. For one, I can’t get down as much information when I write with my thumbs. Secondly, I hate how it looks like I’m always texting/being rude while someone is talking when really I’m capturing nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. The thought of looking rude hinders me from writing down my thoughts and I really hate to interrupt my creative flow especially when it involves pizza.

When it comes to technology, it’s all about finding the balance. I’ll always remain infatuated with my favorite technological oldies but goodies, but I’ll still keep updating my iPhone. I’m not going to quit the Internet cold turkey, but perhaps it’s time to return to some of my pre-technologically obsessed habits such as taking pen and paper notes and keeping a goal sheet.

Get to The Next Tree

ImageLife is crazy. We all know this. I know I’m not the only person in the world who’s spread too thin, working two jobs to make ends meet, not striking the perfect work-life balance, lamenting that time passes too quickly. I haven’t even written a blog post since April! (Though, in my defense, I’m convinced time passes faster in New York City  than in the rest of the country and that New York is actually on another planet, in a different dimension, but that’s a whole different story.)

Anyway, amidst the craziness that is adult life, I find myself easily caught in the trap of thinking about all the things I haven’t done or wish I had time to do. I haven’t even made it to a baseball game this summer (one summer I went to 11), I haven’t been to a Broadway show in months, there’s a stack of New Yorkers on my kitchen table that are unread, I haven’t even put away my clean laundry! I don’t even want to think about the pile of dishes in the sink or the fact the recycling needed to go out last week. Not to mention since moving to New York over a year ago, I still haven’t found a local doctor to call my own or a budget that works! I can’t remember the last time I had a lazy Saturday where I laid in bed watching Netflix and eating chips and salsa. Vacation, what’s that?

When I’m feeling bogged down with too many tasks and not enough time, it’s easy to justify doing nothing. I don’t have the perfect, well-crafted idea for a blog post, so I’m just not going to write one. Ever.

I don’t have the perfect closet organizer to maximize the space of my closet and I really don’t even wear half my clothes any more but I’m too tired to separate out all of the clothes into bags to give away, so I’m just going to chuck all of my clothes into the corner of my closet, on top of my shoes instead of bothering to put them away neatly.

I used to get to the gym and train five days a week, sometimes with a personal trainer,  but I’m too tired to get up in the morning so I’m just going to go to the gym never.

I have dinner plans, but I’m so tired and have to work early in the morning, so i’m just going to go to bed as soon as I get home from work and not even eat at all.

This kind of thinking, while seemingly logical, gets me nowhere. And is nonsense. Life doesn’t need to be in such absolutes!

In situations like these, I’m reminded of the advice imparted by my old swim coach. He used to tell us the story of the marathon runner running his first marathon. Instead of thinking about all 26.2 miles ahead of him, he just focused on making it to the first tree in his line of vision. Once he arrived at the first tree, he looked to the next tree, then focused on getting to the next tree after that. And then the tree after that. Until finally, he made it through all 26.2 miles.

I don’t need to accomplish every major task in one sitting, I just need to do something that will get me to that next tree. I don’t need to write a masterpiece every time I sit to write a blog post, but I need to put something on my blog, especially if I’m going to call myself a blogger. Your next piece of writing doesn’t have to be the next Great American Novel, but you still need to be writing if consider yourself a writer.

It’s so much easier to justify inaction, especially when feeling overwhelmed by wanting to do more than time will allow, but you do have to do something that puts you in the direction you want to go in. Remember, as Lao- tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Just get to the next tree!

Food Obsessions

While reading about culinary quests in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine issue on food, I started thinking about my own personal food obsessions. As a food lover and cook, there are many dishes, condiments, and meals that I continually obsess over. I am known to frequent restaurants that are way out of my way just to get eggs done a special way or go to a tucked away specialty store to get my favorite variety of mustard. We all have foods that we can’t live without, and below are the items are my food obsessions:

ImageGigantic salads 
Among family and friends and anyone else for whom I’ve cooked, the gigantic, all-encompassing salad is known as my signature dish. I love when a salad is a full meal. My salads have staples: toasted nuts, grilled veggies, cherry tomatoes. I like to vary the seasonings and proteins I use. Sometimes I’ll throw in bacon, other times grilled salmon or another grilled fish. I like to add cheese shavings, particularly aged gouda. Homemade dressing always.

Pesto
Summer in the Whipp house meant an abundance of pesto on hand. My mom made pesto from the fresh basil in her garden and since I soon became addicted to this sauce, I made sure that I learned how to make the perfect batch of pesto. On many summer mornings, I went to the garden to pluck fresh basil for my pre-swim practice meal. To me, pesto goes with everything; on pasta, in sandwiches, and as dip for carrots. I’ve gone to great lengths to make pesto. Once, at a college dinner party, I resorted to using a mortar and pestle to make pesto because none of us could afford the luxury of a food processor.

ImagePizza
Pizza was always considered a treat when I was young and I still view it as such. When my parents left us with a babysitter, we were treated to pizza. When I dined over at my best friend’s house in elementary school, we were surprised with a pizza from the local pizza joint. I could probably eat pizza every day (in fact, I tried that once when visiting the south of France) and though I eat if often, it always feels like a delicacy. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my day, but I’m still convinced Zaffiro’s in Milwaukee is the best pizza I’ve ever had. (Joseph’s in Boston runs a close second.)

ImageBrunch
Who doesn’t like brunch?! I’ll eat it at any time of the day. I love inventive egg scrambles with interesting spices, breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, savory breakfast meats, coffee, bloody marys dragged through the garden and topped with oysters, the list goes on. I enjoy going out for brunch as much as cooking it in the comfort of my own home. Since moving to New York, I know also enjoy ordering in brunch. A few months ago, my friend and I discovered a great little place in East Harlem that delivers brunch on the cheap and they deliver coffee! The best part is that the food travels incredibly well. I’ve become a big fan of cheap, instant brunch that I don’t have to cook and can enjoy in the comfort of my own home.

Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
I do not like plain old grilled cheese sandwiches. What I do like are grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with meats, vegetables, maybe even a crabcake or two. It’s fun to experiment with making melts because the possibilities are endless. You can vary the bread you use, the kind of cheese, the sauce you put on the sandwich, the kind of bacon, etc. Never met a deluxe grilled cheese that I didn’t like. If you need inspiration, check out the Wisconsin Board of Cheese’s Grilled Cheese Academy for recipes (and food porn).

Mustard
My favorite condiment. I’m partial to Grey Poupon, especially of the Country Dijon variety. I put mustard on sandwiches, in dressing, and on crackers. I’ve been meaning to get to the National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, but time has not permitted. Yet.

Bacon

ImageSimilar to brunch, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like bacon (except for my vegetarian friend). Like pizza, I could also eat bacon at every meal. I was delighted to find this “Bacon 25 Ways” article in Sunday’s Times magazine and have already vowed to make all of the dishes. Recently, I discovered the joys of bacon infused whiskey and yes, it is delicious.

What are your food obsessions? Anything you think I’ve missed? Anything I’ve mentioned that you can’t stand? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.