An Unapologetic Apology, Disconnected Connections

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A great story by Scott Belsky, leader of http://the99percent.com (oddly enough, totally unrelated to today’s occupy protests /  movement) about disconnecting is this morning’s / afternoon’s random / deliberate Tweeting… The story acknowledges our forefathers wisdom in insisting on a sabbath, conscious disconnection, and how hard / important it is today to totally disconnect and unwind, with the ubiquity of our everpresent connection devises, and how sacred spaces are becoming extinct.  I’m also reflecting on Steve Jobs quote about the importance of saying no. Somewhere in the white space between those is my answer to both. We / I have to constantly work at simplifying our days, including conscious disconnection / meditation to improve our ability to deal with important complexity.

I love / hate days like today, after a self imposed, strong, physically demanding, long, wonderful, hard bike ride. I hate being tired / grumpy, and my thick headedness, but embrace my body telling me to chill. I love / hate my unannounced trances, where all thought just stops, eyes fixating. I hate the guilt but love the license I give myself to do nothing, but hopefully to do everything, as my body and mind and creativity and resolve imperceptively rebound. In my stupor I can’t decide whether to apologize for this post, or be totally self assured that if nothing else I’m learning to use the auto-complete keyboard function on my smartphone, getting a little writing practice… Nontheless I’m enjoying watching people pass by, sitting here on my butt, being connected / disconnected. So…

Holy Ikea!

Well, we finally made our pilgrimage to the big blue box. Amazed, surprised, delighted, impressed, curious…

It’s so refreshing to see “European” design hit town. I’m real curious about the actual uptake and acceptance of the clean, minimal, smart offerings. I’m not seeing a whole lot of the yellow bags for purchases, but with their ‘select it now buy it downstairs when you’re done shopping’ process, the usual intuitive indicator of whether people are actually buying stuff isn’t  available to me sitting here watching customers in a very comfortable and good looking chair up on the second floor; at least not yet…

I cans see why Mr. American Furniture Warehouse was protesting the tax incentives that were made available to Ikea.  I bet his sales are off 20%. Although some unsuspecting Ikea sofa buyers may get home and find that their new cheap purchase looks pretty small in their big family room, it is so refreshing to see trim, healthy sized offerings here. I walked out of the American Furniture Warehouse being grossed out with the store room floor ubiquity of their f’ing big, fat, ugly furniture. Its kind of like people looking like their pets: “Hey look honey, that chair’s overstuffed just like me! Oh my god, its got a beer cooler built right in! Look, here’s a slot for the remote, or a candy bar!” Ikea sells yummy crepes for $2.99, the same price that you get a hot dog (as their total offering) at AFW as it’s affectionately and sadly known.

  

The implications on urban design are fascinating too, with their suggestion and offering of a total living environment in 380 square feet. Although the young, single cyclist in their banner photo that is the suggested buyer for this minimal lifestyle, it certainly doesn’t represent a huge market, nor are there a lot of buyer that I see here today who are representative of this (transient) Millennial buyer. Aspirational marketing at its best.

In the real eatate development world, I hope that developers are looking for remodeling / restoration projects that may include small, stuido SRO (single room occupant) unit design criteria, creating perhaps one and a half times the density that they now have, offering up the Ikea fit design that accommodates an upscale, hip lifestyle. Of course the city planners (and developers) will have to approach parking needs in a more flexible way, knowing that increased density calls for more off-street parking. Perhaps a car co-sharing scheme can be added to the mix to help buyers and renters reduce their car needs, freeing up resources for more Ikea furniture! while helping cities benefit from a greater use of existing urban infrastructure, as a thought…

Well, upon my visit downstairs, I have no doubt that the store is successful in Denver. The upstairs does a brilliant job of setting the stage for acceptance of the lifestyle as defined by all the accessories that are finding their way into bags and carts by the truckload.

Bravo Ikea! It’s a great retail experience.

 

I Found My Day

I finally found my day.  I finally got to celebrate getting some real work done, struggling up a good incline on my bike to the beautiful I.M. Pei designed National Center for Atmospheric Research complex against a 20 mile per hour headwind.  I finally got some proof that my struggles to start this silly business and still keep our family afloat may be worthwhile, may indeed be keeping me alive to make sure that upon our success, just like my success today, that maybe, just maybe I’ll be there for all my loved ones, my family, my friends, my colleagues.  I finally found some peace in my day, meeting financial and logistic issues and the vagaries of the unknown head-on.  I finally found some humor in my day, knowing that this blog will probably seem silly and sentimental and sappy, but acknowledging, what the hell, I’m energized, against the wind and satiated for the day, ready for another!

                Finding the rhythm of my cadence and my breathing as I rode into the hill and the headwind I finally was able to put what I had almost found in the day together, thinking that finally I was really getting some real work done, thanks to the blood finally and really getting to my brain as the old saying goes, and perhaps presumptively, finally getting somewhere with how best to face another day.

Pedaling, pedaling, pumping along, I found myself remembering the legendary quirkiness of super-computer genius Semour Cray digging tunnels to release his creative energies, and thinking that this bike ride was my tunnel digging.  Then, riding along in traffic, it struck me so to speak, when I passed a spot on Table Mesa Road where on my last trek to NCAR I got cut-off during my 30 mile per hour descent and was nearly smashed into, of Dr. Cray’s untimely death at the hands of a foolish driver in a head-on collision on I-25 in Colorado Springs, where he lived*.  As I thought more about the day, and how yesterday’s death of Steve Jobs is playing out with today’s tributes and memorials, I childishly assured myself that Steve and Semour, as they now know each other in heaven, were in deep, brilliant conversation finally solving the puzzles of the universe and computing, and that if I bit the big one on my descent today, I’d hopefully get to join them and finally have the intellectual wherewithal to understand enough to enjoy the hell out of it, and even be part of the conversation.

My ride didn’t begin with such heavenly thoughts.  Indeed I was stultified by sitting for most of my day in front of my computer screen, feeling like I was slowly being blinded by its light and paralyzed by my chair in spite of its erg-onomic features.  Deb once again had to bear my griping about being bored with my usual pansy ass ride down to Whole Foods.  I found myself wandering back and forth from the porch through the house searching for gloves and this and that, grumbling about how cold and windy it was sure to be.

Upon finally finding myself generally riding south, I found a hidden bit of encouragement looking up to NCAR at the top of Table Mesa, and thinking without any hesitation that that’s what I needed to do, knowing that it would be tough, the wind undoubtedly growing meaner the closer toward the mountains I got, and the five o’clock traffic further complicating things, but knowing immediately without thinking that I was destined to get there.  Before I knew it I was churning along, headed up hill, defeating my own trepidation about the fall’s first cold, windy ride, to the sounds of Eddie Vedder, Bob Dylan and TV on the Radio.  My ride felt good, even as I struggled, imaging that each crack in the road was another funder saying no, that’s not a good fit for us, another bowing out after stringing us along, a third, fourth, fifth, all asking us pointed questions that we had pointed but unrealized answers for, struggling onward nonetheless.

Making it to Pei’s building indeed felt very good, imagining with my rest on the steps of this beautiful, habitable sculpture that this surely must approximate how it will feel when we hit pay dirt, with architecturally powerful computer code bringing security and economic wellbeing to thousands of people and their families, including ours, feeling accomplished and filled with a bit more dignity than we started off our day with. I savored the soft light of the afternoon glowing on the building, and the proportional beauty and cultural context that Pei brought to this work that will be celebrated even in ruins well into the next millennium.  Another classic Boulder sunset, orange and round, helped bring a peace to my breathing, with one final sigh acknowledging that darkness would soon prevail, and that I’d be back another day for another celebration.

Indeed the descent was a fast and playful delight, feeling the fluid skill of balance brought by years of cycling serving me well, thoroughly enjoying the help of the wind that I had endured with my ascent that was now my friend, helping propel me downward, whisking me past the blowing grass, bringing a kinship to the blur of the pavement and the speed of my flight blasting in my ears.  Indeed I giggled like a little girl.  I was home before I knew it, proud of my 46 mile per hour top speed, comfortable as I stretched my well used legs and body.

All in all, I had found my day and the energy to face many more, knowing though, as Robert Frost said, with “miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.”

–Morey Bean, October 6, 2011

                * I found another memory later on today.  My elder son Isaac talked about being a neurosurgeon when he was probably about eleven, so being a good dad I took him in to talk to a leading doc in the Springs to get the scoop on what it was like to be the quintessential brain surgeon.  Oddly enough, we surmised during our visit that the doctor was most likely caring for Dr. Cray immediately after his accident, mentioning to us that he wasn’t hopeful about his patient’s prospects to see another day, nor I suppose to dig another tunnel or assemble another massive array of processors.  How fabulous our brains are, bringing the serendipity of a day to bear on our memories.  How good it is to be alive.  Isaac is now in Antarctica getting ready to do a polar traverse from McMurdo Station to the South Pole in specially designed tractors, dragging fuel bladders!  God bless Seymour and Steve’s and our families.