Simple Thoughts on the Human Species

The sun is just beginning to peek from behind the mountain was of my house.  The light reveals a subtle fog hovering just above the pasture, almost like a haze.  Birds are singing all around as they begin their day looking for breakfast.  Every ten minutes or so I can hear the passing of a car through the trees; probably carrying it’s driver to work I would imagine.  There is a peaceful calm in the early morning few get to truly enjoy and savor.  Too many of us are on the go the minute our alarm wakes us from our nocturnal slumber.  We are in such a rush to begin “the cycle” over again we fail to pause and reflect on the subtleties of life.  The little things we pass as we sip coffee, listen to the morning news as we drive to work.  How much do we give up to live our lives?  Is this what life is truly about?

This is the thought that runs through my head while sipping hot Chai tea as I stand on my porch watching the Earth come alive this early March morning.  We rise every day to toil at our jobs, many of us carrying stress beyond our control, just to earn enough to repeat the cycle over & over again.  At one point in time there was an endgame, and I don’t mean death, in mind.  That end game strays farther and farther away every year.  Is the human race made to suffer?  Do we perpetuate this suffering by our lifestyles?  

Being fully aware that many of us do not choose our life by plan but, rather fall into it through a series of choices and events, I am not suggesting that we chose to endure hardship.  Though the term hardship carries varying degrees of definition.  The American worker living in the suburbs with 2 cars, a 2K square foot home and living comfortably with their family my feel that being unable to eat out every night is a hardship.  That compared to a family in a third world country unable to eat for the second night in a row because of war or natural causes may feel differently.  Perspective.  

Over the past few weeks much has been discussed regarding the Apple Watch and the impact it will have.  I wrote in an earlier post my thoughts on the Apple Watch and remain holding firm with those thoughts.  I believe the Apple Watch to be a device that is not only impressive technologically but, at the same time exquisitely beautiful.  What Apple has done in creating the Apple Watch is short of amazing and the impact it could have in the medical field unlimited, however, for the lay person I still feel the watch is just an accessory.  Alone it is not worth having, in my opinion, for it must be paired with an iPhone to retrieve its full potential.  Such a first world problem.  

I’m not getting on a soap box in support of helping third world countries, that is a personal choice of an individual to make and I’m not a big fan of pushing social agendas like that.  A few hundred years ago the US was a third world country.  Circumstances and sacrifice have turned that around.  But, are we better off as a society because of these advances.  Every year a new device is created that changes or enhances how we interact with the world.  To what end are they created?  Sure, as a whole we live longer lives but, are our lives more meaningful now than two hundred years ago?  Has our standard of living improved…not physically but, mentally?  Are we a better race because of our advances in technology?

Are we a kinder, gentler and more accepting society?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think we are any further along than we were three hundred years ago.  We continue to fight over natural resources and greed continues to corrupt better judgement of humankind.  It is a shame that we have not evolved as a species mentally, and perhaps mentally is not the term I’m looking for.  I will admit that we are stronger, faster and physically more capable as a whole but, we continue to enslave our fellow human in some way shape or form.  Perhaps much is self induced.  

I am as much to blame as the next person, I’ve worked for Fortune 500 companies most of my adult life and am always looking at the latest Apple keynote like a child seeing ice cream for the first time.  I try to stymie this with practicality however, I’m not always successful. Baby steps towards this is y plan and being grounded helps.  I’m not looking to live a n off the grid lifestyle but, I do believe we, as a society, have the capacity to live whole lives, that do not include creed and corruption.  The human race has endured some horrible trials over the centuries and has thrived…it has the capacity to overcome this short coming and develop into a higher evolved species.


How I Get My Day Done!

IMG_0382 I am a continuous improvement analyst for TE Connectivity,  a technology leader that designs and manufactures the electronic connectors, components and systems inside many of the products across the world.  I work in the Global Logistics Group as their Americas Regional analyst.  TE’s continuous improvement system is based on the Toyota Production System (Lean). 

I have been practicing Lean for ten years now and honestly didn’t “get” it until a couple years ago.  Lean is a game changer not just in manufacturing but, in all areas of business and life.  I have recently begun, much to my wife’s raised eyebrow, bringing Lean into the home. 

My job is to help teach continuous improvement by showing others to see, identify and eliminate waste.  Pretty easy, right?

Location: I work from home part of the week tucked against the mountains of south central Pennsylvania and in an local office in Harrisburg, PA.

Current Gig: Continuous Improvement Analyst at TE Connectivity

One word that best describes how I work:

Current mobile device: iPhone 5S (work) & iPhone 4S (personal)

Current computer: Macbook Pro (2014) & Lenovo x230 (work issued laptop…I’m not a fan).

What apps, software, or tools can’t I live without? Why?

For work I use the standard Microsoft package, (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, & Lync).  Beyond that I use Evernote for most of my documents and Gimp for work.  Personally, I still use Evernote, Pages (for writing) & TweetDeck on my Mac.  I occasionally use iMovie to edit videos of my kids wrestling matches.

Other apps I rely on, all on my iPhone 5S) include the calendar app, Mail app and Gmail app, Byword, Overcast, FeeddlerPro, SleepMachine (I miss the tree frogs in the winter).

I don’t use my personal phone that often only because I don’t like carrying around two devices.  I am trying to find a work around but for now I just monitor my personal phone and carry my work phone.

I am also a voracious reader and love my Kindle Paperwhite.  I will use the Kindle app on my phone in a pinch but, I definitely prefer sitting down with the Kindle.  I just wish Amazon would allow me to add my own fonts to the Kindle without having to jailbreak it. 

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, I am a huge fan of analog tools and after reading the Patrick Ng’s blog Scription I fell in love with this simple notebook.  The Midori Traveler’s Notebook is more than just a notebook it is a minimalist system comprising of a leather cover, page marker, and elastic bands to hold several notebooks in place.  Measuring 22cm by 12cm the standard, out of the box system can hold two notebooks.  Add a second band and voila, two becomes four.  I currently have two notebooks (work and personal journal), a self made notebook for my Standard Work for work and Patrick Ng’s Chronodex planning system all stuffed in a brown leather cover.  I’ve carried the thing around for the past two years and haven’t given up on it.  It works for me.  I’ve tried going digital but, enjoy putting ink on paper too much to give up.  In addition I find I remember more by writing.  I also believe it is a quicker system than digital.

I would love to find a way to go completely digital and keep it all in my pocket, it would sure lighten my bag.  A recent webcast at work mentioned going digital in the very near future.  I am a bit nervous as to what was meant by that, not too many details were given.  I find writing to be relaxing and I enjoy planning out my week visually on my Chronodex every Sunday.  Old habits from the Franklin Covey planner days…

I recently picked up a pack of Field Notes, a pocket notebook I can carry around with me without the bulk of my Midori.  They work very well, especially taking notes while on the phone or in the car and while listening to podcasts.  I was skeptical at first about them but, they seemed to have melded well with my system.

What is my morning routine?

This is a tricky question.  I don’t sleep well or much so I tend to wake up early or not fall asleep until late corrupting the following day.  On average I go to bed around 10pm and fall asleep around 11pm.  Then I wake up at 2:30 – 3:00am and eat a bowl of cereal, put wood in the wood stove and lay down on the couch and reach a bit in the Kindle.  Between 5 & 6 I’ll get woke up by either a cat or dog and go back to the kitchen and make tea.  While drinking tea I’ll watch the sun rise and write for a half hour or so.  Lately I’ve been doing my writing directly on my iPhone in Byword.  After tea if I’m working from home I’ll go up to my office and fire up my laptop and get to work otherwise I’ll make something to eat and get ready to go to work.

Like I said my sleep pattern is completely messed up.  I’ve always been a night owl but, I’m to the point where I only get 5 – 6 hours of sleep on a good night.  I slept for only 4 hours the night of writing this post.

What’s my favorite to-do list manager?

I hate to-do lists!  I use them but, I still don’t like them.  Right now I use my Standard Work notebook for all my tasks for the week and my Chronodex planner.  I have tried digital but, never look at them.  Going forward I am going to try post-it notes and give digital another go around.

What do you listen to while you work?

Tim Ferriss got me hooked on Glitch Mob and have them as a playlist on Pandora, lately that’s all I’ve been listening too.  Before that was classical music or music by Hans Zimmerman on Pandora.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I am reading Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis and The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.  I am an avid reader and tend to go through books quickly.  My goal is to read 100 this year.

Mountain range behind my house in PA.

Mountain range behind my house in PA.


Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

Definitely an introvert.  I am not fond of crowds and enjoy being alone a lot.  My ideal workspace would be a small gazebo atop the mountain behind my house looking out over the county all alone.

Being an introvert like I am I do regularly give presentations to audiences without freaking out.  I also have no problem asserting myself if need be.

How do I recharge?

Five FingersI love to run.  I have a horribly arthritic knee which prevents me from running often but, running is my meditation, trail running especially.  Pair of shorts, shirt and Vibram FiveFingers on my feet is all I need to peace out.

I also enjoy just clearing the mind through meditation.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see __________ answer these same questions.

Jony Ive

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?

I am a Harry Potter fan and love to spend time with my family watch and re-watching the movies.  I just recently got the books on audio and the kids love to listen to them while they play. 

I am a huge fan of pizza and would eat it daily if I didn’t control myself.


Apple Springs Forward Keynote

Apple remains one of the most intriguing and amazing companies on the planet.  I was truly impressed with the keynote today.  Tim Cook announce the addition of the Macbook, the newest laptop, Research Kit, a whole new way to interact with your iPhone, Apple TV update and the Apple Watch being the highlight of the keynote.

Overall I was ironically most impressed with the Macbook, not the Apple Watch.  The prices are not a surprise, just considering the innovation and technology going into their creation.  Don’t get me wrong I think the Apple Watch is an amazing piece of technology and design but, not for me.  If I could find a use for it I would want one but, I am mainly turned off by the lack of integrating an Apple Watch into my life. 

Typically I do not wear a watch at all.  I don’t normally wear anything on my wrists.  It (a.) interferes with typing and (b.) prevents me from buttoning my shirts.  I use my iPhone enough to know what the time is often.  The other reason for the watch not being a fit for me is that I don’t need another device to carry around.  I strive for minimization and having to carry the iPhone around in addition to the watch is only adding to my daily carry.  Not something I want to do…it is a personal choice and not one many understand but, it works for me. 

I did however really enjoy the introduction of the Macbook.  By far the smallest laptop to date.  Weighing in at a whopping 2 lbs. and measuring only a little over half an inch thick when closed the Macbook is a minimalists dream.  12” Retina monitor displaying 3 million pixels, full-size reimagined keyboard, individual backlit keys, reengineered Touchpad, fanless architecture, and 3 color choices.

Developing a laptop with such a powerful display with such a minimalist design and size is amazing.  No larger than a notebook it could possibly get lost in a bag amongst papers, files and a notebook. 

The most impressive is the keyboard.  For anyone who’s replaced a key on a keyboard you know that there is a scissors mechanism used when depressing  key.  Bye-bye scissors, hello butterfly.  Allowing for a more uniform and stable keystroke and takes up less room assisting the Macbook’s thinness.  In addition to it’s butterfly mechanism, each key is 17% larger and 40% thinner.  Apple has done away with the row of LED that light the keys and opted to place an individual LED beneath each key adding to the minimal look of the Macbook.

This new technology come with a price, starting at $1299 and is a bit steep compared to a Macbook Air that starts at $899.  Comparing the Macbook to the Macbook Air out performs the Macbook but you will give up the Retina display and some size.

Macbook Macbook Air
12” (diagonal) LED-backlit Retina display 13.3” (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen display
1.1 -1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor 1.6 or 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor
0.14 to 0.52” thin 0.11 to 0.68” thin
2.03 pounds 2.96 pounds
8GB memory 4GB or 8GB memory
up to 512 GB flash storage up to 512 GB flash storage
Intel HD Graphics 5300 Intel HD Graphics 6000
Up to 9 hrs wireless web Up to 12 hrs wireless web
Integrated 39.7 watt-hour lithium-polymer Integrated 54 watt-hour lithium-polymer
3 Colors (space gray, silver, & gold) 1 color (silver)
Starting price $1299 Base price $1199

My opinion would be to stick with the Macbook Air.   I applaud Tim Cook and the entire Apple team but, cannot find a practical reason to purchase any of today’s hardware.  I hate writing that but, the facts are facts…Retina display is not enough to warrant the change…as beautiful as it may be.  So, I will applaud those who appeal to a higher sense and purchase out of love for Apple and their products or just because they can.  I will stick with my 2013 Macbook Pro until I need to upgrade.  Again, I think the Macbook is one of the slickest laptops and if I were a traveling writer with spare change would have no hesitation in purchasing.  The Apple Watch is the beginning of a product that is going to revolutionize the way we monitor our lives and connect to others.  We’ve officially surpassed Star Trek.


iPhone 6 Plus, perfect!!

It wasn’t until I held it in my hand that I was struck by it’s beauty.  I knew immediately that I had to have one.  I was at first skeptical while seeing it lying next to my own iPhone 4S.  I had many thoughts racing through my head, talking me out of even giving it a chance.  I was, at the time, looking for a device that would accompany me everywhere.  One that I could not only use to write with but also connect with, socially. 

The iPad was my initial thought and since I already owned the iPad 2 I gave it a try.  My normal everyday carry already included my iPhone 4S (personal), iPhone 5C (work issued), Midori Traveler’s Notebook, fountain pen, Pilot Juice .38mm in dark brown ink, Swiss Army knife & minimal wallet.  Pre-iPad carry I was able to carry everything hands free if need be.  The notebook could be tucked into the back of my jeans…made for coaching wrestling interesting to watch.  Post-iPad, i had to either carry a bag for the iPad or hand carry it everywhere and risk damage or loss if I had to use my hands for something.  Needless to say I quickly gave up the idea of carrying around the iPad 2. 

I then got the idea of using the iPad mini.  I don’t own an iPad mini but, this was a great excuse to purchase one (my opinion, not my wife’s).  I own notebooks of very similar size and tested out carrying one around for a week or so to “test drive” before purchasing a $400 piece of equipment.  I was too afraid to stuff it along with my notebook in the back of my jeans but, did discover that if I could start wearing the cargo pants collecting dust in my closet, the iPad would easily fit into a side pocket. 

Researching and analyzing the best iPad mini became a priority and I had finally determined that the 64GB iPad mini in Space Gray was perfect.  Preferring a trip to the Apple Store over online purchasing I scheduled it on my calendar.  The closest store is nearly 50 miles away so there is some planning involved.  As the date neared my anticipation grew and my wife continued to just shake her head at what she believes to be silly.

Then Apple had to interfere.  The new iPhone was announced and with it new opportunities.  Initially I remained steadfast but, before heading out to the Apple store I had a fateful encounter with the iPhone 6 Plus that would change the future for me.

A colleague was in line day one and was one of the first to walk out the door with the new device.  I was on his bucket list to show the new phone off to knowing my Apple affection.  At first I was aghast at the sheer size of it when compared to my now tiny iPhone 4S.  Though I was captivated by the sheer artistic beauty of the phone’s design I was not sold on changing my mind on the iPad mini.  Then, I held it in my hand and was done.

Like Neo being plugged in to learn how to fight, as soon as I had the iPhone 6 Plus in hand I knew this was my future.  I could see myself writing on it, reading from iBooks and Kindle apps, streaming Netflix and taking brilliant photos.  I saw myself videoing the boys wrestling matches, editing them in iMovie and then uploading them to YouTube before I even left the wrestling tournament.  I was captivated by the endless possibilities. 

For the past couple of months I have focused my efforts on using my iPhone 5C more than usual and in place of the iPad.  There are a few things that the screen is just a pain with but, if I bend my experience the right way I do believe that the iPhone 6 Plus is the perfect mobile device I’m looking for.  Writing, reading, communicating, streaming and sharing all in my pocket on one gorgeously designed device.  I’m in.  Soon it will be by my side.  I can’t wait!!



BalanceYesterday was a lazy Sunday.  As a family we really just took the day to ourselves and did what we wanted to without so much as thinking of responsibility.  We watched some shows on Netflix and then a couple movies.  The kids played on their iPods and watched Netflix much of the day before breaking out some of their toys and actually playing.  This got me to wonder if technology, more the case gaming systems / tablets / handhelds, is changing the way our kids play and reduces creativity?
The subject has evoked some very interesting dialogue between my wife and I the past couple years.  She grew up without having technological devices at hand and I was just the opposite.  She’s a country mouse and I a city mouse.  I had a computer from the time I was 11, multiple gaming systems and have owned an iPod since the first week they became available.  She continues to use a flip phone of basic use.  So, it is no surprise I made the decision to bring iPods into our boys’ lives for them to play games, watch Netflix, read books, etc.

Since their purchase we’ve had many conversations whether or not bringing them (the iPods) into our home was a good idea.  She has established her point of view well, however, I remain in the belief that they will serve them well in the future more than the present.  As a culture we continue to utilize technology such as the iPod in our everyday lives.  How we are interacting with the world is continuing to change frequently and devices like the iPod are a bridge.

Though I am an advocate of using analog tools like the pen and paper I am still very much a proponent and fan of technology.  I love the idea of being able to talk to my house or car.  I hope that we get to a point where technology will enable us to begin to reduce the carbon footprint we are leaving and allow our children to attain an education our generation was unable to conceive of.

Isn’t there a lack of creativity if a child just sits in front of the television mindlessly playing video games all day long?  I’ve been asked that question many times and my answer is a definite, “NO!”  I spent a bit of time in my day playing video games starting with the Atari 800 and progressing up to a Macbook Pro and playing World of Warcraft.  Even when I was playing a minimum of 2 hours of WOW a day I was still reading over 50 books a year and writing short stories while working a full-time job and helping to raise my two boys.  My productivity was maintained and I was still working out 4-5 times a week.

There is a level of discipline that a person must adhere to that I believe is the main issue and I don’t think technology should be blamed on someone being, for lack of a better word, lazy.  Lazy people are going to be lazy regardless if they are playing video games, watching Netflix, surfing the internet or just sitting on their porch watching cars drive by all day long.  Blaming the iPod for a child sitting around all day watching cartoons is no different than what my friends and I did as kids on Saturday’s when there were cartoons from 7 am to 1pm.  It is what we lived for on the weekends.

Do I think kids should be allowed the freedom to just choose when and for how long they are using technology such as a PlayStation or iPod?  Absolutely not, parents need to be tightly woven into their child’s lives from the start to guide them on balancing their time spent “relaxing” or playing.  Even in grade school my kids have responsibilities that far exceed what I had at their age.  Between nightly homework that takes an hour or more to complete, sports and extracurricular activities there leaves little time during the week to even sit down for a minute to breathe.  They’ve never experienced coming home and watching cartoons for an hour while finishing up a bit of homework and then gathering around the TV in the evenings to watch Primetime…does that still occur?

I think the solution comes from involvement.  As a parent we must show our children that there is a balance between responsibility and play.  I don’t think there is any difference between playing with G.I. Joe figures and playing Mario on the Wii.  Both activities allow the mind to explore creativity, perhaps in different ways but, still being creative.  As parents we must set a good example for our children by not spending our free time being irresponsible.

When there is an imbalance it is typically followed with problems or complications.  I have a friend whose wife cannot sit still for any length of time and even if exhausted will find something productive to do just to stay active.  She cannot even sit down to watch a one hour TV show because she is unproductive.  On the flip side I have a college buddy who cannot remove himself from playing online games.  From the time he gets home from work until he is too exhausted to continue, he plays.  He has lost a few relationships to video games and is often depressed by this but, is it the games’ fault he behaves the way he does?  I don’t think so, it is an addiction, whether video games or alcohol or whatever he would have found something to occupy every second of free time he has.

These behaviors are going to exist regardless.  I know people who spend all their free time reading does that make books the cause of not having a balanced life?…of course not.  People make choices and those choices all have repercussions…good and bad.  We cannot blame the inanimate object for our lack of balance.  So, bottom line is that we must balance out our lives and teach our kids how to do the same to remain a well-balanced person.  Extremes are not a sustainable way of life, in either direction.

Parents must have an active role in their children’s lives but, they themselves must know how to balance uptime and downtime.  Nothing is easy, Eden doesn’t exist and for most of us we have to work but, that does not mean we can’t take time to play/relax.  We just need to make sure we find the happy medium and with that, pass the ability to find this happy medium on to the next generation.  Technology is not slowing down and wasting time is becoming easier and easier to do.  We need to make sure that the next generation has a better grasp on living than our generation did.

When I had kids all my goals fell a notch.  Enabling them to become greater people than I am became my top priority and remains so to this day.  Balance is necessary to remain productive and healthy.  It factors into all facets in life and I as a parent and every parent out there should be teaching, guiding and coaching this to the up and coming generation – life is about balance.