Category Archives: My life

Posts about my life

Why having a smartphone is a good idea when travelling

FreeImages.com/Keith Syvinski.

FreeImages.com/Keith Syvinski.

I don’t have a smartphone. I never had one and never thought that I would need one. I have a regular mobile phone that does have some limited internet capabilities, but they are a joke, so I never use them. I liked the fact that I was disconnected from the internet when I was away from my computer. I have a slight addiction to internet, so not having a smartphone seemed like a good idea.

Recently, I was travelling in England for a couple of weeks and I discovered that the world has changed. Most hostels don’t even bother to have a computer available for their guests anymore. They just offer free Wi-Fi and that’s it. Only one hostel had a computer available, but you couldn’t even connect to the internet there, because the connection didn’t work. Actually, the computer itself looked like it will crash if you press any key.

Internet cafés became a rare thing, too. I only found one, and they charged £3 per hour. Worse yet, they kicked me out after 40 minutes, because it was 8.30pm and they were closing. I still had to pay full price. Compare that to the free Wi-Fi in the hostel, which is available 24/7.

Some libraries offer free computer access to anyone. I went to one of them, but they only allow one 30 minute session (per day, I assume). So, the bottom line is that it is a hassle to connect to the internet, if you don’t have a smartphone or a tablet. Of course you could carry a laptop with you, but that is burdensome in it’s own way. My backpack was already too heavy, even though I packed a lot less things than I normally would.

Not being able to connect to the internet can be costly. The train ticket from Salisbury to London costs £38.30, if you buy it at the train station. The same journey can be made for £14–20 (depending on the hour of the day of your train), if you buy the ticket online.

I definitely will get myself a smartphone the next time I go travelling somewhere for an extended period of time. Maybe I will use it only for travelling, and I’ll still use regular mobile phone in everyday life. Who knows. But, the one thing I do know is that technology is changing fast and that old-fashioned infrastructure is no more. Evolve or suffer consequences, your choice.

Advertisements

7 Things I Would do if I Won a Lottery

Photo: posvudusha.com

Photo: posvudusha.com

Recently, I brainstormed on the things I would do if I won a lottery. It’s extremely unlikely that this will ever happen, partially because I ceased buying lottery tickets, and mostly because with lottery “The odds are never in your favor”, if we paraphrase the slogan from The Hunger Games.

Still, I think it’s a valuable exercise to imagine what would you do if you had no financial limitations since it prompts you to look inside and discover what’s important to you and what your ideals are.

Keep in mind that the following are just the things that came out in a brainstorming session, not results of a thoughtful analysis.

Without further ado, here are the 7 things I would do if I won a lottery:

Day 1:

On the first day, I would set up a matching donations campaign for non-profit organizations that I like and find important. They include:

As you can see the list contains organizations that deal with subjects such as free and open-source software development, culture of sharing and collaboration, and privacy and whistleblowing issues.

I would match donations to these organizations up to a certain amount, let’s say 10% of what I had won. I believe that a majority of issues in the world could be greatly improved by developing tools and standards that support democracy and the freedom to create and share.

Privacy of communication and protection of whistleblowers are two of the pillars of democracy, because it’s very difficult to hold governments accountable without them.

Sharing of ideas in private and in public is crucial for solving our problems, so it’s important that we have good and easily accessible tools that can facilitate this.

Day 2:

I would set up and host a Diaspora node in my country, that is, I would hire tech-savvy computer guys to do that.

Diaspora is a nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social network based upon free software. It consists of many independently owned nodes (called “pods”) which interoperate to form the network.

I don’t hate commercial social networks like Facebook, but I think that we also need decentralized networks where we can share without the fear of censorship and surveillance.

Day 3:

The level of gratitude that you experience is a major predictor of how happy you will be. Most people in developed countries could use a little more awareness of the fact that they are doing pretty well, actually. That’s why I like things such as First World Problems meme and sites like GratitudeLog, where you can express what you are grateful for.

I would offer to invest some money in GratitudeLog (to improve their website) and I would promote the site everywhere I could.

First World Problem

Day 4:

On day four, I would set up a task force with the objective of promoting legalization of marijuana in my country.

There are three reasons for why I think pot should be legal for adults:

  1. it’s less harmful than alcohol and tobacco (source);
  2. it offers pain relief and appetite improvement for patients with chronic illness, and probably even has some medicinal qualities;
  3. it would bring additional tax revenue;

The war on marijuana (cannabis) is an example of a terribly wrong set of incentives in a society. By prohibiting the use of a relatively harmless substance that is in high demand we raised its price and created a highly profitable black market. So, in addition to wasting police resources on a pointless goal, we actually created an excellent source of income for drug cartels.

Cannabis less harmful than alcohol and tobacco

Rational scale to assess the harm of drugs (mean physical harm and mean dependence)

Day 5:

On this day, I would found a non-profit institute for sustainability studies. This would be a think tank that would research and promote everything related to sustainable development. The focus of study would be on the role social networks (online and in real life) could play in our transition toward a sustainable society.

Day 6:

I would commission a complete overhaul of my blog on health, wellness and personal development, and I would start paying authors for guest writing for my blog. I’m not the most productive writer ever, so it takes me a lot of time to write anything of quality.

Currently I’m working on Manifesto for sustainable living and you are welcome to check it out:)

Day 7:

Giving away so much money and setting up all these projects is a hard work. On day seven, I would just chill out on some awesome beach with my friends, listen to good music, and relax.

What’s going on with this blog?

I haven’t been posting much lately, because I have had some health issues. I intend to write more frequently when I get better. I will definitely not quit writing for this blog, but I may have longer periods without posting anything.

I have written already that I have problems with stress and anxiety, and even a mild OCD. These psychological issues certainly had a toll on my physical health as well. (One of the main reasons for starting a blog on personal development was, that I am in search for solutions for myself!)

However, now it seems likely that I have a deeper issue – deeper even than psychology. There are some indications that I might have gluten sensitivity, and possibly some other food allergies, though not much has been proven yet.

One of my relatives has celiac disease (which is genetically predisposed disorder) and since I am very skinny and have had some digestive problems, I suspected that gluten is a problem for me too. I wanted to test it for myself and went on a gluten-free diet, but unfortunately I got even sicker. The problem was that instead of bread and pasta, I started to eat more dairy and nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.) and after a few weeks my health deteriorated. I developed heart palpitations and felt very tired. First, I suspected that dairy is the problem, so I cut it out of my diet, but it didn’t help. In fact it probably even made it worse as I lost some weight. Only after I stopped eating nuts did palpitations decreased. I have gone to the allergy specialist and done the skin prick test – it showed a mild reaction to peanuts, so allergy to nuts in general seems plausible. Or it might be that I just ate too much nuts, for whatever reason.

In addition, it is possible that my symptoms were worsened because of the use of prescription ointment (containing a corticosteroid betamethasone and an antibiotic), that I used occasionally in the past four years, because I had recurring inflammation/infection of the ear canal. Even though it is a prescription medication I never thought that it could be a problem, because I used very small quantities of it, and only occasionally. However, I searched on the internet and I found that topical corticosteroids are not so innocent, especially if applied on the areas where the skin is thinner, like in the ear, and for prolonged periods. Even though I had no proof that this medication had a negative effect on my health, I stopped using it immediately after learning that it is potentially very problematic.

These developments are going to change the orientation of this blog a bit. In the past I have been writing mostly about personal development in the sense of psychological balance – like staying motivated, focusing on your priorities, living in the now. However, there can be no personal development without physical health. Health is a complex issue and different factors are interconnected – body and mind affect each other in ways that even modern medicine does not understand fully. Stress can affect your physical well-being, but biochemical processes in your body have effect on your nerves as well, and consequently affect your psychology.

Health requires a holistic approach: from food and physical exercise, to stress management and personal happiness. So, in the future I will focus on other issues as well, not just on personal development in the narrow sense.

* * *

Announcement: I have made a Facebook page for this blog. You are welcome to join – follow this link: The Changing Ways on Facebook

Never lose hope (Caribou song)

In the autumn of 2000, after one year of studying physics, I lost motivation to continue and decided to study geography instead. But since academic year had already begun, I had to wait until next October. In the meantime I was free to do whatever I wanted, but that proved to be harder than I expected.

The major part of my identity of that time was being a student, and getting good grades was something that I was proud of. So, all of a sudden I was left without that. At the same time I was miserably unsuccessful in just about any other area of my life. I remember that I was in love with one girl I knew from high school, but she didn’t have any interest in me, though she was very friendly.

Because of all these things I became sort of depressed and felt like a complete failure. This culminated in me writing a poem that expressed how I felt at that time. Since that was in the winter of 2000/01, the imagery is a bit “snowy”:

* * *

The Call For Green Grass

For a few hours it dawns – yet there is no sun.

Silent clouds of horror begin to scatter

White crystals of despair again.

White. Everything is white.

Lost caribou trips on white snow in vain.

In the whiteness of the distance there appears a string of dark little dots…

* * *

The informal title of this poem is “Caribou song”, which was the name of the file on my computer in which I saved it. I had a few other poetic attempts in my life (until I discovered that I have no particular talent for poetry). This poem is by far the best of anyone I ever wrote. Because it came from within and because I was honest.

If you look at the end you see that it is deliberately open. What do the dark little dots represent? Could be anything. Maybe it is a pack of wolves, but could also be the herd of the lost caribou. The future is unknown. But for as long as you are alive there is still hope for you.


*Here is actually my 2011 English translation. The original poem in Slovene language can be found here.

Am I really focusing on my priorities?

One good thing about writing this blog is that I can’t keep lying to myself for long. Incongruity between what I write and my real life clearly stands out, so that I can’t ignore it. I wrote about how important it is to set priorities and focus on them (Quote of the Month, December 2010). Yet, I haven’t been following my own advice.

I know that my number one priority at this time is stress reduction. In the past few months my stress level has gone considerably up, but it really is a problem that has been accumulating for years. Part of the problem is my OCD, which I have written about, too.

So, I know what the problem is and how to tackle it, but I haven’t been doing that consistently. On the contrary – I have engaged in activities that I know are in the way of my priority and actually increase stress level. Like watching news on TV or reading newspapers.

As I am someone who has serious problems with stress I should ask myself: what is my priority – to be informed about events in the world, some of them thousands of miles away, that may or may not affect me someday in the future or dealing with stress that is killing me right here and right now?

If something really terrible was about to happen in my environment I am sure I would have picked it up in everyday conversations with people – I don’t need to follow news for that. And all the nonsense that is happening in politics – I think am better without it. Almost every week there is some new scandal and allegations of corruption in the media. We have police and other authorities to deal with that.

The nature of mass media is that they focus mainly on negative events, drama and scandals. Partly because that is what attracts people’s attention the most, but also because one of the missions of the media is to raise awareness of the problems in society, so that solutions can then be searched and found.

I do firmly believe that democracy and changes in society depend on people being well informed. So, I am not against TV and newspapers in general. I always looked down to people who don’t seem to care about what is happening in the world or even in their own community. So, while it is certainly not a good idea to be in front of TV every single hour of your free time, some interest in what is happening in the world around you is a positive thing.

However, drastic circumstances require drastic measures! If I don’t change my daily routine and reduce stress I am headed to burnout. Therefore I have decided to cut off all TV, newspapers and magazines for as long as I don’t learn how to manage my stress level effectively. In addition I will not read or watch news on the internet. In fact I will use internet only for the purpose of managing this blog, reading about personal development, communicating with people (e-mail, etc.) and searching for practical information that I may need.

If I can’t even stick to these simple rules I may as well close this blog.