Category Archives: simplicity

Upgradeitis

“If it ain’t broke, don’t upgrade it”. This is an interesting article from Macworld. Artist Bob Staake has been using Photoshop 3 since 1994.

The idea of using such outdated software is foreign to many technophiles who, in this era of instant gratification when songs, movies, and software updates are never more than a click away, rarely seem to use programs that are older than a couple of months. So when Staake posted a video of his process for creating the cover of The New Yorker’s recent politics issue, the news that he was using software over a decade old spread faster than celebrity gossip.

Of course, Staake has upgraded some of his equipment over the years, despite his use of Photoshop 3.0 and older versions of Adobe PageMill and FileMaker Pro. “Believe me, I am anything but a technophobe,” he said. “I rarely ever upgrade because I’m usually inundated with work and simply don’t have the time to learn new versions. For me, it is simply a matter of pragmatism.” The 7100 has now been replaced as his workhorse by a PowerMac G5 running Mac OS X 10.4.11, necessitating that he run his beloved Photoshop 3.0 in Mac OS 9.2.1 via the Classic emulation environment (and not, as several blog posts about his New Yorker cover erroneously stated, in System 7).

This is not something that you hear a great deal about in our consumer culture, where new is always better and if you want to remain competitive, beautiful, accepted you’ve got to get with the latest and greatest. This is the great lie of the consumer culture – the constant need to upgrade. Mr.Staake did not fall for the fallacy of needing the constant upgrade to keep producing successfully.

Learning new versions of photoshop might make his work easier or faster. But for this artist, it did not really matter. He tried newer versions and simply found them lacking. He knows his tools inside and out and they do what he wants from them. Knowing the quirks of your tools and the things you need to do to work around them is the productive side of not upgrading. Any perceived adavantage of a novel system is negated by the fiddle time – that is the time it takes to get productive again. I have lost years to fiddle time.

There is nothing wrong with the upgrade or learning something new. But, I think it becomes counter productive when you assume that an upgrade is needed to keep producing or to keep competitive. To fully evaluate an upgrade or product, you need to divorce it from the glamour of “newness”. I am always thinking that the newest version will have that much “needed” feature or just be that much whiz bang better. But, what does the new software or hardware deliver that can not be done now ? Is this ability worth the time and monetary cost ? I find that if I do ask this question I am much less likely to decide to upgrade (unless it is free-then what the heck).

I like learning new systems and I like playing with new toys. I think one can get more creative learning novel systems. But, if the goal is to create and one just keeps learning new tools, is that any different than procrastinating by any other method ? Mr. Staake solved the problem by sticking with his original goal – just making his art.

The Price of Oil:Solutions for Children

Yesterday I saw a news clip about G8 Asian powers urging an oil production hike

AOMORI, Japan (AFP) — Eleven nations that guzzle nearly two-thirds of the world’s energy called Sunday for an urgent hike in global oil production as host Japan warned the world could plunge into recession….
In a joint statement, they called for boosts to their own production and asked major oil producers “to increase investment to keep markets well supplied in response to rising world demand”.
The European Union’s energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs warned that high oil prices were a fact to be reckoned with and that major economies needed to come up with alternative energy.

“The era of cheap energy seems to be over and no economy should gamble on a potential return to low prices,” Piebalgs said.

What incredible wisdom-if there is not enough – ask mom and dad for more. The “end of oil” has been a long time in coming. Peak oil production had been predicted, ridiculed and discovered again. But,none of this wisdom reached politicians or car manufacturers. Standards for emissions were relaxed as the new gas guzzlers (SUVs) came into being.

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Meditating and Finding Real Community

During the first part of May my wife and I took part in a ten day Vipsassana meditation retreat hosted by the Alberta Vipassana foundation.I sat for the same course last year. Meditating for 11 hours a day was not easy. Not talking was even harder. But, as one fellow student said “ This is the only time you will truly get to spend with yourself. So use it wisely.”

At the end of the ten days I had never felt so calm, peaceful and clearheaded . There was a great energy and happiness with the group. Even though you never actually talked to anyone, you went through meditation boot camp together. That sense of accomplishing something together fostered a great deal of positive energy, cooperation and gratitude for such an experience. But, as the year wore on and my practice was less than consistent, I let the demands of the world intrude into my mental space. I had hoped that by repeating the course I could regain some measure of peace and calmness.

This was not to be. A few days before the course started I received a call asking if I could serve on the course instead of participate as a student. I reluctantly agreed even though my stomach was churning. I was disappointed and a little bit nervous. What had I gotten myself into ? A server I talked to last year had said that there was a great deal of work to do and sometimes things got tense in the kitchen. A server would have between 3-5 hours of meditation a day. While this was more than I was doing, I hardly thought this was enough time to develop a deeper practice.

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Simple Pleasures

Last night we had a few people over for dinner. Radha had cooked an excellent mixed vegetable curry, potato curry with rice and chapati. My contribution was cutting the vegetable for the carrot, pepper and chick pea salad. Everybody really enjoyed the food, even the kids. The rest of the evening was spent in conversation and watching vacation photos. Everyone who walks into the house has to be subjected to that. It was a nice, simple, pleasant evening.Good company, good food. What else does a person need?

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